Who Took off My Clothes?

If you have read A Little Piece of My Spiritual Journey you probably already know in 2008 and 2009 I thought I was going through the hardest moment of my life and was going to lose something, if not everything. I specifically mention the night my son started to turn blue, and I thought I was going to lose him, and if not him, I would definitely lose our house, car, or whatever else we had, due to medical bills. We had 5 hard medical years. Now, I laugh, because it has been 10 years. Regardless, in those dark moments, I realized as I wrote in A Little Piece of My Spiritual Journey “I had never felt so stripped in my life, I felt like I was walking around completely exposed.” I had generous neighbors pay our mortgage, I had a mother’s group I attended, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) give us money, I was given groceries and most importantly my child lived, and blessings didn’t stop. Still, blessing haven’t stopped, but things haven’t been easy. In fact, I almost feel things are harder now.

For instance, recently I have been given the diagnoses of losing brain mass. I have a long medical history starting from the day of my birth being told I would not live through the night. Now 37 years later by God’s grace, I am still alive after fighting death numerous times. Currently, I battle 2 diseases (asthma and GERD) and four hospitals are currently looking for other diseases, disorders, and/or syndromes. Overall, I am grateful because I have battled and conquered a nasty disease called C-diff. I am so thankful c-diff is gone, but it did leave battle scars.

One scar that continues to open is a syndrome called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), I also have multiple disorders’ (Endometriosis, IBS, Fibromyalgia, PMDD, Anxiety, Depression; added with a whole lot of other symptoms.) It’s a lot to manage on top of having medically fragile and/or special needs children. However, after reading an article tonight from Christianity Today I am wondering about vulnerability, because the title of the article in the November 2014 issue is called, “Sorry, Brené Brown: Not All Vulnerability Is Brave.” With that being said, I began to wonder if being as vulnerable as I am, should I be asking the question “Who took off my clothes?” I can’t deny the feeling of being stripped regarding the circumstances that happened in 2008 and 2009. And as funny as it may be I really do have to take off my clothes a lot of the time for all my medical procedures, but I always put them back on after my appointment. Through all of this, I’ve  discovered after my appointment with my neurologist, discussing that my brain mass loss is like the equivalent to dementia I realize I took off my clothes. Of course not literally, but as I was crying outside the hospital sitting next to a cement wall feeling like I should just go live on the streets, I took off my clothes.

It has been a hard battle not being dressed for a few weeks, in fact, the other day I was sitting with my dad (obviously with real tangible clothes on) talking about how he was going to preach a sermon specifically about garments. He mentioned scriptures like Isaiah 61:3 “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” He also mentioned other verses regarding the priestly garments and we discussed his sermon some more. At that time it never occurred to me then that I took off my clothes, specifically my spiritual clothes. I took off the garment of praise. I took the breastplate, the belt of truth….I took everything off. I took off my identity in Christ.

With all that being said, I encourage you to put your clothes on! Isaiah 5:27 is encouraging too.  It says, “No one will be weary or stumble among them, No one will slumber or sleep; Nor will the belt on their loins be loosed, Nor the strap of their sandals be broken.” God encouraged them to fight and keep their clothes on!

So again, I encourage you, put your clothes on! Be strengthened in God’s righteousness, his identity, and his garment. When we are naked, we are ashamed. I’ve been ashamed of my losses, but I don’t have to be. Jesus can cover me just as Isaiah 61:10 says in The Message, “Sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul! 
He dresses[s] me up in a suit of salvation, he [fits] me in a robe of righteousness.”

We got some great clothes to wear so let’s put ’em on, and keep ’em on!

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – even if they are diseased

I have been progressively sick for over two years for no apparent reason.  At first, I was determined that it was because I was pregnant.  However, my baby came out and I haven’t stopped being sick.   A funny story throughout this is when I was pregnant  my older son often would imitate me when people would come into our home.  As soon as people would walk in, he would show off by demonstrating what mommy does all day long.  He would run into the bathroom, and make this awful noise and pretend to vomit.  Ha funny, – but not so funny after you have been dry heaving for over 2 years!

Often on the days when I spend more time in the bathroom then I would like, it really makes me sad.  One day, I was driving and asking, “God, why did You make me if I was going to end up with a disease?  I feel defective.”  I was so sad, and didn’t understand what purpose or value I had if I was going to be a person living with a disease.  Then God spoke to me, as I drove past these beautiful trees.  (Something you need to know about me is I LOVE TREES!  Seriously, I like them more than flowers!  I love trees!)   As I passed by these trees I was mesmerized by their beauty.  They were so big and beautiful.  It seemed like they could kiss the clouds.  They were simply majestic.   I happen to notice some of the trees had  moss growing on their trunks.  I wondered if the moss hurt the trees?  Then I thought even if the moss was hurting, or will hurt the trees they remain beautiful.  Truly, I think when people drive by these beautiful trees they don’t see the moss; they just see the trees magnificent beauty.  You can’t help but see it.  Seeing these amazing trees radiate with life and exuberance showed me that even though they might have a disease or a defect they are of great worth.  I was amazed to think that these trees still have purpose even though they might have a disease.  Driving by these beautiful trees gave me such a smile, and I’m sure they continue to bring smiles to onlookers alike.  That day I learned something meaningful.  Even lives that are flawed are still beautiful and valuable.

Tonight, I was reminded of that incident.  Again, I was driving asking God, “Why would you make me if I have a disease?   I don’t like diseases!”  Then I heard “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  The problem with that verse for me wasn’t: love my neighbor, I LOVE my neighbor!  Well do I?  Can I love my neighbor if I don’t love myself?

That verse sunk deep into my heart as I was thinking if I don’t love myself with a disease how am I going to be a chaplain and love people in a hospital who are sick and diseased.  I want to love them.  I think I do.  Something I do know is that I don’t love myself with a disease.  Therefore, how can I love my neighbor as myself?  I realized that I have some work to do!  If I have a disease, then I am going to be on a journey loving myself even in my sickest state because I want to love my neighbor!  I want to love each person I reach out to, and show them the hand of God.  I want to have compassion on all who are sick.  God help me.

So in writing this I stumbled on some great news.  Some trees “500 to 700 years old, support quantities of moss and are still healthy and thriving.”[1] I don’t want to live 500 to 700 years, but I would love to be 99 still healthy and thriving.  I think I can….

[1] Sprunt, Jr., Alexander “Sandy”. Emerald Kingdom. January 1961. http://www.corkscrew.audubon.org/Information/EmeraldKingdom.html (accessed March 29, 2010).