Monday, December 2, 2013

The Start of My Crohn's Journey

   In honor of Crohn’s awareness week, I thought it would be “fun” to tell how my journey with this little disease all began! Because this week is all about awareness, I have decided to share some of the yucky details of being diagnosed to let y’all know the signs and symptoms. So here is your fair warning…if you get grossed out easily, I would suggests skipping over this post ;)

   On January 1, 2005 (19 days before my 13th birthday) I woke up to a bad stomach ache. Since it was the holidays, I figured it was something I had eaten in the past few days that was making me feel bad. Later that afternoon, I realized this “stomach bug” was going to be a rough one. The pain increased and soon the bloody diarrhea began. Being the active 12 year old that I was, I choose not to tell my parents because I knew they would not let me play in my basketball tournament that weekend if I was sick. Over the next week the pain grew increasingly more intense and the blood and diarrhea got worse and worse. My parents quickly picked up on the fact that something was not right.  My mom got me into my pediatrician the very day that she realized I was very sick and getting worse. So that afternoon the pediatrician spent a long time examining my stomach, running blood tests, stool tests, and having me use every descriptive word I could think of to describe my pain. I don’t know about you, but every time I have to describe to a doctor the kind of pain I am experiencing, I get frustrated super quickly and annoyed by all the little questions that they can ask you in regards to one comment, “My stomach hurts.” Nine years later, I now have it down to a quick 5 second description of the kind of pain I am experiencing…practice makes perfect ;) After being with the doctor for well over an hour, she told me that my signs and symptoms were not good and that I would need to go see a pediatric gastroenterologist. I left a little frustrated because I wanted some medicine to make this terrible stomach bug go away and my doctor had not given me any. That afternoon my mom called the pediatric GI group at Cook’s Children’s and they informed her that they could see me in a month. The Lord gave my mom great discernment during that moment and urged her to find somewhere else that could get me in more quickly. We got into Dr. Michael Russo at Children’s Hospital in Dallas the following day. I remember feeling excited to see him because I thought he would give me the medicine that I needed to make these progressively worsening symptoms go away. They had actually gotten so bad that I had lost 15 pounds since January 1st and I was starting to miss school because of the amount of times I was having to go to the bathroom during the day. If you have ever had a stomach bug that left you wondering if you could even make it to the bathroom, imagine that times about 10 times more aggressive and you have the lovely “need to go” feeling that Crohn’s brings.

   January 13th, 2005 is a day that I will never forget. It was the day that the word privacy left my vocabulary. And the tests that they have to perform in those GI rooms, let’s just say I don’t wish those even on my worst enemy. Ugh, they are not something that you get used to. God’s presence was so evident in that hospital room that day as he provided my mom and I a lot of piece amidst a storm. Dr. Russo told us that I would be having a colonoscopy and endoscopy the following week and gave me the prescription for my clean out the day before. As he sat there and explained to me that I would be put to sleep and have a tube inserted down my throat and up my bottom, I remember my head began to spin and I thought this was all a mean joke. A very very very mean joke. I did remember, though, to ask if they would be using different tubes in my mouth and bottom ;) don’t worry, they do!!! J

   My 13th birthday came and it was the most wonderful birthday I have had! My parents did “While You Were Out” to my room while I was at school. They painted, got me a new bed, desk, bedding, lamps, curtains, the whole 9 yards! It was wonderful! I was so surprised and felt so loved in that moment. We went out to Outback (my favorite restaurant!) that night for dinner, but sadly, it was cut short as my raging stomach ache took over my body and we had to rush home to get me to the bathroom and into bed with a heating pad. 2 days later, the fun began! I was on an all liquid diet and began to drink my clean out medication. Well, my stomach was very angry and did not like the medicine and so it came right back up the same way it went down. Later that afternoon, I had a pre-op appointment at Children’s where we found out that I was running a 102 fever. So, after all the clean out medicine, I was told that I would have to do it all again the following week as it was not safe to put me under anesthesia with a temperature that high. Oh how I wanted out of this bad nightmare.

   On February 3rd, 2005 I had my first colonoscopy and endoscopy that included 35 biopsies from areas in my large and small intestine. All 35 of them came back positive for Crohn’s disease. But we didn’t even have to wait for those to come back. My colon was so eaten up with Crohn’s that Dr. Russo came right out of the OR and told my parents what the diagnosis was. That afternoon I was sent home on so many medications that my mom had to create a chart for when I took what. We were told that Crohn’s was autoimmune and chronic which meant that it was going to be with me for the rest of my life. The medication that I was hoping for to cure my little “stomach bug” was not available. And to this day it still is not, but I know that in God’s beautiful and perfect timing, there will be a cure for Crohn’s!

   My life changed that day in 2005. Crohn’s has brought out the worst colors in me and it has also brought out the best. Crohn’s has challenged me to do things that I didn’t think I was capable of doing. Crohn’s has brought me closer to my Savior. It has showed me my desperate need for my God every second of my day. Crohn’s has showed me who my true friends are. Crohn’s is a blessing. The textbooks may classify it as a disease, but it has become a part of my family. It has brought us closer together. Crohn’s is a beautiful thing. And the doctor’s that help Crohn’s patients are truly blessings from the Lord. Dr. Russo is someone that my family thanks the Lord for as he treated me with such kindness and compassion over the 7 years that he was my doctor. I have been blessed again with a wonderful adult GI doctor at UT Southwestern!

   If you know someone that has Crohn’s, ask questions, ask about doctor’s appointments, ask about medications, and ask how they are feeling that day. We have our good days and our bad days, but our bad days can be made so much better when a sweet friend cares how we are feeling and tries to make our day better! The best of friends are those that aren’t scared off by our condition, but embrace it and love us through it. I am forever grateful for my family and countless friends who have walked this journey with me and will continue to until the race is over.

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s. Ask questions. Be informed.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

When God "Rearranges our Furniture"

   This morning in church our pastor used the phrase "allow God to rearrange your furniture." I love it! If I want God's will and plan for my life, sometimes it means I have to let Him rearrange everything in my life. But if we are being honest, sometimes it's the most painful and uncomfortable process. And on occasion it takes me a little while to fall in love with the paint color He chooses over the one I already had on the walls. But in the end, His design is so much more beautiful than my previous design or any design I could have even thought up in my head! Getting to the end, though, can take some time.

   I am totally guilty of getting caught up in our society's "need it now" mentality. The line is too long at the store? Fine, I will use the self check out where I get even more frustrated because I did not bag the item fast enough. The doctor's office doesn't call me back in my time frame? I will just call again. And again. And again. So when God starts changing my rooms around, I want it done quickly! And as painlessly as possible. The bad thing about this is that it doesn't leave room for me to have to totally trust Him with every fiber of my being.

   Recently, the Lord decided it was time to totally remodel my "living room." To me, it looked great! I loved the paint color, the furniture placement, and even the lighting in the room. When I looked at, I didn't see any need for any changes. Sure, there were some scratches on the walls and a lamp that didn't work, but it was comfortable. And it was my design...which was the problem. It was what I had designed, not what God had designed. Yes God was in the midst of the "room," but it wasn't His perfect design for the room. If we as Christians truly want God's will and God's plans for our lives, we have to be willing to take the uncomfortable moments of different paint colors and totally new furniture in order for His plan to come to fruition. I will be the first to admit that I do NOT like uncomfortable situations and change. I like my comfort zone. But if it takes going through those things to have God's design and not mine, then that is fine by me! And soon, God's design is going to be most comfortable to me and I won't think twice about the old design I had. This "living room" overall has been painful and has taken a lot longer than I would have liked for it to, but that's when God grows us more in Him. The pain allows us to rely totally and completely on Him and nobody else. The time "issue" allows these heart changes to truly cement themselves within us. God knows how much change we can handle and when it's time to let us see a part of the room He is designing. I am thankful that the Lord has painted the walls of my "living room" a beautiful color that I am loving more and more every day! I can't wait to see what kind of furniture He puts in there and the beautiful art work He will hang on the walls. But for now, I will enjoy this fresh coat of paint and throw my "need it now" mentality in the garbage and wait for God's perfect timing to finish the room. I wonder which room He will redo next ;)

   Being a Christian and surrendering your life 100% to Christ is not always easy. It involves uncomfortable periods and painful times. It takes a lot of trust and a lot of faith in God. But boy oh boy is it so worth it!!! God is welcome in my "home" every second of the day and He is also welcome to rearrange and redesign any room in my "home" to make it the way that He designed it to be. I pray that is your heart as well :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Change of Heart

"The Lord is my stength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song." Psalm 29:7

The past 8 weeks have been some of the most challenging 8 weeks of my life. Realizing that the lovely disease process of Crohn's is progressing has taken a toll on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Lord, why right now in the middle of nursing school? God, I don't have the energy for this right now. Can't you just heal me? Can't you just take this disease away? The colonooscopys are draining, the medicines are many, the pain is great, and lately I have let it get the best of me. Why? Because it is so easy to just give into everything and feel down and sad and upset. But where does that honor and glorify my God? Where does that show the blessings He graciously blesses me with every second of my days? Where does that show His power and strength? My attitude lately has not demonstrated good things for my Lord, but has been a selfish and self-centered attitude.

After a weary and long week, I went to a wonderful worship service at church last night. There the Lord spoke to me in such an intimate way. This body that I am living in is not mine! It has never been mine. It belongs FULLY to the Lord! It is HIS body that HE created! And becasue of that, it is supposed to bring honor and glory to Him all the days that it is alive! What a beautiful thing to think about! If this body is to bring honor and glory to my Lord through Crohn's disease, then bring it on! Crohn's has nothing on my God! Crohn's disease is going to bring a beautiful song of worship to the Lord. God's hand has been on my colon from day 1 of the diagnosis and just becasue the waters get really rocky, does not mean that His hand has left me. It just means He is going to get honored and glorified through this even more :) When I accepted Christ into my life 14 years ago, I said YES to honoring His name and making it known all the days of my life. Not just on the good days. Not just in the easy times. But every day of my life!

So, I am done feeling down about the progression of this disease. I am done feeling angry, sad, hurt, and upset. This body is not mine, it is His. And He deserves the most beautiful songs of honor and praise! And that is just what this body is going to give Him :) I am not going to worry about all the docotors appointments this week or the new treatment plans we might begin, but instead I am going to put my focus on how I can bring honor and praise to His name every second of my days! God is good and He deserves the best of me. He fills me with His joy and peace that cannot be explained.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Talk too Much? Yeah, Me too...

   When God is trying to tell us something, it seems to come up in everything we do! I love it because it reminds me that it is God and it helps keep me accountable to what He is teaching me. Prime example, the past week.

   To preface this story I must share a little "gross" detail of living a life with Crohn's disease. When you are in a flare up, your mouth becomes consumed with ulcers. It sounds like a small thing, but when they cover the back of your throat, tongue and gums, it can be a very painful time. Two weeks ago I noticed my ulcers coming back. They have gotten pretty bad this week to the point that it really hurts to talk and to eat. So, I have been a "little" more quiet this week. I even had a couple of friends ask today why I was being quiet. I quickly reassured them that I was not upset or anything, just having some mouth pain. Enter small group last night.

   In our small group we are going through 2 Timothy; last night was about chapter 2. "Godless chatter" was a huge theme that we discussed. "Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly." 2 Timothy 2:16. I believe that godless chatter can be taken in a couple different ways: gossip, unwholesome talk, volgure language, and anything else that is not upliffting to the One who made us. After small group, I thought and prayed about what God was trying to tell me through this passage because it just kept coming up in my heart and mind. My first instinct was to think that God was telling me to watch my gossiping. And while this is something that I will always be cautious of, I felt like it was something different this time. Enter Wednesday night church tonight.

   Our college minister talked about the same passage tonight, but he took it in a way that I had not thought of yet. Are my conversations that I have through out the day intentionally about Christ? Boom. It hit me right in the face. How many nights do I look back on my day and wish I had more spiritual conversations and not surface level ones? Too many times than I care to admit.

   So there I was, sitting in the pew in the sanctuary, my mouth hurting, and my heart beating so fast because I knew this was God talking to me. I am so guilty of having pointless and meaningless conversations during my day just because I like to talk so much. But what if I was more cautious about my words and what came out of my mouth and instead of it being surface level things too often, if it became intentionally spiritual things. I truly believe that God used my hurting mouth to teach me this very valuable lesson this week. It is ok to be quiet. It is ok to not fill every second with a word coming out of my mouth. But instead be in prayer in those quiet times and use the times that I do talk to be intentional about what I say to glorify the Lord. The quiet that I have been provided the past few days has allowed me to clearly hear God's voice and not having my loud mouth interupting what He is teaching me.

   Keep me accountable? Have more spiritual conversations with me? This is my prayer that God would help me be ok with the quiet and use my words more wisely. How many more lives can be welcomed into the family of God if I make my converstaions more intentional? I can't wait to find out!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Awwww Sweet Summertime!

This summer has been a summer to remember! It has been different than anyone before it. This summer I have had the amazing blessing of working in an OBGYN offic in downtown. Man, God is so good! He has taught me so many things through this experience. Leaving my house at 7 every morning and returning home at 6 every night has been exhausting! Definitely not the "typical" summer sleeping until 10, swimming all day, shopping ;) But honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Through the long hours I have worked it has made me appreciate the long hard hours my sweet parents have worked over the years to always provide for me and bless me with much more than I need! When I first began my job I quickly realized how crazy it is to juggle 4 doctors schedules and 100's of pregnant women's phone calls on a daily basis! I remember one of my first days sitting back and my chair and saying "Ok God, you brought me here for a reason and I know you are going to get me through this! Please give me the wisdom and patience I need!" And boy did my God deliver! I have been so blessed with two of the sweetest women who have been so patient with me and taught me so much over the past two months. I love that my Lord had these two special women already picked out to help me long before I ever knew them. The experience that I am getting from this job is truly a dream come true! As I prepare to take my nursing school entrance exam test this semester and hopefully enter nursing school in the spring, the knowledge I am gaining is priceless. But the most precious knowledge is the knowledge I gain at the wee hour of 6 am as I sit down and have my sweet sweet quiet time with the Lord. He has led me to study the book of Joshua the past couple of weeks. Wow! Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that this stuff really happened an it isn't just some movie script that Holleywood came up with! Joshua was a kicky booty guy who obeyed God with such Amazing leadership. Joshua's hard work and complete obedience to the Lord is such a refreshing story to my heart. If he can stand up to these nations who are 5 times his size, then I can stand up for my faith in a group of people who think its "uncool." Why do we stand up for our faith? It's quiet simple; because we are called by the Lord of Lords to do so! It's such a simple lesson, but I am so thankful for the Lords strong voice that reminds whose I am. That reminds me of how precious the lost souls are to Him. That reminds me that I can stand up to the world for Him just like Joshua stood up to the massive nations.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Loving the Old, and Embracing the New

   It haas been about 10 months since the Lord called our precious Pastor Tommy home while on a trip in the Holy Land. The journey has been rough, but God has been there with our church every step of the way. His hand has been so evidently on our church that we have even had new people join our church without there being a pastor. God is so good! As I have been away at college and watching the journey from afar this year, I can not wait to get home next week and meet and embrace the new pastor. I am so thankful for technology that allowed me to listen in on Dr. Bob Records sermon this past Sunday. "Love the old, and embrace the new" was the phrase that was the undertone for his sermon. Pastor Tommy is not ever going to be replaced in our hearts, God is just bringing someone new now to lead our church. Not wear PT's shoes, but bring in his own new shoes that will continue to lead us in the way of the Lord.

   Just like our new pastor, a lot of my sweet senior girls in high school are about to embark on a new journey in life. Y'all are going to college and leaving high school behind. Sometimes I think that our world does us an injustice by telling us to "start over" in college and forget about "where you came from." As a Christian, I believe that God leads us specifically through each chapter of our lives for a specific reason and purpose. He knows exactly what He is doing and always has our best interests in hand. He sees the big picture. So, instead of forgetting about the past and starting over, I believe we should love the past (as Dr. Record said) and embrace the future. Let the lessons that the Lord taught you in high school lead you down this new road. Take your mistakes and let them make you a more Christ like person.

   This new chapter of college is going to bring its ups and its downs. It is going to be difficult being away from your BFF's from high school. I know I miss mine every day as one is in Oklahoma and one is in Dallas and I am in Abilene! But you will never forget those special friends. You are not replacing them when you go to college, you are simply making more friends! God has already planned out the special new friends you all are going to make in this new chapter. "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8) He has made the path,and now it is your time to walk down that path and meet the new people God has set out for you.

   Personally, my journey from high school to college has truly had its moments of difficultness. Shortly after arriving at Texas A&M, I realized that God was calling me to go home. As much as I wanted A&M to be the place for me, it simply was not. Through that difficult time of life, God prepared me for what was about to be one of the BEST journey's of my life! Coming to HSU has been a dream come true! I love the small Christian environment my school has to offer me and the wonderful nursing program here. The path that I had planned for myself after high school was definetly not the one that God had planned for me. But because I have completly given Him my life and I desire more than anything to follow His path, I have so much peace about my 2 years thus far in college and wait in excited anticipation for my last 2 years!

   My sweet senior girls, I pray that the Lord gives each and everyone of you a peace about this next chapter in life. I also pray that you let your heart be opened to WHATEVER God has in store for you. Take peace in the fact that He is LORD over all the earth and He loves each and everyone of you more than we can possibly fathom! He sees the big picture! So, embrace this new adventure that is approaching you, but always remember to love the past and let it continue to shape you into the wonderful Godly women that I know you all are!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Giving the Lord Everything

   I am so blessed! This weekend I was able to go home and watch Katherine in a talent show and then celebrate Meagan's birthday on Saturday! Being able to go home and spend time with my family is precious precious time to me. Spending time with Taylor's family is also precious time to me as well. On Sunday I got the privledge to go to my parent's Sunday School class and listen to Mr. Key teach. I always love listening to what God has placed on his heart and hearing his challenge for us. This week he taught on Jesus feeding the 5,000.

"Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.' 'We have here only 5 loaves of bread and two fish,' they answered. 'Bring them to me,' he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves."
                                                          Matthew 14:16-19a

   Originally the disciples wanted Jesus to send away the crowd. They had had a long day and were probably tired and just wanted some alone time with Jesus. But He told them not to send the crowds away and to feed them themselves. I wonder what the disciples thought about this. I know I would have probably protested right then! "But God I am tired. I just want to get some rest. They can feed themselves." Why is it that we are so caught up in ourselves so many times that we can literally look right in the face of others needs and still just walk away? I pray that the Lord opens my eyes to when I am being slefish in this way and guides me to help whoever is in need. This passage reminds us that the disciples were just like us: human. Dirty, sinful, selfish and in desperate need of a Savior.

   Mr. Key also brought up the point that the disciples gave the Lord all they had. They did not hold anything back for themselves, but when the Lord asked how much they had, they told Him and gave Him it all. And He did above anything that we could fathom. He performed a miracle that turned those 5 loaves and 2 fish into enough to feed over 5,000 people and still have left-overs! Jesus was able to perform this miracle because the disciples were obidient and gave Him all they had. Jesus still calls us to do that today. When we chose to follow Him, He wants it all! Every part of us, everything we own, all within us, EVERYTHING! And He deserves it all! When we give Him our all, He is able to do mighty things that we cannot even fathom. "He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted." Job 5:9 I want to give Him my all! I want to give Him everything! Sometimes, it is hard for me, though. When I find myslef wanting to show my "human"side of selfishness to the Lord, I ask Him to change my heart and to soften it and remind me that He is the boss of my life and in control of everything! Wow. What a mighty God I serve!

    The Lord has given us all different gifts and talents and when we give them back to Him fully, He performs wonderful miracles. A great way to do this is to go on Mission Trips. Churches love to go on mission trips over the summer! I encourage everyone to at least go on one mission trip in their life. It is a great way to take everyone's God-given talents and put them all together and accomplished great things for the Kingdom of Christ. I loved going New Orleans every spring break in high school and helping the people there after Huricane Katrina. While we had fun helping people out with their physical labor work, the most precious times of mission trips are the conversations about the Lord that I got the chance to have with people.

   God is God, He can use anything we give Him. Give Him your everything this week and look around and see where you can use the talents and gifts He has given you to give back to Him. I promise, you won't regret it.