Here is the "sermon" (I use the term loosely) I wrote for church that I had to give. I've been toiling over it for the past two weeks, tweaking it over and over (and over). I hope it is something that is worth while for all those poor souls that had to listen to it!
2 Cor 12:7-10
… there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When Dan asked me to speak, I really didn’t know what I would talk about. I figured everyone has a story, why is mine so important? Wasn’t there someone else that could do better at this? Why is MY struggle so significant? Why would anyone want to listen to me sit up here and whine about my problems?
The thing is, it’s not about the problem or the struggle, it’s about the journey. It’s about finding God’s path for me. It’s about the relationships that have formed, those that grown, and even those that have faded away.
Looking at me, you would probably say that I am an out-of-shape housewife that looks happy, healthy and mostly put together. The truth is, I AM out of shape, but other than that, it’s all bologna. I struggle every day to do what a normal 31 year old woman should do with ease. My mind says I’m 31 while the rest of my body says I’m more like 80.
The past two years have been a battle for me. I’ve struggled with an invisible illness that has turned my world upside-down. I used to work about 45 hours a week managing the Zumbrota branch of my parent’s bakery. I also had my own photography business that was not only surviving, but thriving. Plus, I had two kids, a husband and a house to run. You could say I was busy!
So, when I started getting headaches every day, migraines, dizzy spells and fainting spells, seeing spots, having hot flashes, feeling weak and extremely tired, I thought it was just all the work I was doing and all the stress of an everyday working mom and wife. I tried to take it easy, but it seemed to only get worse.
Eventually, doctors diagnosed me with what’s called POTS (short for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). Basically, my body’s “auto pilot” is all messed up. It doesn’t know how to correctly regulate all my everyday functions like heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, organ function, temperature, sugar levels, digestion and so much more. POTS patients use about three times more energy just to stand than a healthy person. It is as if they are running in place all the time. POTS patients' quality of life is similar to those with congestive heart failure.
As hard as this disease is to explain, it’s even harder to diagnose and treat. One day, my meds will be doing a pretty good job. Then it seems like overnight, what helped before is now a hindrance. My body suddenly doesn’t know what to do with the meds I’ve been taking for six months.
I’ve ended up having to be very dependent on those around me. My husband and kids have really gotten the short end of the stick on this deal. My husband has taken on my share of mostly everything and never complained, not even once. I truly don’t think I would have made it through the past couple years without him. He’s shown me what unconditional love really is. I know God has put me with him because he is so patient and understanding. I don’t know if anyone else would have put up with as much as he has.
My kids have been great too. They don’t like when mom can’t always push them on the swing or go swimming or dancing with them, but they understand when I say I can’t. I wish I was a better mother every day.
With all this mess, I’ve turned into half the mother, half the wife and half the friend I always wanted to be. I’ve lost all confidence in myself. I’ve made myself feel useless, wallowing in my own self pity, self doubt and self loathing.
Even though I got mad at myself, I surprisingly never got mad at God. I’m a huge believer that things happen for a reason – the good and the bad. In the end, some good will come out of it or something will be learned from it to make me a better person. The problem is the waiting. I’ve been dealing with this for two years and I’m still waiting to see what His plan is. I really don’t see an end in sight. I’m not getting better and I don’t know what His purpose for all this is. Frankly, I am getting a little impatient, but keep reminding myself that God works in his time, not mine unfortunately. I have complete faith that He will not only bring me through all this, but make me better because of it. However, does that mean I can’t be sad that I’m not the woman I want to be? Can I not be mad at myself for failing myself?
I ask Him every day - why me? Why now? I’m not sure…
But I do know the best thing so far that has come of all this is the relationships that I’ve made. You know they say, “You learn who your friends are when times are tough.” I’ve learned that this is so true. Those I thought would be there for me ran when I seemed to need them the most. Then there were strangers that helped me through my hard times and became great friends.
This is what I’ve needed the most, someone to just come beside me and be a true friend; someone who will take my mind off my problems and laugh with me when I want to cry; someone that excepts when I need to sit and take it easy, with understanding, not pity or disgust; someone that does not point out my many faults, but complements my few achievements.
I’ve also found myself in the company of more and more people that need me in their life. God has opened my eyes to those who need my friendship and comfort. He even put me up here, in front of all of you. I may not ever know the reason, but my hope is something I say helps one of you.
I see others that I’ve come to admire. They struggle every day with things that I see are harder than mine and they do it with a smile and a skip in their step. I wonder how they do it. I wish I could push through my struggles and learn to live with complete joy.
But I also wonder if they hide it as much as I try to. Do they put on a fake smiley face to appear like they have it all together? Meanwhile, are they suffering inside? Are they pretending to have it all together to look like a strong person, a strong Christian? To make it look like they have that never-ending faith? Do they not ask for help when they need it the most in fear of shame or loss of pride?
We all do it… The question is… Why? Why don’t we just be honest with ourselves and with others? Why do we put on those masks that cover our true feelings and true desires or even need of help? Shouldn’t we have faith in others, just as we do in God? I know I put on a mask, sit back quietly in a corner somewhere. I’ve come to discover who I can trust to take that mask off for. For everyone else, I keep it on very tightly!
I’ve found myself more and more in the presence of those who are true believers. It’s funny how these are the people I trust the most, even if I barely know them. There’s something to be said of the love God grants between two believers.
You may get sick and never be the same. You may have a person be taken from you earlier than expected. You may lose your job or your home. But know this… God is always there. He will see you through. He will put someone in your life that will help you through. It may not be who you expect, so keep your eyes and heart open. Also, he may put you in someone’s life that is in need of your love.
Lately, I've been asking myself when I meet someone new, get together with old friends and even walk into the church... "Did I choose to love... or did I choose to judge or to ridicule?" I hope to always answer that with an, "I choose to love!"
I recently received the following in an email and I wee that this has been my life the last 2 years...
I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, "No. It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up."
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, "No. Her spirit is whole, her body is only temporary."
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, "No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations; it isn't granted, it is learned."
I asked God to give me happiness…
God said, "No. I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you."
I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, "No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me."
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, "No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful."
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, "No. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things."
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said... "Ahhhh, finally you have the idea!"
AND GOD SAID… LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU!