Sunday, March 31, 2019

Every Season, Every Step

Welcome to April! Winter is over - spring is here. Tomorrow is April 1st...the beginning of my month-long birthday celebration of turning 60. The month that I walk a marathon. The month where I reflect back on the past 60 years as well as look to the future. The month that I celebrate the faithfulness of God throughout each season of my life.

Today I'd like to explain to you WHY I am walking a marathon this month. And why I'm walking...not running.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

I woke up on a Friday morning in June, 2016 and my hands (especially my right hand) were super stiff and sore. Over the course of the day, my hand grew increasingly hot and swollen. It started to cramp into a closed position, not able to open it at all...making it impossible to perform simple tasks such as holding a pen, typing, even buttoning or unbuttoning my shirt and pants. By the end of the day my hands looked like this:
These look like the hands of an 80 year old.
That Friday was my first time experiencing the excruciating pain of RA. The hot, burning, relentless savageness of the disease kept me awake almost the entire weekend. It felt like millions of tiny demons gnawing away at my nerve endings, and there was absolutely no relief. I had no idea what was wrong.
Monday morning I went to the doctor who took one look at me and knew what it was. After doing blood work, he confirmed the diagnosis. Rheumatoid arthritis. What in the world?! I was devastated. Soon afterward I saw a specialist who explained that this disease would grow increasingly worse over time, that the flares would become more frequent and severe, and that there wasn't a cure...only slowing the progression of the disease with medication. And that I would need to take the medicine for the rest of my life. It was a lot to take in, and it felt worse than a death sentence to me. For those of you who know me, I don't even like taking Tylenol, and I'm being told that I need to take medicine for the rest of my life? And it wouldn't even cure it? No, thank you.
Disclaimer: I am not saying that I am refusing to take any sort of medicine for RA the entirety of my life. I'm just saying that for me, back then (as well as now), I wanted to explore natural solutions such as diet and exercise to treat the symptoms for as long as possible.
Side note:  I've always said that things (both happy and sad) affect me very deeply...to my bones - my very core. This diagnosis seemed oddly symbolic of how I have carried the weight and pressures of life. (My body is attacking itself?) This is why I kept quiet about it for so long. Somehow I felt like it was my fault (I know it's not), and I didn't want outside voices feeling sorry for me or telling me what to do or how to "fix" it. It was a private battle that only very few knew about.
After the initial diagnosis 3 years ago, I experienced many, many flares. It has been hard to just live and enjoy life because I haven't known what would cause a flare or when it would happen. I truly dreaded waking up in the morning not knowing what the day would bring.
What if I have a flare at Jason's wedding?
Or at Heidi's wedding?
What if I can't cook the Thanksgiving meal?
What if a flare ruins a trip to see my kids and grandbabies?
What if I can't hold the newborn?
What if I can't stir the spaghetti sauce?
Or pick up a pan?
Or my purse?
Or unlock my car?
Or use the nozzle of my hair spray?
Or open my mascara?
Or hold my toothbrush?
Or zip my pants?
And the list goes on and on. Simple tasks that we take for granted. My daily struggle is real...but the flares can be horrendous. 
The flare of a lifetime. I woke up on Monday morning the last week of March, 2018 with an excruciating flare in BOTH of my hands that lasted for an entire week. I could hardly do anything! Somehow I managed to go to work, but I couldn't think, function, sleep...nothing! (And somehow I managed to hide this from my coworkers.) I didn't know what to do. I was begging God to heal me and to give me some sort of direction.
And that's when everything changed for me! The agony of that flare a year ago was so intense that I never wanted to experience it again. Mid-April of last year, just after my birthday, I began a quiet experiment. And again, I told no one. I wondered what would happen if I made 4 major changes in my life...if it would help the RA? I had nothing to lose. So here's what I did:
I cut out almost all sugar from my diet.
But I still enjoy desserts and goodies on occasion.
I cut out most carbs. Not all, but a lot.
I need carbs as I walk long distances.
I started using essential oils on my hands, feet, shoulders and knees.
Coconut oil, peppermint, lavender, and frankincense have become my best friends and daily companions.
And then I started walking. And walking. And walking.
My body responded immediately! I didn't miss the carbs and sugar.
I am not making any medical claims to the effectiveness of essential oils to cure RA, but I am saying that they brought much relief and comfort to MY hands that had been in so much pain. It worked for ME
I craved the warmth and sunshine that seemed to help heal and soothe my body. In the hot summer months I felt like toxins were leaving my body through sweat. I just felt so much better.
I spent most of my time talking to God during my daily walks. I prayed for everyone and everything that was on my heart, and I spent much time asking God to heal me. I also spent a good deal of time reflecting on my life and how good and faithful He had been to me and my family over the years. I also thought a lot about what the future was going to look like for me. One Sunday afternoon last May as I was walking, I had a brilliant thought.
"Next year, for my 60th birthday, I'm going to walk a marathon!"
And so, that's how we got here. Life is a marathon. This is all symbolic.
A marathon is HARD. It actually seems impossible, but we do it. Even through the pain.
Just like life. Life is HARD at times, but we succeed with God's help.
We need support before, during and after a marathon.
Just like life. During each step and stage of life, we need encouragement from our family and friends.
We inspire others when we dare to do the "impossible."
Everyone has an "impossible" dream. Even a 60 year old grandma with RA and vertigo attempting to walk a marathon.
And most importantly, we don't RUN through life. WE WALK.
And God is orchestrating every detail of our life...one step at a time.

Through every season, from our first steps to our final steps, He is faithful. The song below expresses it perfectly. "God of all My Days" has become my theme song this year! I sing it to myself on every walk. God is with us in every season and stage of life.

God of All My Days by Casting Crowns

I came to You with my heart in pieces
And found the God with healing in His hands
I turned to You, put everything behind me
And found the God who makes all things new

I looked to You, drowning in my questions
And found the God who holds all wisdom
And I trusted You and stepped out on the ocean
You caught my hand among the waves
'Cause You're the God of all my days
Each step I take
You make a way
And I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stay the same
You're the God of all my days
I ran from You, I wandered in the shadows
And found a God who relentlessly pursues
I hid from You, haunted by my failure
And found the God whose grace still covers me
I fell on You when I was at my weakest
And found the God, the lifter of my head
And I've worshipped You
And felt You right beside me
You're the reason that I sing
'Cause You're the God of all my days
In my worry, God You are my stillness
In my searching, God You are my answers
In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom
In my weakness, God You are my power
You're the reason that I sing
'Cause You're the God of all my days 

Each step I take
You make a way
And I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stay the same
You're the God of all my days

And so, dear friends, hopefully this explains why I have decided to walk a marathon in celebration of my 60th birthday as I'm entering a new decade of my life.

To update you on how I'm doing physically, God's grace is certainly helping me! I have definitely lost grip strength in my hands, but I'm working on that through mild weight training. The flares have reduced significantly! In fact, I did not experience any RA flares from April - November of last year! It was definitely a hard winter though. With the cold, damp weather and not being able to get out in the sun much, I have experienced some flares, but certainly not with the intensity that they were last year. Most mornings and evenings, my hands are quite sore. I need warm, dry weather to really feel well. At times I experience hard nodules on the outside bottoms of my feet that make me feel like I'm walking on rocks. I tried throwing in a little jogging to shorten the time when I'm out walking long distances, but it was just too painful. Too much pressure on feet, knees and ankles. Which again makes this whole "walking a marathon" idea seem so impossible. How I'm able to walk 13, 16, 17+ miles without being sore the next day is nothing less than miraculous! To God be all the glory! I'm going to continue to walk and fight this disease for as long as I am able.

My actual birthday is on April 16 but I plan to walk the marathon on Saturday, April 13, 2019. When the celebrations are over, I plan to write all about the past year and everything I've learned. Because we're all walking, and the goal is to make it HOME. Until then, thank you for your love, support and prayers. If you would like to celebrate with me on April 13, details of the event are on Facebook. I'd love to see your faces! This is the beginning of a year-long celebration of life and healing.

With a heart full of love and gratitude,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.

God uses every season and every step in life to create beautiful pearls.


  1. I’m so proud of and excited for you, Mom! Watching you over the course of this journey has been nothing short of inspirational. Through all the pain and discomfort caused by the RA, you have remained steadfast in your resolve to never complain. You have shown faithfulness in following the Lord’s leading and sensitivity in pursuing a goal that in the natural makes no sense. Which makes this all the more exciting! I’m anxious to see the results of you completing your first marathon and believe it will be the key to catapult you into receiving the answers you seek and healing that you so desperately need. I love you tons and I’m cheering you on from this side of the world. Congratulations and all the victories you’ve experienced so far! Your biggest victory is yet to come!

  2. This is so beautiful. You are so eloquent with your words. One of the strongest ladies I know. I love you sister ❤