Friday, March 31, 2017

Grace upon grace...

I feel like I blog a lot about grace. I don't think that's a problem, though... God's grace is His power working in our lives. Empowerment. His grace is why it is possible to experience His strength when we are totally and completely weak and powerless. It's what makes it possible to experience His joy and peace even when life is giving us every reason to be miserable. 

Every life-changing revelation or experience that I have had in my life has been the result of MY surrender and HIS grace working through my surrender.

I've been experiencing yet another new facet of His grace these past few months. But first let me back up.

Over the past two years, I'd been experiencing more and more health issues. None of them were serious, and none of them interfered much in my daily life, so I frequently ignored them. My hands developed some sort of eczema. Over the last two-plus years, it gradually spread over more and more of my palms, but it didn't itch like eczema usually does and only occasionally hurt, so I just ignored it and only my immediate family even knew it existed. My blood pressure was gradually climbing into the hypertension range, but I'd found that more sleep and sunshine kept it out of the dangerous range... so again, I ignored it most of the time. My shoulder started hurting, and gradually it got worse... then the other one started hurting and got worse... but it only affected me if I needed to raise my arms over my head or lift something heavy.  My husband knew how bad it was getting and how much range of motion I'd lost when he saw that I could not undress myself sometimes, but most of the time, it didn't affect me... so I ignored it. I've been slowly gaining weight for years like many of us do, but even when I tried just about any healthy method of losing weight known to man, nothing happened.  I didn't like getting frustrated by my inability to lose weight, and I carried those extra pounds so evenly that most people never realized that I weighed 25% more than I should to be healthy. So most of the time... you guessed it... I ignored it. Ditto with a handful of other minor health problems.

Last fall, my job had a season of extra stress, and I thought I handled it pretty well... until the turn of the year.  Then all of a sudden, my body started letting me know in no uncertain terms that something was seriously wrong. I lost the ability to sleep soundly, and I went through several weeks of essentially no real sleep.  It was one thing when the kids were little and woke me up all the time, for at least then, my body knew how to actually rest while keeping an ear open... and when it was okay to sleep soundly, my body did it. This was nothing like that. My body seemed to have forgotten how to shut down and sleep, and it was very quickly affecting my mental function. I'm a senior manager and my job requires a memory for lots of details, and it was rapidly getting harder and harder to get my brain to work properly.

My husband was experiencing his own gradually-worsening health problems as well. His symptoms were nothing like mine, but he, too, had been ignoring most of them for years.  But now they were starting to affect his ability to do his job as well.

And so we went to a highly-recommended "functional doctor." A normal medical doctor is trained to treat symptoms and diseases, but a functional doctor is trained to restore the body's correct and intended functions.  They're quite different, and there is a place and time for both. We felt the functional doctor was the type that we needed, since medical doctors had not found any disease-related source of these issues. So we went to one and he had us list every single little health issue we had.  Seeing a list of eight health issues that had almost all appeared in the last two years sort of woke me up to how my health was on a subtle but relentless downwards spiral.  I couldn't ignore it anymore.

So where does the grace come in?

Well, it turns out that functional doctors understand how EVERYTHING that surrounds and enters a body affects its functions. So the way that they work to restore your body's functions is by carefully controlling everything that enters your body and everything your body experiences.

This meant an extremely strict diet, learning about hidden toxins that have found their way into most American's diets and personal care products, learning new ways to cook, finding better sources of food and products, learning how stress isn't quite what most of us think and how to combat it, etc.

In other words, it meant a LOT of work and time and self-control... self-control and time that I wasn't sure I had when the doctor laid all this out. Where would I find the time to do so much more cooking (because there is not a single restaurant within an hour's drive that prepares food that fits this diet... and all processed, ready-made foods were out).

I didn't feel like I had much choice, though.  My ability to do my job was definitely on the line, and I also felt like there might be so much more on the line in my future. I'm only a few years younger than my mom was when she developed the cancer that eventually took her life. I could not help feeling that I owed it to my family to stop this nasty spiral before it resulted in cancer or something else horrible... something that could not be ignored.

And so I threw myself upon God's grace yet again.

And once again, I experienced His grace and faithfulness!

He has carried my through these months so securely that it hasn't seemed even 1/10th as hard as it was when I tried to "eat right" on my own.

As lab tests came in, the doctor was able to show us exactly how our hormone levels had gotten so out of whack that it was affecting our bodies' ability to heal from injuries, to sleep and wake, to produce other important hormones, the function of our immune systems, and a host of other things.  He continuously adjusted our diets, the supplements we were taking, instructions for physical therapy exercises, etc... whatever our individual bodies were needing in order to heal and restore proper function. Keep in mind that I know a lot about healthy eating and had done it quite often over the past two years of falling apart. It hadn't worked. I believe it was the precise and tailored nature of what the doctor directed each of us to do that made the difference.

And God's grace has been there for us, enabling us, carrying us through, providing self-control and strength... all that we need.

My eczema disappeared within a week of the diet and supplements he prescribed. The next week, my sleep started improving, and I'm now I'm sleeping better than I have in years. One of my shoulders is completely healed, and the other one is almost healed. We go to the gym now because I lost a lot of strength over the past year that they were injured and I need to regain it.  My blood pressure is lower than it has been in years. My mental function is back. That 25% weight gain?  Over half of it is already gone... just melted away, without counting calories, without worry about it, without extreme workout routines.

My body is healing and being restored.

Isn't that what what God's grace is for? For restoration?

Jesus said He came that we might have life... and not just a meager existence or sickly falling-apart life... life more abundantly!  He stood up in the temple, quoted Isaiah 61's verses about restoration and the freedom of captives and said He had come to fulfill all of that.


What are you facing? 
Does some sort of your life need restoration?

I assure you... God's grace can restore you, too!

But just like we had to surrender our own ways of eating and living and taking care of ourselves and submit to the doctor's wisdom, so too, we have to surrender our own ways and our own wisdom to God if we want His grace to flow.

God led us to this doctor, but we did not know in advance what He would lead us to. None of us do.  That's the whole point in surrender.

But God will always provide the grace - the strength and empowerment - for what He asks a surrendered person to do. He does it all.

And what you surrender to God's will and ways -- what you give up for Him -- will ALWAYS be overwhelmed and outdone and surpassed by what you will receive in return. This is a spiritual law.

Give Him a chance to restore your life. Actually... don't just give him a chance. Give him all your chances. Everything you've got... and what you don't have. Give Him your emptiness as well, and wait until He fills it with more than you can imagine.

John 10:9-11
I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and [a]have it abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
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