God’s Continued Blessings

stack-of-rocks-mountain-markerThe steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

I am rejoicing! God continues his work in me and blesses me!

Earlier this week, I had an echocardiogram, another six-minute walk, and a checkup with Doctor Mike (my pulmonary hypertension specialist). When he reviewed the results of the echo, he told me that my heart is “perfect” and I now have the pulmonary pressures of an eighteen-year-old! Praise the Lord! This journey known as my healing has been filled with milestones along the way. His mercies have indeed been new every morning.

I recently heard a Bible teaching from Joshua 4:1-7 regarding the establishment of memorial stones set up by Joshua so the people of Israel might see them and remember what God had done for them at that location. Even prior to Joshua God commanded the people to do this many times throughout the Old Testament, such as when Jacob had his dream of angels ascending and descending the ladder to heaven. I especially love the stories that end with the phrase “and they remain there to this day.” Even today we read those accounts, remember, and marvel at God’s power and majesty as displayed in his works among the Israelites.

My memorial stones consist of writings and calendar notations–and I don’t want to forget any of the stories associated with them. It’s humbling for me to see how people’s hearts are touched and encouraged when I recount God’s goodness in my life. What an awesome God I serve! May I always be a living memorial stone that declares God’s glory with my life, testimony, and actions.

Feel free to share a “memorial stone event” from your life in the Comments.

 

Bible Study 101?

Bible-Genesis with glasses

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net  Photo by Janaka Dharmasena

From April 21-24 Tom and I attended the Pennsylvania State Gideons Convention. Since we joined the Gideons in 2010, we have been blessed in ways too numerous to mention (including my miraculous healing which I have described in previous posts.)

 

I’ve done a lot of Bible study throughout my life. It’s one of my favorite activities. I’ve done studies where you take a book of the Bible and go through it verse-by-verse. I’ve taken one verse and meditated on it for insight over days and weeks. I’ve looked up specific words to see how they were used in the original language, context, and other verses.

But the Bible teacher who taught three 45-minute sessions, showed me Bible study on a whole new level. Dr. Dino Pedrone, pastor, author, and president of Davis College took our conference theme: “Declare His glory among the nations” (1 Chronicles 16:24) and divided it into three phrases. When he told us he would spend a session on each phrase, “Declare”, “His glory”, and “Among the nations”, I wondered how he would find that much to say about each. O, ye of little faith!

I won’t go through what he taught in those sessions. But Dr. Pedrone took us all over the Bible to expand our understanding of each phrase. He demonstrated how the entire Bible is woven together. He gave us action plans for putting each phrase and the verse as a whole into practice. Suffice it to say I learned a whole new way to plumb the depths of God’s Word. The Bible is the only book that is living and breathing and actively working in our lives (1 Timothy 3:16). Every book, every chapter, every verse, every word has so many layers of meaning and truth that we will never peel back a fraction of those layers this side of glory.

Thank you, Dr. Pedrone, for giving me another tool to help me dig deeper into the Word!

(What is your favorite way to study the Bible? Or what is the best Bible study you’ve ever done? Leave me a comment with your answers!)

God + Gifts = Joy and Thankfulness

Like most people, I have been encouraged at various points in my life to keep a thankfulness journal. Being the office and school supply nerd that I am, I could never start one until I’d located the perfect blank book and pen. I’d begin eagerly enough, but before long the delight with my stupendous stationary and the enthusiasm of tracking what I was thankful for at the end of each day dwindled until the entries stopped. I always wondered why I found this so difficult to do. My personality is of the glass-half-full variety, and I’ve been blessed with what Rachel Carson calls “the sense of wonder”.

One day, I picked up a book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts, knowing nothing about it. Her beautiful use of language and unique way of expressing ideas drew me in immediately. What she wrote not only made the light bulb go on for me, but was life-changing. When sharing with a friend her struggle to cultivate joy, despite recognizing her many blessings and being thankful for them, this friend gave Ann a challenge: make a list of one thousand gifts God has given you.

That last phrase reverberated in my mind and heart–gifts God has given you. Gifts. God. Has. Given. You. GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN YOU! This simple shift in semantics was transformational. Instead of thankfulness being about me, what was I thankful for, now became what God has given me. And so I started another journal.

Now that my focus was on God and the gifts that are all around me, my list grew and grew. I couldn’t wait to find the treasures God would put in front of me each day. Some items were simple, such as snuggling with my dog on the couch, the scent of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, or the finch watching me from the underside of my living room awning. And some were more complex–marveling at the wonder of my salvation, God’s grace in a moment of weakness, or a new revelation into a verse of scripture.

And what I discovered was that I became filled with joy by seeing God’s hand in every aspect of my life which then triggered a deep sense of gratitude.

I no longer struggle to record in my journal. Some days my problem becomes not being able to STOP recording gifts–indeed, a good “problem” to have! It proves once again that when we focus on God instead of ourselves, we open ourselves to being filled with God’s joy and in turn, we respond with praise and thankfulness.

“Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and forget not (one of) all His benefits.” Psalm 102:2 (Amplified)

“Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad” Psalm 35:27a

(Check out Ann Voskamp’s wonderful inspirational blog, A Holy Experience It also contains information about her book One Thousand Gifts.)

Looking Back–One Year Later

Declare His Glory 2Tom and I just returned from the 2015 International Gideons Convention. The theme this year was 1 Chronicles 16:24–Declare His Glory among the Nations! While there, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of God’s gift of healing to me. As I look back, I see it as a year of declaring God’s glory in my life.

I first shared my healing with my church family by writing an article for my church newsletter. Several speaking opportunities both inside and outside of my church presented themselves. Seven weeks after my healing, I declared God’s glory to another one of my doctors, the transplant doctor who had followed me since my transplant evaluation in 2010. She saw the evidence as she spoke with me and heard the evidence as she listened to my lungs. That day, after telling me that my team of doctors had met and decided it was time to begin the transplant process, she closed my transplant file.

In August, I had contact with an editor from Decision magazine during Franklin Graham’s Festival of Hope crusade here in Pittsburgh. I had contact in both August and October with folks from our local Christian TV station. The editor of our Gideons International publication contacted me. And in June, a very rough outline of the book I’m planning to write about my healing, life after healing, and the issues and questions that arise from such a life-changing event caught the eye of a literary agent who will be working with me to develop the book and sell it for me.

Last year was a time of declaring his glory while waiting, listening, and learning about my new life and the call that came with it. Now that I have the medical documentation needed for the media contacts and the interest in my book, I look forward to giving God the glory in ways that I pray will touch more hearts and lives for Christ. This will be a year of moving forward, actively and in faith, into the call on my life to Declare His Glory in larger and ever-widening circles.

I am here, Lord. Send me.

Revelry and Reflection

I think most of us tend to reevaluate our lives and goals at the beginning of a New Year. Because of the tremendous shift in my life over the past six months, this feels more important this year. The fall and the holidays were times of unbridled joy and excitement at the rediscovery of things I hadn’t been able to do for years. I hadn’t realized how much I had lost until it was returned to me in July. 

I reveled in taking my sweet dog for walks, ambling along trails that followed old railroad lines, now refurbished for walking, running, and bicycling. (I’m still at the walking stage. One thing at a time!) Or taking a path through the woods in many of the local parks, reveling in the awesomeness of God’s creation. 

I reveled in taking a few days to spend with my daughter in her third floor apartment, actually being able to walk up to the third floor—and not having to drag all kinds of medical equipment. During that visit I walked the length of the town in which she lives, embracing the joy of their Light-Up Night celebrations and the many activities that took place all over town. 

I reveled in becoming more involved in the women’s Bible study at church in which I’d participated for the past five years. The fact that I no longer struggle with debilitating fatigue has given me the energy to exercise my God-given gifts of teaching and singing. 

I reveled in having choices about what to do with my days. I forged ahead with little thought of planning my time and activities. I just went and did. 

I’ve had my season of fun and revelry. But now comes the time to reflect and deal with the temptation to grab EVERY opportunity that presents itself. It’s time to evaluate and prioritize and choose what my life is going to look like for the long haul.  

And the truth is I still have work to do in regards to my healing. The years of steroid treatment have left me with many unwanted and unhealthy pounds that need to be stripped from my body (would that they could in one fell swoop!). Physical inactivity has resulted in deconditioning and loss of strength. 

Most exciting is that the constant brain fog that accompanied the fatigue is gone, giving me a clearer mind to pursue my writing goals. I have two major projects I intend to work on this year as well as being more diligent in pursuing publication for numerous completed works.  

One of the ways I hope to accomplish these goals is through both focus and discipline, two things I’ve never been very accomplished at. But with God’s help and the new chapter He’s writing in my life, I know that ALL things are indeed possible. I heard this quote at a meeting I attended this past weekend. “I know that God wants what is best for me. So why don’t I want what’s best for me?” 

Let me know what your thoughts and goals are for the year. Then join me as we pursue not just the good things in my life and yours, but the BEST. WE CAN DO IT!

God Still Works Miracles—Part 4—God-incidences

I love God sheep

(Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Instead of another narrative, this time I want to list all the other things God did, too many and too pertinent to wave away. Some may say there were just coincidences, but I like to think of them as God-incidences or divine appointments. Each one is special to me in its own way. I still marvel at the way I feel and my freedom to live and move and breathe.

Recounting all that God has done renews my faith, and I hope it encourages yours. Our God loves us more than we can ever imagine! His hand in my life—and in yours—is evident by watching for his loving gifts each and every day.

  • On Tuesday, two days before my healing, Tom and I chose a Gideon from Botswana to take to dinner on Saturday night (two days after my healing). When we met David, we learned that he and Geoffrey were sharing a hotel room. They had been paired and placed together by the hotel as singles wanting to share a room.
  • When I checked my appointment book I discovered I had been scheduled for an appointment with my cardiologist at close to the exact time that I was, instead, healed. (He is the doctor I saw one week later.)
  • Friends of ours who were attending the convention only on Thursday, hoped to be able to meet up with us. Not only did they find us, but God directed them to enter the hotel through a door that led them to where we were waiting to be seated for lunch. They were able to rejoice with us over my healing but also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Geoffrey.
  • A woman I’d met at the Gideon state convention had heard of my healing and wanted to talk to me. She asked the Lord to let us find each other. In a room of over 1000 women, we ended up next to each other on the way out of a session. God blessed us with an hour of sweet fellowship over tea.
  • As I waited for Tom to bring the car to the hotel to load up and go home, I told one of the valets about my miraculous healing. He was not a Christian but was intrigued by my story. He’d already been given a testament and told me he was interested in reading it. I encouraged him. After we spoke was when his name finally hit me—Joi! Please pray for this precious young man to come to know true joy in Jesus!
  • As word of my healing spread through my church after I got home, a friend who advises our youth called and asked if I would share my testimony at one of their weekly meetings. They’d had an advisory meeting to plan the fall schedule and decided for the first time to ask people from the congregation to tell their stories. She checked her calendar, and we discovered this decision was made on the day of my healing.

God Still Works Miracles–Part 3–Doctor Visits

September, 2013. My daughter, Bethany, and me on the Washington DC Metro.

The week after we returned from Philadelphia, I had two doctors’ appointments, both scheduled weeks and months earlier. The first was with my primary care physician who is a friend, believer, and member of my church.

I shared my testimony with the women who work in his office. All three of them marveled at the change in me. It also opened some doors for them to share some of their concerns with me, things I now keep on my prayer list.

Then, I found myself alone. I grabbed the notebook I always carry in my purse and recorded these thoughts:

As I sit here, waiting for Kevin to come in, I am experiencing some anxiety. I now have an idea of how Geoffrey felt as our breakfast ended. He recognized God’s voice and knew he had to be obedient to the command. But it didn’t keep him from feeling too nervous to ask me directly if he could pray for me, sending instead the Gideon from Maryland who was seated next to him.

 I’m sure Kevin will believe me because of his faith in Jesus. But I’m still nervous about the encounter. Will he just accept it? Will he doubt at first? I don’t know how he will react.

The knock came on the door. In response to his greeting, I said, “I’m terrific. Let me tell you what’s happened.” As I shared, Kevin acknowledged the power of prayer and how he has seen people recover through God working and answering prayer. But he admitted all cases involved a process of healing, rather than immediate.

He moved to the examination table, placed his stethoscope on my back, and told me to take a deep breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught an expression of wonder at what he heard. “You’re really moving a lot of air. And everything sounds clear—no crackles or wheezing,” he said. And his smile told me the rest.

The next day, I had an appointment with one of my specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) where I shared my testimony more times than I can count. I greeted the receptionists who immediately noticed I was missing my oxygen. Then came the nurse who escorted me back to do a six-minute walk. (This is a test where your pulse and oxygen saturation is continuously monitored while you walk as many laps as you can in a measured hallway in six minutes.) She couldn’t believe how well I was walking without the oxygen or the normal levels of my vitals. She allowed me to do the walk without the oxygen, but had a tank handy just in case.

I took off at a comfortable, sustainable pace. She smiled and laughed in amazement at my numbers each time I passed her. After it ended (no oxygen needed) she printed out the report and marveled at the fact that I had done better and walked farther than the previous three times with oxygen. She told me I’d made her day.

Next came the physician’s assistant. I was touched by the respect everyone showed toward my God story. By the same token, none could refute the observable and obvious change in me. Finally, came Dr. Mike. When I’d finished, he said, “Please have patience with those of us who are grounded in science and tend to be skeptical. But I will never say that science and medicine have all the answers.” But because he is a scientist and his main concern is for my health and well-being, he asked me to stay on my medications until I see him again in three months so he can be sure this “sticks”. During the exam, he also heard my lungs fill up the way they were supposed to and admitted that the numbers from the six-minute walk backed up the way I felt.

I know what he’ll find in three months, but I also understood where he was coming from. As a Christian most of my life, I’d never been acquainted with anyone who’d been dramatically healed nor did I know anyone who knew anyone to whom this had happened. The nature of a miracle lies in the fact it is so unexpected, so instantaneous, so wondrous that it can hard to comprehend, even for those of us grounded in faith.

We serve a God of power, love, and miracles. But, I know the Lord sustained me the past ten years because of the treatments prescribed by my doctors. God does use medicine and its technologies to heal. But I am living proof that miracles did not end with recorded scripture. God is still sovereign and still delights in miraculously healing His children.

Me with Phin 1

August, 2014. Me and Phin at home.

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