That time when God healed me.

(Disclaimer: this is copy/pasted from my Facebook status. I just wanted to let all my subscribers know of the joyous news!)

At the end of 2013, I received a word from a man of God that God was going to take my ministry to greater depths than ever before, but to get me there, He was going to shatter me. I would need to be completely broken so that when people saw this ministry, they would see Him and not me. He would be glorified. I had to be willing to 100% surrender, and that would require that I be broken emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically.

As most already know- this definitely came to pass. My life seemed to turn upside down in the blink of an eye. As soon as it was the worst it could ever be, it got- well- worse. Loved ones passed away, my dad faced down stage three cancer, my family broke in two, and to capitalize the pain – I was diagnosed with an incurable chronic illness. My fate, per the doctors, was to be in literal pain for a lifetime. Pain that would continue to worsen as I aged, deteriorating my body until it was nothing and I was not the person I once was. Exhaustion, mind numbing fatigue, took over most of my days. I couldn’t think straight, walk straight, act straight whenever a flareup hit. It was all I could do to just keep going. And it was only going to get worse. Life was becoming an onslaught of devastation.

But.

I knew that it was of God and if He was allowing me to be here, He would get me through it.

As time went on, it became difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially as people started coming to me to ask what was going on in my life that such terrible things happened as a result. When ministers prayed healing over me and rebuked Satan for the attack, I quietly listened – frustrated because it wasn’t Satan master minding this. God had already told me what was going to happen and it was unfolding exactly as He said.

Occasionally God would send a refreshing word: “Don’t give up,” and “It’s not over, but I’m with you,” and “Let Me be your strength today.” He gave me respites from the pain so that I could dance and shout in worship, but shortly after this, it all came rushing back.

In 2015, two years into the war, God sent an angel to Undignified Event. This angel once again confirmed the words of the Lord. He reminded me that this battle was of God, that if I would trust and worship and keep going, the end of the war would come. My healing was coming, and just like God took everything and yet restored Job, He would do the same for me. Still, for now, my testimony was in my pain.

Then, more kind words confused me. Some people told me that I just needed to have more faith, others that I should go back on/off meds, others that I needed to try more holistic medicines, still others that I just needed to sleep more, eat more, sleep less, eat less, exercise more, exercise less, etc.

One night, roughly a year ago, I was feeling particularly discouraged. Someone had recently told me that I needed to just ask God to heal me already and stop milking it- rebuke the enemy, make him flee. Just before crying myself to sleep in pain, I told God that He would just have to tell me when it was time for healing. I was so tired of hearing that God wanted me to be healed and that I was the reason this was sticking around, when I knew from His Words that He wanted me to endure this for a while.

More time went by and the illness got worse and worse. Just recently, I faced down the longest flareup to date. I’ll be honest. It made me feel crazy and sad and alone. What if this really was an attack of Satan and not something God had designed to get me to a new level of dependency on Him for my ministry?

The angel’s words rang in my ears. The Lord gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. So I kept plowing forward, determined not to give up.

*Post-Facebook Comment: We had special revival services at our church this past Friday and Saturday night. An evangelist and friend of our local Pastor preached the sermons.

Saturday night, Bro. Greene found me in the altar, yet again wondering when this fight would end. And he said the words I had been waiting to hear: “You’ve been carrying this emotional and physical illness, and now it’s time to let it go.”

“Now it’s time..”

Hello, magic words.

At first I was silently shouting, “Sounds good to me – let’s do this thing!”

Then he said something that threw me:

“So we’re going to pray for God to restore the chemical balance.”

Uhhhh chemical balance? Okay, he was clearly confused. I had FIBROMYALGIA, not a chemical imbalance. Still, I allowed him to pray over me and quietly asked God that if it really was time, please go ahead and heal me even if the prayer was a liiiiittle off the mark.

I went home last night not thinking too much of it. A teeny part of me hoped, but really the prayer just didn’t make sense so obviously God wasn’t in it.

Then this morning, as soon as I awoke, the idea to google “chemical imbalance and fibromyalgia” hit me square in the forebrain (or whatever part of your head that processes thoughts first thing in the morning – I’m not a doctor, give me a break).

So I did.

And what I found was article upon article upon article, by leading medical research teams, saying that discoveries were linking fibromyalgia to chemical imbalance. This imbalance in the nervous system may be what made the brain misread pain signals.

What. Even.

How had I missed this in my studying the illness for years and years?

And even more what-even-y… His prayer was actually kinda-sorta RIGHT ON THE MARK.

I told myself and others “God maybe-might-have healed me last night!” as I entered church this morning. After all, I wasn’t going to be the one to say He did for sure without some kind of proof first (oh geez, Rach).

Service progressed, I worshipped God with everything in me, going and not stopping… I didn’t even notice that not once did I get dizzy, see spots, feel pain- despite dancing for ages and shouting and waving my arms (clue the first – these are things that usually result in excruciating pain for me).

When Bro. Greene shared his message, He spoke on the word of our testimony- that God would offer healing and we needed to search within ourselves and then testify of our belief in His healing if we believed. That testimony was turning the proverbial key in the lock. Disclaimer – that’s an incredibly watered-down-dumbed-down version of the sermon (it was a really good theological sermon that held a lot of depth and would take a long time to rewrite). Throughout his message, I felt the Lord moving on me.

Before the altar call was even given, the Lord spoke to me in the stillness of my heart. “Rachel, are you healed?”

And suddenly, after years of waiting and believing on the Lord, seeking after Him, trusting Him, wondering when the end would come, it was right there. The realization that I was not in pain, that I felt CLEAR in my mind (y’all don’t even know how beautiful that is), hit me. The ball was in my court. The question was waiting for a response-

And the response is YES. I believe. I believed it then and I believe it now. And here’s my proof – I worshipped harder than I have worshipped in years, and 8 hours later, I’m still awake. I normally turn in for bed by 6pm on a day with little to no movement, and after some intense Rachel-cardio (as Tim has dubbed it), I’m still awake.

Oh, and minor thing here, I don’t have any pain in my body.

At lunch, I had my brother hit me in the arm (LOL!). Previously, that would have made me freeze as pain washed over and radiated through every inch of my body – but there was nothing. It literally DID NOT HURT AT ALL. I turned to my friend Tami and told her to press on the pressure point in my back. She pressed, I urged her to press harder, she did, and I felt NOTHING. That kind of pressure would have sent me to bed and kept me there for days previously (pressure point pain is the worst kind of pain for FMS in my experience). You guys. I’m not kidding.

This is real.

It’s finally over.

I don’t know what this means for my future, but I know that today, the anointing I felt as I walked, the power I felt in my spirit and heart, had me soaring. I’m ready to go wherever He leads, because at just 23 years of age, I have learned what it is to trust and rely on God in the darkest of nights. I’ve learned how to worship when I just don’t feel like it, when I literally cannot move my body, and when I’m too tired to think, let alone speak. I’ve learned what it is to just trust that I’m going to be okay while in the ER with a room full of nurses and aids and concerned parents- everyone poking and prodding me without the faintest clue of how to help.

I’ve learned how to have compassion for the hurting and the wounded, how to love the weary and downtrodden. Because I have been one of them for a long time.

And here’s the very best part: I still have my whole life ahead to testify of His goodness.

I’m not saying there will never be another trial or frustration or ailment. I’m definitely not saying I’ve hit the height of maturity and have no room for growth (good Lord, I’m Rachel Allene Carpenter. I need more growth and maturity than I need oxygen!) I’m saying that God’s Word which was spoken over me at the very climax of my youth in 2013- that Word has become finished.

The process hurt and hurt and hurt – but glory be, the other side is quite a picture. I could gush for hours about the doors opened for ministry because of this illness and the emotional devastations I’ve faced. I could praise God for days and weeks and months and years, and it would never be enough.

I know I’ve been rambling for half a decade now, but I’d so love the opportunity to testify some more. So if you want to hear more about how these years of pain have revolutionized my walk with God and my ministry, hit me up.

If you want some encouragement because you are in the thick of the trial, I am here for you. I may not have fought as long as you have, I may have fought longer, the point is not the type of trial or it’s duration – the point is that you are not alone. God sees you in your pain and in your suffering, and He was made a way out of no way. It’s just a matter of time. And I’m happy to give out all the hugs you may need until then.

Because that’s right – hugs don’t hurt anymore. HUG ME PEOPLE – I WON’T EVEN CRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It all boils down to this..

I love to gab; I love even more to glorify God. And what a gloriously deserving God He is!

(P.S. I hope this made sense. I’m still shaking with excitement and the words just keep tumbling all over themselves in an effort to get out first. haha!)

That time when God healed me.

I Go to Seek

I’m addicted to seeking adventure.

Note how I said that. It’s not the adventure itself (though they’re generally pretty legit), but the journey to that adventure that I’m addicted to.

I love to look, plan, search. I’m built for it.

That seems to be a theme among story tellers and world adventurers, from recent phenomenons like John Green to age-old favorites like A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh ūüėČ ). The idea of planning and working towards an event being greater than the event itself is reflected¬†throughout their art.

 

… and sometimes they literally say it.

I tweeted a while ago that I’ve always been the kind of person who views life like a check list and that I want to complete as much as possible before I die. Though I also mentioned I’ve accepted this about myself (and I have), within this addiction to wanderlust lies a hidden battle for me.

You see, with every setting of the sun, I have less time to scratch out the items on that list. So when things slow down, when change doesn’t happen quickly enough, when the list grows at a rate faster than it can be crossed off.. well I shudder.

The lack of pursuing adventure is, perhaps, the greatest factor that urges me deeper into the dark valley of depression.

Let me pause to say that I’m not trying to be dramatic here.¬†I’m just writing as fast as I can to keep up with whatever is pouring out of my heart in this moment.

Depression.

It’s¬†another topic I don’t mention much¬†for two very frustrating reasons. Reason One:¬†the “just get over it” stigma that everyone associates with it. Reason Two: the “why don’t you just pray that demon away” stigma that Christians associate with it. Yes, some depression is a whimsical call for attention, and some of it is a spiritual attack. BUT. Some of it is unrest, a chemical alteration in your brain’s ability to perceive the world.

And unfortunately, it’s a nasty side effect of life-limiting chronic illnesses like Fibromyalgia.

I don’t take the term “depression” lightly. I was diagnosed by several doctors, so please know that I’m not just calling the ebb and flow of life¬†“depression.” I’m talking about the dark creature¬†that haunts your waking and sleeping hours with whispers of anger, defeat, self-loathing. The heavy, suffocating sadness that sits on your chest and laughs at you while you try, struggle, to breathe. The lying, snaking tongue which convinces you that you don’t know how and aren’t worth trying to learn.

It maliciously wanders into the pathways of my mind on a frequent basis, and it takes special enjoyment in torturing me when life gets too quiet. When change stops coming my way and I’m forced to sit on the same couch, staring out the same windows for days.. weeks.. months.

Thank you, Fibromyalgia.

J-Freaking-K.

After all of my reading, studying and researching, it is with unwavering faith that I can say my favorite quote is “I go to seek a great perhaps.” These words were first spoken on the deathbed of the French monk Francois Rabelais in 1553, and they have since traveled the world and ages in the works of many known and unknown artists. It resonates with us.

I have a poster of this simple phrase-turned-mantra situated above my kitchen sink, surrounded by pictures I’ve taken on some of my journeys.¬†It reminds me that there is always a perhaps. There is always something to seek. There is always a reason for passion.

Or, to paraphrase Jane Austen, there is always the happiness that comes from the expectation of happiness.

All I have to do is plan, then go.

I was sitting at my work desk a couple of weeks back, staring at my too-bright computer screens, reading the flood of requests coming in from coworkers who needed my assistance. The same requests, day in and day out. Paralyzingly dull, mundane tasks.

When did I get stuck in such a rut?

Rise with the sun, go to work, eat dinner, fall asleep before the sun can even set.

Sure, I’ve been battling a nasty, lingering flare up. But is that my only excuse?

And if it is, can I find the will power to overcome it?

Not without plans. Something to reach for. To anticipate. To seek.

So I set aside my work for a short time and started planning. I wanted to cram as much adventure as this weary body could possibly take into my 2017. With each hand scrawled note of places to see, hours to drive, items to pack, the weight of that depression began to lift.

Four trips planned and I’m not through this bout yet, but I’m muddling my way to the other side.

When I wake up in the morning, the sun’s glow slowly filtering into my room, I remind myself of what’s to come before I have the chance to ponder what is. It inspires me, fills my lungs with breath, makes the unbearable in-and-out of the day bearable.

On Saturday, my sister and I road tripped to Lake Erie. The change of scenery gave my legs the strength to stand back up; that muddled crawl turned into a walk.

I live for change.

I believe that’s why God called me to what He has, He knew I could never be content with sitting still. I need Him and the adventure He beckons me to. I need to plan. To seek. To go.

I’ve got an estimated hours 417,421 hours left. I don’t intend to waste them.

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Post Script: This Friday, May 12th, is International Awareness Day for ME, CFS and FMS. Please mark it on your calendar, find someone who battles these illnesses, then show them that you are aware. Do something, anything, to breathe and walk for them on that day. They will appreciate it more than you can possibly know.

I Go to Seek

10 Symptoms of Fibromyalgia You Probably Didn’t Know

 

10-symptoms-of-fibromyaglia-you-probably-didnt-know

The weather in Ohio has been a nightmare of late, which means that my body is reacting in nightmarish proportions. The unfortunate reality of my life is that I have a condition that reacts to rainy skies like a punching bag reacts to a boxer.

In other words: loads and loads of pain. Oh, and other things.

Which brings me to the reason for today’s post. There is so much that goes into fibromyalgia that it often blows a person’s mind. The symptoms are so many and the cures are so nonexistent that it almost seems unbelievable to someone not experiencing them. As we’ve previously discussed,¬†just because you can’t see someone’s illness or the effects of it does not mean that it is imagined.

The following are, in no particular order, ten symptoms I have the pleasure of experiencing because of my condition.

#1 – Watery/itchy eyes and change in vision

My eyes are extremely testy. Walking through a mall is a nightmare because of the variety of light brightnesses, odors and temperatures. Because my¬†eyes are so sensitive, I can often be found crying for no apparent reason. I can’t help it, they just tear up and I go from normal to sobbing in seconds. I also occasionally have to fight the urge to scratch my eye balls out because of an invisible item that makes them itch to no end. In addition to that joy, fibromyalgia sufferers often have poor eyesight that gets even worse over time because our¬†muscles weaken from the constant onslaught of pain.

#2 –¬†Sensitivity to odor

In addition to sensitive eyes, we have sensitive noses. Mine is a super sniffer. I can smell things that no one else can and I hate it. An example of this:

Sarah and I were driving down a country road when I suddenly got hit by the horrific smell of a chicken farm (BLECH!). “Ewww! Do you smell that?”

Sarah replied, “No, what is it?”

“A chicken farm. You’ll¬†probably¬†smell it soon.”

A mile later she suddenly exclaimed, “YUCK! I smell it now!”

Yeah. My nose is that sensitive.

#3 – Tooth aches and TMJ

For whatever reason, our teeth hurt during a flare-up. And I mean all of them. It usually makes me have nightmarish dreams in which all my teeth fall out *shudder*. A more serious issue, however, is¬†temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, which is a fancy way of saying “chronically repetitive lock-jaw.” Basically my jaw locks up randomly and for no reason at all. It also makes loud “click-clack” noises when I’m chewing. Such a delight, I say.

#4 – Itchy skin

My skin itches a lot and for no reason. I work hard to stay hydrated and apply lotion daily, so it’s not a lack of moisture. I don’t know the reason for it, I just know this is a common symptom of which a lot fibromyalgia sufferers complain. This is a real pain (literally) given we also suffer from…

#5 –¬†Allodynia

Allodynia is a condition in which your skin hurts to the slightest touch. My pain receptors confuse everything as an attack so my skin is constantly irritated during flare-ups. Something as slight as the brush of my shirt can make my skin light on fire. It kind of stinks. This is especially annoying when people pray for me.

I love prayers, I need prayers. I wouldn’t be here if not for prayers! But sometimes a dear sister in the Lord will decide to pray for me and place her hand on my back and I am instantly in tears- not because the Lord is moving (though usually He does) but because the pain is too much to handle.

During Allodynia flare-ups, I have a code word to warn my friends and family: gentle. It’s not uncommon that as they raise their arms to hug me, I’m saying the word “gentle” and inwardly cringing in case they forget. They never do. ūüôā ‚̧

#6 – Excessive sweating

An unfortunate delight we fibromyalgia sufferers experience is excessive sweating. We can be sitting there in a t-shirt with a fan and the AC cranked and mopping sweat off our brow. Thankfully, it’s not always that bad, but occasionally.. *shudder*

Every time I see a mirror, I’m¬†checking for sweat pits. It’s TMI, I know, but it’s my life. ūüė¶ I suppose it’s justice. I used to be unable to sweat, even when working out, and boy did I brag about it. Karma stinks… *cough* Good thing I don’t believe in karma. heh

#7 – Chronic fatigue

We’ve already covered this, but it’s so bad I gotta say it again. I am¬†always tired but during flare-ups I am exhausted. Doctors say that in order to understand the exhaustion a fibromyalgia patient endures, you’d need to stay up three nights straight. Zzzzz…

#8 –¬†Irritable bowel and bladder

Because the body is constantly being stressed it reacts cruddily. Things go down. That’s all I’ll say because I’m trying not to make anyone barf.

#9 –¬†Anxiety and paranoia

Mind games. Lot’s of them. I will sometimes feel so jittery and panicky that it feels as if the whole world has frozen while I’m literally vibrating right out of my skin. My heart palpitates, I become convinced that there are things/people hiding in my closet ready to kill me if I turn my back. I can’t deal with people during flare-ups like these. I hide in my room and pretend I am alone on the earth. During this time, I am so irritable I’ll scream at people for no reason, lashing out from fear and stress and a whole lot of pent-up I don’t know what.

But, eventually, I dig deep and find the strength to talk myself down from the panic and remind myself of who I am, where I am and Who I belong to. I convince myself I’m safe and I move on.

#10 –¬†Short term memory loss and confusion

This is the one that frustrates me the most. I used to have a wiz of a memory. Example: I work at a library and had the place of each DVD in our entire DVD collection (several thousand) memorized. Someone could ask me where something was and I would walk straight up to it and pull it off the shelf. I just knew.

Then my brain started fizzing and cracking and suddenly it took so much effort to remember simple things like the words “the” and “not” or the names of my friends. The other day, I started thinking of a little boy I used to babysit – he was someone that was in my care for three days a week for about a year. And I couldn’t remember his name.

Another instance, I was directing the Easter drama and it went something like this:

“Sarah, move to stage left, Daniel- head on over there, —- *freeze*” I couldn’t remember the next guy’s name. I grew up with this kid, he was my brother’s best friend, and I couldn’t remember his name. Eventually someone called out “Grayson!” and we laughed and I apologized and we moved on. But it still shook me. It always does.

I’ll be okay if I lose this body, but my mind.. now that I plan¬†to keep.

Shoooo-boy that got dramatic there at the end. Each sufferer’s story is different; sometimes we get to avoid the things that debilitate others. These are just ten battles I fight through frequently, with every flare-up, with every turn of the weather, with every stress trigger.

Are you a chronic warrior? What are some symptoms you fight?

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10 Symptoms of Fibromyalgia You Probably Didn’t Know