That One Day When Esmeralda Woke Me Up at 2AM and I Realized It Can Still Be a Good Day

It’s 2am. I have been on a physical and mental rollercoaster ride for nearly a month now. There have been insurance changes, lapses in medication, and now, thanks to a newfound lesion on my spinal cord, I am officially experiencing my first MS relapse.
The medication I was on has failed me, but all is not lost. That’s the thing about treating MS. It is a game of trial and error. And thankfully, there are many things to try. I am wide awake this morning because the treatment for a relapse is a 3-5 day IV drip of high dose steroids. My doctor ordered 3 days and following my final dose, my legs decide to go all Oompa Loompa! I was walking through the store after work today (Strike one) and my knees start feeling all tight. I thought to myself, “Self, perhaps you shouldn’t have cut the grass yesterday.” (Strike two)
I am striking myself because I have learned from my personal experience with Esmeralda, that I get to choose one activity per day. Monday through Friday, that activity is work. If I do more, even a tiny excursion to the store, there is a price to pay.
So, I get home and it looks like Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy movie?) is making a comeback from my knees down! UGH! So, I dragged my swollen legs into the laundry room (I had dirty clothes! And…strike three), then climbed into bed and propped my legs up on 3 pillows. I was incredibly sleepy, so at 8pm, after hearing the soothing sound of my guy’s voice, I drifted to sleep.
Now, I am wide awake, hoping that at some point in the next few hours before my alarm goes off at 6:30, that I can snooze for a bit.
I hate MS, but I love my life. I remain grateful for my family and friends and for the love and encouragement I receive daily. I am determined that today and everyday will be a good day.

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That One Day When I Started A Blog

I love to write.  For years, I have had novels swirling about my brain and have never taken the time to write them.  Mostly because it was overwhelming to write an actual book, so I just kept living life, “writing” the books in my head.  I returned to school this past fall at Indiana University Southeast (after a near lifetime sabbatical from Ball State University) and my first assignment in English was to write a Literacy Narrative about how I came to love reading and writing.  My professor loved it and asked me to submit it to the DALN website at Ohio State University.  I started thinking maybe I can do this.  I could try it…and it just might work!  Working full time and schooling full time made it impossible to do, so life stepped in and made time for me.  In November, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and my life, as I knew it, came to a grinding halt.  Being positive in the face of adversity seems to be my forte, so I took my new diagnosis as fate stepping in, forcing me to fulfill my calling.  In my blogs, I will go into more detail about my new friend MS (I named her Esmeralda…Ezzie on good days), mothering, relationships and life in general.  Follow along with me to the neighborhood that is my brain and let’s have fun together!

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That One Day When I Gave Jesus the Wheel

I was talking to my son CJ today. We have been talking a lot lately about trusting God. How when we give over control of our lives, it is tough to completely let go. We say, “Okay, God, I’m lost, I need your help. Please, just take the wheel.” Then, as soon as the way looks clear again, “Oh! I know where I am, now!” We grab the wheel, (like Jesus needs our help), and Jesus, all patient and stuff, calmly says, “Um, I’ve got this. I know where I am taking you. It looks familiar because you have been here before, but just let me drive, okay?”

“But I know a shortcut!” I say excitedly. He keeps driving.

“Jesus!” I exclaim.

“Yes?” He replies, half smiling.

I remember too late the whole taking His name in vain thing. “Oh, um, nothing. I was just saying…”

He laughs, because He knows me, pats my leg and says, “Just don’t do it again.”

I ride a few more miles, a few more days, resting in the knowledge that He loves me. He knows what is best for me. In my silence, He telepathically communicates truth to my soul.

“I gave you a promise. I will never take it back. I will never change my mind. When you feel lost, when you can not see through the darkness, let my promise be your flashlight. Your growing faith is the battery. When the battery fails and the light flickers, trust me. I love you.”

There is peace in surrendering your life to God. It does not mean life will be perfect. What it does mean is that we don’t have to handle everything.  We can still plan our lives and sometimes our plan will even line up with God’s plan. When that happens, it is just confirmation that we are on the right path. Be still. Know that God has you.

 

That One Day When God

Why do we put God in a box? Why do we try to limit One who is limitless? Until today, I referred to God as Him. I was driving (where I do most of my thinking) and I thought, Hmm, God is neither male nor female. Or is God both? I came to the conclusion that God just IS. If we were created in the image of God, then God is male and female. God is every color. Why? Because God is a spirit. No form. God is so big. God defies definition. God is you. God is me.

So many people want to use God as a weapon, killing people with judgement in the name of the Most High. If we serve a God of love, then how can this behavior be justified? Whatever stand you take on abortion or homosexuality, infidelity or divorce, is yours and yours alone. No one is qualified to stand in judgement of any other person. No one.

I cannot understand why people who believe in God would rather hate and judge than share and love. God is such a force that we could never begin to understand it. God’s very existence produces life. How can we try to contain that force? Imagine the most powerful force on Earth. Now multiply that by infinity. Our finite minds truly cannot even imagine infinity. Not while we reside in these very limited, though perfect (because we are created by God) bodies.

That is why I cannot picture heaven as angels, wings, halos and pearly gates. God is so much bigger than that. I said in an earlier blog that if God created Earth with all it’s magnificence and placed us here to live, why would heaven (or eternity, as I like to refer to it) be different. I would love to spend eternity in a place like Earth, but perfect. Honestly, I cannot fathom eternity. I believe that each one of us is so unique that our eternity matches who we are. Who God created us to be.

I have an idea. Let’s each ask God how we should be living our lives. Our life plans truly don’t matter if we leave God out of the equation. God sees the entire picture, beginning to end. We have the awesome gift of free will, but if we don’t know what to do with it, what is the point? We raise our children to be good people, to contribute positively to society, but we also give them the freedom to make the choices that will lead to what we hope will be successful lives. So if we, as finite creatures can love and lead and guide our children, how much more can an infinite Being do the same and more for us?

Take a step back. Take God out of your box. Live.

 

That One Day When He Did A Thing And It Was Good

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in November of 2016. It was the one thing that completely put my life plan on hold…but not without a fight. Those of you who know me, know that I am not a church or religious person, but I DO love me some Jesus. I trust Him with my life, but I also fight with Him. In a most respectful way.

I had a plan. I always envisioned myself (even when I was a stay-at-home-homeschooling-my kids-mama) as a powerful businesswoman, in control, making money, living my best life. Every job I held included some sort of management role and I always planned to take that all the way. I never felt like I needed a piece of paper to define me or to prove my worth, so I never got my college degree. My plan, though, at the beginning of 2016 included finally getting my degree. I was working at UPS, doing great, until my hours were cut in half and I could no longer continue the lifestyle that I was living. I then chose to go to Amazon because it was a guaranteed 40 hour per week job with great benefits and decent pay. I worked the overnight shift, slept for a couple of hours and went to school on campus at Indiana University Southeast. Love that place. Anyway, things were going just how I had planned them and I was so proud of myself.

Then Jesus stepped in. And He knows me. He knows I am a fighter and He just didn’t care. Actually, He kinda told me to hold off on my plan before I dove in headfirst, but I explained to Him, like I always do, “But, God, I’m going to do this thing and it’s going to be so incredible and…”

“Um, you probably want to just wait and see what I have for you, Erica.” He gently replies, like He always does, because I always argue with Him.

“Yeah, but…” I eagerly retort, like I always do, because I always argue with Him.

He doesn’t respond this time, like He always doesn’t because He knows I won’t listen. So as I was saying, my plan was playing out perfectly. Then He stepped in and literally had to put me flat on my back.

“Okay, Erica, don’t be mad, but I’m doing a thing. You’re not going to like it, but trust me.”

“That’s cool, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my plan.”

Now, I am not saying MS was a punishment by any means. I am saying that it took this uncontrollable, unpredictable albatross around my neck to slow me down. God and I have a thing. He says something, I argue, he lets me, He does His doesn’t-seem-like-it-now-but-it-really-is-love-thing, and I eventually surrender. It works for us. Makes our relationship stronger.

I will talk about my diagnosis in more detail in another blog, but during the time after my diagnosis, I was unable to work. I was somewhat cool with that. I couldn’t walk so going to school on campus was out of the question. I was not so cool with that.

“Um, did you know they have computers? I can do school online!” I said this, not in a challenging way, but just so He knew that part of my plan was still doable while He still did His thing.

“Um, did you know that MS fog is a real thing?” He said this, not in a challenging way, but just so I knew that His plan was THE plan and He needed me to be still.

I could no longer retain anything. I mean nothing. My fingers became bear paws and I could no longer type. I never got angry with Him, but I did slowly realize that my plan was null and void. Because I know He loves me and I trust Him, I finally stopped fighting. He hugged me and said “I’ve got this.”

I will also go into more detail about how He had me in yet another blog. When I finally gave up my plan and surrendered to His, miraculous things began to happen. Knowing that He sees the entire picture, beginning to end, and that I am limited to the very small picture in front of me, it allows me to trust that He will do way more for me than I can do for myself. I let Him do a thing, and it was good.

That One Day When I Knew

I always say you don’t know until you know. When I had my first child, the first thing I heard was, “Cherish them, because they grow up so fast.” As my first baby grew, and we added more babies to our family, I found out how true that statement was. I blinked and now have grown children (one not so grown), and grandchildren. It was no longer theory, I knew.
Throughout my life, I have had friends whose parents had passed away. They would say, “The grief hits you in waves”, or “The most random things will make you miss them even more.” Both of my parents just passed away this summer. The grief is unbelievable. I lost my daddy first, unexpectedly, as we were preparing for my very ill mother to leave us. He just couldn’t bear the weight of losing his forever love. His body literally shut down and another theory became experience. He died of a broken heart. Two months later, nearly to the day, she joined him in eternity. Grief was no longer theory, I knew.
To say the grief hits you in waves is the understatement of the year. But you don’t know until you know. And yes, the most random things hit you like a massive storm, wiping out all your power and everything that keeps you standing. Torrential tears that fall without warning, leaving you wondering, “What the hell?” No one can prepare you for the onslaught.
I talk to them. Regularly. I consult them on nearly everything. I am remodeling their home with the help of my sister. When I buy paint, I consult them. Before I paint a room, I consult them. I ask them because sometimes, I am just not ready to accept the fact that they are no longer here. It is my way of processing, piece by piece. Moment by moment.
Not long after my daddy passed, he visited with me in a dream. It was the best Father’s day ever. He hugged me like he couldn’t in the hospital and we hung out, talked, and even went to a park. The closure I needed to a most unhappy ending.
I don’t like knowing. Another saying I found to be true? Ignorance is bliss. Knowing is a necessary part of life, but in this case, extremely unpleasant. I like to stay positive as often as possible, so in knowing death, I have learned to appreciate life. I have learned to appreciate the little things even more. I have learned the importance of preparing for the end of life, so that when my children have to eventually learn what I now know, they will be okay. You just don’t know…until you know.

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That One Day When I Experienced The Eternal

So my voice and my brain have taken a spiritual turn lately. Honestly, when you live life, at some point the twists and turns almost force you to see or at least wonder about an all-encompassing Being.

When I think about all the hopes and dreams I have had throughout my life and look at where I am, I think “How in the world…? This is not at all what I planned!” Then I think, “Hmm…maybe what I thought I was supposed to be, is not what was in the big plan for my life.”

Because I believe God is, was, and is to come, I imagine the following scenario:

God and I are sitting in this very cool apartment with windows for walls and a view that goes on for eternity (literally). I don’t believe that heaven is clouds and angels and wings. I don’t believe there are pearly gates and whatnot. I don’t believe that a God who created the beautiful earth in which we live, a life that we love, would create an eternity that is the opposite of that!

Okay, back to my scenario: So, we’re sitting there and He is showing me my life on the big screen that is hanging on the wall. “A’cire (that’s my name in The Eternal), watch this!” Now, I am no longer watching it, I am living it. I am a child, then a teenager. I experience all the things that will happen and what could happen (because of the free will thing). I live my adult life and hold the beautiful children I will bear. I see and feel some pretty bad stuff that makes me cry.

When the viewing is over, He asks “Will you do it?” Notice He doesn’t ask me if I can. He knows I can. He asks me if I will. I don’t even have to think about it. I trust Him and know that no matter what, He’s got this.

I quickly answer, “Yes, Lord. I will.”

In The Eternal, your mind is totally and completely submissive to His will. You are actually in your right mind, not distracted by sin. For that brief moment in time, you actually see your life through God’s eyes, so this was the only answer that made sense. This scenario also makes sense to me because of the many times I’ll be living life and suddenly walk into a space (almost like time travel) and think to myself “I’ve been here before!”

Now, having walked through a small portion of what I lived in The Eternal, I wouldn’t change a thing. Walking through this life, distracted by sin, I still choose this life. I still choose to say “Yes, Lord. I will.”

That One Day When I Questioned God and Found Peace

I often question what I believe about God. Never His existence, but what I truly believe about Him. I cannot answer the “Why does God allow…” or “Where is God when…” questions, but I have them. Theoretically, I know that He created us with the free will to choose our own paths. I know that He is awesome and His ways are above our ways, His thoughts so much deeper than ours.

Herein lies the problem. We try to fit God into our little box of beliefs and thoughts and opinions. We try to make Him think the way we think, behave the way we behave, share our opinions. If God were human, then how could He be God? How could the omniscient maker of the universe be petty and spiteful?  I have to believe that He is a loving deity who desires the best possible life for His creation.

Think of how we love our children, how we would never wish harm on them. If we, as human beings with limited emotions and abilities, can love our tiny creations with such great capacity, imagine the love that God has for us!

When terrible things happen, it is very easy to blame God. Our thinking is finite while His is infinite, divine, absolute. There is no way we can figure out why things happen– if we’re trying to discern the mind of God. It’s impossible. If we can’t read the mind of another human, we surely cannot read His mind. Speculation becomes the rule.

Admittedly, there are times I find myself at odds with God. I am human, after all. In the end, though it may take weeks or months, I find that when I release my truths and open my mind and heart to greater possibilities, I finally know peace. Peace in the fact that I am not always right. Peace in the fact that there may not be an answer to every question. Peace in the fact that there is a Power greater than I. And that peace requires no understanding.

That One Day When I Realized I Am Right Where I Belong

My life has once again been touched by a Netflix movie. It’s entitled, When We First Met. The movie tells the story of a young man who meets the love of his life (so he thought), but she goes on to become engaged to another man three years later.
He is now obsessed with changing the last three years of his life by traveling through time via an antique photo booth. With each trip, he finds that he must go back multiple times to change slight details in order to fulfill his destiny.
He finally realizes that the girl he thought was his soulmate is only a puzzle piece to finding his true love. I won’t tell the rest because it was just released, and you may want to watch it for yourself.
How often, though, do we think that we have made wrong decisions (and maybe we have), but they work together to make a wonderful thing. I could lie here and think of all the things I could have done differently in my life, using what I know now and changing my past. If I were to do that, I would miss all the beautiful that came from the ugly. I have amazing children and grandchildren. I have met incredible people and made lifelong friendships.
When I look back on my life, I would not change a thing. I am right where I belong and the path it took for me to get here is paved with gold.

That One Day When I Lost My Voice

There are many ways to lose your voice. Obviously, it can be temporarily lost due to illness. It can also be lost when you’re in an abusive relationship. I have lost my voice in both of those situations, but most recently, I lost my voice to Multiple Sclerosis.
When you have the flu or a cold, you can say “My body aches. My throat hurts.” Coughing is another way that you can express what is wrong. When someone asks, “How are you feeling?”, you can answer, “Like crap”, and people can usually relate.
That same question posed to a person with MS, or any other autoimmune disease for that matter, can cause so much stress. When we say, “I’m tired”, the tired is a fatigue that defies description. When we say, “My body hurts”, the pain is an inexplicable force. When we say, “I don’t feel well”, there is no relatable situation that can even halfway explain what we are experiencing. We have loved ones who try to understand, but it is nearly impossible, for we ourselves do not understand.
When we wake up and can barely walk, or we are in so much pain, we just want to lie in bed and pray to disappear because there is no relief in sight. Trying to understand it can send us into deep depression. Most days, it is easier to say, “I’m okay”, but in the process of making it easier, our voices are usually lost.
Multiple Sclerosis is a taker. It takes your fight, it takes your independence, it takes your voice. What I am finding out, though, is that I don’t have to lose it completely. Maybe I can change it, where my voice is no longer silenced, but perhaps a whisper. And as I live longer with this disease and learn more about it, that whisper can become a roar. I will continue to fight. I will find my voice.

That One Day When I Realized the MS Tax is a Price Worth Paying

I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts that I ran, but had to pay MS tax. For those who don’t know, when an MSer participates in any activity, there is a physical price to pay that we refer to as MS tax. Something you must pay no matter what, just like paying the IRS.
There are different levels of tax payment. For instance, a dinner out with friends may not cost as much physically as, say, a trip to the grocery store. I found this out last week when, on a good day, I decided to refill my pantry. I thought that if I leaned on the grocery cart, it would alleviate my cost. This may have worked…if the carts had been self-propelled. I didn’t count on how much effort I would have to make to actually PUSH the cart!
About 10 minutes into my stroll through the store, my feet and lower legs (that are always numb and tingly) started screaming. “Did someone light the floor on fire?” my feet screeched. I checked to see if anyone around me had heard the outburst. I powered on trying to ignore the obscenities being yelled at me from below. “Ack! What is she doing up there? Somebody do something to make her stop!” There they go again, squealing like pigs being led to slaughter. But did I listen and cut my trip short? Heck no! My stubborn side said to my mostly absent logical side, “Girl, you can do this!”
Once I finished my shopping (an hour or so later) and arrived back at home, my now angry logical side answered, “Girl, what were you thinking?! We can’t do this!” The tax was extremely high for this activity. About 2 and a half days later, it was finally paid in full. I was told by one of my very good friends, that from now on, grocery shopping would now be known as Girlfriends’ Day. I would be placed safely in one of those buggies with the basket on front, and made to behave. I love my friends.
The tax due on dinner with friends is much lower, usually paid within hours, as long as I rest immediately afterward. A 2-hour road trip tax can be paid in about a day. If I have to drive (which I try to avoid), I add another day of tax. Life with Multiple Sclerosis requires major adjustments. I have found that the more you fight it, the harder it fights back. Finding the balance includes having respect for the disease, knowing your limits, and learning to be okay with them.
I have also found that giving it a name helps. I named my MS Esmeralda. There are days when Esmeralda and I go head to head (she usually wins, but at least I fight). There are more days, though, that she and I co-exist in peace. She usually keeps quiet if I include her in my decision-making process. The MS tax keeps me in check. As long as I have loving friends and family supporting me, it is a price I will gladly pay.

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