Category: health

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

Hard Stuff

Y’all, I have long loved this prayer, but I have also long dreaded it. Those phrases: “Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,” get at some of my deepest fears.

I love doing. I love being employed. It is HARD for me to ‘freely and heartily yield’ the notion of being productive, being valuable. It is HARD to ask the Lord to put me to suffering, to bring me low, to let me be empty.

But how can I approach the throne, only ever asking to ‘do,’ to ‘be employed’ to ‘be full’ –if I’m not willing to accept whatever comes from His hand?

Real Talk:

I have to confess that today I’ve been battling some fears and worries about my health, and when I (finally) realized that I had better be praying instead of fretting, the words of this prayer are what God brought to my mind.

My hands have been hurting on and off for a decade. Back in my late 20s, they would only ache after I’d spent several hours knitting, sewing, gardening, driving–any repetitive motion or gripping. They always felt better after a day or two.

Here lately, they’ve been aching a little bit all the time. It’s worst when I wake up in the morning, then they seem to loosen up with movement, but by evening they are achy again. If I’ve spent a lot of time typing, using my phone, writing, or gardening, they’re markedly worse.

A couple of days ago, I was massaging my hands in the evening and I realized that a few of my fingers (left pinky & middle, right pinky and index are the worst) don’t straighten completely, no matter what I do. The top joint stays crooked, as if I’m flexing it toward my palm, and the lower two joints look puffy and swollen, like they have a little pot belly. I showed my favorite always-on-call doctor, and he said it looks like Swan Neck Deformity, which is nearly always a sign of arthritis.

My head has a bad habit of extrapolating to worst case scenarios, and so now I’m not only feeling the physical ache of my current pains, but I’m feeling the emotional ache of worrying that I’m on a long, slow train to hands that will be locked up into painful contortions.

So that brings me back to today. I didn’t want to pray, “let me be laid aside” or “put me to suffering.” I’m still wrestling it through, but I think I’m on the precipice of understanding…

What I Want to Say

See, I want to pray for a major, exciting, fantastic healing. But I think first I need to wrap my head and heart around the level of surrender displayed in this prayer. If I can “freely and heartily yield all things to His pleasure and disposal,” then I can ask for big, giant, miracle level healing with a pure heart.

I think my natural bent is to frame it this way: “Lord, heal this ailment so I can work long and hard, and be a valuable person in Your kingdom.”

But I have a hunch that a more God-honoring prayer would be to truly believe these words: “Lord, I know that You love me and created me with a plan in mind. I am not more or less valuable in Your eyes based on anything I can or cannot do. Would you heal me? In your perfect timing, and for your public glory, and to whatever end you’ve already worked out.”

I’ve posted before about my struggles to pray with faith for healing. This time it’s a little different, because it’s for me. In many ways, it was harder when it was my mom or my child I was concerned for. The only part that’s harder so far has been sharing the burden. So here I am, telling everybody: I’m standing in the need of prayer. If you would, I’d love to have you intercede for me–both for faith and understanding, and for healing.

Share with a friend!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?” -Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

When I was a girl, I adored Anne Shirley. I hadn’t her tragic background nor her dramatic flair, but I loved the exuberant way she expressed herself. Those monologues, when an enraptured Anne would go on and on about something she loved, charmed my socks off. That was how I talked, too — inside my head.

I remember worrying from a very young age that the monologues and scenarios I imagined in my head were an indicator of a mental health problem. (Back then, before I learned that ‘crazy’ is a pejorative, I would’ve put it like this: “I talk to imaginary people a lot. Does that mean I’m crazy?”) When I was around 10 or 11, I picked up on the  notion that what separates the mentally ill from the mentally healthy is that the latter may have an imaginary friend, but the former talks to imaginary friends and they talk back. That was probably supposed to make me feel better. I was supposed to think, “Well, golly, I’m 100% sure that this is all in my own imagination. It doesn’t feel like a separate entity no one else can perceive is speaking to me, so I’m fine.” Instead, my little brain warped it so that I thought, “Hmm, sometimes when I engage in these long conversations in my head, I really do imagine what the other people say back. Maybe that means I AM crazy.”

So you see, it felt like it was only a matter of time before my parents and the rest of the world figured out I was insane. I was sure that the clock was ticking and when they discovered my secret, I’d be in trouble at best – or at worst, hauled off to an asylum for some good old-fashioned shock therapy. (I was a weird kid and had read some admittedly unhelpful books on the subject of mental health.)

I wish I could remember having a moment of epiphany, but instead my late teens and early twenties simply gave me a gradual slide to a state of comfort with the way my mind worked. I stopped fretting about a clinical diagnosis (and I learned not to throw around the word ‘crazy,’ even in my own mind about my own self) and accepted the fact that I have an active imagination.

I eventually realized that the way I’m wired keeps my sense of wonder and laughter close to the surface – which is definitely part of what makes me a great teacher of young kids. I realized that my imagination sometimes works against me, when it manifests as generalized anxiety, and that I can control that part with medication, therapy, and mindful practices. (So: interestingly enough, I do have a mental health diagnosis, just not the one I feared when I was a kid.) I realized that my imagination is like a puppy with a lot of energy, and if I set it to the task of writing –dreaming up an entire novel-sized world of people and places and situations– it’s a lot less likely to bother me by misdirecting that energy*.

So. Like the effusive Anne Shirley, I’m glad to live in a world where we get to enjoy Octobers. This time of year is beautiful here in western Kentucky, and autumn always seems to renew my energies. I’m thankful for what I’ve learned about imagination, because embracing mine opened up the path for me to explore writing. Even if my novels never hit bookshelves, the act of writing them has been wonderful in and of itself.

Because, as Anne Shirley would say, “when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile.”

 

 

 

*for more on that notion, I highly recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her analogy about creativity as an overactive dog sparked an instant sense of “hey me too!” in my heart and you might enjoy it, also.

Share with a friend!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

Last time I blogged, I wrote: I’m praying for full healing of Susannah’s kidney cyst, or that if it’s still present when we get to nephrology that they’ll decide it’s a simple cyst which needs no intervention. I’m praying for the results of her echocardiogram, that it would show her little heart beating in perfect rhythm. I believe God is able to give us both those good gifts.

And in the past 21 days, God has answered both of these prayers. On June 28, Susannah had her echocardiogram, and the results were completely normal. No arrhythmias or anatomical problems. Her heart is perfectly healthy. Praise the Lord!

On July 19, we met with the nephrologist about her kidney cyst. It is small (6mm x 7mm) and appears to be simple. (This terminology is in contrast to a complex cyst, which is more likely to be precancerous than a simple cyst.) At this time, the cyst does not require intervention or treatment. Praise the Lord!

However, simple renal cysts are rare in children. So Dr. Shah has recommended the following plan:

–immediately discontinue the use of ibuprofen/Motrin/Advil (because anti-inflammatories can be nephrotoxic; she may still use Tylenol/acetaminophen for pain or fever)
–monitor blood pressure any time she is seen by pediatrician (our pediatric clinic already does this because they are the best)
–encourage her to stay hydrated and to not “hold it” when she needs to urinate

plus:
–blood work (a renal function panel) and urinalysis (checking for protein in urine)
–renal ultrasound (to have baseline measurements of the cyst)
–follow-up visit in 6 months to include repeating labs & ultrasound.

 

If her labwork now is normal, we maintain the care plan until her 6 month follow-up. At the 6-month visit, if the labwork is still normal and the cyst is unchanged, then she will need only yearly or biennial monitoring.

So, how can you pray for us? Please pray: that Susannah’s bloodwork would show healthy renal function; that her ultrasound would confirm that the cyst is simple in structure and size; that her blood pressure would remain normal; and that the cyst will not grow or duplicate. 

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  ~Philippians 4:6-7

Share with a friend!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

We went to Susannah’s MRI. The radiologists who read it determined that she doesn’t have a tethered cord. (The backstory is here, if you missed it.)

This is good news, right? It means that she doesn’t need neurosurgery.

But it also means that we didn’t get an explanation for all her symptoms, and it means that we can’t resolve all her symptoms with one surgery.

The MRI found a cyst on her right kidney, so we now need to follow up with a pediatric nephrologist.

Additionally, we went back to the rheumatologist who first discovered her scoliosis to ask about a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I thought, from my reading, that Susannah (and I) had a lot of the hallmarks of EDS. The rheumatologist ruled out EDS, but did order an echocardiogram for Susannah based on my history with mitral valve proplapse. There are a number of other connective tissue disorders which present with hypermobility, scoliosis, and heart problems – so we need to check that out.

At the moment, there’s no healing in sight.

However, we’re thankful that the echocardiogram can be done here in town (so we don’t have to add another day trip to Louisville to the calendar) and thankful for every big diagnosis that has been ruled out. I’m thankful that Susannah’s pain levels are manageable and seem to be a little improved lately (my hypothesis is that the warm weather is helping).

I know, it seems a little crazy to write about believing for full healing and then to come back with a report that my kid is still dealing with chronic pain and to talk about being thankful. It seems a little crazy to say that I believe that God uses every part of our stories for our good and for His glory. But I really do feel thankful for the good things and I honestly do believe that. Because I believe this:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21 NIV

God can do – and usually does! – immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Have you ever experienced a holiday or birthday when folks asked what you wanted? And maybe you couldn’t think of anything, or maybe you didn’t want to ask for anything outrageous, so you named a small little trinket or memento you might like. But the day rolled around and you were absolutely blown away by what you unwrapped. It was way more, way bigger, or more lavish, or more ‘perfectly you’ than the little thing you had asked for. God is in the business of giving out gifts like that. He not only knows what we’re asking and imagining — He also knows how the whole story ends. So what He gives and when He gives it all make sense when you get to the end of the book.

I’m praying for full healing of Susannah’s kidney cyst, or that if it’s still present when we get to nephrology that they’ll decide it’s a simple cyst which needs no intervention. I’m praying for the results of her echocardiogram, that it would show her little heart beating in perfect rhythm. I believe God is able to give us both those good gifts.

And even if He doesn’t, I still trust that the Author of my girl’s story is working out something glorious.

Share with a friend!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

Oh, y’all. Buckle up, this one’s going to be a rambler. I need to talk about what’s going on with Susannah’s health, but before I do that we need to back up to Sunday, March 18, 2018. That morning, I sat in a sanctuary hearing a sermon about healing.

Jamus Edwards, preaching at Pleasant Valley Community Church, taught from Matthew 21:21-22.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

(I’m paraphrasing here, from my sermon notes):

1. We are supposed to pray big, bold, mountain-sized prayers. We pray for healing because Jesus told us to.
2. And yet — we know that God is sovereign and has a mysterious will that we don’t understand. Sometimes faith is the means to bodily healing, but God doesn’t choose to heal everyone in this life.
3. Therefore — we believe that our prayers may change the course of God’s hand, and we accept that our prayers may not. (We might use the language of “Thy will be done” or “not my will, Father, but yours be done.)
4. HOWEVER, while it is possible to pray in faith for healing and not doubt, while humbly submitting to the will of God… sometimes we overqualify our prayers.

OVERqualify. Mmmm-hmmm. In other words, we rest so solidly on our laurels in that sweet spot of “thy will be done,” that we never get around to asking God to do those big, bold, mighty healing works. And the whole time, we’re feeling really good about ourselves because: gosh, isn’t that just so Christian of us to pray for the Lord’s will and not our own?

That hit me right where I live. I do that.

I keep God in the boxes that medicine hands out. When a doctor tells us, there’s a 75% chance of thus-and-so, well, I don’t usually pray outside that box. I pray, “God, help us to deal with thus-and-so with grace and give us the strength to bear our thus-and-so and Lord, if it’s Your will to cure this then we know You can, but mostly, help us to trust You through the pain of it.”

Real talk: when Chris’ oncologist told us his fertility might not come back after chemo, I did that. I kept God in that little box and didn’t hardly dare to pray for complete healing. (Praise the Lord, His plans were bigger than my scared, trifling little heart and mind could manage. i.e.: three blessed Nebel babies on earth and three more in heaven.)  And when my mom was told “terminal ovarian cancer,” I did that. I kept God in that little box and didn’t hardly dare to pray for complete healing. (Praise the Lord, He gave us eighteen months together before He healed her on His side of the veil.)

I mulled over this idea, of how maybe I use “thy will be done” as a cop-out for weak faith, all day Sunday.

Monday I woke up at 5:15 for my usual quiet time. I had started 2018 with Paul’s letters, and when I finished those I jumped into the Gospel of John. Cracking open my Bible to the bookmark, I started reading the next chapter (I usually cover one or two chapters each morning). And it was John 9. Of course it was.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-7)

…The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30-33)

What I noticed here was that the blind man didn’t ask Jesus to heal him. In fact, neither did the disciples. Jesus chose to heal this man, but when He did so, He asked the man to take an action. (Go & wash.) The man was obedient to do what Jesus told Him, and his faith and obedience were met with healing. Further, this passage reinforced something that Pastor Jamus had mentioned the day before – the blind man says it like this: “We know that God does not listen to sinners…” And the sermon phrased it this way: “God hears everyone’s prayer, but He is not inclined to listen to every prayer.” Because we live under Christ’s atonement, we can approach him through Christ.

So, my quiet time gave me plenty to keep stewing over.

Tuesday morning, I prepared to leave the house with all three kids – dropping Jonas & Abigail at school, & grooving on down the road to Louisville with Susannah for her 6-month scoliosis checkup. While the house was still dim and quiet, I knelt beside the couch and I prayed.

I prayed big.

I prayed bold.

I asked God to actually HEAL Susannah’s scoliosis.

Knowing that, medically, scoliosis doesn’t heal.

Her doctors say – and the whole medical community is in agreement!  —that scoliosis, once diagnosed, can be monitored and treated, but it can’t really be cured. Curvature of the spine of 10° or more will give you a diagnosis of scoliosis. When your curve gets to 25°, doctors will create back braces. Bracing doesn’t reverse existing curvature, but it does slow down the progression of a curve. (Some folks’ curves even return after their bracing treatments end.) If a curve progresses to 45° or greater, back surgery (spinal fusion) will usually be performed to correct the curve.

When Susannah’s was found, her curve was around 11° at 7  years of age. That’s pretty young, though not unheard of (juvenile idiopathic scoliosis is somewhat less common than adolescent onset), and her doctor assured me that typically a child her age just gets X-rays and checkups every six months to monitor the curve until they’ve had their biggest growth spurt (the one that closely precedes puberty). Once a girl finishes growing, her scoliosis typically won’t continue to advance.

At 8-and-a-half, with two sets of X-rays and checkups under her belt, Susannah’s spinal curvature had progressed to 12° and we had both become comfortable with the clinic.

That Tuesday morning, freshly-turned-9-year-old Susannah & I arrived at the scoliosis clinic ready for the routine. Change into a gown, slip into the shorts we brought from home, walk down the hall for X-rays, meet the PA who comes in first to ask a bunch of questions, then speak to the orthopedist, who tells us what the X-rays showed and always reassures Susannah that her only job for the next six months is to run, jump, have fun, & just be a kid until she comes back. And this time, I walked in smiling – feeling sure that somehow, she would be healed and this would be the last time we set foot in this clinic.

My mom-senses started tingling, though, when the PA asked a bunch of questions this time they’d never asked Susannah before. Questions about her feet and legs – do they ever feel funny or do funny things? She had Susannah do a bunch of movements that seemed to be checking her muscles: thigh, calf, feet – and questions about her lifelong history of constipation – in addition to the usual questions about back pain.

When Dr. Meier came in, he continued that line of questioning and then started asking me about setting up orders for further imaging. I felt like he was working his way up to something, beating around the bush, but he finally laid out all his concerns.

Susannah’s curve had progressed three degrees in six months, without a concurrent growth spurt in height to explain it (she is now at 15°). Additionally, her curve is atypical because it’s confined to her lumbar spine (the lower part of the back – usually scoliosis presents in the thoracic spine, behind the ribcage). These factors taken together with the leg pains that began a few years ago, her current level of aches and pains, and her lifelong battles with gastrointestinal difficulties, lead him to believe there’s a good possibility that Susannah may have a tethered spinal cord. To determine that, she needs to have a sedated MRI, which we now have scheduled for April 19, 2018.

Are you with me?

I prayed for complete healing, and I drove to Louisville believing that I would really hear miraculous news. And instead, I heard a doctor tell me that my kid may have a very serious condition which requires a pretty major surgery to prevent irreparable neurological deterioration.

To be brutally honest, I came home feeling pretty shattered.

I managed to do all the mama stuff that afternoon: help with homework and get through dinner and put the kids to bed. I did a little bit of reading about tethered cord syndrome – and even though I didn’t feel good, I started to feel a bit better.

That night, just as I laid my head on the pillow, I had a thought.

One of those thoughts that doesn’t feel like it comes from yourself – it comes from Someone outside yourself.

If they find tethered cord, and perform the surgery to correct it, Susannah will be healed from her scoliosis. And not just healed from that, but she’ll be healed from all those other aches and pains and problems she’s been living with for years now.

Whoa.

Really?

Yeah, really.

I’ve found accounts from families who’ve been through tethered cord surgery. As the child grows, the spine can actually straighten, because the cord release surgery takes away what had been causing the scoliosis. (With ‘normal’ scoliosis, there’s no known cause and so no way to prevent it or to correct it.) If her leg pain is rooted in either neurological issues stemming from the compression where the cord is tethered, or in a compensatory motion type of problem due to the tight tether in her back, then that could resolve after surgery as well. And while some kids don’t get full relief from bladder and bowel troubles with tethered cord release surgery – some do.

We’re about to unplug from the daily grind for our Spring Break vacation, and then we’ll come home and chug through a few weeks of ‘normal,’ and then we’ll take our girl to Louisville for a test and some answers. I sure would love it if you would pray with us. You can pray for God’s will to be done, but you can also pray big, bold, mountain-sized prayers for healing.

Won’t He do it?

 

Share with a friend!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

As catch-up blog posts go, this one is really fun.

In August 2016, I blogged about how I had started running for fun. Also fitness. Also I had signed up for a big race. I wrote about how much I enjoyed it and hoped it would be something I could stick with long-term. And two years after I started… I really love it. I’m not great at it. But I love it (almost 100% of the time. Maybe 92%. There are always bad days, bad runs, whatever). I’m pretty slow. I’m too socially anxious to join a running group. I’m never going to win any medals, is what I’m saying. Oh, and I’m injury prone — probably as a result of living most of my 35 years as a non-athletic, naturally fairly petite couch potato. Now that I’ve gotten more active, I have to do a lot of work to keep my body moving without aches and pains.

Since taking up this sport in January 2016 I’ve run four 5Ks, one 15K, and one half-marathon.

I’ve missed weeks on end with iliotibial band syndrome, complications of hypermobility syndrome, a sprained ankle, and a fractured talus. (That’s a little bone in your foot, and that’s a ridiculous story. I’ll tell that some other day.) I’ve missed at least two races signed & paid for that I DNS (did not start) because of injury.

Yet I’m still running. I now try to run 3 or 4 days per week, and I try to do some cross-training, strength training, and yoga two days a week. I get a massage every single week, chiropractic adjustment once a month, and I’ve got my physical therapist on speed-dial in case I re-injure myself (or injure something new, just to keep life interesting).

I’m training now for my second half-marathon in May. I’ll try to remember to check in afterward and report if I’m still in this.

I kinda hope I’ll be one of those little old ladies still running when I’m sixty. (Maybe by then the field will have narrowed and I’ll win an age group medal. Ha!)

Share with a friend!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

subscribe

Categories

Categories

Archives

Archives

Latest tweets