Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Prayer Request: to be made Shiny & Renewed (My Malaria Update)

My Christmas wish this year is for my friends and family to pray for the complete restoration of my health. This fall it was confirmed by the former head of the parasitic division of the CDC that I was, indeed, infected with malaria (vivax) while I was in Uganda in May of 2012. This Sunday I'll take my last pill that should rid my body of any lingering malaria in my system.

I've been hopeful the medication might do the trick, and that I might return to normal me, pre-Africa. However, it has become increasingly clear that the malaria gone untreated triggered chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in my body, which can't be cured, only managed by doing less--a lot less. (Here is more on CFS and the brain differences found in those who battle it.)

CFS is yet to be mastered by modern medicine or a special diet (unless you have a gluten allergy, which I don't.) But Jesus' hand of healing CAN set me free... if He so chooses to heal my body. Between now and the end of the year, I ask that you would plead with God, on my behalf, to heal my body.

CFS is a confusing disease to the observer because although it is debilitating at times, I can still do everything. But when I do push myself to do life (i.e. to clean and do several loads of laundry, go for a jog, go grocery shopping, substitute teach a few days a week, shovel snow, drive long distances, etc.) I "pay" the price for my activity in the same exact way you would if you drink too much alcohol. Living with CFS is a lot like living with a never ending hangover, and the more you do, the worse the "hangover."

Another way to look at it is like this: it's like playing football on an injury, except with CFS the season never ends. But on occasion, in wanting to keep my spirit alive, or because life requires, I'll push myself to play the game. Physically, I can't do this every day, but sometimes it's worth it to me to push my body beyond the limitations of this disease. For instance, for my 35th birthday, I went snowboarding with my friend Lisa, then spent the next three days in bed with a debilitating migraine. For me, at that time, the snowboarding was worth it, and so was the crash I experienced following a half day of white water rafting this past summer. Or, in July, I danced some and even caught the bouquet at a wedding. But then I had to disappear and go lay down, and bow out of the late-night festivities.

So yes, I can still do LIFE with CFS, but it just looks a lot different, and with it, I'm not well enough to work a full time job or any job with regular scheduled days and hours. For me, as a single woman, the economic implications of the illness are the scariest part. I'm nearly $6,000 in the hole with medical bills, and tapping into my 403b for survival. (PTL, I'm now on Medicaid.)

If you would, along with healing of my body, please pray for financial favor as I continue to pursue writing. This past year I submitted a few devotionals to possibly be published. One was picked up, but this one I pulled after seeing the changes made to it. But here is the original draft, a piece I wrote prior to knowing I had been infected with the malaria parasite.

Jonah 4: Letting Go

Growing up, in hearing the Sunday school version of Jonah, I learned I better do what God says... otherwise something bad might happen. I could face a storm, be tossed off a ship, and end up in the belly of a smelly fish if I didn't listen to Him.

I learned a formula: walk in obedience to God, and life will be good... or at least relatively so.

I didn't anticipate that in following God I could still face a storm in losing my job, be tossed off a ship in losing my home, and then have my stored possessions swallowed up by a hurricane.

Growing up, I don't recall much discussion of the last chapter of Jonah: the part where Jonah is angry at God because life didn't pan out as he believe God had "promised."

While Jonah got angry at God for extending compassion to his enemies, I've gotten angry at God for feeling like I've received unwarranted calamity.

After two tumultuous years, and no end in sight, and battling health issues to top it all off, I was tired of fighting to get my life back. My natural drive and positivity were run down with each job and health insurance rejection I received.

Then I went Christmas shopping (Dec. 2013), on a day my body was already weak. I leaned against my cart for support, but by the time I got to the back of the store I had to sit. So I rested on the shelving where the shiny new bikes hang out, feeling pathetic in comparison.

After some sitting and unhappy thinking, I garnered up enough strength to grab a few more items and check out. But by the time I got to my car, I was angry--angry at God. And as my fatigue transitioned into a migraine for the umpteenth time, I lingered in the lie that God doesn't care enough about me to intervene.

I started my 45 minute drive to my parents' place--angry at God for not healing my body, fearful of my financial future in not being well enough to work a full time job, and jealous of my married friends for the economic protection and health insurance they received from their husbands. My anger melted into tears, and half-way home, on US-12, I gave God the middle finger.

Immediately I acknowledged that was not the best idea. I supposed I had succumbed to the advice Job's wife had given him--to curse God and die. I wondered if I'd be struck by lightning, or more likely in Michigan, be struck by a herd of deer, waiting in the woods, getting ready to dart out in front of me.

I lowered my hand back onto the steering wheel, crying even harder as I did, and explaining to God, "That's how it feels like you're treating me. It feels like you're giving me the middle finger, that you've turned your back on me."

It was an interaction with God I didn't think I'd ever share--because it was shameful. Giving God the middle finger isn't a very Christ-like or lady-like thing to do.

Several weeks later, plagued with insomnia at 3 AM, I called my friend Amy in Hawaii. She updated me on the chaos she has been facing, and how God got her attention.

"I was at this church gathering and this woman I hardly know tells me she has a verse for me: Ephesians 4:31. 'Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger.' At first I was taken aback because I'm not an angry person, and I wasn't upset with anybody. But then it hit me, I was angry at God, and needed to get rid of the bitterness I felt towards Him. I needed to forgive God for not feeling like He protected me, for not meeting my expectations."

The idea of forgiving God seemed a bit blasphemous, but I understood how she felt, and why I might need to do the same. Amy explained, in letting go of her anger towards God, favor and grace are being redefined in her life. In seeking a posture of gratitude, she's determined to praise God regardless of her health and circumstances. In doing so, she is receiving much peace, strength, and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. "That's where you and I are different," she insisted, "and where God's favor rests upon us. That's the University of Jesus Christ, and you have to go there to get it."

Q: Are you harboring any feelings of bitterness or anger towards God that you need to relinquish?

Pray on these things:
  • That you may pursue a posture of gratitude and praise regardless of your circumstances
  • That you may choose celebration rather than jealousy when goodness falls upon others
  • That you may remember God is with you every step of the journey, and He will never turn his back on you
Again, if you would, please keep me in your prayers this holiday season for complete healing of my body. That I may be made shiny and renewed, like the bicycles you see above. And, if you'd like to extend financial support, help me in promoting my book on facebook, or are willing to host me for a week or two this next year as I seek to set up a slow-paced book tour, please shoot me an e-mail. katrinablank (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks all for your prayers and support!

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