Thursday, January 26, 2012

Starting Before the Beginning

So, here's a shocker... I didn't journal through this journey... I mean I think that's why they call it a journal... JOURNal... JOURNey... get it? I'm supposed to document my journey! But truth be told I simply lacked the energy and mental clarity to write anything that made sense. I tried a few times, but I just didn't have it in me. So I'm praying to God for grace to give me the memories I need to be sharing with you all. So it may not be the whole story, but it's the story that God wants me to share.

I'm going to try to go in order of how this all has progressed, just so I can keep track of everything. I want to make sense to everyone. As you know, God is a God of order. We see that in creation. Everything may be complicated, but it all makes sense and has order.

So I'd love to say I'll start at the beginning, but truth be told, I'm going to start BEFORE the beginning, because that's where the story really starts.

At the beginning of December, I started to feel like my life was truly out of control. I had no job, no self-esteem, no desire to put myself in a position to lose another job due to lack of skill or focus or concentration or whatever number of reasons I was left unemployed. I wanted to badly to be one of those people who stays in the same place for 10-15 years, not because I wanted to stay in one place, but because I wanted someone to want me in the same place for that long. Weird, I know, but there you have it, that's how my brain works :).

I was also growing increasingly depressed. I was wasting my days watching DVD movies (no, you don't need cable to waste time...). I didn't have internet at home, and I didn't feel like making the "drive" to the McDonald's that is literally less than a quarter of a mile away from me, to get online there. I didn't want to waste my time applying to jobs that I already knew from experience weren't going to hire me. I was stuck, in a huge rut of despair.

So I decided to make a change. But before making this change, I wanted to take some long, uninterrupted time with my Lord. So I went to the park. I hadn't planned on sharing what He told me, but it's so fitting, I can't imagine telling my story without it!

Let me back up just a bit first. Before I went to the park, I had started reading The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. I was almost done with it, but I still had about 5 chapters left. The night before I'd planned my mini retreat, God kept me awake. Now what you may not know about me is that I can't read at night. I read about 3 pages or so and I'm so groggy I can't see the words anymore. So the fact that late at night, God kept me awake long enough to read those 5 chapters is proof of His providence.

When I first came to the park, I was astounded by the silence. It was what drew me to it. It was why I chose the park I did for my quiet reflection with God. It seemed perfect for drowning out the noise of my life. So I went to a little spot and sat down. But I found I couldn't focus because I couldn't get a comfortable spot. so I moved somewhere else. slowly I became distracted by noises I hadn't heard before, noises nature makes that I don't get to hear because I'm too busy with man-made distractions. God had me sit down and listen to the difference being set apart from the noise was making. I was still hearing noise. It was one of those "if a tree falls in the forest and no one's there to hear" situations... the palm trees always make noise when wind hits them, but do we always hear it? No...

In the same way, God is always speaking to us. He's always speaking His love, guidance, rebuke, discipline, peace, joy, revelation, to us. But are we always listening? No. But if we stop and listen, we'll start to hear that still, small Voice of our great, powerful God.

I distinctly remember feeling as though He was speaking into my heart, "you need to listen to Me." So I responded, "Well, I'm listening now." To which He responded, "Listen daily."

Little did I know He was about to take me on a journey that would make His voice and His character loud and clear. Daily. Hourly. In every horrifying, painful moment.

God prepares His people. And the beauty is we really don't know why until we look back and say the only thing we are fit to say: "Wow, praise be to God."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gross!!!! And Yet So Beautiful!!!

So it's been a little over two months. I shared with you all previously how I didn't know what was next... well let's just say I NEVER GUESSED it would be this! December 6, 2011, I went to the park, December 7, I woke up with a small rash on my elbow... thought absolutely nothing of it, threw a little cortisone cream and moved on with my day. That night while at church, I started to feel a strange burning feeling on my ankles, then up my legs. But I was at Refuge... so needless to say between that and the subsequent Applebee's visit, I wasn't so focused on the strange pain.

I got home to find my legs completely covered in blisters. The next morning, when my father saw them he made himself very clear that I needed to go to the doctor. I made an appointment and went in as soon as possible. My doctor said it was an auto-immune response to some (and by some I mean a truckload of the stuff) penicillin I'd taken about 10 days previously for a throat infection. She gave me a Prednisone dose pack and sent me on my way.

Four days later, my mom saw it. By then it had begun to grow, spread, and get darker. She cried when she saw it. My mom's not the crying type. Believe me it takes a lot for her to cry. It was quite overwhelming.

She told me I needed to go back immediately to the doctor and show her that it had not improved. Upon seeing how much worse the rash got, she sent me immediately to a dermatologist. They were able to see me right then, and they diagnosed me with Boullis Leukocytoclastic vasculitis (I forgot to mention the massive blisters that were accumulating on my ankles...hence the "Boullis"). They did a biopsy to confirm.

I was put on a much higher and much longer dose plan of Prednisone, and given two separate ointments to use on the blisters. Each night was horrible pain and discomfort. I was not allowed to take certain pain killers because they believed I was reacting to medication, and they were therefore hesitant to give me anything that could have any real side effects. So that meant nothing more than ibuprofen...lots and lots of ibuprofen. I kept my use of it to a minimum.

From my understanding of Boullis Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis, the leukocytes (a white blood cell) form in the blood vessel walls, causing them to erupt. I could feel each one breaking on my feet. It took ice packs and elevation to keep them from blistering further on my feet.

I spent two weeks in a wheelchair. That was by far the most difficult for me, to know I had to bother someone in my family for every need to took me away from my bed.

The blisters continued to grow until about a third of them burst. I'm currently going through daily wound care waiting for them to heal. Under the broken blisters were ulcerated skin...meaning pretty much that I had no skin under them, just raw tissue and exposed and damaged nerve endings.

I also spent 3 days in the hospital, where I received three doses of IV steroids.

I'm still trying to figure out which was worse...the rash or the accompanying stomach pain. Those nights were by far the most frightening. I was unable to take thoughts and form them into words. I would try to ask for a cracker and couldn't get my mouth to say cracker. That was definitely the most terrifying part, not being able to get my brain to do what it needed to do. The pain was so severe that the next morning, if I had even the slightest hint that it was returning I would break down crying.

Just when I thought the worst was over, the blisters started to break on my ankles. As I said before, I'm still going through wound care daily with my incredible mom and dad. I honestly don't know how they've gotten this far with it, it is emotionally trying, to be doing something to your daughter every day that you know is causing her pain that brings her to tears.

Today I'm still trying to get my energy back and walk in spite of the painful open wounds.

I share all of this with you not to make you feel bad for me, but to let you know how much God has been showing me. I hope to in the next few days gather all my thoughts on the amazing things God had made so clear to me through this trial. Then of course I'll have to ask God which ones He wants me to share and which were for me alone in the moment, but hopefully He'll want me to share it all, because the journey has been incredible! So for the next few posts, keep in mind this condition I was in, because even I don't want to have to go through all the icky details again!