Compass the City

Happy 2014! Gotta love that new year smell, eh?

I personally love the a new year because it’s a chance to start some things afresh, to renew my commitment to some things I let slide , and to take stock of what I value. One of the things I put on my “to do list” for the year was to post more on this blog, so I’d like to begin with a piece in In Touch Magazine that I’m rather proud of. It’s my first time being in the January issue, and I had a blast putting this one together. (You’ll see why that’s a horrible pun when you read the piece itself.)

Remember, if you’d like to receive our magazine, it’s free of charge, and you can get a subscription of your very own by visiting this site.

A Tempered Faith

After many months, The Missing Persons Project comes to a close with a special report focused on a group we call “The Searchers.” This term applies to those who are seeking faith as well as those who have given up on it and those who are wrestling with doubt. As we went through planning this month, we came to a somewhat surprising “ah ha!” moment (at least for us). In some way, we are all “missing persons.” There are seasons in life where our faith wavers, gets thin, or even abandons us. There are times when it feels like we’re holding on to a gossamer string rather than a secure rope that binds us to eternity.

That’s where this piece comes from—those many moments I felt like I was on a tightrope that was one fragile string away from snapping. I hope that people who read it realize that doubt is not a bad thing because, through doubt, we come to understand what we believe and why. When we ask hard questions of God and honestly seek His face, our faith becomes our own.

This article can be read below or by visiting our super-duper-fancy microsite here. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you click through. There are many inspiring stories told using text, photos, video, and audio. We’ve completed all the special reports and videos (from soup to nuts as they say), and it’s quite humbling to see it in its final form. Also, if you’d like to give us your thoughts on the project, please drop us a line at missingpersons@intouch.org. We’d love to hear your feedback!

If He Wills, I Will…

Annie J. Flint’s “He Giveth More Grace” contains one of my all time favorite choruses:

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

My article in the October issue of In Touch magazine is proof of that truth, and I am humbled and privileged to share it with readers. Remember, you can always get a free subscription to our magazine by going here.

 

 

 

If you are dealing with an illness or something that is causing you sleepless nights, please leave me a message below, leaving whatever information you feel like sharing. It would be my honor to pray for you!

How Firm a Foundation: The Grace to Worship Through Uncertainty

This is the first draft of an article I’m writing for August. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Are there areas that are unclear or could use a tightening up? Do you think the Scriptures I’ve selected are the best possible options. It’s a musical article, so if you’re a non-musician, does it still “speak” to you? More than anything, I want to tell the world about two of the most special people in my life, but I also want to show readers how they can learn as I have from their example. Any and all feedback would be very much appreciated! Thank you!!

***

Not every couple can say their first date took place at a gospel singing, but that’s precisely where my grandparents, Boyce and Sybil Lindley, chose to have theirs in the summer of 1955. Perhaps it was chosen because music was what brought them together at a district church meeting where Sybil played the piano, or maybe God knew how vital it would be and chose it as the cornerstone of their relationship. Whatever the reason, I’m happy to say that it worked—so well, in fact, that after only a handful of dates and a brief engagement, they were wed on December 14, 1956.

Throughout their fifty-five years of marriage, they’ve spent countless happy hours in church together, singing, studying, and serving in various roles like church bookkeepers and Sunday school teachers. While they occasionally sought out the role of worship leaders, more times than not, it was a task was appointed to them. My favorite story about their years as musicians happened during their first visit to a new church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Like most visitors, they sat in the back row with their two daughters, taking in the place and its people, when the pastor welcomed them from the pulpit. He asked, “Ma’am, you don’t happen to play the piano, do you?” The church had been without an accompanist for some time, so you can imagine that my grandmother’s gentle “yes” was met with an exuberant chorus of hallelujahs and amens fit to rival Handel’s Messiah. She played that very Sunday morning, and nearly every service afterwards, until the week they moved.

By the time I came along in the late 70s, our family was full to bursting with music. We sang each Sunday in church (though never the third verse of any hymn for some reason I could never understand), and they often performed songs together as a quartet someone dubbed “The Happy Lindleys” after their favorite group, the Goodman Family. Whether we were riding in the car or sitting together after dinner, we usually sang. Someone would simply start humming, and within a verse or two we were harmonizing together. Granted, we might never have been a threat to the Von Trapp family, but our melodies were genuine, tangible expressions of our joy and thankfulness to God for each other. Singing might have seemed odd to many, but it was—and still remains—as much a part of our genetic make-up as brown eyes, long fingers, and a penchant for peskiness.

Because of their influence, when it came to music, I learned not to discriminate. Traditional hymns, Southern gospel songs, and spirituals all spoke God’s truth to me in ways I could grasp as a child. For instance, I understood Lamentations 3:22-24 because I had experienced “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I rejoiced in the promise of Psalm 16:8 after learning “I Shall Not Be Moved,” and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” fixed the truth of Matthew 10:29-31 deeply in my heart. Simply put, I came to know God with a Bible in one hand and a hymnal in the other.

These two wonderful people, who I nicknamed Nonnie and Papaw, have spent their lives walking with the Lord. They’ve been blessed with two happily married daughters and three grandchildren as well as with relatively good health and financial security. They’ll be the first to say there have been more than a few potholes and loose stones in their lives’ road, and they’ve been asked to make sacrifices in trusting obedience. However, each time, God provided, and their faith was increased. Boons like this make praise natural to come by for most people, but when things suddenly turn difficult, preserving the song in one’s heart might become more challenging.

Last year, Papaw believed he’d lost his debit card after cleaning out his wallet. A handful of panicked moments later, he realized the slim piece of plastic was still there—just backwards and upside down. He simply had not recognized it for what it was because of the visual differences. It didn’t look the same in its usual slot and, in his mind, was missing in action. At the time, they chalked it up to vision problems or fatigue, but several weeks later, he couldn’t remember his pin number. As weeks became months, they both began to notice words and phrases he’d known all his life—screwdriver, double play, bookmark—were suddenly gone from his vocabulary, frustratingly just out of his mind’s reach. Multi-step tasks such as making tea became nearly impossible without help, and items that normally called the pantry home started showing up in the linen closet.

Each thing was small, sometimes even comical, but when they were added together, they realized there was growing cause for concern. Naturally, fear and worry filled their hearts, but every time it threatened, they prayed and recited Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Whatever was happening, they reasoned, had been purposed by God for their lives because He had promised them countless times before, “No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent” (Ps. 91:10).

Anyone who has been diagnosed with an illness—be it physical or mental—will admit it’s unsettling. Many feel their bodies have betrayed them or have become inescapable prisons of flesh. For someone like Papaw, who is gentle and easily flustered, when those moments when the words wouldn’t come became more frequent, he was left silently anxious and shaking with frustration. Ever the optimist, Nonnie tried to reassure him with soothing words and kind gestures, but nothing seemed to quiet the apprehension that held him captive. One particularly wearisome Thursday when nothing else would help, Nonnie pulled their tattered maroon copy of the Church of God Hymnbook from the piano bench and began to play. It was all she knew to do. Over the next hour, songs like “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” “Rock of Ages,” “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and “Mansion Over the Hilltop” quietly seeped from the burnished wood, filling their home with comforting and familiar sounds.

As her fingers coaxed “He Hideth My Soul,” a song she’s played countless times, from the instrument, she began to pray for strength, understanding, and, most of all, peace. In time, the words came to Papaw—sometimes easily, sometimes with great difficulty, and oftentimes imperfectly—but they came. She listened as he sweetly stumbled through the second verse, “A wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Lord. He taketh my burden away. He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved. He giveth me strength as my day” and understood that, despite all outward appearances, God was with them and always had been. They had just been too busy focusing on the uncertain darkness to even begin to look for His light.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers stated, “Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. Songbirds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into ‘the shadow of His hand’ until we learn to hear Him” (Isa. 49:2). Now, that is exactly what they’re doing, walking in relative darkness and singing all the way. “Whenever our spiritual cups get dry,” she told me, “we just sing until they’re filled up again.”

Hebrews 12:10-11 tells us that God “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Their spiritual strength, gained through previous hardships, makes worship possible, and while they are being further refined by this trial, our entire family is reaping spiritual rewards as well. As we watch them lean fully on the Lord for strength and wisdom, we are all coming to see the truth of Job’s declaration, “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (Job 3:17).

Just like the hymns I cherished as a child, my grandparents’ songs reveal the truth of God’s Word. Their simple melodies have shaped my understanding of His grace and make it real to me in way words alone couldn’t. They wake up each morning, uncertain of the new challenges they’ll face, but they are quick to point out, “Our heavenly Father knows.” Rather than worry, they pray for the measure of strength to help them until they lie down once again and thank God for the continuous supply. Like Job, they pose the rhetorical question, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10), letting their song serve as a reply.

Not once have they asked, “Why us?” without immediately following it with, “Why not us?” because their hearts are in tune with God’s. They’ve spent so many years fully immersed in His presence that they speak to Him in song—their groanings are lyrical rather than wordless (Rom. 8:26-27). I feel the same tendency in myself, and I know that the Lord is using them to teach me the libretto of His love. To “put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise” (Ps. 40:3), the same almighty Composer is arranging both the coda of their lives and the second movement of mine.


 

In a Manner Worthy of the Saints

I have had a lot of conversations with the ceiling this year. Most of them begin with, “Are You sure, Lord? I mean really sure?” Most of the time, this question pops out of my mouth when He’s asking me to do something for which I feel woefully unprepared. I know He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent—that everything that happens does because He has the perfect knowledge and power to make it so. However, I sometimes look at where I was eight or nine years ago and compare it to now, I am speechless.

At In Touch Ministries, I serve as an editor and a writer for the magazine, which is something I never imagined myself doing a decade ago. But, in all that time, He was preparing me spiritually to do the things He has ordained. I am humbled beyond measure that the Creator of the universe not only knows me and calls me His child, but also loves me enough give me a talent with which to serve Him. In short, this article is proof that God is truly in control.

I taught a wonderful young woman named Catie Carter who passed away in June of 2010, but before she left, she managed to touch thousands of people in the Jacksonville area. God wasn’t content to let it stop there though. Because of His perfect plan, I was in a position to share her testimony with millions of readers around the world. I have no idea how many people the Lord will touch as a result of this connection. But He does….and always has. I simply cannot wait to see what happens!

I would like to thank Catie’s family–her parents, Jimmy and Kerri, and her siblings, Emily, Jimmy, Lindsay, and Ellie–for being willing to share their precious girl’s story with me. Because of your courage, faith, and strength, people you and I will never know will have a chance to meet her and will be changed as a result.

**In Touch Magazine is a free monthly publication. If you are interested in subscribing, please visit this website.**

Thoughts That Outnumber the Sand

I have been having serious Kiefer Sutherland withdrawals ever since 24 ended, so I was excited to learn that he was starring in a new show in 2012. The pilot for this show, Touch, aired last week, and two more episodes have been scheduled for this season. I thought this introduction to the series was fairly engaging; it started in medias res with a brief narration from the gifted youngster, Jake,  who sees all then skips to the airport where the cell phone that ties the secondary and tertiary characters together is first located by Martin Bohm (played by Sutherland).

A Chambered Nautilus. Image from seasky.com

The opening voice over is actually quite interesting. In it, Jake explains the precise ratio of the universe (1:1.68) and the subtle laws of behavior and patterns that govern all things from seashells to humankind. Only a few people, he claims, can see the patterns and can intervene in such a way to make sure the people whose lives need to “touch” can do so.

I found myself intrigued because the child’s observation is half correct. The universe does have a system of rules that keep it operating harmoniously. There are indeed patterns and rules, and each and every one of them points to divine engineering, a master Craftsman. Scientists have many names for this amazing power, but I simply call Him almighty God. Where the show takes a wrong turn is when it states the child can see and understand all things through numbers. It is true that some gifted people can see portions of the grand design in that way, but no human is capable of discerning all the intricacies of the universe.

The “Eye of God Nebula.” Image from Geekologie.com

Fox, the network airing this show, describes Touch as, “A drama that blends science and spirituality to explore the hidden connections which bind together all of humanity.” Ah, “spirituality”–that catchy word used by those who are willing to admit that there is a power in the cosmos greater than they are but who refuse to recognize Him as God for some reason. “I’m spiritual” must be easier on the ears than “I’m religious” for some. After all, there is some Eastern flavor to the former, an aura of enlightenment that places one on a higher plane of existence. And isn’t that what most people are searching for—a way to set themselves apart while simultaneously defining the world from their perspective?

Why is that somehow preferable to recognizing that one has a Maker, One through whom all things were created? I suppose recognizing God means subordinating yourself to His ultimate authority, and many people balk at the idea that their lives are not their own to live as they see fit.

Many people enjoy the concept of the “red thread” mentioned in this show, the one that, according to a Chinese proverb (note the Eastern influence), binds all people together. However, this is only true when it involves wonderful things like the path the cell phone takes in the pilot episode. They refuse to recognize it when that pattern compels them to do something they are unwilling to do or give up something to which they’ve become partial. Then words like “logic” and “fate” come into play instead.

The other interesting scene takes place between Bohm and a man named Arthur Teller (played by Danny Glover). The clip I transcribed below is available through Hulu/IMDB. Click the link if you would like to see the scene or watch the full episode.

***

Arthur Teller: The universe is made up of precise ratios and patterns….all around us. You and I, we don’t see them, but, if we could, life would be magical beyond our wildest dreams. A quantum entanglement of cause and effect where everything and everyone reflects on each other. Every action, every breath, every conscious thought…connected. Imagine the unspeakable beauty of the universe he sees! No wonder he doesn’t talk.

Martin Bohm: My son sees all that?

Teller: Mr. Bohm, your son sees everything. The past, the present, the future–he sees how it’s all connected.

Bohm: You’re telling me my son can predict the future?

Teller: No. I’m telling you, it’s a road map, and your job now, your purpose, is to follow it for him. It’s your fate, Mr. Bohm. It’s your destiny.

***

Image from smileosmile.com

What he’s speaking of is the omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience of God, and it would be amazing to be able to view the world as He does. What’s exciting is that, one day, we will. For those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, an eternity of seeing this beauty awaits. Our heavenly Father sees and understands these patterns because He created them! It is He who controls it all–everything from the orbit of planets to the breath that you and I draw each and every second, often unconsciously.

Image from geniusbeauty.com

He knew each and every one of us before we were even formed in our mothers’ wombs, and He desires that each and every one of us be reconciled to Him. Jesus Christ died for every single human being on this planet, but He would have done the same thing had it only saved me. Or you.

Yes, any one person would have been worth the cost of Calvary to Him. The extent of that love is so unfathomable that my heart aches when I dwell on it. You and I matter that much to the God who created a universe we have yet to fully fathom. Why would anyone want to live without Him? Isn’t a God who is willing to do that worth serving, worth laying one’s life down for? He certainly is to me.

Image from ptialaska.com

What the creators of this show fail to understand is that every one of us actually can see the patterns, the intricacies of our beautiful world. His handiwork is all around us from the glory and perfect harmony of a coral reef to the amazingly intricate structure of weather patterns. Even our bodies are absolute marvels of creation, yet we take them for granted and refuse to see the hand of God in them!

The sun, moon, and stars. The changing of seasons. Flowers of every shape and color. The symphony of birds’ songs. The scent and flavor of an orange. All of these wonderful experiences are ways in which you and I can perceive and commune with God. There is no need for mathematical analysis or cold abstraction with our heavenly Father, for He has made Himself more than apparent to us if we will only take the time to look.

This truth is what David praised in Psalm 139:

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

That is the God who has already touched my life and yours, and He alone is our purpose.

What a Difference 2,920 Days Make

I’m exceedingly blessed when it comes to my health. Seriously. I don’t have a single allergy. I’ve never broken a bone (despite having done many stupid things that merited one). I’ve never had acne, suffered from insomnia, or been required to have surgery.

Other than an incurable case of Multiple Sclerosis, I’m the picture of good health.

I wasn’t always so glib about my disease. Trust me on that. There was a time after my diagnosis when I didn’t speak to people so much as grunt, and I spent my days creating works of mixed media “art” (notice I use the term loosely) involving naked Barbie dolls, their chests full of dynamite, suspended by barbed wire in black boxes. I only stopped doing both due to a prolonged pleading session from my grandmother who begged me to throw it all in the trash–both my anger and my terrible attempts at visual art. Thankfully, I had the good sense to comply.

For those of you who don’t know what Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is, here’s a basic definition courtesy of PubMed Health:

Image courtesy of discovery.com

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects women more than men. The disorder is most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 40, but can be seen at any age. MS is caused by damage to the myelin sheath, the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. When this nerve covering is damaged, nerve signals slow down or stop. The nerve damage is caused by inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the body’s own immune cells attack the nervous system. This can occur along any area of the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord. It is unknown what exactly causes this to happen. The most common thought is that a virus or gene defect, or both, are to blame. Environmental factors may play a role. You are slightly more likely to get this condition if you have a family history of MS or live in an part of the world where MS is more common.

Symptoms vary, because the location and severity of each attack can be different. Episodes can last for days, weeks, or months. These episodes alternate with periods of reduced or no symptoms (remissions). Because nerves in any part of the brain or spinal cord may be damaged, patients with multiple sclerosis can have symptoms in many parts of the body.

Isn’t that just peachy? (If you’re interested, click on the link before the quote and look at all the symptoms. It gets better.)

Now, imagine facing that diagnosis when you’re twenty-five years old and perfectly healthy. Reading an article like this one is how I learned about my condition. The doctor who diagnosed me was brilliant, but he also had the bedside manner of a damp dishrag. He decided to come tell me about the two little letters that would change my entire life the night I was suffering from an LP-induced headache ( LP= Lumbar Puncture, also known as a Spinal Tap). His advice to me was, “Look it up on the Internet” because “there is more there than enough information online.”

Image courtesy of Bike MS

So, like any good graduate student, I searched. Each page my husband and I read was worse than the last, and we finally shut the computer and cried. What they forgot to mention was that MS is such a variable-ridden disease that the only way to confirm it is my eliminating dozens of others. Honestly, being diagnosed is a little like being a patient on House. There are different forms of MS, ranging from almost benign to severe, and there’s no telling what type you have until your second exacerbation occurs.

I didn’t hear this information until the same benevolent and wonderful grandmother put me in contact with a woman named who called herself Cookie. She had had MS for many years and told me that while the websites and doctors told me “facts,” they hadn’t told me “truths.” She told me stories about people she knew who, like her, had manageable symptoms, and were living pretty normal lives. One girlfriend of hers, she assured me, hadn’t had an exacerbation in eight years.

Image courtesy of Zazzle.com

I told myself I wouldn’t make it eight years and couldn’t even fathom living that long with my condition. The uncertainty is the most stressful thing about having MS. Believe it or not, a lesion can show up at any time. I can quite literally go to bed one night and wake up blind the next morning if the disease flares up in my visual cortex. My legs can stop working, my memory can be effected, and even my personality can be radically different. These changes are sometimes temporary, or they can be permanent—it all depends on where, when, and how long and often the disease attacks. That’s a reality for me now. Naturally, I could only see the long days in front of me, and living nearly a decade with that worry over me was more than I could stand. I saw eight years as little to celebrate.

But get this. Today–January 25, 2012–marks my eight-year anniversary of having MS.

Eight years have passed, and I’m still here.

Not only am I still alive and well, I’m living a better life than I did before my diagnosis. Yes, I’ve taken care of myself and am in better shape physically. That makes things a little easier. However, the greatest change has been the one in my relationship with God.

Before my diagnosis, I was the classic case of “Raised in Church.” I went forward during Vacation Bible School when I was a child and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, but no one followed up with me, no one taught me and led me to the next step. Everyone made the assumption that being from a church family meant that I knew exactly what to do. Sadly, that was not the case, and I spent most of my childhood and adult life never fully grasping what salvation was and what it meant. I thought going to church and trying to be a good person was enough.

What I had assumed was that the MS was punishment, that God had it out for me. But, in truth, it was His love for me being made manifest. He loved me too much to leave me where I was and took a drastic step to change my path. Beth Moore, a Christian writer, says that we can either bend our knees and bow before God, or He can break our legs. Either way, we’re going to get on our faces before Him and acknowledge that He is in fact the great I AM. That’s what MS was—God “breaking my legs” and telling me, If you’re going to live the kind of life I have in store for you, you are going to have to learn to depend on me for everything. You’re not ready yet.

During my recovery, I did just that. I collapsed in a heap on the floor of my parents’ bathroom and prayed. I begged God to take it away, that I wasn’t strong enough for this, and that I was terrified out of my mind. I’d like to tell you that I had a “Damascus Road Moment” and got myself straight with the Lord right there, but that’s not the case. It took many, many years for me to become spiritually mature to understand the promise of Romans 8:28-30:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He alsopredestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Yes. I firmly believe MS was given to me for my good. Why? Because it was what started me on the long spiritual path that would conform me to the image of His Son. I am becoming more Christlike every single day because of my disease and how it has changed me. Like Paul, I have this “thorn in the flesh,” one given to me that I might not be fooled into thinking I was self-sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). In eight years, I have learned the meaning of God’s strength being made perfect in weakness and decreasing so that He might increase (John 3:30).

God knew I would need MS, so He allowed it in my life. However, He also provided me with a supportive family, a marvelous husband who has never once wavered in his support of me, and a series of church homes, jobs, and Christian role models that prepared me for the task He’s given me. Eight years ago, I wasn’t ready to work at In Touch Ministries. I sometimes feel like I’m still not ready, but a still small voice always reminds me, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you” (Isaiah 43:1-2).

The first eight years I never though I’d make it through are now over, and the next chapter in my story is beginning. However, rather than dread what tomorrow brings, I look forward to it with expectation because I am guided and protected by the One who promised, “I will not fail or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Eight years—2,920 days— after I started this journey, I now understand, “[whosoever] the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6) not because He is cruel or capricious but so “He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). I know this sounds antithetical to the warm and fuzzy gospel so many pastors want their followers to believe, but being a true disciple of Christ does not come without some discomfort and sacrifice. Yes, I was humbled and broken, brought so low that I thought I would never rise again. However, that was allowed in my life so that I could be rebuilt on a firmer and more lasting foundation, and He who has “begun a good work in [me] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). If someone told me they could give me those 2,920 days back and make MS go away, I would have to decline the offer because, as Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Tomorrow, I begin working with the MS Center of Atlanta as a peer counselor. After my training, I will be one of the people they can call upon to visit those who are starting their own journeys with MS and who can share the truth as well as the facts. Yes, I get to be the “Cookie” for someone else starting tomorrow; I can look at them, say, “I understand what you’re feeling,” and truly mean it. Will it be difficult at times? Certainly, it will. However, I am but the vessel that carries Christ wherever I go. Those who see me will see Him, and I will have more than enough strength to accomplish whatever good works he has appointed for me (2 Corinthians 3:18; 9:8). Yes, I am indeed blessed when it comes to my health, and I truly do delight in my infirmities. MS might stand for “Multiple Sclerosis,” but it’s also “My Salvation.”

My MS Walk Team from 2010!!