Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas versus Happy Holidays

Snows blankets our trees, walks, streets and land, and its beauty hasn't ceased to amaze me since it began falling a week ago. We must have had over 12 inches fall since Wednesday along with layers of freezing ice in between the inches of snow. Since the Portland, Oregon/southwestern Washington area doesn't get lots of snowfall we love it! (And since I grew up in Colorado I love it as well.)

I do know that snow does not make for a wonderful Christmas. I've been to the birth place of Jesus--Bethlehem, Israel, and it rarely snows there either. So, I doubt it snowed on the eve or day of his birth, though it's possible.

For me, this time of year is Christmas--Christ/mas--the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth (though the date being accurate is irrelevant to me). This means I say, "Have a Merry Christmas" or "Have a blessed Christmas" not "Happy Holidays"!

I experienced two hours of MRIs (done annually due to the MS) two weeks ago, and when I was finished in the banging tube (TV does NOT do an MRI justice, you feel like you're in a war zone!) I told the technicians "Merry Christmas!" I was told, "Thanks! We don't get much of that." We talked about being "politically correct" and I said I am "politically incorrect!"

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas full of God's blessings. I wish you would put aside waiting to know about Jesus if you've been doing so--he has been my hope and joy since 1972--and I can't imagine life without his peace flooding my soul.

And if you want it . . . I hope you get snow as well!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Trampled on Black Friday

Were you as appalled and saddened as I was to hear that a clerk was trampled on "Black Friday"? I used to wonder where the name "Black Friday" came from and now it appears to have lived up to its name.

What has happened in our society that makes people not reach down to extend a hand to someone who has tripped in the rush of shoppers, yet alone is trampled upon? How selfish does one have to become to get angry when the store is closed for a time due to this person's demise? What needs to change in order for us to care about others more than the purchase of a plasma TV?

My heart goes out to the family of the clerk. This is what they will remember every Thanksgiving from now on.

I've never been one of the frantic B.F. shoppers. It's not because I don't relish a good deal. It's because with MS I can't imagine placing myself in that crowd. Since I use a power chair to shop in malls to save energy (though I walk with forearm crutches) Christmas shopping is enough of a challenge simply because the isles between racks of clothing or items are barely navigational if not impassable with my chair, and that's without the crowds.

If I were one of the B.F. shoppers I would like to think I would try to act courteously towards any individual. I know when I'm fatigued I can get cranky like anyone else and I have been known to apologize to clerks for being short and ungrateful. I just can't fathom plowing physically over the top of someone without noticing!

There is a proverb that says "An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends" (Proverbs 18:1). And to me, this is exemplified selfishness--me first, "I want what I want no matter what" thinking and actions that followed.

I hope this was a wake up call to many who will be shopping.

To kindness in and out of the stores this Christmas shopping season!


Thursday, November 13, 2008


Well, the election has passed, the hug-bub is gradually ceasing, and yet we have many things we can still fret over, don't we? Ray and I continually take hits on our 401K, how about you? Has your stress level been elevated? It's difficult not to "go there," which means downhill in our thoughts. It is so easy to focus on all the negative, isn't it?

Having lived with unpredictable MS since 1977 has sort of prepared me for this time in our lives. I never completely have security about my health. I know I could become more disabled at any time no matter how much exercise, good eating habits, and MS drug treatments I adhere to.

I was telling a class of first graders about my symptoms of MS one time, when a precocious little guy raised his hand to ask, "Does anything in your body work right?" I laughed out loud! Of course many things in my body worked right, but this little guy thought the worst from my presentation.

Ever since then, whenever I go to a doctor and I hear something good--about my blood pressure, blood work, results of a test--I think (or say aloud) something in my body works right!

And I've applied this principle to my entire life. When the MS is bad, with symptoms crashing in on me, I can always find something for which to be thankful--I can see, I can speak, I can write. If one of those is gone at the time, I can be thankful for something different. Paul wrote the people in the church at Ephesus "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything" (Ephesians 5:20).

We can practice this in all of life. So our 401Ks are dwindling, do we have health to be thankful for? Our health is bad, do we have family (or just one person) who cares about us? Our children are angry with us? Do we have hope they will mature and we can be thankful for that?

Get my drift? There is always something for which we can be thankful. And thankfulness makes our problems less overwhelming. It can even take our mind off the situation that is bothering us for awhile.

I recommend we all begin looking for things we can be grateful for. Once we start, we'll soon have a growing list and life looks a lot better!

To being thankful!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vote and Exclaim at the Beauty of Fall

I know you've heard this so many times you're tired of it, but I urge you to vote before or on Tuesday. No matter who you are voting for, don't believe pollsters. Your vote counts and matters!

Sorry you haven't heard from me in awhile. I've been balancing too many plates to write and thought I should prioritize to keep healthy and calm. Especially during this time of watching highly volatile campaigning and Stock Market swings.

Yes, like you, we have taken a huge hit to my husband's 401K--yikes!

We have so much to be grateful for though--our health, home, family and friends. And have you been watching fall explode like we have? I exclaim so often every day at God's amazing creation! This is a favorite time of year for me when the colors are unmatched by any painter's palate.

My speaking opportunity blessed me to no end with people telling me how touched they were by what I sensed God wanted me to share. I can't tell you what a blessing it is to be used as his instrument of change in the lives of others because of sharing God's Word--the Bible--and how it relates to our lives.

Anyway, I hope you're doing well, friend. More soon!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Telling the Truth

A lot of us are discouraged by the apparent ease with which people are lying these days--whether they be in the halls of our government, those running for office, on Wall Street, at our places of work or school.

I am preparing a talk to be given in a week where I'll discuss this a bit, so it's been on my mind quite a lot lately--let alone if I turn on any newscast. What so many of us don't seem to understand is we help to create this in a new generation in our own homes when we say on the phone, "He's not here right now" about our husband so he won't have to speak to the person. Or we say it for our daughter who doesn't want to talk to a certain guy. What we are doing is teaching our children that it is okay to lie rather than tell the truth kindly.

And our actions speak loudly.

This has been a growing problem for years in our schools--relativity regarding right and wrong--"It all depends on the circumstances, you know." President Clinton confirmed the confusion in students minds when he stated, "I did NOT have sex with her (Monica Lewinsky)! Not only was it okay for him to lie, but now teens weren't sure what constituted sex.

Yet this is nothing new. When God asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden why they were hiding after feeling totally comfortable in his presence they didn't take responsibility until they felt cornered.

I want to live by the truth in all things--no matter how ugly and uncomfortable it may make me. The Apostle John wrote, "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God" (John 3:21). By God's strength and in his power we can live this way.

To being truthful--!


Monday, September 29, 2008

Life in Limbo?

Sorry for being so long in posting. Life has been busy for me. How about you? Is it busy or do you feel like you're in limbo waiting for the government to decide what they're going to do with your hard-earned dollars? Waiting for your 401K to plummet farther down in value? Waiting to see if the economy can make it "at all" if we're to listen to the media doomsayers.

I am learning along with my husband Ray that all things are known by God and because we love him and are called according to his purposes he will work ALL, yes ALL things together for our good (Romans 8:28). It may not seem like it as we have lost so much of our 401K but he promises this and we've learned we can believe him.

We learned it when Ray was out of work six years ago and we didn't know what would happen. He was offered a job, we rented our new house here in Washington state near Portland, Oregon, and we were moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for 11 months. We weren't in limbo, we took life as it came and it turned into such an incredibly fun and interesting time for us, we wouldn't have traded the adventure for the peace he could have had otherwise.

We learned it when I tumbled head-first down an entire flight of stairs and couldn't feel a thing from my excruciatingly painful neck down. I cried out loud, "God help me!" and had searing pain down my arms and hands and tingling from the waist down. I could move my legs and knew I wasn't paralyzed by God's grace. I should have died or been a quadriplegic according to the doctors. Yes, I had a long recovery learning to stand and walk again only to have three MS attacks put me back in a wheelchair, but God was ever-present and so precious. I wasn't in limbo, I was growing in God's and Ray's love and sharing with people I would never have met if I hadn't fallen.

During this seemingly awful time of limbo, lets ask God what he'd like us to learn. Let's look at things that seem frightening and ask, "What can I do or think in order to be less insecure." As we remind ourselves that God loves us with an everlasting love we will be less likely to fret.

To living today instead of living in limbo!


Monday, September 15, 2008

Making Friends

A woman from New York named Maureen listened to the archived talk I gave on helping those who help us on blogtalkradio.com during National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and she wrote me with a most interesting question.

During the interview I had talked about a woman who asked, "How are you?" I had answered, "Do you really want to know?" and she turned to walk away as she said, "Not really." I was stunned. I had said that because I was becoming unsure of how honest I should be since most seemed to want to hear, "I'm fine."

I then described how it is helpful to have a friend who tries to understand our difficulties due to our illness. The kind of friend who will ask, care, and occasionally help us when we're in need. Maureen asked how we find that kind of friend. She said she's moved around a lot and doesn't have a good support system. I can relate because Ray and I have moved around some as well and I have wanted friends wherever we lived.

I'd like to share how I have made this kind of friend. The first thing I do is ask God to make me a friend to someone who needs and wants what I can give, and I ask him to bring people into my life that will do the same. I don't leave it there though. I attend a local Bible women's study or one at the church we attend because I've made friends in this kind of setting before.

When I am in the small group of this Bible study where we're asked to share about ourselves I am vulnerable about having an illness (MS) that makes life challenging at times. I also tell how God is working in my life because of it. This oftentimes causes someone to come up to me with compassion or a similar health concern.

If this happens, or I sense God is leading me to reach out to a certain person, I put myself out by asking that woman to meet me for coffee or lunch, or to come over to my house for coffee. Since the only way to really have a friendship is to be a friend, I want to be a good listener and show I care. As we get to know each other I learn more about how to meet her needs--which may only be to listen, it's a valuable gift we all need--and I share more about my own difficulties.

Then, if I need someone's help I take a risk and ask her if she can meet it--drive me somewhere or push my wheelchair in a mall to help me Christmas shop. I never know when someone will desire to get a blessing by helping me without asking them. I've made several friends who were just looking for someone to help because it gave them a purpose. When I asked they jumped at the chance and we developed a wonderful relationship because of it.

I'd enjoy any feedback you have to this blog topic!

To making new friends . . .!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

People Around the World

Lisa and I had a great time during my blogtalkradio interview yesterday. I love interacting with people after I speak to an audience, at a book signing, anywhere actually!

Sandra called in from England at midnight her time to share how she is encouraged by praise music. I so relate. As Sandra put it so aptly, God inhabits the praises of his people, and when we praise him our hearts are comforted and rise above our circumstances. (On another note, it was fun to discuss my traveling to England alone using forearm crutches. She knew where I had stayed with "me English mum" for a week!)

I'm sorry that I didn't get the woman's name who called in and talked vulnerably about those who help her due to her MS. She also gave pearls of wisdom for the listening audience as she gratefully told about a friend who drove her three hours to her neurologist appointment--what a sacrifice of time! And another friend who took her shopping. I have had friends do both of these things and I know how precious they are.

No matter where we live around the world--which is much smaller than we realize when we look at a globe or map--we have common needs and desires. We appreciate the needed help of friends and our hearts are lifted by praise to God.

I apologize for having the wrong phone call in phone number listed. I didn't know it had been changed. If you'd like to call in today, Thursday or Friday, use the following number: (347) 202-0072. You can click on the link to the right to check out the schedule of talks.

May each of us be a friend to those in need . . . Have a great day!


Monday, September 8, 2008

Invisible Illness Week

Hello! Today is the beginning of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week! Did you know that 96% of illnesses are invisible? Many start out that way--like MS--and develop into symtoms that others can see.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, at 3 pm PST I will be speaking on http://www.blogttalkradio.com about how we can help those who help us. We'll talk about friends and family who assist us. Please join us by calling (347) 843-4271.

Hope to hear from you tomorrow!


Friday, September 5, 2008

How to Help the Ones Who Help Us

This coming Monday is the start of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. I am proud and honored to be a part once again of this annual event.

On Tuesday at 3 pm PST I will be speaking and answering questions about how we can help those who help us on blogtalkradio.com. You can click on the link to the right of this post in order to get to the NICIAW website and go directly to the scheduled talks.

No matter what political party you belong or adhere to, or how you choose to vote, you may have heard or watched Senator McCain giving his acceptance speech last night. He said something to the effect that he was cocky until he spiraled to the ground from his plane into enemy hands where an angry crowd awaited him. He related that he became even more changed when he was put in a cell with two other prisoners who fed him because he couldn't himself.

I relate this because his experience of being broken when he needed help is one that is universal to mankind. When we need the help of others to handle basic living all the strength and self reliance we depend upon is immediately depleted.

And how we accept the help of others and incorporate it into our lives makes all the difference in how they feel about assisting us. Though I am usually, as I am now, able to do almost anything as long as I walk with forearm crutches, when I travel to speak across country I depend on others to assist me at events. I depend on people to drive me to speaking engagements as well, though I drive near home. How I ask for help, showing appreciation for and trying to understand how my helpers might feel regarding things, influences how we get along. When I need help in our home the assumptions I make and how I communicate my needs reinforces or depletes the relationship warmth we maintain among us.

Jesus wasn't afraid to ask his disciples to accompany him in his time of need in the Garden of Gethsemane. He models for us behavior that often needs to be learned.

How we help the ones who help us will be the basis of my talk on Tuesday. If this is something you'd like to explore, please join Lisa and me on blogtalkradio.com!

Learning how to help others who help me . . .

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Invisible or Not

In 1980 I wobbled with the help of two others into a pizza restaurant.

A burly young man taunted, "What's a matter with her? Is she drunk?" loud enough for the entire clientele to turn and look at me.

Hot tears of embarrasment stung my eyes. I wanted to disappear. I had used others' arms because my balance was so poor I feared I would look drunk, and now I'd been accused of it.

At that time my symptoms of multiple sclerosis were invisible to others. Or so I thought until this accusation.

In 1981 I was told to walk with forearm crutches to protect myself from falling and to give myself better coordination, and I have used them ever since.

There are many illnesses whose symptoms are invisible, MS being one of them for many people. Especially the fatigue most of us endure. I'd like to draw your attention to an upcoming week that I have taken part in for the past two years. It's called National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and it is this coming September 8-14. There you can find all kinds of telephone seminars, blog posts, freebies, events, and networking with people who understand the invisibleness of symptoms you may have.

I'll be saying more about that in the future, but for now, invisible is not always better!

Have a wonderful day!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympics Beauty?

Enjoying the Olympics? We are. But what about the confession by the Chinese that the child singer "wasn't pretty enough" to be included in the opening ceremony, she had to lip synch for the one who appeared.

I was appalled.

I think both of the little girls are beautiful. How tragic for the one who really sang to be told this.

Women have enough difficulties feeling beautiful. And children and teens must be carefully encouraged these days to sense their own uniqueness when comparisons are constantly made through the media. When perfection is so touted. When you must be this or that to be accepted.

I want our granddaughter who is nine to know that she is so precious just as she is, and that she doesn't need to meet any standard of beauty. I had to teach myself to feel good about what I looked like and I want to build that in her so Calysta doesn't need to!

God created us and he knew what form we would take while we were in the womb according to Psalm 139! "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

God doesn't create junk as someone said years ago!

You are beautiful . . .


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leaping Joyfully

A doe and her fawn graced our backyard last week. The mother nuzzled her baby, licking her face and side. There was such tenderness in that moment. We never cease to feel joy when we get to watch God's wonderous creatures.

It brought to mind the time a doe munched on the blackberries at the back of our property. She literally jumped straight up in the air, kicking her back feet in order to grasp the ripe berries on the top branches! The doe resembled our cat more than a deer!

As I am overcoming this health crisis one day at a time I too am leaping joyfully. I enjoy the taste of lime tortilla chips one at a time. As I let the lime settle slowly into my taste buds on my tongue I close my eyes to enjoy the tangy delight.

Homeade root beer floats with foam upper lips make me laugh.

Bunnies in the yard munching green grass bring a smile to my face. And the shades of colors in the shrubbery and trees are vibrant and alive, causing my heart to swell with pleasure.

The anticipation of our daughter Lins bringing her family to visit in a few weeks floods me with joy and I feel a leap in my spirit to recover quickly! (Of course I've never been one to let the MS keep me down. I am exercising to regain my strength anyway.) I think about seeing nine year old Calysta, four year old Maycn and eigth month old Ryenn for the first time and I just grin.

I am looking forward to keeping speaking engagements this fall and traveling to Lagos, Nigeria to speak. The blessing of doing what I love brings another leap of joy in my heart.

The Bible says "The Soverign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights" (Habakkuk 3:19). With God you and I can leap joyfully no matter what happens as we lean into his strength and trust him.

I hope you are leaping this week!


Monday, July 28, 2008

What I Do With Disappointment

When life throws us a twist or a turn, a curve we don't expect in the road, we always have a choice about how we will respond, don't we? Often this is complicated by our expectations of what we thought would happen instead of what has! I've been reminded of that once again this summer.

My last two years have been the best out of five with the MS. I've done TV and radio programs, spoken cross country and multi tasked more than I can remember. Sure, I still needed rests and the help of others, but life has been exciting!

Then I was diagnosed with severe iron deficiency in late May and finally had a reason for the need to pant and the incredible tiredness (on top of MS fatigue I deal with daily). Tests commenced in order to find the cause while I continued to weaken. The maximum dose of IV iron was administered on July 11 but I wasn't feeling better.

And while I wrote my last post for this blog I sensed new MS symptoms taking hold. Last Monday through Friday IV steroids were administered for several hours each day to halt the flareup. I can't just take a blast of them. I need a slow drip due to my hypersensitivity pain which is a result of the cervical spinal cord injury in 1994. (Another subject, another time . . .)

Now this summer I had hoped to work on my next book and begin recording a new CD, as well as other things. Best laid plans of mice and men . . .

I have had a choice all summer as I weakened--decide to make the most out of whatever I could do (which hasn't been much, I must admit), or whine and complain and become bitter.

Years ago I realized that choices make all the difference. So during these past two months I've waited to hear what God wanted to say by speaking to my heart in the many moments of rest I've needed. And when I am quiet before him with love in my heart the preciousness of who I am to him--GOD--blesses me in ways I can't put into words. Psalms 34:4 says, "I sought the Lord and he answered me." I simply love it when he does that!

I've relished opportunities to speak with nurses, doctors, technicians running tests, and other patients as I have gone through everything. Last week seven nurses and two patients bought my memoir because we met over IV steroids! I'm encouraged by the fact I would never have seen these people had I not had MS problems, and now I hope they'll be touched and blessed by reading my entire story.

Now that I am becoming more stable again (and hopefully my blood work will continue to show improvement) I'll be exercising to regain strength and endurance--just like I've done ever since 1980 when I learned how important exercise is. This is another choice I make gladly.

Are you dealing with disappointments? What do you do with them? What choices do you want to make that will make a difference for you?

Have a great week--I am planning to!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Sometimes We Are Surprised

Since I've had MS since 1977, and was diagnosed in 1978, I have been blessed by so many caring medical staff--nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, to name a few. I've been so impressed by almost every one that I have a paragraph in my Acknowledgements section of my memoir Soar Unafraid: Learning to Trust No Matter What dedicated to them with thanks for who they are and what they do. It just means so much to me.

I have also been blessed to have private insurance throughout all the years of MS, something that I know many cannot claim. But there is no word of thanks in the Acknowledgement section of my book. Usually I encounter people who are rude or put out though they are supposedly doing their job of "customer service." I get off the phone wondering where the "service" was supposed to come in.

Today I was surprised.

I've been going round and round with our insurance regarding a payment they owe for April 2007 (!) for the Betaseron I inject for the MS. This was a new insurance plan as of last spring. On June 24 Iris told me it was "being expedited" since they had now received the medical records (which I had sent to them twice already, by the way.) These records not only showed that I had MS, but also the neurologist's prescription for the past several years (and I've been using it since 1994 when it was released by the FDA.)

On July 1 I was informed by Iris that the claim was in process. Today when Iris returned my call she said, "The claim has been denied by a nurse due to pre-existing conditons." I said, "How can that be when I have always had insurance and taken Betaseron since 1994, and they paid every other month thereafter in 2007 and 2008?!" She answered, "I don't know, but you can appeal."

As a recovering codependent--a person who has tried to please everyone--I try to be assertive without crossing the line into aggressive. But I was upset!

While I prayed to calm down and my husband said, "Let it go for now. We'll file the appeal" I took my afternoon rest. I've learned I need that time each day in order to rejuvinate my body and mind. Minutes later the phone rang.

"Hi, is this Jo? This is Iris. I began looking through your claims paid by us and you're right. There is no explanation for this. I am going to walk to that department right now and tell them so. If I can't get an answer for you today I will call you on Monday."

!!!! Need I say I was surprised? I responded, "Iris, thank you. You are a blessing. I so appreciate you showing concern."

How often do you find people who go the extra mile in business for you? Yesterday we had an installer out and he was from a foreign country where he had been a civil engineer. He said here in the US he has to get a four year degree to do the same thing and he can't make ends meet with his three children. Ray felt such empathy for the man and was kind, conversational, and showed genuine concern.

But after he left Ray found many sloppy things the installer could have done correctly. His laziness or bitterness showed throughout the job he had done. And, he cut a cord of Ray's and never told him about it when he could have just apologized.

I was just comparing Iris and this installer. Iris--whether she knows it or not--is doing as Jesus said, "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matthew 5:41). I'm praying Iris feels the blessing I gave to her for going the extra mile for me. There are so few in this me-first world that really exemplify that. May she sense a smile from God.

Hoping you too are having moments of being surprised by others!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Heart of Thanks

How often do you thank those around you? I've been thinking about that lately because I have so much for which to be thankful!

Life often doesn't turn out exactly like we want, and that means it will often bring needs that others can meet. But do you ask for help? It's not easy is it? As a Western society we are taught we are to be loners, do-it-ourselfers, able to do it all alone.

I learned many years ago when MS hit me that I needed to request assistance in order to function fully--and a full life is what I wanted! That meant asking for a ride somewhere. Help with things at home occasionally. And when I began living alone as a single after fifteen years of marriage (and an unwanted divorce) I definitely needed help at times. Needless to say, it turned out to be providential that I had already learned how to ask.

There is an art to asking for help. I've learned the hard way that if I'm not accepting of my need for help my request will not come out nicely! Many don't know that Jesus actually modeled asking for help for us. In Matthew 26:36 we read "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." I can't imagine in the state he was in, needing support, he would have used a voice full of annoyance, but one full of gentleness.

For me, the attitude behind my request needs to come from a heart of thanks that others would want to help. That takes stepping out of my comfort zone and giving it a try! Usually, with an attitude of gratefulness, people are more than willing to help out. They actually say they're blessed to be helping!

I have been speaking and singing for audiences since 1984 and it is only possible because I ask for assistance from others. My husband is another who is asked quite regularly for help--and when I say "Would you please..." there is rarely a time he isn't more than willing and wants to help. I'm so appreciative of the help I receive.

When I traveled to Israel as part of an archaeological team that worked at the site of Timnah, where Samson got his Philistine bride in Judges 14:1, the members could sense my excitement at being in the land where Jesus walked and lived and died and rose from the dead. They could sense my enthusiasm round every turn and they offered to help because of that. I so overflowed with thanks that I wrote a song and dedicated it to them at a banquet before we crossed into Jordan and rode donkeys into Petra where they fireman-carried me around yet again. (Remember the rosy building carved into the stone canyon in an Indiana Jones movie? That's Petra--it really exists with many buildings!)

It's difficult requesting help, but I guarantee that if you try asking someone, chances are they are going to want to do whatever they can if you begin with a heart of thanks!

Have a thankful week! And try asking for help--you'll give someone else a blessing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Today Ray and I have been married 21 years! We gave each other a "Happy Anniversary!" hug first thing, and he just came into my office to kiss me with the same declaration.

Since I've been rather home-bound lately, awaiting news about medical tests that will reveal how to get me stronger again, (and I have no doubt we will discover that so I can go on doing my passion--bringing hope and God's love to others through speaking, singing, and writing--and because I have engagements to fill)I designed and wrote my own card for Ray! I've never done that before. Shhhhh. . . he doesn't know it yet!

I was looking through digital photos from trips we've taken in order to print one on the card front, and oh, the memories that flooded over me. We've taken some great trips together: Sweden while visiting with our dear Inga and other friends, Victoria, then San Juan Island where we watched orca whales for two hours and a sunset that could never be captured by film, skiing at Whistler, Canada and the drive there, the "Ice Fields Highway" between Banff and Jasper in Canada viewing magnificent glaciers and wildlife, the Colorado Rocky Mountains by jeep and convertible while gasping anew at--no matter how often we see them--the ranges of peaks and mountain goats, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, even marmots. Oh, and there's quaint Leavenworth, WA, the Bavarian town which we love, the Oregon coastline that defies description in it's original beauty around every bend of Highway 101, riding our tandem along the California coastline, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Bryce, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks and Big Sur and so many places in California we've loved to camp at or visit, and going to the Christian Booksellers convention for me to autograph my memoir for people . . . I could go on and on about the cities we've seen together: NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, etc. And the planned trip to Nigeria . . .

But there are day-to-day celebrations I want to revel in as well.

We have a five foot rule--whenever you're within that distance you "get to" (not "have to") kiss the other.

We always tell each other over the phone something (well, it's kinda private) and end with "I love you."

And we never leave the house without kissing and saying "I love you" to the one staying behind.

Then there's our coffee. While we were dating I delivered Ray's coffee mug to him saying, "Coffee Lady" while I kissed him. We've been bringing each other coffee that way throughout all of these years.

At bedtime we stand together with Ray's arm around me and brush our teeth--I know, it sounds corny as can be, but it's another ritual we share.

And when Ray brings our cat Jaz into the bedroom in his arms like a baby at night and we begin to sing the song "Hitchin' a Ride" to him we laugh.(Why in the world this cat loves this ritual is beyond us--it just happened because songs pop out of our minds into our mouths and we sing them, and now this remains a fun thing for all three of us!)

Life is good because of the little things, you know. Yes, we want to get out there and take a trip together, but the little things like sitting next to each other on our double recliner while reading our respective books is heart-warming.

And so on this July 3 I celebrate life with a wonderful (though imperfect) guy who loves me--as imperfect as I am. I hope we have many years of adventure ahead together!

Bless you this weekend as you celebrate our nation's independence. And bless you as you remember other things to celebrate!

Until next time,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chocolate and Caramel Corn

Do you love chocolate? Caramel Corn? Have you ever eaten them one right after the other? Well I did on Saturday!

It was my birthday--no I'm not saying how "young" I am--I can't believe it myself! (My heart and being is that of a 25 year old!)

Back to the chocolate ... Well, my husband tried to find my favorite ice cream (jamoica almond fudge) and we had to settle for chocolate toffee--too bad. I received a card from an old friend that said eat lots of chocolate and enjoy myself, so I knew I was doing the right thing by imbibing on the ice cream.

You see, this friend Anne shared lots of lunches with me that ended in the jamoica almond fudge ice cream. She also taught me to downhill ski with outriggers, the short skis attached to crutches. My regular skis had the tips held together with a bunge cord in a five inch pipe that kept me from doing the splits. This also helped my ski tips to not cross each other as easily. We have so many wonderful memories of skiing together at Winter Park and Mary Jane in Colorado where they take great care of the disabled. You can check out a picture of me skiing on my website Photo page!

Well, I had to take Anne's advice and eat lots of ice cream.

But I also had to eat the homemade caramel corn our neighbor made for my b-day! Ever since reading my memoir last year, Soar Unafraid: Learning to Trust No Matter What she has remembered my birthday. I simply had to show my appreciation.

So, pig out I did! And fortunately I didn't have a stomach ache (though I suppose I deserved it.)

On Monday at 4:40 pm after my medical test I said, "I can hardly wait to eat!" having survived on clear fluids since noon on Sunday. But as we drove away while I ate crackers while looking forward to grilled chicken I thought of all the people in the world who are starving or don't have sanitary fluids to drink. And I thought about my pigging out and I felt entirely awful for being such a pig and a baby when others would have been glad for the fluids I consumed, let alone the birthday dinner and dessert(s!)

I am all too well reminded how good life is for most of us here in America. And I am entirely grateful for the blessings I have when so many do not.

Enjoy and be grateful for your generous helpings of food, clean water, and life. We are so blessed, aren't we?

Have a great week,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sighing, but Grateful

Have you ever waited for test results and wondered and prayed?

Then you know what I'm feeling!

I missed writing last week. I missed a lot of things last week. I missed church. I missed our small home Bible study group. I missed a party I really wanted to attend where we would see old and dear friends.

When I posted last I knew I had been diagnosed with "severe iron deficiency." But it was the following week when the 5% (of the normal 15-50%) of iron coursing through my veins really began affecting me. And now--well, I'm sighing a lot because I am out of breath! And the headaches that come on me aren't fun either.

Tests are being run and ruling out various serious conditions with another coming up June 23. I'm so grateful for the medical community. I know, I know, some of you have had horrendous experiences (as have I) with some of them, but I've also had some wonderful ones.

Like June 9 when the admitting nurse was so kind and fun to talk with at the hospital. She made a special trip out to the waiting room to get book information (I have postcards about my memoir) from my husband. Then she came back to the room and waved it, telling me she's buying it to read on the airplane on her way to Africa in July!

Ten minutes ago I talked with the insurance company representative regarding prior authorization for my test scheduled June 23. I explained how important it is to go forward and find out what's wrong and after typing speedily the message in the "important" mode, she got up out of her chair and went to the nurse to explain my situation! (Now this is going the extra mile as far as I'm concerned!) She told me they would do their best to get it authorized by the doctor by Friday afternoon and she would call me as soon as it came in.

A few minutes later I received a call from Courtney at the doctor's office who told me it had been authorized! I said, "You made my day!" as I cried tears of joy. And just now Laura from the insurance company called to tell me the same thing!

Am I sighing from being out of breath? Yes. But I am also sighing at God's goodness and feeling extremely grateful. And I have so much for which to be grateful. Here are just a few examples:

I have a wonderful husband who is helpful and sweet. (And when he's not, he realizes it and works on his attitude.) He is also in life with me for the long haul and he reminds me of that.

I have friends who are praying and sending email notes of encouragement daily--which, frankly, I need. I'm human! I'm so weak I cry easily. (Ever been there? You know what I mean.) Even encouragement makes me cry--HA!

I'm receiving word that a TV interview I did while in Denver (the "Denver Celebration" that can be watched on the "Media" page of my website) is touching lives with courage and hope.

I sense that God is in control, just as Romans 8 tells me, and I can trust him with today's health adventure and the outcome. I know he wants to use me for his glory to speak and sing in the future--I have bookings I will keep, so I know he will show me how to treat this and feel better. And besides, I always rely on the Spirit's power to do anything anyway!

There are so many more things I am thankful for, but I don't have the energy to type!

Well, then, I hope I've left you with the encouragement that I have--nothing is beyond God's power to lift us up in the midst of--if we only remember his love.

More later! Have a blessed week!

PS There will be a new "Article" posted on my site later today!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Yesterday I began updating the Speakers page on my website with new topics for events as well as adding referrals for other specific talks for which I've been requested. I hate my computer program for my website. Is "hate" too strong a word for a program that can't keep up with my typing on the page and I must sit and wait for words to fill in before making a line break? We're planning on revising my entire site this June--with a completely different program! But this has served me for several years. I guess I shouldn't complain . . .

I sat here typing and getting more and more frustrated with the program while the impending list of things I need to get done just underneath my notes beckoned me.

Where was the joy that began my day in a sweet time with God when I heard Him speak to my heart about His love for me? I was caught in the busy-ness and couldn't get out. My chagrin at 6 pm when I finally exited my office, exhausted, only verified my loss.

When Ray asked me if I accomplished what I wanted done, I said, "I wasted so much time. I just don't want to talk about it." And for once, I let go of energy-draining guilt and I enjoyed my evening by congratulating myself on not "guilting myself," which I can do too easily, being a recovering guiltaholic.

As deer surprise us in our backyard (and since they have come around since we moved here seven years ago, we shouldn't be surprised), we feel such delight.

When Jaz sits on my lap at my computer and purrs I feel a smile come over my face (and I love dogs, you dog-lovers!)

If I savor my apple at lunch I'm awakening my senses to another of God's gifts.

When someone calls, interrupting my work, if I'm kind I sense God's pleasure.

While I work, turning to the window and checking out the new spring blossoms cheers me up.

Ray's calls from work during the day and our ending each with, "I love you, baby," always warm my heart.

I read a ski magazine article that was titled, "Have You Heard a Mountain Laugh?"
Psalm 98:4 and 8 say: "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music. . . Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy."

I just want to keep busy-ness in its place and sense the fullness of the life God has given me with joy! How about you?

Have a looking-for-joyful-moments kind of week and keep the busy-ness in check!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Being Honest to "How are you?"

How often are you asked, "How are you?" and you answer, "Fine" because you don't think you should be honest?

Yesterday, as I came out of the restroom at church--our first Sunday in many due to my speaking schedule taking me (or both of us) out of town or state--a guy from our home Bible study group asked me that.

I answered, "I'm tired and stiff! I believe in being honest." I laughed.
"You should be," he replied.

But do you really think you should be honest? Or can you be and still feel acceptable to the person to whom you are speaking? I remember during my second year of living with MS being asked by a woman at a potluck supper that same question. I looked her in the eye and asked--for some crazy reason I can't explain, "Do you really want to know?"

She answered, "Not really," and turned around to walk away! And this was a friend of mine . . .

Now you need to know that I wasn't a person who complained or told every symptom I felt, and I was often told, "You're such an inspiration and encouragement to others!"

Yet for the same reason you feel unable to answer that question, "How are you?" truthfully, because we all know it's just part of the greeting, I guess I wanted to know someone really cared. (I think I'm figuring it out right now why I said that years ago--I often do this during my ramblings on paper or to another person!)

After that conversation we walked, with Ray supporting my left arm, across our huge church foyer to say "Hi" and get a big hug from our women's ministry director who asked me the same thing.

"I haven't slept for several nights and I'm stiff, but like a Hillsong tune says, 'I get up, get up, get up and praise him!'" Judith laughed and nodded understandingly.

I'm so glad I am being honest about how I feel and letting the chips fall where they may. Just because I don't feel great doesn't mean I am not praising God because of who he is and how great it is to be loved by him!

If I could look you in the eye I would ask you right now, "How are you?" and really mean it. Think about your answer. Be honest with me. Can you be honest with yourself? It's okay to do so. It doesn't indicate negativity or a lack of faith. If you are complaining and griping or taking your physical or emotional feelings out on someone else, then you have reason to question your attitude, but not just for being honest.

I urge you, friend, to let people into your reality--where truth really lies for you. Let them come alongside and listen if you're having a bad or not-so-great day. Last night I slept better and today I'm not as stiff, but that doesn't mean yesterday I shouldn't be honest. The smiles I received and compassion helped!

Talk to you next week!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Like a Mother

Well, as you know, Sunday was Mother's Day. I had the wonderful privilege of speaking for a brunch honoring all women, with men and some children in attendance. I hope to do that every Mother's Day!

For many, this holiday brings warm, happy memories. But for others it brings sadness. There are so many families that aren't filled with happiness. For most of us, it is a "mixed bag!"

Often, we live far away from loved ones and a call is the most contact we have.

Some of us long to be mothers and never get the opportunity. I remember having a hysterectomy before having the privilege of having babies...and I was sad. But I had the blessing of becoming "an instant mom" to eight and ten-year old daughters a year later when I married Ray Franz.

Last Christmas I opened my gift from our daughter Lindsey as granddaughters Calysta and Maycn looked on with rapt attention. When I began to read the plaque, I tears blinded my eyes and Lins put her arm around me, saying, "I knew you'd cry when you read it." When my eyes cleared enough I could read again this is what I read:

"Like A Mother"

Although you're not my mother,
you mean as much to me as though you were,
as though you are,
and as though you'll always be.
for mothering is so much more than simply giving life.
It's loving understanding in times of pain and strife.
A love that is freely given and many sacrifices made
have made a debt that all my life shall never be repaid.
I know what good there is in me has come from knowing you.
And so, when counting mothers, I find that I have two.
(author unknown)

To all of you who love and care and support others, sacrificing, and leaving your mark of love, even though you feel you aren't really mothers, I give this to you!

Talk to you next week!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hi, this is Jo Franz finally writing again!

It's been awhile since I've written--way too long! Let me explain...

Have you ever planned something so exciting, so worthwhile, so overly-time consuming you could hardly wait?

Well, that's what Ray and I were doing. Planning. Preparing. Scheduling. Then came getting a house sitter (and of course, since we have a cat who is totally a lover--I know, I know, you dog-lovers can't imagine a cat like Jaz, but he is a lover of being loved--the house sitter is also our Jaz-sitter.) Letting the neighbors know about it all. You know--all those details you have numbered on your "to-do" list.

Then comes the huge crashing disappointment of confusion as it all falls apart.

Our trip in the works since late November to Lagos, Nigeria, was cancelled the day we were to depart. All our packed bags had to be unpacked. All the calls made had to be remade, now with cancellations. All the conferees for the two conferences we were to speak at had to be notified that "due to logistics" it wasn't going to occur.

Needless to say, I cried out to God like Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8 that he was "perplexed, but not in despair." I was certainly confused, but I trusted God to ultimately know what was going on and be able to work it "all together for good" as written by Paul in Romans 8:28. We thanked God "in all things" as Paul also wrote in Thessalonians 5:18 and "for all things" in Ephesians 5:20.

But we still felt sad. Again, like Paul, who was "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2Corinthians 6:10). We took the page off my website about going to Nigeria. We sent emails to our host, wondering how she was doing.

Guess what? God was doing a work in our lives, our host's life, her husband's (who paid for it all and was the one who cancelled it due to the agent who had taken their money while paying for our tickets with stolen US credit cards, which we were notified had been cancelled by the airline themselves!)

And within a few hours of emails back and forth we had replanned the entire event for August 2008 with a new vigor, a new excitement, and a new agenda--planned by God!
Nothing has been wasted. We have learned about how to make the flights now, and we're all so excited.

Maybe I'll be able to post more often like I had planned all along! I took last week off to make sure the stress of the prior week wouldn't deplete me too much. I even read a novel that absorbed and blessed me--I haven't taken time to do that in--well, I can't remember how long!

With multiple sclerosis a constant in our lives, we knew this trip to Africa would be a challenge anyway. But what is life without challenges? I want to live adventurously no matter what! I can hardly wait all over again!

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Divorce and Multiple Sclerosis

Since a number of people are searching the web to find out the statistics of divorce in marriages with one partner having multiple sclerosis, I thought I'd add my own lessons to the mix. I believe they could help anyone reading this, not just those of us with MS.

When I was diagnosed in 1978, the future was bleak unless I had "a light course of the disease." There were no FDA approved drugs proven to lower the incidence or severity of attacks--not until 1993 with the approval of Betaseron.

In 1984, after my first husband had an affair and left me in divorce (after fifteen years of marriage) I was trained by the Denver chapter of the National MS Society as one of their first group of peer-counselors for others with MS. I learned that the rate of divorce for those with MS--at that time--was very high. It was compared to those who had lost a child by death--much higher than the average population. I believe they told us in the 80-90% range!

When I began dating I doubted anyone would want to share this disease. Yes, my former husband had other issues besides the MS, but it was a part of his struggle. I would have worked with him even after his affair if he'd wanted to--but he didn't.

I began telling myself that the "truths" about who I was "apart from MS" were what mattered; who I was to God--not the MS. But when I told guys the grim possibilities (and not on the first date!), there were few who really wanted to stay around.

Then I met a man who was sensitive. Fun-loving and adventuresome like me. He was also a single parent to 7 and 9 year old daughters!

We four had a blast together. I gradually gave Ray more information as he wanted it to read about MS. He was fearful of adding that to his single parenting, yet I was good with them, as well; I loved the girls. Ray was in conflict. Because of his own difficulties from his childhood making him fear commitment again, he took a job across the country to flee our relationship.

But when he asked me to marry him later, I knew he was committed. We've been through so much more than MS in our nearly 21 years together. We are lovers, friends, adventurers, companions, and soul-mates. "For better or worse" is really our story.

Posted by Jo Franz www.jofranz.com

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Through a Child's Eyes

When our granddaughter was just months past the age of three and we visited, she hadn't seen me for awhile. Maycn lovingly hugged me and as I used my two forearm crutches to walk in our daughter's home, suddenly, Maycn disappeared!

Not seconds later she appeared walking with two pieces of plastic (from some toy) and looking just like she was using crutches. She walked up to me with a grin. My husband, of course, shot the picture of us standing next to each other using "our" crutches.

Children pick up on those who are different!

I used my power chair this past Thursday at a speaking event, which was in a church where the children from the school were also using the same restroom as I. All of the cute little girls smiled. One came over to hug me. Another said, "I'm going to get one of those for me!" and I thought, her mom and dad might have something to say about that!

The point is, children are watching. If we're disabled, we have an opportunity to be a light to them. Or a darkened room without a light bulb.

If we are Christians, we can let the Spirit's light shine through any of our weaknesses for God's glory to these little ones whose minds are ready to pick up on each and every thought or expression we show and word we speak.

I hope to be a light to each and every one of them. They are precious in God's sight!

Have a light-filled day!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Traveling to Africa with Multiple Sclerosis!

Posted by Jo Franz

Well, it looks like my husband and I will be traveling to Lagos, Nigeria on April 28! I've asked for an air conditioned car to transport us to and from the airport, air conditioned hotel rooms, convention center venues--every place I can think of--in order to keep me as cool as possible. I'll take a spray bottle to cool me off. I have a mini fan that is battery-operated. Tylenol taken at intervals will help keep my temperature down. I was given a band you can wet and wear around your neck that keeps you cool due to the herbs/chemicals in it... But it might still be a challenge.

Guess what? It's a challenge we're putting in God's hands! He can keep me cool enough to prevent overheating and exacerbating of my MS symptoms! He can keep us safe in an area where we'll need it.

Excitement grows within me as each email goes back and forth between our host and us. I can hardly wait to minister to teenage girls and women about a love that took God's son to the cross in our place so that we might know him intimately and sense his presence in our lives every single moment of every single day by his power, as we put our faith in him.

Have a blessed Easter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week

Have you ever noticed when something difficult happens in your life, somehow, something prepared you for it?

During the months when I experienced those first symptoms of multiple sclerosis we had a friend visit from Sweden. On his way across the US, he purchased a copy of a newly released autobiography called Joni. It was about a young woman the same age as me, who became a quadraplegic during the summer after high school graduation. It was during the same time as my very own high school friend became a paraplegic due to a car accident. While I attended the University of Colorado with the help of a voice scholarship, I visited my friend. I lay under her stryker frame on the floor to chat and bring laughter into her life. I tried to do wheelies in her wheelchair and told her about college life, and singing in the band in night clubs and sleezy bars...

Klas gave me Joni after reading it that summer, and while the MS symptoms mounted, creating havoc in my life, I read about Joni's life as a Christian while being paralyzed. I read about her struggle to find a reason and finally accepting God loved her and had a plan for her as she was now.

I had no idea as I read that book that it would prepare me for my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis within a few months, but it did. I wanted to have a faith that could withstand anything like Joni's. As I lay in the hospital bed that's what I told God.

Can you look back on a difficult time and see how God prepared you with some thought, book, friend's words, a prayer...? Can you see right now that God is helping you be prepared for something...and it may be an adventure!

I can honestly say living with MS since 1977 has been an adventure--but I've also had many adventures that didn't involve living with disease, or how to have fun in the midst of it...

More tomorrow... Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week

My journey with multiple sclerosis began in 1977 when dizziness blindsided me. I had to hang onto a counter or table to keep from falling over. Fatigue took me from the 95 mile an hour lane (as if life was supposed to be lived that way), and put me in a 50 mile zone when I had to take a rest after lunch to make it through a day at work. Tingling in my extremities and pain at the base of my skull hounded me. But the symptoms came and went, disappearing for days, making me feel like I must be making them up.

Specialists ruled out one thing after another until a neurologist gave me the diagnosis I already suspected. This was before MRIs, but I had enough symptoms he felt sure--and so did I. I had raised funds for the National MS Society the year before because I'd become friends with a woman who had it. I knew a lot about the disease already: There were no substantiated human cures. It could blind me. Make me weakened, numb, even paralyzed.

The only place I knew to go was to God. I believed he loved me. Somehow he wouldn't desert me now. But why did I get it now that life had taken on such meaning?

More tomorrow...