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,