May 2014 archive

The Refinement of Affliction

By my junior year in college I began waking in the night with pain in my back. This was rather annoying as you can imagine. Remember the days of college where you picked your own classes and schedule and you could structure it so you had a big fatty break in the middle of your day to do luxurious things like nap? That was how I coped with this new phenomenon happening in my life.

What started out as a sporadic event began to increase in frequency so that by the time I graduated in 1998 (yeah thats right….from COLLEGE!!! How is it possible?) I was waking up multiple times a night, EVERY night. Egg crates on a plastic dorm mattress seemed to only exacerbate my issue. I didn’t know what to do.

There isn’t enough space to go into my whole history but I will hit the highlights to give some context to this post.

To “lighten” it all up there will be some pictures of the outside of the house as this spring is showing that the labor of last spring was not in vain. With the help of our small group we tilled up 42 feet long and 4 feet deep along our porch, put weed liner down, new soil, planted…transplanted and mulched. A MASSIVE undertaking that everyone worked tirelessly on. 95% of what was planted last April is growing, blooming and doubling in size creating beautiful vignettes all around the house. We cut down the huge trees swallowing the front of our house and ground down the stumps. We also decided to dig out the overgrown boxwoods along the front (basically a cardinal sin in the south but oh well!) The other side of the house was just dirt. I wanted a more “cottage” look that over a few years would fill in with that wild and colorful look of an English garden.

BEFORE:
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AFTER….. You can see where we ran out of money in the large gaps along the front….we will remedy that this summer. Waiting on those peonies we transplanted to bloom. They are getting so close! Fav flower of all time!

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Back to my story….shortly after graduating I began the rigamaroll of going from one MD to another about the pain in my back. I was and have always been a “health head scratcher”. I had x-rays done as well as an MRI and each doctor told me there was nothing wrong with my back. Ironically enough, they were quick to have me take prescriptions for muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory pills and then sent me on my way. By 23 years old I was severely depressed, exhausted, overweight, had the acne of a 13 year old, medicine dependent and feeling hopeless (and crazy!).

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A wonderful friend of mine INSISTED I go to her chiropractor. This terrified me. It just seemed so brutal and primal to crack and twist another person. My ignorance knows no end. I finally agreed to a free consultation. I brought my MRI with me and as soon as he had them on the light box he began measuring the space on EACH side of EACH vertebrae. He casually said “I bet you go to the bathroom all night long!” “YES…YES I do! How did you know?” He then showed me where the nerves that flow from the lower lumbar vertebrae connect to the bladder and mine hardly had a space between them (I had no low back curve) So my brain kept waking me up saying “full full full” but really it was nothing at all. He assured me I would be off all my medicines within three months and he was right. We rebuilt the curve back in my low back and alleviated about half the episodes of waking up. I now could sleep about 2-4 hours straight before waking. Fist pump for hitting a REM cycle here and there. My pain level during the day was more manageable as well. This was major progress in my book.

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Soon I started working for the chiropractor so that I could afford the regular care I needed. One day a tech thought she exposed some cervical x-ray film so she asked if she could take a picture of my neck to see if it worked. After the film developed she came to me with a somber look on her face and asked if I had ever had an images of my neck done. I never experienced pain there so no I hadn’t. She said the doctor needed to look at them. What I didn’t know is that my neck had a reverse curve to it and that about 3-4 vertebrae had already fused because of damage I must have done during some falls in my gymnastics career. I had 4th degree spinal degeneration that was irreversible. Must have been the power of suggestion but shortly after discovering this pain in my neck, shoulders and mid back became acute. This is still my reality to this day. I will never be free from chiropractic care and am thankful for the relief it can bring and the slowing down of the next stage of degeneration but I live each and every day of my life in varying degrees of pain. My own private hell.

I have not slept through the night in over 16 years. I dread going to bed each night. Bed equals pain for me.

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In 2001 I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and was given a fairly bleak picture of my future as a mother. Isn’t God redemptive and merciful? In your face PCOS!!!!

My second summer living overseas in Kazakstan, 2001, was amazing! I was working with a church youth program there for three months and going into the gorgeous Tien Shen Mountains for week long camping trips throughout that time. I wasn’t able to prepare my own food or bring my own water so I was at the mercy of those at the camp.

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When I returned I forgot to write down a secret thing I was smuggling into the US on my declaration form. A little friend named Giardia Isn’t he cute?
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He was so top secret that I didn’t even know he was nestled into my small intestine until about six months later when I was hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I took a couple handfuls of water from a stream and drank it. Within five minutes I was sweating and about to poop my pants. This story is actually funny to tell in person. Let’s just say I will never show my face at a certain Burger King for the rest of my life. Good gravy! (visual intended, you’re welcome)

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I got sick….very sick. What I contracted in the stream was salmonella poisoning which finally unearthed the dormant giardia after all the testing I went through. The medicine I was given to kill the parasites I like to fondly call “small intestine rape medicine”. My small intestine stopped working, I lost 40lbs (major perk I assure you!) and my ability to make poop like a regular person is gone. As my brother likes to ask me “You still serving soft serve Kelly?”

After two years (2002-2004), working with GI specialists, a comical colonoscopy (another story for a rainy day) I was told that they couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t form a solid stool and I was labeled as “IBS”….”watch your diet!” Off I went again with my nebulous diagnosis.

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For twelve years I have had intestinal “issues”. Slowly weight has come back on, three pregnancies, one miscarriage, and Father time marches on. I’m just a week away from my 38th birthday and I have to be honest. I have a pretty crappy “quality of life”. I live in a perpetual state of pain and exhaustion. I look down and I don’t recognize the body I am in, my face still breaks out like a teenager….this is me in my late 30’s. I’m not digging it.

But HEY…I have a great head of hair…so there’s that for you. (finger gun, finger gun….YEAH!)

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Beth Moore asked in one of her Breaking Free videos “What’s the worse affliction to have? Emotional….Spiritual….Mental or Physical?” her answer was, “Whatever you are currently suffering with.” Those that battle depression or OCD would be adamant that it is a greater affliction to have an emotional or mental disorder than to have physical pain. Someone that is despairing and hopeless with a crisis of faith or feeling as though God has abandoned them would argue that to have spiritual affliction is so soul crushing it has to be the worst affliction. I’m not here to say having a physical affliction is the worse. There aren’t neat little boxes or borders that afflictions come in. It’s more like spilling a glass of milk….the tentacles of fluid are far reaching. Just like the table, chair and floor beneath all get covered with the spilled milk so do our afflictions cross over into the other areas.

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My physical suffering has had the greatest impact on my emotional well being and my spiritual walk with the Lord. The things I described are not “obvious” to the casual friend or acquaintance and it’s easy for me to set them aside.(except my acne and apple bottom…can’t tuck those bad boys away.) I’m a happy person that smiles a lot, quick with a witty retort or funny story. Some people you see the “heavy” coming a mile away, that’s rarely me.

I’m not trying to be a martyr about all of this or pat myself on the back either. There is a balance to all of this. I don’t know that I’ve struck it. I have a hard time bringing up how I REALLY feel each day. I feel super uncomfortable talking about it with most people. Those that are closest to me know my story and check in fairly regularly. I would say a few times a year I go into a depression like state. This is usually when my back and neck are so fretfully bad and the days and days of sleeplessness make me feel like a crazy person. I’m all Girl Interrupted and Ryan just backs away slowly.

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Satan has a way of barging through what becomes a thin door of trust and perseverance and rearranges the furniture on me. I feel clumsy and clunky in my walk with the Lord. I despair about my affliction and weary in being hopeful that something could change. Does God want me to suffer each day until I leave this earth? Could he? Is that a bad thing?

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This is where I’m at people. I am going to have to make this two parts because I am currently going through a new health crisis at this moment that is forcing me to cling to Jesus like never before. The battle is real and I refuse to sit in the corner rocking back and forth with my thumb in my mouth. Maybe you understand what I am talking about because you have been dealing with an affliction for years or decades. Your milk is spilled and you feel not just in physical turmoil but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually you are unraveling at the seams.

I’m fighting back against Satan and would love for you to join me. I’m currently reading Affliction by Edith Schaeffer. I’m reading at a snails pace because I can’t keep my eyeballs open at night after about three pages sadly.

But let me just set this right here for you to digest because a flicker of hope and a fire in my belly is igniting. What does it rouse in you? (pg 34-35)

“It is possible to persecute and afflict the Lord through the persecution and affliction of His people. The battle is fought in this way, as Satan tries to fight against God and to destroy the love of His people for Him. Satan is not only trying to make Christians bitter and complaining against God; he is trying to hurt God directly. We have a piece of information from Isaiah that God means us to have, to help our understanding. Isaiah speaks of the loving-kindness of the Lord:

“For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie, so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, an the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bore them, and carried them all the days of old.”- Isaiah 63:8,9

She continues on with these life giving words. “This is not simply a statement of the fact that the Lord feels our sorrows and afflictions in loving concern, but it tells us also that the thrusts of Satan which come against us hit Him in some very real way. What is going on is beyond our complete comprehension, but we are meant to have a real measure of understanding to give us courage to go on. Our personal afflictions involve the Living God; the only way in which Satan can persecute or afflict God is though attacking the people of God. The only way we can have personal victory in the midst of these flying arrows raining down on us is to call upon the Lord for help. It is His strength, supplied to us in our weakness, which makes victory after victory possible.

There is something to say when people ask “Why?” or feel, in the midst of their struggles with an affliction, as if no one else had ever had this particular combination of things before. There is no pat answer or suitable trite phrase–but there is the reality of history to consider, as well as the absolute fairness of the Word of God in the examples He lets us look into. We have the reassurance, time after time, that our particular combination of characteristics is really unique, because we are individual personalities, not puppets or parts of a machine. It helps us to hear about other Christians in pain, difficulty, persecution, and affliction because we then can recognize that in our own struggles we are not alone in history. We are surrounded by those who are a veritable “cloud of witnesses” who can encourage us. They can help, not because they had perfect lives with shining successes and joys following one another like a bubbling stream through flower-filled fields, but because they, too, have discovered something about the diversity of meaning to be found in affliction and the bittersweet possibilities of victory.”

To be continued…..

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Are you Rescued?

Oh hey out there, it’s me and my fickle blogging schedule back again. Did you miss me? I really did miss you but between my face literally exploding every 3 milliseconds as yellow hell has swept through our peaceful little life (read pollen) the last few weeks….well I just haven’t been “in the mood” to do a lot of things. Ask the food crumbs laying happily on every square inch of our floors because I can’t muster the strength to vacuum, sweep or just blow really hard on them to get them inconspicuously under a piece of furniture. YOLO!!!!

I’ve also come to appreciate myself a bit over these last few months since launching the blog. I had made a commitment to only write if I felt truly inspired or led to write by the Lord and not write if it felt contrived, forced or took away from our family time. Well pats on the back for me….I am sticking with it and even though I get ideas rolling around in my brain all the time, I have been able to tell myself “This is not a good week to blog, too many other priorities” and I literally let it go. “That perfect girl is gone…..” Sing it with me parents stuck in FROZEN world.

The thing is when I do get going on a topic in my brain I realize I am usually driving and then I start muttering to myself and God what I am wrestling with or learning and begin mentally penning a post. I should just turn my phone on and record myself because I will say something well thought out or a bit clever and think…YES…I need to include that.

BUT

I turn into my neighborhood and the mind numbing volume in my car from three kids fighting pops my internal writing bubble. The post is gone, never to return.
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So I do what any sensible, calm and mature parent does and flip my rearview mirror down so I can see their three guilty faces looking at me and give my irate speech about fighting in the car

Glance at road.

Back to mirror…. “MOMMY IS GOING TO GET IN AN ACCIDENT IF YOU SCREAM IN THE CAR!”

Back to road

Back to mirror (adds pointer finger for emphasis)…. “I’ve told you before that if you fight in the car you are immediately going to your rooms when we get home.”

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Back to mirror…..”I DON’T CARE WHO STARTED IT!!! We don’t speak unkindly to our sister and Chloe you had your feet all over him, I SAW YOU!!! Rhett do not say “blubber butt” it isn’t a nice word.”

Back to road, probably swerving by now.

Back to mirror….”The next person who talks is in their room till dinner.”

Enters long driveway. Unclenches butt, lowers shoulders.

10 seconds later Chloe says,” STAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHPPPPPPPPPPPP it BENNEEEEEETTTTTT”

I bash my forehead on the steering wheel so I don’t rip their vocal chords out of their precious little throats.

I would love to see statistics about moms and cars full of children getting in accidents verses people driving in silent cars. I just have a theory thats all. I’m positive this is what a map of me pulling on our road and then driveway looks like.

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Enjoy this picture from Easter. This is just a microcosm of life at the Portnoy house with a scrappy three year old, a 7 year old that will make your ears bleed with “What if or Why does” questions and we all know Bennett. I just LOVE these kids…they provide ENDLESS laughter and joy but my word…we did not get “easy going” kids!

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and the best we could get considering “somebody” wanted to be a turd.

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Anyway….so my blogs tend to come together in my car commutes. Given we live out in the country we are in the car for long periods of time. Weird or not weird? I don’t know. Some entries I write immediately and others I have to wait for a better opening, or in this case I started this post last Thursday…thus huge gaps. I’m building the anti-audience apparently. Truly, I’m amazed people come back. So THANK YOU…anyone who has come more than once. At some point I hope to have a better cadence to my writing. At some point…

So this one is about the word “rescue” or “rescued”…thus the super witty title.

This word is starting to become a cornerstone of sorts for me.
By definition to be rescued means to:

Be free from confinement, danger, or evil : save, deliver: as
a : to take
b : to recover
c : to deliver

We have a children’s’ devotional called “The Jesus Storybook Bible” It is one of my favorites for many reasons but the main one is because it brilliantly weaves the fact that JESUS has been intended to rescue this world since the moment sin entered it.”I am the alpha and omega” (The beginning and the end) At the end of each story, starting in Genesis, “The Rescuer” is brought into the text.

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Maybe I’m sensitive because as a child I knew a slew of Bible stories and also what good Christians did and didn’t do…but I never got “IT”. I never saw the giant love story of God towards his people through His son. The plan has been set in motion right in the beginning and we are on this very grand adventure with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each verse of the Bible has a thin gold thread being pulled through it connecting all of it together into one gorgeous tapestry of life in the kingdom. I so want my kids to understand this. The Bible isn’t a set of nice stories with moral lessons and a list of “do’s and don’ts”. It’s not a handbook we can follow or choose not to. It’s a love story about a God who ruthlessly loves His people and is in the process of redeeming this world through the completed work of the Son. This is good news. This is life changing, heart freeing, mind blowing news. I’ve been rescued and boy do I know it!

Mary is visited by the angel of the Lord

Mary is visited by the angel of the Lord

Just the word “Rescued” stirs something in me, does it in you? When we hear on the news that somebody is trapped or a horrible accident has happened…gosh when 9-11 happened. People despair, lose hope, how can this be? But then when the news reports a missing person found, a child pulled from a well, a baby found alive in rubble, a fireman escaps holding a woman, etc…. our hearts crescendo with the sense of justice, victory, joy….HOPE! A rescue has happened. Balance is restored, good can overcome evil.

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Jesus baptized by John the Baptist

It’s hard to see yourself as worthy of rescue or at least I did. For ten years I sat in a prison of Kelly making one horrific self destructive decision after another. BUT…I was in church, I was in ministry…heck I was a short term missionary!!! So I was “good”.

Nobody knew my secret hell of illicit relationships….my habit of purging when I overate. That’s just hitting my top two “secret sins”. I physically, mentally, emotionally and of course, spiritually was wrecking my life. You know you’ve hit an all time low when the guy your tangled up withs friends refer to you as the “Missionary Whore”. Was that painful to read? It was painful to receive at the time. They were right, I was a walking train wreck of hypocrisy and brokenness. You know the verse that you can’t serve two masters. It’s true. If you try to…you get awesome nick names like I did.

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I was, as the definition stated, in need of “being free from confinement, danger, or evil” I needed a Rescuer of epic proportion. You know….the one I sang my heart out to every Sunday…the one I bawled my eyes out to on my bedroom floor after every failed attempt at swearing off sin. I was SO aware that God was real, He was available, He had paid my debt in FULL…but I did not think I was worthy of His rescue and that I could be FREE from all that entangled me.

What HE did on the cross was die for the very thing I said I couldn’t let go, I couldn’t forgive myself of, I couldn’t walk away from. He took it upon himself out of His love for ME. Wretched as I am, He can only see me through the redemptive blood that trickled down Calvary.

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Christine Caine was one of the speakers at IF Gathering back in February. She does not mince words! I love her direct way of speaking. She spoke from Joshua 5 about the Israelites escape from Pharaoh to the desert. They were told to go to the Promise Land which was just a few days walk. We all know how the story goes. It was FORTY years before the Israelites were to enter the Promise Land. FORTY YEARS. An entire generation of Israelites died in the desert never sticking a toe in the promise land.

Pause and ponder this. They were DELIVERED..but they were not FREE! Again….they were DELIVERED from bondage but they were NOT FREE to enjoy the promise land God had prepared for them. This so perfectly describes many believers bumping around on this earth. At one point in their life they chose Jesus. They were delivered from themselves but after that they chose to live a lukewarm life dabbling with Jesus but mainly focused on “self”. Many will go to the grave NEVER EVER tasting the promise land of abundant life lived serving in God’s kingdom. I don’t want to be just DELIVERED…I want to be FREE!!! Don’t you??

Hebrews 12 says to cast aside any weight or sin that entraps you. Some of those things can be “good” but they still hold you back from living abashedly in the kingdom. CAST THEM ASIDE. They are weighing your spirit down. They confuse your purpose. They dull your passions.

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The brakes came to a squealing halt in April 2004 for me. I thought I was pregnant by a man I had grown to hate. I thought I had ruined my life in the most visible of ways and yoked myself to a man I had no intention of marrying let alone creating a life with. I blew the whistle on myself. I confessed to my mom and my mentor. I am forever grateful that the Lord spared me that road. I was not pregnant and it’s as if the bubble of crazy I was in finally popped and with a sober mind I was able to really look at my life and the trail of tears of ten years that was behind me. I went through some intense counseling for many months. I also had many many sessions of healing prayer to truly unearth those toxic sins that were so rooted in my heart.

On one balmy April night for many many hours of confession, forgiveness of self and others, and prayer I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was finally free from my past. I was EMANCIPATED, I was ready to leave the desert and enter the promise land that was waiting for me. I remember after this time of prayer and anointing of my home I took a long shower and continued to bawl my eyes out, not in sorrow but in joy. I then went out to my porch for a time of worship. I lit every candle I could find in my house. I put on worship music and read scripture and just PRAISED GOD with every fiber of my being. I knew I would never go back. I dipped my finger in a candle and got a dab of wax and put it on the last page of my Bible. I wanted to remember. I wanted an Ebeneazor of sorts to always look back on from that day. The day I was FREE.

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Christine Caine said a profound statement during her talk that you MUST write down. Like right now…go…get a pen…get a journal or put this in the margin of your Bible. “The devil on his best day didn’t take me out on my worst day.” The victory has been won, my life is a living picture of redemption. I can tell this story without tears or guilt or remorse or shame because they have no power. I’ve been set free. I’ve been rescued. Have you? Are you rescued or are you still in the desert? Maybe you are still in Egypt. You hear about this Jesus, this “Rescuer” but you are so confused or reluctant to embrace his free gift of love. He ruthlessly loves you and is pursuing you. Do you feel it? What holds you back? If you have questions please email me.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28

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