Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How a Horse Named Hero Changed My Life

It has been two years since coming home from UCLA.  That photo was me the week of Valentine's Day 2009 in ICU in an induced coma because all my organs had shut down.  My friend is smiling because that's what you do when someone is taking your picture.  I had no clue what was going on or I would have smiled too.   It's a miracle I am here, yes.  That's enough to make you smile.  But the miracles continue as I walk with a marvelous God.

It's amazing that you still pray for me!  Many think because the bone marrow transplant was 2 years ago, I should be "fixed" by now.  I don't have AML leukemia anymore, but the side effects of the treatment, namely what comes with Chronic Graft vs. Host Disease following transplant are worse than most illnesses.  

I have been in the dumps lately, completely discouraged as my face was falling apart - literally!  Large patches of skin falling off and leaving tightness and burning, red skin beneath...painful and embarrassing.  I was actually feeling shame for looking so ugly - no amount of lotion or ointment could cover it up - it's GVHD (Graft vs. Host Disease), a result of my bone marrow transplant.  The transplanted immune system (from another human) doesn't recognize the body it's in and attacks it, actually trying to reject the skin organ.  It's the #1 cause of morbidity in transplant patients sadly because it can go into every organ. 

 The outward appearance of it had been affecting me emotionally, increasing in intensity until the week of Valentine's Day when it got so bad that I started not even wanting to see people.  I felt very unloveable and unacceptable.   This of course was untrue, but that was the "voice in the head" which I attribute to the enemy of our souls who wants nothing more than to destroy us from the inside out.  

Well, thank you all for your prayers -- God is always there, always watching, always cares.  He spoke to my heart on that Thursday, February 17 through a radio show on Focus on the Family featuring stories of rescued horses and renewed hope...truly an amazing segment that everyone ought to listen to!  For me, I'm not a huge animal lover like some are, but after this show I am more so!   

One particular story, grabbed my heart so much I almost had to pull the car over.  It was the story of Hero the horse. I'll let you listen to the story yourself at the link in the paragraph above, but what God spoke to my very heart that day was life-changing.  In an overwhelming moment, God poured out love to me and spoke deeply to my heart that he loved me, that He had not forgotten me, that the problem with my face, the peeling, burning, redness, was all part of my ministry...that they are the scars I bear from my battle.  That He is the ultimate Hero and was not ashamed to bear scars and come back to show love, redemption, hope to us, therefore I no longer need to be ashamed of these scars.  My whole ministry through the battle was about love and hope and redemption and sharing that with others, and here I thought the GVHD which was visible on my face, making me "ugly" was not a part of that.  Somehow it didn't count.  It all counts.  And in that moment in the car, with tears streaming down my face.  I felt the incredible burden lifted, chains were broken and I was FREE.  

I cannot express the incredible joy that filled my heart that day and continues to fill it -- even when someone asks me with a concerned look, "Ooh...you having dry skin or something?"  (For someone to mention it with concern tells you how bad it must be when most people probably have some degree of dry skin!)  Prior to February 18, that would have been fuel to drive me to be even more self-conscience.  But no more!  Now, I recall that day when God spoke to my heart that these are my battle scars to show others the power of God's love, hope and redemption.  Like Thomas, after Jesus returns to the disciples after His Resurrection, I have something to show people that HE IS ALIVE, proof if you will.  If I had a perfect healing, where you couldn't see any scars, the miracle would not have as long lasting, powerful and far-reaching effects. 

So the other disciples told him (Thomas), “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:25-29

 1 Peter 4:16   However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Even though my scars are not "persecution for being a Christian" what happens is that I do get judged if someone doesn't know me...some even judge whether or not I'm a "good" Christian whatever THAT means, as if I have not had healing or have had problems for some reason of my own doing.   Well, no longer will I be ashamed of the scars I bear...no longer will I be afraid, embarrassed or feeling unworthy of love...I know God loves me and that is all that matters.  I will not hold back His love for others because of my scars (please forgive me for doing so).  So obvious now that the Enemy of our souls has been at work here trying to eliminate my effectiveness to do His will on this earth. 

Some may read of my experiences with God and think that somehow I am something special to be able to experience God, the God of the Bible, in such a way that He speaks to my heart and I can feel His presence and walk in His way.  No!  You need to realize that I am no different than you!  God wants a relationship with you, dear friend, right here and right now.  You don't have to "improve" to be worthy of a relationship with your Creator!  He'll take you right where you are at, scars and all!  Each one of us carries some scars of the battles we have faced...some are hidden on the inside, but the scars are there.  Turn to Jesus and let Him be your healer and He will meet you in just the way you need Him to which might not look like the way He meets me, but meet you He will.

...bless you all for not being ashamed of me...

Here's a photo of Hero, the horse who resides at the Crystal Peaks Ranch in Bend, OR -- a dream of mine would be to take a road or plane trip to Bend and visit Hero in the summer.  I received a lovely note from them inviting me anytime!  Be sure to listen to the radio show Rescued Horses: Renewed Hope