Resilience

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Christian faith is that God pushes us to be resilient for Him. I think that some of the best parts of my life thus far have derived from times when I couldn’t imagine going on another minute and I heard God whisper “keep pushing!” If you truly love the Lord, I feel you have to build up a spirit of tenacity to counterbalance Satan’s never-ending schemes. Maybe the old Devil doesn’t bother you that much, but we go round and round on the daily. The battle has evolved into a dance of sorts: guessing his next move and stepping accordingly. I don’t always dance well and get knocked down quite frequently, but I get back up every time. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Christ didn’t call us to surrender at the first sign of trouble. God gave us brains but we fail to use them to find solutions when we face obstacles. We humans are notorious for believing our circumstances can’t get any worse when in actuality we can make them better through determination and a positive outlook. Life is what you make it.

In Mark 2 (and Matthew 9 and Luke 5 for that matter) we read about a quadriplegic man who had great friends that wouldn’t give up on him when I assure you he had given up on himself. For you see, Jesus was in Capernaum preaching. Imagine you desperately need a judicial pardon and the president just happens to come to your town for one day only. You’d sacrifice everything just to have a chance to talk to him.

Tonight, when you lie in bed trying to go to sleep, do me a favor and lie completely still. Don’t move one muscle, don’t scratch one itch. It’s hard. Living in a body that doesn’t work is not for the faint of heart, and we can assume from scriptures that this man had lived a relatively long life in a disabled state. I can testify as an incredibly medically fragile individual that without the hope of Christ life is very bleak. This unnamed man didn’t know Jesus yet but had heard stories of this Messiah who could remove sin and restore sight to the blind. He had four friends and nothing to lose. His friends probably woke him up that morning, cleaned him up, loaded him up on a gurney, and headed out for an adventure! But alas, Christ wasn’t preaching in a large synagogue, but a very small, non-ADA house. The crowd was crazy, everyone shoving to get a better view. They didn’t care that he was crippled, he was just in the way. What if it was cold and/or rainy? All the more worse. Time to pack it up and go home. They’d tried and failed. Here is where the story gets good: the group buckled down – all five of them – and decided they wouldn’t accept defeat that day. In what well may have taken hours, the four able-bodied men hoisted their friend to the roof and, as if they weren’t tired enough, dug a gurney-sized hole in the roof of this very small house Jesus was preaching in and lowered him into the house because it was worth everything if Christ could help their friend. This certainly wasn’t an easy task for this disabled man either, for he had to trust his four brothers to literally deliver his life safely into the hands of Jesus. The best part? His faith made him whole. “(Jesus said) ‘I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.’ And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”

God likes to show off. God likes to use weak people to show His strength. God likes when we stand tall in the middle of a hurricane proclaiming “God has brought me this far and will not leave me now!” God appreciates and awards our resilience. And it’s worth every tear to have the King of the universe in your corner. With that you can move mountains and face every Goliath that comes your way.

It’s OK if you’ve been knocked down a thousand times. Now is the time to rise.

Power in Prayer

What if the greatest power in this world isn’t found in governments or violence or even religion, but in living in constant communication with the unseen God of the universe?

When people know that I talk to God, they think that’s sweet. When I tell them He talks back, they think I’m crazy. But He does. All the time. Is that weird? I’ve known His voice for as far back as I can remember. I was raised in an Evangelical Christian home with a core believe that prayer is powerful. My father has been a Southern Gospel singer my entire life and I learned songs with messages like “when you don’t feel like praying, pray” and “I’ve never said a prayer He couldn’t answer.” I was encouraged to be a mountain mover and I have moved so many mountains through faith. When I have had mysterious health problems throughout life, church family and my Pastor have prayed over me and say what want but it helps. If there was ever someone who believed in the power of prayer, it’s me.

And it has saved my life too many times to count.

When a nurse put my trach in upside down.
When an aid dropped me in the floor (while in the hoyer lift – don’t ask).
Or that one little heart attack-ish scare.

Or nights like yesterday.

Life is so fragile. Please cherish it. So many would give anything to be in your shoes and it could always be worse. Did you know that most living individuals with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 1 can’t speak or hold their bladder/bowels (TMI?) like I can? They just lay there, unable to move or speak, trapped inside their healthy mind. I have to work with caregivers who don’t always take the time to listen to me and on the hard days it’s its own kind of Hell. Your life is not as bad as Satan would like you to believe. I promise.

Yesterday was awesome! Seriously. I made three art sales, met a fellow (very talented) artist, spent time with a dear friend, and drank good coffee, all while sharing Jesus. This is what I live for!

I should have known that I’d done made that old Devil mad again. He came knocking with reinforcements, ready for a battle.

It was late. I’d been out all day and hadn’t eaten anything, and I’m a very slow eater. I don’t sleep good at night anyway so it’s whatever. After that and night neb treatment it was past midnight. I was all ready for bed, I only had to be transferred via hoyer lift to the bathroom and finally to bed. No problem, until my series of unfortunate events began. It started when the portable ventilator decided to fall of the lift and come disconnected. Then one piece got lost and my nurse couldn’t put everything back together fast enough. Thankfully she went and pulled my stationary ventilator in just as I was just on the verge of losing consciousness. Imagine drowning and finally coming up for air. I feel like my entire body convulses. Everything hurts. It takes time to rebound from an experience like that. What matters is I was safe, up until she went to transfer me to bed. That was when the stationary ventilator came disconnected in three different places. Both vents are down and I’m hanging in this evil machine that literally squeezes the air out of me. Game over. I need air. Someone help me please! Is this the end? Is it my time to leave this world? Right before everything went back I distinctly heard that lovely voice of God whisper I brought you this far, I won’t leave you now. Then I went somewhere else. I don’t know where, but I’ve been there before. It’s peaceful. And then God said “wake up now.” I came to in my bed with my father standing over me, pumping air into my lungs with an emergency ambu bag. Poor Momma was so upset she was sick. Then the sheer panic of what had just happened hit me like a 100lb weight. I cried, they held me, and we prayed.

I thank God daily for giving me such amazing parents. I thank God they were home and heard the nurse screaming for help. I thank God for the many people who pray for me every day without asking anything of me or seeing God answering their prayers. But believe me when I tell you that God hears every single prayer presented on my behalf. Thank you.

Don’t be shy. Boldly approach the throne of God in reverence and humility and present your requests. He listens.

Only Hope

I know, I know… It’s been a while. Sorry. I’ve had my hands full with healing my injured foot and replacing bad caregivers – a task that never gets easier no matter how often I do it. I am also busy with my small art business called Broken & Beautiful Art. Time passes so quickly, don’t you think? Sometimes when life is calmer and I’m doing OK health wise (or healing from foot injuries), I mistakenly think “oh, this isn’t exciting enough to write about.” Then I had that glorious light bulb moment, like God just whispered in my ear: I made you to be special. I gave you a voice and a gift of writing. Use it to tell your story. Use it all – even the calm, mundane times. So here I sit, finally in that awesome zone where my words to write come so fluidly and without thinking that it’s as if God were typing these words. Have you ever done that? Just sit still and listen, writing only what Yahweh says? Some dismiss the notion that God still speaks to us, but I personally think that’s due to the fact that so many aren’t patient enough to listen. We don’t have time. There’s far too much to do today. Billy has soccer tryouts and Suzy has to be at ballet in ten minutes and CRAP! I FORGOT TO GET MILK! Back to the store! We can’t keep our thoughts in order due to our constant work to hopefully, maybe, some day achieve that idolized “American dream.” Riches and power can only get you so far in this life, and the price paid for such “gifts” is far too high. We as a nation have forgotten God but for Heaven’s sake, don’t forget that smart phone. We spend our days behind a screen, where essentially you can be whoever you want to be and some are so enamored with that concept that they actually believe they are a god. How many religions really exist today? At a minimum of thousands, I’ve no doubt. Why is that? Because we’re all too stubborn to put our differences aside and focus on Christ alone. We care more about our pride than being labeled a Christian (“oh, not another Jesus freak!”). Some try to cover all bases by being a “free spirit”: accepting and embracing every religion and moral code, but please hear me when I say all roads do not lead to Heaven and you know when it’s time to change course! I had one individual tell me she cared more about finding out who God really is after she dies than securing her eternal destination while alive. Has it always been this bad? Such lack of respect for God and any lifestyle associated with Him! There has always been evil in this world, it’s just made instantaneously public now thanks to the internet. We’re all little hamsters running on that never ending wheel of goals that the elite have imposed on us as a society to keep us under their control. And guess what? We allowed it! What stupid sheep we can be, yet the Creator of life still loves us and wants to set us free from the bondage we put ourselves in due to sin. For being such a tolerant society, so many still have no room for Jesus. I’m reminded of these words from a Casting Crowns song:

United States of America, looks like another silent night
As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies that save the trees and kill the children
And while we’re lying in the dark, there’s a shout across the Eastern sky
For the bridegroom has returned, and has carried His bride away in the night 
 

Now is not the time to take a half-hearted approach to our eternal destination. We blame everything else for why this world is so chaotic, when we have gradually given up our values more and more over time. It’s not some political issue, banning weapons isn’t the answer. We as humans have a serious heart issue and the only resolution is to allow God to break our hearts and reshape them to be what they were originally meant to be. It’s a painful process, but even glow sticks have to be broken before they shine bright!

We need to stop running from hard things and conquer them like God calls us to.

Our only hope lies in God. Do you have room in your heart for Him?

S.O.S.

If you saw someone trying to drown themselves, wouldn’t you try to save them?

You drag them to shore and begin CPR. No pulse.

Minutes pass that seem like hours. You pound, scream, give one more breath…

Their eyes open. They’re alive! They look around. But then…

They spit on you and jump back in the water.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

I meet a lot of people in my daily life as a result of living with a serious disease. It’s not easy to maintain my health, but I try to make the best of it and many times I’ve actually made new friends. I have come to love one lady who I see often. She’s fun, we joke around, and she is truly interested in helping me.

She’s also a Buddhist. And what blows my mind is that she was raised in a Christian home.

We’ve had two in-depth conversations regarding religion, and I fear I may have pushed too far. She is completely closed off to hearing anything about God and His goodness. She wants nothing to do with Him and it breaks my heart in ways I can’t explain.

It’s like I have the secret to life and I want so desperately to share it with EVERYONE… But some don’t want it. I don’t understand.

“You have the most beautiful soul” she says. Right, so, don’t you want what I have? I don’t understand.

“It’s not OK, the whole sending people to Hell thing”, she says… But, it isn’t God’s will that anyone should perish. I don’t understand.

“Don’t worry about my soul” she said. But I do worry. It consumes my thoughts. I worry because I love her and there’s a living God who could make her more fulfilled than Buddha ever could.

She says she’s happy but I see the pain in her eyes. Let me help you, I want to scream! Yet she turns and runs back to that water.

I wish I could help everyone, but I can’t. I’m just one girl. My only hope is that this dark world sees an unwavering light in me that they want for themselves.

 

Choose life

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.Deuteronomy 30:19

 
Do you ever wish life could go a little easier? I know I do. Between figuring out this mysterious trach infection and my recurring stomach issues, it can get frustrating at times. Yet, in spite of my circumstances, I am genuinely happy. Why? I try to focus on all the good things. I’ve been blessed beyond measure. I am alive – a rare privilege someone in my condition can have. I have an amazing family and have been given the extraordinary purpose in this life of reflecting the love of God to everyone in this dark world, that all might see His strength through my weakness.

Nobody is perfect. We all have bad days, I know I do. What matters, though, is that we get back up every time we fall down. With free will comes the great responsibility of dealing with the consequences of our choices: good choices produce blessings while bad choices produce pain. It sounds so simple in theory but is altogether different in this confusing world of sin.

I was in a dark place recently; primarily due to medication changes, but Satan was attacking my mind relentlessly. The battlefield of the mind is no joke. I finally realized where the problem lied: within me. I hadn’t been spending time in God’s Word – the essential lifesource to all who have accepted Christ as their personal Savior. So I changed my ways and am constantly living in the Word because my soul craves it like nothing else and it fulfills me in ways I can’t explain. It doesn’t matter how well you may know the Bible. Keep reading, keep searching, keep focusing on the truths that the enemy so desperately tries to distort.

God gives us life, but it’s up to us to decide what kind of life it will be. Will you choose blessing or cursing? Life or death? Jesus came to set the captives free and so we are without excuse. At the end of the day, whatever your circumstances may be, one thing remains: Christ conquered the gave that we may live victoriously. The fight has already been won. Don’t trudge through your days in defeat. Don’t settle for merely surviving. You are a child of the Most High King, so act like it. Choose life.

Xoxo~

Choose

Dear God,
I’m so sorry.

I’ve let You down. (Again…)

How is it possible to forget who I am in You after everything we’ve been through?

Why is it that this hill in particular is shaking my faith more than the last valley?

If it takes everything in me, I won’t let this break me.

The enemy may attack my body and mind, but he cannot have my heart.

 

Forever Yours,

Amber

 


Hello!

I’m Amber Stewart. 28 years old, approximately 26 years longer than any doctor ever believed I’d live (and counting!).

I have gone through things that you can’t imagine – things I wouldn’t wish upon anyone – and God has carried me through miraculously every single time.

I’m strong.

I have my own nonprofit organization. I love helping others.

I have like, four college degrees. And I want another.

I have the most amazing family anyone could ever have. I’m serious.

I have an amazing life.

And yet, the doctor had to take me off some of my regular medication for two weeks because I’ve been taking some crazy sensitive antibiotic (which I’m not entirely sure even worked), and WHAM! There you are, Devil

Add to that the fact that there is so much sickness going around I haven’t left my home in weeks, and Houston, we have a problem.

It’s like when I’m not fighting for my life, my mind slows down enough for Satan to move right on in, flipping my world upside down.

Suddenly I’m not at all content my life. I’m struggling even more than usual with caregivers. I have separation anxiety when my parents leave for a typical work day. I don’t like anything or mostly anyone. I am officially ready for Jesus to return and take us all Home together, and I’m waiting very impatiently.

It doesn’t take much to knock me off my feet and make me forget my purpose in this life.

How did I let that happen?
I don’t even know how I got here. Yet here I am, making the decision to get back up allow God to use me; for that is when my spirit truly soars.

Life is hard. God is good. Choose joy.

Work

I need a job.

But not just any job.

A good job.

I did just graduate with a double Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Cybersecurity Management & Policy. I got skills.

Plus, I need to make good money… Because, let’s be real, I like to spend it like nobody’s business (sorry, Daddy!).

I want a position as a crime analyst. I want to analyze the elements of a committed crime to help law enforcement conclude what type of individual did it and catch the bad guy!

Finding a job isn’t easy, though. If I can’t work from home – which is nearly impossible – I need a part-time position, because I don’t think my body can handle a full-time Monday-Friday job. I’ve gotten more fragile in my old age… I mean we are closing in on 28! Holy moly! Where does the time go?

People assume without a job I’m just a vegetable in my recliner Facebooking my days away. I do a lot of other things, though. The mere act of getting ready to begin my day is a time consuming, sometimes tiring process. I have to help my caregivers in every step of my day: move this, that hurts, time for medication, please help me with this… 

It’s exhausting!

At times I need secretions suctioned out of my lungs because I’m unable to produce an effective cough. Thus, I also utilize a machine that essentially forces me to cough up secretions. It’s a huge blessing, but here’s the thing: if I don’t work with it, it’s ultimately useless. To bring everything up, I have to make an effort to cough along with that machine. I learned long ago that it won’t automatically do everything for me. I have to work at it.

I could give other examples, but I think you get the picture.

The act of working is not an isolated one set aside only for providing unique services for a compensating entity. God created work as an act of worship; to pour everything we have into achieving goals and continuously become who God created us to be.

God gave us the gift of life, but it’s up to us to make something of it.

A business person, a nurse, a stay-at-home parent, a survivor of terminal illness… I know you work at doing things nobody knows about or might give you credit for… But I see you. You’re doing a good job. Keep up the hard work.