Friday, January 15, 2016

Every day is a blessing from God

By Erika Rizkallah (reposted from
"Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful." Prince
2015 was a hard year for me - filled with physical, mental and emotional challenges. I can't remember how it began but it's fresh enough to remember how it ended.
November and December was like a slow moving hurricane whirling off the coast toward a direct hit on my home.
Last year my husband and I decided it was time to renovate our highly outdated house. We've been wanting to remodel certain areas; get rid of the mirrored backsplash in the kitchen, replace broken appliances and get rid of the gold fixtures in the guest bathroom.
But you know how those things go. Once you decide to change certain  areas, you may as well go big and do it right. So what started out as a simple kitchen/bathroom remodel turned into a full scale renovation of our middle and upper levels.
There were many disagreements between us along the way. Multiple meetings with the contractor and interior designer that came with the job. And packing up EVERYTHING. This was no easy feat for someone suffering from chronic pain, but I did it (for the most part). In order to give the contractor a good start we decided to take a trip so we left the country for two weeks and spent time visiting family in Dubai.
And we came back from this life-changing vacation to this . . .
Just like a man . . . the tv stays

Goodbye kitchen
My favorite room in the house - our heritage room

So that's where I've "been" - metaphorically and physically speaking - and I have so many new things to share with you in 2016.
I've resolved that this year will be different - I'm saying goodbye to the physical, mental and emotional challenges of last year. And even though I'm living in a literal mess, I agree with Prince's assessment that each day is a blessing from God and yeah, everything is beautiful.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Does our suffering draw us closer to Christ?

By Erika Rizkallah

This morning in my quiet time readings, I was led once again to passages in the Bible about suffering.  
Do you ever ask, "Why me?" 

I do and the plain answer is I don't know and maybe I never will. Strangely, I'm ok with that. If we spend too much time reflecting about the internal and external reasons for it, we can find ourselves in the midst of an epic pity party.

This can turn all our thoughts inward as opposed to better questions like What can I do with this Lord? How do I glorify you with it?

In the Greek language the word for suffering is pascho, which also means endure. It's a verb and is used 42 times in the New Testament. The short answer in both the Old and New Testaments is that suffering improves character.

I love how Oswald Chambers approaches the subject in the devotional My Utmost For His Highest.

He says, "How can we say, 'It could never be God's will for me to be sick'? If it was God's will to bruise His own Son (Isaiah 53:10), why shouldn't he bruise you? What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well or sick."
How do you feel about that? Can you identify ways in which your suffering has improved your character or drawn you closer to Christ?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Struggling with Sugar Addiction

I think I've mentioned somewhere on this blog before that I have a serious sweet tooth. I blame it on my husband. When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to eat many sweets. Eating dessert wasn't a regular thing in our house so as a young adult I didn't eat much sugar. 

It all changed when I met my new boyfriend. He was (and still is) a foodie but I could pop open a can of cold green beans and call it dinner. When we started dating he was determined to "teach me how to eat right." His teaching included eating sweets with every meal - even breakfast!

Eventually we married and one unintended consequence of that union resulted in an insatiable appetite for sugar. Although I'm not a diabetic, I have terrible nerve pain in my feet and my gut tells me sugar is the culprit. I know I desperately need to go sugar free but I'm nervous about it; now I can't picture life without it. 

As most of us know by now, sugar is in almost everything. In fact, there's a great movie produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, called Fed Up, which really opened my eyes to America's sugar problem. It explains how our obsession and addiction to sugar started. I watched it on Netflix and  highly recommend it if you're interested in the subject. 

As I age, another unintended consequence is weight gain. It wasn't a problem for me until recently, when my doctors made a medication change. Some of the side effects include weight gain and boy oh boy . . . my weight gain is that of a small child.

For the past four months I've been wearing workout gear and it ain't because I'm working out. It's because the only thing I can squeeze into was spandex. What a depressing summer! Although I live at the beach and have a pool in my backyard I've been so uncomfortable in my own skin I haven't wanted to reveal that much of myself to the world.

So I'm going to do it. I'm committing now to reducing my sugar intake slowly over the rest of this year. Slowly because sugar is so addictive I would probably ruin my family relationships otherwise. Again, I blame it on my husband (a lovable Arab) who only wanted to teach his girl about his culture and the sweet life. 

Click here to read about the Arab influence on the history of sugar - it's fascinating!

Now You: Do you struggle with sugar addiction? Can you give me any suggestions to make this easier? 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Strength: Are you feeling weak lately?

Have you ever found yourself in a position of overwhelming weakness? Or you're just plain old exhausted?

I find myself in that place frequently.

Here's a scripture I've been memorizing for the last few weeks . . .

I've been sapped of strength emotionally, spiritually and physically. Then one day it hit me as I read this scripture.
The Lord is my strength. IS

So I started praying this over and over whenever I felt depleted and you know what?

I got strength. It's astounding to me and so simple - all we have to do is ask and pray and God's IS gets transferred to us spiritually.

Now, I'm focusing on the shield part of this verse. We don't use them nowadays but once they were a warrior's key piece of armor. She held the shield in front of her to protect her body from the weapons of the enemy.

Hmmm. I just may have to try this too!

Your turn: Have you leaned on God for your strength lately? Have you asked him to supply what you're lacking?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Midnight Ministry: Hearing God in the storms of life

The last few weeks were filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. 

First I had a terrible flare. It was painful to move my entire body and for some reason my right elbow was killing me. (Down)

My doctor put me on steroids to calm the flare and settle things out in my joints. Now I don't know about you, but me on steroids is not a good combination - they make me angry. So I warned my family.

There were benefits though: they gave me so much energy I (almost) reorganized the entire lower level of my house! (Up)

Then my daughter got the flu and I got it while nursing her. (Low) I was sick with fever and chills and spent the better part of the week in bed. At one point I lost an entire day - July 12th to be exact. Everything was "off" and on the third day I realized I'd forgotten to pray for myself! I'd been so focused on trying not to vomit, I didn't remember to ask God for help. So I prayed and went back to sleep.

Later that night, I heard a scream. I pulled the earplugs from my ears and turned on the light to find my husband flailing around in our bed. I tried to figure out what the heck was happening when he said, "Water! I spilled water all over us!" It turns out he'd had a dream that we were on the couch talking and he grabbed a cup of water and . . . fell asleep with it.

"Are you sure we weren't talking just now?" he asked.

"Definitely sure." I said.


We both had a good laugh as I stumbled around trying to find new sheets and blankets. By then I was wide awake and couldn't fall asleep. Terrible storms with deafening thunder and lightning were shaking the house. I decided - at two o' clock in the morning - to catch up on some overdue filing, so I went into my closet (because that's where I keep my files).

While there, I had the distinct impression I was supposed to read the devotional for July 12th in Streams in the Desert. I tried to ignore it and keep filing, but the impression grew stronger so I read.

This was the scripture: He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

This was the first sentence: Faith grows during storms.

Everything I needed in that moment - in the storm of the flare and flu - was found in that little devotion of the day I'd lost. (High) It was about faith in God during the toughest times of life.

The last few sentences really spoke to me:

Yes, "in all these" - even during storms, when the winds are the most intense - "we are more than conquerors." You may be tempted to run from the ordeal of a fierce storm of testing, but head straight for it! God is there to meet you in the center of each trial. And He will whisper to you His secrets, which will bring you out with a radiant face and such an invincible faith that all the demons of hell will never be able to shake it. E. A. Kilbourne

Suffering friend, I believe God poured that water on my husband and me. I believe that He is indeed making us stronger through our trials, testing us so that when all is said and done we'll come forth as gold.

Now you: Has God ever ministered to you at midnight or in the middle of a life storm? Do tell! We never know how our stories of suffering can encourage someone going through the same struggle.
                                                                                                   Praying for you, Erika

Monday, June 15, 2015

5 Tips for Coping with Chronic Pain

Humans are amazingly creative; there's no end to the methods we use to cope with our struggles.

Some of us eat our way through problems. Some of us whine and complain incessantly. Some of us get angry, lash out and push away anyone who tries to help.

But none of these tactics actually works. Coping requires positive action.

So how do you cope with your chronic pain?

I'm an eternal optimist, so at first I tried to power through. I was certain that food and lack of exercise was the culprit so I changed my diet and got a trainer - one who was in the process of qualifying for the Olympics. Her method was "go big or go home" so I just about exercised myself to death.

My pain issue wasn't solved and while I'm still an optimist, I'm a realist too. The pain is here to stay.

Forever... unless God heals me.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation and need some new ideas. If so, I hope these tips will work for you as well as they do for me.

Tip # 1 - Trust in God

Though there's no cure for my condition and hopes for one are a long way off, my biggest comfort is knowing God is for me. And while I certainly don't like to suffer, I know he has a plan for it. God is for you too! The Bible says: For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them but has listened to their cries for help. Psalm 22:24.

Tip # 2 - Change Positions

My disease comes with musculoskeletal pain so sitting or standing in one place for too long is difficult for me. Making a conscious effort to change positions at least once an hour is a must, but I admit sometimes it's hard to do, especially at the movies or in church. So give yourself permission to fidget away!

Tip # 3 - Distract Yourself

Distractibility isn't usually considered a positive trait, but it's an essential skill to learn for pain sufferers. We can use healthy and fun distractions to take our minds off ourselves - heck, we need to take our minds off ourselves. So go to the movies, shoot pool or take a walk in the park. 

Tip # 4  - Take Care

Take time for self care! Caring for yourself is not selfish, it's imperative. Naps, soothing baths, massage, eating right and exercising are critical to good health.

Tip # 5  - Encourage Others

Suffering is all around us. The one benefit (if there is one) is that my eyes are opened to the suffering of others. I can now see the grimace on the face of the cashier standing for long hours. I'm more patient with the slow pace of the elderly woman ahead of me in line. I no longer judge people who can't lift, and bend and reach. I take time to sympathize, listen and pray for them. 

Suffering is not for wimps but through our weakness, God is strong.

Now you: Please share a coping tip that helps you get through the day!

Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. Job 4:4

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Trials and tests: God's crown of victory for the afflicted

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Are you under a trial right now? Do you realize that God is testing you through it?

Standing the test is not easy - heck, some days it even seems downright impossible. Those of us living with chronic pain know the struggle well. We face days of isolation, loss of friendships and the roiling emotions that come with it. Some days, we struggle just to get out of bed.

But my friends, our struggle is not without gain. Look at the promise God's made to us if we remain firm in our faith.

We get a crown. Not just any old crown, but the crown of life!

Our Lord Jesus, was given a crown of thorns by a mob of brutal Roman soldiers right before he was crucified. In ancient days thorns symbolized a curse, but the crown is a symbol of power and victory. These men, in their attempt to mock and humiliate, unwittingly bestowed a great honor upon him.

And this is the type of crown we will receive when we've stood firm in our time of testing. Oh, we may not see it in this life, but we can be certain we'll receive it.


Because God has promised it to us and our sovereign king always keeps his promises.

So stand firm lovely ones because our blessing is on the way!

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12, 13