C: Thank you so much for being so willing to share such a difficult time in your life as well as your walk with God with us! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for those who don't know you?
Karisa: I am 26 years old and currently live in NJ. I am a social worker with United Health Care providing support and health coaching to the developmentally delayed population. I have been married for 4 years and have a 3 year old son.
C: Yay! A fellow social worker ;) (we actually went to school together for those who don't know!) Karisa, when would you say your faith moved beyond just knowing God to experiencing God?
Karisa: I grew up in the church surrounded by Christians my whole life and have been “experiencing God” since I was a teenager. I definitely saw God’s hand in my life from a young age.
C: That's awesome that you could identify that it was God's hand in your life at a young age! What is one thing God has been teaching you in this current season of your life?
Karisa: Trust and thankfulness. A few years ago my husband (Lindell) became very sick. At the time we were living in a 1 bedroom apartment with our 1 year old son. We both had stressful jobs and barley making our bills. My husband came home one evening and began violently throwing up. After multiple doctor visits, ER visits and various medications, nothing worked. Lindell lost 30 pounds in 3 weeks and had no strength. We were finally able to get him admitted to a hospital to begin testing. Every gastroenterologist that saw his case in the hospital would tell me “I’ve never seen this before” or “I think there is a tumor somewhere and we need to find it.” I’ve never been more terrified in my life. I was trying to balance being a social worker (I was now the only income), be a mother to our 1 year old, and be there every step of the way for my sick husband. Growing up in the church, I knew what scripture said. Both of our fathers are Nazarene pastors and had tons of people praying. Every day that passed and we had no answers I found myself doubting God more and more. I felt numb to prayer and people telling me that God is in control. I honestly felt God was nowhere to be found. Lindell was in the hospital for over 2 weeks before they decided to do surgery and re-construct his stomach. They assured me that this surgery would at least help him be able to eat and drink without vomiting as they continued to find out the reason for this new onset condition. Right before the surgery, my mother in law had decided to skip our daily walk to the cafeteria because she wanted to fast. I remember thinking to myself “what waste of time.” After the surgery, Lindell had his first meal in over 6 weeks and was able to keep it down. They discharged him from the hospital and sent him home that night. I had returned to work the next day for my first full day back at work. I finally was able to breathe thinking we were getting somewhere. I opened the door to our apartment after my crazy day at work to hear Lindell throwing up again in the bathroom. At this point, I had nothing left. I was so angry at the doctors, at our health care system but mostly at God. For the first time in my life I felt abandoned by God. I started to second guess my entire life being a “believer.” I started looking up the best GI doctors in Philadelphia desperate for someone to find an answer for us. I started calling around to different doctors begging for them to see us as soon as possible.
I ended up calling a good friend of mine who is in the medical field. I was going over every step of our process with her and remember her telling me that we were in a good place. She began telling me that God has us where he wants us and he is going to pull through. My heart was completely cold to anything of God but I had nowhere else to look.
Lindell & I decided to pray together and listen to a podcast of a church we had been too maybe once or twice to see my brother play in the worship band. The sermon series was on worry. I remember sitting there with my very sick husband listening to this pastor say things that only God knows I was thinking. The pastor used Matthew 6:26 (which I had heard 1,000 times before) but this time it spoke directly to my heart.
We were able to find a very good GI doctor (after I called his home phone, office phone, cell phone and personal e-mail) quickly. They were able to find the right medication to get Lindell back to a healthy weight and completely stop the vomiting. It was a slow road to recovery and medication is still mandatory. I never thought I would be thankful for that time in our lives. The mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion our entire family felt was unreal. Looking back at that time, I can honestly say I am now thankful that God lead us through that storm. Even though I doubted Him, I now know that no matter the circumstances we are in, we always need to trust Him.
C: When you first shared this with me while we were a part of a friend's wedding, I could not wrap my mind around the hurt and pain you must have experienced. I am beyond appreciative that you are willing to be so vulnerable and be real with so many people as you write this. How do you keep your eyes fixed on God when storms come your way?
Karisa: I need to remind myself that it is a season and it will pass. Now, I find myself going to scripture for direction and comfort. For me, it was/has been the way God can speak to me and give me something to cling too.
C: To remember that "this is just a season" and not let it consume us can be so tough. What are some verses that you often cling to as a reminder of His goodness?
Matthew 6:26- Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Psalm 73:26- My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Luke 1:37- For nothing will be impossible with God.
Deuteronomy 31:6- Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
C: If you could encourage those out there who are fearful of letting go and trusting God, what would you say?
Karisa: Trusting God in the midst of your trial is very difficult, especially when you feel He’s not there. There is comfort in knowing that even if we begin to doubt him, He’s still working on our behalf. When you are able to pull through your storm, you will be able to see God’s hand every step of the way.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise-James 5:13
Praying for others wasn't always something I was very disciplined in. I know it sounds awful and it wasn't that I didn't want to, it was more that I wasn't sure how to. At one point, however, my dad said to me, "You have to invite the Holy Spirit in so you can pray for someone as though you are them not just for them." What did that statement mean? At the time I wasn't very sure, but I began praying and asking that God would show me. It wasn't too long before I realized the power of empathy. To not only put yourself in someone's shoes as you pray for them but also invite the Holy Spirit in to lead that prayer...and let me tell you something, it's amazingly and unbelievably powerful. There are people all around us who are hurting.
When I decided in 2014 to use the 40 days of lent to pray for as many people who liked my status (I think it was about 88) that was an intentional challenge and opportunity I wanted to take to open my hurt to the people around me and to take my prayer life to another level.
Listen, there's nothing wrong with praying for yourself. With that said, following Jesus' model, he was so intentional about praying for his disciples and for the lost who weren't even born yet in John 17! Will you join me in becoming a prayer warrior?
Well, it's safe to say that Monday and Tuesday this week were ROUGH! To be honest, I have no energy to type out the whole story so instead I made a video about my experience with depression the last two days. Check it out here!
It's hard sometimes to recognize Jesus in the midst of the storm.
…Peter…walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid… --Matthew 14:29-30
Sound familiar? Why is it that we can get so distracted and lose our focus off of Jesus and onto all the cares of this world? One thing is certain, the more I spend time with him in Word and Prayer the less easy it is to lose focus.
Have you ever gotten stuck in prayer? Have you been at a loss for words? Not the good kind where you are in awe of His presence but the kind of loss for words where you just don't even know what to start "talking" about, asking for, or just saying in general. I've been there. As I was listening to the Word on audio this morning (one of my favorite ways to spend time with God is walking in nature and listening to the Word), I noticed I was naturally praying as I was listening to the book of James. I found myself taking the scripture itself and forming it into my prayer. I was responding. Prayer is a response! When I am not spending time with God in the Word, I find myself having a harder time responding. Maybe it's just me. I've always seen reading the Bible and prayer as ONE when you look at it from a communication point of view. I see the Word as God talking to me, and prayer as my response back to God. So how can I respond to Him if I won't even take the time to hear from Him? All I know is that I refuse to continue moving forward with this lack of balance. I believe that God can speak to us through anything...but the one place he 100% guarantees that we will hear from Him is the Bible. This week I am adding on the WORD to our word of the month: PRAYER. They go hand in hand!
2 Timothy 3:16 -All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
These are the three questions I have been meditating on this week in light of our word of the month, PRAYER. If you've been on my Facebook page, you've seen my 46 second video where I share those same questions. Here's the thing, I haven't met someone who has genuinely and wholly decided to follow Jesus and hasn't been transformed in some way! I am not here to judge your relationship with God, but the Bible itself says that there will be a renewing of our minds, a surrendering of our rights, our dreams, our desires, and trusting His will for our lives knowing that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of your heart-Psalm 37:4; but that's also understanding that as we forsake everything for Him and follow Him we become like minded with Him and so His desires become our desires. Jesus also said, "No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions-Luke 14:33. So, following Jesus does cost us something great. You must consider the emotional, physical, financial, and relational costs. Is it worth it in the end? Yes. 100% yes. He gave up His all for me and that inspires and moves me to want to give up my all for Him. You see, you should be different; something does change. You realize your are no longer your own boss and you submit yourself willingly to Him.
How has following Jesus influenced your decisions/your life?
Do you love yourself? Sounds like a silly question, but for me, this question was so important for me to answer. I have struggled with such a poor self-image for most of my life. NOW, I am on a continuing journey of healing and a renewing of my mind of how I see myself. How? By being willing to receive the unfathomable amount of love that God wants to extend to me. Through my prayer life, my time in the Word, and my overall walk with Him, I have come to experience true freedom in Christ. In 1 Samuel 17:7, The Lord said to Samuel (regarding David), "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." For so long I was a slave to my outward appearance and couldn't truly accept that it was my heart that is to set me apart, not my body. Now I am closer than ever in being confident in who I am not how I look. Invite God into your journey of gentleness with yourself and loving who He has made you to be.
Logan Brengle understood the power of prayer when he said, "Real prayer is more than a form of words, or a hasty address to God just after breakfast, before a meeting, or before going to bed at night. It is an intense, intelligent, persistent council with the Lord, in which we wait on Him, and reason and argue and plead our cause, and listen for His reply, and will not let Him go till He blesses us."
Think of it this way, if you just had a piece of toast for breakfast, how long will that satisfy you? Probably just an hour, whereas if you had a full balanced meal, you could be full and satisfied for much longer! I find it's the same way with spending time with God. Sometimes we make it like a happy meal to go because we are rushed for time but we don't get to experience the true depth and intimacy of being in relationship with God when we have too many days having just "toast" for breakfast.
I am always challenged to re-visit my priorities and being more intentional about ensuring my relationship with God takes center stage! So, I invite you to join me in taking a good hard look at how many happy meals instead of full balanced meals we've chosen to settle for and sacrificing complete satisfaction. There will be days where time with God and our prayer life is scattered throughout the day, and I am not hating on that! For me, however, sacrificing consistency of depth of conversation after a while has it's negative effects. So, what will it be?
A Bit About ME!
Hey friend! My name is Caren and I am so glad you stopped by! This blog is a bit of my corner on the internet where I share honest thoughts about my faith journey, fitness journey, doctor wife journey, and motherhood journey. ALL of it! The good bad and ugly! I pray that something I share encourages you today!