April McGowan

The Lord Is My Strength

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 But he (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

20140808_104355I won an award this week at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer conference. It’s an award for being a Writer of Promise. It’s actually an award I thought would be very cool to win, but never expected to hear my name associated with it. In fact, I was so surprised to hear my name, all the blood rushed out of my extremities. I have no knowledge of how I got up those stairs and onto that stage. I remember very little about what I said, and only have a vague recollection of sitting down in my seat again. But I did because God enabled me to. In fact, God enables me to do everything I do. He’s enabling you, too, but you might not be aware to what extent. I am acutely aware.

Here’s what I would have said on that stage if I’d had more time and had my wits better about me. Maybe I said it and don’t remember. If you were there, I pray you saw it in my eyes: my complete unworthiness, my gratefulness, and my boast in the Lord:

I can do nothing without God. Really. I am chronically ill with a rare disease that leaves my body “fighting” germs 24/7. I get up every day with body aches and a fuzzy head, not walking straight, not sure of what I can take on. I’m exhausted because of the fight. Have you had the flu? Yeah, like that–pretty much all the time. At this week’s conference, I was heading back to my room every four hours for breathing treatments. I planned my classes, my meetings, around these treatments, around rests, around plenty of downtime. I almost didn’t make it to OCW, let alone the dinner and awards ceremony, because I’d been so sick. My medical treatment for my condition is done on Tuesday evenings, and 98 percent of Wednesdays, I’m down all day. I’m certainly not dressed up, on my feet, attending classes and going to late night galas. I shouldn’t have been at the dinner. In fact, I was due for a breathing treatment RIGHT in the middle of the awards ceremony. I was going to have to leave. But my lungs didn’t spasm with an asthma flare, so I stayed. And that’s when I got the most amazing surprise of my career (outside of my first book contract).

As I heard the kudos for the last award of the night, I prepared to clap for whoever it was. Then, I suddenly realized (via some clues) that the presenter, Lindy Jacobs, was talking about me!  Although we were in a room of several hundred people, right then, it was just me and the Father. Because all I do, all I accomplish, all I write, all my steps are from Him. Literally. He carried me up those steps, He got me back to my seat. He got me through photos and lots of lovely hugs, and then back up that long hallway to my room where I cried and stayed awake in awe and humility into the wee hours. He stayed up with me, too. People often ask me why I write about my illness on my blog, why I share so openly when asked. THIS is why. I want you to see it’s not me, it’s Him. I want you to see how He loves us. I want you to see how involved He is in every aspect of our lives. He is my strength, my portion, my motivation. My all in all. And I’m so grateful.

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You’ve Got a Friend In Me

The other day, sick again (seriously!) I was at the doctor’s office seeing a fill-in because I couldn’t get into see my regular physician. As often happens, she didn’t have a clue what CVID was—and she wasn’t really up on primary immunodeficiency. And when I said IgG replacement a tiny light went on—but still, not getting it.  (I make time to mention that she’s seen me twice before and hadn’t a clue).

If you don’t know about CVID, then here’s a window: I went from a sore throat at 2:30 to full on bronchitis by 4:00. Colds hit fast, and hard! Considering I had pneumonia in September…well, you get the idea. It really wears down a person.

Anyway, I’m not blogging to come down on a doctor or whine about colds (tempting…but no). I’m sharing a change in attitude.

When I first started weekly subcutaneous IgG replacement therapy, I was hopeful, but scared (it’s a blood product after all, and stuff can go wrong). It involves pumps and syringes and needles—but I was so glad to have help, I did it. Then, at about 10 weeks, I started to have panic attacks—heart racing, sweat-breaking, hand shaing attacks (you get the idea). It got harder and harder to insert the four needle lines and sit there for 2 1/2 hours infusing, afraid to move. After much prayer, and changing some pre-meds, things got easier, and by 25 weeks I realized I needed to start thinking differently about IgG, or the stress would do me in. I started to picture the 90mls of fluid as friends (this came from some very early advice via a friend who’d overcome cancer a couple years ago). I came up with a positive sounding name for my treatment. Oh, and I prayed. A lot.

Guess what? It worked. So super well, that I’ve incorporated it into my thinking, and was brought up short at the doctor’s office, not realizing I’d used the term. When I got done explaining my rare condition, the doctor stared at me blankly. She asked, “What are these ‘immuno-buddies’ you keep referring to?”

I stared back at her and clicked through our conversation in my head. Yep. Instead of saying I was taking immunoglobulin replacement therapy, I’d said, “I guess my immuno-buddies haven’t had this bug yet.”

I went on to explain my thinking and what the term meant to me. She still looked a bit blank, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about the turning point in my therapy/care of this disease. It felt like pure victory to me.

I’m not going to say it’s fun, or a breeze now, because it’s not—but I know this is helping me, strengthening me, and God’s answer for keeping me safe for now. Maybe one day they’ll come up with a daily infusion, like they have for diabetes (that’d be so very cool). But, for now, I have my weekly immuno-buddies.

Facing these kinds of challenges can either tax our strength and tear us down, or make us stronger depending on our attitude about it. I’m not saying it’s a quick fix or instant change, but with daily prayer and submission to the Father, we can be more than conquerors in this life.

Romans 8:31, 37-39 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (full text here)




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