Maralyn's Updates

Friday, July 27, 2007


Did you ever walk through a maze with your eyes blindfolded? On my 53rd birthday I was captured by two mischevious students and led around the Bible school campus with my eyes blindfolded. They tramped me through a Finnish swamp, a crowded attic, and a thick forest; then they put a helmet on my head and drove me down a country road on the back of motorcycle--all blindfolded. In other circumstances it could have been scary, but I knew that those students loved me--so I trusted them.

That's how I feel now. I'm blindfolded, but I'm holding the hand of someone I trust, so it's okay!

Wednesday I got a telephone call from the clinic saying that I should go right away to the clinic to have blood drawn. I went, and the next day I got a call from the Endocrinology Department at University of Madison Hospital. They told me that my blood indicated that I should stop taking the thyroid medication right away. My TSH had dropped to 0, and that was not a good thing, the nurse said. She explained that that didn't necessarily mean that I didn't have thyroid issues, but Synthroid obviously wasn't the answer for my body. At first I was stunned! I had so hoped that hypothyroidism was my problem, and synthroid the solution.

Then I realized that it wasn't the medication, the doctor, nor a certain diagnosis that I should hang onto, but rather the hand of God. He's unchangeable.

Immediately I went to the CD that God miraculously provided through Linda and Gayland (a neat story of its own)and,with tears stinging my eyes, I read through the words again--just to remind myself whose hand I'm hanging onto.

Listen to these words! And if you have the Phillips, Craig & Dean CD Let the Worshippers Arise, put it in and listen to song #3 "You Are God Alone."

You are not a god created by human hands
You are not a god dependant on any mortal man
You are not a god in need of anything we can give
By your plan, that's just the way it is

You are God alone, from before time began
You were on your throne; you are God alone
And right now in the good times and bad
You are on your throne; you are God alone.

You're the only God whose power none can contend
You're the only God whose name and praise will never end
You're the only God who's worthy of everything we can give
You are God and that's just the way it is

That's what you are!

We're going to Finland for the month of August to pack up our things and say goodbye to our wonderful friends at the Bible school and EICF (our international church.) We'll be back to Wisconsin by September 4, then I'm scheduled for appointments with the endocrinologist on September 12 and the neurologist on September 18...

..But it's not the hand of the doctors that I'm reaching for, it's the hand of the One who is unchangeable, unshakeable, unstoppable because even though I feel like I'm blindfolded, I'm clinging to the hand of my trustworthy God, so everything is okay!


Friday, July 20, 2007

Divine Appointment

Her name was Kris, and she was my speech pathologist yesterday; but to me she seemed more like an angel. I believe our appointment was divine.

She was about my age, an incredible teacher, warm, caring--just a lovely person; and that would have been enough. But she was also very knowledgable about my three possible conditions. Two of them she had personally experienced (thyroid and acid reflux)and the third (ALS) she had experienced vicariously through many of her patients. She spent 90 minutes with me (!!) helping me sort out the confusing overlapping symptoms, explaining many things that I had suspected, but never had confirmed. I walked away from our appointment praising God from the depths of my soul. I will praise you, O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your mercy is great above the heavens, and your truth reaches to the clouds. (Ps. 108:3-4)

At a certain point during the 90 minutes we walked to the lab where two technicians, one physician, and Kris watched on the x-ray screen as I swallowed a variety of things (thin liquid, thick liquid, pudding, and pudding with cookie crumbs in it.) The bottom line was that my swallowing was NORMAL. Kris concluded, "You don't swallow like an ALS patient." She quickly added that she wasn't saying that I didn't have ALS, but that she was pleasantly surprised to see that everything looked normal with my swallowing mechanism, because this is usually one of the most problematic areas. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and your glory above all the earth... (Ps. 108:5)

A few minutes later when I talked to my neurologist, he expressed surprise and delight that my swallowing was normal. Four weeks ago, on the day of the ALS diagnosis, my pulmonary function (lungs) also tested NORMAL. The doctor agreed that both of these things were very good signs. Not that he was withdrawing his diagnosis of ALS, (he made that very clear!!) but that he was pleased that there were not yet any signs of deterioration in these two vital functions. That your beloved may be delivered, save with your right hand, and hear me. (Ps. 108:6)

Then I showed him the list of thyroid symptoms that have improved during this month of taking synthroid (thyroid medication). He was very pleased and agreed to refer me to the group of cutting-edge endocrinologists at University of Wisconsin Medical Center in Madison. My case is obviously unusual (with normal thyroid labs)so he wanted me to have some of the best doctors to help me sort it out.

I want to thank you (emphatically!!) for the encouraging words, powerful scriptures, uplifting books, and heart-rending songs that you have sent me--reminding me of your support and God's faithfulness.

And, you know what? Even though it's too early to see where all of this is going, I realize that we don't have to know yet...because we know the one whose hand we're holding. He is the one who arranges divine (and encouraging!!) appointments.

O God, my heart is steadfast! (Ps. 108:1)


Wednesday, July 11, 2007


When our boys were small, and we were caught in a long line at the grocery store, I would often say, "This is a good chance to practice your patience." Years later when the boys were in Junior High and we were fishing in Canada, I asked Jim to take me to the shore because the fish weren't biting. David reminded me, "Mom, this is a good chance to practice your patience." (Smile!)

That's how I feel now. Each time I ask God if I really do have ALS, or if it might be the thyroid, or something else, or nothing...all I hear is "WAIT"!

My voice varies between strong and froggy. My speech varies between slight and medium slurring. My swallowing varies between normal and almost normal, but I feel good! It's crazy to have such a daunting diagnosis when I feel SO good. But I know that my assignment is not to figure things out, but simply to WAIT.

I guess this is a good chance to practice my patience. :-)

Meanwhile, I now understand Philippians 4:7 because in this time of waiting I really do have a "peace that passes all understanding." Our God is an amazing God!


P.S. According to your responses (some through e-mail and some through the comments on this blog) I can now add to my list four more countries from which people are praying: South Africa, Faroe Islands, Norway, and Netherlands. Wow!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Best Medicine!

This week our whole family was together for a few days around the 4th of July. This was the best medicine possible! :-)

In case you are one of the praying people who don't know me, I'm the beaming grandma in the middle of the photo!


P.S. There are people all around the world praying for me. People from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, India, Lithuania, Russia, Bosnia, Belgium, Thailand, USA, Kenya, Bulgaria, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, France, Sweden, China, Burkina Faso, Turkey, and Morocco have told me that they are praying for me. Are you from yet another country? May I add your country to this list? Let me know through the comments!! Praise God for the Body of Christ!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cautiously Optimistic

Wednesday July 4, 2007

Someone wrote today asking if my diagnosis had been positively confirmed yet.

The neurologist says that all of my signs and tests point toward ALS; however, there is no definitive test to positively confirm ALS. The only way to know for sure is to wait and see if the disease progresses, and it’s too early to say.

It's a bit confusing, though, because some of the early symptoms are the same as hypothyroidism, and my family has a history of having thyroid issues that don't show up on blood tests. So, even though my thyroid labs look normal, I have 19 of the 21 symptoms. (The only two I DON’T have are depression and tiredness. ☺)

So, after telling us that he was quite sure that I had ALS, I asked the neurologist if I could try the thyroid medication to see if it might make a difference. He said that I could, and he immediately wrote out the prescription. I've been on that medication now for 12 days and several of the symptoms of hypothyroidism have dramatically improved. The most hopeful ones are the ones that overlap with ALS, like my swallowing is back to normal, and my slurred speech is gradually improving (meaning that I don’t always sound “drunk” ☺)

All of that to say that we still don't know. We are "cautiously optimistic" but only time will tell if I have ALS or hypothyroidism. Meanwhile, I feel really well, and that's weird with such a heavy diagnosis hanging over our heads.

Today Paul and Kristin came from Pennsylvania for four days to celebrate Independence Day with us here at David and Rhonda's. That means that our whole family is together, and I can assure you that this is the best medicine on the planet! Four grandbabies under four create the sweetest kind of chaos, and I am loving every minute!

Please continue to pray that God's perfect will will be done in my body. He is a good God, and I want him to get the glory he deserves through all of this!
There’s not one doubt in my mind that He can heal me—no matter what I have!

I feel absolutely buoyed up by your prayers and my confidence in Him is FIRM!
Thank you for praying!

Profound Perspective

Saturday, June 30, 2007

These last nine days have been like walking through a dream...and I say dream, not nightmare, because it's been happy in its own way. So much love has been expressed through our friends and family, and I've received over 100 e-mails from around the world, each carrying its own love and blessing. My daughter-in-law Rhonda's comment summarized it: "Don't you love the body of Christ?"

I've never been more certain that we serve a sovereign God. Through these last few hours, here's what I've come to understand:

• Everybody is born.
• Everybody must die.
• I won't die until it's exactly God's time for me. Until then, I'm invincible! ☺
• Until that moment comes, whether it's one or forty years from now, I'm going to FULLY live.

Only a loving, sovereign God could give me such a simple, but profound perspective. I rest peacefully in Him!

Healthy Tension

Sunday, June 24, 2007


This quiet Sunday morning I want to sit down and write in response to the lovely letters and calls that we have received over these last few hours. To say that we have been overwhelmed by your love is an understatement.

One amazing part of this whole thing is that in spite of what the doctor says, right now I'm feeling really good. Of course, I'm still on my little knee cart from the bunion surgery, but this one has been lots easier than the last one so I almost forget about it--except for when I need to scoot up or down the steps on my bottom. :-) I include my slow tongue in "normal" because that symptom has been there off and on for six months, but overall I feel energetic and relaxed. I do try to avoid crying because when I cry it's harder to breathe. So, when the conversations get too heavy, I go in the other room to keep from needing to gasp for air. :-!

Another amazing part is how optimistic I feel. Maybe I'm still in the "shock" phase of grief, but during this week, since learning of the diagnosis, I've just been overwhelmed by the goodness of God. He has blessed me SO much. How many people, when faced with such a grim prediction, have hundreds (and I'm not stretching it!) of people who care about them? How many people have had such incredible opportunities to spend their life doing what they love most (teaching and mentoring young people to live their lives in light of eternity)? How many people, after 39 years of marriage, are THIS in love? How many people have children who love God and serve him so wholeheartedly? Not many and I just can't stop counting my blessings.

Our family has talked several times this week about the fact that we are holding two things in tension: 1) We KNOW that we serve a God who can heal. We've seen many miracles in our lives, one being the spectacular healing of my heart in November of 2005. There's not one doubt in our minds that God can heal. However, it's also clear that he doesn't always heal. You probably remember that we lost Jim's brother Greg just a little over one year ago. He was a young father who loved God with all of his heart; so, physical healing doesn't come for every believer; and that ushers in the other part of the healthy tension: 2) Everybody is born, and everybody has to die sometime. Until it's God's time for me I'm invincible! :-) But when it IS his best time for me to die, I will step into his presence. Wow, it gives me goose bumps when I consider what that moment will be like. I can only imagine!!

So there's the tension: God can heal, but he doesn't always. We're holding one in each hand and we try to keep the balance. The bottom line is that He is our loving, sovereign God, and he has good things for those who love Him. We just have to wait and see which good thing He has for me! :-) Frankly, I’m hoping for a few more years on this earth with my dear, sweet family!

My task over these next few weeks and months is to make sure that this whole thing doesn't get centered on ME. It's not about ME. It's all about Him. He deserves the glory whether number ONE or TWO is my destiny. I rest in Him, and wait to see.

Meanwhile, I'm soaking up the love of precious friends and family like you!

And, now back to the moment! I have to get into the shower and get dressed because today is a special day. Nineteen-day-old Baby Micah Gregory is being dedicated on his mommy and daddy's seventh anniversary. We are here, along with Rhonda's parents, to celebrate both occasions. Life doesn't get any sweeter than this!

Change of Plans

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dear Friends,

We were just preparing to let you know about our change of plans.

It was to have been a transition to another field of ministry within missions. We had accepted an offer to become the first International Directors for Royal Family Kids Camps. This ministry would have taken us around the world to help develop camps which provide "a week of happy memories" for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. Our transition was to have been effective January 1, 2008.

However, yesterday came another change of plans.

The neurologist says that Maralyn very likely has ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). This, of course, was a shock for our family but Thursday evening as we gathered around our computers to do a web cam "family gathering" with our boys and their wives, we felt the tremendous love of God as we processed the gravity of this diagnosis. We all agreed that even though this hurts, the bottom line is that our God is trustworthy!

We ask you to please pray with us. First, for healing. We serve a BIG God!! Next, we need guidance for the decisions that are looming ahead. We are, however, thankful for the supernatural peace that God is giving us.

Please forward this message to anyone who knows how to pray! Thanks.

Much Love,

Jim & Maralyn Mathias--Your Missionaries to Finland