Maralyn's Updates

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Silver Edged Clouds

I just want to say that physically I’m still the same. That’s a praise report and a thank you for all of your prayers. I can feel them—for sure!

I’m thoroughly captivated by the Chronicles of Narnia, and I’m already halfway through book #5 of 7. If you’ve seen the movies or read the books, you know that Jesus is portrayed through Aslan, a powerful but loving lion. The author C.S. Lewis masterfully portrays Christ’s intervention and guidance in our lives. Several times during the reading I’ve been moved to tears as I’ve been able to look back and see how God took difficult events in our life and turned them for good.

This illness is a good example. I can say for certain that I’m a better person than I was before the ALS diagnosis. I’m more focused. I’m more content. I’m more dependent on God. I’m more peaceful. Some really good things have happened deep within my spirit.

Scripture says it clearly: “And we know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)” Wow!

As human beings, we jump to conclusions about what is BAD or GOOD. The truth is that things that look bad often end up producing much good in our lives.

I dare you to write down the three most difficult things in your life…you know, the “bad” ones. Then examine them. What did you learn? What opportunities resulted? How did you grow?

I’m finding that this whole realization is causing me to pray for people differently. Instead of praying my usual, “Oh God, please take this away!” I’m more likely now to pray, “Oh God, please help them learn valuable lessons through this experience.”

In a nutshell, I’m learning that we mustn’t be so quick to label the events of our lives! Very often there’s a silver lining to the dark cloud.

I have a special request of you.

I can see from the map on Google Analytics that you, my blog readers, are all around the world. You’re in USA, Canada, Honduras, Argentina, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ireland, Great Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Congo, Kenya, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Scotland, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Morocco, South Africa, and Kyrgyztan.

I’m thinking that in all your cultures there is probably a saying or proverb to match the one in American English that says:

“Every cloud has a silver lining.” It simply means that every difficulty has also a brighter side.

Would you be willing to write me and tell me one of those sayings that you know from a culture other than USA? You can either send them to me through the comments on this site, or e-mail them to me at I’d love to receive dozens of them. Thanks for helping!


P.S. Want to have a look at my grandkids? They're one of the silver linings in my life right now.

Here are Paul and Kristin's two pretty little ladies (Elliana 2 1/2 years old and Jolene 10 months)

And here are David & Rhonda's three handsome little guys (Reuben 5, Levi 3 and Micah 1)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Weak...but Strong

It used to take a little effort to do a lot.
Now it takes a lot of effort to do a little.

I actually don’t see much change in my strength from day to day, or week to week, but when I look back six months I can see that I am definitely weaker now.

My niece Sherri, a young home-schooling mom, has major health issues. She recently sent me a piece illustrating life with limited energy. She found it online ( and it’s called “The Spoon Theory.“

To summarize, a young woman was trying to get her friend to understand what it felt like to live with Lupus. They were sitting in a restaurant so she gathered up all the spoons she could see from all the tables, and she told her friend to imagine that each spoon represented some of the energy she’d need for her day. When her spoons were gone, her energy was gone. She verbally ran her through a typical “Lupus” morning showing that it took most of her day’s energy just to get out the door.

This story rang a bell with me.

Before ALS I would get up early, bustle around, take a shower, get dressed, make breakfast, eat, and scope out my day—while doing a few little pick-up jobs in between. That would take about “one spoon” of energy.

Now it takes one spoon to get up…one to bathe…one to get dressed…another to do my hair and make-up…and three to do my morning exercises. So my day has hardly begun and I’ve already used up more than half my spoons.

So even though I can still do most of the things I’ve ever done, what used to be simple is now laborious. And the more energy that I use for any given activity, the longer it takes to recover. That’s just the way it is.

It’s not easy to deal with waning strength…especially if you’ve always been a strong, active, capable person like me.

Several months ago I typed up some of the scriptures that have ministered to me during this ALS experience. I’ve memorized some of them and read all of them often. But today when I read back through them the ones about strength just came “alive”—almost like I was reading them for the first time.

Simple truth: I’m weak…but God is ready and willing to be my strength!

“I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10b”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. II Corinthians 12:9a”

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29, 31”

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Psalm 28:7a”


Once again the live, active, powerful Word of God inspired me to view my situation from HIS angle.

One day in August I picked up a recently received book about ALS. I wanted to get advice about choosing my speaking machine and see if there was some practical advice for dealing with my excess mucous. I did get answers to my questions but on all of those other pages I saw too much. Suddenly I could visualize what was ahead and it was discouraging. I felt like the road was too steep and I didn’t have the strength to climb it. So that night I told God, “This is all too much. Give me courage. I need you!”

When I woke up in the morning three phrases were spiraling through my mind:
“You’re in my hands…trust me…I love you…you’re in my hands…trust me…I love you…you’re in my hands…”

It was a powerful, intimate moment!

By the very nature of ALS I’m always losing something…either quickly or slowly…so if I always focus on my weakening state, I’ll always be miserable. Instead, I have to put my focus on my Available Strength—My Strong Tower.

And you? Do you have a situation where you feel emotionally powerless? Or physically weak? Maybe you’ve been trying to be self-sufficient, like me.

We just have to acknowledge that we need HIM…then we’re stronger already.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:10”


P.S. Now! If you think that all of this means that you shouldn’t come visit us…think again! We LOVE having guests. We’ve had many this year and that’s what keeps us going. So you need to do your part by coming for a visit! But be forewarned…we make our guests work! Jim won’t let me do hardly anything, but he will ask you to help prepare food, do dishes, or something. Just so you know. (Smile!)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

What is a Miracle?

Throughout this last month, my ideas about miracles have been shaken…exploded…demolished…rebuilt…and transformed. In walking through this whole “ALS nightmare” I’ve been waiting for “my miracle.” Now I realize that I have already received several miracles...I just haven't recognized them as such.

This “musing about miracles” began when we were chatting with our son David and his wife Rhonda about my illness, when Rhonda commented, “We tend to think of miracles as being ALL or NONE—a complete healing or not. But Mom, I think it’s a miracle that your ALS is moving so slowly.”

H-m-m-m-m! I hadn’t thought about it that way.

Have I been delighted that it has been moving slowly? Yes. Have I been relieved? Yes. Have I realized it was a miracle? No, not really.

Somewhere over the next few days I finished the book I was reading and went to our shelf to choose another one. I had already decided that I was going to read C.S. Lewis’s "Chronicles of Narnia" next, but then I discovered that somewhere in our move they had been lost. Bummer! And my heart was so set on reading them. (Since then Paul loaned me his set, so they're next on my reading agenda.)

However, I can now see that God had one more book he wanted me to read first--while my mind was still chewing on this "miracle thing."

Standing there at our bookshelf, my eyes landed on "Affliction" by Edith Schaeffer and something stirred. In my young adulthood Edith had been my favorite writer—hands down. I read many of her books and they inspired me as a wife, a mother, and a creative child of God. This particular book was purchased by default…and never read. Why? Because I didn’t need its messaage. I bought it because I heard that Edith would be speaking in Brussels on my birthday (1991) and I wanted to have a book for her to sign. I went to the local (tiny!) Christian bookstore in search of one of her books that I could have her autograph. The only one they had was "Affliction." Bummer! I thought. But I bought it anyway.

I went to her session, and couldn't believe that when she entered she sat down next to me. It was amazing to be shoulder to shoulder with my favorite author…even if it was only for a few minutes at the beginning and end of the session. Afterwards I had her autograph the book and then it sat on my shelf for more than 17 years--until last week.

By the time I was into the fourth chapter, I knew I was reading the book in God’s good timing. Not only was the whole book incredibly well written and biblicly-grounded, bur it also had a very practical view of suffering. It clarified many hunches that I’ve had throughout this process and it had a very mind-stretching view of miracles.

She drew two imaginary rectangles. Rectangle A and Rectangle B. She said that both rectangles will be “museums” in heaven. We, along with other saints, will walk through both in heaven rejoicing at God’s hand…his help…his guidance…his answers.

In both rectangles were stick figures--identical ones. Each figure represented one child of God who has lived at some point in history. Her premise was that every person has a unique set of challenges. No one’s problems, joys, disappointments have ever been exactly like mine. So I am one of those stick figures, and so are you if you’re a follower of Christ--so is Moses--so is the Apostle Paul…

All of our prayers do get answered—some in the “B” way, and some in the “A” way.

In Rectangle B we get what we pray for: a healing, a job, a miraculous change of events. I’ve had some of those and so have you.

In Rectangle A we receive God’s miraculous help in dealing with our circumstances. He carries us, strengthens us, gives us perspective, enlarges our capacity, increases our patience, deepens our endurance, and helps us trust him to new levels. I’m realizing that I've also had lots of those kinds of miracles. You probably have, too.

Edith says it this way: “If His answer is to change the circumstances and give us relief, then we thank Him and worship Him who is ‘able to do all things.’ But if His answer is as it was to Paul, that the ‘thorn’ is not to be removed, but that He will give His sufficient grace to go on, a moment at a time, then we are to answer as Jesus did, ‘Thy will de done.’ Or ‘Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’” (p. 87)

Then she asks, Which is the greater victory?

H-m-m-m! Which is the greater victory?

This question has been wrestling in my mind for days. If I were to receive a “B” miracle, it would certainly be an amazing victory. Just think: I’d be able to speak clearly, I’d be able to walk steadily. I’d be able to sing again. All of you who have seen me struggle to do those things would easily recognize my healing as a miracle.

But what about a less visible miracle? Would everybody know? Maybe not. However, I'm beginning to see it. Having peace during a time like this IS a miracle. Feeling God’s grace carrying me IS a miracle. Feeling my patience grow IS a miracle. Seeing my trust become bedrock IS a miracle. I’m living a miracle—one that hasn’t been so obvious.

Remember the card I told you I had received from author Elisabeth Elliot after she and Lars stayed overnight in our home? A few weeks ago I finally found it in my file. It was dated April 12, 1995, and it read: “Be not anxious, Maralyn, about the future. Whatever it holds, the supply of grace will be exactly measured according to your need. Peace be with you. Warmly, Elisabeth.”

That kind of grace IS a miracle! Now I see it.

You know what? If you've made a commitment to follow Christ, you’re one of those people in Rectangle A and B, too. Have you had a dramatic healing? It will be recounted by many as an exhibit in Museum B. Or, are you being carried by God’s grace through a tough situation like I am? Someday we will celebrate that as we stroll through Museum A—recounting the goodness of our God to sustain us through the hard things.

Which museum will tell of the greater miracles? H-m-m-m!


P.S. Oh, and one more miracle! Even though our kids live 1016 miles apart, this week I got to hug all five of my grandkids within a 48 hour period. We got back from Pennsylvania on Tuesday night then spent all day Thursday in Wausau. Here are my "grandbabies" in order from youngest to oldest.

Jolene--Age 9 months

Micah--Age 13 months

Elliana--Age 2 years

Levi--Age 3 years

Reuben--Age 5 years

We have to learn to recognize our miracles!