Tuesdays with Sarah… Breathe, Just Breathe

Two weeks ago, I posted a blog titled ‘Let It Go’. It was about how I have been put on vocal rest, and how I’m learning to let things go. Not just the ‘bad’ things (which is easier, in my opinion), but even the ‘good’ things. God was quick to remind me of His faithfulness in the past, when I let go of ‘good’ things, and how He had replaced them with even better things.

The reason I was on vocal rest is because I’ve been basically sick since mid-October. Coughing is my main symptom. My vocal cords are swollen, thus the doctor prescribed vocal rest. Still aren’t certain of the cause of the coughing. The pulmonologist basically wrote me off and did nothing but take my $50 co-pay. The ENT at least checked out my vocal cords and verified through a CT scan that my sinuses are truly clear. And my dear primary doctor just keeps seeing me about every 2 weeks, hoping for some sort of good news that this cough is gone. I definitely don’t have any infection, so this whole thing is kind of a mystery.

My current nighttime breathing routine – vaporizer, diffuser, inhaler, oh my!

About a week and a half ago, I decided to go back one more time to my primary doctor before the yearend. Since I had finally met my deductible, and any tests run would actually be covered! My normal primary doctor was out for the holidays, but he had a fill-in that used to work in this office, so I saw him.

He asked me about how I was feeling, listened to my back story of when this coughing madness began, and griped with me about the pulmonologist visit. He then leaned back and looked at me and asked, “Has anyone ever mentioned that you might have asthma?”

I was pretty shocked at the question and proceeded to tell him no. I had played sports through middle school and college, never once having a breathing problem. And these Snow White lungs have never smoked anything ever! Then I vaguely remembered when I lived back in Union City, TN, I had gotten bronchitis many times. My doctor there mentioned how you could actually develop asthma over time. Something like that…

My new doctor said that he didn’t really believe I have ‘asthma’, but I’m definitely having an ‘asthmatic response’ to something. He decided our focus should be to get the inflammation of my lungs under control. He told me to keep taking my rescue inhaler 4 times a day, but he added a steroid inhaler as well to be taken twice a day. And he added yet another steroid regimen for me to take.

So I just wrapped up the 10-day steroid blitz. At about day 6, I could tell that the coughing was less frequent.  During that 10 day period, we had a youth lock-in for New Year’s Eve.  I truly felt like I was going to pass out from coughing at certain points of the night. I could feel my chest seize up and struggle to breathe. It’s not like it was some full-on breathing asthma attack like I’ve seen on a television show or movie, but it was enough to make me very anxious. Then the more anxious and panicky I felt, the more coughing seem to come. Like a terrible loop that continues to play over and over again.

Breathing…. Such a simple thing, right? Something you did, right out of the gate of your momma’s belly! No one had to teach you to breathe. It just happened as you passed from the waters of the womb to the air of this world. Your doctor might have had to hit you on the back a few times to get things started, but usually, our lungs do exactly what they were made to do, without any teaching or training. They just do. It’s natural. We were made to breathe. Breathing is life.

To me, breathing is something I have always taken for granted. I was a healthy child. I was an athletic teenager who played a lot of sports and was a cheerleader. And even as an adult (pre-children), Scott and I played basketball, golf, and softball together. Breathing was never a thought… not even an afterthought. But these last few weeks, I am grateful for when I can breathe. I am grateful for any length of time when I realize that I didn’t cough once or have the feeling that my lungs were seizing up. I know there are many people, children and adults, who do have breathing issues like Cystic Fibrosis, COPD, panic attacks, and of course, asthma. These people do not take breathing for granted. Every breath is a gift, and I now empathize with those people, even though my ailment is nothing compared to theirs.

Me and my dear friend JoAnna, who played high school and college basketball with me

Shooting a three in one of my Judson College games 🙂

But the cause of my breathing problem is something out of my control. Or at least it’s unknown. Wow, if I did know what it was, I sure would take care of it ASAP! I would eliminate whatever was in my life that was causing me to cough. I would avoid certain places if that was what was causing me to lose my breath. I would place myself in the best situations and places for my health. Right?? Well, at least I would like to think I would….

That got me to thinking. Maybe I have had breathing problems for a long time, but I’ve just been too busy or too exhausted to notice? The choices I make, the lifestyle I live, the signs I ignore. Maybe all those things together have really kept me from truly breathing for a while. And now, it’s actually making itself known in my physical body. I can’t physically breathe because I haven’t been spiritually breathing.

The ‘Just Breathe’ sign I gave to my friend and co-worker

About 2 years ago, I bought a little piece of wood at our church craft fair. It had the words ‘Just Breathe’ painted on it. I had given it to a friend and co-worker of mine who I felt needed the reminder to just breathe. A few months later, she then passed it on to another co-worker who needed the reminder. I think it’s funny how sometimes we often don’t take our own advice. I was encouraging my friend to breathe, while at the same time, I was suffocating. About the same time that I bought the sign, a song came out written by Jonny Diaz titled ‘Breathe’. The lyrics are below:

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Wanna make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear You say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The Peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
Let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

I have listened to this song hundreds of times. But for some reason, I never let the words of the bridge sink in. “To take it in fill your lungs, the Peace of God that overcomes… Let your weary spirit rest, lay down what’s good and find what’s best…” Whoa. Even now as I type this, my eyes are tearing up. It’s been a long time since I have just sat at His feet and let His peace fill my lungs. I’ve been tired for a long time. And I’m holding on to a lot of ‘what’s good’… like I mentioned above. The choices I make and the lifestyle I live are usually all for the good of the church, for my family, or for ministry – but I need to find what’s best. I need to breathe. Just breathe.

But is just breathing enough? Absolutely not. What you breathe matters. I read a tragic story recently of a young family vacationing in Arizona that all died overnight because of a ‘significant failure’ in the buliding’s heating system. They died of carbon monoxide poisoning. So although they were all ‘breathing’, they still passed away. What you are breathing matters.

Say I am standing somewhere smoking a cigarette, and start having a breathing attack. So I put down the cigarette that is causing me the problem, but then walk into a smoke-filled bar. I am still breathing the same harmful smoke that put me in that bad place to begin with. I need to go outside, or a place with clean air, and remove myself from what is stealing my very breath. You have to put yourself in a place to breathe the right thing – the best thing. So in comparison, if I did decide to stop doing so many things and slow down a bit, but still don’t place myself at His feet to breathe, I’m not really fixing the problem. I might at least have time to breathe, but I’m breathing the wrong things. And the result is the same – death. Spiritually and physically.

Scott and I have often joked with friends and church members that I am a Mary. You have probably heard of the story of Mary and Martha, the 2 sisters that were friends of Jesus (along with their brother Lazarus). The sisters were very different. I even wrote a blog about it one time that you can find here:

Tuesdays with Sarah… Sister Love

In Luke chapter 10, Martha is described as the ultimate hostess, preparing the home and the meal for their special guest, Jesus. But Mary doesn’t care all that much about domestic tasks, and only wants to sit at the feet of Jesus listening to His every word. When Martha finally decides she has had enough, she gripes to Jesus about it. Jesus chastises her, in love, and says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

And that is me… well, at least I thought it was. I love worship and basking in the Lord’s presence. I often put to the side necessary ‘tasks’ so that I can just linger at His feet. I ‘choose the better’. But as of lately, I’ve been about all the ‘busyness’ of church and ministry, that I feel as though I’m a “Martha, Martha, Martha”! In 2017, I went non-stop month-to-month planning church events and activities. From the youth Gatlinburg trip, to the community wide Easter Eggstravaganza, to Senior Sunday, to mission trip fundraising, to mission trip, to VBS, to back to school bash, to baby showers, to Trunk or Treat, to Honduras Mission Trip, to Advent. And now we are back at the top, and the cycle starts again.

If you didn’t notice, there’s a whole lot of Martha in there. Planning and working and grinding… getting everything done. Which isn’t a bad thing at all… but quickly becomes a bad thing when it isn’t balanced with some Mary. I needed more Mary time last year, and I didn’t make it happen. I did not “choose the better” – the “one thing that is needed”, as Jesus so eloquently stated – the “find what’s best”, as Jonny Diaz so beautifully sang. The ‘better’ is spending time in His presence, actually BREATHING Him in. It is absolutely needed. It is LIFE.

This past Sunday was Epiphany Sunday. That is the day on the church calendar where we celebrate the three wise men’s visit to see baby Jesus. During the morning worship service, our praise band led the song “Great Are You Lord”. Once again, it is a song that I have sang many, many times. And as we got to the chorus the first time, I was overwhelmed by the words…

“It’s Your breath, in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise

It’s Your breath, in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only”

Since I can’t really sing right now, I just mouthed the words, with both arms lifted. As the song ended, and I wrapped up my lip sync offering to the Lord, Scott grabbed my hand and brought me to the front. He then asked for others who have been battling illness and needed healing to come to the front. He had us all kneel at the altar as our church family gathered around us, praying over us, for us, and with us. At that honey-oak colored altar, in a modern looking sanctuary, in the glow of a beautiful Chrismon tree, on Epiphany Sunday, I had an epiphany of my own. I haven’t been breathing for about 12 months, and it is time to inhale. With my church family by my side, they helped administer my first spiritual breathing treatment on my road to recovery. I was at His feet, breathing in His sweet peace. I was finally getting back to my Mary. And it was indeed a breath of fresh air.

My new nighttime breathing routine 🙂

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2 Responses to Tuesdays with Sarah… Breathe, Just Breathe

  1. Sandy Turner says:

    Asthma can develop in adults. Mine is allergy and stress induced. Rarely have an attack since my allergies are under control but it can be a very scary feeling. Part of my illness this year was a perforated bowel but I also had had acute bronchitis for many months prior to that. In the hospital I had 4 steroid breathing treatments every day for 3 weeks. Finally I really can breathe freely. Hope your healing is complete very soon. Delegate some of those Martha things to the rest of GracePoint family. We love you!

  2. Patti says:

    Sarah that song gives me chill bumps every time we sing it! Girl you are too good sometimes. You listen to your body as well as your heart, God will show you. My love and prayers are with you❤️ Thank you for your blogs!

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