A better me because of GBS

Someone asked me recently, if I could turn back time, would I go through this year again? The answer obviously is no way but I wouldn’t trade the lessons I have and continue to learn because of the story I now can tell about what it means to journey through adversity. I wear a wristband that simply says Transformed. I put it on back in the spring of 2018 after the Ravi Zacharias talk that Advanced Native Mission sponsored. Little did I know what this word would come to me for me less than a year later. They took it off me in the hospital and in rehab I replaced it for a bit with one that said “I Can I Will I Believe”

Not sure who or where I go it but it reminded me of what a Doctor friend said to me when I was first diagnosed. “God loves you, You will get worse before you get better, You are in the best place to be treated, and You will get better” From that moment, focused on yes i can get better because I believe. Not just because the doctors said so but because there was never a doubt God was going to be with me every step of the way. As I have written here before, I renamed my recovery the “180 Project” because I had two goals. 1) to do a complete turnaround physically while I got back into shape and 2) I wanted to my weight to once again be in the 180’s preferably 185) where it hadn’t been in a very long time. #1 has been accomplished and #2 is in sight. The Transformed wristband pictured here is back on my left arm but for different reasons than when I first put it on almost 2 years ago.

What I hadn’t spent much time on was how I would change as a person because of my Guillain Barre Syndrome diagnosis. The scripture tells us, in 2nd Corinthians 5;17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! I now claim this verse in a whole new way. Romans 12:2 says, ” Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Guillain Barre Syndrome certainly put me through the test of accepting God’s will. As I have shared here before, I am grateful and out of that gratitude, I have chosen the word Generosity for 2020. I want to pay forward what others have done for us while I was sick and as I work toward a full recovery. Even this morning, two women in my church came up and shared how my renewed health has encouraged them in their own faith. What a blessing that was to me. That would be enough but there is so much more that is happening. My mind is being renewed and with that I am promised a new and better version of Michael Guthrie. Someone who realized how fortunate he is to be better but more importantly to have so many people in my life who truly care about me and my family. That fact is not lost on me and as the writer of Philippians shares, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it” and my own finish to this verse, but because of my own suffering and the adversity I faced, I am moving toward that ultimate goal of being the best version of myself through God’s grace and His mercy. As my brother Kevin reminds me often, “a little bit better each and every day”

I am Thankful for all Things but especially my Proverbs 31 woman

I have started paraphrasing scripture while recovering from Guillain Barre Syndrome. It has helped me practically apply the verses that speak out to me. Proverbs 31 came to mind when thinking about what my wife, Dottie. Her support has been incredible over this last year and our marriage is stronger now than ever before. Here is what her sister shared about Dottie being a Proverbs 31 woman.

Dottie epitomized the proverbs 31 woman before you were sick. While you were sick she perfected the role. Dottie has always showed her strength of character as a wife and mother. Family first always providing and sacrificing for them.

Food… for a skinny girl who really does not like to eat she plans and prepares nutritious food for her loved ones. Food for you was a priority for Dottie when you were in rehab and coming home.

No idle hands… sewing lettering reading studying

She is clothed in strength and dignity…Dottie  always can handle tough situations Stronger than she knows

She speaks with wisdom… Listens and speaks wisdom Dottie thinks about what she is going to say and how it should be said Takes notes to help her remember what to ask the dr’s therapist when you were in rehab

She has the support, love and admiration of her children and husband.

She fears the lord   Studies and prioritizes her relationship with God

What follows are verses from Proverbs 31 with quotes in bold type from others who watched and wrote me about how God has made Dottie into someone quite special.

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  She allowed her heart to love you more through adversity. She dug deep. She allowed herself to entertain the worst possibility “What if he dies” and then moved on and fought each day. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She stayed in the moment and was determined not to let her thoughts get ahead of her, knowing that being present for Michael would best serve them both — a most generous and loving illustration of “in sickness and in health.” 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. I saw that same adoring face many times. Now, along with that face I witnessed her strong faith-filled, gracious, clear thinking advocacy and encouragement for Michael. the gift of faithful presence. Sitting. Watching. Holding space for God to do his work.  13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.  She also read and entertained herself in those long days. She adjusted to each change in venue. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  Dottie was organized at the hospital and at home an delegated when she could not be both places 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers but Dottie allowed love ones to help her care for you and her 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.  She loved on each staff member. She shared you with your family and with your friends. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  Dottie’s tenderness, grace, and love shone brightly but beneath that surface was a fierce and determined protector. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Dottie used her keen mind to listen and learn all things medical pertaining to you 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  she kept the unknown future at bay by  savoring each of Michael’s accomplishments no matter how small it might seem and focusing on the immediate needs of the coming day She did it really well-with grace and mercy. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  She believed her God for good. She stayed in high alert mode for months. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; Dottie allowed the kids to deal with Michael”s illness in their own way. She never made them feel they weren’t doing enough. her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” She was intentional in caring for her own primary needs, sleep nutrition and spiritual encouragement from friends.  30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Most of all Dottie kept her focus and trust on God. She continually gathered and processed available information — through the daytime and in the quiet of evening. I treasure the moments we spent together during our visits especially our evening talks, reviewing the day’s milestones and looking ahead to what might unfold during the next day or weeks.   31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. My words now. I honor and cherish her for every day giving me peace and a the words from her friends say, her care for me brought praise from all who witnessed it.

Tips we learned on how to visit well.

As promised in my last blog post, Here are a few lessons Dottie and I learned about visiting a patient. 1) Visitors make a huge difference in helping the person and those who are caring for them not feel like they are alone. 2) If the person stays on your mind, take the time to reach out. Don’t think they have so many others coming by they did need you to come. Case in point, I visited someone today and I was the 1st person who had come. If you are unsure, check in with someone close to the patient to see if they are up for visitors. A particular day might not be good but they can tell you a date and time that works. A side note-having someone as your gatekeeper really helps. That way you don’t have folks coming by when you are tired or just needing a break. Most patients are encouraged by visitors but get worn out because they oomph themselves up when others stop by. Creating signs to put on the door is a great idea. Signs like; “Michael is sleeping, please come by later” “Michael is at PT/OT having tests, please try and come by another time.” “2-4 is rest time, please come by after 4”. Have a note pad on the door so folks can you let you know they tried to visit. 3) When you visit, look at your watch and only stay 10-15 minutes. Keep it short and make it about the person who you are comforting and the people there to care for them. Think of the word LAP. Listen, Ask questions, Pray Do not be one of those people who talks about what happened to you or over stays your welcome. Ask, “would it be OK if I stopped by again in a couple of days?” “When is the best time to visit?” I had a few folks that wanted to know when my PT was so they could come cheer me on. Another side note-If you have procedures out of your room, make sure you have someone set up to accompany you to other parts of the hospital. It meant so much to me to have someone there especially during the times I couldn’t move. There were times that whatever they did got finished and then I would wait alone for as much as a half an hour. I always wanted someone there waiting with me. 4) Don’t feel like you need to take a gift but if you are so inclined, here are some things people did for us that were pretty cool.

  • Get to the hospital a bit early and buy a gift card to the cafeteria/coffee area. Give it to the patient so that family members who are staying with them don’t have to pay when they need something to eat or drink
  • If you know several folks who know the patient, take up a collection and buy a GrubHub card. That way, they can order food from outside the hospital.
  • Buy bagels and coffee for the hospital staff who are taking care of the person.
  • Buy a bunch of snacks that can be left in the hospital room. This is great for those who are staying at the hospital and again for those who are caring for the patient. See previous blog post “it only takes a cookie” 🙂 https://thankfulinallthings.com/things-happen-for-a-reason-and-good-things-can-come-from-it-all-because-of-a-cookie/

The art of visiting…You might not think it makes a difference but it does!

 

The “least of these” refers to those in a variety of needy situations. They include the hungry, thirsty, impoverished, sick, and imprisoned. In this context, Jesus is speaking to those who were following Him wanting to know how to be considered righteous. Obviously in my case, it had to do with visiting this guy who was fighting back from Guillain Barre Syndrome. If you are finding the blog for the first time read back through some of the posts. You will see that one of the reasons I am Thankful in All Things is the outpouring of support we received and continue to receive from so many people. I have recently returned from a nice vacation where I took the time to read every card that was sent to me. I also have been reading through the notebook Dottie used to chronicle the highlights and the lowlights 🙂 of each day of my journey through adversity. So many folks took time out of their days to check in to say hello, encourage, drop something by, and pray for us. What also is obvious is many others who could not visit prayed regularly, took the time to write a note or make a comment on the caring bridge site. https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie The visits and cards along with the comments have given me and Dottie the support we need to battle back from this crazy malady resulting from an auto immune disorder which wreaked havoc on my nerve system ultimately making me unable to move. This brings me back to the passage “we are to do this for the least of these.”

People taking the time to visit me in the hospital, rehab, and in the early weeks recovering at home, gave me a new appreciation for how important it is to do it. It has never been easy for me. There are many times I never went even though I knew I should. I would send a card, email, or text but somehow find a way not to actually go and be present with the person who was sick. I can’t explain why but I am guessing many who read this blog have had the same dilemma. I can honestly say that even though I still find it hard, I now feel compelled to go. Why? Because I know it can make a difference. The question is what is the best way to go about visiting someone in need? It is so easy to say, ” I am not very good at it” or ” I am sure I will just be in the way.” Believe me. Neither of these are reasons not to try and comfort or encourage someone. Your willingness to go and not overstay your welcome can be life giving. In my blog post, I will share some tips from Dottie and my personal experiences on how to allow God to use you well as you strive to care for those who need it. As Nike would encourage, “Just do it!” But do it with sensitivity.

A chance to hear a little bit of my story

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

If you are a regular follower of this blog, it will come as no surprise when I write “we absolutely need others’ support and encouragement along the journey.” I can’t imagine doing this on my own. It has been the biggest lesson I have learned in my recovery from Guillain Barre Syndrome. I was time and time again “comforted in my affliction” and it has given me a new purpose to bring comfort to others so that “they may be comforted. Many of you have asked me to share my story not just from a faith perspective but also as to how this relates to reaching your full potential in life. I have been asked to speak to Realtors, college fellowships, sports teams, real estate/auto management teams, and men’s fellowship groups. I have learned in a new way that GBS has given me a platform because of what I have gone through. You can get the back story of my health challenge that started March 1st by going to https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie/journal Posted below is a talk I gave back in November where I dig deeper into how we are called to help each other using the story of Jesus raising Lazurus from the dead (John 11). In this story we realize that Lazurus can only be freed from his dead clothes with the help of others. I also talk about the four friends who bring a paralyzed man so that Jesus can heal him (John 2). Jesus tells them that the man was healed because of their faith not the one who needed healing. My hope is that it will help you see why I am trying to be “Thankful in All Things” and that if we want to reach our full potential we need the encouragement of others.

grateful for this wonderful family who played a huge role in my recovery.
Some of the many people who time and time again showed up for me and Dottie as we fought back from what has been the biggest challenge of our lives.

What does it mean to be made new?

I heard a sermon yesterday where the pastor preached on 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. It talks about how through our trusting in the Lord, we are made a new creation. We are given the opportunity for our lives to be transformed. My recovery from Guillain Barre has given me a new appreciation for what that means. I have thought a great deal and now have written about how my life has changed because of my auto immune system going haywire in late February/early March of 2019. This morning in a devotional written by Randy Wolff he talked about how a friend of his is handling suffering. It communicates exactly what I have been trying to articulate over these last few months.  “Suffering woke me up! I am fully awake and aware of new lessons being learned daily. I just knew about the lessons before. Now I really know priority and who to depend upon.”Sometimes we all need suffering to make us fully awake and alive. I am now convinced of this truth. I have more faith because of what I have experienced.” This quote is exactly why I started this blog. I want to choose and encourage others to be thankful in all things, good or bad.

Sometimes we all need suffering to make us fully awake and alive.

What follows is the way I paraphrased 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 to personalize it for me. “Since my bout with Guillain Barre Syndrome I now know what it is to fear the Lord and why I now feel compelled to persuade others to do the same. I am not trying to commend myself to you but am touched and humbled by folks saying my faith and fight has been an inspiration. I am thankful that my recovery has given me an opportunity to answer those who dwell on what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. Christ’s love and the love shown to me and Dottie is what compelled us, because we are convinced that the one who died for all, Jesus, met us in what was indeed a nadir moment. So from now on I will strive to regard nothing from a worldly point of view. Though I believed Christ would be our rock no matter what, I now know it to be true. I speak boldly that Therefore, since I know I am in Christ, the new creation has come both physically and spiritually. I am learning the old has gone and because of what I have and am going through, a new me is here!  I am ,therefore, Christ’s ambassador, and God has given me a platform to make His appeal to you through me. I write to implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. Why? Because one never knows when adversity will come your way and you definitely want God at your side when it does.” God has showed up time and time again for me which has given me renewed confidence in a promise I have always known to be true and now has been verified.

My One Word for 2020 will be ……..?

Several years ago I read a book titled, One Word. It was written by my friends Dan Britton and Jimmy Page with help from well known author Jon Gordon. It is quite simple. It provides you a “how to” on how to boil the upcoming year into a One Word focus. You spend time thinking about where you are in your life and what One Word can help you become a better you in the coming year. If you have been a follower of my story here, you know 2019 was quite the year. If you are finding this blog for the first time, you can read previous posts here or go to https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie to find out about my year dealing with Guillain Barre Syndrome. The journey I embarked on 10 months ago was one I never expected when I made the decision to choose Prayer for my One Word focus in 2019. I chose prayer because of my desire to be more diligent in my own prayer life. I wanted to trust God more and felt through an enhanced prayer life, i would draw closer to Him as I watched how my prayers would be answered for me and for the others who i committed to pray for regularly. Instead, through my illness, I learned that I was the one who would need everyone else’s prayers. I can’t even number how may folks lifted Dottie and me up not just once but over and over again. The bible says, “Make your requests know to God and you will experience a peace unknown to man” . It also says, “the prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail” . I am grateful for the multiple of people who have consistently prayed for me and my family from Day one and throughout my continued recovery. There is no doubt that it has given me the power and strength to prevail. My renewed health is an answer to those prayers and for that I am thankful. This thankfulness leads me back to what my One Word will be for 2020. and that word is……..

Generosity! It is my turn to give back. I look back and am astounded by how many people stepped up to care for the Guthrie crew. I have written about this in previous posts. The list of these acts of kindness have continued and are much appreciated. This year I want to be intentional in my generosity. True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. By its very definition, I want to be a someone who “shows a readiness to give more of something (like money or time) than is expected” like so many have done for me. My One Word is Generosity but I want my focus each day to be a commitment to RISE UP! It reminds and exhorts me to be Resolved Intentional Striving for Extraordinary things with Unbelievable/Unique Purpose/Passion

There is so much hurt and struggle in our world. So much of it makes no sense at all so we become discouraged and cave in to the thought process that there is nothing we can do. My hope is you will join me in Rising Up with a desire to make a difference in your part of the world. If 2019 taught me nothing else, it taught me one’s generosity can make a positive impact as time and time again, it sure impacted mine. Happy New Year everyone!

There are gifts and then there are Gifts

A while ago, I paraphrased Isaiah 43:1,2 as they were balm to my soul as I recovered from Guillain Barre. “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Michael.  he who formed you and created you to be His. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the adversity that challenges you,  I will be with you; and when you pass through weakness and discouragement, You will not be overcome. As you struggle with infirmities, you will not be devastated. I will protect you and lift you up.” 

This verse came to mind again this week as we celebrated Christmas. I have indeed passed through a time of real adversity and know without a doubt that God was with me in the midst of the challenge which time and time kept me from discouragement. What does this have to do with Christmas? It is certainly not just the stockings hung from the mantle with care.

Many know that the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. I think this is why Advent this year brought new meaning for me. You see, I had my own season of waiting in anticipation that I would one day move again. Jesus came saying He would become like light in the darkness. I felt His presence as well while I went through the dark time of waiting on being able to move again much less walking out of rehab two months ahead of schedule on April 25th, 2019.

So this Advent season, I waited with expectation because I was filled with joy and gratitude that like Jesus being born on Christmas, my Lord showed up in my life as He did for all of us more than 2000 years ago. Therefore, it was not about the gifts that were opened but the love that each gift represented for me. You see, I am grateful for the gift of slowly but surely getting better. The good news is my PT says she will get me back to 100%. The bad news is I will still be 67 and not 40 🙂 Therefore, the gift I am trying to give to my wife, kids, and grandkids is me being the best me I can be spiritually and physically. That way, I hope to be a person of encouragement to those around me for as long as the Lord allows. Being a light for those who are facing adversities in their own lives. My verse for 2020 will be 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ” I hope in some way I this blog post has done that for some of you so like Jesus, we can all carry the light into this world.

Being forced to learn how to “Be Still and know that He is God”

Give yourself a wonderful present this Holiday. Stop for a Holy pause. 

This Christmas, Make a decision to shut yourself down for a bit. Removing yourself from the endless noise and commotion to quietly engage your heart with His. Experience His stillness, His peace for our panic, and His joy vs our irritability. I read and have paraphrased these words this morning from an Our Daily Prayer devotional. If we are honest with ourselves, taking a holy pause is not easy. Just stopping to relax or as some say “take a chill pill” takes work. Stopping and just breathing deep…takes practice. “Be still and know that I am God” is a commandment for all od us. Why? Because slowing down takes work. Stopping and just breathing deep…takes practice. I was forced to learn this the hard way when fighting Guillain Barre Syndrome. I had no choice but to be still. I pretty much couldn’t move for 15 days and then only bit by bit for another month. Although much better, I still have to rest midday and call it a day much earlier in the evening than before GBS. In this stillness, I found God in a way I had never experienced Him before. I was forced to learn what it felt like to let go of everything. Thankfully, I found the peace that Phillippians 4 talks about. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I also confirmed my faith and gave me hope in things not seen as written in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I do not want to go back there. It was an incredibly difficult time. But, now that my life is returning to a somewhat normal routine, I try and conjure back the feeling of not being able to do anything but Be Still. Maybe this is why the Advent Season seems more meaningful than others. Because I was forced to stop and marvel at the wonders of His love.

My prayer is that you will take time over this holiday to just Abide in Him. Stop worrying about what you accomplish but instead, allow yourself to just let go and trust the God who loves you. Let His goodness flow over you so that you can be the one He has created you to be. May it be your prayer that by stopping to count your many blessings you will be able to revel in the wonders of His love. O Come O Come Emmanuel  https://youtu.be/XFnQ70myUeI

Learning to receive makes you a better giver

If this is your first time here I hope you will take the time to read previous blog posts or visit www.caringbridge.com/visit/michaelguthrie to learn about this blog came to be.

There are two streams of thought that I hope I can merge into one river of encouragement for those who have chosen to follow or happen upon this blog. First, I am learning that my guillain barre syndrome health challenge has become a blessing in my life. This experience has strengthened my faith. Joseph in the Old Testament was faced with one trial after another but time after time acknowledged, “The Lord was with me” I did while in the hospital and rehab and continue to experience His presence in my life. Genesis 50:20 paraphrased 🙂 “GBS intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the opportunity to encourage others” John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” The troubles I have gone through have given me a platform to inspire and lead others through whatever it is they are going through. Donald Miller talks about “transitioning from being the hero/inspiration in your story to becoming the guide for others to be heroes in their own stories.” If you were going on a hike or a fishing/hunting trip in some remote area, wouldn’t you want a guide who has been in that location many times before? My back story is being knocked down but not knocked out by my auto immune system going haywire. This meaningful journey through adversity and how I have been able to handle it, has enabled me to help others find their way through as well. Without my faith in God and having so many people offering their help, this would not have been possible which leads me to the second stream of thought. 🙂

I have always been motivated by the thought, “it is better to give than to receive” I hated the fact that I was selfish and still find it distasteful when it raises up in me even now. Christmas always brought this ugly trait out into the forefront. I would sit and watch others open their wonderful gifts but instead of being happy for my brothers, sisters, or my friends, I would always compare what I got and did it measure up to what others got. Focusing on others with a “How can I serve them” mentality diminishes my selfishness along with staying attuned to how blessed I am. I have so much for which to be thankful. Watching people time and time step up to help us in whatever way we needed has allowed me to see how many people really care about us. While not being able to move I was totally dependant on others and as I continue to work hard in hope of a full recovery, people continue to offer their assistance. My point is I now have a new understanding for “It is better to give than receive”. I now know what it feels like to have people visit you when you are sick or in the hospital. Dottie and I have both been recipients of so many acts of kindness that have buoyed us up over these last 9 months so we would not slip into discouragement. They have acted as examples of how to love others well. They have been the guides that God brought to us on our road to recovery at just the right times. We are indeed thankful for all things and it is the reason I call myself blessed. Everyone needs to be reminded that “The Lord is with them” My hope is you will be encouraged to go out and be that reminded for someone you know could use a helping hand.