5 Things I’m Learning in a Relapse

1.) The objective is to nurture and care for body in its suffering, not to “fix” it

What I’m learning most of all is our need to be compassionate with ourselves. Our pains and illnesses are our body sharing with that there is something disruptive going on inside, and it hurts. We need to tend to that cry, not panic and desperately searching for ways to silence the pain immediately. It’s like a hurting friend who wants to share their burden with you. Sometimes they need you to listen and respond with love. Because much as we want to fix it, we often set expectations beyond our control, search tirelessly (or more accurately, tiring-ly!) for the right treatment plan and cure, and find ourselves hurt and disappointed when that treatment plan doesn’t completely restore us to a state of complete balance and restoration. We end us putting more stress on ourselves than we had before rather than taking care of ourselves and keeping on our attention on how to soothe, restore, and heal our bodies. And sometimes, we even believe the lie that there’s something wrong with us as people rather than seeing ourselves as a whole people who are suffering with something out of their control. The objective is never to give up, or to stop trying new things, but to nurture, care for, and gently uplift the body rather than mute the pain.

2.) Rest is productive

This is a big lesson for a little sentence. How can we rest when we feel that little voice telling us that we should be doing something, working on something, achieving something? I’m learning that sometimes all it takes is a deep breath and the voice of love to respond with a plain and simple, “Rest is productive”. Oh, it is well with our souls. When our bodies and our minds are exhausted, swimming in pain, and just can’t find the strength to “do” something, pushing it our of pride will only deteriorate our wellness and set us back even farther. Rest is productive. Rest restores us. Rest replenishes us. Rest gives us a break from the hurry and the lies of success and reminds us of what it truly means. Rest lets us recuperate so we can be of true service rather than pouring out a watered down and weary version of our love and light. Rest gives us a break from the noise of who we should be so we can be refreshed again and reminded of who we truly are. And rest, my friends, rest is sometimes the bravest thing you can do, because rest is faith that life can be beautiful and dreams can come true right here, without striving to be someone or somewhere else.

3.) Reflect on and celebrate improvements, even the tiniest of them

This lesson is a fun one! How sweet it is to stop and celebrate the tiny steps forward and see how far they’ve brought us. It can be easy to look ahead, seeing how far we have to go or all the places we wish to someday be, but oh, how very important it is that we stop and reflect on all the wonder and love and recovery happening right here, right now.

4.) Everyone has a breaking point

It’s easy to think we “should” be able to handle more. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves or begin to grieve when we feel old symptoms resurfacing, have an emotional breakdown, find ourselves in an unpleasant mood, or return to a bad habit long conquered. But the truth is, we all have a limit to what we can take, and we all have a breaking point. It’s part of being human. We can only be pushed so far, and the perfect combination of stress can deplete absolutely anyone, sick or well. We all have a breaking point, a point where our bodies crash on us and can take no more. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but certainly something to be tended to. It’s our bodies’ way of letting us know it needs some serious rest and recovery!

5.) Listen to your body lovingly

I think this last little lesson wraps the rest of them up. Listening to our bodies is key. Our symptoms will only get louder and louder until we listen to them, and we surely must do it with love and with a message of hope.

 

I hope these little lessons sit well with your soul if you, too, are in a harder time with your illness. Please feel free to comment and let me know what lessons you’re learning (or have learned)!

Pain, an Invitation to Hope

I’m compelled by the beauty of those who have walked down broken pathways but still lift their eyes to a horizon of hope before them. I’m compelled by the people that have shaped their scars into stories that tell of a merciful, loving, compassionate God in the midst of a weary and broken world. Their light humbles me, because it shines the light of a love that’s far greater than anything life could hand us. It’s something grown, something tended, and something far greater than anything we stumble upon. Yes, it’s far more than that, it’s something formed.

Pain changes things. Even more, pain changes how we see things. Pain, I’m learning, can be the greatest invitation to hope that we’ve ever received. Pain is loud and its presence cannot be overlooked, but it’s amazing the way it responds to hope. Pain doesn’t scream and shout in the midst of hope, it speaks kindly of a healing and redemption and love. Pain heals when it meets hope. Pain isn’t the completion of things, pain isn’t the end of the story. I see it in the light of those who walk through dark valleys but know they’re only passing through. I see it in the light of those who are not afraid when the winds and waves rush through their lives, for they know that love can never be shaken or taken or diluted. I see it in the people who use their scars as invitations to others with fresh wounds, letting them know that healing exists even in the midst of brokenness and pain. Pain, I’ve found, isn’t always lifted this side of heaven. But pain is never useless. It’s not the pain itself so much as the way it’s shaped our stories. It’s not the pain we feel so much as the lessons and the growth and the healing that it opens us up into. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that some of the greatest fruits –compassion, and forgiveness, and love, and hope—are the things that are not found, but grown. They’re rare because of the process we must grow them through. I’ve found that heartache and loss and sickness and grief don’t stop there, they grow to become empathy, and compassion, and love, and gentleness, and patience, and understanding, and generosity, and selflessness, if only we let them. And when you stumble upon a person who lets them, my goodness, they will take your breath away. You will be knocked off of your feet in the midst of their beauty, because they are shining the beauty of our Lord.

Hope and a Future {Coffee for Your Heart}

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Today Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart writing prompt was about encouragement that our hearts need to hear. It’s so sweet and so special to me that as I sat to write a post about hope for a future, Holley’s post was on the very same thing. With such special timing I can’t help but pause and savor the sweetness of the moments God reminds us we never walk alone.

Today I’m reminded that we must fight to keep our eyes before us, always waiting with a gracious hope that believes in the light even when it only flickers from a distance. Today I’m reminded that we must look to the horizon instead of the raging waters. There is a bright future beyond a gloomy place; there is a hope beyond this aching. It’s easy to believe that things will always be this way, but today is fresh and new and leading us to a place that once again blossoms. Today may look an awful lot like yesterday, but it’s brand new and even if it frightens us to the core, we can bravely look at the day unfolding and say with faith, This is the day that the Lord has made, and I believe He will fill it with the wonders of His love.
He draws near to us with tenderness and compassion, in the aching and in the unfolding. Though we may not see how, there is a future full of hope and full of love unfolding for us day by day. May we find the courage to believe this today and always.

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To The Ones That Inspire {Coffee For Your Heart}

This week Holley shared a writing prompt for a post on who inspires her readers most. While Holley is certainly high on my list, I thought this would be a very lovely opportunity to share a post about some of my dear friends and partners through the battle of illness. They inspire me every day with their brave and tender hearts.

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Kathryn is easy to write love letters about. She’s faithful and silly and sweet and gracious and kind. She’s the kind of person who can send you a card or a text at just the right time with just the right words, so perfectly warm and timely that it feels like she just gave your heart a big, warm hug, even if she’s miles and miles away. She’s spunky but in the sweetest and softest of ways. Her spirit is so faithful, kind, cheerful, and upbeat despite overwhelming pain. I wholeheartedly adore her. Something she says that touches me and reiterates in my heart each day is, “The worse it gets, the greater the redemption will be.” No matter how much pain she faces, she finds a way to believe it will make the healing even sweeter. Her courage and bravery inspire me every day.

Kelly is so full of life that she glows with joy and kindness. Her smile is as bright as her love. She’s the kind of person who sparks smiles and warms hearts. Her faith is strong and her trust in God’s plan is radiantly clear! She’s authentic, honest, and genuine. Despite her battle with severe illnesses, she’s shared the little energy she has to spare with fellow sufferers. She shares her story through her blog and creates upbeat and encouraging videos on topics that sufferers struggle with, and she’s been completely transparent about the dark sides of chronic pain, too. That is something so brave to do. She even has a cute little Etsy shop where she sells her handmade heating-pad covers, key chains, spoons, and jars of hope. Kelly is a true inspiration for those around her. I’m so thankful to have crossed paths with such a beautiful soul.

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Fiona has such a faithful heart. She has devoted much to serving others despite her own trials with chronic illness. She is an administrator for a large online community group for Christians with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Although that is task enough, she also connects individually with other suffers and supports them in loving kindness. Experiencing this is truly touching. Reading Fiona’s words is so revitalizing. She shares encouragement in a very clear and trustworthy way. I admire her strength in staying true to Biblical roots and sharing empathy with those around her.

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{You can join in the Coffee For Your Heart fun at Holley’s site! Stop on by with the picture-link above 🙂 }

You’re Not Alone {Coffee For Your Heart}

Holley has the sweetest little link-up going on on her blog right now, it’s called Coffee For Your Heart. Every week, readers and bloggers and friends meet together sharing posts about a topic Holley picks to prompt us to write encouraging words to others. It’s magical to see people come together sharing encouragement, love, and kindness each week. This week, her Coffee For Your Heart topic is “You’re Not Alone”. It’s really a beautiful thing to talk about, something I don’t think we say so much as assume sometimes. “You’re not alone” can be one of those unspoken truths, whispered in the embrace of a loved one of the laughter of a friend or the smile of a family member. It’s even gently spoken in the wagging of a puppy’s tale. But it’s something we can forget to say to each other. This week I’m remembering just how far a thoughtful card, a call, and even an email from a loved one can go. There’s enough love in small gestures to brighten a gloomy day, to bring a smile to a face and to a heart, and to let someone know you’re along side them. It’s a gift to give and to receive such loving kindness. I think we’re made to share love, not just on special occasions but on Wednesdays, too. Holley asks us to write about what we need to hear when we feel alone. I think what we need to hear is sometimes unspoken. We need to hear laughter, a heaping mix of our own and a loved one’s. We need to hear songs that are brave enough to break the silence and sing about hope in the midst of pain. We need to hear the phone ring. We need to hear the doorbell ring. We need to hear the voices of loved ones. But there are words, too, and I think that they are this: We are more loved than we can understand by a God big and bold and beautiful enough to fill our every loneliness. He sees our emptiness and longs to flow through those places with eternal love. We are loved. We get stuck in moments and feel that they define us, that they tell us who we are and where we are going, but we are part of a bigger story. Hope is bigger than this moment. In time this aching will pass and when we look back we will remember the joy and love and friendship that traveled with us. It will shine brighter than the memories of pain. Gratitude will shape us. Redemption will win. We can rest knowing God holds not only our hearts, but our lives too. And while we are on this side of heaven, we are given a family. We are all in this human experience together. We’re here together on this roller-coaster ride of life. We all ache in the shadows of loneliness and we all beam with delight in the presence of love ones. We’re made to share life together. We’re not meant to strive for a life of independence; it hardens our hearts to our needs and the needs of those around us. We’re made to be sincere and tender and authentic, even to our neediness. We’re made to share. We’re made for the warmth of embraces and the jokes of friendship and the joy of companionship and the heart-healing grace of fellowship. We’re made to give and we’re made to receive. It’s okay to ask for help. Life isn’t something we’re meant to walk through alone. I pray that you won’t believe the lie that you should be tougher, that you should be able to experience life without aching in loneliness. Your tenderness and love are sweet treasures. They deserve to be met with love and light from God and others, and I pray that you will see that illuminating you each and every day. You’re not alone in this. There are people who feel the things you feel, they have empathy and compassion and tenderness for your wounds. Please don’t hide away in the shadows. There is sunshine for you, turn to its warmth.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;

~Isaiah 40:11

 

{If you are feeling alone and in need of support, InCourage Community Groups are hosting two online community groups for chronic illness, HOPE for Chronic Illness and Living With Chronic Illness. Take a peak! You never know what gift may come out of a special group. If you’d like to read Holley’s You’re Not Alone post, you can by clicking here.}

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When Exhaustion Feels Like Hopelessness

If you’ve felt the heaviness of exhaustion pull upon your body,

And felt depletion so burdening it began to speak into your heart…

If exhaustion has brought such heaviness to your eyes that you cannot lift them up to see the glow of hope,

And it has blurred images of pain into realities of despair…

If you’ve felt bruised by sorrow and feel tirelessly tired,

Please let me share this light with you:

Exhaustion and hopeless can feel strikingly similar when severe.

Oh, what a freeing truth this was for me; I hope it will be as freeing for you.

When exhaustion weighs so heavily that you feel it speak louder than your hope,

Please listen. Not to the despair, but to your body as it confides its aches and pains with you.

Please hear your body as it tells you it cannot take anymore.

It’s time for rest.

Rest well, sweet friend. Let sleep replenish you; let rest revive you.

Remember despair comes as an stowaway,

Don’t let your exhaustion be its host.

For weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning {Psalm 30:5)

Rest revives as God redeems.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” ~Matthew 11:28-30

When You Feel You’ve Exhausted The Search of a Cure

Have you ever been graced with a sweet moment of companionship within a Bible story? A moment where the story relates to you so deeply you feel as if God was speaking to you through it? It’s such a lovely kind of moment. A sense of awe wraps your heart as your souls relaxes into the peace of His presence. A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the tale, but Mark shares a few special details that melted my heart. Let me share:

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. (Mark 5:25-29)

As the story continues, Jesus turns around in the crowd in search of the woman. When they meet, he tells her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Do you ever feel like this woman? Going from doctor to doctor, trying medicine after medicine and remedy after remedy, trying diets and herbs and supplements, traveling to specialists, having lists of tests, but never finding a cure? I find this story deeply encouraging for a few reasons and I hope you will, too. This woman is certainly an inspirational testament of faith, as she has suffered for many years yet still kept hopeful and faithful, even among disappointments. But another beautiful thing is that God’s love is so transforming that it doesn’t matter how complicated or hopeless our diseases seem this side of heaven, He can cure each of them instantly. He didn’t give this woman a form to fill out about her symptoms and ask her about her diagnosis. He sure didn’t need to do that! She believed, He loved, and healing came at once. It certainly doesn’t mean we should stop trying our treatments, because surely He can use those for His good, too! But it does mean that even if we try and try and nothing seems to help, it’s never hopeless, for He will come again and all pain and sorrow will fall away. So we take our supplements and try our treatments and see our doctors and trust that healing can come in any way, but we know that even if it takes longer than we expected, we’re drawing nearer and nearer each and every day.

Art in the Heart

Hello dear readers,

It has been such a sweet gift to connect with you over these last few months. I am so heart-warmed by this opportunity to share with you, and so thankful to get to know many of you throughout this time. Unfortunately, writing every week is beginning to be a bit too exhausting for my current state of health, so I am going to have to space things out just a bit longer. Will you join me every other Monday afternoon instead? I look forward to seeing you then 🙂

On this note {the note of having to set energy limits} I’d like to share some wise words with you that the dear Holley Gerth shared with me. They have been a treasure for me, and I hope they become the same for you. She said:

When you’re not writing or talking, you’re still actually in the writing process because you’re thinking and listening with your heart. So that time is really valuable.

It took me a long time to realize that when I’m putting words on paper it’s only one little piece of being a writer. Most of it happens quietly in my heart. So remind yourself that in the times when you can’t produce anything you’re still being very productive.

Is there a way this little quote is true for you today? Maybe there is some sort of art, some sort of purpose, some sort of dream in your heart that is growing and developing, even if you don’t always feel physically well enough to work on it. The beauty of growth and of art is simply that; it is honest and existent even in restful moments because it isn’t only achieved through manual labor. Sometimes attention, contemplation, imagination, and ideas are equally powerful (and certainly always equally beautiful). They lead us to places we couldn’t see or touch or even dream of otherwise. They help us reflect, release, and expand. Rest in this today, sweet friend, and I will do the same.

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

What if the true artistic work is being fully ourselves in the presence of others?

What if the book, the painting, the meal, the presentation were all simply evidence of a deeper art happening within the soul of an artist?

Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are. ~Emily Freeman

A Sprinkle of Quotes to Inspire You Today

  • Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. ~Nido Qubein
  • Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. ~John Wooden
  • If Jesus heals instantly, praise Him. If Jesus heals gradually, trust Him. When Jesus heals ultimately, you will understand. ~Max Lucado
  • Don’t deny the diagnosis. Try to defy the verdict. ~Norman Cousins
  • When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow. ~Shauna Niequist
  • But here’s what I do know: even though you feel forgotten, you are not. Even though you feel broken, redemption is waiting. And even though you feel trapped, someday, you will be loosed from your chains. You deserve better, and you were made to love and be loved. ~Lauren | TWLOHA
  • Dear one, life is hard. Opposition is huge. Circumstances will inevitably happen in all our lives that will defy all discipline, determination, and conviction. Love keeps burning when everything else disintegrates in an ashen heap. Pray for this one thing more than you pray for your next breath. I am convinced love is everything. ~Beth Moore, The Beloved Disciple
  • True Recovery – God is coming. He has not abandoned us, and he never will. Yes, the pain of life is sometimes too intense to be borne. But when from that place we cry out to Jesus to save us, the heavens rejoice, the demons tremble in defeat, and the Holy Spirit who is closer than our skin transforms us. Jesus is inviting us to recover those parts of ourselves we have tried to hide or lop off in hopes of being more acceptable. God wants us to love him with all of our hearts. God has purchased all our freedom with his blood. Including the portions of our personalities we would like to change, the dreams long buried, and the wounds we have ignored. They are being kissed awake by the Holy Spirit. Come alive, my Beloved. Awaken. Remember. Jesus has come to heal us and restore us to himself, to others, and even to ourselves. ~Brooke Boon
  • So let your heart get quiet today. Breath deep and know you are where you’re supposed to be. You don’t have to validate your existence or your importance. God has already done so. And it’s in the quiet that you can best hear him say what your heart truly longs for most, what no other words or dream or accomplishment can ever replace… “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! — Jesus {Matt. 25:21}” ~Holley Gerth

When You Need A Little Courage to Share Your Struggles

I hope this week you are touched by the freedom of being honest about your struggles,

And feel the value in sharing your heart and all its beauty, vulnerability, and authenticity.

I hope your openness is met with genuine comfort, support, and acceptance from those dearest to you,

And you are offered listening ears and open arms and that your heart is greeted with the soft but powerful whisper,

“Your story is significant.”

I hope that whisper casts a ripple effect that reaches each part of your being, refreshing it with the truth of your worth.

I hope you feel no shame in your pain,

But feel the triumph of grace overwhelm even the shadowiest valleys of your soul.

For you may walk through the valley with no fear of danger, for He is with you.

I hope you find relief from the burden you’re carrying, and feel how honesty alleviates suffering.

Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear.

I pray we find the courage to be open, and the grace to meet others with the same compassion we wish for in return.

“For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” ~Isaiah 49:13