Another Side of Growth {Through Chronic Illness}

This week, I’ve happened across two posts from some very sweet bloggers, Kaylie and Kelly. Although the content of their posts were not meant to be connected, they came together as one very tender thought deep in my heart. Kaylie shared a powerful yet graceful call to people in their twenties to live intentionally. Kelly shared a tender confession via vlog of how painful it is to be chronically ill and unable to live out ambitions, laced with beautiful hope that our worth is so much more than our productivity. In their contrast, one ached over the burden of able-bodied young men and women who live immaturely and wastefully, and one ached over the burden of physically incapable young men and women who are spiritually and emotionally mature as well as very driven, but physically limited. Their words stirred up the question so familiar to anyone young with a severe chronic illness, “Why is it that we cannot do what we’d love to do, yet others waste the energy we would so dearly treasure?” There’s so many sayings out there that tell me others have faced similar questions. “Life is not fair”, an expression that can be both cold or caring depending on the tone. “Life is not a wish-granting factory”, Augustus Waters painfully says in The Fault in our Stars. And we know these things to be true, but they do not satisfy the aching question deep within. As I pondered the question, opening my heart to Christ’s companionship through the aching, a simplicity washed over my heart reminding me of what it truly means to grow, mature, and live independently — something truly nourishing to reflect on.

The truth is, we have so many opportunities to grow into adulthood, even with the physical limitations and tremendous pain. Some of the most important parts of being an adult are the things that come within. It’s the drive that matters, at the end of the day. Anyone of reasonable age can accomplish physical tasks. It’s something that can be done almost automatically. But truly growing into an adult, embracing the person you are, and living intentionally — that’s something that takes work. And the good news is, it’s work that we can do!

Quite a few things spilled into my mind last night. The more I thought about it, the more that kept flooding in! Continue reading

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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.

When You Feel Like You Can’t Make A Decision

When you feel overwhelmed by simple decisions,

When you can’t make up your mind on even the tiniest of troubles,

When the clock ticks and the minutes pass and you’re still no closer to a decision,

May you feel His gentle peace calm your soul.

May you understand your body’s message that it is exhausted and in pain with so little energy to spare for mental activity like decisions.

May you know there isn’t a harsh consequence to that.

May you take a step back and give yourself a calm space to recollect your thoughts.

Make you take time to breathe deeply to nourish your body with fresh air and sweet grace.

May you take time to rest to recuperate.

May you take the pressure off.

May you feel no shame in asking for help.

If the tears well in your eyes, let them roll down your cheeks.

It’s okay to release.

Just know that there is hope to light the darkness, there is peace to calm the raging fear, and their is grace to redeem each moment.

Rest well, sweet friend.

Week 5: Your Hopes, Your Dreams, And Your Life Still Hold Purpose, Value, And Meaning

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

~Psalm 37:5-6

One of the most beautiful and remarkable things about hopes, dreams, and purposes is that they are so much more than a blossoming future, they have their roots secured in our present life. Often times when we look at our dreams, we see the blissfully blooming flowers of all we desire most. We see our plans, our expectations, our wishes and wants. But beneath those precious dreams are something deeper, sturdier, and stronger; our passion. If we think of a dream like a flower, we could imagine that the petals are our hopeful outcome, and the roots are what they grow and stem from. Or, maybe you could think of your dreams as the moon, and your passion as the sun; brilliantly illuminating it. Our passion is what gives life to our dreams. The exciting thing about passion rooting our dreams is that it means even if our dreams look a little different than we expected when they bloom, they still grew from our authentic, open hearts. If we can get to the root of our dreams, we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and may even come up with some new ideas on how to live out these callings in our hearts without over-extending our energy and burning out along the way.

When we get to the root of our desires, we can embrace creativity, expression, and ministry. In order to do this, we have to be willing to simplify and look at our goals more like a journey than a race. When we revisit our passion, we can channel it in new ways that move us closer to our dreams (and maybe even find some new dreams along the way). Here’s a few examples of how simplifying may look.

Maybe your dream is to be a counselor, but what’s really rooting it is your love of listening to others and offering them your empathy and support. Maybe being a counselor isn’t within your energy range right now, but hosting a small support group (in person or online) for chronically ill people is.

Maybe your dream is to have a family, and what’s really rooting that is your desire to love and care for others deeply and consistently. Maybe you aren’t well enough to nurture a child at this point in time, but maybe you are well enough to adopt an animal from your local animal shelter. Maybe you’re well enough to care for an animal that doesn’t need as much attention as a child but still needs a warm and loving home. Or, maybe you’re able to sponsor a child. Maybe you can help provide expenses for a child that needs financial stability in order to thrive.

Maybe your dream is to doing missions work in areas of poverty, and what’s truly rooting that is your desire to care for the broken and hurting in the world. Maybe you are not well enough to travel far and serve, but maybe you are well enough to join a prayer team or fund-raise for a charity or cause that’s important to you.

It can be hurtful to release dreams that are so dear to our hearts, but the truth is, there are so many ways that we can live out our unique purpose in life. We simply have to be willing to let go of forcing our dreams to look a certain way, and allow them to bud and blossom in God’s way and time. They will. And they never stop growing! If God has called you to a specific ministry, He will always provide a way to fulfill it, and many times our current circumstances are preparing us for our future ministry. If we are open and willing to learn, He will fill us deeply and guide us with love and intention.

Week 4: It’s Okay to Rest; It’s Okay to Need Care

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

In her book, “You’re Already Amazing”, Holley Gerth dedicates a chapter to why it’s okay for us to care for ourselves. She gives us permission to release the lie that “it’s selfish to care for ourselves” and instead, guides us to the truth that we need to care for ourselves so that we have the inner resources to care for those around us. She gives us the imagery of an “emotional bank account” and talks about how it’s so important to balance our deposits and withdrawals. I find her simple explanation so refreshing. It clicks in the way that lights up the eyes and an understanding “ohhhh!” escapes the lips (or, the more comical light-bulb flicking on above the head). When I took time to reflect on this, I noticed just how out of sync my “balance” was, and I fear that you may find the same. It is so easy to overextend our energy balance when each movement costs us valuable energy, but in a way, it is such a powerful little reminder about prioritizing, simplifying, and accepting the here and now so we can return to a state of balance.

I believe, with such joy, that spending time with Christ with an open heart and surrendered spirit leads to us finding true balance. He’s the God of radiant redemption. It’s time to let Him gently take off our masks that say, “I’m fine” and “I should be able to do more”, to let Him lovingly draw near to us and intimately look into the face of His child. Let Him see your authentic soul, He longs to. He knows you need care, and He isn’t disappointed. There is no shame in Christ. No guilt, no earning, no striving, and no condemnation. Especially not for the weak, for it’s the weak He came to rescue (Mark 2:17). We believe many lies that steal our rest and joy, and I believe this deeply saddens our Lord. Our all-loving Jesus knows just how to cleanse us from these lies. He knows how to help us see that it’s not selfish to rest (Matthew 11:28). He knows we don’t need to “do more” because He has already accomplished the true victory (Romans 5:6). He knows how to help us stop striving to please others so vigorously that it leaves us empty (Galatians 1:10-11), and He knows how to fill us up again (John 16:26). He knows how to remove our doubts, insecurities, and anxieties and replace them with peace (John 14:27). And the most beautiful thing He knows how to do is simply to care for you (Luke 12:6-7). I pray that you will let speak truth into your life and spread peace throughout your soul.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

Week One: You Are Not Alone in Your Illness

I was so touched by the opportunity to connect with some of you through my post, 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded. Your kind words and inspirational stories were so moving. Since there was such a meaningful response, I decided to dig deeper into that post and share more with you. For the next few weeks, let’s take another look at why these truths are so significant. Please join me as we discuss one truth each week for the next few weeks! I look forward to sharing this journey with you 🙂

~Week One: You Are Not Alone in Your Illness~

John 16 that has been one of the most comforting Bible chapters for me in my pain. During this chapter, Jesus has been ministering to His disciples about the coming terror of His crucifixion, and preparing them for the overwhelming sorrow they will experience. But in the midst of that, He is promising them His authority to overcome even this horrific death, and reassuring them of the unshakable joy that will thrill their hearts when He returns for them. As I read His words, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I feel hope ignite in my heart and peace soothe my soul. Though I’ve never seen His gentle face, I can vividly imagine the expressions upon it as He spoke. Empathy, hope, loyalty, humility, victory. After sharing His heart with them, offering them His peace, He says,

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

These words have touched and resonated with my aching heart, and I imagine that they must with yours, too. Although we feel truth in this statement for a different reason, many of our hearts can still feel the sting of the pain. You have scattered, each one going your own way, leaving me alone. We have experienced heart-wrenching times of feeling abandoned during our illnesses. But it is not this part of the statement that is so bold, so powerful, so timelessly true as what Jesus says next.

But I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

I truly believe this is one of the greatest truths we can delight our hearts with. I believe this is one of the most powerful truths we can accept in our trials of illness. Let our hearts reflect and hold tightly to this truth. For we are designed to share relationships with other humans, but we are sustained by a relationship with God. Although fellowship delights us and thrills our soul, it is but a taste of what unity with Christ is.

So what does it mean that God is with you in your struggles?

It means that He understands the agony of the pain you are enduring, because He felt these very things.

It means that He hears the cries of your heart as you suffer and is there to soothe you with His peace.

It means He understands the warfare your body is immersed in and has designed a rescue plan for you.

It means that He came before you to conquer death before it could ever touch your precious existence.

It means He has counted each tear that has flowed from your beautiful eyes, and that He knows the day that He will wipe them away and bring you to His eternal sanctuary where there will be no more pain or sorrow or tears.

It means He holds the seeds of faith you have planted in Him and will blossom them into blessings more beautiful than an endless field of fresh flowers.

The sustaining truth of “God with us” is a firm promise that God is able to fill our hearts, minds, bodies and souls with a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). To feel the spirit of His joy dwelling in your heart, despite any circumstance, must be one of the most magical and refreshing feeling known to a believer’s heart. It is positively divine! It’s so awe-striking to be lifted from gloom and sorrow into the shining hope Christ illuminates into our souls.

There are moments when we cannot see or feel or even imagine hope, but it is still alive and active and ready to lift us out of these lonely places. God is ready to wrap you up in His loving kindness. Community exists, companionship exists, family exists, and there is hope for all of these even in the most grueling of illnesses. I cannot word it any more lovely than Jamie Tworkowski has in his vision statement for the movement To Write Love On Her Arms, so I will gratefully share his words with you:

We live in a difficult world, a broken world. We believe everyone can relate to pain, all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.

We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty, but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions—moments, and seasons, and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real and help is real.

You need to know rescue is possible, freedom is possible, God is still in the business of redemption. We’re seeing it happen.

I pray that these words will encourage your heart and sit well with your soul. May you always remember that hope and love are your faithful companions, and you are not alone.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)