Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#ThisIsChronicIllness


"Invisible Illness Awareness Week" this year is September 26 - October 2, 2016




Invisible Illness Awareness is a movement that was started over 10 years ago to encourage us to look around and see with new eyes the way that chronic illness is affecting so many people now-a-days.


According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  about half of all adults in this country have some kind of Chronic Illness, and one in four adults had at least two different chronic illnesses.  Before my own journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis began, I had no idea that so MANY others were affected by these difficulties.  In fact, because of the way that the media promotes fitness and health to our culture, I thought we were generally becoming a MORE healthy people.   After all, MORE people at the gym must equate to MORE health out there, right?

Well, not quite.  Could it be that we are simply unaware of the silent struggles that so many of our friends and co-workers and even family members are facing? It's a risky business to be honest with how one is really feeling these days.  Success gets measured by how many activities we can plan, and by how full our calendars become.  Fake-it-till-you-make-it has become a mantra for those who've learned that no one wants to hear how weak you actually feel.  

Why do we feel that we must maintain this "perfect persona" as we barely limp through each task?  I had a nurse (who had multiple chronic illnesses herself,) tell me that "she doesn't have time to be ill."  Really?  How sad that statement reflects upon us as a people.  

When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was given very little information.  A diagnosis, a brief explanation, and a slew of prescriptions were supposed to carry me through till the next month's appointment.  "Do you have any more questions?" the Doctor asked.  Well, yes, actually . . . "What questions am I supposed to know to ask about? And where do I even begin to understand this disease?"   But of course, I didn't say that, I just picked up my prescriptions and headed out in a daze into a world that had just shifted to a new axis.

It wasn't until my next diagnosis came, a year later, and Fibromyalgia was added in to the mix, that I began to make connections with a whole world of people that were also feeling alone in their silent journey with chronic illness. Those who understood the tentativeness that must accompany all of my scheduling, because I never know how the pain levels will rise or fall on any given day.  Those who understood the confusion that was felt in my heart when others would say to me, "You look so good today! You must be feeling better!"  But how do you respond when the pain levels are WORSE than they were the day before, and the person is waiting for your "positive" response?  In silence, of course, because after all, that is what an "invisible illness" carries with it: a mystery of pain that can't be understood from the outside looking in.


Unless we stop, and take a different approach.  





We can choose to adopt a Listening Heart.  And that is what God is calling me to search out this month.  I hinted last week at an adventure that God has called me to join in:  the #Write 31 Days Challenge.  So, for the month of October, I will be joining with thousands of other Christian bloggers (yes, you heard right, that's THOUSANDS of other bloggers) who are making a commitment to write every day during October on a subject of their choosing.  On my first post, I'll be linking back to the website where the challenge is hosted. I will also try to make an index (of sorts) on my first page of posting, so that if you ever come over to my blog and want to see a post that you missed reading, it should be listed there on that first page.  




This is a new ocean that I am swimming in. And I am weak with the un-knowing of it all.  But I can't ignore the nudging of my FATHER who is asking me to "Hear with my ears" and "Listen with my heart."  There are too many people who have felt invisible for too long.  And there are words that have been unheard in my heart for too long.  


So I am choosing to listen, to hear what those invisible friends are wishing they could speak.  And I am choosing to listen, to hear what my Heavenly Father is trying to speak to me through these traveling days with chronic illness. 


If you also want to join in this quest, subscribe to my site and I'll be honored to have you travel with me.





I am linking this week over at these great blogs:

#TeaAndWordTuesday, Meg Weyerbacher

#TellHisStory

#LiveFreeThursday, Suzie Eller



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Share the Adventure


It's been a different kind of week at my house.






My man is home and the espresso is flowing.

Not that I mind all of this excess caffeine flowing through my veins

. . .

After all, even when he's home because he's recouping from the
minor surgery that was finally rescheduled (Praise God!) 
I am seeing that he is still the adventurous one,
and I am still suffering from the 
reactive-glazed-over-effect.


Maybe.


I am not so sure about this whole thought process of mine, that blames my husband for setting us off on crazy adventures.  Because you see, the Lord has recently reminded me that I have a hunger inside of me for adventure as well.  


Not that many years ago, my man and I were visiting our local amusement park.  He, as usual, was excited and thrilled to ride every roller coaster there.  I, as usual, was glad to just be walking in the fresh air and beautiful sunshine, taking in some shows and eating fun shacks.  Watching the clock, and thinking about the wait times for the new ride in the park, it suddenly dawned on me that if I hurried, I might be able to run across the park and catch a glimpse of him for his first excursion on that new ride.  So off I went, arriving there, out of breath, and scanning over all the visitors, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. There! I spotted him at the top, just as he was about to swing around for the giant drop, and I started waving.  Wouldn't you know it, he saw me, and started waving back!  I thought how much like a silly little boy he looked, so happy and carefree . . . until I realized I was standing in the middle of that huge crush of people, waving like a silly little girl.


God knows the heart that HE has created deep inside each one of us.  And when HE is the one inviting us on the adventure, I wonder if He stands waiting and watching us to see if we will respond with wide-eyed wonder and a silly crazy grin?


A few years ago, not long after the roller-coaster adventure, I heard God's whisper to me, 

"Will you come with me? I have an adventure planned, and it's going to be a crazy, wild ride"

I thought long and hard about my answer, because I had been through enough adventures already, and I wasn't sure I was ready for another one.  But eventually my heart couldn't help but give Him my "yes!"  After all, there's a hunger deep inside of me for the adventure that is God-Planned, and God-sized.






His ways are great, and unsearchable to us in the beginning of the journey.  It's in the going forward with Him that He reveals more of Himself to us. It's in the daily climbing that He shows us the view from the rocky ledges.  And it's in the Calling Out that we can hear His answer to us.


So, I have a confession to make.  Here, in this place of Rheumatoid Arthritis/Fibromyalgia slow, I've heard His whisper again:


"Will you come with me on a new adventure? It's not like anything you've seen before."

 And my quivering, shaking heart is finding the "yes!" to His bidding to join up with thousands of other writers as we commit to writing a post for every day this October.  





I'll share with you the theme He's placed on my heart next week.  But for now, where is God asking you to go? Are you up for a new adventure?





I am linking this week over at these great sites:
 #TeaAndWordTuesday, Meg Weyerbacher

#TellHisStory, Jennifer Dukes Lee 

#LiveFreeThursday, Suzie Eller 

 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Discovering Hope


( In exchange for my review, and being part of the Launch Team for this book, the author provided this book, for me. All opinions expressed are purely my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)


I have been honored to be part of the book launch team for Cindee Snider Re's new book: Discovering Hope. Cindi is someone who has traversed the maze of chronic illness, both for herself and for members of her own family. She speaks humbly about the path to finding the Hope that is available for those of us who feel alone or invisible within our own journey.


I wrote here last week about the chapter concerning Biblical Lament and how it has been opening my heart to more freedom to express my heart's cry before the Lord.  This process of being transparent in the journey of my own story has been an ongoing lesson for me. 


Listening to other people's stories? Pure joy for me, whether the person is telling me face-to-face, or I am living out the story through the latest book I am reading.  

But telling my own story? Well, let's just say I've been known to rush through my own details, so that I can get to the really meaty part of listening to and helping another.  I have been convicted over this lately, though, as these words of the very first chapter jumped out at me:


"Sharing our stories is a vital part of doing life together. The disciples shared their stories and
changed the world, not because they were extraordinary men, but because they told about an
extraordinary God.
That same God is still at work today. It’s His story we tell, His hand at work in our lives, His love
touching hearts and changing lives every day."


I realized that when I am reluctant to share my own stories, I may be holding back the very thing that would point to God, and give glory to Him.  Ugly or sad, joyous or beautiful, each part of our story is a chapter in God's Grace given to us.  How can I hold back sharing His working in me?  


One of the biggest "assignments" in the book was to begin the journey of writing out your own story.  This is vital for any of us, because whether we suffer from chronic illness, or not, we each suffer from the greatest chronic condition of all: the life-long journey of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. 


2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV) And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.



I want to let Him open my heart to share as His Story is unfolding through my story, lived out day by day in this new season of life.  And as I read through her book, I came to a section that spoke most deeply to me as a summary of the author's words. She spoke of a time that God asked her this question:


“And if I don’t allow you to heal, if I  never remove the pain, will you still trust Me?”



And then she went on:

"What if illness – the stripping away of our health, our dreams, our understanding of
who we are and what our future holds – is really a gift – God offering Himself to us
unencumbered by all the noise, all the things that clutter our hearts and so easily fill
our days? Because what if that quiet, stripped-away space is where hope is found?
Where God leans in close whispering love to our weary souls until it becomes as
familiar as the beating of our own hearts? "

 



And suddenly I knew that God had been asking me that very question.  If I did not find the healing today, or tomorrow, or next year, would I still be able to find my Hope fixed on Jesus?

If the pain flowed in and out, but never away, would I still listen to hear God's voice?

It's a crucial question for all of us, because we want SOMETHING to put our hope in. And we want to HOPE FOR THE BEST.  But upon WHAT are we truly fixing our hope?  




Seeking Christ as my treasure, finding in HIM the basis for my hope, and longing to see the goodness of the Lord being fulfilled in
His own way   . . .   this is where I want to rest my heart.


I am thankful that I listened to God's whisper when He nudged me to sign up for the book launch.  If He's giving you a nudge also, won't you respond by seeking out Cindee's book over at Amazon


Perhaps the journey to Discovering Hope will capture your heart as well.


 I am linking this week over at these great sites:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Season of Perseverance


Have you explored Biblical Lament?  I must admit, when I first read this phrase recently, I thought it sounded just a bit antiquated, for another era or time.  However, I've been part of an amazing book launch,  Discovering Hope, by Cindee Snider Re(more will be coming on this next week,) and I have found a beautiful perspective on the subject of suffering and expressing our hearts to God.


I realized that many of my favorite Psalms are actually Biblical Laments


Psalm 63:1
"O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water."


Psalm 13:1-2
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me
forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?



I grew up in a strict church setting, where GOOD was always emphasized. Consequently, many have attributed a kindness to me personally that may have just been one more way that my church-girl self chose to keep the GOOD-RULE activated.  My older brothers will never forget my "God-Forgive" Stage. Any time I saw myself (or anyone in my close circle, for that matter) speak or do anything out of line, I was quick to yell out, "Better say 'God forgive!'"  Cute, coming from a 7-year-old, but rather excessive when I've realized I still carry the trappings of that 7-year-old thought process in my heart today.

Speaking a dark thought?  "Say God-Forgive!"
Uttering a harsh phrase?  "Say God-Forgive!"
Mulling over doubt-filled questions?  "Say God-Forgive!"

But where does all of that leave a person who is cluttered with questions about the dreary days that chronic illness creates?  . . . 

Drifting in a barren land where speech is quenched and searching is cut off.  In a culture that idolizes fitness and health, the quenching days easily multiply to become a state of denial.  And "OK" becomes the rote answer for how we are feeling. 

Have we, in the Church, missed something when we have emphasized GOOD-SPEAK, at the expense of Honest-Speak? 

So, I gave it a go, and began the process of looking at the Lament happening in my heart. 
 
 
Oh my Lord, I lay
my weary body down

The weight of this pain
has crushed my soul
for too many days

Yet my heart
still seeks and looks
to you
for a hand-hold in the cliff

How high must I climb?
How long is the journey?
How wide is the sea?
How deep is the trial?

In your hand is relief
The only tonic
to quench my thirst

In your embrace
will the comfort be found
far from the world's taunts

My Jesus have mercy
My Savior sweet Lord




 I know I have much to learn in this place of honest lamenting with God.  It's not a matter of learning how to complain--strange how being in a state of denial actually increases the ability to complain long and loud.  No, this is a lesson in exploring the deep crevices of a rocky landscape, and finding God's Spirit waiting for me there.


"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised for all those who love him."  James 1:12

 

I tend to view my progress through these days, ESPECIALLY because I feel so weak, as so many failed efforts at learning what I am supposed to.  But if this Scripture is true, that the perseverance itself is a form of obedience, then I need to shift my judgment of myself to a more grace-filled plane.  God is giving me grace here: 


Not only is Jesus NOT offended by my weakness, But He is actually pleased with my plodding and stumbling gait that is persevering thru the trial.
 


Are you in a Season of Perseverance? Maybe the time is right to explore Biblical Lament and find yourself in the Grace-filled Place with me.