Evening Ponderings

After several hours of clinching my hands in restlessness in the emergency room this morning, I began to cry. The pain finally overcame my will and I broke down. It was the same news I usually hear during my seldom trips to the emergency room for pain. The majority of the pain was from a flare but now I have additional issues that have no immediate treatment. I opted for the steroid injection and walked out in equal pain as when I walked in. My tears were more of frustration rather than my inability to handle the pain. I have learned to deal with chronic pain and I was frustrated because of my resistance to treatment. 

I just came off of Humira. The benefits were not out weighing the risks. Risk versus benefit is something I have heard often in the last nine years. The goal with my son’s anti-epileptic medication is to take the smallest dose with the best possible results and the benefits need to outweigh the risks. While thinking of my disappointment today, I thought about the numerous times I have experienced this same feeling when I weigh the benefits and risks associated with my own choices. Do I make reasonable choices concerning my life and relationships? Am I doing what is right in accordance with my beliefs, or am I acting in accordance with what is acceptable to the world? Should I put my needs before the needs of others and do I really need to be liked as much as I think I do? What will it really cost me?

My grandma has a big heart and like many of us, she has a desire to be liked by those around her, so it has been particularly hard for her since a close relative chose to terminate their relationship. Even after an apology, they chose not to forgive. It’s been years and she is still very hurt. Her son and husband (my uncle and grandfather) have both passed away and it hasn’t been enough of a reason for her estranged relative to heal these once very close relationships. If death didn’t make her relative chose to forgive and heal their once close relationship, what will?

I once believed that the worse case scenarios were rare, but life will eventually prove the contrary for us all. Bad things happen to everyone and they can happen more frequently than desired. Relationships erode to the point of disrepair, health deteriorates, promises aren’t kept, people will disappoint……. The only guarantee we have in life is the ability to control and change our own actions in situations, even those that are out of our control. Others will certainly remember how we react when life gets rough. What kind of person do our actions make us out to be and what kind of an imprint do our actions leave on the hearts of others? The best view of ourselves maybe through our relationships with others.

I don’t have a life conducive of healthy relationships. I have complexities others don’t and it takes a special person to remain patient enough with me to be my friend. Although I have few close relationships, I deeply value the ones I have. I know all too well how much a minute can change the course of life. I am thankful for today because I’m not guaranteed another. I have learned that the hard way. I lay awake thinking my baby boy could have a life threatening seizure when we are all asleep. I wonder how long my body will hold out when I am literally falling apart. I don’t understand why so many people choose to threaten a relationship over petty things. Each day is a gift and should be treated as such. I can’t understand why so many people can let the sun set on things that should be rectified.

Relationships are the medicine of life. There will be those who don’t value a relationship with you so you have to ask, are the side effects that come with relationships doing more harm than good? When it comes to my health, I have to consider how much I am willing to suffer for a desired result. In the end, it’s my body and I have to make the choices that are right for my health. I have to be willing to make changes to better my life, even if they are scary. It boils down to me. The only person I can control is me. I cannot always control the future but I can change the way I view it.

Fruitful change has come through the difficult circumstances and how I handle them is influenced by my faith, but it has been hard to handle each situation as I should during times of depression. Until I truly began making an effort to rely on the only thing that can promise real change, depression dictated. Once I began to discover how to live according to my own values and beliefs, the promises of peace came with it. My depression hasn’t disappeared, but I have more hope putting my faith in something other than myself. I was broken and unable to handle what I had been given. I was constantly overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control, including the actions of others. I made a choice to pick up the yoke of the Lord so he could fulfill his promise to me in the book of Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The Lord has went through great lengths to get my attention and I’m glad he has, because I realized I couldn’t change anyone but me and I needed to change! I began reading the Bible regularly and learned so much about myself in a short period of time. Maybe what I learned can help you too.

Life is too short to spend time hurting others with words. More often, making the right choices regarding what we say is a battle because falling into temptation is easy. Words said behind closed doors will eventually be brought into the light (“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be know.” Matthew 10:26) and a choice to pursue hurtful actions against others will cause harm to onself. The bible speaks candidly about the hurt that comes from words. He’s especially asking believers in the following verse not to bless him in worship and curse another, because we are speaking against others who were made in his image. It’s hurtful and not congruent with Christian behavior. 

“… but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness if God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3: 8-10

More simply put, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers…” James 4:11

Along with a venomous tongue, we ought not to do fall into additional temptation and judge one another. Judgement hurts relationships. By taking time to pass judgement, time is taken away from working on nurturing healthy and supportive relationships. Taking time to study the word and work on our own downfalls is a more productive use of time. We gain strength, learn how to live a fruitful life, and grow closer to God, who is the only one true judge. 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5. 

There is a clear warning about judgement in this verse, but it is still summed up  by helping another.

“..For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice such things. We know that the judgement of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.” Romans 2:2

All can be summed up here, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned: forgive,and you will be forgiven, give, and it will be given to you.” Luke 6: 37-38. 

But even as I worked in this piece, I felt the anger and hurt in my heart toward those who have wronged me. I am reminded again of how this discovery is about me and my journey in obedience to God. 

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full if mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3: 14-18. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight and I still worry about how I’m living my life and how I can truly let go of the anger and hurt brought on by the people and circumstances I cannot control. 

“… do not be anxious about your life… But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousnes, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6: 25, 33-34.

Obedience isn’t always easy, especially when he tells is not to be anxious but He is a God who understands the conflict taking place in the heart of man. 

And I cannot forget when I have failed at all things, God is forgiving and merciful and those who have true salvation are as well. The following footnote on Matthew 18: 21-35 summed up how salvation should change a sinner’s heart.

“The central points of the parable are: first, that the gift of salvation is immeasurably great and, second, that unless a person is comparably merciful to others, mercy has not had a saving effect upon him and will be liable to pay the consequences himself….. A transformed heart must result in a changed life that offers the same mercy and forgiveness as has been received from God. Someone who does not grant forgiveness to others shows that his own heart has not experienced 
God’s forgiveness.” Foote note on Matthew 18: 21-35 from ESV study bible by Crossway.

I forgive because he has changed my heart, I will not be fearful of those who hurt me or anxious about my life, because I trust in Him.

“..I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to he brought low, and I know hot to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4: 11-13

If you remember anything from this message remember this verse:
“So whatever you wish that others do to you, do also to them…” Matthew 7:12

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Purposefully 

Yesterday the extent of my hair loss reached out from behind the mirror and smacked me in the face. “Could who I’m looking at possibly be me?” Yep, it was. The open empty, thinning spaces seemed like a good representation my life, empty space and barren in some places and holding on for dear life in others. But then today I was reminded of something miraculous. My boys and I read “The Purpose Driven Life” every morning and we are readung the chapter titled “God’s Power in Your Weakness”. I was so excited to start this chapter because I haven’t felt more weak in my life than I do right now. After we began to read the first chapter I was sure the words were meant for our family.

“Your weaknesses are no accident. God deliberately allows them in your life for the purpose of demonstrating his power through you.” It goes on to say, “That God uses imperfect people is encouraging news for all of us.” Then it hit home. “A weakness, or ‘thorn’ as Paul called it, is not a sin or vice or a character defect that you can change, such as overeating or impatience. A weakness is any limitation that you inherited or have no power to change.  It may be a physical limitation, like a handicap, a chronic illness, naturally low energy, or disability. It may be an emotional limitation, such as a trauma scar, a hurtful memory, a personality quirk, or heredity disposition. Or it may be a talent or intellectual limitation. We’re all not super bright or talented. When you think of the limitation in your life, you may be tempted to conclude, ‘God could never use me.’ But God is never limited by our limitations. In fact, he enjoys putting his great power into ordinary containers.” 
Yesterday I was looking into the mirror wondering what purpose I even serve. I wondered if my husband could ever find me attractive after all the changes I am going through. Yesterday I looked in the mirror and thought of all the reasons I am useless, worthless, and served no real purpose in the world. My life is thin and barren of so many things because I have made so many mistakes in my life and surely I deserve the pain. It’s easier to believe the awful things I tell myself and it isn’t that hard to find reasons why I feel like I deserve it.
About a year ago I was submitting a lot of stories to The Mighty. I liked the idea behind the site, finding hope through disability and the stories were mostly submitted. I had good luck and a few of my stories got picked up, one even made its way to Yahoo Health. It was a very personal story that included photos of my life with chronic illness. This piece was in opposition to my personality. I am not someone who likes to open myself up to public scrutiny and putting this post up on Yahoo Health did just that. I told myself not to read the comments but curiosity eventually got to me and I did. There were kind comments but the trolls came out as well. The comment that stung the most stated that I was a waste because I had a chronic illness. He validated all the horrible things I have believed about myself.  I am chronically ill so I am worthless, I serve no purpose, and my family is better off without me. You would think I would have been happy after my work was being recognized, but shortly after I sank into a dark depression. My health was slowly getting worse, my son was going to have neurosurgery soon for his out of control seizures, and the depression made me feel very alone. Medication changes, depression, and stress are a bad combination. At my most desperate, I asked my husband to leave me. I negotiated and gave him every reason why he deserved more than what I could offer. Thankfully he could still see me under it all and reminded me of how much he loved me. I thought everyone else saw me as I saw myself. I didn’t allow my husband to see me as he wanted to see me. It turns out, he still saw me as the woman he married. He still does. I don’t know how he can see past what I see in the mirror every morning but he does and so does our Creator. Love is funny like that.
Contrary to what others have said about me or what I have said about myself, I have a purpose. My broken vessel can still carry a something precious. I don’t need to have a full head of hair, the perfect job or perfect family to serve my intended purpose. In fact, perfection isn’t part of the message God wants to share. He wants to share a perfect message through imperfect people. Those are the best kinds of messages, aren’t they?
When our son was diagnosed years ago, I found a lot of support online. When I searched for a group, I didn’t search for a diabetes support group, he doesn’t have diabetes. I searched for groups pertaining to his disease because I needed to talk to those who have personal knowledge of it. Experience is a useful tool, it also makes for a pretty powerful message. I have made friendships with people who understand  when others may not. I have realized, the more God allows me to suffer, the more useful I am to his message and to the service of others. Assuming I have no purpose is questioning God’s own purpose in making me. I don’t need need a full head if hair to minister to others, just because I now have some physical limitations doesn’t mean I don’t have spiritual strength, and useless to the world never means useless to God. 
I have spent the last eight years since my son was diagnosed pushing others away. I already hurt so much, I didn’t want any more hurt. It was easier for me to be alone than it was to take a chance and get hurt by someone else.The truth is, I was the one doing the most damage. I was isolating myself with the one person who had the most hateful opinion of me….. me. God is constantly challenging me in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s through a sermon, sometimes it’s through a book, and sometimes it’s through those who won’t let me push them away. I am thankful God still had a purpose for me when I made some big mistakes but then again, he knows me better than I know myself, he is my creator. It may be about time I started looking at myself through His eyes, I may start to like what He created.

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Much Needed Grace

While thinking about this piece I wanted to write on grace I wanted to familiarize myself with how to define the word grace. I have decided for this piece to paraphrase it simply as “eloquence or beauty of form or manner”. I think of grace further defined as “eloquence in action as well as in form”. When I think of a life that embodies grace, I visualize it lived as a beautifully choreographed dance. It isn’t a dance executed to perfection, but one that flows beautifully, stepping round and turning through those unexpected obstructions of life. 

But life isn’t experienced alone and how we extend our grace to others in our lives speaks volumes about who we are compared to who we want to be.
Finding a person who truly embodies grace is difficult these days. We live in a world where jealousy and judgment run rampant and no one bats an eye when sharing or hearing gossip. Revenge is encouraged and acceptable as not to allow offenders to get away with their deeds. And as long as exclusion can be rationalized, what’s the harm, right? But what happened to grace? What happened to extending grace to others who dance in and out of our lives, not just to those we feel deserve it? In light of current events, it isn’t too far fetched to say that grace is a huge piece missing from the world today. Instead of grace, we see slandering, name calling, and judgment. Our children are learning that those holding high position(s) of power get where they are by ruthless tactics and not by grace. Shouldn’t those who claim to lead by example have some small bit of grace as part of their character?

In theological terms, grace is defined as “freely given and undeserving favor of God, the influence of the spirit of God that gives strength to a believer, or a virtue of divine origin”. I think the most important word defining grace in theological terms is “undeserving”. The word undeserving is also becoming an offensive word in the world today. Some people don’t want to work as hard as their ancestors at what they desire but feel like they have just cause to have whatever it is they want right away. They are entitled. Sadly, I have been very guilty of an entitled nature myself. I get frustrated and want things to change right away. I get so frustrated with the difficulty of our circumstances that I ask God,  “Just give me something to ease my load.” I think I deserve it, but I don’t. I am not deserving of the grace I think I’m entitled to but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been given it. Grace has been an eloquent pardon of my offenses and undeserving gifts, either by another human or by the divine.

My husband reminds me of the true nature of grace daily. I am not the woman he married eleven years ago. I have advanced rheumatoid arthritis and in the two years since my diagnosis, the disease has progressed enough to damage the joints and bones throughout most of my body. Whereas I feel like I have to prove my daily pain and physical limitations to other people, he never asks me to explain why I cannot finish even the most remedial tasks. Often he comes home and supper isn’t started and I’m laying in bed consumed with pain, but he doesn’t question me about the kids, the house, or what I could have done, he gives me grace. He makes supper, cleans up, and helps get the kids to bed. He extends me grace I know I need but I don’t often feel like I deserve. Without that grace, our marriage would never survive. We also have a disabled child with complex medical issues and if we didn’t allow one another certain graces, we would have never found a way stay together with all the challenges we face. My husband doesn’t come home and ask, “What about me?” He asks, “What can I do to help?” His grace makes me want to keep trying because I know how hard he tries for me. My husband could tell me he understands, but without his actions, the words would be empty. It would send a conflicting message. His grace could quite possibly be what has saved our marriage and what has kept my dwindling hope alive. He never let’s his “but” get in the way. “I would help but I’m tired too.” “I could be there but I’m too busy.” “I could accept the apology but I’m still too hurt.”

I may not have said that last statement out loud, but I have thought it. Forgiveness is a hard part of having a graceful nature. I know it’s very hard for me to forgive and extend grace to people who have caused me hurt, especially those who have been the cause of hurt more than once. Deep down I have wanted to withhold my grace and turn my back, cutting ties with those who have hurt me repeatedly. Sometimes cutting ties is necessary, but the people who are hurting others repeatedly are often hurting themselves. We may not be in the position to help that person or heal their hurt, but extending our grace, no matter how hard, is a good place to start.

Everyone needs grace, whether we think they deserve it or not. I am thankful for the many times others have given me grace and especially thankful of God’s graces. Fourteen years ago I was seeking forgiveness over my failed marriage.  I asked forgiveness, but I also received God’s grace. His grace put my husband into my life at a time when I feel like I didn’t deserve it. His grace gave me a friend when I really needed it. Grace gave me the husband that would love me in our years of health and now my sickness. God gave me love I was never good enough to deserve. It’s a good thing God doesn’t listen to me when it comes to what I deserve. He knows those circumstances in my life that others didn’t know or understand and gave me His abundant grace. I am so glad he did, because I know nothing I have done deserves anything God has to offer. 

Grace has saved me. I have hope because I have been given me grace. I can be something contrary to this world when I follow the examples of those who extend it to me. Thank God for grace!

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There Goes My Memory

​I’m a few months shy of turning 36. I ponder on the fact that I am going to be closer to 40 than 30 and I wonder when it was I left my twenties. I wonder when will I ever feel like I am grown up.

I wonder if suddenly finding amusement in every single aspect of aging is considered a mid-life crisis, because if it is, I am knee deep in one. Last night I woke up abruptly from a disturbing dream. I was dreaming that I was at the grocery and I forgot my list. I say the dream was disturbing because it I woke up just as I would for an actual nightmare, heart racing and with the desire to jump out of bed. Apparently what I’m afraid of now includes shopping without my grocery list. That’s seems to be my life right now, forgetfulness. I can’t keep anything straight unless I write it down. I double book my schedule often because I can’t remember what is scribbled on my “reminder pad”, I use that term loosely because it can turn into the kid’s doodle pad at any given moment. A calendar seems like a great idea! I have a dry erase calendar on my fridge and another calendar that’s keeping track of my bills but it’s keeping track of nothing else of importance, like let’s say, ummmmm appointments, birthdays, or anniversaries! So forget getting a card of any sort from me until I remember the month is almost over and I forgot to check my, no, not calendar, card holder. Oh dear……

The more I try to become more organized the worse it becomes. I will seriously “organize” my house only to forget what genius place I put my things. The only thing I can seem to find is my dry erase calendar with nothing on it. I think it’s because I have to make room in my head for where everyone else’s stuff is located. For example, the other day my daughter was going nuts because she wanted to sleep with her Rapunzel doll. Yes, I knew where where that doll was but I can’t make it to my son’s field trip because I just scheduled my daughter’s dentist appointment on the same day. 
Yes, appointments can be rescheduled but thinking twice about anything these days scares me since I have no idea what I am doing in the first place. I blame my rheumatoid arthritis and fibrommyalgia. Explaining to people I have “fibro fog” seems to spark some recognition in them because it was most likely a part of a drug commercial promising a miracle cure for fibrommyalgia pain. Those commercials are a joke and quite annoying to someone like me. A woman living in a world of gray is suddenly able to fly a kite and laugh with her family after taking a magic pill. I think they’d be better off if they’d just sell me directions to the junk I just organized, that would make me happy. 

Happiness takes on a whole new meaning as I get older. I’m happy if I really do get to the grocery with all my coupons and a list in my hand on a day I didn’t forget to do something else, but that’s just a dream, we all know that list is sitting on my kitchen counter. 
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Open Doors and Benadryl

I learned that the young man I stumbled across in the bathroom passed away today. My heart breaks for his family…

CrossRoadTrippers

There are days I think I have this all figured out and I know what I’m supposed to do, what I’m supposed to be when I grow up. Then there are days like today, and days like last Friday that tell me I’m completely wrong about having a clue.
The new year is a fresh start for a lot of people. Not me. I spend all year scrutinizing my choices, making resolutions I never keep, feeling like I need to make my life better. The new year is just more of the same. There is no discernible difference in my anxiety levels, my drive or lack thereof, in say, June compared to December and the beginning of January. It’s all the same. One chaotic “What the hell am I gonna do?”
Very recently, I considered taking my cleaning job and making it my “real” job. What I mean by that…

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Thought for Today

​Thought for today: No one is perfect and no one will ever be perfect. Remember that when you are doing the best you can and compare your life to someone else’s that may look perfect. I assure you, it isn’t. All this may sound like very basic advice but we don’t always follow it. We turn on the television, scroll through social media, or observe someone like a coworker or friend who always seems to be planning something exciting and think of how our lives pale in comparison. It’s hard. We are all trying our best but there is always something out there to make us think we may not be doing quite enough. I want to tell you today; your best is enough. I have had to accept that just getting through the day at my worst is good enough as well. This world is full of imperfect people who yield imperfections. Yep, there is always room for error because we don’t have the capability to be perfect people. We all mess up, forget something, run late, say the wrong thing, and more. And we are all struggling. So while you remind yourself to give the next person compassion, don’t forget to extend compassion to another very important person, yourself.

Of Shoes and Cups

​I have been disappointed with myself over my lack of enthusiasm over my son’s post op progress from his neurosurgery. For the first time in a very long time, he is seizure free and yet I have been feeling rather numb about it. I feel especially shameful of myself when I talk to others about it in person. We convey how happy we are but I know the enthusiasm behind the statement is rather flat. The only deviation from this was our praise on one Sunday morning after we returned from Texas. We did want to give God the glory for the progress but yet there is still something inside me that felt empty…..
I know this all sounds rather sad to say considering the outcome of his surgery. My husband and I should be singing from the rooftops, and we want to, but we have gotten used to waiting for the other shoe to drop and have rarely been disappointed. 
My husband used to give me a hard time about my pessimistic attitude. I’d tell him that I couldn’t fully enjoy our early relationship because I was waiting for that other pesky shoe. I honestly never felt like I deserved my husband, but rahter I deserved unhappiness. I was divorced, opinionated, and I knew what I wanted out of life after I felt like I had been given a second chance, but I never felt like I deserved it. I never felt like I was worthy of someone as humble and kind as my husband who waited for the right relationship. I could not convince myself that he wanted to be with me. I still try to remind him that he will eventually figure out that I’m not worthy of him. He still tells me I’m too pessimistic. We have always been at the opposite ends of the glass half full/empty debate. Actually, our glass debate plays out more like this; his is full of shiny, sparkling water poured fresh from the mountain stream and mine is dirty from the mountain debris.
If you were to ask either of us the same question, you would likely get the “sparkly” story from him and the “grimy” story from me. I tell him I am being honest and I feel like he doesn’t want bother anyone with our problems, so everything is usually great when he tells the same story. Maybe we are both in denial, I’m in denial that things can get better and he’s in denial that they will keep getting worse. In recent years, his glass has got a little dirty and it is been harder for him to hide it’s true contents.
He and I were presented with the option of brain surgery for our little buddy twice before but always opted for other methods. Those other methods would work, sometimes for an extended period of time, just to fail in the end. In the eight years of his little life he has made so much progress and regression of the same skills, we have wondered why we continue to work on those skills at all. Then almost two years ago, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It isn’t my imagination, the other shoe keeps dropping, the rug keeps getting pulled out, the last straw always breaks the camels back…… How can I see my glass as anything but full of crap? Yes, I try to see the silver lining, focus on the positive, appreciate what I have, stay strong………… but I certainly think I have every right to fear the worst because it keeps happening. 
So as much as I want to celebrate this success, I am cautious of it. He was seizure free for almost a year before they came back and worse than ever before. I’m not sure there will ever be a time I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and it makes me so sad. I want victory for him but his disease is as complex as the name suggests. More tubers can grow, the ones he has can get bigger, and they can complicate other organs of the body. Tuberous Sclerosis Complex is a terrible and nasty disease that steals my joy over his victories. I know, there are some very well meaning people who are reading this who want to lift me up with the right words, but this time, just hug me or him the next time you see us or call us and ask us how we are really doing, it’s been quiet since we have returned from surgery. My rheumatoid arthritis has been getting worse and I’m barely able to be up for more than a brief few minutes at a time. I miss my life and I miss my joy. For now, it’s drowning at the bottom of my crusty old glass. This doesn’t mean that I’m a terrible person, just an honest one. I’m struggling in a time where I should be experiencing joy, but that isn’t something that surprises me. I just don’t know when I can let go with confidence that it will be alright. For now, I’m joyful and confident about those things this disease had never been able to steal, like his smile. 
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