Casket Of Departed Hopes

Being haunted is when something dead will not stay buried, and instead comes back to remind you of loss and death.

It has been a long time, a very long time indeed since I have cried and felt the deep pain of lost hope. Not that I never feel passing regret, but rarely does it cut deep enough (anymore) to cause a night of crying myself to sleep. There was a trigger tonight; beautiful pictures of a friend and her husband enraptured in the joy of a new baby. For some reason even in my happiness for them, a dark window opened in my heart that felt like gazing in a looking glass at what could have been, and (for me) will never be.

Over the past few years I have successfully mastered driving a stake through the heart of hope and moving on with an alternative life path, one that I didn’t choose. I have come to peace with God and even to an understanding of the blessings, like flowers in the weeds of hardship. I had to lay those hopes to rest because the dreams that carried me through years of suffering, seemingly always on my horizon, only to vanish in the harsh light of truth, became only pain, and pain robbed me on a daily basis of both joy and seeing God’s truths.

It wasn’t that many years ago when a state of mourning and grief were my daily countenance, and sadness was a mantle I wore across my shoulders. Constantly looking back at loss, and down at disappointment robbed me daily of any life in my life. I have come a long way since those days, and although a huge component was outside my control (literal bacterial, viral and parasitical infections in my brain and body), there was also a huge spiritual component, and letting go of my expectations for my life and coming to an acceptance of what was my plan Z, but what was God’s plan A was a turning point.

In the many years that I’ve kept a blog, I’ve found that rather than focusing so much on the physical aspects of chronic illness I have found myself writing about the emotion and spiritual experiences. This has been both part of my therapy and advocacy, but also my testimony and how God has led me to have a voice where I would not have otherwise. Does purpose in pain make it easier? Usually, but not always. I do look back though from time to time on where I was at different points along the journey, and it can be helpful on dark nights like this when all I can do is put my pain to prayer.

I’ve come a long way from the little lost girl in a dark corner…

Little lost girl (towards the beginning of the blog): https://jeanvieve7.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/little-lost-girl/

Gratitude: https://jeanvieve7.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/why-im-grateful-for-the-struggle/

Reshaping Hope: https://jeanvieve7.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/some-honest-thoughts-on-a-sunday-afternoon-when-life-reshapes-hope/

Reimagining Hope: https://jeanvieve7.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/out-of-brokenness-reimagining-hope/

Trusting God in difficulty: https://jeanvieve7.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/trusting-god-in-the-process/

Healing and God’s Will: https://jeanvieve7.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/healing-and-gods-will/

And this one that has been republished many times on The Mighty: https://themighty.com/2017/01/facebook-posts-chronically-sick/?utm_source=ChronicIllness_Page&utm_medium=Facebook

So, I no longer pound my fists on the door with the letters that say “what could have been.” And as the years pass the pictures of what lay behind that door fade with increasing frequency into the mist of memory. But those pretty pictures of hope are soiled by the memories of years upon years of grief, regret and mourning and living in a state that robbed me of even more life than my illness did.

So once in a rare while, on nights like this those happy images of a life missed come into sharp clarity, and that sharpness cuts like a knife. And shattered dreams come haunting me at night like some poltergeist refusing to go to its final resting place and instead attaching itself to the living and barring me from moving on…

But this is a bump in the night, and tomorrow is a new day. His mercies are new every morning and His song is with me in the night. As I begin to try and sleep I open my Bible to the verse of the day:

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?””

LUKE 11:13

He has indeed been good. And I may not have received all the gifts I wanted, but I am assured that I have received the good gifts I needed.

“No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career — something will inevitably ruin it.

Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. Therefore, only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace.

Ultimately, you don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”

(Tim Keller)

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Lyme Labels

Hello, my name is Jennifer. I have chronic Lyme, and life is pretty good.

Just those few words will hit many the wrong way. For the naysayers I am identifying with my disease, fishing for sympathy, whatever….

For those suffering much worse right now there might be bitterness, frustration, desperation and anger.

I’ve been there.

I think the reason I’m writing this at all right now (and as I’ve come more and more out of the dark over the years to become more of a median Lymie), I find I write less and less. So am I leaving a void? Is there something to say from the place in the middle? From time to time there is, and I try to make my infrequent blog posts deep and meaningful. But right now I’m thinking of this 🤢 disease itself, not so much the emotional and spiritual sides that I often focus on.

There seems to be such a myriad of levels to this Lyme thing; and symptoms and severity of those symptoms seems to be as numerous as registered dog breeds in the AKC. I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

So as I read so many well-written blogs, articles, essays and information from people on their Lyme journeys I sometimes see a gap from those middlin’/getting by, but not dying Lymies, like me. I don’t feel at this point I suffer enough to write regularly. I feel I don’t have a right to complain when I know compared to so many I really have nothing to complain about.

Why am I writing here? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just reaching out into the void to say hi to those who live every day with an I.I. (Invisible illness). To those who “look fine”, and maybe even act fine most of the time. But that live with:

An amount of daily pain

Never feel rested

Feel like life is a treadmill you can never get off

Know that Brain fog and inflammation are the new black

Not being able to eat that

Not having a full set of spoons

Being supplement/medication/protocol broke

A degree of loneliness

I hope if you are here you’ve been able to carve out a decent life for yourself. That you have healthy emotional acceptance of where you are, but that you also haven’t stopped fighting. I raise a glass of something alcohol, sugar, and yeast free to my fighters in green!

Hi. My name is Jennifer. I’m a functional Lymie. Life is good, and so is God.

I’m still fighting 💚

Why I’m grateful for the struggle

I’m just now waking up on New Year’s morning and although today begins a new year filled with possibility, blessings, and good things ahead, first I have to deal with a morning filled with a spike in inflammation and pain.

I had an amazing surprise for my birthday yesterday and was flown back to Seattle to spend a few days with my good friends, people I love like family. It was a wonderful relaxed evening and one of my friends even labored to make me a grain-free cardamom cake (my favorite). This morning (although there were no “major” cheats last night), my body is reminding me of it’s intolerance of normalcy, and well, eating in general :/

I’m not enjoying the feeling, mostly the fact that my face and limbs have enough fluid to sail a boat on…

But I digress.

Although I’m very uncomfortable physically and psychologically (I’m pretty self conscious of my layers of puff), I am also not dismayed and this present discomfort is small compared to past suffering, or what I know many others have to bear on a daily basis .

Lately I have been meditating on gratitude for the years of illness, for the struggles, the isolation, the lack of normalcy and the divergent path my life has gone down. I know It’s a strange thing to say I’m grateful, and I know I felt differently when I was in the midst of my worst years; the years of numbness and apathy, the years of neurological Lyme, the years of being in bed most of the time…..But I had to go through those times, get through the layers of treatments, of having hopes and dashed hopes, having health discoveries, having to make the climb if you will……

But more importantly it was the steps that God was taking me through in my spiritual journey; the stripping down and restructuring of everything I was, including my priorities and my paradigms. Fire cleanses.

Why am I writing this now?

Well I have to admit I don’t do as well in my spiritual walk when things are too easy. Not to say that my life lacks struggle (see the first sentences of this page), but that said I have been very blessed as of late with entering a good season of my life. I live in a new area I love, my living situation has improved and i have a wonderful new job working with great people. Now I certainly haven’t forgotten God, not even close, but I find I am not crying out to Him in need as of late, and I actually miss that.

There is a depth of relationship with the Lord when you are hurting, or scared, or have heavy burdens and don’t know where to turn other than to Him. There is a sweet place in misery where an intimacy with God can be cultivated. In these times you recognize Him as the All In All in comparison to the frailty of the world that is crumbling around you. That’s why I’m thankful. My roots have been anchored in dark and lowly places of desolation. Through many years and seasons past I think what God was doing in the toughest times (although for so long I couldn’t see it), was driving my growth down and deep and not up into the light. I think left to my frailty and the messiness of my own character, I would so easily fall into step with the world and be charmed and wooed by things that don’t last and offer only menial pleasures, and in the end starve the soul, if not for having lived in the valley for so long.

The writer of Ecclesiastes is spot on when he calls the treasures of the world vanities.

Where am I going with all this? I think what I’m feeling is that I’m entering a new season, a season where I get to put into practice all that I have learned (not that the learning or growing ever ends), and it’s time to practice discipline and obedience in my spiritual journey. Discipline is something I have always struggled with, at least when it comes to scheduling and organizing certain aspects of my life. The words for 2019 seem to be “gratitude” and “obedience”. It’s a theme God seems to be sprinkling me with here and there, little words from different people and different sources that together make a clear picture of what He is saying. When God tells you something He usually reinforces that message by giving it to you multiple times and in different ways to affirm the word.

I am happy to find that I am not fully contented in my present circumstances taking them at face value, it’s good that I want to keep moving forward as closely partnered with the Lord as I can be, to not put my time or relationship with Him on a sidebar, but to keep digging in deep even though I finally have some spring leaves in the light of the sun.

So, I will keep pressing on to try solve these autoimmune issues, the ones that still cause pain and challenges, I will enjoy and give thanks for the positive changes that are new in my life, and most importantly I will keep my focus on Jesus and my ears open to what He has to say in this season and the new commissions He has laid on the path before me.

Hello 2019, welcome.

Out of Brokenness, Reimagining Hope

I have been thinking a lot lately about hope, and I have come to believe that hope is essential to life. When you think about it most people hold onto hope on a daily basis, even if it’s not a conscious thought. You hope the weather will be good on the weekend, you hope the guy you met calls, you hope you get a raise at work, you hope traffic won’t be bad, you hope you get over this cold soon, you hope you lose ten pounds…. With hope we are constantly planting wishes in our immediate and distant future with the expectancy they will blossom.       

This is why with chronic illness the loss of hope is equal to that of the physical suffering; it’s an internal death. Pain can be pushed through if you have hope it will end. Isolation can be endured if you have hope of socializing again. We can endure much more than we can imagine if we have hope throughout; hope for healing, hope for a better future, hope for life as we wish it to someday become a reality…..      

When we construct our hopes and dreams they are built on a foundation of what we feel is possible. After all we do not tend to realistically hope for things that are not in the realm of possibility, I guess if we do we call them pipe dreams. But when long-term illness and passing years of suffering rob you of the possibilities that are still attainable for a “normal” person, how then do you dream? What does hope look like with the shifts in what is possible 

     Of course the first dream for anyone that has been sick for a long time is for health, and subsequently health is the gateway to everything else we want in life: relationships, activities, happiness, success, travel,  family…LIFE. And in my opinion there are few things as painful as when hope is squelched and snatched away from you.  

     Now chronic illness looks a little different for every individual. For myself I am immensely blessed that I have come a long way in my 6+ years of treatment since Lyme diagnosis and there has been a lot of improvement. But the struggles continue and I may continue to struggle with autoimmune and other conditions for the rest of my life. So as my “younger” years continue to diminish like a fading horizon line, I have had to construct how to rebuild hopes that are now built on a different foundation, a foundation of what is possible for me now.  

    I had an emotional reshaping of my hopes with my last downturn in health, and a lot of the hopes I had been holding onto for many years got torn down; these constructs were apart of my reality, part of the paradigm that made up my world. These things (that in my mind) were apart of what life had in store for me. The realization of loss was a sickening sucker punch of reality that knocked me down flat. I had been living in that place of rubble for several months, and I had to basically go through a grieving process and lay to rest my virtual hope chest. Coming back out of the dark it took a lot of questioning whether rebuilding the hope tower was worth it. Should I accept a state of apathy as my reality… live in the small little box that life has given me and never expect anything more? Or is apathy just another unhealthy coping mechanism that will ultimately rob me of even more life? Questions questions…. introspection.       

Rebuilding hope. 
 

     At the time I mused: “Of course rebuilding my hope tower will look very different than before and be much smaller, but right now I’m not sure what to build it with. Or should I? Is that my job or God’s? Would He approve of my giving up on hope because it hurts too much to hold on?” 

    I have never stopped believing that my future and hope is in God, that He has a reason and purpose in everything He allows in my life, but what His plans are (obviously) are vastly different from anything I ever envisioned. I am looking at leaving my thirties behind the last day of this year and this doesn’t quite seem real. In my mind I’m still somewhere in my late twenties, waiting for the all the things the normal progression of life will bring. In some ways life for the chronically ill is like a treadmill, running in place and never getting anywhere but expending energy all the same and there is no end to exhaustion.       
So friends, as I have said goodbye to children and family, to independence, to financial stability, to being able to stop working (that takes all my energy robbing
 me of having a life outside it), to success, to travel, to normalcy, and all the perks that come with those things…. (At least in my own ability to achieve them).
    
But I’m still here. The scorched earth of where my hope tower burned down became the fertile soil to plant new hope for the future, both immediate and distant. I do have seeds I’m watering, and they are founded in deeper things and maybe are not all about
 me. They are seeds of faith. Seeds of love. Seeds of family and friends. Seeds of gratitude. Seeds of empathy for others. Seeds of a commission to my chronic illness community.   I’m still here. 


Painting is titled “Hope Through Sorrow”, a piece I recently finished 

The Lyme Art Book Is Live!

Hello Lymies, infected, sufferers, downtrodden… and all other readers;

I am excited to finally share with you a passion project from 16 of your fellow Lyme sufferers: The Lyme Art Book, “Infected/Inspired”

This has been a while in the making, as you can imagine it wasn’t easy when the people putting it together suffer from lack of energy and their own personal lists of symptoms they deal with. A great deal of praise and thanks to the project organizer Stina B. who diligently through her own struggles made this happen.

Now we need you! Without backers this still will not come into fruition.

All art and word art in this book has been created by Lyme sufferers, and proceeds go toward helping those who can’t afford treatment.

We thank you in advance for your support and participation ❣️

💚➡️ Lyme Art Book

Leaning When You Can’t Stand

This quote struck me today; it is (yet another) brilliant quote from Mark Twain.

God is speaking to me through words from an atheist! He really can use everything and everyone for His purposes.

I struggle greatly with discipline when it comes to my illness; partly due to self control, and partly due to fatigue and malaise that make it hard to organize my supplement protocol and successfully prepare a meal regimen, not cheat on my diet, on top of working….

Yes I have fatigue and fog and physical pain to fall back on as an excuse, but how often do I instead think to fall back on the Holy Spirit?

I am currently just beginning an audio book called Discerning The Voice Of God by Pricilla Shirer (I don’t do so well with actual reading), and at the very beginning she talks about having discipline to spend time with God; Not just 10-30 minutes to carve out to read the Bible or our current study, “putting in our scheduled time”, but actually spending precious time with HIM; speaking, then listening, Opening your heart and mind to Him without bringing our pre-conceived ideas to the table of what we think we want to hear or our expectations.

Even on the hard days when I’m in a haze and not doing well with my pills or my diet, can I even just on a spiritual level deeper than words just lean on Him?

I can’t on my own strength, but I can ask Him for help and keep asking and step out into obedience again, and again, and again until that obedience becomes habit.

I pray that for all of us in our struggles. When all the frivolities that life has to offer are stripped away we become deeper people. This is a blessing that comes along with trials, so I hope we can use this “crutch” to the best of our abilities and then let God do the rest. If we fail (and we will) I also pray we don’t linger there (God doesn’t), I pray we treat every day as a restart, another step, and we keep pressing on.

Chasing down friends, a real world problem for a chronic lymie

I write a lot about the emotional and social aspects of having a chronic disease and the frustrations that come with it.

I know a BIGGIE with the chronically ill is the feeling of isolation and not being able to participate in normal activities, or at least not as many. Now before I continue there is a great spanse in the Lyme world from bed-ridden and unable to go out at all, to “functioning Lymie” who can maybe hold a job and get by but has limited energy for anything else.

I fall into the second category (I have lived through the first), where I can be social but it has to be carefully planned and very dependent on how I’m feeling and whether I’m working (same day as work usually doesn’t happen).

Oh and did I mention mornings? Lymies know about the morning toxic hangover and how hard it is to get moving in the AM. Which is why church is hard, Saturday morning breakfast get togethers or morning bible studies are out.

That said, I find I’m in a season of life where I (mostly) have to chase and pursue friends to get together. You see if I don’t attend the functions where everyone congregates and makes those “dates” together outside of said function, I’m kind of left having to be the electric communication stalker.

Now I’m not saying people don’t care, or that I don’t have some amazing friends that keep in good touch and are very caring, but there are also some who never make contact on their own, or maybe they say “yes we should get together” and then leave it hanging and never let me know what works for them. 

In the age of instant communication when everyone is always on their phones, how did it get to be so hard to communicate and get people to respond? Is it the whole country or is it worse in overpopulated/hyper-busy/rush rush rush areas like Western WA where I live? I mean come on; traffic alone here could keep people wanting to hide in their homes with the blinds closed and huddled in a corner. Driving 10 miles to meet a friend here could mean 40 minutes in traffic and taking your life in your own hands. 

Anway, life just seems to get more challenging with every pasing year, healthy or unhealthy. 

Those are my musings for today.