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 
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When the Media Actually Hurts The Chronic Illness Community

I encourage everyone to read the article below posted by an editor on The Mighty.

As you may know The Mighty is the leading site for various chronic illnesses and an advocate for that community.

Beware of Afflicted

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.

For Those Who Judge Posting “Personal Problems”, And Why Some Put It All Out There….

Deep breath, here we go. This isn’t going to hit everyone the same way. We are as individual in how and what we communicate as our fingerprints, and that carries over into our perceptions of how and what others communicate as well.

Now I will start by saying this is not going to be a broad-spectrum discussion on various topics, because (obviously) there are things we should be private about (problems in a relationship with a partner, keeping a confidence, etc) but I will focus only on sharing/not sharing/over sharing as it relates to health and illness.

There is such a whirlwind of differing opinions when it comes to how open we (for purposes of this post I am referring to chronic illness sufferers) are with our struggles and symptoms and the emotional states we find ourselves in because of said struggles.

See prior posts: Judgment & Scrutiny Living With Chronic Illness

The Mighty: Why the Ill Post On Facebook

When You Are Put Down For Being Your Illness

The foundation for me as to why, is at its most basic stated in this quote and these verses:

“God never intended that we should suffer alone, that we should suffer for nothing. “~Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni’s Testimony Here about 50 yrs as a quadriplegic

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-6‬ ‭

We are given many examples in the Bible how we are to bare each other’s burdens, share in each other’s suffering, comfort and come alongside those who are sick, hurting, broken….

When did it become an “unchristian” thing to be honest about what you are going through? Or when did it start meaning you lacked faith if you were suffering? If that is true let’s start scrutinizing and judging King David, the Apostle Saul, and well just about every writer and prophet in the Bible! (To say nothing of the entire New Testament!).

What if Joni had never shared her story? Never written? Was never honest about her suffering, but instead had just put on a brave face? I can guarantee she would not have a ministry, not have touched millions, and worst of all not fulfilled God’s calling on her life and His plan and purpose in her trials.

Have you ever read a biography about someone overcoming great difficulty? Were you inspired how they suffered and what they went through and yet kept going?

What about how much you were inspired by a person’s biography where everything went great their whole lives; lots of money, great health, everything went right in their lives….won every race and accomplished every goal? Yeah. Me either.

No not everyone is called to share their dark moments of the soul, or all the ways their bodies betray them on a daily basis, and that’s ok. But don’t judge the ones who are. The ones who share with purpose…to try and get help. To try and help others. To spread awareness. To invoke change.

True you may be “too close” to the person who has suddenly become a verbal geyser of health talk to see clearly why they do what they do; because you know who they were before, and make your own judgments as to their motives.

And I don’t know the truth in every situation, because there certainly are attention seekers out there… What I do know is that the vocal ones are changing the world one person and one community at a time. I thank God for the ones who have, and still help me, who post and blog and share. I learn from them. I am encouraged by them. I love forward in my own journey because of them.

And I also thank God that I have also been able to help others.

None of which would have been possible had we stayed silent.

I am far from perfect, I have over the years been confronted with a lot of my own ugliness; both what has sprung forth from a sick brain, and what is just apart of my fallen self that has needed weeding. That said, I would like to think that with Christ’s help I am here for the right reasons, I refuse to waste my suffering, and I will not stop being open and raw and real as long as God has me in that place, no matter what stage I’m at. And if I’m healed I will not forget or close the door to those who come behind me, who need to read a blog about how they are not alone and that others have walked the path before them.

Trusting God In The Process

GONNA’ MAKE IT

“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where rust destroys and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where thieves do not break in or steal;”

Matthew 6:19-20 (abridged)

Make the goal.

Make the deadline.

Accomplish the task.

Make enough money.

Be a success.

Attain the stuff.

Endure/put up with/get through The trial or difficulty simply with the goal of having it be over so you can get back to doing all of the above.

In our humanity and our society we are very much goal oriented as far as how we consider success. But we are also very much that way when it comes to trials or difficulties; just get to the end and have it be over with! We see the entire “goal” of difficulty to have it be over.

This seems to be very much magnified in our modern Western society where we are driven by comfort, accomplishment, acknowledgement and success. These things are the alter at which we worship and pay tribute to with our very lives.

How opposite we are of God in our viewpoint due to our finiteness.

Because you see God is all about the process. Backwards thinking huh? Or as one of my best friends would say “upside down Kingdom”.

EVERYTHING IS BACKWARDS

…we will stand amazed to see the topside of the tapestry and how God beautifully embroidered each circumstance into a pattern for our good and His glory.

Joni Eareckson Tada (quadriplegic for 50 years)

Anyone who has seen the hugely popular Stranger Things understands the concept of the “upside down”. A world in perfect mirror of ours only it is dark, decaying and full of monsters.

Of course in this Sci-Fi series the “good” world is our own natural one.

But in reality (not tv) we exist in the fallen world where there is death, evil, disasters and pain. It is hard to imagine the perfect Eden God created and what this world was meant to be. But having an awareness that Christ’s death ripped the veil and brought about the Kingdom age of the earth (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and direct access to heaven in prayer) can change our perspectives of being in defeat, to coming into awareness that victory has already been won.

The enemy’s number one goal at its heart is really about destroying our victory and awareness of who we are in Him.

Ahhh but spiritual warfare is a lengthy topic for another day….. (But hold onto that knowledge!).

Are you downtrodden and disappointed right now? In deep suffering and trial? Is it bringing you poverty, loneliness, oppression, discrimination? Are you low on wealth, love, employment, friends, family, health and comfort?

Those are all super important and the basics in life, and yet they are still things and count as treasures on earth.

No, it doesn’t seem fair and before you think I pass judgment, I am also poor and suffering in many of those same things and have been for years.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

ACCEPTING WHAT IS UNACCEPTABLE

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6

Once we have an understanding and acceptance and even appreciation of God’s process (especially when it comes to our own situation) this doesn’t always mean that our attitudes or emotions at every given moment reflect this understanding.

Emotions fluctuate.

It took many years but I did finally come to not regretting years of illness and the loss of so much life to something that was out of my control.

I came to appreciate all that God had done in me and through me and continues to do. That said, in the years since that understanding I have not always been happy about it, or always appreciated or not reverted to regret.

I have to admit right now being in the season where negativity has been over- running any kind of positivity and I really don’t like myself very much right now.

I have experienced the ebbs and flows that go on in my body, my mind, my emotions and my spirit for so many years that I feel like I can never find level footing as far as where I am in my life, or my spirituality or my own personality. This can be incredibly frustrating especially when I am very much aware of it and how it is affecting myself and others.

As is usual during the more negative times I am quite aware that there is very much a physical component to my outlook comprised of how my internal organs are functioning, my hormones, my toxicity levels and many other factors. But that does not mean I am not responsible to take control to the best of my ability my relationship with God in these times and with others.

Whether I feel like it or not it is in these times that I should all the more dig my feet in as hard as I can into Jesus and into the Word to counterbalance the chaos and negativity inside my mind my body.

What happens when I act out of obedience and do just that? What you’re reading right now is a fruit of what happens. God opens up a channel and I’m able to do the best I can with his help to write for him.

SEEING INSTEAD OF LOOKING

We know that as long as we have breath in life that God is not finished with us. When he is “done” (for reasons that are wrapped in the mystery of his will), we go home. So while we have life whether we be in the midst of trials and difficulties or if we are blessed enough to have things easy; we should never stop seeking, growing, learning, exploring all the things that God has for us in our hearts and souls.

Because that’s why we are here right now, for those things in ourselves and in others.

We’ve Got stuff to do. And if we don’t know what that stuff is right now, at least we know Who to go to to ask.

Knowing God is the beginning of knowing His will and getting to understand what He is up to. Because when we are going through horrible trials we lose our comforts and the very things that (we think) bring us stability (such as money, a steady job, a loving relationship or our health). When we lose our foundations our world is rocked and we have nothing to stand on.

But I think that is the point. When we lose our false foundations we truly do know where we are spiritually, how much faith is real and how much we do or don’t trust God. That is why we are told to consider it all joy when we have trials, because we know we have God’s loving attention and He is looking to building the gold inside us by removing the costume jewelry we have surrounded ourselves with.

“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

~Corie Ten Boom

If you have not read Corie Ten Boom’s story I highly recommend it. She survived a German concentration camp and witnessed the murder of her family as well as countless others.

“”Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”

Isaiah 48:10

CONCLUSION

We will all go through trials and difficulties. It’s not a maybe it’s a sure thing. The difference is how we choose to face them and Who we choose to face them with and what we allow Him to do in the midst.

One thing that is assured in Christ is that (hear this!) it’s not for nothing and it’s not pointless!!! Quite the opposite. Rather instead we have blessings that would have been unattainable otherwise. I don’t know about you but if I’m going to suffer I sure want to be looking for the treasure and not miss out. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it means I will continue to ebb and flow in this journey of life and go through the cycles of negativity only to bob my head free again and recognize the truths God keeps reminding me of and giving me a better understanding of as I work at running the race.

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.