Guest Post: Finding Purpose

Here is another great guest post!  Please meet my friend, Lee.  We have never met in person, but we have become great friends through email.  She is a treasure! 🙂  Lee will be getting married very soon and will be going through some wonderful changes in her life.  Please keep her in prayer as fibromyalgia is not friendly to  life’s adjustments, even the good ones.  I know you will be blessed by her words.  Leave her some love in the comments!

My name is Lee and I’m currently living in Ohio. I’m 21 years old and will be getting married in just a few short weeks. My fiancee and I are striving to fulfill the Lord’s purpose for our lives, and have future plans for ministry overseas. Fibro was an unexpected thing for both of us, but we know that God’s calling is His enabling, and that He will give us the strength to fulfill His plan.

Finding Purpose

Have you ever spoken with someone who was struggling with a serious issue, and felt completely helpless as to what to do to help? Maybe it was someone struggling with an abusive marriage, drug addiction, suicide, depression, cancer, diabetes or maybe an eating disorder? In that moment, you might have struggled finding the right words to say, or maybe you just sat bewildered and said in your heart “Help me Lord…what do I do?”

This feeling can be so crippling, especially when your heart yearns to be a blessing to them somehow and to ease their pain. Aristotle once said: “To perceive is to suffer.” The more I read this statement and roll it around in my mind, the more I find it beautifully profound. The word perceive can be defined: “to recognize, discern, envision, or understand.”

To truly perceive a person’s pain, one must be familiar with or recognize it. True empathy cannot be realized until someone has suffered and understood a similar issue.

The Lord has been gently stamping this truth on my heart, and it has been such an amazing tool for me in coping with my illness. I am learning that there is so much blessing in sickness, and so much wisdom to be learned in pain. One of my favorite authors is C.S Lewis, and I have just recently read a beautiful quote of his that I would like to share with you.

He said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

My heart both breaks and sings with this statement because I have found it to be so true in my life. This season of struggle has caused me to hear the voice of God in a way that I never have before. It has both brought me to my knees and raised me up in great joy.

He has been helping me to find purpose in my pain. The daily struggle with fatigue, neuropathy, sleeplessness, brain fog, and pain is all for a reason. This attack on my body is not in vain! This experience has sharpened my ability to recognize and identify with the pain and chronic conditions of others. This ability is a gift from God, not my doing, and I feel honored to have been given stewardship of it. I am learning that this pain has not been permitted in my body for me to be crushed beneath the weight of it, or be in valleys of despair and self-pity. Let me tell you, it’s not always easy, but I have found that the joy of the Lord truly is my strength!

Each day I have learned how to draw on that joy, over and over again, and I find that He has such a sweet and gentle way of replenishing it. He has called me to share that joy, and I believe He is calling you too. If there’s one thing that people need most in our world, it is the salvation and joy of the Lord. They are starving for it and you might be surprised at the reactions of people when you exercise this principle. Your pain is not in vain, and there are people who desperately need your empathy. They need someone to be there for them when they are hurting, and not just to be there, but to listen, and truly understand. As you well know, there is something so priceless about an understanding hug, tear, or hand to hold. But I challenge you, don’t wait forever for someone to come to you…go to them! If you don’t know where to find them, just pray…the Lord will lead you right to them. In that moment when you sacrifice your time and energy to give to a hurting heart, you will find that God refreshes your spirit in a way so beautiful, it is not easily forgotten.

God has such a wonderful plan for your life, whether you are healed of your infirmity, or whether you faithfully endure until He calls you home. You are called according to His purpose, and each one of you has one! Ask Him to lead you to that neighbor who’s hurting, or to that person who just needs a smile or a hug. When you’re feeling low, try to reach out, when you’re feeling blue….SING! When you feel alone, remember that Jesus suffered much for you, and that there is not a single thing that you’re going through that He doesn’t understand. His compassion and love is overwhelming, and He would delight to see you lavish that love and empathy on a soul who needs it.

May God give us all the strength and courage we need to be exactly what He wants us to be on this journey. May we see His bright and beautiful purpose, may we catch a glimpse of Heaven, may we be propelled to do everything we can to see His kingdom grow, and may we learn from each daily experience how to share His love! Thankyou so much for letting me share my heart with you today. May God richly bless each one of you! 🙂

 Well said, Lee!  Thank you for taking the time to share with us during this busy time of your life!  Blessings to you!!!

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My Secret

Not so much an inspirational post, just some of my thoughts that I think you might relate to. Love and prayers to you!

Having chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia has been a very private journey for me. Of course, my family and close friends know of my illness, but for the most part a large portion of the people I know and interact with on a weekly basis have no idea. (Well, at least until I started this blog! ) I choose it to be this way. Writing this blog has been the most vulnerable I have been about it EVER. I really don’t mind opening up to complete strangers about my personal journey because I know that the majority of people reading this know exactly what I am talking about and totally understand! It’s comforting to know that there is a community of people who will accept my illness without any judgement. That’s part of the reason I started this blog. I know there are others like me, who suffer, but also have their faith to help sustain them through the hard times. I wanted a way to find those people and share in the journey together.

So, I often wonder why I feel so secretive about this fibro/cfs? I mean if I had cancer or multiple sclerosis or something like that, I don’t think I would have any trouble sharing that with people. So, I’ve taken the time to evaluate my feelings and here are my thoughts. I hope you can relate.

I don’t like being vulnerable. Who does really? I started my illness with doctors telling me that it was basically all in my head. That I had depression. That my symptoms were not real. Perhaps they were doing all that they knew to do, but they were wrong. Hearing that what you experience is perhaps a facet of your imagination is very hurtful. The symptoms are so real and can be very debilitating. How could I have made that up in my head? Little was known of fibromyalgia and cfs back in 1996 and although they’ve made huge strides in the medical community, there still seems to be a stigma among physicians about these syndromes. Terribly misunderstood. I still live in fear of the judgement, even today. It’s hurtful.

I have a wonderfully supportive family. I feel open enough to tell them anything and everything about my illness without any fear of judgement. Not that there is always understanding, but there is always compassion. I choose not to tell friends/acquaintances of my illness for many reasons, but a big one is still the fear of judgement. Perhaps, not to my face, but in their thoughts. It leaves me open to misunderstanding and hurt feelings. So, I have kept my journey private, I guess to protect myself. Anyone else live that way?

Another reason, is that this syndrome is so unpredictable. It changes daily, sometimes hourly, I find it hard to keep everyone updated. I mentioned this in one of my earliest blogs Compassion. I don’t expect other people, even those close to me, to be able to keep up with which symptoms pop up on which days. How often and how severe. I can hardly keep up the ever changing status of my illness, I certainly don’t expect other people to. And I don’t expect them to understand it either. I’ve mentioned this before, but if I am feeling bad enough that I can’t get off the couch then I let husband and kids know that and ask for some help during those times. If I were to dump the symptom list on them at any given time it might go something like this:

Well, my head feels heavy, the muscles in my neck feel like guitar strings, my shoulders are burning and feel like someone has beaten me with a club, my hips and glutes hurt so bad that sitting or lying down is very uncomfortable, but all I want to do is lie down, my joints ache like I have the flu, the fatigue is so bad that I feel like I need a blood transfusion, I can’t think straight, I’m nauseous and have no appetite, I feel like I might pass out, my arms tingle and are slightly numb, and I’m a little dizzy. Did you get all that? Because if you didn’t get it all, I am sure I will feel like this again tomorrow and could go over it all again.

Sound familiar? Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful thing to educate people and to communicate with loved ones. But in my case, after 16 years, it just gets old. I just want them to know that I don’t feel well today and hopefully that will change by tomorrow. Love me anyway and help me if you can.

A few people have found out about my illness from this blog or just through conversation and the most common response is, “ I had no idea.” Well, I guess I hide it well. The point is, if I am feeling bad, I stay home. You won’t see me. And if I am out and about and I feel bad, I usually will fake it until I can get home and in the bed. That’s just the way I prefer to roll. It is somewhat of a survival mechanism for me. Can anyone relate to this? or am I the only one who chooses this way of thinking? I am blessed that I don’t have to report to an employer everyday.  I suppose I couldn’t keep much of a secret while attempting to work full time. I don’t even know how that would be possible. And I know some of you reading this are doing just that. Difficult.

Some people choose to make it their mission to create Fibromyalgia awareness. I get this and I don’t disagree with it, but I am not there yet. People need to be educated on these syndromes. To create awareness, if only to create more compassion and understanding. But all of that takes vulnerability and trust. Many of us, including myself, don’t have the energy for that kind of vulnerability. I applaud those who do. I feel like I am doing my part by writing to those of you who understand. Creating encouragement. And in that process, I am being vulnerable. That is a step for me. I am happy to share my journey with others who have it. To be vulnerable to help others be comforted and feel less lonely. This has been a mission of sorts. And it has helped tremendously in my understanding of the workings of these syndromes and my emotional response to it. No secrets here! 🙂 Thanks for coming along for the ride and listening to me!

Love and Blessings to all of you,
Ann

Let me know your thoughts about the secrecy part of fibro.  Do you feel free to share your illness with the people in your life?  or do you feel judged? Do you feel like it is your responsibility to help educate others about fibromyalgia or cfs? or do you just keep quiet, like me?  I would love to know!

Guest Post: With This Breath…

Another guest post today!  You are going to love what Kirsty shares with us today. I very much connected with her thoughts and she blessed me with her words.  Take some time to visit her blog  and if you like this post, encourage her and leave her some love in the comments.  I am loving this guest blog thing!!!  You all are amazing!

Kirsty is 28 and currently lives in New Zealand with her husband Matt. She grew up as a missionary’s daughter in Tanzania and has lived her life travelling between Australia, New Zealand and Africa. She has had serious problems with her health since she was 19, battling a myriad of tropical illnesses and currently deals with post-infectious (or chronic)-fatigue. She loves God and is so thankful for his faithfulness and grace to her through all the years of illness. She has recently started a blog at: http://howthelamerun.wordpress.com/ and would love to hear from you!

With This Breath…

Our life is but a breath…Psalm 39.5

With time, it seems that I understand more and more what this means. The days come, and go, so quickly. Soon, we will be standing at the end, and then, no more. At least of this world.

Sometimes when illness brings us close to death it gives a glimpse of this reality. We come so close to the end that we feel we might fall off it. Suddenly we remember that our days are a gift. Even filled with illness and darkness, our days are a gift.

It’s been two years now since I came so close to death that my family held their breath and prayed. No one else knew how sick I had become, but God woke friends in the night to pray for my safety. I was too sick to be really aware of the danger I was in, but remember having a sense that when I went to sleep, there was a chance that I just might not wake up.

God brought me through, and healed me of what threatened my life, but then, I went on living with the consequences of illness. Of course, anyone with chronic illness knows how hard this is, this day in, day out, struggle with feeling completely horrible. I don’t have to explain it to you, you know.

Keeping perspective…

As time goes on, and illness continues, I began to lose the perspective gained through this experience. With illness, we can all lose perspective.

I know, deep down, how precious life is, and that I don’t want to waste a day, but then the symptoms come, and it seems impossible to see past the tiredness or the pain. This is a hard thing to live out. I want to make the most of everyday, but my head is in a blur, and my body just won’t co-operate. There is a fight to remain content, to make the most of this day, despite illness.

I am a lot better now than I was then, and maybe that has helped me get some perspective back, but also, I am learning to be thankful for the small things. Some days, I have lots of energy. Others, my energy comes in little bursts, up and down all day. I try to be thankful that I have little bursts. I feel like a box of sparklers, energy bursts lighting up one at a time, and then, gone. I try to be thankful for the beauty and the bursts of light, rather than looking at the burnt out stem of blackness left afterwards.

The days of having no energy at all are few now, for which I am very thankful, but they still come, and I still have weeks where I can hardly get out of bed.

Questions…?

Often, there is an intense frustration accompanying this, and the questions come. How do I make the most of my time?

How do we?

How do we treat our days like a gift, when we are sick? How do we make the most of them despite illness? How do we avoid feeling useless and use what we do have in a meaningful way?

I have been thinking about this, struggling with feelings of uselessness, unable to do what a ‘normal’ woman of my age would, I’m not earning money, and I don’t have a career or children.

I keep coming back to this same conclusion, or rather, God keeps reminding me of what is most important, he pulls me out of my discouragement, and says to me, “It’s not what you do, but how you love.” He tells me again the words Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…and love your neighbour as yourself.”  -Mark 12:30-31

We can love God…

I find it to be such an encouragement. The most encouraging thing I can hear, because no matter how illness limits me, I can do that. No matter how illness limits us we can love. He gives us the grace to. In the simple, in the little, he gives us the grace to love him. We can love our God by spending time with him, even if it is a desperate cry from a hospital bed, or with tears of frustration flowing down our cheeks. We can love him with thankfulness for a good day, or a beautiful sunset, or another milestone reached.

We can love him, not by doing, but by being with him. We can love him, by being loved by him. We can love him by accepting his grace, just to be. By coming to him like Jesus says. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  –Matt 11: 28-30

We can love others, and ourselves…

We can love others with the simplest gifts, maybe not with the energy many have, but with the little that we can do, we can love them. We can love with the grace God gives to us. We can love them by making a meal if we are strong enough, being present in a conversation, listening, or if we are all alone, with no energy to even move, we can love them by praying for them. God will show you how you can love your neighbour, and it won’t be something that is too much for you =) (Refer to verse in Matthew above =))

We can love ourselves by accepting our own limitations, not being too hard on ourselves, and accepting the grace God has given us.

I find this one the hardest personally. I have such high expectations for myself, but God will help us, and as we learn from God to love ourselves better, we will be able to love others better too.

“But love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your might, with all your strength… and love your neighbour as yourself.” -Mark 12:30-31

He gives us the answer. Our days are a gift, and they are to love. There are no wasted days with God. He loves us deeply, and he asks us also, to love.

P.S. Thank you for taking the time to read, and thank you so much to Ann for giving me this opportunity!

Priorities in Illness

My Inspiration:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

My thoughts:

I’ve heard from many people with chronic illness, specifically fibromyalgia, that one of the greatest blessings to come from illness is the necessity to create priorities in life. Most healthy people have adequate energy to spend on whatever they want throughout the day, but when you have limited energy, every choice is calculated. I am forced to think about the energy output of daily tasks which automatically helps me focus on the things that are truly important to me. That is a blessing. Not everyone is given that clarity in life.

It is frustrating when I don’t get the things done that I want to. I make a reasonable list everyday of the things that I would like to accomplish, but I am often forced to go back and whittle that list down to what absolutely has to be done and some days, I am forced to just say, none of it really matters and I stay in bed.

My relationship with God and my family are the most valuable things to me. I just don’t have the energy, physically or emotionally, for all the extras. Yes, I am robbed of some pleasure in this life, but my focus is clear and I am thankful for it.

It’s tempting to create our own agenda, spending time and effort on things that we think are good. Staying busy and perhaps not putting our focus where it should be. Our minds and hearts are full of “plans” as they should be, but seeking God’s purpose should be the driving force behind any plan. God’s purposes are good and right and holy. Even when we are tempted to disagree with what God allows in our life, it doesn’t change the fact that His purposes prevail.

Chronic illness forces us to create priorities in our physical life, but what is motivating us to make priorities in our spiritual life? I fight the noises inside my head that keep me from focusing spiritually. It’s not an easy thing to always trust that the Lord has purpose in chronic illness as part of His plan. I sometimes struggle to quiet the thoughts that want to be angry and bitter. Or even the everyday distractions that keep me from spending alone time with God. Brain fog can even make it hard to read my Bible. A genuine spiritual focus will bring our priorities in line with what God wants for us. But we will never know this unless we are in communion with Him, seeking His plans, His ways.

How can I bring glory to Him in my limited daily activities? How does He want me to prioritize my time? How can my agenda come in line with what He wants for me? These are sometimes tough questions, but worth the effort to consider. I pray that I will choose to seek Christ when prioritizing life’s activities and in my daily walk with Him. Plans are good, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Love and Blessings,
Ann

*If you liked this post, go read Learning To Say No.