ONE YEAR: A little blog chat…

Exactly one year ago I posted my very first blog post. That was very exciting and scary at the same time! This blog had been in the “works” for at least six months prior to that because I spent six months bantering with God about how inadequate I was to do what He was calling me to do. I kind of felt like Moses wrestling with God’s instructions to lead the Israelites. 🙂

There are so many blogs in cyberspace, it seems that everyone has one, so why the big deal? Why such inner turmoil? Well, I knew what God had laid on my heart. I felt led to use my experience with chronic illness to help others in similar situations. He was calling me to be vulnerable, to go public, to share personal experience, to admit defeat and failures, to be honest, raw and real. These are things that are often hard for me. There were times this past year that as I wrote a post, I cringed as I hit the “publish” button. Not that I regret anything I wrote, it was just hard to put those thoughts and feelings out there for everyone to read.

When I finally committed to starting this blog, I decided to consistently write for one year. I am goal oriented so giving myself a goal inspires me to work harder. Well, here we are at the ONE YEAR mark! YAY!

I have learned so much from putting my thoughts into words. It has been very emotionally healing and therapeutic for me. It has also encouraged me to stay up to date on the latest CFS/FM/ME research and to try new things to ease symptoms. Overall, it has been a WONDERFUL experience, more than I thought it ever could be. I have “met” so many new friends along the way too – sisters in Christ who empathize and also need understanding. I hope that is what this blog has done for you. I hope you have found encouragement, inspiration, understanding, empathy, love, kindness, and above all have felt the LOVE of God through words in a blog. I didn’t know if anyone would actually read this blog. But I told God and my husband, that if I help even one person, this journey will have been worth my time. I meant that! Thank you so much for coming on this journey with me!

Here are some fun blog stats:

*Last week, I reached 10,000 page views. Meaning people have visited my blog and looked at one of my pages 10,000+ times during this past year.

*I have had readers and blog visitors from 76 different countries.

*There have been 6 guest posts this year and one guest poster was inspired to start her own ministry blog because of that. Love it!

*This blog has 125 Facebook friends, 54 email subscribers, 25 Twitter followers (not much of a tweeter) and 34 WordPress subscribers. That is a total of 238 people receiving notifications of any new posts. I know numbers aren’t important, but these are the people that God brought to all of us to help each other.

*I have kept quiet about the blog in my own social circles, which means the majority of my readers are people all across the world that I have never met. This warms my heart!!! We are sisters in Christ bound together by His love, sharing with one another, uplifting and encouraging one another in times of physical pain and distress.

*I love reading your comments!!!! The purpose of the blog was to reach out to others with the same chronic illness and share spiritual encouragement, but I have found that through your comments and emails, I have been so blessed by all of YOU. I wasn’t expecting that! 🙂

Now, some of you are wondering, so her year of blogging is up, is this goodbye? No, it’s not!!! I have posted once or twice a week for a year. I was committed to that. My new goal is to blog whenever the Holy Spirit leads me to. Blogging is fun, but it is also very time consuming. I didn’t really know that at first. Towards the end of this year of blogging, I was feeling obligated to write, instead of inspired to write. I don’t like feeling like that. It was a self imposed goal to write once a week, but I still felt an obligation to my readers. Our family will be moving in the next few weeks and then we have the holiday season. Busy times for me. I want the freedom to post blogs as I have time and as I feel led to do so. So, I may not be blogging as much, but I am still here and will continue to write, as long as someone is here to read!

You can reach me anytime through email at restoringmysoul@gmail.com.

I love you all and pray that God continues to lead you and guide you through this journey of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or myalgic encephalomyelitis. It’s a tough road, no doubt. Keep praying for wisdom and let’s try to keep loving one another.

Much love and many blessings,

Ann 🙂

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When Life Gets Broken

I first heard this song at an Extraordinary Women’s Conference earlier this year. The worship leader, Michael O Brien, sang it and I became a puddle of tears. The live version of music is always better and brings an enhanced worship expereince for me, but here is a Sandi Patti/Natalie Grant version that is candid and beautiful! Life sometimes does get broken, but God never leaves us. NEVER!

Next week I am celebrating ONE YEAR of blogging.  Look for a special post next week!

Hope you all have a pain free weekend!  The weather here in the Florida panhandle is GORGEOUS!  So, pain or no pain, I am going to go soak up some fresh autumn air and some vitamin D sunshine.

Love and Blessings,
Ann : )

When Life Gets Broken
by Michael O Brien

Hands reaching out
No one to hold
You’ve been abandoned
With no place to go
Wounded and wanting
Such desperate times
Cold bitter tears are filling your eyes

Get a glimpse of Jesus
For He is right there with you
He knows just what you need

Chorus:
When life gets broken
And you’re in despair
He’ll carry your burden
When it’s too much to bear
It’s down in the valley
Where He’ll give you strength
And there is nothing you have lost
That He can’t replace
He’ll help you start all over again
When life gets broken

Verse 2:
You hoped God would heal her
But she went home anyway
Now it’s hard to imagine
How you’ll make it through the day
Weeks turn to years
Time’s passing you by
But you’re still holding on
To the how’s and the why’s

Get a glimpse of Jesus
For He is right there with you
He knows just what you need

Chorus:
When life gets broken
And you’re in despair
He’ll carry your burden
When it’s too much to bear
It’s down in the valley
Where He’ll give you strength
And there is nothing you have lost
That He can’t replace
He’ll help you start all over again
When life gets broken

Bridge:
Healing waters
heal our troubled souls
Jesus, sweet Jesus
Cleanse and make us whole
Chorus:
When life gets broken
And you’re in despair
He’ll carry your burden
When it’s too much to bear
It’s down in the valley
Where He’ll give you strength
And there is nothing you have lost
That He can’t replace
He’ll help you start all over again
When life gets broken

Love One Another

My Inspiration:

Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-40

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:34-35

My Thoughts:

I have read these verses hundreds of times in my lifetime. I have heard countless sermons on them, sat through chapel messages and read devotionals on them, but it seems like at this particular point in my life, it is finally starting to sink in. God has placed a huge importance on loving others.  It is the second greatest commandment, right behind loving Him.  I am not sure why this is becoming so relevant to me now at this stage in my life, but my guess would be because I am a parent. Having kids makes me fully aware that life is not all about me.  And this is a character trait that I so desperately want to instill in my children. To love others.

I consider myself to be a kind person. I don’t really have a lot of conflict with people. So, doesn’t that by default make me a loving person. Someone who loves people and is kind?

The more I reflect on this passage of scripture, the more I realize that I am not loving others the way I should. I seek relationships that are comfortable. People convenient to love. But what about the ones that take extra time to love? The ones that take self sacrifice to love. (I am not talking about toxic personal relationships that are draining. That’s a different topic.) I am speaking of taking the time to love and connect with the people you encounter everyday. The people that I generally ignore. The cashier at the grocery store, the neighbor who routinely walks by my house, the shy girl at church, the neighbor kid who comes over to play.

I am busy.  I am the mother of five.  I have a chronic illness. I have laundry to do, meals to make, and errands to run. I need time in my day to rest and take care of myself.  I have to leave time for the flares and crashes.  And it does not come naturally to me to strike up a conversation with a stranger. This is all true. These are not “excuses”. I don’t have leftover time or energy for “loving people.”

Or do I?  Do I?  Hmmmmm.

I am efficient. Yes, that is a good word . And I am sure that my “efficiency” often looks like I am in a hurry. I have an agenda, a plan, a goal, and I am on task to get it done. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.  In my efficiency, I am so focused on my task that I completely block everything and everyone out.  How many people do I pass along the way, that could use a smile or a “hello”.  Am I on task to “love people” throughout my day?  I am ashamed to say, that many times I am not.  I have even encountered embarrassing situations where I am so lost in my thoughts of what I have to do, that I tune out those who are readily speaking to me.  Ignoring people who are speaking to you – that is definitely not loving others.

In the privacy of my own home, I can often have a complaining spirit…about other people. Am I “loving people” when I complain about them? Am I showing my children the second greatest commandment in the scriptures when I gripe and whine about how other people are not as perfect as I am? (Just being honest here.)

Maybe this post has less to do with chronic illness and more about some personal reflection, but since chronic illness affects who I am, then somehow it does indeed tie together.  I am on a new inspired journey.  To purpose to love others.  Maybe that doesn’t involve a new big project, but maybe it is just creating an awareness within myself of all the people I encounter each week.  Each soul needing to see a glimpse of Christ’s love reflected through me.  As inadequate as I feel and as unimportant as it may seem, loving others is what we are called to do.  Even in the small things.  I purpose to first SEE these people and then show them a small measure of Christ’s boundless love.

How about you?  We are all in different stages of illness.  Some leading seemingly normal lives and encountering other people everyday.  Some are housebound and don’t have the opportunity to love people throughout their day.  I am convinced that whichever stage you are in, there is a way to show Christ’s love.  And it often takes thought and commitment to do so.  I hope my reflection today has encouraged you to purposefully LOVE others.

Blessings,
Ann 🙂

Guest Post: Seasons of Fibromyalgia (Part 2)

This is our last guest post for a while.  I consider the summer “Invite to Write” a huge success!  Thank you to all that participated and I will definitely do this again next summer. Mia wrote us a lovely post earlier this year called Seasons of Fibromyalgia.  (You can find her bio there.) This is her follow up post concluding her thoughts on seasons.  She wrote these posts for me just wanting to share her heart and discovered she loved writing her thoughts so much that she started her own blog.  You can visit her blog here.  Another sister in Christ and fellow fibromyalgia sufferer reaching out to help the hurting –  I LOVE IT!!!! 🙂  I hope you are encouraged by Mia’s thoughts today.  Show her some love in the comments and go check out her new blog!

God’s thoughts to me

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you, O Israel, the One who formed you says,” Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficultly, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”(Isaiah 43:1-3, NLT)

Seasons of Fibromyalgia (Part 2)

My home country, South Africa, this year experienced an unusually cold and severe winter. Fortunately spring has officially arrived with the beautiful month of September. All around us new life is slowly blooming and the air is filled with vibrant expectancy. The yellow finches have returned to our garden and are busily building their nests. Their loud chirping and singing are like a joyous ode to spring.

Winter is stubbornly refusing to release us from its grip on this first spring day. A gale force wind is howling around the corners of our house. But its sorrowful moaning and groaning are slowly but surely replaced by a bubbling new spring song of joy.

My previous post ended when my spring arrived with a diagnosis by a rheumatologist in Port Elizabeth. Unfortunately this doctor was not very knowledgable about the treatment of this illness and sent me on my way with only a prescription in hand. I was still clueless about this condition and the fierce battle between the winter of depression and despondency and the spring of new hope and courage was raging in my heart. I was at once filled with an odd mixture of dread and expectancy.

Dear Ones, I am convinced that this is such a wonderful opportunity for us to stretch those faith muscles and to allow our Lord to lead us forward on this journey. I want to encourage you not to condemn yourself when you experience this cacophony of weird and unfamiliar emotions. Condemnation is not from our Lord and is so destructive. Rather focus on your Pappa God, our Heavenly Gardener, who is weeding out all the weeds, thorns and thistles from the garden of your soul and the new beauty He is creating in its stead.

I dared to dream again and dove head first into extensive research on possible treatments and cures for FM/CFS. I gathered lots of information and it did not feel as if I was fighting a phantom in my mind anymore, but a real enemy with a real name. I still had no idea that there was no known cure for this condition and was convinced that I would be able to beat this foe. There were so many advise and treatments available and each one brought new hope to my heart. With so many options available, how could one not be cured!

I also discovered wonderful online support through blogs like Ann’s and it brought so much comfort and relief to my heart. Every time winter was trying to re-assert itself through despair, the naked honesty and coping advice I received through these links were precious gifts from our Father. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the support of other travelers on this FM/CFS road, but crucial to this road is our Lord Jesus. He is the One who carries us, our Strength and Support. He cares deeply about everything that happens to you.

Realizing that there was no cure for this illness yet, launched me onto a new road during my spring journey. I found it so difficult to wrap my mind around the possibility that I could forever, whilst on earth, suffer from this pain and exhaustion. I tried so many different treatments: supplements which helped a bit, but became too expensive; diet changes that caused me to lose weight I could ill afford; an exercise regime that actually made the CFS worse; prescription medications, etc. I even went to a pastor to undergo a deliverance. He apparently was an expert on this field. I had no previous knowledge on this kind of thing and was prepared to try anything legal. I realized that these people only meant well and tried their utmost best to help me, but it nearly drove me over the edge of reality straight into the arms of insanity when they told me that demons of death and insanity were trying to kill me. This experience caused me so much spiritual harm and it took me a long time to recover enough to be able to share this with you. The extreme terror and fear I experienced caused me to completely lose my appetite and my weight plummeted down to 47kg.

The spring in my heart made way for a very hot and dry summer as disappointment followed every unsuccessful new treatment. I also endured so much uncertainty and self-doubt as it seemed as if no one actually believed in the legitimacy of this condition. Dark, frightening thunderclouds of terror and fear (and all their evil counterparts) started to suffocate the last hope in my heart. I was brought to the brink of a complete breakdown as lightning flashes of pain relentlessly ripped thorough my body and sanity. The only thing that I was able to do, was to cling unto our Pappa God for dear life. He was my only anchor and lifeline and, just at the right time, He brought repeating storms of crying. Thousands upon thousands of tears flooded away all those terrible emotions and quenched the fire that was consuming my life. Our Pappa brought only good out of this as He was drawing me closer and closer into His loving embrace. He brought a new Christian doctor into my life who taught me the golden rule of pacing. We worked together trying to find the right combination of medication to at least alleviate some of my symptoms and we managed to get many symptoms under control. This dear, patient man prayed for me and listened to all my aches and pains, as well as to all my sorrows and woes.

Our Lord then escorted me into the beautiful new season of autumn. The colors of the leaves of my self-efforts changed into rich shades of golden browns and yellows, coppers and burnished reds. As trees are stripped of their green foliage during winter, I was stripped of all my self confidence and efforts to bring about healing to my life. I personally had to experience the loss of the “self” life before I was able to receive and experience new life in our Lord Jesus. I realized then that only as I allow our Lord to live His Life in and through me, was He able to produce delicious fruit through all my seasons of FM/CFS; not only for my needs, but also for everyone around me.

It has taken our Pappa quite a fair amount of time to teach this stubborn child of His that He brings beauty only out of ashes (and not self-effort), and strength out of weakness (and not out of striving). Now, whenever my heart experiences a cold winter or dry, hot summer and not much life is visible from the outside, I look forward to the new hope, new trust, increased faith and dependence that our Lord is creating in my heart.

When you are overwhelmed by all the different seasons and fluctuating symptoms and emotions, remember our Lord Jesus’ gentle invitation: ” Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28a, NLT) Your Pappa will, if you allow Him, use every season you experience for your ultimate good and His wonderful Glory.

Thank you so much for sharing my thoughts. Ann, I so appreciate the opportunity you gave me to bring my thoughts on all the seasons of FM/CFS to the only logical and possible conclusion, a life lived in our Lord Jesus.

Hugs and blessings.

Thank you MIa for sharing you heart!  You blessed and encouraged me and I know you have blessed others as well.  Don’t forget to visit Mia’s blog hisnlovingembrace.wordpress.com.