Comfort and Compassion

My Inspiration:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
II Corinthians 1:3-4 

My Thoughts:

Comfort and Compassion. Father of Compassion. God of all Comfort.

God understands the human need for comfort and compassion. Not only is He omniscient, but we were made in His image.  He is the author of comfort and compassion.  So many times in my life, I have seen Him as the giver of these things. To me and to others. And in turn because we understand this human need and are the blessed recipients, we are then able to share these gifts with others.

I have experienced the comfort of my Lord countless times throughout the 16 year journey of fibromyalgia and cfs. In times of discouragement and despair. In times of emotional hurt and physical pain. In times of depression. In times of overwhelming fatigue. Knowing He is there, listening and caring for me, brings peace.

The words of God comfort me. I love to surround myself with His words of promise. For even though He has chosen me to walk through the hardship of chronic illness, His promise to be with me brings comfort. The New Testament is filled with examples where Jesus offers comfort to hurting people. From healing the sick to feeding the hungry, Jesus set a wonderful example for us. He knew how to comfort people. And meditating on His words of comfort for others offers comfort to me. He is a loving and compassionate Saviour!

Matthew 14:13-14
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
And then He went on to feed them because they were hungry. Compassion for the hungry. Comfort for the sick and hurting.

I have been blessed to receive comfort from family and friends through difficult times. Sometimes, God uses people to comfort us. Comfort from God, through friends. Love that. It’s like a double hug! Not to say there aren’t times when we feel lonely and afraid, but in those times if we will cling to His Words and trust, His comfort will abound.

My dad had quadruple bypass surgery last week. It was sudden and surprising. It was a time full of anxiety and fear, for all of us. I was blessed to be the recipient of comfort last week. So many people outpouring their love, thoughts and prayers to my dad and to us, his family. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of the body of Christ. Jesus set the example and so many have followed with compassion. By offering comfort to the hurting.

Dad is on the road to recovery. It will be slow and long. We are praying for no complications. Thank you to those who have asked about him and have been praying for him. Keep it up!  And many thanks to those who have lived out the mission of comfort and compassion to our family.

Many Blessings,
Ann 🙂

Is there a specific moment where you remember you felt the comfort of God? or were overwhelmed by the compassion of a friend? Share your encouraging stories with us!

Guest Post: Kindness Comes

I am so happy that this guest blogging thing is working out!  I am thrilled to share Kathy’s words with you today.  I was planning on writing a blog post this week, but my baby girl had strep throat and scarlet fever (she’s better now) and I spent most of my day at the hospital with my dad who had a heart cath and now will require bypass surgery.  It’s been a rough week, but we know God is in control.  Thankfully, Kathy’s blog post was ready to go, so I am sharing that with you today.  I hope and pray Kathy’s words will encourage you.  Leave her some love in the comments!  I love how you all are encouraging one another.  Thanks for writing, Kathy!

About our guest blogger:
I am Kathy Chesley from Ashland, Wisconsin, right on Lake Superior. I am a writer, speaker, retreat leader, piano teacher and choir director and have had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue for over 25 years. I am a clergy spouse and have two darling daughters, now grown and out on their own. I get by on God’s grace and like to share my struggles and successes in overcoming through my God’s Struggler ministry and blog: www.godstruggler.com.

Kindness Comes
My mother used to say that if you were feeling lonely or depressed or hurting so badly you couldn’t stand yourself, you should do something for someone else. She was right about that. Doing kindnesses for others seems to take your mind off of yourself. It also gives you purpose which pain, loneliness and depression seem to take away.

Maybe my mother had read Henry Drummond because he also liked that idea. He said, “The greatest thing one can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children.”

I have learned that there are simple things I can do, even while hurting, that serve this purpose. Writing notes of encouragement, sharing the bountiful blossoms from my peony bush, singing at funerals, teaching classes on coping with chronic pain or classes on the benefits of laughter are some of the ways I share my gifts and distract myself from ME.

But the kindnesses I’ve never forgotten are the ones that came to me from others. Because of my struggles with pain and fatigue and depression, I have frequently been the recipient of the heart goodness of friends and neighbors and sometimes even total strangers.

I will never forget meals brought to me when I was incapacitated or the flowers delivered by my fellow book club members to cheer me. I also remember the loan of a special chair when I was unable to stand without screaming due to a broken rib. This chair just sort of lifted me to my feet without any effort other than pushing a button. I have cherished the listening ears of friends, who, even if they don’t understand what my pain feels like, are willing to hear me try to describe it to them. I love all the efforts that people make to keep my mind off myself, because truly, distraction is the only thing that has ever worked for me as pain relief. Taking me to a movie or concert or sharing DVD’s or a short road trip work wonders on my mental state. People who make me laugh are best of all and funny cards in the mail or videos sent to me by e-mail really do the trick.

I think chronic pain is equally as hard on family members as it is on me but just knowing they are thinking of me makes my day. I don’t get to spend long periods of time with my husband because he is a very busy pastor. But he blesses me in so many ways by emptying garbage, filling my car with gas, fixing broken stuff, freshening the cat’s litter box, purchasing the groceries and picking up prescriptions or taking me for drives in the country. My darling daughters are very different in their responses but one calls me alot and the other connects me with other hurting people via Facebook.

What a blessing it is to know that others are thinking of me in a time of trial and to have the assurance that God never leaves my side. It seems like when I need it most, kindness comes.

Be ye kind, one unto another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another; even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.
(Du Du, Doodly Du) – Ephesians 4:32 (Because it is scripture set to song, you see!)

Guest Post: Seasons of Fibromyalgia

I am so excited to be posting our first guest blog from my “invite to write”.  I know that my blog readers will enjoy hearing from other readers.  This makes me happy!!!  Thank you to Mia for being willing to share her beautifully written devotional.  I hope you are encouraged – and please leave Mia some love in the comments! 🙂

INTRODUCTION
I am a 49 year old fibromite from South Africa. My hometown is the beautiful little coastal town of Gonubie about 20 km from East London. We are so blessed to stay about 200 meters from the sea. I am married to my teenage sweetheart of 27 years and we have two precious sons. The oldest is a fourth year architecture student at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth and the youngest is taking a gap year, waitering in PE. My hobbies include knitting, cross stitching, sewing,art, writing and cooking. I am a housewife and love it! My husband is the love of my life, my best friend and so special.

DEVOTIONAL
The Scripture reading comes from Eccles. 3:1-8 : A Time for Everything.

This is the first devotional I have ever written. Looking at Solomon’s wisdom, I want to thank Ann for giving me a place to share my time to encourage others with the same encouragement God has given me and for sharing with you one of my passions: writing.

I was diagnosed with FM about 6 years ago and have gone through many, many fibroseasons during which God has carried me with more patience and love than what I allowed for myself. I think I am finally entering my season of the new normal. Ann, I love that description! I would like to share with my fellow fibromites the seasons of fibromyalgia that I have experienced.

The first season that I think we all go through is the cold, dark frightening winter of this unknown visitor that causes so much pain. The icy cold fear of pain, exhaustion of night-after-night of insomnia and so many other terrible symptoms often lead you to the road of extreme loneliness and despair. The skepticism of the people around you does NOT contribute to your wellbeing. Usually the doctor’s conclusion of that-all-in-your-head kind of thing is the last straw that makes you doubt your own sanity. The emotional hurt can be even be more severe and frightening than the physical symptoms and most often much harder to bear. It seems that you are sooooo alone; struggling through thick layers of snow without even one ray of sunshine to bring just a little warmth of relief.

Dear Ones, when you are in the midst of your own severe winter season, you are never alone. Your Lord is walking with you every single step of the way. Be patient with yourself even if you are the only one and allow your roots to grow deep into our Wonderful Saviour, our Lord Jesus. Let your lives be built upon Him. He knows pain and suffering and understands exactly what you are going through. Ps 22 gives a good description of His own pain, suffering and loneliness He went through. Commit your spirit into His Hands like He did His into our Father’s Hands. Remember His great, great love for you and His tender, gentle smile of joy when He looks at you. He lovingly collects all your tears and saves them in a special jar marked with your name.

Remember that this is just a season, a time and He created it all; not to stay, but to pass. Only He is Eternal. During my own winter I went through so many conflicting indescribable emotions of terror, anger, rebellion at life and so many more that I was totally unfamiliar with. Eventually the extreme darkness was slowly replaced by greys and browns of discouragement, despair, hopelessness and loneliness and later with beautiful dark, rich reds, oranges, blues, greens as our Good Shepherd started leading me on a wonderful inward journey to springs and waters of refreshment and rest, where he fed my soul with Himself. What a Saviour, what a Friend and God! The seasons were changing.

My first fibro spring started mercifully with a diagnosis by a rheumatologist in Port Elizabeth. For me it was profound and so liberating. I was not insane neither a hypochondriac. I had permission to suffer without having to make excuses whenever some one was enquiring about my illness. Some colors started creeping back into my life. Spring flowers of joy started to bloom where there was only a dead winter landscape of depression.

For those ladies (and gents) going through this season, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes and thoughts on our Heavenly Gardener who is creating a beautiful garden in your soul. This season is necessary for cultivating all the lush green foliage He is preparing.

Through both these seasons I was startled by all the feelings that I experienced, especially the intensity of emotions it caused. When I realized that they were all also created by Our Father as a gift of mercy to help me cope with the illness, my summer started.

In a next devotional I would love to share the next two seasons.
(Mia has done such a great job that I am allowing her to submit another devotional to be published later in the summer. Stay tuned!)

Lots of warm love and blessings from a cold South Africa.
Mia de Vries

If this blog post encouraged you today, please encourage Mia by leaving her a comment!  🙂  If you would like to contact her personally, her email address is:  meraai.devries@gmail.com

Oh, I Want To Know You More

My Inspiration:

 

My Thoughts:

I sat down tonight to write a blog and expound some truth about this song, but the message is profoundly clear. It doesn’t need any help from me. It’s one of my favorites and of course, I can’t listen to it without crying. It’s an awesome, inspiring song where the chorus offers a pleading, a longing of my heart when words are not enough. It’s a throwback. Steve Green. 🙂

I hope you are encouraged.
Many Blessings,
Ann

Oh, I Want to Know You More
By Steve Green

Just the time I feel that I’ve been caught in the mire of self.
Just the time I feel my mind’s been bought by worldly wealth.

That’s when the breeze begins to blow I know, the Spirit’s Call.
And all my worldly wanderings just melt into His Love.

Oh, I want to know You more!
Deep within my soul I want to know You,
Oh, I want to know You.
To feel Your Heart and know Your Mind,
Looking in Your eyes stirs up within me,
Cries that say I want to know You
Oh, I want to know You more.

When my daily deeds ordinarily lose life and song,
My heart begins to bleed, sensitivity to Him is gone.

I’ve run the race but set my own pace and face a shattered soul,
Now the gentle arms of Jesus warm my hunger to be whole.

Oh, I want to know You more!
Deep within my soul I want to know You,
Oh, I want to know You.
To feel Your Heart and know Your Mind,
Looking in Your eyes stirs up within me,
Cries that say I want to know You

Oh, I want to know You…
And I would give my final breath
To know You in Your Death and Resurrection,
Oh, I want to know You more.

Oh, I want to know You, to know You more.
Oh, I want to know You more.

Tuesday Tip – Vacation!!!!

Last week we went on vacation. To be honest, every year, I dread vacation. I don’t obsessively worry about it, but the thoughts are always there. How will my body handle the traveling? sleeping in a different bed? keeping up with the schedule? eating different foods? stress of the kids out of their routine? UGH. I try really hard to keep a positive attitude and think, “Yay, my parents want to take all of us on a wonderful vacation, how can I refuse! Woo-hoo!” But fibromyalgia and cfs always throw a damper on it and I always wonder ahead of time if it is even worth it. But after it is all over, I am always glad I made the effort and we have wonderful pictures and memories of family time.

So, because of my recent vacation, I started thinking about the things that I do to prepare my body for the trip. I’ve been doing this for so long that I don’t actually THINK about doing these things, they are just essentials for my survival. So, here are my fibromyalgia vacation tips.

Sleeping.
On any kind of trip, vacation or otherwise, we are in a different bed. If you don’t remember, I wrote a post about how much I love my bed at home. Hotel beds, family member’s spare beds, air mattresses, wherever we sleep, we have got to make sleeping a priority. It is no secret that bad sleep will put you in a flare. In my situation, I believe the poor sleep is what got me into this mess in the first place. To the best of my ability, I do whatever I can to ensure a good night’s sleep.
~I bring my own pillow from home.
~I wear earplugs to block out any unfamiliar noises.
~I take my sleeping herbs like I usually do.
~I bring a fan to help regulate temperature. I sleep better when I am cool/cold.
~Fans are also great for “white noise”.
~I do what I can to make the room dark. I love to sleep in.

Eating.
I do well with eating six times a day. I always eat protein at every snack and meal and try to keep my blood sugars balanced. Vacation always brings eating at odd time and different foods. One of my key fibro symptoms centers around my digestive system and vacation can throw things way out of whack. So, I plan and eat smart. These little plans are things that keep me in a routine and hopefully will prevent a flare.
~I always have a snack in my purse.
~I try to stick with eating foods at restaurants that are not too different than what I would eat at home.
~I always carry a bottle of water with me to ensure I stay hydrated.

Riding in a car.
I was always embarrassed when my mom was standing on the side of the road stretching her muscles after sitting in the car for several hours. Now, I totally get it. 🙂 I think it is a combo of getting older and the fibro. Sitting in a car for hours leaves me stiff and hurting.
~I take a pillow in the car to support my neck, back, glutes or whatever is hurting from being still for so long.
~I take a blanket because I love air conditioning, but I always get too cold.
~I will often take preventative pain relievers.
~If I am the driver (which is rare), I’ll stop often to move and stretch.

Pacing.
Vacation can bring on some crazy schedules. Early mornings, late nights, constant activity during the day. It is exhausting even for the healthy!
~I schedule breaks for just being still and having down time. Quiet time. (Fortunately I still have one child who naps in the afternoon, so my break comes with her nap.)
~I take a nap when I can.  (Isn’t that kind of what vacation is about?)
~ I pick an activity that the others are doing, that maybe I can skip, so I can rest.
~If I know I’m going to be walking a lot, I wear comfortable shoes. My feet always hurt at the end of the day. Even just from walking around my house.
~I pace myself. Overdoing it today, means I may be doing nothing tomorrow!

Hot showers.
A good, high pressured hot shower is hard to come by, but when it happens it is like heaven to me! This past vacation, we stayed in a hotel that had an awesome shower! It justs melts all the pain and stiffness away if I can stand in a hot shower that massages my neck and shoulders.

Deep Breathing.
Read my blog posts about deep breathing to learn more about this. But I instinctively put this into practice while traveling. It helps me let go of travel stress.

Let’s just admit, vacations are almost always stressful in one way or another. But the memories made and times spent with family and friends make it all worth it! But if you are in a season of fibro or cfs where the effort may just send you over the edge, then stay home!!! I have done this before and looking back I am glad I did. Times are pretty good for me right now and this particular vacation did not send me crashing when I got home. I was pleasantly surprised!

I hope some of these tips help you to have a fabulous summer vacation! If you have a great tip or vacation experience, please share! I love reading your comments!

Blessings,
Ann

Blessing and Serving

My Inspiration:

I Peter 4:10-11
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

My Thoughts:

You saw in my last blog post the video of my daughter singing in church. She sings quite a bit for various reasons at different places. Recently, my 8 year old son, Connor, asked me, “Why does Carissa get to sing in front of people all the time?” Connor hates to sing in front of people, but the question almost sounded like he was a little envious of his sister. So, I tried to explain it by saying that everyone has a gift or a talent that God has given them. Some people’s gifts are used in a very public manner, like singing, and some gifts are used “behind the scenes” and maybe not so visible, but equally as valuable.

This got me thinking about gifts, talents and service. I truly believe that everyone has something valuable to offer the Lord by way of talent and service. It’s true that some people find their place of service more quickly than others, but we each have the ability to offer something to the church or the community in which we live, that will shine the light of Jesus.

Chronic illness can certainly hinder or dampen the ways in which we use these gifts. There will be periods of time in our illness when we are unable to physically serve the way we want to. And then in the good times, there is still a very delicate balance of serving versus protecting our health. It can be discouraging when we know we have the gifts to help, but we are not physically able. We realize that we either have to say no or that the most we can give is not all that we want to give.

God knows. He hears. He sees. And He certainly understands. The important thing is that we are willing to serve. That we are to be seeking ways to use the abilities that God has given us to bless others with His love. Whether publicly or privately, whether a lot or a little, we are to shine a light to those who are lost or those who need encouragement. Even when we feel as if we are the ones who need the encouragement! There will be seasons of illness where you are unable to serve and that is okay. But there will also be seasons when you can truly pour yourself into blessing others.  We are to be willing vessels.  Willing to serve when our bodies are able.

I wrote a blog not too long ago about self pity and I still think the greatest remedy for self pity is to find ways to serve others. It can be things that are so simple, yet serving will take focus off of ourselves. I always feel better when I have done something to encourage someone else. And service can be as simple as giving a kind word to someone who needs it. Wherever your talent lies, whether used in public or behind the scenes, don’t let illness rob you of the joys of serving our Lord.

Blessings,
Ann : -)

There is still more room for my readers to participate in the Invite to Write.  If you have been thinking about it, now is the time to send me an email at restoringmysoul@gmail.com.
I can’t wait for you to read what some of my readers are going to be sharing this summer!

He Knows My Name


You all know how much I love music! I love sharing with you what music inspires me in hopes that it will also encourage you! Well, this song is super special, not only is it a great song, but someone very special is singing it in this video. My 10 year old daughter, Carissa, was asked to sing in Sunday morning worship at our church a few weeks ago. She absolutely loves to sing, just like her mama, and she was thrilled to be a part of our worship service. I can’t tell you how much it melts my heart, that not only has she found something that she loves to do, but it is the exact same thing that I love to do. And she is using it to glorify our Lord! So special! OK, enough gushing about my kids….

I love the lyrics to this song. Our Father knows our name, our every thought, and He knew all of this before our time on this earth even began. That means that He knew before I was even born that I would have fibromyalgia and cfs. It was in His plan. We can say that about anything that happens in our lives. And sometimes that can be puzzling. It again goes back to the question that I always ask about human suffering on this earth and why He allows it. And this song answers that question in the same way that I would. There will always be hard times, but “He sees each tear that falls, And hears me when I call, and He’ll never leave me, No matter where I go.” Reminds me of some of my favorite verses:

Hebrews 13:5-6
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

My friend, God will not leave you. He promises that. I think sometimes I need to be reminded of this truth. We all do. Sometimes it feels so lonely, like God has gone missing in the midst of life’s problems. Or that my pain is somehow insignificant to our great, big God. But even when we don’t FEEL like He’s there, He always is. And we can call on Him at anytime and ask for His grace to sustain us. I pray that no matter your circumstance today, in this moment, that you know this truth and rest in His promise. He will not leave you. He will never forsake you.

Blessings,
Ann

He Knows My Name
By Tommy Walker

I have a maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hand

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

I have a Father
He calls me his own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

Invite To Write

Summer is officially HERE! Today is the last day of school for my kiddos. We have some great summer fun planned and I can’t wait to have a more relaxed schedule. No more getting up early!! (I am NOT a morning person.) So, my kids will be home – all five of them – and although I love that, it means that I will not have a lot of time to myself. That’s OK, I’m happy to spend my days playing in the sprinkler and eating popsicles and cleaning up lots of messes, but it means I may not have the time to write like I want to. In fact, the blog has been pretty sparse the last few weeks – I apologize. Life has been busy as we wrap up the school year activities. So, I’ve come up with an idea to help me and I hope some of you will jump on board with it.

Do you like to write? Or ever thought about writing? Or do you have a personal testimony or life lesson to share about chronic illness? What has chronic illness taught you? How about a fibromyalgia tip that our readers may be interested in? Encouragement for fellow sufferers? Scripture that has helped you in the dark times? I am calling on my readers to help by contributing to my blog for the summer!! Doesn’t that sound fun? Maybe you are already a blogger. You could guest write a blog for me and then link us up to your blog. Maybe you’ve never written before, but feel led to share. That would be great!

Don’t worry, I will still be writing throughout the summer, but the guest blogs would just be a way of filling in some of the blanks.

If you think this would be something you might be interested in doing, please email me at restoringmysoul@gmail.com and tell me that you are interested. You don’t have to write the blog post yet, just let me know that you would like to participate. I will then email you some guidelines and we’ll discuss the details.  In your email, send me your name, email address, and a sentence or two about what you may want to write about.

Looking forward to seeing how the Lord uses this community to encourage each other!

Blessings,
Ann

Life is Hard

My Inspiration:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

II Corinthians 12:9-10

My Thoughts:

A few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker in my Connection Group Class at church. Her name was Lori. She is a friend of my group leader and while vacationing in Florida she was gracious enough to stop by our class and share her story. Lori is a precious child of God who has experienced great hardship and loss in her life. Her story was full of raw emotion as she shared her journey of 10 years of infertility which included numerous failed IVF treatments and a failed adoption. After 10 years, she was finally able to get pregnant. She carried her baby to full term and then through an unforeseen complication during labor, her son only lived for several hours. How absolutely devastating and heartbreaking! My first thoughts when hearing a tragic story like this is, “do we serve a cruel God?” If you are in love with Jesus and serving Him the best you know how, why would He allow such a tragedy to occur? How could God allow such emotional pain and suffering of one of HIS children?*

How many stories have you heard of unspeakable loss to one of God’s own? There are countless stories. Maybe you are one of them. How do you reconcile that the world that God created is full of such pain and loss? That His own beloved are suffering here on this earth. Wouldn’t it make sense that those who choose to live a life glorifying God would be the ones with the least problems in this world? In human terms, doesn’t that just make sense? Maybe you think this about yourself – I try to please God and bring glory to Him, yet I live in a world of pain. Why is that? It’s a tough one to answer sometimes. It has been in my thoughts and recent discussions with friends and family. I honestly don’t know that I have an absolute answer.

It is no secret that the Christian life requires faith. It requires full out trust in a God whom we cannot see with our human eyes, nor touch with our hands. I admit, sometimes that can be difficult, especially in the really dark times. It is in life’s painful moments, that our faith is tested. Do we only trust Him in the good times? Can we really trust Him in the bad times? Does He really love me and want only what’s best for me? How could Lori’s story be the best for her? How could that be good in any way? My human mind struggles at times to comprehend it. I read the Bible, I BELIEVE the Bible, I have faith that every word is true, but my human reasoning sometimes gets in the way of my faith and trust.

My mom says that one thing she regrets about raising her children was not teaching us that “life is hard.” I really don’t think that she needed to teach us that. I mean sooner or later we all learn that. Life is just hard sometimes. Finances, marriage, relationships, jobs, parenting, health. We all experience the hard times and that’s just the way life is. But I am a child of God. Do you know what that means? It means that he has PROMISED sufficient grace for me. It means that I CAN trust Him. It means during those time of “weakness, insults, distress, persecutions, and difficulties,” that it is an opportunity for me to help shine the light of God’s grace to a lost world. That during these times I can rest in assurance that His grace is perfected in my weakness. When I am at my weakest, it is then that I am strong with His grace and unfailing love. These are the promises to cling to in the rough patches of life.

Sufficient grace doesn’t mean that there will no hurt. There will always be hurt. It means that we have One to run to, to cling to, to cry to, when life gets too hard. Life IS hard at times, that won’t change. But my faith and trust is in a God that loves me, even when I don’t understand. Even when I fail and the doubt and fear creep in and even when I can’t see Him or trace His hand in a situation, His Word always remains true. And that’s what I’m clinging too!

*To finish the story … Lori now has been blessed with a healthy, beautiful little boy. God’s grace. And thank you to Lori for sharing your story to inspire others to glorify God in the rough times.

If you liked this post, you may also like More Than I Can Bear.

Tuesday Tip – Being a Mommy

How do you be a mommy and have fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome? Well, that is a big question! And one I am going to try and answer in this blog post. My answers will stem from my personal experience which may be very different than yours, but hopefully you will be able to relate to my tips for today.

First of all, I got sick BEFORE I became a mom. I could barely take care of myself in the first two years of illness. I never would have been able to care for little ones during that time. I am so thankful that it happened in this order. I can see how devastating a fibromyalgia diagnosis would be in the middle of trying to raise a family. It would change everything, including relationships with your kids. There was a time when I didn’t know if I could ever handle being a mother because I was so sick, but God has blessed us more than I ever imagined. When we decided to have children, we knew full well that fibro/cfs would be a big part of parenthood and we felt prepared to handle things in spite of the illness.

Family is Priority.
I choose to “save” my energy for my family by saying no to other things in my life. I want my kids to have the best of me, not the leftovers. I guess this could apply to anyone, but illness forces me to make a conscious decision. I choose to spend my limited energy and try to focus on the people that matter most to me. I was telling a friend the other day, that I am constantly calculating my schedule. I am rationing my energy and trying to save some for the busy times. I try to schedule a “rest” time in my day, sometime after lunch, while kids are napping or reading, so that I can get refueled for the dinner, bath, and bedtime hours because those are the most hectic parts of the day. I don’t want to be so spent that I can’t participate in these routines. I only have these little people at home with me for a short season of life and I am doing my best to make the most of it.

Plan, Plan, Plan.
You all know how I am a little addicted to lists! I love them! I take some time at the beginning of each day and write myself a list of things that need to be done. I prioritize and start with the most pressing thing first. You can’t count on having energy later in the day to get things done. You never know when the energy will give out and a crash will come so, making a list and planning allows me some freedom to choose where my energy is most needed. Dinner hour is always a challenge for any mother. So, I have a little tip for you. I had a seasoned mother tell me that when your head hits the pillow at night, you should already know what you are having for dinner the next day. Dinner time is not a surprise – it happens every single day, so don’t let it sneak up on you. If you aren’t prepared then this can be the most stressful part of the day. And we all know what stress does to our bodies! Little ones are cranky when they are hungry. So, be prepared and get ahead of the game. This makes it easier on everyone in the whole family.

Ask for help or hire help.
I have extremely helpful parents and a husband who also is willing to jump in when I need him. They don’t know when I am in a flare. I have to tell them. Yes, at times it seems ridiculous (it’s not), but I have to just spell it out. “I am not doing well today. I need your help. Here is how you can help me the most. Is that something you can do for me?” Don’t beat around the bush. Nothing is more frustrating than assuming your loved ones know how you are feeling. They don’t. Most of the time my husband and parents are more than willing and able to assist me when all I can do is lay on the couch. When they aren’t able to help, well then, nothing gets done and that is just gonna be OK for today. If you can afford to hire some help, my opinion is that it is money wisely spent. Cleaning is the one thing that zaps every last piece of energy out of me. When Christmas, birthday, mother’s day, etc… rolls around I will often ask for the funds or gift certificates for someone to help me clean house. It’s not that I don’t like to clean, I think I am quite good at it, it just robs me of my day and then I have nothing left to give my family. Keeping up with the day to day clutter and everyday dishes/laundry/food prep for seven people is a fulltime job by itself. Hiring assistance for the deep weekly or monthly cleaning gives me a whole day’s worth of energy back. Totally worth it.

Sleep and rest.
Make sleep a priority. Not getting enough sleep not only affects my symptoms, but it makes me grouchy. Have you heard the expression, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? 🙂 Well, I believe it is so true that the mom often sets the tone for the whole house. When I don’t get enough sleep, I am grouchy and don’t feel well and then my whole family is affected. I know we all have sleep issues, but I am saying that what we are able to control, should be made a priority.

Prioritize Good Health.
As moms, we often put our own health on the back burner because we are so focused on taking care of everyone else. With chronic illness, we cannot afford to do that! I know there is little about fibro that we can control, but there are some things we can do in pursuit of wellness. We need to make sure we are taking our meds, supplements, and vitamins to keep us the best we can possibly be in spite of the illness. Also, eating right and exercising when we are able are ways we can take care of our bodies. We need to get yearly physical exams and follow ups with our physician concerning medications and blood work. We have some important people depending on us and making our health a priority will only help us be better for our kids!

Letting go of ideals.
Ah, this is a tough one. It’s hard for me. I want so badly to give mothering everything I’ve got. To do it well. To do it right! But I can’t do it the way I want to do it, so I have to let go of the ideal. This is actually a good thing, another blessing in disguise. Having to surrender my mothering because of illness has taught me a valuable lesson. I can’t do it all on my own. Healthy or sick, I shouldn’t be striving to do it all in my own strength anyway. Trusting God daily to show me how to be the best mother that I can be. Asking for practical wisdom and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading as I guide these little people into adulthood. It’s a privilege. And I am stubborn enough to try to do this in my own power – to be the perfect mom and have all the answers. But being sick keeps me from this self righteous attitude. And in hindsight, I am grateful for it.

Prayer.
My list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that God is control of it all. He sees our struggles. He knows how often we feel like failures, how hard we are trying, how it hurts us to not be the mother we desire to be, and how lonely it can feel when we don’t have the support that we want and some days we feel like we just can’t do it. Bring it all to God and lay it at His feet. He hears us, He loves us, He knows our pain. He doesn’t promise to take it away, but He does promise grace that is sufficient to get us through the tough times. Take it all to Him it prayer.

I know our day to day lives are unpredictable and I also know that between all of us who are reading this blog there are great differences along the spectrum of these syndromes. This illness shows up differently in each individual person that it attacks, but I hope that if you are a struggling fibromyalgia mom that you found something useful here today. If you have any other tips or stories you want to share with us about motherhood and illness, please do!

Thanks for reading! Blessings!
~Ann

Six Months And Still Blogging…

Six months ago I launched this blog. So, I guess you could call today a little anniversary. To mark the occasion, I thought I would share with you what writing this blog has meant to me and the things I am learning along the way.

After living with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome for 15+ years, I started feeling the urge to try and put a purpose to the illness. I have done this before, but the purpose seeking usually led me on a personal journey. This time I knew I was being led to somehow help others. I didn’t know what that looked like, but I knew there were other Christians out there that deal with the same syndromes. And I knew that I probably went to church with some of them, but I never speak of my illness (I’m going to blog about this soon), so how would anyone know? I knew there had to be a way for people of like minded faith who struggle with similar health issues to come together and support each other. I thought about starting a support group or getting involved with one, but that requires more time outside the house and I just didn’t have that time to give away from my family. My husband started a blog not too long ago, (stuffboysdo.com) so the blogging thing was on my mind. And I threw the idea around in my head for a long while before I started praying about it.

The only reason I started this blog was pure and simple. The Lord was calling me to do it. When the idea first came about, I spent months arguing with myself (and God) about how I didn’t have the time and I was ill equipped to WRITE. I have never written anything other than required writing assignments for college. I have never once considered writing for fun or even journaling. But there are TONS of people who have a blog who aren’t “writers”, we’re just people who have something to say. I was feeling the calling to TRY and minister to a specific group of people and it took form in the shape of a blog. I have heard people say that if you are going to write something, then you should write what you know. I certainly KNOW what it is like to live with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and I’m a child of the King, so I thought, well, at least that’s a place to start.

I had no idea if anyone would ever read the blog outside of my family. I didn’t really intend to share it with friends or acquaintances, because the purpose was to reach Christians with fibro and/or cfs. I was not and still am not concerned with the amount of people reading the blog, just that I am reaching the people with fibro and/or cfs that want or need the spiritual encouragement. And I have found a good many of you – YAY!

I have learned so much in just the short six months since starting this blog. I realized that writing is HARD work. It doesn’t come easily or naturally for me. It takes time to come up with ideas and inspiration and then to appropriately work the blog post until I feel like it makes sense and speaks the idea that I want to convey. I have heard a quote that goes like this, “I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” (Wish I could credit that quote to someone, but so many different people have said it, I’m not sure where it originated.) And that is how I feel about this blog! 🙂 I love the feeling when I post a blog entry, knowing that it will hopefully encourage someone’s day, but the process is time consuming and well… lots of work! : )

One of the greatest rewards from starting this blog, is receiving comments, messages and emails about how people have been encouraged, inspired, and challenged. I am so encouraged by readers who share their stories with me and how God is working and using this blog to help them. It lifts me up! It encourages me to keep writing. To keep doing what I feel God has called me to do! To God be the glory! So, thank you to those of you who share with us on the blog! I have also made some new friends and have personally received support by engaging in relationships on the blog. Learning new tips and finding new resources because readers are so willing to share. Supporting one another on this journey both within illness and in the Christian life is rewarding!

Writing has been very healing for me. Emotionally speaking, it’s been very cathartic. It’s a great way to vent and express emotions that often don’t have a voice in my day to day life. I have never been so open and vulnerable in all my 16 years of illness. It feels good to have a safe place to let go of all the emotions that come with fibromyalgia and the stigma that goes with it. And to know that the group of people reading my exposed thoughts completely understand!  Also, writing Biblical truths about chronic illness will often force me to look at things differently. So, I am learning and growing right alongside of you!

I often wonder if my readers think I have it all put together. Like somehow by encouraging you to do the right thing and telling you how I accomplish that in my own life that I somehow have it all figured out. I hope you don’t think that of me. I struggle like you do. My goal with this blog has always been to be an encouragement to those who need it – to those believers who have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and have felt the awful emotions that accompany it. Sometimes it feels so lonely and I thought that as Christians, what if there was place where we could come together and share – where there was spiritual encouragement specifically for those who share the same physical syndromes as myself. And I hope that is what this blog is!

He maketh me lie down in green pastures: He leadeth beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul!

Thank you all so much for coming on this journey with me! Thank you for reading and taking the time to encourage and inspire me! Love and blessings to all of you!

-Ann

Tuesday Tip – Self Pity

Do you ever want to have a pity party for yourself? You know, sit and sulk about how awful you feel? Of course, you do! Or at least I do! I don’t think we would be human if we didn’t. We all have experiences in our lives that make us want to feel sorry for ourselves. You don’t need fibro or cfs for that to happen. Life is hard!

Dictionary.com defines “self pity” as, “pity for oneself, especially a self-indulgent attitude concerning one’s own difficulties, hardships.”

I am a big believer in acknowledging feelings. I think it is healthy to analyze how I am feeling emotionally and give it a voice. Call it what it is. Self pity, sadness, anger, anxiety, jealousy, etc…. To deny that those feelings exist is just pretending or suppressing. We all have these feelings from time to time. It’s human!!! And self pity is definitely a struggle for those of us who live with chronic pain and fatigue.

I think we run into problems when those feelings become who we are. When we allow them to control how we think and feel by dwelling on them. When we look within ourselves or feed the self indulgence by NOT talking with God about it. By choosing the feeling over what we know is right.

One of my friends will frequently say, “I think God can take it.” Meaning God knows human emotion. When we come to Him and say, God I am just feeling so ______ right now. He is able to hear those words from His children. He is able to “take it”. He can take the doubt, fear, anger, bitterness, self pity, etc… It is how we choose to deal with that emotion that defines if we are sinning or not. Admitting whatever emotion and then asking God to help you overcome it is a great place to start. You will never be able to hide your feelings from the Lord, so you may as well just admit it and deal with it! 🙂

The quickest way to overcome self pity in my opinion is by being grateful. Everyone has something to be grateful for. When I am tempted to indulge in selfish pity, I start naming things that I am grateful for. God is the giver of all things, so I start thanking Him for everything. Sometimes on a particularly rough day, I start thanking Him simply because it is the right thing to do, but it isn’t long before my words meet my feelings and I truly embrace a spirit of praise and gratefulness.

Taking the focus off of yourself and finding ways to help others is also a great remedy to the self pity monster. Sometimes our ability to help is greatly limited because of our health. But even sending an encouraging note or email can go a long way to helping you out of your own self indulgence. Life is more than our illness. Sooooo much more. Try to find someone else who may be struggling in this life and go out of your way to encourage them.

What about you? Do you struggle with feelings of self pity? How do you choose to deal with it? It’s been pretty quiet on this blog lately. So, share your thoughts with us! It may help someone else!

Thanks for reading!
Blessings,

Ann

All Things Work For Good

My Inspiration:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

My Thoughts:

Do you remember the blog I posted about Blessings? That was one of the first blog posts I ever wrote. In that post, I shared with you how I sat down and listed all the blessings I could think of that have come out of having fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some readers were amazed that I could actually list ANY blessings. That was my effort to trace God’s hand within a trial and also to make myself aware of how God can take a seemingly bad situation and use it for His glory. I was able to come up with fifty things on that list.

We know that, “All things work together for good,” but it’s often easy to spew that verse with no real meaning behind it. And I also believe that the “good” may not necessarily be revealed to us here on this earth. It is my faith and trust in God that allows me to confidently believe that He can even use “bad things” for “good”, ultimately for His glory, even if we don’t understand or comprehend that possibility with our earthly minds.

So, let me share five things from my blessing list with you today.  In no particular order…

1. I have five kids.
I have five precious children. I love them dearly with all my heart. They are a lot of work and keeping up with them is exhausting. It isn’t always fun, but they are so worth it! This is hard to explain, but I am confident that if I didn’t have cfs/fibro – I would not have FIVE children. Two or three maybe, but definitely not five. I enjoy spending time at home, however; I also have a very ambitious side to me. Fibromyalgia has necessitated a need to stay at home, to slow down and prioritize, regardless of children. I love performing, singing, and teaching classical music so much, that if I didn’t have the fibro to slow me down, I may have chosen singing/teaching over having more kids. I find nothing wrong with those who pursue a career AND have young children, I just know that for me, being “forced” to stay home has given me a different perspective. Knowing that I would have to stay home because of my health, that singing/teaching would be a hobby and not a career, (at least for now) it was easy to choose to just to have more kids surround me in my home, since that is where I would be anyway. And I love my kids!!! I guess you could say my ambition has translated into having a big family! 🙂 My heart has always been to be a stay at home mom, but I think I may have been extremely tempted to try to do both a career and be a mommy. God made that choice for me, at least for this stage of my life, and I am very grateful. I couldn’t imagine not having all five of these little blessings in my life!!!! 🙂

2. I cling to scripture.
I think it is so easy to “put God on a shelf” when things in my life are running smoothly. It is the “thorn in my flesh” that keeps me depending on God for strength everyday. This perhaps is not true for everyone, but for me, illness keeps my focus on the Lord. I find comfort in His words, which leads me to reading, meditating, and memorizing Scripture. Without that hope, I am emotionally miserable.

3. I eat better.
When I was in college, I lived off of carbs – white flour carbs – the bad kind!!! LOL : ) I was about 30 pounds overweight. When I got sick, it was fast and furious. I lost that 30 pounds in about 6 weeks. It was drastic and noticeable. I lost my appetite and was constantly nauseous. After I started coming out of the worst of it, I started paying more attention to what I ate. I was glad for the weight loss and didn’t want the weight to come back, but I also knew that my broken body would benefit from making healthier choices. I still love to bake and indulge on sweet treats, but I balance it with healthy meal choices and fruits and veggies. This awareness first began with my illness.

4. I pray more.
I have heard so many of you say, people just don’t understand! And you’re right. Most people don’t get it. And that is hard. But there is ONE who will always hear me, understand me, and I can pour out my heart anytime to my Saviour. I find that my prayer life has increased with having fibro. Chronic illness keeps me running to Him with words of hurt, seeking His comfort and strength. And words of praise, for His grace and mercy. He always hears me and I find great comfort in that!

5. I plan, prioritize, and try not to waste energy on things that don’t really matter.
I’ve written about this before, but chronic illness robs me of the freedom to frivolously do whatever I want to do in a day. My day needs to be planned and prioritized. And sometimes that plan needs the flexibility to be abandoned because I woke up in a flare. Having focus on things that are important in life weeds out the “stuff” that really isn’t. I don’t have it all figured out all the time, but illness constantly reminds me of the things in this life that truly matter. When the flares come and things need to be weeded out, my relationship with God and caring for my family take priority. That clarity is a blessing. (If you have trouble with this, read my post about Learning To Say No.)

Can I challenge you to think of things in your life that have changed for the better since being diagnosed? It may be very challenging, but I hope you are able to find some blessings. These are just five out of my list of fifty. I will share five more with you next week. (Don’t worry, I am not going to share all fifty!!!  LOL 🙂 )

Hope you all have a blessed week!
Ann

The Power of the Cross

My Inspiration:

My Thoughts:

What does “Good Friday” represent to you? I’ll have to admit that after a busy week, I was thankful that the kids are off of school today and that I got to sleep in this morning. Also, thankful that I don’t have to be running around taking kids to school, rehearsals, and practices. We just get a day of down time and I need it! That is what I woke up this morning being thankful for. Although there is nothing wrong with that, the meaning of today’s holiday is so much bigger than that.

Good Friday. The day we as Christians remember the day that Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cruel cross to bring atonement for our sins. So, that I (we) have the opportunity to receive the precious gift of salvation. And will one day live in a new and perfect body while worshipping at the feet of my Savior in heaven!

Everyone on this earth knows what it means to suffer. We have all experienced it. Those of us with fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome experience it chronically and for me, it brings a greater awareness and longing for heaven! Does it for you? Today, reflect on what our Savior did for us on the cross to provide the way for us to secure an eternity living with Him.

This is one of my favorite worship songs to sing in church. It causes true reflection on the meaning and importance of the cross. Worship with me today as you listen and watch these scenes from the movie, The Passion of the Christ. Does it stir your soul? It should. Let’s be grateful today that in spite of turmoil, sin, and suffering on this earth, we have a Savior who “took the blame, bore the wrath,” and “we stand forgiven at the cross!””

The Power of the Cross  By Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Oh, to see the dawn of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men, Torn and beaten,
Then nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev’ry bitter thought, Ev’ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Now the daylight flees; Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two, Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the vict’ry cry.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see my name written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death; life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Tuesday Tip – The Good Days

When I first became ill, over 16 years ago, I rarely had “good days”. I’m not sure if that pattern is the same for everyone, but CFS hit me like a brick wall and was unrelenting for about 18 months. As time went by, I learned more about my body and how to handle the exhaustive list of symptoms. I learned little tricks and helps along the way that has allowed me to live a full (not symptom free) life. I am ever so grateful for that! I can’t control this illness, but I do know that stress makes it worse. So, I am constantly in a state of stress prevention and energy preservation. Anyone else live like this? It’s kind of a necessity and mentally exhausting. Although this can be helpful in preventing flares, sometimes it just takes away all the fun.

The Good Days. Ah, the good days. They come few and far between, but do you ever have them? These are the glorious days where you actually feel “normal”. No pain, no fatigue, no digestive trouble or aching muscles. No headaches, muscle weakness, ears ringing, brain fog, or insomnia. No dizziness, light headedness, nausea, depression or anxiety. Just normal. Just like everyone else, normal. When these days come, instead of fully appreciating them, I sometimes allow them to make me mad. Crazy, right? Why would I waste energy on being upset? Well, because it is these days that make me realize how sick I really am. When I get a taste of the energy levels that most normal people have everyday, I become envious. I can’t even imagine feeling like this everyday!!!! Oh, the things I could do! Still working on these feelings….

Anyway, this tip is about how to handle those good days. I used to live in such a state of stress prevention that I was afraid to expend energy on the good days, because I was scared that if I overdid it, I would pay dearly for it. I am a very cautious person by nature. This strategy of living is necessary when living with cfs and fibro, BUT I have also found that when the rare good day comes, I should TAKE ADVANTAGE!!! Get up and go and do and enjoy! You can’t predict when the bad days will come, maybe they will come because you overdid it, but maybe they’ll come just because. When you have some energy, my advice is to go and do. Don’t be as freakishly cautious as I have been. I am learning. Always learning. And this is one thing that I recently have come to enjoy. Not worrying so much about tomorrow’s consequences and enjoying my life today. Any kind of energy when dealing with these syndromes is pure BLESSING! 🙂

When the really good day strikes, and hopefully you occasionally get those days, go get that room painted, or shop all day, or bake dozens of cookies, or socialize with loved ones, or spring clean, or work on a project, or stay up late, or do whatever it is that you dream of having the energy to do! Enjoy it and then when the bad days come you can remind yourself that a good day just might be right around the corner. And that just may be the only thing that can get you through your day!

Blessings, friends!

-Ann