I’m not afraid of the dark

http://www.diamondgallery.com/diamonds-are-forever/
source: http://www.diamondgallery.com/diamonds-are-forever/

If God granted your biggest wish right now, would it change your faith in Him forever or just sustain you temporarily until you had another wish you wanted fulfilled?

I ask this because at the depths of my angst and the heights of my chronic pain, all I wanted was to be healed.  I thought if God would just heal me, it would change everything for me.

  • My faith would be restored.
  • I could finally make a difference in His kingdom.
  • People would see me and say “wow, God still performs miracles!”
  • I could find reasons to smile again.
  • Nothing would ever hold me back again.
  • I could fill my schedule back up with pool parties, coffee visits, bible study groups, serving here and there and there and there…. if only He would heal me.

But God didn’t heal me.  In fact, I will always have fibromyalgia and arthritis.  I will probably always struggle with some form of depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.  However the journey, in and of itself, has strengthened my faith in God.  I now have some wisdom, some life experience, and some ways to connect to other people.  I never would have had these gifts if God would have healed me the first or the seventeenth time I asked.

I used to live landmark to landmark – waiting to see what was on the horizon and telling myself, “once this thing is past me, I’ll be fine.”  And, “when I get to that next thing, everything will be GREAT!”  And, “when I have a job again, we will be financially secure.”  I was scared of the pressure while I was suffering physically.  I was terrified of the life change.  I felt forgotten, isolated, segregated, removed.  The pressure of not knowing when or if I would feel good again was too much.  I was scared of being in the dark.

I didn’t know how to rely on God.

And when I lived that way (constantly waiting for the next thing), I was essentially covering my ears and rocking back and forth … and shutting out God.  He was trying to whisper to me, and sometimes He would send people to try to speak truth into me.  But I couldn’t hear them because I was too busy making my own plans.  I didn’t even see them because I was too focused on my anticipation of the next thing on the horizon.

Your life is now, not later.

Dont’ wait for the next thing, because you’re going to miss THIS thing.  And believe me when I tell you, there is a lesson to be learned in every situation.  There is joy to be found and there is sorrow to shake your soul.  Just like the Bible says in the book of Ecclesiastes, there really is a time for everything.  Don’t wish away these times like I did.  Because gems are only produced under pressure.  You are a gem to Him.  I am a gem to Him.  Don’t believe for a second that your worth is what this world tells you it is.  DO believe that you ARE a precious gem of the Lord’s.  He formed you.  He made you.  HE PICKED YOU!  You have worth and you have sparkle.

So dont’ be afraid of the dark.

God has the ultimate flashlight. He sees you and He loves you.  He has not forgotten you.  Don’t give up hope in Him.
Look for His light.
Because that’s where you’re going to sparkle.

rest vs. lazy

lazy

Most of us go through our day jumping from one thing to the next and trying to squeeze in that one last thing before dinner or sports practices or bed times.   After all that, we need rest!  When our chronic pain is more than medications or therapies can tackle, we need rest!  When our brains have been going 100mph, we need rest!    Even God rested:

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.  Gen 2:2-3

But then there is just plain lazy.  We tend to pin this word to our kids’ foreheads on a regular basis… shoes out, backpacks lying around, a trail of winter clothes all the way up the stairs … and there they are planted in front of the XBox.   Sometimes I wish I had duct tape for my OWN mouth because there I go, spouting off brilliant and love-giving things like: “Dude, why are you so LAZY!?!?!  Pick up after yourself!”

And then I go sit on the couch and scroll through Pinterest for 30 minutes, because mommy needs to “rest.”
Really?
Or am I just being lazy?

REST

  1. :  reposesleepspecifically :  a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities
  2. :  freedom from activity or labor
  3. :  a state of motionlessness or inactivity
  4. :  the repose of death
  5. :  a place for resting or lodging
  6. :  peace of mind or spirit

Ok, sure — I had minimal function except for my scrolling finger on my tablet and definitely experienced FREEDOM from activity/labor.  Motionless, check.  Repose of death???  Um no.  And blah blah blah — peace of mind or spirit… YES!  Child upstairs, mommy downstairs… just yes.

LAZY

  1. : not liking to work hard or to be active
  2. : not having much activity : causing people to feel that they do not want to be active
  3. : moving slowly

I’m not going to pick those apart because it will cause too much harm to my Pinterest boards.  Ok not really — but you know what I’m getting at here.  How do we know when we are needing rest and when we are just being lazy?  Here is my opinion after 3 years of truly needing rest for my aching body.

The top 3 signs you’re just being lazy and using “rest” as an excuse.

1. You feel fine, you just “don’t wanna.”

I know.  I’ve been there.  You’re finally home, homework is done, chores are sort of done… and then comes dinner prep.  I personally do not enjoy cooking.  People like my sister can’t wait to try new things or mix this spice with that meat or whatever — we may look an awful lot alike, but I’m definitely not like her in that aspect!  I tend to lean towards eggs and toast for dinner because it’s easy and a crowd pleaser at our house.  Yesterday, I wasn’t in pain – but I just didn’t want to make dinner.  THAT was laziness.  Pure and simple.  Sitting on the couch with Pinterest for an hour?  More often than not, that’s REST for me — I’m resting my body and finding creative things that I can do with my hands once my energy is restored.  Be honest with yourself.  Try to push through the lazy times so that you can give yourself grace when you need the crutches of rest.

2. You’re considering picking up carpool in your pajamas.

Yes.  I mean afternoon carpool.  And I get it — BELIEVE ME, I get it.  There are days your pain is so bad that brushing your teeth makes you cringe!  The thought of buttoning your pants makes you imagine that your fingers are just bones with zero skin and tissue padding.  Doing your hair?  Not going to happen.  But If you’re capable of driving a car to pick up kids from school, you’re capable of putting some clothes on (and maybe a hat if the hair just doesn’t work out for you.)  Chances are if you’re still in your pajamas and it’s time to walk out the door, you’ve done plenty of resting and you can push through for an hour to get the kids home safely.  Getting dressed will help YOU feel better about yourself, and it could potentially save your relationship with your middle schoolers.  PS: Sweats counts as clothes.  You’re welcome.  If being a stay at home mom or dad is your current job, then do your job.  Once everyone is settled at home you can reassess and see if your body is telling you to rest some more or if your mind is telling you to just throw in the towel because you’ve already accomplished zero stellar things today.

3. You’re not fulfilling your commitments.  None of them.

I like to be busy. But when paralyzed with pain and fatigue here’s what happens.  I keep signing up to do things, make things, lead things because in my HEAD I am still a healthy adult who can be an active member of her family, church, and society.  But then I start cancelling left and right because I can’t physically do the things I signed up for.  This is not laziness, this is absurdity.  STOP SIGNING UP FOR THINGS IF YOU CANNOT DO THEM!  It’s ok, give yourself some grace, people!  Just because you can’t be the soccer mom who works out at 4:45am and finishes her day with grocery shopping at 9pm does not mean you are less than, that you are useless, that you “can’t” do things.  Once you have your list whittled down to what you CAN conceivably master (and I’ll tell you it’s much much less than you think it is — even for those who are physically well), fulfill those commitments.  Don’t use “I need to rest” as an excuse.  You set the pace.  You set the routine, and stick to it!

If you can’t seem to pull yourself out of the laziness rut, it could very well be time to seek some medical help.  At the very least verbalize it with a friend or your spouse.  Unspoken issues can become stone walls if we let them.  But once they are spoken and addressed, ANYTHING is possible!

 

quit focusing on the drought

drought-weather

I’ve been quiet for awhile now.  No blog posts and very limited Facebook posts have come from me.  That’s always a sign that something is wrong.  If Ann isn’t talking or laughing — something is very wrong!   My precious friend pointed out in a text that she was worried about me because I saw no humor in her text message …and that my friends is a sure sign that I’m in a dry place.

We had two incredibly rough months – November and December.

  • 4 illnesses
  • 4 ER visits (one of which was out of state)
  • 1 puke virus in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas
  • 1 car accident and all the associated fees
  • 1 rental car and all the associated fees
  • multiple migraine headaches
  • a cracked windshield on the OTHER car
  • the heat went out (which is actually a hilarious story for another time)
  • Dallas had an ice storm = brutal body pain when that sucker moved in
  • and oh — Happy Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas … er something like that

Here’s the deal, y’all… none of these things killed us, maimed us, bankrupt us, or caused us to hate each other.  But the final straw for me was the stomach bug in the middle of nowhere Arkansas.   Remember in the Looney Toons cartoons when that one feather would dance so elegantly on-top of the TNT handle and then BOOM — Wiley Coyote was toast! It was sort of like that for me.

Dude.  I was dry.  I had nothing left to give myself, my family, or my friends.  No laughter.  LOTS of sarcasm (and probably a little cussing if I’m going to be honest here), and a pretty constant stream of … well … self-pity.

Where was God in all this you ask?
Well, had I kept Him at the forefront of my mind I don’t think TNT even would have been in the picture, quite frankly.   Know what I mean?

Here’s where I went terribly wrong…
I stopped making time to pray, to read from my bible or devotionals, and I kept thinking to myself, “well, now we have had 3 things happen – so nothing else will…. ok, now there have been 4, so we are good… um, make that 5… 6… OH FORGET IT!”  I put myself in the dry place.  I did it to myself, y’all!

God never promised that we wouldn’t go through hard times.  So what in the world made me think that I was exempt from them?  Especially after a set number of problems… “Ann Skaehill, you’re next… let’s see… you’ve had 1,2,3,4,5,6… oh, you’re good.  No more problems for you.  NEXT!”  That’s SO ridiculous!  But I thought it.  I really did.

I love these verses from the book of Jeremiah:

7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,

   with roots that reach deep into the water.

Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

I am such a visual person that I can SEE this picture — I can SEE the tree planted by the water.  I can SEE the roots reaching with all they have to get to that water.  I can SEE their carefree nature because they aren’t concerned about the drought.

And I can SEE that I did not do that when I needed to the most.  I just sat there and withered.  Every now and then someone would try to show me some water and I turned my nose up at it.

After identifying my droughtiness, I signed up for a class through my church where we are really digging into hymns and the stories behind them.  Our precious leader, Gwen, opened with a sweet prayer that felt like a BUCKET of living water was dumped over my head.

Now I can’t get enough.  I can’t get enough hymns and prayer and reading from our class book.  I can’t get enough joy and enough laughter and peace.  I don’t want the hydration to stop so I am going to plant myself next to the living water.  I’m digging in.  Yo, I was thirsty, people!

If you’re focused on your drought and you’re pushing everyone away, please please please stop and ask yourself how that’s working for you.  Because I have a feeling you’re pretty stinkin’ thirsty right now.   Get your rear up and get to that water.  Call a friend so he or she can drag you there if need-be.

 

stuck in a grace rut

Photo courtesy of http://www.canadianfamily.ca/

The vacation cycle:

  1. Wow, vacation is close – it will be so great to just be together and enjoy each other’s company!
  2. How on earth am I going to finish all this work before vacation? Is it a problem if we pack dirty clothes instead of clean ones?
  3. I know – we are always late because I can’t juggle it all … WAIT, I forgot my phone charger!  TURN AROUND!
  4. No, we aren’t there yet.  Sure, watch another movie. Yes, I know you’re hungry … again.
  5. Oh yay!  We’ve arrived … I can’t wait to get out of this car and get some distance from you people.
  6. Oh wait, I actually AM excited to be with you people!
  7. Work?  What’s that?  Emails?  Haven’t checked them. I’m too busy laughing with my kid and having great talks with my husband.
  8. I love you guys so much!  This is the best vacation EVER!
  9. When we get home, we are going to change how we do things… no technology nights, game nights, stop saying yes to every commitment, watch our spending, make a weekly menu and stick to it, save for a king sized bed because I don’t know how we have survived marriage this long without one…
  10. Ok, we’re home … tomorrow I have to do this and this and this … guess I’ll see you in passing.

This year we broke the cycle.  Maybe it’s because the three of us didn’t drive 800 miles together on the way there or maybe it’s because we were starved for family time.  Maybe, but here’s what I think happened…

My perspective has changed.  Having a chronic illness has altered perspectives that I used to have, but the biggest one is appreciating what is right in front of me.  It’s SO EASY to get stuck in a rut of focusing on what hurts and how bad and if I need pain lotion or if I can make do without it, or calculating out what things I can/should accomplish in a day making sure I don’t over-do it to create problems for the following day.  Now I try to do the following:

  • allow myself to be honest and assess my pain throughout the day, giving MYSELF grace along the way
  • when I feel myself sliding into that rut, I recite memorized scripture to remind me that God loves me and that I am wonderfully created
  • focus on the things I CAN do and things I DO have, and thank God for those things
  • I am honest with my husband and I don’t hide my frustrations

Transparency and grace are the key components.  My husband and I have given each other permission to be honest and transparent with each other.  Neither of us know how to do this chronic pain thing (our manuals got lost in the mail). Purposefully hurtful statements are not allowed, but honest confessions of frustration are totally game.  There’s no need for anyone to be on the defensive, this isn’t a blame game, it’s a grace game.

We don’t get do-overs.  Every moment in this life counts.  This year we recognized our frustrations on vacation and communicated appropriately about them.  We gave each other space when needed.  We loved more than we bickered.  It wasn’t perfect but it was so much better than last year.  Memories are made both at home and on vacation.   I want to be stuck in a grace rut, because those are the memories I want to remember.

So what kinds of memories are you making?