On Finding Hope and Healing

As many of you know, I was tested for numerous autoimmune issues including Lyme Disease last year. It was a mystery, but in the summer I was diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome and Hypogammglobulinanemia (immune deficiency). It took a lot of time, ruling out other diseases with blood work results from various doctors and integrative health practitioners through the years. During that time and even before then, friends and acquaintances had their own health struggles and also found answers that led to their own healing. Then, they went a step further and selflessly took the time to tell me their story. And there, I found hope.

Over and over, we all hear of people devastated by disease and cancer, but over and over, I am hearing of those who are thriving by intentionally making major life changes…and not using medication. Nothing makes it more real than when your own body proves it has the potential to heal itself with the right nutrients from whole food and supplements to boost the immune system, as well as detoxify the body. Every body is different, so the challenge lies in finding direction through prayer, reducing stress and resting.

When we share our stories, challenges and victories, it’s powerful, like unlocking a hidden door for ourselves AND others. Since so many spoke to me through conferences, books, blogs, over the phone and during long dinners, it made an impact in such a way that I had hope. Hope that healing would indeed come. And it has in many amazing ways.

So, how can I not do the same?!

2015 is a year of intention for me, and here is my plan for this space starting next month: Finding Hope and Healing…Little by Little

Healing is usually slow, after all, whether from sickness, disease, past hurts and other emotional issues. The common thread? Healing also must be intentional!

Week 1 — an inspirational, hope-filled post (much like my usual writing, including stories of the pups, the joys and pains of marriage, infertility, sexual abuse, my health journey, and finding God in the struggle, etc.)

Week 2 — a post about useful healing books, quotes, music, art, and/ or recipes

Week 3 — physical and emotional healing tips I’m learning along the way

Week 4 — re-posting of interesting topics from other writers

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Oh, and I’m (obviously) working on a new look and even considering a new title for my blog. Any ideas?

 

Light Changes Things

Before I’ve pulled back the curtains and opened the blinds each morning, everything inside my house is draped in darkness. As I walk down the hallway, my eyes rest on dog hair under the couch that seems to multiply overnight and what is left to be organized in Room #3 (Extension cords? boxes of photos? diplomas and yearbooks? Room #3 holds all those items without a specific place when we moved. In August).

Deep breath.

No matter who you are, whether you live alone or with other people, it seems all this work still needs to be done…after all this work already finished. But as the sun comes up, I can’t wait to open the blinds, as many as possible, because the light streaming in changes things. Instantly, the way I see it all is different.

mountains

Just as the morning light brightens the room and brings warmth, if I am grateful for where I am and where I used to be, unrealistic expectations or frustration over what was left undone the day or year before lessens. 2014 was a challenging year, and a lot was accomplished. Much of the difficulty came first along with fear and anxiety over what was coming next. Somehow, I settled into the upheaval after kicking and screaming a bit, knowing we were carried in the arms of God. Always. Attitudes changed and before we knew it, the dread of WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN NOW? became an excited and hopeful What now?!

God has us (even when He feels far away) and will point us in the right direction when we stop kicking Him away. Maybe when situations don’t go as we would like, instead of jumping right into the next opportunity, we take some time to look out from where we are, breathe in some fresh air, and let the light tumble in, flooding us with a new perspective.

Was 2014 a growth year for you? Why or why not? If so, how have you changed because of it?

May your 2015 be filled with health, strength and joy through the challenges it brings.

Night Ravings

Life has turned upside down for me these days. I ran my 5K in January, and it seems it went downhill  medical tests prove there was more than I thought brewing in the background. You see, I went from being ecstatic that I finished (really, that is huge, since I had heel trouble and zero energy for a long time), but I felt as if I ran a marathon and couldn’t quite recover. Symptoms I viewed as separate oddities over a span of eight years or so (and have been treating for a while) have compounded and flared up since then in an autoimmune sort of way. I’ve been to two doctors this week without a diagnosis; I guess that’s why Brian calls me a medical mystery.

The thing is, I am tired of being mysterious.

So, a few nights ago Brian and I were reading in bed, and I felt a wild need to pray about this stuff. Sometimes, as we hold hands under the sheets, our prayers are calmly spoken, and other times require nothing less than a relentless pursuit of answers. I heard my voice match my desperate, frustrated, ALL CAPS words.

My night raving went a little like this:

OKAY GOD,

I AM TIRED OF THIS! EVERYTHING IS UP IN THE AIR, AND I’M TIRED OF HURTING! WHAT IS GOING ON?

THERE ARE THINGS WE WANT TO DO TO OUR HOUSE–UPGRADING THE KITCHEN AND BATHROOM, CUTTING DOWN TREES IN THE BACKYARD, OUR DRYER NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. WE’VE SPENT TONS OF MONEY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME OVER THE PAST YEAR, AND THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE! WE HAVE BILLS TO PAY, AND I WANT A VACATION! I WANT TO GO TO FRANCE. WE’RE TRYING TO SELL THIS HOUSE, BUT NOTHING IS HAPPENING!

WILL YOU HELP US?!?

I WANT AN ADVENTURE. I WANT SOMETHING FUN FOR A CHANGE. I WANT TO FEEL BETTER! I WANT TO BE HAPPY WITHOUT THE WEIGHT OF ALL OF THIS.

AND IF MY STRATEGY IS ALL WRONG, FINE. MAYBE I SHOULD STOP DICTATING TO YOU HOW ALL THIS NEEDS TO TURN OUT. I’LL TAKE any VACATION… TO FRANCE, NIGER (peeking through my eyelashes at Brian just to see his expression because that idea does not AT ALL appeal to him), COLORADO, ANYWHERE… EXCEPT IN THE SOUTH BECAUSE THAT WOULDN’T BE A VACATION. WE NEED SOME FUN! SERIOUSLY, JUST TELL US ALREADY! WHAT’S THE DEAL? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? AND HOW SHOULD WE SPEND OUR MONEY?

…(after a deep breath and more calmly) And thank you for Brian and the pups and our jobs and friends and family.

Amen.

And after all those words, I looked over at my Lovey, who had a touchingly sweet grin on his face. “That’s the best prayer I’ve ever heard you pray,” he said. 

–Jen

How do you feel about questioning God when things don’t make sense?

Moving to the Edge

Our dog Glory loves riding in the car, but it hasn’t always been this way. When we adopted her, she trembled in the backseat until we got home, even though my friend talked to her gently the whole time. She’s had a lot happen to her; much of it we’ll never know. She came to us with scars on the inside and fears of all kinds. In those days, it was mostly about being abandoned.

Things are different now with two dogs, but there are times when those old fears return. When we went to the dog park, what should have been fun with other dogs seemed scary to Glory. After walking around the fence with us once, we took her off the leash, ready to let her run. Instead, she made her way to the front gate and just sat there. Eyes red and breathing deeply, she did not, would not move, no matter what we said. I guess she connects that kind of freedom with being left without her family. I want to tell her what I know about the dog park: This is fun. Dogs LIKE this place. You are safe, and we’re right here. And I feel sad because she doesn’t understand. Maybe she will one day if we keep trying.

I wonder if God sees us the same way. He leads us to a place that might ultimately bring us more peace than we’ve experienced, but all we know is we don’t like change. Yet, we try it out, tiptoe-ing down that bumpy path and turning back when it gets too hard to navigate the way. After all, we make a cozy bed in our comfortable place, put our feet up and prepare to stay for a long, long time. Things aren’t bad there, right? We become used to okay. I wonder if God feels sad about this because he knows things could be so much better for us.

When I am challenged to move to the edge of what I know, I am like Glory–heart pounding, deep breathing, trembling. My head believes even this has meaning, but all I really want is to burrow into my still-warm bed and hide my head under the weight of the comforter. I don’t know how I will handle feeling lost, and I worry I will be unsettled forever because somehow this is hauntingly familiar. I trust there is goodness on the other side; still I am scared. Why would anyone want to revisit this?

And then comes my reassurance:

Be strong and courageous, for I am with you. Do not fear, for I am with you wherever you go. –Joshua 1:9

It’s when I remember right smack in the middle of my wavering– God is here, too, and has never left–that I start to loosen my grip, one finger at a time. This is a long, slow, seemingly never-ending process because I move forward, push back, take a step, jump back, want to control. I cry and breathe and pray.

Then, I’m shocked because I realize I’m fighting against my own release.

And although my fear makes sense to me, pulling away from what I ultimately need does not. So, I bravely push back the covers and get out of bed. Once again, I’m taking one step at a time further and further into the unknown but closer and closer to the edge of freedom.

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Pony Lessons

“Make an obstacle course for the pony.” These are the directions we were given. Nothing more. The last time I might have been near a pony was when I was little and too timid to touch it (or maybe I saw one on TV, who knows). Regardless, I felt like I was in way over my head.

I know this is a donkey picture, but it's mine and I like it.
I know this is a donkey picture, but it’s mine and I like it.

After picking through the pile of barrels, a bucket and PVC pipes of various sizes, we slowly began to work, arranging everything the best we knew how.

“Have the pony go through your course, using anything in the arena.” Um, just MOVE a PONY?

Puzzled, I wondered if these animals are at all like my dogs, who come barreling around the corner when I call them, ears flopping and tail wagging.

We mumbled and stumbled and urged and pushed and begged. “Come on, little pony, let’s go!” (this makes me laugh, since my horse-owning dad would shake his head).

Glancing over at the beginning of our carefully-placed course and resting his eyes there, the pony seemed curious, almost longing to try it. Still, he refused to move, even with our calm but urgent pleading (I was a nervous, sweaty mess). We tried walking away, hoping he would be interested enough to follow. Instead, he went back to his comfort, his owner.

And then! I got the leash bridle that was over on the fence, and we gently wrestled it on him.

Feeling more comfortable (I guess) with our control, the pony slowly began to move. Relieved, we wove him around the maze of barrels. This won’t take long! But then, we came to a place where he stopped, refusing to jump or even step over the PVC pipe we set between two short plastic tables.  Rubbing his velvety-soft nose, we told him he was doing a fine job.

But he wasn’t going anywhere.

After a long several minutes, we decided to lower the pipe to a more manageable height, and that did the trick. Ah-ha! Soon, he we would be finished! This was possible!

We moved toward the last obstacle, a plastic crate about the size of a cement block, placed lower to the ground than most of the others. He planted his feet and became a rigid pony statue. Was he tired? Unsure? Worried about something? I talked to him, encouraging him to keep going. “I know this sucks, but you’re almost finished!” I said. He stood still, while I thought about how far we had come and understood we still would not accomplish our goal until we got past this thing that was holding us back.

It’s been three days since this experience, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I am a lot like that pony.

Have you ever yearned to do something or live an adventure but then chose to go back to your comfortable place? Maybe it’s a goal or a dream that’s been carefully placed in your heart but money, situations, people or YOU get in your way? Maybe you’ve already gotten started and are so close to the finish but are stuck, wrestling with yourself or something that seems or is really big, wondering if quitting and turning back to that comfortable place is better.

The pony? Well, he eventually (finally!) took one step and then another one until we made it to the big finish.

img_2079.jpgSometimes, simply going forward is just the thing that moves us closer to where we want to be.

Space to Learn What I Already Thought I Knew

Right now, I’m in this funky place where some of what I was comfy and cozy with has been pulled out from under me before I knew what was happening. It’s a rocky place where there’s a multitude of questioning and desire for quiet–lots of time to think. My heart and mind beg for space as if I’m crammed into a box and can’t stretch and run and jump. When I have carved out time to do what I think I need (practically every day), my mind feels unsettled and races on to the next big thing without stopping to rest. This is foreign, and I’m not sure what to do with it.

I have to wonder if this all has to do with trust, here in this uncomfortable place. Trusting God the way I want to seems easy(er) when I’m okay with all that swirls around me. In this space, I’m having to learn how all over again.

I just so happened to run across this poem weeks ago when I thought I should tuck it away for another time. So glad I did. It’s exactly what I need right now, at this very moment. And you?

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Like Oil and Water

But I don’t want to jump into something new!

Funny (or irritating really), this pattern I have noticed. It has become fact that when I post something, my words slap me in the face the next day or few days or over the past week. It stings a little and sometimes a lot, mostly because I feel like I have figured out some things.

For example, I called my last post Nothing Changes Unless We Do, so naturally, most of last week I wanted to rant and complain…about the change that was coming, ready or not.

I love my job working with children and parents and teachers. Like any job, there are good and tough days. For me, I am blessed that the good widely outnumber the bad.

However.

This summer has been amazing (as summers usually are). I have relished time for me, time to sleep, time to write, time to travel, time for friends to visit, etc., etc., etc. Over a week ago, I went back to work–to school in July.  I know, I know, all of you who read this and work year round have no sympathy, and I get it. Just try to understand.

I DO NOT like change.

Change and I just don’t go together like oil and water. Last week, I turned into a whiny, teary, dramatic weirdo. I was exhausted and felt annoyed, oh, about just everything. You know, it was like wearing a tight, itchy sweater with sleeves that are too short.

In less than a week, I felt overloaded by things I routinely would have done and haven’t (including a blog post) or all I hoped to do and still haven’t (blog post done!). Suddenly I felt like I was complaining constantly and worrying– tightening my grip around all I could. I must have apologized to Brian at least 10 times…and then turned around and had to do it all over again.

So, over the weekend, I realized again (as I do every time I go through this) that awareness is part of the process. Just recognizing that I need to be open to the change rather than fearing it is important. Then, opening my mind and heart, loosening my grip on everything, and asking God for peace and strength and direction make a world of difference. After all, the dread over the coming change is ridiculously inflated in relation to the actual event.

Yesterday was the first day of school for our students, and I loved seeing the smiling faces I realize I’ve missed over June and most of July.

I think I’ll go back tomorrow.

That Piercing Light

When was the last time you drove somewhere at sunrise?
                                           Sometimes the morning light is absolutely overwhelming. Piercing.  It’s so bright you can’t help but close your eyes, a scary thing to do when driving. You fumble around blindly for your sunglasses but they’re on the floorboard and out of reach. You feel anxious, worried about getting to  your destination. Then, you pry your eyes open a sliver…just enough to see that amazingly, you are right where you need to be.
                                                                                                                                        We don’t always see where we are going in life. There is uncertainty everywhere we turn–the economy, job security, that doctor’s appointment we put off, even the weather. As hard as it is for all of us to remember from day to day, especially during our loneliest, most heart-wrenching of times, God will keep us on track if we just close our eyes and let Him drive.

5 Minute Friday: Path

I don’t know why I love this so. Maybe it’s the beach, the wind-beaten fence, the narrow road. I fell in love with this place when I was visiting Ireland a couple years ago.

This door hidden in the earth is intriguing. Who knows what one might find on the other side? Treasures of some sort? A whole world of newness and adventure waiting to be discovered?

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go. He’s the one who will keep you on track. ~ Proverbs 3:6

I believe we can hear God’s voice in the clouds above, a stormy day, standing at the top of a mountain observing the beauty of the landscape. Wherever we are if we listen in the stillness, our path will be made known to us–down a winding road or through a waiting door.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

*Check out thegypsymama, who started this 5 Minute Friday fabulousness.