The Way of Escape

I grew up in a family of faith, in the church, surrounded by the teachings of Jesus. I was taught to read my Bible, to talk with God, to rely on Him. I believed that He was present, an authority and One who should be obeyed!

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I also knew the Bible’s teachings on His compassion; He was a rock, a safety net, One who was always present even when all others fell away. Somewhere those childhood years, I was taught that God will never give me more than I could bear. I image it had something to do with the passage in 1 Cor 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

I liked this passage. It was assuring, made me feel safe and comfortable inside. The God who ran the world had me in His hand and was looking out for my affairs. Somehow, through that passage I formed this idea:

“He’s got me! And I’ll never have to deal with more than I can handle!”

I’ve heard famous preachers say it. I’ve heard friends and family proclaim it as encouragement. I’ve said it, taught it to children in the church. I believed it! But no more.

When sickness rattled my world, this “truth” I held onto was hit by the sledgehammer of life. It shattered my belief into a thousand fragments. This God was indeed giving me more than I could handle! In fact, sometimes I was so brain-dead, all I could do was exist and sleep, being too weary to even eat or drink.

Shattered.

For a while, I was so sickly my brain couldn’t process anything. All I could do was cry out to my Father, telling Him I hurt, that I didn’t understand what was happening, that I needed to see and know Him. And that I really didn’t understand!

Gradually, oh-ever-so-slowly, the light dawned into the weary brain that lived in my broken body as I contemplate life: “the way of escape…what is the way of escape?”

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I had always assumed it was God’s hand holding back the things that would overwhelm my faith, that He’d let me get a taste of it but never allow things to reach their full force.

The way of escape? I always thought of it being my own strength and abilities, that God would never test me beyond what my own strong mind and will could withstand.

The way of escape turned out to be nothing such as I had pictured! The way of escape lay on a pathway I knew little of, one I had rarely walked. The way of escape had little to do with my own strength, but it had everything to do with my Lord and Friend!

To some of us, He does give more than we can handle. He does allow us to be overwhelmed. He allows things to meet us that we cannot possibly deal with. And the outcome?

An opportunity to experience the way of escape, a sweet reliance upon His strength. Acknowledging I cannot do it on my own. Acknowledging that I am weak, simple, incapable. Acknowledging that I won’t and can’t do it perfectly, calling out to Him for His help.

The road to be walked with broken health is difficult, whether you walk it personally or with someone else. The journey bruises and crushes so many parts of us! In many ways, its a thief, stealing what we value, sometimes even the things we thought God Himself treasured! Suddenly, the words of Jesus become sweet, hold new meaning:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:27).

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Suddenly, I understand why the poor, the sick, the oppressed and broken came flocking to Jesus and His teachings while the proud and haughty leaders of the day held their heads high in disdain. Jesus spoke of a hope and strange sort of strength that some couldn’t recognize when there was no awareness of need or emptiness.

Those within the crowds had been faced with more than they could handle. The reality of our broken world got the upper hand and crushed ’em mercilessly. Jesus’ words were refreshment for the soul. God knew! God saw! God heard! And one day, He would set everything right, yes, and then some!

Socially Awkward

I remember sitting in the vehicle next to her when she asked the question: “are you tired?” Surprised that she noticed, I responded with a “yes” and “how did you know?” It had been a long day and while I tried to ‘put out’ around people, long days always got the best of me.

Gently, she told me the truth: I went silent and withdrew, gave answers that were vague and distant, lost expression in my voice and shut down. So strange to hear, because I was unaware of it.

Her observation led me to observe myself more and I began to recognize my awkwardness. Often when visiting with others I’d suddenly (and without explanation) feel very out of place.

It was as if my brain shut down but was with it enough to know that I was out of it. Usually an easy conversationalist and good at asking questions, I suddenly turned into a weird, slow thinker and was unable to process and digest that words that were flowing my way. I couldn’t think of questions to ask and comments were few and far between.

This was before I began any treatments.

As healing began in my body, I hit another hurdle: I had forgotten how to relate and ask questions. Somehow, due to a deprivation of conversation, a stranger appeared, and that stranger embarrassed me!

Words been stopped up for 2 years and suddenly, like a torrent, they were back. Talk, talk and talk. I didn’t realize it until a sister visited for several days and pointed it out: I hadn’t asked her one question the entire visit. Once again, I started to observe myself and was almost sickened by the person I’d become (which says something about the person I thought I had to be).

Normally, I was the one asking questions and listening. Who was I anymore? I didn’t know!

I considered shutting down this desire to talk. The person I had become was so embarrassing! But somehow, it seemed I ought to play the part of a “fool” and let it flow. I sensed it was part of the healing process, of returning to normal. I let ideals of self go and talked. I also began moving toward change, tried to ask 1-3 questions per conversation. It was a step in the right direction.

Perhaps I was starved to have someone take interest in my life again, to know and understand? Or was it because the past 2 years of life had revolved around myself: research, treatments, dietary changes, making certain I got enough sleep, clean food, had a low key environment. I had to study this new person, get to know triggers, cause-and-effects, the way her body processed food, emotions, social life, etc.

I have now studied her for 5 years. I know her (fairly) well. And her focus has begun to shift; slowly and surely, I’ve begun taking interest in others’ lives again. As life returned to “normality,” the girl I knew began popping her head through the fog. And things are improving.

Oh, its not perfect. When I began teaching private music lessons again, I struggled with insecurities. I lived in fear of those moments when words didn’t connect and I received that blank stare…it was humbling and a reminder. I still struggle with talking in groups when tired, feel insecure when trying to explain specifics to others, those times when words don’t connect or make sense…its only a reminder of my weakness and limitations. My reality can make me want to hide away! Yet I recognize it: I have to live in my reality.

As Henry Cloud says: “Character = the ability to meet the demands of reality.”

I’m not normal. Too often I wish for people to think of me so. But I’m not. And that is ok.

Can you relate? If you are in the heart of ‘social awkwardness’, know it won’t last forever! Its a journey to walk out, but walk you can! It will be slow (as is everything with chronic illness) but it can be a sure thing.

 

 

Remembrance, Space & Forgiveness

I have two memories floating through my mind. The first? I’m ashamed of it but have to acknowledge its reality, my own judgement of another:

She’s just dealing with emotional baggage from the past. If only she’d sort it through, her symptoms would disappear, her health would return and we wouldn’t be dealing with this mess!”

The second thought was from a few years later, when battling my own sickness:

Why doesn’t anyone get it? This isn’t a demon, its not a generational sin or a stronghold, its not ‘something from my past’ flaring up! I’M SICK!

But before entering into my own health problems, it was incredibly easy for me to pass judgement on those who were struggling in this regard. I wasn’t trying to be harmful! I just didn’t know what to do with the situation. It was easy to avoid, to ignore the issue. And let’s be honest: it takes emotional energy to listen to a difficult story. I never cared much for emotion!

Suddenly plunged into sickness with a bleak reality staring me in the face, people adding to my burden, flippant or demanding comments shaking me as words never had before, I was suddenly shifted into a world I’d never known!

Words hurt! Lack of words hurt. Actions were offensive! Passivity frustrated me. While normal, I could have addressed people, processed their words and led them to better understand my situation. At the present time? I couldn’t. My rationale was so foggy, so disturbed, so unbalanced that my ability to process wasn’t there. Words where like swords that cut and sliced. My own sword wasn’t available to parry! I needed some space!

In the heart of health issues, I finally realized that instead of putting myself back into those situations where I would be hurt all over again, I needed space. I needed time away from those whose comments bogged me down and caused more disturbance and inward struggle.

This isn’t a license to sit back and adopt the mindset that everyone is out to get you, to victimize yourself and having a pity-party in the back room. You do need to forgive, should fight for it, should search for the truth of the situation.

But with a sickness that affects the brain, sometimes you need a bit of space and in my situation, that was ok.

Interestingly enough? Once my mind began clearing,

I realized they were doing what I had done. Not so long ago, I was standing in their shoes. I was the one who didn’t get it! I was the one who was flippantly voicing my opinions without any knowledge of the situation. I had done the same!

I didn’t leave the walls in place! When I could process things (a year or two later), I stepped back up. I acknowledged that I had been hurt. I acknowledged that I was unusually vulnerable and sensitive during that time. I acknowledged that I hadn’t even known what to do with myself! I acknowledged for the sake of relationship and what I had been forgiven by God that I needed to let go of the hurt and move forward.

And then I stepped into others’ shoes to understand their perspective. I had most of my past, with its mindset and attitudes to help me!

Remember from where you have come and you’ll soon see that passing judgement on others is to place it on yourself.

 

 

The Matters of the Heart (and Turning Toward)

David was the youngest in a family of 8 sons (and I suspect he had sisters as well). Entrusted to him was the family flock of sheep and he would live with and protect in the wilderness, caring for their needs and watching out for ’em.

Due to vast amounts of time spent in the wilds of his country, he took up music, playing the harp and learning of song. In fact, we know that he was very skilled musician! Who wouldn’t be with all that extra time on your hands?!

Its easy to imagine various things about his life. What would one be like when spending so much time on their own, obeying father’s orders? I imagine the fella was quite dirty and smelled like it too. I imagine he enjoyed the let-down when he returned home, got to see his family once again.

And then someone named “Samuel” came a-calling on family home while David was in the wilds with the sheep. This man of God was sent with a special mission: to choose the next king for their nation.

Y’see, the current king wasn’t so good at following God’s direction. He half-heartedly obeyed but was constantly swayed by what others thought. And then the day came when God ran out of patience with the man (though he remained king), decided it was time to select another for the future. God sent Samuel to choose this man.

And he did. Long story shortened, they had to send for David ’cause none of the older dashing brothers would do. And when the grubby, late-teenage David came into the room, God told Samuel:

“Arise, anoint him; for this is he” (1 Sam 16:12b)

If this story was put into form on a comic strip, I do believe Samuel would have had exclamation points and question marks exploding in the bubble of his thoughts!

“HUH?! He may be good looking, but he’s a dirty, stinking, 18 year old boy who takes care of sheep with the servants!!!”

Yep. Do it, Samuel.

Know what? Samuel does!

Y’see, God had just directed him a wee bit earlier when he had his own eye set on the eldest son of the family that he was not to look at the outward appearance. God doesn’t choose based on the outside, but by what is within the soul.

Though David may have been grubby, God saw something in his soul that was sparkling clean, fresh, had huge potential for the future.

You’d think he would have stepped into a royal position immediately, wouldn’t you? He’d been chosen: where was his kingdom and power?

Still under his father’s authority, he returns to caring for the flock of smelly sheep on the hillsides surrounding Bethlehem.

Now I’m on the comic strip: ?!&$#!???

Why? He was chosen for good reason! Why did David have to wait? What was going through his mind? How did he know he would one day be king? And how should he live his life meanwhile?

We know he lived it in submission to those over him. And he continued in the integrity of his heart that was there before he was anointed.

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David. His life has carried something special for me over the past years and even to present date.

Since recovering to 85%, I’ve felt a lack of direction and purpose in life. I’m not fully functioning. I have to guard my time, manage my diet, sleep and give myself a quietness of environment more often than I like. If I push myself too much, I have to take several down days to recover. I’m “normal” but limited. Always limited.

Previous life? It held promise of fulfillment and a good, wholesome purpose! I was working at a Bible college and was highly involved with our small group leaders, in walking beside the young women. I was seeing real change in their lives.

It’s a beautiful thing, to watch God’s love and truth permeate the soul! Eyes and face soften as with new life. Women who hid away suddenly have a new self-respect and even a new manner of carrying themselves. Light shines through once dull eyes, smiles are deeper, minds are strengthened and those around can’t help but notice the change!

Suddenly, I was sick, my feet pulled out from under me. Suddenly, I began disappearing from the picture. And then? I was alone. So alone and it was time, time to face myself and my God.

Trust lessons. Rawness of mind and spirit. Emptiness that drove me to Him. Darkness that arose inside of me. Battles within, such I had never known, knocked me around the room of my soul.

Shaken, falling, flailing…this was not what life should have held! My training! My desire to walk alongside other women! My giftings! The things that amazed and strengthened my faith! Everything I had thought would be pleasing and valuable to God was stripped away. It seemed that everything I was capable of offering had been obliterated.

And I’ve been battling with this seemingly insignificant person I’ve become. I’ve not been able to see outside of her. I’ve wondered what God is doing with my life? Does He really wish for me to remain incapacitated for the remainder of it? What does He see that I do not? What is it He values?

David returned to the sheep after he’d been given the incredible promise of kingship. He had to wait. If you know the story, he had a wait a long time. His life was seemingly purposeless. Day after day, watching sheep! It wasn’t exactly taking him in the direction of kingship or something better!

And yet? We know he learned much in his time there! How to quiet his heart, to listen and hear the voice of God, to meditate on Scripture, to defend the helpless (sheep), respect his own father’s authority…and we all know he developed a killer-of-an-arm with his slingshot!

Did he see God’s plan all at once? Nope! And know what else? Life appears to improve (he becomes an employee of the king, then a celebrated warrior) but suddenly plummets! His time in the desert herding sheep pays off: suddenly he’s running to the desert in attempt to save his life from…(get this)…the king!

It’s easy for one phase of life to feel like a lifetime. It’s easy for me to feel that after 6 years of sickness, I’ve accomplished nothing, I’m contributing less to those around, I’m moving nowhere and though life has improved, its still held me in an incapacitating grip.

David? He didn’t see all the pieces either. But he continued to live life with integrity, in full pursuit of his Lord wherever he was. He spent years running from the king of Israel and even left his home country. What was all this amounting to?

In times of question, its so easy for me to turn away from God, to other things and my own methods to find meaning in life. It seems as if God has forgotten me down here and if I’m going to break free from this purposelessness, I’m going to have to do something for myself, by myself. I’m naturally a person of action and if God’s not going to do something…I WILL!!!

Have you ever read the Psalms? David wrote lots of them, many while he was running from the king and hiding in the deserts. Instead of turning away from God in the purposelessness or taking matters into his own hands, he turned toward Him. Sometimes complaining, sometimes broken, sometimes joyful and filled with glee, sometimes questioning, angry and demanding answer.

But the key? He turned toward, not away from. And it was this attitude of heart that enabled him to do great things for his Lord and God when he did become king.

How about you? What is your natural tendency? Turning toward or running from? Are you trusting…or controlling?

Battle Between Work & Health

I had to quit my job (one I dearly loved) because of poor health. What a loss it was! I knew I could not continue. For a time after, I lived on EI but knew it would soon come to an end. I tried to get other government grants, all to no avail. At times, I was panicked about the future:

What kind of job could I work in my condition? Where could I find one? Could I hold out or would I break down and be fired? Am I capable of living life on my own?

My savings were running low. Actually, that’s an exaggeration. My saving and checking account were empty. Nothing. I’d take on babysitting jobs whenever I could in effort to provide food. I was in debt to my roommate (she had been covering the cost of rent for the past couple months) and sorely needed an income. I began searching.

At first, it was to no avail. Then suddenly, the perfect job appeared. Someone I had connections to was looking for part-time child care. And I wanted the job. I got it!

Hours were manageable though exhausting to my weakened body. Three days a week, 8 hrs a day. I determinedly plugged through. It was while working this job that I went to the first health center. I was fortunate to be working for an amazing woman who was also a RN. I’d bounce things off of her and she was a support to me in that time.

I don’t know what I would have done without that couple’s willingness to work with me and give me chance. To this day I am incredibly grateful to them!

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Work. We have to do it to survive! No one can pay rent or car fees on an empty bank account!

When dealing with chronic illness the battle rages between rest and work. The body needs rest for survival but in our culture a human can’t live without money. The tension. The battle.

I do know that rest is one of the key things that enabled me to recover so quickly. Without.a.shadow.of.doubt. While my job was amazing, I could nap while the baby napped, I didn’t see a real spurt forward in health improvements until I quit. I had an offer to go live with my boyfriend’s family. At high risk, I took it.

It was one of the best decisions I made for my health. The rest enabled my body to put it’s energies into fighting and healing. I moved forward at a steady pace. And while I recognize not everyone has this opportunity, I think it is worth considering.

Is there a way you could cut back on work hours? Or could you quit your job, live on savings for a bit while the body rebuilds itself? How about finding roommates to cut back on costs so you can work less hours?

I recognize it’s not possible for everyone. And yes, it does cost financially. It highly benefits the health.

It’s the battle that many a person faces. What do we do with it?

Hiking with Hope

I DID IT!

We haven’t tried in a long time…but I did it and extra! I was thrilled and though every muscle in my body is sore and I am tired, I didn’t get a headache and I have even been waking up early.

Hurrah!

While we had made plans for our anniversary, I came down sick with something that resembled the flu. I ruined our plans (yes, it still happens). We put it off, dug into summer life: gardens, freezing, canning, butchering…before we knew it summer was almost over.

If we were going to do something, we had to do it soon!

So we did. Packing up our large hiking backpacks, we set out: food, water, sleeping bags, tent, clothing, toques & long johns, we were prepared! Heading down and into the US, we tackled an easy, 2 3/4 mile hike with 1600 foot elevation gain. I made it! In fact, we did it faster than the map’s average speed!

For me, that’s a real accomplishment!

Arriving at the little lake just before dark, we found a site under the evergreens where needles padded the ground, swept it clear of sticks, set up the tent and dove in just as the rain began to fall!

Snuggled up in our mummy bags, we listened to the pattering. Night sounds all added to the intrigue!

Waking early, we arose to a cold morning. A light frost was on the ground but the mountain huckleberries were plentiful! Wet bushes almost numbed our fingers as we greedily gobbled them up and added them to our morning porridge.

And then? The hike.

Y’see, we had been to this place on our honeymoon. I had not been able to complete the hike. Yes, I’d arrived at the lake, but I hadn’t made it up on the topmost ridge. I wanted to tackle it this time and win!

I hiked it!

I hike best in cold weather. So away we went. Yes, the peak shown in the picture above. Yes, we had to hike it in sections, particularly when we reach the steep, rocky slopes.

“One step at a time; you move forward one step at a time,” my mind instructed.

I may have been playing it up in this photo!

A weakend body recovers one step at time

I made it! Suddenly, I was the victorious one on top! I could see miles around, one mountain range upon another. Amazing!

Two years ago, I couldn’t do it. This year we tackled it and I did it! Was I ever tired! But I did it!  Controlling Lyme disease with Natural MethodsIt was nice to share one of those moments with my man. No, it hadn’t been at the neck-breaking pace he’s accustomed to. But we did it together!

We have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome. No headache. Sore muscles-yes! I’m tired but not completely exhausted.

Afterward, I took two days where I did next to nothing. My body’s resources went toward repairing those sore muscles and in two days time, I was no longer sore. We are excited with the outcome of the 2nd health center I attended.

Somehow, they helped me push through and though I lead a low-energy life, I can return to doing what I love. A different pace, a different way, but same end results!

Victory!

 

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We will be looking forward to more hikes this fall…I hope!

 

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Healed but Grieving

It’s been eight years since I began battling fatigue, five years of serious health concerns, grueling treatments and money flying out. And all in all, I’m grateful. God has been good. His hand of blessing has rested upon me, both in spiritual and earthly ways. Throughout my sickness, the doorways of heaven have been pulled open a bit more. I see things in that new light. I’m grateful.

But some days? Grief rips and cuts deep. That heavy ache has returned. The lost life, hopes, dreams, abilities and desire pile up.

It hits at the strangest of times. Watching an athletic woman play sports. She can run without tiring. I know what she’s feeling. I remember yet. And I long to have that vigor flowing through my body, to be able to push, push, push and feel good because of it.

Sometimes, it’s hearing of others’ lives. The activities, travels, work situation and their ability to be involved with people. Alive and on the move. I remember.

Or watching a mamma with her children, able to tackle the issues in their lives, have energy to keep a clean house, to keep up relationships outside of her home, what we would call a ‘healthy’ balance to life. I fear it, so deeply fear it!

Things I loved and deeply hidden away inside, still love. I try to stop, to cover it up with new dreams. But they still re-surface.

Today, it was a photo on facebook. A woman high in the snow-covered mountains, standing tall and strong with her man’s arm about her. Energy beaming from her face, a sparkle in her eye, the flushed cheeks of one who has worked hard and accomplished the goal. I remember.

Perhaps this one hurts the most, cause I know my man misses it the most. Really? It makes me feel like a rotter. I feel less, somehow. Why can’t I give him this one simple thing? I so desperately want to live life beside him, to join him in adventure and fun! Making memories and sharing in life together? Sigh. And apart from this, I miss energy for climbing the mountains. I miss the feeling of ecstacy: sore yet loose muscles, the sensation of a mountain breeze drying sweat beads on my face, the knowledge that I did it, the incredible view to behold…I always had a difficult time coming down any mountain I’d hiked. I’d just want to stay there forever, soaking in the view, waiting until the velvet cover of darkness descended and the clear brightness of the stars shone down to me.

And then, like an overweight bird hitting the ground, I’m back. I can’t do long hikes more than once or twice a year: body won’t hold up. Besides, hiking usually makes for a headache the next day and a week of down time while my body used its energies to heal the sore muscles. Hiking means my man has to see to household chores. Hiking meant I’d be irritable for the next week and inevitably, have a fight with my husband. Hiking means I’ll live in isolation for a week, trying to let my body heal and re-gain my strength. Hiking (amazing as it is) usually makes for a highly un-enjoyable week to follow. And if I don’t rest, one week turns into two or three.

Grief. It hits randomly. Sometimes strong, other times a faint twinge, its still my faithful and unfortunately loyal companion.

Sometimes, I’m ok with my sickness. And sometimes, I hate it. I hate what it’s done to my life, to my husband, to my relationships and ability to be with people.

Sometimes, I wonder what God is doing.

“Wasn’t I faithful to serve You before the sickness descended? I was making a difference for Your kingdom! Lives were being opened and changed through the way You gifted me. My life mattered. I saw the result in others. Surely sitting in the dark hold of sickness isn’t glorifying You in any possible way, is it? I hardly have contact with anyone! And You are all about people, right?”

What is He thinking?

I don’t know. But I understand that He must value something I do not. He must see something I cannot. It would seem what I think is important to Him actually isn’t? There is something more I don’t yet comprehend. There is something He puts great value upon that I don’t understand.

I don’t understand. But I do want to trust.