Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#choosingtosmile

It's time to shift gears. I've written about the struggle with this brain injury. I've written about trying to hold on to truth when everything around me seems to be falling apart. That struggle is very real, and God is walking with me daily as I work through the hardest parts of this journey. You can read about it here and here.

Walking through our darkest times feels like one of those weird situations no one tells us how to do. I know I felt left to my own devices when my emotions and the truths I had known my whole life didn't seem to match up. I felt like I had two choices: I could push on with a brave face and shove my doubts and questions down very deep, never to be dealt with; or I could hold my questions up to the light of day and beg for answers. I could run TO my struggle instead of away from it. Friend, if you are struggling, if life is hitting you hard, please don't run away from the struggle. Please run TO the One who has the answers!! I promise that Jesus can handle our anguish, our pain, our questions, and our doubts. He wants us to cry out to Him. And He is waiting with answers and comfort. If you aren't sure what it looks like to go to Him with your pain, or aren't sure I understand, please go read my recent post. I have been there - as recently as last week! And God is patiently and sweetly leading me out of the dark.

But is that all there is to life with a chronic condition? Struggle, suffering, spiritual wrestling? NO! Our God is so gracious and loving that He gives us so much more in our lives - we just have to look for it! If we look, we can find beauty, peace, joy, and laughter. This last one, laughter, is my favorite. God wired me (Enneagram 7 here ✋) with a smile on my face and a laugh just waiting to bubble up. I admit that in the dark days, it's harder to laugh, but so often, being able to laugh at life has broken through the darkness and gotten me (and my family) through another hard day.

There are many practical ways to "find your happy". Making a list of things I am thankful for is a huge boost for my spirits. It's hard for me to stay down when I list all my blessings. Another fun thing for me is to scroll back through photos. Memories can be wonderful mood boosters! There is an excellent book out with more great practical ideas called "A Year of Living Happy" by Alli Worthington. I highly recommend it!

I want to share a few things that have made me laugh over the last year. Why? Because it's important for us to remember that even in the hard times, God is alive and working. And one of the ways He reminds us that He is at work and on our side is by sending things that make us smile. We have to do our part by being on the lookout for those moments!

I'm willing to bet that the things that make me smile won't be the same things that put a smile on your face. That's ok. Part of the beauty of this wonderful world is the differences we all bring to the table. I would love to hear from you. What kind of things make you laugh? What moments put a smile on your face? What silliness breaks up a hard day and helps you make it to the next day? I'm posting my happy moments on social media with the hashtag #choosingtosmile - I would love for you to join me! When you post a picture of something that makes you laugh, especially on a hard day, tag it with #choosingtosmile - that will let folks know that even though life is hard, we are choosing, at least for that moment, to focus on the things that bring us joy. We can support each other together!

I think you know me well enough to know that I'm not suggesting we be anything less than authentic. I'm not recommending turning our Instagram feeds into highlight reels or our Facebook profiles into Fakebook pages. I'm all for keeping it real. I think that's the beauty behind the hashtag. It lets us say: "Yes, life can be hard. But in this post, I am acknowledging that while I can't control my circumstances, I can control my focus. And today, I am choosing to smile." Are you with me? #choosingtosmile

Ok 😊 Are you ready to see the things that have made me laugh? The moments that have brought me joy? The silliness that cracks me up?


A pig on a leash - how do you not laugh?
Deep fried oreos - now we are talking joy!
The bunny slippers my sons bought me for my birthday
I smile every time I wear them! The little ears flop
when I walk!!
Being a Band Mom brings me
so much joy! I love watching my
son tear it up out there! I cheer like a crazy woman.
Dates with Drew -
definitely reason to smile
Is anything more fun than being a
Football Mom? The crowd? The cheering?
The yelling at the refs? Watching my boy make
tackles? I love it!
That time we were playing basketball at a park in
Tennessee and a bear showed up! Y'all, life is full of
crazy moments!
My youngest is finding his way on the
basketball court. It's so fun watching him
come into his own. I love cheering him on!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Does the One I Pray to Understand?

The Bible refers to God by lots of different names. One of them is Immanuel (sometimes we see it spelled Emmanuel - same word). It means “God is with us”. According to my Bible study this morning - a study on the names of God by She Reads Truth (they have great studies, and I highly recommend them!) - this name “carries a sense of nearness, including intimate knowledge of the needs, struggles, and hopes of humanity.”

Reading that today made me pause. We hear Immanuel referenced a lot at Christmas when we talk about Jesus being born, so I’m thinking about it. Does Jesus have an “intimate knowledge of the needs, struggles, and hopes of humanity”? When I pour my heart out to Him and share all the struggles I’m facing this week, does He really get it?

Honestly, that concept is tough for me to grasp. I feel like I’m in a losing battle every day fighting for what’s left of life as I know it while this illness takes things from me little bit by little bit. On the other side, I have medical professionals who are playing guesswork and asking me to willingly hand over pieces of my life for a slim possibility of progress - pieces that I am holding on to in a death grip because I have already lost so much. Does Jesus really get it?

Let’s talk about some things Jesus faced -

  • He was homeless (Matthew 8:20)
  • He had family issues (Mark 3:21, John 7:5)
  • He was slandered by the religious leaders (Matthew 12:24)
  • His disciple denied him (Mark 14:66-72)
  • His friend betrayed Him for money (Mark 14:44-45)
  • He was beaten, spit on, and mocked (Mark 15:19)
  • He was hung on a cross (Mark 15:25)
  • He died on that cross for me. And for you (2 Cor 5:21)

So, yes. Jesus understands suffering. He understands loss. He gets it. When I pour my heart out to Him, He understands. He is Immanuel - God with ME, a God who understands my needs and struggles and hopes.

Where does that leave me, practically? I’m praying to a God who understands. That makes a difference. But I’m also praying to a God who has the power to change my situation and isn’t. That’s hard to handle.

Hang on. Jesus dealt with that one too, kind of. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed for God to find another way to redeem mankind. He knew there was severe pain and suffering ahead. Jesus was fully God and fully human, and the human part was not looking forward to the “pierced for our transgressions” that was prophesied in Isaiah 53. So first he prayed for another way, but then He prayed “yet not what I will, but what you will”. Jesus knows what it’s like to want God’s will even when we are dreading the results. That conflict is not sinful. It is human.

So as I sit here begging God to change my situation, but also genuinely wanting His will for my life (because I truly believe His plan is for my good), Jesus knows what a prayer like that feels like. He has prayed one before. I’m scared that He won’t heal me. I’m afraid of just how bad things are going to get. I really want it to be over. But I also want  God’s will for my life to be played out because I know He loves me. He has a plan to give me a hope and a future! I can trust Him! God and I have a long history together that I can look back over and see all the ways He has proven Himself faithful and loving. I can echo King David when he says “I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

And when I pour my heart out to Immanuel, God with me, I know He gets it. He understands my needs, my struggles, and my hopes. And He understands my conflict between desperately wanting to be free of this illness and wanting God to have His way in my life.

Is that enough? Is knowing that Jesus understands what I’m going through enough to be able to echo His words: not what I will, but what you will? I wish I could say yes. I want to be able to say those words. I’m just not there yet. So I’m praying for God to be patient with me as I want to want His will above all. And I’m resting in the knowledge that He understands what I’m going through. And that is enough to get through today. And probably tomorrow.


**I'm going to add a little P.S. to this post. This post was the hardest one I've ever written. I just couldn't figure out how to get this struggle into words. I had some help from some very special people -  I want to say thank you to Drew (who walks with me every single day through it all) and Pastor Peter and Cheryl Nelson - thank you for your godly counsel and guidance!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

What Do We Do When The Lights Go Out?


What do we do when it's been a really hard week? I mean so emotionally taxing that just the basic tasks are too much? When the load we have to carry seems so heavy that we are sure we can't go one more step? I know I'm not the only one who has felt this way. I may be the only one here with a brain injury, but unfortunately, there is a multitude of trials out there, and we all have our crosses to bear. And they do get SO heavy! What do we do? How do we keep going when it seems the light has gone out?

I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I'm usually a ray of sunshine. I joke that I walk around like a swallowed a light bulb :-) For those of you who know the enneagram, I'm an enneagram type 7 from my head to my toes. I'm almost always able to see the positives in any situation and have an easy smile for anyone, at any moment. It's just how God made me - I sparkle. But this past week, my spark went out. It's as if someone reached inside me, grabbed the pull-chain on my internal light bulb, and pulled. And the light went out.

I don't know how much you know about life with a chronic condition, but it's really hard sometimes. On top of the normal parenting, marriage, and life stuff that all have to be navigated, pile physical pain and exhaustion, never-ending medical decisions to be made, doctor visits, and the daily attacks on self-esteem that come with physical limitations. I'm not sharing all of this to whine or to ask for pity. But none of the rest of what I have to say will make any sense if I'm not honest with you about the difficulties.

Brain mapping in action - before it got
crazy painful and I started crying
I hit my emotional limit during a "brain mapping" test that I was doing last week. It's not designed to be painful, but the flashing images and random beeping caused a severe headache and had tears streaming down my face while I finished the test. We had tried something new to find answers, and it was backfiring. We spent time, money and energy on something new. Again. And just like all the things we had tried before, this one seemed like a bust.

Drew took this one during a treatment
we tried in June. Not only didn't it 
work, it left me sick for days.
As I sat there crying during that test, I felt absolutely depleted - empty of all energy - just done. I was so tired of trying things and seeing doctors that didn't work. I was over getting my hopes up just to be disappointed again. That emotional roller coaster has really taken its toll on me over the years, and I don't want to ride it any more. I just wanted to go home, crawl in bed, pull up the covers, and stay for a week.

The light inside just went out. I had hit my emotional limit. The bottom.

Have you ever been there? Maybe it's not a chronic medical condition that has pushed you to your limit, but unfortunately, life is full of trials and suffering that give us more than we can handle. Have you ever felt like someone just reached inside, grabbed the pull-chain on your internal light bulb and pulled? The light is off. That's it. I'm done.

What do we do in those moments? Where do we turn?

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. All I can tell you is that here I am a few days removed, and the light is starting to shine again. So I'll share what choices I made in the hope that it will help you when your light goes out.
The first thing I have to do when I'm struggling emotionally is to acknowledge the messages my emotions are sending. Ignoring our emotions isn't healthy long term. God gave them to us for a reason. They are telling us something, and we need to listen. I tend to speak my emotions out loud in prayer. David did that too in the book of Psalms. When he felt defeated or alone, he told God all about it. You can check that out in Psalm 22 especially. I tell God exactly what I'm feeling. No fancy words or scripted prayers - just cries of my heart.

Step two is searching for what I know to be true. My emotions are real and valid. But they are not always going to lead me to truth. There is only one source of truth, and if I'm going to be healthy and find my way back from the bottom, I have to find that truth and cling to it!!! Where do I go for that truth? Straight to the Bible. Whatever my emotions are telling me, I go find the truth of God's Word that deals with those pain points. For me this week, my emotions told me that I was carrying more than I could handle and I would never be able to carry this heavy load. I intentionally went searching for what the Bible has to say about it. When I found verses that spoke to my heart with God's truth, I printed them out and taped them up so I could see them every day!

It comes down to making a choice to believe the things I know to be true and holding on to those truths with all my might until my emotions recover. It’s an act of discipline that I’ve worked really hard at over the last few years of this journey.

Here’s a for-instance - when I’m feeling all alone and forgotten, I print out the verse that says “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) I hang it up where I will see it. I focus on it. I find worship songs on Spotify that fit that theme. I drill the facts of the Bible into my head until my heart finally catches up. Just because I feel alone doesn’t mean I am. I acknowledge those feelings, tell God about them, ask Him to let me feel His presence, and then remind myself of the truth that I know as many times as it takes. Emotions are wonderful messengers that we need to pay attention to, but they don’t tell the whole story. Just because I feel alone doesn’t mean that I am alone.

Here are some other truths we can hang on to when the lights go out:

  • He is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28)
  • Greater is He that is in us than He who is in the world (1 John 4:4)
  • Our God is for us! (Romans 8:31)
  • God is our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)
  • He who promised will be faithful (Hebrews 10:23)
(This list is adapted from Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure by Christine Caine - A book I highly recommend!)

As I cling to the truths of God's Word, my internal dimmer switch is slowly sliding up. I'm gradually starting to feel like myself again, emotionally. God is giving me His strength to face each new day and the challenges that come. When you see me sparkle (in real life or online), you will know where the light comes from :-)



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