Thursday, January 18, 2018

Embracing Joy

"Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!" - Nehemiah 8:10

Don't let my smile fool you; I am not a naturally happy person.

Neither a sunny optimist nor a depressed pessimist, I am a realist. Unfortunately, reality doesn't often match up with my highest hopes and dreams. And knowing that fact, as evidenced too many times in my life, makes it hard for me to stay up in the clouds of excitement for very long.

When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), I was relieved to hear that my case was considered mild. After reading up on my disease, however, I quickly learned that it was a progressive disease and couldn't help but begin thinking about "what ifs." What if it gets worse? What if the medicines make me sick or cause me to lose my hair? What if they don't work at all? What if, what if, what if.

It is no wonder that Philippians 4:6 became my favorite Bible verse very early the age of about nine, actually. "Do not worry about anything..." it begins. Yeah right, said Little Miss Worry Wart. "Instead pray about everything." Okay, I will try that, I thought. And so I did.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Losing the Labels, While Embracing Our Identity

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." - Romans 15:7 (NIV)

I looked over to the right of where I was sitting on the equestrian center's metal bleachers, as we waited for our trail ride to begin. My daughter's Bible study leader was talking to several other women, but I couldn't hear them. Instead, they were communicating with their hands. 

I felt a little left out and jealous that I couldn't be a part of the conversation, because I didn't know sign language, but at the same time I admired them. The very fact they were here at the women's retreat told me that their deafness wasn't going to hold them back from experiencing all that God had for them, and it wasn't going to stop them from having relationships with hearing people, either. 

I asked them, through the interpreter, if I could have a picture with them. I said I wanted to send it to my daughter, whose favorite show is Switched at Birth, a television series about a deaf community. They smiled and obliged, but it got me thinking.

These women had come to the conference with an interpreter, like anyone who spoke another language would, and yet we kept referring to them as members of our church's deaf community. Don't get me wrong, the references were good and kind and filled with gratitude for having these special ladies at the retreat. But I wondered for a moment, "What if they don't like being labeled as the deaf community?"

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Healing from Within: Turning Away from Toxicity

"Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." - Colossians 3:2

What if I were to tell you that there is a way to start healing your body immediately, without any drugs or special diets? Would you try it?

There isn’t anyone I know, especially within the chronic illness community, who wouldn't say yes. We are all longing for something to make us feel better.

The burden of chronic illness is not apparent to those outside of our world. We may look fine on the outside, and may even be able to perform our daily activities as if we were not ill. But those of us who have lived with illness day after day, year after year, know the burdens we carry. They are not light. There is a heaviness in our hearts, knowing that we will never get well.

As our symptoms come and go, and the bottles of medicines stack up on our nightstands, we are reminded that we are not like other people. We hesitate to make plans in advance, for we don’t know how we will feel that day. We cancel lunches with friends we love because they’ve come down with a bad cold, and if we catch it, that may take us down a path we can’t recover from.

We watch what we eat, we do the exercises that are prescribed, we get stuck with needles on a regular basis, and we go to countless doctor visits. Sometimes it feels like all we have time for is tending to our health. It’s draining.

What I’ve recently realized, however, is that there’s something that can make us feel even worse: toxic thinking. That can take a variety of forms, from self-pity to anger at family members who just don’t “get” that you’re really sick. One particular topic that has been top-of-mind and become quite toxic for me, however, is politics. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed discussing and debating, but lately, not so much. And while you may not think it’s relevant to this blog, read on.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Time to Get Back on That Horse?

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”
Philippians 4:13 NABRE

We had just arrived at the dude ranch for our family reunion and were checking in when the desk clerk, a friendly woman with a broad smile and long blonde hair flowing out from under her bedazzled black cowboy hat, asked the inevitable question: “Are you interested in riding today?”

The next trail ride was in 45 minutes and, given that it was 3:00 in the afternoon on a hot summer day in west Texas, no one had signed up yet. There were plenty of spots open. Was I interested? Yes. Would I be able to do it? That was the question.

The last time I had ridden a horse was seven months before, and to call it a pleasant experience would have been a stretch. My left knee, one of the joints I’ve had trouble with since the onset of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA), was not happy. Truthfully, it felt as if it were being twisted right off my leg. No matter how hard I tried to get comfortable, I couldn’t, and I pretty much decided that perhaps my riding days were over.

While I remember the physical pain I was in during that trail ride, what sticks in my mind the most was the disappointment I felt. With the way my knee was hurting, I was not planning to ever ride again, which made me sad.

I had been around horses my entire life, from the time my daddy sat me up on top of “Kate,” the old mare at my grandfather’s farm, when I was about three. My uncle was a Texas rancher, married to a professional cowgirl, and when I was in high school in England, my sister and I spent a lot of time at the nearby stables where we learned to jump. Even though riding had been only an occasional pastime for me as an adult, it was still something I loved to do when I had a chance.

So here I was, at a decision point. Could I accept the ride seven months beforehand as my last time on horseback or should I try again? Would I take a chance and get back on a horse, or would I sit it out?