When Healing Causes Grief

There are days when I can see and feel that I am getting better and healthier. I rejoice in those days. With God’s help, I have climbed my mountain again, both literally and figuratively. I have been to church more weeks than not over the last few months. I have been to the grocery store with my husband. I can generally stop and talk to people without scanning my surroundings for the nearest chair. I have added several previously-forbidden foods to my diet. I haven’t had to get labs in five months. These things are celebration-worthy. Step-by-slow-step healing is meant to be savored and celebrated. So, I celebrate.

But something unexpected is putting a damper on my full celebration. My old frenemy, grief. I know what some of you are thinking, “Goodness, this girl will find anything to complain about. She’s even sad about healing.” I almost didn’t write this post because I know how it sounds. But, hello, #thisisdepression. Also, I cannot be the only one with a chronic illness who feels this way and I think we need to talk about it.

In her book, “Fully Alive” (see, I told you I’d never stop talking about this book), Susie Larson discusses the man in John 5 who Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well.” The man’s immediate response is, “I can’t, Sir.” Susie encourages us to explore our own “I can’ts.” And so, I have… often. I’ve been asked over the years by counselors and various health practitioners if there is something holding me back from accepting healing and I’ve done my best to come to grips with those things and give them up to God. I know that fear is an issue – fear of the unknown, fear of hope because if I get better I’m not sure I can emotionally handle getting sick again. There are other hindering beliefs that I have fully explored as well, but I kept having this nagging feeling that there is something else gripping me. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But God has recently opened my eyes and named it for me: GRIEF.

How can a person possibly grieve getting better? Well, after careful examination of my heart, I think I’ve nailed down one reason why each step forward is accompanied by a sharp stab to the heart. It’s because the people I’ve always imagined rejoicing with me in my healing are largely the ones who abandoned me in my suffering. They are the first people I imagined telling about my healing and yet, they are no longer in my life. Each step forward is a reminder of their absence and therefore, grows the intensity of my grief.

Not only is my celebration not happening in the way I imagined, but I see it as a final closure of the relationships I have lost. If I get better, the people who abandoned me are out of time and chances to show that they are willing to sit with me in my pain. If I heal, I have to finally accept that I will never receive what I want from them. I have to move on without them and I don’t know how to do that. It wasn’t “supposed” to be this way. I’ve been attempting the Dynamic Neural Retraining System, which uses a lot of visualization to help retrain the brain to wellness. I am supposed to visualize a future in which I am well. The problem I’m running into is, when I imagine my wellness, the people I thought would always be there are present in my visualizations… but they’re not with me now. And they haven’t been for a long time. So my visualizations are usually accompanied by grief, which kind of ruins the experience.

I don’t know how “normal” life goes without the people with whom I used to laugh. Those who were present in my healthy life have been largely absent during my sick life. Maybe my problem is that I’m trying to go back to a reality that no longer exists when God intends me to go forward with Him. I feel like I’m struggling for the right words so I’ll share a post by Sarah Panther, who speaks part of my heart a bit more clearly. I encourage you to read it here.

How do I celebrate when my heart breaks with loss for each step that I take? I guess the answer is that joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive. I can rejoice in my healing while grieving my losses. If I refuse to celebrate the victories, that discounts the work that God is doing and I never want to do that. He has been my constant through all of this and His work deserves every bit of recognition I give it and more. Healing is not only given to bring God glory in the eyes of the people who “deserve” to see it- those people who have held my hand in the trenches- but it is to reveal God’s glory to every eye who chooses to see. And maybe even more-so to the people who have misunderstood. Maybe those who feared my pain need to see that God is there and can heal even at length. Maybe those who couldn’t handle knowing that there can be long, intense suffering without God stepping in with a miracle need to know that He does still care. And maybe I need to fully recognize the miracle of God’s sustaining presence rather than pining for those I have lost.

So, I rejoice and grieve. I’m realizing that this may be life. Maybe the grief is our constant reminder that we are not Home where we belong. I don’t ever want to respond to Jesus’ offer of healing with, “I can’t, Sir.” This doesn’t sound like a very happy post, but we do have some celebrating to do. I invite you to rejoice with me and, if you have the heart, grieve with me as well. Together we will look forward to the final separation of joy and grief. Come, Lord Jesus.

Song I’m feeling: Where Joy and Sorrow Meet, by Avalon
“For the wounded, there is healing. Strength is given to the weak.
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet.”

Like what you see? Share it!

Deliverance In the Desert

*Song lyrics throughout are from Open Hands, by Laura Story. Listen to this beautiful song here.
*The sweetest sound, the highest praise is the letting go of this life You gave. Our greatest prayer, our act of faith is an open hand. Lord, have your way. Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan.
“I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” – Exodus 14:4b
May we surrender all of our plans, everything we thought we wanted, for the greater glory of God. In this way, our hopes, dreams, and plans will grow to match His.
*Take it all, every weight, all the shame and brokenness. Jesus, I surrender all, every victory and loss. Take it all, take it all ’til all I have is open hands. A clenching fist, a life of fear, a burden held has no place here.
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord… ‘It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'”- Exodus 14:10,12b
We may be afraid of our trials, but fear is not from God. Fear is one of the things that keeps us bound.
*‘Cause You call me now to cast it all on the shoulders of the One who’s strong.
“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'” – Exodus 14:13-14
God will deliver us from the things He knows we need to be delivered from, even if it isn’t the things we WANT to be delivered from. I want deliverance from my illness, but He is using my illness to deliver me from something far more oppressive – the sins that have kept me enslaved. His strong arms sustain me through the trials.
*Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan. Take it all, every weight, all the shame and brokenness. Jesus, I surrender all every victory and loss.
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” – Exodus 14:21-22
God shows His power by walking us right through our fears, not avoiding them. Sometimes He doesn’t rescue us from the things we fear most because He wants to build our faith through them.
*Take it all, take it all, ’til all I have is open hands.
“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen – the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” – Exodus 14:27-28
If we open our hands in surrender, God will cover the things that enslave us – our sin, fears, pain, our past. He will cover those things so that they no longer rule our lives. He has already set us free. The work is already done. We just need to open our hands and accept that gift of freedom.
*I’m not afraid of what I’ll lose. My greatest joy is finding You.
“And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted. The horse and rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.'” – Exodus 14:31-15:2a
Even if we are still in the midst of our wandering, we will see God’s power here. We will praise Him for His victories and those who see those victories in our lives will know the Lord.
“You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.” – Joshua 24:7b
You lived in the desert for a long time. The deliverance God brought to the Israelites was not deliverance from the desert, but from slavery. The sea and the desert were not the enemies. The Egyptians were the enemy. Maybe the deliverance God is bringing to us is not deliverance from our desert but from the things that enslave us. Our illnesses and our trials are not our enemies. The things that keep us enslaved are our enemies. It’s time for us to stretch out our hands.
Like what you see? Share it!

World Lyme Day

Hmm… how do I even start this? I wanted to say “Happy World Lyme Day”, but happy is certainly not the right word. How about, “Informative World Lyme Day greetings to you.” Good grief, that sounds boring. Oh, well. Today is the beginning of Lyme Disease awareness month. Last year on this day I took my Facebook friends on a journey through my day just to give them a glimpse of a day in the life of someone with Lyme. Today, I decided to capture the things that make my life better, which has ended up being almost like a day in the Lyme life anyway. Some of you heard me say before that there’s a chance I don’t have Lyme anymore but, honestly, I think I’m in a Lyme flare or other disease caused by Lyme flare. Even if I no longer have the Lyme bacteria, I still suffer from the toll it has taken on my body so it’s still good for everyone to be aware that just because the bacteria is gone does not mean the person is better. Boy, am I struggling this week! Sunday was truly awesome for me. I was able to attend church and then make it up to my mountain for the first time in more than two years. I am still overflowing with gratitude!!

But, I’ve certainly been paying for it ever since. It was worth it just for that beautiful glimpse and the assurance that all things actually are possible. I haven’t slept well since then so I’m wondering if I tanked my adrenals. Always a guessing game. I had been sleeping much better (except during full moons and hormone shifts) since treatment from Sozo and the Sunshine clinic as well as letting go of SO much emotionally, but the last few nights have been rough. So I got up super late this morning. Here are some products that help my sleep: Room-darkening curtains (except I no longer wake up to sunrises so that’s a bit of a sacrifice for good sleep), essential oil diffuser with lavender oil, and my weighted blanket – the best birthday gift! I have restless legs and Jason would often massage them for me so I could go to sleep but he usually doesn’t have to do that anymore, thanks to this blanket.

After getting up I take a few supplements and the last couple days I have been drinking celery juice that I have freshly made in our juicer, which was an awesome Christmas gift from my parents a few years ago. Celery has natural minerals and salt, which is good for POTS, and it’s supposed to be very healing first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Speaking of salt, we buy Himalayan sea salt in bulk because I eat salt like it’s my job. Dr. Sunshine helped my blood pressure a lot but I still have to eat quite a bit of salt. Honestly, I’ve eaten so much of it that I’ve lost the ability to taste it very well. Himalayan sea salt is far better for you than other salt because it still has the minerals, and grinding it fresh is best. There’s a picture of my supplements. They certainly make my life better and more livable. I finally found a pill case big enough for all the times I have to take pills during the day. Another thing that makes my life better is cooking in my grandma’s case iron skillets. I just love thinking of the history and connection to my heritage and I love the way they cook. I have homemade “sausage”, spinach, celery, and raw, pure almond butter for breakfast, leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch, and we cook something hot for dinner. I used to despise cooking and then my illness hit so I didn’t have a choice. I can’t go to restaurants at all and I eat nothing from a package that I can think of. Now I love trying to figure out successful substitutions for the foods I can’t eat. It’s such a thrill when something turns out well! My current favorite is the chicken asparagus roll-ups. Grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, delicious! And there’s a picture of my water filter. It’s not the greatest but it’s what we can afford right now and better than nothing. I swear I get a stomach ache when I drink the water from our actual fridge filter. People with Lyme are usually so sensitive to anything and everything!

After breakfast, I have my time with God. I have grown to usually treasure my solitude because I get to spend hours with God if I want to. A couple years ago, I prayed that God would make me addicted to His word, and He has answered. I’ve read the Bible straight through multiple times since losing my job and I don’t plan to quit. I’ve been praying lately that God makes me addicted to HIM too, and He is doing so. I love spending time with Him and I pray all throughout the day. I pray for the people He brings to mind as well as the list of regulars I keep, and I talk to Him about everything. I have my daily calendar from a dear friend that helps me focus too. Another thing that has helped me a lot has been to speak my identity in Christ out loud. It has helped me to break away from a lot of the darkness of feeling like I’m worthless. God made me and that makes me so valuable to Him. Amazing. One of my favorite passages came up in my reading today and it says, “on the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.” I love thinking about how God has led me up my mountain and has sustained me, providing all that I need along the way. I usually drink coffee while I’m reading and June sits next to me in the sun. I talk about quitting coffee all the time but it’s not working, so if anyone wants to be my quitting buddy, let me know! I enjoy looking out the window and watching my bluebirds. See the mama’s head peeking out of the house? Our friends made us a bluebird house last year and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I love our big window and will miss it if/when we move. Many people think that I am bored and they try to come up with things for me to do to pass the time. I used to be more bored than I am, but I have actually learned how to have a pretty fulfilling life. That has been such a gift from God. I am lonely, yes, but I am not bored. I write a lot, in my journal or in my blog, and I read (purple pens and journals make my life better too). I work on Celebrate Recovery stuff and a couple other projects I have up my sleeve that I may share later (gotta keep some mystery!). CR has made my life indescribably better too. It’s a place for anyone with hurts, habits, or hangups. God is using CR and counseling to help me heal from the inside out. There is a women’s Step Study (a more in-depth study of CR’s 12 steps) that meets at our house on Monday evenings, we attend main CR on Tuesday evenings, and lately we’ve often been meeting on Wednesday evenings for CR leader training. Yep, Jason and I are learning to be CR leaders now. I’ve talked myself out of and back into it many times and will probably continue to do so, but God uses the broken. That’s me!

After my God time, I shower and make myself as presentable as possible to the outside world before I take June out. Sometimes I take detox baths with epsom salts, but I don’t usually do that while I’m alone since hot baths and POTS don’t mix and I don’t want to be alone and faint. I also do ionic foot baths occasionally and castor oil packs. Basically, anything to get my stubborn detox pathways flowing. Fun shirts and socks make me smile and, yes, I had to fold myself into a pretzel to get both of those things in the picture. I don’t usually wear jewelry unless I’m going somewhere but since it’s a special day, I thought I’d wear some. I love jewelry that reminds me of the people who gave it to me or the verses on them. One of the bracelets says, “He restores my soul”. You  might remember that my word of the year last year was “restore”, and it is still very close to my heart. I also discovered eos, a natural lip balm, and Jason went a little crazy in cleaning the stores out of them for me. I think the ingredients are natural and okay for me but, if not, just don’t tell me! So then I’m ready to take June out and go get the mail. Mail makes my day better, getting and sending, though we didn’t get any today, perhaps because they’ve got condo complex-apocalypse going on out there. This place is torn up! I guess they’re trying to fix the pond so we will have a pretty fountain again, which will make me smile too. I do my best to send cards to people when I can. It’s pretty difficult for me to walk June, even just to the mailboxes, especially in the heat. Heat is still my #1 trigger and I cannot tolerate it even a little bit. It’s extremely discouraging. June doesn’t understand and she doesn’t walk well. She just likes to stop and smell every blade of grass. But, as difficult as she is sometimes, she is also the reason I leave the house and my constant companion. I am probably too attached to her and don’t know what I’d do without her!

Speaking of this dog, the following picture is just about right! I absolutely love Yoga Booty Ballet. I know, it sounds funny. Some of you know I used to be a ballerina. Well, I’m not sure if you can call someone a ballerina who just took lessons for twelve years and was certainly not a professional, but I like to call myself that! No offense to the real ballerinas. But, I miss dance so much and this has just enough ballet in it to keep me interested and helps me get some exercise. I’m not able to do much so, right now I only do parts of the Light and Easy version, but I’m trying. June loves to get in my way. I know, my yoga mat isn’t purple. Tragedy. A couple other things that make my life better are the salt lamp and my heart rate app. I don’t know if the lamp actually does anything but the soft light is calming to me. I only check the app when I’m feeling bad because it helps me know if I need to do something or if everything is fine and I just need to relax. I also follow a lot of inspirational people on social media, none more influential to me than Susie Larson. She is by far my favorite author and speaker, even though I’ve only read one of her books. Her other books are on my list for the future. She has had Lyme and she is unbelievably inspiring and powerful to me. I usually can’t watch her videos without tears. I also follow the group “A Little Lyme Laughter”, which provides so many laughs to those of us who certainly need them. Sometimes I’m able to have some porch time, but there is only a very small window of time when the heat won’t get to me. Maybe in our new house we’ll have a shaded porch. Purple flowers everywhere also make me so very thankful! Occasionally, I will get out my oil pastels and do some art. I’ve fallen in love with those things over the last couple years.

I know this blog has been stream-of-consciousness and jumbled, but these are the things that make my Lyme life a little better. I am so grateful for these gifts! I hope that they will give others who suffer ideas or inspiration and I encourage you to make your own gratitude list. It’s uplifting to count God’s extravagant gifts! Other things that make me smile are my favorite flowers – purple irises. I love the dark purple ones but haven’t seen any of those up close yet this year. I can’t get mine to bloom again. Sunrises and sunsets are God’s paintings for me, unique each day. My favorite creations in the whole world are sun rays. They remind me that God is here with me and that means everything is okay. Sun rays have often uplifted my heart during difficult times. I adore my Tennessee mountains and have a gazillion pictures of them. I wish I could hike them more, but maybe some day! I love looking at birds and watching the deer visit me from my window. I love getting lost in my piano, playing the guitar and singing. Also pictured with the piano is art from some of my friends, given to me over the years. Each one is precious to my heart. Most uplifting to my heart, though, are the people. I have an amazing husband who takes the vows of sickness and health very seriously and exemplifies what it means to love His wife like Christ loves the church. He is Jesus to me every single day. I also adore being an aunt to four precious children. It makes me so sad if I think too long about how my illness has kept me away from them much of the time but they are the most important kiddos in my life and I love them so! I am thankful for family and all of those who have become family by walking with me through this difficult illness. When life gives you Lyme, God gives you love.

Like what you see? Share it!