Chronicling 40: Days 119-121

swinging

Over the past few days, I have been involved in judging some theatre competitions, which I absolutely love.  I get notice of the pieces so I can familiarize myself with any that I don’t know.  I enjoy watching the live performances, and on the scoring sheets we get an opportunity to share notes on the performance so that they can improve for future competitions.

This past weekend was for High School students.  It’s an interesting space to judge because they are old enough to be more frank and direct (especially the seniors heading to college), but I am often reminded that they are in fact students.  They’ve had maybe 1-2 teachers influencing them, probably not workshops on the weekends and intensives over the summer.

I’ve judged these competitions in various districts over the state, but this weekend was in a new district and I was eager to meet new faces (judges) and see a new group of students.  Hands down, every district I have attended has had some of the most friendly judges.  Those who have been doing it for a while are happy to help the newer judges through the process.  It’s always been a fun space to be apart of, people who are not just judging but really care about helping these students hone their craft.

This weekend, it was different.

I was the first judge there, sipping on my coffee.  When she entered the space, she walked with such confidence as if this was old hat to her.  To my surprise it was her first time judging this particular district.  She rattled off big, impressive words.  I’m not sure if the purpose was to qualify herself to me… or set the tone that she was a professional regardless of who I was.

The second judge entered, like a diva onto a stage.  She was a queen. She was running the show.  As we watched the performers, we were not allowed to speak to the performers, but in the technical portions we could.  Immediately it became time to impress the teachers, students, and parents in the space with their knowledge and expertise.  There I sat, just listening and looking.  One was intent on pointing out flaws.  The other was insistent about teaching from her experience.  Their questions to the students were set up to trip the student up and give the judge platform to teach versus to listen to how the student came to their conclusions and decisions.

It was interesting to me, as an observer of this.  If these were college students, or professionals entering some sort of competition, then you have an expectation of excellence … and certainly at this juncture you would want to share your experience and wisdom with them.  For a group of high school students, who many were 9th graders competing for the first time, there is a gentler approach.  Instead of shouting the wisdom of the sages at them, asking them the right questions to get their minds thinking is going to go much further.

I thought about this in relations to conferences and retreats.   Sometimes the speakers come in, and because they’ve been given the platform, they elevate themselves.  They use big words and concepts, trying to establish the providence that they deserve to be in that spot.  When sometimes, what they really need to do is speak plainly to the heart of those who are listening.  Jesus knew how to put His message to the crowds in terms they would understand, that they were familiar with.  They didn’t get hung up on fancy words or ideas, but rather could soak in the words that were plain and simple.

I think of the Pharisees with their long prayers set out to impress the people with their knowledge and godliness… that fell flat because of it’s lack of humility.

If God has given me a platform, I shouldn’t have to prove that I earned it.  Why?  Because I am there to give the spotlight to God, not myself.  I should have a willingness to share my vulnerabilities and iniquities as an evidence to a God who equips the called… and sometimes those he called are coming from a mess.  But what is seems like a hurdle today can be used for God’s glory tomorrow.  When I am willing to share my humbled self, God gets to be on full display.

When a woman comes to me for counsel, this is not the opportunity to puff myself up and make it appear like I have it all together.  An attempt to stand on a platform of the “Perfect Wife”, “Perfect Parent”, “Perfect Christian”, etc.; as if I am some sort of expert.  When instead of listening with the intent of figuring out how I am going to respond, advise, direct, or sell my own self… I should be listening to ask the questions that will cause them to think and come to answers on their own.  Advising and directing as God leads and prompts.

 

Advertisements

Chronicling 40: Day 25 of 365

hands

I’m twenty five days into writing, and I must confess something.  I really wondered if I would have anything worth saying 365 days in a row.  My life is not that incredibly exciting and I don’t really consider myself that insightful.  However it looks like 2017 is not slowing down… and Charlottesville has proven to be a striking moment.

I see eyes opening for the first time.

I see people who are facing that racism still exists, and exists to such an extreme extent… when for a very long time they have been trying to convince themselves it didn’t.

We can no longer say “that doesn’t happen today”.  It did, on Saturday.  Torches burning… only the pitchforks were missing. 

We can no longer say “that doesn’t happen here”.  It did, on a major college campus.  It wasn’t in some small town in the middle of nowhere.  Someone died.  Many were injured.

We can’t say “things have changed for the better”.  It hasn’t.  This time they were not afraid and came out from under hoods and robes. 

We can’t say “not my child”.  Not when a parent writes a public letter denouncing his son, whom he raised in the church to treat people equally.

The beauty in these ashes are those who are not longer quiet, the voices who are rising up, the ears who are willing to listen, and the stand that many are taking in the face of hate.

My friend Aimee said on the phone this evening, “Love must win.”

We know it did, on the cross.  We know there is victory over sin, even this ugly sin set before us.  But that doesn’t keep us from crying out, “Jesus come.”

Chronicling 40: Day 18 of 365

doc.png

If you haven’t noticed, there is a link at the top of my site for Hashimotos Awareness.  This link is there for a few reasons:

  • Several family members, including myself, have been diagnosed with this disease.
  • It is incredibly common in women, and many won’t realize they have it as the 300+ possible symptoms can easily be dismissed as age catching up with us and any number of potential ailments of varying severity.
  • I know how long it took me to feel the way I feel today, and I wanted to share my path with others who are trying to navigate their way toward health.

Today’s post is not going to revisit everything that I put on that page, but as a reflection of what it is like to live with a chronic illness for those who don’t have one.  First let me start with a story, from when I was first diagnosed.

By this point I had three children, and certainly I was no spring chicken any longer.  However, I could sense something was not right.  I was not recovering from this last child like I had the previous two pregnancies.  I was exhausted, all of the time.  I mean literally all of the time.  Physically, mentally exhausted.  I couldn’t seem to function like I once had.  My energy was gone.  My brain was clouded in fog most of the time.  My memory was a fragment of what it once was.  No matter how much I watched my diet or exercised, the weight was packing on.

I mentioned this to my obgyn, who did a blood test for thyroid disorder because she herself had a thyroid disorder and recognized some of the symptoms.  Nothing alarming came back.  We figured I just needed a bit more time, being older… three kids… made sense.  A year later, I felt worse and this time the thyroid blood tests indicated I should see a specialist.  Within just a couple of weeks I had my diagnosis of Hashimotos Thyroiditis.

I remember feeling such relief that I had a name for it, and a treatment plan.  A treatment plan, which according to my doctor at the time, would run the rest of my life.  Over time my dosage of medications would be adjusted to compensate, as my body actively works to destroy my thyroid.  Hashimotos is an auto-immune disease in which my body attacks the thyroid as if it is a foreign invader.

I was excited to see how my life was going to improve with this treatment plan.  I remember sitting at a coffee shop with a friend and as I started to explain my symptoms and my diagnosis… she cut me off.

“You are just getting old.”, she said with a laugh.

This would not be the last time someone would try to dismiss or normalize the symptoms of my disease.

“You do have three kids now, of course you are tired.”

“You are just making excuses.”

“You need to exercise more, and eat less.”

“Sometimes, when someone begins exercising more frequently they think they can cheat more often on their diet.”

“You don’t even know what tired is, I have…. “

“But you look fine.”

It is so infuriating to have an illness which can literally control your day to day living and have someone else dismiss as nothing.  I once spoke with a woman who has Hashimotos and she told me:

“I wish I had cancer.  At least then people would believe that I am sick.”

Think about that for a second.  When have you ever heard someone wish they had cancer?  But, I knew all too well what she meant.  When you have a chronic illness, it’s also usually called an “invisible illness” because regardless of how you feel you look just fine.  Not only do people get tired of hearing about your illness, you get tired of talking about it too.  Eventually you stop, and just respond with a cordial “fine” when someone inquires about how you are feeling or doing.

You don’t want to hear another audible sigh, or watch another set of eye rolls from those you call family and friends.  You don’t want to hear your symptoms dismissed because of your age or growing family, when you know your own body and this is not how it works.  Nor do you want someone to tell you that you are going to have to accept this as your new normal.

I remember working out 5-6 days per week.  Yoga.  Zumba.  Gym membership.  Curves.  Personal Trainer.  High Impact Training.  Body Combat.  Walking.  Biking.  Weights.  Running.  I remember working with nutrionists and trainers on my diet.  Protein shakes.  Energy boosters.  Fat blockers.  Keto.  Paleo.  Atkins.  Weight lifting diets.  Custom diets removing certain foods.  In one blood draw trip I gave nearly 20 vials of blood to test my thyroid levels, hormone levels, food allergies, vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

Yet, I wasn’t feeling better.  I kept feeling worse.

Imagine sleeping a full night and never feeling rested, but instead exhausted.

Imagine your skin hurting to the slightest touch that it would feel like serrated knives being drug across your skin just putting on your pants.

Imagine having your body ache like you had an amazing gym day the day before, and the reality is that you physically haven’t been able to get to the gym in weeks.

Imagine that just taking a hot shower will wear you out to the point that you need an hour nap afterwards.

Imagine that despite all your efforts to work out, watch your diet, and take your medications result in your weight going up, your body swelling, your hair falling out, your skin drying out, and so many other little things.

Imagine forgetting important dates, even when you right them down.  Losing everything because you really can’t remember where you set it down.  Telling the same story over and over again because you truly don’t remember telling it the first time.

Not getting better, getting worse, and everyone just dismissing it because of age.  I was thirty three.

As someone who has battled this for 7 years, let me key you into a few things.

I am as annoyed and inconvenienced as anyone by my disease, more so in fact.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  I don’t want to blame my illness for my lack either.  But, more importantly than that the things I needed the very most was for people to simply BELIEVE me.  Believe me when I say that I have an illness that I have no control over.  An illness with no cure, only management and that is only partially effective.

Believe me when I say that how I feel is symptomatic of my disease, and not dismiss it away as an excuse or minimize it because I look normal.  Those with chronic health issues are doing their very best to just exist some days.  Treat them kindly, with compassion.  If you are a nurse or a doctor, believe me when I tell you that I am doing everything in my power to control my diet and exercising versus making excuses or lying.  Have a willingness to try out of the box treatments if what we are following today is not working.

We don’t want a “new normal”, we want to be “normal”.

It was just a couple of years ago that a friend from high school and I reconnected.  She had been diagnosed with Hashimotos too.  She was in remission.  No symptoms, off her meds.  I was never even told this was possible from the doctor I was with at the time.  So, understand that we are working with doctors who truly don’t understand our disease and how to treat it properly.  For my diagnosis, sadly, not all treatments work the same for all patients.  Lots of trial and error to find what works.  Be patient with your loved ones as they try to understand their disease and find the right treatment plan.  Take time to learn with them, go to a doctors appointment and hear it from the doctors mouth.  Understand the struggles they will face, and the options set before them.

A couple of years ago, I knew something was off.  I was swelling horribly.  I would mention it at doctors appointments, but not taken very seriously.  Someone else recommended that I start taking daily pictures of myself, so I could show the doctor what I meant.  I still have those photos in my phone, a reminder to myself that this was not all in my head.  I remember my doctor looking at the photos, confirming the dates they were taken, what seemed like millions of questions to try and determine what may have been causing the swelling.  It was the first time I was taken seriously about the swelling I was dealing with on a near daily basis.

When even our doctors don’t fully understand our diseases, those with chronic illnesses… invisible illnesses are even more in need of the support and understanding of their loved ones.  It is hard being sick in a way that only you can see and experience.  Please don’t discount those in your life with chronic illness, don’t forget that they are working extraordinarily hard to appear normal… something you may take for granted.

 

 

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 16 of 365

JEglutenWe spend so much time talking about what we put into our bodies that we tend to forget about what we are putting on our bodies.

Have you ever wondered if those things you are allergic to are ingredients in some of your favorite skin care products.  I haven’t.

I’m supposed to minimize my exposure to gluten.  It’s not so much that I’m allergic to gluten, but I am mildly reactive to a protein that accompanies gluten.  If I avoid gluten, I avoid that protein.  It’s the simplest way for me to minimize my exposure.  As much as I have paid attention to what I was eating, I hadn’t put much thought into the products I used on my body.

One product line that I have been loyal to using for years, it turns out is gluten free.  I didn’t think we had skin care products on the market that contained gluten.  Which means all the months of being gluten free in my diet may have meant diddly squat because I was still exposing myself to gluten.  So, when I realized these products were gluten free… I was relieved.

All of this to say… when you have an allergy to food items, you may want to make sure that those are not ingredients in other things you are using in or on your body.

Make sure your vitamins and pills are gluten free.

Bath and body products should also be gluten free.

Flavorings (such as vanilla) that you use in baking, should be gluten free too.

Think beyond the plate.

Chronicling 40: Day 11 of 365

coffee

What is better than a strong cup of coffee?  A strong, faithful friend.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an

abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:14

40 has already put a strong focus in my heart toward community, but not just any community.  Intentional community.  Those who lift up and encourage, respect boundaries, have beneficial conversations full of love, and safe boundaries.

Grateful for conversations, like the one I had this morning.  Where you walk away feeling up lifted and encouraged, enjoying time with one another.  I don’t have the energy to be weighed down with negativity, frustration, et’al.

Building a community of strong, faithful, honest, and positive women is paramount to living a good life.  We are not meant to walk alone, but the live in community.  Bearing one anothers burdens, standing in the gap for each other.

Chronicling 40: Day 10 of 365

taste

I love food.  I love the presentation of food, the smell, the texture, and the taste.  I don’t mind getting my fingers dirty because of a great slab of ribs on my plate, nor do I mind using special tools to eat unconventional foods.  All of these senses coming together in an experience that is supposed to be satisfying and enjoyable.  In fact, I love food so much that I am willing to try just about anything once.

I have sat down to a plate of food that looked anything but appetizing and ended up having one of the best meals of my life.  In contrast, I’ve also been presented a plate of well crafted foods… artwork on a porcelain plate… and barely able to take a second bite.  There have been foods that smell amazing, but the flavor was lacking (my husband feels this way about coffee, it’s ok… I’ve forgiven him).

Here is the thing, because I have an openness toward trying different foods… cuts, cooking styles, seasonings, etc… I know GOOD food.  A few years ago, I was at a cookie exchange and two women were commenting on how they brought the exact same cookies and they tasted so differently.  They compared their recipes, nothing was amiss.  So, I sampled them both and replied:  “One of you used salted butter, the other used unsalted butter.  That is what made the difference.”  Sure enough, I was right.

I know that it is not just about the ingredients but also how we cook it, you can do everything right in the preparation but then flub it up in the execution.  It happens, to the best of us.  There have been a few meals over the last 20 years that I have tossed right into the trash, as we waited for the pizzas to arrive.

There are so many pieces of scripture that compare words to food, or eating food.

Matt 4:4 says that we can’t live on bread alone but the Word of God.  Jer 15:16 speaks of the joy of drinking in God’s Word.  1 Peter 2:2 compares the Word to milk.  Hebrews 5:12,15 compares it to solid food.  Psalm 113 calls it “honey in my mouth”.  Psalm 119:11 we read of storing up His word (akin to how we store up food).  We are told that it is good for us, nourishing to our bodies and souls, we are told to keep it on our lips, to consume it.

We are also warned to be careful about the words that come out of our own mouths.  How do you words taste when they come out of your mouth?  Are they bitter?  Does it sting or burn?  Are these words that destroy and divide, or tear down another?

Delivering bad news, it is so hard to do.  Yet, it amazes me how gentle we can be when pushed into that circumstance.  The words may be hard, but they are spoken with sweetness, compassion, and love.

We can also take harmful words and try to envelop them in words that sound sweet.  It may look good, it may sound good, but the words are bitter to the taste.  We know they are harmful words and we do everything we can to hide that fact.  This reveals so much about our intentions, of wanting to say something that isn’t beneficial but also trying to avoid ownership for those words.  When we encase them to make them appear harmless or sweet, good intentioned… we can then claim ignorance, blame misunderstanding, or even try to convince the recipient that it is their perception of our words that is off.

There are other times when our words sting, and we mean them to sting.  When we are purposefully lashing out at another person.  It’s that old cliche saying of “hurt people, hurt people”.  Whether it is spoken in revenge, anger, jealousy, etc… these words are sharp and there is no mixed message about it.

I’m sure we can all agree that these three points are obvious, we’ve all encountered them.  But recently, I was made aware of another example that wasn’t quite so obvious.

If we are called to use our words to build up, encourage, unify, strengthen, in love, for peace, etc… than any use of our words otherwise is counter to that call.

The enemy seeks to destroy, to discourage, to divide, to weaken, to hurt, to cause chaos, and confusion.  He is also a liar and manipulator, who can camouflage his plans to look and sound like a good idea or path.

Would God present you with an opportunity that would cause division among your friends?  Would He call you down a pathway that would become a stumbling block for your family?  Would He call us to a purpose that would intersect and cut off the work of another ministry or organization that He has ordained?

Sometimes these ideas and opportunities sound good, Kingdom worthy, and they may “feel right”.  These opportunities may not be bad, evil, or destructive.  In fact, they can even be a blessing to the community (God makes beauty out of ashes, and redeems all things to be used for His glory).

How much of this has to do with our own desires impacting our perception of truth and calling?  I remember reading something to the effect of “God will never give you another woman’s husband.”  This guy may be our knight in shining armor, and everything could feel so right… so much so that you could almost catch your self thanking God for bringing this man in to your life.  No matter how wonderful it feels, the truth is that God would never destroy one marriage or divide a family in order to bring you a husband.  That is a slap in the face to the very character of God displayed in the scriptures.

It would not be of God’s character to give you something that He intended for someone else.  We must be very careful not to credit God with orchestrating things in our lives that are actually of our own doing, our own desires, or that contradict who we know Him to be.

I believe one way to flesh these things out is to taste the words of your intentions.  Do they taste sweeter than honey or are they bitter.  Do they flow easy from your mouth, or do you struggle to speak?  Are your words working toward something or against someone? Are these words that are surrounded in peace or are they littered with chaos and confusion?  Are you confident in the calling or are you trying to convince yourself that you have been called?

If we are leaning in close to God, praying for clarity and discernment, then I believe the Holy Spirit is going to reveal the truth.  I believe that if you have to struggle and attempt to justify yourself, you will taste that those words are not good.  You will feel it in your heart, mind, soul, and even body that you are going in a direction that is not right. You will feel weighted and burdened in a very negative way, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is that you feel so bad.

But, when you are in alignment with God’s calling on your life, you will feel freedom to move forward at His pace.  There will be excitement and you won’t need to justify it to anyone (including yourself) because you will know deeply that this is the way you should go, and you will walk in it confidently.  You will not be weighted down with burden, but soaring!

So taste those words that come out of your mouth.  Before you make that phone call, or send that email, or even schedule that face to face meeting…

Say it out loud.  Don’t embellish it with fancy explanations and trying to justify it.  Speak it in plain simple facts.  Then ask yourself, how would I feel if I was the one receiving this message.  Would I feel hurt or betrayed?  Would I feel attacked or discouraged?  Do these words sound divisive or damaging?  Do these words taste bitter, are they unsavory?  Would I not want to receive this message?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then pull back and pray over this situation.  Ask for His peace and clarity over your steps.  Remember He is not a God of chaos, disorder, or confusion.  He does not change His Word or character to bend to the will of one person, He is consistent and constant.  He will not give you peace over a decision or direction that He does not intend.

If the words are bitter, if the mind is clouded in confusion… do not rush into anything but the arms of God.

What About Me? – #Write31Days

octopus

To those who know me, I love anything arts and crafts.  I love to craft with paper, or grab a paint brush and create something new to hang in my house.  My home is filled primarily with pieces of art that have been made by various family members.  Occasionally, I will head out with some friends to one of the “sip and paint” style events.  You can bring food and drink, socializing with your friends for a ladies night out… while you paint. 

Painting is not something new to me, I take to it pretty easily but even more so when I am being given step by step instructions. 

A friend invited me to a “sip and paint” party at a local studio, we were going to paint an Octopus on these cool boarded plaques.  There were about six women seated at my table, and despite the instructors best efforts these various octopi couldn’t look any more different from each other if we tried.  Well, maybe if we painted them different colors would could get one step further.

The instructor would pass by and comment on my octopus. 

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”

“That’s really good.  I like how you painted the tentacles.”

“I love the detail spots you added.”

“Wow.  That’s coming along so well.”

Let me key you in on something, I really do not like public affirmations like that.  I don’t.  I get embarrassed easily (shocking, I know).  It makes me uncomfortable for others who may be struggling.  I am also highly critical of myself and would prefer to float under the radar… or I’m too busy fretting over that mistake no one else notices but is staring me in the eyes challenging me to “fix it”.

After her first few passes and comments, the gal sitting next to me was starting to feel something about the attention.  Kindred to my own soul, she made funny comments about it.  Not directly TO me, but in my range of hearing.  I’d laugh about it, because… well… she was funny.  I’m down with self deprecation, so I chimed in a bit myself.  She laughed.  I laughed.  Then just as the tension was dying, the teacher would whiz by again commenting on my octopus.  The cycle would start over. 

Finally, she began to speak a bit louder to ensure the teacher heard her.

What about me?  Am I not doing a good job?  Is she the teachers pet?

While her tone suggested she was saying these things in jest, we all know there is usually a bit of truth in these types of comments.  The teacher was not picking up on it, but I already had.  So I began complimenting her on certain aspects of her piece.  I pointed out a detail that she added that I had skipped because I didn’t think I would do it right.  I  shared that I was worried about messing up the piece.  The one of the other gals chimed in, complementing another facet of her finished piece.

It is hard, when you are trying to do a good job.  We seek encouragement so that we know we are on the right path.  If we have put in a lot of effort, we desire someone to notice it and appreciate that effort.  That’s a lot to handle and balance with being humble.  It is a check to our pride, graciousness, and humility.

Sometimes, it’s more than just a painting or a task we completed.  We just want to be acknowledged as a person.

There are times, however, where the Lord doesn’t want us out in front of the pack.  He doesn’t want us waving our arms, bouncing in our seats, shouting “look at me”.  In fact, he wants our work to unknown… no credit, pats on the back, accolades.  In a world that is giving prizes for participating, picking weekly superstars, and overloaded recognition we can begin to expect it within all the facets of our lives.  Then, when it doesn’t happen … we take it too personally.

I wonder though, if we are supposed to give the Lord the glory in ALL THINGS… why do we demand such accolades for ourselves?  Why do we demand to be seen, even when He clearly is asking us not to?

Lord, let my human fleshy needs take a back seat to your wonderful righteous glory! Amen.