Warm Sunshine on a Cool Day

Chronic pain is a bad thing. definitely. 

But even within a life of chronic pain, there ARE good things. Immense good things. Breathtaking good things. Unimaginable beauty. Heartwarming moments and Soul-strengthening experiences. 

Today, the kids ride on hand me down scooters that were enjoyed years ago by 5 children in one of our favorite families. Those kids are adults now, and tomorrow I get to hug one of them who is expecting her first child in a few short months. She will be coming by with her dear husband to pull crib and swing and other baby equipment out of our attic. Since she was our first child’s first babysitter, it is special now to be giving our baby things to her baby. 

Touched and awed by the beautiful circle of life, I sit here listening to the ducks, the fountain, and the chorus of scooter wheels on the pavement, the rhythm of the sidewalk cracks.

The air is cool and crisp, and the humidity is as low as it gets here, so it is an easier day for sinuses and joints. A cup of turmeric and ginger tea warms and comforts, and the warm sun soaks into my muscles. I can just feel the vitamin D increasing and the cortisol decreasing! 

And my son brings me a special leaf that he found and carried all the way from the other side of the pond.

Pain is bad.

Life is Good.

Blog Statistics

Here is my opinion on blog statistics:

I write what I need to write because I need to write it.

You read what you read because you want to read it.

I am okay with all that.

😊

Gratitude

The quiet hour just before sunrise and the smell and sizzle of bacon cooking and wildflower bouquets picked by children and a new shade of nail polish and freshly cut grass and the soft gossip of curious but contented hens and scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa and fresh crisp cotton sheets and catching the giggles in a completely inappropriate situation and not being able to stop and knowing that someone is thinking the same thing you are with just the look in their eyes and a song you hated in high school comes on the radio only now you like to hear it because of the memories it carries and the way changing shoes in the middle of the day relieves the pain just a little bit and napping next to a child and the smell of last night’s campfire in your hair and the crunch of autumn leaves on the ground and the lightenned feeling you get by going to confession and layers of tulle and satin and old broken pointe shoes and the remembrance of things you used to be able to do and the anticipation of what lies ahead and being able to really enjoy a color that you really hated for years. For me, that color is orange.

Let it Out!

There is so much media out there that expresses the anguish and frustration of chronic pain. There are blogs and pinterest boards and a ton of songs sung by young women with huge gorgeous voices. Sometimes, I do listen to them when I need a good cry.

In my art journal  and in this blog I try to focus on gratitude. It helps me to keep that focus in my heart and mind. I have learned that thinking positive and counting blessings are the two treatments that have had the most consistent effect on my wellbeing.

But the past two days, I made a new discovery. The pain was so intense that I could barely stand. I spent the majority of two days stretched out on the sofa, watching television to try to distract myself from the pain and give my body the healing time it was screaming for.

I saw a piece of barbed wire on TV and it inspired several hours of intense doodling. While the finished page may be sad and difficult to look at, it was very cathartic to draw all the anguish and anger and sadness I was feeling. And I felt stronger to endure the pain because I had been able o express it. 

I am still going to focus on the blessings, because that is how I move forward. But it’s almost like I had this big bag of sorrow that I had to unload before I could move on again. 
Thank God or new lessons learned, for the healing capacity of Art, and for the ability to Let it Out! and move forward, lighter, more grateful, and with more peace.

Are you Religious or Spiritual?

How many times have I heard people say “I don’t go to church. I believe in God, but not in churches.” And then with the confidence of a brilliant philosopher, they add “I am not Religious, I am Spiritual.” And then they expect me to be impressed. 

Well, I am not. Yes, churches are broken. Humanity is broken. I am broken. But we don’t give up on the Truth. We don’t quit trying. 

It makes no more sense than if we were to say “Fast Food is unhealthy, so I don’t eat at all.”

People, please! Get out of the McDonald’s drive thru line, go home and cook healthy, real food! Gather with your family, thank God for the food, and then EAT! Nourish your body.

And next weekend, find the nearest Orthodox Christian Church and bring your family to liturgy! The church Christ handed to His disciples DOES still exist! It is not another denomination, not another churchy flavor created by people looking for something they like more. It is the one, true, ancient faith, that began in 33 AD and has continued unchanged for more than 2000 years! 

Come back to church. Nourish your Soul.

 

Express, then MOVE ON!

When we are on vacation, we take pictures.  We want to remember where we’ve been. We don’t stay there.  We save a photo, and move on with the trip, with the life.

In the journey of chronic illness, or really of any difficult situation, we take mental pictures.  But we must file them away so we can move forward.  We don’t dwell on them.  We remember them, we learn from them.  But we keep moving forward.

I have an art journal.  Some of the pages are dark and angry and self-pitying.  I question God, I cry, I scream.  It feels so good sometimes to scream in color all over the page! Bold angry slashing painful color.  It helps to get the darkness up out of my heart so I can move forward, away from it.

move back into the light and the incense…….  rose incense that reminds me of the Theotokos………  Beauty, strength, accepting the honor and priveledge to walk the path we are given in courage and gratitude…….

Yep.  Words can do it too.  express something.  Get it out.

So when I express (vomit) the ugly painful traumatic angry sadness on the page, I have to put it away.  Its only a record of a moment, a place.  And I can get it out, turn the page,  and move on.

But when my heart is full of love and beauty and grace, and I can get that all laid out in paint or in words, I have to hold it in my pocket, glue it in my mind, so that I can carry it forward…..or so it can carry me forward.

 

 

 

Scheduling

With limited time, limited energy and limited resources, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the ever-growing to do lists of life. It helps to evaluate priorities. But how do we do that? How do we choose?

Here is something that has worked well for us: divide the list into three categories, the Musts, the Shoulds, and the Wants.

The Musts are the things that must get done today. The Shoulds are the things I should do, but obviously the Musts do take precedent. And the Wants only get done once the days Musts and Shoulds have been taken care of.

Now, to make it clearer, let’s look at some examples. We must attend church, we must go to class, we must show up for work. We should call Grandma, we should fold the laundry, we should wash the dishes. We want to go for a walk, watch TV, visit with friends.

When a friend is is need, that visit moves from a want to a should. When our child or or spouse is in need, their needs move into our Must category. 

We Must feed our family today. We should make something healthy. We want to make something delicious. But while we may not have time or resources for the meal we should make or the meal we want to make, the people MUST be fed.

Too often, we do let our Wants take over, allowing us to procrastinate the Musts, and too often we confuse the Shoulds into Musts, and that makes us feel overwhelmed, like there is just no way we can fit it all in. But when we are honest about wetter an item is a Must, a Should or a Want, we create a system of prioritizing that lowers stress and guilt and gets the most important things moved into that fourth category: Done!

St Sophia

​St Sophia was from Italy, and was martyred in the second century. Her daughters were ages 12, 10 and 9 when they we brought with their mother before the Emporer Hadrian for the crime of being Christians. Sophia was tortured by being made to watch each of her daughters being questioned, tortured, then beheaded, from oldest to youngest. 

Sophia and her daughters could have avoided their totures by renouncing Christ, but they knew that an eternity with Christ is not worth sacrificing for anything here on earth. Therefore, the girls endured with radiant faith and the mother offered them encouragement, knowing that God’s love for them is greater by far than even a mother’s love.

Sophia buried her daughters outside the city and mourned and prayed at their Graves for three days. She fell asleep in the Lord at their graves. 

The girls names were Pistis (Faith), Elpis (Hope) and Agape (Love). The name Sophia means “wisdom”.

The daughters bravely endured physical torture and death, numbering them among the many Christian martyrs. Their mother’s torture may not have shed her own blood, but her torture was immense, having her heart ripped from her chest by watching the deaths of all three of her young children.

St Sophia, teach me to love Christ as you do. Teach me to love my children as you do, not with the selfish love of this life, but with the immeasurable Godly love that will lead them always to Christ.

St Sophia and her daughters are commemorated on September 17th in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Hidden Gifts

Chronic pain, autoimmune issues, and all the related goodies that go along with late stage Lyme disease….sounds like all bad stuff. And yeah, it is pretty rough, but there are gifts here too, when you know how to see them.

Focus. There is the gift of focus. When the pain is here all the time, relentlessly, you learn how to keep your mind focused, ignoring the pain, blocking it out. You learn how to look a person in the eye when they speak because that makes it easier to actually hear every word and understand each statement, even though the pain is screaming like an unruly child, trying to interrupt and distract you.

Another gift is Priorities. Before I was sick, it was always so difficult to prioritize, to fit everything into the day, to decide which opportunities to take advantage of, and which to let pass.

But now, when there is so little physical strength and energy each day, it is easy to pass up the things that aren’t truly worth it. A night out with friends, even without alcohol, could land me in bed for several days. Any outing or activity has to be really important or beneficial in order for me to invest my energy and time in it.

Another hidden gift is Self-sufficiency. Now this gift isn’t being given to me, but to my children. Before I was sick, I was determined to be Super Mom: run a business, home school the kids, cook the meals, clean the house, playdates, fieldtrips, crocheting, crafts, etc. But now, out of necessity, my kids have learned to entertain themselves when needed, cook a meal, do the laundry, be responsible for their own schoolwork, mend a torn skirt, clean a bathroom, tend to all of the needs of our dogs, chickens, cat, and the occasional injured bird. 

God gives us only what we can handle, but He does give us every ounce of what we can handle, and it is all given to us for our salvation, and with a healthy serving of blessings on the side. We just have to remember to appreciate it all.

Welcome

Welcome.  Don’t know what led you here, but come on in.

We are in a room surrounded by kiddos, a pile of books about natural health, alternative healing, and chronic and autoimmune disease, a big friendly dog chewing peacefully on a bit of rawhide (from American cattle, of course), and depending on the day and time, a sweaty husband wandering in from the tractor, looking for a glass of water.

There’s probably some sound in the background.  A few cars passing on the highway.  Kids giggling or quarreling.   And maybe an Ancient Faith Radio podcast playing on the computer, just in case I get time to actually listen for a moment.

If you find me in this room today, two things are probably true.  First, I am happy to be here.  We have a crazy busy schedule and the time to be at home is much cherished.  Second, I am probably in pain and very tired.  I am usually in pain, and exhaustion seems to have become the norm.  My joints hurt all the time, some days more, some days less.  My neck feels like it is always in need of a chiropractic adjustment. My nerves send crazy pain signals from my hands and feet and the muscles in my shoulders and legs….or some days I wake up with both hands completely numb.  The left side of my face and head alternates between tingling and something like a migraine that only effects one side of my head.  Sleep comes usually in brief spurts of anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.  To sleep solidly for 4-5 hours is a rare treat indeed.  Brain fog and the inability to get the correct vocabulary into my mouth when I need it are also constant factors.

Usually by dinner time I can barely stand up, the pain and lack of mobility in my hips, knees and feet signal the end of yet another day.

But this is generally a happy place.  A peaceful place.  Friends come to stay with us to “get away from the noise of life” and they repeatedly comment on how peaceful our home is.  It usually smells like incense, or food cooking.  And there is usually laughter.  My marriage to my wonderful husband seems to be a bit of a comedy routine, with good humored jabs and silliness, to entertain the children.  We do a good bit of singing along  to old music too.

So however you found me here, I’m glad you did.  God has an interesting way of connecting people, using us in each other’s lives.  Anytime you find something edifying or encouraging here, I do hope you’ll thank Him.  And if you have something helpful to share with the rest of us, please leave me a comment.

I am grateful for green smoothies and the first days of Fall and Forever stamps and honest friends.  I am grateful for fresh haircuts and purple nail polish and lessons learned over and over again.  And I am grateful for this silver bracelet: a gift from my husband back before we were married.  It has become like a part of me.  I never take it off.  It is heavy and solid and intricately beautiful and it reminds me of the safety I find in his love.  And I am always grateful for a caramel mocha.