Coming Up To Breathe: Rediscovering Grace

Coming Up To Breathe: Rediscovering Grace

It honestly does not even feel possible that we are into the second week of February. And its 2015. Where have I been?!

The holidays were a blur and I feel like I have been trying to play catch up ever since. While I will share more of the specific details tomorrow, it has by far been the most challenging period in my life and considering my journey the last ten years, I feel like that is saying a lot. The cherry on the depression cake was losing my Charlie last month. The depths of loneliness I have felt have shaken me to my core.

My saving grace has been my family and music. My husband has always been my rock and my Godsend but to say that he carried me through this rocky time would be an understatement. He kept me from losing hope when a part of me felt wasn’t sure that there was any left. He has had to carry things that no one should ever have to but the depths of his strength, faith, and love have sustained me in ways I cannot describe. I could never, ever put into words how much I thank God for giving me such an amazing man as my husband and best friend.

Of course I cannot leave out Abby. There are so many times that I have been blown away by her tender compassion, and quiet spirit. She is a wild and hilarious little girl but her spirit is so gentle. To know her is to see the embodiment of the childlike faith written about in Scripture. Of course as her parent, I could give you 48296263 reasons why I have the most amazing little girl on the planet but all that aside, there are times where I watch her and the immense care she has for others, I am stopped in my tracks and I feel like she has a greater understanding of faith, grace, and mercy than most (myself included). We read her school newsletter together a few weeks back and they shared about a little boy in her school who has diagnosed with cancer. The school was going to host a penny drive to support his family and without any hesitation (or prompting), Abby immediately went to her room and grabbed her piggy bank as she wanted to help.

I have shared many times how adoption has taught me so much about God’s love and grace and to know my daughter has saved me these last few months. God has worked through the heart and hands of this amazing five year old little girl to remind me that though my problems can often feel so big, I serve a God that is so much bigger and He has a plan, a purpose, and a love for me that surpasses all understanding.

In the midst of the chaos, there were times I felt like I was drowning but I finally feel like I have been able to come up for air. The last two weeks have been refreshing and a reawakening. Its as though a weight has been lifted and like I have been able to breathe fresh air for the first time in months. I went to church yesterday (for the first time in way longer than I wish to admit) and the pastor shared from Luke 8 about the Parable of the Sower. He shared how there are so many people along the path that have allowed things in life (such as anxiety, relationships, and even religion) to harden our hearts but how the love of Christ can soften and change our hearts and when the seed of the Word falls on a receptive heart, it flourishes.

We can flourish.

I can flourish.

All I have to do is drop my defenses, allow my heart to open, and God’s love will do the rest.

As a humorous aside- while the pastor was quoting “Jesus’s love can change hardened hearts,” all I could repeat in my head was “Jesus’s love can thaw a frozen heart” in the voice of Olaf. You know you’ve seen Frozen too many times when . . .

It was important for me to write this post not as a way garner sympathy or to put together some type of explanation or excuse for why the blog and social media have sat gathering dust the last weeks/months. It would be easy to write a post with an apology for absence with a promise to kick-off the new year with exciting new things and pretend like I have it all together. After all, the tagline says “tackling chronic illness with a fierce dose of hope” right?

As I sit in bed writing this, I have tears streaming down my face and a massive knot in the pit of my stomach as this may be one of the hardest things I have ever written.

One of the most important things for me in writing this blog has always been transparency. I want to be completely honest and completely real about life with chronic illness. The good, the bad, and the ugly. My life has been about as ugly as it gets.

But thankfully, my story doesn’t end here.

God has amazing things in store and that hope, even when I have felt like I had lost it, continues to be ever present. This last chapter of life may have been dark but the One who writes my days promises that the best is yet to come. He has more in store for me than I could have ever imagined for myself. Love and mercy are around every corner. This is just the beginning.

Last year, my goal was to be fierce but this year my goal is to be brave and being brave starts with being honest.

Being brave starts with putting myself aside.

Being brave starts with grace.

For those of you that are reading this and have stuck by me, I want to thank you for the depths of my heart for your support, your prayers, and your love and to say that the community of warriors I am blessed to be a part of has been keeping me fighting would be an understatement. There aren’t enough words to say it properly so I will just say it again, thank you.

I do hope that this post is a kick-off of exciting things to come and hope you will join me for the ride! God has amazing things ahead and the fire He has placed within my heart is eager to make 2015 a year like no other. Endometriosis Awareness Month is just around the corner and plans are underway for the 4th annual Blogging for Endometriosis Awareness campaign so I hope you will mark your calendars (and drop me an email if you want to jump in on the planning!).

As I mentioned in this post and in my Thank You Letter to Skillet, music has been a saving grace and one of my favorite lyrics has been, “This is how it feels when you take your life back, this is how it feels when you finally fight back. When life pushes me, I push harder. What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”

How does it feel to take my life back? AMAZING.

Have you chosen a word for 2015?

 

 

Dear Skillet – Thank You

THANK-YOU-SKILLET
Dear Skillet,

I know you more than likely not see this but just in case you happen to find yourselves in this corner of the inter webs, I wanted to say thank you. You have no idea how much your music has carried me through some of my darkest moments. Your music keeps me dancing, your lyrics keep me fighting, and your message keeps my heart focused on the reality that I am never alone. As dark as it feels at times, I have a Savior and Hero that has created me with a plan and a purpose that surpasses all understanding.

I have struggled with chronic illness for over ten years. I was a panhead before my first diagnosis but as time passed and the diagnoses started piling up, it has taken my appreciation for your music to a deeper level. It would be nearly impossible to pick out favorites but I thought I would share how three songs in particular that have carried me when I needed it most.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Luke 8:43-48. So many times I feel like that woman going doctor to doctor looking for help. When you spend years hearing “we know you are sick but there is nothing we can do to treat it,” it is easy to become discouraged and wonder if life is worth living if every day is spent in pain. It can be easy to allow your faith to be swallowed up in your grief. I think this is why Come My Way is so close to my heart. I have learned that sometimes healing doesn’t come in the form we expect or want. While I still yearn for physical healing and believe that God has the power to do so, I have learned that true healing comes from the inside out. God has healed my heart and has overcome my life with a power that goes beyond anything physical.

In this journey of healing, I have had to redefine my understand my relationship and my understand of who God is. I grew up in a church where you didn’t ask questions. The hand you got dealt was the one you got dealt and if you are sick, then God must have wanted you to be sick. I could not understand how that made sense. It just did not align with what I knew in my heart. So as time passed and the diagnoses started to pile up and my husband and I were knee-deep in our battle with infertility, I had to wrestle. For the first time, I began asking questions and sought to find out for myself what faith meant on a deeply personal level.

I wanted to understand not only what I believe but why I believed it. I learned many of the answers I was looking for but I also learned that there would be times where there were no answers. I learned to put my trust and hope into something much bigger. When I didn’t understand the why’s of life, I could understand the Who. I learned that I would have times that I wouldn’t know why things were happening or what lied ahead but I could trust in the One who writes my days. It is that trust that would carry me. Even when the path seemed dark, God would put reminders in my path to remind me that I am not alone. Whispers In The Dark was one of those reminders. I cannot put into words how much this song has meant to me. God has used the words to help me understand that God still has a plan for my life even when I cannot see it just yet. Every day I must make a choice. I can allow my illness to make me bitter of I can choose to honor Him in spite of it. He can give purpose to my pain.

The last year has been the hardest. Treatments that once worked have failed. Despite second, third, and fourth opinions, the conclusion is the same. My daughter is old enough to recognize that I am sick and asks why the doctors can’t make me feel better. My husband has had to take on the role of caregiver much too soon. Even though God has brought me on a beautiful journey of a deeper understanding of who He is and what faith really means, I wish I could say that the struggle was over. I wish I could say that I never had moments of wondering if things would be better off without me.

I really wish I could but that would be a lie.

Thankfully, my journey doesn’t end here. I serve a God much bigger than anything the Enemy tries to dish out. It is not my strength that gets me through each day but His. Christ came to break my chains and set my heart free. Not Gonna Die has served as a reminder to keep fighting. It would be easy to give up but God does not always call us on a journey that is easy. He does, however, promise that we do not have to go on this journey alone. Not only is He with me but He has placed so many amazing people in my life to fight alongside of me. God has surrounded me with reminders of His love and His power and God has opened so many doors that have allowed me to share my testimony of faith and triumph with so many people that I would not have otherwise been able to share it with had I not been diagnosed with my illnesses. Through the roller coaster of infertility and adoption, I have been able to have a deeper understanding of what it means to be adopted through Christ. By watching my daughter’s birthmother love her and be selfless enough to place her in our arms has given me such a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love.

While life has been full of trials, God has blessed me so deeply and I know I would not have the relationship I have with Him without those challenges. I would not have compassion without the suffering and while I would never have signed up for this life, I would not change anything because of what God has allowed me to be a part of through it.

Again, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your message. Thank you for your music. God has used you in an amazing way to change my life. To save my life. I could not be more grateful.

P.S. We definitely have a little Pinhead in our household. Her favorite song is “Monster” and she wanted to be “Skillet Girl” (her reference to Jen) for Halloween so thank you for sharing music that not only teaches the message but that we can also rock for Jesus!

Dear Skillet: Thank You