Introducing my invisible companion – pain

A sweet member of Chronically Hopeful, Angela, is sharing a beautiful post with us today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time and spoons to be here with us today.

Bio from Angela,

I am a christian and lay-preacher. I worked in finance for 25 years but I am currently unemployed and looking for a new opportunity when my pain is managed effectively. I enjoy writing, public speaking, mentoring young people and spending time with family and friends.IMG-20170818-WA0004

 

When you meet someone for the first time, what do you think that they see or observe about you? Maybe the color of your eyes? Your radiant smile? Your height? Weight? Or whether or not you wear spectacles, walk with a cane or use a wheel chair? It is possible that a person may see and notice all of these outward features but for me, there is one thing that whilst all-encompassing to me, it is something that no one sees. I consider that it is significant but it is also invisible (at least to the untrained eye), and that is my pain!

Pain, caused initially by an injury and then by disease. Pain that wakes me up and often prevents me from sleeping. Pain that dictates my activities or lack of them. Pain that varies, but is my closest companion. I have never asked for its presence, but daily I am forced to contend with this intrusion, this reality, something that cannot be explained and that has a devastating effect on the quality of my life.

 

My “relationship” with pain, for want of a better word, began in the autumn of 1989 following a serious road traffic accident. For about six months I was unable to leave the house alone and needed help with every aspect of my life. Over the months that followed, my father and the physiotherapy team at my local hospital helped me to recover my strength thereby allowing me to return to work.

It was my dream to return to the relatively pain free life with the energy and freedom that many of my peers in their mid 20’s enjoyed. Sadly this was not to be and I had to find and accept a new and unwanted reality. Even though I was a Christian, this was still a challenge.

I was truly grateful for life, after all, how many people do you know that have been knocked over by a fire engine on call and have lived to share their testimony? I knew that I was blessed, but somehow at the back of my mind, there were some nagging questions: Why did this happen to me? Did I do something wrong? Suppose I had taken another route home or left work on time would things have been different?

 

As I battled with questions that I could not answer, I had further complications as I encountered a modern-day equivalent of Job’s comforters. People came to pray, give thanks, and to comfort me but sadly a few came to discover what “secret sins” I had committed that had led to this terrible accident.

Over the next few years as I grappled with the effects of widespread chronic pain, I found myself dealing with people who demonstrated a lack of understanding about chronic conditions and whether or not my pain was real or imagined. I asked God for healing, friends and family came for special prayer sessions, but when healing did not come, my faith was questioned.

 

What do you do when the promises of God don’t seem to apply to you or when you look around and hear stories of miraculous healings? When people question your desire to be healed, to be whole, to once again contribute to your church, your community, your family or even take care of yourself?

 

I didn’t have the answers or the strength to cope with them alongside the fatigue, nerve pain and all the challenges that both fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome, brought to my life.

 

Moving forward however, I try to encourage myself and others by what God shows me through His Word. No matter how hard it is, I still have HOPE! Why? Well after nearly 20 years in chronic pain, I had another life-changing accident, one that left me unable to work and crippled by excruciating pain. Yet in all of this time I have been able to eat, have a roof over my head and I have my basic needs met. Has it been easy? Absolutely not! I lost some things that were important to me but I held on to that all-important, life-saving ingredient, Hope! Here’s how the Apostle Paul describes it in Romans 5: 3-5 ESV:

“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Hope as described here keeps us from being disappointed. Life is difficult for those who are suffering, but believing that a better day is coming, gives us hope. The Apostle Paul also has a disability, we are not told exactly what it is, but we know that he prayed three times for it to be removed.  When God chose not to, Paul accepted that God’s strength would be revealed in Paul’s weakness:

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7-10 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, my grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

When I feel weak I go to God to receive strength from Him so that I am able to continue with the life that God has given me. I have lived with chronic pain for 28 years now and some days I am unhappy about the pain that I feel, that no one appears to understand and that no one sees. When my invisible companion tries to control my life, I try to reflect on better days and lift my heart to God who gives me hope.

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Hope

The pain intensifies as the minute’s drag by. There is an indescribable ache and stabbing pain nearly with each breath.  A sickening feeling overwhelms my body along with waves of nausea from the pain. As quick as possible I unsteadily get up as the urgency increases to get to the bathroom and on my way, I partly dislocate a knee.  Weakness consumes my body from lack of nutrition and hydration. Anxiety plagues the mind as I come up with theories of what is occurring.

Moments like these it is impossible to read or to focus for more than five seconds to pray. Moments like these are when I need hope instinctively. “Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty.” He promises no matter how dark, painful, and hopeless things feel that joy comes in the morning.

There are times when all looks hopeless to others that Christ fills me with His hope beyond explanation. On the contrary, I am sad to admit, there are too many times that my heart aches with sorrow and hopeless tears spill out.

There have been times friends feel so hopeless they have walked out of my life never to return. Countless times, doctors tell me things are hopeless that they are stumped. Thankfully, my Savior has never felt that my health is hopeless.

What are the things which leave you feeling hopeless?

Look! The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days, when the time is right, I will cause a righteous Branch to sprout from the old stump of David’s linea.png

 

Hopelessness seems to fill this fallen world. Maintaining the hope that Christ calls us to have can seem like an impossible task. Hope is not a feeling. It is so much more to the believer. It is an anchor to our soul that connects us to Christ.

Advent is a time to rekindle our hope. The story of the birth of Jesus bursts with hope.  Jesus is the source of hope and furthermore our ultimate example of remaining hopeful.  The Lord is renewing our hope today through the first Sunday of Advent.

 

Look! The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days, when the time is right, I will cause a righteous Branch to sprout from the old stump of David’s linea (1).png

Lord,

I am amazed at the way the whole Bible is connected to the birth of Jesus. I am amazed at the way that you are always at work mighty ways. Thank you for providing hope when all seems lost. Thank You for the joy You provide. Thank You for who You are. Thank You for the grace You provide.

I praise You for the hope found in Your Son, Jesus, Christ. Thank you for the renewed hope of Advent. Allow me to read the Advent story with an open heart and new eyes. I surrender this Christmas season to You knowing that You will do a new awe-inspiring work in me. Fill me up with You, Lord Jesus. Allow me to be a blessing to others.

Amen

Slowing Down in Gratitude

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Hurry has become an addiction in today’s culture. How many times are we rushing through the day? We are in such a hurry, we cannot enjoy any moment, each moment becomes something to check off the to-do list. Overcome with stress.

Many nights before I go to bed, I recite my to-do list for the following day, hoping, that I am not forgetting anything. Hurry, business, and the to-do list becomes an idol if I am honest with myself. Are these idols in your life as well?

Chronic illness has forced me to slow down, but I still need to work on being more present in the moment. “Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention.” Ann Voskamp What if I pursued thankfulness more than anything else? If in each moment I thanked God for something instead of letting my thoughts wander, creating meaningless chaos, or run with emotion.

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Looking back I see serval things I am thankful for, even in situations that were painful. I do not rejoice in the pain or situation but carefully laced in there is a tiny treaure to give thanks for. Thankful for pain as a warning sign when my body threated to shut down, the medication received, and my nurses. Thankful for the closeness of Christ when my friends deserted me. I honestly feel if more often I would give thanks in the middle of the day that I would experience more joy. Like Ann Voskamp shared, I would enter more fully into each moment.

Ann recorded one thousand gifts in a journal. A simple yet genius idea. One thousand seems like a large number. An enormous commitment. However, each individual must begin with one, anyway.  I came to the conclusion that aiming for one thousand could encourage this to become a burden which would defeat the purpose. So, I grabbed a journal with few expectations in mind. Simply writing things I am thankful for from now until this time next year.

Let me share a few of the gifts I have taken note of.

  •  My mother whom is my source of strength, encouragement, and inspiration.The stunning woman she is. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for her or for how many things I am thankful for.
  • The pitter padder of children’s feet. The embrace of little friends.
  • The smell of kitties fur. Their comforting fur.
  • Capturing tiny moments with Abby in photos.
  • God’s presence. Faithfulness. Who He is.

I would be humbly honored if you, my friend, would join me on this journey of journaling gratitude. More than that to live an abundant life of thanksgiving. Taking time to pause and give thanks. Enriching daily life.  There is no better time to start than now. I have crafted three inspiration of gratitude lists; one for those with chronic illness, college students, and mamas. I hope you will print one out. Copy of Wedding Invitation

 

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El Elyon (God Most High),

Your beauty takes my breath away. Every molecule reflects who You are and worships You. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty full of wonder, majesty, and goodness. I witness Your faithfulness daily.

Often, I overlook the blessings in my life. Forgive me, Lord Jesus. I desire to divorce hurry. Enable me to slow down and to enter into each moment fully with a thankful heart. Give me eyes to see Your beauty and glory in the ugly. Cultivate in me a thankful heart.

Amen

A Prayer for a Life of Thanksgiving

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“How good it is to give thanks to the Eternal and to praise Your name with song, O Most High;  To speak of Your unfailing love in the morning and rehearse Your faithfulness as night begins to fall.” Psalm 91:1-2

Lord,

I adore You, how I love You. Cherishing who you are I offer worship from the depths of my soul to You. I treasure Your living  Word. Your beauty surpasses all words. Magnificent creator. Author of Salvation, through Your sacrifice beyond human comprehension You have brought me by Your blood, calling me Your beloved child. In You I  have everlasting life. You constantly poured out countless gifts beyond what I deserve, furthermore, far beyond what I deserve. All honor, glory, power, and praise belong to You now and forever more. Blessed be Your glorious name.

The to-do list dictates my time. My emotions wildly running dictate my reactions. My pain dictates my thoughts. I hurry- thought scattered- overwhelmed-depleted. Senselessly rushing another day without ever savoring a moment. Neglecting the gifts you have bestowed on me; I take so much for granted. I do not understand the depths of each gift and many I cannot see. Lord Jesus, have mercy. Forgive my ungrateful heart and lavish on me Your stunning grace.

Thank you from the depths of my soul for providing for me. I praise You for my relationship with You, Your Word, and Your character. Thank You for creatively and compassionately knitting me together and for the purpose You formed me for.  I praise You for this season of life. Thank you for investing in me, loving me, and forgiving me. I praise You for the blessings I neglect to see, those I am unable to understand, and the ones I have acknowledged, though not enough.

Enable me to slow down… to pause and reflect on Your goodness. Help me to recognize and say thank you for a few gifts. Fill me with thanksgiving every moment of every day. Let me live by Jesus’ example offering a gift of thanksgiving to You in the midst of unspeakable pain. Allow my thanksgiving to bring glory to Your holy name.

Amen

A Life of Thanksgiving

Elegant snowflakes dance through the air as November makes a grand entrance. Many people begin to think about the holiday season approaching. The stores are full of ideas and holiday movies are plentiful. Thankfulness creeps into each mind. Even so, people do not give the gift of thankfulness enough thought.

A thankful heart is a joyful heart, furthermore, it opens the door for an abundant life. Thanksgiving is not merely a holiday but a way of daily life. Stopping in the middle of the day to give thanks enables people to slow down.

There are many individuals who give an example of a thankful heart in Scripture like Job, David, and Paul. The prime example being Jesus. I never stopped and took note that before so many miracles, Jesus gave thanks to God. Before the feeding of the five thousand Jesus gave thanks, before speaking to the crowds Jesus gave thanks, and before raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus gave thanks. Undoubtedly, we should follow this example.

Plesant emotions are not a prerequisite to giving thanks. In fact, it is vital to a soul to give thanks during the trails in life. Ann Voskamp shares how Jesus did this the night He was betrayed, “In the midst of what seems a mess, in the tripping up and stumbling down of all hopes” Jesus gives thanks.

Life is bathed with pain. This is why it is vital to learn to give thanks in the middle of each struggle. A few seasons of intense chronic physical pain has personally, changed my perspective in what I give thanks for. Furthermore, I know I cherish things that most young adults do not. There have been times the pain breaks the pain scale. It shoots, stabs, deeply aches, and burns moving me to tears with an occasional yelp. This type of pain is the type that one cannot ignore. In the middle of the intense pain, I can barely whisper thank you, Lord, for holding me now. Thank you, Lord, that You are faithful, You are stronger than any trial, thank you, for getting me though this second, and thank you, for who You are.

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God is waiting to do awe-inspiring things in your life, precious friend as you pause to give thanks. Your thanks is an act of worship and it is an offering. Though this simple act, you will receive the joy of the Lord and life abundantly.

I want to share with you a simple Bible reading plan for the month of November inspired by thankfulness.

Copy of Thanks Giving Flyer Template

I have been reading A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I am only about halfway through. Yet it has impacted my understanding and perspective of thanksgiving. If you are not familiar with this book, let me share a few things. Ann has a journal in which she records, beautifully one thousand reasons she is thankful. I am in awe of this discipline, even more so that she pauses in the middle of what she is doing to record something she is thankful for.

The description is as follows, “Drawing heartbreaking beauty out of the simplest of details, Ann Voskamp invites you into her grace–bathed life of farming, parenting, and writing–and deeper still into your own life. Here you will discover a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of living that is fully alive, and a way of becoming present to God that brings you deep and lasting joy.”

In addition, I would like to invite you to record at least ten things you are thankful for during the remainder of 2017. As you read the Scriptures and record your list of blessings take time to also reflect on the character of God.

Rebellious Worship

Rebellious worship, those words don’t seem to fit together. Except for, of course, in my case. I find it necessary as the Holy Spirit moves me to be rebellious in my worship.

You see, I have several chronic illnesses, one of which is Hyperadrenergic Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Professionals are advising individuals with POTS to avoid singing. Generally speaking, I follow advice to a T. However, there are times in worship, I am rebellious. Personally, singing allows me to connect with God and worship Him in an extraordinary manner.

Worship is more than a song, therefore there are many alternative ways to worship God. No one style is better than another. Never the less, music holds a special place in worship. Perhaps this is because many admirable Christians worshiped this way; such as King David, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and Jesus.

I have been singing praises to God for as long as I can remember. Some of the times I had been most filled with Christ joy was during worshiping Him through singing. I have many lovely memories, which I cherish, singing praises to the Lord with friends as an adolescent.

It is a struggle for me today to sing most times. It is hard to get adequate air to reach certain notes or to get enough air when rests are scarce. At times, I have a dizzy spell. The focus though isn’t my physical limitations, but the righteousness of my Lord. The physical combat, for me, is no reason to stop singing praises to God. I believe He knows my heart and the struggle I endure. I also know without a doubt that my worship is pleasing to Him.

Giveaway

Prayer should be as natural as breathing to the maturing Christian. The principle is so simple yet we complicate it and allow ourselves to become intimidated. Prayer is a stunning way to intimately connect with Christ. Nothing in the world can replace it.

There are plenty of excused not to pray yet none truly valid. We do not need more than a few seconds, an education is unnecessary, and you cannot do it wrong.

At times, we hit a roadblock in our prayer lives, which simply could be from maturing. You wouldn’t expect a toddler to live on only milk, similarly, as a maturing believer, you may need to find a way to go deeper. You might need to renew it.

I am passionate about prayer furthermore, teaching others about it. I believe it is something we never cease learning about. A few months ago it was mentioned several times that I should write another book. Someone soon added to the suggestion that it should be a prayer book. After praying I was certain that this was the direction God wanted me to go for my next book, “Honest Moments With God: Thirty Days of Prayers That Allow You to Grow Closer to God’s Heart.”

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Thirty days of beautiful and unique Scripture-based prayers. Each prayer is complimented with Scriptures that enable you to grow closer to Christ. Also includes five devotionals, a worship playlist, and fifteen Scriptures to inspire you to write your own prayers. I am confident that God will use this small book to do amazing things and to bring His name glory.

“My soul is dry and thirsts for You, True God, as a deer thirsts for water. Why am I so overwrought, Why am I so disturbed? Why can’t I just hope in God? Despite all my emotions, I will believe and praise the One who saves me, my God.” Psalm 42:1 & 11

God,

Increase our soul’s thirst for You, the Living God. You have seen the tears cried behind closed doors. The ones in the dead of night. You understand the heartbreak of shattered dreams. The depth of the effects of broken relationships.

People mock me and question my faith. Asking where You are in my time of need. They question Your goodness. Question how You could allow suffering. I will remain unshaken, firm in Your promises.

Help me in this holy time, at Your feet, to pour my soul out to You. Enable me to be transparent. I surrender every burden, fear, question, and emotion. Empty me of myself. Free me from all the clutter in my heart and mind. Consume me with Your Spirit.

Direct me in Your precious love. Renew my hope day by day. You are my mighty protector. I rejoice in Your sovereign name. I have witnesses Your goodness all the days of my life. I extol Your Majestic name.

Amen

I thought that it would be fun to do a giveaway! The winner will receive a PDF copy of my book “Honest Moments With God: Thirty Days of Prayers That Allow You to Grow Closer to God’s Heart.”

Entering is super easy. Pick a question/prompt from the list below and respond in the comments. Don’t forget to share with your friends, the more the merrier. The winner will  be announced September 28th, 2017.

 

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