Tag Archives: encouragement

Plodding in the Desert

Hope Coloring Page

I’ve been spending time in the desert lately. Things have felt dry and parched and starving for refreshment. I’ve traveled this terrain enough times to know that there is purpose in it, but it doesn’t make the journey any easier.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve felt a shift. That’s the only way I can describe it. Something is different with my health, but I can’t put it into words. My body feels tired all the time and it’s really hard to process that. I’ve shared these feelings with a few close friends and Chris (of course) but it’s made it difficult to write. I’ve needed a lot of me and Jesus time, with no other voices involved.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve sorted things out, but I haven’t. God’s given me a few incredible gifts along the way…things I think he knew I’d need to keep on pressing on.

One thing I do know is that along with this “shift” has come an even greater urgency for me to share with you how real God can be in your life and how very much he is needed.

It’s been a tough year so far with my health. I shared in my last post about complications with an infection in my foot. Shortly after that, I took a hard fall to polished concrete at my favorite restaurant on a date night with Chris. Ironically, Chris was about the only person in the restaurant to NOT see me fall. After a few weeks of feeling as if I’d been hit by a bus, I went in for X-rays to check out (what I thought) were cracked or bruised ribs. It turned out that I had a compression fracture in my vertebrae just below my fusion in my thoracic spine. The assumption is that is happened because of the fall, but much like a cracked rib, the only pathway to healing was time and rest. Months of time and rest.

Which brought us to the end of March in which Chris and I took a belated Anniversary trip to Puerto Rico. The warmer weather and steady climate did wonders for my pain, but the endless hours to lay around on the beach and “think” were a surprise I hadn’t bargained for. Finally on the last night of our trip, over an amazing dinner, I apologized to Chris for being so quiet the whole week (my timing is impeccable, I know). I told him the more I tried to figure out why I was so introspective, the more introspective it had made me. (Introspective is a fancy word for quiet and boring).

And then it hit me; this was the first time Chris and I had done a beach vacation…just the two of us, no family or friends…in five years. And in five years, my body has changed a lot. I had a major spine surgery that changed my entire neurological makeup along with shortening me an inch (still peeved about that one…) and an ileostomy bag placed. So to go on a vacation where you’re pretty much living in a bathing suit 24/7, was hard on me. I felt self-conscious and embarrassed (for Chris) the whole time. I was frustrated that I had to use my wheelchair so much, because getting around at the pool without my leg braces is hard and dangerous. The stares bothered me more on this trip than they ever had before. And it bothered me that it bothered me.

puerto rico

And it hit me afresh like a tidal wave that my health is not getting any better, but in fact is getting worse.

I keep having this re-occurring nightmare where I show up at the office of my Neurologist. In my dream he’s a faceless individual…older, kind…but I never am actually called into be seen by him. The dream progresses (they improved the elevator in one of them…) and I see him in the waiting room, or at a coffee shop in the hospital lobby, but I never hear his diagnosis of me and I never actually get real clinic time with him.

It’s troublesome to me and I think it probably has to do with a pending appointment I have with a new local neurologist here in Milwaukee in June. I’ve had the appointment scheduled for several months now, after my primary doctor urged me to find someone to look into a tremor that I’ve developed. They think it’s further autonomic dysfunction due to my deteriorating nervous system, but it would be good to rule out any other neurological causes (MS, fibromyalgia, parkinsons, etc.).

And I think that’s when I start to come full circle about this “shift” I’m feeling. I think part of this shift is that I no longer have a great desire to figure all this out. I’ve gotten to a point where a diagnosis is just a name. I know there is no solution, no cure, and so it all seems so futile to me. But I have this internal wrestling going on inside because I would never want Chris or Promise or anyone that I love to think that I didn’t try my hardest to live the longest, healthiest life I could.

And so that is a small window into what my desert has looked like lately. Ironically, all of this comes after giving a talk titled “The Battle for Hope- How to Keep Getting Up When You Get Kicked Down” at our Church, Elmbrook, in early March. How I’ve listened to my own advice over and over and over. I’ve repeatedly told myself that it’s not about feeling God, but knowing the truth of God. It’s about making a choice to keep plodding along, even on the hardest, driest days….that somehow God will not let that go in vain.

I was laying in bed last Sunday night, Chris silently sleeping beside me. My health and the future of my health felt like a weight on my chest and I was silently trying to muffle my sobs. I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to get out of bed and get on my knees by my bedside. Again, I knew it was God’s spirit because it’s not a thought that would naturally come from my human-ness. I mean getting on my knees is hard for me. It hurts. My left foot is at a permanent 90 degree angle, so it’s uncomfortable. Really awkward.

After a few moments of wrestling in my head with whether or not I was actually going to do this, I slipped out of bed and onto the floor. And I wept. And I surrendered my health to God, afresh…asking him to take it all. As I crawled into bed I had the most incredible peace where the heaviness had been. I wanted to read my bible but it was down in my car, so I opened up the bible app on my phone. Apparently the last time I had been reading it had something to do with looking up the verse we named Promise after; Psalm 145:13 NIV.

As my eyes read through verse 13 and into verse 14, my breathe caught in my throat. I had never paid attention to the verse following “her” verse but it read:

“The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”

I know that no matter what lies in front of me, or for however long this desert period lasts, God will lift me up if I continue to bow my life to him.

-Adri

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Chronic Hope

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(Printed in the Winter 2015 Issue of Just Between Us Magazine)

When you live with or love someone with a chronic illness, you soon learn that it requires you to make a plethora of unending decisions. When you reach the “D” section in your phonebook, the list of doctors seems endless. Some of these doctors are even programmed into your speed dial. Maintaining a “baseline” is important so there are tests and procedures that have to be repeated year after year after year. You experience physical pain week after week after week. There are questions and emotions that you have to battle day after day after day and sometimes moment after moment after moment.

 

Living with a chronic illness is exhausting. By definition it is constant, ceaseless, persistent, and unending.

 

One of the most challenging things for me about living with Spina Bifida is how many areas of my body it has affected. It affects my bladder, kidneys, bowels, legs, feet, nerves, and muscles. Recently it has begun to affect my neck and brain. I routinely see a neurologist, neurosurgeon, podiatrist, urologist, gastroenterologist, and physical therapist. On occasion I’ll see a shunt specialist, hematologist, and orthopedic surgeon. If I’m bored I’ll see my primary doctor.

 

Let me assure you that I know how exhausting it is. Especially when I stop to consider the fact that despite all of these appointments, there is no cure for my condition. Unless God decides in his infinite wisdom to heal my physical body, I will never “get better”. At most, I can attempt to maintain my current health for as long as possible.

 

This would be so depressing if it stopped right here.

 

But it doesn’t. God has provided a way for us, in chronic illness, to have chronic hope.

 

You see, God will use pain to develop you, but he never meant for it to define you. I have found that the days that I feel the most hopeless about my health are the days that I let my suffering become my sole focus. My whole purpose in living becomes wrapped up in trying to cure it, trying to maintain it, or trying to dull it.

 

On these days I have to take a step back and remind myself that God has created me to be so much more than that. I have to re-read passages in my Bible that fill me up with the hope that God is using all of this for something much bigger than I can understand. One of the things that I love about Jesus’ life is how he specifically chose people suffering with physical disabilities in order to display to the onlookers that he was the Messiah they had been waiting for. These broken lives mattered greatly to him and they became his tools in which his glory and power shone brightly. If you’re hurting today, my prayer is that that brings you so much hope and encouragement!

 

Not only does God promise to use your pain on a large scale, but he desires to use it in a very personal way too. He wants it to become the tool with which he molds you into a person that reflects everything about his character.

 

What would that look like? It would look like a person that is thankful for their doctors, patient with their caretakers, loving toward their family, and even joyful during their colonoscopy. It would look like a person who shows gratitude about the function they do have rather than grumbling about their limitations. It would be a person who cries tears of deep pain, all the while knowing peace is not based on the feelings contrived by their reality, but rather on the truth that God has laid out in the Bible.

 

It’s a person that I have begun to ask God to make me into. It’s a person who’s living with chronic hope.

 

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

-Adri

To order Just Between Us Magazine, visit www.justbetweenus.org

 

 

 


“Just Between Us”

We are currently in the midst of a semi-major construction project; finishing our unfinished basement. In addition to doing this, we will be re-configuring several rooms in our house to better fit our needs and lifestyle. While all of this may sound fancy and exciting, it really just translates to one thing; our house is a freaking disaster.

As I was attempting some semblance of order, I found myself rummaging through our bookshelf in the office, tossing into a box those books that no longer needed a home on our shelves. During this process, my fingers stumbled onto the bindings of some familiar high school and college journals.

I flipped to the first entry in a worn black journal that I knew dated back to pre-college days. The first entry said this;

“An autobiography…what a looming task! All I know is that it is something I must write. This may never be published or even read by more than a few people, but it’s the only bandage big enough to cover all my pain.”

The words came back to me quickly. I remembered laying in my old bedroom, periwinkle colored walls surrounding me, while I scrawled them with a pencil just days before I was supposed to have what would have been my sixth major spine surgery. That surgery ended up being canceled the night before it was to occur and I desperately needed an outlet for my feelings and emotions.

Unfortunately, one of those outlets at that time was the sharp end of a metal bobby pin against my wrist.  The other outlet was this blank lined piece of journal paper.

As I continued scouring my journals, I came upon entry after entry identifiable only by my handwriting. They were full of a hurt and anger that I no longer feel inside. I had written them in some of the deepest corners of my depression while in college.

I tell you all of this because I want it to be a testament to the enormity of God’s work in my life. Of his ever-sustaining love and compassion toward me, even in those very dark places.

Without his grace and redemption, it would be absolutely inconceivable for me to share this next part with you.

This past spring, I was invited to write a quarterly column for “Just Between Us” magazine. Started by Jill Briscoe at the age of 55, JBU celebrated their 25th anniversary of “encouraging & equipping women for a life of faith” this year. In the process of re-formatting the layout of the magazine, they asked if I’d consider writing a column dealing with physical suffering and God’s plan for it in our lives.

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After discussing it with Chris and praying through what a commitment like this would look like (and thinking of about 100 people more qualified than me to write this), I agreed to the terms and submitted my first column. It was just printed and distributed in the Fall 2015 issue.

jbu article

Head Shot Photo Credit: Robyn Vining Photography LLC

I had been a subscriber to JBU prior to being a contributing writer, but it was fascinating to learn more about the magazine. JBU is distributed to over 65 countries throughout the world and translated into many of these countries native languages. It started as a ministry tool to encourage pastor’s wives and continued to broaden to the scope of women it currently covers. What is even more amazing about JBU is that, in a publishing industry that can be cut-throat, the magazine has not only survived but continues to flourish with a staff of six women and a host of donors and contributors.

I could go on and on and ON about this magazine and how God is using it, but instead I invite you to explore it for yourself at http://www.justbetweenus.org .

jill and me

As I let my mind reflect on the memory of the words that my hand etched 15 years ago, I am filled with thankfulness for the opportunity that God has provided through my column, “Chronic Hope”. It’s been an answer to prayer that I could never have conjured up. An answer to that prayer that I cried desperately in my heart when I was 9 years old: “God, you have to use this pain for something good, or else I don’t want to live anymore”.

It’s humbling and overwhelming to know that he is and always has been using my pain.

I know I won’t understand the half of how he’s used it until I’m in heaven, free from the chronic hurt, but for now I take great comfort in the chronic hope it brings to my life.

“The Lord gave the word and great was the company of those that published it.” – Psalms 68:11

(JBU’s founding verse)

-Adri

*Due to this opportunity, I have changed my blog URL to http://www.chronichopeblog.wordpress.com*


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