A Change of Perspective

We were a motley crew gathered in the courtyard of that hotel. But one thing we shared in common brought us together: multiple chemical sensitivity.

My husband Michael has MCS, and exposure to chemicals found in common household items, cleaners, pesticides, paints, and fragrance products make people like him very sick. The hotel had one building devoted to accommodating people with this chronic health condition.

Most people booked a room because they were in town for treatment by a renowned MCS doctor. Michael and I booked it because we wanted to take a short vacation and it was the only local place we could think of that could accommodate his complicated allergies.

A few of us gathered outside and struck up a casual conversation that quickly turned to personal stories—how their health broke, how long they had been sick, all the therapies and medications they tried, and what brought them to the hotel.

Surprisingly, one woman was in town for a check-up after significant improvement in her condition. “I’m so exhausted today, but that’s mostly because I was out line dancing until 5 a.m. I used to be sick, but now I’m doing much better. You really can get better. It’s a journey.”

My eyebrows raised. “Line dancing until 5 a.m.?” Everyone else standing there was just trying to survive. While her words were intended to be an encouragement, it was a little irritating to hear them from someone who had enviably left the chronic illness life behind. Others probably felt agitation creeping in, too.

As we parted ways with the dancer and the rest of the patients to unload our luggage from the car, another guest arrived.

I hesitated to exhale for fear she’d flutter away like a dandelion seed. She was extremely thin and frail—just a wisp of her former self, I imagine.  Though the sun beat down with its August glare, clothing covered nearly every inch of her body, and she wore a large, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect her face. Tubes connected her to an oxygen machine, but someone had to pull the tank for her—she didn’t have the strength.

She looks like she’s allergic to the whole world, I thought.

I looked over at Michael pulling our heavy suitcases out of the trunk. He wiped the sweat off his brow, smiled weakly, and carried them to our hotel room. He’d been ill for four years, and his sickness required these specialized accommodations. Yet here we were kicking off a mini vacation before our new baby arrived. Even with chronic fatigue, the new hotel guest made him seem like a vibrant, healthy man in his prime.

Suddenly, he was an athlete.

Don’t Wait for Perfection

Michael and I haven’t been able to blog for the last couple of months due to a pretty busy season of life. But part of the reason it has taken us so long to come back to it is a mild case of perfectionism.

What can we write about that will encourage our readers? Do we have time to make it truly inspiring? What if it flops? What if no one reads it anyway? So, instead of writing as we could, we published nothing at all.

Finally, this week, I decided to just sit down and start. And you know what? Writing another blog post is not so impossible. In fact, it’s got me thinking, in how many other areas of life do I allow perfectionism to prolong my progress?

When dealing with chronic illness,  many parts of life will never be perfect for reaching our goals. There will ALWAYS be obstacles, so it’s tempting to make excuses.

I’d like to lose 15 pounds and write my own kids book. He wants to start painting and improve his health.  Together, we’d  like to start a side business to supplement our income. And in spite of the complexity of our circumstances, these are things we could actually do if we didn’t allow perfectionism to get in the way.

With this realization, we are making a bucket list of some things  we’d like to accomplish this summer.  And they may not all be grand achievements, but they will represent a git ‘er done attitude instead of waiting forever for the ideal conditions.

What would you like to cross off your list at the end of this summer?   If you were willing to let it be less than perfect, could you start right now? Your goals could be as simple as checking off a summer reading list, getting some regular exercise, cultivating healthier habits, memorizing Scripture, or getting out of the house no matter how poorly you feel.

Instead of waiting until the time is ‘right,’ why don’t you just get started?

Do not despise these small beginnings…. (Zechariah 4:10)
Don’t wait for perfection. Do it, then fix it as you go.“-Paul Arden

 

Does Healing Seem Out of Reach?

I could write a book about all the numerous therapies, medicines, regimens, supplements, diets, and juices Michael has tried in an effort to get well. I can’t promise the story would be a page-turner, but it would certainly be a long one.

Out of reach

If you’re sick, too, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Though we’ve seen some benefit, we can’t seem to land on a cure. After thousands of dollars spent, high hopes, and intense searching, the realization that we are not as far along as we thought we’d be is pretty painful. Healing just seems out of reach.

But we are still gripping tightly to hope that Michael can get better. Do you know why? Because God has a long history of healing very sick, very desperate people.

Should A Person With Chronic Illness Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Every year I struggle with whether or not to set personal goals for the new year. Chronic illness and pain keep me from doing so many things. When accomplishing necessary daily tasks is a struggle, how in the world can I set large, significant goals that would be life-changing for me and my family? In the end though, I do end up setting goals, because there are things worth fighting for.

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We all long for life to be better in one way or another. We all need hope that things can and will change. Goals paint a motivating picture of a better life moving forward.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”  -T. E. Lawrence

If you don’t have any goals, you’re sure not to accomplish them. On the other hand, you increase your odds of reaching goals simply by having them.

Here are a few tips for accomplishing life-changing goals this new year:

Each year our family chooses a motivational song to be our theme for the year. It becomes our optimistic anthem. It is a battle cry of faith and trust in God’s presence, power, and blessing for the new year — whatever it holds.

Here is our song for 2016, “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave. We pray it encourages you!

Do Angels Drive Eighteen-Wheelers?

Recognizing God's Messengers of Encouragement

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.” -Hebrews 13:2

My eighteen-wheeler is parked out in that upper lot” she said, pointing out the church’s windowed wall. Her skin was tan and weathered and a bleach-blond ponytail flowed down her back from underneath a baseball cap. By the lines in the corners of her eyes and around her mouth, I’d guess she was in her early fifties. Yet there was also something about her which was timeless, making it impossible to know her age for certain. Sandy was her name, and something about those eyes told me she’d had a hard life—or at least a troubled past.

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I was working on staff at a church when Sandy first walked up to the desk. She chatted about her husband and profession—they were both truck drivers tag-teaming across the U.S. She was trying to get some dental work done before moving on to their next destination. Something about her look of rough times and the fact she was telling me so much of her story made me think she was probably there to ask for financial help.

And yet, she never asked for money. She told me her life story, a little about the difficult past I already guessed she had, and asked me to pray for her husband. After a few minutes of chatting, she gave me her name and email address then returned to her truck.

Better Not Bitter, A Child’s Response to Chronic Illness

Compassion & Action, The Fruit of Illness

Have you stopped and considered that the real purpose of your struggles, at a given moment, might be the heart of compassion that God is building within you? Smooth sailing doesn’t develop such a thing, you know. Trials develop our humility, and humility opens our eyes to the needs of others. If we look to do His service during tough times, we will come out better rather than bitter.”
– David Jeremiah, Living With Confidence in A Chaotic World

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One of my greatest ongoing concerns is how my chronic illness will affect my children. My mind often goes to the negative things that illness brings instead of the good that it can work in a soul.

The last 24 hours have been a reminder of the latter.

When we become aware that life will give us more than we can handle and come to grips with this, we find a promise: God is faithful to meet us in the mess and in the pain.”

– Michael Hidalgo, Source
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11 Ways to Love Someone with Chronic Illness

Chronic illness is its own unique animal. It doesn’t necessarily require a hospital stay, so there isn’t a sudden swarm of flowers and cards. You may feel like you’re dying, but your family doesn’t gather around your bed and sing hymns. And if someone wanted to set up a meal calendar for you, when would they do it? Should they drop by with a baked lasagna when you finally receive a diagnosis?

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And when can the meals stop? When you start feeling better? Yikes! That may be awhile.

These are nuances of long-term illness I would never have understood had I not joined Michael in his chronic illness journey seven years ago. I gained an intimate peek into this difficult side of  life, but only as an outside observer.