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.

Press On

“I can’t take it anymore!”

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. I usually spend those days off and on in a puddle of tears. And all the Little Debbie snack cakes I pull from the stash in our closet can’t make it better.

Runners call it “the wall.” In marathons it happens within the final few miles.  They say you feel like you’re running on empty and have nothing left. But the runners who just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t give up finish the race.

In childbirth, they call it transition. After hours of labor, the contractions are so intense that mom feels she’s not up to the task. When she cries out, “I can’t do this,” that’s a sure sign that baby’s almost here.

In fact, when I was laboring with our first baby, I remember saying those exact words. After he was born, I thought: This. Will. Be. Our. Only. Child. Because I can never do that again. Yet, I labored again 3 years later when our little girl was born. And I must’ve said “I can’t do this” a hundred times before she arrived.

All of these examples show us we can endure more than we think.  I look at our current life circumstances and wonder—how are we going to make this work for years ahead? I’m completely overwhelmed at the prospect. Yet I felt the very same way when Michael’s health struggles began seven years ago. And here we are, still moving forward.

Several of our friends and family members have endured sickness and hardship for decades. I’ll bet they were overwhelmed at the beginning of their journey, too. We marvel at how they persevere faithfully after so much suffering.

When we feel like we can’t go on, how do we press on?

I think there are three keys to long-term endurance in the midst of intense difficulty.

  1. Don’t think too far ahead. Forget about the miles in front of you, the hours of labor, or the years of struggle. Only focus on putting one foot in front of the other,  living through the next moment without quitting or losing your mind. Even Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

2. Take a break. When Elijah got to the end of his rope, he begged God, “Please, just kill me already” (1 Kings 19 paraphrased). God replaced his despair with truth, gave him rest, and fed him a meal.

3. Trust. The Bible says that God’s grace is sufficient for whatever each day holds.  Paul told the Corinthians, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8) Whether your day is filled with struggle or offers some welcome relief, He can give you what you need to keep going.

So the next time you say to yourself “I can’t take it anymore!” don’t look at the long road ahead. (And for goodness sake, put down those Little Debbies!) Focus only on the next moment. Give yourself a break. And know that He will help you press on.

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

 

A Life-Giving Home for Chronic Illness

I’ve been reading a fantastic book called The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson. It’s really stirred my mind to think about how to create an atmosphere of beauty, love, acceptance, joy, and refuge, even in our small, ordinary, tightly packed spaces.

When your life is filled with some discouraging prospects, when you can’t leave the house much due to your health condition, or when a lot of suffering takes place there, what can you do to counter a spirit of hopelessness in your home?

Environment makes a bigger difference than we might think.

Waiting On The Lord

Have you ever waited on something for a long time? Something you not only wanted, but felt you really needed?

Michael and I have done a lot of waiting these last seven years, and we’ve seen a lot of God’s provision. Sometimes we have what we need before we even know we’re going to need it! Other times, provision comes just in the nick of time. And we’ve occasionally experienced the relief and thrill of seeing something long-desired finally come to fruition.

Emmanuel & Chronic Illness

As the months and years roll on, chronic illness has its own way of wearing you out and dampening down the allure of this life.

Broken bodies and interrupted lives long for deliverance…for everything to be made right again. We want someone to understand our pain and to do something about it.

In walks Emmanuel, which translated means “God with us.” Could that be true? Could eternal majesty dwell among broken people?

Yes! Jesus, God’s Son, came down from heaven, eternity, and immortality and wrapped himself in frail human flesh.

He experienced and bore all of our sickness and infirmities. He was tempted in every way as we are but never sinned.

Living His Story

We just returned from the best trip we ever had—second to our honeymoon. But it wasn’t just a vacation. We traveled almost 700 miles to see people we’d never met and to stay with their friends whom we’d never seen. It was the most adventurous thing Michael and I have done in years.

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What brought a couple with little money, lots of stress, and complicated physical infirmities to the Colorado Rockies? It all started one day when I was looking for something online related to our blog and accidentally bumped into a very similar blog called AlwaysSickAlwaysLoved.com.

Always Sick, Always Loved

Does God really love me? To be transparent, believing that God loves me is the deepest spiritual struggle I have. Even though I have been a Christian for almost 30 years, doubt still taunts me. Chronic illness, pain and disappointment fuel this desperate question. Thankfully, the Bible’s resounding answer is “Yes!”

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It has been a joy to highlight lessons from the book Always Sick, Always Loved by Michael and Margaret Robble in our most recent posts. In this final series post, we climax with the core message of the book: you are always loved by God, even if you are always sick. We know this love through the life and good news of Jesus Christ.

Wise Words for Caregivers

If you’ve been following our posts for the last few weeks, you know that we’ve based our latest blog series on Michael and Margaret Robble’s book Always Sick, Always Loved: Hope for Families Living with a Chronic Illness. The Robbles’ 25 years of experience in marriage, family, and spiritual growth during Margaret’s long-term sickness give them great credibility on these topics.

In today’s post, let’s talk about taking care of the caregiver.

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In one of my favorite parts of Always Sick, Always Loved,  Michael Robble tells of a memorable phone call he received from his sister: