How Can I Compare Suffering?

Today I am guest posting with my dear friend at Chronic Joy. My desire is to spread the word about a new organization that offers hope to those who suffer with chronic illness.

Last week my sister-in-law, Sallie, came home from rehab after her fifth back surgery. For most of her life she had no answers for her health difficulties. Finally, at age fifty they discovered Celiac Disease. Little was known about Celiac then and even the doctors were mostly uneducated about it.

When you have Celiac Disease and live for fifty years eating gluten, your body pays a price. Imagine fifty years of malnutrition without knowing it, causing the bones of a ninety-year-old — brittle and crumbling. The doctors linked my sister-in-law’s Celiac Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis, which both her mother and grandmother suffered.

Read the rest of my blog over here:

How Can I Compare Suffering?

 

A Hike…a Dry Soul…and Affliction, Part 1

For months I have scraped my soul-barrel dry.

I am dry beyond dry.

Words dried up as last summer’s flowers and nothing revives them.

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My soul is twin with the gray trees that cover the hills and it only breaks for evergreens.

Creation is dull out there. It’s been dull looking all winter, with a bit of snow here and there that barely covered the ground.

Mid March the Umpire and I took a hike to a new place, called Round Top, and I wonder if my eyes, at seeing new visions, will awaken my shriveled soul. Too much of nothing, is what I think.

We hoped the walk would relieve some stress of the schools budget problems, which usually mean layoffs.

Could I please see some life out there?

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The view at the top is worth it, though it all appears to be several shades of gray-brown.

To the right is the Chemung River winding it’s way through Athens, PA and I can see the hills beyond to New York. We head back down to Bobcat Trail and follow, starting with a hardtop road, then to a narrow dirt road.

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I concentrate—hardly a sound. The sight of a random chipmunk or squirrel is all I see. Even the birds are scarce. Don’t they realize winter is nearly gone?

As we climb we turn and the road becomes a cleared downhill path where electric poles were planted in the middle of this forest. Thankfully it was mostly dry or it might have been a comical trip down that steep trail–literally.

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Did I see any life out there? Hardly…everything is still resting and my writing with it.

I didn’t panic about the writing at first, but then I began to worry that I was done. Though I’m not ready for done, I’m willing to give it up. (I think…maybe).

Hiking did not awaken any inspiration for a blog or new ideas. As it is, the word affliction has been rolling around in my psyche for months. Do I know what real affliction is, and why does it keep rolling around in my head?

Affliction is normal everyday for some people. Recently I have come to know more people with chronic illness than ever in my life. They have strange illnesses that I can’t pronounce, and that are invisible to the eye. There are new and complicated illnesses that doctors are just discovering. More people than ever are suffering pain every day of every year…and there is no end to it.

There is no relief, no cure, but less pain some days.

Some days for them, the beauty of creation is not enough. Crying out to God is something they do, not daily, but moment by moment. Either they lash themselves to God for intimate fellowship, or drown. Surviving one day at a time is a badge of honor, but don’t think about tomorrow or it may crush you.

Grace comes when it is needed, not before.

The prayers for today are all we need. We can’t possibly know our future, nor do we want to know it. Which leads me to part two…

Part 2–

Waiting for the Hammer to Fall…

There is nothing worse than a bomb about to go off, but you haven’t a clue as to if or when. As humans we have a terrible time waiting for…anything, but most especially the unknown. We hate the unknown because it’s scary, and until you know how scary, you imagine the worst.

It all comes down to losing control.

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There are some who find surprises a real pleasure, and anticipate adventures around every corner. The thought of a tent and backpack has all the allure of taking off at a moments notice, carrying little, but there is no place you could call home. No place steady and comfortable with family and friends.

This is where we are in the moment…my husband and I. We were waiting for the hammer to fall.

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Just before this my writing dried up. It wasn’t writer’s block; it was something else. God seems to have set me aside, leaving with it every thought-spark of a blog page. The book sits gathering dust and the longer it does, the more depressed I am. What happened? I have no direction.

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But most pressing as I have a writing rest, are the “what ifs” that daily strive to the forefront of my mind. I can’t sleep at the beginning of the night, and my husband at the end. I sleep at 3 am and he wakes at 4 am.

Where is your faith in God, you say?

Yes, I know what the ‘Christian thing’ to do is. My mind rehearses scriptures commonly used at these times, and I’ve heard them from well-meaning people already. It doesn’t mean they are wrong to tell me, and as I could say—Yeah, I’ve heard it all before.

My past experiences with God are what’s concrete. I have seen Him work.

I have known Him, I have seen Him before. I have seen Him bear up my grief of two lost babies I carried for four months. I have seen Him carry us through loss of jobs, careers, and troubles of all kinds.

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But mostly, I know He is the God who sees.

El Roi.

God sees me. He has seen me all my life. He has been there always,  giving me grace upon unending grace.

If I am still…if I turn my head and listen for Him…I will hear that familiar voice.

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At first it was a mild worry, and everything will sort itself out. After all, he has been training for almost two years to become Athletic Coordinator at the high school.

Just when we thought we had two more weeks of this dreary anticipation, it happened. My husband had a meeting last Friday.

The meeting was less than fifteen minutes. When it was over my husband texted me he was out of a job.

Nothing looks harder than starting over at age sixty-four. There’s the possible downsize and move…but I digress. All the possible scenarios now jump back into our minds.

Remember, I tell myself—this is no surprise to God. So how will you handle when the fears come up? How will you keep joy for the upcoming wedding? What will come after?

There are not many options in the job market for Upstate New York, and a man close to retirement. Though on the surface I am not anxious, my spirit tells me otherwise. I am already weary from lack of sleep, and there’s the new hyper-mode my husband is in while he tries to figure out what’s next.

I’m already tired of the ‘what ifs’ going through my head, but what surrounds me during this time of suspense is continually being brought back to the One who knows what’s next.

My worries changed after the weekend. I am at peace. No longer do the ‘what ifs’ plague me.

I sit still…I turn my head…I listen for God.

I have a plan for you. Just wait for it to show up.

It’s human nature to plan, to worry, and to stress…but as I say this with honesty, I have a better grasp on the future because of my experience with the One I know.  I know that we won’t walk alone in the days ahead. I know the plan is already in place for us. Things will work out, but the waters could be rough.

So we wait…and  I rest in the fact that I am like you…we are  jars of clay, holding the special life of Christ in us. This doesn’t mean we do nothing while we wait.

He works in us to bring life. Nothing in our life is wasted.

*To quote a friend: “He will accomplish whatever concerns me!”

 

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands.”

Psalm 138:7,8

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Cor. 4:7 NIV

 

 

*Steve Pettit