Monday, March 4, 2013

The Top Five Reasons I Love Being Sick

No, I have not become a masochist.

In most ways, I loathe being sick. I despise pain, discomforts, social alienation, fatigue, and dietary restrictions, but my sickness is so much more than the sum of my symptoms. I have been thrust into an alien world. Now that I am no longer suffocating in an atmosphere my fragile lungs are not accustomed to, I find that I don't mind this strange, sometimes desolate planet so much. In fact, I can find things that I truly like about it. While I will never stop looking for a way to get back home, I have found a way to be happy here. Much of my happiness comes from this little list of blessings I could have only received in a place of long-term suffering:

1) The People

The book, Embracing Obscurity, mentions a "secret society" of sufferers. Initiation is hell, but there is a hidden sweetness to be found in all the bitterness of membership. In my earliest days of suffering, this community enveloped me as if I had been there forever. These people know. They understand. They have held me up. They always know exactly what to say and not say. It is comforting to look into an eye and find the same altered light I feel in my own, to hear another voice with inflections of pain and peace trying to find the right balance. The people here have taught me how to give comfort and receive it, the latter actually being the harder of the two. There is much more to learn. In most of the cases I have encountered, the people of the Suffering Planet grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who overcome, a rare, precious commodity these days. Sufferers, who are usually social outcasts, have become some of my favorite people. I am proud to be counted among them.

Without being sick, this kind of sick, I never would have met my fabulous team of natural/integrative doctors--Dr. Stephanie Cave, Dr. Melisa Kuehn, and Dr. Carolyne Yakaboski--because I would still think alternative medicine is all very "woo-woo!"I adore each one, but my favorite (and I can write this because none of them read my blog) is my local Natural Doctor, Dr. Yakaboski. Each doctor has her own pool of knowledge, making each one valuable and necessary to me. What is special about Dr. Yakaboski is that she sees me regularly, listens carefully to me and is taking time to learn about my peculiarities. I'm not saying that I'm the reason she is taking a class on genetic mutations, but I know my case at least offered her a nudge. And I'm beginning to think the information she is currently learning is the key to my healing.

While my illness has created distance in most of my longer-established friendships (not because of any person's fault--that is just what chronic illness does), I have made new friendships, none of which would exist without this illness. Some of them like Jenny, Caroline and Jennifer are or have been sick themselves. Oddly, not one of these ladies lives close by. Others like Emily Wheat and Emilea Talton, God just ushered in to help me along.

2) Personal Growth

When I married 8 1/2 years ago, I was a terrible cook who had never shown much interest in the kitchen. I could scramble eggs, make awesome cinnamon toast and kill perfectly decent food on the George Foreman grill. (If you own this appliance, please do your part to stop the murder of innocent food. Divorce George. Fat is your friend.) While mistakes occasionally still happen, I consistently deliver a good meal made from scratch night after night, and most of the recipes are Melissa Keaster originals. When you can't eat out and people can't cook for you, your only choice is to cook or starve. Thereby, I get lots of practice, and practice has made me quite competent. I'm even tweaking an original "real food" cookie bar recipe.

 I get a huge kick out of making a pretty wide range of yummy food for my family. I am proud of the accomplishment that was born out of very real struggle. It is hard work--both the planning and the preparing! Cooking a different meal every night without a repeat over the course of the week using only 30ish foods while battling pain and fatigue is a real challenge! I suppose it's a good thing that I've always liked challenges.

In addition to learning to cook, I have learned to nourish. Many of my preconceived ideas about health food have been shattered, and I am watching my family benefit from what I have learned. I have discovered that I love feeding people good food. Right now, I have a very real ministry of feeding three eaters in addition to myself, but I dream of a quiet, thriving ministry of feeding and visiting sick people and shut-ins once I am well.

3) Helping Others

I have learned so much information since losing my health. I have an infinite amount more to learn, but I am helping family, friends and strangers alike with the little I already know. I have shown several people how to muscle test for allergies to foods before trying them. If my friends want a natural remedy for some kind of ailment, I either know the remedy or know how to find it. Brandon, the kids and other friends and family who haven't minded being my guinea pigs have benefited from BioSet treatments.

Mostly, I am thankful that I am able to help my immediate people. Brandon has Crohn's disease. While he complains of his weight loss from time to time, he looks great and feels even better. My children both struggle with my genetic mutation and Gut and Psychology Syndrome. I will even go as far as to say that I think I am going to save Sara from becoming autistic. Some of you may think I'm talking crazy, but I have been doing lots of reading and have personally witnessed or experienced the truth of the information. I love that I am in the unique position to see that my kids are sick and need my help while they are still young. Soon, I will be healthy enough to put the necessary energy into getting them better. What an undeniable gift!

4) Spiritual Growth

I have learned to view this new life as a grand adventure. I may rarely leave my home, but no two days are the same. Each one begins brimming with promise. I never know who will walk through my door, who will call, who I will meet, what my children and husband will need, or what God will speak to me on any given day.

I am finally learning a little about the ministry of intercessory prayer. It is truly a labor of the soul. As Christians, we are nourished by the Word of God and we sweat by the work of prayer. Sometimes, this ministry is painful for me because my suffering has made me more compassionate. Friend, if you share a burden of your soul with me, know that I feel a little of its weight. If something has wounded you, I bleed a little, too. I feel your injustice almost as if it were my own. Tears for your sorrow stain the side of my bed. I have been asking the Lord to teach me how to pray for years. It is harder than I had anticipated, but it is work worth doing.

I see people. I am finally looking others in the eye, observing either light or shadow. I want to know hearts. I have time for souls. I want to know how I can meet the needs of body, soul and spirit. This is especially true for my immediate people--Brandon, Micah and Sara. They are my focus now, as it should be.

The most important lesson I'm learning is contentment. Contentment is a difficult and victorious classroom. I can be happy when I'm hungry, when I'm tired, when I hurt, when I'm lonely, when I'm sick, when I'm scared and when my feelings have been hurt if I look to God for joy. I don't do this perfectly or anywhere close, but I am learning. If I live to old age, I hope to say with the Apostle Paul, "I have learned to be content in all things."

5) GOD

Spurgeon's Morning by Morning reads thus on February 12--

"Here is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of providence bears a pair of scales--in this side He puts His people's trials, and in that He puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition. When the scale of trial is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the black clouds gather most, the light is more brightly revealed to us....Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles is this--then we have the closest dealings with God. When the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But take our food away, and we want our God.....Troubled believer, do not fret over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies." [2 Corinthians 1:5]

Upon the stillness of my sickbed, I have often heard the voice of God. I feel His embrace when I ache. I know what the shadow of His wings is like. The sweetness there is so intense that sometimes I feel that I don't want to get well because I want to stay there forever. I have to shake myself, pry myself away, reminding myself that He is not calling me to enter into His rest just yet. I have to toil a little longer, and there is much joy to be found in my toil.

 More than anything, I love the nearness of Christ in my suffering. If you do not know Him today, Fellow or Future Sufferer, I hope you will. As John Piper writes at the end of His poem, "Job"--"Unkindly has He kindly shown me God." The price has been high, but seeing God is everything to me. It is the treasure for which I would sell everything I possess. Take my health, and give me Jesus!

I am certain that healing is in God's plan for me. He has told me over and over that I will get well. Currently, some of my symptoms are getting worse. Some days I feel that I am making a downward turn. But I trust His word to me. I believe Him. I will continue to believe Him if I temporarily take a turn for the worse. And I will never resent this place I'm in. I hate it, but I love it. Because God is with me, it is a fine place to be.

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