Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Rough Landing and a Journey

On this day a year ago, I crash landed into the world of chronic illness. I had been sick for a long time prior, but the anaphylactic reaction that took place on May 2, 2012 flipped my world upside down entirely, and I haven’t been able to right it since. I easily recall the emotional trauma of those early days. I remember thinking my life was over, that if I didn’t die I might want to. Today, I smile wisely and compassionately at the scared, broken young woman I was a year ago because the woman I am today knows the girl’s life was far from over. Rather, she was standing at the threshold of something new entirely, something the girl had secretly longed for her entire life--adventure. 

I have always been a girl with a plan. Those plans usually involve safety and comfort, so I was an unlikely, ill-prepared candidate for an adventure as adventures are never safe or comfortable. My first steps were as awkward and faltering as those of a newborn fawn. Every time I finally found my stride, the terrain would inevitably change, forcing me to adjust. Again. At times, I have forgotten my destination. When I manage to remember my heading, I forget to enjoy the journey. I am fairly certain even the pre-There and Back Again Bilbo Baggins would have been a more promising candidate for this sort of thing than me, but alas--this is my road to haul......minus the cool factor of elves, dwarves, hobbits and Gandalf.

Slowly, I am learning that "promising" isn't on the list of prerequisites for the reluctant adventurer. As a matter of fact, the only thing necessary on an unexpected journey is the decision to take a step. And then another. After that, it is all about a metamorphosis over which the adventurer has little to no control.

Truly, everything has changed. From my appearance to my diet to my habits to my home (we bought a farm!), I am not who I once was.

 June 2012
 August 2012
 January 2013
April 2013
(A mask is now a necessary accessory for all public outings.)

Much of my outward beauty has faded over the past year, but that just happens on adventures. For awhile, you care and then you realize that other things are more important--like putting your energy into taking care of sick babies, cooking dinner for hungry co-adventurers, or foraging for healing herbs down by the creek.

As I am an Hermione at heart, I have done a ton of reading and research to plot my best course. Along the way, I have picked up a lot of tools to add to my arsenal. Many of you probably consider my ways very quacky. That's okay. Thank God we are all different! But don't knock it because it's weird. Remember that all adventurers possess a certain amount insanity! Also remember that life has a way of making you eat your words.....and thoughts. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.

I have acquired new skills, and continue to acquire them all the time. I can cook! I can ferment! I can make my own hygiene products! My co-adventurer husband (aka Superman) is learning to farm! This summer, I will have to learn to harvest, can, preserve, blanch and freeze. Bring it!

A year ago, I was afraid all of the time.....of everything. Those days are over. I still feel fear, but usually only when wasps are involved. And even I have recently stood my ground with a wasp, armed with nothing but a flimsy fly-swat and poor coordination. Months ago, the pain and fatigue (which I have fondly named Mildred and Gertrude) I live with every day kept me from doing things I wanted to do. No more. Hunger continues to be a formidable foe. I still become quite grumpy when hungry, but I have learned to live without monster cookies and gluten-free donuts, which is something. I don't even miss them anymore. Give me carrot "fries," chicken soup and chocolate pudding made with avocados and dates any day of the week! Herbal teas are also becoming a favorite of this former coffee drinker.

Several years ago, I would have scorned the life I live today. If someone had told me that I would become a raging hippy (minus the LSD and free love) who did little else besides stay home, cook, watch plants grow and take care of children, I would have laughed. Or cried. I used to think people like me were very "woo-woo" and boring. And maybe we are. But the point is that I had dreams of being accepted, loved and known for something, and I am none of these things. I fit in with very few people. While I am loved deeply, it is only by a few and many of these are scattered here, there and yonder, hours away from my little life on Jubilee Farm. Because I have disappeared from all of my old social circles, I am largely forgotten outside of social media. At first, my new place in society made me sad, but then I thought of Bilbo. In the Shire, he fit in. He was known and even loved, but the moment he left with the dwarves he fit in nowhere, was known by few and was loved by even fewer. Yet what he did mattered. On this journey, I am learning to embrace the call of being vital to a few rather than optional to many.

The journey has not been easy. I have often despaired. The thrill of adventure has waned, and I feel myself lost in the dark, soaking wet by a never-ending downpour without necessary equipment or adequate rations. The words, "this is too much," have often come to mind recently.

I am not without good company. Many adventurers have despaired along the way. Actually, Good Company is what separates me from all of my favorite storybook travelers. A friend shared these words on Facebook the other day--

"When you say, 'I just can't handle______,' you're preaching to yourself an anti-gospel that forgets the presence and power of Jesus."--Paul David Tripp

Can I get an "ouch!?" Things have been hard. While I am better in some ways, I am sicker in others. I emotionally suffer as those I love dearly physically suffer. There have been disappointments and setbacks and sicknesses and near death experiences, but the last time I checked, Jesus Christ carries the heavy end of my cross. If a situation seems too hard,  I am likely trying to manage it rather than handing it over as I ought. I have forgotten the ultimate Co-Adventurer and the power He possesses. You see, when I'm walking with Him, nothing seems hard. Not really. 

"Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him [you and me] endured the cross." --Hebrews 12:1-2

I am a year into fairly extreme illness. Endurance is vital. The only way I am going to make it is if I look past the temporal mile marker of healing, straight into the eyes of Jesus which are blazing with unfathomable passion for me. He will go to all lengths necessary to get me into His arms, and He will receive me regardless of my lack of qualifications.

"[God] gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."--Isaiah 40:29-31
Sometimes, I am tempted to look back at the blissful ignorance and ease I once enjoyed, but looking back is worse than useless. It's crippling and sinful. 

"But I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of me....forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."--Philippians 3:12-14

 Lot's wife looked back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Israel, while wandering in the desert, languished at the monotony of manna, and cried out for the comforts of her former slavery in Egypt. Looking back says, "God, I don't like where You are taking me. I don't trust You. I don't believe You." Looking forward says, "I believe in the Promised Land, and I trust You to take me there. I will gladly walk in this desert. It's hot and tiresome, but I will rest in the shadow of Your wings. I will joyfully eat this manna. It is enough because You are enough."

My journey is not haphazard. Every encounter, every bend in the road achieves some purpose unknown to me. It's all a part of my story, predestined by a Perfect Author. Knowing this gives me permission to enjoy meeting ogres along the way. The ogres shape my character, too.

"Rejoice in the process. Growth in grace is gradual over time."--Tim Lane

You know, it's okay if the heroine sheds a few tears along the way. It's okay if she pauses occasionally to ask, "Why?" That's just real life. We aren't called to stuff our emotions any more than we are called to wallow in self-pity. I believe we are instead called to invest our emotions, entrusting them to our Faithful Creator who sees the big picture while expectantly awaiting the return we will receive for doing so. 

While the plot twists before me are unknown and treacherous, my destination is sure.

"Therefore, I run thus: not with uncertainty."--1 Corinthians 9:16

My ultimate enemy--spiritual death--is already defeated. Nothing else truly threatens me. No matter what, I end up in the Everlasting Arms. 

While I am not where I had hoped I would be one full year into my adventure, I soldier on. The Lord has recently blessed me with a second wind, just as I desperately needed it. He does that whole "supplying all my needs" thing pretty well. With an Adventure Buddy like that, I think I'll be just fine. Ogres and all.

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