I was asked to be a guest blogger for Living52. I was very honored to be given this privilege. They asked me to share my thoughts about what it means to be resilient. I wan't to share the post here too. Please checkout their website and like their FaceBook Page. Their initiative is impactful and moving.
I was 24. I was sitting in a doctor’s office. And I was desperately hoping that this doctor would be different. I was hoping he would finally have the answers I was seeking. You see, for the previous six months, I had been a spectator as my body carried out a mutinous attack against me. I had been to more specialist than I realized existed. I was searching for answers. I was watching before my very eyes, as my body deteriorated and betrayed me. The majority of these brilliant minds agreed that something was seriously wrong as they assessed my symptoms. But no one could put a name to the debilitating pain and fatigue I was experiencing. In late December of 1999 I found myself alone sitting in this doctor’s office hoping against hope that this doctor could finally put all the pieces together and explain why the body of a relatively healthy young woman was imploding.
All these years later, I still remember the doctor walking in and gently shaking my hand. He visited with me for about five minutes, asked me a few questions, and then he said, “You know you have Lupus, right?” As those six words washed over me, I quietly responded, “I know...I just needed a doctor to confirm it.” You see in that moment, I wasn’t upset or angry (that would come later), I was relieved. I was relieved to finally have an answer, a name. I was very much relieved to know I wasn’t crazy or losing my mind.
With those six words, my life drastically changed forever.
I won’t hesitate to tell you that my life has been hard, but I want you to hear this next thing very clearly--that doesn’t mean my life has been bad. As I thought about what I wanted to share in this post about resilience, I actually sat down and wrote out a list of all the notable traumas, difficulties, and disappointments I’ve faced in my life. The list was long. I won’t share them all--some are quite personal. However, they include major surgeries, multiple chronic illnesses, death, loss, and heartbreak. These things, these heart events, have shaped me into the person I am today. Because of them I am stronger, bolder, more tenacious. I love deeper, laugh harder, and fight more ferociously than I ever thought possible for the things I believe in. I am a survivor. I am a warrior.
I am a survivor. I am a warrior.
You can’t hide from the hard things in life. They have an innate ability to find us. But we have a choice in how we choose to handle those hard things. I absolutely refuse to let the difficulties of life overwhelm me. Trauma may shape who I am, but it does not have to define me.
Pain really and truly sucks.
If that offends you or makes you feel uncomfortable I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain. Either one can become overwhelming and drown out everything else around you. I know because I’ve had way too much of both in my life.
However, in life, we seldom get to do what we really want, and unfortunately, you don’t get a day off from Lupus. So, when faced with the potential of debilitating pain—pain that would consume me if I let it. In those moments, what I actually do is bare down, grit my teeth, and become a first class actress who is an expert at manipulating her audience into seeing only what she wants them to see.
You may not realize this unless you’ve lived with chronic pain, but pain, all to often, makes other people uncomfortable. So, I have learned that the way to handle it is to put on a plastic smile and just endure. My closest friends can usually see through my facade, but I’m pretty good at fooling the rest of the world.
I made the decision years ago I wasn’t going to let Lupus stop me from living my life. Sometimes I pay for that decision when it causes my lupus to flare, but I don’t regret the decision.
I don’t know what it is you may be facing today. Maybe it's chronic pain like me, or maybe it’s emotional pain from personal tragedy or trauma, or maybe it’s something else. I want to encourage you to keep going, keep holding on, keep taking the next step. I don’t type those words lightly. I know from personal experience, that sometimes, it might seem easier to surrender—to give in. But on my most difficult days I’ve had two things that have given me strength: the love of family and friends and the hope of a great God.
In Joshua 1:9 it says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NASB
With love, strength, and God given courage, you and I can continue to embrace life even on the really hard days. Don’t give up my dear friend.
I often feel inadequate about so many things. Like many others, I am my own worst critic. It is so easy to be unkind and harsh with myself. Much of the time I feel like my flaws and shortcomings stick out like a green neon shirt. I definitely can’t miss them, so they must be glaringly bright to all those around me.
What is it in my life that I need to accept? The longer I’ve focused in on the word, the more I found myself looking inward. I came to realize that before I can truly accept anyone or anything else, I need to learn to accept myself. This should be my starting place. How incredibly wise to make this the first word on a list of meaningful words.
I could almost instantaneously start a list of all the things I don’t like about myself or the areas where I believe I fall short. If I’m honest with myself, I often feel inadequate or that I’m a failure. I feel so flawed and cracked.
I feel so flawed and cracked.
My life has been filled with scars and hurts for so long. It’s hard to believe that I can become anything useful and beautiful in God’s sight again. Instead of embracing who I am and choosing to accept myself, I tell myself that “I’m a failure” and “I’m not enough.”
I am coming to realize that I need to clean house and exterminate these destructive thoughts from my life. In dwelling on these negative opinions, I have come to see how detrimental these messages are. I have allowed them to dwell in my heart and mind. Because of this, I view everything in my world through the filters of failure and self-disapproval. None of these thoughts bring glory to God or reflect His truths. Neither do they honor myself or who God made me to be.
The truth is, however, I can be so quick to be overly critical and harsh with myself, when in the same instances or circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate to extend grace to someone else. Grace is such a beautiful thing. It should be freely given when the need arises, but I am oh so quick to withhold it from myself.
But how would my life look different if I truly could learn to accept myself?
But how would my life look different if I truly could learn to accept myself? Accept all my imperfections and shortcomings. If, and it’s a big if, if I can resolutely choose to accept myself, if I can choose to show myself grace and choose to receive the Grace that God so freely gives, well, then, God can take the dried, cracked vessel of my life; he can rework and remake it into something completely new.
You see, for a long time I have prayed, “God please make me that girl I used to be. The girl who could be used by you.” But now I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I was praying the wrong thing. Maybe I should be praying for God to remake me into something new. A new, more mature woman with scars that are healed. Scars that might allow me to help someone else along the journey.
Our pastor once told us about an ancient Japanese art of fixing broken pottery called Kintsugi. It is when an artist takes broken pottery and repairs it. Instead of camouflaging the cracks, the repairs are made with gold, silver, or platinum. The artist intentionally calls attention to the cracks by filling them with precious metals. Through this process, the piece often becomes even more beautiful than it once was, while still honoring the history of the piece. What a beautiful picture I can take for my life. God can take all the flaws and difficult pieces of my life. He can put them back together and make me whole again and more beautiful than I was before.