What is something from 2019 that you are proud of?
I’ve seen several of my friends pose this question several times on Facebook over the last few days.
The first time I saw the question I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t think of one thing I would consider an accomplishment from this year and that made me profoundly sad. The only thing I could think of was, “I survived.”
I sit here as the year comes to a close feeling so battered and bruised. There was a part of me that wanted to leave the words, “I survived,” on the post, but I feared no one reading the words would really understand the magnitude and weight those words carry for me. I was afraid someone would think I was being flippantly funny, and if they responded with a funny comeback, it would have added another wound to the ones I carry.
I chose not to respond to my friend's post, but I have pondered the question posed by her and several others. This year was a hard year for me. There were no big personal tragedies. It was just a hard year with everyday stresses that at times have seemed totally overwhelming. If you are my friend on Facebook, or most of my acquaintances for that matter, you would have no idea that this has been an extremely difficult year to walk through. The truth is that sometimes pictures and Facebook posts don't tell the whole story.
The truth is that sometimes pictures and Facebook posts don’t tell the whole story.
A few days after seeing the question asking what I was proud of, I was scrolling through Facebook and the following words grabbed my attention: May the tears you cried in 2019 water the seeds you’re planting for 2020.
The words reached out and spoke to me. They gave me hope. Hope for tomorrow. Hope that although this chapter may have been bitter, disappointing, and downright painful, this is not where the story ends. Many chapters have yet to be written.
I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of weeks about the word Hope. Way back at the beginning of 2019, I claimed the word Hope as my word for the year. I was going to hold on to it, let it encourage me. I thought I would have a year where Hope was fulfilled. I don’t know if Hope failed me or if I failed it, but I kept thinking that somewhere along the way I screwed up. I had this belief that a girl who chose to cling to Hope ...well, her life would look very different then mine does right now.
And then Sunday...Sunday at church they shared this scripture...
“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”
I’m not sure who else those words were meant for in church, but I know they were meant for me. It was like all the wondering I’ve done was answered in those verses. Even though I’ve been down and sad and overwhelmed, God has gone nowhere and he’s not going to go anywhere. He is my Hope, my eternal, everlasting, never ending Hope.
I shared some of this post with a friend earlier this week as I was processing my thoughts. She asked me to think about something… Of all the ways you could answer the question, “What is something from 2019 that you are proud of?” can you think of any better answer than, “I survived.”
“You made it. You’re here. You survived and persevered… There is no better answer.”
So my friends, I survived 2019.
I have chosen to share these thoughts and be vulnerable because I realize that I’m not the only one for whom 2019 may have been a difficult year. If that’s you, I pray that my words may encourage you. If you’re struggling and wondering what your purpose is, I won’t profess to have all the answers, but I want to remind you that our God is real, his promises are true, and in Him we can find our source of hope.
My mom and I traveled this past weekend to Denver to visit my brother, Joe. For those of you who don’t know, a few days after Christmas my brother was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. It is an aggressive type of cancer that has attacked by brother’s central nervous system. Some of his symptoms have included double vision, severe back pain, and difficulty swallowing which has inhibited his ability to eat.
Other than about a five day break where he stayed at his father-in-law’s, my brother has been in the hospital since December 25th. Joe was going through his third round of chemo while we visited. The chemo has made his legs incredibly weak necessitating the need for a walker, and he also has had to battle extreme fatigue among other things.
I almost didn't recognize him.
It was so good to see Joe, although I almost didn’t recognize him. He has lost almost 70 pounds in the last six weeks. He is also missing his trademark goatee that has adorned his face for the last 20 years.
I was so thankful for the 3 days mom and I got to sit beside him in the hospital. It was so good just to be in his presence and know that he was okay. I guess I also hoped that even for that short period of time, my mom and I could help him and Angela carry this load. Even though it is Joe who is battling this cancer and enduring chemotherapy, my hope is that he knows that he is not walking this road alone.
What is it that God wants to teach me?
Since I have gotten home, I keep asking myself what is it that God wants to teach me from this experience. I’m not sure I know the answer, but I do have some thoughts.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I have prayed more in the last weeks, than I probably have in along time. But as I’ve lifted my voice to God, I have felt his acceptance, not condemnation. And I have watched him answer prayer after prayer. I have watched my mom and others pray for very specific things, and I have watched as God has answered those prayers. We have specifically prayed for Joe’s vision to improve and as I sat beside him these last days I watched him as he was able to focus his eyes for longer and longer periods of time. That, my friends, is God answering prayer. I also sat beside Joe as he prayed in faith that we would be able to find something important that had been misplaced. Within minutes the lost item was located down in the cafeteria when someone could have easily walked off with it.
I was also humbled as I watched Angela over the last days. I watched her show great love to her husband, serving him, meeting his needs, and standing right beside him as he endures this trial. Watching her has encouraged me to love my husband the way she is loving hers. From beside her husband’s hospital bed she continues to parent and take care of her children, she is taking care of the affairs of their home, she is staying on top of all of Joe’s treatments and the information the doctors are giving them. She is doing all these things and not once did I see her complain. It was an incredible example of love in action.
It was an incredible example of love in action.
I also watched my brother. He is incredibly sick. He is extremely uncomfortable in his own skin right now. And he desperately wants to go home. I think it's fair to say, he’s miserable. But, and it’s a big but, but with all of that, he daily showed genuine love. I watched him intentionally reached out to those around him. I was so impressed as I watched him. He knew the name of each and every care worker that came into our room from the nurses, to the CNAs, to the janitors. If he didn’t know their name when they walked in, he did before they left. He also knew little details about many of their lives. God has put him in this hospital room for this time and instead of pushing pause on life and ministry, he is choosing to be deliberate about living life and loving people.
The last night we were there, an old family friend stopped by to visit. As he visited with Joe, Joe began to share some of what God has been teaching him as he walks through this season of his life. Joe said that he has really come to see that it’s all about loving God and loving people. He went on to share that God was helping him to really see people. He’s come to realize that there are a lot of hurting people in the world and sometimes they just need a smile. And sometimes we need to stop being afraid and open our mouths and talk about Jesus. We need to reach out and meet the souls of men--That is spreading Jesus.
We need to reach out and meet the souls of men...
As I listened to Joe basically preach, I began to realize that I want to see people the way God is teaching Joe to see them. People all around me are hurting. What am I doing to reach out and love them? When was the last time I was bold enough to talk about Jesus and what he’s doing in my life? How can I more genuinely love the people around me? God is definitely using Joe even in these difficult days. He used him and the truths God is teaching him to speak to my heart.
I pray that these words would encourage and maybe minister to you too. I also challenge you to look at those around you with fresh eyes and ask yourself how you can show them love and the truth of Jesus.
From a FaceBook post dated February 8, 2019
Some days just start out rough. I like getting to school by 6:30 every morning. Some think this is crazy, but for me it’s important to sit in the silence of my room and have some moments of calmness before the craziness of each day begins.
This morning I was running behind because I had to run by Walmart to get cardstock for a project.
Another important part of my morning routine is stopping at Sonic for a large Coke Zero. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I’m definitely addicted to Coke Zero and rely on it in the mornings for a kick of caffeine.
As I pulled in late this morning to the school parking lot, my hands were full (it was too cold to make more than one trip). I had my Coke Zero, my graded papers, my supplies from Walmart, and my laptop all precariously balanced in my arms as I tried to unlock the school door.
Suddenly, I felt wetness down my leg and stomach. It took me a minute to realize my Coke was spilling. As I was shifting everything in my arms to try to fix the problem, I only felt more wetness. I finally get where I could see what was happening and I spy my cup split vertically open. With no other choice I dropped the cup and tried to find a safe place to empty my arms. Mind you I’m still outside and to say it was a bit cold this morning is an understatement.
I was finally able to get everything cleaned up and myself dried off. But now I had no Coke Zero and no time to run back to Sonic. 😟
I tried to regather myself and with a an encouraging message from my husband (after texting him the highlights of the saga), I moved on with my day.
About a half hour before lunch, one of the PTO moms came in my room and asked if I’d like an Iced Coffee (just FYI, our PTO rocks!). I thanked her for her offer, explained that I don’t drink coffee, and made a silly little comment about spilling my caffeine of choice this morning.
Just FYI, our PTO rocks!
I went on about my day. About an hour or so later the same PTO mom walked in holding a cup of ice and a Coke Zero.
She will never know how that act of kindness and love blessed me. She didn’t have to take the time to bring that drink but she choose to make a little difference in my life that really made a big impact.
What little difference can you make today?
From a FaceBook post dated February 7, 2019
One of the tell tale signs/symptoms of lupus is a facial rash. Many refer to it as a butterfly 🦋 rash because it fans out and over both cheeks, bridging the nose (the medical name for it is a malar rash). Interesting Fact: this is why the butterfly is used to represent lupus.
When I first began having symptoms, prior to diagnosis, it was one of the first things my mom noticed. The rash comes and goes. However, its appearance has always been a signal for me that my lupus was/is in an active stage. To most, when I’m sporting the rash, my cheeks just look extra rosy. Some think I’m just becoming flush from over exerting myself. When the rash is at its worse, not only are my cheeks extremely flush, but they also get super hot—sometimes causing me to break out in a sweat. Although uncomfortable, these extreme instances of my rash usually only last a couple of hours at most.
If you read my post last week about my doctor’s appointment, I mentioned one of the first indicators that this most recent flare was coming on was that my cheeks got extremely hot. I’ve been surprised as I walk through this current flare because my butterfly rash hasn’t abated like I’m used to it doing. Even as I write this (a week into this most recent flare) my cheeks are burning up. They have felt this way so long that my skin has started to sting (almost like a sunburn). It’s definitely not the worst thing I could be dealing with, but it most assuredly gets old.
So you might be wondering why I took all the time to explain this. I’ve come to realize that many people don’t know a lot about lupus, other than it’s name and that people with the disease generally don’t feel well. I’ve also come to realize the only way to help people learn about this disease is that those of us who live with it every day have to be willing and vulnerable enough to share glimpses of our stories—snippets of what our lives are like living with this day in and day out.
From a FaceBook post dated February 2, 2019
Living with Lupus is not my most favorite thing in the world. It’s exhausting, it’s unpredictable, and, oh yeah, it’s painful. But I’m not unique. Many people deal with chronic conditions day in and day out. How can you help me or another friend with a chronic illness? Here’s five thoughts.
Don't make assumptions...
I know there are other things that could be added to the list. But these were just some quick thoughts I had this morning while I’m laying in bed battling with my Lupus. Btw, it’s a battle I’m determined to win.
From a Facebook post dated January 24, 2019
It’s hard to try again when you didn’t succeed the first time. Something I was well aware of as I started Weight Watchers last May for the FOURTH time. And I was even more afraid of failing when I hit the 70 pound mark.
You may ask “Why on earth would you be afraid of failing when you’ve just lost 70 pounds?” The answer is: That is right about the place where I’d lose focus and quit every other time I’ve attempted to lose weight using Weight Watchers.
...this time, it would be different.
I have been determined though, that this time, it would be different. That no matter what, I won’t give up and I won’t stop until I get where I’m supposed to be. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard. The last 3 or 4 weeks have been brutal. I’ve struggled to stay on track and not lose sight of why I’m working so hard to lose weight.
I have been so happy with the results I’m seeing in the mirror and I just plain feel better. I’ve been repeatedly telling myself that the hard work is worth it.
Well, today I hit a personal milestone. As of this week I have lost 82 pounds since May (I lost 5 pounds in the past week 😆). Again you might be wondering why the random number of 82 is a milestone. It’s because I have now lost more weight than I have in any other previous weight loss attempts. I’m also now only 18 pounds from reaching that huge milestone of 100 pounds down (ignore the squealing you hear in the background).
I’m more convinced now than ever before that I’m going to finish this race and make it to my goal. Whatever project you’re working on...whatever goal you’re working towards. Don’t give up. Believe in yourself! If I can do this, you can do what you’ve set out to accomplish too. 💕
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””
From a Facebook post dated January 1, 2019
I want to take a moment to share something very private. Something I really haven’t talked about except to few close friends and family members.
I saw these words as I was scrolling through Facebook:
Dear Infertile Teacher.
I couldn’t scroll by. I had to read it. And although the words were written by another teacher, much of what she was reciting was my story. At the end of the post she says, “...maybe 2019 is about telling the truth.”
The truth is I didn’t find the love of my life until I was in my 40s. We both had our hearts set on having a baby. We went to work toward making that happen as soon as we were married. 😉 I love my two grown daughters more than life itself. If you know our story, you know I adopted them when they were 8 and 11. I’ve never had the experience of being pregnant. It is something I desperately want to experience and I know Robert will be the world’s best Daddy.
But life doesn’t always work out the way you dream it will.
But life doesn’t always work out the way you dream it will. After almost a year and a half of trying to get pregnant, Robert and I were told we were infertile. That word has the power to break hearts and it has broken mine.
That is not how the story is supposed to unfold. I may be in my 40s, but women in their 40s have babies everyday—why not me? I have to say I have the most wonderful husband. He has held me, loved me, and encouraged me through many tear filled nights. But the yearning for a baby doesn’t magically go away just because a doctor has told you it’s not possible though conventional means.
The author of this post and her raw honesty resonated with me. We have been told our only hope of having a baby is through embryo donation. Anyone who has dealt with infertility, knows that insurance doesn’t cover fertility treatment, and what we’re talking about comes with a large price tag. Something far out of the reach of a family living on a teacher’s salary. This reality just furthers my grief.
I know God in his infinite wisdom has a plan for us, but it doesn’t make this reality hurt less.
I know God in his infinite wisdom has a plan for us, but it doesn’t make this reality hurt less. I realize as I write these words, we’re not the only couple walking through this as evidenced by the blog post that stopped me cold. However, I also realize with my own reticence to talk about it, it is a topic we don’t always openly discuss.
For those walking this same road. You are not alone. I’d be happy to talk with you, hug you, and walk beside you as you walk this road.
I've often thought of myself as a warrior. I've had many times in my life where I've had to dig down deep and face an obstacle head on. But as much as I like Wonder Woman, she is just a character in a comic book or on the big screen. There is however someone who has been my source of strength my entire life. Someone who has given me the strength to put on my armor and battle another day when I knew I didn't begin to have the energy. My source of strength is solely found in Christ. From early in my childhood I have learned that I can conquer any battle with His help.
Before I proceed any further with this blog I want to make it clear to everyone where I find my source of strength and hope. I've experienced much in my 43 years of life. Some of those experiences and stories I hope to share here. But you need to know I couldn't have made it to today, being here in this place writing these words, without Jesus Christ being my sustainer.
A bit of housekeeping....I have created a Facebook Page as a companion to this blog. If you follow my Facebook Page, you will get notices on Facebook when I update my blog. You can click on the Like button on this page or you can go to www.facebook.com/sharonrickskeil and like the page.
Also, the next several posts to my blog will be posts I've copied from Facebook. I got my feet wet with blogging by writing several long posts on Facebook. I'm going to repost them here so everything is one place.
Have a blessed day!
I have always enjoyed writing, but I haven't always made it a priority. I think words have power. The power to lift up, or tear down. The power to inspire, to encourage, or to make you think deeply.
There is something satisfying about seeing my thoughts written down in black and white. I like having a record of the things I'm thinking about and learning about so that I can reflect, learn, and grow from them.
I've played with the thought of having a blog off and on over the years. I've even attempted to start one a time or two. Recently the thought of having a place to order and share my thoughts has pressed heavily on my heart. I decided I want to have a place where I can share those thoughts and glimpses into my life.
You have to start somewhere, and I'm stepping out and starting right here, right now by establishing this blog.
As I contemplated the creation of this blog, I began to think about what I would call it. I wanted something that reflected who I am and the things I love. It didn't take long before my brainstorming lead me to one of my favorite things--Wonder Woman. It doesn't take much time being around me before you realize I LOVE anything related to Wonder Woman. People know she's my favorite super hero, but not many people ask me why she's my favorite. I'm drawn to Wonder Woman because I think she's a good role model for young girls. I like that she believes in truth and honesty. I love that she bravely fights for those who don't have the power to fight for themselves. She is a fierce, brave warrior who doesn't give up even when things seem impossible.
As I thought about all of this, I knew I would want my blog to have some allusion to Wonder Woman. I also knew that I want people to know that although I can be tough when needed, I'm also fun and silly and a big kid at heart. I couldn't think of a better word to incapsulate those ideas than "whimsical." So that is how I landed on the name Whimsical Warrior.
I invite you to come along with me as I chronicle my ideas, my inspirations, and my wonderings.