For all these things

As you may know, I’ve been struggling lately, mental and physical health-wise. But I’m here, and I made it to church this morning, which is its own tiny miracle. And the Gospel reading today was about Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. So due to the nature of my migraine I bounced in and out of the service a little, but I was there enough to be encouraged and challenged.

I know I can write a lot about bad or broken things, but I’m not going to do that now. Especially since everything the Spirit is placing on my heart today is gratitude.

I’m so grateful for the community of believers who lead me closer to the Lord, and particularly for my roommate who has been the hands of Christ to me (as long as I’ve known her but especially this weekend).

I’m so grateful for all the people who are praying for me, and for the encouragement those prayers have been to me.

I’m grateful that my disease is not contagious and doesn’t regularly prevent me from attending church.

I’m grateful that the mystery and the blessing of the Eucharist is triumphant over my body’s inability to keep down food.

I’m grateful for our God who invites us ever deeper into relationship with Him, way beyond any ability of our own to reciprocate or earn His love.

Whenever I hear the story about the Samaritan woman, I always think of Madeleine L’Engle’s poem, “The Samaritan Woman at the Well.” I know, I know, I’m so good at making obscure literary connections!

The waters are wild, are wild.
Billows batter with unchannelled might.
A turmoil of waves foams on the ocean’s face
wind-whipped the waters hurl

the rivers rush

fountains burst from the rocks
the rapids break huge boulders into dust
the skies split with torrential rains

waters meet waters

the wind and waves are too tumultuous
no one can meet them and survive

In this wilderness of water
we shall all be drowned
the ocean cannot be compassed

I weep, I die
Put my tears in your bottle

drowning

I thirst

Look!

the water is in a cup

(O Lord open thou our lips)


I thirst


Is it any less water

because you have contained it for us
in a vessel we can touch?

I’ve been wondering a lot lately what it means to have joy in your life when everything feels empty and hopeless. So I’ve been praying that the Holy Spirit would show me and make joy grow in my heart because it is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Also, the joy of the Lord is our strength, and I need all the strength. Just, all of it.

And I know I’m still wondering and praying a lot, and if you asked me to define the joy of the Lord I don’t know if I could do it right now. But I think that in my heart the seeds of joy might be gratitude. And even if it is the most Sunday-Schooly of all places to start, I’m so grateful for Jesus. For the Word became flesh, the Living Water that means we will never thirst again.

Thanks be to God.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” -Colossians 1:15-23

My daith piercings and some other things

Hello again. I’m going to get to the real post in a minute, but someone (who wished to remain anonymous and who also doesn’t even read my blog) asked me to write a quick update about my piercings, so I’m going to do that first.

I don’t think I actually wrote about it on here, but in the past few months I’ve had both of my daiths pierced because there is some anecdotal evidence linking the daith piercing to migraine relief. “Wow, Kelley, that’s a big leap to take on anecdotal evidence,” you say? Well, I’ve had six medical professionals tell me that there is absolutely nothing that can be done for my headaches, and I’m not about that whole Botox life, mainly because I don’t want to pay lots of money for someone to poke needles into my face. So I paid someone a moderate amount of money to poke needles into my ears. Plus I think the piercings look super cool. Sixth grade Kelley would totally be in awe of me now.

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This is my left daith piercing. Totally different than a rook piercing.

I did do quite a bit of research before getting the piercings, because I had the standard earlobe piercings done when I was 13 and they got really badly infected and it was horrifying and I will never be able to wear my manatee earrings ever again. Weep with me. So in my research I found that people mainly think one of three things about the daith piercing in regards to migraines:

  1. It totally works! Do it! Do it now!
  2. It hasn’t worked but I’m happy with it anyway!
  3. IT DOESN’T WORK. YOU’RE STUPID FOR THINKING IT WOULD. AND IF IT DOES IT’S JUST A PLACEBO.

Seriously, the negative people were VERY negative. But to them I would say…just a placebo? I mean, I don’t know how much pain those people are in. Personally, I am frequently in pain to the point of welcoming any kind of relief, even if it’s just by tricking my brain with fancy new jewelry.

Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I am not a doctor, nor am I making a widespread recommendation for the daith piercing as a migraine treatment.  I’m just reporting how it’s worked out for me.

Which is…pretty well, actually. I’m still having migraines pretty frequently. I didn’t expect the piercings would cure the migraines because I have a lot of triggers that are just kind of unavoidable. But I have noticed, after the first few weeks of the piercing healing, that I’m taking medication a lot less than I used to, which is always a plus for my liver. So the headaches are still there, but often less intense. And it might be a placebo and it might fade over time. I don’t really know, but it seems to be helping right now, and every little bit helps.

That actually ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be, but I’m going to keep going.

So you may or may not know that I was laid off from my job a week and a half ago. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, A. Thank you! and B. You know that I am no stranger to unemployment. Also that I don’t handle it very well.

Even though I was expecting it, due to my employer doing not so great fiscally and other important grown-up adjectives, I have been struggling mightily in the aftermath of the laying off. The first reason is because it was handled really poorly, like early episodes of The Office poorly. So there’s been a lot of anger, which I don’t tend to process well. The second reason is probably more normal: I’m really scared. In three weeks I won’t have healthcare. In three weeks I won’t have steady, full-time paychecks. It took me three years to find this job, and I’m afraid it will take three more years to find another one. In a couple of months my lease is up, and I won’t be able to get another place to live if I don’t have a job. I’m wondering how I’m going to continue paying the rent at my current lease. And obviously I have a wonderful family who have already offered a hundred ways to help me, but my brain is messed up by depression and even though I was laid off and it had nothing to do with me it all still feels like moving backwards and failing at life.

And once the fears get going they just sort of multiply until I, not the most courageous hobbit in the Shire at the best of times, am sort of paralyzed by anxiety. Because it’s true that I fail a lot. I’m not very good at accomplishing basic life things. And sometimes, particularly in the wake of a large failure such as losing a job (and all the little failures that go along with that), I start to question what I’m even doing in the Kingdom of God. Why on earth does He want me? What good is my poor attempt at faithfulness when I keep failing at everything?

And I have to say that I don’t really get it. I think it’s probably my really human understanding that says, “God, wouldn’t it be more useful for all of your people to be qualified and successful and competent and not constantly going to pieces?”

So I suppose losing my job has been the catalyst for me once again comprehending what God is saying to me. Which is, obviously, that the Kingdom of God is not about that. And I feel like this is a lesson I keep hearing and taking to heart and forgetting and hearing and taking to heart and forgetting. And that feels like failure, too.

But I think the grace part, the part that’s really hard for me to deal with and wrap my head around, is the part where it doesn’t matter. Yep, I keep failing. Yep, things happen in my life that aren’t failing but feel like failing because I have depression and I still have to process those feelings and thoughts. But even if I never failed from this moment onward, if I were able to succeed at everything I set out to do, I still could never earn the blood of Jesus.

And it’s so hard for me to remember, because I don’t want to be any trouble and I want to earn my keep and I want to make good somehow on the investment God has made in my heart. And I keep talking over Him, telling Him to wait and see, I can totally get it right this time! I can get the job and pay the bills and do all the charitable things that He has placed on my heart and then I’ll somehow be worth it, even a little tiny bit.  Again, this is a really human attitude I’m working with here. Because that’s never been what God called us to do.

He’s called me to be like Jesus. He’s called me to be obedient to the will of the Father. All of this earthly stuff that clutters up my heart is nothing compared to Him.

And I do believe that with all of my heart. I am certain of it beyond a shadow of a doubt, even when I don’t feel it, which is a blessing, because right now I mostly just feel tired and empty. But Jesus is faithful and gentle and patient, way beyond anything that I can express. And I hope and pray that I’ve got it for sure this time, but even if I don’t He’ll tell me again, that the Kingdom of God is the mustard tree with birds in its branches, the yeast worked all through the dough.

Great is His faithfulness.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  –Hebrews 4:14-16

A Small Thing

Terrible days happen sometimes. I had one today. Lots of chaos and upheaval and loud voices and change, none of which I’m super good at handling. I had a couple mini panic attacks, which are basically like full-fledged panic attacks but without the chest pain and the hyperventilating. There’s just a lot going on right now that does not contribute to healthy peace of mind.

And work is crazy and it’s tax season and I’ve been really sick and I’m elbow deep in an especially difficult season of depression and and and and and and.

So I am very, very grateful–at this time when all I can pray is Come, Lord Jesus!–for the blessing of His hands and feet. Because I came home from work angry and exhausted and empty and sick, and I all I wanted to do was go to bed. But the Holy Spirit said, no, stick it out.

And my small group came over and we ate together and prayed together and loved each other. The Body of Christ is a beautiful thing. The encouragement of His love and His presence where two or more are gathered in His name is a beautiful thing.

So here at the end of my terrible day, I can’t stop thanking God for my small group, for my church, for the community of believers that uplifts me and challenges me, for my brothers and sisters in Christ who I don’t know yet, for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us, and most of all for His Son. I’m humbled and encouraged and able to run another day.

Great is His faithfulness.

Another day, another blog post

Hello there.

I haven’t written in a while because of this problem that I have where I feel terrible and really depressed and I think that I’ll just wait it out and write when I feel better. And then there comes a point when I remember that I never really feel better, and the Holy Spirit nudges me in the ribs and tells me to write anyway. Ironically that seems to happen often on bad days, such as today. So here we are.

The old double whammy of anxiety and depression continues to make life difficult in cancertown. See, it’s really hard for me to deal with the fact that I’m failing at the things I need to do. Like paying off debt and saving money and building a grown-up career and being a compliant patient and la di da.

And I’m not doing any of those things. No matter how much I try it still seems like I’m juggling five hundred limes and I only have one hand and the limes are on fire. I’m always living crisis to crisis. One weekend I try to get work done on my car and the next weekend I try to deal with health stuff and I think next weekend will be different and I can breathe, but it never is.

 

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Everything in me has been feeling so weird and empty and dead. I literally bought this little rose because I saw it in the store and I was moved by how alive it is in the middle of winter.

So I’m really tired. I’m exhausted.

I keep telling myself that it’s going to get better, but I think that’s a lie. It’s probably always going to be hard and exhausting. There’s always going to be crises and debt and panic attacks and cancer.

But that’s a lie, too. One day there won’t be any of those things. There will just be us and Jesus. And even now, before and after and all throughout the crises and debt and panic attacks and cancer, Jesus is here. It’s hard to explain the difference that makes, because I’m still depressed and I’m still in pain and I’m still just a wreck 99.9% of the time.

I know I keep saying this, but Jesus is literally the only reason I can get out of bed in the morning (or sometimes afternoon, because some days are worse than others). Even though I’m a mess, He still loves me. Extravagantly and abundantly and faithfully. Let’s be real, His love is the only reason I have even a glimmer of what those words mean.

Anne Steele knows what’s up:

Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust,
And still my soul would cleave to Thee
Though prostrate in the dust.

“Prostrate in the dust” is a good description of how I feel a fair amount of the time. But God is faithful. And I don’t deserve it and I don’t understand, but I pray that His strength would continue to enable me to arise each day and cleave for all I am worth.

He is my only trust.

 

Advent

I’m experiencing a season of weariness and heaviness. Things have been really hard. I know that is hardly news. I’m always hoping that things will get easier and simpler – or that I’ll be stronger, more capable. And it never does. I never do.

So my heart is heavy. I’m tired of being in pain and being this person who can’t handle life. it’s hard to remember that it won’t be this way forever. That joy will come in the morning.

But it’s Advent once again. And it’s been encouraging that the only prayer I have the strength to pray right now is so in keeping with the season.

Come, Lord Jesus.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”  -Isaiah 9:2-7

 

Babies and Stuff

If you know me, you know that I love babies. But you also probably know that I’ve wanted babies of my own since I was five years old. Before you suggest “Adopt as a single mom!”, please note the three following things: 1. Adoption and parenting in general require that I be financially stable, which will quite possibly never happen, due to my having made the idiotic decision to attend college with no plans beyond graduation; 2. Your health impacts your ability to adopt. You can be rejected as a single adoptive parent if you have serious, ongoing medical issues, for valid and obvious reasons; and 3. I just had a two day episode where I literally couldn’t get out of bed because I was in such debilitating pain, which pretty obviously makes single parenting of an infant not really feasible.

I think that personally this is one of the hardest things about being single: no matter how many good friends you have, no matter how many loving family members, when it comes down to it, you have no back-up. You’re no one’s priority. And I’m not trying to insinuate that the people in my life are letting me down here. Outside of marriage, there really isn’t a relationship where you have that kind of mutual investment and support, where your lives are built together and you’re putting each other first, where you’ve made vows before God to stay committed to each other. Obviously I don’t think my married friends and family should prioritize me over their spouses, or that my single friends should prioritize me before taking care of their own life stuff. It just is what it is.

But so it’s really hard. Because I get blinding migraines and there’s no one I can call to pick me up from work (Although my roommate did point out to me that I could have called my church’s office, which I only thought of when I was halfway home after my vision returned. I blame that on migraine brain, which is a totally legit thing where you’re in so much pain that you actually have to use large amounts of your brain power to breathe in and out and therefore you can’t think of basic solutions to problems). Because I have to drive myself to the ER. Because when I have to make decisions about the future it’s just me. Because when I’m falling apart there’s no one to lean on.

So yeah, I get it what Paul is saying about staying single. As it is I talk to Jesus a lot, and it’s a massive blessing, both in the moments themselves and in the long term growth of my relationship with Him. Like Friday: I laid in the back seat of my car and cried out to the Lord because this is my life and I’m living it alone. I have this tendency to be more invested in my relationships than the other party. But that will never be true with Jesus. He gave his life so that I could be at His wedding feast, which, talk about investment. So there’s this massive well of comfort and support that I know I probably wouldn’t turn to as readily if I had someone physically present to comfort me. But I don’t, and so I do. And His love never fails.

When I’m trying to pick a health insurance plan, I know that the Holy Spirit will guide me. When I’m lying in the back of my car in quite literally blinding pain, I know that Jesus is there with me. When I’m falling apart, I’m still certain that He’s not disappointed or caught off guard. I know that He loves me.

But it’s still hard to come to terms with the idea that I might never have a baby. And if people want to shout “girl power!” at me and guilt me for “needing a man,” they had better have raised several babies alone in the midst of at least two severe chronic health problems, or I will probably smack them upside the head.

The other day someone called to surprise me with the news that she’s pregnant. I tried my best to be happy for her, but I could tell that she was disappointed by my reaction. As the body of Christ, we’re called to rejoice with those who rejoice. But we’re also called to weep with those who weep, and I don’t think those are mutually exclusive. And sometimes you have to be prepared to meet in the middle.

Yes, I am happy that she’s having a baby, but also I’m reminded that I am not having a baby and I probably will not be having a baby. And I’ve prayed and sought the Holy Spirit on this one, and it’s not envy. I don’t want the babies that my friends are having. I don’t think I should be having babies instead of them. It’s just honest grief, because that’s a hole that I don’t see being filled in this lifetime.

So I would just ask that if you want me to be able to rejoice with you without having to weep with me, please don’t surprise me with your engagements and your pregnancies. Write me a letter or text me or let me find out from someone else. Because I really need a moment to gather up that grief and lay it back down at the feet of Jesus where it belongs. And if you surprise me I won’t have that moment, and you’ll have to watch me do it.
I’m so broken, friends. I wish that my first impulse was joy for the people I care about. I really do. I pray that one day it will be. But right now it’s not. So please continue to have patience with me. And thank you for letting me hold your babies, even if I cry a little bit. Because I really love those babies.

I believe in the faithfulness of our God. I believe that all of this will be redeemed someday, all this cancer and sorrow and loneliness. And I know more and more every day that Jesus is sufficient to meet all of my needs, even when it takes me a little while to call on Him. His steadfast love is the source of my constant wonder. And He has blessed me far beyond my deserving. Great is His faithfulness.

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me,
I will call on Him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, He saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
-Psalm 116:1-9

A Small and Passing Thing

I’ve had a really difficult week. Between packing for a move and working 9 consecutive days for new student orientation events and dealing with the usual uncertainty and general painfulness of cancer, I’ve been trying to keep my head above water.

I haven’t handled this week’s nonsense with particular grace. I’ve been really angry about some deeply negative interactions I’ve had with customers and coworkers. I’ve been frustrated with the limitations of my health. It’s been a constant struggle to find the balance that I need to survive.

But I’ve also been so aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my soul this week. The conviction and the comfort have been so swift and so clear, and I can only thank God.

Because He knows exactly what I need, even when I’m bound in pain and anger and exhaustion. And today He gave me a Psalm 23-style overflowing cup of His love and provision. He gave me this song–by Andrew Peterson, who can write songs like none other–and it was life to me.

 

The Holy Spirit got me out of bed this morning, and church was a feast of good things. It was one of those days when you start to get a bit paranoid wondering if the readings and proclamation are directed right at you, until you remember that the lectionary was set a long time ago and God’s just incredible like that.

He showers me with undeserved grace and love. He gives me rest and comfort in the community of believers, even though I continue to do the things I ought not to do and do not do the things I ought to do. He has promised the hope of eternity, and the redemption of all this brokenness.

The best is yet to come.

 

I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn,
And all that rain had washed me clean.
All the sorrow was gone.

I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn,
And I could finally believe
The king had loved me all along.

I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn.
I saw the sower in the silver mist
And He was calling me home.

-Andrew Peterson