There’s Something About November 12…

Two years ago today I had arthroscopic surgery on my right hip. I posted on Facebook after the surgery and said that I was looking forward to starting the journey toward being pain free. Two years, another hip surgery, weeks on crutches and even more weeks of physical therapy (and not mention a few thousand dollars) later, and it seems that I’m still on that journey toward being pain free.

FullSizeRender

Sometimes I have questioned whether surgery was the right thing, but I know it’s foolish to question decisions I’ve already made, for I can’t change the past. And if I had to do it all over again, I probably still would have the surgeries because if I didn’t, I would always wonder if I did everything I could to find and treat the source of my pain. Even though my surgeries didn’t have the complete outcome I hoped they would, they did show me how blessed I am to have a strong support system. My husband was invaluable to me in the days and weeks after my surgery, helping me get out of bed and to the bathroom and in the shower and around the house and on and on and on. My parents helped care for Charlotte and also for me. My church family made sure we had meals to help us in the early weeks, and I don’t even know how many prayers were prayed for me. There is nothing like suffering to show you who your friends are.

Five years ago today, I came home from another visit to a hospital, this time after spending a week there and finding out I have ulcerative colitis. I remember feeling so incredibly grateful to be at home and being overwhelmed with the kindness of the Lord. I had a chronic illness but also a heightened sense of God’s love for me.

Image-1
I don’t have any desire to spend more time in a hospital, but I’m thankful for the way that the Lord has watched over me there and everywhere. I’m thankful for the way this day reminds me that the Lord’s mercies are new every day.

Giving Thanks for Chronic Illness

Five years ago today, I woke up from a drug-induced nap to see my parents as they sat by my hospital bed, ready to give me the news that would change my life. I had just had a colonoscopy, one test in a string of different tests that doctors did to figure out why I had been so sick for weeks. But with this test, I finally had an answer: ulcerative colitis, a condition I would become well-acquainted with over the weeks and years to follow.

Today I looked at pictures taken around that time and remembered anew how sick I felt. I had lost weight and was incredibly fatigued and soul-weary and beyond tired of visiting the bathroom. But in the midst of my confusion and sadness, the Lord met me with His peace. I felt Him with me and knew that because of Him, I would be fine, more than fine even. I had spent that year reading through the Bible, and that foundation of truth upheld me when I needed it most. The Lord prepared me for that season of sickness by grounding me in His Word, and so even though I didn’t know what the future held, I knew I could trust Him with it.

IMG_0510

Smiling after my first shower without being attached to an IV pole.

The years since my diagnosis have been equal parts difficult and beautiful. At one point I was taking 16 pills a day. I dealt with a variety of side effects from medications and the disease itself. I have spent many hours in doctors’ offices and given up dozens of vials of blood. I didn’t achieve remission until 3 years after being diagnosed. Even though my disease has been inactive for 2 years, I still wake up each day not knowing if I will find myself in a flare.

IMG_00175

At one point I was taking 9-12 of these pills a day. Now I’m down to 4 a day.

But I do not dwell on the uncertainty of my disease; I dwell instead on the certainty of the Lord’s kindness. He was faithful to me in that hospital room, He is faithful to me now, and He will be faithful to me always, for He must be true to His character. I may not be able to control or fully trust my body, but I wholeheartedly trust the God who made it. He knows me inside and out, and in His Son, I have all that I need. Ulcerative colitis taught me to let go of control and embrace God’s sovereignty in a way I hadn’t before, and that is a gift so valuable that I am able to give thanks to God for my chronic illness. Chronic illness has taught me not to depend solely on medicine or doctors but on the Lord, for He holds my past, present, and future in His hands.

I give thanks that in regards to my disease, I feel better now than I have in a long time. Back in May, I stopped taking Humira, a drug that I self-injected every 2 weeks for 4 1/2 years, to prepare for Ava’s arrival. I have yet to take it again, almost 6 full months later. I am on less medication than I have been since I was diagnosed. Of course, all of that could change tomorrow because autoimmune diseases are largely unpredictable. I’m not foolish enough to think I will enjoy this level of health forever, but I give thanks while it lasts and will give thanks when the next flare comes because I know the Lord will meet me there. I may not be cured in this lifetime, but I know that one day I will stand before Jesus healed and holy. Glory to God.

When a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Feelings

On Tuesday night I received the link to the family pictures we had taken a couple of weeks ago. These were our first professional pictures since we became a family of four, and I couldn’t wait to see them. I scrolled through sweet pictures of my two girls, but then I got to pictures with all four of us, and my heart dropped. I could not believe how HUGE I looked in the pictures. It’s ridiculous that I was blindsided by this because I own a scale and have been on it recently, so it’s not as though I was unaware of how much I weigh or what size clothing I currently wear. I think in my mind I was still picturing myself at a lower weight, but pictures don’t lie. Seeing these pictures woke me up to the fact that I have allowed myself to reach a weight I never thought I would see again. I’m currently the heaviest I’ve been in nine years, and that is a tough truth to acknowledge. I love the pictures of my sweet family, but I can’t help but wish that I looked a lot thinner.

Mount 7 (Sans Tissue)

I know I had a baby two months ago, but even before I got pregnant I was heavier than I wanted to be and yet doing little about it. I used the pain in my hips and the depression that accompanied that pain as an excuse to eat poorly and not exercise. Instead, I fed my sadness and hopelessness with food. I knew what I was doing, I saw the number on the scale gradually go up, and yet it was hard to stop. After I got pregnant with Ava, I let pregnancy be my excuse for eating sweets more often and generally being a lazy bum. I told myself that after I had Ava I would get serious about losing weight. If I lost the weight before, there is no reason I can’t lose it again, and yet I look at pictures of me when I was at my lowest weight and feel like I don’t even know who that person is anymore.

So here I find myself, completely overwhelmed by how much weight I have to lose and disgusted with how I look, but have I done anything about it? Not yet. I keep telling myself that something has to change, and then I keep on doing the same things that got me where I am today and then feel sad that I’m this fat.

However, moping about my weight isn’t going to make me thinner. Moping about my weight isn’t going to make my clothes fit better. Moping about my weight isn’t going to make me pick healthier foods. Moping isn’t going to change anything, except maybe to make me feel even worse about myself. Dwelling on the past has rarely served me well. Instead, I want to dwell on this fact: God doesn’t want me to be skinny as much as He wants me to be holy. I have to stop being so self-absorbed and remember the truth of the gospel: I am approved before God because of the work of Jesus on my behalf. How I look has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love and acceptance of me. When I remember who I am in Christ, I can let go of the feelings of despair and hopelessness. When I remember who I am in Christ, I can fight the temptation to eat to excess. When I remember who I am in Christ, I can have confidence not in myself, but in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me. Food does not love me back. Food will not satisfy the deepest longings of my heart, but God will.

The battle I am fighting is a spiritual battle as well as a physical one, and it’s time I put on my armor.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

“With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
    with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
    and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
    but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:25-30

Obsessed

As my husband was going to bed and I was playing the Hamilton soundtrack for the hundredth time in the past week, he said, “You have an obsessive personality, don’t you?” I immediately said, “Yes, of course.” It’s absolutely true; I find something I like, and I latch onto it. It’s why I have watched Gilmore Girls through at least ten times. It’s why I can’t stop playing Candy Crush on my phone even though I know it’s a complete waste of time (and man, I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction out of beating a “hard” level). It’s why I will play an album over and over for weeks on end when I first fall in love with it. It’s why I have to stay up late to finish a good book (and it’s why the few times I got in trouble in school were because I was reading a book when I should have been doing schoolwork). It’s why I will sometimes play events over and over in my head if they were especially good or especially horrible (If the experience was a good one I don’t want to let it go. If it was a bad one, I try to figure out what I could have done or said differently to change the outcome).

My obsessive nature is also more than likely part of the reason why I have such a messed up relationship with food. If I get the idea of a certain food/meal into my head, I have a hard time letting go of it until I eat it. And then I eat it like it’s the last time I’ll ever eat again, eating more than I need or even want. The end result of this is not satisfaction, however; I rarely end up being glad that I indulged in my desire for that cake or cookie or pasta dish. Instead, I end up feeling remorseful that I didn’t exercise better self-control. It’s not that I think eating a cookie is sinful in and of itself. But I know that for me, far too often, I don’t just eat one cookie. Eating the cookie becomes less about enjoying it and more about trying to fill some need that I often can’t even identify or adequately express in words.

What’s a girl with an obsessive personality to do? I could just shrug it off and say it’s just how I am and not think anything else about it. After all, I don’t think it’s crazy to listen to the same CD dozens of times or watch the same TV series over and over. But it may not always be the best, or most productive choice, and sometimes obsession only leads to sin. Is obsession a healthy or helpful thing? Ultimately, no. What I’m missing is balance. I need to figure out how to appreciate and enjoy food (and other things) without letting it control me. I need to figure out how to replace my bad habits with good ones.

These days I feel like I have more problems than solutions, but I am grateful for the awareness and am praying that God will grant me wisdom. And I have a feeling that if I used even half the time I spend thinking about food to read and memorize Scripture, I’d be in a much better place. I guess I better get to it…

Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”