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I Am Chronic Pain

In the world of illness and diagnoses, we often hear the encouraging statements, "You are not your diagnosis" or "Your illness does not define you." These are helpful and well-meaning comments with a measure of truth to them.

There was a point that I said these things and felt good about the many things that I do in spite of my chronic pain. I mean, I travel to Asia every 6 months and survive an emotionally taxing and physically exhausting trip. I crank out those blog posts after long days in the orphanage so that everyone back home can follow along. My illness does not define me!

I get up every day. Fight the early morning pain; get the children off to school; then I sit down and edit photos, write blog posts, and post about children needing homes. I answer emails and send messages to potential families. I am not my diagnosis!

God sometimes takes his children on long, hard journeys. Somewhere in the past 4 plus years of constant pain, he started gently speaking to my heart. "Maybe I have chosen to have illness and pain as a defining part of who you are... Maybe you will someday see yourself as I see you and will see that I have chosen you to define grace through pain..." And I knew he was asking me to embrace the pain, to live with it well instead of living well in spite of it.

It has taken me a long time. But I am chronic pain. The fact of it determines my every move. Every activity is weighed against the toll it takes on my body, from my meager energy stores. I don't live my life in spite of it. I live the life I live because of it. I pray so much going throughout my day that Eliana began saying God's name as an expression because when I stand up or move I often say, "Oh God, give me strength" under my breath.

My family doesn't love me in spite of my illness. They love me through it, along side it, maybe even because of it. It certainly means I have more time to just be with them with nothing else going.

Embracing it opens me to accepting it. Do not get me wrong. If something comes along that would cure me or make my daily life easier I would sign up tomorrow and thank God from the bottom of my heart. And I do take strong pain medicines to help me cope with the pain. But for now, I accept it as part of the plan for me.

Chronic pain is part of me, embracing that is hard, but freeing. Learning to live with it graciously and well? Now that is an ongoing effort. I don't know what the future holds, but right now I believe that God is asking me to be the definition of grace through pain. All I want is to do so faithfully.

Over the last few years there are things that have become much clearer to me. Somehow my body is always pushed. I am always needing to push myself to do anything. This has forced me to take a good hard look at my life. What is really worth pushing myself for? There are a lot of things that make that list. There are also a lot of "obligations" that do not make that list. When an opportunity arises if my response to it is not an absolutely yes! then it is a firm no. I wish I had lived more of my life this way.

There is nothing like the emotional trauma of having a life-changing invisible illness to make a person look beyond what meets the eye in situations that come up. If you are hurting in any way, emotionally, physically, spiritually, anything I am so happy to be there for you. Any time. Any where. And I have most likely dealt with any loneliness or dark thoughts that you have faced. Chronic illness can send the mind to dark places. Thankfully God is a God of light even on the darkest days. I am learning this slowly, but I am willing to delve into the darkness with anyone.

But pettiness and drama? Count me out. My mind is too taken up with the difficulty of dealing with life to tolerate gossip or conflict over things that do not concern me. I am out of the loop. I live out of the loop. I need to stay there for my own wellbeing.

If God is asking you to do something hard, you can trust him. He has a purpose. Embrace it. Live well with it. And if you need someone who understands please reach out. Find me on Facebook or email me at erinmrtn@yahoo.com. Don't even hesitate.

Hi. My name is Erin and I suffer with chronic pain. 

Sick-o Sidekick

My little sidekick is sick. She woke up crying on Saturday night and is still not completely better. She has had fevers off and on and a runny nose. But for the most part she doesn't feel terrible.

So we have been hanging out together. She is the last one of our children who still feels better when she is held and cuddled. I know from experience how precious it is and how quickly that changes, so I have been holding her all I can.

I remember the days of sick babies, when it seemed like there was never enough of me to go around. The younger me would never have believed that I now make up reasons to hold my sick 9 year old just a little longer. But I do.

This girl of mine enjoys it just as much as I do. You see, she remembers a time when she didn't have a Mommy to hold her when she was sick. It is as if we both recognize how precious the moments are. Perhaps we are both "wise beyond our years" thanks to the hard things we have experienced. She in the loss she experienced so early in life, I with the loss of health and strength.

It makes sick days holy days of togetherness and healing. There is nothing like rocking and being rocked to solidify relationships and satisfy the deepest needs of the rocked and rocker alike.

I don't want her to be sick. But I'm not quite ready for her to be well yet either. Though I must say, we do pretty well with cuddling even on the not-sick days.

Week At A Glance

Saturday is here with late get up times and pancakes for breakfast, with Freeland working at Chick-Fil-A and Annika at a friend's house, and Eliana and Casper doing chores around the house. This has been a busy week and I am glad to get to Saturday. Keith is working today, which, while not unusual, is the only fly in my ointment today.

I wrote this post on Tuesday morning. I thought the wildness of the day was over at 9 AM. Ha! Ha! Ha! That afternoon I waited for the girls to get home from schools and we left to go to the boys' basketball game. Only I put the wrong school in my GPS. So I drove to a school and there was nothing happening there. Panic ensued. But, other basketball mom to the rescue! I got the correct address and rushed to the correct location. By the time I arrived it was time to leave to get Casper and Annika to Myerstown so that they could go to choir practice with Keith. Casper changed on the way to Myerstown while I got lost in Reading. Only he left his pants at the gym where they had been playing. Fear not! Witmer's to the rescue! He likes his new jeans, so that is a win, right? Eliana and I went to Walmart from there to pick up a prescription and get some food for lunches. She is such a sweetheart and is always so excited to spend time with just the two of us. My heart rate slowly returned to normal as I strolled the store with her.

Wednesday started out great! Casper not only brought me my medicine at 6 AM, he also told me to stay in bed and that he would get the others up when my alarm went off at 6:30. There were easy things for lunches and the house was in decent order when everyone left at 7:25. That afternoon I picked Freeland up from school at 2:30 and went to get his physical then his written test for his driver learning permit. We waited quite a while at the doctor and squeaked into the DOT office 5 minutes before they closed. But we made it and he passed the test. We have a new driver in the house! While teaching a child to drive isn't easy I do love the chauffeur aspect of it.

Cell phone picture is all I have.

Thursday afternoon the girls and I went to the basketball game at school. It was the first time I got to see Casper play on the JV team,  which was super fun! The varsity game was incredibly intense. The score was so close and the BMCS team was playing so hard! They won by 1 point. The other team was ahead less than a minute before the end of the game. I may have been a little hoarse the next morning. I can't imagine why...

Friday the boys did not have basketball practice or a game so they came home on the bus with the girls. It was so nice! They love playing, but it does make them so much busier over basketball season.  I took Casper to get a desperately needed haircut and stopped at these helicopters on the way home to snap a few pictures. I also dropped Annika off at her friend's house where she spent the night. I am planning to pick her up in a few minutes. This is not something she has done much of at all and I have appreciated how her friend's mom has sent me pictures and videos of what the girls are doing. I can't wait to hear all about it from her when I pick her up.

Don't they look like they are having fun? 

And here we are at Saturday. Tomorrow we plan to go to church then go to a family get together with Keith's dad's extended family. Which means I need to get a hot dish and cold dish ready to take.

I am not a lover of busyness. This type of week is not my favorite. In so many ways we have rearranged our lifestyle to keep busyness at bay, but sometimes it can't be helped. Sure, we could decide that basketball makes us too busy, but it is not a long season and it is important to the boys. So I am trying to embrace the busier times in my life too. I always try to balance it with lots of rest and relaxing activities when we are at home, and am normally successful in doing that.