I Go to Seek

I’m addicted to seeking adventure.

Note how I said that. It’s not the adventure itself (though they’re generally pretty legit), but the journey to that adventure that I’m addicted to.

I love to look, plan, search. I’m built for it.

That seems to be a theme among story tellers and world adventurers, from recent phenomenons like John Green to age-old favorites like A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh 😉 ). The idea of planning and working towards an event being greater than the event itself is reflected throughout their art.

 

… and sometimes they literally say it.

I tweeted a while ago that I’ve always been the kind of person who views life like a check list and that I want to complete as much as possible before I die. Though I also mentioned I’ve accepted this about myself (and I have), within this addiction to wanderlust lies a hidden battle for me.

You see, with every setting of the sun, I have less time to scratch out the items on that list. So when things slow down, when change doesn’t happen quickly enough, when the list grows at a rate faster than it can be crossed off.. well I shudder.

The lack of pursuing adventure is, perhaps, the greatest factor that urges me deeper into the dark valley of depression.

Let me pause to say that I’m not trying to be dramatic here. I’m just writing as fast as I can to keep up with whatever is pouring out of my heart in this moment.

Depression.

It’s another topic I don’t mention much for two very frustrating reasons. Reason One: the “just get over it” stigma that everyone associates with it. Reason Two: the “why don’t you just pray that demon away” stigma that Christians associate with it. Yes, some depression is a whimsical call for attention, and some of it is a spiritual attack. BUT. Some of it is unrest, a chemical alteration in your brain’s ability to perceive the world.

And unfortunately, it’s a nasty side effect of life-limiting chronic illnesses like Fibromyalgia.

I don’t take the term “depression” lightly. I was diagnosed by several doctors, so please know that I’m not just calling the ebb and flow of life “depression.” I’m talking about the dark creature that haunts your waking and sleeping hours with whispers of anger, defeat, self-loathing. The heavy, suffocating sadness that sits on your chest and laughs at you while you try, struggle, to breathe. The lying, snaking tongue which convinces you that you don’t know how and aren’t worth trying to learn.

It maliciously wanders into the pathways of my mind on a frequent basis, and it takes special enjoyment in torturing me when life gets too quiet. When change stops coming my way and I’m forced to sit on the same couch, staring out the same windows for days.. weeks.. months.

Thank you, Fibromyalgia.

J-Freaking-K.

After all of my reading, studying and researching, it is with unwavering faith that I can say my favorite quote is “I go to seek a great perhaps.” These words were first spoken on the deathbed of the French monk Francois Rabelais in 1553, and they have since traveled the world and ages in the works of many known and unknown artists. It resonates with us.

I have a poster of this simple phrase-turned-mantra situated above my kitchen sink, surrounded by pictures I’ve taken on some of my journeys. It reminds me that there is always a perhaps. There is always something to seek. There is always a reason for passion.

Or, to paraphrase Jane Austen, there is always the happiness that comes from the expectation of happiness.

All I have to do is plan, then go.

I was sitting at my work desk a couple of weeks back, staring at my too-bright computer screens, reading the flood of requests coming in from coworkers who needed my assistance. The same requests, day in and day out. Paralyzingly dull, mundane tasks.

When did I get stuck in such a rut?

Rise with the sun, go to work, eat dinner, fall asleep before the sun can even set.

Sure, I’ve been battling a nasty, lingering flare up. But is that my only excuse?

And if it is, can I find the will power to overcome it?

Not without plans. Something to reach for. To anticipate. To seek.

So I set aside my work for a short time and started planning. I wanted to cram as much adventure as this weary body could possibly take into my 2017. With each hand scrawled note of places to see, hours to drive, items to pack, the weight of that depression began to lift.

Four trips planned and I’m not through this bout yet, but I’m muddling my way to the other side.

When I wake up in the morning, the sun’s glow slowly filtering into my room, I remind myself of what’s to come before I have the chance to ponder what is. It inspires me, fills my lungs with breath, makes the unbearable in-and-out of the day bearable.

On Saturday, my sister and I road tripped to Lake Erie. The change of scenery gave my legs the strength to stand back up; that muddled crawl turned into a walk.

I live for change.

I believe that’s why God called me to what He has, He knew I could never be content with sitting still. I need Him and the adventure He beckons me to. I need to plan. To seek. To go.

I’ve got an estimated hours 417,421 hours left. I don’t intend to waste them.

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Post Script: This Friday, May 12th, is International Awareness Day for ME, CFS and FMS. Please mark it on your calendar, find someone who battles these illnesses, then show them that you are aware. Do something, anything, to breathe and walk for them on that day. They will appreciate it more than you can possibly know.

May 12th

What time is it?

The angry red font of my clock blinks at me to the rhythm of the invisible army of ants crawling up my legs: 3:43 AM.

I roll over and forcefully slam my legs against the bed, trying to dissuade the nasty creatures. The sudden movement stuns the army, sparing me for a moment, before they angrily begin biting into my skin. I vigorously rub my legs against the sheets, back and forth, trying to knock the little beasts loose. I suppose it only infuriates them further as now they’re stabbing my hip socket with a sword.

Okay, maybe it’s not a little army of ants. Maybe it’s a giant centipede with venomous spiked toes that sink into my skin, dosing me with an early demise, and a pickaxe tugging my femur out of socket.

I can’t take it anymore and knock the blankets back, then scratch like mad at my already bruising skin. Soon the purple rash has turned a dark crimson and I realize I’ve broken skin with the uncontrollable desire to scrape the invisible creatures off.

I quickly move to get out of the bed, before the blood can drip onto my new sheets, but am suddenly winded from the change in position. I sit there, poised at the edge, gasping for air and trying to see around the black splotches consuming most of my vision. The anxiety hits. Tears form, either the result of the pain in my chest or the feeling of my legs slowly pulling out of socket. My feet are anxious to reach the floor that is too far away, pulling slowly away from my ankles as they dangle just inches above the hardwood.

3:57 AM.

The anxiety monster isn’t loosening his clutches on my rib cage, but I am finally able to see and stand. I listen to the sound of fifty-seven joints pop back into place as I rise, the sound resembling a machine gun with a suppressor on its barrel.

“Breathe.” I tell myself between gasps of pain and start to hobble to the bathroom, legs sore and creaking from the strain, arms outstretched to hold my elusive balance. The room is dark and my head is spinning, am I even upright anymore?

After what feels like an hour, I reach the restroom and proceed to purge my body of everything I’ve eaten in the last 24 hours. It’s not a purge by choice, but the maddening pain has made me nauseas. I’ve forgotten why I’ve come to the restroom in the first place, but apparently it was needed.

4:52 AM.

I’ve been tossing and turning in bed for half an hour now, and still I can’t catch that ever elusive sleep. When I finally feel as though I may slip off into the land of dreams, I’m caught in the in between where the my body confuses the blood in my veins for battery acid. Everything burns. Everything itches. Everything aches. Everything hurts. Everything.

I can’t breathe. I’m scared. Is this real? How? How can it be real?

Someone help me!

God. Please. Help me.


I don’t like to talk about it, mainly because being around someone who only wants to discuss their pain in life can be quite a drag. When friends and family ask me how I’m doing, I silence the urge to tell them that I feel like I’m dying without the relief of death. Instead, I say: “I’m doing.”

This is hopefully enough to convey that I’m not well, but I’m not unwell either. I’m normal. Well, normal for a FMS warrior.

Fibromyalgia does so much more than give you intolerable pain. Actually, I’d venture to say that if it was only pain, it’d be tolerable.

It’s a monster that steals your breath in the night so that you wake up suffocating. It steals your ability to go on a casual stroll with a boyfriend. It steals your stamina allowance for normal work hours and normal sleep routines.

It tells you that you’re starving, then makes you vomit foods that you dared to swallow. It tells you that you’re dying of thirst while it gives your bladder the workout of its life. It yanks your joints out of socket and pops them back in before you can blink, leaving you with wind-knocked-out-of-you pain and no proof of why. It covers your skin in rashes and your face in acne, it sags your eyes and makes your smile all but gone.

It makes you forget to breathe, forget where you are, forget the names of your closest friends and family. It leaves your mouth dry and your skin slowly cracking, even as it makes you sweat buckets by the hour. It leaves you in a wicked cycle of exhaustion that gives you pain that keeps you awake that makes you more exhausted that gives you more pain that keeps you awake.

It takes away your ability to pursue passions, dreams, joys. It convinces you that you’re crazy, that everything you feel is in your head. It takes the parts of you that used to thrive and strangles, buries them. It makes you want to question everything, every choice, every person, every action, every thought.

It’s an invisible monster, though a hideous beast if ever seen.

And it affects so. many. people.

3-6% of the world’s population, 200-400 million people.

I’m one of them.

Next Friday, May 12th, is awareness day for the chronic illnesses of FMS (Fibromyalgia), CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). This day is special because it’s the birthday of Florence Nightingale. She is a woman known by many for her valiant efforts as a nurse on the battlefield, and known by few for her own valiant battle against CFS/ME.

I want to challenge you to use this upcoming awareness day to prove your awareness.

Go above and beyond for that person who suffers silently day in and day out. Give them flowers, a card, a note scribbled on a receipt. Let them know you see them. In all their misery. In all their pain. They are real and loved and cherished and you are aware of the battle they’re fighting.

Be careful if you hug them, because what is comfort to you is pain to them, but be sure to offer one nonetheless. Sometimes we need a hug in spite of the pain it will inflict, and if we don’t, the offer means just as much as the hug itself.

Bring a meal to someone who doesn’t have the strength to get out of bed and cook, something they used to passionately do for others. Weed the garden of someone who once took pleasure in their green art but can no longer do anything aside from look out the window. Drive them around with the windows down so they can sit peacefully and see new sites for their weary eyes.

Don’t just say you’re aware of their chronic illness, show them.

If you’re the one who is ill, take the day to care for yourself. If you can, push through whatever ails you to do something the old you would have loved. If you can’t, paint the image in your mind and smile at the memories. Don’t let the day be sad, but powerful. Show the world your pain, your weakness- your triumph.

Grin at yourself in the mirror, appreciate that you’re still here, still fighting. You’re a warrior. You may have wounds and scars, you may bleed and cry in the still of the night, but people see you. They see a champion.

So chin up, Darling. You’re doing great.

Please share this post. Spread the word. Let others know of the battles the chronically ill face. Inspire others to inspire us. We are strong, but we are also weak. We need you. We’re only a million in a sea of billions. But with you, we can make a difference.

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Why I Love Religion

It really gets under my skin when people say they hate religion or that religion is all bad/evil. I get it, I do. A lot of “religious” people have done absolutely horrendous things in the name of religion. From the Catholic war on Protestants and vice versa, to the Islamic war on Christianity and vice versa, to a million other lesser-known “religious” acts of violence, there is a long history of evil.

So yes, I understand where people are coming from when they say that.

But according to Scripture, those people aren’t truly religious- they’re monsters.

Okay, the Bible doesn’t call them monsters.. but it does call them sepulchers (Matthew 23), which refers to dead things, which means zombies, so yeah. Monsters.

(^That was a joke, I do not actually believe in zombies… even after the stories of people eating other people’s faces that went viral several years ago.. actually.. maybe I do?)

There is a movement around thanks to the video, “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus,” that has captivated a lot of people with the idea that Christianity is entirely relationship-based. I agree with most of what he says in the video, but I can’t get past the dominant theme that religion is evil and anti-Christ.

Several weeks ago, when I shared my heart on worship, I mentioned Satan’s sneak attack method. He proposes a bunch of truth, sneaks in a tiny lie, and we fall for it because the truth blinded us. I can’t help but think about that when I see this video, or when I hear people (with disgust in their voice) say, “I’m not religious, I’m relational.”

Here’s the actual truth: if you have an honest relationship with God, you will become a religious person. Let me explain.

The KJV version of the Bible references “religion” or “religious” in six verses.

“Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”

-Acts 13:43

In this verse, Paul and Barnabas persuaded religious people to continue in the grace of God, as in “keep doing what you’re doing because you’re on the right track.”

“Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”

-Acts 26:5

The context for this verse is Paul speaking to other Jews. Please notice he didn’t say “my old religion,” but rather “our religion,” as in “still practiced religion.”

“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”

-Galatians 1:13-14

In this verse, religion is shed in a negative light, not because of the religion itself, rather because of the actions Paul took in the name of religion. As I mentioned before, it is because of people’s actions that religion is generally regarded with disdain, and such was the case in Paul’s time.

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

-James 1:26-27

This is the final passage of Scripture that references religion. Here, religion is regarded as something good, something righteous, unless it is done wrong. This verse speaks out against those evil acts done in the name of religion and then goes on to define what religion actually is.

The key difference between oddball “religions” that primarily use religion as a cover up for horrific acts of violence or use it as a method to make money off of people with guilty consciences and true religion is relationship. Relationship builds the desire for a walk of integrity, a walk full of good works, a walk in religion. Relationship and religion are not contrary to each other; they complete one another.

Don’t just take my word for it, let’s look at that verse again.

 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

– James 1:27

This Scripture is pretty straight forward- religion is good because at its root, it is loving and caring for people in need and staying separate from the world. All of this is the direct result of having a relationship with Christ.

The true tragedy is when people do things in the name of religion and cause a hatred for God because of it. Paul addressed this very thing, people trussing up religion and then acting against it, in Romans 2.

Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rest in the law, boast in God, know His will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law, and if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having the full expression of knowledge and truth in the law— you then, who teach another, don’t you teach yourself? You who preach, “You must not steal”—do you steal? You who say, “You must not commit adultery”—do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob their temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

-Romans 2:17-24 (HCSB)

The issue is not with religion itself, rather religion that is participated in entirely for the sake of desiring to be superior to those around you. Evil done in the name of relationship is the result of putting the cart before the horse.

Your walk with God must start with a relationship, it must start with a sincere desire to please Him, to separate yourself out of the world for Him, and then true, pure, undefiled religion will begin to form.

For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart—by the Spirit, not the letter…

-Romans 2:28-29 (HCSB)

Once that circumcision of the heart takes place, when you have cut yourself off from the world and attached yourself to Jesus, then you will find it in yourself to love the people in need and to care for them. It is that love (relationship) that will define you as His, and it is your works (religion) that will build up your reward in Heaven.

He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth… affliction and distress for every human being who does evil… but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good

-Romans 2:5-10 (HCSB)

What are your thoughts on religion vs. relationship? Do you agree that they are hand in hand? Please keep your comments kind. 🙂

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