I have hesitated for a while as I considered writing about this. For, like, two years. Almost exactly. But as I pursue my call to live out loud, this is what I need to share: one of the turning points of my recent years.
Just about two years ago, slightly more, I was in one of the hardest places of my life. Ever. No exaggeration. I was about six months into the shiny new world of health “challenges,” struggling deeply with my as-yet-undiagnosed chronic illness, fatigued to the bone, weak (couldn’t stand for more than a few moments), in pain, and fighting hard with the fear that threatened to choke me out. Add to that an ailing elderly parent and a teenage daughter making colorful choices and you have what I was at that moment. A bit of a train wreck.
It had been a couple of weeks since I’d felt able to venture out on my own. At that point, I couldn’t drive a lot, so I usually had my daughter, my son, or my husband (when he was in town) drive me to where I needed to go. I didn’t get out much. But one day, feeling extra adventurous, I set forth to our local Hobby Lobby. Alone.
It was grey and a little drizzly, perfect fall afternoon. My objective was to replenish my yarn supply so I could continue my most recent obsession, knitting. I parked as close as I could and grabbed my cane/stool that went everywhere with me, just in case I needed to sit down mid-browse. Cart acquired, I set forth to the yarn, found more than I needed and, feeling a bit over-confident, I thought I’d stroll through the beautiful fall decorations and take a few minutes to savor just being out.
I navigated my cart up and down a couple of aisles and my body made it clear that, in no uncertain terms, I needed to sit down. Now. So I pulled the cane/stool (his name is Sit-izen Cane, BTW) I’d so wisely brought along for just such an occasion from the cart, unfolded it, and started to sit down to take a much-needed pause. Except the pause ended in a crash. Unbeknownst to me, one of the screws in my stool had fallen out and the whole thing collapsed as I fell full weight into a display of ceramic pumpkins. Awesome.
Alerted by my ruckus, an old lady with a walker rounded the corner and asked me if I needed help. Awesome again. As if this sweet walker-wielding granny could help me get up. I was scraped, bruised and so, so embarrassed. Pumpkin fragments at my feet and tears on my face, I insisted I was okay, I would be fine.
Then the manager/cavalry rides up, apologizing to me, asking if I need help, calling for cleanup on aisle 5. More awesomeness.
All I wanted was to melt into the linoleum floor and disappear. All I could think was “I’m NOT this girl! I’m the super competent career girl! I’m the girl who climbed Half Dome! I’m not this weak, not this needy, not the woman who crashes into pumpkin displays and calls attention to the fact that she’s not who she used to be.”
Mr. Manager insisted on pushing my cart, insisted I didn’t need to pay for the broken pumpkins that lay scattered on the floor next to my shattered pride, insisted on checking out my yarn purchase himself and escorting me to the car.
Once there, once alone, I turned the corner from the trying-to-hold-it-together-in-a-public-place-where-I’ve-humiliated-myself-enough-for-one-day-thank-you-very-much-cry to full-on-ugly-cry. I sat in that parking lot, tears pouring, raging- at this illness for taking so much from me, even the ability to do something so simple, at God for not consulting me on this whole illness thing to begin with, at the manager for being so stinking nice (never said I made sense)- and mourning- at the loss of independence, at the loss of my sense of self, at the loss of all my former plans. The words “God, I don’t WANT to be disabled,” wrenched themselves out in between sobs, “I don’t want to have to depend on everyone else.” I waited for an answer. It felt as if my raging, mourning, and cries bounced back off the ceiling of my car as the rain poured down outside.
I got it together enough to drive myself home, still snuffling, still stung, still straining to hear God in the midst of this mess.
And I did.
I’ve got you, and I’ve got this, He told me. Trust me, He whispered, it’s for your good. I can use this. In that moment I had to choose to trust or not.
I took a deep breath as I climbed out of my car, walked into our home, and I knew. I knew I could depend on Him. On His purpose. On His timing. Even through the raging and the bruised body and pride, He had me.
Two years later and two time zones away, he still has me. I recently walked through our local Hobby Lobby, mindful of where God has brought me and how different everything looks. He’s taken me a long way from that pile of shattered pumpkins and the spate of parking lot ugly-crying.
I am daily grateful for the way He has blessed my life and family, led me to a better doctor, given me a new church home, and given me an oh-so-appreciated measure of physical recovery. I will likely never be completely free of fibromyalgia, but God has given me ways to manage it to the point that allows me to do most normal person things much of the time on many of my days (interspersed with rest). He has been steadfast and faithful, in all the hard things and all the good things.
But don’t miss this piece. Even still, I need to focus daily on what I CAN do, not what I CAN’T do. God doesn’t ask me to do what I can’t do. He asks me to do what I CAN, through His strength and blessing, do. Chronic illness or not. He does the same with you. He never demands that you do what you can’t do. He calls you do do what you can with His help.
I am not disabled, I am ENABLED by my God to do what He is calling me to do. And so are you.
Acts 2:25 I saw the LORD ever before me, because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.