The seed is in the ground.
Now we may rest in hope
While darkness does its work.
The seed is in the ground.
Now we may rest in hope
While darkness does its work.
Eighteen months ago, I faced a crisis. Exhausted and scared, I felt trapped in my job, knowing that I couldn’t fulfill my expectations. The only life I knew was a busy one-and I thrived living that way. I was good at keeping up with long distance friends, being involved in many things, and people often encouraged me for my intentionality and my ability to balance all my activities. Yet, I was facing the fact that I couldn’t “do it all” anymore. Fatigue had gotten to be too much, and I needed to say no.
But I was terrified. Quitting my job? This was not the kind of decision that Alyssa Storrs made. But I did.
What I did not know at the time, was that I was scared to rest. Scared to know who I really was without the busyness.
Rest is an invitation, but for so long I viewed rest as an inhibitor. I longed to not miss out on life, so I despised my brokenness and my weary body. I grew jealous of all the 24 year olds who get to live a healthy, energetic life. There is a place to grieve my fatigue-and I still grieve it every day. I cannot escape what I am unable to do. It took time to realize that I needed to rest, and I needed to learn to enjoy it as much as I could.
Rest is an invitation, but rest is hard. Especially if a restful lifestyle is the goal, and not just “coming up for air” every few months, gasping for breath because life is relentless adrenaline. I realize in this discussion that all of us are called to different amounts of activity and of rest, and that a conversation on rest still could be stomping grounds for comparison. Yet, if we’re honest, saying no and being honest about what we need is hard.
Some things that replenish me are easy to do and I naturally enjoy them. Sometimes restful things are still hard work because I am not naturally drawn to them. Restful or healthy things for me to incorporate into my life include: cooking, yoga, reading, walking, writing, time with people one-on-one or in small groups. My list includes more than this, but this activities are regularly incorporated several times into my week. They are my healthy ‘weekly rhythms.’ I’ve had to work harder to incorporate cooking and yoga. My diet has changed so much in the past year, so I need to re-learn how to grocery shop and give myself more time to make meals. Since I used to run regularly and am naturally drawn to cardio workouts , I didn’t like yoga at first. Since it’s harder for me to stay motivated doing yoga regularly, I try to go to a group class once a week.
On a restful Indy downtown walk this winter
Rest is an invitation to know yourself better. I’ve had to struggle and grieve in rest’s free space. I’ve learned to celebrate small victories, even if the victory is “I’m less frustrated.” I’ve reflected and seen how my busyness has hurt people, and when I do not take time to reflect I do not see my sin clearly. Through resting, I have a deeper commitment to learn and grow, even if it’s in the smallest of ways. In rest and adding margin to my life, I have an added flexibility to rearrange plans. I take myself and my plans less seriously. Rest allows deeper enjoyment in life-whether rest is being outside, watching a show, or eating a meal more slowly with friends.
Christ offers the invitation of rest. He welcomes those who are weary. He does not despise us. For feeling burdened and tired is a human condition. And He loves us as human, so we don’t have to strive to be superhuman. Rest and be bored. Rest and enjoy. Rest and realize who you are. In the moments of margin, we encounter the One who calls us to rest.
How do you define yourself in your rest? How do you think Christ views you in your rest? What rhythms of rest would you like to incorporate weekly?
I recently finished the book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl. The book is a beautifully written non-fiction work calling Christians to rethink hospitality as “welcoming of stranger” rather than just entertainment. I am challenged to look at my life and see how my unique circumstances intersect with a lifestyle of hospitality, and reflect on I am made to be both host and guest. Solidarity among different groups of people can occur when we admit our weariness, brokenness, and need and regularly provide healing places and friendship for each other.
What makes a space inviting?…Hospitable places are comfortable and lived in; they are settings in which people are flourishing. Although not necessarily beautifully maintained or decorated, they are evidently cared for. Such places provide the people that inhabit them with shelter and sanctuary in the deepest sense of these words-not only with the shelter of physical buildings but also with the shelter of relationships. Such places are safe and stable, offering people a setting where ‘they can rest awhile to collect themselves.’ Hospitable places are not frenetic, though people within them may be busy. When sanctuary and a slower pace are combined, there is a sense of peace. In such places life is celebrated, yet the environment also has room for brokenness and deep disappointments. Such places make faith and a hospitable way of life seem natural, not forced. Hospitable settings are often enhanced by the simple beauty of creation, where body, soul, and spirit are fed by attention to small details such as attractively prepared good-tasting food, or flowers from a nearby garden.”
Do we desire a slower pace of life so hospitality can be a reality? Do we desire to be faithful in the mundane, to celebrate and grieve as rhythms of life? What simple changes can we make to be more hospitable people?
Last week I listened to a bunch of interviews about diet and health for those with autoimmune disease. What struck me was that these professionals viewed food, nutrition, and the body with the utmost respect. These doctors respected and believed their patients with all their “crazy” symptoms–and yet their patients had to work really hard to improve their health through lifestyle changes. Soon I will start a diet that is pretty restrictive in most people’s opinions, but with the goal of restoring my health.
And then I started thinking about Lent. Giving up something for 40 days. Should I give up cheese? Chocolate? Wine? Bread? Oh wait-I’m already giving up all those things! Honestly, I haven’t decided what I’m giving up yet. But the “what” isn’t as important as reminding myself what Lent is all about. I think it’s human to approach Lent and giving something up as a means of self-improvement. Let’s just pull out those New Year’s resolutions we only kept for 7 days and try again. Maybe I’ll lose weight if I give up sweets. Or at least somehow I will be a better person coming out of Lent because of my self-restraint.
I will fail during Lent. I like cheese, a lot. And when I’m hungry self-restraint doesn’t sound fun, even if I told God that I’m giving something up for him. And Lent isn’t about me “doing something for God” at all. Lent in the historic church calendar is about sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Yes, it is about looking to the resurrection-but not too fast. We are called to live in the somber days-the mundane days filled with intense suffering. The practice of giving something up reminds me of my weakness, my sin, the intensity of my desires, the pain of this world, and that I must take comfort that Christ still suffers with me, with us. He was tempted as we were-yet without sin. He intercedes for me, even as I break my Lenten promise.
Lent isn’t about “what I’m getting out of it.” Lent is about living-and actually leaning into suffering. Not to glorify it-but suffering exists-it is everywhere. And Lent is a fixed reflective time that calls believers everywhere to see suffering and not run. It is a call to see Christ in His suffering-and not detest that our Savior was one who was despised and rejected. Why again do we worship the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief? That question must be answered anew during Lent.
As I listened to those health interviews, thoughts of health and my body being restored ruminated in my mind. But my diet isn’t a “quick-fix, try-this-for-5-weeks-and-you’ll-be-better.” I will eat this way for the rest of my life. Because my body is broken, yet health is still attainable. I must “suffer” in my restraint for health’s sake. Knowing Christ in His suffering, in my suffering, is for my health. Even when I hate it. Even when I run. Even when I cuss God out when I have to lie in bed all day for yet another day. Yet He is gracious and kind and persistent in his pursuit, even when I close my eyes because His pursuit is too painful to feel.
Isaiah 53:11 “Out of the anguish of his soul, he shall see and be satisfied…” Christ claims me for His own, out of the anguish of his soul. I’m so thankful that He sees through His pain, because so do I. Somehow I am healthier because of my anguish. As I lean towards Lent, it is my prayer for you, and for me that we are brave enough to see from the anguish in our soul. We truly do share in His sufferings.
On Tuesday morning last week, I took a seat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. I was ready, as ready as I could be. Desiring a clear diagnosis for the last 10 years has allowed me to feel the spectrum of emotions. These emotions have ranged from hopeful to jaded and everything in between. But I did not wait for the doctor assuming the worst. You see, part of my story is that I’m really used to hearing the words, “You’re fine.” In these years, I have been diagnosed with a few different conditions, but my symptoms only continued to worsen. Yet, as far as the doctor was concerned, I ate a healthy diet and I exercised. I was the model patient with a minor low thyroid issue, and the doctor just couldn’t quite figure out the right dosage.
I wanted a diagnosis, clarity, an action plan as I waited for my name to be called. Over the past year, I have resigned from 3 different jobs because of my health. I’ve spent time scaling back, taking time for solitude, self-care, cooking, leisurely exercise, reading, writing, counseling, doctor’s appointments, healing. You can be sure that I will blog more about this later. But even as I pursued health to the greatest extent I knew how, I still was exhausted, unsure of how to help myself. More than that, I was losing grasp of how to relate to others well. Social situations grew more and more taxing. Some days I was bedridden without a logical reason. Others, I could get up, but making a meal and washing dishes warranted two hours of lying on the couch. There still were alright days sprinkled in, where I could enjoy the company and conversation of a friend.
Yet, as I waited, I wanted answers.
As the doctor led me through lab results, treatment plans, and charts he explained that I have Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disorder where antibodies damage the thyroid gland, inhibiting the process of making thyroid hormone. After the medical explanation, the doctor started to talk time line of my treatment plan.
Twelve to Twenty-four months.
Many months (probably a lifetime) of crazy restrictive eating, yoga, slow rhythms, and supplements, hoping for increased energy and joy. Now, this isn’t new. Most everything is just more of the same, just refined with greater clarity. And also add amino acid injections every 3 weeks.
The two biggest questions I get are:
1. How are you feeling?
2. Can Hashimoto’s be reversed?
To #1, I’m thankful and tired. Every day is still a lot of hard work. But I’m thankful for a great doctor and nutritionist who listen well and help plan treatment that is going to be most helpful for me.
To #2, the answer is “Time will tell.” I may never be 100% again, but it’s still possible for me to regain lost strength, energy, and stamina.
My goal is to be Hashimoto’s healthy. As healthy as I can be in my worn out body, that just wants a break most days. As healthy as I can be, even if I’m still exhausted. As healthy as I can be, even if results take time. Or don’t come.
What do you desire for your health? In what ways are taking care of yourself right now?
Moving and transition. I naturally long for depth, so 3 moves in a year seems too much. Disjointed. Fragmented. Yet there is much I have learned in moving. I want to plan out my transitions and know what’s next. I want to transition when I’m ready-when I have a plan and a job and a clear purpose. But none of that is true now. I want moving to be adventurous, a new beginning. Yes, it is true that every move has these elements. While there’s a part of me that longs for anonymity and a chance to reinvent myself-I know that’s a lie. I can’t run away from myself. My fatigue will still follow me.
I’m moving 7 minutes away. My days will largely look the same, but am looking to write more. I have the same community and I long for healing that I may have the opportunity to teach at the same school I resigned from in November. This is not a move of newness, but more like sameness. A calling to do the everyday well. A calling to greater depths of honesty, rest, and relationship. A calling to live out the person I am with greater artistry. A calling to let my mess be seen. I have called the Marott home for 5 months. I will miss its 1920’s rustic hotel appearance and the small chandelier in my living room. I will miss my view, and surprising sunrises while washing dishes.
But more than that I will miss the tangible remembrance of inviting people into my home and letting them see my simple, overly structured life. These people ate lamb and brussel sprouts with me and knew they could only stay for two hours before I got really tired. People helped me embrace my life, even when I wanted to run. I didn’t have to hide or fake it. I didn’t have to be a perfect hostess, overly conversational, or a picture of health. I could be me, figuring out life in a new city, in my little apartment. And I could just be: without explaining, defending or justifying myself. But these memories come with me, for they are part of me. Even in the moving.
Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.
These words describe the purpose for this blog better than I ever could. So even as I write this post and wonder if I should start a blog at all, I am glad that a poet and Anglican priest had beautiful words to say in the early 1600’s. And I must agree that I have things to share too, even if timidly.
Perhaps, I am timid because this “dear angry Lord” Herbert writes about has changed me. Pretty drastically in the past year (insert angry conversations with God as seen in the poem). And because of this, I am learning who I truly am and how to step into my calling. I’m coming to realize that writing is part of that calling, but I’m nervous.
I’m nervous because of my unconventional journey. I’m a 25 year old unemployed female with adrenal fatigue. Although, I’m aware that the previous sentence doesn’t define me in the ultimate sense, yet it also does in many ways. The words that will be shared throughout this blog come from me lying awake at night unable to sleep, even though I’m exhausted. Or from still mornings in the kitchen listening to Sleeping at Last and making another bowl of oatmeal. Or from lying on the couch for several hours because I can’t get up. I live with chronic debilitating fatigue-and this taints how I see the world, view myself, and know God as Father.
While I cannot always tangibly experience physical health for myself, even in the midst of self-care, my emotions have deepened. I have learned to feel accurately, both in the grieving and laughter. There is a time for both. In close friendship, I continue to experience the limit of words, and together we share tears, stillness, joy and the stability of love in gut-wrenching, weary days. So as I begin this blogging journey, I do so with the knowledge that I must first live my sour-sweet days committed to lament and love. I will not manufacture a different life online, one that appears to be easier or happier. The days ahead will be messy-but if you also desire to journey in feeling deeply, please join me.
Welcome to Lament & Love.