Category Archives: Faith

Abbey trip reflections

So, folks. I’ve gotta get this nagging voice out of my head, so I’m just gonna spill it. I said I would talk about what I heard at the Abbey almost two weeks ago, so here goes nothin’.

The biggest revelation, the biggest message I heard God speaking to me was that I need to keep sharing my stories, and with that I need to get back to writing my memoir.

We were sitting in the chapel, following along with the Psalms the monks were chanting, and they came to Psalm 40, which I recognized to be the one given to me when I lost my hearing. Given to me, as in, I heard the song “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul” one time in a movie many years prior, and then it was all I could hear in my head when I could very literally hear nothing else. That song, that Psalm, became my mantra for over a year. The words “taken me from the miry clay” resonated with me on so many levels.

Reading the Psalm in church got my attention, but that’s not the part that spoke the loudest to me. What spoke to me most was when I went back to the cottage and read the Psalm for myself. Verse 3 in particular, and I immediately felt God saying that I needed to continue writing – “singing my song” – so that people will see Him and put their trust in Him.

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

What my sister helped me see was that writing my memoir is much like training for and running a long race. It takes time, it might not look pretty, but the most important thing is that you keep working towards the goal. The key is consistency. So even if it’s just a half paragraph a day, or even every other day, it’s okay. I just need to be committed to not quitting. I will get this memoir written. It’s going to take a lot of patience, and you can bet I’ll need a lot of help, but dang it I’ll have it done eventually.

I have over 7000 words written at this point, and I’m kind of stuck as to where to go next, but I’ll keep chipping away at it. I’ve told a lot of small stories to make up those 7000 words but there is still a surprising amount of detail left to tell in order to make it a complete story. Some of those are details I don’t possess, memories that aren’t mine to tell because I was either sleeping or only somewhat conscious, but that’s where I’ll need to utilize my new “asking for help” skills.

It’s quite intimidating, the idea of writing a book. I have author friends and family so I know it’s possible. Normal human beings do it all the time. I just worry that it’s not possible for me, because I have cognitive struggles from the M.S. But that’s the primary thought that’s kept me from working on the book, so I need to stop thinking it.

Cognitive struggles due to M.S. Big Fat Sigh. This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the disease for me to accept. I was always the smart girl, the know-it-all, the straight A student. “That Mindy, she’s so smart”. I never had to struggle to understand things. That 4.0, smart girl persona? I let that define me, and now that that part of me is being chipped away, it seems my self-worth is being chipped away right along with it. This is painful to write about, but maybe it needs to be said, because as I’m writing this I am getting rather emotional. And in my experience, that lump in my throat is usually the first step towards healing a deep wound I have been ignoring for far too long. I need to swallow that lump, along with my pride.

I struggle daily with forgetting things. I know people say this is typical of aging, but I know it’s more than that. I also struggle with comprehending simple concepts, whether they are new to me or not. I struggle with holding conversations and putting ideas together. I struggle hard with writing, and this is the most heartbreaking. I have always loved writing. I have kept a diary since I was a little girl. I started blogging back when you had to write your own code. I journal thoughts in my head throughout the day, and sometimes those thoughts actually make it to my written journal. Just today, my laundry folding was interrupted by this blog post forming itself in my head, itching to get out.

Writing is part of who I am, so when I set such an ambitious goal as writing a memoir, having never written a real book before, you can imagine it’s frustrating to feel like you are unable to make any progress. When your brain just refuses to make the necessary connections, it’s very discouraging.

But! I read a meme recently that reminded me that when God calls us to something, he factors in our failures and frailty. So I’m taking that as truth and leaning on Him, always and forever.

St. Gregory’s Abbey 2019

Last weekend my sister and I traveled south to stay at an Episcopalian monastery. This has been an annual tradition for us, and this was our 9th year. One of the ministries of this monastery, besides constant prayer and worship, is to provide a place for others to retreat from life, reconnect and reset. Pushing the reset button looks different for everyone, but for my sister and me three days of time alone and away from the hustle and bustle is the way to go. We are both very introverted, so time alone definitely recharges our batteries.

Every year we have stayed in a cottage at the back of the property. They do have a dormitory near the chapel and main building, but we have never stayed there. Well, I have, on solo visits prior to our annual tradition of going together. We enjoy the solitude of St. Benedict’s cottage, away from the monks and the other guests (except when we are attending chapel services). We also really enjoy having a kitchen for preparing our own food, which you don’t get with the dormitory. We started this tradition with elaborate menus and recipes, and as the years have gone by and we get older (and perhaps a little lazier) we have reduced the complexity of our menu plan. We have never felt hungry or lacking, and we always go home with food leftover.

Every year has been different, but also much the same. Nothing about the monastery has changed since we started coming. The cottage looks identical now to the cottage we stayed at our first visit in 2011. The schedule of church services is the same, and the chapel smells as it always does, of heavenly incense. The lack of change is strangely comforting. What is different for us every time is how much we are dealing with in our lives, good and bad. Every year one or both of us has had challenges we are battling, and the beauty and the gift of these weekends is that we are able to really look inward and upward for answers, reassurances, and guidance.

I can’t say what these weekends mean to my sister, but for me it’s a time to reconnect with each other, and also with the Lord. I have great conversations with God on these weekends. Not that I don’t have conversations with Him at other times, but the difference at the Abbey is that I do a LOT more listening than talking. And boy, does He have a lot to say to me. I plan to share some of what I heard from Him in a later post, so stay tuned for that.

Overall it was a very transforming and therapeutic weekend, and I look forward to many more down the road. What sorts of things help you reset and recharge?

Finding Contentment

I’ve been fartin’ around on Facebook all morning, and then I did some filing, put away clean dishes from the dishwasher, and now I’m letting my phone charge back up so I can go for a run this afternoon. I could really go for a nap but I pretty much always feel better after a run so I’m opting for that instead.

I’ve allowed myself to get really busy with all the commitments I took on, and I think I’m finally getting a handle on managing it without moving around like a headless chicken. I’m finding the key is to allow myself to relax from time to time, and when I say that I mean REAL relaxing, not the fake kind. I’m giving myself permission to sit with my feet up, read a book or crochet, sip some coffee, and NOT feel guilty. It’s really nice, but it’s strange how difficult it is for me sometimes. It does take some self-talking to be totally okay with it. Otherwise I’m just pretending to relax. I may be sitting, but I’m secretly mulling over all the things I “should” be doing at that moment. So the Real Relaxing is nice. Very therapeutic.

I had an interesting thought yesterday while listening to the lecture at Bible Study Fellowship. We were studying the story of the lame beggar at the temple gates in the book of Acts, and the lecturer said that when the man was healed, his life became better because his disability was removed. Something about the way she worded it struck me, and a voice in my heart was asking,

“Mindy, would your life be better if your disability was removed?”

I honestly believe the answer to that question is no. As much as I grieve what I’ve lost, I am even more grateful for what it has added to my life. It has made me a more patient and compassionate person. It has strengthened bonds between my family members and my friends. It has introduced me to new people and new ideas. It has stretched me in so many ways to move outside of my comfort zone. But the most important thing? It’s that God is glorified through all He is doing through me. Because it’s certainly not me. I’m just following His directions. That is the most valuable outcome of all this, and what I have been praying for from the beginning.

As I’ve struggled over these past 6 years with my disability I’ve been trying to find a new normal or a base comfort level. What I realized yesterday is that I am finally at a place of contentment. I am finally at home again in this body and I am content to be where I am. Fully and completely. Hallelujah. Amen?

John 9:3 ESV “but that the works of God might be displayed in Him.”

2019 Capital City River Run

Welp, I did it! I ran a half marathon. All 13.1 miles with minimal walking. All of this training I’ve been doing really paid off, and I was able to run pretty much the entire way. I walked over slippery bridges and once late in the race because I was sensing some drop foot, but other than that I was good to go. I did NOT feel like I was dying, and despite how I looked to others at the finish line, I felt fabulous. I was all smiles and ready to sign up for the next one.

The Comradery: I simply could not have done this race without my friends. Alicia and Staci were with me every step of the way, guiding me away from obstacles and leading me down hills so I wouldn’t lose my balance. They even kept me from taking off in the beginning at too fast a pace, which is something I tend to do, and pay dearly for on these long runs. I happened to see a couple other running friends before the race started, and that really helped to boost my adrenaline. All the runners I have gotten to know are pretty special people. We are a diverse crowd, and yet everyone is so supportive of on another, regardless of all our differences. We are all running with the same goal, but for very different reasons, and I find that pretty awesome.

The Spectators: I had an entire team of spectators cheering me on throughout this race, and this was pretty dang awesome. My husband, my son and daughter (who had no shortage of hugs), my dad and stepmom, my sister and her boyfriend, my niece, and as a last surprise of the morning, my big brother. I was so surprised to see him there because he has been so busy working lately I just didn’t expect he would be able to make it. But he was there. They were all there, and they knew why this was such a big deal. It wasn’t just a race. This race happened almost exactly 6 years from when I lost my hearing and vision. In fact, that morning a memory came up on my husband’s Facebook feed. It was a posting he had sent out updating everyone on my long hospital stay. I was so sick and no one knew what was wrong with me, and I could not walk unassisted, among other numerous issues. So to have that come up on his feed the day I was running my first half marathon was just incredibly fitting.

The Final 5k: At 10 miles my family was there cheering us on, as they had in several other spots, and my son started jogging next to me. The excitement of the moment took over, and I invited him to run the final 3.1 miles with us. They frown on this sort of thing, I guess, but no one bothered us about it. He did a great job keeping me going and holding me steady down the hills. However, when we were nearing the finish, we were at the top of a very steep concrete ramp that feeds into the baseball stadium where the finish line was. He danced on ahead of me while Alicia and Staci took my arms to help me down. I was so embarrassed to see my husband at the bottom of the ramp, taking our picture. It looked rather pathetic, as if my legs had stopped working, but really it was just a matter of keeping my balance down the incline. When we reached flat land my son was waiting for me and we began to sprint the last stretch towards the Finish. I was so giddy I was almost in tears. And after I crossed the line I tried to stop but instead just fell to the ground. This is what seems to happen after my races and it alarms people because it looks like I’m hurt but really it’s just muscle weakness and poor balance. The motion of running keeps me on my feet somehow, so when I try to walk it never works. They brought me a chair and a woman put a medal around my neck and we all just stayed there congratulating each other and taking pictures.

It was a fantastic race and I am so glad I did it. Every time I try a longer distance I think about how far I’ve come, and I wonder how far I can go. My curiosity I think is what drives me. I just want to see how far I can go before my body says no. Yes, it tries to tell me no some days, but I’ll always try to call it’s bluff.

I am so grateful to everyone for supporting me and cheering me on. I could not have done this without you. Most of all though, I owe my gratitude to Jesus Christ. I would not have even started on this journey into running and health if it had not been for His sustaining grace and comfort. He is my constant, every day all day running partner. Hallelujah!

The Finish Line:

Who do you work for?

Do you ever encounter a child who likes to ask “why?” about everything? As in, “why do I have to do the dishes?” or “why do I have to clean my room?” And because you’re tired of giving them your well thought out, logical explanation, you give them the ol’ “Because I said so.”? Or maybe the child doesn’t ask why, but simply responds with a grunty moan, while muttering about how much they hate doing chores.

Do you know a child like this? Or better yet, are you perhaps that child some days? For me it’s a yes, and absolutely yes (some of you may have heard how much I hate folding laundry). So while I have been working hard to change my thinking and learn to just do the things before they get out of hand, I still have my days when my attitude is in the crapper. My kids have those days too, and I find it’s helpful to let them know I understand and can even relate.

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24 English Standard Version (ESV)

The other morning I was reading my devotional and I came across this verse. It spoke to me, and this chore hating procrastinator hiding inside winced a little, but the message stuck. So later when the kids were grumbling about chores, I shared the verse with them, and I hung it on the fridge for all of us to be reminded.

I realize throwing a Bible verse in here may not be relevant to you unless you are a follower of Christ, but I believe the message still has merit. I believe the greatest impact of our lives is not necessarily from the big notable things, but rather a lot of little things added up over time. The daily minutia. It’s like the butterfly effect. If we can wake up daily with the mindset that the small things matter to someone, somewhere, at some point in time, then maybe we can wake up feeling hopeful that if I can just do these mundane tasks with a smile, maybe it will make someone else’s day. Or from a believer’s perspective, maybe I can show the love and relatable humanity of Jesus by doing grunt work without grumbling. Honestly, that’s hard to do unless I truly believe that all of the work I do here at home is not just for my family, but ultimately for the Lord.

I would encourage you to sit down with that inner whiny child and let them know that the little things do matter. Start small. Do the hard things, little by little. It all matters to Someone. Just try it, I dare you!

Waiting for the crash

Last night I stayed up way too late watching Pretty Woman on tv. Because I don’t know why. Because I had recorded it, and then started watching it not being entirely aware of the time, and then not being able to turn it off in the middle. Because you’ve gotta finish what you’ve started, right? I won’t get started on what a classic, feel good movie that is. It just is for me, and I don’t care if you judge me for it. Julia Roberts is just genius in that role. That’s all.

Anyway, so I was up way too late, and then had to get up early this morning to wake my daughter to get ready for the second day of horse camp. Then, even though I kept telling myself I was going to go back to bed, I just sort of kept moving on with my day. Luke and I rode bikes to get lunch at Taco Bell, my vitamins from Rite-Aid, and then ice cream at Sweet Sensations. It was a great afternoon, and then I thought maybe I would catch a nap before Natalie got home from camp, but I just, well, didn’t. Then I made dinner for the family and now I’m sitting here wondering when I’m going to hit that wall of fatigue. Yet, it just doesn’t seem to be coming. Hallelujah, praise the Lord, I’m operating like a normal healthy person!

This may be the healthiest I have ever felt. I don’t even remember having this kind of energy when I was in my twenties. I’m sure I did, I just don’t remember it, ha! So I’m writing this down so that I can remember how I feel and perhaps what I’m doing to feel so good. I believe it’s all the healthy things combined that work together to allow my body to operate at its best. Staying active with running, cycling, and walking. Eating my fruits and veggies, taking my greens daily, drinking lots of water. Even the celery juice I’ve been drinking every morning seems to be having a positive effect on my sleep quality, somehow. I know the celery juice is a fad right now, but you never know, this might be one that sticks. We shall see. But all the exercise and the healthy eating (with itty bitty cheats here and there) is really working.

The best part about feeling good is that I am feeling confident about the upcoming commitments I’ve made: leading a bible study, a discipleship group, and a Financial Peace class. I’m not afraid that it will be more than I can handle, or be too much to take on as a person living with MS. I do realize that none of this healthy living makes me immune to a relapse, so I’m keeping a level head about that, but I’m praying that all this healthy stuff I’m doing will make a relapse far less likely. I’ve always said I don’t want to let fear drive my decisions, and that applies here. I can’t say no to these exciting opportunities to serve God for fear that I’ll relapse. I’m trusting that He’s the one that gave me these desires and that He’s leading me down these paths, and if that’s true, He’ll take care of the details. M.S. is no match for my God!

Just an overall great day

Today was a really great day. Nothing out of the ordinary or spectacular, it was just a good day, so I wanted to share before I head off to bed.

The kids and I went to church this morning. Hubby was at a shooting competition so it was just the three of us. We had been preparing to ride the bus, but were able to secure a ride with the pastor’s wife at the last minute. So while we were a bit excited about doing something new by riding the fixed route bus, we were thankful we didn’t have to get up super early to catch the bus. We’ll hopefully try again on another day before the summer is over.

Church was great, as usual. I love my church family, because they are just like that: family. I was able to have a bit of time after the service to catch up with the some of the other women and invited two of them to BSF in the fall.

The afternoon was spent relaxing, having lunch with the kids, chatting with my sister, and doing a bit of bookkeeping for the church. By the evening, after dinner, I was feeling pretty sluggish and the sun hadn’t set yet, so I threw on some running clothes and went for a quick two miles around the neighborhood. I’ve been doing a pretty good job with resting my knee and doing the exercises the doctor gave me, and tonight’s run really showed me that it’s paying off, because I only took a few brief walking breaks and I had no knee pain throughout the run! Even after I got home I didn’t feel any pain. Not only that, but my pace was pretty strong for the time I was running, at around 11 or 12 minutes, which is pretty fast for me. I usually average closer to 13 minute miles. So I was pretty ecstatic about that run, and it really gives me hope that I’ll still be able to complete the half marathon in 56 days!

I’m excited about the upcoming race, but I’m even more excited about a lot of leadership opportunities I have coming up. Leadership is not necessarily my comfort zone, but I feel like God has really been working on me in this area, and helping me to step out of my comfort zone little by little. I can still be my introvert self and interact with others. I really enjoy getting to know people and hearing their stories. In the fall I’ll be leading a Bible Study Fellowship group, a discipleship group through my church, and Financial Peace University. That sounds like a lot, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to keep a good balance and manage my time well enough to handle it all.

Shifting gears here, but I recently saw the dermatologist and I thought it was just going to be a follow up to get refills on the antibiotic for my rosacea, but the doctor I was seeing left the practice so I was seeing a new one. Not new to the practice, just new to me. I was very reassured from the minute he walked in the room because he actually examined my face under the light, and the last doctor never did that, which I always thought was odd. This new doctor is changing up my medication a little bit and putting me on something stronger, with the hopes that eventually I won’t have to take the antibiotics. He also gave me a prescription for a cream that should help the specific problem areas on my face. So that was a really positive visit and I went home feeling hopeful that we can get my face cleared up even more.

So the last couple weeks were filled with a couple doctor’s visits, my monthly Tysabri infusion, and lab work to make sure I can still take the Tysabri. Then in a week or so we go to the dentist for cleanings, and take the kids to the orthodontist for evaluations. Not exactly your idea of summer fun, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Being healthy is super important to me because if I didn’t have this energy, I wouldn’t be able to do any of the volunteering that I’m signed up to do. So I’m staying focused (i.e. mildly obsessed) with the running, daily exercises, eating my fruits and veggies, drinking my greens, and taking my vitamins. Staying healthy for this M.S. girl is kind of a full time job.