To My Friends Who Have Been Told To "Pray More"

To My Friends Who Have Been Told To "Pray More"

Too often in my office, I hear a very familiar story. You've finally worked up the courage to talk to someone you love and respect about how you're really doing. In a brave act of vulnerability, you talk about how your deep sadness or numbness has made even the smallest acts, like getting out of bed, incredibly difficult. Maybe you finally told someone about how debilitating your worries are lately and how confusing and exhausting your thought-life has become. Despite the fear of being judged or perceived incorrectly, you spoke up and shared, and you were met with this:

"Find your joy in the Lord." "Ask God to take away your worries." "I knew someone who felt like you and they started praying and reading their Bible more and then they felt better." "I think you just need to have a better relationship with God.”

Oh, friend. I hear you. I see you. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry that your vulnerability was met with dismissive, trite words. I'm sorry that you were told that suffering is indicative of a poor relationship with God. I'm sorry that instead of hearing and entering into pain, confusion, and messiness with you, someone instead tried to put a pretty bow on your experience and send you off with a prayer card. I'm sorry you did not experience Jesus through your friends and confidants. 

I’m sorry that you were told that suffering is indicative of a poor relationship with God.

Here is what I wish you would have heard: "Tell me more about how you're feeling." "Thank you for trusting me enough to share your true thoughts with me." "Help me understand what it's like in your head right now." "This world is full of devastating pain and suffering, isn't it?" "How can I support and love you well through this process?" "I've been there, too. We'll get through this together.”

Too often, I think, we as Christians forget that we were meant to share each other's burdens. That we were meant to experience suffering as a group, rather than as an individual. Too often, someone else's pain is so deep, confusing, and unfathomable that instead of entering into that place of unknown with that person, we become panicked by our lack of answers. We become like Job's friends, who were well-intentioned, but also completely missed Job and his current experience in their search for the "why" of his suffering. We become like Jesus' friends in the Garden of Gethsemane who fell asleep while their friend was so deep in anguish that he sweat blood. 

Too often, someone else’s pain is so deep, confusing, and unfathomable that instead of entering into that place of unknown with that person, we become panicked by our lack of answers.

To my friends who have experienced this deep disappointment of being dismissed or not fully heard, please know that this was not the right way to respond to your suffering. That your pain is deep and complex and requires time and space to fully understand. That this is not how Jesus would have responded to you. My hope is that the next time (and, with all my heart, please let there be a next time) that you are met with validation, more questions, and solidarity. My hope is that next time, you will encounter a friend who can say "me too" and you can be sojourners together. My hope is that you can experience Christian community the way it was intended.

To my friends who are not currently in the midst of suffering, but know someone who is, please be curious. Please take the time to crawl into the messiness with someone and ask them to describe the place they've been living in lately. Seek to know the walls, the shadows, and the landscape of your friend's pain. Enter into that room, but also step out of it, and offer words of hope that there's a world outside. In short, be Jesus to one another and "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”


 

Written by: Katie Marsh, MA, LPCC

In case you didn’t catch all the extra letters at the end of her name, not only is Katie a Minneapolis/St. Paul member of our Tribe, she’s also a phenomenal Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. She’s the real deal. She personally “gets it,” as she battles Chronic Migraine, and it’s literally her job to help empower others with hope and lasting life-change. In her free time you're most likely to find her baking, wandering museums with her husband, running, or sorting through a stack of books that she admittedly keeps telling herself she’ll read.

 


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Moms Get Sick Too

Moms Get Sick Too

I was a brand new mom when I started “feeling funny.”

I had a rough pregnancy, a traumatic delivery, and a long recovery. So at first I chalked it up to motherhood. But as time went on, my daughter was getting older and I still felt that funny feeling.

I was: 

Tired (make that exhausted).

Heavy (make that 50lbs heavier in just over 2 weeks).

Weary (make that feeling “crazy” because no doctor could tell me what was wrong). 

Anxious (make that scared because I started losing my hair).

Sound familiar?

It took almost 2 years of being sick before getting a diagnosis of chronic renal failure. I was a new mom, just 26 years old, and told that I would probably be in complete kidney failure by my 40th birthday. I was afraid, confused, so ill — devastated! It was definitely a low point for me.

It took some prayer, weekly doctor visits, bi-weekly visits to the lab, some misdiagnoses, thousands of pills, and newfound faith; but I am 39 years old and living well. 

When I was first diagnosed, one of my biggest fears was not being able to see my daughter grow up. It’s been thirteen years since that day, I have a son now, and I can say that being a mother with a chronic illness has not been easy. I wasn’t able to bathe my daughter because bending down near the tub was impossible with edema. I couldn’t play outside for too long because I couldn’t be in direct sunlight. There is a 6 year age difference between my 2 children because the medication I was taking could’ve negatively affected a fetus. I waited until I was stable enough to go unmedicated for 9 months before conceiving a second child. I experienced debilitating stomach pain, more hair loss, and other symptoms as a side effect to some of my medication.

...one of my biggest fears was not being able to see my daughter grow up.

My children experienced a sick mommy. One who would eventually also be diagnosed with anxiety. They would ask, “why are you always so tired, mommy?” They would cry when they witnessed me vomiting uncontrollably. My babies experienced chronic illness in a very real way.

They also saw me recover. They witnessed me push past the pain. We’ve laughed out loud together on the couch many nights after dinner. We’ve splashed in the ocean. We’ve taken thirteen hour road trips as a family. And I have come to cherish every one of those moments, even the bad ones.

My babies have learned that moms get sick, too. We have fevers and headaches. We have good days and bad ones. We get scared and moody. We experience fear, while holding onto our faith. These are the lessons we get to not just tell our children about, but give them the opportunity to witness, firsthand.

I see things much differently now. I don’t worry about not being able to see my babies grow up. I fear not leaving them with the most meaningful lessons of all, before I leave this earth. 

Sick moms get to teach their children how to deal with bad news.

Sick moms get to teach their children how to handle bad days with grace.

Sick moms get to teach their children that they don’t always have to be perfect.

We get to teach our children how to honor their true feelings, how to engage in self-care, how to manage disappointment, how to recover after being knocked down, how to push past pain. We get to show our babies how to heal.

Being sick has given me a whole new perspective on motherhood.

 Photography courtesy of our friend  BethCath .

Photography courtesy of our friend BethCath.

Things I’ve learned about parenting through my own chronic illness:

1. Motherhood looks different for everyone. This was a moment of freedom for me. Realizing that I didn’t have to do motherhood like everyone else gave me the freedom to things my way — a new way. I created a whole new vision for me and my family. There is a lot of rest and self-care in my vision. There are also moments of grace and strong faith in my vision.

2. Bad news makes good lessons. At first I tried to hide my illness from my children. It became exhausting and caused more harm than good. When I started being honest with my family about how I was feeling, it became an awesome bonding experience. It also empowered them in ways I hadn’t considered. My children show unbelievable grace to others. They are kind and concerned when it comes to people who are sick or different than them. They are caring and generous with their time. Keeping it real with them has helped them become better humans.

3. Perfection is boring. Perfect went out the window the moment I was diagnosed. Being the perfect mom was just not going to happen. For one, I was too tired to even attempt perfection. And, I found creative ways to compensate for the things I couldn’t do. Eating leftovers isn’t a bad thing when your kids research how other countries eat chicken or rice or veggies. “Fort Night” is an amazing excuse for mom to sit on the couch (I mean “fort”) for an hour. Sick moms embrace peace over perfection.

4. Balance doesn’t exist. In order to achieve balance, there must be equal weight on all sides. That may not be possible with chronic illness. You may have more sick days than well this week. You may need to sleep in more days than you have in the past. You have limits. Your life is unpredictable. Balance is just not something we can maintain. Let yourself off the hook and create harmony between you, your family and your illness. Allow everything to come together and support you in a way that doesn’t make you feel guilt or shame. Be unapologetically unpredictable. Embrace your off day because your good day is just around the corner.

We don’t look sick. We throw on our capes and rescue our babies when they fall and get hurt. We use of bodies, our hearts, and our will to shield our families from whatever tries to come their way. We are brave. We are resilient. We are also human. We don’t feel well sometimes. We need rest and special care. We need tenderness and attention. We are vulnerable. We are needy. And that’s okay, too.

We are brave. We are resilient. We are also human.

No need to retire your cape for good. But take it off for a little while.

Take your moment, mama. Collect your thoughts. Recover from a bad day. Pray through tears. Scream in a pillow. I totally get you.  


 Photo Courtesy of  Beudeeful Visual Storytelling .

 

Written by: Nakeia Homer

Nakeia is a bright light in our community, representing the People Hope Tribe in the great state of Georgia! She’s the first to tell you that she’s “just a girl from the projects who decided not to settle,” and she’s committed to helping others find that same determination. Nakeia is a social worker, turned award-winning songwriter, turned inspirational writer, speaker, and mentor. She’s one of our MVP volunteers on our Support Team and our Connections Team, and she’s a superhero mama and wife. You can find her on social media @nakeiachomer, on her blog, but caution…you’ll never find her settling for less than she deserves!


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You Know You’ve Been Sick Too Long When…

You Know You’ve Been Sick Too Long When…

When your chronic illness has dragged on for months, years, or even decades, you may notice that you’ve accumulated some peculiar tendencies along the way. You catch yourself saying words and phrases you never knew before, your doctor appointments have become eerily familiar, and you laugh at things that only others with chronic illness would “get.” But rest assured, you’re not alone in these bizarre truths. So in the spirit of laughter being the best medicine, here are 30 funny-but-true signs that perhaps you, like so many of us, have been sick for too long.

You know you’ve been sick too long when…

1. You start to announce to your other sick friends that you’ve been sick for (*insert your duration here*) years, far longer than them, as if it were a bizarre badge of honor. How is this something we’re bragging about?! But, let’s face it, we all do this.

2. You know your chart better than your doctors do.

3. You find yourself weirdly flooded with pride when you ask your doctor such a highly educated question that they seem caught off-guard by your medical prowess and knowledge.

4. You can honestly say that you’ve avoided WebMD and/or Googling your symptoms for longer than a month…6 months…even a year?! How are we not being awarded sobriety chips of some sort for this feat of restraint?

5. You’re such a “frequent flyer” in the waiting room that you know all the other regulars by name and date of birth.

6. You’re using words like “flare” in place of phrases like “I’m extra sick today.”

7. You’ve considered purchasing your own hospital gown that fits you better and doesn’t have the smell of general “hospital funk” on it.

8. You avoid kids with colds at all costs. “Normal person sick” on top of what you’ve already got going on is the ultimate recipe for disaster…and you know it all too well.

9. You have your doctor, well…who are we kidding, all of your doctors on speed dial and in your “favorites” list on your phone.

10. You’ve considered making a t-shirt that lists all your symptoms on it so you won’t have to recount them to yet another new specialist.

11. You’ve considered making another t-shirt that says “Yes, I’m still sick” for family gatherings to avoid comments like, “You look great. I’m so glad you’re better,” (spoiler alert: you’re not feeling any better, and in fact, you’re now regretting dragging yourself out of bed to come to this family shindig in the first place).

12. You’ve tried more than 5 restrictive diets.

13. You know the good from the bad — the best kind of heating pad, the worst topical cream. When you roll up in the health and wellness aisles of your local pharmacy, you own that place.

14. You own more pairs of sweatpants and yoga pants than any other genre of legitimate leg-wear. 

15. You show up to an appointment and know exactly in what order the receptionist is going to ask the questions, and you’re now able to freakishly recite the answers before she even asks them. “*name*, yes, yes, no, no, no, yes, no but I wish I had been out of the country or a region in which I may have been exposed to Zika because I could sure use a vacation, and no."

16. You know what a “spoonie” is and you consider yourself one with a possibly misplaced sense of pride.

17. You can no longer live in a one bedroom apartment based solely on the amount of storage you require for the following: your medical records, insurance paperwork, medical equipment, a wide assortment of various supplies for any number of strange situations your body’s found itself in, and of course the old classic…medical bills. The good news is that if you find an abandoned CVS that’s available for rent, it should be a great fit for your next home.

18. You get paranoid when your healthy best friend tells you about some strange symptoms she’s having. The conversation goes like this, “I don’t want to panic you, but has your doctor tested you for…”

19. Your idea of speed dating is checking the left hand ring finger of your paramedics, specialists, nurses, and doctors. 

20. You put a lot of value in how smoothly a car rides, not because you’re that into nice cars, but because you’re that into avoiding unnecessary pain.

21. You always know where the nearest bathroom is.

22. You not only know what a pollution mask is, but you’ve purchased one in a fantastic design and color scheme that best says to the world, “There’s no shame in my game.”

23. Your service dog has its own social media accounts.

24. You have more than 3 pairs of hospital socks in your home…and you wear them often.

25. You no longer bother to read the side effects labels of new medication because, chances are, you already have them…before even taking the medication.

26. You do a double take literally anytime you see someone in scrubs to see if they’ve ever drawn your blood.

27. You’ve been through at least one medical procedure that you deem to be so incredibly embarrassing that you never ever mention or talk about because it’s too humiliating for even you to own up to. Even you…and you talk about everything.

28. You’re at a complete loss for words when your thoughtful friend asks, “So what foods are you not able to eat?” Um, how much time do you have? Where do I even start?

29. Your purse or “murse” (no shame, fellas!) is about a 4% to 96% ratio of stuff that you’d normally find in a purse, and literally anything else you could ever possibly need. This includes, but isn’t limited to, the following: medication, other medication, supplements, yet another medication but just in case, natural sweeteners for your coffee and tea but the kind that you know your favorite coffeeshop won’t have, massive quantities of hand sanitizer, sanitizing wet wipes, snacks that seem to help if you’re out somewhere and there’s nothing you can eat and you start to feel woozy, topical creams and balms, essential oils but like…a lot of them, a bag that you wouldn’t be opposed to barfing into if push came to shove, medical tape, the really good kind of bandages, gauze, obscure medical devices, and pain relievers to help deal with the fact that you’re carrying around such a heavy bag all the time!

30. You know, without a doubt, that you belong in the People Hope Tribe, and you welcome as many other new friends as you possibly can because we don’t have to go through any of this alone.

So here's to us, fellow chronically ill friends. Here's to laughing at our collective oddities and being understood by one another. And here's to going through life together, finding joy everywhere along the way. 


Written by: Anna Kowlessar, Founder of People Hope

After many years of dealing with her own chronic illness, Anna founded People Hope to fill a much-needed void that so many people are looking for today - a place of audacious hope, a genuine community, and somewhere to belong regardless of diagnosis. You can read more about that here. Or you can keep reading this to learn that a few of her obsessions include cuddling with her dog, Walter Norman, singing ridiculous made-up songs with her husband, Randy, and snacking on salty-sweet treats! She loves Christmas, hates the color lavender, and adores her amazing Tribe!


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10 Tips to Travel like a Boss with Chronic Illness

10 Tips to Travel like a Boss with Chronic Illness

There is a not a moment of my life that isn’t filled with memories of travel. My very first flight was at 2 months old, and I haven’t stopped since. This world is full of so many fun places to see, cultures to explore, and things to do, and I don’t want to miss any of it. But the reality is, traveling hasn’t always been easy. In my early twenties, I received two autoimmune diagnoses amongst a plethora of other diagnoses related to the damage caused by my autoimmune issues, and it completely flipped my whole world upside down. Nothing was the same. My lifestyle changed immediately, the food I was eating; everything suddenly centered around the fact that I now had these illnesses and needed to learn to live with them while taking the best care of my body that I possibly could.

It was only a week after this overwhelming doctor’s appointment, that I was on a plane flying across the country to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I remember going to the grocery store with my dad and literally sitting down in one of the aisles in tears because I didn’t even know what I could eat. It all felt like so much to take on. Thankfully since that moment, not only have I learned how to take care of my body, but I’ve also learned how to travel with chronic illness like a boss!

Here are my top 10 tips for traveling with chronic illness:

1. Pre-search

Planning ahead and doing your research before leaving on your trip can be a life-saver! Look ahead at your destination so you’ll know where the grocery stores and restaurants are with the best food options that work for you. Tools like Yelp and Google Reviews have completely changed the “pre-search” game, and even allow you to search for places that accommodate your specific dietary needs. And nothing replaces a good old fashioned phone call to a restaurant to ask all your toughest dietary and allergen inquiries. I’m on a very specific food protocol, so it can be really stressful when I’m not in my own kitchen and in full control of what’s being made. Researching ahead of time takes the stress out of dining. Yes, it takes some time before you leave to prepare, but it’s so worth it!

If possible, pack your own food to bring as much as you can, and even have non- perishables shipped to your destination ahead of time so that you can eat them or cook with them in your travels. Did you know that you can ship things to hotels? Figure out what you can do ahead of time to minimize stress when it comes to food! Traveling with chronic illness all comes back to being prepared!

2. Hone in on Local Hotspots and Hospitals

In case of an emergency, being caught off guard will only make things worse, so know where the nearest urgent care, emergency room, or hospital is as a precaution. Or even if it's as simple as needing a medication refill while you’re away, know where you can get access to the things you need ahead of time so you aren’t caught in a bind. If nothing else your research ahead of time will buy you peace of mind while traveling!

3. Say Goodbye to Stress

Reducing stress as much as possible is a major tip to a successful trip! One of the worst things we can do for our bodies is get worked up and find ourselves overly stressed. And this includes the planning phase of your vacation too. Leave yourself margin while you plan to keep the whole process manageable and fun.

Make sure you know what your triggers are, and get creative about stress reduction! If doing yoga everyday is something that helps your body destress, then find a local studio where you’re going. It’ll be a fun experience in a new place! If journaling helps reduce your stress, find a picturesque park where you can sit and experience some quiet. Whatever it is that works for you, you just might find that in the process of reducing stress, you get to explore the places you’re going in ways that others usually don’t.

And repeat after me, “it’s okay to cancel plans.” Cancelling plans is hard anytime, but especially on a trip. If you have to cancel something because of stress levels, or anything else for that matter, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to take care of your body. It’s your first priority.

4. Create a Home Away from Home

Choosing where to stay once you reach your destination is key. Whether it’s a traditional hotel, or an unconventional spot through Airbnb, VRBO, or Home Away, you may prefer to stay where you'll have access to a kitchen along with other comforts of home. Making a good choice ahead of time gives you the freedom to prepare meals for yourself and follow your routine.

Let’s face it — sometimes a less-accomodating “temporary home” is unavoidable, which changes how you’re able to take care of yourself, especially when it comes to food. But most hotels will bring a mini fridge to your room if you let them know that you have allergies, medications, or an illness that requires it. And when in doubt, packing a cooler might be a last resort, but a workable option.

5. Stay in the Groove

Stick to routines as much as possible while traveling! If you like to start your day with meditation to help center yourself and reduce stress, don’t stop just because you’re somewhere else. Routines and consistency are so important to keeping our bodies functioning as optimally as they can. This also includes things like medications and supplements. Don’t get lazy while you’re away from home. Bring everything that you need to support your body and stay on top of your program.

And in case “vacation brain” causes you to relax to the point of forgetfulness, don’t be shy about setting alarms and reminders on your phone to drink water, take your medications or supplements, grab a quick rest break, or even get ready for bed. Do what it takes to preserve your groove!

6. Play Keep-Away with Contagions

In a world full of beautiful places to explore, the road to get there is often filled with toxins and viruses and germs (oh my!). Many of us have compromised immune systems and the thought of exposing our bodies to a world full of “ick” can be daunting. Whether it’s hand sanitizer or packing a pollution mask, don’t be ashamed to use the tools you need to keep your body well. Even bringing cleaning wipes can help — from the surfaces you’ll touch on an airplane to the TV remote at your hotel. Having what you need to fend off the “ick” might just help you let go of your worries and enjoy.

7. Plan for Downtime

When I travel, I tend to be a “go, go, go” kind of person! I don’t want to miss out on seeing anything or making a memory. But I’ve learned over the years that no downtime is a “no-go” for my body. It’s important, perhaps even more so while traveling, that you plan for downtime to give your body adequate rest. Even when we’re as prepared as we can possibly be, being somewhere new or out of our element can still increase our stress levels. I find that I am typically more tired when I’m away from home, and generally nap everyday on a trip because my body needs that extra rest. Don’t run your body ragged. It’s better to take frequent breaks than to have a “flare to remember” and end up totally out of commission during your vacation.

And this goes beyond just your travel plans! Once you get home, consider planning a recovery day to give your body a chance to recoup from your adventures. Travel can hard on our bodies, and factoring in that next day at home rather than making plans to jump back into your normal day-to-day life can really help you transition back with a little more ease.

8. Don’t Slack on Your Sleep

When it comes to counting sheep, don’t compromise! If you have a certain bedtime every night, keep that same bedtime while you’re away from home. I know it can be hard when visiting friends or family, or even when you’re simply out exploring somewhere new. You get caught up in the moment and want to take everything in! But if you compromise on your sleep, it will catch up to you eventually, whether it’s while you’re still on your trip or later when you get home. And make sure the conditions are right as well — temperature, the darkness of the room, etc. Even packing your favorite pillow can be a huge help. Running on little to no sleep is not fun for anyone, especially those of us who know the ups and downs of living with chronic illness!

9. Pack Your Favorite People

It’s all about the support system. Who you travel with makes all the difference in the world! Living day in and day out with chronic illness can be hard enough on its own, but when you’re traveling, there’s often more to plan for. If you’re traveling with others, make sure you have someone that’s supportive and understanding of your routines and health issues so they can be a support to you.

And remember, friends are fantastic, but they’re not mind-readers. It’s your job to help them understand your health needs, and keep them up-to-speed on how you’re doing throughout the trip. Do they know you have dietary restrictions? Can they help make sure you take breaks throughout the day? Your illness doesn’t need to dictate your adventures, but having your fellow travelers aware of the accommodations you’ll need along the way can really help set healthy expectations for everyone.

10. Factor in Some Fun

Get out and enjoy the local culture, especially if you’re traveling internationally. Just because we have limitations doesn’t mean we have to fully miss out on what’s around us during our travels. Whether the food is holding us back or our mobility, there are always ways to get around and interact with the local culture to enjoy the places we go. Our illnesses aren’t what define us. Have a blast! All the planning and preparedness ahead of time is so worth it to create lasting memories and have the trip of a lifetime!

I hope these tips help you prepare for your next trip! It took me awhile to figure out my rhythm when it came to traveling with chronic illness. In fact, there was a solid year after my diagnoses that I didn’t want to go anywhere at all because it just felt too overwhelming. But now nothing can stop me!

Bon voyage, fellow travelers! Your journey awaits! 


 

Written by: Kelly Halsch

Our world-traveler extraordinaire, Kelly Halsch was born and raised in New York, but now lives and represents the People Hope Tribe in Maryland. Her big dreams include things that many of us can relate to like going to a restaurant and ordering off the menu without making special requests or asking a thousand questions about allergens. Her dogs are her babies, she admits to watching too many episodes of Real Housewives, she’s terrified of ET (yes, from the fictional film), and she’s on a mission to try every local juice bar. But her heart is made alive when she writes, and is there anything more stunning than a woman who sets her mind on encouraging others? We think not. 


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My Dad: Champion of Hope

My Dad: Champion of Hope

Challenging times call for champions of character to rally beside us and wake our hope when it grows weary. Words like “determined” and “advocate” describe my dad well, and it has been his relentless hope that so often championed me through my most challenging seasons.

I had a beautiful childhood, complete with close friends, adventures with my brother, and sweet memories with my loving parents. I was a healthy child. The first obvious signs of illness didn't come until I was twelve years old. During my teenage years, my symptoms grew and accumulated. I still had the strength to attend school and participate in extracurricular activities, but medical emergencies were becoming more common. My family and I learned how to deal with each situation as it came, as well as how to press on with our lives once each emergency came to an end.

When I began to receive my diagnoses, my dad’s determination became my safety net.

When I began to receive my diagnoses, my dad’s determination became my safety net. This character trait developed over the course of his life. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a pilot, and he was willing to work hard to make that dream come true. He paid for flying lessons with the money he earned from odd jobs as a teenager. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Physics, entered the Air Force as an officer, and later earned two Masters degrees in the sciences during his 25 year military service.

His role as a Dad changed when my illness became more severe. He went from coaching me at home in the sports that I played and helping with homework to fighting for adequate healthcare and educating himself on medical terms. Instead of cheering me on from stadium bleachers and taking runs with me around the neighborhood, he cheered me on as I made progress in physical therapy.

Today, he cheers me on as I persevere to the end of my college degree and he pushes my wheelchair when I'm too weak to continue. There was even a time when he was my greatest advocate with my professors. When I was discouraged and ready to quit, he fought for me and helped to negotiate a clear path to finishing. He stayed in my college town, 7 hours from home, after a long hospital admission. He went with me to the library, took me to and from classes and tests, and helped me to wrap my mind around difficult concepts. He washed my hair when I couldn't do it myself, allowed me to lay on his shoulder and cry during hard moments, and made sure that I was given adequate nutrition and sleep. He gave me the perfect balance of gentleness, care and tough love. I was able to complete that semester with excellent grades because my dad wasn't ready to give up on me, even when I thought that I wasn't capable of finishing.

He has lifted me up during times of weakness, and spoken truth over the lies that clouded my mind. He has reached into the dark places and shed light on them. He has dared to dream for a brighter future for me, and inspired me to have more hope than I deemed "safe" to have. He whispers, "just a little further,” when I think I can no longer continue. He believes in me deeply, and reminds me of who I am when I forget my own worth or potential. He helps me to find my smile when I think that it's gone, he makes me laugh, and he holds my hand on the hardest days. He encourages me with thoughtful phone calls and voicemails when we're far apart. He helps me to live a little braver and stand a little taller.

He helped me to see that sickness does not have to be the end of my story, and that greater things are ahead.

Because of him, I pushed beyond my comfort zone and dared to have more faith, to pray bigger prayers and to believe God for more. He helped me to see that sickness does not have to be the end of my story, and that greater things are ahead. The Bible describes faith as, "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." My dad possesses the kind of faith that goes beyond the logic of my medical records and the doctor's prognosis. He trusts God, even in the midst of the pain that our current circumstance brings. He is a champion of hope in my daily battle, like a highly-motivating coach on the sidelines, cheering on his players and beaming with pride.

I believe that God looks at each of us in this way. I believe that He pays close attention to those who are sick, overlooked or forgotten. He knows your pain; he sees the tears that you shed. He saw you when you received sobering news in the doctor's office. He knows the courage that it takes to face each day, and He is proud of you for continuing to choose life in spite of the pain that you feel.

It breaks my dad’s heart to see me sick or hurting. If the hearts of parents break when they see their child suffer, how much more does God's heart break when he sees his children suffer? God, who describes himself as our Heavenly Father, loves each of us even more deeply than our parents are capable of loving us. God's heart breaks when He sees you suffering because He loves you. He isn't indifferently waiting, unaffected by the delay in your improvement, breakthrough or healing. When you hurt, He hurts. When your heart breaks, His does too. He hurts like a parent hurts for their child.

And God's love is unconditional. You are fully known, and you are fully loved by God. He is here during our lowest moments, our best moments and all of our in-between, ordinary moments. He doesn’t love us any more or less because of emotions that we have or mistakes that we’ve made. I often fool myself by thinking that I'm hiding a piece of my heart from God, but He sees it all and He loves me fully. Not only that, but He never leaves me. Appointments and procedures that were stress-provoking became peaceful when I learned to ask Him to come with me. Painful nights in my room all alone, became nights that I spent with Him, feeling loved. The pain didn't go away, but His presence came and it is so sweet. Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." I personally know this to be true.

...you have a Father in Heaven who loves you. He is not disappointed in you. He is proud of you and wants to spend time with you.

I often thank God for giving me a Dad who reflects His character and love for me. It would be much harder to believe in a loving God without a loving father here in the world. I realize that I am in the minority when I talk about having a father who loves me and is present in my life. If you have a strained relationship with your dad, if your dad walked out on you or chose not to be a part of your life, or is no longer on this Earth, I'm incredibly sorry for your pain and loss. I want you to know that you have a Father in Heaven who loves you. He is not disappointed in you. He is proud of you and wants to spend time with you. He wants to hear about the details of your day, and He always has the time to listen. He wants to know you more, and He wants to show you more of who He is. He has a beautiful plan for your life. Your story is not over! There is so much hope for your future. I encourage you to grab your Father’s hand and let Him take you on the adventure of a lifetime!


Written by: Lauren Taylor

Lauren is one of our People Hope Tribe members living in Texas — the land where everything’s said to be bigger, and apparently that includes hope! She’s a boss on both our Connections and Support Teams, but she’s not too cool to admit that petting a giraffe is definitely on her bucket list. Between bites of chips and salsa and daydreams of traveling, you can find her studying to finish her Bachelor of Arts degree to become a Child Life Specialist. Yes, it’s clear to see that this special lady is already a world-changer. Now, if we can just find her a giraffe…

 

Photos of Lauren and her dad are courtesy of our friend SydneyBPhotography.

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