New Year, New Me*

New Year, New Me*

(*same chronic illness, same symptoms, same body, same problems.)

When I first became sick with my chronic illness, I had a lot of purposeless, unfocused, bitter months, and the long-lost concept of setting goals for my life became a thing of the past. In a fear-flooded way, the idea of establishing goals and not being able to reach them was terrifying. So I stopped setting them. And that’s also where I went very wrong.

Growing up I remember hearing this old Proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” A different paraphrase of that same verse puts it this way, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” This idea of “stumbling all over myself” perfectly sums up my first many months of chronic illness. There was no vision. There was no direction. There was only “sick.”

This verse gives us the most heartbreaking, honest picture of failing for lack of effort. How often do we cheat ourselves the opportunity to celebrate fully attainable victories only because we never took the initiative to establish what victory would even look like in the first place? And time and again we starve ourselves of those could-be gleeful moments spent celebrating hard-earned progress simply by never noticing it. 

We don’t win because we don’t try, and we don’t try because it’s become a scary thing!

But is it possible that setting goals isn’t the scary monster we think it is? What if our framework just needs a little adjusting, and our focus needs fixing?

We’ve all heard that writing down your goals makes you a zillion times more likely to succeed (give or take a few zillion), but what if there’s a way to make your goals even more effective? Enter gratitude. More and more studies are now documenting the profound physiological power of practicing gratitude. It literally re-wires your brain, so you can imagine the impact of pairing these two practices together. 

To put it in a different lens, whatever has your focus has your energy. When I think about all the things in my life that I’d like to change, I’ll be honest, I’m instantly overwhelmed by the metaphorical heaps of frustration-inducing crap. I don’t even know where to begin, my focus is scattered, and my energy is completely drained. But when I start with gratitude, I’ve instantly jumpstarted my brain, fixed my focus, and aimed my energy well. I’m no longer overwhelmed by the seemingly endless metaphorical crap heaps of things I want to change in my life. Instead I’m empowered, focused, and determined to make progress in my goals.

I want to challenge you to begin practicing both gratitude and intentionally fixing your focus throughout the year ahead. Don’t settle for another month, week, or even minute of purpose-less “bleh” life. You’re stuck in a hospital room? I get that. You’re not able to go out and do things that you’d like to? I get that too! But where did we buy into this idea that being chronically ill is somehow synonymous with being “put on the bench.” Stop telling yourself that your life doesn’t have purpose now that you’re sick! 

What if you’re more and not less capable of loving people now that you have a greater empathy? What if you’re more and not less able to relate to hurting people now that you have scars of your own? What if you’re more and not less empowered to have a greater impact with your life now that you understand pain and suffering? What if this isn’t a set back so much as it’s a set-up for you to do exactly what you were put on this earth to accomplish? 

Fixing your focus doesn’t make the pain and depression and symptoms magically vanish, but it does empower you to choose your perspective and determine that you’re unwilling to spend another minute without purpose. In the same way practicing gratitude doesn’t eliminate the previously mentioned metaphorical crap heaps that we all have in our lives. But it literally gives you the power to choose how you want your brain to operate.

I’m personally inviting you to join me in using People Hope’s Focus Fix to jumpstart your monthly practice, but whatever tools you choose to use and whenever you start to use them, don’t quit on the possibility of having a purposeful year and intentionally building a purposeful life.

I believe in you. And I honestly believe that God has good plans in store for your life that far outweigh the tendency to focus on our metaphorical heaps of…well…you know what. 

New year, new me*

(*same illness, new perspective on it.)

Fix that focus, friends. It looks good on you.

Grab your Focus Fix now, and start practicing gratitude and living with intention through our free resource! It's our gift to you!


Written by: Anna Kowlessar, Founder of People Hope

After many years of dealing with her own chronic illness, Anna began 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 a place to belong regardless of diagnosis. You can read more here.


Want to see more articles like this?

People Hope is 100% donor-funded by people just like you, and we need your help to keep publishing hope-giving resources like this one! You can make a gift right now, or even sign up to join our Core Team of monthly supporters for as little as $10/month!

The Spiteful Christmas

The Spiteful Christmas

How is it that loneliness and Christmas don’t belong together in the same sentence, but somehow coexist in many of our lives? Why is it that the season that’s supposed to be filled with so much joy and good cheer often brings us the deepest sorrow? 

You could argue that the chronically ill Christmas isn’t so different from anyone else’s, except for maybe the pain and symptoms and general lack of physical capability to celebrate as one should. Yes, perhaps you catch the sarcasm there. But if we look closer, we can easily identify the ugly culprit of so much of our unnecessary Yuletide pain: 

Should.

Supposed to.

There’s this pressure that, somehow despite your pain and mixed bag of less-than-delightful symptoms, you should feel what every good Christmas song bellows — happiness, cheer, and a thorough dose of good old fashioned peace. But what if your “shoulds” and your reality aren’t matching up this December? What if you feel frustrated instead of happy, lonely instead of cheerful, and DEFCON 5 ANXIOUS instead of peaceful? (Trust me, it’s a real thing.) Or worse, what if you don’t feel much of anything, thanks to the numbing pangs of depression? GASP.

“Should” is a funny thing, isn’t it? Full of both expectation and the pressure to uphold that same expectation. It may be 2017 but there’s still this archaic concept that Christmas is nothing if it isn’t everything; in other words, if you feel even a little “off” from what every carol screams that you should feel, there simply must be something wrong with you. And sure, we all want to have that idyllic Christmas experience with the toasty-marshmallow-feelings and snowflake-on-your-tongue-delight, but it’s also okay and real and valid if your Christmas isn’t like that this year. It’s okay if your season is more of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, looking a little funky, but full of love.

You don’t have to box up your heartbreak and disappointment and pretend it doesn’t exist every time you find yourself in the presence of an ugly-Christmas-sweater-clad friend. And you don’t have to work twice as hard to hide your symptoms just because it’s December. Your feelings and symptoms are just as legitimate today as they will be in January.

So I warmly invite you to join me in The Spiteful Christmas, which, by the way, is not an excuse to morph into a modern-day Scrooge. Rather, this is an invitation to celebrate your Christmas season in spite of (*insert your own problems here*).

For me, I will be celebrating a beautiful Christmas in spite of pain and sickness and a depression that oftentimes coexists against my strong wishes otherwise. My Spiteful Christmas is one in which I resolve not to feel shame that my pain still exists, but instead I choose to hold onto joy and hope anyway.

The Spiteful Christmas is not one that ignores the reality of your challenges, but rather one that respectfully nods at the elephant-in-the-room-sized problems, and determines itself to hope anyway. Go ahead and throw a little spite towards your illness, and while you’re at it throw out the guilt and pressure to feel nothing other than fa-la-la and jingle bells. Yes, you may have guessed that this paragraph is the proverbial scene at the end of the Grinch in which the green, furry fella realizes that he couldn’t stop Christmas after all. This Christmas may feel like a punch-in-the-gut reminder that another year without healing has come and gone, but you most certainly are not alone, and I can personally assure you that God has not and will not forget about you. He hasn’t left your side for one moment, and he refuses to quit on you, much in the way that Tim Allen refuses to stop being Santa Claus for not one but three full-length films. 

Friend, your symptoms are real and valid, and they just might show up uninvited at every turn this season, but if you dig in your heels and determine to celebrate a hope-filled Christmas in spite of everything, you might come to see that your sickness and pain didn’t spoil it for you, after all.

Merry Christmas from my heart full of joy and hope and arrhythmias alike!


Written by: Anna Kowlessar, Founder of People Hope

After many years of dealing with her own chronic illness, Anna began 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 a place to belong regardless of diagnosis. You can read more here.

 


Want to see more articles like this?

People Hope is 100% donor-funded by people just like you, and we need your help to keep publishing hope-giving resources like this one! You can make a gift right now, or even sign up to join our Core Team of monthly supporters for as little as $10/month!

Our 3rd Birthday Surprise

Happy Birthday, People Hope!

As we celebrate our 3rd Birthday, it's only fitting that we honor the people that have made these years so special - our courageous global community, which we affectionately refer to as the People Hope Tribe! 

This year we surprised one member of our Tribe with a box full of gifts in honor of our big day!  It took months of snooping, planning, and coordinating with her mom and husband, but our team was able to surprise Lacey with a little birthday magic...and we filmed the whole thing so that you could be part of the surprise, too!  

What was inside Lacey's box?

Her gift was filled with everything we know she loves, from books to People Hope t-shirts, hand-sewn blankies for Jaxon, and a gift card for a date night with Jace. There were chocolates and dog treats and jewelry, oh my! 

JPEG image-BEC2F3A0C86D-1.jpeg

But it was thanks to our incredible sponsors that we were able to go above & beyond for Lacey! 

When Five Watt Coffee caught wind that Lacey's a little coffee-obsessed, they gave us three bags of their premium coffee beans to send her way! Not only are they the best roasters, they're the best people, too.

 

Because photos are so important to Lacey, James and Katie Stokes sent over a gift certificate for a family lifestyle portrait session! 

 

 

 

One of our incredible partners, River Valley Church, wanted to get in on the fun, too, and they sent along t-shirts, mugs, and an album of their music!

 

 

Mary ellen King collaborated with our very own Anna King Kowlessar, and this mother-daughter duo dreamed up something beautiful! Anna wrote a prayer based off of Lacey's favorite Bible verses, and Mary designed, hand-lettered, and framed a large statement piece of art for Lacey's home.

 

 

The minute that Bella Zenn Salon heard we were surprising Lacey, they jumped on board to give her a gift certificate for a hair cut and color to spoil this amazing mama! Ladies, you know it doesn't get better than that!

124KlimekFamily17_0124.jpg
Photos of Lacey and her family are all courtesy of our new friends at James Stokes Photography. All rights reserved.

Photos of Lacey and her family are all courtesy of our new friends at James Stokes Photography.

All rights reserved.

Lisa

I expected to get better, and I didn’t.

What does hope look like when your chronic illness spans years that turn into decades? Lisa's story tells us just that. As one of our insightful People Hope Tribe members, Lisa lets us into her story of long-lasting illness, the grieving, trusting, and hoping along the way, and the grace and wisdom of walking this journey for such a long time. Hers is a story of strength, make no mistake.

I don’t know what my day holds for me, but God does.
That gives me hope.

Come Together

"Come Together" is a poem about the People Hope Tribe - our global community made up of both chronically ill and healthy people who are passionate about spreading hope.  Tribe, you share your lives so generously, boldly breaking down isolation.  You share your challenges with dignity, and your victories with grace.  It is with admiration, respect, and validation that we celebrate the ways in which you daily come together.

 

 

"Come Together"

Us: the concept of people who share ourselves.

We hope to feel heard;

taken seriously.

The voices that encourage their voices.

Often engaged,

looking to give purpose,

empowerment, community, passion.

Change: a result.

People, local and international,

to curate change,

to choose,

to express,

and find support; hope.

Welcoming creativity.

Your community.

Flourish.

Be heard.

Come together. 

 
"It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough! ...By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst."
[Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12 MSG]

We would love to invite you to be a part of our amazing Tribe! If you’re daily choosing hope no matter what life throws at you, you’re already in! You belong here, and we are thrilled to welcome you. Go ahead and start using #PeopleHopeTribe on your social media posts, click the hashtag to scroll through and “get to know” other amazing men and women from our global community, and know that you are never alone!