In past posts, you may have noticed that I sometimes refer to my “mystery illness”. Today, I thought I would share a little more about that with all of you. It is my hope that by sharing about it and shining a light on it, people will be more understanding about it. Or, maybe you have similar issues yourself, and if that is the case, it is nice to know you are not alone.
My mystery illness journey started about eight or nine years ago. I used to enjoy working out three days a week at our local YMCA. I did that for a few years, and then the economy tanked and I lost my job. So, I said sayonara to my Y membership. It took me a good year and half before I found another job.
Once I finally got another job, I realized I wanted to work out again on a steady basis. So, one Friday after work, I headed off to the gym. Since it had been a while since I worked out, I knew I needed to ease back into it and start of slowly. I spend some time on the treadmill and worked out my arm and leg muscles on a few machines set on low weight. I cooled down by walking on the treadmill again. I spent about 45 minutes total working out. And, during that whole time I drank my big bottle of water. (I knew it was important to stay hydrated.) Before I left, I filled my water bottle back up so I could continue to drink on the way home.
I was feeling ok overall, then I opened the door to walk out. For whatever reason, the heat outside hit me hard. I remember thinking that I just needed to get to the car, sit down and crank up the air and drink more water and I would be fine. I wasn’t.
Once I made it to my car, I wasn’t even sure I could drive myself home. I remember thinking that I should call my husband to come get me. And, we only lived three miles away! Then I remember chastising myself because it was only three miles away. Surely, I could drive that with no problem!
Somehow, I did make it home. I also managed to get inside and collapse on the couch. And, that is where I stayed until Sunday night. My body felt like someone had taken a baseball to it. My head was in a fog. My hubby brought food to me and helped me get into bed at night and back onto the couch in the mornings. I recall wondering how on earth I was going to make it to work on Monday.
Thank the Lord, by Monday morning, I was feeling slightly better and went to work. But, I wasn’t 100 percent. I was maybe, maybe, 60 percent of my normal self. Obviously, something wasn’t right. I wanted to know what was wrong. I needed to know what was wrong. And, thus started my exploration into the black abyss that is my body and health.
I went to see my GP. His first thought was that I was dehydrated and had heat exhaustion. I scaled up my water intake and hoped that would solve my problem. It didn’t.
Over the course of the next several months I went back to my GP often. We went over a litany of possible problems/causes. I came up negative for every test I took. When I found zero answers with my GP, I started going to specialists.
I went to a cardiologist, an internist, a pulmonologist, and an endocrinologist. I had a small glimmer of hope when my endocrinologist told me that there was indeed something wrong with me. But, what that something was, he could never figure out.
Then, I decided to try a different route. I went to three different homeopathic doctors, a chiropractor, and an acupuncturist. I felt like I made a little more progress going in this direction. I started taking herbal supplements and stopped eating gluten and felt a little better. Emphasis on little.
In between all of this, I went to a rheumatologist. He diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “test” I can take that says definitively that I have fibromyalgia. It isn’t like diabetes where they can run tests and say, yes, you for sure have this. Basically, when you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, they get to this conclusion by ruling out every other option.
Most people that I know who have fibromyalgia are in constant pain. (I know of about three ladies like this.) Thank the Lord, I am NOT in constant pain.
Other people have suggested that maybe I have chronic fatigue syndrome. Maybe I do. After all, my main concern is the fact that I am tired all the time. Who knows?
I have a new friend in my neighborhood and we were talking the other day. Come to find out, she has almost the exact same issues and symptoms I have. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Maybe that is what I have. Again, who knows?
Therefore, I question if I really have fibromyalgia or something else. Hence, why I refer to my health problem as a “mystery illness.”
The Mayo Clinic tells us that fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues.
I am constantly tired. That has been my biggest problem—just being fatigued and worn out, especially if I do anything that is labor intensive, like working out. Even carrying in groceries and folding laundry can drain me. And, when I do have more physical stuff to do, I can power through it, but I know I will pay for it later. I have trouble sleeping and mood issues sometimes. I also have achy joints. And, my joint achiness has been increasing over the years. So, maybe it is fibromyalgia.
In any case, whatever my “mystery illness” is, it is just something that I have learned to live with. I mean, what other option do I have?
I often find myself thinking about the words from the Lauren Daigle song Trust In You:
When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
Through this whole ordeal, I have learned to lean into the Lord and trust in Him. He is my strength and I know that with His help, I will make it through each day.
And, somehow, miraculously I do.
I know it has zero to do with me and everything to do with God.
Those of you who know me, know that I am enormous animal-lover. There are very few creatures on this earth that I don’t care for. I like most critters that others do not, including spiders, snakes, sharks, and bees. Actually, the only living thing that I don’t like is roaches. (They completely gross me out!)
And, if you know me, you also know that I considerably tender-hearted. So, it should come as no surprise to you that when I come across animals in distress, I do my best to help them. I will stop and help turtles cross the road. I will fish lizards out of water bowls. I will pick up wiggly worms from the sidewalk and put them back in the dirt. I will scoop up spiders inside the house and take them outside. I will guide hummingbirds out of my garage with a rake. I will pick up snakes and relocate them to safer areas. This is just who I am. It is who God made me to be.
This past Sunday, as I was taking Clancey for a walk, we came across a young opossum that was hurt. I could see a big scratch on his head and he was curled up, breathing heavily. I initially panicked, not knowing what to do. But, I knew I could not leave him there like that to die. I quickly headed back home to jump online and search for help. My husband and I tried calling at least six different places, hoping they could take him in. No one could. After those strike-outs, I got back online. It took me a while, but I finally got some help from a wildlife rehabber, Melissa, on a Facebook group I belong to.
Melissa first advised me to be careful in handling this baby, as opossums are wild and they do bite. However, most often they freeze up, or “play possum” and handling them shouldn’t be that hard. She told me to clean up his wound with peroxide and antibiotic ointment. She also told me he would appreciate some water and fruits and veggies.
By-the-time I got back to take care of the little guy, lots of flies were flying around. This really worried me. But, I got to work, cleaning up his head. I also noticed he was hurt under his arm as well. So, I cleaned that up too. Next, I put out some fresh water and peas for him and even tried putting some drops of water in his mouth. Next, I covered him with a cloth to keep the flies away. I then decided to leave him alone for a little while, and give him some time to rest.
Honestly, I needed some rest too. I was so worried over this little guy. I was anxious and fretting about him. I went home and cried and laid down for a quick nap. And, I think, most importantly, I prayed and prayed and prayed for him. I truly didn’t think he would make it.
The next time I went to check on him, well I almost didn’t even go. I didn’t think I could take seeing his little dead body lying there. But, I also had to know how he was doing. So, off I went, holding my breath.
When I got there, he was gone!
The cloth I had covered him up with was still there. The jar lids I put his food and water in were there. (Along with ants who were eating what was left of the food.) But, my little guy was gone.
The only thing I can figure is that God used me and that little bit of work I did on him, to allow him to rest up and leave of his own volition.
And, this is why I am sharing all of this with you today—God is so, so good!
God heard my prayers. He saw my tears. He saw my heart. And, He took care of this sweet little opossum.
To me, it was a miracle.
But, that is what God does, doesn’t He?
That is the business that God is in, isn’t He?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to see this first-hand and be reminded of Your mercy and love. Thank you for allowing me to play a part in it. And, thank you for allowing me to share this with others. I give you all the glory. For, it is nothing that I did, but what You did.
In Your son’s name, I pray, Amen.
P.S. Did you know? Opossums eat ticks and copperheads. They are immune to snake venom and, due to low body temps, they rarely contract rabies. So, please show these critters some love!
A major life change is currently taking place in my family. We are preparing to move into our new home! It is an exciting, albeit, hectic and stressful time. Packing up all our belongings is one of those chores that demands physical strength and endurance. And, unfortunately for me, I don’t really have either one of those anymore. (Shout-out to my mystery illness!)
My husband and I have been anxiously awaiting this move for almost a year now. On the plus side, this time has granted me the freedom to clean up, clean out, purge, and pack things a little bit at the time. There is no way I would be able to handle doing all this the week before we move. (Talk about corporal punishment! I get exhausted just thinking about it.)
On another note, while waiting on our home to be built, I came across an idea that I thought was wonderful—and I want to share it will you. As I am sure you have already surmised, I love God. And, I want to grow in Him and share His love and light every day. With this endeavor, I am a work in progress!
I also want to fill my life with as much goodness as I can. This is especially true for our home. I mean home should be our sanctuary, right? It should be the place we long to be and feel most comfortable in. And, while I know that heaven is my true home, I want to make our earthly home as Godly and humble and inviting as I possibly can.
With that thinking in mind, it occurred to me that it would be lovely to find a blessing/prayer to christen our new home with. As I scouted around online, I stumbled upon an even better idea—write Bible verses in each room of your home. I must thank Laura Tucker for this fabulous idea. I encourage you to read her article A Strong Foundation: Bible Verses For Building A Home.
So, after deciding which Bible verses I wanted to use, I got my trusty Sharpie and went to work. Below are some pictures of the results. All of these are now covered in drywall and paint, but we know that they are there. And, more importantly, God knows they are there. I also wrote out this new home blessing in the middle of our living room floor:
May peace so fill this space
that strife will find no place.
May love so lift each heart
that pain will have no start.
May joy be in such supply
that sorrow’s tears will quickly dry.
And may each room be
filled with laughter, joy,
and song all the day long.
Building our new home on the firm foundation of God is the best investment we can ever make. It will pay dividends in every area of our lives. The same is true for you. It is true for all of us. When we put God first, everything else will fall into place.
Do you know that God loves you just as you are?
Just. As. You. Are.
He does NOT care what color your skin is.
He does NOT care how much money you have or don’t have.
He does NOT care if you are tall or short.
He does NOT care if you are a male or female.
He does NOT care if you are gay or straight or other.
He does NOT care about your sex, race, origin, or job.
He does NOT care how many “bad” things you have done in your life.
Look, we are all different and we all sin.
Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
God loves you.
Just the way you are.
He loves you just as you are, because you are His child.
He made you and He loves you.
Even with all your dirt, bruises, and scars.
He loves you.
Don’t let anyone tell you any differently.
You need God in your life.
I need God in my life.
We all need God in our lives.
Let God in, won’t you?
Don’t think that you can only become a child of God if you fit some mold.
Don’t think that you can only become a child of God if you are “good”.
Don’t think that you can only become a child of God if you are “perfect”.
There is no mold.
God made each of us special and unique.
And the only thing that is perfect in this world is God’s love for us.
There is only one thing you need to do to have God in your life—invite Him in.
Invite God into your life.
Believe in God.
Trust in God.
He is all you need.
The only sin you can commit that God will NOT forgive you for, is the sin of not inviting Him into your life.
So, what are you waiting for?
Invite God in!
I am at a place in my life where one of the things I long for most is peace. I have always disliked drama and politics. I have never understood why people can’t just get along. In my mind, it is simple—treat others the way you want to be treated. Or, at the very least live and let live, as the old saying goes. (And, yes, I do get the irony that I am a theatre nerd, was president of drama club in high school, and have two degrees in theatre—or drama as it is sometimes called.)
At 43, I am officially middle-aged. I hate typing that. In my brain, I feel more like 28. But sadly, my body often reminds me that I am far from 28. Anyway, I have been thinking a lot lately about “the peace of God which transcends all understanding.” This is from Philippians 4:7. And, this is what I want in my life.
So, how do we experience this peace? Where can we find it? How do we get it?
If you read your Bible, you will find the answer. John 14:27 tells us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Jesus left us His peace. It is one of His many gifts to us. We don’t need to ask for it. He has already given it to us. He left it for us a long time ago. Peace I leave with you. We just need to take it. Grab it. Step into it. Breathe it in. Soak in it. Heck, marinate in it!
God is peace. He is even referred to as the Prince of Peace. (See Isaiah 9:6) Once we know God, we can know peace. The more time we spend with Him, the closer we draw to Him, the more of His peace we can experience and benefit from!
Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like, “Who you spend the most time with is who you become”? I have heard it quite often. But, honestly, I am not sure if it is true or not. However, I hope and pray that I become more like God every day. It only makes sense to me that the best way to become more like Him is to spend time with Him.
When we remember to seek God in all things, He becomes our refuge, our sanctuary. God tells us that we can cast our cares, our worries, our problems, our sorrows, and our fears on Him. Then, we can let them go. (See 1 Peter 5:7) Being able to do this gives us peace. Once we learn how to do this, we start to grasp that, His peace really does pass all human understanding.
Now, this can and does take some time. It is not something that magically happens overnight. (At least, that wasn’t the case for me.) It was something that I had to work for. It is something that I still work for. I often have to remind myself that Jesus left me His peace. I just need to reach out and grab it!
As I grow spiritually, and just as a female in general, I am realizing the value of self-care. Life can often be full and time-consuming and tiring. Sometimes it can even be crazy and daunting. But, as I age, looking out for number one--that would be me, is becoming more and more evident.
I have mentioned my “mystery” illness before. It is something I have been contending with for more than eight years now. I get tired and worn down easily from anything physical and/or stressful. And, while I don’t like it, I have learned to adjust my life accordingly. I sleep longer each night than I used to. I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables—more natural foods and a lot less processed foods. And, while adjusting my life has been tough, I have learned two very important lessons from it.
This week, I thought I would share both with you.
First, while it may be frowned upon by some, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting yourself first. As a matter of fact, I would argue that taking care of yourself first takes priority over everything and everyone else in your life. I know you have heard this before, but I love it and I am going to share it with you again, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
If this makes others mad, so what? If this is upsetting to others, who cares? Trust me, they will get over it. God wants us to take care of ourselves. He wants us to be happy and healthy. Happy. And. Healthy.
By-the-way, being healthy includes your physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Paul tells us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.”
Make sure your cup is full—put yourself first. Take care of yourself. Then, you can do all the other things in life that you feel are required of you.
Second, when I am weak, God is strong. When I am struggling, God pulls me up. When I am bone-tired, God refreshes me. When I can’t do anything, but cry from anger or frustration, God whispers in my ear that it’s ok.
This “mystery” illness, has brought me closer to God. This “mystery” illness has allowed me to rely on God more and more. And, He has never failed me. Not once! Over the course of the past eight years, I have seen first-hand just how much God loves me and looks after me. I have witnessed God do some pretty spectacular things. Day after day, He is there.
After all this time, my perspective of my “mystery” illness has changed. While I used to despise it, I am now grateful for it. Without it, I would not have the relationship with God that I have. And, there is nothing in this world that I would trade for that. Nothing. (Not even my old body.) God certainly works in mysterious ways, doesn't He?
My every day self-care now includes spending good, quality time with our Father God. Every day during lunch at work, I go outside and listen to a meditation devotional for 15 minutes. It is one of my most precious times of the day. It is something that I look forward to. It is something that replenishes me. It has turned into something that I yearn for. It is like needing food and water. I need time with God every day.
You do too. Start taking better care of yourself and your soul. Start by spending more time with God. And, start right now. You are worth it!
Taking on our sin and shame
Carrying a burden that was not His own
All the while being innocent and pure.
Experiencing our human condition
Our simple joys and our happiness,
Friendship and love
And, ultimately our sadness, loneliness, and misery.
Before His death
He experienced betrayal,
abandonment, and condemnation.
He felt and went through everything any of us could ever go through.
And, this gave Him more ammunition to love us so.
And, more reason to turn His back on us and allow us to suffer and die in shame alone.
But, rather than turn His back on us, He embraced us.
He loved us.
He wept for us.
He shed His blood for us.
He died for us.
He took our punishment, our sins, and our shame and bore it on His shoulders.
He carried all of it up Golgotha’s hill, while being spit on, mocked, and called names.
He bore the collective weight of all our burdens, sin, and shame.
This is what true love is.
Thank you, Jesus
For loving us so much.
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.