Write anyway.

The first piece of advice I give to writing students is that if they want to improve their writing, they have to commit to writing every day.  I often say, “Set a timer for ten minutes and keep your hands or fingers moving that entire time.  It doesn’t matter what you are writing about; just write.”

Often I get the response, “But I don’t know what to write about!”

And I say, “Write anyway.”

So, today I am taking my own advice.  I found the time in my afternoon to do some writing and I thought to myself, “I don’t know what to write about!” And then I heard my answer, “Write anyway.”

Since I’ve been finding threads in this blog for the last couple of posts, I might as well acknowledge that ‘writing about writing’ is one of my threads.  I don’t know if every blogger is so drawn to writing as I am.  I mean, they have to like writing a little bit if they take the time to blog, right?  But do they feel the tug to get to the keys?  Do they feel refreshed and energized after they have found the way to order their thoughts in words on a screen?  Do they turn to the laptop to make sense of their chaos?

Because I do.  In fact, if I haven’t written in a while, I get a little cranky…all the thoughts get jammed up in my head, almost begging for a way to get out.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Now, Kristin, I have met you and you certainly say a lot of words every time I am with you; doesn’t that do the same thing?”

Actually, no.  You’re right;  I do use a lot of words.  I like to fill up silent spaces when I am around other people.  In fact, I can’t seem to get myself to shut up.  But often those words aren’t deeply reflective or fully indicative of what is happening in my soul.  They may share insights I have gained through my prayer/Bible/writing, but they aren’t the way I typically get to the insights.

I have found that my best thinking and processing are done when I am quiet.  For instance, at this moment, I have been alone in my house for almost two hours.  I haven’t spoken a word to anyone other than dear old Chester, our golden retriever.  I ate some lunch, read the book of Hosea, wrote in my prayer journal, then turned to my blog.  I’m not entirely sure why, but this process of reading, praying, then writing, creates an openness through which my thoughts can order themselves and find a new expression.

Several years ago, before I entered this next chapter, I would go running every day after school.  I felt I needed that time to ‘download my day’.  While I ran, my stream of consciousness would sort out the moments and file them into folders for later use.  It was a useful transition from my day at school to my day at home.  However, I think all those years I was missing a step.  I rarely sat down in silence to open the folders, reflect on their contents, and find meaning from the moments.

I am taking the time now.

See what happens when you “write anyway”?

Psalm 34:8

Oh, Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him!

 

 

 

Bent on turning

Why am I amazed every single time that God reveals Himself.  I mean, He does it so often, you would think I would begin to expect it. Yet, I am always surprised.  Consider this.

Way back in November, my Wednesday morning Bible Study battalion started discussing what we would study next.  Several studies were suggested, so we considered each of them as we made our decision.  Right before Thanksgiving we decided to study Jennifer Rothschild’s Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything.  Well, that was November, and then Christmas happened, and I forgot all about what we would be studying.

God took me on a journey through December that landed me in January, longing to turn back to my good practices of Bible study, prayer, and blogging (read my post ‘Turn at any Time’).  In fact, this idea of turning starting churning around in my head last January when a couple of friends and I were meeting once a week for what I’ll call ‘prayer talking’.  Each of us was embracing the idea of repenting, or turning.  We were deciding together that we had been walking the wrong way and that we were willing to turn around and walk back toward God.

Actually, I just took a scroll through my previous blog posts and saw that like the thread of ‘healing’ that I mentioned yesterday, there is also a thread of repenting — of turning.  Perhaps you, like me, find yourself learning the same lessons over and over again.  Learning and forgetting.  Straying and turning.

So, when I joined the battalion this morning to start our study, the one that we chose last November, I could hardly keep myself from gasping when our leader paraphrased Hosea 11:7: My people are bent on turning away from Me.  Yes, Lord, I am!  I am bent on it!  And you see it!  You’re speaking to that tendency in me!

God used Hosea to speak to this tendency that is common to humans.  He knows us!  He knew that we would take his love for granted, that we would wander to look at any little shiny thing that caught our eyes.  He knew that when we did this we would feel guilty, helpless, unloveable and beyond hope. So, He gave us Hosea.

Hosea was a man of God, who sought out Gomer, a prostitute, and continued to love her despite her unfaithfulness.  This, my friends, is a picture of God’s covenant relationship with us.  God, who is God, seeks out unfaithful humans and continues to love us!  He keeps both sides of the covenant!

Hosea is a love story, friends.  It’s a tale of the unconditional love of God for His people. A love that pursues the wanderer. The kind of love that steps into squalor to find us.  It’s a story of  God’s love that is bent on turning away from anger in order to save us. A love that welcomes us back and embraces us.

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled…

return to the Lord…

I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them… 

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;

they shall flourish like grain.

Hosea 14, selected verses

Now, come on, why wouldn’t we want to return?

It takes a team

One thread of this blog since its inception is my journey through healing.  In the summer of 2012, I noticed that my elbows hurt.  The first health professional I saw thought I had tennis elbow — even though I didn’t play tennis or do any other repetitive motion activity other than swiping my iPad. That fall I began to feel tired — reeeeeeeally tired.  As a full-time mom, teacher, school administrator, and basically busy person, I had no time to be tired.  I went to a second health professional who did some blood tests and told me I was fine.

Since I knew I wasn’t fine, I kept pushing and investigating until I landed in a rheumatology office where I was given the diagnosis — psoriatic arthritis.  By then I wasn’t just tired — I was achy and struggling with psoriasis, too. Over the next 18 months I was treated with a series of medications in an attempt to find the one that would allow me to feel the best with the least side effects. I also experimented with acupuncture, massage, and nutritional interventions. All the while, I was still working full time and preparing for a major move, my youngest daughter’s graduation from high school and my oldest daughter’s graduation from college.

Then we moved.  And, if you have been following this blog, you know I committed to some time of rest and recovery.

While resting and recovering, I saw new medical professionals who said I did NOT, in fact, have psoriatic arthritis, but probably fibromyalgia.  These doctors discontinued some of the meds I was on and suggested that I insert more exercise into my life including cardio (I was already walking and doing Pilates). I resisted the fibro diagnosis, got a gym membership, and started building my team.

Now, 3.5 years after my initial symptoms and 1.5 years after moving to Michigan, I am still on the path to healing, but I am not alone.  I have assembled quite a little network of professionals who are believing with me that my health can improve and, indeed, that my entire sense of well-being might be restored.  Let me introduce my team.

Rev. John Rathje, aka my dear husband, is chief executive in charge of encouragement.  From the beginning, he has believed my invisible symptoms are real, has accompanied me to appointments whenever I have asked, has heated flax seed pillows, purchased ice packs, rubbed sore muscles, and supported my couch sitting. He also makes sure to remind me not to push too hard or do too much.

Rev. William Gatz is chief executive in charge of intercession. Since the moment he heard of my diagnosis he has prayed daily for my complete recovery.  If you know Pastor Gatz, you know this is serious business. He is a leader in prayer and intercession, especially prayer related to healing.  He also recommended that I read How Can I ask God for Physical Healing, which challenged some of my thoughts and affirmed others.

Dr. Mary Greiner, D.O. and Integrative Medicine Specialist, is the hub of my medical team.  She spends a great amount of time listening to me.  She takes a varied approach that includes, but is not limited to, pharmacology, homeopathy, nutrition, physical therapy, and lifestyle. Most importantly she believes that I can experience a better quality of life than I have now and she is willing to walk with me until I get there.

Marcy Boughton, MS PT, is the physical therapy whisperer who is subtly coercing my body into healing itself. She has manipulated my skull, my spine, my organs, my limbs, and, I dare say, my mind. The woman is filled with the spirit of God — Biblical truth oozes from her as she applies her hands to my body.  It is really quite miraculous. I have never experienced anything like it. Once a week I spend an hour on her table and leave feeling energized and supported. Marcy recommended that I read Dr. Gary Kaplan’s Total Recovery which is reshaping the way I think about health and the human body.

Dr. Greg Peroff, DC, is the chiropractic support member of this team.  He continually reminds my sacroiliac joint of where it is supposed to hang out and keeps my head screwed on straight. Like the others, he is committed to my overall well-being and applauds me as I walk down this path.

Of course I have other players — my eye doctor who treats the ocular herpes that resulted from my time on biologic medicines, my former therapist who walked with me before and during my diagnosis and helped me begin to see that my pursuit of health is not merely medical, but also psychological and spiritual, and a great team of family and friends. Soon I will be recruiting an acupuncturist and a massage therapist to round out this crew.

When I write it all down it seems a little excessive and somewhat selfish to need so many people. That is, when I look at it with my natural mind. My natural mind wants to be self-sufficient and to soldier through any difficulty without the support of anyone else.  I want to kick butts and take names.

Good thing I also have the mind of Christ that reminds me that butt-kicking and name-taking contributed to me being in this position in the first place. The mind of Christ reminds me that God connects us with others for a variety of reasons. This team is supporting me, yes, and perhaps, in some way, I am also blessing them.

I didn’t choose the path of chronic illness, but I am choosing the path to wellness — body, soul, and spirit. I am turning away from thinking with my natural mind, and turning toward the mind of Christ. Moment by moment, I am turning.

I Corinthians 2:14, 16

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Turn at any time, a Re-visit

Click the arrow above to hear me read this post.

I wrote this post in January of 2016, and since I’ve been on the topic of New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d revisit it here. It serves as a reminder that while New Year’s resolutions are great, if we find ourselves on a wrong path, we can turn at any time.

When I was younger, I participated in the whole New Year’s resolution hoopla.  Each January I would determine to exercise more, be more diligent in my Bible study, write more, save more money, etc. Like many, I started off strong, then missed a day, fell off the wagon, or went back to my old ways feeling defeated and guilty.

At some point over the years, my pendulum swung to the other extreme, and I determined that I was fine, thank you very much; I didn’t need to resolve to change anything. I may have even scoffed at those who did make resolutions.

Eventually, I admitted that in fact I was not fine, thank you very much. I did need to, from time time, assess my situation and make some adjustments. However, in a mind-blowing realization, I discovered that change could happen at any time, not just at the beginning of the year. It could happen on February 19 or June 3. In fact, I could resolve to live differently on December 21, right before the Christmas holidays. Change didn’t have to be bound by the calendar. I could decide that I would write more starting at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon and sit down at the keyboard right then! What a radical thought!

And, if on the following Monday at 9am I realized that I had forgotten about my decision to write more, I could remember right then and get back at it! I didn’t have to wait until the next Thursday at 2pm!

By now, I have realized that, despite my good intentions and my continued determinations to change, I continue to find a way to fit failure into each and every day. I resolve to call a friend, be consistent with exercise, pray each morning, etc, etc., then I find myself binge-watching some Netflix show that adds virtually no value to my life!

It happens, and then I have a choice — I can continue to ignore my resolutions, or I can turn toward them. If you’ve tried this at home, you know that turning isn’t typically easy or final. Right now I am turning toward my good practices of Bible study, prayer, and writing. In a few minutes I might be finishing the sewing project I have resolved to finish today, or I might get distracted by Words with Friends or Facebook.

Let me just take a moment to say here that I don’t think Netflix, Words with Friends, or Facebook are evil…if you know me, you know that I enjoy each of these 21st century phenomena quite a bit. However, just like anything else in our stimuli-rich world, they can distract me from my turning. They can get me walking away from what I want and need most. So, from time to time, I have to set them down, take stock, and remember why I am turning.

I am turning for a fuller, richer, more meaningful life. More prayer gives me a healthier connection with the Father. More Bible study provides a richer foundation in the truth. Consistent writing allows me to process all that I take in each day, everything I’m learning. These practices — prayer, Bible study, writing — center me. They breathe newness into me.

So, today I am turning toward them. Tomorrow I may get distracted for a bit, but I won’t wait until next year to redirect. I can turn at any time.

Because of the Lord’s great love [we can return at any time], for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23, Rathje Revised Version