A Reflection: My MS Journey

I’ve always kind of said that my physical and spiritual selves were related. In the past, I tried to do everything perfectly. I strived to be the best (intellectually, of course—I’ve never been very good at sports or other physical feats). And then, in 8th grade (2004), I was diagnosed with MS. I’m not labeling it good or bad. God takes the bad and uses it for good, but I would never wish chronic illness on anyone. I found that I got tired more easily, I couldn’t do everything myself (no matter how much I tried). God used the MS to teach me a few things. I’ve written on this subject before, for example, in this post (which is an older reflection like this), but it’s always refreshing to my spirit to reflect again and praise God for it all! Here are some things I’ve learned in my 16 years with this progressive disease: 

Trust God. I feel like we say we trust God a lot, but how much is “a lot?” Enough? I learned to trust God so much more after MS. It was easier, years ago, to ask God for energy for the day when I didn’t have any. My condition is a lot worse, but if I am by myself and trying not to fall on the floor, when I ask God for help, he sends it. He either gives me the strength I need to do a task myself, or he sends somebody else to help me. Which leads me to my next point:  

Remember that we need each other. I would fall, and when somebody came up to help me, my stubborn and independent nature said, “Nope, I’m okay! I got this!” It took years, but I eventually realized that by accepting help, I was giving somebody else the opportunity to bless me. They could help me up, or do something simple for me, like helping put my groceries in the car. They just blessed me by helping me, and I think when you do things for others, your bucket is filled a bit more, too.  The same is true in life. We aren’t supposed to be good at everything. God gave each one of us a different gift than the other, so that together, we could be something beautiful. When DrH was in med school, I became president of the club for the spouses. When you’re president of something, it is way too easy to do everything yourself. But nobody is supposed to. Presidents are given the authority to delegate. It felt good when I would recognize somebody’s strength, and ask them to do a job in that area. I have been part of many leadership teams, and I have noticed this, again and again. When we each do the thing we shine at, we are able to be a well-functioning team!  

Take breaks. I would get tired out so fast, but I was on a roll! Just as my body calls for a rest every midday, we need to break up what we’re working on. Again, When DrH was in med school, he learned the 50-5 technique. Study for fifty minutes, take a break. That could be a break of two minutes or ten. Then every so many short breaks, take a long one. He still uses this while he is working on something at home (he probably uses it at work, too, but I never see him). I have learned to break up my work sessions like this, as well. It helps!  

Stay positive. I have seen people devastated by their diagnosis, allowing it to stop them from living. These people go downhill quickly. On the other hand, I have seen people who are positive, even though their situation may not be. I’ve waxed and waned, but my demeanor has always, naturally, been a positive one. I grew up with the northern Midwestern view of “It could be worse.” Which is true, things could always be worse. And instead of focusing on what could be worse, let’s look for the positives! I also just happen to be an optimist. When a close friend or family member is having a grumpy day, I will figuratively take the corners of their mouth and pull as hard as I can to turn them up. I will try everything to cheer them up. Even my daughter, when I was having a bad day, asked if jokes would help. She’s four, and her jokes aren’t super funny or make a lot of sense, but I smiled and “laughed” anyway. I sure love her!  

Learn Life’s Lessons. I wrote this blog when I was a senior in college. When I wrote my senior sermon, I reflected on what the previous 8 or 9 years of MS had looked like. Re-reading this, I was reminded, once again, how much God can teach us through our circumstances if we let him. 

I’ve been looking back on some other posts that are in this blog, and there’s a lot of good stuff here. I’ve been reading about my MS Journey from 2012, to 2016, and now. (Yes, I wrote everything here, but I’ve liked re-reading them, too!) I started this blog when I started college in 2009, and I’m not going anywhere. Stick with me as I continue living and sharing more about my journeys!

Be blessed, my friends!

Anna

Grace and Rural Minnesota

The sermon today talked about Jesus teaching about community in Luke 10 when he sent the 70 out with no possessions or anything.  Ingrid Rasmussen, who grew up in our church and just finished seminary, gave a great sermon.  Towards the end she talked about grace: “To be given a gift that you’ve done nothing to earn and for which no payment is required.”  Cottonwood, our hometown, has been growing, but has had around 1100 people in it for the last decade or so.  If you’ve ever read the book How to Talk Minnesotan by Howard Mohr, it was based on here.  Seriously.  He is my neighbor, and I could bike to his house if I wanted.  But “here” is the small-town Minnesota, with the whole “Minnesota-nice” that I love so much.  Ingrid gave examples of grace:

“It’s like showing up to a potluck without a dish.  It’s being picked up on the side of the road when your car breaks down.  It’s the offer of a room when you lose your home.  It’s the dollar from the next person in line when you’re twenty cents short.  It’s the donut hole on Sunday morning….It’s the sweet smile of the baby in the pew ahead of you when the sermon goes on just a tad too long.”

These examples have been experienced, and every single person listening from the congregation could relate with what she was saying.  This summer, I’ve been experiencing the small town that I grew up in like never before.  I appreciate it for its community and its love.  I appreciate it for its history and the fact that you must be careful with gossip, because everyone is either related or best friends.  There are so many connections here! In this part of the country, there are two degrees of separation.  From southern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota, I know people that are connected there.

In 2008, there was a bus accident near Cottonwood and four children were killed from my school.  Well, I had a pretty good connection with each of them, even though I was only related to one.  The national media approached Cottonwood and Wood Lake (which make up Lakeview School), but the people were so protective of the families that were grieving, that no media could get in to talk with any of them.  It was then when I began to realize the community I lived in.  A lot of hugs, hotdishes made for hurting families, and just being there for one another.  True, it isn’t real great to live in a community as small as ours when there is nothing to do, and you don’t really want to be caught gossiping (because it WILL spread quickly), but it’s a wonderful example of the grace of Jesus when people each do something small, and others are touched by it in a way the givers don’t even realize.  I’ve said before that I don’t really like the city, and that a rural town seems like a great place to be.  Well, I totally boldface that statement.

I have no idea what’s in store for me next or where I’ll be, but I know that I come from an incredible town, and people will chat with me when I come home.  They’ll catch up with me and see what I’m up to; they’ll offer encouraging words or a hug if needed.  I am proud to be from Cottonwood, Minnesota, and proud to call it home.  It’s so true what they say: there is no place like home.

–Anna