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

Joy in 2016

JOY. It surpasses circumstances; it’s greater than happiness. Happiness is based on happenings, but joy comes straight from God. (Fruit of the Spirit, yo!)

I’ve been reflecting a lot on this in the past year. I’ve had so many reasons for joy; not just happiness. Though my grandpa died in January, I experienced joy knowing that he went to heaven and joined my grandma. Though I had many physical obstacles, I overcame them. I was confined to a wheelchair for a long time. But I became able to walk with a walker! I cried when, at my home church, I made it up the stairs to sing with the choir. What joy was brought to our lives when my healthy little daughter joined us at the beginning of September! She brings us more reason to smile every day.

One of the worst moments of my year—not all that many people know this—was the last time I went to the hospital at the beginning of October. We’d been keeping an eye on my rising fever, and when it hit 106, we called 911. By this time, I was septic: paralyzed in strength and my speech was slurred. Both Doug and I thought I was going to die. But God was not done with me yet. Over the next week in the hospital, I was not sad at the fact that I almost died and with my current state. Instead, I was joyful for the little things.

Doug and I had recently watched the movie “Miracles from Heaven.” In the movie, the mom, who tells the story, tells of the everyday miracles she realized she had witnessed over the whole trial. So I started keeping track of the miracles I saw every day. It really puts life into perspective. There are lists for each day I was in the hospital, and though I don’t make a list every day anymore, I am conscious of all the miracles around me. We are financially okay even though Doug is in his third year of med school, and I’m not working. Both sets of our parents are a huge help to us. There are two wonderful caretakers who come and help take care of me and Lydia when Doug is away. I am still walking with a walker, but my physical therapist, Judy, thinks I’ll be able to walk without it (as is my goal)! I AM getting stronger. I cannot take care of Lydia by myself yet, but I can do so much more with her than I could when she was more than half the weight she is now!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3). I have had MS a long time. I know that the joy in me wouldn’t be near what it is now if I had been free of this disease. I’m not saying it’s because of the MS my faith is where it is today; I’m just saying that even though I have MS, God has used it for good. I’ve got joy down in my heart, as the song says. Joy is greater than happiness.

-Anna

P.S: I do have to share the HAPPY news that Lydia finally rolled over today! Yay!

A Ketchup Blog

Ketchup…”catch up”….get it?  I thought it clever.  Hope the title wasn’t misleading….

So much going on with life right now.  And for that reason, I haven’t posted in a while.  I feel like this is about to be another scatter-brained post, just to warn you.  Let’s start with what happened: I graduated from college last Saturday.  Yes, that’s right.  I put on a cap and gown, walked in these cute new shoes, and shook President Rob Oliver’s hand, along with 379 other graduates at the Elmen Center at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD.  Now, I’m not necessarily done yet.  After I student teach next semester, I will officially get a diploma (and not just a diploma cover like the ones we all received on Saturday, because the registrar can’t get all diplomas done before graduation).  As for that awkward semester between when I graduate and when public schools start, I dunno.  I guess we’ll see, but I’m positive that God’s got some good in store for me.

graduation

Reflections (a must when it comes to graduations)

Four years ago, when I started school, I wasn’t even positive what I wanted to do.  Music therapy?  I shadowed a music therapist and spoke with another.  Nope, not for me.  Then I decided to do music education full force and do something else eventually.  Well, it looks like teaching music is something that I’m actually going to do.  There are a ton more things I want to try, like composing, developing more of my own musicianship, having a percussion studio, as well as non-music things like writing fiction and devotionals, perhaps articles in magazines and leading a Bible study of some sort.  I have high aspirations, but I am DETERMINED, and I feel I have a lot of the skills I’ve needed to get up to this point.  I have been taught by some of the most awesome professors, and I feel it is almost like a duty to professionally develop and make the most of what I am, where I am.

Also, my FAITH has grown a ton.  I grew up going to church every Sunday (because that’s what you did).  I mean, I had my own faith, but I think I shared it.  The second half of freshman year, I got involved with Cru, and God totally used it to help me find my place and develop a relationship with him that’s crazy awesome.  I also realized that I wasn’t trusting him with everything, and began to (transforming, seriously).  God has done so many amazing things in and through me, that I cannot stay silent.  I want to glorify him all of my days!

FRIENDS: I didn’t have many in high school, and I didn’t even know what authenticity was.  The second half of freshman year, I made some good friends, including Berit.  After spending a summer on Project and discovering authentic friendships, I pushed and made some authentic friends when I got back to school.  I’ve always been kind of a loner, but I have discovered friends that have helped to make life awesome, really.  There is a time for everything, and I must say, the last few weeks at Augie, I hung out with friends way more than being productive in my room, because I wanted to.  Smiley face.  I love them all so much!

Berit and I at senior year homecoming
Berit and I at senior year homecoming

Emily, me, Marissa, and Megan
Emily, me, Marissa, and Megan

Emily, Megan, Melissa, and me
Emily, Megan, Melissa, and me

MS.  So, I learn by doing, and I’m a visual person, as well.  Not auditory.  So through high school, when my mom would tell me that I can’t do this or that, I might be a little rebellious until I was having troubles walking, but mostly, I listened to her.  Freshman year, I had to find all these limits myself.  In the middle of the year, I had kind of a break down that I actually had to leave early for midterms because of health and walking and stuff.  I had one of those awesome breakdowns junior year, as well.  I know where my limits are, and I actually stand up for myself now.  I ask for help when I need it (most of the time) and days where I’m having troubles walking don’t bother me so much.  If I missed classes for half of what I missed school for in high school, I would not have been able to finish in four and a half years.  But I have thick skin, and I’ve adapted to this roller coaster of energy and of good and bad days.  My dad is part of this thing where parents of kids and teens chat on a forum, and was telling me about a girl that was starting college, and her parents are only having her take two classes at a time so that she doesn’t push it.  I laughed.  I did things, too, like have a single dorm room for all four years, and asking some of my teachers for extensions on homework or an untimed test.  But really, I didn’t need much unless I was really sick or my body was too exhausted to let me think normally.  And I did it!  I graduate in four and a half years, I did a senior recital, I passed both Praxis tests on the first try!  MS-shmem-S.  I can accomplish anything I want to in spite of it—it does not control me or have any part of my identity.  God does!  🙂

I am so very thankful to my mom and dad, as well as my sisters for all of their support.  I am looking forward to the next chapter of life when the page is actually turned and I have a diploma.  So, lot of my profs tell me that they’re interested to know where I end up.  Um, ME TOO.  Unfortunately (is this a bad thing?), I have to be patient, as God’s not telling me what comes next.  Patience is NOT one of my assets.  In the meantime, I’ll be here, praying, blogging, and making the most out of every situation I’m in.

Anna

On The Road: A Small Town Tour

The class I am taking over J-Term is called “On The Road.”  In it, we look at on the road stories from classic movies, literature, and the Bible.  We just finished the book “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, and all week we’ve been reading through Genesis, looking at the road stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  But today’s assignment was a little bit different.  We were put into groups of 4 or 5 (mine had 5), and we were instructed to drive in a square, stopping at each corner of the square and talk to locals/see attractions/etc.  That’s it, there was no more instructions except guidelines for our presentation each group will be showing to the class next week.  As mentioned, there were 5 in my group.  I think the idea was to form a community within the group.  I’m not actually sure how well that went, but we were also to compare our road trip to that which Kerouac writes of.  We headed east!  Our first stop: Lester, IA.  We visited a few places there, including Keith’s Korner (gas station) and the Dutchland Pastries.  Did you know they make butterbraids and puffins there?  In Iowa?  Also, the community was great.  Small town, you know.  We kept a video journal of the places we went to and some of the people we talked with.  Next, we headed north and arrived in Pipestone, MN, where we found a diner to eat dinner at.  We didn’t even have to go other places!  Just being there and eating at the bar, we learned so much!  The waitress knew everything about everybody, and there were some older guys talking in a booth not far away who also knew everything and everybody.  After that, we headed west and found ourselves in Wentworth, SD.  Wentworth was by far the smallest town we visited, and it was DEAD.  The population is 200, but people go to school in other towns and work in other towns.  The only people we found were in a church.  The two bars there had closed their doors years ago.

A question we had kind of been wondering and asking others is whether a small town holds contentment?  Are people happy where they are?  Are they restless for a bigger city?  Sioux Falls is the smallest city around, but compared to everything else in the area, it really is a city (although that’s argued among some, not people we met on this trip).  In the Kerouac book we just finished, the characters were continually restless.  In Genesis, people only left if God told them to go; otherwise they were content with where they were.  We watched “Stagecoach,” a John Wayne film, and some were actually kicked out of town (reason for their travels).  Whether a character is going to or running from a place, they are on the road.  A lot of stories we read, see, or hear of elsewhere, in everyday situations, are road stories.  But the question remains: small town or city?  It probably depends on where you grew up and how you were raised, and there are so many other subjective factors involved.

I have discovered that everywhere is the same.  It doesn’t matter what state you are in or how far it is to the nearest Starbucks, the people make the places.  There is always somewhere to go, and even if there’s nothing to do in town, there’s always people to be with and talk with.  I personally wouldn’t mind returning to a rural life somewhere, just not where my rural life was.  But I wouldn’t have to, either.  I’ll just wait until God tells me to go somewhere, probably, because I’m pretty content with where I am (both location and life, I think).  The Lord promises, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

I have two semesters left with school, and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing directly after.  But after that?  I’m still waiting on the big man upstairs.  My blogs recently have turned more into conversations and reflections, I guess.  No promising they’ll stay that way (see my blog’s subtitle, “Anna’s Random Writings”).

 

Anna 🙂

 

Are you content with where you are?  Why?  Would you prefer to hit the road and go somewhere else?