The Long Haul

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9

I thought I’d steal a few precious minutes to give an update from my little corner of the South. A quick note to my Facebook followers before I dive in: Even if this article posts to Facebook, I am taking a break from Zuckerberg’s social media platforms for a time. So if you have a comment to share, please share it here on WordPress… or better yet, consider helping support this writing ministry by visiting my Patreon page! Become a Patron!

I’ll be offering extras for my Patreon supporters, building in more as I go, but this blog will remain free (and sparse so long as our family’s needs require me to work outside the home!)

It’s been an interesting year. I’ve been working part-time at my kids’ school teaching cell phone photography to middle school students – a feat roughly equivalent to swallowing live eels while guiding two dogs, eighteen kittens, and a chicken safely through New York City using a homemade map and the Force.

And while it must be admitted that middle schoolers spend more energy attempting to circumnavigate the school’s network restrictions than taking photos with their phones, it can still be fun to see the photos they do take and hear their thoughts.

Then a week before Christmas break, I came down with the Bane of 2020 – COVID 19. My symptoms were mild and I recovered at home over the break. But a couple weeks after I began feeling better, the body aches and fatigue came crashing back. And again a couple weeks after that… and again… and again…

So here I am in mid-March wrestling with unpleasant facts: Not only am I blessed with the invisible illness of ME/CFS, I also get a free – and equally invisible – membership to the COVID Long Haulers’ Club.

Not fun. Incredibly humbling. But nonetheless, I am blessed.

I admit, this blessing doesn’t really feel like one. If given a menu of blessings, it isn’t one I would have selected. And it doesn’t go particularly well with the 70% pay reduction our family tasted in 2020, nor with the 2-car, 4-driver dynamic we’ve been noshing on since last fall, nor with any of the banquet of bland fiscal fare we’ve been sampling in the last 18 or so months. But it’s a blessing still.

I don’t know when, I don’t know why, and I absolutely don’t know how, but I do know the Lord will use this newest struggle in some way for the comfort of His people. Perhaps in some way I will be able to speak to those who share in this weird and unpredictable cycle of flu-like aching and exhaustion and point them to the comfort I have in Christ.

Or maybe the Lord simply wants to make His power abundantly known in my profound weakness.

I have no idea what to expect. All I know is that I committed myself years ago to walk the narrow, difficult path that leads to life. Whether this current dark valley is a brief foray of reduced visibility or just the beginnings of another steep descent into utter blackness, I have no way of knowing. The road curves just ahead and I have only enough Light for the path beneath my feet.

Still, no matter where this Way leads and no matter how short or long the journey, I know I never walk alone. The Lord Yeshua is with me. Regardless of the personal cost, with Him as my Guide I am in it for the long haul.

M.E. and Me

Come and hear, all you who fear God, 
and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 
I cried to him with my mouth, 
and high praise was on my tongue. 
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, 
the Lord would not have listened. 
But truly God has listened; 
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
(Psalm 66:16-19)

Ever get what you asked for but it looked so different from what you imagined that it took you some time to realize it? This is one of my answered prayers, albeit an answer I’ve tried to deny…

I’m starting to accumulate quite a number of letters beside my name. Heather Davis; IBS, ME/CFS… It’s too bad they are all diagnoses instead of degrees. C’est la vie!

The last one, ME/CFS, has actually been on my chart for several years now. It stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It’s also known as Systemic Exercise Intolerance Disease or Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome, but most people just call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. CFS for short.

It’s a diagnosis I refused to submit to for years, mainly because it always seemed like a description rather than a diagnosis. I suppose that’s why some doctors are switching to the other, more medical-sounding names. But of course, once a thing has been around in the public consciousness for a time, it’s difficult to change it.

For me, it is a humbling diagnosis. However, now that my migraines have been under control for several months, it’s become extremely clear there’s another issue behind the insane bouts of fatigue that have plagued me for much of my adulthood.

A primary reason I’ve been refusing to accept this diagnosis is… well, if I’m honest, it’s pride. CFS hurts my pride.

You see, a hallmark of CFS is what the docs call Post-Exertional Malaise, which basically means if I work out too hard or even overextend what little grey matter migraine has left to me, I crash.

And for this one-time fitness nut, that’s a bit hard to swallow.

Before I had children, I was a gym rat. When children came, I found other ways to work out at home with freeweights, video workouts, you name it. In my thirties, I hit a personal fitness best after going through the P90-X program.

Ever since migraines came in and stole the body I worked so hard to attain, I’ve planned on regaining it; especially after a friend celebrated her 50th by sporting a STUNNING physique! I wanted to rise to the challenge she offered.

A few years ago, I set my mind to accomplish this. I’m in my forties, so I stared slow. After walking for a bit, maybe a few days of light weights, I decided the time had come to ramp things up. In the past, increased intensity brought increased energy.

Not anymore. Instead, I couldn’t wake up the next day. I crashed, not for a day but more like a week.

Thinking it was a fluke, I tried again. And again. And a sad number of “agains” until I had to realize something wasn’t right.

It just isn’t normal to feel like you have a case of the flu that comes and goes, getting worse every time you exercise vigorously! But it is normal for CFS. Hurrah.

So, friends, there’s a bit of an update. It keeps me from ever catching up, but I’m trying to learn to live within new limits. Unfortunately for me, I’m a slow learner AND a terrible patient (according to my husband – pray for him!).

And I can’t complain. Honestly. After all, this is an answer to my own prayer.

Admittedly, God’s answer isn’t playing out as I imagined, but years ago I did ask Him to strip away every single thing that distracted me from Him.

Apparently being uber-fit was one of those things.

So today, I give thanks to God who truly does answer all our prayers and give us everything we need. Which is Himself, by the way. He is all I really need. And anything I need to endure to get closer to Him is worth it.

Even pain. Even CFS.

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And there is nothing on earth that I desire 
besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26)