“How are you feeling?”
A question I’ve been asked for the past 2 years.
The answer could change depending on the day you asked:
“Worse than before”
“Tired all of the time”
“Better than before”
“Depends on the day”
“Way better than before”
“The best I’ve felt in a long time”
It’s been about two years since I wrote my first blog post detailing the tail-end of my diagnostic journey. (Check out: The Death of My Identities; Testing Normal, Feeling Worse; A Trip to Cleveland; A Diagnosis and Loads of Questions; Diagnosis Confirmed)
A lot has changed.
I re-read my story for the first time since I had posted it all. As I read from the point-of-view of myself going through it, I got to re-live the experience. We usually re-live moments through our memories, but the problem with that is you have a different perspective as you look back on memories. I’ve been looking back through a lens of healing and growth and it has given me a rosier picture of my experience.
What I wrote as I went through it all was real and raw—I had forgotten.
Just like we don’t see how quickly our siblings are growing up as we grow up alongside them or we don’t see how much weight we’ve lost until we look at an old picture—you can’t quite see how far you’ve come until you’re removed.
Today I rode my bike for 40 minutes — fairly fast the whole time on a higher resistance.
I’ve only missed about 3 days of work due to POTS. This time last year I was missing every Wednesday.
I’ve been walking a mile or so around our hilly neighborhood ever day.
But all of this took a long time with small steps to get to this point.
More important than any of these physical changes is the spiritual change that has taken place inside of me.
I don’t know that I’ll be able to fully capture this in words, but I believe I’m experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding that Philippians 4:7 talks about.
I do not question my illness anymore or even pray that I would be healed. I’m not frustrated or angry with God because I’ve been experiencing a new level of his strength and peace and contentment that I’ve never before experienced. And I don’t want it to go away.
God has been using my illness to put me in a place where I need Him. I never would have chosen this level of weakness, but I’m so thankful God allowed it in my life so that I could experience Him more fully.
Changes in My Job
“Don’t you think you’ll return to teaching sometime?”
“What if you taught at a private school?”
“No because I just don’t want to teach anymore.”
I was adamant that my teaching career was over by about October of 2018.
The reasons teachers are struggling are worth a blog post or an entire book right now, but I won’t get into that. The biggest reason I wanted to leave was that I just couldn’t handle it all with my health issues anymore. I ran out of energy and joy and I couldn’t continue in that level of stress.
I had applied and gotten accepted into Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I had even received a competitive scholarship that I figured I would never get. I was a little stressed about paying for school and finding a job that I could do in my current health condition, but my year was relatively planned-out.
But when I learned about job openings at Christian Academy (CAL), I was intrigued. And of course I could interview with no strings attached, so I went ahead and did it.
Despite the fact that I literally prayed: “God, if you want me to go to seminary, give me the scholarship,” I left that interview knowing God had me at CAL. (Those of you struggling with a big decision, know that a lot of times God lets us choose and just asks us to be faithful to him wherever we are.)
And just like God loves to do, he did immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine.
I no longer rely on my ability to be an awesome and energetic teacher; instead, I embrace my weakness and lean into God every day. I walk into my classroom desperate for him to work and move because I know I can’t do it on my own. And God has moved in incredible ways.
At CAL, I entered a world where I got to embrace everything I love about teaching and throw away everything that drained me (except grading. Still don’t love that part). I choose what I teach. I am trusted as an educator. I don’t teach to an impossible test. I have the freedom to spend my class time addressing my students’ spiritual needs. I have developed close relationships with my students where I become a counselor to them. And I get to have fun!
I have made good friendships at work. I have cried with co-workers, prayed with them, and had genuine, faith-building, challenging conversations. My principals build into me spiritually and support what I am doing in my classroom. I am thriving in a healthy environment.
I am respected by families and students. I get to cheer my students on in their sports and activities. And I get to pray with them when they step into my class with tears in their eyes.
I considered going to seminary to go into full-time ministry, but I found full-time ministry at my school. I am surrounded by other teachers who are on mission to love these kids and tend to their souls, more than their brains.
There’s no place I’d rather be.
This low-stress job has brought significant healing. I don’t walk into school anxious about the pile of work that I know I can’t finish. I’m not in a constant state of stress the minute I hear my students walking down the hall—not knowing what kind of trauma will manifest itself in my classroom that I was never trained to handle but wanted so desperately to “fix.”
If this pandemic had erupted last year, I would have joyfully worked at home because it would have been what was best for my health. Now, I genuinely miss my job and I can’t believe I didn’t get a real goodbye from the students I love so deeply.
Changes in My Faith
“Why don’t you do all of the fun things that other teachers do?”
A student asked me this at the end of the year last year as we watched the teacher-student basketball game. I had already skipped out on racing my students through the inflatable obstacle course. Standing outside in the heat was enough for me.
But this comment hit me hard and really hurt.
It awakened a fear both Justin and I have due to our physical ailments: what if we can’t be the parents we want to be?
It’s still a fear that shows up when we see the way other parents are engaging with their kids.
But I’ve learned something valuable that goes beyond niceties like: “You’ll be great parents!” While I would never voluntarily choose this weakness that I’m experiencing, I’m so thankful I was given this gift so that I could experience God in a deeper way.
That’s right. I’m thankful for POTS.
No, this isn’t forced positivity that is actually quite toxic to our spiritual and emotional-selves. This is real thankfulness for what God has allowed in my life and then used to create something beautiful.
I see God completely differently because of this experience.
This didn’t come without hurt, questions, confusion, or anger. If you recall my first blog posts, I was honest about the range of emotions I was feeling. I screamed thoughts at God (because I’m not an aggressive enough person to yell out loud).
But that’s just it—I learned to take myself to God in whatever state I was in and God always met me with grace, strength, peace, and overwhelming love.
What if I never experienced the season of waiting on answers and seeking a diagnosis? I would have never known the patience that God has with me and the patience he can give me in all of my trials. I would have never experienced the peace offered by a God who himself suffered and is still in control. I would have never experienced the power of community and their healing touch.
What if I never experienced the pain of losing the ability to be active? I would have never known the strength that God gives me to do exactly what he has called me to do. I would have never learned to find life in God rather than my ability to be active. I’ve grown in humility as I have to constantly say, “I can’t do that.”
And as a parent, I will not be able to rely on myself. I will not rely on my own resources to be the best mom I can be. I will always fall short. And with this illness, I will not be able to rely on myself to be the mom I dreamed of being.
But knowing God, he’ll make me better than the mom I dreamed of being. I’m learning that my dreams are so small compared to what he has for me.
I am reminded of John 15:5 because I’m living it every day: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (ESV).
We will never voluntarily choose to be able to do nothing without God because our natural inclination from the moment we can feed ourselves is to do everything by ourselves. But one of the most beautiful things about Jesus’s love is that he just asks us to abide in him and gain everything we need to produce much fruit.
I have learned to abide and embrace that I can do nothing apart from God.