Friendship Friday: with a twist

Happy Friday! Sorry for missing you here on Wednesday – someday you’ll here about the roller coaster I’ve been riding this week. But in the mean time, I want you to meet one of my favorite people: Jenna!

Normally on Friendship Friday, my friends answer 4 questions to give you an inside look at our friendship and all of it’s quirks. This week, I’d rather introduce you to little J myself. Our friendship is so much different than most, and our relationship is one that definitely can’t be summed up in 4 questions.

As you know, I have a disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome…. So does Jenna. Back in the winter of 2015, I was sent to the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation to be admitted to the Pediatric Pain Management Program… So was Jenna. That’s right: we met in the hospital because we were both fighting a seemingly impossible battle against an ugly disease.

We spent only 3 weeks together in the hospital before I was discharged and sent back to Texas. She stayed in Cleveland another 6 weeks before heading home to Canada. We’ve only gotten closer since that day, through texting and social media. Jenna and I share life’s ups and downs together in a way that no one else understands.We’ve literally seen each other go from wheelchairs to running, and every milestone in between. Not a lot of people can say that – and there’s no one in this world I’d rather do the rehab life with than my J.

Here’s the biggest secret to this friendship: Jenna is 8 years younger than me. When we met, she was the age that I was when I got sick. The reason our little hearts are so bonded is because she is the image of Little Ally. Our lives are pretty parallel – from our pre-sick days as dancers, to our post-rehab days as advocates and passionate dreamers. Jenna is simply 8 years behind me on this life journey, and I’m so honored the Lord chose me to hold her hand through it all.

Jenna keeps me laughing. She keeps me thinking. She keeps me hoping. She’s a bundle of joy, wrapped with a ribbon of grace. Bonded by pain, but secure in Jesus. That’s our friendship in a nutshell.

I want the world to know that friends like J exist. Age is just a number, and this friendship is forever.

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I want to share a J story real quick: The last time I saw J, I surprised her at the Clinic during my 6 week follow up. She had no idea I was in town. Together, we walked down the hospital hallway hand-in-hand…. Something we never thought would happen. Forever my favorite walk with my girl. 

A year and a half after meeting: J & I are both doing so well. The Little One amazes me every day with the things she accomplishes (homegirl plays badminton and jumps into swimming pools!!!!). I’m a full time college student (I was a dropout during my treatment). We love life, but more importantly- we love life together.

With all the love,

A & J

Quoted: Never

Recently I had a five hour conversation about Jesus on my couch with one of my favorite Jesus-lovin’ people. Life was hard. We were tired. He was good. The usual.

As I spilled my life juice all over her, and told her my fears of being a burden or being “too much” or “less than,” she shared with me a quote that a friend of hers had tattooed.

The tattoo reads “…and you never will be.”

Insert all the question marks here. Sounds harsh, right? It sounds like a negative remark, lacking hope or promise of purpose. But that’s where context comes into play.

The first half of the quote says “You are not too much…”

“…and you never will be”

Man. That’s what my little heart needed to hear. You could fill in the blank with dozens of affirmations, all ending with the same sentence: ….and you never will be. Here are some of my personal favorite affirmations:

  • You are not too much…
  • You are not less than…
  • You are not a burden…
  • You are not alone…
  • You are not a failure…
  • You are not your pain…
  • You are not a label…
  • You are not defined by your mistakes…
  • You are not unworthy of all the good things…
  • You are not unloved…

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    Another sweet friend of mine painted this canvas for me as a daily reminder of all the things that I am not. (added bonus that it has sprinkles!)

Whatever you need to hear today, fill in that blank for yourself. Know that you’re not alone, and you never ever will be.

With all the love,

A

 

Quoted: Home

Ram Dass once said “We’re all just walking each other Home.”

Whoa. This is powerful & I’m not entirely sure why?

Lately, the concept of “home” has been so prominent in my heart. Where I am now – this place with this body – it’s temporary. It’s not my forever home. But what I’ve failed to recognize is that I’m not alone in that. We are ALL just fighting to survive. We ALL just want to make it through the day… and ultimately make it home.

My battle may be more physical and more public, but it is no more or no less than anyone else’s journey home.

We have to be more intentional.

More.

More aware.

More.

We have to be MORE.

I want to run towards the throne hand in hand with the ones that I love. It’s not a race. This life is NOT a race. With the gift of salvation and the promise of eternity, we are all heading to the same great place, where we get to remain forever – whole, complete and perfect.

Thank you Jesus!!

In the meantime, we get to endure this worldly journey together. The beauty painted across this world, even in the darkest corners, is ours to drink in – straight from the hands of the Creator.

It’s a blessing and an honor to be on this journey Home with some of the Lord’s best.

No one walks alone. Jesus, we’re coming Home.img_2543

(Full disclosure: This post was originally written entirely on April 17, 2016 – a season of life that was dripping in physical illness – as a private journal entry – never intending to be read publicly. It’s being shared here today simply because it feels right.)

Eight Years

Today marks eight years since the day that turned my life upside-down. Eight years ago, I tore my achilles tendon- leading to the onset of my now life-long battle with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. 

In honor of the past 8 years, I’ve decided to share with you the ~short~ version of my chronic illness testimony. I hope that through it you discover a sense of hope and motivation to embrace hardship in your own life, no matter what you’re currently facing.

You’re never alone.

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the ankle that ruined me… the cross that saved me

I was 12 years old when the pain started. I had no grasp of the concept of ‘forever.’ The words ‘chronic’ and ‘incurable’ were foreign to me. In the span of 18 months, I went from the highs of making the school volleyball team, to the lows of being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Before CRPS, I was happy, busy, and active… I was healthy. I was ‘normal.’ I had a memory bank full of good times, laughter, successes and love. My dreams resembled those of every other overachieving little girl. My future was bright, my faith was strong, and my heart was full.

Pain changed everything. Being so young and having your body begin to fail you is nothing short of devastating and incredibly confusing. I very quickly became a person that I swore I would never be. My diagnosis dictated my every decision, my every move, and my every thought. My spirit was overcome with anger and hatred for the life that I was living. My thoughts were clouded by dozens of the most hard hitting questions: ‘Why me? What did I do wrong? When will it end? Is the fight even worth it? Where are you, God? Why won’t you heal me? God, why have you done this to me?’ I fell victim to the traps of the enemy and the lies of chronic illness. I began inflicting emotional pain onto people that I loved, because I thought that if I had to walk through hell, they should too.

It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 years old and in remission that I realized I had it wrong all along. The most defining moment of my battle came when I made the decision to stop being a victim of chronic illness, and start being a survivor instead. As I faced the reality of relapse right before high school graduation, I clung so desperately to the fraying ends of the rope I had woven of hope and bravery. I moved forward through the darkest months of my life, holding on to the thought that maybe, just maybe, God had something great for me waiting up ahead. Sure enough… He did. I discovered an entire community of people facing similar (yet vastly unique) battles against various chronic ailments. I found support. I found friendship. I found love. I rediscovered Jesus. I was reminded of the irreplaceable purpose and tremendous potential that I possess. Through the encouragement of the Word and incredible friends, I have been able to replace the lies of the world with the truth and promises that God provides. He is sovereign and almighty. No matter what these earthly doctors tell me, He is the ultimate physician. He knows my every pain and every hardship. He’s supplies me with the strength I need to rise up above my illness each day and share His love with the world. He’s promised me the ultimate gift: an eternal life free of these chains that bind me, free of pain, free of suffering, and free of darkness.

I am sick. I am broken (spoiler alert: we all are). I fall short. I mess up.

But in the very same breath of life, I am loved. I am worthy. I am strong. I am brave.

I’m a survivor.img_2729

With all the love,

A

People Hope

I’m a passionate girl. You’ll learn more about my most recent passion for tiny plants soon, but in the mean time I want to introduce you to an organization that combines my most favorite and intense passions: faith, hope, community, and chronic illness/undiagnosis advocacy.

Meet People Hope.

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People Hope is a nonprofit that was started by a woman with a dream and with a purpose: Anna King. Anna has brought to life a vision of unreal hope and love for people who are walking the path of chronic illness or chronic undiagnosis (meaning they are still waiting to put a name to their symptoms).

In the past, People Hope has been a social media based organization- reaching every corner of the world through posts bursting with hope and truth, bringing together people from every walk of life into what we call the “People Hope Tribe.” The Tribe is the most influential and inspiring group of people I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. People Hope has introduced me to some of my most cherished friends, and has given me a space to feel welcome in all of my broken glory.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

People Hope just announced this past week that they are ready to launch their full website, after many many months of planning, fundraising, and prayer! Visit peoplehope.org to find out more about what is to come. Mark your calendars for September 19- I promise you that People Hope throws some of the best Internet parties in the world. No matter who you are or what your life looks like right now, you want to be a part of this for sure. People Hope is for YOU- no matter who you are.

A few months back, a fellow Tribe member who I have grown to know and love asked what People Hope means to me. Here was my exact response:

“Oh wow haha I’d have to write a novel to find all the words to answer that. I guess to summarize: I’ve been sick for a REALLY long time, and struggled through my teenage years trying to choose between being “sick” and being “human” and in some way, People Hope opened my eyes to the reality that I don’t have to choose… Being sick is okay, I’m still worthy of love, I’m still full of purpose and potential… My diagnosis doesn’t change any of that. People Hope is a solid reminder that we are all perfectly created in God’s image, and our flaws and struggles only make us even more beautiful. It’s a reminder that I need daily, and People Hope provides that!! Plus, I love loving on others, and fighting these battles together. No one should be alone, ever. (haha told you I had a lot to say)”

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If you’d like to know more about People Hope or how you can join the Tribe, please contact People Hope or me! Also follow them on Facebook and Instagram for daily encouragement, and use the hashtag #PeopleHopeTribe to connect with other incredible humans!

With all the love,

A