A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. — James 1:12 HCSB
They’re the first things that come to mind when you struggle with a debilitating chronic illness, right? Oh, they’re not? Well, even more reason to write (and read) about them because sisters (and brothers!) blessings abound even when you feel tee-totally unblessed, and they often come in packages we aren’t expecting. Kind of like when you wait for weeks for a package to come via UPS and it never shows up….and actually it was delivered to your neighbor 3 houses down, who has been working 3 jobs and running a five-star restaurant for dogs out of his basement in his spare time, which you haven’t visited because your dog doesn’t play well with others….so you spend time resenting the owners with cordial dogs….and one day, as you stare out your front window and brood over this bleak first-world reality, you look down and on your porch you see it–a package! And not just a package, but the package you’ve been waiting for….so you open the door, pick it up, and see a handwritten note from dog-restaurant-chef-neighbor that cheerfully says, “Sorry, neighbor, I must’ve overlooked this misdelivery–hope you still need it! By the way, I left a bag of house specialties for your pup in the mailbox–I know you mentioned she has allergies so these should be safe for her!” So you open your mailbox and find 6 bags of allergy-friendly gourmet dog food that will taste infinitely better than the overpriced store food you have to feed her every morning.
How could you help but say, “WOW! What a blessing!”?
But I digress. Which I’ve learned is a favorite pastime of mine. But let’s not do it again. Yet. To the point!
My birthday is on Friday. I’ll be 25. If I do say so myself, my birthdate of 11/22/88 is aesthetically pleasing to see written. Just saying. But the thing is, this past weekend was actually quite an hellacious one for me. It you’re in the camp that thinks the full moon doesn’t screw with illness in every possible way, I’m flat-out telling you you’re wrong. The reality for me is that, without fail, the 4 or 5 days surrounding every full moon put every single symptom I feel to a degree daily on absolute hyperdrive, and consequently I am in the bed, 100% out of commission, for the duration. Yes, Lyme & Co keeps me bedridden a large portion of the time anyway, but during these full moon periods I’m fairly sure my bed just accepts its destiny to have a Becca-sized imprint on my side of the bed.
So naturally, after having such an awful group of days, I was even less enthused about my upcoming birthday. Plus, 25 is an ugly number because it’s odd. In fact, I’ve told my family I don’t want a party–Rog and I are going to attempt to see Catching Fire with two of our good friends Friday night, but other than that I didn’t want a party/celebration/gathering where I’d probably feel compelled to put on my happy/normal mask for a couple hours and then spend the ensuing days in bed. And like HECK do I plan on being bedridden and unconscious for The Day Of The Doctor on Saturday. This sounds melodramatic, but this is life with Lyme & Co, folks. And I’m not hiding it.
I did, however, find a delicious-looking gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, non-GMO pumpkin pie recipe and requested my mom make it for me since the Lyme diet makes it impossible to buy/eat a classic pumpkin pie like I do every year on my birthday. So mom decided to make it for Sunday and just bring it over then since we were attempting the movie Friday and Who Day was Saturday. Perfect plan.
I know I’ve written quite a bit already, but if you stick with me you’ll learn the intent behind the digression regarding blessings above.
I recently put on Facebook that the worst part of this illness wasn’t the pain, fatigue, uncertainty, neurological/cognitive dysfunction, bouts of extreme unpredictable and unprecedented rage, or even not being able to skate, but the worst part is that I’ve had to miss several Sundays at church and SS and I’ve missed over half of our fall life group meetings at church on Wednesday nights. And I mean that with my entire being–when I’m not able to get to God’s house and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, my life has a void unable to be filled in any other way. So I was determined to make it to our final life group meeting tonight (well, Wednesday).
Throughout the day, I felt as if my attendance became less and less a possibility. I awoke feeling like the soles of my feet were simultaneously on fire and being stabbed by ten knives. I couldn’t get up to even brush my teeth because even with soft house shoes the pain made standing and walking impossible. So Rog, being the more wonderful than words husband that he is, drove home quickly on his lunch break (missing the Thanksgiving dinner lunch!) to set my foot bath up on the bed for me to soak my feet in Epsom salt water hopefully to get some relief. As soon as it was plugged in and going, he jetted back to work, (just in time to get a plate of the thanksgiving dinner lunch!) before tackling the rest of the day.
Once Rog got home from work, I finally was brave enough to tackle a shower, even though my feet were still aching a little (but the foot soak did help some). And of course, the warm water and the fact that even in a shower chair the blood rushes to your feet in a shower, meant my on-fire feet were back in full force, and at that point my stored energy was completely depleted. Again, I felt my efforts to make it to life group were going to fall short.
Thankfully Rog helped me get myself together and then we both napped from ~4:30-6ish, and at that point I just decided to heck with it–I’ll deal with the pain walking from our house to the car because once we’re at church we can use my wheelchair and I’ll manage. Was NOT missing this meeting! Satan was NOT winning this battle. And boy am I glad I didn’t let him!
Once at church, we went down the ramp to get to our room, and as Rog wheeled me in the door I hear several people say “Haply birthday!” and am honestly kind of confused at first because with Lyme brain it takes a while for anything to process. So Rog wheeled me to the table where our snacks usually are and I’m still oblivious until I see a pumpkin pie–a GF, DF, EF, SF, non-GMO pumpkin pie–with a pink card on top of it, on which Becca is written in my momma’s perfect handwriting. And then it hits me–I look around and the pie is there, and there’s also a cake there with candles that say 2 – 5 and an assortment of other snacks, and there’s a banner that says HAPPY BIRTHDAY as well as some colorful corkscrew decorations (which Rog has deemed spirochetes–the Lyme bacteria form–because he thinks he’s funny….and he is).
I was so overwhelmed by this sheer unexpected surprise gesture of celebration, and I was even more overwhelmed when I realized my mom had been stealth about operation: Becca’s pie (meaning she had to call on another Lyme-sufferer friend to find unsweetened coconut at 10pm last night, because who else besides us Lymies keeps a stash of unsweetened, non-GMO coconut on hand? And meaning she stayed up till 3am last night making it so I could enjoy it at life group). And I was even more overwhelmed when my life group sang happy birthday to me, gave me a card that (of course) made me cry, and inside of which was a gift card for Whole Foods because they all know I have to go there to get any decent selection of Lyme-friendly foods.
And to top it all off, unbeknownst to me, earlier in the day Rog had sneaked a present from him into the bag on the back of my wheelchair and I got to open a super cool pair of TARDIS knee-high socks.
And of course the biggest blessing of them all was getting to spend time with this wonderful group of people, each and every one of whom I love dearly and thank God for regularly. And the fact that all these blessings warmed my heart immensely meant that any thoughts I had about not wanting my birthday mentioned were gone because these wonderful people wanted to do something to make me smile–and that in an of itself is a huge blessing–and one in an unexpected package because, like I mentioned earlier, until the life group celebration, celebrating my birthday seemed like the opposite of a blessing. Once again God proves me wrong. :-)
And you know what? Even though in the picture below you can see how worn out I am at the end of the day just from this short period of living, it was worth it, a million percent.
Look for those blessings!
Love and God bless,