Monthly Archives: February 2008

Father’s Touch

tn_boy-and-hands-2.jpg

This is a pencil sketch I did, based upon an old magazine cutting that really caught my imagination.

This is a pencil sketch I did, based upon an old magazine cutting that really caught my imagination.

The boy is looking directly into the adult’s eyes – let’s assume it was his father – and it’s clear he sees total loving acceptance. See how his father gently touches the boy’s cheek and places a reassuring hand upon his shoulder.

It’s as if his father could be saying:

I am really proud of you
I’m so glad you told me this
I’ve often felt the same
There’s no need to feel shame
I know it’s hard for you at the moment
but you’ll come through
You are doing so well
and I am with you all the way.

I know I am an adult but there have been times when the fatigue has threatened to overpower, and I have wondered how much more I could take, when I have need to hear similar words from my Father God. They spur you on, lift the shame, encourage and empower.

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Don’t Take It Lying Down!

tn_coin.jpgAccepting that we have a chronic illness is absolutely key to moving forward. It took me a long time to stop struggling and surrender to God and seek His way in it. This is vital, but does not mean that I am totally resigned to it being my lot and have to stay this way. I have to give over, not give in.

There is another side of the coin in that “I don’t take it lying down.” This is an attitude that has a determination not to give in. It seeks to win through, push out the boundaries and regain lost ground, even if it is in tiny steps at a time.

To experience absolute fatigue in every part of your body is a horrible thing. Especially just when you think you are making progress in recovery and you go into yet another relapse. It’s like starting all over again! It feels oppressive, like someone or something is controlling or dominating your life. I found it was so easy to get into the way of thinking that I was a victim, powerless to do anything and even wallow in self pity.

I believe this sort of victim attitude stemmed from right back in my early childhood, but perhaps was reinforced by certain religious teachings that are still lingering in some churches today. I mean the sort of thinking that is influenced by the ancient monastic practices of self-flagellation and wearing hair shirts. This was a mentality and mindset in me that had to change.

These two sides of the coin, surrender and a determination to win through, go together, within a close love relationship with God. This for me has entailed the healing of emotional wounds and release from attachments that have disabled and held me back. I’ve also had to change my thinking to how God says He sees me. It ranges from knowing in my heart that I am loved just like a baby at it’s mother’s breast, to knowing in my experience that I am ‘more than a conqueror!’

I am in recovery but still have the occasional relapse and so the journey continues. When I do get knocked down I am not so slow in picking myself up, dusting myself off and carrying on. As I lean on God I am learning in amazement what can really be achieved in His strength.

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Job and Chronic Fatigue

tn_jobandhisfriends.jpgI was never comfortable reading the Book of Job and the message about suffering. I explained it away by saying it was old fashioned – like this picture of him and his friends, it’s not my style – and had been superseded by Jesus Christ on the cross. My stance was that it was no longer relevant to us today and that thinking was placed in a box, tied with string and hidden away. Deep down though, I was not entirely convinced.

It was when I became a chronic fatigue sufferer, that I had to look at Job afresh and change my thinking.

The enemy dealt a devastating blow to Job, who lost all that was precious to him. He constantly questioned God in an honest search for truth. He just didn’t understand where he had gone wrong. But in all that he did not lose his integrity and he did not deny God. Furthermore his friends were no help, but after he prayed for them he was reinstated. God even gave him twice as much as he had before.

I have not suffered like Job, but in my devastation I did seek answers from God to understand what was happening. I questioned because I honestly wanted to know what God was saying to me in the situation. I believe that was right, but if the questioning turns into complaining, that’s another thing.

I admit that when the discomfort or pain was great, I did complain at times. After all it is only natural when we are in distress. My attitude was bordering on saying something like, “You don’t know what you are doing God, and I don’t trust You!” A defining point came when I was at a low point, fatigue had been high for weeks on end and I wondered how much more I could take. It shook me to realise that I was angry with God for allowing this to continue.

Eventually a time came when questioning and complaining had to stop and I surrendered to God in complete trust. I had received God’s Word that He would heal me and I believed He would do what he said He would do, in His way and His time. It pained me to realise just how long this surrender process had taken. It seemed like wasted time.

I didn’t lose as much as Job, but I did lose what I considered very important and dear to me. Those things gave me standing and a reputation. I’ve lost the reputation and become a nobody, but my testimony of God working in my life is intact.

Most of my friends were involved with my activity and gradually drifted away when that stopped. I felt some of them have let me down, but I have forgiven them and pray for them. I have been partially healed and I am expectant for the rest. I believe I will get back what has been taken from me, but I realise that things will never be the same as before.

I am moving forward and the best is yet to come.

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Freedom to Be Me!

birthdaypainting.jpgI am learning such a lot from our grandchildren. The girls especially are avid confident painters and apply colour with gay abandon. Our two granddaughters did this for my last birthday. It’s one of their more careful ones.

I was brought up differently and had colouring books, where I had to paint or crayon between the lines. My success was judged upon the neatness. Junior school was the same, self expression was just not on the agenda and art at high school was a disaster.

When I eventually found out in later life that I could ‘do’ art, I became quite good at painting what I could see, whether it was a rolling landscape or a portrait. But given a blank sheet of paper with permission to draw or paint anything, I was totally at sea. I just could not do it. There was a block.

My wife and I were given the opportunity to experiment in someone’s studio. I laid a giant sheet of paper on the floor and got to work with vivid poster paints. I sloshed and splodged. I squirted, flirted and splashed and dabbed, until it began to have a strange effect upon me. I smiled and then laughed, I couldn’t stop because I was so enjoying myself. This was freedom indeed. I felt mischievous, but it didn’t matter.

Now, this isn’t just about painting. It’s about me being me, the person God has made me to be. I’m unique, there is no one else like me. I’m not a copy and my identity is not determined by meeting other people’s expectations. I’m not a clone and especially I am not a cardboard cutout Christian. A divine process began of God removing the blockages and freeing me up to be me. This was accelerated, albeit painfully, after I was diagnosed with ME/CFS. It’s going to be an interesting future!

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Thank You for Chronic Fatigue

tn_thanks.jpgPlease do not misunderstand me. Chronic fatigue, ME/CFS/CIFDS is a horrible illness and I would not wish it on anybody. I found it devastating at first. In trying to find a way through the illness, I have experienced a whole gamut of emotion; loneliness, anger, helplessness, anguish, grief, including some feelings I didn’t think I had and I’m sure there’s more to come.

However, in looking back, I can now honestly say ‘thank you for chronic fatigue!’ By this I could be implying that God gave me the disease which He certainly did not! But He did allow it or He would have stopped it. He gives me free will, I’m not a puppet on a string. I’m quite sure that to some extent I brought the illness upon myself, because of my adrenalin-fuelled lifestyle. Whereas I don’t minimise the effect of my current difficulties and restrictions, there is a growing underlying gratitude within me because of the benefits. Benefits, that I just do not think would have happened outside the illness.

These are some of them:

  • Our marriage has benefited and there is a greater understanding between us. My wife and I have more time for each other and are closer together than we ever have been.
  • I believe I have grown closer to God and learned, in my weakness to lean more on Him for strength and enabling. I have become more dependant upon God.
  • My creativity has developed, especially in writing, painting and photography.
  • I have learned more about myself and who I really am in Christ. Also, and this is hard to explain, but God has done something ‘concrete’ inside me.
  • In the darkness, discomfort and pain I have discovered and experienced surprising blessings that I never would have otherwise.
  • I am learning to ‘flow’ and pace myself, which uses far less energy. I have developed new ways and am more of a human being than a human ‘doing!’
  • I can more easily tune in and identify with others who are experiencing brokenness, hardship and disability.
  • I have experienced a degree of physical, emotional and spiritual healing and several emotional hang-ups have gone. Also, and this is hard to explain, but God has done something ‘concrete’ inside me. I am expectant for more.
  • I am much clearer as to my real purpose in being alive and feel more prepared for the next phase in my life.

The challenging and sometimes scary journey continues.

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A Surprise Victory

tn_lake.jpgI sat in a deserted seaside parking lot. My wife was taking part in a reunion and I was left to my own devices. I was in to my second year with CFS, my fatigue level was average to high – at least three out of a maximum five – and I wondered what I had the strength to do?

I eased myself out of the car, slowly crossed the road and was transfixed by this ‘jewel!’ A large lake or ‘mere’ – as they say in those parts – nearly a mile long, tree-fringed with an island in the centre. The unbroken mirrored surface shimmered in the early autumn sunshine, inviting, everywhere quiet, not a soul about. Tidily moored up to a deserted jetty, old traditional clinker-built rowing boats, just waiting to be taken out.

I have a love of boats and water, ever since my father taught me to row on our local river as a boy, so my heart longed to be out there. But my head doubted whether rowing was the right action for a fatigued body. I paced back and forth debating and my heart won. A surly young man untied my selected craft and I cast off.

Gently, ever so gently, so as to make the least claim on my limited energy, I dipped the oars in now and again to gain momentum as we slid away from land. Resisting the temptation to pull with force, I continued at an almost effortless pace, feathering my oars on the return stroke like a professional.

After a few minutes I shipped the oars and listened. I, man and boy, enthralled with the experience! You could almost hear the silence, which was only broken by a flock of coots. Reluctantly I made to return, but took my time, determined to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of the half-hour hire.

It’s hard to explain to someone with normal energy what that experience meant to me. But I stepped out of the boat as if I was Captain Horatio Hornblower or Captain ‘lucky’ Jack Aubrey himself – of “Captain and Commander” fame – to the applause of the gathered crowds. It was a brilliant victory! “I’m proud of you son!”

Back in the car I was full of gratitude towards God, for arranging and enabling. Yes, I did suffer a minor relapse for a two or three weeks afterwards. Not sure whether it was the rowing or something else, but it didn’t matter. No one can take that achievement and memory away from me.

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Being and Creativity

fieldgate.jpgWhen I was diagnosed with CFS/ME a lot of my activity was curtailed. The ‘doing’ was restricted and I had to learn all over again just to ‘be!’ There was time to consider where I was going in life, to notice the things close to and to pray. Prayer was often difficult at first, with a mind fogged with fatigue. Much of the time it meant sitting silently, accepting in faith that God was with me and waiting for hope to rise.

Gradually, out of the ‘being’ came expression, especially in the form of writing and painting.

This is one of the quickest oil paintings I have done and was almost completely carried out using a palette knife. I had a clear impression of what I wanted to achieve and the very act of getting the paint onto the canvas thick and fast, was in itself very releasing.

The location is down a leafy lane close to our doctor’s surgery. It beats waiting in the waiting room any day! There I can spend a few minutes’ interlude in the cool shade, standing or rather leaning against the old fieldgate, looking out at the glory of the sunlight fields. That’s just ‘being’ – Father and I together.

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