Tag Archives: CFS

Ring In the New

New Year is traditionally a time for making resolutions, something I am never quite sure of. To be effective and lasting they have to be more than promises or good intentions. I prefer to see it as making a new start; a letting go of the old year and ringing in the new.

This is particularly relevant to me, as the three months up to Christmas were very difficult and painful. Continue reading

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I Believe in Miracles

Some years ago, I had a very humbling experience. My wife suggested I went see a lady in the village whose husband was very ill. When she showed me in, I saw that her husband was barely conscious. She said he was suffering from a tumour on the brain and the prognosis wasn’t good. I helped shave him, but before I left she said, “Only a miracle can save Jimmy now.” Such was my fairly new faith, that I quickly replied, “I believe in miracles.”

I visited again and after several visits, I noticed her husband had deteriorated further and had slipped into a peaceful coma. She continued to care for him and lovingly conversed with him,  even though he couldn’t respond. We didn’t know whether he could hear, but who was to say he couldn’t.

This was a completely new experience for me. I felt inadequate and extremely humbled by what I saw. However, I felt a part of what was happening and just gave what little I could and did my best to answer her searching questions. Each time before I left, she asked me to say “a little prayer.”

As the weeks and months passed by, I saw no physical change in her husband, but something was happening for her. One day, after we had prayed, she asked me if I could buy her a Bible. It wasn’t long after, that her husband passed away. The miracle that we had been praying for didn’t happen, at least not in the way we expected. She came to know Jesus personally and was a changed woman. That in itself is a wonderful miracle.

What I learned from this experience, was that God sees the big picture and always works to the good.  Years later and I still believe in miracles – and that includes healing of all kinds, including chronic fatigue syndrome – although I have personally only experienced what I would call ‘minor’ miracles.  Even so, I am always amazed at how  and what God does when He is given a free hand.

My wife and I have things in our lives that seem without solution, but we are fully expectant for miracles in our lives and that goes for our family and friends too. I know that if we are completely surrendered and committed  to God, He will act in awesome ways. The ‘how’ and ‘when,’ we have to leave to Him of course.

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The Pain and the Presence

Having suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome for a number of years has  given me a just an inkling of what it could be like for someone who has experienced far greater pain than me.

Lying here, Father,
I know You are there.
I don’t feel your Presence, but
I do feel the pain and discomfort
that tries to take over
and invade my fatigued soul.
Every aching muscle and sinew
vying for attention and
threatening to melt away the hope.

But as I look to You,
I know You are with me,
feeling my every feeling.
And as I keep on looking
and looking and looking,
reaching out to You,
minute by hour,
heart to Blessed Heart,
Your love seems to take over,
in a way I don’t understand.
Fear goes out the window,
faith and hope rise
and the pain grows dim
just for now –

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Walking Out Our Healing

I’ve just been reading the New Testament account of Jesus’ encounter at the healing pool – John 5: 6. On the face of it, it does seem that Jesus is being a bit harsh? Here is this sick man lying by the side of the pool, complaining that there is no one to help him in – they are all too busy looking after number one! And Jesus asks him if he really wants to get well. Then tells him to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Presumably Jesus didn’t even lend him an arm?

I tried to relate this to my own experience:

I’ve been coping with chronic fatigue syndrome for several years. It was terrible at first, like having the rug pulled from under me. My strength had gone and I was pitched into a world of forced inactivity, pain and discomfort – and the rest!

My first response was to look to God for answers. After all, I believed in a God who heals today! In my searching and as I surrendered to God in the situation, I received His promise to heal me personally. Slowly, very slowly, I began to change, learn new ways and even grew stronger. However, I still experienced relapses at frequent intervals, which I found extremely disappointing and debilitating. I just couldn’t understand how, despite all my requests, God could continue allowing it to happen. It seemed to me, that although I believed He had promised to heal me, He was doing nothing about it! I was even angry with God!

When you are continually sapped of energy and just when you think you are making some progress, you are knocked down again and again, it can be very discouraging. It is so easy, when the medics don’t have any lasting solutions, when those around you are getting on with their – successful? – lives and you are left on the sidelines to cope on you own, to get into a ‘victim’ mindset of rejection, thinking no one cares!

It was a jolt to realise that I was angry – and with God! Taking responsibility for this was the catalyst to get me to change my way of thinking. God wasn’t knocking me down. Far from it, He was for me! It came to me that God could be saying something like, “I’ve already done what you asked, so what are you waiting for?” I did not receive instantaneous healing, but this change in attitude heralded an acceleration of the healing process.

I had to accept that once my eyes were opened to the truth, there was no room for passivity. We need to take action, however small. I believe that as I walk with Father, He will meet me on the way.

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Are You Sitting Too Comfortably?

If someone had said to me over the last few years, I was lethargic and lazy and must pull myself together, I would probably have felt like hitting them. As a good Christian, I would of course restrain myself? Some may have thought it but kept quiet. The fact is, you just don’t say that sort of thing to someone with chronic fatigue syndrome – CFS/CFIDS/ME – or a similar chronic illness. Right now however, there is some truth in the statement.

It took quite a while for me to learn to be kind to myself. After all it was probably because of the lack of that, because I was pushing myself, that was one of the contributing factors to the illness in the first place. But there is a difference between looking after yourself and over indulgent comfort. I found that the years of fatigue can have a dulling, if not soporific effect upon the mind and body and it is possible to develop ‘lazy’ habits and attitudes that can become the norm.

Now that I am in recovery – by that I mean most of the peripheral symptoms have long gone and the levels of fatigue are much lower – there is a need to sharpen up. I am keen therefore to recover that which has been lost. I don’t mean that I can go back to how it was. No more mountain climbing – possibly? I have let go of what was and have to go forward into the new things and ways and recovery is a process of discovering what these are. One thing is for sure. They will not be handed to me on a plate. That means taking action. No matter how seemingly small and insignificant, any action can be powerful. I am discovering over and over, what can be achieved with God’s help and strength, with very little physical effort upon my part. Something I needed to learn long ago!

I still have to be kind to myself, but things such as falling asleep in front of the TV of an evening or eating just too much, must stop. Any lazy habits that have been picked up must change. Just as muscles that have atrophied must be carefully and slowly brought back to life – and that can be painful – so the mind needs to be exercised and sharpened.

I looked up the dictionary meaning of comfort: “The act of consoling: giving relief in affliction:receiving moral or emotional strength: to make physically comfortable: a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety:” I have also discovered that there is no real comfort that can rival that which comes from God. Any other comfort addictions such as sex, drink, chocolate, food, warmth, sleep, television or any other distraction are just a pale shadow of the real thing.

So, forward with changed attitude, sometimes with difficulty, but with God all things are possible!

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How We Slayed Smaug the Dragon

How my wife and I, despite the restrictions of chronic illness, attempted the 2.3 mile walk through our local country park. A walk that for most people would be an amble, became for us, an expedition of Tolkienesque proportions.

It had been our ambition for a while and so there we were on the hottest day of the year, setting out on our adventure! Make no mistake, it would be a real accomplishment. From the car park to the front door of the inn at the other end, was twice the length of anything I had walked in the previous three years. It was a challenge, comparable in relative terms, to my climb up Ben Nevis, when I was fit! So not only were we praying for strength to get there and a lift back to our car, but for there to be no ill after-effects! It was going to be interesting – me with my chronic fatigue symptoms and my wife with her walking finally balanced in her custom-made boots.

We set out, like two excited children, with our ali-folders strapped to our backs and my vest pockets stuffed with wallet, mobile phone, drink, emergency rations, camera, keys and sketch books and pencils. Even though the sun was full and hot, there was a gentle breeze from the sea and the going was level and smooth. This was familiar territory, but even so, we marvelled at the abundant greenness and the occasional wild flower that escaped our detailed knowledge – well my wife’s at least!

It seemed no time at all that we arrived at the first pond. Ready for a rest, we unfolded our seats and out came the sketchpads to record what we saw. There was a single open lily on the water and two ducks with their fledgling offspring and a brand-new bright red fibreglass rescue apparatus. Not being so good at drawing birds, I concentrated on the view back to the sea. After a swig of the water bottle and a cereal bar off we set again.

We rounded the bend along the straight to the next seat overlooking the large pond. This was a real picture, with a mass of lilies in full bloom and the reflections glinting in the sun. We took note of the several strange plants, with a view to looking them up back home. I made two calculations; we were just over a third of the way and the pub stopped serving food soon after two! I wasn’t sure how these conflicting facts equated, but we continued with added stimulus.

The next stretch seemed longer than expected and even though the sun was slightly veiled in wispy cloud, we were feeling the heat. However, the bridge came into sight with the signpost for the Otter Trail, indicating just over a mile to go. We crossed the river and swung right along the opposite bank towards the entrance to the woods.

We passed the point of no return and were into unknown territory. I was reminded of the book “The Hobbit”, as it felt like we were leaving Wilderland and entering Mirkwood. There was no air of mystery though, just a warm shady coolness and the gurgle of the murky river, with the occasional fallen tree interrupting the flow. We kept a lookout for otters or even a kingfisher, but had to be satisfied with the occasional dragonfly.

Up to this point we had walked side-by-side, but because of the narrow path and our different attitudes to the physical demands, we were tending to ‘string out’ somewhat. We met several fit ‘oldies’ appropriately dressed in boots, shorts and Tilley hats, striding out with purpose, but we persevered in our own way. My wife had to be more careful to avoid exposed tree roots, steps in the raised decking or the occasional stretch of mud. Whereas I was aware of my aching muscles and trying to find the right pace between full stop and a headlong adrenalin race to reach the end.

We were definitely slowing down and made several stops. I took the odd photo, but neither of us sketched anymore, we were too focussed on reaching our destination. A passing couple informed us that it was only five minutes to the end. We mentally multiplied that by three and sure enough we emerged from the delightfully cool woods to the searing hot sunshine fifteen minutes later. That was the most difficult stretch, short as it was, it was very, very hot and the road busy. My dry tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and my eyes were on that pub doorway!

So we arrived at ‘Rivendell’ for our rest and refreshments. We pondered over the lunch menu as Ann the friendly and cool waitress hovered. I made for the bar to order drinks. I drooled over the tempting list of beers on draught, but dismissed the thought on considering what a pint of Tinners might do to my digestive system. I made a mental note however, to carry out a test in the next week or so, to see where I currently stood in that department! Just to sit in the cool bar room was a welcome relief and the hot chicken and bacon baguette made a real difference. I felt my limbs come back to life as my sugar levels rose. A lemon and lime, tomato juice and two coffees later we were ready to re-harness and hit the road back.

We set up our position in the searing sun. My wife was to do the thumbing, as I reckoned drivers were more likely to stop for her. In a few minutes several passed by, but weren’t inclined to stop. As I wondered if anyone would recognise us, a friend pulled in, wound down her window and called out. She turned the car around and took us all the way back to ‘Hobbiton’ and dropped us at our car, with just two minutes left on the ticket! How about that – we did it – praise God!

We felt like we’d been to the Lonely Mountain and slain Smaug the Dragon!

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Surprised by Angels

I once thought of angels as fluffy beings with wings, like the images portrayed in books, magazines and greeting cards. I was aware of recent reports and biblical angel encounters, but their existence remained theoretical, outside my realm of experience. As a pragmatic male, I believed Christians should concentrate on following Jesus, rather than an “experience”. While grateful for those blessings, or ‘consolations’ I received, I had no idea I was destined for my own very personal angelic encounters.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after several months of acute loneliness that defied any human solution. It was a most painful emotion of abandonment and anxiety, that kicked in after an eye operation that didn’t go to plan. I felt I was the only person in the whole world, like an infant, left out in the cold. I didn’t know which way to turn, except to God. The problem was He seemed to have left and was nowhere to be found. I had no sense of presence or awareness whatsoever. It was my own Dark Night of the Soul.

Even though He seemed far away, God had caught my attention as never before. I wanted to trust Him to take me through, but desperately needed answers and reached out to Him the best way I could. I spent time searching the bible, to see what was relevant to my situation. I recorded in my journal all that spoke to me, including my feelings at the time.

I liked to be outside in the freedom of the fresh air and was in the habit of going down to our beach. I used to sit on a low rock, just ‘being there in my wilderness!’ I became very aware and sensitive to those things close to hand, such as the surf gently washing in and rattling back over the shingle. I sat there one day, when I became aware – I can’t put it any other way – of Jesus kneeling at my feet, saying “What can I do for you?” This just stunned me. This was my God, kneeling at my feet, desiring to meet my needs.

A week or so later, when my anxiety levels were still high and I hadn’t driven far for a while, I drove my wife and a disabled friend, to visit a garden. On arrival, I left them in the formal garden while I explored a shady wooded area. I sat on a moss-covered tree stump, relishing the lush quiet all around me. I reached out to God in my isolation and almost immediately, I was aware of angels surrounding me. Some standing and some sitting, but all looking at me, protecting, waiting. It dawned upon me, that they had really been with me from the very beginning. I recalled some of the verses I had written down: I know it’s hard …. but you will come to no harm …. I will send my angels to protect you.

About three months later, after a brief appointment in town, my wife and I drove on to a favourite garden. It’s an incredible mix of several gardens, where there’s always a riot of colour, just like an artist dipping his brush in a paint box of flowers. After an hour or so, while my wife explored an old building, I wandered into a small secluded walled area. I was immediately struck by the quiet intimacy of this ‘secret’ garden. I sat on a sturdy wooden bench at the end of the close-cropped lawn. The seat was inviting like an armchair and so old, that the oak was bleached white with the sunlight.

As I soaked in the atmosphere, it suddenly felt like I was sitting on Father’s knee, with His arms around me. I could feel the warmth and comfort of His gentle embrace. I sat there enthralled, mesmerized, not wanting to move, in case He went away! I just sobbed with relief! That was a precious moment, Father and son together and possibly a promise of more to come?

Then, nearly five months after the onset, the state of desolation left as suddenly as it came. My senses began to return, the aching void inside receded and I felt covered by a warm comforting blanket of love.

I look back at that time now and just know that without me having to do anything, God did something deep inside. He knew my deepest need and just how much I could take and arranged those ‘angelic’ visitations to reassure and comfort me that He really was with me. Not the feeling, but the real God.

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