Tag Archives: journal

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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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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My Clifftop Cabin Retreat

An important and significant two weeks.

I had entered my third year with Chronic Fatigue and although there was some improvement, I still experienced considerable physical restriction and the occasional relapse. I felt the urge to get right away on my own for a time. Some friends of ours had a cliff top cabin which became available for a couple of weeks and I jumped at the opportunity. This was the first time I had arranged to spend such a length of time away completely on my own.

At the end of a narrow Cornish lane, I eased open an old wooden gate and fought through overhanging foliage to reach a grassy clearing. Halfway along stood a bungalow. The cedar wood shiplap was bleached white with years of sunlight and salt-laden winds. Cared for, but it had seen better days. On three sides, trees and shrubs affording absolute privacy and seclusion, but allowed magnificent views out to sea.

The interior was very basic and functional, but I had all I needed. After unloading my belongings, I settled into an armchair and looked around. I took note of the thoughtful provision of little extras, like the bowl of fruit and selection of books. I had arrived! This was to be my home, my refuge, for the next ten days. No distracting phone calls, television or radio. Closed off from the world. It was a good feeling. I just sat for ages and feasted on the panoramic ocean view. Passing clouds cast moving shadows over the dappled surface of the sea. A coaster slowly disappeared over the horizon and fishing boats returned to port with the day’s catch.

I decided on an early night and snuggled under my quilt. The cabin didn’t have the luxury of insulation – not ideal for someone with a wonky body thermostat – and I soon woke feeling cold. I piled on extra blankets and pulled on a woolly hat, before trying to settle down again. As I lay there, the sound of the sea had increased to an incessant roar. The Atlantic rollers pounded the length of the bay below. I listened, fascinated, before eventually dozing off.

Next morning, feeling dazed and bleary-eyed, I sat with cornflakes and coffee, contemplating the first day of solitude. I just wanted to ‘be’, Father and I, drawn into intimacy. I needed to hear what He had to say to me, but realised I couldn’t force anything. It would come in His time and His way. I wandered outside and breathed in great gulps of the stiff Atlantic breeze as the gulls circled squawking overhead. It felt like taking in life itself and I wanted it to go on for ever!

The honeymoon period didn’t last however, as by the next morning doubts began to creep in. I was getting restless and began to question what on earth I was doing such a thing for. Perhaps I should call it a day and return home to reality? Thankfully, I dismissed the doubts and fears and pressed on. Sure enough, by the next day a peace began to set in. It’s hard to describe, except to say that I felt settled, stilled inside, at one with Father. Even when I ventured out for a very short walk, my ‘retreat’ went with me. I felt cocooned, set apart.

The following days fell into a sort of routine. Bible reading, listening, writing and journaling and more listening. Whatever thoughts and feelings came to the surface I explored them to see where they would lead. One day an emotional ‘wound’ that had dogged me for years was uncovered, cleansed and healed. As the truth took hold, I became aware of a tremendous sense of freedom and elation. On another, the reality sunk in concerning an important decision I had to make. I just knew what I had to do.

There were no further revelations during the remaining days, just a cementing-in of what I had already heard and received. My wife joined me for the last two days and we revelled in the fresh air and coastal scenery together. All too soon the day of departure arrived.

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Writing With Father

tn_journal.jpgI have kept a diary for many years. It all started when I read a biography of Pope John 23 based upon his diary. Not that I am of his persuasion, but I thought if it was good for him, so it might work for me. At first it was just a few jottings of anything that grabbed my attention, but over the years it developed into more of a prayer journal.

At it’s most basic it has been a diary listing in some detail what I have done each day; this would give me some understanding of where I was heading. I found it particularly helpful after I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, in keeping a check on my progress in physical activity. I’ve also used it as a record of God’s dealing with me and what I have been shown through scripture and in other ways. I have found it very encouraging to look back on past months and see the progress made. I can write anywhere with a notepad to hand, but most of the time it’s when I am sitting at my computer.

Sometimes there’s a need to write more extensively and expressively. Usually when there have been issues or events on my mind or thoughts that keep recurring. This is where writing comes into it’s own. Once I am comfortable and assured of the presence of Jesus, I begin. I write about the happenings in detail, almost like painting a picture with words, leaving nothing out. I just let the writing flow, without worrying about grammar or spelling. I write as it comes – this is for no one else but myself. It may link into past events, in which case I just go with it and see where it leads. As I get in touch with feelings, I describe them and see where they are coming from. I write what my heart is saying.

I am aware that I am writing with Father, so it is at this stage that I may pause to see if He has an input. I may be led to a scripture or words may come to me. By this time my voice will have taken over from my pen or I may have just lapsed into a meaningful prayerful silence.

I have found this kind of writing can be very powerful, freeing and healing, but I don’t want to give the impression that it’s like this every time. Also my handwriting is so bad that I mostly use a computer. The free journal software I use – Here – is so easy to use and helps to keep me organised with dates, prayer lists and bible quotes etc..

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My Top Fatigue Tips

tn_list3.jpgI humbly present a few random tips, that I have found helpful in dealing with chronic fatigue. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, I can think of others.

 

You may have a lot more, so if I receive any I will add them to the list.

So here goes:

  • Don’t over stretch yourself. This may sound obvious, but I found that on days when I felt a bit more energetic I could get carried away with what I was achieving only to pay for it with extra fatigue for days to come. The 75% rule is a good one. Only use up 75% of your available energy. Easier said than done, but it does work
  • Pace yourself. Don’t try and copy what worked yesterday or even last week, but do what you feel happy and comfortable with. Take the long view. There will be ups and downs, but the tiny gains as you push out the boundaries add up over time. Go with the flow, it’s a lot less stress free.
  • Rest is essential. I don’t mean just sitting down and reading, but a complete switch off from activity. Gentle music is good or anything that works for you and helps you to ‘centre down!’ I find meditation is very helpful. By that I don’t mean anything fancy or complicated, nor is it an emptying of the mind. As a Christian I often sit quietly, just being with Father God and allowing His peace to descend. That’s meditation at it’s most basic and powerful.
  • Find the right balance. Alternate short periods of physical activity with rest, then mental activity, then more rest and so on. Head work can be just as tiring and energy-sapping as physical.
  • Have objectives. Each day, decide to do one thing that is enjoyable and one thing that you don’t look forward to doing. No matter how small these are, the achievement works wonders for your confidence.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Again this may sound so elementary, but I often get so engrossed in what I am doing that I forget that my body temperature is dropping or overheating. This in turn can cause fatigue. So wear layers of clothes than can be easily taken off or on.
  • Keep a journal. I have found this most helpful for at least three reasons. As a diary listing in some detail what I had done each day; this would give me some understanding of where I was going. As a prayer journal recording God’s dealing with me and my response. I found it very encouraging to look back on past months and see the progress. And also as a means of expression to help me get in touch with feelings and what my heart was saying.
  • Get to know yourself. Our emotional and spiritual needs are very important and are often the key to moving forward. So be aware of how you are feeling, take ownership of those emotions and try to deal with them before you drop into despondency. Guard your thought life. It’s so easy for thoughts of hopelessness, fear and failure etc. to drop into our minds and pull us down and discourage us. We need to recognise these and replace them with the positive healing reality without delay.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t pressure yourself to achieve more than is possible and forgive yourself when you fail. Encourage yourself because few others may do so.
  • Find support. I have a tremendous advantage and blessing of an understanding wife and I cannot overestimate the value of this. CFS can be very isolating, so it’s good to have someone outside of family if to be with now and again. Not someone to fix things, but just to ‘be’ together! That may be hard to find. but it has been possible for me when the need was greatest. The practical help needed will vary enormously from person to person. I have found it hard to learn to ask.
  • I have left this last one to the end, because it embraces all of them. I just don’t know how I could make all this work without a close relationship with God to guide and empower. It’s not about following a procedure, but about a relationship and that makes all the difference.

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