Tag Archives: love

Compassion Starts with Embracing our own Pain

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” – Henri Nouwen

The meaning of the word compassion is literally ‘co-suffering’ or ‘to suffer together’. Compassion is not simply a feeling that comes and then passes like sympathy or pity. Having compassion is being so deeply moved in your heart with the pain of another that you are compelled to act to somehow alleviate that suffering.

We are literally ‘joining together’ with the one suffering to help and support them.

It’s actually a deeply painful emotion. But the intense feeling is not focused on ourselves – it focuses on ‘the other’ who is suffering in some way. This means, although painful, it is a deeply beautiful and even freeing emotion. Because it takes the focus off our own challenges, trials and pain and focuses our attention on supporting and helping someone else.

However, the irony of compassion is that we only truly feel it, and are moved by it, once we have first embraced our own life struggles and pain. Until we recognise the pain that suffering brings to us, we cannot truly begin to understand the pain it brings to others.

This is why some of the most compassionate people you will come across are those who have felt a similar pain to yours. It may not have been exactly the same, but they at least experienced it enough to see it and feel it in you.

Suffering together copy

Compassion is linked to empathy. Empathy enables us to understand and relate to what someone else is feeling. Compassion then takes empathy a step further, in that those empathetic feelings are intensified into a passion that leads to action. We are deeply moved to act! To do something to alleviate the person’s suffering. That act might be seemingly big or small, but it will be something that we actually do practically to help them. Motivated by the hope that it will help alleviate that persons suffering – even if only a little.

I really do love the quote at the top by Henri Nouwen. I believe the last sentence is particularly poignant:

“Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

What does he mean by this, what is the ‘condition of being human’? 

To me one of the most striking characteristics of our humanity is our brokenness. It’s the fact that we are all born as vulnerable, weak and dependant babies. And we will also all die vulnerable and weak from sickness, an accident or old age. Our human body has a fragility and mortality about it which means that we are plagued by weakness in different ways. We have many vulnerabilities; physically, mentally and emotionally. We are all prone to seasons of suffering and struggle. We are also all imperfect, we all make mistakes.

There are no humans who truly make it through their whole lives feeling perpetually strong, having it ‘all together’ the whole time, without any obvious weakness, vulnerability or struggle. Some people might like to project that mirage to others but the reality is we are all imperfect and fragile in similar and different ways. The fact is, our common humanity dictates that – if we do live to old age – all this will become more than evident, as eventually our body and mind fade and stop working altogether. If we do not live that long then death perhaps will ‘take us out’ early, again brutally revealing our weakness and mortality.

It’s this understanding of our ‘common humanity’ that helps us to become more loving, empathetic and compassionate people. This is why it is actually in times of trial and suffering that our deepest bonds with other humans can be formed – through mutual understanding, love and compassion. This is because it’s often only as we come brutally face to face with our own personal weakness and vulnerability that we can potentially connect more wholeheartedly with others because of it.

“The strongest relationships are formed in the heat of difficulty and the confession of weakness… honesty breads more honesty… it’s about sharing our common humanity.” Patrick Regan

Those we can share our whole lives with – our struggles, pain, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, shame and guilt – are those who we generally form the strongest bonds with. Relational safety comes in someone knowing our weakness and failings – but loving and staying loyal to us anyway. This is always when our connection with others becomes more deeply profound.

This is when love is most beautiful and its bonds become most powerful.

It is only when someone sees the depths of your own ‘darkness’ – but chooses to love you regardless – that the true beauty of deep relational connection blossoms. There is perhaps nothing more deeply moving in life than this. This is where true unconditional love abounds.

This is also the place that our sense of compassion is potentially deepened, because we have arrived at a place where we know what it is to be faced with our own darkness, vulnerability, suffering and shame. Our hearts can potentially become softer and more malleable towards others. We have been humbled by the distressing awareness of our weakness, which can make us kinder and more understanding to other’s weaknesses.

However, you will see that I used the word ‘potentially’ in that last paragraph twice! The truth is, not everyone who suffers will show increasing compassion to others. This is because suffering can go two ways: it can cause us to become more self consumed, hardhearted, angry and bitter OR it can help us become more tender, understanding, compassionate and loving.

Ironically, embracing our own weakness and pain in seasons of suffering – but then turning those feelings outward to focus it on having compassion for otherscan actually help alleviate the suffering of both of us. Suffering always grows darker the more it pulls us back into ourselves. Compassion, instead, provides a light for the both the giver and receiver – as the giver directs their own pain into helping alleviate the pain of someone else.

Acting to alleviate another’s suffering helps bring more meaning and purpose to our own.

Compassion

In reality though: in what ways can we practically act compassionately? Especially when in so many situations what we can actually do is so restricted?

The thing is, compassion doesn’t demand that we fully fix another’s difficult situation. For instance, when I was immensely suffering from an acute spinal fluid leak in recent years – I couldn’t reach out to another, who was also leaking, and fix their main physical problem. As much as I would have liked to have done so, we were both somewhat at the mercy of a debilitating and misunderstood condition. We couldn’t actually ‘fix’ it ourselves – we needed compassionate doctors to help. However, there are so many ways I could respond to and share another’s pain and act with compassion to their suffering.

Just telling another that we ‘get it’ and understand their pain can be an act of compassion. Which is one of the reasons I decided to write so honestly in this blog. If we can humbly ‘get over’ our own fears and insecurities of ‘getting real’ about our struggles, we can then choose to act compassionately by connecting and reaching out to another honestly – amidst our own, and their, pain. We can’t just think about it – that is sympathy or empathy. Compassion calls us to act on those feelings and practically connect to encourage, support and hopefully help alleviate some of the potential loneliness of suffering. Simply hearing ‘I get it’ means a lot to someone really struggling. This is often the first step in acting compassionately.

Giving your time to support someone struggling through spending time with them in person, over the phone or digitally can be an important act of compassion. Often patiently listening to them process their struggle and trying to understand their pain can help them immensely. Or simply looking for ways to encourage or uplift them in an empathetic way by sending some kind words, a card or gift. Practically, if we do live near by we might show compassion by cooking a meal, taking their kids to school or on a day out, or offering to drive them to a hospital appointment.

Little acts of compassion can speak the loudest when someone is struggling to make it through the next hour, let alone the next day. It was often the things above that spoke the loudest to me at the darkest moments of my own journey with a debilitating long term illness.

“Do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Compassion doesn’t always require us to do something BIG! In fact, normally we can’t do something big – even if we had more time and resources. Many situations cannot be changed overnight with one action. There is a long and arduous process involved in acceptance, change and potential recovery. Compassion is often most profoundly shared in the little acts. The little things that shows someone in pain that you understand (or are trying to) and that you care.

However…

We need to keep in mind that the first step to being ‘moved with compassion’ – in choosing to ‘co-suffer’ with another – is that genuine compassion requires us to SEE and feel that person’s pain and struggle first. Before we do or say anything! That way, our words and actions will pour out from that heartfelt overflow of empathy. They will then be more obviously genuine and tender. You can’t fake compassion – it is easy to see in someone’s eyes, words and body language whether their supposedly compassionate words and actions are truly real or simply forced. In my own experience this can often be a problem for members of the medical profession, especially those who have lost that connection with their and their patients ‘common humanity’. 

Genuine compassion will only flow out of our true hearts, when we have first seen, felt and embraced our own pain, vulnerability and weakness. If we have not done that effectively, if we insist on denying and attempting to cover over our own human brokenness, we will simply become increasingly self focused and self absorbed human beings who spend their time pridefully keeping up their mirage of strength and pretension at other’s expense. This will inevitably end up with those people getting increasingly frustrated with others or even despising other’s suffering – rather than being moved with compassion by it.

Is it not time to see more compassion in our world? Whether it’s loving the poverty stricken orphan in Ethiopia through child sponsorship, or simply actively listening to or taking a meal round for a friend or neighbour who is struggling. Can you imagine if our neighbourhoods, schools, hospitals and workplaces were full of truly compassionate people who knew personal pain, but could look past it, to recognise it in another. We could then support one another through the ups and downs of life without judgment, misunderstanding or ignorance.

Perhaps, if we embraced our own pain more, tried to understand it, then turned it outward to connect with another equal human – then we would all suffer a little less throughout our own unique life journeys. Compassion rarely makes all the pain go away. But all of our collective small acts of compassion can become another necessary cog in the bigger wheel of changing our world for the better – person, by person.

“Love your neighbour as yourself.” – The Bible (Mark 12:31)

So let us not forget that we are ALL the same. We all share a common humanity. We must try to love as we would want to be loved. Try to care, as we would like to be cared for. Try to understand, as we would want to be understood. Try to show the compassion that we would like to receive.

In the hope that little by little, kind word by kind word, small act by small act, we might help alleviate some more of the suffering and pain in this world – TOGETHER!

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” – Henri Nouwen

Falling Into Grace

“Grace can’t be explained; it has to be experienced … grace always has a story.” – Kyle Idleman

Grace is a word that we are all familiar with. We might think of it as a quick prayer at the start of a formal dinner. Or maybe a popular baby girls name. Perhaps you might think of a ballet dancer or figure skater moving gracefully around the room. You may of even heard it talked about in church.

But as the quote above says – grace is so much more than all that. It is not simply a word, a short prayer or even a religious concept…

Grace is an experience!

Falling into grace copy (2)

Over the past few years God has really deepened my experience, understanding and revelation of grace. Grace has become such a powerful reality in my life that even just hearing or thinking the word can often bring tears to my eyes, or tangibly move my heart very deeply, as I hear and ponder it.

To me, the concept of divine grace is one of the most beautiful things in the world!

This is mainly because I believe, know and have profoundly experienced – that divine grace truly is the ultimate foundational building block of unconditional love.

You cannot separate grace from love. They are fully dependant on one another. Unconditional love is only possible because of undeserved grace.

Of course, we are talking about a specific definition of the word grace. I am referring to the word as a Biblical concept, a spiritual experience. So before I move on, let me first attempt to describe to you what I SEE when I read, or hear, the word grace in this context.

In the Bible’s New Testament, grace is translated from the Greek word ‘charis’ which can be translated as God’s unmerited or undeserved favour and ability. To favour someone or something is to prioritise, show preference to, demonstrate a special kindness towards and basically give approval to that person or thing.

Normally in our day to day world we would show ‘favour’ to someone that we love more than others, ie. a spouse, child, family member, best friend, someone who has helped or shown us more kindness than others. We would rarely show ‘favour’ to someone who had been unkind, treated us badly or someone that we dislike.

Therefore we usually show favour (or grace) to people conditionally. We repay love for love, kindness for kindness, generosity for generosity, dislike for dislike, rudeness for rudeness, hate for hate. The way someone behaves or acts towards us dictates how we react, treat and respond to them in the vast majority of cases.

This is where ‘charis’ blows normal human behaviour and convention out of the water.

The whole point of the New Testament concept of charis is that it is wholly undeserved. There is no initial assessment about whether someone’s behaviour merits us favouring them. We decide to favour them – before we know how they will treat or respond to us. AND we choose to favour and show kindness to them DESPITE wrong, hurtful or negative treatment or attitude towards us.

Do you see how undeserved grace is the foundational building block of unconditional love?

Can you SEE how outrageously beautiful it is as a concept to me? However, the stunning nature of undeserved charis can never be fully explained in words. It has to be SEEN & EXPERIENCED. For us to truly get a life changing revelation of its glorious divine nature and intention you have to have lived through, and from, its awesome perspective. As the lyrics to this song show is so beautifully…

“And nothing ever LOOKED like this
The wonder of a world I missed
The clarity I find in GRACE
Never thought I’d SEE this way.
You’ve been there every time I fall
Been there through it all
All this time to SHOW me
The VIEW from here.”
– Stu Garrard (The View From Here)

Those words help to describe the profound transforming metamorphosis that occurs from the day, or season, that we truly begin to SEE via divine grace.

It revolutionises the way that we SEE the world. It completely changes our own perspective of God and humanity. We start viewing everything from the eyes of our hearts – rather than with our limited heads and minds. It is a wholly new ‘view from here’. And today I want to try and describe something of the view from the vantage point of divine undeserved grace.

“The view from here
So beautiful
It’s so beautiful…
… can you SEE it now?”
(Stu Garrard ‘The View From Here’)

The view from the outlook of grace is truly stunning. It is simply indescribably beautiful. As you look out at the world, you begin to increasingly see the beauty in each and every person you meet. Even when they are in a bad mood, even if they treat you terribly, despite their good or bad behaviour. You see hidden beauty within them and you long to reach, connect with it and draw it out from them. You feel a profound depth of love for them before you even meet or know them.

Undeserved grace is truly THAT radical!

Isn’t it beautiful?!

Can you imagine a world where everyone could see and treat others from that viewpoint?

Falling into grace experience copy (2)

But I can also hear the cynics among you mumbling: “Well that’s simply unattainable idealistic ‘world peace’ rubbish – who on earth can love to that depth? How can you love someone you don’t know or have never even met ... if you don’t know them – how do you know if that person really deserves your love?”

And all true Jesus followers should quickly reply with a resounding…

“We don’t! – But that’s the whole point of grace.”

How deserving someone is of love is taken right out of the equation.

There is nothing they could do to make us love them more. There is nothing they can do to make us love them less. We simply love them because we just love them. Full stop!

Isn’t it beautiful?

But…you might say… is it really possible to live like that? With that radical view of the world? Seeing every person you meet as uniquely, but distinctly, beautiful?

It is ONLY possible if you have ‘experienced’ that undeserved grace and unconditional love yourself first personally. You can’t view the world like that until you truly see and experience that level of divine love from the source of perfect, infinite, Divine Love Himself – Jesus Christ! When people have truly experienced divine undeserved grace and love. It will naturally flow out of them like streams of living water – to increasing measure, to everyone they meet. You can’t make it, will it or force it to happen. It should just increasingly become as natural as breathing, for those people who have truly surrendered to God’s unconditional love and grace.

However, unmerited grace is not a one-off experience alone. That is where it begins. But it’s real beauty is seen when people experience an ongoing deeper and deeper revelation personally. Day by day. Month by month. Season by season. And as they do it will just naturally transform the way they think, feel and behave until they increasingly drip and bleed undeserved grace and unconditional love to everyone they meet.

That metamorphosis has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful processes to watch happening in both yourself and others. Once you have seen and tasted what grace can do in your own and other people’s lives. Once you have experienced the restful ease of it’s transforming power. When you begin to rise up and view the worlds valleys and humanities brokenness from the lush green hills of grace.

You are never the same again!

However, the hidden glory of that transformation is that you will only truly experience it mesmerising depths, IF you begin from a place of witnessing the true extent to which it is undeserved. In your own life first… then in others second.

The truth is you will only experience grace in proportion to how much you acknowledge the depths of your own brokenness and weakness.

The divine key – given freely via Jesus Christ – to unlocking this view of undeserved grace and unconditional love in your own heart… Is surrendering to and receiving it’s ultimate core revelation…

That you have done nothing and can do nothing now, or in the future, to deserve miraculous divine perfect love.

The moment you believe you have done something that helps make you worthy of unconditional love and undeserved grace, you have voided the whole revelation and experience. You cannot experience grace by earning it – you can only receive as the ultimate gift.

You can only experience grace when you see how absolutely undeserved it really is!

And that is also humanity’s biggest hurdle to receiving the life transforming experience. Because humans like to justify how good and deserving they are; of respect, life and love. They have believed the lie that has completely corrupted people’s understanding and experience of love in our world – that love is something you give and receive because of how much you have earned and deserved it. This is why human convention dictates that you love those who love you, show kindness to those who are kind to you, and dislike and even hate those who dislike and hate you. Which makes the most sense to our human minds.

However…

People can’t see that it’s just that corruption of love that has polluted and destroyed our world, it’s inhabitants and all our relationships. The world is falling apart because it doesn’t truly understand and hasn’t truly experienced perfect unconditional love.

Falling into gracer Weakness is the way copy (2)

All this is because the truth is ‘weakness is the ONLY way’ to receiving that love. And unfortunately humanity hates feeling weak. We spend our lives trying to cover over and whitewash the cracks and crevices we ALL have. We will do anything we can to show off our strengths and sometimes go to any extreme to hide and cover over our weaknesses.

This results in our own ‘view from here’ being totally corrupted, polluted and full of both:

Pride AND shame.
Superiority AND inferiority.
Self-promoting AND self-hiding.
Self-prioritising AND self-loathing.
Arrogance AND false humility.

All of which will pollute and destroy perfect love.

Paul said in the Bible; “But he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬

Anyone who has followed any part of my painful three year journey through a debilitating and devastating chronic illness will have heard and seen how it’s relentless waves have completely wrecked me again and again. I cannot begin to describe to you what has happened in my life over the past three and a half years. But perhaps I would say that, at times, it felt like a mixture of a devastating typhoon that ravaged its way through my life and attempted to destroy everything in its path. Whilst I sailed through its unrelenting storm in an exposed wooden rowing boat trying to not be completely sunk by the untamable wind and waves that seemed to strip me naked and constantly flood over me. On and off, I thought I was physically, mentally and spiritually drowning. Unable to cope or see a way through.

I can’t tell you how weak and vulnerable you feel when you are quite literally mostly bed bound and debilitated by a ‘life wrecking’, widely misunderstood, illness.

But as the never-ending storm raged and ripped through my life, stripping me of so many parts of my identity, dreams for the future and so much of what I could do, it revealed a deeper and deeper vulnerability. It exposed more and more of the real, naked, hidden and weak me. Until at moments I wasn’t totally sure what was left behind amidst the tatters of my old life.

Its destructive path at times completely overwhelmed me... but through it all... that still small voice of the Holy Spirit whispered…

“Weakness is the way”
“You can’t – but I AM can”
“Let yourself fall into My undeserved grace”
“Immerse yourself in My unconditional love”

And over time I began to SEE more and more of the depths of my Creator’s unconditional love – that could only be experienced through falling into and being completely immersed in His undeserved grace.

The old me who wanted to look, and be, so strong, the old me who struggled with pride and shame as the depth of her weakness was exposed, the old me who wanted to cover her nakedness with various worldly ‘fig leaves’ as Adam and Eve did after the fall…. Had to let herself be brutally killed off more and more –  so that I could experience His ever increasing grace.

All of my heroic self-attempts to keep striving to be strong, all of my ugly self-reliance that tried to fight the battle on my own, all of my projected ‘able, high-achieving, pretentious’ self-identity had to be brutally crushed and wounded.

… until I could again see that we can do absolutely NOTHING to earn or deserve God’s divine favour. We cannot add – even a morsel – to His unmerited ability or His unearned strength at work within us. 

“It would be so much more comfortable if God would keep us in our “strengths zone” wouldn’t it? But God keeps thrusting us into our “weakness zone” because it is only in our weakness that he is made strong”. – Christine Cane.

My Father, Lover and Friend… in His incomprehensible wisdom, allowed me to walk through the relentless ‘valley of the shadow of death and destruction’. So that I would learn to fall more deeply into Him. So that He could keep leading me like a Shepherd leads his scared lost sheep, up the greener, more peaceful, lusher mountainside. Up towards the higher ground where ‘the view from here’ would look even more stunningly beautiful than ever before.

My view of undeserved grace and unconditional love could only be widened and deepened when I truly realised that…

“It’s NONE of me… it’s ALL of Him.”

And that is what characterised His constant whispers to my soul throughout the storm…

“You can only do this through I AM’s undeserved grace. It’s My strength in your weakness. I didn’t build or design you to try and scale this mountain by your own human striving, strength and perseverance. I have allowed you to feel and see the depth of your weakness – so that you will see how much you need My grace. So FALL into My grace My precious, dependant, child and allow my SHALOM peace and completeness to STILL your heart again. And watch as you are saturated by My unconditional Love – so that when you look into the eyes of every person you meet, you will truly SEE with My eyes of pure unadulterated love.”

That is my ‘view from here’ which grows clearer and clearer each and every day.

That is why the word grace can cause me to catch my breath, bring tears to my eyes and deeply move my burning heart once again.

That is my story of undeserved grace.

That is what I need you to hear as you listen to my tragically beautiful tale.

Weakness is the only way to truly experience God. His grace can only be received as a mind-blowingly generous undeserved gift. His unconditional love is given despite our faults and failures. So that when we receive it – it will overflow to everyone we meet. In the stunning form of unconditional love for ALL people – regardless of how they feel about us in return. 

The view from here is so very beautiful. It’s so beautiful… can you SEE it now? 

“Christianity is not primarily a moral code but a grace-laden mystery; it is not essentially a philosophy of love but a love affair; it is not keeping rules with clenched fists but receiving a gift with open hands”. – Brennan Manning

What You Say Flows From What Is In Your Heart

Kind words can be short and easy to speak,
but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

Have you ever wondered what is going on in someone’s heart? Who they really are and what they really think?

One sure way to work it out is to listen to what they say! What words come out of their mouths? What words do they write down/ type and share day after day.

In the Bible Jesus said…

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” – Luke 6:45*

He is explaining that our words are connected to what is going on inside us. They are connected to our true hearts.

Yes of course we can pretend or say things we don’t really mean. But if you spend a lot of time with someone long term and listen to what they are saying, you will soon begin to get a picture of what is going on in their heart.

But the same is true for us! Have you ever stood back to consider how your own words paint a picture of what is going on within you?

Is your heart….
Tender or hard,
Loving or hateful,
Understanding or judgmental,
Forgiving or revengeful,
Sweet or bitter,
Cold or warm,
Kind or unkind,
Humble or proud?

heart shaped  in sand

Love is one of the main things that should show through your words.

If you love someone with your whole heart, it should be obvious in the way we speak to and about them.

I personally believe love resides in our hearts like a beautiful song. If our hearts sing with love, our words should sing with that same love. And everyone should be able to hear the song of love in and through our words.

That’s one of my personal goals in life – for my words to sing with an otherworldly love that can only come from knowing the unfathomable unconditional love and grace of God.

If I am truly in love with God, and desire to love others wholeheartedly, you will hear it in the way I speak, write and act.

“When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.” – Mother Teresa

When you fall in love with someone, you can’t stop thinking about them. You constantly want to talk to them. You desire to be with them. You will find yourself wanting to tell others about them.

Love is such a powerful and all consuming force. And yet we can get so comfortable in our love for others, that over the years it can wain in its intensity. That’s when the cracks appear. Our words get a little harsher, a little less patient, more critical, more negative, less understanding, more self focused.

We convince ourselves that this is the other person’s fault. Perhaps if they were more lovable and loving it would be easy. Maybe if they weren’t so infuriating and selfish we would have more positives to say.


“Love resides in our hearts like a beautiful song.”


But what if we turned that on its head a moment and thought…

What if the problem is not mainly ‘the other,’ what if our main problem is our OWN hearts? If our words are becoming overly negative what does that say about what is going on inside us? What does that say about the quality of our love in the first place?

True love is not a fleeting emotion!

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:7‬ *

Love to me is ALWAYS unconditional. It is selfless – thinking of the other first. It is patient and kind, persistent and persevering. It’s full of grace. It is not easily angered, proud or self seeking. It covers over faults and loves regardless of weaknesses.

The challenge for me is that if that is the love I believe is in my heart. That love should then be revealed and shown through my words and actions.

Do my words sing with the love that I say is in my heart?

What do my words say about what is truly going on in my heart?

That’s a challenge to me. I certainly daily make mistakes. At times my words can be too harsh – especially to my family or when I feel particularly ill or get very tired. But I do want to do better, I can always be more positive, patient & understanding, even when exhausted and in pain.

Maybe we could take some time to consider that this week. Try and listen to what you say. Think about why you speak like you do.

You never know, you might discover that too many of your own words are negative, critical and hurtful. We all have ways we can improve in our communication with others. We can all be more kind and understanding. We can think more about how we can treat others as we would want to be treated.

What do your words reveal about your heart?

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” – Luke 6:45

“Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange.” – Maria Popova


*Verses from the Bible

Breaking Down The Walls Between Us

“So we can hate each other and fear each other
We can build these walls between each other
Blow by blow and brick by brick
Keep yourself locked in

Maybe we should love somebody
Maybe we could care a little more
Living for love, unafraid of the end
Forgiveness is the only real revenge

So we can heal each other and fill each other
We can break these walls between each other
Blow by blow and brick by brick
Keep yourself open.”

(Taken from the lyrics of Holy War by Alicia Keys)

Do you ever feel misunderstood? Those days and moments when somebody decides they think they know who you are, but you know that what they are saying and how they are acting shows that they don’t have a clue who you REALLY are?

Now let’s reverse the question.

Do you ever misunderstand others? You decide that you think you know who someone is and why they say and do what they do. But perhaps over time you realise that you totally ‘missed it’ and you didn’t or don’t have a clue who they REALLY are.

We can ALL make a lot of assumptions.
We hate being judged.
And yet we are guilty of judging.
Of assuming that we know.
When in fact we really don’t.

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try & figure out why they do what they do.” – Dale Carnegie

We live in a world of barriers and brick walls. We can build our little fortresses to protect us and ours and in protecting ourselves we can end up ‘locked in’ rather than ‘open’.

That is why I love the lyrics above (that I have edited) to Alicia Keys’ song Holy War. The song highlights how we have built so many walls between one another.

Walls of pride: My way is the best way.
Walls of hate: I don’t like who you are and what you do.
Walls of fear: Our differences scare and distress me.
Walls of hurt: Somebody hurt me and you might too.
Walls of misunderstanding: I don’t want to listen to you.
Walls of stereotypes: I already know who you are.
Walls of differences: Look at all the ways we are different.
Walls of revenge: If you treat me and mine badly I will treat you and yours badly.

And yet the more we lock ourselves into our places of safety, the worse it all gets. Our perspective becomes tunneled. Skewed by our own limited view. We don’t attempt to understand. We assume we already know.

But the trouble is, usually we DON’T KNOW!

from darknessI LOVE diversity. I have spent all my life with such a diversity of different people. People from different cultures, countries, ethnic groupings, social groupings, sexual orientation, different backgrounds, different faiths, different colours, super intelligent or with learning difficulties, the able bodied, disabled, chronically and terminally ill.

And I LOVE it!

I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I want to live, learn and grow all my life and I can only do that by opening up mine and my families life to diversity and difference. I would honestly get so bored only spending time with people like me! I need change and difference to help challenge, inspire and shape me.

I need YOU to make me a better ME!

I want my level of exposure to keep growing. To meet more people. To understand more about why YOU do and say what you do, and for you to learn why I say and do what I do.

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try & figure out why they do what they do.” – Dale Carnegie

This is one of the reasons I LOVE watching documentaries and reading books about other people’s REAL life journeys, battles, challenges and victories. It opens my mind and enlarges my perspective.

It helps me to be a better human.

I want to understand why people do what they do. Because it helps me to show empathy and love to others more. As well as helping me to understand myself more. It opens my heart and expands my mind.

Perhaps we are ALL more similar than we think.

The lyrics I’ve shared above help to paint a picture of why I believe we ALL need one another. To inspire us to spend more time with, and listening to, a diversity of other people. Bringing love and understanding to our conversations and choosing to learn more about each other’s perspectives. So that TOGETHER we can make the world a better place. It tear’s down all the walls and barriers of ignorance and fear that exist between us all. It is there that we realise we perhaps didn’t know quite as much as once thought we did.

The more I get to know people that at first seem very different from me. The more I realise that we have a lot more in common than we might at first think.

We are ALL human and we all live in this world TOGETHER!

It’s in that place that we learn that we can’t really hide away from the world, instead we all have to live and be here. You and me are stuck on this earth TOGETHER, whether we like it or not! And these days I am grateful that our world is a lot more mixed up than it once was. It brings so many more opportunities.

So instead of hiding maybe we could learn how to be more open. To reach out to others with open ears, hearts and minds. Ready to listen and learn. Ready to be challenged and changed.

Ready to be more human.

Ready to pull down the walls between us and do our best to build bridges instead.

Bridges of love: I am going to treat you how I want to be treated.
Bridges of humility: I still have so much to learn, (even when we disagree) teach me what you know.
Bridges of faith: I am going to chose to believe the best about you rather than the worst.
Bridges of healing: I will try to empathise and support you in your pain.
Bridges of understanding: I will listen to your perspective.
Bridges of acceptance: We are all unique individuals who can’t be put in a general box.
Bridges of similarities: We all have common ground because we are ALL human.
Bridges of forgiveness: We ALL make mistakes and get things wrong.

I know I would rather be a builder of bridges rather than a builder of walls. A person who chooses to break down these walls we have between each other.

‘Blow by blow and brick by brick’.

I want to keep myself OPEN because it is ALWAYS so much better than staying LOCKED in.

How about you?

The Power of Love

“Make love your goal”
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘The Power of Love.’

“Let love be your highest goal”
The Bible

Nothing touches us deep inside like true love. I cannot imagine my life without it – love makes us feel alive. We feel valuable, safe, cared for, connected and content.

I believe that love is the greatest and most powerful of all human emotions. The passion of love is a driving force in our lives. We love our families, we fall in love with another and we know the love of friends. Many are searching for it, some wonder if they have truly found it. To love and to be loved is one of our greatest joys in life and something that we all long for.

“You do something to me.
Something deep inside…
You do something to me
Somewhere deep inside.”
Paul Weller

I love these lyrics by Paul Weller. I think they explain what love can feel like so well. You know that you have encountered love when another person connects with you deeply. What they say or who they are does ‘something, somewhere deep inside’ of us. It moves us. We can’t always explain it or understand it, it isn’t just simply an attraction or the fact they make you feel good. You feel a deep connection to them – an intensity deep in your heart.

Over the years I have learnt that we feel love most when we love others. Yes, another’s love for us touches us deeply too, but we feel love most when WE LOVE. Sometimes I think we can convince ourselves that we feel love most when we are loved more. However, I believe that when the focus is on us, we actually feel love less. The passion and feelings of love come from OUR LOVE for someone else.

This is perhaps seen most beautifully when parents love their newborn children. That baby is not yet old enough to understand how to show us love, and yet we usually feel utterly overwhelmed and consumed by love. It is not because they enter into the world loving us, it is because WE LOVE THEM.

Love is like an energy
Rushing in, rushing inside of me.
– Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘The Power Of Love.’

Love IS like an energy, a blazing fire within us that wants to be with that other person, to love and protect them, to care for and help them. It chooses to see the best in others.

The problem is if we wait to be loved FIRST we may never feel love. This is because love is always something that has to be given before it can be received. We cannot receive something that has not already been given.

Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love. -Leo Buscaglia

This is one of the main problems in the world today. People are so very scared of getting hurt that they fear ‘giving love’ in case it is not reciprocated. They fear giving a deep part of themselves to then find that it has been trampled upon. Such is the world today – people are unsurprisingly suspicious of one another; there is little trust left. Love has been watered down to a fuzzy feeling and feelings can change with the wind.

However, the strongest relationships that have the potential to last the test of time are characterised by people choosing to bestow love as a gift. They love to love, not to receive love. This is when love is given in an atmosphere of grace. Grace gives EVEN when we don’t deserve it. True love is unconditional and selfless. It chooses to stay the long hall and gives up its own rights for another.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. The Bible **

What a challenge.

Do we really love like this?

It involves sacrifice.
It requires endurance.
It chooses to never give up.

And so the journey of love is not easy as I write about here. Love is not the fairy tale we are sold. Love must walk through many challenges. It leaves us open to hurt. Many of us have felt the pain of a broken heart when we loved and the other person walked away. That is one of the reasons our world is full of hate.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Love is daring. It takes risks. It does leave us vulnerable and open, because love is only love when it reaches out and touches deeply. That means there is always a chance that we might get hurt. However, what should we then do – say that we will never love again in order to protect ourselves? But if we never love again, we will not feel or enjoy the intensity of love again either.

Heart collection

There are a lot of things that touch me deeply inside my heart. Over the years I have developed a tender heart that feels love a lot. I have found the more you love, the more you feel love. I have decided to ‘make love my highest goal’ and to spread the aroma of love around – wherever I can, whenever I can, to whoever I can – because there is far too much negativity, criticism and hate in this world.

I want to be known as a person who ‘loved’. Someone that ‘touches others deeply’ because I dared to give love as a gift, unconditionally, whatever the response.

Yes, that does make me vulnerable (and I will always need wisdom to guard my heart so that I am not pulled into foolishness). Choosing to love is risky and I will sometimes find that my love is not reciprocated or it is even betrayed.

And it WILL hurt! 

But I know a love more powerful than all other kinds of love, a love that will always cover over and heal my hurts. A love that is patient and kind, keeps no record of wrongs and never gives up on me – even when I mess up. It’s a love that touches me deep inside, like nothing else. With it’s beautiful, powerful, pure, unconditional nature. It lives within me ‘like an energy’ and flows out of me to others (if I let it). It is the love of Jesus – love in it’s most powerful form – because it is a love that models giving and sacrifice, a love that never fails and always endures.

It’s a love that is all powerful, all consuming and yet tender and full of grace.

It’s this love that shows me what love truly is. It makes it possible for me to keep on loving, even when it feels like I am getting little back. It drives me, gives me energy and helps me to love and respect others and see their needs as well as my own. All because that love found me first.

That is a love that I can ‘make my goal.’

When I felt suicidal at Christmas following an extremely difficult year of illness and felt unable to endure any more, I wrote the card pictured below to my husband and kids telling them how much I loved them. And as I read through the words… “Love bears ALL things, believes ALL things, hopes ALL things and endures ALL things..” they pierced my heart.

Love wouldn’t give up – love couldn’t give up. It had to keep on going, search for renewed hope and believe that things would get better. 

That is the power of love. 

FullSizeRender (2)

Even amidst this very difficult season of my life, I’ve had to learn – even when I can’t do other things – I can still love and receive love. I can know that I am loved and allow that love to fill me again so it can flow through me to others – even when I feel completely broken.

Surely if that is the ‘highest goal’ and purpose of our lives then that is all we need.

So I hope I will always choose this way of love, even when it leaves me vulnerable, even when I have to endure. Because true love is more powerful and more incredible than we ever imagined.

And it is definitely worth living for. 


*Verse from 1 Corinthians 14:1 in the NLT translation of the Bible

** Verses from 1 Corinthians 14:4-7 in the NLT translation of the Bible

Breaking Through the Darkness

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. – A Proverb‬*

Have you ever reached the end of yourself?
REALLY reached the end of yourself?
When you are depleted at every level:
Physically,
Mentally,
Spiritually,
And psychologically?

When despair sets in and a darkness envelops you that feels so strong it literally attempts to strangle any life and hope out of you?

My world came crashing down in the week running up to and over Christmas this year and I fell apart in a way I never would have thought I could or would.

You see – I am strong!
I don’t give in easily!
I have a very real and deep faith in God!
I have a healthy thought life!
I don’t do being ‘weak’ so well!

I had held on all year.

Through an immensely difficult year for our family, following a serious and unusual spinal injury (a CSF Leak) that left me with major neurological problems.

I had finally received more treatment (a second epidural blood patch) for debilitating Low Pressure Headaches caused by a suspected CSF leak, and I had to muster up all the strength I had left to be positive, overcome fear and give recovery its best go. As I wrote about in When All that Remains is Faith, Hope & Love.

I had to be strong enough. Somehow I would be strong enough. I wasn’t going to give anything else away to this horrible condition.

I wouldn’t let it take more of my life.

The problem is that sometimes life takes us to places that are quite simply beyond us. Things don’t work out how we thought they would.

We give it everything we’ve got.

And then we find we have nothing left to give.

We humbly discover that we too are one of ‘those’ people we perhaps used to look down upon.

‘Those people’ who can’t cope. ‘Those weak people‘ that can’t keep going when life gets tough.

We discover….

THAT IS ALSO ME.

And it blasts everything we once thought about ourselves out the window.

‘We’ become ‘them’.
The one battling a chronic illness.
The one who ‘broke down’ mentally.
The one who felt like escaping life was perhaps better than living it like this.

And a new journey starts.

After weeks of waiting and battling for treatment – a second epidural blood patch – everything was poised in my mind.

THIS HAD TO WORK!
I HAD TO BE WELL AGAIN!

Being a positive, faith-filled person I filled my mind with that hope. Surely after all the discussions, waiting, battles and disappointments – it would work – IT HAD TO!! Our family couldn’t go through the trauma and chaos of any more upheaval because of this horrible and unusual injury.

I finally had my blood patch and all appeared to go well – although it certainly wasn’t an instant ‘fix it all.’ So I did what I always try to do – focus on the positive, believe, step out in faith and trust that as I regained my physical strength and conditioning that I would find complete health.

I did all that I could to push through various lingering, unpleasant symptoms. Stay positive and keep going. The problem was my body and mind was exhausted and as I pushed it more and more, it began to shut down. I survived for a time on shear willpower and adrenaline but 3 weeks after my blood patch I developed acute insomnia.

I would go to bed exhausted, sleep for 30 – 60 mins, then be awake all night …..every night…. for two weeks.

No ones body can survive like that whilst also battling a major neurological condition.

But I tried to keep on going, I thought ‘if I just keep going then I will get tired enough to sleep’. Then my conditioning will get back to normal.

I just wanted to be well for Christmas to leave this difficult year behind in 2015.

Things spiraled out of control physically and mentally – my symptoms seemed all over the place – before crashing in every way.

It was Christmas.

Usually a fun-filled family time of sharing gifts and eating together.

Christmas 2015 is a blur to me. I cried my way through it, in all honesty, exhausted, depleted in every way and not even wanting to live anymore – if living meant this.

I felt so very unwell and the relief that lying flat used to provide was not alway’s there. Which is why I couldn’t sleep. It was torture. My body and mind were utterly exhausted. I didn’t know what was going on.

I assumed that the blood patch had eventually failed and because of all the battles to get it I was not sure I could access another one.

I could no longer think straight.
I could no longer see a way forward.
I lost my perspective.

I naively and ridiculously found myself ‘wishing’ that what I had was terminal – because at least there would be an end in sight, if it was. At least there would be an escape from the inner and outer pain that I felt.

PAIN CONSUMED ME.

I felt stuck between an inner pain, grief, physical pain and such exhaustion that death seemed the only way out. Yet I knew to choose death would devastate those I would leave behind. Which added to my pain.

Breaking through the darkness copy

Darkness enveloped me and pain became my reality.
Hope felt out of reach.
Faith attempted to hold on with its finger nails but was losing it’s battle.

My pride was shattered.
I was not so strong after all.
I couldn’t do it anymore.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick – A Proverb‬*

My heart was sick and I felt lost in a pit of despair that no one could lift me out of. Even my wonderful husband was struggling to reach me.

There comes a time when – however strong we are – we come face to face with the depth of our weakness.

I had never imagined I could be ‘that person’. That I could reach a place where thoughts of depression, despair and even suicide not only became real but became an obsession.

I just wanted it all to stop!!

I couldn’t do this anymore!!
I couldn’t take the chaos!!
I couldn’t take feeling so ill!!
I couldn’t face the battles of trying to convince doctors to help!!
(I actually thought me falling apart mentally would make my chances of getting help for my underlying physical condition even more problematic. I was scared that they would assume it was all ‘in my head.’).

And yet I first had to face the reality of where I was. I had been battling an injury that directly affected my brain – for a year. I had spent almost 6 months of that year in bed, lying flat almost 24/7 and the rest of the year at nothing like full capacity.

There comes a time when – however strong we are – we come face to face with the depth of our weakness.

But, I still felt like I had failed. I blamed myself.
One mistake with a ladder had cost our family so dearly.
One accident had robbed us of our future.
One moment had wrecked EVERYTHING!
I decided that I had then probably ruined my last chance of getting better by ‘blowing’ this blood patch by doing too much.

I had no ‘fight’ left in me so hopelessness washed in like a flood.

EVERYTHING BECAME DARK.

I couldn’t see past the darkness. Attempts to battle negative thoughts whilst being physically so depleted and unwell seemed fruitless.

I JUST WANTED TO ESCAPE.

I convinced myself that my family would be better off without the burden of such a debilitated, chronically-ill wife and mother.

The pain of thoughts of dying came face to face with the pain of thoughts of living.

I DESPAIRED OF LIFE ITSELF

“Courage isn’t having strength to go on – it’s going on when you don’t have strength.” -Napoleon Bonaparte

BUT……. IN THE MIDST OF THE DARKNESS LOVE BROKE THROUGH!

All was not lost.

Love reached out to me and helped me to hold on.
Grace was still there waiting to be rediscovered.
I had to open my eyes again to see that the light of love was still burning in the darkness.

Family and friends simply loved and supported me. They helped me to rediscover a better perspective. My 8 year old daughter used to come and sit on my bed and with all the passion she could muster she would tell me how much she loved me and that she wouldn’t want any other Mummy but me – even when I am so unwell.

A new journey began.
It was not easy.
It has been painful.
It has been hard.
It has been confusing.

I have wrestled with myself.
Wrestled with my identity.
Wrestled with my faith.
Wrestled with the darkness.
Wrestled with various neurological symptoms.
Wrestled with how to move forward.

It has been a very confusing time symptoms-wise. After the new year things began to improve. Some things were still like low pressure headaches. Some felt different. It was hard to know what was going on in my body, brain and mind. Doctors were not always sure either.

I had to discover the strength each day to put one foot in front of the other to just get through intact. To pull through the pieces of a broken life and somehow find hope again.

“Honesty & steadfast faith – especially in the darkness – forms a powerful & enriching message for everyone in pain….. Sincerity and humility are essential.”Samuel Chand

Darkness had enveloped me at a time when I felt like I couldn’t find God any more. Hope returned as I discovered He was there with me all the time.

I just couldn’t ‘perceive’ Him.

I had to rediscover God’s love and grace. Learn to ‘let go’ of the life I had lived and choose to trust and hope that I could recover and that there was something better ahead. I had to battle the fear and anxiety that tried to persuade me that I would never be free. I had to learn to get comfortable with stillness, quietness and to embrace true peace and rest on a deeper level.

I had to learn to perceive God’s voice in a new way and hold onto the truths spoken over me.

Breaking through the darkness quote copy

I have had to rediscover who I am in its simplest form and be OK with a more simple life for a time.

A new depth of humility helped me to see that I had sometimes  judged others ‘weakness’ because I didn’t understand them. I have now developed a deeper empathy and compassion for others facing challenges and struggles; especially those linked to chronic and mental illness.

I have had to discover a new kind of strength that is actually born out of weakness.

It’s been an immensely difficult journey and one that it has taken me a while to write about. For a long time I felt like I had lost my voice and had very little to say that could help others.

And yet.

I know that as we talk about our deepest weaknesses and vulnerabilities, others can connect with us and know that they are not alone. It then gives our own pain more purpose because our story can bring a ray of light in the midst of another’s darkness.

“We may impress people by our strengths; but we connect with them through our vulnerabilities.” – Nicky Gumbel

It can be invaluable to know that someone else is also struggling and that your journey can help them too. We can then navigate the stormy seasons in our lives TOGETHER and some how help one another to weather the storm.

Albeit wounded.
Yet stronger.
With a new perspective.
More appreciation of life.
And a deeper empathy for others.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.” – Haruki Murakami



Please do feel free to comment below. To read more about my initial injury and journey with a CSF leak/ Low pressure headaches you can see these posts.

*Proverbs 13:12 from The Bible

UPDATE March 2018: It is now looking likely that after epidural blood patches I may well have experienced some rebound high pressure symptoms. This is a very confusing condition, that can be a severe complication of epidural blood patching/ CSF leak treatment. Here is my more in depth post about experiencing this after my 4th EBP in September 2017.


 

To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.

A fantastic informative video that you can refer to about spinal CSF Leaks, their symptoms and treatments is The Mystery Headache: Migraine, Positional Headache, Spinal Fluid Leak? by Professor Ian Carroll at Stamford University Hospital.

When All That Remains Is Faith, Hope & Love

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love.” – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ (the Bible)

One thing is for sure; I am not going to forget 2015 for a while. I think for our family it will be known as ‘that year’ for a long time to come.

What a journey it has been!

When I started my blog at the start of this year I didn’t expect to be writing about all the very real and immensely difficult challenges we would imminently face this year.

When your life is stripped back it reveals what is at your core. What comes out of you during tough times shows what you are truly made of.

It’s a truly humbling journey.

Yet, through all the chaos, the pain, the distress and the brokenness this year, three things always remained. Many times they were all I could hold on to. Some days I had to dig deep for them; sometimes despair tried to take their place. But despair and fear always ultimately failed to take me down, because I knew these three things would always be there.

FAITH
HOPE
LOVE

heart shaped  in sand

They are unchanging powerful forces at work within the universe. The only eternal truths that were consistent even when so much was going wrong.

They are the divine characteristics of my creator; my father and friend who was always there with me, helping me, teaching me, guiding me and strengthening me.

A light in the darkness.
Peace in the storm.
Hope in despair.
Strength in weakness.

The still small voice bringing calmness, love and direction when life seemed to be falling apart.

If you have followed my story over the past few months you will know that following a fall off a ladder in January, I was diagnosed with a number of neurological conditions at various different times; conncussion, post concussion, whiplash, low pressure headaches and a CSF leak.

Following my relapse the Neurologists decided that most of my symptoms could be directly related to a CSF leak/ low pressure headaches and I perhaps never even had a concussion. However, this is all very difficult to prove, especially because none of my MRI and CT scans showed evidence of any diagnosis.

I finally did have another high volume epidural blood patch after much waiting and debating from doctors.

This procedure has helped me immensely.

I am very thankful for the neurologists at our local hospital who fought on my behalf, for weeks, so that I could access that treatment. All the delays were immensely difficult as well as frustrating and made my symptoms worse, but I always had to acknowledge that my case was unusual and doctors are still learning about CSF leaks and low pressure headaches. Hopefully my case will at least help things to change locally as the doctors learn more about the condition.

Finally a wonderful consultant anesthetist at the hospital agreed to try a second blood patch for me. I am so very thankful for that doctor who took great care over the procedure, was willing to learn about my condition and valued me as a person as well as a patient.

I had 28ml of my own blood injected into the epidural space in my lumbar spine, which is shown to often improve spinal fluid pressure levels and help heal any leak. As it was slowly injected into my spine, towards the end of the procedure, I felt the pain in my head and neck lift which was a great encouragement to me.

The procedure showed initial success and I saw the benefits straight away, but I still faced a massive physical, mental and spiritual battle over the following hours, days and these past two weeks to press forward into recovery.

When you have been ill for a while, especially following a relapse of symptoms, it’s hard to dust yourself down and get back up. There is a major mental battle to face when being upright is connected to so many horrible symptoms.

The blood patch went well but my body was completely out of condition because of the weeks in bed. Even finding the strength to get out of bed and spend time upright was a challenge, even though the direct low pressure symptoms were much improved.

You have to face a lot of fears. Fears of the blood patch failing, fears of relapse. Fears that come into your thoughts because of the continuing aches and pains that followed as my body began to heal and recover from the weeks/ months of trauma and weakness that had gone on in my body. Every ache and pain doesn’t suddenly vanish; some only improve as you get up and get back in shape.

Fear is not easy to face.
It’s not easy to overcome.
It eats away at your peace.
It causes additional symptoms in your body.
It makes recovery harder.

I realised that I had to overcome the fear and anxiety that can develop in relation to getting up and being upright again. Fear and anxiety can in itself bring new symptoms which mimic some of the actual low CSF pressure symptoms. The difference is these are improving as I face them and push through, whereas I was unable to do that with the actual low pressure symptoms.

The way I did this was to fill my thoughts with only things that can truly beat fear and anxiety. These are FAITH, HOPE and LOVE.

FAITH and FEAR are opposites.
Faith believes that good will prevail. Fear focuses on the negative possibilities.

“Fear is placing faith in the ‘what if’s.” – Craig Groeschel

Fear kept knocking on the door of my mind with all it’s ‘what if’s, worse case scenarios and statistics.

Our fearful thoughts alone are enough to keep us bound and stuck where we are. However, over the years I am learning how to fight fear. I am learning how to overcome it.

I knew that my God would help me. So I threw myself onto the one thing that never lets me down – FAITH.

I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I was worn out, scared that my debilitating illness would creep back, that it wasn’t or isn’t all dealt with.

But in the midst of it I knew that I could not listen to all the fears because they would tell me that I was safer staying in bed, that I shouldn’t risk getting up and pushing through. I did still have to rest a lot, but I also had to help my body fully recover by getting up and out.

Staying in bed

I had to listen and rely on three things that are always constant and provided the wisdom I needed and still need to move forward.

Faith
Hope
Love

heart shaped  in sand

I knew if I could take hold of these truths I had NOTHING to fear. They empowered me to face my fears, one by one, and begin to overcome them.

I immersed myself in truth. I spent all the time I could listening to truths from the bible and stories of faith that encouraged, inspired, strengthened and brought freedom to my body, mind and spirit.

I turned off distractions and focused on everything that built faith, spiritual strength and hope.

I knew that I could only fight fear with faith.

Faith is a powerful force.
It has attitude.
It is unwilling to back down.

It has energy to face the darkness of fear, worry and anxiety. It speaks words of love, hope and truth. It builds you up and spurs you on to press forward.

It’s calming, peaceful yet firm voice pushes you forward and says, “you can do this, you can overcome this, keep going.”

Faith gives you momentum to press through discouragements and keep going.

However;
Faith does not exist on its own.
You must feed it.
You must give it attention.
So it can be strong enough to withstand the test.

Faith is supernatural.

It is profound but it is also very real.

When the unseen becomes more real to us than what we see around us, faith is truly alive. It leads and guides us; it teaches us how to behave and act. It helps us to make decisions and brings certainty when the way forward is not clear.

Faith can bring security and stability, even when things get tough and the way forward is unclear.

Faith can also bring healing and restoration if we will let it. It helps to find a way through and will not accept defeat.

Faith fights!
Faith energises!
Faith empowers!

It is because of faith and good doctors that two weeks after my blood patch I am doing really well. I am building back my strength and most of the residual symptoms are leaving. Life is returning to a new normality. New because I am a new person, but a good new because I have grown and learnt so much.

I am building up my physical, spiritual and mental strength. I have discovered a new sense of freedom in my life. I am breaking through more of my fears and learning to embrace this present moment and not allow the ‘what if’s of the future to steal my daily contentment.

A few days ago I went to pick my daughter up from school. As I walked down the school path the heavens opened and it began to pour with rain. My first reaction was “Oh No!” Then very quickly instead I thought – “who cares… let it rain, let it rain hard! I get to walk, outside, on my own and pick my daughter up from school. No rain is going to steal the immense joy I feel in my heart in this moment.”

I never want to lose the wonder of health; of being able to breath, walk, talk, live life, enjoy blessings and be a blessing to others.

I am learning to be so immensely grateful for the small things. To find joy even when it pours with rain, to dance in the midst of the storm.

I honestly don’t know how I could have faced the past year without FAITH. I am not sure I would have survived without HOPE. I definitely couldn’t have overcome without LOVE.

I have realised more than ever before that these things are what are most important. That without my faith and relationship with God this year would have been unbearable. Without His loving hand guiding me and helping me, I would not be where I am at now.

So I am very thankful. Thankful to know Jesus. Thankful for faith, hope and love – in all its shapes and forms. Thankful for friends, family and all the support I have been given.

And I am thankful for life. To be able to live and to love. To be able to get up, be with my family and begin to do all the things that have been snatched from me for so much of this year.

In 2015 I have:
learnt,
grown,
struggled,
faced,
embraced,
survived
and thrived.

It has been immensely difficult but I have been sustained through everything because of these three things:

FAITH, HOPE & LOVE

And nothing can or will take them from me.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭(the Bible)


To read more about my ongoing story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.