Hope and Longing

baloons floating upAs we turn the corner of a new year, most of us can’t help but take stock and look backward and then forward. What gains were made this year and what losses.

Its as if our brains do an automatic reshuffling of the memories over the last year and have to summarize and qualify it before filing it away in long term storage. Then you add the pressure of our culture’s need for “resolutions” and “goals” and you can feel overwhelmed by a lack of forward movement or change from a year ago. Encountering milestone birthdays can do the same thing to a person’s mind. Have I accomplished anything? Am I a better person? Am I stronger? Healthier?

First things first, pressure off. Stop comparing so much. Take a deep breath. One day at a time. Don’t look back too far and too deep, don’t look forward to far or too intensely.

You are healing, you are fighting, so one step at a time.

Goals are good. But if you are going to make them, do short term and long term. Break them into categories like emotional, relational, occupational, spiritual, health, etc. If you have separate categories, then, despite the ability for you to control your physical healing, you cannot, but you will be able to control the other categories and feel liberated that you achieved and moved forward however incremental.

Ultimately, remember that goals are meant to keep us looking forward and striving onward, but not to overwhelm us or bring us disappointment at every turn. Roll with it when you miss a target, move the target and try again. This healing from chronic illness is a tough business and you have to cut yourself some slack.

The great thing about looking backward over a year’s time is that sometimes then we see the progress that we didn’t see day to day. Celebrate the gains no matter how small. Journal them, write them down somehow to remember the positive. There will be a day coming that you will need the encouragement. Don’t look back to remember how much you used to be able to do or what you once were, look backward only to delineate the healing gains, whether spiritual or relational or physical, they are still gains.

Sometimes its better to have a visual goal rather than a written one. Put a photo on the fridge or bathroom mirror of what you are fighting for. Family, kids, job, activities that you want to be able to do again. Not as pressure but as an incentive. There are days that you will want to give up. Too many of those days and you need something to lift your heart, mind and eyes upward to keep moving.

Music is a great way to memorialize situations. We have a “song” with our partner. We have a “song” that reminds us of our senior year of high school. We have a “song” at our wedding. Give yourself a song to memorialize this year or to represent the year ahead.

As you take stock of last year, remember it correctly. What do I mean by that? Don’t let the bad things overshadow the good, no matter how out of balance it is. Don’t let the mind re-frame and block out the goodness or gains that were made. Maybe you wouldn’t call it a gain yet, but a door of opportunity was opened for something that hasn’t been realized. Celebrate that open door and give it priority for the year in review. Don’t look back and rewrite history in the negative. This is so unhealthy for the brain, mind and the soul. If you need help doing this, ask a friend or loved one to help you “see” it differently.

Seeing last year as it really was but highlighting the positive helps you form a platform to launch this new year from properly and with more strength. Don’t view your last year in the lens of your neighbors or other friends that aren’t sick. Don’t compare your last year against the new chronic illness friends either that seem to be doing better than you. Don’t do this to yourself. You must separate and look only at yourself.

A few years ago, our small group at church did a study called “One Word”. Such a simple concept and we have embraced it as a family ever since. Instead of making lengthy goal lists or resolutions that are overwhelming and only make it three weeks before we fail and beat our selves up the rest of the year, you pray and focus on one word you will work on this year.

It can be any word. Meditate on the Holy Spirit to help you find that word and some scriptures to support and encourage you along the way. So, some examples of what words have been chosen in our house – gentle, laughter, unity, self control, kindness, sharing. It makes the goal so much more easy to achieve. Small incremental change over time becomes habit and make huge strides. One day at a time, one step at a time, still gets you to the finish line.

A fellow Lyme warrior reminded recently that the longing of our hearts is a good thing. It can be linked to despair and depression if we let it, but the root of the longing is hope. God put a seed of hope in our hearts, hope for goodness, hope for light, hope for health, hope for heaven, hope for our Creator. That is why our hearts are longing. The longing is not a bad thing and should not be used to pull us down but to lift us up. Longing can motivate us to get out of bed and keep fighting. Longing can open up the floodgates of hope to rain down on our hearts and overflow then with joy despite our circumstances.

So, when you take stock and you feel that ache deep in your soul, that longing for goodness and something better, use it to lift you up. Use it to keep fighting, one day at a time.

Blessings and healing,

Janice Fairbairn – The Lyme Evangelist

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