Archives For Strength

I am sure that we have all heard the debates about whether moms should work outside the home. I have heard it said that women can’t win, if they work outside the home then they must love their kids less. If they stay home then they don’t want to contribute to society or to their family financially. If we listen to society and these debates then yes, women can’t win. There is no way that we could please everyone with these two options. But, it really shouldn’t be about society and what others think of you as a parent. It is about what God thinks, what your family needs and what you feel about yourself! I left my job a month before my son was born and thought that I would be a stay-at-home mom forever. It’s funny how we make plans for ourselves but God’s plans usually end up in the opposite direction. Here are 10 things I have learned from being a working mom.

  1. Your Child Loves You! My little guy loves me and that love did not change because I went back to work. I visit him every day at lunch and he always has a bright smile and begins to tell me with excitement about his day. His love is unconditional. For that I am grateful. It is all too easy as a mom to make ourselves feel guilty for a number of things. But, our children see us more graciously than we see ourselves.
  2. More Intentional. I have always tried to be intentional with our family time. I never wanted to be the family that all we did was watch TV together. But, it is easy to do when you stay _MG_2659at home all day. Once I began to work outside the home I have found that our family time became more intentional. Less TV time and more playing games, going to the park, evening walks and lots of lego time. It’s not that we were less intentional before, it’s more that we cherish every moment and want to make it count. Even if it is simply hanging out at the house running around like robots.
  3. God Knows Best! Our plans are just that, they are ours. God’s plans typically will differ from what we planned. But, I have learned through the years that He always has a reason for what He does and His plans are always better than I could have done myself.
  4. Making Friends. There is nothing more special than watching my son make friends! He gets excited every day when he walks in to a room full of his best buddies. In our families situation it was not always easy to spend time with friends when I wasn’t working because we are a one car family. Many days we were stuck at home. This has offered a chance for my little guy to play with friends on a regular basis.
  5. No Lesser. I do not feel that being a working parent makes you any lesser of a parent than staying at home. Both roles are extremely important and both roles work hard. It’s easy to tell yourself that you are lesser because you are not home, but this is a lie that we are telling ourselves. Remember, our child loves us unconditionally and sometimes working is what your family needs. Doing what your family needs does not make you lesser! _MG_3138
  6. Always A Mom. This is plan and simple but sometimes you just need to remind yourself that you are a mom no matter if you work from an office or if you work from home. Moms love their children, look out for their best interest and care for their needs. This is true of working moms just as it is true of stay at home moms.
  7. The Mold. There is no perfect mold. Just because you have friends that work or friends that stay home doesn’t mean that you must do what they do. Sometimes what your family needs is not what you even expected. Every family is different, every situation is different and only you know the needs of your family. Don’t feel guilty for knowing the needs of your family!
  8. No One Is Perfect. You will not be perfect in either situation. If you work, you will have days that you feel like a failure as a parent. If you stay at home you will have days that you feel like a failure as a parent. The parenting thing is not easy. Don’t believe the lie that other people have it together, because we are all learning as we go. We are all doing the best that we can, but the truth is that no one is perfect. We will mess up. But, instead of feeling guilty we should lift each other up and support one another because parenting is hard!
  9. Struggles. The grass is not greener on the other side. I have done both and have thoroughly enjoyed both. But, each come with their own struggles, even if you can’t see it when looking in. Working you struggle with juggling your time, stress of the job, and all things parenting. Staying at home you struggle with all things parenting, being isolated, and often times a tight budget. Let’s stop putting up a front and just be transparent with each other. It’s okay to say that you are having  a bad day!
  10. Calling. I firmly believe that if God called you to it, then your family will not be content and thriving unless you are obedient. This is true in either scenario. No matter if God called you to work or if God called you to stay home, you will only ever find true joy being in the will of God!

 

Go On, Admit It.

September 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

This is not an easy post to write. You see it is very common for people diagnosed with any disease to struggle with depression. But, no one wants to talk about it. Why? Because if you admit to having dealt with this issue then suddenly you will be seen as an emotionally unstable basket case. At least that is what we believe others will see.

typewriterThe truth is, it’s very common to deal with depression. In fact the Lupus Foundation of America states that “between 15 and 60 percent of people with a chronic illness will experience clinical depression.” That is a significant number! So why do we fear to mention this “symptom” of our disease? Because we are scared that others will view us differently. 

I have dealt with depression. There I said it. And honestly it’s not even easy for me to admit to you right now. I am actually sitting here thinking about your response as I type this.

At first I didn’t even realize that I was dealing with depression. I thought that I was emotional for one reason or another. When I finally began to realize what I was dealing with I didn’t want to admit it out loud because saying it means that it’s a reality. The thing is I wasn’t depressed about any one thing, I would find myself crying for no reason at all and frustrated that I couldn’t figure out why. I struggled understanding what was happening because I never really had a melt down after being diagnosed. There was a peace that I felt when I heard the words Lupus. There was finally a name to the problems I was having, and I knew that everything was in God’s hands. But, what I didn’t take into account was the changes that happened days, weeks and even months ahead. Fatigue that caused our family to end a Saturday outing earlier than normal, nausea that lasted all day, painful joints that left me sitting on the couch with heating pads all evening. It could be much worse, but it was change that I didn’t see coming. I also now know that certain medications can have a side effect of depression. Eventually my emotions began to shine through and I was able to see that yes, I was dealing with depression.

I don’t believe that depression is something that can ever truly be a hurdle that you leap over and never come to again with a chronic illness. The difference is that once you know it can creep up along your path at anytime you know what to do with it. For me, I look at it as another way to help others. You see I truly believe that my Lupus is more than just an illness. It is a ministry. If I didn’t battle with the things that come with my disease then I wouldn’t be able to encourage others in the way that I can connect with them now. So I write this to you today to say that it is okay to not be perfect! It is okay to admit that our illness stinks! It is okay to admit that your having a rough day! Because then we can stand together and fight our illnesses side by side!

The following is a guest post by Mandy Karo. I first met Mandy in college when we both joined Pi Zeta Phi during college. After hearing about my diagnosis Mandy reached out to me as she is also living with Lupus. I am so thrilled to have her share her story. She has wonderful insight, show her some love! 

Middle school is a tough time for most kids. When I was in eighth grade, I was in the midst of a very difficult transition with my two best friends. We had been inseparable in fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. I remember the gym teacher saying weMandy's guest post were “joined at the hip.” But in eighth grade, they were drifting away from me and becoming a part of the popular girls group. For a young teen this felt like the ultimate abandonment and rejection. I remember feeling a lot of loneliness, stress, and anger. It was in the middle of this drama that something much worse was piled on to make my teen years even harder. I was diagnosed with Lupus.

I had been having odd symptoms for a while. In sixth grade I started having strange stomach aches. The doctors thought I might have ulcers so I had to have a stomach x-ray. It was awful—the stuff you have to drink so they can x-ray you is disgusting! There were no ulcers found so life went on. In seventh grade I began feeling tired in the afternoons. But what happened in eighth grade was what led to my diagnosis. I started getting purple spots on my feet and ankles, especially when I was upset or stressed out. My feet and ankles would also swell up. At first we thought maybe I was allergic to the laundry detergent my mom used but switching it didn’t help. The worst time was when one of my teachers accidentally ran over my ankle with a TV cart. The purple spots showed up and I got so swollen I couldn’t walk on that foot. It hurt to put shoes on.

When we showed my family doctor the spots, she was perplexed so she looked up what it could be. She named off a number of possibilities and one of them was Lupus. I really had no idea what Lupus was, but I had heard the name before, and I knew it was some sort of serious disease. I started to cry. We were sent to Children’s Hospital in Denver to see a rheumatologist. They did blood work and the doctor asked me a few questions about my symptoms. Then just like that, he told me I had Lupus, gave me some packets about it, and prescribed medications for me to take. It felt odd that it was so quick. Even my parents continued on acting normal. Didn’t they know that I was just diagnosed with an awful, potentially life-threatening disease? Shouldn’t we all be crying or yelling or something? I know that they were just trying not to freak me out. Inside they were scared too.

I’ve been diagnosed with Lupus for thirteen years now. I deal with fatigue, unexplained fever, swollen joints or muscles, sensitivity to the sun, susceptibility to sickness, and the spots (which are called purpura and are caused by bleeding underneath the skin). The medication I take has helped me in controlling the flares. I know I am actually very lucky because many people with Lupus have much worse symptoms, and thankfully my symptoms are not life threatening.

There are a lot of questions that come with having Lupus. Will my symptoms get worse? Will I be able to have a healthy pregnancy? Will I have the energy for a full time job? Will I have the energy to raise children? Will the men I date be able to handle the fact that I have Lupus or will it make them want to head for the hills? The real question becomes, what do I do with all of these fears and anxieties?

When any sort of fear comes into our lives, no matter what it is, we must remember the power of God. God is bigger and stronger than any scary thing that looms in our path. Just imagine the universe in its incredible vastness and remember that God created it! That is power. Then remember that he loves you. When something bad happens in life, we might be tempted to ask if God loves us. If God loves me, why did he allow me to get a disease? But that question is focused on the physical, and God focuses on the spiritual. Yes, bad things happen on this earth. But God allowed his son to die for us in order that we might have a new life. That is love. This world is temporary, and we must use the struggles that come with it to strengthen our relationship with God.

The following post features my amazing sister-in-law Alyssa and her journey through Lyme Disease. Lupus and Lyme can often be mistaken for one another. Although very different diseases, they can have some similar symptoms. We can understand each other in a way that no one else does. She is new to the blogging world and I know that you will truly enjoy her writing and feel inspired just as I do. Show some love! 

For me, the most shocking part of living with Lyme disease stems from how slowly and yet how quickly the disease progressed. My immune system was never the strongest growing lyme-lightup, and I began having some persistent gastrointestinal digestive issues in 2009.  I also recall some weird times when I had lower abdominal or back pain and had to have my ovaries, bladder and kidneys tested, but results never revealed a cause.  The strange symptoms would resurface and then disappear again.  The most frustrating thing was never finding any answers.  I had my gall bladder removed in 2010, which provided no relief.  I struggled with periods of remission and illness for about four years.  I grew accustomed to the symptoms and just assumed that everyone experienced the weird things that popped up every now and then, and the rest of the persistent digestive issues were simply normal for me.  At times, the illness interfered with my classes or my plans, but I was able to push through.

 

I had become accustomed to my illness, but on the other hand, when the Lyme really progressed it was like a whirlwind.  This past summer I began a quick downhill tumble, picking up more and more unexplainable symptoms and growing weaker and weaker as the months flew by.  It started with fatigue and an intense pain near my left rib cage.  Then I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes without my legs turning purple with bright red splotches and an itching sensation so strong that I have to sit down and elevate them.  I started wearing sunglasses indoors because the light shining through windows causes a severe headache behind my eyes.  Sometimes I even have to wear them at night when I’m in the car because the headlights of oncoming traffic have the same effect.  My hands and feet randomly go numb, tingle or burn.  I have chronic sore throat and swollen glands, discolored fingers and brain fog.  Some days I have a hard time remembering anything.  I run a constant low-grade fever and experience hot and cold flashes and night sweats.  All the weird symptoms piled up, but the fatigue, joint and muscle pain are worst of all.  My health was spiraling out of control, and I still wasn’t finding any answers.  By the age of 22, I had seen 10 doctors, several unconventional health consultants, had two colonoscopies, two endoscopies, a cystoscopy, a surgery, multiple hospitalizations and countless ultrasounds, CT scans and blood tests.  I tried changing my diet, eliminating stress, taking health supplements and medications to no avail.

 

My mom’s cousin who has Lyme heard about my health from my grandparents and warned them that it sounded like the disease that had torn apart his own life.  I remembered two tiny itchy bug bites with black centers from a fishing trip in June, and that realization pointed us in the right direction.  Lyme disease comes from contact with an infected tick, and it’s likely those bites I remembered could have been from ticks.  I’ve also been bitten by ticks numerous times growing up.  There is no way of knowing exactly when I contracted the disease as it can lay dormant for years until a trigger causes it to suddenly progress.  I began seeing a nurse practitioner in Edmond because there are NO Lyme doctors in the entire state of Oklahoma.  Skeptics in the medical world refuse to acknowledge the existence of chronic Lyme disease because the blood tests for the disease can show false negatives and aren’t the most reliable.  Therefore, the disease is often diagnosed clinically based only on symptoms.  Lyme, like several other autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and Fibromyalgia, disguises itself in a myriad of symptoms that often reflect other illnesses.  It’s easy to misdiagnose invisible illnesses that cannot be confirmed on paper.  Therefore, many traditional physicians say that chronic Lyme disease does not exist.  They claim that Lyme disease is treated with 10 days of antibiotics.  Yet, so many patients deal with two to three years of severe illness and treatment, and then experience relapse years later and have to begin treatment all over again.  Not only do patients fight the disease, they also fight the belligerent medical community that refuses to acknowledge our suffering.  The longer a person with Lyme disease goes untreated, the more severe the disease becomes affecting the brain, heart and other crucial organs.

 

More doctors in northeastern states recognize and treat Lyme, as the disease originated in Lyme, Connecticut.  Here in the central U.S., it’s a different story.  I happened to get online one day and look up “Lyme walk” or “walk for Lyme” because I was inspired by my sister-in-law’s involvement in the local walk for Lupus.  I found one hit for a Lyme walk, and it was held years ago in the northeast.  The awareness in our area barely exists.  I drive six hours every four months to see a specialist in Columbia, MO.  A few friends of mine see specialists in Nevada or Texas because the number of cooperative physicians in this part of the country is limited.  Thousands of people suffer from chronic Lyme disease as I am.  I can’t speak for them, but I can certainly speak for myself and say that this disease is real and must be acknowledged.

 

After two extremely high-dollar Lyme blood tests, and visits to Linda Lea the nurse practitioner in Oklahoma (who paid out of pocket to travel, train under other Lyme physicians and learn more about the disease) and my specialist Dr. Crist in Missouri, I got my positive diagnosis in December.  Now my disease has progressed so that I have been forced to drop out of school, one semester away from graduating, quit my job and most social activities.  I’ve been on a regimen of rotating strong antibiotics since November.  I also follow a gluten-free, sugar-free diet and take a lot of natural supplements to help my body fight.  No treatment works the same for every patient, and therefore I’m trying anything and everything to get over this illness.  My sweet husband and I got married in May, and wow, this is not what I expected for my first year of marriage.  Everyday is a struggle, but I have certainly gained new perspective from my illness and learned that though I have no choice in the matter, right now I am going to live a purposeful life at a snail’s pace.  I have the option to use this time to smell the roses and the blessings God has given me and to realize the beauty in every accomplishment I make – even if my day’s sole accomplishment was getting out of bed, taking a shower, talking to a friend or being pushed through the park in a wheelchair.

 

 

I Am Not Lupus

February 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

In a little over a month it will be a year since I was diagnosed. To receive a diagnosis that changes everything is tough. You never know how you will take that kind of news until you are faced with it. It can be so easy to sink into depression, searching for the answers to questions that run a continual loop in your thoughts… why me? Why am I sick? What will the future hold? It’s also difficult to process because not everyone will understand what you are going through, because you might not look sick. But we can not stay in this place! When we stay there it can be a long and bumpy road ahead. I believe that my God is with me each and every day. He is there on good days and my horribly flared up days. I have no doubt that my going through this diagnosis and now living with Lupus is teaching me things I would not have learned otherwise.

Snow Day

There is so much more to me than just my Lupus.

But, we all have bad days and sometimes we just need a little reminder… some inspiration to keep us going. The truth is I don’t want this blog to be a constant story about the woes of my disease. Sure there will be posts about some rough flare ups, that’s just part of it. The point is I have Lupus but, I am not Lupus. There is so much more to me than that. I am a wife to the most amazing man who I am blessed to say was my high school sweetheart. I am a mom to an adorable little boy. I am a writer. I get so passionate about writing my thoughts, creating make believe in my novel I am writing, and sharing and expressing myself as a writer. I look at my disease as only giving me more perspective, not just my sole purpose of writing. Lupus is something that affects me every day. Even when I am feeling good I still have things that just come with having a disease to deal with that no one else has to worry about. It will always be a part of who I am. But it doesn’t have to be my identity. I don’t have to be strictly Lupus.

After several months of processing through my diagnosis I decided to take this blog in a different direction. I had been writing this blog for a while but felt it was time to for a change. For me Raising Inspiration is about my life, my journey and my disease. I want to spread a little awareness and some inspiration. My hope is that someone who is having a bad flare up will stumble across here and see that tomorrow is a new day. Perhaps a little laughter is what they find and it brightens their day, because sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. I don’t know why I got Lupus, I just did. And that’s okay. It’s part of who I am and now I have more to add to my story.