Friday, August 20, 2010

A Final Post

Okay, so this is a little late. The last couple weeks in Pittsburgh were very busy, though, and I went straight from Pittsburgh to Minnesota, so I just got back to Iowa on Wednesday and jumped into work yesterday. It's hard to believe that just over a week ago, I was still in Pittsburgh, so much has happened since!

The other reason that I haven't written this post yet, though, is the fact that I really am not sure what I want to say in it. I feel like a lot happened over this summer, but I also feel like a lot of things began, and that I'm in the middle of a lot of things right now. And it's hard to write something "final" when you're in the "middle." But I guess I'll start with the things that can be made conclusive and move to the less certain stuff from there.

Obviously, the time at the doctors' is over. I am so glad that I decided to go to Allegheny Medical this summer and that everything worked out in terms of having a place to stay and having my insurance cover all the visits. There are still so many new things that I have started worrying about in my life that sometimes I forget that four months ago, I was spending hours researching doctors, trying to find someone who could help me, trying to make a wise decision, and trying to work out insurance. Looking back, I can see that God led me exactly where I needed to go and answered all of my prayers. And, yes, that should be a lesson to current-me to stop worrying about the uncertain things in my life right now and remember that God always works everything for my good. I know. I'm working on it :-)

I don't know what is going to happen when classes begin. I do know that I feel a lot better now than I did at the beginning of the summer, though. I don't think I realized how much better I felt until yesterday and today as I was walking around familiar parts of Iowa City and remembering, "Last time I did this, it was so hard I wanted to cry." And now, the hill up Washington is difficult, but, generally, walking around hasn't been too teary yet :-)

Also, obviously, the time of living in Pittsburgh is over. I miss it. I miss living in a city, and I miss the people, and I miss Pennsylvania in general. Also, I miss Whole Foods. :-) Since coming back to Iowa, though, I've also realized that I do *like* Iowa. I love my apartment, I like North Liberty, I like the University, and I like having lots of academic-y friends with whom I can have lots of academic-y conversations.

There is still so much to do with my diet and PT, and there is still a lot that is new and changing in my life, but if anything, this summer has reminded me that God does really good things for his children. Now, I just need to remember that and trust him as I face what lies ahead.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Emmy the Great

It makes me sad that just over 3000 people "like" Emmy the Great on Facebook. Not because facebook or liking things on facebook is all that great, but Emmy the Great is pretty awesome. But, again, it does make me feel like I have some kind of "indie cred" (to borrow the term from Strongbad) to like an artist whom hardly anyone has heard of. So I guess that's okay.


Plus, I love being able to say, "Have you heard . . . " and have someone say, "No!" and then later, "I love it!" Which was my experience today with Emmy the Great. I sent Tricia a facebook message about something entirely unrelated, but then spent three paragraphs talking about how awesome Emmy is and sharing links, and then Tricia said she loved Emmy and the music videos, and it made my heart so happy. I love converting people to music. So then I decided I needed to make a post to share with the rest of the world how much I love Emmy, because my heart would like more happiness, now :-)


What I like about Emmy the Great: I don't know if she writes her own lyrics or if someone else in the band writes them or what, but these have to be some of the most poetic lyrics ever. The lyrics are to her music what I want my words to be to my poetry. Honest, a little bitter, but phrasing things in that perfect way that captures the exact sentiment of the moment in a way that no one has ever thought to phrase it before.


I also love her folksy style and her voice and her accent. Combine that with her lyrics, and I'm totally in love with her music right now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trusting God

One of the things I prayed for the most before coming to Pittsburgh for the summer was that God would a) help me trust him that he would provide exactly what I needed while I was in Pittsburgh and that I would be satisfied with what he provided and b) that during this summer I would grow closer to him--not normal, "Hey, I think we're a little closer now," closer, but crazy, deep, so much more in love deeper. I think God has answered both prayers, but today I've been thinking especially about how he has answered/is answering the first.

First of all, I think that God really taught me to trust him quickly with the health part of this summer. Well, not quickly, since I don't think I really fully trusted him for the first year and a half after being diagnosed with CFS, but quickly as far as being able to say, "This summer may help a lot or it may only help a little, but either way, you're in charge, God, and you're going to do whatever is for my good and I'm okay with that." And he also really answered my prayers for provisions . . . the doctors have been wonderful, if it's possible, I think I'm even closer to Shari now than before I came, and I feel like I am making friends here who I really enjoy and will be sad about leaving.

But just in the past few days, I've discovered that I need to move to another stage of trusting God: trusting him to provide for me when I get back to Iowa. A lot has changed in my friendships in the past year in Iowa, and it's hard for me to be developing friendships in Pittsburgh only to have to leave and not know what kind of relationships I'll have with friends in Iowa. And God has provided so much through my friendship with Shari. One night, I was feeling really sick, and Shari let me lay on the couch and got things I needed and brought them to me and I said, "I look at you and think of Jesus." And then she laughed at me because apparently that's not a normal way to phrase that :-) But really, I meant that I feel like I can see Jesus' love through the way that she loves people, and I feel like our friendship has drawn me closer to Jesus. And I love friendships that do that, and when I leave, I'm going to miss our conversations and the way that we sacrificially care for each other.

I also don't know how I'll do physically when the school year begins again. I think I'll still be doing better, and I think this summer has helped and will continue to help, but it makes me nervous to remember how sick I've been by the end of each of the past three semesters. On top of that, when I keep needing to go to doctors and have tests done and get medication, it's hard to trust God financially.

I need to trust God to provide me the people, health, and money I need. And I also need to look forward to doing this joyfully--giving us what we need is so easy for God to do, and it makes him look awesome and he proves himself powerful and trustworthy every time he does it. If we didn't ever need anything, I don't think we'd trust God very much, because we'd not know everything he's capable of. We'd probably be pretty spoiled. On top of that, I think that one of the ways that God draws us closer to himself is through the trust that grows as he provides for all of our needs. Plus, then, trusting him gets our focus off of our needs and onto Jesus and his love, and it makes us care more about loving him and loving others than about getting what we want. Which is pretty cool :-)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Update-i-ness

Dear blog, I am sorry for having abandoned you for awhile. The internet and I were not getting along. And there were lots and lots of lesson plans. And I was sick last week. But now I am back :-)

Okay, but really, I missed posting last week, but maybe I’ll make up by posting multiple times this week or next. The last couple of weeks have been, overall, good. I feel like I’ve settled into a routine, and I’ve started getting more work done on comps reading and lesson plans. I was reading Wives and Daughters, but I decided I needed a shorter book so that I could feel a sense of achievement sooner, so I’m switching to Pygmalion and, as per Ian’s suggestion, getting the recorded Wives and Daughters so I can listen to it in the car.

Happy news of this week . . . I’m excited for school again! I’ve only had a handful of Spring semesters when I really did not want to go to school and didn’t muster up excitement beforehand, and I’ve never had a Fall when I wasn’t at least excited by August. This summer was pushing it, but yesterday I was writing lesson plans in a coffeehouse and the optimism and excitement hit me. So now I’m trying to feed that excitement into productivity.

In other news, I got the blood work back for my “elimination diet” about a week and a half ago. They do bloodwork to see what foods your body is sensitive to, and then you have to eliminate all of them for a month and then gradually reintroduce some to see which your body can handle and which it can’t. I wasn’t expecting mine to be quite as colorful as it is . . . turns out I’m sensitive to a lot. No grains, no corn, no nuts, no seafood, no tomatoes, no potatoes, no chocolate, no garlic, no coffee. And there’s a few others, but those are the big ones. On Thursday, though, I get rice back, which will make life a little easier. And I’m already noticing my stomach feeling a little better with the changes, so that’s super encouraging.

This weekend is CHRISTMAS! Well, Shari and my Christmas. After our first Christmas apart, we decided that we should celebrate Christmas together even if it was at the wrong time of year. So, we’re going to put up the Christmas tree and decorate it, and make lamb for Christmas dinner, and put fun little things in stockings, and sing Christmas songs, and watch Christmas episodes of TV shows. I’m so excited!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gushing

So I have two things I need to gush about . . .

First, of course, Idina Menzel. The concert was Tuesday night. I’m still having trouble believing that I got to hear her sing! Live! She sang Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale,” “I’m Not that Girl,” “For Good,” and “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, “No Day But Today” from Rent, the arrangement of “Poker Face” from Glee, “Gorgeous” from her album . . . and lots more. And besides having an absolutely amazing voice that makes me want to smile like a crazy lady and cry at the same time, she also has a really fun, genuine air about her. Like a super down-to-earth, I'd-be-the-coolest-person-in-the-world-to-hang-out-with kind of personality that makes you want to ask her to lunch just so that you can talk to her. Except for the fact that she's Idina Menzel, so you can't. But, really, if I were ever asked which one famous person I wanted to hang out with for the day, she'd definitely be near the top of my list of candidates. So would David Boreanaz. I wonder if they'd let me hang out with both . . . ???

Okay, back from celebrity fantasy world. The second thing I wanted to gush about, and, yes, I know this is two years too late . . . I LOVE STARDUST! It took forever for me to actually see it (not because I didn’t want to but just because it never happened), but now that I have seen it, it has quickly become a favorite. We watched it Saturday night, and Sunday morning, while Shari was playing at church in Cranberry and I was at home, I thought, “I kinda want to watch Stardust again.” That’s how much I loved it. I love the scene where the glass is crashing in at Tristan and Yvaine, and he covers her back with her body and is all awesome and protective. But I also love how the movie shows that “true love” isn’t just a helpless female being saved out of an evil fortress by a fearless knight, nor does it have to be some modern, female-power story where the male is rendered helpless and incapable so that the woman can find herself as the primary power-wielding person in the relationship. Tristan is not the perfect hero--he is scared and sometimes unthoughtful, but he ultimately becomes sacrificial and loving anyways. And Yvaine ultimately saves the couple, just as Tristan has often saved her. It’s a beautiful picture of a relationship in which each partner gives everything for the other.

So, now, I leave you with the third thing I loved most from Stardust, Yvaine’s monologue about love . . .


“You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn't true. I know a lot about love. I've seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate... It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves... You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and... What I'm trying to say, Tristan is... I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I'd know it for myself. My heart... It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it's trying to escape because it doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I'd wish for nothing in exchange - no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

So this week was/is pretty great. Healthwise, I'm probably the most optimistic I've been in a long time. The doctor switched some medications, made some referrals, and--best of all--gave me a medication to help me sleep which has helped enormously. And emotionally, I think I'm doing well, too. I know I mentioned this last week, but it is so great living with my best friend and someone who knows what I'm going through because she's going through something similar, too. Last Thursday, we both had pretty bad nights, but instead of being horribly depressed and disappointed like we normally would be when we were feeling that terrible, we ended up laying around and laughing and being encouraging to one another. And then Friday night ended with us both laying on the floor staring at the ceiling just laughing at ourselves and how ridiculous we were sure we both looked. So much better than laying around alone and moping! Also, physical therapy has gone on for 2 weeks now, and even though it was the cause of feeling terrible last weekend, we took a step back this week and now I'm able to handle it and feeling really good about it.

Okay, non-health-stuff. The fun part. Last weekend was Shari's nephew's birthday party, so we went to her parents' house and had a super fun party. I love Shari's family and how inclusive they are. And Shari's nephews are so adorable, and I had fun playing with them. Then, on Wednesday, it was the actual birthday, and we went to Red Robin, and I discovered the LETTUCE BURGER! (lettuce instead of a bun) which was soooo good! (Cue Teen Girl Squad)

I'm really, really excited for the next few days. Tonight, the two ladies Shari works with and Shari and I are making crafts out of tin cans. Then, later tonight, Tricia is coming!!! It will be super fun to see her--it's been over a year!--and especially fun to hang out with her AND Shari, which hasn't happened in--ummmm--probably almost two years. And then, on Tuesday, Shari and I are going to the Pittsburgh Symphony concert with IDINA MENZEL! Maybe my all-time favorite singer woman ever. Maybe.

Okay, so this is mainly update and very little profound thought. Maybe more profound thoughts next week. Or maybe just me gushing about my Idina Menzel love :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

First Week

I’ve gone a little over a week without posting, but the past two weeks have been all kinds of busy. I finished my three week course on academic journal publishing a week ago, Friday, complete with a “ceremonial emailing” of my paper to the journal I hope will publish it. Other than a wedding of two friends on Saturday, the entire weekend was a whirlwind of packing, cleaning, and organizing so that I could leave on Monday. I drove six hours to West Lafayette, IN, and visited one of my good friends from college, Katie. Katie and I were in the honors program together and went to Oxford together the summer after our sophomore year, but we hadn’t seen each other since college. So it was a fun reunion. On Tuesday, I drove seven and a half hours to Pittsburgh. Wednesday, I had my first consultation with the clinic, and on Thursday I had two more. I’m now feeling positive and hopeful about the whole situation. The first few days, I was really nervous and worried and had a lot to process through; plus it was an adjustment moving to Pittsburgh and getting used to how life is going to be for the next few months. Last night, though, I talked things through with my parents, talked to God for awhile, and started feeling at peace about everything. I’m still nervous and it’s still scary, but I trust that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and that something really good is going to come out of this summer.
I really like living with Shari. I love having the time to clean and cook, and it’s fun to have someone coming home for whom you can make dinner. (In other words, I think I’m going to like being married someday. :-P) Also, Shari and I have each been able to do lots to help the other, so I think living together might make life a little easier on us both.
I think God’s using this time to help me grow. My main prayer this summer is I become closer to and more passionate about him throughout this summer. Through those first few days, I processed through a lot of the hard stuff that has gone on this year, and I felt like my “framework” for understanding life just kept getting more and more confused as I thought about everything that has happened. I just couldn’t fit all the pieces into the picture of what I thought my life looked like . . . and what I thought God was doing with my life. In the pilot of Castle, Rick Castle says, “There’s always a story. Always a chain of events that makes everything make sense.” As a literature person, I constantly try to think of organizational frameworks that make the story of my life make sense, and when things don’t seem to fit in--or I can’t find a new story framework--I tend to get frustrated. As a Christian, I know that I won’t understand the whole story until I get to heaven. And I think that means that sometimes I need to learn to be okay with trusting God’s story for my life and not worrying about finding my own narrative framework that makes everything “fit.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Very Long Backstory into Why I'm Writing this Blog

"For we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28

This last semester wasn't easy. A lot of difficult things were going on, and between grad school and that "rest of life" that grad students often forget they have, I was feeling pretty frayed at the ends. Then, in early April, I started getting really sick. I have CFIDS--Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS, or Myalgic Encephalomylitis, ME, which, if you ask me, is by far the cooler name)--and I crashed for about six weeks. Weekdays were spent dragging myself to classes and desperately trying to do enough to get by, and weekends were spent laying almost paralyzed on my couch, sometimes with brain fog so thick that even watching an episode of a TV show was too much for my eyes and brain to handle and reading was entirely out of the question.

Two things happened somewhere in the course of those six weeks. Maybe three. First, I was reading through the book of Romans. I had been having a hard time trusting God to fix my life situations and finding my worth in him, and Romans is such a good book for showing us that we really are undeserving of anything good but that God delights in making much of us, in taking us out of our disgusting, sinful situations and making us his so that we can glorify him forever. And it also shows us that he provides for us and "works all things for the good of those who love him." When I came across Romans 8:28 this time, I was struck anew by how God promises that everything in our life is there for a reason, and that the reason ultimately ends in our benefit.

This began to transform the way I thought about CFS. My pastor, John Piper, had cancer a few years ago, and he wrote an article about "not wasting your cancer." This past Spring, I decided that I did not want to waste my CFS. I wanted to be searching for things that God was teaching me through it and I wanted others to see Jesus through the way that I faced my illness.

But two other things happened. The second thing was that I found out that I could afford to take the summer off and move somewhere with a clinic that specialized in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and similar illnesses. After a very intense two weeks of searching, praying, a few tears, and lots and lots of phone calls, I decided to go to a clinic in Pittsburgh that deals with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. One of my best friends from college lives in Pittsburgh, so it was also great that not only could I go to a great clinic, but be with an awesome friend all summer.

The other thing that happened occurred when I was home sick from church one Sunday, listening to an online sermon by Pastor Piper. I want to go back to listen through the sermon now, because I don't remember the exact connections that brought me to this place. But I think it was at the point that he was talking about living and dying for the glory of Christ that I began thinking through how I thought my life would glorify God all growing up and through college--overseas missions--and how I felt so helpless to do anything to glorify God when I was lying on the couch barely able to make it through a recorded sermon. And then, I felt like God was very clearly encouraging me to do something: write a blog.

Saying that might be one of the less common explanations for why people start blogs, but I really think that blogging this summer will be good for two reasons. I'm hoping that by doing it, I can write things that a) keep my focus on the good that God is doing in my life and b) encourage others to do the same. So, for the next two months or so that I am in Pittsburgh, I will try to write here on at least a weekly basis. It will probably be a conglomerate of many things . . . me sharing ways that God encourages me, talking about CFS, sharing frustrations, fears, and worries (I'm so glad that the psalms show us that God can use those too) and also just talking about what's happening in my day to day life.

Okay, possibly this is the longest introductory blog entry in the history of blog entries. Well, probably not. But it has been long. I'll try not to write so much in every entry. I do want to thank those of you who reached the end of this entry, though, for reading my blog and joining with me in this next summer's venture to trust God with CFS and all the rest of my life!