A Few Words of Encouragement

From last night’s Evening Prayers:

Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
(Psalm 73:23-26)

This Psalm speaks much of the hardship and unfairness of life. But I was impressed by how it ends. It ends with the psalmist’s trust in Jehovah and in His promise. Even when our flesh & our heart fail, God is the strength of our heart. In the end, His people are vindicated and receive the blessing. In the meantime, He holds us by our right hands.

Abigail

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PFAM November 2013: When You Feel Like Giving Up

This month, Leslie at Getting Closer to Myself asks, What do you do when you feel like giving up?? Funny you should ask Leslie. That’s come up a lot lately.

Like Leslie, I’ve just moved to a new state and left graduate school to start a new chapter in my life. It’s been a really hard transition. Aaron asked me earlier this week how my life is going, and I could only think of one response: hard. I’m pretty sure that someone else in the chapel scoffed when I said that, but I don’t care. It’s true. It hasn’t been easy. It’s been hard.

So Leslie, I feel like giving up a lot more than I did before I got sick. In fact, I prided myself on never giving up before I got sick. Now I’m much, much more aware of my own limitations and my own mortality. Here are a few things that have been helpful to me:

1) Being honest with myself. I’ve found that it’s been helpful to own up that things are hard or that I feel like giving up. They say that acceptance is the first step to recovery, and I think in a real sense, it’s a prerequisite to all the other things. Be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of self-pity or making excuses. You’re being honest, not giving yourself a get-out-of-jail-free card.

2) Lean on friends. Seriously, that’s what friends are for. When God told Adam in the Garden of Eden that it’s not good for man to be alone, He was on to something. Reach out to people who can sympathize. Reach out to other people who can empathize. Allow people to be with you in your hardship. Ask your doctors for support, especially if they know they can’t really help you.

3) Cut yourself some slack. Ask for help with the little things: laundry, meals, returning books to library, checking the mail, taking out the trash, delivering gifts to people. Allow people to pray for you. Tell God how difficult it is for you and how you hate how things are.

4) Make me-time even if it means not doing the little things or taking days off work or skipping chapel. (That’s what #3 helps with.) Sometimes this means sleeping. Or watching lots of TV. Or picking up a new hobby. I’ve made quilts. I’ve read lots and lots of Christian fiction and Jane Austen fan fiction. Sometimes I even go on virtual shopping trips. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Just take some time to take care of yourself, to take the phone off the hook, to check out of all the problems of life, and just tune in to yourself and what you really need. Most of the time I feel like giving up, it’s because my needs aren’t being addressed by other people. Well, step #1 means that you need to take time to address them or even listen to them. It’s hard to do that when you’re tutoring your baby sister in calculus or unloading the dishwasher or whatever. (And then, of course, step #0 is acceptance.)

5) Think about your life’s purpose. I decided a long time ago that I wanted every day of my life to count before God, and I wanted to bring a smile to someone’s face almost every day. (Some days I never get out of bed and therefore never encounter anyone. I cut myself some slack.) Some days it’s something big like volunteering in a local community or helping someone with their homework. Other times, it’s just smiling to the person in the car next to me or saying “thank you” to the clerk at the post office or making a friend smile over the phone. (I think I’ve become adept at hearing someone smile.)

I’ve found that hardship has little to no correlation with purpose. When things get hard or seem impossible, there’s always still a reason to press forward. I know that it matters to someone every single day that I’m here. And that makes it all worth it.

A few things that I’ve also learned not to do:

1) People who are worse off than you: This is incredibly subjective and isn’t that helpful. It’s true that there are people who are “worse off” than you. For example, I ran into someone after prayers yesterday who was asking for a sleeping bag because he was sleeping outside in near freezing temperatures. Those are definitely shoes that I don’t want to fill. But, you know, I think hardship isn’t a one-dimensional scale. Just because our hardships are different doesn’t mean that they aren’t exactly that: hard. I’ve learned not to discount my own reality.

2) Spending time figuring out what you did wrong or how you deserved this reality: This also isn’t helpful. It becomes a trap and a vicious cycle. Not everything in life is this straightforward. Plus God doesn’t work this way. His ways are mysterious and are not always straightforward and simple. We shouldn’t presume to understand what He’s doing.

3) Letting other people tell you that you’re sick (or your life is difficult) because of _____: Again, not helpful. When I was struggling very much with depression, one group of people told me that I was sick because I didn’t pray enough and another group told me that it was because I wasn’t making a sufficient effort to be well. It took me a long time and the insight of a very astute friend to help me realize that those comments weren’t helpful. Even if those comments were true (which is debatable), they don’t help someone get out of a funk. Now when people tell me that I should pray more, I ask them to pray that God would give me the strength and desire to do that. I know that God only answers prayers that match His heart. I’ve learned to say “no” to some people. The people who tell me that if only I exercised more I would stronger? I tell them that that’s how I got to be as sick as I am now. Sometimes I ask people to help me out with their own suggestions. The former classmate who wanted me to sue the ravenous lion? I asked him to figure out what steps I would need to take to make that happen because, while that makes sense (maybe), I didn’t have the energy to do it AND be in graduate school all at the same time. Then he understood. And sometimes I just smile and nod. Like the guy who pulled me aside after church to tell me that I needed to try protein shakes because I was unhealthily skinny. I used my former professor’s advice. Just smile and nod and say that you’ll think about it, you’ll consider their suggestion. Then walk away and forget about it. You just spent the past five seconds thinking about it.

These are just some notes on what has worked for me. I would never presume that these would work for everybody. But I hope they might be helpful or encouraging to someone.

All the best,
Abigail

Reflections with Aaron

I’m trying to write down all my thoughts from moving and transitioning. I realize that there’s some details that I haven’t had a chance to blog about. Not sure that anyone’s following, but I want to write them down so I’ll remember later.


I met with Aaron one last time before I moved away. It was an interesting time of reflection for both of us. We first met about twelve months before, and we talked about how much our lives have changed in the last year and a half. We’ve both made changes that we never dreamed we would ever make, and we’ve also both been faced with decisions that we never imagined we’d have to deal with. (We just felt sad for other people who had to experience them & patted ourselves on the back that they didn’t happen to us.)

Aaron gave me two parting thoughts:

  1. Live well with illness: Neither of us are sure what that means or even what it would look like. But at some point, God calls us to live well on the path He’s ordained for us. While that doesn’t preclude praying for deliverance, it does mean that we have a responsibility to endure. I think that’s one thing I’ve definitely learned by being around Timothy & Aaron. Learning to focus on living well & living Christ, period. Not to worry so much about the context. Or compare myself to other people. Because that’s all that God requires.
  2. Live well spiritually: We talked about liturgy. We talked about having a communion centered life. We talked about a sacramental faith. Mostly we talked about following the peace in our spirit and not compromising.

Besides that, Aaron commented that I need to surround myself with friends who don’t just make me comfortable but aren’t afraid to ask hard questions. That was a hard comment for me to swallow, not because I’m afraid of that, but because it feels like that’s all that I ever do. In the past year, I’ve been in more Quality of Life conversations, more fertility/genetics/gynecological conversations, more purpose-of-your-life conversations than any girl my age should ever have to encounter, let alone all in a one year period. I had a lot of friendships come and go and made some fairly difficult decisions. So, isn’t a girl allowed to kick back and relax once in a while???

At the same time, it’s nice to have solid friends when those hard times come, even if I manage to stumble into those difficult questions all by myself. In that sense, Drs. Leo, Samuel, and Mark have been amazing rocks. Diana, Alana, and Tabitha have never been afraid to ask hard questions and to pray & support from afar. Bethany’s been pretty amazing as well. Timothy & Grace have had open ears, especially Grace, who’s shared with me things on her heart as well.

It’s a lot to think about moving toward the future. I’m not entirely sure what God has in store for me. But I know that my season with Timothy & Aaron & company was not in vain.

Gratefully,
Abigail

Lift Up Your Hands

from livingachaoticlife.com

I was playing around on the piano today and kept singing this one song over and over again. For some reason, I never realized that it was a Scripture song!!

Bless Jehovah now,
All you servants of Jehovah
Who stand by night in the house of Jehovah.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,
And bless Jehovah.
May Jehovah, who made heaven and earth,
Bless you from Zion.
Psalm 134

Abigail

News

A short update because some of you expressed concern after my last post. (Thank you.)

So, I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket or count my chickens before they hatch, but here are a few things I’m at peace about putting out in public:

  • I (temporarily) am back at my apartment. After breaking down in Mr. Eric‘s office, I concluded that not being in the house was more pertinent than I had thought. I’m just back for the weekend and then will figure things out from there.
  • I made some phone calls and started praying about moving back to my hometown.
  • I made definite plans to visit a good friend and her husband for a week in early July. In a totally different town.
  • I talked to Grace about what had happened and about the things that stressed me out about the community. She said, Us too. Her week has also been exceptionally stressful… but she said that the silver lining is that I may be able to move into her house immediately. And she said that it would help her a lot to have me closer to her.
  • A couple employers called me to discuss potential jobs, here, there, and everywhere (aka remote employment).
  • I have appointments/conversations scheduled with Drs. Leo  & Samuel this coming week where we intend to discuss plan of care for the next six months and what to do if I stay or go.

A lot is up in the air. I am kind of confused as to what God’s doing and preparing in my life. But I’m trying to remain open to what He has in store. And keep praying.

Someone shared with me this week that FAITH stands for Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him. I’m trying to remember that. It’s better than swearing. Or pacing. Or wringing my hands. Plus, I’ve finally found some peace to sleep and heal.

Please pray. Pray for clarity. Pray for wisdom. Pray that the enemy would be bound. Pray that the right housing and employment opportunity would open up. And pray for conversations with the doctors, with Aaron and Timothy & Grace, and with friends. (I’m not sure what the secular equivalent is to praying, but as long as it doesn’t involve black magic, I appreciate all good thoughts and support and well wishes and whatever else seems appropriate.)

Growing in faith through faith in Christ,
Abigail Cashelle

in which Timothy & Grace are confirmed

Timothy & Grace were confirmed today. I was able to attend the service and sit with some of the folks from our congregation. It was really awesome. Our chapel seats 60 at absolute max (if you include the organist, etc.) We have about 15 people on average at prayers. So it was super cool to see between 15-20 at a much larger chapel for the confirmation service.

Almost all of us are converts to this denomination, so it was interesting explaining to each other what the different things were. There were some pretty funny conversations, like, Wait. We just skipped something in the prayer book. Where are we in the service? Or, What function is that random person standing over there? (the sponsor). Ummm, the choir just started singing a random hymn. Can you find it in the hymnal? Or the best: we were singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and all of a sudden, Chad had this confused look on his face. He knows that hymn inside and out, but he was totally thrown off because the choir director had written a new verse and he didn’t know the words. All of a sudden, those of us in the pew behind him were trying not to laugh as he scrambled to find his program!!

All in all, it was a great experience. The sermon was really awesome. The singing was beautiful. But mostly I was just reflecting on how far God’s brought me and the people He’s placed around me. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t take communion. It didn’t matter that I liked having the Scripture out for Scripture reading. I felt like there was a whole group of us who were in this together. Those being confirmed, those supporting. We were all there for each other. Because we care about each other. And that’s what friends do.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor 9:22)

Grateful & blessed,
Abigail

A New Favorite Phrase

There have been a lot of changes in the air in Abigail world. It’s been a lot to think about all at the same time, and I keep thinking that I can’t wait until the day when the dust settles and I can actually hear myself think!!

Anyhow, I’ve been talking to my close friends like Grace and Bethany, Alana and Tabitha, and Aaron and Elliot and some readers actually. We’ve talked about just about every aspect of all these changes. I’ve even talked to physicians and former professors and current colleagues. There’s been one recurring phrase: I’ll be praying for you.

That’s been extremely comforting. I love the idea of being covered in the Body. And, I really do feel peace from God to transition out of certain things in my life. It seems that God’s calling for some big changes.

I’m nervous though. It looks like a lot of changes will happen very quickly. I don’t know what the future holds exactly. But, I’m extremely grateful to be held in your prayers. Because if there’s one thing for sure in this world, it’s God.

Abigail Cashelle

Peace the World Cannot Give

I’ve been musing over this phrase: “grant me that peace which the world cannot give.” I’m reminded of it as I pray. I’m sobered by its gravity.

He is the God of peace. He creates peace. He arbitrates peace in our heart.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.] (John 14:27, amplified)

In particular, I appreciated Wesley’s notes on this verse:

Peace I leave with you – Peace in general; peace with God and with your own consciences. My peace – In particular; that peace which I enjoy, and which I create, I give – At this instant. Not as the world giveth – Unsatisfying unsettled, transient; but filling the soul with constant, even tranquillity. Lord, evermore give us this peace! How serenely may we pass through the most turbulent scenes of life, when all is quiet and harmonious within! Thou hast made peace through the blood of thy cross. May we give all diligence to preserve the inestimable gift inviolate, till it issue in everlasting peace!

Our God gives us peace that He creates, the very peace that He Himself enjoys. It’s not the transient, unsettling peace of the world. But something so majestic, so harmonious, so divine.

Peace,
Abigail

Gestures

At service this week, the priest began his sermon by breaking bread. To be honest, it was a little jarring. But he said, Through that gesture I convey a multitude of meaning and tradition. And it’s true.

I’ve encountered it in a lot of ways in the past days and weeks. The priest pointed to Mary of Bethany anointing the Lord with costly ointment. It was in the moment of sharing a hymnal with the girl next to me who was momentarily lost. Another experience of someone just being with me while I mourned the loss of the independence I once dreamed of.

http://www.shop.beestill.org/product.sc?productId=68Someone, another priest, pointed to an image of a woman that looks strikingly like a picture of the celebration Holy Communion. In the image, the woman is simply washing dishes, a simple everyday chore that has to be done. But the image conveys the love, the detail, the gravity of the task. The image, entitled St. Therese Doing the Dishes, captures the person of a simple sister who valued the little things in life, the small ways in which she could serve God.

In the same way, I see this little figurine. And there’s a power just in being. You don’t get the sense that the father and daughter are making something together or studying or even going anywhere. There’s just the love and peace that comes from being together. The compassion, the admiration.

They say action speaks louder than words. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps they also say, a gesture means more than anyone can know or tell.

Abigail

Out of Her Lack, part II

It looks like Hannah at Here in the Lovely Woods and I have been musing upon the same idea.

In this post yesterday, she writes about humility, transparency, and the willingness to be weak. I like how she describes the journey through a practical example. I feel like we’ve stumbled on the same sentiment.

So often we’re trying to see ourselves as strong and whole. But God calls us even when we’re weak. And we acknowledge weakness, we don’t necessarily close doors and becomes a shut clam. Instead, it’s the beginning of a different kind of opening, an opportunity to allow the Lord in, a way to give all we do have.

Abigail