Mercy Heals Your Soul When You’re Chronically Ill

Hallelujah Anyway Rediscovering Mercy

Chapter One Discussion Point

The truth in transformative grace received by faith is built on the foundation of love propelled by justice, mercy, compassion, and humility. In order to find the meaning of life, Anne Lamott in her book Hallelujah Anyway Rediscovering Mercy opines that we’ll have to face the great big mess especially the great big mess of ourselves. And in so doing, it’s up to each of us “to recognize the presence and importance of mercy everywhere – inside and outside of us, all around us. And use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and honest connections with each other.”

I will not downplay the hardship I usually endure from the combined and overlapping symptoms of fibromyalgia, intermittent migraines with aura and nausea, episodes of a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), digestive flares, and PMS.

Downplaying the challenges and effects of the aforementioned symptoms especially during episodes of a flare-up is shaming and providing a disservice to fellow chronic disease sufferers. The suffering is real. The struggle we face is real.

Last week was supposedly physically terrible for me, all evidence point to that inevitability. It was bad, physiologically. Mentally and spiritually, however, I was alright. By alright I don’t mean it in a self-righteous or unreal representation of handling chronic pains. I’m well informed of the pains and discomfort.

In some cases, certain medications used to treat the chronic illness may trigger depression. Be your informed wellness advocate. Check with your medical team and ensure that your doctors and medical support group are truly advocating for your healthcare and general well-being.

What I’m saying is that I am grateful that the full effect of the physical stress on the mental, spiritual, and social areas in my life was softened by the mercy I found in and around me. It’s not an easy process to develop this mercy and compassion awareness and skill.

What were the examples of mercy, you may ask? Three sessions of acupuncture spread through seven days, mentoring and coaching resources for my homeschooled 7th grader, household help provided by my 10th grader, Peanut M&Ms from hubby, excellent customer service from the car rental staff (my caravan’s ABS system had to be replaced), enriching book club discussion with kind women, text messages and phone calls from friends in my small Bible talk family group, phone conversations from my college kids, facial appointment, funny conversation with a new acquaintance, finishing two books, writing and publishing an article despite a slight cognitive issue, and etcetera.

The huge challenge in digging deeper into the heart of compassion and mercy is not just on the question of consistency but also in expanding the scope of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness that comes from the inner-self while holding on to the virtues of truth and justice. I’m getting the understanding now that the only way to get this right is by way of the faith I claim that received God’s gift of transformative grace. Faith that manifests a continuing journey of loving everyone everywhere and a complete understanding that this is the only acceptable offering to God. And as a consequent result of this manifested faith, I have also pushed myself to forge a whole new meaning to overall wellness and healing.

In desperation if not because of false comprehension of God’s divinity, our prayers lean towards childish cyclical requests.

Stay with me.

At some point in our mortal human existence, we all will get sick and we all will die. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. So why then are we devoting too much of our prayer time to petitions and cries for a healthy physiology and beggings for a delay on the inevitable?

It’s a waste of time and effort when the answer to our prayer for physiological and psychological vitality lies already in each of us: mercy, justice, hospitality, friendship, generosity, intelligence, fortitude, peace, and justice. In one word it’s called love. Here’s what Romans 12:9-19 (MSG),

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Mercy is the child-like love that’s lies beneath the cluttered drawer of a grown life.

I found proofs of mercy abound everywhere – from within and outside of myself. From the genius of science to the unexpected compassion of the person next to me. From witnessing the voice of reason to the blind eye of Lady Justice. From M&Ms to a brand new sink. From decaf espresso to an old man’s corny jokes. From a book on mercy to women’s compassionate exchange of viewpoints. From accepting my physical vulnerabilities to cooking dinner with my 7th grader.

Our physical body will age. It will get sick. It will face a trauma it can’t escape. Death will come upon us. Hence praying for physical immortality or longevity is pointless. Instead, why don’t we work on the love that’s planted inside of us? Why not enrich each other’s short existence on earth by loving on each other instead of asking God for something that’s obviously not His (or Her) priority for us? God has already provided us an answer to every petition we’ll ever ask of Him (or Her). Didn’t He (or She) say to Paul that His grace should be sufficient?

God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is evidenced by the life of Christ. It is directed by the greatest and second commandments rooted in love (Matthew 22:37-40). God’s grace cannot be earned but it can be received by faith alone. Faith in God is founded and grown in shared love. It’s described in the Book of Micah as the only acceptable offering God requires, ”…to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The vision is to love everyone everywhere and the radical goal is to develop an attitude of “Hallelujah anyway.” This is where healing and overall wellness will come from.

Mercy. Recognizing the presence and importance of mercy everywhere – inside and outside of us, all around us. And use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and honest connections with each other. From the genius of science to celebrating each other’s uniqueness to the radical demonstration of compassion and justice for all.

Hallelujah anyway. Today is the only right time to rediscover the miracle and the healing power of mercy.

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Full-time Homeschooling Thoughts

Here’s sharing my thoughts after getting through the first week of full-time homeschooling with my 7th grader. Also, here’s offering a few tips I gathered along the way as an integral part of my brood’s school journey.

When things get tough and rough, don’t give up just yet. Instead, regroup and make sure you partner with an institution that offers a great parent support system and has education specialists who are always available to lend you not only the academic support but also the emotional lift that you and your student will need along the way. You will especially require both if you’re new to homeschooling. Find a partner school that has established mental health mechanism or counseling team. My family’s blessed to have the progressively growing charter school to accompany us on this journey.

My 7th-grader and I were a bit nervous starting on this new journey, but seeing the energy in the homeschool team of Springs when we attended the annual homeschool kick-off conference, we knew it’s going to be another spectacular year of wonderful learning.

My family has had a great experience with our charter school, Springs Charter School. The teachers and the administrative leadership and staff in the Murrieta Student Center became our community and family. If you’re conflicted or nervous about homeschooling, try a blended program first. The blended Montessori Academy experience of classroom instruction and homeschool we had over the many years among my four children, two of whom are already in college and the oldest is graduating in April 2019, have provided my 7th grader and I the effective strategic tools and confidence that we are now utilizing in our full-time homeschooling efforts.

And here’s another highly essential point and tip numero uno when you decide the homeschool route: don’t draw your strength and personal inspiration from someone’s generalities. It may be tempting to do so especially if you and your student are a little lost on how best to navigate your new world of learning. Don’t fall for it. Their story may or may not connect to your journey. Just the same the latter remains yours alone. Instead, find the right blend and harmony to yours and your student’s voice and build upon it. It’s imperative to your success and to your sanity (and your kid’s) that you make it your goal to Create Your Own Story.

Why have you decided to homeschool? Is it just a preference? A need? An experiment? A curiosity? A philosophical or religious decision? Do you see it as a means or the goal of education? Can you do this? Can your student do this? Is this right for you?

If you’re new to homeschooling, the first thing you have to do before you even start assembling your lesson plan is to gather up your applicable specifics and transform those into an affirmation that you can stand on. Here’s mine:

Having been raised by a public school teacher, having a background in the academic setting, having received an excellent training and experience in organizational management, having experienced the challenges of frequent geographical relocations while still a part of the military community, having learned from a few failed homeschool strategies, and being openly receptive to opportunities and resources for effective homeschooling are responsible for shaping and evolving my homeschool principles, philosophies, paradigm, and strategies.

This year is the first year that I am doing full-time homeschooling, although I should say that the ”full-time” reference may not be an accurate description. Aren’t parents involved with their children’s education all the time anyway?

My adventure with my 7th-grader to full-time homeschooling began last week, August 27! Although last week was a fruitful start of the academic year for us, we’re still adjusting a little bit and still experimenting on a few things. For the first week of September, Caly and I have decided to devote a good portion of her academic learning to assessment tests. Performance Diagnostic tests are a valuable tool in SMART goal setting and lesson planning.

I’m far from being a superwoman. I’m just aware of the importance of having a SMART plan and strategies that also place a level of importance on effective and healthy pacing.

Caly and I have managed to do a two-weeks worth of academic head-start. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t something that she’s forced to do. I’ve always given her a wide leeway in terms of time management and order of priorities with an exception on Language Arts (particularly reading and writing) and Mathematics. Those two subjects are on the non-negotiable list. We are also cleverly creative, practical, and holistic in our learning approach. And since we’re ahead of the schedule, for now, the pressure is low and the opportunities for the enjoyment of the process is high.

Based on my homeschooling experience and what I have been learning through the years of acting as my children’s educational COO, I wrote down eight guidelines.

Guide to Developing Homeschool Strategies:

1. You can’t teach your student everything, so don’t even try. You are only creating a stressful learning environment for your student and your family if you think pouring in more knowledge is better for the child.

2. Keep things simple. Create SMART goals.

3. Encourage passion. Your student’s passion is linked to her uniqueness and not to your idea of success and happiness.

4. The goal is to develop a love of learning. When your student is deeply in love with learning, you will see a motivation turning into goals, and goals into successes. Let her love of learning be the driving force of your child’s education instead of achievement.

5. Help your student develop critical thinking skills. Again, the goal is to help her develop a love of learning that’ll encourage her to become an independent learner. Your goal as a homeschool educator is to provide and allow opportunities for learning and not to dictate, impart or manipulate knowledge.

6. How would you define a successful day, week, semester, or year of homeschooling? Understand that success is not only multi-dimensional, it is also NOT a one-way path. So if your only idea of academic success is valedictorian standards, college education, or a narrow view and application of faith-based education, you’re in for a rude awakening. A speaker from Spring’s Charter School recent annual homeschool event says this, ”If success is a one-way path then we’re fighting for a spot that not everyone can fill.”

Here’s a video link of Ken Robinson’s lecture that will help revolutionize the perception of what education should look like for our children, https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms/discussion.

7. Doing something productive together all the time doesn’t mean there’s productivity or progress. Make space in your calendar for doing nothing or exploring something unimportant. And here’s a paradigm that’s worth shifting to: Some failures are successes in the making. What you conclude as a disaster may actually be the best opportunity for you to learn new and better things and start fresh.

8. There’s no one-size-fits-all methodology. Hence, never compare your homeschooling with that of another. Doing so will rob you of peace, joy, and wisdom.

If you’re a fellow homeschooler, enjoy the journey!

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A Sincere Love of Others is an Act of True Worship

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans‬ ‭12:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Here’s a breakdown of the reflection I had on the above Scripture:

1. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. This refers to a commandment that speaks of loving others as you do yourself. The call is to genuinely care for others. But who are the others? Does this mean your family members, friends, people to your opinion are worthy of affection? What about the outcasts, social pariahs, people you don’t agree with, or who you thought of as your enemy? Loving others is loving everyone everywhere. Everyone. Everywhere.

2. Hate what is wrong. Hold on to the good.

This is where the message of a true love is often missed. If you do not believe that the cause of Jesus Christ is to love everyone everywhere, then stop reading and move on; there’s no conversation to be had here. However, if you believe that loving everyone everywhere is the core of Christ’s movement, let’s talk.

What love covers the multitude of sins means.

The phrase love covers the multitude of sins in 1 Peter 4:8 does not in anyway imply to ignore, excuse, or tolerate a bad behavior or an abhorrent act. You can forgive, extend grace, and seek justice at the same time. What the context of the message suggests is that through grace you must learn to love and respect the humanity of others unconditionally and that you see the person, even in his wickedness and vile existence, as deserving of God’s mercy. You have to understand that there is a clear differentiation between the person and the act and the human being and the disease.

Furthermore, verse 9 instructs to “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” As if trying to love the unlovable isn’t hard enough, why would God ask us to cheerfully help a despicable person?

Where your heart lies is where your home is built. Is your home built to only accommodate people who pass your compassion test? Are you so blinded by your emotions that you refuse to consider compassion and will rather deny a sick person of medical or mental intervention because you’re scandalized by the weakness he is associated by? Does your altar-offering consist of items marked off of your sanitized checklist?

Loving everyone everywhere. Hate what is wrong hold on to the good. What if this means loving both the victim and the offender? What if this means pushing you to differentiate between the offender and the despicable act? What if this means you’re being taught that you can forgive, offer mercy and help in this person’s transformation while also fully understanding the value of justice and rule of law? How do you reconcile that? Can you wrap your head around it? Are you willing to give the same grace to an innocent child and to a monstrous psychopath?

The thing is, what you’re both unwilling to sacrifice or embrace reveals the expanse of your worship. And in your reliance on the comforts of what you know and in your inability to seek factual information you also limit your ability to love unabashedly. Considering this, how can you be certain that you are truly testing everything, including your biases and belief system? Is your truth the same as Christ’s truth? Does it pass the litmus test of unconditional love? Are you capable of bestowing love and respect to the social outcasts without conditions? Keeping in mind the foregoing, are you one who pass a judgment unto others and one who either wittingly or unwittingly deny a person an opportunity to experience God’s love through you or through other means?

3. Take delight in honoring each other.

Simply put, honor is regarding with great respect. Are we genuinely putting this into practice? Instead of celebrating the success of a well-done work, do we look at the person who did the job too well as a show-off or do we celebrate the fact that it impacted others in a transformative way? Do you resent that others are getting encouragement for their efforts and you’re not? Do you secretly plot on upping or purposely demeaning the other person because you’re not getting what you thought is the attention you also deserve? Are you driven by pride and jealousy that honoring another’s person’s individuality is too tall of a mountain for you to climb? What will it take for you to see that the value of each person’s humanity is based on God’s standard of grace and not yours?

Serving others in love is an act of true worship.

The focus of a true worship is centered on God’s commandment on love. Jesus said in Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭MSG‬, ”Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

‭‭The act of a true and acceptable worship demonstrates a reverent love and devotion to what God holds dear. And what God holds dear is His love of us, and what He requires of us by our love of Him is to love others as much as we love thyself. We were all given talents and gifts. Your talent is a gift from God. Your demonstration of it in the love and service of others is your true worship of Him. To use author Anne Lamott words: Stop comparing your insides to someone’s outside. When you do this, you allow more time for self-reflection and communion with God.

Test if your act passes the litmus test of love. Check if your motivation is brought by either guilt or obligation. Inquire if what you’re doing is a breathing part of your petitions. Investigate if what you do represents God’s desire. See if your act, when done to you, will please you. Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. Love others as well as you love yourself. The heart of the life we live every day is the worship we offer to God whom we say we love with all our heart.

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