It’s Tuesday, friends! Time for some real talk. “Do less, with more focus”… This has been my resolution since September. I’ve made some major lifestyle changes to ensure I do less with more focus. It’s been very hard – I’m not gunna lie – and I’ve not always been successful in my effort. I have had to cut out, cut down, cut away… do less! Do some people see me “cutting out” of certain things and think “lazy”, “bad work ethic”, or “product of this generation”?
Let me back track a little bit. My life about four years ago was a little crazy – minus the “little”. I was a newlywed, worked 30 hr/week at a mainstream job, worked 25-30 hr/week serving in ministry duties, and I still found time to sleep a little – emphasis on the “little”. My husband and I also traveled anywhere between five to eight weeks of the year on business (that part is still true today). I was working 60+ hours a week and our lifestyle could only be described as “go, go go!”. I was shortly thereafter diagnosed with two different thyroid conditions and the doctors also found several nodules growing on my left & right thyroid glands. On top of that I was already dealing with chronic fatigue, psoriasis (which is an autoimmune disease), Vitamin-D deficiency, T-cell depletion, frequent muscle aches, and a multitude of other random ailments. At that time I had been living with these symptoms and more for five plus years undiagnosed. I’d say on top of some pretty serious physical ailments I worked pretty hard… and all at age 22. So of course with that type of schedule – what do you think I was eating? My lifestyle would have been described as “unhealthy” by any health or mental health professional and that would be putting it lightly! Even though I was doing what I love – very important and meaningful work – my body just could not handle the pace. Keeping up was doable for only so long and I sure did pay for it. My illness was not going away. My symptoms got worse. My energy levels plummeted. The real eye opener was when my doctor told me “Kim, if you don’t calm down and cut out some things I’m worried about your ability to sustain a healthy pregnancy”. Wow. Was it all worth risking my future family? I really did think that by working myself so hard that I was doing the right thing, following my call, and being a sacrificial servant. But, I was sacrificing the wrong things. I had to realize God was not asking me to sacrifice my sanity, health, or quality of life. God was asking me to live life to the fullest so I can have to ability to share with others how good He really is. It’s taken me almost a decade to realize that my go, go, go lifestyle is really not healthy and really NOT an option for me anymore. The rest of my family can do it, but I can not. Blessings to them and to each his own. They help a lot of people by working so hard. I admire their sacrifice and desire to follow the call no matter the cost. I will still help people even while living with chronic illness. My new lifestyle looks a little different than the way I grew up. That’s okay. It’s taken me years to see that. I’m still helping the cause. I’m still serving and giving. I have purpose. I won’t let the enemy tell me otherwise.
I have been ill basically my whole adult life. That’s me… the sickly girl (rolls eyes). I feel like Beth in Little Women. My senior year of high school I contracted a stem of the EBV virus which turned into mononucleosis after volunteering to work in the church nursery. That particular day I was having fun with a group of toddlers while their parents attended a luncheon. Come to find out, toddlers are major carriers of the EBV virus. I wish I had a cooler story as to how I contracted mono. I was 17 after all! My doctor told me the strand of mono I had was in the top 5% of worst case scenarios. First, I was incapacitated for six months then completely exhausted for another six. Still my T-cell count has never gone back up to normal. T-cells, like white blood cells, are apparently pretty important for fending off disease and sickness. Since becoming the “sickly girl” almost ten years ago I found out that this role comes with a LOT of opinions. I’m constantly hearing “you need to eat better… If you would only sleep more… sleep less… sleep earlier… get up earlier… keep the same daily routine… take vitamins…” you name it. Since contracting my illness I’ve heard every remedy under the sun and how it will surely work for me if I try it. I’ve earned the girl scout badge for “Highest Amount of Unsolicited Advice Heard By Non-Healthcare Professionals”. Sadly, I really did stump the actual healthcare professionals as well. They don’t know WHAT to do with me because by their medical textbook standards I should have recovered… I should be better now. Imagine walking into your doctors office sick and tired of being sick and tired just to hear “Well, you should be feeling fine!”. The first time the doctor said that I remember feeling so helpless, defeated, and confused. Not to mention angry!
Alas, I’m left to maneuver my illness by myself and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what a healthy life looks like for ME. This is when I realized it was time for me to do less.
I’m cutting out things that weigh me down. I’m cutting out things that are not my responsibility. I’m working from home and staying in to rest as much as possible. I’m eating right and doing relaxing yoga, focusing on my faith (not my stressful schedule) and being thankful for the life I do have… that’s a healthy mindset for me. Put the iphone down. Open the Bible and pray. Hug your husband. Walk on the beach. These are some of the things that makes up a healthy life for me outside of work. I’m following God’s plan and doing things His way. By now, I’ve learned to embrace who I am and my limitations. It’s other people who still have trouble with it. I’ve worn myself out trying to keep up with the pace of life that is “expected” of me. Unfortunately I DO have to work at a slower pace of life until God decides to heal me, but the important thing is that I have LIFE! I have NOT died from my illness but instead my illness has caused me to live an even fuller life.
It is because I’ve had to slow down that I now see life from a different perspective. This perspective has caused me to see who and what truly holds value. Slowing things down allowed me to see how messed up my priorities had been. Slowing down has given me wisdom. I saw the needs in my life that had gone overlooked. The need to take care of myself, my husband, and my students. The need to live a balanced life so my future children understand what is healthy. The need to explore my creative God-given talents and use them for His glory. The need to explore ALL of my calling and not just scratch the surface. I no longer feel stifled and weighed down by busyness. I feel healthy enough to be the person I was born to be… creative, calm, collected, grounded, compassionate. A supportive wife, a great friend, a passionate Jesus follower. My life is actually richer because of my illness. I am able to focus on this blog that I believe will help someone. I am able to focus on my marriage and my home. So, I am thankful for my illness. That’s not always easy to say.
Don’t forget that YOU also were meant to live a full, rich, and meaningful life in Christ. It’s just too easy to become overly busy and bogged down with things that are not even really your responsibility. Maybe it’s time for you to let go and pass the baton to someone else. Of course, it’s important to have a good work ethic and fulfill your responsibilities. Follow your call according to God’s plan – not man’s! Be careful not to commit yourself to SO much that you don’t have time, strength, ability, or the energy to be the servant God has called you to be. Be who you REALLY are. I was meant for greatness! My greatness might look different than yours and that’s okay. We all must forgo what is not important and focus on what is. My life and family is important. My relationship with God is important. When you’re not living a healthy balanced life then you cannot fully give, fully love, or fully support others. It’s up to you to figure out when it is appropriate for you to cut out and do less. Maybe for YOU to be healthy and balanced you actually need to do MORE! Whatever it is, I pray you make it your goal to be the person you were meant to be. I’m still on that journey, but already I have seen the fruit. Stay strong because you have the most powerful God who is behind you every step of the way! He has an extraordinary life for you, find out what it is. Get rid of what is not.
“The thief comes only to kill and destroy,but I have come so that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” John 10:10
[Added 11/2016: my book Recommendation for this post is “Change Before You Have To” by Rob Ketterling… it’s a must read for this topic]