Tag Archives: Pain

Knowing Why

How Healing Happens, Part 3

If you have suffered from a long-lasting illness or injury, or a series of illnesses, you know how frustrating it is to do the “right” things over and over again without seeing much improvement. Healing takes time. Doctors like to say this. It should give the patient hope. And sometimes it does. But the process brings up so many unanswerable questions and you really do start to wonder if it’s really worth it.

I was stuck in one of these cycles a few months after my initial diagnosis and my chiropractor challenged me to sit down and evaluate this: What is your Why? Because “to feel better” is not a sustainable motivator when the healing process makes you feel worse before you feel better.

This is true whether you are looking for healing in physical OR mental/emotional areas of life. Whether you are seeing a counselor and processing through your emotional pain, or doing therapy for a muscle injury, or detoxing from food or chemical addictions – in order to heal, you have to re-experience pain. It’s part of the process; God knows why. I’m sure there’s some scientific or spiritual reason that I haven’t researched.

Anyone who is currently on a super-exciting New Year’s resolution-driven cleanse will tell you that they have been swamped with things like brain fog (at which, after typing those words, my brain suddenly fogged over, in case you were wondering), joint pain, skin breakouts, gas and bloating, fatigue, headaches, irritability and extreme food cravings. Oh, boy, sign me up for THAT!

So…in the middle of new or exacerbated issues, we naturally want to give up. We know we need to heal, but this doesn’t feel like healing. More like the opposite of healing. We discover the root of our anger but we’re lashing out more instead of growing kinder. We decided to work on that old knee injury but instead of feeling better the pain has flared worse.

I found a quiet bench in the botanical garden near our home and sat down with my journal. Like the good 21st century Generation X-er that I am, I texted my mom pictures of where I was and what I was doing and that’s probably why I remember my exact location.

Step by step, I answered the questions: What is my calling? Why does my body need to heal to live out that calling?

I’ve been working through the question about my calling for some time now. Going from a place where I could do anything and everything to the verge of adrenal burnout will force you to evaluate a lot of things. What can I do that only I can do? What has he made clear to me? That is what God has called me to. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But why do I need to heal to live out that calling? The answer may seem obvious, but for me it came in layers.

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My greatest passion as an individual is to be fully free. To walk in absolute freedom with Christ – nothing holding me down. And this is my why. At the very root of why I must heal, is the reality that I am still stuck in a jail cell that isn’t letting me be free in Christ. The cell’s name is Fear. Fear of what could happen if something happened to me. Fear of being irreplaceable. Fear of not being able to do all the great things I want to do for God. Fear that maybe those great things are not such big deal to God.

My why, in six steps, because, nerd alert.

  1. I cannot fully speak to the freedom found in Christ if I am bound in any way, even physically (Not that I must be 100% whole to be free but I’m still governed by this physical battle and I have to walk the healing journey to break free.)
  2. I am not able to carry out my roles in my family in my current state of health.
  3. I have no margin to share with or lead others if I am at all consumed by my ill health and being in survival mode.
  4. I do not want to pass on a legacy of bondage.
  5. I am not living a life I love with such sickness and weakness from my insides out.
  6. I must walk in this journey of healing if my soul is to be free and my faith to be strong.

I have to add a disclaimer, to make sure nobody walks away from this thinking I believe that “If you’re not healthy, you can’t be free.” Because I don’t. I believe that God allows people at times to always suffer and not fully heal, and that even with a terminal diagnosis, we can walk in complete freedom in Christ. God can bring peace to help us overcome the pain of any physical sickness.

But for me personally, a chronic hypochondriac afraid of what the world would do without my services, I know I cannot try to walk through life without pursuing healing through the path God shows me. To stay in the state of constant fatigue, horrific skin flareups, complete lack of drive and overwhelming anxiety would mean to stay in spiritual bondage as well. As my team of practitioners and I peel back the layers of health problems in my body, I know God fully intends to peel back the layers of fear and bondage with it all. Because he’s already begun.

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This is Part 3 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

My (Un)Health Journey

How Healing Happens, Part 2

If I could define the first 24 years of my life with a word, it would be: more. I wanted to do more work, make more people happy, accomplish more dreams, save more money, do more research, read more books, get more done for God, speak more truth, get more friends, and ultimately, feel more loved.

I didn’t know any of this, of course. I just knew I could juggle a dozen balls in the air just fine and felt safer, happier and more satisfied the more people I was helping. Somewhere along the line I’d picked up this magical thinking that I could solve the world’s problems, one person at a time. I was the most responsible and reliable person you knew. You could count on me to get a job done, do it right, and make everyone feel good in the process.

Oldest child, teacher’s pet, star employee, but I wasn’t seeking popularity, at least not consciously. I genuinely believe doing my best meant doing more, more, more. Perfection was my goal, from the most sincere desire to get life “right.’ And I longed for people to know they were valued and loved so I gave and gave to them.

My identity was very much defined by the great things I could accomplish for God. I took for granted the way that God saw me, beloved and treasured simply for who I was. Of course he loves me, now let’s get on to the important stuff, like ministry.

In some ways I wonder if that’s what the young Moses was like, in Egypt? Of course God loves me, he rescued me from the Nile and put me in the palace. Now let’s get on to the important stuff, like rescuing the Israelites. And then God sent him to the back woods to tend sheep for 40 years. In my case, my body broke down under stress from the quick succession of college, marriage, ministry and motherhood like a runaway train. He has called me to serve in high stress roles I can’t step down from, with a body that no longer wants to function under stress.

Now as I look back on the last decade or more, I see clearly what God has been doing in me. I feel vulnerable writing this story because the pages are not finished. God is leading me to share my story of my health struggles, but as of right now, I only have a partial diagnosis. My symptoms are still at times unmanageable. And I’m still very much in the middle of healing. In other words, my health journey is not wrapped up in a bow. It’s more like the Christmas gifts I get from my husband, wrapped in a grocery sack and covered in a blanket. Here you go babe, in all its imperfect wrappings, but with lots of love.

But does the lack of shiny paper, a bow and a reindeer to/from sticker diminish the thoughtfulness of the gift inside? Does writing the story without a picture perfect ending subtract from the truth and the connection to be found within it? I’m trusting that God will accomplish what he wants in the middle of this mess.

So here I find myself, in my 30’s, with severe adrenal fatigue, the autoimmune skin condition dermatitis herpetiformis, various deficiencies in hormones and vitamins, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and quite possibly other issues we have yet to unearth. I can see now that the way here was gradual, although I had no idea it was coming. God is writing my story in a way I never dreamed but with a purpose I fully believe is born out of his kindness and wisdom.

Sometimes, secretly, I compare myself with the woman whose hemorrhaging Jesus healed…but on about year 5 1/2, instead of year 12, when he healed her. Currently spending all I have on doctors and suffering a great deal…and I keep saying, “Jesus, where are you? Can I just touch the edge of your garment? I know you could heal me! And then I could get back to doing all these great things for you…” And my voice trails off because I’m starting to think that my addiction to more may be why he’s let me get to this place to begin with. So I wait, and take another dose of supplements, another vitamin D shot, drink more lemon water and breathe deeply. And trust.

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This is Part 2 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

12 Years for Faith to Grow

How Healing Happens, Part 1

Imagine waking every morning for twelve years with symptoms of a chronic internal bleeding disease. You’re wiped out in every way. Sleep doesn’t recharge you, in fact, you barely sleep because of the anxiety that makes your mind spin. Will this new doctor be able to help at all? That is, if he’ll even see you on your limited budget. You’ve already spent everything you have on doctor after doctor with no results. They’ve given up on you and they don’t really care. You’ve been one of their “experiments” and you’ve failed. So here you are. Staring at your breakfast, wondering how much longer you have. Wishing your friends, your family – anyone – understood the fear and the exhaustion wearing down your body along with your disease.

Spiritually, you’ve felt defeated. Does God care you’re suffering? You want to believe he does. But why hasn’t he helped? You’ve heard about a man, a prophet at least, the Messiah at best, who is going around healing people. Lepers, the blind, even the demon-possessed. The faintest hope stirs inside you. Is this Jesus the evidence that God has heard your prayers, and the prayers of your people? Has God started moving again in your world?

People outside your window seem to be gathering into a crowd. That usually means Jesus is around. You’ve never stopped praying for healing through these long twelve years. One of these times, God has to answer you. What is it you can do? The thought of approaching him makes your blood pressure skyrocket. Your palms get sweaty and your breath comes in even shorter gasps than normal. But you want so badly to see if he could help. You’re sick of doctors. You’re sick of being sick. You have no other hope.

“I could try to just touch his robe,” you think. “If he’s from God, that would be enough to heal me.” Nobody else has to know. And if it doesn’t work…your family won’t know to ask any questions.

Heart racing, you put on your veil and leave the house before you lose your nerve. The sun hurts your eyes and walking quickly brings a stab of pain in your side but you bite your lip and push on, holding onto hope. You’re making it through the crowd, and find a spot to squeeze closer to him. He’s a few people ahead of you so you kneel down and slip up behind him to touch the edge of his robe. He’ll never know.

As instantly as you feel the wool touch your fingers, you feel the pain evaporate. Strength pulses through your body and your heart rate slows. Taking a deep breath, you can’t find even a twinge of pain. The harsh sunshine from a moment ago now feels soft and welcoming to your senses. “There’s no way,” you think, starting to shake with the surge of adrenaline your body’s been building.

Suddenly you realize that Jesus is looking for you. “Who touched my robe?” he’s asking. You’re panicking now but the shallow breaths aren’t hurting your lungs. You’ve been healed. How… This is no prophet. You can’t believe you’re doing this, but you have to say something. The miracle was too much. “It’s me,” you say, falling in front of him. “I thought maybe you could heal me, so I touched you. And you did. I’m well.”

And Jesus stoops down and lifts you so kindly by your shoulders. “Your faith. Your faith has made you well, sweet woman. Go in peace. No more anxiety. No more fear. Your suffering is over. You are well. And it was your faith that made you well.” His eyes are so kind. So understanding. Like he knows exactly how you feel and it matters to him. He’s not shaming you. Somehow, he’s healing you in your heart just by saying those few words. All your doubt of God’s goodness – it’s gone and the weight of guilt you were carrying around with it has vanished, too.

Someone else pulls on Jesus and the crowd moves away with him but you stand, staring at his retreating back. You’ve never felt such peace. You’ve never been so sure that God really does see you. And you never want to doubt him again.

What you don’t realize in that moment is that every step along the way that you chose to keep trying, to keep praying, to keep moving toward life instead of death, you were growing in faith. You were making progress. Your body was wracked with pain just like your heart was filled with fear, but you kept going. Little by little you were doing what God called you to do. That last big step of faith, to go look for Jesus, that was just the stretch to the finish line in this leg of your faith journey. If you’d given up with the first diagnosis, or refused to believe that God cared to heal you, you never would have gone to see Jesus. Your faith he referred to wasn’t conjured up in a moment. It had been built over the long horrendous stretch of twelve years when healing seemed impossible. God never forgot about you. He was growing your faith in the dark when you thought he was silent.

Jesus cares about more than your physical wellness, and he cares about more than your faith. You are one – your body, soul and spirit. God has been shaping all of them through the pain you’ve suffered. He could have healed you the day after you were diagnosed, but because he’s so wise, he chose to grow faith in you through the process of pain so that when he did take away your disease, you were so much stronger in every other way.

*This story takes place in Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48.

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This is Part 1 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

God is Near

As I wrote last month, I was laid up all of April, to the point where I wasn’t even cleaning my own house or doing my own dishes. My energy extended to changing diapers, feeding my children and lying on the floor while they played next to me. Things as simple as going outside and sitting in the sunshine exhausted me. As far as I knew, I could be like this for months. It overwhelmed me.

During that time, more friends than I can count came to our home. They washed our dishes, swept our floors, cared for our laundry, brought us meals, shopped for our groceries, played with our kids. So much kindness. Our families live far away but the family of God in our city embraced us.

clouds elizabeth cravillion deeper life james bible studyI have a memo board in my kitchen where I write Scripture verses and at some point, someone who cleaned my kitchen (no idea who) erased the faded verse on there and wrote a new one.

“The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all he has made.”

Somehow, just that little gesture touched me. Not only were people caring for us physically, but they were speaking words of life and hope into our hearts as well.

In the beginning of May my health switch flipped and I began to feel surges of strength and energy. By the end of the month I’d even felt well enough to start working on establishing some family routine again..

Today, I’m back to myself. The kids and I picked strawberries outside in the perfect summer sunshine and I just couldn’t help thinking about God’s goodness. His mercy. He says kindly in his word, “I’m never going to leave you. I’m always with you. I know what you need. I love you.”

IMG_0335.jpgDo you have trouble believing this for yourself? Start naming his gifts to you. Speak them out loud. Jot them in your phone or a journal or on the back of an envelope. Open your eyes and see. Breathe the air in. Is it storming? Feel the cool sweetness. Is the sun beating down? Soak in its warmth. Can you taste the crunch of your bagel or the crispness of your green beans? Let it nourish you. Did the driver at the stop sign wave you to go first? Appreciate that. Are your kids screaming and banging and spilling things? Just listen to their voices and remember being that young and enjoy being a witness their youth.

God’s mercy is real. It’s not just about the gifts he gives us, either. It’s about his daily presence in our lives. It’s how he decisively stepped into time and space to experience life as a human himself and pay the penalty for our sin and then said, “If you just believe in me, I will cover you and all your shortcomings with my perfection and holiness and draw you close to me. I will do it all. Come after me and find peace to quiet your soul no matter what happens in your life.”

Life in this world is hard. Sin has touched everything. Sickness, pain, death, sorrow – it can threaten to engulf us. It paints black clouds and we may not find the silver linings.

But God is good and he surrounds us on the darkest days when we can’t feel it and the days of laughter and sunshine. Every moment he is near.

So…What’s Up with You?

Sometimes life throws a curveball at you and there’s not much you can do about it. It’s spring now and in our home that means baseball. Opening day is a national holiday here. We even planned an awesomely fun cookout to celebrate this year.

But we never had the cookout.

A week before opening day, aka Easter this year, I went to the ER with beyond severe pain in my upper back and side, ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs and promptly admitted to the hospital. 24 hours and a CT scan later I was also diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs.

IMG_3047The next day a doctor sat down with me to answer my questions and one of the first things she said to me was that when people end up in my position, blood clots sitting in the safest possible place in their body, having come from who knows where, who knows when, she tells them they should go play the lottery because their stars have aligned.

That statement is still sinking in. And any time I repeat it a whole new wave of deep emotions shakes my soul. I’m not sitting here typing this blog entry today because I’m lucky, however. I’m here because God, who holds my times in his hand, ordained that I live more days on this planet with the ones I love.

IMG_3048I have a Facebook page for this blog, and each time I get on my personal Facebook, the site informs me that it’s been over 4 weeks since my readers have heard from me. Thanks, social media. I’ve wanted to write again but for obvious reasons that hasn’t been possible.

I’m home now, resting and recovering, being well cared for by dear ones. The weariness has engulfed me for weeks, and I finally feel the energy creeping back into my bones.

I tell my three-year-old, “Momma isn’t sick anymore. Momma just needs to get stronger.” It helps with his fears that I’ll be gone again like I was for 6 days in the hospital. And it’s also the truth. I’m waiting for my strength to return.

By the way…a week before all this happened, we discovered that we are expecting Baby #3 in November. Surprise, Cravillion family! Think God has some kind of plan for our sanctification lately? It might be a long summer, folks. :)

I have a lot of thoughts and hopes for this blog this summer (the first being to finish the James study!) so as I’m able, I’ll be writing again. Thank you for your patience, and your love and support.

Enjoy some sunshine today and thank God for the breath he’s given you today!

How to Have a Holiday Worth Remembering

There are picture perfect moments you’d like to treasure in your heart forever.

And there are times you’d prefer absolutely no photographic evidence so you forget them as quickly as possible.

Most of those polar opposite moments come around holidays…one of those being tomorrow. Valentine’s Day. Sometimes you love it. Sometimes you hate it. Most holidays can be that way.

We place a lot of expectations on special days, but so often, we’re left with bruised hearts in the wake of pink candy hearts and balloons, or whatever the holiday dictates are.

When I was single, I thought that if I just had someone, everything would be great. But as much as I love being married and having children, truthfully sometimes even with those blessings, holidays can be lonelier than ever if my heart is restless.

How can we turn the holiday blues around and celebrate them with joy instead of frustration?

It’s More about Giving

Growing up, my mom showed us that holidays were more about giving than receiving. Seriously, making Valentine cards for each other was just as much fun for us as discovering the bags of goodies from Mom at the breakfast table on February 14.

Still, it’s nice to get things or attention in return, and it can be frustrating when those we love don’t reciprocate.

I’m learning, ever so slowly, that when I give, I should focus on giving to God, not to people. That way my sacrifice is an act of worship to him. Is it about me, or about God? When I give to others, I can commit it to God, which helps me keep from expecting things from people in return.

Voice your Expectations

For some reason, we (especially women) wish others could read our minds, then get irritated when they don’t. This causes so many holiday disasters.

So choose to put a stop to that. Talk with your significant other about what you want. It helps so much. “Babe, can we celebrate this holiday doing XYZ?” Do you like to be surprised? Then express that. “Honey, I don’t care what you do for me, but I’d really like you to do something nice for me this holiday.”

You can do this with your in-laws, your children, and your friends. Trust me…it can spare so much frustration.

Say No to the Poor Me Mentality

Single, married, divorced, widowed. Old, young, in between. Surrounded by people or all alone. Holidays can be hard. No denying that.

But pitying ourselves, no matter what our situation, doesn’t help. We can take charge of our feelings and choose to act positively instead.

What actions can you take this holiday?

o   Communicate with your sweetheart and avoid disappointment from unvoiced expectations.

o   Plan a get-together or dinner out with a group of friends if you’re feeling lonely.

o   Reach out to someone who needs a friend for the holiday. A couple needing a babysitter. A child needing lunch at McDonalds. Your grandma wishing for a phone call.

You may be amazed at how those gestures bless your own heart.

valentine's dayLive in Grace

Above everything else, rest in God’s love. He cares for you so much. He is with you just as much on holidays as on ordinary days. He daily pours out grace and kindness on you.

So turn around and give yourself the same grace. If you need to cry because you’re lonely or hurting, do so. If you want to do something special for yourself, do it. If you want to ignore the holiday altogether, who cares?

And give grace to others. If he forgets flowers for you, forgive him. If they don’t say thank you, let it go. If your surprise didn’t make an impression, trust God with the results. You never know what he is doing in the hearts of others.

No matter what our situation this holiday, we can always thank God for his goodness, and celebrate the life he’s given us.

Two Babies, Two Stories {31 Days}

I have two beautiful children. As the oldest of 9 in my family, I was familiar with pregnancy and childbirth. However, I would often worry when my mom was pregnant that something would happen to her or baby.

So when I was expecting our son, that fear reared its head and I struggled with the feeling that this was out of my control. My body was changing. I would have to face labor and delivery. It scared me.

charlieI even refused to think about my upcoming labor. “Not going there,” I’d tell myself. I braced myself, saying, “No matter how bad it might be, it will eventually be over.” Not exactly positive thinking.

So I would best describe my delivery experience with my firstborn as a state of prolonged panic and fear. I know I brought some trauma to my body physically by fighting against the labor out of my fear. Charles was born in exactly five and half hours. All went smoothly on the outside. I had wonderful care by the midwife and hospital staff. But it wasn’t something I wanted to repeat – at least not in that mental state.

When we were expecting baby #2, I wanted something to change. To move past that fear and at least appreciate my body’s ability to bring life into the world. I knew that midwives who delivered at home would give me a fresh perspective that would help me heal from my first delivery.

IMG_0024During the second half of my pregnancy I thought through the upcoming labor and delivery, mentally preparing myself. I spoke words and prayers of healing to my body and gradually looked forward to delivering baby, rather than dreading the pain.

Then, shortly after I went into labor, God brought 2 Timothy 4:8 to my mind, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind.” I repeated it over and over through each contraction. And through that delivery, my heart was freed from my fear. Louisa was born in less than three hours.

I have two very different children, delivered in two very different ways. I’m so grateful for what God allows us to experience, both good and hard, that shapes our lives.

The Root of Untruths {31 Days}

It doesn’t take much to hurt a preteen girl in a way that sticks for a long time. At that age you just want to please people and to fit in. Recently God showed me that some fears I wrestle with come from wounds I received as a girl. As I’ve been digging deep I’ve realized that I was deeply hurt because of my hunger to please people.

In spite of my family’s love and affirmation, as well as many good friendships I had, I always wanted to fit in with everybody and was really frustrated when I didn’t.

Once in choir an upperclassman suggested to the director that my friend sing with the older sopranos, leaving me out. Jealousy ate me up and even though I prayed, begging God to help me live out 1 Corinthians 13: “Love does not envy or boast…it is not irritable or resentful,” it still hurt.

liz0018Another time at camp a girl in my cabin labeled me “Farm Girl” and made fun of my clothes. That same week I really clashed with a popular girl on my team.

A bit later, someone in my friend circle made a sharp comment about how perfect I always looked and acted. 15 years later it still comes back to bug me.

Once I was called “Goodie-two-shoes” by someone in a group of people I yearned to fit in with.

To someone who loves making people happy and having a circle of friends as big as a neighborhood, those incidents shaped my view of myself and of my life. Being put-together in any way felt like something to be ashamed of. Not being chosen made me feel like I didn’t have much to offer. Not fitting in made me feel that it wasn’t worth it to appreciate who God made me to be.

I didn’t realize this at the time. But as God has uncovered layers of my flesh and showed me attitudes and thoughts that don’t line up with his word, I understand that I’ve let these wounds dictate what I believe to be true.

God’s people spent so much of their time worshiping idols rather than their true God. We each worship our idols as well. My most persistent idol has been the opinion of others.

It’s taken years to uproot these seeds of untruth the enemy planted in my heart as a girl. The Spirit of God is faithfully revealing his truth to change me and release my heart.