Hope Inspires, Hope Wissel, Recovery

A Celebration With Reflection


The month of May is filled with lots of celebrations.  We go from my birthday, to Mother’s Day, to our wedding anniversary to my anniversary in recovery!  This year, each one has brought a realization of how blessed I am to have been given a second chance.  

A second chance to become the person God intended for me to be.  A chance to grow, to learn to like myself and to embrace the here and now.  A chance to have strong healthy relationships with the important people in my life.  A second chance at life!

WE HAVE 4 YEARS!  Four years ago, I was a hot mess on the verge of losing my hubby with a mound of credit card debt.  I had a victim mentality while I isolated feeling less than everyone else.  I was broken emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Appearing confident (often cocky) on the outside while hiding a scared child on the inside.  I had walked this road before and relapse is now a part of my story.  I let down my family, my friends but most of all I let myself down.  The strong confident person was gone.  What was left was a broken, shell of my former self.  Sadly, I didn’t notice it – I thought I hid it well.  I blamed everyone else for what was wrong in my life when the only one who was to blame was me.

Four years later, I am blessed.  I have a new sponsor, a new home group, I am working the steps and I attend meetings regularly. Today, the credit card debt is paid off.  Today, I have a local network of women in recovery.  Today, I accept I am an introvert but it does not mean I need to isolate.  In fact stepping out of my comfort zone is important.  Today, I know my ride & die gals who were with me the first night 4 years ago are just a phone call away.  Just for today, I like myself.  Today, I don’t beat myself up over the “stuck number on the scale” or how I think “I should look”.  Today, I don’t apologize for things I have no control over.  Today, I set boundaries so I can maintain my mental health.  Today, I willing seek out guidance from others who have walked this road before me.  I know if I don’t put my recovery first, I will not continue to have the blessed life I live today.  

Yes, MS kicks my butt BUT it is not an excuse to go back to those old destructive behaviors.  Living life on life’s terms is not always easy but WE do recovery together.  The program works when I am willing to work the steps, am open-minded, willing to listen to suggestions AND am honest with myself and others.  

Some days, I am unable to feel anything but sadness (MS seems to play with my emotions as it takes my memories).  I struggle to remember how bad it was.  Not just this time but the first time (my first clean date was 10/26/91).  Hubby often says, God took the memories because it was too unbearable for me to remember.  God continues to give me glimpses but when it becomes too overwhelming, they quickly fade.  So instead of struggling to remember, I try each day to be a better person than I was yesterday. Does it always work? NOPE!  I know with God’s help, it will.  I continue to go to meetings – I need to hear the struggles, I need to share my blind faith, I need to be surrounded by people who have been where I have been and I need to remember  “never” should not be part of my vocabulary.  

JUST FOR TODAY: My strongest desire is to have a spiritual awakening.  I will watch for its symptoms and rejoice when I discover them.

Thank you to everyone who has walked these many roads with us.  We are grateful for the part you have played and continued to play in our lives.

Have an Epic day!

 

Hope Inspires, Hope Wissel, Recovery

Anniversaries – Celebrations With Reflection

This past week I celebrated two anniversaries both filled with emotions and the struggle to remember.  Two milestones in my life which changed me forever.

On Friday, hubby and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  We have been together 18+ years BUT only married 10.  If you know our story, you get it.  🙂

I generally blog about our story BUT this year,  I want to share the gratitude I have for this man.  Our road has been a rocky one – from his commuting for 5 years, to living together to marriage.  It all seems so basic, right?  But add to it – recovery on the road to relapse, a perceived loss of independence, his congestive heart failure, my diagnosis of MS and now his retirement.  Life on life’s terms which is something I’m not really good at.  It has been a true test for both of us of our wedding vows.  He has been my rock on my most difficult days.  I have tested his patience and he has learned how to communicate just a little bit better. We have grown together in so many ways…

As we sat at dinner the other night, the subject drifted to the one question to be sure about a relationship.  I had never heard this and honestly, I was scared. But he continued saying it is “do you bring out the best of each person?”….. Of course I had to know what he thought about us because honestly my memory is awful and fear was creeping in.  My immediate reaction was to feel less than. Not worthy of his unconditional love.  Instead of blurting things out, I prayed to be quiet while he finished.  He said “our life has been a balance –  sometimes we have brought out the best in each other while there are times, we have brought out the worst.  He said it is life but the true test is how you get through it.  We have made it.  WOW!  I didn’t get defensive.  I didn’t try to over analyze.  I just was grateful I kept my mouth SHUT and for how far we have both come. I may have already forgotten much of the night, I pray his words about our life together stay with me forever.

Jump ahead to Saturday and another celebration…. WE HAVE 3 YEARS!  I look back on where I was three years ago… a hot mess on the verge of losing my hubby, a mound of credit card debt, a victim mentality while I isolated feeling less than everyone else, broken emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Appearing confident (often cocky) on the outside while a scared child on the inside.  I had walked this road before and relapse became part of my story.  I had let down my family, my friends but most of all I had let myself down.  The strong confident person was gone.  What was left was a broken, shell of my former self.  Sadly, I didn’t notice it – I thought I hid it well.  I blamed everyone else for what was wrong in my life when the only one who was to blame was me.

As I sit here writing, unable to feel anything but sadness (MS seems to play with my emotions as well as taken my memories) I struggle to remember how bad it was.  Not just this time but the first time (my first clean date was 10/26/91).  Hubby often says, God took the memories because it was too unbearable for me to remember.  God gives me glimpses at times but when it becomes overwhelming for me, they fade and only segments remain.  So instead of struggling to remember, I try each day to be a better person than I was yesterday. Does it always work? NOPE!  I know with God’s help, it will.  I continue to go to meetings – I need to hear the struggles, I need to share my blind faith, I need to be surrounded by people who have been where I have been and I need to remember  “never” should not be part of my vocabulary.

Today, the credit card debt is paid off.  Today, I am trying to connect with local women in recovery.  Today, I accept I am an introvert but it does not mean I need to isolate.  Today, I know my ride & die gals who have been with me since the first night 3 years ago are just a phone call away.  Just for today, I like myself.  Today, I don’t beat myself up over the weight or how I think “I should look”.  My life is blessed in so many ways.  Yes, MS kicks my butt BUT it is not an excuse to go back to those old destructive behaviors.  Living life on life’s terms is not always easy but WE do recovery together.

Thank you to everyone who has walked these many roads with us.  We are grateful for the part you have played and continued to play in our lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Evidence of God’s Love

I would like to take a moment and wish a Happy Father’s Day to dads.  Today will be bitter sweet as I remember my dad and grandfather treasuring the moments with my hubby.

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…..

Our hotel room had a small balcony that overlooked the swimming pool. Early one lazy vacation morning, I grabbed my journal, Bible, and a fresh cup of coffee then headed to the balcony for some quiet time.

As I settled in, movement by the pool caught my eye. I watched as a maintenance man approached a palm tree and briskly pulled a brown, life-less branch from underneath the green leaves. Oddly, before he pulled the dead branch off, I hadn’t even noticed it was there.

After he pulled it off, however, the palm tree looked fresh and vibrant.

Seriously.

The pruning made such a difference!

Jesus spoke to His disciples and said,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  (John 15:1-8, NIV)

Whom we spend time with really matters.

And what we say and do and how we say and do it also really matters.

Stay with me here! Don’t let the familiarity of this Scripture fade the impact it has on you.

I understand to my core how horrible it feels when my walk and my talk do not line up. Withered branches in my heart constantly need to pulled off and thrown away. You too?

In order to experience the blessings and power of God’s Spirit in our lives we must root our faith deep in the soil of God’s Word and then allow His truth to produce fruits that are ripe with evidence of His love. These fruits are clearly seen (or not) at the intersection of our faith and our actions. I’ve found that when I have those I-just-want-to-scream-because-everyone-in-the-world-is-on-my-last-nerve days God meets me with His grace when I whisper His name.

God will deepen the roots and increase the fruits of your faith as you spend time talking to Him early in the morning over a hot mug of coffee. When you pray and worship on the way to work or on your powerwalk. When you feel a prick of conviction in your heart about that behavior – or about that response – that tone – that act of disobedience. When you call out to Him for patience and strength as your teenager slams his door in rebellion – or when your adult daughter “forgets the morals she was raised with” and moves in with her boyfriend – or when frustrations mount up at work.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self control. To bring glory to God, this fruit of His Spirit must be seen in our lives.

Unfortunately, we have a keen ability to rationalize our less-than-fruitful behaviors.

But he… But she… But they… I just can’t…

Fortunately, God doesn’t expect us to behave like this without Him. In fact, we simply can’t. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Remember? (v5) But when we remain in Him – when we seek Him, obey Him, savor His presence, live for His glory, and prioritize Him above all else – we can and will make a big impact for God and experience the joy and peace we all long for.

The maintenance man at the resort didn’t pull the branch off to hurt the palm tree.

He pruned it to increase its beauty, health, and vibrancy. God does the same for us. He prunes His children to increase our beauty, health and vibrancy for our good and for His glory – to make us more useful to Him and more fruitful.

Pause to ponder this question: Are there any dead branches hanging on your tree?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel

Help! My Job is Killing Me!


Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

I recently stopped at a local discount store to pick up a few things. When I went to check out, the cashier looked very familiar. He must have seen the question in my eyes because he smiled and said, “It’s good to see you, Mrs. Southerland.” When I heard his voice, I immediately recognized him as the manager of a local grocery store where I frequently shopped. Before I could say one word, he explained, “I lost my job at the grocery store. Evidently, I needed to change mission fields for a while.” Now that is what I call a heavenly perspective of an earthly job.

God uses our work as one of His tools to mold us into who He wants us to be. Stress comes when we view our job as our main life mission. It isn’t. It is the God-given opportunity to provide the tools we need to accomplish our life mission.

The apostle Paul writes, “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love” (Acts 20:24, LB).

Paul worked as a tentmaker, a church planter, and an author. His purpose never changed, but his work certainly did. Many of us do not need a different job. We just need a different attitude and a new point of view about the job we have.

How do we make that happen?

Start by envisioning Jesus standing in the midst of your work place as your real boss. Then look for the life lessons God provides through your work.

God uses our work to teach us responsibility. Meeting deadlines, completing assigned tasks with excellence, showing respect for co-workers (even the abrasive ones) and working without supervision are all valuable life lessons learned on the job. When we try to cut corners, stress steps in and wreaks havoc in our attitude about work.

God uses people at work to teach us valuable lessons about relationships. Cooperation, fairness, flexibility, humility, and patience are relationship skills of a successful worker. Stress comes when we stray from the guidelines God gives us for godly relationships. Our workplace is not only one of our God-ordained mission fields, but it is also a classroom for learning to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable. You may very well be the only sermon your co-workers ever hear.

God uses our work to teach us how to serve. The way we serve God is by serving others. God wants us to grow spiritually at work by becoming a servant to those with whom we work. It is easy to serve the people who sit beside us in a worship service each Sunday, but a real servant serves on the job … every single day. God asks us to accept others unconditionally, encourage other continually, forgive others freely, and help others willingly.

Attitudes never sit still. They constantly move and change.

An attitude is a pattern of thinking and a filter through which we view life.

We can choose to be honest about our attitude at work, and we can choose to change our attitude about work, but most importantly, we can choose to pray for God’s attitude about our work. When we can’t change our attitude, the One who lives in us can. He can give us His attitude. Exchanging our attitude for His always eliminates stress.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel

Last Minute RSVP

Is your mailbox or email filled with invites?  It seems like there is always something going on. Someone is having a party,  getting married, or graduating.  Summer at the shore brings lots of invites for barbecues as well. I love getting invites and catching up with old friends is so much fun.  Today is a glimpse at life with a chronic illness…..

But these days, the excitement of an invite brings on a whole new realm of questions…. what’s the weather going to be like? Is it going to be outside in the middle of summer? Do I have anything else planned around the same time where I might not have enough energy?  Will brain fog cause me to forget names and memories?

It is frustrating to always have to mark myself as “maybe”.  As much as my first thought is to say yes, I can never be sure how I will be on any given day.  The outside often fools people if they don’t understand what is happening on the inside.  I feel like I’m always marking off ‘maybe’ on Facebook invites, or doing at the very last minute RSVP’s. I don’t know about you but one of my pet peeves for years was when people didn’t RSVP to an invite or waited until the last minute. I always wanted to get a head count – the planner in me, but now I’m the indecisive person.

It’s not because I am procrastinating, I just have to be careful I don’t over commit myself, or you count me in and I end up having to cancel. I worry about what you will think.  Which one is more embarrassing –  sending a last minute RSVP or saying YES right away, only to have to cancel at the last minute.

Even though I am ALWAYS cold, it is easier for me to commit when it’s not during the warmer months (or extreme cold ones).  Now, living at the Jersey Shore makes it hard to judge and often a small window.  I may be cold BUT the heat is draining for many of us with MS.   I stopped doing outdoor events for just this reason.  It takes a lot of energy out of us.  I have been at parties where everyone is outside, and I keep going inside by myself.  People think I am hiding and in some ways they are right…. hiding from the heat or from sensory overload, or a multitude of other things which spring up unexpectedly.

I LOVE to plan but life takes on an entirely different planning process now.  I don’t want to be mean, and I don’t want to be the annoying person who waits until the last minute to RSVP.  I’m actually holding off to make sure I can actually attend and not have to duck out early or be a party pooper.

If you are reading this and you know someone with another chronic condition (you know I struggle with MS), don’t give up on them or take it personally.  I’m sure they, along with me, appreciate you’re thinking of us, and we don’t want you to stop inviting us.  It just requires we plan and plan and plan some more, and something still might happen to where we can’t make it the day before or day of.

I am learning to “Expect the unexpected”. I’m grateful for a supportive hubby who helps me to keep this in check.  I also need a lot of reminders, because I will forget thanks to the dreaded brain-fog.  Or worse, I will get confused on the dates/times, etc.  There are periods of never ending confusion, planning and forgetting… just to repeat the cycle multiple times.

The bottom line I’m getting at, is don’t take it personally when we don’t RSVP right away.  I know it’s annoying not to have a head count, and I’m trying my best to give you one. It’s stressful trying to juggle everything in the first place. It can also be very emotional for me to deal with… It can be upsetting and depressing at times.

Life with MS (or others with any chronic disease) has changed me in so many ways…. those who are with me daily see the good days and the bad days.  They get it and remind me when I tend to forget. Others struggle to understand.  Overall, I’m blessed to have an amazing support system.  So the next time it takes me forever to RSVP or I decline, don’t take it personally.  Know in my heart I would love to be there but it may be a day I’m struggling with MS.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!