Being Real vs. Being Positive

I don’t see the glass as half-full, but I don’t see it as half-empty either. Here’s why: because even when you see the glass as half-full, you recognize that it’s also half-empty… that the glass is still lacking. For me, I look at the glass as all-full – that God has given me all I need in each moment, not lacking in anything. I think if I were a superhero, my super power would be positivity (I can totally feel the cheese factor oozing from that cartoon). Now before you think that I’m just bragging, there’s a reason I tend toward positivity: one of my top strengths from the Strengthfinders test is Positivity. The main point of the Strengthfinders test and book is that these strengths are engrained in your DNA, in your personality. It’s how God created me. We are all given strengths; they just look different for different people.

 

Kris and I have walked some trials in the last decade: trying to get pregnant the first time, getting laid off, trying to get pregnant the second time. But with each trial, I was able to Positivity my way through. Through the tears of month after month of not getting pregnant, I felt God tell me over and over that His timing was perfect. I knew it would just all make sense when we got to the other side (and it did). Positivity. When I got laid off, it was an answer to prayer. I was so thrilled to be able to stay home with my baby and start freelancing. Yes, we had to make some major adjustments to our budget and lifestyle, but I was home with my son. Positivity. When it was time to try for baby 2, I just knew God’s timing was perfect. He proved it before, and so month after month, for an entire year, we waited. When we found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I can’t explain it other than it all made sense. Positivity.

 

When we left the hospital in July, we were honestly naive about the road ahead of us. We knew it would be hard, but I’m Mrs. Positivity. We had our answer, our diagnosis, and we were ready to go. But returning home was a harsh reality we weren’t ready for.

 

The thing about Crohn’s is that it is actually rare but almost everyone has heard of it and almost everyone knows someone who has it. But very few know what it is like to actually walk the path from diagnosis to remission. A few people along the way have said “Oh, I thought he was fine now.” They had no clue that this could be a year-long journey. The great news is that there is new research and treatments that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Crohn’s is an incurable, chronic, auto-immune disorder where the body thinks the good bacteria in the intestines are bad guys and begins to attack. The disease prohibits his body from absorbing nutrients, particularly iron, which makes Kris really exhausted. He is in physical pain some days. Crohn’s can also cause joint pain, and Kris has had pain in his knees. At the height of the worst, it was painful to walk or even sit. Right now, his body can’t handle high-fiber and hard to digest foods, which means no raw veggies, no whole wheat, no beans, no seeds, no nuts, no fatty meats, no high sugar foods. Different people have different triggers – some can’t do dairy, others can’t do gluten. It’s a giant puzzle to figure out which combo of foods trigger his symptoms, but thankfully, Kris loves solving problems and puzzles. We’ve received a lot of advice from a lot of people, met with a dietician, researched and read books, but at the end of the day, his combo of triggers are his personal combo of triggers. It’s trial and error.  Test and adjust.  And if we can find the right treatment, there’s hope he can go back to eating some of the foods he loves. For now though, my foodie has had to give up most of the foods he loves so much (like donuts and apple fritters). Stress is another huge factor for Crohn’s. He’s not working right now, but having three small kids is pretty stressful at times (okay, most of the time!). Let me pause quickly and say his work has been AMAZING! They watched his health decline just as much as I did, and they have been so supportive in making sure he gets healthy too. Kris writes down everything he eats, drinks, how he feels after each, tracks his sleep, activity, mood. It’s a good thing he loves data! This may be the biggest data collection project of his life.

 

We are in the midst of finding the right treatment. The first one we tried was pretty conservative, and it turned out that it wasn’t enough. We had to be more aggressive. While we have seen some improvements here and there, the new meds take 4-6 weeks, and we are only on week 3. He hasn’t been sleeping great, which also affects his energy level and his ability to drive (particularly long distances or in traffic). He has a limited amount of energy each day, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Before he was sick, Kris didn’t sit still. He hated just sitting on the couch, but some days, that’s all he can do. It’s hard on him, because he wants to be well, to play with kids, to provide and help around the house. He has to work hard to not overdo it, because my sweet husband is a textbook overachiever. It’s one of the things I love about him.

 

The hardest battle inside of me has been reconciling my positivity with my reality. Here’s where I have to be honest, and it’s a weird place for me to be. I am, after all, Mrs. Positivity. Life is really hard right now. Is it the hardest journey anyone has ever walked on this earth? Not even close, but the journey we are walking has turned our “norms” upside down.

 

You know when your phone battery hits 20%, and it asks you if you want to go into power save mode? That’s me. I’m in power save mode. I’ve shut down what isn’t essential and only done what it takes to function. I haven’t doubted God’s presence. I’m not angry with him or questioning “why us?”, but it is hard. I collapse at the end of the night weary, exhausted. But I felt like if I was real with people, if I explained how hard life is, they would think I was complaining. I’m not a complainer. I am Mrs. Positivity.

 

Thankfully, we have amazing friends and family around us. They have allowed me to be honest without thinking me a complainer. They have stepped in at the drop of a hat to help with the kids, bring food and help with other challenges that pop up (like flat tires and dead car batteries). They’ve let me cry when the weight of the burden just feels too heavy. Through this, I’m learning three lessons about realism vs. positivity:

 

1. Being Real Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’re Complaining

Sure, we all know those people who just seem to be full of complaints; every time they open their mouth, you brace yourself. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s okay to be real when someone asks you how you are doing. I don’t have to hide the truth of my reality.

 

2. Being Real and Being Positive are not Mutually Exclusive

It’s possible to have a positive outlook on your situation while still allowing people into the realism of your journey. I really hope that what people see when they read this blog: that life is hard, but God is good. I can still let people in on struggle. God never promises us a struggle-free life. In fact, He promises the opposite (John 16:33). But God doesn’t let anything go to waste and His light shines brightest in the dark places of our lives.

 

3. Being Positive Makes the Difference in Being Real

God has taught me a great deal here through the years. When we shift from asking “why?” to asking “how?”, we allow ourselves to see beyond the pit, to zoom out and see beyond ourselves. We shouldn’t close our fists around our stories, but instead be open-handed, pointing people to Jesus every step of the way. And yes, as my friend Sarah Beth says, we can beat on God’s chest in the hard places and ask Him why and cry out to Him. He can take it. But if that’s all we ever do, I believe we miss out on the biggest blessing, His greatest kindness to us: the hard places.

 

Because the fact is, I am so thankful for this hard place. I get to serve my husband in a way few wives will; I get to daily live out my vow “in sickness and in health.” I know God is doing something here, though I don’t know what it is yet. Our story is getting worse before it’s getting better, but I see Him working and drawing us deeper into each other and deeper into Him. While everything around us points to success, when you are at the bottom of the pit, it’s hard to imagine. Dreams seem to be dying for both of us, but God is birthing something new.

 

When a gardener trims back bushes, he can’t just cut the branch off at the dead point. He has to cut off some of the live part too. In Hebrews 12:1 and Philippians 3:12-14, the authors both point to throwing off everything that hinders and forgetting what is behind. That means the good stuff too. I’ve had to throw off a lot lately – coffee with friends, lunch appointments, grocery store runs, date nights, birthday parties, family outings… but I am running. I am surviving on essential. I am enduring. Someday this may tie up with a bow that rivals the size of the ones I used to put on my baby daughter’s head. Maybe it won’t have the happy ending I imagined. We may never be back to the “normal” we once lived, but I will be better for having walked this path. I don’t want to miss what God has for us in this. So instead of asking why, we ask how. How, Lord, will you use this? And we will share that story in faith that he will use it.

 

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