What I've learned from Chronic Pancreatitis...and a Reflection on the Past 12 Months
Today I’ve been thinking a lot. Looking back to how I felt last two Thursdays ago...and there’s truly no comparison. God has given me a miracle! I am pretty much back to my usual CF GI issues (I continue steadily declining from CF, as all CF patients do...but the past 6 months I have PLUMMETED and gotten soooo much worse so quickly) the pancreatitis pain is virtually gone...it’s truly amazing. Hallelujah! And as I reflect on this miracle, I’m also reflecting on the past 12 months. The hardest, most painfully heartbreaking 12 months of my entire life. It’s been exactly one year since my life started to unravel…to completely fall apart. One thing after another went wrong…and fast forward to today, I’ve lost so much. But instead of mourning what I’ve lost, I’m looking back and feeling...thankfulness. What?! Let me explain...
Over the past year, my pancreas issues have developed into chronic pancreatitis (it was bound to happen eventually with my particular CF mutation). Chronic pancreatitis is horrible. And this flair has been the longest and worst one of my life—It physically broke me…but emotionally healed me. How? Here’s how: chronic pancreatitis enabled me to break free of the “perfect healing diet” illusory lie mindset and helped me to be able to trust my body. I felt sick all the time and when I was hungry I wasn’t craving raw food—but I was scared to listen to my body and eat what it was asking for because someone over there (who knows nothing about me like come on now) said it was bad. So I kept eating what was supposed to heal me and it kept not working. When I finally listened, an amazing thing happened: I started FEELING BETTER. WHY?! Because our bodies know what they need. They will tell us. And they do tell us. But we usually don’t listen.
God has worked a miracle in my life—I have not felt this good in a solid year, friends. This year has been the hardest of my life no doubt. But I am so so so thankful for everything I went through. Why?! Because I grew. Mentally. Spiritually. Emotionally. In all the ways that matter. And I learned how to trust my body. To honor my body. To accept my body and give it what It needs and asks for—regardless of whether or not someone else says it’s “bad” or will keep me from healing. I learned to respect my body’s needs...not live by labels. I learned that we are all beautifully, individually, marvelously unique—outside and in—and that our unique bodies have unique needs…no one diet is right for everyone. God really does work every single thing for good guys. Even chronic pancreatitis—He revealed this truth to me and brought beauty out of ashes...healing out of pain. Glory to God!
Over the past 12 months I’ve also learned what true joy is. Where my true hope lies. Not in circumstances, this world, etc, but in JESUS CHRIST. Circumstances do not determine our happiness, nor can they shake us...only if we let them. Losing so much has caused me to feel deeper sorrow than I’ve ever felt in my life...but I’ve also felt greater joy and freedom than I’ve ever felt in my life. And this is a joy that cannot be lost. This is a freedom that cannot be stolen...this hope is eternal. My future is secured-next to Jesus. I’ve wrestled with fear my entire life. Crippling fear, panic, and anxiety—all normal and honestly expected when dealing with a chronic illness like CF. I lived with the constant fear that those things that I loved—running, dance, skating, my health, my job, etc—would be taken from me. That I would lose them and be left with nothing. And guess what: I did. I was. I’ve lost all of these things. Every. Single. One. And I have cried more tears than I can tell you. But God, like He always does, used this to change my heart...to bring unparalleled healing out of unparalleled hurt. I realized I had been putting my hope in earthly things—things that fail—and not in Jesus. I had been putting my worth, my identity, my joy and peace and confidence in outer things...these things defined me and made my life, to me, “worth living.” When I lost them—I wanted to not be alive anymore. The combination of my ever-deteriorating health and losing everything that brought me joy was unbearable...I was suffocating. I reached rock bottom in December, right after I ended my grape juice fast—yet another thing I had put my complete hope in that it would at last “heal me.” But God got a hold of my heart in a whole new powerful way on New Year’s Eve: He revealed to me the truth...that in Him alone is hope. He alone is trustworthy. He alone is Healer. Everything else fails. Everything but Him. He will NEVER fail us. And not only that, but everything that happens—every single thing—He is working for good. We have nothing to fear! Nothing!
It has been an excruciatingly painful and difficult and trying 12 months, but I am not the same Anna that I was last August. And this is why I rejoice. I’m healed in ways I didn’t even know needed healing—the deep, hidden away hurts that no one ever wants to talk about. And because I opened myself up and allowed Him to dig up these painful things to free me from their bondage, I’m seeing healing in the obvious, outward, needed ways. I’ve learned what really matters. Where I must put my hope and trust to find true joy and freedom. In Christ alone is hope. Nothing else. This is what I’ve learned this past year. This is why I am thankful for this hellish year, why I am thankful for (I can’t believe I’m saying this) pancreatitis. Because God healed so much more than just pancreatitis—He healed my HEART and changed my life.
Christianity is not a bed of roses or a walk in the park. Following Christ is hard. Oftentimes harder than not following Christ. But this life is not what we were made for—this world is not our home. Like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, the light and momentary sufferings do not match the joy that is set before us. I suffer. We all do. We can’t choose whether or not we will suffer: it’s just a part of life. But we CAN choose whether or not we will allow these inescapable sufferings to cause us to become bitter, OR we can let them make us better—more like Christ, ready for Heaven. Satan attacks us all the time. He’s attached me for 12 months straight with no break. But God works it ALL for good—every single bad thing—and enables us to grow through every hardship. He is a miracle working God. And He alone is my living hope.
God doesn’t use bad things to teach us lessons. But He does enable bad things to refine and reform us…He does intricately fashion and manipulate every horrible thing that happens into something wonderful…something that is for our good (and the good of others) and His glory—and this is exactly what He’s done and is still doing with me. He has brought beauty from these ashes of this past year. He has healed my heart, mind, and spirit, while at the same time preparing my body for physical healing. He wants us healed—all of us—body mind and spirit. But sometimes He’s more concerned with changing our hearts than our circumstances. Because, after all, that’s what truly matters. That’s what we’re here on this earth for: to become like Christ…to become ready for eternity in Heaven. This life is just school for our REAL life. We’re not here to live it up and have a trouble-free, suffering-free, happy-go-lucky perfect life…we’re here to be molded, shaped, pruned, refined into the person He wants us to be. Into the person He has CREATED us to be…so we can fulfill the calling He’s put us here to fulfill. Will you let Him refine and prune you? Will you open your hearts to Him? Will you surrender and accept the fact that He knows best? That HE is better equipped to control your life than you are? That HIS timing is better than yours? Will you let Him bring beauty from your ashes, and trust that He will even when you can’t see how it will happen? I may never be cured of CF on this earth or in this lifetime, but there is no doubt in my mind anymore that I WILL be healed. But my belief in healing (and how it happens) has also changed this year. God heals us all differently. And He wants to heal ALL of us—that is, every PART of us: body, mind, and spirit. And oftentimes, even though we think of healing as mainly a physical thing, there’s so much more to it than that (which is why Anna’s Organics is based on the principle of TRIUNE healing—see the home page for more info on this). Healing is a holistic process…and if we want our outside to heal (physical body), we have to allow our inside to be healed first (mind and spirit). Once I let go of this perfect ideal of healing that I had in my mind, and realized that, guess what: my life isn’t about me, I’m actually here FOR GOD, BY GOD, as solely a vessel to be used by Him, I was able to really put my healing into perspective. Suddenly I didn’t care so much about being completely healed…because for the first time it occurred to me that my being sick might be part of how God wants to use me. How? I don’t know. But I know one thing: nothing I do or don’t do could stop His plans for me. I don’t have to worry or fret about anything…because there is NOTHING that could happen that HE won’t work for good. That’s His promise to us.
So my view about healing, my understanding of healing, and the importance it holds in my life has all changed. I’m not waiting for healing anymore. I’m living in the now…rejoicing through all things, even in the waiting, because HE’S IN THE WAITING…and He wants me here for a specific reason—and even if I can’t see what that reason is or understand why, I will rejoice…because He’s working it for good. But just in the past 2 weeks my feelings have changed yet again. Since I got hoe from the hospital He has given me a new sense of fight and hope…I will heal. I AM healing…It’s happening. Mind and spirit, yes. But now body, too…which I had given up on ever seeing in this lifetime. It’s slow…and may days it feels like 2 steps forward and 1 3/4 steps back…but the difference now is, whatever He’s saying to me to do or try, I’m doing it…even if doing it seems to defy logic and seems like it might make things worse…I’m stepping out in faith. I’m being obedient. And I’m leaving the rest up to Him. I’m walking by FAITH, and not by sight. For the first time in my life. I’m finally putting my ENTIRE life in His hands…I’m jumping off the cliff without a parachute because I KNOW He will catch me. This year I’ve learned that. He’s proven that to me: He always catches me…and He always WILL catch me. But we have to jump so He can catch us. This has been a long time coming for me: full trust in God…and I’ve yearned to have an unshakable faith in Him my whole life…but in the past, when I’ve heard Him say things and led me to things I knew He was leading me to but I couldn’t see how they would turn out, I was too afraid to take the step. But I’m not anymore. These past 12 months have prepared me for this next chapter in my life: saying YES to God, no matter what that means, and no matter how crazy it may seem…radical obedience. And what I’m finding out? He honors that faith. He honors that obedience. He catches us. When we say yes and take the step, He takes the step with us.
Never underestimate what God can do in you, and through even the worst of circumstances. He can bring the best of outcomes! Keep your heart open to His healing—because He always heals...just not always when and how we expect it.
So what does the future hold? Where am I going from here? What are the next steps? Well my chronic pancreatitis is finally under control again (for the most part...YAY for herbs and medication adjustments! CP never goes away, and I still expect to have “flairs” every so often, which is normal, but I’m hopeful that thanks to new meds it will not ever get this bad again), but now we are attempting to get to the root of my OTHER chronic digestive issues. So basically I’m back to where I was 5 months ago (but have learned a lot!), which is kind of frustrating but very relieving.
I have a boatload of more tests in my future, but I’m feeling oddly encouraged and super hopeful. God is so good...and for the first time in my life TRULY I feel His arms around me and can literally see how He is molding and making beauty out of this barrenness. I know that I know that I know I AM GOING TO BE OKAY! I will rise again! How? No clue. When? Ditto. But I know. He’s promised and that is what I cling to. In the mean time, I will worship while I'm waiting! And I will continue submitting to Him and allow Him to bring beauty from these ashes. Speaking of which…I just announced announced on my Instagram page that I am debuting The Juicing Ginger’s Big Book of Liquid Love TOMORROW on the Anna’s Organics Wellness website! This book is literally my attempt to make lemonade out of life’s lemons. Have to live on liquids for 5 months? Let’s write a fun, all-liquid recipe book for others that might have to at one point or another also. This recipe book includes 50 plant-based, 100% liquid recipes, perfect for anyone on a liquid diet for medical reasons. All recipes are delicious, nutritious, easy to digest, and require NO hard-to-find ingredients. OH! And they’re super simple and easy to prepare (cuz WHO HAS ENERGY when they’ve got CP?! Definitely not me…).
The recipe book will debut tomorrow, so be sure to check my Instagram page for my announcement of when it’s live on the website. And, as always, thank you—every single one of you—for your unwavering, never-ending support. I love you all so much and am so thankful for the love and prayers. Here’s to the future—a future of promise and hope!