Hi! I’m so glad you’re here.
I hope Fruitful Today will be a valuable resource in your life, equipping you and encouraging you in your own journey through illness and/or grief.
I’m assuming you’re here because you want to know a bit more about me. (No? Feel free to click back a page! 😆) You might be wondering what chronic illness I have. You might even be curious about my theological stance!! I hope the info below gives you a feel for who I am and what I believe.
My faith story
Before launching into my chronic illness story, let me point you towards some posts that tell my faith story.
The two posts below will give you a clear idea of where I’m at in my own walk with God. (For a devotional blog, this is important! You have every right to know whose words you are allowing to speak into your life.)
The first one is What’s God’s Plan for my Life?. In this post, I talk about the ways my understanding of God has evolved over the years, since I was a teenager. My faith journey has been a bit bumpy at times, but God has been faithful to me — I’m truly grateful for his enduring patience and unending love!!!
The second one is Ruth’s Church Story, which will tell you all about my current involvement with church.
If you’re wondering, Why on earth would anyone write so openly — and publicly — about their failures?!, here is my reason: I’ve gained so much over the years from mature Christians who’ve opened up their lives — even the vulnerable, not-so-glorious parts — with the aim of extending God’s comfort to me.
I want to do the same. My motto is: “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (From one of my all-time favourite verses, 2 Cor 12:9.)
My chronic illness story
Now for the juicy details of my chronic illness… Well, actually, I won’t tell the whole story here, as I’ve already written about it in some of my other posts. I’ve included links to those posts, below, so you can read more about whichever parts of my story resonate with you.
Alright, here goes…
I was living a pretty “normal” life up until 2012. I was working part-time, and caring for our toddler the rest of the time. We were saving up for a bigger home, as our second baby was about to arrive and we’d soon outgrow our small, two-bedroom apartment. (Spoiler alert: we’re still living there — all four of us!)
We never found out the name of the nasty virus that landed me in hospital a week before Christmas, when my pregnant belly was the size of a basketball. The most likely culprit was aseptic meningitis.
Since then, I’ve been dealing with a chronic neuroimmune illness that’s turned my whole life inside-out. My doctors still haven’t got to the bottom of precisely what’s triggering my ongoing symptoms.
What we do know is that (1) pathology tests have consistently indicated abnormal immune activity, and (2) I’ve tested positive for Orthostatic Intolerance, a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system — basically, my blood pressure doesn’t regulate properly, so I very quickly start to feel faint and “off” whenever I’m sitting or standing.
The rest remains a mystery…
So, I’m one of the millions worldwide who have been lumped with the unsatisfying “diagnosis of exclusion”: chronic fatigue syndrome. If you’re interested, you can read more in My Letter to ME/CFS. This post, published on The Mighty website in 2015, shows how ME/CFS has affected not only my life but also that of my family. (It was also the very first piece I ever published online!)
Not knowing what’s wrong is hard. Waiting on pathology test results is hard. Seeing new doctors is tiring and nerve-wracking. Hoping that we’ll find the answer, then dealing with disappointment can be heartbreaking. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, these two devotions might bring you some much-needed comfort: Waiting — How to Stand “Strong” and When Hope Hurts.
These days, I spend a lot of time at home alone, resting. My children are cared for by an army of loving people, both paid and unpaid. And by God’s grace they are thriving (phew!) — they’re cheeky and spritely and cuddly and happy.
My grief story
I write quite a bit about grief, so I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of my grief journey too.
I guess grief is part of the chronic illness package, isn’t it? Losing your ability to do some of the things you love. Having to find new hobbies and new ways to fill your days. Constantly walking the fine line between “feeling” your sorrow (i.e. not denying it) and not allowing bitterness to take over.
No matter how much your family and friends love you, it can be hard for them to truly empathise. That’s what I’m hoping my grief posts will provide for you: empathy. The feeling that you are not utterly alone. Reassurance that somebody understands, as they’ve walked a similar path before you.
Hmm… I’m trying to work out how I can wrap my messy, scrambled, ongoing grief story into a neat little bundle below. Bear with me!!
Honestly, adapting to my “new” life has been a real challenge. I’m not a natural when it comes to resting and slowing down! I don’t like being in a body that doesn’t work properly… I used to be a very active person — always on my feet, and I loved the outdoors. I was highly committed to my work, too. Letting go of my career was an extremely painful process.
After becoming housebound, I learnt pretty quickly that I needed to stop comparing myself to healthy people. They can do so much more than me! Their lives are so different to mine! The only way to stay sane was to realise that my life was now different to theirs.
But there’s another habit that I found much harder to kick: Comparing my “sick” self to my old, healthy self. Oh, the tears I cried in those first couple of years, as I slowly learnt to let go of the-person-I–used-to-be as well as the-person-I thought-I-would-become.
Have you found it hard to kick that habit too? If so, you are very normal! I guess it’s only natural that a seismic lifestyle shift will take some getting used to… It’s not easy. Not easy at all…
How has your life changed since you lost your health? Have you needed to find new hobbies? Have you had to reduce your working hours, or stop working altogether? Has your social life been affected? If so, you are not alone…
Before my health declined, I had a bunch of things I loved doing — things that kept me very busy. I loved travelling and meeting new people. I also enjoyed the autonomy and satisfaction that work provided (even though some aspects of work really annoyed me at times!). Home was a place where I ate and slept. The rest of the time I was out doing stuff.
One of the highlights of my pre-illness life was my working holiday. At age 21, I lived in France for a year, working as an assistant English teacher (the flight from Australia took 23 hours, would you believe?!). I travelled quite a bit during that year abroad, and have many fond memories of my adventures.
I find it so tempting to view my pre-illness life as idyllic. (You too? I commiserate. 😩 ) Look at these beautiful photos, for example, taken during my year in Europe. Oh, how I’ve mourned my loss of mobility! I can still walk but only in short bursts, between long rests.
But when I’m honest with myself, I have to admit: my life wasn’t ideal back then either. There was work-related stress, there was anxiety, there were relationship concerns, there were conflicting priorities, there was exhaustion. And a really bad case of sunburn after that second hike!
So, these days I live a very different life. I’ve found new ways to fill my time. My new favourite pastime is writing. (Bet you couldn’t have guessed.) I also enjoy photography and sunshine and reading, and Belgian Chocolate gelato, and spicy curries, and long chats with friends. I think that covers the main things… I’m not really a cat or dog person, sorry. Can’t really connect with you on that level!
A final note on grief: If you’re a parent and you’re struggling to come to terms with your reduced capacity, this post could be an encouraging read: For the Sick Mummy Who Feels Guilty. It was the second piece I ever wrote, after becoming housebound, and it was published on The Mighty in 2016.
Soon afterwards, I began this blog…
My blog story
I thought I’d finish off by telling you the story behind the blog. (Or is it a site? I never know which term to use… 🤔)
I love Jesus’ words in John chapter 15: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” This verse was the inspiration behind the blog’s name. The “today” part was actually an afterthought, as fruitful.com had already been taken! I do like the “today” part though. It’s a reminder to focus on living today, rather than putting our lives on hold till we get better — which may never happen for many of us.
The Bible teaches that we’re living in a broken world – a world where things are not as they were intended to be. Yet we’re not without hope, because within the messiness of our less-than-ideal lives God is at work. He is the “gardener” of our souls.
Jesus has promised that if we recognise our need for him, and remain in him, we will be fruitful. The Fruitful series explores this idea in more depth.
One thing I want to highlight in my posts is the idea that not every season is fruitful. We have seasons of grief, where we feel completely bare and empty. The emblematic image of bare branches — above, and elsewhere on my site — encapsulates that rawness for me.
But I also want to remind you (and myself!) of the hope we have in Jesus. Under the care of an attentive gardener, even the barest branches can be pruned and made fruitful again.
So, that’s it. Now you know a bit more about my blog (or site, or whatever it’s called!) and about me.
If my story has resonated with you, wonderful! I’d be happy to mentor you through the toughest, bleakest seasons of your life. That’s what my devotions and free resources are here for.
If my story doesn’t connect with you, that’s OK too. It’s been nice to have you visit. 🙂
May your trust in our great God be strengthened as you read Fruitful Today.