Adrenaline, anxiety, Caretakers, Chronic illness, community, Coping, Faith, Garden, God, Hyper Pots, Hyperadrenergic POTS, Mobility, Overcoming, Parenting, Uncategorized, Weak

I didn’t know what was coming, but God did

Five years ago, my life changed. Two of the people I loved the most passed away. My grandfather who helped raise me and my cousin who was only 39. She had five-month-old twins. 

Trajedy like that brings clarity. I could see what really mattered and what I needed to change in my life. I was healthy then and the interesting thing is that all of the changes I made, ended up being amazing blessings when I became ill. 

I had been working 60-hour weeks. The stress was high and I was missing so much time with my little girls. I resigned. I was going to take a year off but ended up taking on part-time work from home instead. Luckily, I’ve been able to maintain this work even after becoming ill and it allows us the income for all of our necessities. 

I joined a church and made the proactive choice to surround myself with good people. These are the people who have shown up in my life since I got sick. They’ve brought food, journals, and kindenss when I needed it most.

We also bought this little house on a pretty piece of land. I was looking for somewhere that felt like a vacation. It’s tiny- two bedrooms and one bathroom, but outside, there’s room to roam. I can take short walks and feel restored… or winded. Living here has been such a blessing while being sick. The view from my bed is lovely and I have lots of little friends to keep me company. Plus, my cousin’s babies (who are five now) live just a few minutes away and I get to love on them for her. 

All these decisions have brought me joy during a tough season. I feel like God was lining my path with gifts to get me through. 

Retrospectively, don’t we always see how God was navigating things for our good? Even the hardest times, he lined with blessings. 

Recent Posts:

The Truths of Where I Am

I feel stronger and the gratitude I have for this is immeasurable. I am getting better about reading my body and learning my new limitations. My limitations are for my body, not my spirit. I need to rest several times throughout the day to be able to keep going. Once I get dressed, I rest.… Continue reading The Truths of Where I Am

Making space for my new life

In this new season of life, coffee and wine have been moved to the do not consume list. While I’m okay with that, I still miss the idea of what they represented for me: company, friends, comfort, warmth… I think that’s why I’ve been reluctant to tuck away the coffee pot and wine rack. John… Continue reading Making space for my new life

The frienDship fern

I’ve adored this fern for years. I’ve protected it from deer, replanted it as it grew, and sat in its shade as it hung from the porch eave.  Caring for it every morning was part of how I calmed myself. This winter, I was too sick to care for it during the freeze and it… Continue reading The frienDship fern

One good thing

Finding one good thing can make the world right again. Today, my good thing is very simple—cream of wheat. My stomach has been sick and my food choices, limited.  It’s been comforting to find one warm, soothing thing that I can eat. Would you believe that it’s become my equivalent for coffee and dessert? I’m… Continue reading One good thing

More than a walk

I’ve been feeling a little down lately. I think that’s normal. The world is coming alive again and it emphasizes some of my limitations. I cherish the days when I’m healthy enough to walk through the creek behind our little house. There are so many spots to stop and rest. Usually when I slow down,… Continue reading More than a walk

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More than a walk

I’ve been feeling a little down lately. I think that’s normal. The world is coming alive again and it emphasizes some of my limitations.

I cherish the days when I’m healthy enough to walk through the creek behind our little house. There are so many spots to stop and rest. Usually when I slow down, I feel like I’m falling behind. Here, I feel like I’m catching up. I see that life is moving all around me and I’ve been afforded a lovely view.

When we can’t move as fast, we seem to stay longer and watch more. It’s where we find ourselves and God.

In some ways, being sick is helping me to catch my breath; eventhough, there are moments when it quite literally takes my breath away.

God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strewn,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said: "To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowerets tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end."


-Robert Frost

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Relearning how to interact with the world when you run on a day-to-day baisis

With the world reopening and me feeling better, our schedules are getting busier again. My new limitations make things confusing to navigate. I want to say yes to taking my children to practices and birthday parties, to visiting with friends and family—but the reality is settling in that I run on a day-to-day basis and… Continue reading Relearning how to interact with the world when you run on a day-to-day baisis

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Relearning how to interact with the world when you run on a day-to-day baisis

With the world reopening and me feeling better, our schedules are getting busier again. My new limitations make things confusing to navigate. I want to say yes to taking my children to practices and birthday parties, to visiting with friends and family—but the reality is settling in that I run on a day-to-day basis and commitments are difficult.

Becoming ill during the pandemic buffered me from feeling obligated to keep up with a “normal” life. There were less expectations, less commitments, and more time at home.

Within the confines of home, I can usually control my dysautonomia beautifully: the temperature; being able to sit whenever I need to; never having to walk very far; having the right supplements, fluids, and food (I have a very specialized diet).

Right now, I’m planning a pool party for my daughters’ birthdays with the very real possibility that I might not be able to attend. Want to know the beautiful thing? They understand and are okay with this. They know that they are loved and they’re becoming more and more selfless. Just as interesting—I don’t feel guilty. A little sad, yes; but not guilty. I know that I’m doing what I can, and John and the girls know that too.

Here’s my thought process on deciding whether or not I can go out:

  • What will I feel like that day? My heart would like to RSVP. My body is a tentative.
  • Is parking close to my final destination or will I have to walk far? If I don’t know the answer to this question, the idea of walking too far and not being able to make it becomes a genuine fear.
  • Who will be there? Are these people I feel comfortable being around if I become ill or will I feel self-conscious?
  • Will we be inside or outside? If it’s too hot, that will trigger my POTS.
  • What are we going to do? If it’s sedentary, I have a shot.

The next layer of thought is… what am I giving up?

  • If this event takes a lot out of me, what will I be missing during the rest of that day and potentially for days to come if it takes more recovery time?
  • Will I be able to do my physical therapy?
  • Will I be less involved with my kids at home?
  • Will I be able to make our meals?
  • Will I be able to work or knock out any other tasks?

Then there’s the planning for going and recovering.

  • Things as simple as showering and getting dressed require recovery time for me. I have to build this time into my day. Gone are the days where I can rush out the door… just pick up and go.

Before Dysautonomia took over…

I could dance, participate in 5Ks (I did get sick after this 5K though – I had POTS and didn’t know it), play sports, host backyard parties… I’ll slowly and thoughtfully add many of these activities back in, I hope.

I went to my mom’s the other day and packed a huge bag for myself. It reminded me of when my children were babies. It was full of solutions for all the “what if’s” that could happen. Being prepared gives me a peace and makes me more confident in leaving the house.

Right now, I have safe places where I feel comfortable going out: family member’s houses, church, the doctor’s office, even sit-down restaurants where I know parking will not be a challenge.

Does this sound like I’m over-thinking it? Maybe; but trust me when I say that if you lived through the consequences of not being prepared (dizziness, decreased mobility, an inability to stand upright, feeling like you can’t breathe, weakness, nausea, migraines from not having enough blood in your head), you’d over think it too.

Right now, I’m not physically capable of living the same kind of life; but I still live a beautiful and fulfilling life. I plan to continue getting better and better. Meanwhile, I think it’s good to share how living is in this moment.

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The untended garden house

This is the first spring for our little garden house. It was a dream five years in the making. John worked so hard to design and build it. I researched plants and could see everything in my mind’s eye. Yet, in December, I started to feel unwell and grew sicker for the next few months.… Continue reading The untended garden house

Things I used to hide

A year and a half ago, I posted these pics of our trip to Enchanted Rock. What I didn’t share was that I couldn’t make it up the hill. My body was so weak and tired. I stopped about a third of the way up. (A third of the way sounds pretty good to me… Continue reading Things I used to hide

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Leaving the house is better and harder than I thought

I’m going to be honest about the hard and good stuff… the inklings of fear that creep into our minds; the thoughts we’d rather not have; the allowing of sadness and thanksgiving in the same moment.

When I get to leave the house, I’m so excited. Thus far, my outings have mostly been to church, doctor appointments, and my mom’s house. For Mother’s Day weekend, John and I decided to grab lunch and pick out my gift. We were out of the house; the weather was beautiful; and really, that’s all we needed, right?

I didn’t expect the rollercoaster of emotions that was about to ensue. The first challenge came before we got out of the car. For the first time ever, we used my handicap parking placard. While I’m thankful for this placard, I also had hesitations. I knew that I needed it to minimize my time upright, but I don’t look sick; so, there’s a fear of judgement. Would someone look at me like I’m abusing the system? Worse yet, would someone say something to me? I’m thankful John was there. He has the gift of not caring what other people think of him. That’s been good for this girl who often cares too much about what people think of her.

We walked into Bed, Bath & Beyond and looked for the motorized cart, but there wasn’t one. I just assumed they would have one. I used to see them in stores all the time but I never paid attention to whether they were in every store. I pay attention now. Lucky for us, John had packed my wheelchair in the car just in case. He ran back for it and we were off.

Next stop, my all-time favorite store—Target! Oh, my goodness, I was so excited! It was everything. We had gotten used to using the wheelchair, and their motorized cart looked bulky to navigate. So, we stuck with our wheelchair and John pushed me around. He stayed with me as we went through housewares and all the aisles he used to avoid. His patience meant a lot.

After a while, we decided to divide and conquer. I could use my feet to walk my wheelchair around. After all, my feet are strong, the problem with POTS is that my circulation doesn’t work well when I’m upright. I had no idea how quickly this would wear me out. I ended up sitting in an aisle waiting for John to return. I should have grabbed the motorized cart. I’m learning. I see now, that if a store doesn’t have a motorized cart and John is not with me, I can’t shop there. That’s a bit humbling. It may not sound like much, but it is when you feel like you should be able to do something and you physically can’t. You used to, but you can’t now. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

A confession… I’m uncomfortable with the way people look at me when I use a wheelchair. There is love and kindness in their eyes; but there is often pity as well. I think that’s normal and most likely how I’ve looked at others. I just don’t like being on the receiving end of it. I wasn’t going in expecting to feel this way. It rose up in me after my first few interactions with others. I’m usually super friendly. I look people in the eyes, say hello, make small talk… Yet, after a few glimpses of pitiful eyes; I found myself doing everything to avoid eye contact. I know this feeling is temporary and I’ll talk myself throug it. I just didn’t expect to feel this way.

It brings to mind a quote from C.S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” That’s what I need to work on right now. I’m surrounded by beautiful people with good intentions. There is no need for me to hide my eyes.

Another wave of emotion that hit me was jealousy. Seeing mothers walking around with their children made me want to cry. If I’m being totally honest, it did make me cry… right there in the Target. I used to walk around there with my kiddos all the time. How on Earth did I do that? It seems like that was a different life, a different person.

The birthday aisle added to the waterworks. My girls have birthdays this summer. I want to be able to take them to the store to pick out their decorations. I want to park and walk in and not have to go through the ordeal it takes for me to do so… to overcome my fears of using the handicap placard, hope an electric cart is available or have John with me, put on my emotional suit of armor, and pray that Isla stays relatively close because she’s a wanderer like her mama. Maybe these aren’t big deal things. Maybe they don’t sound like much, maybe they’re not much; but it’s frustrating. It’s a new part of my life that I wasn’t expecting and it makes me a little sad.

Birthday parties past

It also makes me think of a beloved friend whose daughter passed away. How does she feel when she sees mothers and daughters at the store? How does she handle the birthday party aisle? Seriously, how does she survive Mother’s Day? Sometimes, life is too much; just too much. We connect in joy, but we also connect in pain. Thinking of her, my whole being swells with love and tears. I don’t want her to hurt. I don’t want anyone to hurt. Yet, here we are. For the good and the bad of this journey. We all have varying degrees of pain and joy, and all are valid and an important part of our walk.

After climbing the mountain that was Target, we were hungry. Eating in a restaurant would level the playing field for me. We could sit while we did that! Due to my specialized diet; I knew that I should avoid carbs, tomatoes, and aged cheeses. Yet, daring as we are, we went for pizza. It was sooooo good. We sat and chatted and were happy. We ate and ate. I didn’t need a wheelchair because the walk from the car to our table was short. No one knew I was ill. I didn’t feel ill. Everything was back to normal.

As we drove home, the “normal” disappeared. My body started to react to what I had eaten. It was becoming harder to breathe so we laid me back and propped up my feet. I thought it was nothing that a few hours of laying down couldn’t fix; but in reality, it took days. Still, like most food-induced attacks, I told myself it was worth it. In so many ways, it was though.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to get back to our little house and comfy bed. I’m so lucky to have both. I crawled into the blankets and began to recover. I’m glad I went out. It was so good and unexpectedly hard at the same time. It was a step towards overcoming. In some ways, it showed me that I’m sicker than I’d like to believe. In other ways, it reminded me of how far I’ve come and that I’m not done yet.

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My first day alone

Today is a day I have been dreading… John went back to the office. I dropped the girls off at school and came home to a dark house. The electricity was out and to my surprise, it felt comforting. I lit a candle, let the cat inside, and sat with the dog as we watched… Continue reading My first day alone

Better days are here

The first emotion I used to feel when I woke up was fear. Fear of putting my feet on the ground to see if I could stand. It was the gauge of whether or not I’d have a decent day or if I’d struggle. Well, I’ve recently had a slew of decent and even good… Continue reading Better days are here

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My baseline – what life looks like now

With so many recent health fluctuations, I thought I’d share a little about what my daily life looks like right now.

The beautiful news is that I’m fairly independent, driving, cooking, cleaning, working, parenting…

Am I still sick? Yes, but I’m managing it well.

I go slower, but I’m going. I attend less things, but appreciate everything I get to do. I sit more, but I’m also more present. Fear has subsided and I’m rebuilding my stores of joy.

I can’t do as much as I used to before my dysautonomia flare. I need frequent breaks and have to stay conscious of my body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure since I don’t regulate these well automatically. I can tell they’re off when I become symptomatic.

I’m trying to get better at listening to my body and stopping when I need to. I usually feel better in the mornings and have a tougher time at night. For example, I can walk with strength throughout the first half of the day and tend to wobble more as the afternoon turns into evening.

There are still some things I can’t do. Almost all of these relate to temperature regulation or not being able to stand upright for more than 10 minutes. Grocery shopping is a lofty goal. It requires a lot of walking and reaching. Gardening is on my list of hopes for the fall. I still can’t go for walks. My walking buddy, Bailey, misses them too.

My diet is focused on low-carb, high-sodium, and low-histamine foods. What does that even mean, right? Sometimes, I pull up a stool and sit in front of the fridge waiting for a meal to appear because I just don’t know what to eat. I can eat indulgent items in moderation and in combination with protein—but for the most part, when I don’t stick to my regimen; I get tremors, weakness, tachycardia, difficulty breathing, and a bit of confusion. 

As part of my physical therapy program, I’ve worked my way up to biking 45 minutes, several days a week. Being able to do this is so good for my spirit. It makes me feel strong and capable. It’s bizarre… I have so much more endurance sitting down as opposed to standing or walking. Strolling to the mailbox takes more out of me than 45 minutes of biking.

I rest a lot. I have to go horizontal several times a day and when I do, it feels replenishing. I’m blessed to work part time from home which allows for this type of recovery. I honestly don’t know how I’d manage a 40-hour per week office job. Just getting to an office would take a lot out of me.

If I’m upright for too long, it feels like someone is reaching their hands into my chest and trying to pull me to the ground. The weight of carrying my own body becomes too much work. Many people have remarked at how nice it must be to lay down several times a day. I’m lucky to be able to lay down, but I’m not lucky to have to lay down.

When all of this started, I didn’t know how long my flares would last and what my new baseline would look like. I hoped that things would get better. Now, I have peace in better days. I wake up happy and ready for another round.

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A Diagnosis

For years, I’ve known something was wrong. Tests were normal. Doctors would point to anxiety and a vitamin deficiency and I’d be on my way. I’d tell John, “When I get to the other side, I’m going to ask God what this was. I have something they can’t figure out.” Two days after Christmas in… Continue reading A Diagnosis

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Things I used to hide

A year and a half ago, I posted these pics of our trip to Enchanted Rock. What I didn’t share was that I couldn’t make it up the hill. My body was so weak and tired. I stopped about a third of the way up. (A third of the way sounds pretty good to me today!)

John and the girls went on ahead. I sat under a tree and watched children and elderly people make their way ahead of me. I was frustrated and I didn’t know what to be frustrated by. Was it my body? My willpower? Was I just a weak person?

Thinking back, I’ve spent most of my life venturing out within very strict confines because of how my body felt. The two-mile jogs I used to be able to take… I could only take them at particular times of day, in certain temperatures, and on a routes by my house so I could get home quickly if I didn’t feel well.

John and the girls continued their adventures. They’d hike, bike, even rock climb. I RARELY went and when I did, I was scared the entire time – scared that my body would give out. He became their adventurer. I was their cuddler. This body of mine was shaping how I interacted with my children, for good and for bad.

I didn’t know why I was struggling then, but I do now, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that knowledge. Being diagnosed with POTS, a form of dysautonomia, has been challenging but it has also been liberating. There is peace in knowing the “why.”

There is so much in my life that I haven’t put words to. So much that I have unknowingly coped with and hid from others thinking I was weak, when it turns out I was ill. It’s an amazing gift to find out that what you thought was weakness was actually your strength – that you were overcoming in a way you never knew.

Before this, I had given up the hope of a diagnosis. My plan was to ask God what was wrong with me when I got to the other side. Well, I was lying in bed the other night thinking, “I can’t believe that I finally know what has been crippling my life.” In so many ways, I am on the other side.

Physically, I’m not 100%, but I’m a good 80% (YAY!). I suppose I’m working my way up a hill of a different kind. With my eyes on God, I will keep climbing. The journey is hard. The company is wonderful.

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Powering through to the good stuff!

With chronic illness, you have good and bad days, and you never know how you’ll feel when. It puts a damper on being reliable.

As a type A++ personality, this is a huge struggle for me. I’m a super punctual, likes everything just so, don’t flake kinda girl… or at least, I was.

This weekend tested me. We had a special date night planned with Ellie. She’s an exceptional little person and deserves every good thing. After staying home for the greater part of a year, all she wanted to do was visit a bookstore, have a root beer float, and lay in bed and read together. That’s what I wanted too!!

We’d been excited about this all week and sure enough, as Friday approached, my body was becoming weaker with tremors and tachycardia. Since I could stay fairly stable as long as I sat down, we loaded up the wheelchair and pushed through.

There’s something alluring about shelves filled with books: the stories and thoughts, the millions of things you don’t know yet but could.

El was elated to be back in the world again.  She scanned the shelves of books and petted each stuffed animal. She said it was like a dream.

I was the opposite of content. It turns out that I don’t like being pushed in a wheelchair. I like to start and stop when I want, go at my own pace, turn when I want to, face the direction I want… I had no idea how frustrating giving up control would be and how unkind it would make me feel. John patiently adhered to my directions but I’m pretty sure it took all of his strength not to park me in the corner.

I eventually asked to be left in an aisle. I was tired of feeling like luggage. Nights in general are harder for me physically, so that probably added to my irritability. Next time, we’re making daytime plans.

Sometimes, I think giving up control is one of the biggest lessons in being ill. It’s not one that I’m doing well with yet, not by a long shot. I can’t control how my body feels, when I’ll be strong enough for an outing, or whether or not I’ll be able to walk independently or need a mobility aid on any given day. So I need to work on controlling how I respond. Ironically, I know this comes through surrender. That’s where I will find patience and a deeper gratitude for the moment. If I keep trying to control the uncontrolable, I’ll go mad.

I was irritable and not feeling well, but we pushed through and had a beautiful night. I would snap and I’d apologize. I’d forgive myself and try again.

John handed me this book as a joke when I was being especially evil. It actually hit the mark so it came home with me.

My book picks:

I love, love, love reading anything about near death experiences. Imagine Heaven pairs near death experiences with biblical promises. I think I’ll read Suffer Strong first though. I’m just finishing up Katherine and Jay Wolf’s first book, Hope Heals. It details how they leaned on God when Katherine underwent a massive brainstem stroke as a young mother at age 26. I’ve found myself repeatedly drawing from their strength over the past few weeks. Reading their story has put beautiful thoughts in my mind and and in my heart.

Ellie’s book picks:

She’s a huge fan of the Wings of Fire series. She likes to read the books first, then the graphic novels. I love it when she can’t put down a book. White Fox is the first in a series of books that has been translated from Chinese to English. It’s a bit of a dark fairy tale. We’ll see how she likes it.

Most importantly, Ellie had a great night and that’s all we really wanted.

Here’s a little more about my story and how I’m coping with chronic illness.

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Better days are here

The first emotion I used to feel when I woke up was fear. Fear of putting my feet on the ground to see if I could stand. It was the gauge of whether or not I’d have a decent day or if I’d struggle. Well, I’ve recently had a slew of decent and even good weeks (not days!). I no longer have doubts about putting my feet on the floor. I haven’t used a wheelchair in a while and only need my cane at night and for longer distances. I feel stronger and very hopeful.

I believe this flare is on its way out and I am so thankful for the prayers that have been said for me.

You prayed for more good days and they have been given.

I’m eager to see what my new baseline is and how my body works. My body is not what it was, but it’s better than it is has been. I’ve gone from struggling when upright, to being able to stand for almost 10 minutes. You can get so much done in 10 minutes! I may not be able to go to the grocery store yet (the thought of it still terrifies me), but I can make all of our meals. I can care for myself and then some. There are days when I even change out of pajamas. 😉

I used to lay down between work calls to get more blood to my brain, thinking it would clear the fog and that I’d be smart again. Now, I can work for longer periods. I wash my own hair, drive the kids to school, and do laundry. I’m going to let the girls keep packing their own lunches though. I think it’s good for them.

I don’t know what led to this upturn. We implemented many changes at one time, so it’s hard to tell what combination worked. I can tell you that it wasn’t the medication. My body didn’t handle the first trial of medicine well and I ended up in the hospital. Meds work beautifully for so many people. They just didn’t work for me… at least not right now.

I was surprised at how quickly my body deconditioned within the first few weeks of becoming ill. Now, I’m two months into the Levine Protocol physical therapy program and my strength is improving greatly. I take salt pills and drink extra fluids to increase my blood volume. I wear compression stockings to help me walk (they’re not pretty but I don’t get far without them). My diet has changed a lot too. Less carbs and sugar. No big meals. Lots of produce and protein. I’ll never be able to drink coffee or alcohol again. I thought this would bother me more than it actually does.  

Compression stockings are like magic feet for me. They give me strength and allow me to walk more independently.

One big lesson I’ve learned is to pace myself. I can’t do as much as I used to and that’s okay because I can do what matters. If I overdo it, I’ll be too weak to enjoy the next day. “I can’t spend my energy on that,” is the most common line that comes out of my mouth.

This past flare lasted over three months. I’ve never been sick that long in my life. I feel blessed that it wasn’t longer. I know that I’m still ill, that POTS doesn’t go away—but compared to the last few months, I feel pretty great!

This is new territory and I’m treading carefully, but I’m also enjoying every good day.

Thank you for reading this post.

I want so much for people to understand this journey – what we learn and how we grow through being sick.

If you’d like to join me, you can subscribe to this blog and its social accounts to stay up on new posts.

with much love, sara

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Here’s a little more about my story and how I’m coping with chronic illness

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Faith, God, Hyper Pots, Hyperadrenergic POTS, Legs, Mobility

When my feet fail, my faith will stand

When I was at my worst with POTS; I went from jogging, to stumbling, to crawling. This song came on the day I ordered my wheelchair. I fell apart into it. I’ve heard it before but never like I do now… “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, you never failed and you won’t start now.”

It’s been a hard few months—but today, my feet are standing firm. My cane and wheelchair are parked in the corner. I will follow whatever path God lays before me.

“You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown

Where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand

 

And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours

You are mine

 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand

Will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed

And You won’t start now

 

So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours

And You are mine (You are mine)…”

oceans by hillsong united

There are many blessings in illness.

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