You are an Overcomer- Never forget

I just want to remind you of something that may have slipped your mind this morning, or this week, or this month since the seasons of life are changing and the colder months can cast a darker, colder shadow at times.

Each morning, you might want to start fresh, and leave the past behind you, right? But please, friend, don’t forget everything you’ve overcome.

Don’t forget the challenges which seemed impossible…when you said “there is no way I can get through this” but you did, and you are. Don’t ever forget.

Don’t forget when you ran out of every last molecule of energy you had left to give, and you had no idea how you would keep going another moment longer…. but instead of giving up, you found something else inside of you that carried you forward. Don’t forget that driving force within you.

Don’t forget when you had experienced all of the torture you thought you could shoulder. Don’t forget when heartbreak, physical pain, and sleepless nights pushed you past your breaking point. You said, “I can’t endure this nightmare for one more moment.”

Remember when you were ready to forget it all?

How are you still here after everything you’ve been through?

Don’t forget how you made it!

Don’t forget that force inside of you that begins when you’ve reached the end of yourself.

Don’t forget.


As seasons change, as life continues to surprise you, carry yourself as the OVERCOMER you are.



Links to the featured artist: The Last Sparrow (artistic home furnishings on Etsy), Follow Voilet D’Art on Flickr, Twitter 

What to say when you don’t know what to say…

In the face of pain, heartbreak, and crisis, most of us don’t know how to react or respond. We want to be an encouragement, we want to comfort, we want to relate in some way…

Words often seem so empty and useless in the wake of tragedy.
Most of us have comfortable responses we share when we don’t know just what to say: 
“It’s going to be ok”
“You’re strong”
“You’re going to get through this”
“I’m praying for you”
“God is in control”
All of these are true, yes! But is it what you’re truly thinking? Sometimes the truth isn’t always comforting, and sometimes honesty is exactly what someone needs to be met with when they are feeling vulnerable. 
Maybe you’re speechless, and aren’t sure you have the right words for such an enormous moment. What if you said that?
Maybe you’re angry that this is happening to someone you care about so deeply. What if you expressed that emotion?
Sometimes it’s a comfort to hear that others are experiencing a range of emotions when you’re trying to process your own. When a friend steps into a crisis situation, they may feel numb at first. When you express your emotions for what they are going through, it can help them begin the healing journey.
Most of us feel helpless when people we care about are in trouble, because in truth, we would rather solve the problems than stand by and watch them struggle.
I wish after all these years I were confident that I have the right words to comfort and encourage. I don’t always know what to say or how to feel, but drawing from honest feelings and thoughts is better than a canned response, even if I’m certain the words I have to offer are imperfect and insufficient.
More important than searching for the perfect words to say when you’re caught off guard is to be around afterward. Check in, mail a note, be available, show up. More than what you say, it’s what you do that makes all the difference.


“Life will break you” quote Louise Erdrich

“Life will break you.

Nobody can protect you from that,

and living alone won’t either,

for solitude will also break you with its yearning.

You have to love.

You have to feel.

It is the reason you are here on earth.

You are here to risk your heart.

You are here to be swallowed up.

And when it happens that you are broken,

or betrayed, or left, or hurt,

or death brushes near,

let yourself sit by an apple tree

and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps,

wasting their sweetness.

Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

Louise Erdrich

If your body is a boombox, and the nervous system is music…


Think of the nervous system like a boombox up on your shoulder, 80’s style, playing sweet jams at all times. When the body is healthy, balanced, and running smoothly, the music playing from your system’s radio station are your favorite hits at the perfect volume, and your drop-in harmonies are totally on point.


When the nervous system is out of sync, those beats flowing from your station are tragic- like the song you hate most, on the loudest setting, playing over and over again. You can’t change the station, no matter what lengths you go to!

When you have a chronic neurological condition like Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome for example, it’s as though someone traded out your cool retro stereo system for an old broken down radio. You can play records on it sometimes, and it’s AMAZING to listen to any music again when you’re not in a flare or a relapse, but even then, all the records have scratches on them, so the music is constantly skipping and warped. The stereo’s wiring gets so bad over time that the record player doesn’t work anymore, and your radio only receives static.


A chronically malfunctioning nervous system is like listening to a broken radio stuck on static at full volume constantly. 

When the “music” or the nervous system’s wiring is flowing properly from the brain throughout the body, pain receptors react to appropriate painful stimuli, telling us when there is a problem, and the pain subsides when the problem is resolved. When we have “faulty wiring” we may experience hypersensitivity to touch, sound, light or even smells so intense that it can cause a severely painful reaction. Think of raw wires on the end of electronics sparking and flaming just to the slightest touch.


The malfunctioning nervous system might react to normal stimulus with severe increased pain, increased stress may cause a seizure, or in others severe tremors and body spasms may occur. For some with POTS, (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), a loud noise or changing positions can cause the body to completely check out, going into fight or flight mode, and beginning to pass out, or passing out completely.

Going back to the stereo analogy, imagine being invited to a party where the DJ had a broken stereo system, playing static on blast or his stereo catching fire in front of everyone. That’s exactly what it’s like to live with a chronic neurological disease…well, sort of.


Meditation, spirituality, organized religion, trying to improve sleep, and other stress reducing efforts are ways we try to turn down the knob on the stereo. Medications, alternative therapies, eating well, surrounding ourselves with positive support are all ways we can continue turning the knob down little by little. The static kicks out on full blast each day, and we use our tools to adjust or manage the incoming noise levels. We may not have the ability to turn the station away from the blaring static and back to music, but we can attempt to turn the volume down so it isn’t blasting constantly every day.

Invasive and surgical approaches to treating neurological diseases are like kicking the side of your stereo to try to get it to work again. Jolting it hard enough may coax the system to finally play music once again, or you might kick it so hard that you completely break your stereo. For many, surgery and invasive treatments are worth a risk of causing additional problems for the possibility of returning to good health and functioning.

That’s my super-scientific explanation of the nervous system, and how it’s exactly like a boom box. So…. this analogy might not end up in a medical school text book, but if it helped anyone better understand an aspect of neurological disease, or put a smile on your face, then virtual high fives all around!


“Chronically Funny” by Caylee Shea video
Which sketch is most like you? 

This youtuber has other awesome chronic pain videos on her channel. Laugh and learn more about chronic illness all at once!

Author Interview & Book Giveaway! But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to You if I were Healthy?

Thank you, Esther Smith for joining us to discuss your brand new book, “But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to you if I were healthy?” Congratulations on being Amazon’s #1 hot new release in Christian Counseling and Recovery in your first week as a published author! Let’s jump in and talk more about your book!
But God wouldn't I be more useful to you if I were healthy Abodyofhope Interview with Author Esther Smith

1.    Did you do anything special to celebrate the release of your first book? ~or~ How did you reward yourself when you completed writing “But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to you if I were healthy?”

The night my book was released I celebrated with dark chocolate and a glass of red wine. My favorite indulgence. I am hoping to get out to my favorite restaurant this month, and that will definitely be a part of the celebration. To me celebration equals all of my favorite foods!

2.    Aside from writing, how do you enjoy spending your free time? (hobbies/activities)

I have had a hard time coming up with hobbies I enjoy since chronic pain became a part of my life, which is one of the reasons I turned to writing in my free time. But, I do enjoy reading, lying out at the local pool, and cooking delicious recipes.

3.    How would you describe your personal writing process? (Are you research-driven, methodical, intuitive, spiritually motivated, etc. Please explain).

 For me, writing typically looks like sitting down with an empty head and writing about a topic that is important to me without much prior thought. Oftentimes, I don’t know what I think about a particular topic until I put it into words on paper. It is the act of typing and writing freely without restraint that brings me to my best ideas. Then I come back later with research, additional stories, and more attention to detail. Those final changes are important, but it is the original brainstorming that gives life to my words.

4.    Thus far, what is your favorite aspect of becoming a published author? (designing the cover of your book, the writing process itself, doing interviews like these, etc.)

 I have loved hearing feedback from readers. It is the best feeling in the world when someone tells me that my book helped them in some way or that they were challenged to think differently by something that I wrote.

What is your least favorite aspect of becoming a published author? (the editing process, marketing, doing interviews like these, etc.)

I greatly dislike wearing all of the hats in the publishing process. I was not able to pay for help for any part of my book, so I edited it myself, though I am far from an editor. I also designed the book cover, though design is not my strong point. I would much prefer to focus on my strengths and get help with the rest. 

5.    “Resting as an act of faith” is one part of your book I felt was particularly inspired, and is wisdom that both well and chronically ill individuals can benefit from. Can you explain what in your own life lead you to write about resting by faith?  

For so long I tried to maintain the same life I had always lived even though chronic pain made this difficult. I became burned out, and my health started to regress because I was doing more than my body could handle. I maintained all my responsibilities because I felt guilty about giving them up. But I finally realized that letting go of what was physically harmful to my body was not something to feel guilty about. I realized that I was not stewarding my body well, and that being faithful with the body I had been given meant letting go of things that were good but harmful to me. It was a freeing realization and allowed me to better serve in the areas that I didn’t give up.

6.    One of your readers, Ginny asks: Did you have any hesitation in sharing the personal thoughts expressed in your book? (she adds that she can’t wait for your next book!)

Yes! My book was more personal than much of my blog. I poured out some of my deepest fears and failures. Releasing the book left me feeling so vulnerable. But hearing readers say that they could relate helped a lot. It all felt worth it in the end.

7.    Blog follower, Max asks: What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?

 For a long time, I had the basis of good material and important points that I wanted to convey, but I didn’t know how to make it interesting. Like I mentioned before, I did have hesitation about sharing personal thoughts and stories, so I left those out at first. As I read through my material and shared it with a few close friends, I could tell that the material was dry. Perhaps I was making good points, but what good was that if no one wanted to read it in the end? My greatest challenge was growing in my ability to write content that had solid ideas conveyed through interesting stories.

8.    Because I follow your blog, I know that you live with chronic pain. How has Chronic Pain influenced you or inspired you to write more often, or has it?

Before chronic pain, I would not have called myself a writer. It was chronic pain that gave me something important to write about. As I looked for answers to my own questions, I found limited resources on chronic pain from a Christian perspective. Many of the resources I did find were either lacking in depth or didn’t seem to understand the actual experience of chronic pain. As both a Christian counselor and an individual with chronic pain, I felt able to address the topic with both depth and insight. If not me, who else would do it? That is what led me to writing.

9. “Giving out of a poverty of health” was one of my favorite pieces of wisdom you shared in your book. Can you give a brief example (or explanation) of giving from a poverty of health?

 At one point my health regressed to where I could only work at my job as a counselor 2-4 hours a week. And even that felt almost impossible to maintain. I would go in every Wednesday to see as few as one or two counselees and then drag myself home. It felt ridiculous to work so little, and I seriously considered quitting my job. I am so glad I didn’t. My one or two counselees mattered. I may not have counseled a great number of individuals, but I did my best with the few I had. 

10.    Can you give us a hint of the focus of your next book?

 I am going back and forth between a few different ideas. The next book in the Chronic Pain and the Christian Life series may be about mourning and grief in the context of pain and illness. Or, it may be about communicating our pain and relationships with others. I also want to write about the shame of chronic pain at some point. Too many ideas and too little time! But, I am working towards the next one coming out this fall.

~Reader Reviews~
“This is the first book of its kind: reconciling faith with illness.”
“It’s a wonderful book, it is most encouraging and well written. It’s an excellent read for both sufferers of chronic pain and the people who care for them.”
-Nancy Belz
“I love her honesty and the reflection questions that conclude this wonderful book- I found insight- comfort- motivation, and hope in Esther Smith’s sharing. This would be a great book for a small group study in person or online!”
-Ginny Law

How to win a free signed copy or e-book?
To participate in the random book give-away drawing, in the comments section below, let us know:
1. Where you found the link to this interview
2. Tell us where on social media you are sharing this link
I will contact the winner Friday, Aug. 5th! Good luck, and thank you for reading!


But God, Wouldn’t I be More Useful to You if I Were Healthy? is Available to purchase on Amazon in paperback or ebook.

The Worst Lie in Chronic Illness

audry kawalski dishonest heart

Audri Kawalski Dishonest Heart

As chronic illness sufferers, we are so often reminded of something that I believe is of great detriment to our well being. When well people tell us that our health struggles, our personal challenges, the great storms of our lives will some day be of use. I’ve grown to loathe this idea. I realize that it is meant to be an encouragement, however, it causes myself and my brothers and sisters in pain deeper despair. “Some day?” It’s as though they are reminding us that we don’t have as much to give until we are restored to health. I completely reject anything of the sort!

I believe that you and I are worthy and valuable just as we are. Yes, right now. You were no more “special” when your nervous system was working properly, but I can attest that the memory of wellness certainly has a shining halo around it.

We feel so small and insignificant after illness devours our lives, and those we love in its wake. There is no “after the tsunami lifts” with chronic illness, as we are always seeking out cover, our safe places are constantly being destroyed, and the physical and emotional turmoil can feel endless. My only peace is in God, a relationship which has grown inside of my own tsunami.

This is a message I try to frequent on this page because I struggle so deeply with the whispers that my life isn’t enough, I should be doing more, and I would be so much more valuable as a person if only my body worked again. This is my pride speaking!

In those moments when the whispers win, I have forgotten how many opportunities I’m supplied with to have an impact, even in the very midst of my personal battles. Maybe, and probably because of my personal struggles, I’ve been allowed these chances. What seemingly small opportunities and connections might you be taking for granted in your own life?

The next time someone reminds you that all the pain you are battling will be worth something some day, please remind them that pain doesn’t have to stay hidden, and that your time traveling the path of illness isn’t a waste.

I don’t believe we must wait until we are perfect for our lives to have value. If that’s true, then we will all be waiting forever! Are we meant to see the silver lining in every storm before God can give us purpose through it? Even in the very midst of the battle, your story, your experience, your willingness to relate to and comfort others is so rare and valuable that it stands out among the noise and busy crowded world we live in.

It’s so easy to withdraw when the going gets tough. In time, however, we feel so marginalized and isolated. You do have a voice. Your story, your purpose, your personal gifts matter- and you are needed in this world.

We undervalue the quiet connections, asking others how they are and listening in return, sending a note by mail to a struggling friend, or letting someone know they have been in your prayers. Society does not measure these acts as successes, but what if you redefine success? You may have very little energy to spare, but what you have to share is precious.

I believe God’s measure of success looks much different than our own. We become so focused on perfection, staying hidden until the right moment to present ourselves shiny and clean, having overcome our difficult and uncomfortable circumstances. This is what the rest of the world applauds. But don’t we each have unique and valuable lessons to share that come with the daily perseverance of ongoing disease?


It’s one thing to be crippled by a body that relentlessly fights against you, but please don’t believe the lie that you are less-than or it will cripple your spirit.



You are Never too Messy to Matter

A Positive Message for your Lying Brain

Praying: Can you hear me now?

Emoticon Withdrawal


I got a new working phone yesterday for my birthday! Woot woot!
I’m still playing around with it, but I have to say that it’s kind of stingy on the emoticons.

You don’t realize how far down the emoticon rabbit hole you’ve gone until all of those little faces are suddenly ripped from your life like a big yellow blur. (Insert sad face here)

Goodbye winky face: you helped me keep my foot out of my mouth so, so, so many times. (insert yikes face here) Now, I’ll have to rely on the ‘LOL’ to save me from myself.

Farewell Tear face: How will anyone know I’m sad? Words just don’t do what one little tear face can.

Mr. Smiley Face, I will miss you the most. Your good old classic “I’m smiling” demeanor may be overused, may at times be the inappropriate emoticon for people to utilize and get on my nerves (rolling eyes face), but you never get old. Keep on smiling, Mr. Smiley!

(Insert 2 laughing faces, winky, and blowing kiss face)

Yep, I would have nailed those emoticons (thumbs up symbol to myself).

Project H:  “Home is where the  – wait, what?”

This might not be what you would expect of a fellow homebound individual, but I love how she describes her life.

HarsH ReaLiTy

Sorry for the shaky panorama, but my room is where I spend the most time at home.


Home. It’s kind of a loaded word for me. Of course, I have a physical home in the United States – Virginia specifically, although I’m originally from Ohio – but sometimes it doesn’t feel like home. For me, home is a place where I can be myself and I have a support system. I feel most at home either at school or when I’m reading.  I’ll start with what school means to me.

School has always been the one place where I am on a level playing field with my peers.  I’m not much for extracurricular activities because I have cerebral palsy, which basically means I can’t walk by myself.  The exceptions to this are high school marching band – I was a percussionist – and my fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega.

School has…

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Second Annual Disability Pride Parade in NYC!

Today was the second annual Disability Pride parade in NYC! 

Here in this video you’ll see disabled individuals dancing together to commence the opening of the parade. This dance speaks to the nature of disability- the diverse disabilities we can see with our eyes, and those which are invisible.

As you watch the video, and think about some of the reasons for a parade like this…

Many who have declining health feel ashamed of their bodies, and in time, may also feel ashamed of themselves. Friends stop reaching out as health issues just sound like “drama” to most people who have never faced a health crisis. So many have been forced to leave behind a career, or dreams they once held dear. Although it sounds harsh, it’s not uncommon at all for family members to tease or bully as individuals change physically and/or mentally, leaving them extremely self conscious. People can be very judgmental of body shapes, walking aids, and challenges that are unfamiliar. Others are quick to call out what they see as “inconsistencies.” Even strangers in public call those in wheel chairs “liars at times when they don’t understand that paralysis isn’t the only reason one might need the aid of wheels, or that a handicapped parking spot might be needed by someone who can walk normally.

It’s no wonder that people start to lose their self worth, and isolate themselves as a disability changes them.

You know what? FORGET EVERYONE!

So, this isn’t a news flash, but people don’t get it, and they don’t get you. You, my dear, have so much to be proud of, and SO MUCH to share with the world! 

You are an over-comer, a warrior, a never-giving-up, wheel rolling, cane sporting, walker toting, re-inventing, hope finding, doing it anyway, sometimes invisible illness (but never invisible)- always working to conquer your challenges: BRAVE fighter! Heck yes you should be proud!!!

You don’t have to prove how much pain you’re in every day, how badly cancer changed your body, you don’t have to show your prosthetic, or tell anyone what your mental illness is… unless you want to. You are living proof of pure strength. You don’t have to work to be an inspiration to anyone, but hey- you already are, kiddo. You’re pretty spectacular just the way you are, in the body you have right now.

Please don’t keep your amazing self on lock down. You’re the only you this world will ever have! Heart (((hugs))) going out

What do you think of the Disability Pride Parade? How are you #DisabilityProud in your own life? 

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