I guess it's the kid in me, but I love planning trips, buying gifts, and making others feel loved. This year, however, something's different. I don't think it's the holiday season that has changed. I think it's me.
I don't want to shop, spend money I don't have or take trips that may or may not live up to my expectations. I want to be present, and enjoy what's right in front of me, and be a BIG HUG to those around me.
I know I want my children, this year, especially, to not forget we already have so much to be thankful for.
This picture was taken of me and my children in December 2011. I had just signed divorce papers the month before, but I was healthy and happy, and looking forward to the next chapter of our lives. God had seen us through many difficult times, and I had no doubt He'd continue to do the same in the future.
This picture is the last time I can remember truly feeling physically good. When I woke up that Christmas morning feeling like I'd been hit by a truck. I couldn' thave anticipated just how bad things would get in the years to come.
Over the course of 2012 - 2014 I was in for the fight of my life as my immune system was unable to overcome a mystery illness that almost took me out. The doctor's best guess is that I was suffering from Lyme disease, but results were inconclusive. I can't tell you how many times I almost gave up, but I had two beautiful kids to fight for, and I knew I had to keep going. I didn't tell many people just how sick I really was, but I lost my will to live because of the severe pain I was in each day, and I could no longer construct a future in my mind. I felt very hopeless and depressed. All I could see was that I wasn't able to work, be the mom I wanted to be, or have any quality of life. I had lost my job, the life I was used to living, and just breathing was hard some days.
Sometimes it's good we have people in our lives who can see our future for us when we can't see one for ourselves.
My mom came into my kitchen around Christmas 2015 when I was in a lot of pain. The FIFTH Christmas in a row of dibilitating pain. I was trying to unload the dishwasher. Just grabbing a dish hurt my hand, and just bending over send pain up and down my spine and legs. There wasn't a spot on my body you could touch that didn't hurt!
When my mom entered I burst into tears. Instead of hugging me, feeling sorry for me, or unloading the dishwasher for me, she said, "Casey, you can let this thing beat you, or you can suck it up and make up your mind to overcome it. Who do you want to be? The person who feels sorry for herself and gives up, or the person who takes her life back? Now, I'm sorry you're hurting, but life doesn't afford us the time or the energy to feel sorry for ourselves. You have two kids to raise. You have to get it together and FIGHT! Be like Rocky Balboa and FIGHT"
Some days later, after I stopped being angry at my mom, I realized my mom ... well, both my parents ... were maybe the greatest gifts God ever gave me. I had watched them overcome many adverse circumstances ... some that would've taken most people out ... and they overcame them with grace and dignity. If I can say anything about those two people ... they never, ever quit. They didn't let what life threw at them take away their love for their life, their family, their work or their goals. They hit rock bottom, and they got back up and rebuilt their lives. I watched them do it.
They also didn't let their compassion for me turn into pity. They didn't let me become a victim. They taught me by example to go to God for the strength and joy I'd need to pick myself back up again.
I slowly but surely put self-pity under my feet and dared to believe God could help me rebuilt something of a life. I didn't understand why God wasn't taking the pain away. I didn't understand why I had to go through what I was going through. I just knew He loved me enough to die on the cross for me, and I knew He wanted me to have an "abundant life" promised to us in His Word.
So, I said a Christmas prayer. "Jesus, the last few years have taken everything from me, yet You have sustained me and my children and I am so grateful for that. I can't feel You right now, but I know You love me and want us to have a good life. I feel like an atomic bomb has been dropped on all of the hopes and dreams I had for our future. I don't even want to live on this planet anymore. I can't see a happy ending for us. But, I want-to-want-to live. So, I guess if You can help me want to live again, that's a good place to start. And, if you can make me want to live again, then I'm sure you can give me a new dream, too."
That year I found a doctor in Atlanta who was able to help me get my strength back, and in November of 2016 I got my job at The Mercy Ministries where I have the honor and priviledge of helping people who are sick and hopeless regain their own will to live.
Yes, this year I have seen God's restorative power. I still don't understand why God hasn't been able to miraculously heal me. I wish He'd just reach down and make everything easier. But, if there's one thing I've learned about God, it's that sometimes giving us the opportunity to persevere ... and opportunity to lay aside our right to feel sorry for ourselves ... is more of a beautiful testimony than stepping in and saving us from our pain.
The second thing I've learned about God is that He doesn't cause pain or difficult circumstances.
However, He uses them to make us more PRESENT, more LOVING, more GIVING, more COMPASSIONATE, and more THANKFUL for this gorgeous thing called LIFE.
I hope you all have a very merry Christmas. I hope if life has stolen your dreams or your health you will remember your God who is Mighty To Save. And, I hope you'll be the persevering example, the hug ... and maybe even the hard push ... someone else needs to get back up on their feet again.
Director of Development, TMM
P.S. Today I am full of hope, living a life I love, filled with BRAND NEW dreams for tomorrow. And, I and I want to share that with the women in South Georgia. So, I'm hosting the "DREAM A NEW DREAM 2018" CHRISTIAN WOMEN'S CONFERENCE at STC in Vidalia January 19-20th.
Please, share this blog and visit CaseyHutcheson.com to learn more about the conference. If you know of any women in your life who need a hand up so they can get back to life ... get them to this conference! It'll be a great place to start!