What I hate most about Candyland is that when the cards are shuffled it is almost certain that as players approach King Kandy’s Candy Castle for the win, the Gingerbread Plum Trees card will turn up sending them back to the beginning of the trail to start over. So, I consistently and blatantly cheated by stacking the cards to make sure Will didn’t get sent back and the game would blessedly end before I went insane.
Life in 2019 felt like an endless game of Candyland. Many of you with chronic illnesses already know what this feels like, but for me it was a new experience. Dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and feeling off-balance kept turning up in my daily life. They’d go away for a while, sometimes for weeks, but just when I’d think I’d made it to the Candy Castle. Boom. Right back to the Gingerbread Plum Tree Forest.
I tried adjusting my diet, exercise routine, and medications, keeping careful records of symptoms and changes I’d made. For the first time since I was pregnant, I saw my doctor multiple times over the year, and searched the internet for possible causes. Was it just that six-week virus going around? Keto flu? Vertigo? Stress? Hormones during menopause? Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome? MS? I’d make changes, some subtle—some drastic, then cross them out because the symptoms kept coming back.
Unlike playing Candyland, I couldn’t cheat, stacking the cards in my favor. I just kept turning over cards and dealing with what came up. Instead, I cheated by learning to leave the class I was teaching, throw up, and come back to finish. I said “no” to social invitations that required long times staying upright or turning my head from side to side. I cheated by taking frequent naps and by holding on to the pews as I walked up the aisle after preaching on Sundays. I kept playing the game.
When my sense of taste for sweets disappeared last fall, it didn’t faze me too much since I’d been weaning myself off sugar for the better part of a year. Still, playing Candyland when I didn’t even like candy anymore, felt even more discouraging.
As the end of the semester, Advent, and Christmas approached, I felt blessed to have made it through the year--and hopeful to find answers in 2020. The words of 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 filled my soul as I reflected on all those who had encouraged and prayed for me during the year.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do;