Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold. ~ Maurice Setter
Y’all may know by now how much I love faith stories – stories of God’s faithfulness in big things and in the everyday. I love hearing these stories. I love reading biographies that chronicle these stories. I used to love Sunday nights as a young girl when my pastor would set aside preaching and instead captivate us with one of his stories from the mission field.
These stories are nutrients to my soul and show me all over again how trustworthy and good God is. They are ties that bind me to others in the body as I marvel along with them at God’s goodness and his good lessons.
That’s the kind of story I want to share today – the faith story of Sara Frankl. Sara blogged for years as Gitzen Girl and her story has now been beautifully compiled and published by Mary Carver.
Sara suffered from ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a degenerative, autoimmune disease that attacks the spine and joints, causing intense chronic pain and inflammation. The disease, though genetic, was triggered after Sara was in a car accident in college. For years, Sara battled the pain to continue her active, outgoing life – singing in church, waterskiing, scrapbooking, working, enjoying friends, family and, most especially, her nieces and nephews she loved like her own.
But as the disease progressed, and Sara developed other complications, Sara’s world slowly became more limited. She had to stop working. She had to stop physical therapy. She couldn’t walk without a cane, and later a walker, and when her allergies and fragile immune system worsened still, she became confined to her condominium. Even an open window or walk on her patio caused too much reaction.
What do you do when the life you planned is not the life you have?
Sara chose joy right in the hard. She didn’t gloss over the difficulty. She couldn’t ignore the pain. But in a life without a husband or kids or career or the ability to walk her puppy outside, Sara chose to focus on “the blessings that pain can’t touch.”
“…it’s hard for me not to feel cheated. It’s hard for me to be thankful on a holiday weekend when I have to be alone in this condo. When there is no bustle of family or friends, when I can’t enjoy a turkey dinner, when I have no one to talk with and laugh with and reminisce with and grieve with. It’s hard when I compare my isolated existence with what I know is happening everywhere else.
But that’s not the deal I made with God. I promised Him my whole life, and He promised He would love me, never leave me, and take me home to have eternal life in Heaven someday. It was the wage He promised me, the wage I accepted – and it’s only when I take my eyes off that promise that I feel cheated. God is honoring His deal. It’s me who looks at life and says, “I’ll have what she’s having please.
Bottom line, people: I am filled with joy. I’m exhausted, I’m in pain, I’m just getting by. But I am so incredibly blessed. I have a lovely home, an adorable pup, family and friends who care and people who love me, not despite my disease but because of who I am. I am blessed because I take nothing for granted. I love what I have instead of yearning for what I lack. I choose to be happy, and I am. It really is that simple.”
Sara passed away in 2011, but yesterday, the best of Sara’s writing was published. Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, by Mary Carver and Sara Frankl, will fill you to the brim with encouragement. You will find yourself nodding in agreement as Sara’s words find a place in your own hard.
We cannot always choose our circumstances, but every day we get to choose our life IN those circumstances.
I cannot recommend this book more highly. Especially if you’re in a hard place, a place you never thought you’d be, you will find inspiration in this book. I usually give away books that I’ve read, but I can’t do that with this one just yet. I plan on re-reading it and mining all I can out of Sara’s authentic words and then it will find another good home.
*I was given a pre-release copy of Choose Joy as part of the launch team. This post contains affiliate links.