A few other things I learned from my month o’ doom

January 30, 2013 | 42 comments

I’m now entering week 10, 000 of this pregnancy, with only 40, 000 more days to go until the April due date! (I don’t have a calendar handy, so that’s just a guesstimate.) Also, I just found out that I’m seriously anemic, which will help me fill out my “Blood-Related Issues that Make You Feel Like You’re Dying” punchcard.

I thought I’d take a break from my big afternoon plans of staring at a wall (and occasionally yelling utterly empty threats to the kids about what will happen if I have to get off this couch — as if that would happen) and put together a blog post. Can you stand another from the Wisdom via Pulmonary Embolism category? I hope so, because that’s all I’ve got right now.

None of these are earth-shattering enough to warrant their own posts, but here are a few little tidbits I’ve picked up as I reflect back on our Month O’ Doom:

1. Don’t let mixed motives stop you from following a call

In late 2011 I felt strongly called to make my health my number one priority. “Strongly” isn’t even the word. Short of having God hand-deliver a written message with my name printed in bold letters at the top, it could not have been more clear that I was supposed to do this and do it now, and that God was in fact telling me to do it.

I didn’t write much about it at the time, because I knew how it would sound: You want to fit into that cute pair of jeans you used to wear when you were 25, and you’re making it sound like it’s some exercise in holiness. (At least that’s what the voices in my head kept saying.) And there was certainly some truth to it: my plan to get healthy would inevitably involve losing weight and looking better, and there was no way that I could undertake an endeavor like that with perfectly pure motives. Of course vanity was going to come into play.

And so I came very, very close to giving up. This isn’t a call from God, it’s about you committing the sin of vanity, those voices said again. You’re being selfish, and you’re hardly even making any progress! A truly holy woman would give up and do something more worthwhile with her time. Ironically, it was those attacking messages that eventually convinced me to stick with it. I realized that I had almost never faced such severe spiritual attack, and decided that this endeavor must be something that would do some sort of good.

I’ll write about all the details another time, but, long story short, after months of hard, hard, HARD work, I got in the best shape of my life. I weighed less than I did when I got married, and had more energy than I did when I was 18. My improved health helped me serve my family, and the sense of accomplishment had a great ripple effect in all areas of my life. So I figured that that’s what all the spiritual attack had been about: the devil didn’t want me to feel strong and capable, and to be able to serve my family better.

But now I think there may be something more.

The day I ended up in the emergency room earlier this month, one of the doctors saw the CT scan of my lungs before he saw me. When we first began talking, he repeatedly expressed his shock that I was doing so well — he had expected to encounter a patient in far worse condition than I was in. I mentioned that I had spent the last year getting in shape, and he said that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. My strong cardiovascular health made a major difference in my body’s ability to compensate for the clots in my lungs. Things would have been much worse if I’d been as weak and out of shape as I’d been just a couple of years before.

When I think back on that time of getting fit, I don’t think it’s only in my imagination that hindsight reveals a sense of gentle urgency to it. It is as if I hear the Holy Spirit whispering the words, “Something is coming on the horizon. The time to follow this call is now.” Yes, vanity did come in to play in the process; I ended up talking to my confessor about it more than once. But I am so glad that I didn’t let stop me from listening to what God was trying to tell me.

2. Your energy level will ebb and flow, and that’s okay

Someone reminded me of that interview I did with Brandon Vogt a while back, and I could hardly believe that that was me. Who is that woman with all her energy? What is that crazy talk about getting up early to achieve your goals? What those “goal” things, anyway? Sheesh. I would chase her out of my house with a stick if she came in here today.

This sort of thing used to bum me out: I would think back on a time when I was high-energy and clicking on all cylinders, and feel like it must be due to some kind of incompetence or moral failing on my part that I was now shuffling around like a big slob. (Obviously I have a good excuse now, but I have had plenty of other low-energy phases that were due to a variety of more “normal” issues like having a newborn, having three kids in diapers, etc.)

I feel like I’ve finally been given the perspective to really get what Hallie was saying in her famous “thriving through the seasons” post. There are seasons where “thriving” might look like what you’d expect it to look like: you’re getting tons of stuff done, getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, starting the day ahead of the curve, hitting the ball out of the park with your daily work, and generally living a productive, orderly life. And then there are seasons when you find yourself in circumstances where getting the dishwasher loaded once a day is, truly, an impressive accomplishment worthy of celebration — and that can be “thriving” too.

The thing that always trips me up is that there really have been times when I was just in a rut, and the main problem was that I’d stopped trying. But I’ve come to see that if I can honestly say that I’m doing my best more often than not, that that’s really something to be proud of — even if “my best” is a lot less impressive than I’d like for it to be.

3. You’re on the roller coaster, so you might as well have fun riding it

I think that one of the hardest things to deal with in life is having your plans derailed. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the feeling of being in control. I relish it. I am rarely happier than when I feel like I have everything all planned out, when I can admire my self-made crystal ball at ease and rest in the knowledge that I basically know what my life will look like a year from now.

And so it tends to knock me off my feet for a while when I’m blindsided by unexpected turns of events, and I’m left with my shattered crystal ball as a brutal reminder that I’m not really in control of much at all.

For a long time I resisted these situations. My reaction was to scramble to get back in charge, to wrestle with God for control of the universe. It only took me a few short years to clue in to the fact that I am me and God is God — i.e. not only is it impossible for me to run the universe, but I shouldn’t even desire to do so, because God’s plans are always better than mine, even when I don’t understand them.

I’ve come to see it like I’m on a roller coaster — only this one is so long and vast that I’ve never been able to see it from afar, and I don’t know where it’s going. Heck, I don’t even know if the thing is safe. It is not always fun to be on this trip. There are times when I’m screaming, “Dude, I just puked, do NOT send me over another huge dropoff AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!” But I’m slowly learning to appreciate the fact that this ride was designed just for me, but a Creator who loves me more than I love myself. I can white-knuckle my way through it and fight against it the whole time; or I can relax in the knowledge that it will eventually take me to exactly where I need to be, and laugh at the thrill of all the twists and turns that come along the way.


  1. My mom

    Good post. My daughter had a pulmonary embolism when she was 16. well, several, but one that caused damage. By the time they caught it, her left lung was 3/4 of the way collapsed. She had started swimming about a year beforehand. I never know what to think. Part of my thinks swimming saved her (she swam until about 2 weeks before she was diagnosed) because her heart was so strong. But then I wonder if she hadn’t been swimming, would she have had the PE (she was on BCP due to her acne). I love your perspective and I chose to believe that God had her swim so that she would survive the PE.

  2. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    Be assured of our prayers,,,your sense of humor helps, but I am feeling for you! Because of your anemia- the dinner menu should be a steak, spinach and a (very small) glass of wine

  3. Considerer

    Thank you for #3. I am finding that very true at the moment, having just been dropped off the cliff edge of infertility less than 3 years into marriage. I can only hope and pray the roller coaster takes an up-turn, but it’s good to think that God’s in it with me and my husband, and is FOR us. Praying for your full recovery.

  4. Amanda

    Well, I don’t have the pulmonary embolism, but I can relate to a pregnancy that is CRAWLING by (I’m due in May). We are also home schoolers, and on days when I’m moving slow I try to remind myself that pregnancy is hard, and it doesn’t last forever. I think about you often, and am praying for your continued health.

  5. Megan

    These themes definitely resonate…I especially needed to hear it today during this week of the family stomach bug that somehow continues to relapse. So thanks for the wisdom and the friendly reminder to let go. I’ve also felt the tug at my heart to stop fighting and white-knuckling my way through it. I can only imagine how much you’ve had to embrace that over and over this past month! Glad you listened to that call and made your health a priority; this child must have an incredible purpose for Satan to be so focused derailing it all. I’ll definitely add your anemia to my list of things to offer up during puke clean-up!

  6. Amelia

    Thank you for sharing this. I totally know what you mean about number 1. I constantly worry that my drive to eat healthy and exercise is vanity driven. That was just what I needed to hear.

  7. Joy

    Hmmmm… As always, a very thought-provoking post. This whole post, but especially your words in #1 have me thinking a lot about my blogging, because there are times when I wonder if it’s not just vanity in disguise or if, since I’m not seeing huge “progress” I should just quit trying. And then I pray a whole lot about it, and the answer still seems to be no, keep trying. Though I don’t know why.

    And I love what you said about the roller coaster. So true. It reminds me of the scene in one of my favorite Steve Martin movie, Parenthood. The husband and wife are arguing, he just found out she’s pregnant *again!* and the seemingly senile granny walks in and starts talking bout how much she liked the roller coaster at the amusement park rather than the merry-go-round, how some people were happy to just go around and around, but she liked to go up and down and actually end up somewhere. Yep, so true!

  8. LuAnne

    I can completely identify with needing to be in control! I love how you compare your situation with being on a roller coaster – and isn’t that really everyone’s situation? We like (or, okay….I like!) to feel in “control” – but giving that up to the One who is really in control? There’s an issue of trust that just has to be confronted. Do I trust, or not?

    If I trust, then I can enjoy “the ride” – wherever it takes me. If not, then I am white-knuckled and living in fear and doubt.

    So I accept what He gives – this roller-coaster ride of life – and trust that He is good and He loves me with a love-never-ending, and I can relax and enjoy the ride.

    I pray for you.

    Enjoy this ride.

  9. The Boring Blogger

    Always saying exactly what needs to be heard! Thank you! I was just lamenting my lack of energy and doctor ordered rest, thinking “This house can not afford for me to not to be running on all cylinders.” I was also lamenting that 6 months ago I was in the best shape of my life and now I’m tired going up the stairs. You are so right. God wants us to be open, present, and patient. IT can be so hard sometimes! I continue to pray for your recovery! Thanks for another well-timed post!

  10. Sara

    Love the part about your personal roller coaster. Our Creator also wants us to have fun…and way more fun than we could ever have trying to do things our way. Continued prayers for you, Jen!

  11. Scott Alt

    April’s a great month–I love April babies. Jen, my energy level ebbs and flows when I’m healthy; I chalk that up to just being forty-something. I’m amazed you’ve done so well, with the additional factors of an embolism and a pregnancy. It’s definitely the fight of the divine that you have in you, so don’t lose it. Praying for you.

  12. Sarah Scherrer

    Great words of wisdom. I can definitely relate to the anemia during pregnancy (I think all 7 of my pregnancies had it to some degree, so that you are SO TIRED you want to cry, but wait, you’re too tired to cry). And I can also relate to the “Roller Coaster” adjustment. I am a reformed control freak! 🙂

  13. Anonymous

    Jen, thanks for this. I’ve been wondering if I should seek therapy for something that has been haunting me from my past, and your #1 point is really talking to me right now. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Anna

      Hi Anonymous,

      I hope this isn’t weird, but I wanted to share that I, too, have really been struggling with some things that have been haunting me from my past. I don’t know if you are Catholic, but I have started trying to say the rosary daily, and as I do, I think of the thing that’s haunting me and I ask Mary to help take it away. It really seems to be working. I will say a prayer for your thing, because I really know how it feels to be so guilt and anxiety ridden because of a past thing.


    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Thank you! And I wanted to jump in to encourage you not to hesitate to get therapy if that’s where you feel called. I was in therapy for a few months earlier this year, and it was a tremendous help to me!

    • Anna

      I thought about what I said and wanted to clarify: I went and may still in the future go to therapy, which I think is tremendously helpful. I have found that a nightly rosary helps dissipate the guilt along with the therapy. Will continue to pray for you!

  14. Elizabeth

    Seriously, Thank You for putting these words to paper (so to speak)! I SO appreciate your point of view and each of your 3 points spoke directly with something I have been working though. And not just about getting healthier. I’ve never commented on your blog but am always able to take aay so much from your honesty and perspective!

  15. Kelly M.

    Jen, these are some great observations. I’m just wondering if you could start offering them up a la “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy” style.

  16. Laura M

    The roller coaster is definetly not always fun but what are you gonna do, right?

  17. Sarah

    You know, I really needed this. Both your post and Hollie’s (thanks for the link). I have a baby due in April, too, and feel so overwhelmed…thank you for the reminder to stop white-knuckling the roller coaster, and just lean into the ride and enjoy. I realize more and more what a control-freak I am, and how little room in my life I leave for Christ to work. Thank you so, so much for the insight and wisdom!
    I’ll be keeping your health in my prayers!!

  18. Gina

    Have you got “Blood-Related Issues that Make You Feel Like You’re Dying” bingo yet? You must be getting close by now. 🙂 God bless and keep you!

  19. Jenna@CaIllHerHappy

    Ups and Downs. That *is* really what life is about. My dad always told me that you don’t want to ride the highs too long or the lows too long. Just float in the middle, and you’ll find happiness. Basically, he was telling me that there will be moments of great joy and triumph and moments of deep sorrow, but if most of your days are average and you’re trying, then that is something to be thankful for 🙂

  20. Kristen @ St Monica's Bridge

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. My recent call was not a physical one but a spiritual one I was initially loathe to answer til God smacked me upside the head and said, “Girl, I’m only asking you to show up!” And I did. And it has been so incredibly worth it. And the energy ebb and flow works here too!

  21. Connie Rossini

    I’m so glad you’re keeping your sense of humor through all this. Being out of control of your life is always frustrating, but it’s reality. When we think we’re in control, we’re under an illusion. Thanks for the reminder to let go and have fun!

  22. Stephanie Sullivan

    Hi, Jennifer! You speak so much truth in this passage. I struggle with many of the same things. The concept of letting go–Jesus take the wheel to borrow from Carrie Underwood–is not natural for me. But I really your roller coaster analogy. That is easy to embrace & remind myself of when those sharp curves & unexpected drops come. God bless you! Hope you are feeling better!

  23. Abigail Benjamin

    Great job! Keep going! Not long now.

  24. James

    I’m not quite sure what to make of this.

    My struggles are the largely opposite of yours, which is why I have sometimes struggled to understand your blog.

    My favorite deadly sin, by far, is sloth. Instead of feeling like I have to be constantly busy, I have to fight to overcome inertia. For me, letting go doesn’t mean “enjoying the roller coaster”, but being dead in the water or going off the cliff.

    Any advice for those struggling with inertia?

  25. Anne

    I loved this, Jennifer! Thank you! 🙂

  26. Barbara

    Wonderful lessons from a terrible circumstance. Isn’t nice to see God at work in the minutia of your life (like as your personal trainer)?

  27. Do Not Be Anxious

    You had me nodding right with you until you got to the “laughing at the twists and turn.” Accepting, yes. Laughing? I dunno. I guess I’m not quite there yet. Now if you had reverted back to the part about throwing up …

  28. Patty

    Jennifer, I totally agree with your #3…I struggle with letting go of control sometimes. Great job for you taking the time to get healthy for you!

  29. richard

    Be assured of my daily prayers for you and your family.

  30. jj

    I see somebody’s picked up the pioneer lady’s habit of number exaggeration;
    it’s amusing the first 482 times she blogged ,but the 7356th time-not so much. Anyway prayers ascending for your continued recovery!

  31. jj

    Forgot to mention a good iron supplement I found after anemic diagnosis also.
    It doesn’t cause the usual side effect and is easy on the stomach. It’s
    iron plus by procaps labs(A.Lessman)-also sold on hsn and has lots of good reviews. Not associated in any way with it, just a personal opinion from
    my own experience. Godspeed

  32. Robert H

    Wonderful example of divine providence. Alas, is only clearly visible with the eyes of Faith.

  33. Jamie Bezdek

    I always appreciate your insights and thoughts. I am currently on my own roller coaster pregnancy (which looks to be my fourth loss, but I am begging for a miracle). I know you were looking for reading. You may be quite content now with what you have, but I def have your one factor that’s key-authenticity. I’d love to have you hop on the roller coaster with me-it’s less scary when we are all on it together! 😉

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Count me in! And I will be praying for you and your baby!

  34. doubleplusgoodful

    Hi Jen.
    I just wanted to thank you, again, for all you write. Especially at the stuff on motherhood. It’s probably odd to you and to anyone else who’s reading this, but those (these) posts have been really helpful in the past few months in helping me cope with my dad’s suicide.
    Since the CommentLuv thing pics my last blogpost as it’s link, you can follow it and read a little more about how you’ve helped if you want.
    Please know that you and your family remain in my prayers. If you can, please offer one for me too!
    God bless! And thank you, again.

  35. Victoria

    When I saw all you have to say I think OMG how this woman can handle 5 kids, a pregnancy, a house, a blog etc. I have two children only and I can barely manage all my duties, maybe I have to go to confession and say I envy you and also I don’t want the same life as you and start to consider again contraceptives?
    The fact is that I can go to the old path I really feel that it’s not correct but NFP didn’t work for us either.
    I will be follow your steps and be at home all my life with my growing family?, I know God give us everything we need still worry for financial situation, my body out of shape, my career that seems to be ended…. anyway… lack of faith I guess.
    Still I can not stop thinking about how brave you are and how deeply I want you to be in a good health and have an amazing delivery of your baby.
    I guess I only want to write about this issue and tell somebody that I feel desperate but with faith that my situation will be different if I trust in God and do something about it, not only think about it haha

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Thank you for your honesty, Victoria! I’ll say a prayer for you. 🙂

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