Chronic Grace

Finding the Grace in a Life With Chronic Illness

Almost a year ago today, I received my Master of Arts in Theology from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Actually, to be precise, my degree is a Master of Arts in Theology with a Concentration in Spirituality and a Certificate in Pastoral Theology. It took me six years to get that darn degree, thanks to fibromyalgia, bouts of chronic migraine, neck surgery after a car accident, and a quite nasty depression relapse.

Several things sustained me during this time: My husband’s unfailing support; the help and support of the incredible staff and faculty at St. Kate’s; and my belief that I was called, called by God, to pastoral care as a chaplain. I’d worked as a chaplain at the V.A. one summer in 1997 and for part of the previous summer in Oncology and General Medical-Surgical at a hospital in St. Paul. I loved it, loved it, even on the toughest, most exhausting days.

My fibromyalgia kept getting worse in my twenties and forced me to drop out of graduate school and give up on my dream of becoming a chaplain. But by my late thirties, new medications were  definitely easing the fibromyalgia pain and I remember telling my mom, before she died, that I was planning to go back and get my M.A., and she was so pleased!

And so I did. But in the end my pain defeats me again..not just fibromyalgia, but myofascial pain syndrome, multiple problems in my cervical spine, chronic migraines (yes, my Botox shots help, but I still get about ten a month). I can’t even volunteer, because I don’t know whether or not I’ll be well enough on any given day to appear when I say I will.

I’m angry. And frustrated. I’m not sorry I got my degree, because I love theology, and the knowledge and skills I gained, nothing–not even fibromyalgia–can take away from me. But I want so badly to use my degree to make a difference in the world, to help others to feel God’s love and mercy. It is so painful to mourn the loss of a dream…and to attempt to discern what God has in mind to take its place.

12 thoughts on “so what now? 

  1. Such a beautiful post and such a sad post in so many ways…I’m amazed at what you have been through and also by what you have accomplished. It might have taken you longer than most but you never gave up…on yourself or your dream. I think as you go forward you will find your way to sharing your knowledge and God will be the guiding force. You are such a loving and giving person…even on this small platform called social media. I have no doubt that you will continue to fight through the pain and do great things….I’ll pray for relief and strength for you…and less worry…xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara Marincel says:

      Thanks so much Cheryl dear! You have no idea how much your words mean to me 🙂


  2. Yu/stan/kema says:

    Maybe you are doing what God wants you to do-blogging and using the skills that you learned to be a chaplain. You can work around your energy ups and downs. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara Marincel says:

      Well, I can certainly blog, but I can’t work in a hospital or hospice as a chaplain as I’d hoped…unfortunately those jobs won’t let me work around my fibromyalgia.


  3. I think sometimes that the loss of a dream is almost a physical pain. Like losing a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara Marincel says:

      It is, very much like that! So I suppose it makes sense that we need to mourn before we can move on to our new life…


  4. Susan says:

    So much to endure, Barbara but it sounds like you are putting up a good fight. Maybe there are smaller ways to help people…actually I think you are already doing that by talking about this and putting yourself and your experiences out here and by sharing your beautiful photography.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara Marincel says:

      That is partly why I am writing this blog…it’s amazing how many people there are out there with chronic pain illnesses and also with depression/PTSD, and how much support I have gotten, and also how many kind people have said I have helped them…so there is that. It’s not saving the world, but if sometime I can make one person’s day a little easier, well, that’s a big deal, to me!
      And thanks for your kindness about my photography! It’s so therapeutic for me it seems like too much to ask that it makes others happy to see it, but I hope that at least sometimes it does! 🙂


  5. Sally Mapes says:

    Firstly, congratulations on getting your Masters – a marvellous achievement! You are using your degree in writing your blog and, in a way, are becoming a ‘virtual chaplain’. Good for you!

    Voluntary work is really difficult to manage but there are some things you can do from home and in your own time. I am a Distributed Proofreader for Project Gutenberg. I haven’t done anything for months because of other projects, but I can return to it anytime I like. It’s a wonderful international project converting out-of-copyright texts to create a free library of digital texts. There are lots of ways to be involved, including reading texts for audio versions. A Google search will quickly find it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara Marincel says:

      What a wonderful project!


  6. Linda Hoye says:

    It sounds like you have a lot to deal with on a daily basis, Barbara. Add to that grieving the loss of a dream and I can only imagine how hard it must be. I do think there are many ways to use the gifts God has given us. Your beautiful photography, heartfelt words, and honesty all have the potential to minister to those who come across your path. I know this because they minister to me. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara Marincel says:

      Linda, you have made me feel so much better! You are such a kind and thoughtful friend…thanks much, my dear.


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