Relentless Pursuer of Hope

Today we feel honored to have a guest post from one of our dear readers, Maria Aldersen.  She has struggled greatly with an illness.  But as you can see from her story, she has let her illness teach her a better way to live.  And she has become a better woman because of it.  We couldn’t be happier to share her incredibly inspiring story here…..


You know those life lessons, the ones we really should grasp because they’d free us up to experience life more fully?  Something to the effect of:  slow down, savor the small things, be kinder to yourself, be more forgiving of your flaws and less judgmental of those you love.  I can honestly say, these are all things I do on a daily basis.  And I can also honestly say- there is no way I would have learned this way of living if illness hadn’t come into my life.  Illness, that is where this story begins.  It started when I was relatively young, twenty-three, it started when I was beginning to attain some of my biggest dreams and it came when I needed it the most.

Five years ago I became mysteriously ill.  I was fatigued but not the kind that you can sleep off.  Mine was a bone-deep gnawing that would not let up no matter what.  I tried to push through and I tried to eat healthy – it only got worse.  I went to doctors and holistic practitioners & I became the most proactive patient I possibly could.  The obvious diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome- what I’ve now come to understand as adrenal burnout.  Everyone told me to slow down, rest, eat well and because I was young, I would recover rapidly.  This sounded good to me – I wanted to get on with my life and with my grand and exciting dreams!  But this did not end up being the case; rather I became the one patient who did not respond to any treatments, special diets or pills.  All I could do was wait, rest and keep searching for answers.

Initially I resisted with all I had.  I thought getting ill in my youth was a major slight, some sort of cruel joke and a betrayal of my body.  In the midst of all this, my wonderful mother sent me to a therapist, a dear man who truly believed in me and spoke truth in my darkest hours, (and there were many dark hours).  Through him I began to piece together some semblance of a life amidst the fatigue and the unanswered questions.  I vacillated between depression and small glimmers of hope, mostly depression.

Then slowly, ever so slowly, in the third year, things began to shift.  I found a practitioner who completely understood all that was going on in my body and who had an effective treatment for this condition.  The healing did not happen overnight- it was slow and steady and continues to this day. Even with these answers to my physical problems I had yet to truly feel gratitude for what this experience was giving me.  I still struggled with great regret over lost years and impatience that things were not moving as quickly as I wanted – that I was continuing to “lose” time.

In my 26th year I came across the work of Barry Neil Kaufman and Sue Monk Kidd.  Both played a part in completely changing my perspective on life.  I began to be transformed by the idea that there was something deeply holy in my waiting.  I decided I wanted this waiting, yes I actually wanted it!  I was going to stick with it for as long as need be and happily so. 

With great excitement I began to see that illness could be my opportunity- one that would work the broken pieces of my life into something beautiful and filled with hope.  I realized that I was not a victim of some unfortunate fate and that when I did live as the victim I was giving away what power I had.  I became a relentless pursuer of hope and the belief that no matter what my circumstances I had a say in how I responded.  What liberation to realize that circumstances did not have to dictate how I felt!  That my emotions were not at the mercy of any random whim that life threw my way.

So, this story begins with despair and ends in happiness.  I now know I will look back on this season and on the years to come and see that I savored the small things, began to learn self love and truly started loving others without agenda or desperation.  I think a lot of this comes, for many, later in life- lessons finally learned after lost relationships and a blur of hurried years.  In this I feel tremendously blessed – for illness has allowed me to tap into some of life’s greatest lessons at a very young age.

  And when others worry or question how I can be at peace while my conventional life is turned upside down, I simply smile.  Trust has become my ally, my key to happiness, to finding my tribe and my true home.  How can I be led wrong?  Good waits on the road ahead because good is with me here and now regardless of extenuating circumstances.

My confidence was shaken, only to find root in something deeper than tangible strength.  I don’t have to rely on me or my ability to accomplish anymore.  I am soul expressing my divinity in this one sacred life – this is the gift, this is real living.

“Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  Isa. 43:19

Isn’t her perspective amazing?  I have not yet personally had to apply this message to a long-term illness (for me, I see my infertility in a different category as it doesn’t affect my day-to-day physical abilities), but it’s inspiring for me to see Maria and others with cancer or Lou Gehrig’s/LAS do so.   

Have you had any experience with choosing happiness/peace or choosing a better perspective, even in the midst of a health crisis?  It would be wonderful to hear your thoughts.

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  1. Shiloh February 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I love this post. It goes deep to a place of understanding for me. Thanks Maria.

  2. Nora February 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    I love these thoughts and the direction they have taken you. The power of our choice to feel is so beautiful.

  3. Jane February 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Amazing post Maria. I enjoyed it all, many gems of truth! But this line "when I did live as the victim I was giving away what power I had" rings a chord within me. I've been thinking about it so much lately and it gives me strength to see how recognizing it has empowered others. Thank you.

    • mara February 18, 2012 at 4:34 am - Reply

      I agree – this was one of my favorite gems…

  4. Andrea February 16, 2012 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Trials are HARD- they are supposed to be. And while I always hate going through them, I look back once I'm on the other side and realize what I've learned and how much I've grown. I find that I am closer to God than before the trial. I have come to know Christ and his atonement more. I have been humbled and relied more upon God. I have let Him heal me and answer my prayers in His way and time. Thanks for helping me remember how important attitude and perspective is. We can't always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react. The more positive we try to be, the better. We can turn a situation of trial into hope instead of depression. If I had the choice (and I do!) I'd rather be happy and hopeful than depressed. A lesson in church a few weeks ago made me think about how much better we endure a trial if we just accept it instead of being bitter and fighting the situation until it has passed.

  5. Maria February 16, 2012 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the kind words everyone and thank you Mara and Danny for this wonderful space to share our stories of hope and encourage one another in this life!

    • mara February 18, 2012 at 4:38 am - Reply

      It was an honor to have you. It's such a beautiful thing to encourage each other – so thank you, thank you, for doing that here…you're wonderful.

  6. Kelly February 17, 2012 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Maria–loved it. Went through a similar thing, still going through it, and as much as I feel alone I feel strengthened by my own power to believe in the good in the midst of chaos. So glad you found the words to speak about your experience. Wondering if you could expand a little on your last sentence "I am soul expressing my divinity in this one sacred life – this is the gift, this is real living." I think I followed you until there…
    We are sooo blessed.

    • Maria February 17, 2012 at 2:05 am - Reply

      Thanks for the comment and question. I believe who I really am is soul- this body is a temporary vessel that houses my soul while here on earth. When I say "expressing my divinity" to me this means I believe that I was made in the image of God and I have chosen Christ as my Savior, thus he/she lives w/in my soul and guides me through life- (i.e., expressing my divinity).

      Faith is quite the mystery, hope this makes some sense:).

    • mara February 18, 2012 at 4:39 am - Reply

      Maria – I love what you said here. So beautiful.

    • Maria February 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mara:).

  7. Adrenal Burnout February 22, 2012 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing info on adrenal burnout. Stress seems to play a part in developing some symptoms related to this illness. Good read.

  8. Anne Wanjohi August 16, 2012 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you Maria for sharing! There is such a sacredness in waiting. I am learning to vicariously hold unto hope as I live through my questions. Thank you Mara for this wonderful blog.

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