Choose Joy!

Choose Joy!

For those of you who know Courtney, you also know what she has been through for the past two years. In April 2009, this vibrant, normal healthy teenager doubled over in pain. A pain radiating from her stomach that she would describe as swallowing nails or someone cutting her open. We could only control it with IV pain medication in the hospital for a week.  So the mystery began and continues today. Courtney lives in pain every day; it surrounds her and has become her. Our battle is not to let it define her. Three hospital stays, multiple trips to the ER and every test to poke, prod, scan, scope, inject , swallow, radiate; she’s been there and still no answer. She has become a child who never could swallow pills to young woman who manages multiple medications to help control her chronic pain (and ones control the side effects of the meds that control the pain).  Our new family motto? “Redefining Normal” Because normal is not what it was two years ago, nor is it for a teenager.

Here comes the flower show.

Before she became sick, we had talked about the show. It was in her head to do it as her senior project and it caught hold of her and simply would not let go. We spent long hours of serious contemplation about whether she should. The pain can be debilitating and exhausting and when it is out of control it means the hospital, it is unpredictable at best. Knowing this, one thing always comes into focus, when she works on the show and gets in the pure creativity of it; the pain becomes a background to her. I have marched her though rows of greenhouses of plants wondering if she will get too exhausted, but somehow she finds joy instead.  Her eyes light up over the possibilities we find at our favorite re-purposing store Earthwise in Seattle. She is transformed and the pain does not define her in these moments. There are a few who have disagreed with her decision to continue with the project, but by far almost everyone has supported her.  Her sisters and I have her back,  in case a pain episode slows her down. This is a glimpse of her life story and she hates that I tell it, but for those who know what she is going through, the support of prayers, love and encouragement are all her to ways to find joy. I like to call it “choosing joy”.

One of the challenges of designing a garden in February is finding plants that have maturity.  The goal is to have plants showing what they look like in a full, lush garden. There are the tricks of the trade we have to do to make the garden look mature, but it starts with getting plants up to size and in “show worthy” condition. 

As we were searching for plants last fall, I told Courtney that I found some Grevilleas at the NHS plant sale and I think she should look at them. We drove to a greenhouse to check them out. They were over-flowing 5-gallon pots and loaded with buds.  She closely inspected the plants. When her pain is acting up, she typically is lack-luster in response, so I wondered if she was tired and in pain or simply did not think they’d work out for the garden. Know how I figured out she was happy with the plants?

Did you see the size of those Grevilleas?

She was puttering around the greenhouse further and she came across a plug tray of teeny, tiny “hens and chicks” sempervirens. She carefully plucked two of them out of the tray, turned to me holding them up to her eyes exclaiming, “Did you see the size of those Grevilleas?” Between giggles, I managed to get out my cell phone and take a picture. So glad her illness has not stolen her humor…

choose joy!


3 responses to “Choose Joy!

  • Debra Lee Baldwin

    Choose joy: I can’t think of a better two-word motto to live one’s life by. Thank you for sharing this. I wish I were going to be at the show, so I could see Courtney’s exhibit. Please take loads of photos!

  • Sue Goetz

    Thank you for your kind words about Courtney. I am thinking she had you at those lovely succulent eyes!

  • Corrine

    I also find myself drawn to the garden & energized despite the chronic pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Something about combining plants, nurturing them, and observing them change through the seasons gives me joy for today and hope for tomorrow. I love making new gardens, but that means more work, so I need to just rearrange them instead.

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