My Story

On a sunny October morning in 2007, my whole world changed. I had completed a 5k charity run for breast cancer awareness the day before, and at 31 years old, I had never felt better, fitter, or more in control. I woke up, got out of bed, and was shocked when I almost fell to the ground because my legs were so weak. As the day progressed, I felt worse, and within a few more days, I was barely able to walk unaided.

A cascade of symptoms and physical breakdowns followed, peaking with the sudden onset of dozens of terrifying allergic reactions for which I had no explanation. After my third ambulance ride in a week and my first ICU admission, my family and I began to realize that whatever was wrong might take much more than my mobility.

The following year was the most difficult and painful of my life. The best we could determine was that an auto-immune disease process was wreaking havoc with everything from vitamin B12 levels to kidney function to allergic responses. I was almost completely home-bound except for emergency visits to the hospital, and for months I required around-the-clock care. Long-term steroids calmed some symptoms but brought on others, including diabetes, osteoporosis, infection, and the creation of 30-40 kidney stones a week for eight months.

In time, I slowly learned to deal with a schedule and diet dictated by medical need, but by the winter of 2008, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I had multiple, permanent spinal fractures, my muscles were atrophied and weak, and steroids had left me with what the medical profession charmingly calls “moon face.” (Picture a long-lost sibling of the Campbell’s Soup kids…) The toll one short year had taken on my health was devastating, but the toll it took on my husband and two children was even more heart-breaking. I was 32 years old and had never before felt so broken or helpless.

My Hope

I am so thankful that my story does not end there. While that October 2007 morning brought the beginning of hardship I could never imagine, it also brought the start of love I had never dreamed. My cherished friends became a second family, and my husband became my best friend. My children grew stronger and more compassionate. Most importantly, I came to know God intimately, and I learned to believe in unconditional love for the first time in my life. There were days full of more pain than I thought possible for a human being to endure; indeed they would have been unbearable if I was ever alone, without God’s grace and tender mercy.

One by one, the labels I used to define myself fell away: Active? It took all my strength to walk up and down the stairs. Independent? I couldn’t even do my own grocery shopping. Giving? What could I possibly have to give? But the more of me that disappeared — the me that will ever run or jump again; the me that can eat at a restaurant; the me that can take a spontaneous road trip, or dress without wearing a medical ID  — as those pieces were taken, I came to realize that what mattered was what remained: my sense of humor, my desire to persevere, my ability to look on the bright side.

There were times when my hands shook so that I could not hold a paintbrush, but I will always be an artist. Although I cannot take my children on a hike in the woods, I can surely guide their steps and love them wholly and joyfully every moment I have on earth. I am not a low-maintenance, trouble-free wife, but I have so much love and laughter to share. I am the one who calls at 2 AM from the emergency room, but I am also the one who will be awake at 2 AM praying for you — because I get it, I know what it’s like to feel such hurt and isolation, and I believe in a God who works unerringly for good.

I also found that being profoundly broken lets in room for new light. I do not grieve some of the pieces of me that I lost along the way. Perfectionist? There is such freedom in knowing I can never even come close to perfect. Self-possessed? I realize now to Whom I belong. Control-freak? Turns out I can let go and the world goes on turning! In fact, it turns out that all those people I was so determined to help and serve are strong enough to help and serve me, if I am wise enough to receive it.

My Purpose

So now, exactly four years after that October day in 2007, I’m starting a blog called created for joy. I am still learning every day what that means. This summer was a difficult one; an egregious medical error during treatment for an allergic reaction caused me to have a heart attack and almost took my life. Complications saw me in and out of the ICU for two months, and I spent indescribable weeks counting the seconds on the clock, just trying to get through.

God has already graciously taught me so much in the past four years, but this summer He granted me a new recognition of how precious this life is. Even after all the difficulty of the past few years, I was still stuck in the mindset that I would start the good stuff as soon as I got everything else out of the way: time for art when the chores are done; time for vacation once I get a little healthier; time to write when the kids graduate from high school… How wrong I was! All those “in between” times — those are the victories because they mean I am breathing, I am standing, my heart is beating.

I believe we are all created for joy, created with the potential to learn and know joy every moment of every day. I also believe we can create joy in our lives by choice. I choose to cook and paint and craft and teach, and I choose to share those things because they bring me joy in spite of pain. Make no mistake, I am not suggesting that being created for joy means being created for ease and simplicity. I pray for healing, and I have already received it emotionally, mentally, and relationally far beyond my expectations. I have seen the restoration of some physical faculties that easily could have been permanently destroyed by disease, and for that I am also immensely thankful. But my back is still broken, my kidneys are cranky, anaphylaxis looms daily, and if I printed out my medical chart, I’m pretty sure it would be heavier than my recommended lifting limit…

Even if you never make a single recipe or try any of the art projects I might write about, I hope that you will share in the laughter, determination, and fulfillment they represent. Don’t wait until tomorrow, don’t give up, and never doubt that you were created for joy.

Spring B.
October 2011

29 thoughts on “My Story”

  1. Spring, this is so gloriously, victoriously you. Thanks for articulating in words the spirit of the amazing woman so many of us know and love and for commemorating with such grace the journey we’ve watched you navigate. You’ve set the bar high on responding to life’s challenges with the joy we were created for, and I’m grateful for that example.
    Nancy

  2. this.is.beautiful.

    • Deanna Love Hudson said:

      Spring,
      Wow you look great! It has been over twenty years since I had seen you but I couldn’t miss your smile it definetly hasn’t changed. I am so glad you are well. It sure sounds like you went through alot. I always thought you had a strong spirit and nothing ever held you back. Love in Christ, Deanna

      • What a wonderful surprise! So glad you found my blog, hope you are doing well. I bet you still have the same infectious laugh too. Thanks for the sweet comment. :)

  3. Omgosh! I just wanted to leave you a messg that I liked your blog and here I see all the trials you have gone through and overcome. Believe me you have overcome quite a bit even if you don’t think so. I help take care of a disabled parent and two years ago caught a bad virus which left me with chronic fatigue and fybromyalgia. I also battle depression, which left me with my own new view of things. Redefining my purpose. Life sure isn’t easy, it’s definitely not fair to some of us. Knowing people like you can overcome give hope and joy to others.

    • :) Thank you so much for the kind words about the blog — it means a lot, and I’m glad you found it. I’m really sorry to hear about everything you’ve gone through in the last couple of years, and I sure sympathize with the pain and fatigue you must be dealing with. It is especially hard to be a caregiver while you are carrying the weight of your own emotional and physical challenges… I visited your blog too, and you are such a talented artist! I will be thinking of you the next time I work in my studio. Praying you have a peaceful, joyful day. — Spring

  4. You have an incredible story of trusting God through the trials. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2008 and have been in treatment since 2010. Like you, I choose joy. It’s not always easy but I believe it is a choice. God bless you!

    • One of my dearest friends has dealt with Lyme disease for years, and I sympathize a great deal with what that means for you. Thank you for blessing me with your inspiring jewelry and your kind words. Prayers for complete healing from the Lyme according to God’s perfect plan and for the grace and strength to keep choosing joy every day. Take care! :)

  5. Doris Allen said:

    I love you Spring!!!! You are a very special lady and I am so glad that you are a part of my life
    But more than that , a part of Alicia and Scotts life!!!
    So glad you have started this blog!!!

    Love to all the family!!!

  6. You are inspiring! I’m so glad I found your blog. I have severe allergies to preservatives in foods, shampoos, drugs, toothpaste, the list goes on. I can’t wait to try some of your recipes. . But, I’m a chicken so my Epi Pen friend will be right by my side. LOL

    • I’m so glad you found it too, Laurie! Please let me know if you have any questions about ingredients in a recipe before you try it. You’ll find when I give options, I am listing the sulfite-free ingredient first, then the traditional second. For instance, I might say “1/2 c. demerara or light brown sugar” — I only use demerara because brown sugar has sulfites. Same for vinegar — I only use rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar, but I will sometimes offer measurements for balsamic, even though I can’t eat it myself.

      It took me a long time to find sulfite-, preservative-free versions of everything. Medication and food were more obvious, but things like toothpaste, mouthwash, and make-up tripped me up for a long time. If you ever need any suggestions, please ask. Praying your Epi-pen gets to stay unused! (And keeping it by your side isn’t chicken, it’s smart. ;)

      Take care,
      Spring

  7. I found you through Kickstarter. I am working on one for my daughter. She sings and plays the ukulele. We are Christians and I knew you were a Christian when I saw the word “Created” in your title. I just had to find out more. Reading your story has inspired me. I know God has called me to lead my little girls in their ministry and I was just thinking about how much work it takes. God used your blog to encourage me.

    It looks like you have your work cutout for you fulfilling those rewards. Wow!

    Thanks.

    If you need a smile, maybe you can check them out at ukulelemandi on youtube.

    Randi Sue

    • Hi, Randi Sue ~

      Thank you very much for the kind words! It blesses me a great deal to know that my blog was an encouragement. And how did you know I am an absolute ukelele fanatic? I have playlist after playlist on my iPod of songs that feature the ukelele. :) Mandi is adorable and very talented, and she made me smile. I’d love to know when you launch her Kickstarter, so stop back by and let me know! Praying for wisdom, strength, and joy for you as you help both your girls make the most of their gifts.

      Take care and God bless,
      Spring

  8. Randi Sue Huchingson said:

    I hope to submit it this week. I will let you know when it is up.

    How did I know? It must be a God thing. I felt compelled to share them with you.

    God bless you with lots of help fulfilling those rewards!

  9. Spring, you’ve really been a great late Summer/early Autumn find! :-) I would LOVE to back your Kerfluffles Marshmallows as an International Client – living in the UK. I would like to see us International Compadres being given more ‘Backing’ options, but I understand the reason for market testing first – in terms of how they arrive at destination, etc.

    You sound inspiring, and I love inspiring and dedicated people. Looking forward to ‘Following’ you from here on in.

    • David ~

      Thanks so much for the kind words. :) I would love to accept more international backers, but it bothers me that I can’t guarantee the quality of the product because I haven’t shipped worldwide yet. However, I appreciate your enthusiasm and support, and I am working on a solution. I am test-shipping Kerfluffles to nine other countries this week, including the UK. I am hopeful that I will find out how the marshmallows made the trip before the Kickstarter is over. At that point, I will be posting an update to let everyone know whether international shipping can be expanded.

      If the answer is yes, I will add a new Reward level specifically for international backers without limiting the numbers. Watch the site for updates — I really appreciate your interest! The time I spent living in England growing up was one of the most enjoyable of my life, and I will do everything I can not to leave you Kerfluffle-less. :)

      Spring Barnickle
      Mallower-In-Chief, Kerfluffles Marshmallows

  10. Spring…just found you! After watching your journey it is an absolute blessing to see you create and celebrate your life here. So happy for all you are accomplishing, experiencing and relishing. Love you and miss you!

    • Thank you so much for the kindness and encouragement. Give me a call or email so we can get together soon — miss you too! We need to catch up (and eat marshmallows, of course!)

      Love you,
      Spring

  11. Spring,

    I’m being serious when I ask this, but have you ever looked into GAPS/SCD?

  12. Alexandra Yorston said:

    Oh, I am so sorry! I never imagined that your life was so hard! I am the girl from England whom you sent marshmallows too via Kickstarter.

    • Alexandra ~ You are so sweet! It’s been very hard, but it’s also been so rewarding and joyful and full of love. And as an added plus, things like getting over 2,000 marshmallow orders in four weeks don’t stress me out at all! :) Thanks for taking the time to read my story.

      Spring

  13. Spring…

    I discovered you on Kickstarter and just backed your project. My husband absolutely LOVES marshmallows! James is from New Zealand and their marshmallows are vastly different (and much better-tasting) than the ones we have here in the U.S. I’m excited for him (and me!) to experience your sugary creations. I’m also excited to see your dream coming true. Your story is an inspiring one and I wanted to say thank you for bringing your art to the world.

    Cheers!
    Lisa

    • Thank you so much for the kind words and the pledge! I am delighted to send you and James marshmallows, and I hope they remind him of the ones from home. I also really appreciate you taking the time to visit the blog. :)

      Spring

  14. Wow, how incredibly inspiring! As opposed to one who has been on the journey with you, I found this via your Kickstarter campaign. Your exciting business venture comes with an unexpected back story I feel privileged to learn. It makes me even more excited for your successful campaign and future business success! And it is a sobering reminder to appreciate every minute, every experience, every challenge, every everything! Thank you for sharing, Spring!

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to look at my blog and ready my story. It’s been a difficult, painful road, but also one more full of joy and love than I ever could have imagined. And the perspective certainly helps keep business fun instead of stressful. I appreciate your kind words very much. :)

      Spring

  15. Danny Hansen said:

    I am amazed at your strength of will. I feel I could not have lasted through even a tiny amount of the troubles you have had. You are an impressive person.

  16. Richard Griffith said:

    Spring, I happened across your site while spending too much time on the internet on a Sunday afternoon. It’s been a few years since Lakenheath :-) We’ve had our own rare and difficult to explain health challenges, which my wife has been blogging about here: http://carryingellie.blogspot.com/

    I would love to catch up by email and hear about your family.

    Richard

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