I had just gotten back from church and I hopped in my bed to finish a 24-hour rental of The Fault in Our Stars on ITunes.
Then I got out of bed, and my life was never the same again.
My world began spinning. Literally. As the days progressed, my health quickly deteriorated — spiraling downward as my symptoms worsened with every passing moment. I always felt like I was moving, even when I was standing perfectly still. The pressure in my head was unbearable. The spreading neuropathy felt like insects crawling mercilessly all throughout my body. My hands weakened. Objects within them often fell to the floor. I began to lose the ability to walk. The nausea thought little of ever subsiding. Relief from any of it was nowhere in sight.
Within a few short weeks, I was bedridden.
It would be a year before I received any relief from my debilitating illness — an illness deemed a mystery to the countless doctors and specialists.
It’s almost been three years since that day. I am still not well, and I do not know if I ever will be again. I am an “Invisible Illness” fighter, and the Lord has taught and continues to teach me so much through my struggle with health. Maybe one day we can sit and chat about it over a cup of coffee.
Three years ago, I lost my health. And three years ago, I started wearing red lipstick.
I was never a very brave person. Never bold. Even during my years as an actress, my closet was filled with plain black tops. I owned two trusty pairs of flats — one black pair and one brown pair. Practical enough. My makeup was muted. I always tried to look nice, but color was never in my comfort zone. I always felt self-conscious. I rarely, if ever, felt beautiful. And I preferred not to stand out.
Then I got sick.
I had no control over my days. I was at the mercy of my symptoms. Days became labeled as “good days” and “bad days.” I laid in my bed most days — all day long — physically incapable of doing anything but.
But, every morning, no matter what, I got out of bed and took a shower. Some days I could barely stand, but I determinedly, often praying desperately, would take a shower every day. Then I would get dressed, do my hair, and put makeup on. Because that is what I had always done — every day — for most of my life. Then, if it was a “bad day,” I would crawl back into bed and stay there until I could get out again.
And one day, I bought a tube of red lipstick.
And every day I would put on red lipstick. Even if it was applied with shaking hands. And every day I would lay in bed donning bright red lipstick.
It was something I could control. It was some sort of “normal” that I could hold onto. I had lost “normal.” There were so many days I felt like a mere shell of who I once was. I had lost so much of what made me “me.” And I didn’t know if I would ever get “me” back again. I had to learn to say goodbye to that which was and take hold of that which is.
So I got out of bed every day — no matter how hard, no matter how painful. And every day I put on red lipstick.
And slowly, I began to feel beautiful. And bold. And much stronger and braver than I was.
The colors in my closet began to broaden and expand. And I had a new favorite color — yellow. I filled my room with yellow — a bright yellow bookshelf held all of my favorite books (many of which had been converted to audiobooks because my illness made reading nearly impossible), colorful photos filled my walls, and fresh sunflowers sat on my lampstand. Yellow became a source of joy and light in the midst of incredible pain and darkness.
And, of course, there was red lipstick.
Sometimes that’s all you can do — put on red lipstick. Sometimes all you can do is choose to get out of bed. And choose to keep getting up. No matter how tough that is. And choose to keep putting on that favorite outfit. And to keep putting on that perfect shade of red lipstick. Choose to keep going.
My life has not been what I dreamed it would be. The past several years have been filled with disappointment, unimaginable pain, incredible heartache, and great loss. I have not always felt like getting up. I have not always wanted to keep going. I have thought seriously many times to not keep going.
We will all go through dark seasons in this life. We will go through storms — through pain, through suffering. Believers in Christ are not immune to suffering. But God promises His sustaining presence throughout life’s brokenness. He does not promise us health, wealth, and prosperity. He does not promise to give us all of our dreams or even our deepest longings. But He does promise to give us Himself — the greatest good. The true satisfier of our souls. And He promises to work all things together for our good and for His glory. Even the unimaginable things — the things that make us cry out to Him, pleading and weeping as we ask, “How is this love?” Yet He is loving you perfectly in all things.
Author and pastor, John Piper, writes, “It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him.”
I confess I have had no strength to hold Him. But He holds tightly onto me, leading me on, guiding me forward, and whispering sweetly: “Keep going.”
Choose to keep going. Choose to keep getting up. Choose to keep choosing faith and hope and trust in the God who will never leave you or forsake you.
And never forget to choose an incredible shade of red lipstick.