Get to know Josephine Marie Siler
Josephine is quite the mouthful, so I’m a girl of many nicknames. Most people call me Josie or Jo, however I’ve been called Jos, piglet, squirt, the outlaw Josey Wales, little one, Joy, Josie cheese…I’ll answer to about anything! I’m a Wisconsin girl who loves the small town life. I’m a huge football fan, especially my Green Bay Packers. (Yes, I own a share of the Pack!) I got my motorcycle license before I got sick and still love to ride the few times a year that my body and the weather allow. I work part time at the church I grew up in, I’m a nature photographer, I’m obsessed with the color green, and I would drive a monster truck if it was street legal!
2) Can you share with us your experience with living with a chronic illness and how this has affected your life?
From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a missionary. My whole life was spent in preparation for that one goal. College, home service, seminary, consecration (female version of ordination) and numerous short-term trips overseas prepared me for my first four year term as an international worker. In January of 2008, I knew what country I would be going to and I was in the final months of preparation when everything came to a screeching halt. Joint and muscle pain attacked my body along with increasing fatigue. I was only twenty-six years old, but I felt like I was eighty. I moved back in with my mom and dad and was told I had some type of an autoimmune disease. It wasn’t until 2010 that I was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD) with symptoms of Lupus. Later in 2010, I was diagnosed with Asthma. In January, July, and August of 2012, I was diagnosed with Dermographism, Fibromyalgia, Insomnia, Chronic Migraines, and what is most likely Gastroparesis – all caused by the UCTD. To put it simply my body is attacking itself. I had to quit my full-time job, move, get a part-time job, then quit that job, go back to that job, take a couple months off, and then go back to work. It’s a never-ending process trying to get the right dosage of the right medications. I’m always making plans and then canceling them because I don’t feel well that day. If I do get to do something fun, I pay for it the next day, or two, or three… So goes the life of a chronically ill person. My experience has been good in that I have a great support system of people who love me, encourage me, and help me.
3) How has your relationship with Christ helped you in living with a chronic illness?
I can honestly say that without Christ there is a good chance that I wouldn’t be alive today. As anyone who experiences chronic pain can tell you, there are dark days. There are days when the pain is intense, and the hope of a brighter day is out of reach. When these days become a week and the weeks become a month and the months become years, you begin to wonder: “What is the point of my existence? Does it really matter if I am here?” You look at the many bottles of medications you’re taking and you think how easy it would be to take too many, go to sleep and never wake up. I didn’t understand the high suicide rate among those living with a chronic illness until I was experiencing life with a chronic illness. Now, I understand. Christ has been my Savior in more ways than one. He saved my soul when I decided to follow Him at a young age and committed my life to Him. He continues to save me every day. It is because of Him that I have hope. I know from the very depths of my soul that He is good. I know that He is using this illness for good. I am being used by Him in ways that are only possible because I am sick. He gives me the will and everything that I need in order to live each day well. With Christ, I have abundant life.
4) What have you learned about yourself and God because of your chronic illness?
My entire life I thought I was one of the lucky few. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I knew how God had gifted me, and I knew that I was born to be a missionary. When that was taken away, I didn’t know anything. For so long my identity was tied to the title “missionary.” When God allowed that to be taken away from me, I learned a very important lesson. I learned that wherever I am living, whatever I am doing, however I am feeling – my purpose is to glorify God. It’s easy to glorify God when things are going well; it’s much more difficult when your body and your life are falling apart. People ask me how I can do it. They say they could never go through what I am going through. I say to those people I go through it because I have to. I don’t have a choice. I can do it because when I am weak, I am strong because of Christ in me. I’m stronger than I ever thought possible and it’s all because of Jesus. I have learned that even though many thousands of dollars have been spent trying to fix my broken body, I am priceless. I am a daughter of the King of all creation!
5) Name something good that’s happened to you that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t gotten sick.
Many good things have happened but I’ll talk about two of them. One, I became a photographer. When a person isn’t feeling well and they have a lot of time on their hands, sometimes they discover something about themselves that they never knew. I learned that God has given me the ability to take unique, beautiful photographs! 2) I found a kindred spirit in Erin Elizabeth Austin and get to be a part of changing lives through Broken but Priceless Ministries.
6) Do you have a favorite passage of Scripture that has helped you deal with your illness?
Absolutely! Shortly after I became sick I discovered Romans 12:12. The NIV reads, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I think that verse speaks for itself.
*Starting next week, I (Erin) will move my blog to Monday and Friday, and Josie will blog on Wednesday. I hope you will join us!