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  • Writer's pictureKaterina

Creativity In Seasons Of Pain - Kenna's Story

Hi friends, I'm excited to continue this blog series. I would like to introduce you to my friend Kenna. We met through the Diamonds Conference as both of us are staff. Kenna has such a heart for the Lord and serving others through prayer and writing.

Thank you Kenna for sharing your journey and how prayer and journaling has helped you.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! My name is Kenna, and I live in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. My personal journey with chronic illness began in early childhood when I developed gastrointestinal issues, nonspecific rashes, and gallstones at age 8. While these issues were initially difficult to identify, we eventually discovered a number of diagnoses over the years, some of which include: hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), dysautonomia, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), and a muscle disorder that has not been formally diagnosed.

These diagnoses brought varying levels of relief and frustration to light as I explored the blessing that having answers entailed along with the realization that some of these genetically-based conditions would be something I might struggle with for the rest of my life. There is no cure for many of the diagnoses I have, only treatments and lifestyle modifications to manage the symptoms.

Hearing the words “no cure” from doctors brought a solemn mix of despair and heartache that could not be quelled by anyone other than the Lord. I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through this life experience without knowing the goodness of God and sensing His ever-lasting presence through it.

Accepting Limitations and Adapting Personal Passions

As I began to build a new identity and accept life within the limitations that I had, I realized that many of the hobbies I had in the past would need to change… drastically. From age 8 to 14, I was a competitive year-round swimmer and coming to terms with the fact that it was not wise (or practical) for me to continue putting my body under that amount of physical stress on a daily basis is something that I was not able to process overnight. I remember silently resenting the fact that my teammates were able to continue competing and conceivably “living their best lives” while I was in physical therapy trying to rehabilitate the level of stamina required to walk from the lobby of a small Christian school to the back of a classroom without needing the assistance of a wheelchair. These are challenges that my peers did not have to face, and it was difficult to find peace in Christ and trust His sovereign plan through this intense season of life and suffering.

I quickly learned that life is not always fair, and it can feel quite hopeless when we do not keep our eyes fixed on the Creator. Surrendering became a new part of my vocabulary, and it was not a process that I found easy to welcome in. Through the dark and desolate seasons of life with chronic illness, however, God taught me how to seek Him and run after His will for my life, rather than keeping my gaze fixed on comparing my path to others. This experience allowed me to begin to see my passions, hobbies, and interests in a new light.

Finding Purpose in the Pain

While living with chronic illness can threaten to rob us of joy, hope, and peace during the trials of life, that does not have to be the end of our story! It might take considerable time and effort, but keeping our eyes focused on the little ways God shows up can go a long way, especially in the mundane seasons of life marked by physical pain and chronic illness. A small perspective shift can make all the difference.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure. Psalm 16:9

What is one of your creative passions?

One of my creative passions is finding beauty, joy, and enjoyment through journaling. I believe journaling can be adapted in many unique ways and used as an outlet for strong emotions, connecting with the Lord, and even coping through seasons of profound physical pain and suffering. As I surrendered my dream of being a swimmer in college, God slowly but surely created a new path forward by teaching me that there are other ways I could connect with Him and use the talents He had given me.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:2

Do you find creativity as a way to cope with your physical pain?

Yes. Using journaling as a creative outlet has been a helpful and healing strategy for me throughout my journey with chronic illness. I find one of the most beautiful aspects of journaling is the ability to get closer to God by diving deeper into the heart of the matter and pouring out everything that is on my heart and mind at a soul level.

Journaling has afforded me an opportunity to identify contributing factors that go further than what is merely on the surface. Furthermore, it allows me to connect with creativity during the dark and desolate seasons of life with chronic illness and provides an outlet for getting thoughts, feelings, and emotions down on paper.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16

Are there challenges you have encountered? How did you get through them?

One of the most notable challenges I’ve encountered along the way is needing to approach and restructure my creative passions based on my personal limitations in that season. Although I once dreamt of being a traveling missionary, becoming a speech therapist, swimming in college, and encouraging others by starting a non-profit organization for children with special needs, I have learned how to hold these passions in a new light–one that honors my personal limitations while still respecting the calling God has placed on my heart. There are many ways to adjust the way we serve others and engage in our creative passions: it just takes a little extra intentionality!

Adapting Journaling Techniques

One important part about using journaling as a creative strategy is being able to individualize the approach to fit your needs. There are many ways to personalize journaling and make it an accessible resource, including:

  • Using traditional pen and paper

  • Turning journaling into prayer or a written letter to God

  • Trying something new, like verbal processing (either on your own, with friends, or with God in prayer)

  • Incorporating journaling as a form of art by creatively praying in doodles (e.g., coloring, drawing, or writing out your thoughts, feelings, and emotions to God)

I find the Praying in Color resources by Sybil MacBeth to be a calming approach for incorporating artful strategies like journaling and doodling into prayer. Sybil does an excellent job introducing new concepts, ideas, and suggestions throughout her books, DVDs, and journal resources by using easy-to-follow steps that those of any age can connect with. I personally started using some of the strategies I learned in the kids’ edition of her book when I was little and still implement many of the concepts in my journaling, prayer life, and creative practices today.

Relatedly, I also consider verbal processing and praying aloud to be an audible form of journaling. Perhaps this can be viewed as a creative practice that allows us to put words to the seasons of grief, pain, and difficulty that we walk through as a result of chronic illness and pain.

I like to change up my approaches to journaling and prayer based on what feels the most accessible on any given day, and sometimes that means praying aloud, talking with a friend, doodling, or journaling with pen and paper. Regardless of the specific form it takes, connecting with God and letting your emotions out in any way that feels approachable can be deeply therapeutic. I wholeheartedly believe that creative strategies can be adapted to fit our unique needs, and there should not be any shame in that.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

How would you encourage someone to continue their creative passions even when pain is a daily struggle?

Consider asking yourself: “How can I adapt this hobby to make it accessible to my needs and limitations in this current season of life?” If making minor adjustments to your creative passion is not enough to make it a doable option, consider some other ways you might be able to tap into creativity in this season–like through drawing, journaling, or encouraging others with a simple text message or email.

Regardless of what creative strategy you choose to proceed with, I encourage you to consider finding ways to adapt it to fit your current needs and limitations. Walking through life with chronic pain and physical illness is already hard enough, so keeping a list of go-to strategies for maintaining your creative passions in these seasons can go a long way. Consider writing out a list of simple strategies for accessing creativity in different seasons of life and refer back to it when you find yourself struggling to connect with God and remain grounded.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Kenna is deeply passionate about serving, encouraging, and mentoring others. She has experience working as a patient advocate in the medical and mental health fields and particularly enjoys supporting those with chronic illness. Battling her own health journey, she is dedicated to serving Christ in word and action using a loving and sensitive approach. 

You can find her on Instagram (@kennavoy_), Facebook (@Kenna McEvoy), and LinkedIn (@Kenna McEvoy).

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