Our next online retreat "Beginning Again" is offered March 24-May 23. This online community experience allows you to participate as much or as little as you like and to engage when it is convenient for you. This program is open to anyone impacted by a chronic diagnosis which includes those in a personal support role, and volunteers and professionals serving this population. Visit our website events page to learn about the book we will use and how you will be supported on this journey. Registration deadline is March 14.
We have offered this program twice previously and are excited to welcome artist Libby Byrne from Melbourne, Australia as a participant for this 2014 version. In addition to Libby sharing her own experience as one living with Multiple Sclerosis, Libby will share some of her artwork as a resource for retreat participants. We asked Libby to share with our readers about herself and her connection to AWBA.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in Melbourne, Australia. I am an artist and I have worked with art and people in many different ways for years now. The discipline of being a practicing artist is also a means of paying attention to the presence of God. The canvas is often a place where God happens for me. Working with art materials allows me to see my human experience and then make room for God to work within those places.
How did you find AWBA all the way from Australia?
I discovered AWBA when I was having a difficult week living with Multiple Sclerosis. Having googled a combination of ‘spirituality’ and ‘chronic illness’ the AWBA site appeared on my screen.
What is your experience with a chronic diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with MS in February 2010, although I think that the first symptoms appeared in 2007 / 2008. However my experience with a chronic diagnosis began in the late 1990’s when one of my closest friends was diagnosed with MS. For twelve years I found ways to try and be aware of her experience with this mystery condition that seemed to be debilitating on some days and then barely present on others. The experience of my own diagnosis was a deep shock. I think that we had never considered the possibility that I could be diagnosed with the same thing – it seemed evident that my role with MS was to be aware of my friend and to care for her as she lived with chronic illness. There was an underlying assumption that if I was caring, I could not expect to also be living with my own illness. Since February 4th, 2010 I have been challenged to find the time and energy to do both.
How do you believe that AWBA and this online retreat will support the journey of those living with a chronic diagnosis and/or the loved ones and professionals who support them?
I am hoping that AWBA may be a network of people who are beyond the immediate connections of friends and family – and so able to be present when the people who live with illness are tired, emotionally and physically. I am also hoping that AWBA will be a community who calls and reminds us to listen for God in the midst of life with chronic illness.
What do you hope to bring to the "Beginning Again" retreat through your work as an art therapist, studies with art and healing, and your own experience as one impacted by a chronic diagnosis?
As the retreat unfolds I plan to work with art materials to see the experience. In sharing some of these images I hope that others might find resonances with their own experience. However, it might also be that an image I post may be surprising to others and in this case I hope that it might be a signpost to begin thinking about our human experience of God differently. I also hope that others may be inspired to make their own visual and creative responses. I hope that in posting art online as we retreat – my images will be like postcards from my journey sent and received by others who are on similar but different journeys.
What do you love most about living in Australia?
I value the freedom that I have in living in Australia and I am deeply aware of abundance as I live my life here.
Libby and I have had wonderful exchanges via email and I hope you will consider this retreat opportunity as a gift for yourself or someone you know. You can view some of Libby's art on her website. I look forward to facilitating this experience and to journeying with you for this retreat. -- Judy