Calm

After a big storm there’s an eerie calm that settles over everything like a comforting blanket. It feels almost dream-like. It goes from chaos, pounding rain, roaring wind, darkness, and being trapped inside the house, to stepping out to feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and complete silence. The crickets, cicadas, frogs, and birds don’t dare break this brief moment of complete peace. Pretty soon you begin to hear the song of a bird here or there. A gentle breeze begins to blow and the frogs, cicadas and crickets aren’t far behind. The squirrels resume their acrobatics through the trees, daring fate as they jump from tree to tree, or tease the dog by running along the fence line. And just like that, nature is back to normal.

My life this year has seen a lot of storms, some huge answers to prayers, some gut wrenching heartache, frustration, love, new friendships…it’s literally been a whirlwind. In that calm that settles in after a storm you have an opportunity to look back and sort through what happened. During the storm you are in survival mode. Day to day living has to continue, you can’t just curl up in a ball and quit. When you get used to living in survival mode and then the calm hits it’s hard to shut off just surviving and get back to living. I feel like I’m coming out of the dream like trance after a storm, where life is supposed to just proceed as normal but I’m not sure how to continue. I look around and see everyone living life and carrying on. I’m stuck in survival mode. I want to stop and enjoy the peace and calm, but if I let my guard down when the next storm strikes I won’t be ready. I had a storm hit this year that shattered me. I don’t like being shattered. But being on guard all the time is exhausting and robs life of it’s joys. Always looking around the corner for what’s coming next.

Isaiah 40:28-31 has always held a special place in my heart. My son recited it when he was baptized and has been his life verse. This morning when I heard it on the radio, it was like the birds began to sing and the gentle breeze began to blow. The eerie dream like fog began to lift. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.” The first couple verses grabbed me. I needed to be reminded of God’s power. “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,” My pastor used to say that when we read the Bible we usually put ourselves in the place of the hero. We are David in the story of Goliath, we are Daniel in the lions den, when in all honesty we are more likely to be the villain or at best the bystander. Look at the above verses again. In these verses we are the weak, those who have no might, the faint and weary, and we utterly fall. Not really the qualities we like to embrace. We want to be the hero, not the one that utterly falls and shatters. but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Renew-to resume after an interruption. In other words, this is going to be an ongoing process. His strength doesn’t fail. Mine does. Not only that but with His strength there will be times I soar with Him, and times I run. Then there will be times I will walk. One foot in front of the other days.

In times like these I’m so grateful that He doesn’t expect, nor does He want me to do life in my own strength. If we look closer at the stories in the Bible with “heroes” like David and Daniel we find that God was truly the hero in the story. The one that stepped in and saved them. It wasn’t in their own might but in their faith in a God who is all powerful. God is always the hero who comes in and saves the day. I need to be prepared because the storms will hit, but ultimately the best way to be prepared is have my faith secure in the God I serve. And until the next storm I will rest in Him and enjoy the peace for the time I have it.

I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment or email me.

Blessings

Memories

Memories are interesting. When our son was 16 we convinced to go see a counselor. His best friend was the one who sexually molested our daughter and he was dealing with guilt and shame and had started vaping to cope. My husband and I went with him for the first session. The counselor started with normal counseling jargon, to be honest I checked out pretty quick. I was currently taking our daughter, Faith, to a different counselor and sitting with her every session as she went through EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. I’ll get into that more in a minute. The counselor started talking about how trauma imprints on the brain differently than normal memories. I thought he was trying to make up excuses for why we can’t deal with our issues. I’ve always thought that if you can’t deal with your stuff from the past then it was a sign of weakness and everything the counselors say are just excuses to make you feel better. When he asked my husband and I where we were on August 12th of 2000, I decided to humor him and admitted I had no idea. He followed it up with “What about 9/11/01?” We both very quickly shared exactly where we were, what we experienced, and what we felt. He then asked if we were personally in any of the attacks, or knew friends or family who were directly affected? We both shook our heads, very confused with where he was heading. I’ll never forget his next statement. ”Neither one of you were directly affected by the attacks on 9/11, you don’t even know anyone who was hurt from them but yet you both remember with absolute clarity exactly where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt. How much more so when the trauma happens directly to you or your loved one?”

The question hung heavy in the air. For the first time I started to realize that maybe not being able to deal with your stuff wasn’t a sign of weakness but maybe the way the brain processes. I mentioned that I watched Faith go through EMDR, for those of you who aren’t familiar with that processes I’ll explain the best way I can. When God created our brains he built in an automatic defrag that happens every night called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When you’re in REM your brain is actually processing and filing the events from the day. Traumas that are too hard to process get shoved in a dark closet. EMDR replicates REM and engages your brain in this same state, then the counselor walks you through the traumatic events. As you walk through this process they help you access these memories that are burned into your brain and deal with them in a healthy fashion. A brutal and painful process but I’ve seen it work first hand. There was a night and day difference with my daughter after she completed it. It was a lot of work but thank God for the healing. There’s still scars but she’s so much better.

This fall as her first homecoming approached I started to see signs of a relapse. She’s had a few over the years so I’m getting better at seeing the signs. I thought at first that it was due to all the boy’s asking her to homecoming and walking through that new experience. I waited for a few weeks to make sure I was reading things correctly before I mentioned to her that possibly all the attention she was getting from boys was causing a relapse. As we talked she asked me why I hadn’t mentioned anything sooner. I told her it’s the same reason I don’t call my dad on May 17th (the day my brother died) and ask him if he remembers what day it is. All of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks, September is the month she was molested. There was a lot more going into her relapse than just boys drooling over her. I realized that this was why I had been out of sorts the last few weeks, the reason behind the worst fight my daughter and I had had, and the reason behind her current struggle. Over the last eight years there’s been a few times that I told her that she was struggling because it was the anniversary but only as a last resort. I’ve tried really hard to not give her the date, hoping that it wouldn’t become an annual reminder. Each time in the past when I’ve told her there’s been such a visible relief, yet I still hesitated this time. I waited a few more days and saw the anxiety and fear building as homecoming came closer. Then the night before homecoming I went to her room to tell her goodnight and give her a hug. As I hugged her she fell apart. She stated she didn’t feel like herself and she couldn’t shake it, ”Mom, what is wrong with me?” She went and sat on her bed, I looked at her and my heart broke. I knew if I told her what was wrong that this time she wouldn’t forget, now it would be forever tied to the homecoming time of year.

When storms roll through my pain levels get significantly worse. The barometric pressure changes and with it my body complains at a whole new level. Knowing that it’s temporary and when the storm passes I’ll be back to normal gives me hope and helps me endure the storms. I hoped that this would be the case with Faith as I told her that this was the time of year she was molested. I saw the sadness, pain, and hurt in her eyes as it sunk in. Then the tears stopped and she said, ”Thank you. Now I know what’s wrong.” Had I told her as soon as I had realized it maybe I could have saved her some frustration and pain, but I thought I could ”protect” her. I knew better, I just didn’t want to walk through it again. I didn’t want her to walk through it again. I didn’t want to look at the scars and re-open old wounds. I wanted to pretend that it would just all go away, and in the process I caused more pain.

In the Bible it never tells us to burry our pain, fear or worries. It tells us time and time again to take them to Him, yet I keep thinking that if I just pretend like it doesn’t hurt, that I’m not worried that somehow it will all just magically disappear. That if I try to find different reasons for Faith’s pain that maybe she won’t have to re-live it another time. But it never works. Maybe for a short time I can pretend it away but eventually I always have to face it. It says, ”cast your cares on Him.” When you fish you cast, it’s a constant action, not a one and done. We have to constantly cast our cares on Him. I’ve never met a fisherman that said, ”I cast my line once, nothing bit so I’m heading home.” That’s not the way it works with fishing or with our cares. It’s a minute by minute, taking every thought captive and brining it before Christ, so that He can control, guide, and heal us.

I’d love to hear from you, please send me an e-mail or comment below.

Blessings

Guilt

It’s amazing how long the memory of pain can stay with you. I had just dropped my son, Justice, off at a baseball game for pre-game warm ups, when Faith said, ”Silly brother, he just fell off the fence!” I pulled the car back into the parking place and told my daughter to sit and the car and wait for me while I went to check on him. What I found out was the gate to the field was locked, so he and the rest of the team were climbing the 6 foot chain link fence in their cleats. Justice’s cleat got stuck on the top of the fence, he felt himself start to loose his balance so he jumped, not realizing his cleat was firmly attached to the top. He broke his fall with his arm. In retaliation the fall broke his arm. When I got to him he was sitting on the grass and said he was ok, one of the other mom’s near by said she was pretty sure it wasn’t good. I climbed the fence and proceeded to try to inspect the damage. He kept saying he was ok but when I went to move his arm it bent completely down about 3 inches above the wrist. Now, I’m no doctor but I figured we had a broken arm. I turned to the coach who had been standing right there to tell him it was broken and he was no where to be found. I guess he saw the arm swinging in the breeze and decided to leave before he passed out. Since I was confident in my diagnosis I figured the next step was getting him to the ER…but the gate was still locked and they couldn’t find the janitor who had the key. So we sat and waited. And waited. And waited some more. At one point Justice passed out from the pain but through the whole thing he never complained. Silent tears would roll down his face but nothing was ever said. Thankfully about 25 minutes later they finally located the key and helped me carry him to the car and we were off to the ER.

At this point the shock was wearing off and the pain was excruciating. Thank God for morphine and amazing nurses. They tried setting his arm in the ER but the damage was too extensive so they sent us home with pain meds and a splint and told us we’d get a call first thing in the morning for surgery. As they were getting ready to discharge us the nurse told us no pain meds after midnight since he’d probably be having surgery first thing in the morning. This seemed weird to me so I verified with two other nurses and a doctor and all of them agreed, no pain meds after midnight. At 4:00 am when the meds started wearing off I had no idea the hell we were about to walk through. By 6:00 I sat on the ground next to my son’s recliner and we both just sat there and cried. There are no words when you see your child in that much pain and are completely helpless to do anything except hold their hand. At 7:00 the nurse from the surgery center called to schedule his surgery, but before she could say anything I was begging her to allow me to give him some meds. She was confused as to what I was talking about. I explained to her that per doctors orders he hadn’t taken any pain meds since midnight. I’ll never forget her words, ”Honey, set down the phone and go give that child some pain meds right now. I’ll wait.” It appeared that the ER staff had miss informed me and he should have had pain meds all along.

Surgery went smoothly and thankfully they were able to just put a pin in versus having to do plates and screws. Since he was only half way through 6th grade he had a lot of growing left to do and if they put in plates and screws they’d have to go back later to remove them. The pain was constant for the first 4-6 weeks until the pin and the full arm cast was removed and exchanged for a cast that went just below the elbow. Once they took the pin out there was immediate relief. Another 4-6 weeks in the short cast and then the big day came to have it completely removed! We walked into the all too familiar doctor’s office with tentative excitement, ready for this whole ordeal to finally be put behind us but not sure what the next step looked like. They cut off the cast, fitted him for a new removable brace and sent us on our way. As we were walking back out through the waiting room I look down at my son expecting to see joy and instead I see fear and him fighting to hold back tears. He looks up at me and in a choked voice said, ”Please, have them put it back on! It’s not safe, I don’t like the way this feels, I just want my cast back!”

This past Sunday our pastor asked the question, why do we hold on to our guilt? Then compared it to someone who broke their arm and didn’t want to have the cast removed even after it healed. He stated how silly that was because there was no longer a need for the cast. I was instantly transported back to that doctor’s office and the look of fear on my son’s face. He didn’t need the cast anymore, his arm was healed, but after living with it for the better part of three months it was part of him. There was a comfort level, a security, that came from having the cast. Had I not experienced this event for myself I would have agreed with the pastor, how silly indeed. But, having walked this road with my son, rationally it is silly, but emotionally and mentally it makes sense. What he had gone through was traumatizing, and in his mind as long as he had that cast he was safe.

Holding on to guilt rationally is silly. We’ve been forgiven. Our sin no longer defines who we are. We are free to use our lives to glorify and honor Him, and yet…..I find myself encased in the safety of the self accused, I’m not good enough, I’m not ready to be used because I’m not strong enough, I still have scars. I walk around scared to trust that I’m truly loved and that He has really taken care of the cost of my fall. My son walked around for the first few days with his arm tucked up against his body. There was still pain if it got jarred or if he tried to use it to lift heavy objects. The chronic pain threatened to paralyze him, as fear moved on. He’s arm was all shriveled up from lack of use, the skin was pale and sloughing. A constant reminder of his fall. When we fall, the guilt, fear and shame are constant reminders of our failures. We see and feel the consequences and hold on to them thinking that somehow that will keep us safe. Or maybe we feel like we deserve the pain as punishment. Either way we hold on and walk around like our arm is still broken. Unable to fully participate and be effective.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time for healing. Had he ripped the cast off and not let his arm healed he would have been crippled for life. But after it healed had he not begun to use it, he would have acted like he was crippled for life. Eventually he was able to see this pain as a reminder of where he had come from and a warning to be careful. He slowly started trusting his arm again and began using it normally, all though to this day he’s still eats left handed. Guilt is the same way, if we are wise we’d see it as a reminder of the failures we’ve had in the past and a warning of what not to do in the future, but not allow it to paralyze us because the price has been paid and we’ve been forgiven and healed.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail or leave a comment below.

Blessings

Self-Reliance

So, my husband has been gone now for almost 2 months, or 8 weeks, or 56 days or 1,344 hours….you get the point. It’s been a long time. He had to leave for work and was only supposed to be gone 3-4 weeks but nothing went according to plan, so here I sit counting done the hours till he comes home. I want to pause really quick here and give a shout out to our military. All the families that are separated due to deployments, I got a small glimpse of what that feels like. THANK YOU!!!

I’ve learned a few things about myself while he’s been gone, and unfortunately not all of them are good. The good stuff first, I still like my husband and miss him, even after 22 years of marriage. He truly completes me and makes life more enjoyable. Not having him here for all the little day to day events is one of the things I miss the most. I also learned that I’m capable of killing a copperhead, well with the help of my daughter. We’ve made an agreement, I kill the spiders, she kill the roaches and we take the snakes on together. But I digress. Some of the not so good stuff, I always thought I was the sane one in our marriage, that appears to not be the case. The longer he’s gone the more insane I’m going. Also, I’ve always thought of myself as self-sufficient, this has been a rude awakening.

Growing up I realized the more I could do by myself and for myself the less I had to interact with my family. The less interaction the fewer opportunities to get on the bad side of my parents, especially my mom. My dad was more level headed so we got along ok. The other thing being self-sufficient and a problem solver accomplished was a value and a place in the family. After I got married I still tried to be as self-sufficient as possible and not to “burden” my husband. I continued to work part-time after we had kids bringing in supplemental income and health insurance. As my health got worse I still continued to work but had to rely more on the kids and Daniel for help around the house. My folks, my aunt and close friends would step in when they saw a need, without being asked. If I did have to ask it was usually, ”They kids would like to spend some time with you, can you pick them up from school?” That way it wasn’t asking for help just an opportunity to spend time with my kids. Oh, the silly games we play! Because I wasn’t being honest with myself I avoided reality, until now.

With Daniel being gone, Justice living in another state, and Faith busy with school and softball my inability to be self-sufficient has becoming painfully obvious. I was doing better before the accident but I refused to see how far that set me back. I’ve talked before about how exhausting chronic pain is. It doesn’t just cause physical fatigue, but mental and emotional complete exhaustion. Stupid stuff like trying to figure out what to eat becomes an overwhelming decision. If that’s overwhelming you can imagine all the day to day decisions that need to be made can cause an avalanche of anxiety. I’m stuck in a crazy cycle cause the more I hurt the more I stress and the more I stress the more I hurt. I can’t just stop though because there’s no one else to take Faith to school and softball, do the dishes, grocery shop…the list goes on. The realization that you have to so heavily rely on your loved ones isn’t a fun one. To realize that you’re a ”burden” is heart breaking. I didn’t realize how much I’d come to rely on Daniel for everything.

Why do we feel like our value is attached to our physical capabilities? I don’t judge my family and friends that way. My dad is getting older and can’t do what he used to but I don’t see him as less valuable or a burden. When my husband was sick and needed me to wait on him I wasn’t put out or upset with him for his inability to make himself dinner. If this is the way I see others, and the way others say the see me, why is it so hard to believe? Why do we fight against needing help? Isn’t this the way God designed us? Even before sin entered the world Genesis 2:18 says, ”And the Lord God said, ’It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” God created us to need one another but our prideful nature rebels against the idea.

I think mine is twofold. As I was writing this a mom jogged by with her stroller. I can’t do that. I’m 41 and have the physical capabilities right now of a 60-70 year old. It should get better as I heal from the accident but I’ll never have the same capabilities of someone my age, my disorder won’t allow it. That sucks.

The other reason I believe is more universal. We are a prideful people. Especially as Americans. We’ve glorified the idea of ”pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and turned it into the holy grail of our lives. What’s the first thing you ask someone when you meet them, “What do you do?” We’ve built an entire culture around what you do, not who you are. Now I understand it’s an easy conversation starter but if you’re honest it’s become a measuring stick. This is so against what the Bible says about our value. Psalm 139:13-14 “For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows very well.” I had literally nothing to do with my creation. God’s hand was on me from the beginning and that is where my value is. I am His. My broken body is His design and His plan and my job is to praise Him. His job is to make it profitable. One of my new favorite verses, 1 Timothy 4:8 ”For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” My value doesn’t come from what my body can or can’t do but on the way I use my life to follow Christ. That is something I do have control over.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Disturbance

I’ve learned that watching the weather in the South is similar to watching a soap opera. Entering from stage south we have tropical disturbance 99 but little does it know it’s coming into a very hostile atmospheric situation, causing little more than some cloudy skies and some minor rain fall. But wait, what’s this? Isabel over Cuba is becoming very organized, look how beautiful her eye is (she lost the other eye in a cat fight) so clear and concise! And she’s got nothing but warm inviting waters ahead of her with no wind shear to slow her down. It looks like she’s heading straight for Florida….wait, looks like she set her eye on Texas now. Well, just to be safe the whole gulf coast better get ready because “hell hath no furry like a woman scorned.”

Coming from the Pacific Northwest where our weather reports consisted of snow storms or forest fires there’s been a lot we’ve had to learn so we can understand all the twist and turns that can happens so quickly. For my non-southern friends there’s four steps in the development of a hurricane. It starts as a disturbance, then depression, tropical storm, a hurricane, and then it starts climbing the category ladder. On the way to drop my daughter off at school this morning I told her that the tropical disturbance in the gulf was going to bring in some rain over the next few days. She giggled and said, ”I love that it’s called a disturbance.”

For those of you who read my blog you know I’m a little bit of a word geek.  So I decided to “get out” the dictionary and look some up.  

Disturbance – the interruption of a settled and peaceful condition, the disruption of healthy functioning.

Depression- the action of lowering something or pressing something down, a sunken place

Storm – a violent disturbance of the atmosphere, a tumultuous reaction, a violent or noisy outburst of a specified feeling or reaction

Hurricane/Cyclone – I think we all know the meaning of this but the original Greek word meant coil of a snake.

As I looked up these definitions I realized that the steps for storms are the same as in our personal lives. Our peaceful lives get suddenly disrupted, things start moving the wrong direction, winds and waves we didn’t anticipate suddenly show up clouding our beautiful sunny skies with questions, unknowns, and fear.  Unfortunately at times we find ourselves greeting these disturbances with warm welcoming waters and feeding it our fears so that it grows into a a full blown depression.  We allow it to push us down and wallow in the depths of despair.  Our souls become tumultuous, we live in the constant noise of doubts, what if’s, and why me’s. We find ourselves struggling to breath as the coils of the snake wrap tighter and tighter around us.  At times I think we make our own hurricanes out of disturbances.  We let our imaginations run wild with all of the “what if’s” and create a monster that was only supposed to be a “heads up”.  

What if instead when we are met with a disturbance we took it as that, an interruption.  When the weather channel announces a disturbance it’s a good time to take a look around and take account and start making preparations. The same is true in our life. At the onset of a disturbance we can take account of where we are with Christ.  Spend extra time in prayer, in the Bible, reaching out to friends to seek a steady hand, love and counsel.  Maybe a disturbance is all it is this time.  If it ends up being more, you’re prepared.  The winds begin to get stronger with each passing day.  Each time you try to catch a breath the weatherman comes on with, “but wait….there’s more!”  The rain threatens to drown you, the constant roaring from the storm is deafening. It feels like this might be the end.  But God.  “Then He arouse and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39 Sometimes the wind that ceases is our own fears shrieking in our minds, and the storm around us still rages on.  Sometimes He brings us into the eye of the storm to allow us to catch our breath.  He shows us a glimpse of who He is to remind us that He is in control no matter what the winds of our storm our screaming at us.

If we’ve learned anything over the last 18 months, it’s that life can spin quickly and wildly out of control.  In the midst of all the voices screaming for your attention, the fears constantly being hawked on the street corners, the unknowns that threaten to drown us, God is in control and is offering us peace.  

1 Peter 5:8-10 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Pause….continued

There’s times in life where we ask God why and are met with nothing but silence. On occasion He decides to graciously lift the vail and reveal just a hint of what He’s accomplishing behind the scenes. I don’t know if I can do this story justice but I have to share the miracle that I just got to witness.

Let me set the stage. In my last post I told y’all that there was an issue with my mammogram and I had to go have more tests run. I found out the there was an asymmetry and they needed to do another mammogram and an ultra sound. Twenty years ago I had to have a mass removed from my breast because it was pre-cancerous (full story in mypost Storms), so needless to say I was worried. And with my husband gone I was feeling alone. I few months back my friend Ella, who I had recently met, told me she was just diagnosed with breast cancer. It was encapsulated so they weren’t too worried, but things didn’t go as planned. She went in to have a lumpectomy and then was supposed to be scheduled for radiation. Unfortunately they didn’t get enough of the tissue the first time so she went back for a second surgery. After the second lumpectomy they were convinced they got it all and just had to wait till she healed and then on to radiation, this was the last I had heard prior to my abnormal mammogram. When I got the call that I had to go back for further tests I wanted to call Ella and talk to her and just share my fears with her. I didn’t though, I was too concerned that I would add to what she was already going through. Plus, mine was a big question mark at this point and hers was cancer. So, I carried on alone.

The day come for test number two for me. I couldn’t get Ella off my mind. I wanted so badly to talk to her but my own “you can do this alone” kept getting in the way. Thankfully God works even when we are being stubborn and “brave.” As I was sitting at the cubicle doing paperwork I hear the lady in the cubicle next to me spell her name. E-l-l-a. I couldn’t believe it. She was here. This couldn’t be coincidence, this had God written all over it. After a hug that felt more like the two of us clinging to the edge of sanity we were able to sit and visit in the waiting room and quickly catch up on our latest boob drama. She told me that she was there because her doctor was concerned with her pathology report. Her cancer cells were extremely aggressive and she’s a 3 negative, meaning that her body is very resistant to any cancer treatment, so the doctor wanted to look at her lymph nodes just to be safe. Our visit was cut short by them taking me back to the boob squishing torture chamber. As they pulled, squished and bruised my boob I was desperately praying for Ella and I know she was doing the same. To know you are not alone in a fight is one of the most comforting feelings. After they sufficiently bruised my boob they left me in the waiting room until the ultra sound room was available, the one where Ella was. While I was waiting the tech came out and told me that everything in my mammogram looked good but they still wanted to do the ultra sound just to make sure. I breathed a half sigh of relief, and waited, and prayed, and waited, and prayed, and waited some more. I was getting nervous for Ella and hoped that maybe she had already left and it wasn’t her room I was waiting for. Finally, they called me back. Right before I got on the table I got this text from her, “Heading home, found a suspicious lymph. They need a second opinion to look, probably a biopsy. Looks cancerous to them.” I can’t begin to tell you how my heart sank.

My ultra sound come back normal and I got a clean bill of health, yet I walked out of there defeated. I said in my last post that I just needed a pause, a break, a chance to breath. I’m going to be brutally honest. I was frustrated. I know I should be thankful and praising God for my results but I couldn’t get over Ella’s. I was grateful in my head for my normal imaging results but I couldn’t get my heart to agree with my head. I felt guilty. Guilty for not having cancer, for not being grateful, for telling her I was good to go when her results were far from good.

That same day Hurricane Ida began to form with the potential of hitting close to home. My husband still away left my daughter and I to do all the prep. So much for a pause in the chaos. I was tired. Tired of fighting everything life kept throwing at me. I just wanted a chance to catch my breath and yet every time I turned around there was another battle to fight. Thankfully the storm didn’t do too much damage where we are. The constant changes in barometric pressure reeked havoc on my body though and left me as a professional couch potato for 2-3 days. Good opportunity for cuddle time with my daughter and we accomplished some impressive binge watching.

Ella and I had set up to go to coffee and thankfully the day we set happened to be the first nice day after the storm. We sat there in the beautiful sunshine and cried, laughed, and enjoyed just being together. We both talked of how tired we are and how much we felt like we were running on empty. We joked that our give a damn was busted, and how much we just needed a break. Then I asked her how she was doing with her boob issue, and I watched the battle begin. As believers we are told that God is in control, and to count it all joy, and not to stress, or worry cause He’s got it all. She’d go from, “I’m so upset,” to “I know God’s got it.” I’ve done this most of my life so I knew first hand the battle she was facing. Several years ago I read a book called “No More Faking Fine,” in it the author talks a lot about this battle we fight. One of the things she talked about was when we ask God “Why?” Sometimes as Christians we feel shame for asking why, like it’s a sign that we don’t truly love or trust God. And then if we don’t get a response we assume that God must be mad at us or that we are out of His will. In her book she states that we need to be ok with asking why and not getting a response. I thought she was crazy until one of the scriptures she sited was Mark 15:34. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” Do you know what the response was to Jesus asking why? Silence. Moments later He breathed His last. I told Ella that I’ve decided that if Christ in His darkest hour can call out why than I can too. And if God didn’t answer Him than I too can be ok with the silence.

This morning came the pause that I’ve been so desperately praying for. The breath of Love washed over me. Here is the text that Ella sent to me and two other ladies who have been praying for her. “My prayer warriors. I have no words. I was just in there for an hour and a half and walked out with no biopsy! My lymph nodes all are now NORMAL! They had several specialists look at the images, several techs, etc and that bad one is now normal! Even looked at my left side to compare! Your prayers produced a miracle. I can’t even express to you my gratitude and love for you. There are no words. You are my sister in Christ. So blessed to have you.” I still get goosebumps reading these words again. As I look back over the last few weeks, I see God’s hand orchestrating so many details. You might ask why He couldn’t have just healed her right away, why let her walk through all this only to heal her at the end. Maybe for the same reason He was silent and left Christ on the cross. To show His power in an undeniable way. When Ella was getting her ultra sound the tech, for some reason, started sharing with Ella how she lost her sister in a car accident just a few months ago. She stated she’s never told a patient this before and didn’t know why she was telling Ella now, but she was so angry over the loss of her sister. Ella then began to share what I had shared with her about Christ asking why on the cross. The tech began to cry and Ella was able to share hope with this tech while she was looking for a cancerous lymph node on her. The tech then got to witness a miracle as Ella walked away with normal test results.

Y’all our God is absolutely amazing. He cares so much for us that He sets up “coincidences” like appointments at the same time, a tech who needs hope spoken into her life…where does the ripples from this one event end? All from a lady who decided to take the crap she had walked through and write a book to encourage others. I can’t wait to get to heaven and see where the ripples lead!!

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below or send me an e-mail.

Pause

As I was sitting here praying about what to write, I received a phone call from the doctor. I just had my first mammogram this week and let me tell you something, those things hurt!!! I’d heard that they were uncomfortable but as my knees buckled from the pain and I was suspended by only my extremely squished boob, uncomfortable wasn’t the word that came to mind. As I was trying to catch my breath after the first image was taken the radiologist said, “You have extremely dense breast tissue, but I’m sure you know that.” All I could manage was a nod but in my mind I thought, “How in the world would I know that? I don’t go around feeling boobs checking for density!” For those of you who are boob density unaware like I was, it means is I’m more likely for breast cancer and because they are so dense they are less likely to catch it. Having already had a mass in my breast that was in the first stages of cancer (see Storms), this news wasn’t horribly encouraging. She told me that they would send me the results in the mail unless there was something wrong, then they would call….

The call I got was from the scheduling center to set up an appointment to have another mammogram done (yippee) and ultra sound. When I asked why I was told I need to call my doctor to get that information. I’m sitting here now waiting for a call back from my doctor to tell me what they saw and why they need more tests. Honestly, I’m trying hard not to panic. This last few weeks have already been more than I thought I could bear and my husband has been out of town for almost a month and won’t be back for another couple of weeks. We’ve had to walk through some of the hardest family issues we’ve faced separated by 2500 miles and spotty cell service. I feel like my foundations are being shook. I just felt like the merry-go-round was starting to slow down and now….

Yesterday while I was doing Bible study I ran across Lamentations 3:17-26. I’ve never actual read all of Lamentaions, but a word study took me there and I fell in love with these verses. He spends the first part of the chapter bemoaning his fate very graphically. “He has caused the arrows of His quiver to pierce my loin.” (verse 13) Change loin to breast and I’d say that’s a more accurate description of a mammogram than “uncomfortable.” He goes on about how he’s had to drink poison (wormwood) and his teeth have been broken with gravel, and the list seems never ending. As he looks back over the calamity “my soul still remembers and sinks within me.” (verse20) That describes so perfectly what happened when I answered that phone call, my soul sank.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had those times where you feel like you can’t handle one more thing. That you’ve been spinning on the merry-go-round for too long and you just need to step off and catch your breath. I need a pause. Just a little break from the chaos, the unknown, the turmoil. “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” (verse 21-22) I love looking at the definitions of the original words. Before you get too impressed I use the Blue Letter Bible app and it does all that for me. Most of the definitions for the words in these verses aren’t too surprising but there’s one that made me take pause. The original word for compassion used here means womb, as cherishing the fetus. Here’s those verses in my words. I will wait with expectation and remind my soul that even through it all we are not at an end, we are not finished, His goodness, kindness, and faithfulness hold us and care for us like an expectant mother cherishes her young.

As I remind myself of who God is and all He’s already done for me, my heart starts to slow down. My breathing is returning to normal. I know that no matter what happens next He is still, and always will be in control. Just to be clear, I’m still nervous, I’m not excited to go have another mammogram. But I’m not going to let fear, panic and anxiety rule. I’m not going to listen to the “what if’s” that are already whispering in my ear. I’m making a choice to pause. I’m choosing not to spin out of control but to step off the crazy merry-go-round and rest in His arms. I’m making a choice to trust and wait on Him. Honestly, what else is there to do? I can’t get answers any quicker by worrying, and if it turns out to be nothing than I’ve wasted precious time He’s given me. I’m not going to let the potential diagnosis rob me of todays joys. I choose His rest.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail or post something in the comments below.

Blessings

The Future

I can’t believe summer is almost over already! Less than three weeks before school is back in full swing. And to be honest I’m not sure if I’m dreading it or looking forward to the routine again. I think the future always holds a little bit of a bitter sweet appeal to it. I’m grateful for the extra time with my daughter and husband, and all the slower more relaxed moments. I’m looking forward to seeing what this next year is going to bring her and what my life holds for me.

The future for some I found out is more bitter than sweet. I’m in a ladies Bible study of Philippians and one of the ladies in the group brought up verse 1:21 where Paul states, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” She was an elderly lady and I thought for sure she would resonate with this verse, she’s in her later years and has walked with Christ her whole life. Instead I was shocked to hear her say that she wished she truly felt as Paul. Then one of the other women whose middle aged like me chimed in and say she wished the same thing. I once again was faced with the reality that I might be different then most people. You see this verse is where I live. I’m here and alive because Christ isn’t done with me yet, but I long for heaven. I tried to ask my husband how he felt about this and it quickly become apparent that when you start a conversation with your spouse by saying, “Do you long for death?” that it might cause some alarm. I’ve found to the “normal” person, this thought is disturbing. It can come across as dark, depressed, and….well, suicidal. That’s not how I feel at all!!

I love my life! I have a great family, and I’m surround by friends who love me and mine like their own. I want to see my kids grow up, get married to someone as amazing as my husband, and to watch them as they experience the joy of parenthood. But….I long for heaven with a depth that is hard to explain. When I realized that this isn’t “normal” I’ve started really examining this desire to try to see if I can explain it. I think it boils down to this, my physical body sucks. The constant pain, the long list of “cant’s”, the way I can hyper extend my shoulder in my sleep and spend the next week babying it so it doesn’t get worse, the way the smallest change can send my body into a tail spin for months. I think Paul says it better than I can, “For we know that if our earthly house (this broken body) this tent (moldy and moth eaten) is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-2. I’m so ready for my clothes of eternity.

I was talking to my son, who suffers from the same genetic disorder I do, one morning about the constant pain. I told him that I believe those of us that deal with chronic pain and illness here will experience and appreciate heaven at a different level than those who’ve lived a pain free life. Kind of like you don’t appreciate being healthy until after you’ve been sick. One of the things I struggle with are headaches and migraines, bright lights and I are not friends. It was even worse when we lived in Oregon, I wore sunglasses most of the time just to try to alleviate some of the pain. I can’t wait till I can look at the Glory of Christ and bask in His light with no pain! Probably not something that has crossed most people’s minds. I want to be able to run, leap, and cartwheel across the meadows with no repercussions, (and no fear of spiders and snakes) jump the waves, dance with joy, and spend eternity on my knees before my king and savior. I want to sit at the table and eat the feast prepared for me with no more diet restrictions.

I find it interesting that Paul wrote a fair amount about the new body and the tug-a-war between the calling of this life and the pull of heaven, and he’s also the one who talks about a thorn in the flesh that wasn’t removed. I’m starting to think that part of thee blessing of having a “thorn in the flesh” is a deep desire for heaven. A longing for a release from the earthly chains. Once again, don’t misunderstand me, I love my life here. I love the people God has put in my life and I know that God has a purpose and a plan for my life. I find so much joy in all the blessings He’s put in my life, from sunsets to the smile on my daughter’s face, the sound of my son’s voice, the embrace of my husband…I’m truly blessed here. I just wonder if sometimes we hold on to tightly to the blessings here.

The year before we ended up moving cross country my daughter’s life started unraveling a little. Some of her close friends at school turned on her. The softball team where she was treated like an all-star ended up benching her for a stand she took at school. Her best friend’s dad got orders to move to a new location. In the midst of all this we realized we needed to move 2500 miles away for my health. She stated after we moved that looking back she realized that God had taken away her comforts to make it easier to leave Oregon and start over. My mom is 70 and just now starting to have health issues and some chronic pain. She’s getting frustrated with the limitations of her body. What if aging is God’s way of helping us realize that this body and this life isn’t what it’s all about? What if it’s His way of removing some of the comforts of “home” to make the transition easier? I think too often we get caught up in the comforts of the here and now and forget that this life is not what it’s all about. That this life is but a vapor, a flash in the pan. What if we could fully grasp that truth? That our souls are what God is concerned with? That this life is preparing us for eternity and that our sole purposes is to share the light of Christ with those around us? How would that change the way we live?

1 Corinthians 15:51-53

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

God is Bigger

I stumbled across something in the book of Job the other day that left me in awe. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story it goes something like this…

Satan comes before God and innocently states he’s been out roaming the earth, yet we all know “the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter5:8b) Unprompted God asks him if he’s considered His servant Job. At this point you’d assume Job has royally messed up and God is using Satan as His attack dog, yet the very next words out of God’s mouth are “there is none like him (Job) on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil”. (Job 1:8) I would love it if God used those words to describe me, but not for the purpose of putting a target on my back with the devil. Satan responds, “Well, duh…of course he loves and worships You. You’ve given him everything and put a hedge of protection around him. Everything he touches turns to gold. But, stretch out Your hand against him and he will curse You to Your face!” I’m obviously paraphrasing here, the book is 42 chapters and I’m not going to be able to cover it all. At this point I would hope God would say something like, “Get out of here, Satan, this dude is mine and you can’t touch him.” But no, instead He says, “Everything he has is in your power, you just can’t touch his body.” God removed His hedge from around Job and his life literally went to hell in a hand basket. In one day he lost everything. A servant came to Job and told him while the oxen and donkeys were plowing they were raided and all the livestock was taken and all the servants except him were killed, and while he was still speaking another servant approached saying fire fell from heaven and devoured all the sheep and servants except him, and while he was still speaking another servant comes and says the camels were stolen and all the servants were killed except for him. I’m sure at this point when Job sees another servant running up he’s terrified to hear what news he brings. “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house and it fell on the young people, and they are dead.” (Job 1:18-19) I can see Satan rubbing his hands and giggling in glee. He has destroyed Job, taken away everything of value to him all in one fell swoop. He sits back and waits for the cursing of God to begin.

Job tears his robe, shaves his head and fell to the ground and…worshiped. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). That would not have been my response, and I seriously doubt that’s what Satan was expecting. It goes on to say that Job didn’t sin or charge God with any wrong. I’ve been through a lot less than Job and yet I’ve blamed, and questioned God on more occasions than I care to admit. My son is currently not walking in a way that is pleasing to God. My husband and our family and his friends have all tried to reach out and to hold him accountable, to speak truth into his life but he refuses to hear. I told my husband the other day that if I truly believe God loves him, and if I truly trust God to watch over him, what would that look like? Does that mean I stop speaking truth into his life and just go along for the ride? I don’t think so, we’re called in scripture to hold each other accountable. Does it mean I shun him and let God have him? I don’t think that’s the answer either, we’re called to love. Does it mean that I lay awake at night worrying about him, plot and plan every conversation, try to orchestrate what everyone says and does with the hope of reasoning him back to reality? I think this is where my lack of trust in God is showing. If I truly trusted Him, I’d give him my son, and let him worry about all the “what if’s” and pray and be there as God wants me to.

Sorry about the rabbit trail, back to Job. Chapter 2 starts the exact same way as chapter 1. Satan shows up and God asks him what he’s been up to and he says just roaming the earth. And God asks him again, “have you considered my servant Job?” Only this time He adds, “still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Can’t help but feel like this was a little bit of a mike drop for God. But Satan can’t stand the thought of losing so he ups the ante. “‘Skin for skin!’ Satan answered the Lord. ‘A man will give up everything he owns in exchange for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’” (Job2:4-5) God agreed with the exception that Satan couldn’t kill him. Immediately Satan struck Job’s entire body with boils. At this point Job’s wife, the one thing Satan left him with, comes out and starts telling him to curse God and die. Lovely lady. Then his friends join in and start telling him that obviously God hates him and doesn’t deserve Job’s loyalty. This goes on for the next 36 chapters. Finally God has enough and He answered out of a whirlwind, “Now prepare yourself like a man, I will question you and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:3). I believe this is the first time “man up” is used. Seems a little harsh considering everything he’s just been through. But God is just getting warmed up. I highly recommend reading Job 38-41. God starts by asking Job where he was when He laid the foundations of the earth? If Job was there when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy? When He said “This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!” He even gets a little sarcastic by asking Job if he can loose the belt of Orion. He talks about how He’s entered the springs of the sea and walked their depth, He sends forth lightning, the gates of death have been revealed to Him. Makes me feel small and insignificant. God starts at the size and depth and magnitude of the universe and then switches gears to asking him who provides food for the raven, when it’s young ones cry to God? Or if he knows when the wild goat, dear and bear have their young? As I read this I go from awe at the magnitude of God, to love at His care for even the beast of the fields, to guilt. Who am I to question God?

I think in today’s day and age we’ve taken God and brought Him down to a friend level. We’ve gotten sloppy in our approach to Him. By sending His Son, He did open up direct communication, so that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) but He’s still the same God of Job. He’s still so far beyond our comprehension. It says we need “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11) We see glimpses of who God is all through out scripture but for some reason when I read through the last few chapters of Job the power and magnitude of the God I serve really hit home. In a time in my life where I feel out of control and helpless I was reminded that my God is bigger. He’s bigger than my chronic pain, He’s bigger than my son’s desires, He’s bigger than sickness, He’s bigger than my “wisdom”.

The story of Job has, and still does bother me. I don’t understand why God did what He did, but maybe that’s the point. He’s God and I’m not. If I could, like Job, grasp and understand the God of Job 38-41, how would that effect my life?

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to post a comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Cost

This week we took a mini vacation to the beach. I sent these photos to some of my family and friends while I was soaking up the rays and enjoying God’s creation. The responses I got ranged from, “so happy for you” to “I hate you.” Of course the “I hate you” was from my friend that was stuck at work and was meant in the nicest of ways. It made me realize how most of the times we don’t know the cost behind the highlights we see in people’s lives. I didn’t tell them that the 2.5 hour drive to get there gave me a horrible migraine and instead of getting to hang out with our friends and enjoy the evening I was upstairs in a dark room in relentless pain. Or that the next day when we went to the beach and I took these pictures I had to take a muscle relaxant just so I could keep the pain at bay. Or that I’m now sitting at home alone, unable to attend my daughter’s softball tournament because the trip to the beach took too much out of me. The cost for my picture of paradise isn’t something that anyone would consider. I don’t regret my decision. I enjoyed the time at the beach with my family and friends.

It made me think of other areas in life where we have to weigh the cost versus the rewards. Some are easier than others. Doing the dishes for instance, if I play in the pool all day and leave my dishes stacked in the sink I won’t have any clean dishes and my house will stink like moldy food and it will attract bugs. Nasty. That’s a no brainer, clean the dishes. But what about when someone is addicted to a substance, if you don’t step in you know the results could be devastating to their life, but if you do you might lose your relationship with them. The cost versus reward on that one is a lot harder to balance out. Whenever you step into someone’s life with advice or a warning they don’t want to hear, they don’t usually see the cost for you. They feel attacked. They don’t want to hear the path they are heading down is a dangerous one. They don’t want to know that they need to change.

When my husband mentioned that I shouldn’t probably go to the tournament, I not so lovingly told him I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to have to face the cost of my relaxing day at the beach. I didn’t want to have to pay the cost, I just wanted the reward. I think in today’s day and age we’re told, “You can have it all and do it all. You can be a #1 mom, wife, employee…” and when we can’t we feel like failures. I think we need to stop and take a serious look at what’s most important. There’s a cost to every decision and we need, to the best of our ability, weigh those against the rewards. I knew going into the mini vacation that I might be giving up the tournament. I was hopeful I could do it all but knew that the odds of that were slim. It doesn’t make it any less frustrating but it does take a little of the sting away. I feel like this is something we need to teach our kids too. All they see in the social media posts are their peers winning trophies, scholarship, amazing vacations…but what about all the failures they faced to get there? What about all the games they lost or the times they road the bench? The studying to midnight and cramming for exams? Or the things they had to turn down so they could go on vacation? The American dream, “You can be anything you want to be.” Not without it costing you something. You have to sacrifice something to achieve your dreams. We don’t discuss the cost of success and we’re raising a generation that believes they “deserve” their dreams handed to them on a silver platter. Sorry kids, that’s not the way the real world works. There’s always a cost before you get the rewards.

As I was thinking about all this I was struck by the ultimate sacrifice. If all you were able to see was the pictures I took you wouldn’t know at what cost they came at. It hit me that I don’t fully understand the cost Christ paid for my salvation. I understand the reward but I don’t think I fully grasp the cost, and I probably won’t until I meet Him face to face. I don’t know what it’s like to have all eternity before me, to be all powerful, to be in a place where there is no pain, surrounded by angels worshipping 24/7, not to be trapped in a human body. I don’t know about you but I think this world is a beautiful place. As I sat on the beach and looked at the teals and aqua colors of the water, felt the sun warming my face, the crisp fresh air, the velvety white sand between my toes and the melodic sound of the waves crashing I couldn’t imagine a more amazing place to be. Yet that is just a shadow of paradise, I literally can’t even fathom what He stepped away from to come walk among us. If I could fully grasp the cost that He paid for me, wouldn’t I be willing to give it all for Him? How often do I complain about my lot in life and yet if I could really see that this life is temporary and what is to come is beyond our wildest imagination, I should be on my face with gratitude for all He gave up for me. When I look at scripture the focus isn’t on what the cost was to Jesus but what we are gaining from His sacrifice. Ephesians 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I am the joy that was set before Him. I am the reason he endured the cross. I don’t know about you but that makes me feel pretty small and yet priceless all at the same time. You too are the joy that was set before Him. You too are the reason He endured the cross. You are the reward that made the cost of the cross and setting aside His glory worth it. So let us endure and keep running. Don’t give up. He’s paid the highest cost, now we need to look to Him and finish our race.

Fear

A pastor once said that fear stands for Fake Evidence Appearing Real. Ten days ago my husband and I were rear-ended. My husband had a stiff neck and headaches off and on for awhile but seems to be back to normal. Unfortunately, due to my genetic disorder I don’t bounce back quite as well. The first time we were rear-ended four years ago I ended up having to get my back fused due to a ruptured disc. The fear set in right after we were hit and has been slowly eating away at me. Now as my sciatic nerve has started causing numbness and pain down my leg (that was the main symptom of my ruptured disc last time) I can almost taste the fear.

I keep telling myself that this could have been so much worse. We were on a busy interstate and only the two cars were involved. It could have been a semi that hit us, we could have been pushed into the car in front of us, our daughter could have been in the car with us…and the list goes on. We don’t know the full extent of the damage done but I don’t have any dislocations or broken bones so that’s all good news. I remind myself that this time it’s different. I’m in better shape this time. Since we’ve moved to a more tropical climate and lower elevation I’ve been healthier and able to do more. Yet the fear keeps whispering in my ear, “Here you go again. You’re going to be benched again and miss out on life. You’re such a failure. Can’t even handle a little car accident without falling apart.”

Why? Why do we let fear take hold? It literally can suck the very air from your lungs and robs you of all joy. It leaves you feeling alone, scared, and helpless. Yet we hold onto it with both hands. It’s similar to an electric fence. I grew up on a farm and we had “hot wire” strung all over our property. For those city slickers I’ll give you a crash course on electric fencing. If the wire is touching anything other than the plastic insulator that attaches it to the railing, it will kill the current, thus rendering your fence useless. You have to walk the property line on a regular basis to make sure the line is still “hot” and that nothing is breaking the current. You learn very quickly to test the wire with the back of your hand. If you test the wire with the palm of your hand your muscles spasm causing you to grab the wire. Not a huge amount of fun to grab an electric fence and not be able to let go. I think this is the way fear works. Once we grab on to it’s lies, it’s really hard to break loose from it’s grasp.

I’ve spent some time trying to wrestle with my fears and doubts. I’ve been arguing and rationalizing with them. Trying to reason with them and explain them away. I swing between “There’s no reason to be afraid” to “My body is broken and I have every right to be scared.” With each shooting pain down my leg, or muscle spasm in my neck, or radiating pain in my arm, “It’s the end of the world as we know it…” starts playing in my head. Ok, maybe not every time, but you get the idea. I attempt to silence these fears and tell myself they aren’t real, but they refuse to be silenced.

So back to my statement at the beginning, fear is Fake Evidence Appearing Real. I’m not sure I agree with this. The fear that all of us face is usually grounded in some form of reality. The accident did some damage to my body, that’s reality. Worrying about how it’s going to effect me down the road is also a legitimate concern. Over and over again in the Bible God has assured us that He will not leave us, that He will walk with us. Psalms 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” If He’s there in the “valley of the shadow of death” I’m pretty sure He can handle a car accident. I think back though on all the times I didn’t trust Him. After my first accident and the proceeding surgery, I found myself in a very dark place. It was literally the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. Walking the 15 feet from my bed to the bathroom was a monumental task. Ladies, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to take care of business and not been able to twist or bend your back at all, but it makes bathroom trips very interesting. Any slight movement would rock me with pain. Instead of clinging to God, I floundered. One particularly hard day I remember telling Him that I was done and He could take me now. Not my proudest moment.

I think a better acrostic for fear is Failure Echoing Assurance Revoked. I don’t know about you but that seems to explain it better, at least in my life. All my past failures seem to loom in my memory making me second guess who I am and if I’m truly capable of handling what life throws at me. As soon as I start listening to those voices all my hope is stripped away and I’m left shaking in my boots. But, if I acknowledge and face my failures and my concerns, they seem to lose their grip on me. Like testing the hot wire with the back of the your hand, it’s still bites but it loses it’s hold. Telling someone that I’m scared of what this accident might cost me is not easy. It’s embarrassing, it makes me feel weak and pathetic. But having someone who can help me carry that burden, who listens to me fears and helps me sort through what reality is versus “the end of the world”, more than compensates for the momentary foolishness I feel. I’m so grateful that God is with me and has surrounded me with those that love me. I will focus on who He is and what He’s done versus who I am, because I am broken but through Him I will conqueror.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Answers

Back in 2012 I got my first migraine. We were on our way to Disneyland with our kids and out of the blue I was blindsided by a migraine. Form that time on I began having what they finally diagnosed as daily persistent headaches with migraines. I had been in and out of the doctors office up to this time but this began years of being ping-ponged back and forth between doctors and specialist. Each one would discover something they thought was causing the issue, or a “new” issue and quickly pass me off to a new doctor. For example, a MRI showed extra fluid in my brain so the general practitioner sent me to a neurologist, who then realized I had a fast heart rate, so bounced me to the cardiologist, who said my heart was fine so back to the neurologist…on and on it goes. I turned into a drug trial guinea pig and have had more images taken of me than Cindy Crawford. Her’s of course looked better and where of the exterior, but you get the picture. I would go to the doctors and try everything recommended only to have horrible side effects from the drugs, or see no improvement. I think one of the craziest side effects was not being able to taste carbonation, that was a little mind boggling. I would swear off going to the doctors and decide I would just make due and grin and bear it. Then things would get worse or I’d hear of a new treatment or…and I’d end up back at the doctors trying it all over again with the same outcome. I once heard someone describing living with ehlers-danlos (EDS) is like having your house on fire. The firefighter comes in and asks you what do you want me to put out first? You look around and see the drapes on fire and the flames are about to jump to your photo albums, but then again your kitchen is burning too and heading towards your bedroom. How do you decide what one to attack first? That’s what I was dealing with. At this point I hadn’t been diagnosed with EDS so I was still scrambling for a diagnosis. My headaches and migraines were bad but then my back would flare up and make it hard to move, or nausea would decide it was it’s turn to jump into the ring, blood pressure not wanting to be outdone would drop so low everything would start to fade away. Which one do you address first and are they all connected or all separate issues? In June of 2017 my back finally decided it was done. I woke up one morning and could barely move due to the pain. Come to find out a bulging disc was pushing up against my sciatic nerve. I wouldn’t recommend this experience to anyone.

My previous doctor had literally laughed at me when I was telling him about all my pain and what I was dealing with. He told me he’d do the imaging but “I’m not going to find anything. There’s nothing wrong with you.” After the imaging he stuck to his story even though in his notes he stated I had a bulging disc and degenerative discs. Didn’t find that out to later though. When my back went out I called him and they said the earliest they could get me in was 4 weeks. I explained I could barely move and they nonchalantly stated that was the soonest he could see me. Time for a new doctor. I called another doctor’s office that a friend recommended and they “just so happened” to have a cancellation and could see me the next day. Crazy how God “just so happens” to answer prayers. Went in to see him and his physician assistant (PA) and was blown away with the time and care they took. He looked at the previous imaging done and told me about the bulging disc and said that of course I’d be in pain based on my imaging. I know this may sound weird but when professionals tell you there’s no reason for your pain you start to think it’s all in your head and your going crazy. Just hearing him tell me that there was cause for my pain was a huge relief. As we sat there talking…well actually I was squatting because it was the only semi-comfortable position I could find, the PA mentioned EDS to the doctor. She noticed from how low I was able to squat that I was hyper-mobile. Long story shorter the determined I had EDS (see Ehlers-Danlos blog for more of the story). They did an epidural injection and I had immediate relief. It was so amazing! I even felt good enough to go out of town to my daughters softball game. I was so relieved that the injection was so successful. Unfortunately that only lasted a few days. On the way home from Faith’s game we were rear-ended. I was leaning forward when it happened so I did a full body whip lash. I instantly knew I was in trouble. They tried multiple steroid injections to try to undo the damage but I wasn’t getting any relief and the steroids were making me a little crazy. The only option left was surgery. Met with a neurosurgeon and found out that, according to him, my sciatic nerve was “royal pissed off” and my bulging disc had now ruptured. For Christmas that year I got a fusion of my L5-S1 vertebrae. Merry Christmas to me. The good news was they weren’t sure if my sciatic nerve would calm down after surgery or if the damage was permanent. Thank God it wasn’t permanent and it’s 90% better.

We have a tendency to look at life from the right now perspective. When the first doctor told me there was nothing wrong with me, which you think would be a good thing, I was devastated. I was so mad at him for not caring and for being so dismissive. When the second doctor told me I had EDS I was happy to finally have a diagnosis and validation of my pain, but yet devastated there is no cure and the fact it’s degenerative. Being four years removed from that situation I’m able to look back and see how God has used both of those instances to radically bless me and change my life. We don’t always get to see the why behind what God does. There’s still a lot of whys that are unanswered in my life. It’s important to cling to the whys He does answer as a reminder that He is listening and He does care. In Daniel chapter 9 he’s praying and seeking answers. The Angle Gabriel comes and says “At the beginning of your supplications the command and went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved….” vs 23a. “At the beginning”, God immediately acted as soon as Daniel started praying because he was “greatly beloved.” God hears you as soon as you start praying and knows what’s on your heart. Sometimes you may get an immediate answer. Other times it may take years, and sometimes we won’t know until we’re sitting at His feet in heaven. But either way “you are greatly beloved!” Regardless of how deafening the silence is do not forget you are loved.

There’s more to this story but to prevent this from becoming a book I’ll share the rest next time.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Vulnerability

I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of vulnerability. My brother encouraged me to read the book “Daring Greatly” which is all about how to be vulnerable and why it’s important. Don’t ask me why but I’ve started reading it. It’s good but has been very challenging. You might think that because I put it all out here on the blog that I’m a very open person, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a very safe place for me, for the most part no one knows me here so it’s way easier to be more open and honest than I am in real life. The author stated something that resonated with me. She stated that vulnerability builds trust. The more you open yourself up and your met with compassion and understanding, trust gets built. I think we’d probably all agree with that. The next thing the author said was that one of the worst betrayals of trust is disengagement. At face value I would have said that was crazy. When you think of someone betraying your trust the top three usually come to mind, cheating, breaking confidence, or lying, not disengaging. The more I read and thought about it the more I realized that this statement was 100% accurate. The author described disengagement as not caring, letting go of the connection, not being willing to devote time and effort into the relationship. Disengagement corrodes trust. I looked up the word corrode hoping it didn’t mean what I thought it did, unfortunately it meant exactly what I thought. Corrode-to destroy or weaken something gradually. Where cheating, breaking confidence , or lying might be the final blow to a relationship, I believe that it probably started with the slow steady drain of disengagement. I don’t know about you but that terrifies me. In my relationships am I disengaged? Because it’s easier and safer to not be vulnerable, am I slowly destroying my relationships? I’ve always considered myself a good friend, mom, daughter, sister, wife, because I’ve never done any of the big three, but yet have I truly engaged?

I think one of the most important ways to engage is by hearing. Not listening, but hearing. Listening is merely the ability to take in noise. Hearing requires engaging your heart and emotions. I know that personally this means a lot to me. I tell me family and friends all the time, “Please hear my heart. Not just the words coming out of my mouth”. It’s me opening the door to vulnerability and hoping that I’ll be welcomed and heard. Hoping that I’ll be understood, not criticized or condemned, but loved and accepted. Now there are times that I need to be corrected and set straight, but once the base has been established that I’m truly loved and accepted then the corrections are easier to accept. How quickly we jump to criticizing and condemning before we even stop to hear what the other person is trying to saying.

Have you noticed how easy it is to fully engage in good news? Someone gets a promotion, gets married, has a baby, all these things we can jump in with both feet and get emotionally involved and share in their joy. Yet when someone is struggling, they just got diagnosed with cancer, lost a loved one, or has a child rebelling, we shut down. In fact, if we were honest, I think we’d all run the opposite direction. Stepping into someone’s pain, and mess is uncomfortable. As Christian’s I think that we’ve failed miserably at this. We’re supposed to be the ones that the broken and hurting can run to. They open up and are vulnerable with their hurts and pains and we say things like, “Don’t worry about anything, the joy of the Lord is your strength, have faith.” Really? Was that Christ’s response? He wept when Lazarus died, knowing that He would be alive again. He entered into their grief and welcomed their vulnerability. He didn’t shame them, “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled,”* and He wept. The best thing we can do when someone is vulnerable with us is step into the door they opened and “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those weep.” Romans 12:15

If being “heard” is so important to me, shouldn’t I be sure to hear those who are willing to share themselves with me? To set aside my phone, and look at them so they know they have my heart not just my ears? To fully engage with my emotions no matter how messy and exhausting that can be? Engaging is a choice, but so is disengagement. If I choose to put up my wall and rely on auto pilot because it’s easier, I’m choosing myself over my loved ones. If I would rather turn on the TV because I’m exhausted and I’d rather not discuss the day, I’ve chosen to distance myself. If when my daughter cries because she misses her brother, and instead of joining her in her pain I disengage because I’m tired of missing him, what message am I sending her?

Look at the world around us. Do you think this is a major problem in our society? Everyone is screaming and yelling but no one is actually hearing anything. This needs to start with us. We need to stop being “too busy” and hear what’s being said. We need to be vulnerable enough to be willing to hear what are loved ones are trying to say. We need to be vulnerable enough to be willing to share our heart in response. If we don’t we’re going to feel very lonely. Lonely people act out, trying to find out if anyone cares, and when they are met with indifference they either get louder, or close themselves away. I challenge each of us to reach out to someone you love today and truly step into their lives and let them in yours. Stop. Hear. Engage.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

As always I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail me

Blessings

*John 11:33

Parenthood

My sister-in-law and her three kids are here visiting this week. As I watch her with her 2, 5, and 7 year old it made me wonder, what is the hardest stage of parenting? I have an almost 15 year old and a 20 year old so I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum as she is. It was a beautiful sunny day so we all decided to go to the beach yesterday. Usually when we go my daughter and I pack some snacks and drinks, then go get dressed, meet on the back patio to help each other sunscreen up, then tell my husband we are ready, he loads up the car and we leave. I forgot that’s not the case with little ones. After an hour and a half, and lots of running and yelling and some tears, we finally are all in the car and ready to leave. I look at my sister-in-law and she’s exhausted already. That’s ok though because the beach is the most relaxing place in the world. Once we get there we’ll throw around the frisbee, maybe bump the volleyball, splash in the waves, sit in our beach chars, watch the waves rolling in, read a book and enjoy some good conversation. Those of you with littles are probably laughing right now. There is no relaxing at the beach with littles. You’re constantly on edge trying to watch everyone because the water doesn’t treat a 2 year old any different than a 15 year old. More poor sister-in-law by the end of the trip was drenched in her jean shorts and t-shirt and had sand in places the sun doesn’t shine. She had made sure everyone else had a change of clothes but forgot any for herself.

As I watched all this it made me look back over my life and ask myself what the hardest stage of parenting is?

You’ve got the infant stage which is amazing, all the cuddles and snuggles, the calming baby smell, and sleeping in your arms. Everything is new, amazing and beautiful. You’ve got three answers to every question, food, clean diaper, or sleep. Doesn’t get any easier than that right? Oh, but don’t forget the sleepless nights, endless crying, the not so calming baby diaper smells, and the constant questioning and doubting of every decision you make and praying for sleep. You think to yourself, if they could just tell me what they want this would all be a lot easier….and then they can.

In march the toddler years. You literally get to watch a little human experience all their firsts in life. First giggle, words, steps, birthdays…the list is endless and so is the expression of wonderment and joy on their faces. In a small sense you get to experience life through their eyes and get excited again at the first snow of the year versus dreading shoveling the walks and driving in it. You get to watch them learn the faces and voices of the ones who love them. You get to watch as they trust wholeheartedly the ones around them with no other reason than they know they are loved. And then there is the development of the own free will and desire to fulfill their every want right now! They find they are able to communicate what they want and do it very loudly, all the time, and everywhere. They’ve attached themselves to you like a leach that you can’t shake. There is no where you go were they can’t find you and begin to badger you with all their wants, needs, or just any random thought that happens to pass through their brain. All you want is to go pee in peace for once. You’re exhausted mentally from all the constant chatter and find yourself questioning and doubting every decision and praying for God to grant you sanity.

Before you know it you’re walking them into school. You get to see them experience the joy of learning. How to read, count, write, ride a bike, play sports, make friends on the playground and living a life a little more free. Conversations become more in depth, versus just the do’s and don’t’s, why’s and what will happen become more involved. You begin to experience some of the freedom that you’ve been wanting. As you drop your child off at kindergarten you realize that this will be the first time you wouldn’t know everything they did, everyone they came in contact with and what they went through. Discussions change from, “Why did you draw with marker on the wall?” to “How did you get a black eye?” It’s getting real now. Things are no longer under your complete control and ever watchful eye. The coach doesn’t care that your kid doesn’t get to play quarterback, or infield. The teacher doesn’t know that reading is a struggle and honestly with 30 other kids in her room doesn’t care, at least not like you do. The concerns go from, will my child ever stop wetting the bed, to, will their heart ever heal from their first betrayal of friendship? You question whether you should just remove them from society and keep them locked away for safe keeping. You doubt your ability to parent and pray that God watches them when you can’t.

Then the teen years. They are little adults, able to have deep and meaningful conversations. They start transitioning from children to friends and are self-reliant. They begin to dream of the future and plan for what they want to become. Their faith begins to become their own. They challenge you on your ideas and thought and have actual points and reasons behind theirs. Instead of a leach you find you have a constant friend. As the freedom grows for both you and your child so do the fears and doubts. As they start dating and driving the consequences move from not good to terrifying. As they start to emerge into the adult world it requires you stepping back, and at times they are very quick to inform you of this. You question all your parenting decisions and doubt that what you’ve taught them will be enough. You beg God to watch over them and take your feeble attempt at parenting and turn it into something beautiful.

And just when you think it can’t get any scarier they enter the adult world. The mix of emotions that come with this step I’m still trying to sort out. Pride at who they are becoming, pain that they no longer need you, joy that they are functioning adults (by the grace of God), fear that you won’t be a part of their lives anymore. It’s like the slowest most painful break up ever. When you’re dating you move from love and independence to marriage with a stronger love and dependence on each other. Yet with parenthood it goes from complete dependence and love to a complete independence with a love still so strong that it physically hurts. Your time as a parent is officially over and now you get to be their friend and mentor. Not a bad gig but you find yourself wishing for the time when they walked in on you in the bathroom to show you the boogie they just pulled out of their nose. You long for the days where a band-aid and a hug fixed everything. You find yourself on your face before God pleading with Him to watch over your child, to protect them since you no longer can, to wrap His arms around them in your absence.

So what’s the hardest stage of parenting? I believe each and everyone has it’s own unique challenges but more than that, each and every stage has it’s own joys. Each time my husband and I got to a new stage with our kids we’d look at each other and say, “This one. This one right now is my favorite.” I love being a parent. I didn’t always enjoy, I didn’t always thank God for my kids, but I love being a parent. If you’re in one of those un-enjoyable moments, hang in there. Like Trace Adkins says, “You’re going to miss this, you’re going to want this back. You’re going to wish these years hadn’t gone by so fast.”

Emotions

I grew up in a family of seven kids. I have two older biological brothers and four adopted siblings. I was seven when my family grew immediately with the adoption of three children from Korea, 2 girls and a boy. That story needs it’s own day, but to put it simply they had been through hell and brought a lot of emotional baggage with them, understandably so.  The damage from all they had been through brought chaos and confusion to our home life and turned it into one gigantic emotional roller coaster ride. Therefore I realized emotions were a bad thing and to be avoided at all costs.  I found my solace with my dad who was pretty even keeled.  He was a mechanic and I discovered at a young age I enjoyed working on cars, or anything else he was doing.  It gave me one on one time with my dad in a non-chaotic emotional free (except when he couldn’t find a tool) zone.  I spent my childhood building fences, stalls, and shoveling manure, mowing fields, fixing cars, lawn mowers or anything that was mechanical, working with the animals, and anything else I could do to get out of the house.

I associated emotions with chaos and a lack of control, also with pain. If you care, then the hurt is that much more painful. I decided that emotions were unnecessary and that life would be better off without them. Plus they were messy and made you look weak. I mean my dad was a strong, unemotional man and there was order whenever I was with him so it only stood to reason that emotions were for wimps. I knew he loved me, he told me all the time so love (whatever that meant) was ok. But no mushy stuff. Unfortunately I came to hate emotions. I began to deaden any and all emotions in order to be strong and no one could hurt me. I figured out that you can’t just numb the bad emotions, it’s all or none. When I realized this I was too afraid of being out of control to change anything. So over the years I continued to suppress my emotions as much as possible.

At some point your lifestyle because so automatic you don’t even realize what you’re doing anymore. I had actually convinced myself that my lack of emotion was a good thing and something to be proud of. After all I wasn’t like all the other girls who cried over every little thing, or would blow up at their friends, family or spouse. I was better than all of that. I was level headed, cool in any circumstance, and…well to put it more plainly I was as cold as ice. Sure I didn’t have any lows but I didn’t have any highs either. Just numbingly even keeled.

Then God gave me an emotional little girl and to my disbelief I found myself envying her ability to fully respond to circumstances.  A beautiful bird? Well, that calls for a song and dance! Nemo not being able to find his dad? Heart wrenching tears but then the joy on her face when the two were re-united was all that much sweeter due to the sorrow of observed loss. She would stop in the middle of a walk to marvel at the ants and didn’t care who was looking or what others may think of her. My parents would tell me that she reminded them of me when I was little, and I became even more jealous of her. She enjoyed life to it’s fullest. I realized that without tears, joy isn’t as sweet. With out anger, forgiveness isn’t as refreshing. With out vulnerability, love isn’t as priceless. For every negative emotion there is a positive one that is only truly realized after the full weight of the negative emotion is felt. I was broken. I realized that I had given up and numbed my feelings so well that I had missed out on life. For what is life but our experiences, and what are our experiences if not truly felt.

At 30 years old I slowly started taking steps to learn what emotions were and how to feel them and handle them. And then my health took a turn for the worse. I ended up with “daily persistent headaches and chronic migraines”, meaning headaches all day every day and migraines 2-5 times a week. Along with that my pain went from a mostly functioning level of pain to survival mode. For those of you who haven’t lived with chronic pain it is literally all consuming. It takes everything you have just to make it through a day. So my emotions got shoved back to the bottom of the barrel. That’s where they remained until the barrel was overflowing and then I’d have to deal with them just enough to make some room and then shove them back down again.

Two years ago through some crazy circumstances we realized that where we were living was actually a huge contributing factor to my pain. Through a series of events we ended up moving 2500 miles away from where both my husband and I were born and raised so that I could have a better quality of life. I’ll have to write more about that answer to prayer later, but let’s just say it’s been a true life changing event. Because I’m no longer in survival mode my emotions have decided they would like some attention. I can’t tell you how weird it is at 40 years old to be learning how to handle emotions. Not just handle them, but what they feel like. I have conversations in my head like I did with my daughter when she was a toddler. What are you feeling and why? Is this the proper way to respond to this situation? Not to mention my eyes keep leaking. I was watching a commercial the other day and the next thing you know I have water leaking out of my eyes! It was a happy commercial too, I guess it’s called “tears of joy” or something crazy like that. I feel the losses greater than I ever have, but I also feel joy and happiness at a deeper level than ever before. I know I have a long ways to go, and at times I find all these new feelings terrifying. The numbness I clung to for most of my life thinking it was protecting me was really preventing me from truly experiencing life. Maybe numbness isn’t what you use to hide from the world, but what ever it is I would encourage you to put it aside. What you’re hiding from may not be as scary as you thought. It could be the very thing you’ve been longing for and missing in your life.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Depression and Anxiety

If you have ever battled depression and anxiety, you know they are worthy foes. I recently saw this description of them ~

Depression is when you don’t really care about anything.

Anxiety is when you care too much about everything.

And having both is just like hell.

In a previous post I told y’all I have a genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS has a huge family tree with all sorts tag-a-long diagnosis, two of them are depression and anxiety. These twin devils like to reek havoc on your brain and emotions while EDS is pummeling your body. They’ve done multiple studies on these two in connection to EDS and it’s still highly debated if the cause is directly related to EDS or just in response to chronic pain. One study showed that 70% of people with EDS suffer with some form of anxiety disorder compared to 22% of a controlled group. In plain English that means if you have EDS your probably going to suffer with anxiety too.

The first time depression was brought to my attention was when I had to switch primary care providers. After reviewing the questionnaire I filled out he said he wanted to talk to me about my depression. I very quickly told him I don’t struggle with depression. He looked back at the questionnaire and stated according to this you do. I informed him I hated that word and it wasn’t something I had issues with. Thankfully he took my subtle hints and moved on with the exam. At the end he looked at me and I’ll never forget what he said. “If I faced everything you do on a daily basis, I would be very depressed. I’m impressed with how well you are handling all of it.” With that I did something I’ve never done in public, I cried. He sat there quietly and watched and waited with a look of understanding that I’ve never had with a doctor before. Then he continued, “I won’t use that “word” anymore but I do think we need to find a way to help you combat everything you are going through.” Because of one of the other members on the EDS family tree, mast cell activation syndrome, I don’t tolerate meds so unfortunately that didn’t work. But, it was the first time, at the ripe old age of 37 that someone told me it was ok not to have it all together. That it was understandable to feel depressed. This opened the door for me to start exploring and dealing with my anxiety and depression versus just burying it and hoping it would go away.

I feel like anxiety and depression work similar to a jack-in-the-box. Music is playing and I’m walking through life without a care in the world and then…

Terrifying!! Next thing anxiety has set in and my heart is racing and I feel like my whole body is shaking and the sense of eminent danger is so strong I can almost taste it. Everything is a cause for panic. I try to take a breath and proceed as normal but all the “what ifs” start attacking. What if I drop my water glass and it shatters and cuts me, what if I haven’t heard from my husband cause he’s in an accident, what if my son is hurt and can’t get a hold of me, what if my daughter is having a horrible day at school? They aren’t rational but they begin to wrap themselves like a boa constrictor around my throat.

Or maybe depression decides it wants a turn and I find myself numb and encompassed in darkness. No emotion. No feeling. Like being underwater, I can hear noises, see the sun-shining, and I know there’s life going on above the surface but I can’t participate. I can’t make out the conversations, or feel the sun warm my skin, and honestly I don’t care. I try to make myself care. I put on a good face and “fake it till you make it” but it’s exhausting. The only reason I even try to be happy is to avoid all the questions and concerns from my loved ones.

With either of these for some reason reaching out for help feels impossible. With anxiety I know my fears aren’t rational but I can’t shake them and to try to voice them would seem so petty and weak. And depression? Well, I’m so numb that to try to explain what I’m experiencing would take too much work and once again make me look weak.

Why do I think that being honest will make me look weak and vulnerable? When in all honesty when these two little devils show up it’s not any fault of mine. Whether it’s a because my body’s autonomic system is jacked up and sends the wrong signals at the wrong time or if it’s just due to the chronic pain, either way this is not a sign of weakness on my part. If anything I should look at it as a sign of strength and endurance because they haven’t beat me. They might steals some hours or maybe even days of my life but I won’t give up and let them win.

It’s a battle and there are a couple of weapons I’ve found helpful.

I’ve discovered one way to beat these trouble makers is by reaching out to my loved ones, people I can really trust. Letting them in on my fight and asking for prayer, help, a hug, or just a shoulder to cry on. When I wasn’t in the middle of the battle I talked with my husband and told him what I needed from him ahead of time. It wasn’t easy but now when I’m in the “pit of despair” or going 10 rounds with anxiety all I have to do is say, “I’m battling the blues,” or “Really anxious right now”. He knows what I need from him so no further explanation is needed and its way easier than trying to explain all my feelings and emotions in the midst of them.

Praise music has been a huge help. The book of Psalms, which is literally a book of songs and poetry, is filled with David crying out in his darkest hours and God’s response in faithfulness. I’ve saved some of my favorites to my Pinterest account for quick access. Like this one, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Psalms 34:4-7

I personally think that the biggest weapons these two use against us is the feeling of isolation. Making you think you’re alone and unloved. Please hear me! That is one of the biggest lies out there. You are loved and valuable, “For I, the Lord, will hold your right hand, saying to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

Don’t isolate no matter how good at the time it sounds. Reach out to a friend or family member. Get out and go for a walk. Get up and do something, even if it’s just making something yummy to eat or grabbing a cup of your favorite coffee. If you don’t have any one you can trust e-mail me. I’d be happy to listen.

I’m by no means an expert nor am I a professional but I wanted y’all to know that I understand. You’re not alone. Don’t quit and reach out for help.

As always I’d love to hear from you, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.

Blessings

Is God good?

A friend recently posed this question to me, “Why do you believe that God is still good after all you have been through?” I would say the bigger question for me is, do I really believe God is good? I believe in God, that He’s loving and all powerful, merciful, just, caring…but good? Why is that so hard for me to grasp. There was a song that came out when I was going through a hard time called “Good, Good Father”. I couldn’t even sing the words, because in my heart if He was a good Father He wouldn’t have allowed this. Matthew 7:11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” Look at my life, abusive childhood, Ehlers-Danlos, my daughter was molested, my son has my same genetic disorder, my brother committed suicide, two of my sister’s and one of my brother’s are estranged from me, forgive me if I don’t qualify these as good gifts. And there are a lot of people with lives way worse than mine.

Good…what does that word even mean? According to Webster’s dictionary the top three definitions are,

“of a favorable character or tendency”

“suitable, fit”

“profitable, advantageous”

I think when we think about good we think of it like, “That coffee was good.” It made me happy, tasted delicious, and kept me from falling asleep during work. But if you look at the definitions that’s not really what it means. Yes, coffee is profitable and advantageous, and it suitable to keep me awake and makes me of more favorable character, but that’s not what we mean when we say good. This is where my struggle with saying God is good comes in to play. When I hear “good” I think of something pleasing right now. Something that brings happiness. But if I apply the actual meaning of the word, I know novel idea, would that change my perspective of God being good?

If you look up the word good in the Bible you’ll be shocked at how many times it’s used, so I’m not going to even address them all. I wanted to pick on two that I feel are the most used. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according His purpose.” Forgive me cause I’m going to geek out here for a moment. I want to explore some of the Greek definitions for some of these words.

Work together – the Greek word is synergeo, it’s where we get our word synergy. It means to put forth power together with and thereby to assist.

Good means useful, excellent, upright.

So another words everything we encounter whether “good” or bad God is putting forth power to make it useful, to create something excellent, if we love Him and for His purpose, not mine.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is Joseph. If you don’t know it I’ll briefly recap. Joseph is a spoiled brat and his father’s favorite son out of all 11 boys. His brothers despise him so they plot to kill him but then decided to sell him into slavery instead. And you thought your family had issues. He’s taken away to Egypt and is slaving away when the owner’s wife tries to sleep with him. He refuses and as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished, she accuses him of raping her and he gets sent to jail. Joseph sat and rotted in jail for two years before a series of events put him in the palace second in command to the Pharaoh, and single handed saved the nation of Egypt and the surrounding areas from a massive famine. (You can read the whole story in Genesis 39-45.) What does all this have to do with good? When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt seeking grain, Joseph’s reply to them was “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me: but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Being sold into slavery, torn away from all family and dropped into a very different culture, being wrongfully imprisoned, all of that God meant for good? Had Joseph not been in the right place at the right time hundreds of thousands of people would have starved, including his family. Joseph was able to see the bigger picture and realize that God had used what appeared to be evil to accomplish His will. Just like He did at the cross. The ultimate evil, torture and murder of a completely innocent man, was meant for good because it gave us the ability to have eternal life, the ultimate good. I think a lot of times we try to look at life through a right here right now perspective. Another words, I don’t think that Joseph while he was bound and drug away to Egypt was like, “Wow! This is amazing! God is going to do something wonderful, I can just feel it!” I’m guessing if he was anything like me, he was probably questioning and arguing with God on what was happing to him. Sometimes what looks good for us ends up being bad and other times what we perceive as bad ends up being a blessing in disguise.

Here’s a story our pastor told a few years back that I find so powerful and I’ve referenced multiple times in my kids and my life.

A farmer and his son had a beloved horse who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbours exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “It’s too early to tell.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild horses back to the farm as well. The neighbours shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “It’s too early to tell.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the horses and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The neighbours cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “It’s too early to tell.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg. The neighbours shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “It’s too early to tell.”

How many times in my life have I raged and fought against what I perceived to be something bad only to look back and see how God used it to protect me, or point me in the right direction or lead me to be at the right place at the right time. Then there are times where I’ve fought to cling to the “good” in life only to find out that it’s the Trojan horse in my life?

So do I believe God is good, regardless of everything I’ve faced and will continue to face? Yes. I believe that God is working “all these things” for my good. I know one day, maybe not here on earth, I’ll be able to look back and see the big picture and see the goodness of God even in the times that it didn’t feel good.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Faith

Before we got married Daniel and I decided that we wanted to wait 3-5 years before we had kids and then have 3-4 about 2-3 years apart, and then God laughed.  As I’ve mentioned our first child was born a mere 18 months after we got married.  When our son was almost two I figured it was time to start trying for our second.  I don’t know if you have moments in time that are forever frozen in history for you, but this is one of mine.  I was walking out of our home office and getting ready to head downstairs when God said, “it’s going to be a girl.”  I stopped in my tracks.  A girl?!?! I don’t know why, but the thought of not having a second son had never crossed my mind.  I just assumed we’d have two boys.  So right then and there I decided that Justice would be an only child.  Girls terrify me.  I know this sounds weird since I am one, but I’ve never been a girly girl and never really gotten along with girls very well.  All the drama and the emotions and the pink….terrifying. 

When I was 14, my brother got married and they asked me to be a junior bridesmaid.  I was given a fancy satin dress with shoes dyed to match, hair was done by a professional and makeup was applied.  I looked like a princess and everyone kept telling me how beautiful I was.  By the end of the night I was in tears and ready to rip my dress off.  I hated being so gushed over and all I wanted to do was wash my face, take my hair down and put on a pair of jeans.  Not a girly girl at all!  And now I was supposed to have one and raise her?  Nope, one child would be good enough for me, thanks for the heads up God.  Then He laughed again, I’m so glad I can give God such good comedic relief.  He put a desire in my heart so strong for a second child that I couldn’t ignore it.  So much so that I ended up arguing with my husband for a second child for over two years.  

Daniel was worried about having another kid for a couple of reasons.   My labor and delivery with our son hadn’t gone according to plan.  Daniel had felt so helpless watching me in pain and when Justice got stuck during delivery and his heart rate dropped they called in the emergency pediatrician.  Thankfully everything ended up fine but not something he wanted to go through again.  At 10 months Justice got very sick.  The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong and we watched our strong healthy child waste away before our eyes.  At 12 months he was 31 inches tall (88 percentile) and 20lbs (13 percentile) and couldn’t walk anymore because he was too weak.  I can’t begin to explain the fear of watching your baby fail and not be able to do anything for him.  They kept giving him more antibiotics thinking he had pneumonia, or some other respiratory issue.  The antibiotics killed his intestinal lining and he couldn’t keep anything in.  They sent us to a specialist who discovered he had RSV, a viral infection in his lungs.  Took him off all antibiotics and thankfully shortly after his diagnosis we discovered that we was allergic to eggs, milk and a few other items.  With the changed diet and the break from the medicine he slowly started to improve.  It took years for his immune system to recover and he would constantly get sick and have issues breathing and keeping food down.  Looking back I realize a lot of this was also due to the fact that he had Ehlers-Danlos like me.  All of that to say Daniel was scared to have another child.

Finally, my persistence paid off and and he agreed to try and see what happened.  Unfortunately for him there wasn’t a lot of trying that took place.  I instantly got pregnant.  I had tried to convince myself that I hadn’t really heard God and that maybe it would be a boy, but deep down I knew we were going to have a girl.  We both decided to wait till she was born to find out the sex for sure.  This drove our family a little crazy but we both really enjoyed waiting and hearing “It’s a girl!” as she came out.  Thankfully labor and delivery was much smoother with her and I didn’t battle with postpartum depression this time.  We hadn’t settled on a name yet so after everyone got to meet her we sent everyone home and Daniel and I sat on the hospital bed with our little girl and her head full of hair and got to pick a name for her.  This is one of my favorite memories and a time I’ll treasure forever.  We decided to name her Faith Megan, and that name has been her life story.  I think everyone knows what faith means but Megan has also been extremely fitting.  You see Megan means pearl.  A pearl is created by an irritant entering the oysters shell.  In response it starts covering it with slime (science was never my strong suit) until it’s completely covered and that irritant is replaced with a beautiful pearl. 

God really does have a great sense of humor as Faith has been all girl from day one. She loved dresses, pink, princess, and has taken me on emotional roller coaster rides that would make Disney jealous.  She loves life with a passion that I find exhausting and exciting all at the same time.  She’s joy personified, and when the storm clouds roll in her sorrow shakes the foundations of the earth. She is truly a force to be reckoned with. 

My baby girl is now 14 years old and I’m constantly dumbfounded by her faith and her ability to handle lives irritations.  She’ll rage against the injustices and then settle into a calm peace knowing that God is in control and she can trust Him.  She’s challenged me more times than I care to admit by her unfailing faith in Him even in the hardest times.  One of those times was shortly after she had been sexual abused at the age of 7.  She was asking me why it had happened to her and I was struggling with the same question so I didn’t have a good answer.  I tried the pat church answer of “God will make something beautiful from this,” but didn’t really believe that, nor could I truly explain that to a 7 year old.  One day she told me she knew why God had let it happen, I’ll never forget her words.  “Mommy, God let this happen to me because He knew I was strong enough to handle it and another little girl might not have been.”  And the pearl began to form.  Don’t get me wrong it took a long time, lots of counseling, prayers, tears, and frustration, but God has been faithful. To look back and see how that has shaped her into who she is brings tears to my eyes.  

We think we know best in our lives and our kids.  I thought one kid would be enough, but I can’t imagine how dull my life would be without Faith.  We want to so badly to shield our children from all the hurt and evil in the world, and by all means we should do our best to protect our kids.  Unfortunately though we live in a fallen and broken world and no matter how hard you try, your kids at some point or another are going to have to deal with hurt, disappointment, heart break, and evil.  So instead of worrying about how to shield them from everything why not start equipping them?  When you look at your own life when is it that you felt the closest to God?  I know for me it’s been in my darkest moments that I’ve felt His presences most clearly.  So why don’t I trust Him to do the same for my kids?

Pearls aren’t just a beautiful gems made out of an irritant, they are also incredibly strong.  They are 3000 times stronger than the material they are made out of.  Scientists are still trying to figure out how that is possible, but I’ve seen this truth in my daughter’s life.  With Christ by her side she’s shown that she’s way stronger and can handle way more than I would have ever thought.  She’s becoming more resilient and more beautiful than I could have ever hoped or dreamed and I can’t wait to see what God has in store.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.

Blessings

Struggles

I’ve realized that a lot of times when I’m trying to make sense out of situations in my life writing it down helps me unscramble all the pieces.  So, welcome to my therapy session!  Some areas in my life that I’ve struggled to find balance and direction with are trials, tribulations and discipline.  At first glance they may all seem the same but I think there’s some very big differences.

Trials ~ I used to look at trials and tribulations as the same thing but in the Bible the word trial is translated as temptation or testing.  1 Peter 1:6 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,”  So trials refer to the everyday things we face as a result of living in a fallen and broken world.  

Tribulation ~ Persecution is another word that goes hand in hand with this.  When the Bible uses these words it’s usually having to do with a direct response to us living our faith.  For example, Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”  A feel good verse to brighten your day today.

Discipline ~ It seems like such a harsh word but it’s translated correction, or instruction.  Proverbs 3:12 “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  My pastor used to say that you can’t say your suffering trials or tribulation for stupid decisions, that’s just correction.  For example if you’re speeding and get a ticket, that’s not a trial, (something out of your control) or tribulation, (he didn’t stop you because you were proclaiming Christ) but discipline for a bad decision.  

Ok, so where am I going with all this?  Good question.  I’ve been wrestling with the idea and teachings on healing.  Hang with me here for a second and I’ll try to tie this all together.  If you don’t know my story I’ve struggled with health issues my whole life and it wasn’t till three years ago I found out I have a genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos.  My family, friends and I have prayed for healing for years.  In the church I’ve been confronted with lots of “helpful” advice.  They even used scriptures like, “ask anything in my name,” “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can move mountains,” “confess your sins so if anyone is sick among you he may be healed.”  All these things are true but incomplete when you look at the scriptures in the entirety.  A good piece of advice I’ve heard is never build a complete theology based solely on one verse.  With this in mind I’d like to delve in a little deeper into these thoughts.  There seems to be two main camps on suffering and healing.  The first group believes that suffering and sin are directly linked.  If you have pain in your life it’s because there’s sin, if you confess then you’ll be healed.  The second is if you have enough faith then you’ll be healed, lack of faith equals no healing.  The issue I have with both of these is that it’s sold as the magical cure all to assure healing, and if you don’t get healed…well that’s your fault.  I agree that sin or a lack of faith can hinder healing but it’s not the pat answer to all prayers for healing.  I’d like to add one reason that neither camp likes to claim.  Sometimes God says “No” to the physical healing.

There’s all sorts of stories of healing in the Bible, one of my favorites is found in John 9.  There’s a man who was born blind and the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned?  This man or his parents that he was born blind?”  Now this question cracks me up because I’d like to know how a baby in the womb can sin.  Regardless Jesus replies, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”  Then Jesus proceeded to spit in the dirt and make mud to put on this man’s eyes to heal him.  He had lived his whole life in darkness because God had a plan for him.  Not because he sinned, or didn’t have enough faith.  In fact he didn’t even ask Jesus to heal him, but he was part of God’s plan to reveal Himself to us.  

Let’s take a look at Paul’s life.  Before he started following Christ he tortured and killed Christians, thinking the whole time that he was serving God.  One day God brought him to his knees (literally) and blinded him and told Paul that he was all sorts of screwed up and needed to change.  He accepted this correction and God restored his vision.  Do you know Paul in all the letters he wrote never even discusses this event in his life?  He did however talk about a “thorn in his flesh” that God refused to heal him from.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

Paul recognized that there are different forms of suffering.  He was blinded then healed (correction), he was persecuted for teaching the words of Christ (tribulation), and he had a thorn in his flesh (trials).  

My genetic condition is not due to any sin in my life, or a lack of faith, it’s a result of living in this fallen and broken world and for the time being God has decided to leave my “thorn in the flesh”.  It’s the trial God has decided to use in my life and hopefully I can use it to His glory somehow.  When I looked at it as discipline it caused resentment and frustration with God as a couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong.  When I would read about tribulation and persecution in the Bible I wouldn’t find any hope or comfort because I knew this wasn’t in direct response to my faith.  I wasn’t in pain because I was being beat for the sake of Christ, I was just in pain.  When my answers for physical healing weren’t being answered I began to doubt God’s love for me, my faith in His power, and my walk with Him.  

A missionary came to our church once and he had recently been diagnosed with cancer.  Some people from these same two camps had come to him stating he just needed to claim healing in faith and he’d be healed.  Others told him it was satan attacking him for doing God’s work and he needed to search his life for the hidden sins that allowed for this attack.  His answer helped change my thinking.  He stated cancer was due to sin in the world.  When Adam and Eve first sinned it broke not just their relationship with God but all of creation.  Romans 8:19-22 ”For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”  Creation is broken along with us and therefore there is sickness and death in the world.   Once I was able to see it as a trial, just a side effect to living in this broken world, I was able to find peace in my pain, most of the time.  Still haven’t perfected this but I’m able to fall back on God’s word and know He loves me and one day this will all be set right.

Even though trials are part of living in a fallen world we have hope knowing our God is bigger than they are.  Sometimes instead of removing us from the trials, He decides to use them to bring us closer to Him and to purify us.  God can heal us physically but sometimes the most impressive healing isn’t the physical but the spiritual.  All the while I’d been praying for physical healing He had been healing me spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  He’s more concerned with our soul than our body.  Look at the story of Lazarus, Jesus raised him from the dead.  That’s pretty amazing but guess what, he isn’t still living today.  He eventually died…again.  The most amazing healing is that of our soul.  Because Jesus died and rose again we can be healed of our sins and spend eternity with Him where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions or comments. Please leave them below or shoot me an e-mail.

Blessings

Invisible

When I was little I tried desperately to not be noticed because if I was noticed I might get in trouble, or even worse I might get pointed out as an example of how to be the “perfect” child making me an enemy to all.  So I made a career out of being invisible thinking this would bring me happiness, or at least peace.  As I hit the wonderful adolescent years the normal fear of looking like an idiot was added to my list of pros to being invisible.  Part of being invisible was the ability to morph into what ever the current circumstance called for, like a professional chameleon I proceeded into marriage.  Nine months into our marriage I found out I was pregnant, very much a surprise.  Through pregnancy I tried desperately to figure out what I was supposed to morph into now and none of my friends were having kids yet so I was alone.  My sister-in-law had a toddler and got pregnant three months after me with her second.  She’s always been the picture perfect mom, loves pregnancy and everything thing that goes with it.  I didn’t feel that way and didn’t know what to do so I began to flounder.  I was 20 years old and started feeling like I was loosing control.

As I have stated before this was a critical time in my marriage as well, my husband was unknowingly laying the ground work for me to realize that his love for me was unconditional.  I carried on through pregnancy feeling lost and alone because I knew from watching my sister-in-law that my feelings weren’t “normal” and was embarrassed by them.  On December 28th my little surprise package was delivered and I got to hold my beautiful baby boy, Justice, in my arms.  I remember they laid him on my stomach I watched him whimpering and was unsure of what I was supposed to do.  The nurse finally said, “you know you can hold him?” Right, that’s what a mom is supposed to do hold and snuggle her baby.  I lifted him up and held him against my chest and he instantly settled and fell asleep.  I was transfixed.  Completely unaware of everything else going on and trying to figure out what I was feeling.  I don’t know how much time passed before my husband tapped my shoulder.  I will never forget the words that came out of his mouth, “Can I please hold my son?”  When you constantly are changing your reality to fit what you think others want some times reality is hard to grasp.  I had spent so much time focused on my marriage during my pregnancy and the way I was supposed to be feeling that I hadn’t actually spent anytime processing the fact that we were going to be parents.  I know that sounds bizarre but it’s where I was.  The day after we brought him home from the hospital Daniel got up with him in the morning so I could go back to sleep and try to get some rest.  I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I got up and started to go downstairs.  I heard Daniel talking and slowed my pace to try to figure out who he was talking to.  As I crept down the stairs the image that I saw is forever frozen in my mind.  He was sitting in the rocker basking in the sunshine that was streaming through the window with Justice in his arms wrapped in a blanket.  He was completely engrossed in his conversation with our sleeping son.  He was telling him about everything he was going to teach him and everything they would do together.  My heart melted.  Then something strange happened, I became extremely jealous.  Those motherly feelings still hadn’t appeared for me and here was my husband already in full daddy mode and loving every minute of it.  Justice had been struggling with nursing and I felt like it was because I wasn’t a good mom.  My fears of being a failure as a mom were already becoming reality.  And yet my husband was already in the runnings for father of the year.  I felt broken.  

For the first couple of months I struggled with what I later came to realize was postpartum depression.  The warm fuzzy feelings were no where to be found.  People would go to hand my son back to “his mom” and I felt like I was playing house.  There was no sentiment involved with the word mom.  I would cry in the middle of the night as I fed him because I wanted to feel that connection with my child but didn’t.  Then during the day I’d plaster the smile on and pretend everything was amazing.  I was afraid all those years of silencing my emotions and trying to be unseen had damaged me to the point where I couldn’t truly feel or give love.  Then something crazy happened.  I had him laying on the changing table and the song “How Did You Get To Me” came on and I started singing and dancing and just being goofy. He laid there and watched me and started smiling and giggling.  I felt these words whispered as I watched him “he loves you for you, not what you can do for him or who you were but who you are.”  At that moment God broke the barrier and I felt love.  I picked my son up and held him to me and started crying tears of joy.  The depression was gone and I realized I could be healed.  

God has used my son as an intricate part of my learning to be visible.  I realized that to be loved and to love you have to be transparent.  The anonymity I had so desperately been trying to obtain to protect myself was doing more damage then good.  As I sit here I’m struggling again with feelings of loneliness.  We’ve moved away from everyone and my son stayed behind.  Even though we are making new friends it takes years for them to get to “know” me.  I still struggle with hiding behind masks and letting people see the real me so that slows the process down.  I’m trying but it’s scary and exhausting.

My husband and daughter know me but they process life very differently than my son and I do.  I miss having my son here.  I miss having some one who knows what I’m feeling without having to use words and knows how to respond with out me having to tell them.  You see not only did God give me my son to help me start healing and being able to feel love but he gave me a best friend who experiences life in a very similar fashion.  My “surprise” gift has continued to surprise and bless me my whole life.  He’s brought me some of my greatest joys and greatest heartaches.  I’ve realized I’ve been lazy and used my son as a crutch and now I need to learn how to communicate better how I’m feeling and what I need to my husband.  It’s so hard to try to decipher my feelings and then figure out what I need from those around me. I feel like as a mom I have gained more from my son than he has from me and I’m so blessed that God knows what He’s doing.  In the moment I thought God had messed up by giving me a child because I was sure I was going to be a horrible mom and do irreversible damage to him.  The jury is still out on that but I can say that God used my son in my life to show me another aspect of His love for us.  The love that a parent has for a child.  The ability to be seen and loved.  The ability to not let our past define who loves us.  

Scars

A friend shared a post with me yesterday that was really good and encouraging. Along with that post the above picture was shown. Immediately I fell in love with it. My friend stated that the photo reminded her of my post where I mentioned my daughter telling me not to hide my scars. I was honored. I don’t know why I’d be excited that a picture of a women battered and bloody in armor would remind her of me. Maybe it’s because as a child I was always known as the weak and sickly one. I liked to imagine myself as being strong and the one people couldn’t live without. I tried to be strong for my dad and help him work on cars, fix and build fences, and tend the livestock. I wanted to be fierce and protect my love ones from all harm. I tried but never got past the stigma of being weak and frail.

I think that probably has something to do with it but I think even more so is the fact I have an invisible, uncommon illness. 99% of people I tell I have Ehlers-Danlos have no idea what that is. If you were to meet me on the street you would never know I was broken because I look “normal”. So on days where I’m hurting too bad to live life it causes a lot of skepticism. Somebody once put it this way, “I think there’s this weird phenomenon in life, specifically in the chronic illness community. It’s a place some of us get stuck in – the in between. A place where you’re too sick to function in the “able world” but at the same time you seem too healthy for the chronic illness world. You almost faint but you don’t. You’re always in pain but it’s relatively tolerable. You’re not bad enough to qualify for surgery even though you’d benefit. You forget everything but you don’t lose time. Your heart rate is too high to be normal but not high enough to be critical. Your blood pressure is low but not THAT low. Your try to find answers but seem relatively okay to doctors so they don’t want to run more tests. You’re stuck in place where you almost wish you were sicker so you could get helpful treatment.” This is exactly where I’ve been at. I can’t tell you how many tests come back normal, or close enough to normal that “it shouldn’t effect you”. I’ve had so many doctors tell me it’s all in my head, or that I just need counseling. I don’t fit in their box so the game of pass the patient begins. I even had one PT tell me after I had my spine fused that “pain is all in your head. For example if you had a broken leg you couldn’t run on it…but if I lion was chasing you, you could run on it then. See therefore pain is all in your head. You just need to tell yourself you’re not in pain.” I hate to admit this but I might have wanted to break her leg to test her theory. Oh, don’t judge. I realized later that probably wasn’t the best response.

The idea that someone could visibly see the battles I fight and the effect of them on me is something I so desire. I want to be seen as a warrior. I’m bloodied and bruised internally but no one can see that. For example, this morning when I woke up my ribs where they attach to the spine was so tight I was having a hard time breathing. I know what you’re thinking, I thought EDS caused extreme flexibility. Because my connective tissue is overly stretchy the muscles have to step up their game and act as connective tissues as well. The muscles can get a little carried away at times and lock things up tight. This morning was really bad. My husband had to push on my ribs and help break the muscles loose. Not a hole heck of a lot of fun, just in case your curious. After those miserable 10 minutes were over my legs were shaking from the pain but I have nothing to show, no bruises, or scars. It makes the pain almost feel like it never happened, that it was all in my head and couldn’t have been that bad. Like what I just went through was a walk in the park versus a battle.

So there’s two sides that war within me on this subject. I want people to see and know what I’ve been through and what I’m going through but I’m terrified to let them in. I try so hard to hide my pain, fears, and anxieties. I want to be seen as strong, independent and able to take the bull by the horns. I hate asking for help. I hate admitting I can’t. And I most especially hate it when my loved ones see me in pain. So why does this photo call to me? I think because she’s obviously fought hard, not given up, but now she looks at peace. She’s at rest. There are times in our lives when we can’t give up, we have to keep fighting no matter how hopeless and exhausted we are. Then there are times for rest, to let the wounds heal and to let those around us minister to us and come along side us. One of the times I’ve had to be the strongest was right after my spinal fusion. I literally couldn’t do anything for myself. I recently saw a meme that said a booty call is when you get a call from your child in the bathroom to come wipe them. Unfortunately there were times I had to give my husband a booty call, and not in the good way. Sometimes being strong means admitting you can’t and that you need help. That can take more strength than powering through it on your own.

I’m very slowly starting to learn that when you enter a battle you don’t do it alone. You pick the warriors you want beside you and you find a commander that you know wants what’s best for you and will guide and protect you. I had a ton of warriors standing around me but I was too arrogant to allow them to come to my side. I am trying to remember to call on them in my time of need and pray they call on me. I try to remember that God, my Commander, is leading and guiding me through the battle. The only way we can be true warriors and not end up defeated is to lean on each other and God through all life throws at us.

Lastly, I want to point out that this doesn’t just apply to the chronically ill. I believe the other group of people in this same struggle are those who’ve been hurt physically, emotionally or mentally by those around them. Please don’t underestimate your wounds and your scars just because they aren’t visible. When you’ve fought in a battle you don’t leave the field unscathed. Don’t give up, don’t quit. We are not alone.

Perspective

I was thinking this morning about perspective.  When taking photos you can make the viewer see what you want them to.  When buying something online people are really good at making the product look amazing.  For example I bought a pair of decorative columns the other day off the marketplace and had to drive a half hour to get them.  Daniel had asked me before I committed to buying them how tall they were.  I said based on the picture of them standing in a doorway probably over four feet.  I got there and found out they are about two feet tall.  I bought them anyways and now I have short stubby columns sitting in my house.  These last three days have been rough and as I looked back on them this morning I realized how much perspective plays into life.  

My son Justice texted me the other morning from the parking lot at his work saying he was having shortness of breath. He’s extremely tough and doesn’t complain about anything so the fact that he was even reaching out gave me cause for concern.  Since he’s about as open as a clam I pried on as any good mother would do and started barraging him with questions. He also has EDS so at first I thought maybe a rib had slipped. It can be very painful and make it hurt to breath, but he’s had this happen before and said it didn’t feel like that.  He stated it was his left side only that seemed to be short of air and he was having pain in his shoulder and shooting up his neck.  At this I suggested he go to urgent care.  I thought for sure I’d have a fight on my hands at this recommendation because he hates urgent care and the ER with a passion.  He cut his finger down to the bone once and refused to go in.  Instead his response was “hold on”, after a few seconds he texts me back and told me he just told his employer he’s heading to urgent care and won’t be in today.  I was shocked and now even more worried.  He insisted that he didn’t want to go alone so despite me pleading for him to go directly to urgent care he drove home so grandma could take him. Looking back this was a very good thing as she was able to help keep him calm and force him to follow through with treatment.  Long story a little shorter.  They found that he had a pneumothorax (his lung collapsed) in his left lung and needed to be admitted to the hospital.  Unfortunately they couldn’t directly admit him but had to send him through the ER first.  Thrilled that he got to visit all of his favorite places in one day they headed over.  They inserted a tube into his rib cage and proceeded to suck the air out of the chest cavity allowing his lung to re-inflate, according to him this is a horribly painful process.  The suction was shut off yesterday and he’s getting ready to have another X-ray this morning to make sure the lung is still inflated.  If it is they will remove the tube and then watch to make sure the lung doesn’t collapse again.  

So what does all this have to do with perspective.  I’m currently 2500 miles away from my boy and completely unable to do anything to help him or even just sit there with him and hold his hands as he walks through this.  To put it lightly, it’s killing me.  For some reason I feel like if I was there I would somehow be able to magically make everything all better or at least be able to control the situation.  When talking to Justice he sees all of this as a huge over reaction to something that’s “not that big of a deal” and doesn’t understand why they just won’t let him go home.  These view points we both see as facts but in reality we are both wrong.  Because of our perspective, or frame of reference, we all see reality through differently lenses.  Our family has all walked through this with Justice but each and every one of us will walk away with different memories and emotions.  My mother-in-law was sitting there with him through 99% of this but her experience and emotions are going to be drastically different from his.  

What’s my point?  As we walk through life there are absolute truths, but each one of us will experience those differently, that doesn’t change the truth though.  Justice has a pneumothorax.  That’s a fact and how I feel or how Justice feels about that isn’t changing anything.  How we react to it is where we all are going to differ.  We’ll probably all share similar emotions, fear, helplessness, loneliness, but how we process and deal with those is different.

God stated time and time again that He does not change.  He is love.  He is trustworthy.  He is faithful.  All these are facts.  How we feel about these truths in any given moment doesn’t change the facts.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  As a parent I get to walk with my kids through the first 18 or so years of their lives but I don’t get to live their life.  I will never be able to experience life as Justice, only with him.  He can try to explain how this felt and what he went through but I will never truly understand.  I can be sympathetic but I didn’t experience it the same way he did.  Our walks with God are the same way.  We’ll have similar events but no one will be able to experience God the way I do.  It’s too personal.  Same goes for every believer whose ever walked the face of the earth.  God who is all powerful has an intensely personal relationship with each of us.

As we continue to walk through this crazy world right now let’s try to remember two things.  First God is in control regardless of how we feel or the way things look.  That truth doesn’t change regardless of what the media and culture wants us to believe.  God has set foundational truths that thankfully are unshakable.  Hold to those truths and hold to His love even on the dark days.  He is there.  

Even if…

“How do you live with pain all the time?”  This is the question that was recently voiced to me and has been asked in many different forms and variations over the years, and I usually brush it off with my typical, it’s no big deal, I can handle it, it’s a blessing in disguise.  But all night I couldn’t stop thinking about my answer.  This is what I wanted to say.

Pain sucks.  Being in pain 24/7 is exhausting, mentally and physically exhausting.  You literally get to the point on some days where you are functioning on auto pilot and at the end of the day you have gaps of time you don’t even remember. Something as simple as putting together a complete sentence is too overwhelming so you just stay silent because it’s easier.  If you do try to talk complicated words (like bird) elude you and you find yourself trying to come up with alternate words or sounds or actions just to try to finish a sentence.  I remember one time I had to call my husband to come to the grocery store because my cart was too full and I couldn’t push it anymore and the idea of trying to get everything out of the cart on to the conveyer belt and back into the cart and out to the car seemed impossible.  He showed up at the store and called me to see what aisle I was in.  I looked up at the aisle marker and couldn’t make my mouth say aisle six.  I saw that it said baking items and couldn’t even say that…I stammered and stuttered for what felt like forever and finally got “flour” out.  Pure exhaustion.  Then there’s the emotional side of pain.  Watching your kids eyes fill with fear when they see you in bed again in the middle of the day.  Or the sadness when they realize your going to miss yet another softball game or family outing.  Or when your husband needs his wife but there is literally nothing left except a hollow shell of who she once was.

But even worse than that is the spiritual exhaustion.  You see my family and I prayed, begged God for healing.  We prayed for over 5 years for His healing touch to remove the pain from my life.  All we heard was silence.  We heard silence because we were looking for physical healing and He was answering our prayers in a much larger way.  When all you hear is silence you start doubting that He is really listening.  Does He even care? Maybe I don’t have enough faith, or maybe there’s some hidden sin in my life.  Watching Daniel question and doubt his faith was horrible.  Between us he was always the one with the stronger faith.  And now because I wasn’t getting healed, because my body wouldn’t respond to medicine, because of me he was walking through a dry and lonely dessert and there was nothing I could do.  

Each time in my life when something bad happened I’d question and yell at God.  After all if He’s all powerful, and all knowing, He should have been able to stop all these horrible things.  My abusive childhood, my numerous health issues, my brother’s suicide, my daughter being abused, my son getting my generic disorder.  I would rant and rave and fight Him each and everyone of these instances and then fall into a reluctant obedience.  

After I found out I was going to have to have my spine fused I was driving to work and the song “Even If’ came on by Mercy Me.  It was one of my favorites and as I sang the words “I know the sorrow I know the hurt could all go away if you just say the word,” I found I was saying it in anger and accusing God of not stepping in.  At that moment there was that voice, “I either am who I say I am or I’m not.  You need to decide.”  Then I heard the rest of the chorus “But even if you don’t, my hope is you alone.”  This song is based of a verse in Daniel 3:17-18, “If that is the case (they get thrown in the fire) our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But even if He doesn’t let if be known to you, O king, That we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” I could feel the “Even if……?” hanging in the air that day in my car and my mind started reeling.  Even if my son has EDS, even if my daughter is abused, even if….would I still trust Him?  I felt like He was asking me to surrender all my worst case scenarios and stop fighting and doubting Him each time something bad happened in my life.  “Will you trust Me in all of life’s even if moments?”  

That was a turning point in my walk with Him.  I answered yes, even if…..I will choose to trust Him because He is who He says He is regardless of what is happening in my life.  It’s made a huge difference in my life.  There are times I still struggle with His answers but I find these two small words creeping into my heart.  Even If……

I stated that God was answering our prayers in a much larger way.  Here’s what I meant by that.

After I chose to trust God I started seeing that He truly had been healing me slowly over the years of pain.  He was healing me emotionally by showing me that people loved me even when I truly had nothing to give.  He was healing me mentally by showing me that even when the body is weak and I can’t physically be there for people that I can still listen and be a shoulder to cry on.  And most importantly He was healing me spiritually, He was showing me that through all the times in my life that I felt like He wasn’t there, that He was crying right along with me and feeling all the pain, and heartache that I was.  He was healing my view of my marriage, and showing me that my husband’s love was truly for me and not what I could do or be for him.  He was healing my relationship with my daughter, showing me that He is enough for her and that I can’t be her savior.  He was working miracles in my son to bring him closer to Himself, and to reveal His love for him.  He was showing Himself faithful to my husband in the desert, showing him that he could question and doubt and that He would remain true.  He was removing my burden of having to be everything to everyone and instead to trust Him with my loved ones because He loves them even more than I do.  This life is not all about the here and now but about readying our soul for what is to come.  Also, God has been faithful and provided some reprieve from the physical pain, but that’s another story for another time.  So to wrap up this very long answer to a very simple question.  Pain sucks but in my life it has truly been a blessing.

Broken

I don’t know how many times in my life I thought I’ve dealt with something only to have it raise it’s ugly head years later.  I’m starting to realize that we don’t always understand the extent of the damage done at the moment of impact.  For example, we recently experienced hurricane Sally.  It was a strong cat 2 and moved at the painstaking speed of 2 mph and dumped 18inches of rain in less than 24 hours.  Fences were knocked down, trees uprooted, roofing was removed and the landscape was flooded.  We went out the next morning to assess the damages and began making repairs.  There were  items that needed to be addressed right away, and then there were things that could wait.  We propped up the fences to keep our dog in and proceeded to fix other things we needed to.  Then life happened.  School, sports, jobs, family, holidays, all of these things took president and the propped up fence went on hold. 

I think this is similar to the storms that hit our lives as well.  We deal with it as best we can in the moment.  We prop ourselves up to the best of our abilities so we can “keep the dog in” and move on with life because as we know life doesn’t stop because our fence is down.  We forget that it was supposed to be a temporary fix, just to get us through the rough time and instead of going back and fixing it correctly we expect the propped up fence to function like it’s not broken.  Or maybe we truly fool ourselves into believing that we did fix it and it’s good enough.   But God in His compassion and kindness casually walks by and removes the brace holding that fence up and suddenly we are staring at the ugliness we thought for sure we had dealt with.  Sometimes that ugliness is our sin that we thought we had conquered, or maybe it’s a tragedy that happened, either way it’s not something we wanted to face yet again.  I don’t know about you but I’m pretty good at grabbing that brace and propping my fence back up.  It works, it’s comfortable and familiar and easier than going and looking to see what is truly broken.  You see a lot of the posts that held the fences up still looked good.  Sure they were leaning but above the surface they looked fine.  It’s not till you start digging that you find out that the post broke under the surface.  Now you have to remove the old broken post and replace it with a new one and reattach the fencing to the new post that has now been firmly concreted in place.  That’s a lot harder than grabbing a brace and leaning it up against the fence.  I’m also slowly starting to realize that God has two ways of removing our braces.  Sometimes it’s when we are in a sunny place in our lives and feel like we can conquer the world that He reminds us we have some work that needs to be done.  Then there are times He brings another storm to show us areas we thought were good enough.  Either way is painful and hard but the work does have to be done eventually.  I’ve done the work at times and re-built my fence only to find out that when a storm hit I was looking at ugly all over again.  I find myself asking why and questioning God on how come I can’t seem to over come this and start digging again only to find another broken post.  Sounds depressing right?  It can be, until you realize that you aren’t alone and that it’s not your responsibility to fix it.  Our job is to recognize we are broken and in need of help. I’m starting to realize that there are uglies that I will continue to face probably for the rest of my life but I’m also starting to realize that I don’t and can’t face them alone.  Healing will only start once I let Him help me.  As we fight through struggles and hurts God is literally on His knees besides us digging in the dirt, He wants to be the one lifting the broken poles out of our life and He wants to re-build what we in arrogance thought we could do by ourself.  Once we stand back and see what He has accomplished in our life there is a feeling of joy.  That somehow He has taken our brokenness and made it something beautiful and functional.  Is it perfect?  Will it never crack, sway, or break again?  Absolutely not! Not on this side of Heaven anyways.  But will it be stronger, will it be less painful, will there be a sense of healing?  Absolutely. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  We need to accept our brokenness, for only then will we find the healing and the peace we are so desperately looking for.  Now just in case you are curious my fence has scars from the hurricane and will never look the same.  It’s never going to be a new fence or function like a fence that hasn’t withstood a hurricane.  And as my very wise daughter tells me, “Mom those are your scars from your fight.  You should be proud of them because they have made you who you are.” Let’s embrace our scars and brokenness.  Let’s let God come along side us and share our pain, frustration and sorrow.  He already knows all about them so why do we try to keep Him at a distance?  Let’s stop hiding and propping ourselves up with lies that we are “ok” and start addressing the uglies in our lives.  It will be hard and we’ll get dirty but the end result will be worth it.  Let’s trust God that He will do what He has promised. Psalms 147:3 “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”  Notice it doesn’t say He removes the wounds but He binds them, bandages them up.  It’s a healing process not a removal of the damage. 

Storms

Early on in my marriage God tried to teach me an important lesson that I feel like I’m still in the process of grasping.  I mentioned earlier that I had a lumpectomy, here’s that story.

In December, five months after we were married I found a mass in my breast.  Since I’m a proud card carrying member of the itty bitty titty committee the size of the mass made it impossible to miss.  When I first went into the doctor she was very dismissive and told me that I just didn’t know what a breast was supposed to feel like and there wasn’t anything wrong with me; her story changed very quickly once she actually did the exam.  It ended up being a hard mass (not just filled with liquid like the 2nd specialist tried to tell me before he bent the needle while trying to do a biopsy) and had pre-cancerous cells. It needed to be removed right away.  In March I went in to have a lumpectomy with reconstructive surgery.  Surgery didn’t go as planned, the doctor had to cut the mass in four pieces to try to get it out because it was bigger than anticipated and back filling the hole it left was a challenge.  Due to this the recovery didn’t go nearly as smoothly or quickly as was we had hoped. My mom was busy with my younger siblings and Daniel had to work so that left my new mother-in-law to come over and help bandage my breast (not awkward at all) and take care of me as I was not able to do hardly anything immediately after surgery.  They hade taken tissue from my arm pit area to try to refill the whole so that whole upper side of my body was black and blue and really sore.  Compact that with not being able to tolerate pain killers, the stitch not holding and the incision opening, it wasn’t a fun recovery.  The surgeon made me feel horribly uncomfortable around him.  When he said that things looked good but I needed to see him a few more times I told him I wasn’t coming back.  He panicked and said I couldn’t leave because it still needed to be monitored.  I informed him my gynecologist could monitor it.  I went to her later that week and she was horrified that I wasn’t on nor had ever been on any antibiotics after the surgery.  Come to find out I had a raging infection going and that is what caused the incision to tear open.  Needless to say it wasn’t one of the most fun experiences in my life.  

Fast forward 22 months, and I now have a 10 month old (story for another time) and find another mass in my other breast.  Same exact feel and just as big. I had changed gynecologists and now had one that was competent so I called and made an appointment.  Honestly at this point I’m scared because I really don’t want to go through all that all over again.  And if I have another one already is this going to be on ongoing problem?  He did the examine and confirmed my fears, it was a solid hard mass that was large.  He ordered an ultra sound so he could get a better look at it.  I don’t know how many of you have had breast ultra sounds but it’s a little awkward as you lay on the table with your boob hanging out, or in my case laying flat against my chest.  The tech tried to get a good image but in her own words, “because your so little I need to add a pad so I can get a better image.”  She had an oval little blob that was gel filled, a fake boob basically, that she placed on top of my chest so she could actually see the mass.  I got a call from my doctor later that day stating it was most definitely solid and we need to do a needle biopsy to see if it was cancerous before we scheduled surgery.  Not the news I was hoping for.  He told me I’d get a call from the tech to get the biopsy scheduled.  I remember very clearly later that weekend taking a shower and praying that God would please take it away.  Then I thought of my sister, the one that was asked to move out when she was 16.  She had got pregnant and then married the guy but he ended up being a drug addict and not good to her at all.  She was looking at divorce and being a single mom to a little boy.  I realized that my issue was manageable and that God had walked me through it once He could do it again.  So I spent time praying for her instead.  I walked away with a strange peace.  I don’t remember if it was later that night or the next I went to feel the mass and couldn’t find it.  I thought it might have shifted and I just couldn’t find it.  I looked a few more times and then realized that it was gone.  I need to admit that I probably wasn’t as grateful as I should have been.  It was such a surreal feeling, almost like none of it had ever happened since all the fear and the mass were just gone.  I called the tech to cancel the appointment for the biopsy because the mass was gone.  They asked me if I was sure and I told them I was sure but I’d follow up with my Dr.  I so wish I had shared what had happened with that person, because knowing God they needed to hear it and I missed an opportunity.  I went in to see my Dr for a follow up and told him that it disappeared (another missed opportunity) and he said, “Well, you must be doing something right in your life because those things don’t just disappear.”

Years later as we were walking through a very dark time in our life God brought this event to my mind.  There’s a song with the lyrics “Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered peace be still He can settle any sea but it doesn’t mean He will.  Sometimes He holds us close and lets the wind and waves go wild, sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His Child.”  As we walked through this darkness and I begged for it to be taken away these words resinated in my heart.  “Sometimes I calm the storm, and other times I calm My child.  Will you trust me?”  If I hadn’t had the first mass removed I wouldn’t have feared the second one.  Had He healed me the first time I wouldn’t had known what I was saved from.  Sometimes He calms the storm so we can feel His power.  Sometimes He allows the storm to rage so that we can feel our own weakness, and His love as He holds us tight through it.

Choices

Have you ever had times were you think you’re making a good decision and then years later you look back and realize that it was God’s direction and perfect plan being worked out and you were just going along for the ride?  That’s what happened when I met my husband Daniel.  I thought I had found a good guy.  He was a believer and everyone approved and I loved him to what capacity I was able to.  The way we met and our whirlwind courtship is a whole other story, but the short version is we met in December, started “courting” in February, he gave me a promise ring in March, proposed in April, and we were married in August.  If y’all did your math correctly that’s 9 months from meeting to married.  And no we weren’t pregnant.  

Daniel would always compliment me and tell me how perfect I was, he had no idea that this was feeding into my already distorted views of love.  He said that as a way to tell me how amazed he was with me and who I was, I heard, you better keep it up if you want to remain loved.  My idea of perfection was to cook, keep the house clean, be sexy, and agree with my husband and cause no conflict in the home.  Don’t get me wrong, all these things are good things to aspire to but not to gain love. I recently heard a pastor say that we obey God not to earn our salvation or His love or acceptance but because He loved us and saved us we obey out of response to that love.  I wish I understood this earlier.  

Our married life started off with a bang.  The following March I had a lumpectomy to remove a mass, and then on April 27th I found out I was pregnant.  I still remember when the nurse told me I was pregnant I looked at her and asked how?  Her face was priceless as she began to stumble through an explanation on how these things occur!  This wasn’t what we had planned.  We had wanted to wait 3-5 years not a mere 9 months. We were doing natural planning because my body wouldn’t tolerate birth control so I saw it as my weakness that caused the pregnancy.  Looking back I now see it was part of God’s perfect plan and a much needed gift for me, oh and I guess Daniel too.  When I went to Daniel’s office to tell him I was pregnant, I was terrified.  I thought this would be it, he’d realize he wasn’t ready for a baby and would leave me.  I wasn’t the perfect woman.  I need to pause here for a second and let you know that he had never said or done anything to legitimize any of my fears, but when you believe lies your whole life (all 20 years of it) it’s hard to see things any other way.  Years later when I told him all the fears I had been living with he was shocked and devastated.  It was a hard conversation to have as he thought I was living in wedded bliss just like him.  But of course he would believe that because that’s what I portrayed to him and the rest of the world.  Don’t get me wrong, I was enjoying marriage but there was this constant shadow looming over me that God would take it all away.  After all why would He want me to be happy when I was such a disappointment to Him?

I went into Daniel’s office and told him I was pregnant and all he did was pull me onto his lap and hold me and tell me how much he loved me.  Unfortunately lies blinded me and I didn’t truly believe him.  My whole pregnancy I worked extra hard to maintain life as normal, and not whine about the constant pain in my back and hips.  I was scared.  None of my friends were having kids.  My mom was still very critical of everything I did so I didn’t go to her with these fears.  I was alone.  The sad thing is Daniel was there, he loved me and would have listened and welcomed my fears and concerns if only I had let him in.  I wanted desperately to be loved but was so terrified that I was unlovable that I wasn’t about ready to risk actually letting him love me.  I thought I had made a good decision when I married him, but God had been beyond merciful and gracious when He put the two of us together.  God knew I would need an earthly example of His love to break through to my heart and thankfully Daniel was just the stubborn man that it would take.

Ehlers-Danlos

There are so many out there like me that suffer from chronic pain and have fought through and may still be fighting through diagnosis’s and doctors not believing them. This is why I’m sharing my story, to let you know you are not alone and to give you hope to keep fighting.  I wanted to explain about my genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).  Since this is the only body I’ve ever had (I know, shocking) I assumed that everything I was going through was normal.  I would like you to know the basics because a lot of what I’m going to talk about deals directly with how this has effected my life.  With that here’s the least gibberish explanation I can give.  Some one once compared a body with EDS to a building being built with rubber bands instead of nails.  In other words you are going to have some major structural issues.  Basically EDS is an issue with the collagen, which is the number one used protein, in your body.  It’s used in almost everything, veins, arteries, intestines, skin, ligaments, tendons, you get the idea, it’s a very important part of the human body.  Because it is systematic it effects everyone differently.  My son and dad both have very stretchy skin but I don’t; all of us have issues with our joints though.  EDS literally wreaks havoc with your whole body, but the symptoms I fight the most are my ligaments and tendons, they are too stretchy so my joints sublux.  Think of a transmission on a car going out, subluxation is like the gears slipping and grinding, but not fully breaking loose.  Some joints are worse then others, my back has been one of the biggest issues so far.  At the ripe old age of 37 I had multiple discs that had degenerated, arthritis, and a fusion of L5-S1, but I’m jumping ahead in the story.  

My whole life I’ve gone from one medical issue to the next all the while just assuming I was weak and needed to try harder to suck it up.  For examples I used to roll my ankles so I could stand on the outside edge of my feet because they hurt and some how standing on the sides of them was more comfortable.  I went to do this one day at work and caught the edge of the mat I was standing on and rolled it all the way to where my ankle was resting on the floor. It hurt right away, but I carried on assuming I was making something out of nothing. By the next day I could hardly put weight on it.  Long story shorter, I ended up pulling the tendon that runs from the pinky toe under the foot to the ankle.  Doctors kept misdiagnosing it (if I had a dollar for each time a dr told me I didn’t fit in “the box” I’d be rich) and so the problem got worse and I ended up with a nerve condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy.  Basically the nerves were sending the message that the bones in my foot were broken even though they weren’t.  So even after the tendon healed there was still a ton of pain.  Try explaining to someone that your foot is bruised and swollen and you’re on crutches because your body thinks your foot is broken even though it’s not.  The inability to heal after surgery, the low blood pressure that makes the nurses look at me every time and ask me if I’m alive, the rapid heart beat, the inability to sleep at night, the constant stomach issues, the headaches and migraines, my ribs and hips slipping, the painful periods (my lining would attach itself to the muscles in the uterine wall then rip away with each period), my inability to tolerate most meds, scoliosis, all of these, and others, were due to EDS.  

In June of 2017 I ended up with a blown disc in my back (story for another day) and went to a new doctor.  During our consult I was squatting on the floor because I couldn’t stand or sit without extreme pain.  The physician assistant noticed how low I was squatting and started wondering about EDS due to the hyper mobility in my hips.  She mentioned it to the Dr. and the first things he asked me was did your joints hurt as a child?  My response was of course, isn’t that normal?  He laughed and shook his head.  He briefly explained that being in pain all the time is not normal and that he’s 99% sure I have EDS based on my medical history and a flexibility test he did in the office.  There is no cure and nothing really you can do other then stay on the defense by working out and learning how a normal body moves and trying to not hyperextend any joints.  He handed me a pamphlet and told me to go home and do research.  I got in the car with my husband Daniel and started reading the symptoms and affects of EDS.  It was like reading my life’s story.  I started to cry out of pure joy because finally there was an explanation to the years of pain and it wasn’t all in my head like some doctors had stated.  I cried also out of anger that there is no cure and it will more then likely progressively get worse.  The roller coaster of emotions were crazy to say the least.  As I continued to do research and talk to doctors I also found out that I had passed this lovely gift on to my son.  When I told him about it he went through all the same emotions, elated there was a cause and saddened by the lack of a cure.  The good news is with him he’s young enough that he’s starting right now to workout and learn the do’s and don’ts of EDS. 

I don’t have all the answers to all my symptoms and the longer I go the more acronyms and big medical words keep getting added to my list, POTS, MCAS, dysautonomia…I can talk doctor pretty good now!  My hope for this blog, is that I can walk with you through your chronic pain or whatever hurt life has or is throwing at you.  That we can encourage each other and help carry each other’s burdens.  It’s hard to open up and admit that you can’t do it alone, but I’ve found strength in honesty.  I won’t have all the answers but I can listen and be there for you if you’ll let me.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Let’s do this thing called life together.

Hulk Smash

How do you sum up forty years of life?  What do you include and leave out?  You might say just tell us the highlights.  In reality the mundane day to day life is what taught me the biggest lessons.  We’ve all read about people who have had that aha moment.  They have fallen on their face sobbing before God begging and pleading for answers and were rewarded with clarity and direction.  Like a light had been turned on and they knew why and what they were supposed to do.  That’s not my story.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments with me on my face ugly crying and imploring God for answers only to get back up with no direction, no audible voice, no answers of any kind; just exhausted from the fight.  But every time the one thing I did walk away with was peace.  A quieting in my soul.  So I proceeded putting one foot in front of the other.  Moving forward and seeking answers.  With that in mind here’s my attempt to tell you my story.

I’ve existed with pain to varying degrees my whole life.  When I was little I would complain about the pain and my older brothers would tell me I was being a wuss and a whiny girl.  I figured that they must deal with the same pain, that pain must be a normal part of life and if they could just “man up” and deal with it so could I.  So that’s what I did.  I hid the pain until it was unbearable and then played it down when it was too unbearable to hide anymore.  My siblings got creative and changed the word invalid (sick or disabled) but pronounced it invalid (without value or purpose). They weren’t trying to be cruel, they didn’t know how much pain I was in, they did it all in good humor.  Unfortunately the words we say in jest sometimes cut very deeply.  I already thought that love and acceptance was based on my behavior and now my ability to deal with pain also added into that equation.  

When I was 16 I crashed while downhill skiing and started suffering with ribs that slipped out of place and chronic headaches.  After a couple weeks I went in to the chiropractor and found out I had scoliosis and that my skull was slipping down and putting pressure on my neck.  This was the first time that I felt like there might be some justification to the pain I had.  He tried to fix it but after several treatments I realized that it only provided temporary relief and that I needed to learn to live with it.  I learned how to use the door jam to help relocate my ribs and thankfully the headaches weren’t too often or too bad.  

16 was a crazy year.  My tumultuous family life I learned could get even crazier.  My younger sister was asked to leave the house and go live with another family since she couldn’t get along with my mom.  My brother, who was one of my best friends, started dating my friend and they both turned on me and lied to my folks.  This cost me my parents trust and my relationship with both my brother and my friend.  My best friend was starting to fool around with her boyfriend.  He was the definition of trouble and the more I tried to convince her of this the further away she went.  I was concerned so I went to her mom and told her what was happening, this cost me my friendship with her and her whole family.  My world was getting ripped apart.  

I believed in God but didn’t really know Him.  One of the other lies I learned was that God was sitting up in heaven just waiting for us to screw up so he could give the command “Hulk smash!”  This philosophy was incorrect on two fronts, one the hulk isn’t real, and two this is not God’s thought process towards us.  He’s a father who loves us and wants us to succeed.  Not necessarily in the world’s standards but in His way and time.  Another long lesson I’ve fought my whole life.  In the mean time I figured I had done something wrong and God wasn’t happy with my behavior therefore He didn’t love me anymore therefore He had lowered the hammer to show me how much he despised me.  

Isn’t it amazing how one belief can alter reality so grotesquely?  My belief about love and acceptance being earned carried itself into every aspect and area of my life.  Slowly but surely this theory would be tested and fail time and time again before I finally learned that true love is not based on what I can or can’t do but who I am.  

Introduction

Have you ever tried to grasp reality only to realize its ever changing?  Like trying to chase a mirage, the closer you think you’re getting to reality the more it changes.  There have been so many times in my life where my reality has been changed, challenged, and completely uprooted.  I don’t handle change very well.  Sometimes I forget how much I hate it and I beg for change and then fight against it when it happens and find myself grasping at the way things were because they were at least known.  Sometimes I try to go back, see if I can re-create life the way it was only to find that everything there has changed as well.  I have learned though that some things never change and those are the things to cling to with all your might.  I would like to invite you into my life.  This is a scary proposition for me because I’m a very private person and detest emotions, so to open up and let the world take a look is terrifying.  Then why would I do this, you might ask?  My husband and daughter have both convinced me that my story should be shared.  My prayer is that someone who has been or is going through something similar can find hope.  Not hope like “I hope I win the lottery” type of hope, but the real kind.  

Romans 5:3-5 “And not only that, but we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

This is the kind of hope I’ve had to learn to cling to through my journey and it’s the kind I pray you find.  

My story, as do most of ours, starts as a child.  My childhood wasn’t perfect, I learned a lot of inaccurate “truths” (those would also be known as lies) that I’ve had to wrestle with and find where reality was.  One of the biggest ones I’ve had to conquer (I haven’t fully conquered it) was that I don’t have to be perfect to be loved.  My folks tried but what I learned was that the better behaved you are the more lovable and acceptable you are.  I decided at an early age that I would become the perfect child and do and say whatever my parents wanted me to so I could be loved and accepted.  There are multiple problems with this, the one I recognized right away was that it was an ever changing target.  “Truth” was what they wanted to hear not what was actually true.  I had to learn to read people very well and to mask my own thoughts and feelings even better.  The other issues I didn’t realize till later in life.   

I carried this theory with me into my marriage and become even more obsessed with being perfect.  After all my parents had been stuck with me but if my husband realized I wasn’t perfect he could leave me.  The stakes had been raised and I was determined to meet them.  Unbeknownst to my husband I was desperately trying to maintain perfection, something he never demanded or even expected of me.  I had been creating a fortress of perfection to hide myself behind, fearing that one day it may start to crack and people would see the real me and I would no longer be loved or accepted.  What I didn’t realize is that I wasn’t really being loved or accepted because no one really knew me, they only knew the carefully masked version I showed them.  When you build a fortress as good as I had it was going to take something big to destroy it and that’s what God had in mind.  I often wonder if I had been a faster learner (less stubborn) if maybe He wouldn’t have had to use a wrecking ball.  The tool He decided to use was a genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and the clean up crew was going to be the love of my husband.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t quick and He’s not finished with me yet but I can say at this point in my life I’ve begun to see the beauty in being broken.