The Art of Surfing

The Art of Surfing

Two weeks ago,  I had a good few days.  I felt stronger.  I went outside with the kids.  I was upright more frequently.  I was thinking, “The feeding tube has helped! We might be getting somewhere!” I was not falling over when I stood up.  I didn’t have to lie in bed all day.  I hadn’t felt so well in months, maybe even years.  Ground has been covered.  There is hope for improvement, maybe even healing.  We finally found an intervention that really seems to be helping me to gain some forward momentum.

It was great.

Then, five days ago,  the fevers started again.  Every 8 hours, lasting for about two hours.  The pain starts in my fingers and toes and slowly spreads inward, through my body, like a poison, until it infiltrates my entire being.  My stomach, my core, shoots searing pain like a volcano, sending me gasping and retreating to my safe place in my mind to escape the agony.  With the fevers come the chills, which seem more appropriately labeled convulsions based on their intensity.

The POTS symptoms have escalated, and we suspect that I have a new allergy–to my tube feed formula, the stuff that is being pumped into me for 15 hours a day.  I am allergic to the formula that is helping to restore me back to health.  And insurance will not cover any other formula.

And everything crashes again.

I am a surfer.

I’m not a surfer in reality.  That would be disastrous. I only surf theoretically.  I surf the waves of chronic illness.  Some illnesses have consistent, predictable symptoms, though, I suspect that most illnesses do not feel very predictable.  My illnesses, however, are highly unpredictable.  I feel better one day, go out with the family, and I get slapped in the face with a reaction in the middle of a perfectly normal outing.  I am laughing with friends at noon, and by dinner time, I am moaning in bed in pain.  And the next day, when someone asks me what happened yesterday, I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary.  The waves are frequent, and the tide is choppy.  But I am getting better at surfing.

With unpredictable chronic illness, I find myself forced into extreme flexibility.

I have to be able to adjust quickly. Got something planned for today?  Can’t move?  Okay, so we take a rain check.  My actual health is not the only thing that forces flexibility.  Finances and insurance are almost as, if not more, difficult to deal with than the illnesses themselves.  I can do my infusions at home until I am forced to switch to a new insurance, that no longer covers home infusions.  Then I have to find someone to drive me to the hospital for three hours, three times a week.  Okay.  No biggie.  Shuffle the schedule.  It may be a little inconvenient, but at least I have access to modern medicine and a multitude of folks willing to shuttle me around.

Sometimes,  I long for the waves to just settle down.  I long for peaceful, quiet, calm waters in which I could simply peacefully float.  Maybe just for a span of seven days.

And yet,  here I am in this ocean, learning to ride the waves.

I am learning the skills of surfing on this ocean called life.  (I’m pretty positive that most people feel like his or her life is marked by some pretty unreal waves).  Some of the skills that help me navigate the waves of unpredictability are lament, gratitude, and laughter.

My friend Esther Fleece,  in her book No More Faking Fine, pours out her heart, which is a reflection of God’s heart, about the necessity of the process of lament. “When we lament to God,” she says, “we see Him more clearly on the other side.”  To chose to not communicate to God our brokenness, disappointment, and frustration, we miss out on actual spiritual intimacy with God.  It is not self-pity to cry out to God when life is difficult and painful.  To lament and weep before God is actually life-giving, and in doing so, we can regain our balance on that surf-board.  So I know it seems counter-intuitive, but my first skill in riding the waves of this health-storm is my ability to express my frustration.

My writing role model Ann Voskamp knows all about gratitude.  She was called by God to change her life through daily acts of gratitude, and she collected blessings like wildflowers in a never-ending feild.  She counted a thousand gifts in her life, and her life was forever changed.  It is the secret that Paul let out in Philippians 4:11-12:

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing, or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”

Paul’s secret was thanksgiving, so Ann picked up a pen every day and wrote down her gifts.  And she says that there is always room for gratitude.  There is.  Every day of my life, in bed, or out of bed, in pain or pain-free, verticle or horizontal, there is always something to be thankful for:  Crisp bed sheets, a window to look out,  the sound of the birds, access to running water,  the presence of my God And on the days where I can only know for sure that God is present, when I know nothing else for sure,  I can be thankful.  I would rather spend a day suffering knowing that God is by my side, than spend that day free of suffering but in the absence of God.  God is good.  I choose gratitude.  I steady my balance on the board, and ride on.

Laughter is wonderful medicine, and it helps me hold steady on some of largest, most terrifying waves.  God knew how much I would need humor when God gave me my husband.  He is hard pressed to be serious, and in our conversations, I can be confident that at least 80 percent of the time, he is joking.  With a simple witty quip, he can stabilize me when I am struggling to maintain footing. We laugh more than anything else together, and it is balm to my soul.  I feel that sometimes, the choice to laugh is the choice to hold onto hope that the world is not crashing in on me at this very moment.  This moment will pass, and there will be joy.  For me, laughter screams “hope” when life looks quite dreary.

Lament, gratitude, and laughter:  These are vital parts of my survival kit for my topsy-turvy life.  It is okay to cry,  it is okay to count blessings, and it is okay to laugh.  God is here, on the bad weeks, when my body is so reactive that I can’t function.  God is here, on the good days, when I try to test the limits a bit and see what life could look like when I am healthy.  God is here, in the in between, when I am holding my breath and hoping that treatments will work.  God is here, when I am completely certain that He is NOT here because I can’t seem to find him anywhere.  And God is here, calming the waters of my soul, even when the waters of my life seem violent and difficult to navigate.

And because He is here, I can surf these waves and have some fun. I’m getting pretty good at it.

Broken to be Free

Broken to be Free

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. What if I have packed away unsavory parts of my life in such airtight containers that I have not allowed the Spirit of the Lord to breathe freedom into the complete story of my life? My life hosts many hideous, unsavory, incredibly broken moments. In my pursuit of freedom from those atrocious moments, I erroneously decided that packing them away into oblivion would release me from their power.

I have lived a compartmentalized life. My childhood has been neatly packed away in an attic, stacked in locked trunks. According to my previously existing belief system, I have seen myself as an adult living an adult life, and my childhood has been of no value to my current existence.

This approach to life has been limited at best, and complete fragmentation at worst. I want to walk in truth regarding my entire existence. I desire integration and light, in all areas of my past, present and future.

I don’t want some chapters of my life hidden away in locked boxes, with the keys long destroyed. This is not real life. As a whole, integrated being, I want to carry a life narrative that is valuable and beneficial, as it informs my present and can benefit the narratives of those surrounding me. I want to allow the Spirit of freedom to breathe truth and light into my airtight boxes that house my unsavory past. In order for that to happen, I need to open them up to the Spirit.

I allowed the fog to obscure my past for a reason. I locked fragments of my life away in trunks in order to protect others and myself.

At least, I thought that protection would be found in hiding. I have discovered, however, that I can’t really hide from the truth. It comes rushing in like a tidal wave when my defenses are down: in the depths of the night, in my deepest REM dreams, in the moments when I am most vulnerable, in glimpses of my child-self in the faces of my beloved children. The fingers of the fog that obscure my past reach into my present to rob me of the life that God has designed for me to live. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I have been so afraid that in the process of breaking open the trunks of my fragmented past, I will break myself forever, beyond repair. I didn’t trust truth to set me free. I thought it would unleash a monster, instead.

I was wrong.

I am starting to tie a rope around my waist, securely fastened in the present, and with the guidance of God and his word, alongside the help of trusted friends, navigate the dense fog of my obscured past.

It has been vital for me to allow God to illuminate the hidden, secret places in the safety of a counselor’s office, or over coffee in my living room with a trusted mentor or friend. This is a delicate process, and there is no obvious time frame. It takes as long as it takes, and sometimes the heart can only handle a tiny step at a time.

I am learning, however, that shining the light bit by bit is not unleashing a monster, but knitting my fragments together. It is allowing me to see my story as a whole, and setting me free to enter into a more abundant, meaningful, comprehensive life.

We don’t need to be afraid of being broken open, because when we finally break open, our spirits can break free. Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

She’s carrying a million heavy burdens silently, wearing a brave mask. Knowing her well, I see past her mask and into her fear. I tell her about my struggle with resistance, brokenness, tears and healing, and I encourage her not to be afraid of breaking open.

She says, “But Megan, what if I break open and can’t be put back together?” And I wonder, what if breaking open and not being able to be put back together is what we all need in order to really be free?

What if in breaking open, we allow the Spirit of the Lord to bring freedom? In being unwilling to break open, we often avoid truth in our lives.

Truth and freedom are intimately connected. Have we built our walls high in order to protect others and ourselves from certain truths that seem to be too much to carry? Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes unintentional, but avoidance of truth places us in bondage.

The truth can be painful. Sometimes, we can only take it in tiny little bites, like with a toddler-sized spoon. Sometimes, we can only handle one bite a week, but we need to be pursuing the truth in our lives.

It can get messy. There are weeks when I let little bits of truth in, and it can feel overwhelming at times. I step into the unknown of the truth and hope that God can handle my shattering heart and broken-open life.

He has yet to show himself to be unreliable with my intimate places.

Yes, being shattered and broken is terrifying. It can look ugly and messy and sometimes interrupts my day, week, month, or year. Sometimes it seems inconvenient and nauseating. I am convinced, however, that this path of brokenness is the path to healing and freedom. In breaking open, I make space for the Spirit of the Lord to invade, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I believe what the Bible says: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV

The Old Thoughts in the New Life

The Old Thoughts in the New Life

I had an old thought last night. It was about ending my life. That thought does not fit in my today-life. It was part of an old story that was my life a long time ago. My today-life has become stressful and overwhelming. We are being hit on all sides and at every angle as a family. It is all that I can do sometimes to keep breathing and moving forward minute to minute, second to second.

I sent my husband to the ER with my poor sick three-year-old, and stayed home to tend to my also sick two-year-old.   Lily had collapsed in the hall. Croup and asthma don’t work well together. I collapsed with her. My husband swept her up, buckled her in her car seat, and barreled off to the emergency room while I sat with my youngest and wept in anxiety, fear, and inadequacy. She will be fine, but last night, neither of us was fine. My life became too heavy for a moment. As I cuddled with my youngest in my king-size bed, I felt my heart ripped in half. I wanted, needed, to be at the hospital with my eldest. Yet I couldn’t. I’m too sick. And my youngest needed me. We are at T-minus 48 hours until my husband goes out of town for a week, and I feel the crud that has attacked my children descending on my own vulnerable body. How will we survive this one? Will we survive this one?

Waiting for my sleeping medicine to kick in, that old thought assaulted me for the first time in years. You could end it all. Shocked, I guffawed at the absurdity of that thought in the context of my meaningful and fulfilling life. At the same time, a part of me leaned into its familiarity. Horrified at my inclination toward this suicidal thought, I prayed that my sleeping medication would kick in and knock me out so that I could wake up the next morning fully planted in the present again.   It did. I slipped into sleep, in that massive bed with a tiny two-year-old and no husband, next door to an empty room where my three-year-old should be sleeping.

Oh, the speed bumps in life are brutal.   When half of your family is not under your roof with you when you so desperately need them. When you are not under the same roof of the pediatric wing of the hospital with your sick child when you feel that she so desperately needs you. Someone told me today ,”It’s not fair,” when I told her the medical drama that is occurring in my family.   I know that fairness is just a construct of our fallen human minds that leads to nasty comparison, leading to either pride or envy. With that said, it certainly doesn’t feel fair at times. To move from hellish situation to hellish situation, squeezing in quick breaths every once in a while. To feel like you are standing on the tips of your tip toes in an unsteady ocean, with your nose bobbing in and out of the choppy water as you spit and sputter, trying to come up for air. It does not feel fair.

Suffering never feels fair. To pursue suffering would be utter insanity. And yet, suffering can serve as a sharpening tool, as a refining fire, burning and destroying any sense of self-sufficiency or pride in our own resources. If I ever thought I could do life on my own, that notion is snuffed out when I collapse on the floor daily, when my daughter is whisked off my husband in the middle of the night unable to breathe, when I come up against that same old thought that haunted me for years. I can’t do this. Not in my own strength. I’m at the end of me. I’m exhausted, spent, maxed out. It has to be God. Suffering is a quick trip to the end of ourselves, where we find at the end either despair or God. Out of those two options, I don’t know what inclines some people to end with despair and others to land on God. I do know, however, that I have had seasons of my life where despair seemed to be the clearest answer. This is not one of those seasons. Suffering is driving me to the cross. The old thoughts of suicide drive me not to actual attempts, but to my knees in confession of my dependence on my life-source. Thomas Merton states, “ Suffering becomes good by accident, by the good that it enables us to receive more abundantly from the mercy of God.”

It is no good to worship the actual suffering in life. In suffering and in abundance, we can know God. We worship and believe in a God who can transform suffering into mercy. This knowledge transforms the phrase “God is good all the time” into so much more than a mere cliché. It gives me the assurance that no matter what floods my life, even if the mountains give way and fall into the heart of the sea, even if I lose my own life, my Lord loves me and is for me. His presence is good, and He never leaves. Therefore, wherever I go, I am safe.

Psalm 46: 1-3

God is our refuge and strength,

    a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Sacred Waiting

Sacred Waiting

I wait beside the phone.   I wait for four different medical specialists to call. I wait for more specific diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. I wait for scans, MRI’s, blood tests, and assessments. I wait for the new prescription to come in. I wait for the current prescriptions to start helping, the side-affects to wear off, and the pain to subside. I wait for my heart rate to come up or go down, or my oxygen saturation to go up. I wait for my fever to go down. I wait. Do I wait in vain? I often wonder.

 

Draw nigh, Draw nigh, Emmanuel

And Ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lowly exile here

Until the Son of God appear…(J. M. Neale, 1851)

 

The people of Israel were always waiting, always hoping. Their hearts were longing, and they held to traditions to remind them of the Savior, the King, for which they were longing. They did not choose to distract, lest they forget their longing. Our church universal is in a similar situation to the people of Israel at the end of the Old Testament. They were in exile, waiting and hoping for the coming Messiah. They didn’t entirely understand how it would work, or how He would come, but they held to what they knew of Him and His work in the past, anticipating and hoping for His future coming. We live in the tension and the glory of the kingdom that is already present on earth through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the deposit of the Holy Spirit, and the longing for the kingdom that is to come, where God rights all wrongs and wipes every tear away from every eye. In the Spirit of the Israelites, we sing in minor key, “Death’s dark shadows put to flight” in one of the most popular advent hymns in the Christian church, this verse coined in Hymns, Ancient and Modern, in 1861.

 

My tendency, and I believe that human tendency, is to try to distract from discomfort and agony when there appears to be no present solution to the problem. When our resources are sapped, and we can do nothing but wait for answers or solutions, we try to ignore the pain and longing. This response sometimes helps us to survive. Chronic illness sets the stage for a lifestyle of waiting. We wait for explanations for confusing symptoms. When diagnoses are provided, we wait for solutions, if there are solutions. If there are no solutions, we suffer through the bad days and wait for days with decreased pain. We long, we desperately long, to feel well enough to function. We wait for a miracle, or we choose to focus elsewhere.

 

Waiting for something limited to this earth—like healing or the right diagnosis for me, often feels frantic and frenzied, filled with fear and anxiety. Waiting on the Lord, the waiting of Advent, is a joyful, hopeful, expectant, pregnant, and holy longing that knows and trusts that its object will ultimately come to fruition. Maybe this is a time where we redirect our energies to this holy anticipation of the Savior, the Kingdom, and His inextinguishable light. Not one of these promises can be rivaled. They cannot be undermined.

 

So this waiting that is found in my illness…maybe it is a sacred space. Maybe it is a thin point in our mortal world of flesh and blood where we can see the Advent kind of waiting more clearly. As I wait for the uncertain, I am reminded of the undeniable promises for which I wait. This waiting hurts, and it rubs me raw. My raw soul longs for a salve that is not always provided in medical answers and physical healing. It longs for the gentle, loving touch of the Savior, the Redeemer, the One who will right all wrongs and ultimately heal all hurts. My raw soul longs for the coming kingdom, and in a world broken and oozing with longing, we sing the minor songs of Advent together: “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel.” We may or may not know what we are really truly waiting for, but we are all waiting. I pray that our waiting may not be in vain, but may be a shadow-glimpse of the true illumination of Advent-waiting.

An Advent Lament

An Advent Lament

One evening in early December, our half-hearted dinner comes to a close. Few words have been exchanged, and the children have each taken about a half of a bite of mashed potatoes and drummed the table with their silverware for the ten minutes that they have been forced to sit in their seats. Jordan and I sit wearily, lacking the energy to even mutter a few words to one another. I stare desperately at the seven candles lit in the middle of the table, longing for them to speak peace to my tempestuous heart. My heart is an impenetrable fortress and refuses to allow the light in. Jordan asks me why I am staring the candles down, and I sigh and blow them out with extended effort. Their light falls short of my desperate soul’s need for comfort and peace tonight.

The heaviness in my chest and the thickness in my throat lingers. My head aches with the aftermath of the day’s panic attacks and fits of rage. The lingering failure of the day hangs over my spirit like a cloud. And the advent candles failed me. Or I failed them. The emotional and physical pain of this advent is palpable, oppressive, and I struggle to breathe through the smog of my carnality. I feel as though I am crying out to empty heavens, staring into illusory candles, reaching for something that isn’t even there. I know that this is just a feeling, and I know, on an intimate heart level, that God is indeed with us. I just don’t feel Him or hear Him right now.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Come, Lord Jesus. Break through the darkness and brokenness of my multi-faceted infirmities. Break into our family’s heaviness, and lighten our load. Bring illumination to our darkness. In your mercy, bring beauty and grace to the daily lives of my innocent children. This Advent season, I am beyond desperate for your light. I need a pin-prick of hope. I understand that my perceived needs are not always accurate, so I will accept whatever package in which you choose to deliver said hope. I just need something, anything, soon.

Created to Create

My husband is currently working through a sermon series about God making us in His image.  This week, even as I type,  He is preparing this week’s focus:  God created us to create.  We were designed with talents, giftings, and passions that make us unique and reflect the Divine nature birthed into our physical bodies and unleashed through the installment of the Spirit.  I have been given the privilege of helping Jordan prepare his sermons. I tend think like spaghetti.  My brain goes a thousand different directions, but they do (most of the time) lead to a complete thought.  His brain is like waffles.  He is very structured.   We are discovering that spaghetti sometimes tastes pretty yummy with waffles.  We make a good team as long as we aren’t getting too tangled up in knots or overly compartmentalized!  And sometimes we have to step away and take a few deep breaths. This is, however, a fun new facet of our relationship.

So lets talk about this whole idea of being created to create.  This resonates with me, since I really enjoy writing, and some would classify writing as a form of art. In writing, I find a deeper fellowship with God than I might feel in other situations.  Sometimes I write as a response to a glimpse of God’s face.  Other times,  I write in order to catch a glimpse of His face through the act of writing.  I write to share my God-sightings, and I write to catch some God-sightings.  I write because I feel my soul gravitate toward the pen and paper, or the keyboard.  I feel at home in this crazy, albeit limited world of words.  Writing is one of my creative callings.  I would love to engage it more frequently.  Maybe as I feel better and develop more discipline (or sacred time alone),  I can flex my writing muscles more often.  For now,  this is where I am.

God created us with gifts, passions, talents, and burdens.  Each of us has a unique set, and each of us has dominion in how we choose to use them.  Some of us start from a more mobilized position than others.  Some have to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to pursue their passions.  Some lay down and allow themselves to be beaten and crippled by the lies that they have nothing to offer.  I started to read Freefall to Fly by Rebecca Lyons on the plane ride home from Nashville last week.  I nearly threw the book against the seat back in front of me when I read of Rebecca’s experience of her childhood, her unfettered pursuit of her dreams, her insatiable hunger for books, and her belief that the sky was the limit.  She went on to talk about pursuing her dreams throughout college and beyond, only to find herself crippled in motherhood, questioning if her dreams had to die because of her new role as mother.  She is certainly on to something.  She has a lot of research to back up the reality that this often happens to women.  Her intended audience finds comfort in the resonance that comes from this sentiment,  I am confident.  I will also continue to read the book.  My anger is not at that sweet, Godly woman who is a talented author.  My anger emerged out of a deeply wounded and broken childhood.

While Rebecca traversed down memory lane, I tentatively crept down my own memory lane into a land of monsters, terror, and lies.  I was not told that I was talented.  I was told that I was evil.  I was not told to pursue my dreams.  I was told that I had nothing to offer.  I was not told that I could contribute to society, let alone pursue a God-given passion.  I was told that the world would be better off without me.  I remember in grade school,  I tested into advanced classes. My caregivers held me in regular classes, and I often complained of being bored, asking to be moved to the advanced classes.  They lied to me and told me that I was not smart enough, and it would be too hard for me. We took IQ tests during grade school as well, and my mother kept my scores from me, saying that she didn’t want me to feel bad about my low scores.  I steered clear of IQ tests as much as I could, until as an adult I was challenged to take an IQ test, which yielded results that were clearly above average.  At this point,  I can’t go into the question of why a parent would go out of her way to convince her daughter that she was unintelligent, untalented and worthless.  I can, however, recognize that my childhood was not necessarily typical, or worse yet, maybe it was more typical than we would like to realize.

For a solid two decades, I took it upon myself to do the most noble thing that I could conceive at the time in my brainwashed mind: To make myself smaller, invisible, less of a problem.  Not only did I have nothing to give, but I was a taker.  A relentless taker. Thus, I had to be eliminated.  This mindset is quite the opposite of the content of our Sunday sermon.  So I have wrestled.  I wrestled with the book and with Rebecca.  I wrestled with the scriptures about being God’s workmanship, created to do good works in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), about being fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), about having spiritual gifts, about having talents, about being valuable.  Sadly, I wasted quite a bit of time trying to destroy myself while I could have been developing my gifts.

Unlike Rebecca, my experience as a mother has birthed within me the idea that I may have some passions and gifts that could be meaningful to the body of Christ and beneficial to the world in general.  My marriage to a husband who loves me has brought me to a place where I was forced to face that I was actually someone’s SIGNIFICANT other.  Someone wants me.  This was only the beginning.  Until one find’s her identity in her Savior, it is on unstable ground.  God used these situations, however, to provide a platform from which I could emerge from my imploded existence.  I could carefully, tentatively, take a few steps out to see what happened.  I could pen a couple pages and share it with a close friend.  I could sing in our church in front of people and actually look them in the eye after the close of service.  I could consider the possibility that I don’t have to apologize for my existence.  Not only that, but I could, for a second, fathom that I could one day live boldly within my dreams and hopes.

I’m not entirely new to dreaming, but dreaming with the hope that it could be reality is a new concept.  As a child, I lived in my day dream.  It kept me alive.  I felt, deep down, however, that there was no hope that it could ever become reality. My value existed in my day dreams, and those were where Christ met me. Mercifully, through my following decades of self-destruction, He sustained me, continued to breathe life into my spirit and giftings. He strategically placed people along my path to encourage me to pursue my passions and talents.  He provided pockets of self-discovery. He has been faithful all along.  He knows the depths of brokenness and slavery that I have trudged through to make it to the other side.

Slowly, beautifully, I am beginning to see that I am valuable. One of God’s greatest mercies in my life is that He has given me a daughter who is undeniably my mini-me in personality and sass.  And I love her.  I don’t think that I could love her more.  I love every single ounce of her entire package.  One day, as I was wrestling with my identity, God pointed out how similar my three-year-old is to me.  He told me that He loves me even more than I love her, and He loves every part of my unique personality just like I love hers.  I realized that it is really incongruent to love my daughter, my likeness, and to hate myself.  She is dynamite.  She is brilliant. She is hilarious, deeply compassionate, intuitive and thoughtful.  She is made in God’s image.  So maybe I am also made in God’s image.  Made for good works that God has uniquely equipped me to perform.

Prayer and Healing

I have a confession.  I can’t always remember what I have written about in the past, and I abhor reading my own writing, so I may write about the same issues over and over and have no idea that I am repeating myself.  My illness causes “brain fog” which includes issues with memory, and then my low oxygen also contributes to the decline of mental function.  My husband has to listen enthusiastically to the same stories on repeat, and only occasionally reminds me that I’ve shared them ten times before.  He is super-gracious.  He also has to hear the same “spiritual revelations” over and over.  They certainly feel brand-new to me, but he claims that I had that same revelation a month ago, and the month before that one, and actually every month over the past year.  At least never get bored.

My poor husband, and probably, you poor readers, might get bored frequently with my Fifty-First Dates fashioned writing.  Just call me Drew Barrymore, stick a DVD in the player every morning replaying my life and my hallmark moments for me, and call it good.

Skim the stuff that I’ve covered before.  I pray that my memory is not quite as bad as it seems, but I suspect that I circle around the same mountains frequently.  If I say, “Hey look at that gorgeous tree!! I’ve never seen anything quite that exquisite!” , you can respond with, “Oh yeah, we saw that about two weeks ago in this same spot.  We are going in circles.  Moving on.”  Then you can lead me by my precious little hand to a new path that we haven’t traversed.  Deal?  Okay.  Thanks.

Now that I’ve gotten my caveat out of the way, I can’t seem to remember what I was going to write about today.  Oh, yeah.  Healing.  My doctors are concerned.  I’m teetering on the edge of a danger-zone, health-wise, and that is lighting a fire under their butts.  This is good and bad.  It is good in that they may actually start really investing some energy in figuring out what is making my poor body malfunction so tremendously (now that they have significant documented evidence of the level of malfunction and the danger of the malfunctions).  It is bad in that my body is in a state of extreme limbo and there are critical issues that are becoming evident.  This is scary.  I don’t want to die, not anymore.  I want to be a wife and a mommy and a living human being.  I don’t want my heart to stop beating.  So I feel that I am being taken seriously.  Good and bad.

It is intuitive to assume that when one is sick, she thinks about healing quite frequently.  One will probably also encounter many people who speak of healing, who desire healing, who are praying fervently for her healing.  Most often, it is solely physical healing, because physical infirmity is the presenting issue.  Thus, over the past two years,  I have wrestled mightily with the issue of physical healing, God’s sovereignty, God’s will, God’s goodness, living in a fallen, broken world, and the purpose of pain and suffering.  I have looked at so many different perspectives on these matters.  Fortunately, I have not encountered many people who have thrown out condemning messages.  No one has come up to me and asked piously, “Who sinned?  Was it you, or your parents, or someone else who brought on this illness?”, as  Jesus’s disciples inquired of Him regarding the man blind from birth.  No one has said, “if you have enough faith you will be healed.”  No one has condemned me for not being healed yet, and no one has even said that it is all in my head (that has only been alluded to by a few friends).  I have been spared so much judgement and opposition, for which I am so thankful.  I would have been hard-pressed to endure much criticism or condemnation from others as most of my condemnation comes from my own mental arsenal of lies.  People, for the most part, have been understanding, kind, and compassionate.  I still struggle with what healing is supposed to look like for me, what to ask for from God, and if there is a larger picture of healing that I am missing because I am too close to the picture.

Last night, a dear group of ladies (powerful prayer warriors) offered to pray for me and for my husband.  We met them at the church and took turns being prayed over.  As the three warriors prayed over my husband,  I entertained our little ones in the nursery, and then we switched places.  These women mean business when they get together to pray, and my husband was in the sanctuary with them for an entire hour.  It was fast approaching the children’s bed-time, so when my turn came, I requested the abbreviated version of what Jordan received.  As I was voicing my concern about the kids’ bedtime and not taking up too much more time, I realized that I was coming up against an issue of worthiness.  I felt unworthy of extended prayer. I put the brakes on my request for a shorter prayer time, and I told them to pray as long as they felt led to pray.  It is a vulnerable position to put one’s self in, to be prayed over.  First of all, there is the whole “laying on of hands” thing.  We all know that I’m not one for being touched.  Then there is my control-freak nature that has to step down into a place of submission and passivity, or so I thought.  So as the praying started, I bowed my head and tried to take a passive position, just to let these warriors do the battling over me.  Ten minutes in, I felt a stirring in my Spirit to engage more actively, to softly whisper the name of Jesus, to breathe prayers of agreement, and to whisper prayers of the Spirit as He lead the way.  In actively engaging in the prayer session,  I felt a new investment in the prayer time.  I felt like one of the warriors going in for battle.  I was fighting alongside them, no longer a passive recipient of prayer.  I felt an overwhelming energy and joy rising up in my soul.

As the ladies continued to pray, I was aware of an overwhelming focus on physical healing.  I don’t believe that the focus on physical healing was bad, or out-of-place.  I’m not sure what I think of it honestly,  but I felt the Spirit whispering ceaselessly, “I want so much more than just physical healing for you. Do you see what I’m doing within your illness? I am healing you.”  I knew that He was calling me to praise Him.  He is so unbelievably faithful, and His faithfulness has been more evident during the past two years than I have ever seen before I got sick.  I did not feel a sense of urgency for physical healing.  I felt gratitude, deep, mirthful, joyful, soul-embracing thankfulness.  This seemed out of place for the type of praying that was going on.  I prayed out loud, the ladies prayed more.  They prayed scripture, the armor of God,  Psalm 91, and parts of James.  I am in agreement with their prayers.  They were theologically sound, and they flowed from hearts of love.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to be prayed over.  In addition,  I felt like I had a bit of a different vantage point.

I certainly can’t make complete sense out of suffering, any form of it.  I don’t believe that God’s perfect will involves illness, death, and sin.  My experience of suffering, however, shows me a picture of God that I have never seen before.  My brushes with death have offered a depth of agony that has been met with an equally powerful vision of God’s goodness and grace.  The desire to share in Christ’s sufferings is legit, to share in Christ’s death, so also to experience the power of the resurrection.  There is this trump card that He holds that He flashes to those who are in the depth of suffering.  It’s like He’s winking at us, saying, “Don’t worry.  I’ve got this.  No matter what happens, I am making all things right.”  I have never had that glimpse of God’s hand of cards until I was at the utter end of myself.

I don’t know.  I will keep praying for physical healing.  I want to be strong and healthy and capable.  Of course I do.  I don’t thrive in vulnerable places, like illness.  I also know that our vulnerable places are the soil in which our master Gardener loves to plant the seeds of the Kingdom.  So if I need to stay vulnerable for kingdom growth, I’m good with that.  If He physically heals, I will praise Him.  If He heals in other ways and chooses not to physically heal,  I will praise Him.   My Savior lives, and He redeems, and He heals.  Sometimes His healing just looks a little different than what we expect.