What Really Matters

I continue to play wack-a-mole with my symptoms.  I don’t feel like I am moving forward or backward.  I’m just desperately trying to keep my head and the heads of my dependent little ones above water.  I am exhausted.  I collected a couple more probable diagnoses: Mast Cell Activation Disorder (my body thinks that it is allergic to pretty much the entire world and produces too much histamine. This makes me feverish, achy, dizzy, itchy, and miserable.); Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (my body has too much collagen in joints, skin, and in my vascular system.  This makes me stretchy, which is cool in theory, but not cool in reality. It hurts, really badly, because my body is trying to hold my joints together, and my veins and arteries don’t properly circulate blood).  These two diagnoses often occur with the POTS diagnosis.   So we try ten different kinds of medications, desperately attempting to add a couple pounds, and cross our fingers that my quality of life can start to creep up somewhere above just staying alive.  

I have also completed a series of neurological testing (6 hours, total), which yielded fascinating, albeit somewhat discouraging results.  My short term memory, attention span, word recall, and executive functioning skills are suffering. They aren’t horrendous, but juxtaposed with my actual IQ, they are remarkably low. The neuropsychologist says that this is directly caused by the POTS. Limited blood flow to the brain and times of hypoxia can lead to brain function that looks similar to mine. Interestingly enough, so can traumatic brain injuries. Fortunately, if the POTS symptoms can remain under control, my cognitive function will not continue to decline, according to this guy, but he made no mention of any possible improvement; only coping mechanisms: the same ones that they provide for someone who has a traumatic brain injury.

I like to consider myself to be an intellectual, a deep-thinker, a writer, a teacher, a nerd. This whole cognitive decline thing is a massive blow to my ego and to my self-image. What is interesting, however, is that with this illness that has robbed me of my ability to remember conversations that I just had yesterday and caused me to have to think for a full 30 seconds to remember a word as simple as “book”, I have come to a deeper, more beautiful, profound understanding of my Savior than I ever thought possible. Cognitive decline is terrible, painful, and humiliating, but the “knowledge” of my God who meets me in my sickness, brokenness, and suffering far surpasses any knowledge that a fully functioning brain can attain without Him. 

Ephesians 4:14-19 says,  

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I love the contrast of the two forms of knowledge presented in this passage. God calls us to an experiential, face-to-face knowledge of Himself, a knowledge that, through the power of the Spirit, allows us the ability to experience the breadth and the depth, and the length, and the height of the magnificent love of Christ.  This knowledge is not the form of cognition that I have lost. I know more of this Christ now than I ever knew before the POTS and the EDS and the MCAD and all the other health issues that are present in my body. 

God’s kindness prevails. His goodness is undeniable. God’s presence is here, in the midst of my suffering, as we wack the mole that rears its ugly head at any given moment.  This is the knowledge of the Holy attained as sickness of earth ushers me into the sacred this spaces of heaven. I don’t know that I would trade it.  Yes, it takes me a crazy long time to write sometimes incomprehensible blog posts. I can’t follow a train of thought as far as I can throw it.  But I know the Christ of my salvation, my suffering King, and He loves me. 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

On Minimization of Gifts

I sing in church sometimes…only when the Holy Spirit makes it so clear that I have to share a song that I can’t even think clearly anymore. I know that I am supposed to share a song in worship when my heart rate hits about 180 bpm when I hear or think of the song. It’s not easy for me. Sometimes, well, most of the time, I am Spirit-dragged into the sanctuary. I get the runs approximately 4 times during the hours leading up to worship. I mediate, I deep breathe, I pray in English, I pray in tongues, and I repeat the process until I am planted on the stage. Even through the intro, I continue to inhale *breathe in love* and exhale *breathe out fear*. 

Now, it’s not about me. I’m the vehicle. I pray that I stay out of the way. If God wants to speak to people through my offering, that is in His power, and I just cooperate as the vessel. But it is still so scary.  It is scary because I feel so fundamentally inadequate–as a human, as a voice, as a delivery system.  And this is not Godly humility. It is insecurity, self-hate, and self-effacement. It is some weird backwards worship of self. It is the idea that I can use my gifts when they are perfect, so that no one can find fault in my performance, not even me. That’s not about God. That is all about me. 

What brings life to my soul? Where do I shine the brightest? Where do people ask for me to serve? What talents are we burying out of fear, insecurity, and really, underneath it all, self-worship and self-preservation?  The thing is that what brings life to my soul will give life to others who witness my light.  As Jen Hatmaker says in For the Love, everyone else is grinning while we run our race. 

I’m not doing anyone any favors by staying away from the microphone.  I was made to sing. That was clear from the beginning. While we are on the topic of gifts, I was also created to write.  I manage to convince myself (or the enemy of my soul convinces me) that I am deluded in presuming that I have anything to offer.  But wait! That doesn’t make sense. I am a child of God, created with gifts. We all are. What if we all just collapsed, paralyzed with fear that we weren’t enough? That our talent just wasn’t far enough out of the park? That we couldn’t win on America’s Got Talent, so why even bother? How void would our world be of joy, and of beauty? 

It takes risk. We have to be brave. And we have to stand up against the lies and expose them for what they are.  We are burning with passion, and it is there for a reason. 

When Canaan isn’t Quite Enough

When Canaan isn’t Quite Enough

I am starting a study on Gideon by the brilliant Priscilla Shirer. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, digging into the book of Judges. I mean, really, who gets super pumped to read about Israel and the judges of the Old Testament? Not me. God, however, made it very clear that this was the study for our mom’s group to delve into this fall. One day into it, I have a crystal clear answer as to why this is the study for me right now.

I just have one word: WOW.

Here’s the deal with Israel: God called them to Canaan, the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. He orchestrated miracle after miracle getting them to their destination. They made it, after a heck of a long time and some crazy awesome unforgettable works of God. Joshua followed God, leading Israel in conquests that landed them smack in the middle of paradise. There was no possible way that Israel did this on her own. In Deuteronomy 7, God commands his people not to make treaties, marry, or connect in any way with the former inhabitants of Canaan. God says to destroy all of the former altars and worship practices of the former people groups because they know this to be truth: “God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon (Deut. 7:10)”. But they didn’t remember what God did to get them to the promised land. Or possibly, they remembered but didn’t trust God to finish His work.

Their weaponry was not nearly as advanced as the nations that already inhabited Canaan. They were able to fight in the hill-country, but they felt that they could never go against those iron chariots on the plains of the flat lands. God had brought them to Canaan. That was awesome. Good enough, right. Why upset the balance that was already established, however delicately? Why not acknowledge that their “favor from God” might run out? Surely the miracles could only last so long. (They may have not been thinking this, but I certainly might have had these cognitions.) So they set up camp alongside the people that God had called them to obliterate because, let’s face it, they were afraid. They forgot what God had done, or at least they didn’t want to risk the chance of not receiving the next promised miracles only to perish after coming so far.

I get it. Oh my gosh, I get it. I have come so far. I wandered way too long after being in bondage for my own 400 years in my own Egypt. God brought me to my Canaan, my land flowing with milk and honey.   He performed miracle after miracle in order to get me here, to the safety and abundance of this paradise.   And He called me to demolish all of the strongholds. But I don’t know whether I forget His miracles, or if I don’t trust Him to continue performing the miraculous, or if I doubt His call, but I strive to maintain this tenuous balance here in my own paradise. I am just like the Israelites. I am terrified to lose what I have gained, so I set up negotiations with the enemies. I guess that I really do forget that the God who got me this far is the same God who calls me into deeper freedom.

The balance that I am striving to maintain is only an illusion, and He is not the author of that balance. I am healthier than I have ever been before. I have a wonderful husband, beautiful children, sweet friends, and an unfolding calling. I teeter, however, on what appears to me to be the precipice of disaster. If I venture too deeply into trauma work or begin to acknowledge the true brokenness and pain of my past, I might careen into a deep depression that could destroy everything and everyone that I love. If I relax too much on food and actually entirely trust my treatment team with my meal plan, my body might become unbearably uncomfortable and uninhabitable for me, and I might never be able to go out in public or bear the burden of my physicality for the rest of my life.   If I really start writing and singing and putting myself out there, I might face rejection, or worse yet, hurting someone in my past who has the ability to knock me entirely off of my rocker and send me to some psych hospital, unable to care for the children whom are now entrusted to my care. But this is all based in fear, and it is not in line with God’s promise to me or with His calling.

The consequences for Israel’s compromise included divided and incomplete worship, because they were also worshipping the idols of the other nations, and also military and physical vulnerability because they remained a fragile nation. This was not God’s best for them. They were certainly better off than they were in Egypt, but they were nowhere near the place where God had called them. They stopped short because of fear and complacency. At this juncture, I have stopped short as well. My consequences are similar to Israel’s. My worship is divided and ambivalent because I have been unwilling to confront the very literal demons of my past. In my unwillingness to face the ritual abuse of a deeply spiritual nature, I harbor a deep distrust for all things Christian and spiritual. This is obviously problematic if God is calling me to Christian ministry. In addition, I am physically vulnerable because I am unwilling to trust God to carry me to fullness in healing from the eating disorder. You cannot maintain rigid rules around food and weight and fully recover from an eating disorder, even if your current weight falls within the acceptable range.

I have allowed myself to disregard the miracles that God gracefully and mercifully has performed to carry me to the promised land. They are very real. He dried the sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry land. He carried me safely through multiple suicide attempts. He sent manna from heaven when the Israelites where starving in the wilderness. He planted life within my dead womb, dried up from years of anorexia, and He gave me two beautiful, healthy children. He has more and greater miracles to birth out of my life through His divine Spirit, and I will cooperate in surrendering the strongholds so that my “good enough” Canaan can become complete and total abundance.

Journaling

Over the years, I filled up 30 to 40 journals. Wasted money, I assumed. My husband presses me to throw them out. I can’t seem to part with them. I have never ever read a single word of any of them. I couldn’t bring myself to bear the torture of reading my own words from my various places of existence. I am so quick to judge who I have been. I am often sickened by myself. Reading my journals could be highly therapeutic, or it could be completely dysregulating. I’m not sure.
I guess that anonymous blogging is kind of like my 21st century journal collection now. It certainly takes up less physical space. Whoever knew what to do with several dozen hard-back books filled with pointless ramblings of a highly unstable teenager and young adult? Journaling is a strange thing when you feel ashamed of your own words. What’s the point of keeping them? It feels rather dangerous actually. It was always a process-related exercise for me. It was never about the finished product.
Blogging, even anonymously, becomes more about the outcome than the process. I am constantly ambivalent about the trajectory of my writing. Writing is wonderful as long as you write for the sake of writing. As soon as I make it about the product and its reception, it crumbles into a heap of perfectionistic bull-crap. In some ways, I am thankful that I have so few followers. I allows me more liberty to let go of the rules and just pour out unedited thoughts. Otherwise, I would get too wrapped up in the stats, readers, comments, and evaluations of a bunch of people who may or may not mean something to me.
I guess that the fear of my journals getting into the wrong hands is echoed in my fear of somehow my blog being traced back to me. It is my way of “living on the edge.” I’ve never been a big risk-taker, so maybe journaling or writing anonymously is my form of sky-diving or bungee-jumping. Wild and crazy, I know! Hold onto your seats, I’m a maniac!! I do, however, lose sleep over the agony of wondering if someone could find out that I am “letting the secrets slip.”
I read somewhere this week that artists live out loud. We narrate life. Everyone else just lives it. I don’t know if this is good or bad, or if you can even attribute value to it at all. Is writing akin to an obsession with taking pictures? Am I so busy behind the lens of my own “camera” that I don’t experience life in its purity? I honestly don’t know. I tend to stop writing when I am avoiding emotions, so I would say that writing actually enables me to engage more fully in my life. Writing allows me to connect with parts of myself that I would normally neglect, even parts that I intentionally run from. I guess that it is risky on various levels. My conclusion for now, however, is that it is incredibly worthwhile and meaningful, at least for me as the writer. Maybe someday, it can provide meaning and insight for others as well. Maybe when my children start sleeping through the night. Then I will be able to grasp concepts that take longer than a page to articulate.