On parenting, negotiations with terrorists, and overwhelming grace 

On parenting, negotiations with terrorists, and overwhelming grace 

This parenting gig is kicking my butt. These kids of mine are barbarians (in the most endearing sense of the word). Here I am, during nap-time, gulping down the sage wisdom of Siegel and Bryson in The Whole- Brained Child and rehearsing using my hand to model the upstairs brain and downstairs brain to my children so that they might get a better grasp on their flimsy emotions. An hour ago, I was yanking my almost three year old into the shower to clean up his poop-smeared body, dumping his poop-drenched sheets into the washer, and wiping off his poop-painted wall for the fourth time this week. The kid’s supposed to be potty trained. 

Yesterday, my sweet neighbor observed my daughter’s thirty minute melt-down in our yard and said, “I think we need to work with her on these fits.” 

Yes. Yes, we absolutely do. And we need to quit having our walls painted with poop.  But I’m wondering how? Where is my dang handbook?  How in the world do I raise these volatile little maniacs into kind, loving, Godly members of society who are not going to get kicked out of school or arrested? Will they ever keep their clothes on? Will they ever eat a full meal? Will they ever actually pet the cat rather than yank her tail? Will they  ever learn to listen? Will they ever respond to direction? Will they ever sleep through the night? Will I ever parent well enough to feel like a competent human being?

I believe that my experience is not unique in this crazy venture called parenting, though it feels incredibly unnerving and isolating.  When we moms get gut-honest with each other and share our darkest, slimiest, most downstairs-brained moments with one another, we breathe a collective sigh of solidarity and recognize that we can march on in our journey of raising little humans. 

I have never in my life encountered a responsibility so humbling, so exhausting, so disgusting, and so life-giving. 

When these little barbarians that I birthed take off their monster masks for a few moments, look up into my eyes and say, “mom, you’re the best,” I’m reminded that God’s grace is filling in the gaps where I am falling short. 

When the three of us huddle in our blanket fort on my daughter’s bed as we draw out bedtime, I can’t imagine a single place that I would rather be.  

When we are cuddled together, belly-laughing to our favorite books, I believe that I tap into the laughter of God.

When I feeling like I am completely done with fighting this battle for my life, wanting to yield to the pain and illness and throw in this proverbial, worn-out, thread-bare towel, those tiny, sweet feet thud-thud-thud on the carpet into my dark room, and in an instant, I remember why I fight this battle. I don’t want to miss a second with them. Those wild, crazy terrorists are my beloved children, and no matter how many poop-smeared, hissy-fit filled days we encounter, I am better with them than I was before they came along. 

Thank God for grace as we climb this steep mountain of parenthood. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the full-of-heart, and it fills my heart to overflowing. I march on in this journey wielding as many tools as I can carry, but knowing that grace is really what carries us. 

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The Upside-Down Reality of Weakness

The Upside-Down Reality of Weakness

Paul’s life was a constant reminder that his own strength could accomplish very little.  That dang thorn in his flesh never gave him much wiggle room.  I imagine Paul trying to take a few steps in his own power, in some self-reliant deviance, only to fall face-down, back into dependence on his Maker. 

Paul, I feel you, brother. I keep forgetting this God-dependence thing, and I keep trying to walk in this soul-amnesia.  I foolishly think that I can stand on my own two feet and white-knuckle through this life in my own feeble strength.  As soon as I start to act a little cocky, wobbling along in my own power, I receive a sucker-punch to the gut, and find myself trembling on my face, totally helpless in the presence of my own thorns in the flesh. 

And there you are, saying, “I will boast in my weaknesses, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  And here I am, asking, “what in the world is this upside-down kingdom about, where we praise God for our weaknesses, and glory when we reach the end of ourselves?” 


What counter-intuitive calculations lead us to the conclusion that the meek shall inherit the earth; that those who weep will rise in joy; that when I am weak, then I am strong; that the poor inherit the kingdom of heaven; that the King of the universe came into the world in a cattle stall? 

And yet, here-in lies our hope: Paul asked three times for healing, and God said, “MY grace is sufficient for you, MY strength is perfected in your weakness.”  So Paul, head bowed and hands raised in submission, said, ” I surrender.” 

So here I am, flat on my back, at the end of myself, reminded for the 134,582nd time that I am, indeed, weak.  And, Paul, you say this: 

Most gladly, therefore, I will boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. I am well content in weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

I will celebrate in my weaknesses for this reason: They create space in my life for the power of the Almighty God.  And I will be content in my suffering for this reason: it opens me up to deep communion with my suffering Savior. 

And yes, Paul, we can laugh together along with rest of beat-up, face-to-the-floor humanity, because in Christ, all of this mess is simply grace. 

The cloud of cynicism eclipsed by the light of love 

The cloud of cynicism eclipsed by the light of love 

Over the last few weeks, my mood has gotten increasingly dark. Hope has proven itself to be scarce, and deep despair has sprung up like unwelcome weeds in my mind and heart. I’ve grown bitter, grumpy, antagonistic, and jaded.  

Part of the cause of my dark season has been pure exhaustion. No one in our house is sleeping well. Part of the cause of my soul-darkness is medication mishaps. Prednisone, psychologically speaking, is clearly not my friend. In addition, my treatment team has been having conversations about their own fear of the potential fatality of my conditions and what long-term prognosis looks like. With all of these factors at play, my typical resilient ability to reframe my daily suffering has been less than stellar. 

I find myself tired of fighting what feels like a losing battle for my body, I feel tired of desperately trying to maintain my tenuous grip on hope in a situation that appears hopeless, and I am tired of living this life of passing out, unexpected and unexplained reactivity,  chronic pain, and total dependency.  I am tired of playing wack-a-mole with 15 symptoms at once, wielding faulty mallets. I am bone-exhausted. 

I wrestle with God over healing, and I read of the “severe mercies” of God: when God withholds something good because He possibly knows something that we don’t (St. Augustine, Confessions XI, 25). 

But really, God? I’m too tired to see good in this. I’m too sick to feel hope.  And, if I’m really honest, I’m almost offended by this “severe mercy” concept right now. It seems a little bit like mockery.  And yet I know that God is good, that He is for me, not against me, that He loves me. 

I know that I will continue to pray for healing, and I know that for reasons that can’t always be grasped by my measly human brain, He doesn’t always heal. And I have my toddler-style tantrums when the medical tests yeild no clear-cut answers, when treatment is a continual crap-shoot because no one seems to know what to do with me. I sit and pout, looking longingly at the sky for that one rain cloud that will bring the much-needed refreshment for my body and soul. And I have snarky, angry comments for God when not even a single measly cloud floats in to give me a sign of possible rain.  

My humble honesty of the past when I approached God in grief on my knees is precariously teetering on the edge of a cliff called cynicism. I am entering into the danger-zone of hostile, accusing, finger-pointing.  The result of humble, grief-stricken, heart-wide-open brokenness is communion with God in suffering. When we come to God with  fist-throwing, accusation-hurling fury, we run the risk of walking away in entitled bitterness, estranged from our life-source. 

In this season, I am tempted to choose to be offended by God and interpret lack of healing as abandonment.  I am inclined to curl in a ball and believe that it is God who continues to hit me when I am down. Worse yet, I start to believe that He has walked away, apathetic to my agony.

But this is my opportunity to employ some sound DBT strategies. I can choose to engage in the opposite-to-emotion tool that I know has carried me through difficult times. God has a host of promises that are unchanging. These are the promises that I can count on:

Never will He leave me or forsake me. ( Hebrews 13:5)

Because of His great love we are not consumed. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. ( Lamentations 3:22)

Neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor demons, nor anything else in all creation is able to separate me from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. ( 2 Corinthians 4:8)

My heart has grown uncomfortably hard, and I am ready for some softening. God’s promises knead my heart and soften it just enough for the fog of disillusionment to lift and for me to rememember the Father’s deep, deep love for me.  

Don’t get me wrong, God can handle our anger and accusations. He will not turn from us when we bring whatever broken mess we carry to Him, even when we are furious with Him.  He also wants to show us how deeply and unbelievably loved we are. And when we cling to the anger, resentment, and offense like they are our best friends, we tend to build walls up against the loving God of the universe (from our side). 

It is time for me to lay down my God-thrashing weapons and come to Him on my knees once again,  open to whatever healing may look like.  It’s time to drop the cold, bitter cynicism.  God wants to wash my offense away with His love.  

What if I’m not physically healed? I will not fear, because I will still have Jesus, and He is more than enough. 

Our Truth-Telling God

I have a unique opportunity this evening.  I am sitting in my husband’s office at the church, pretending to be professional.  The children are in the nursery, my husband is at the satellite campus working on technical issues for Sunday, and I have two hours to myself in a real office just to be an adult. (I am a giddy, excited, child-like adult right now.)  I am currently rocking out to the Mark Swayze band, and my mind is like simmering pot boiling over with ideas for writing.  Where to begin…

This adult time is excellent timing.  There is much to say. God is so incredibly at work, and I haven’t the foggiest idea where to begin.  Jordan (my husband) and I attended a conference last week. We boarded an actual airplane, just the two of us, slept through the night, and had the chance to finally go on our anniversary dinner (only a month late–our eyes were falling out of our faces and we were crying blood on our real anniversary–not an exaggeration, I promise!).

Jordan had to talk me into attending this conference.  I was set on attending one closer to home.  I relented after some cajoling, and I am so incredibly thankful that I did.  I knew it was going to be an awesome conference when we encountered many obstacles as we prepared to leave.  When one is on portable oxygen and has to fly somewhere, the process of flying is complicated.  The portable canisters are charged and pressurized.  They are not allowed on airplanes.  In my head, I picture massive explosions and bodies flying throughout the cabin . I don’t think that really happens, but you never know.  So instead of my normal oxygen canisters, I have to rent a portable oxygen concentrator.  If we were to purchase one, it would be thousands of dollars.  Insurance doesn’t cover these devices (they are considered a luxury, because, well, you know breathing is a luxury). So we had to rent one. Honestly,  I was not surprised that mine decided to malfunction before we boarded our first flight.  Every minute,  the blasted machine would alarm furiously until we shut it down.  Everyone around us would stop and stare.  Who knows what they thought we were harboring as we made our way through the airport.  The problem is that I need oxygen.  Thus, turning it off was not an option.  We finally found a way to outsmart the machine.  May I add that my husband is a genius?  In order to prevent the machine from alarming like it was about to explode, I was forced to push a button to change the flow about every thirty seconds for the entirety of our flights and layovers. Oh, and you can’t just trade it out at another oxygen supply company when you arrive at your destination. No.  That horrid machine has to be returned to the location where you rented it.  Thus, the process of pushing buttons every 30 seconds for six hours was repeated on our way home.  Snag one.

The other snags were somewhat expected.  My throat developed that telltale scratchy feeling that always results in a nasty cold the night before we flew out for the conference.  So began my cold that continues to this day.  Picture this:  Your oxygen is delivered through a tube that goes into your nose.  Your nose is a snotty mess.  You can’t breathe through your nose.  Bad news.  The day that we arrived I also got a stomach bug.  We are talking constant diarrhea.  I had no idea that a body could produce so much crap.  And now I know.  Totally bad for POTS.  It lasted the entirety of the conference.  True to form, however, I pushed through.  I attended all of the sessions, times of worship, and prayer meetings.  I’m not saying this is good.  It is in reality kind of crazy.  But I didn’t really consider staying back at the hotel and sleeping.  Not when I came this far and God obviously had a huge plan for this week, as evidenced by all of the obstacles that were jumping in our way. I was way too curious to stay in bed. Thankfully, He sustained me while I was being psycho.  Hopefully, I didn’t infect too many poor souls while being reckless.

So here’s what happened:

God affirmed me so beautifully.  He told me that He is proud of me.  He revealed to me more fully what I am passionate about:  Prayer, writing, and worship.  He told me that I didn’t have to try so hard.  I don’t have to try to exceed my body’s capacity.  He is using me in the here and now, in my broken body, to expand His kingdom.  He said that I am gifted and He delights in me. He said over and over again that He loves me.  I learned about what He is doing in the global church. Guys, it is MASSIVE.  He is totally at work, like all over the world.  I want to be in on it.   We can be in on it.  In order to be in on His work, we have to start with prayer.  Prayer is the starting point.  Without prayer, the church is dying.   With prayer, like true repentant, travailing, awe-filled, desperate prayer, we have hope for life.   We have to wake ourselves up.

I struggled too.  I have lived a life marked by weakness that is evident to others.  I find myself desperate to prove myself as strong and capable.  I feel chronically less than the other people around me.  It is almost like I have to look up to them from my stooped down position. This position does not lend itself well to symbiotic relationships and friendships.  I so want to feel equal to others.  I want to be able to keep up with them, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but I have lived a life that has felt stunted and dwarfed.  We knew many people at the conference with whom we attended seminary.  I feared that they would see me this time as they saw me in seminary: limited, pitiful, not friend material.   With 1,600 people attending this conference, I was the only one walking around on oxygen,  clearly underweight, malnourished, sickly.  I got the pity-smiles, lots of sympathetic compliments on my glasses, and curious stares.  NOT WHAT I WANTED.  I wanted to scream, ” I AM TOUGH! I AM DOING AWESOME! DON’T YOU DARE PITY ME.”  People who knew me from seminary lovingly asked me or Jordan what was happening that I had to be on oxygen.  Jordan was excellent at presenting a concise and accurate story about my medical situation.  I, on the other hand, somewhat (ahem, totally) in denial, hemmed and hawed and tripped over my words, trying to minimize the situation and diffuse any concern that might arise from others. (Concern makes me squirmy).  This led to the blockage of real conversations.  I was just so desperate to be normal, for once. Not to be pitiful and weak.

So if you are tracking with me,  here I am, being loved and cheered on by my Lord while simultaneously wrestling with my core identity issues which really trip me up in my interpersonal relationships.  God obviously knows what He’s doing.  As I write this, it is clear that He was telling me exactly what I needed to hear.  I am enough.  I am complete. He is proud of me.  He is at work in me.  He loves me.  I am beautiful to Him.  I, in the mean time, am wrestling these lies that have followed me through the decades that scream that I am worthless, pitiful, and ultimately a black hole in the world.  What contradictions!  I’m pretty positive that God is a truth-teller.  I asked Jordan to fact check the messages that God was giving me.  He said that they are in line with the God he knows and with the Word.  And I got this cool book mark that also says all those things that God was telling me.  So it was legit. The bookmark proves it.

Now I have a responsibility and a gift.  My mission is to be set free from the shame.  I am commissioned to begin to believe these truths about myself as a daughter of God.  He is re-framing my personal narrative and cleaning up my resume.   I asked Him in the shower this morning if I am a mistake, and He said that I am absolutely not a mistake.  He again said how much He loves me.  I am asking Him to show me what it may look like for me to be set free from the self-hate and shame.  He is providing glimpses.  In response to our shower prayer time this morning, God sent two people to tell me today that I look like Jesus.  Yep.  He’s pretty amazing.  And I believe that He is transforming my identity.  This is the healing that He has for me.  The dawn is coming, and the night will soon be over.

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is in your midst. A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. 

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.

The Adventure at the Ocean with POTS and Tots

Once upon a time, I understood a certain concept in theory.  Today,  I understand it fully in the experiential sense:  A vacation with two toddlers is, indeed, not a vacation.  In fact, parents need a minimum of a week of recovery time in order to heal from the traumas incurred during said “vacation” with tiny tyrants who have been so rudely jerked out of their routine and thrown into a foreign (and often very wet) environment.

I had this crazy dream that we would all just be relaxing on a nice white-sanded beach with clear blue ocean waters lapping at our little toes, and we would giggle and splash and build colossal mideival sand castles, and go skipping down the beach hand-in-hand until we all tumbled down in rapturous laughter and delight.   I think that I stepped out of the realm of idealistic into the realm of psychotic-sleep-deprived-desperate-for-a-break-mommy-brain.

Hold your breath.  I have some shocking news for you all:  It did not go as I had planned.  Child one did not like the ocean for a while.  Child two loved the ocean and promptly got a nasty eye infection on the first day.  Mommy (sometimes known by daddy as child number three) forgot that she needs to carry around oxygen tanks, which are not conducive to any sort of happy family frolicking and certainly not ocean and sand-proof.

In addition, our 17-hour-overnight drive did not involve much sleep for anyone involved.  Our eight-passenger rental van did NOT comfortably seat 8 passengers when three of those passengers are well over 250 pounds and two of those passengers are in car seats that take up one and a half seats.  And who willingly squeezes into the middle seats in the back except for the moms of the bunch who are so adapted to sacrificing themselves that they don’t even register the horrific sacrifice of sanity and overall proprietary ownership of our bodies that is involved in the death-sentence that is the middle seat of a minivan wedged between a teenager and a toddler’s car-seat for 17 hours?  Over the course of our over-night drive across Oklahoma and Texas, I bargained with God quite frequently.  Blood, tears, and sweat were shed (maybe not blood–I can’t remember).  Body odors were rampant (remember, two teenagers).  I had brought a book to read, not considering the fact that there would not be nearly enough space to even open the book in my squished little lap.  I don’t know what I was thinking anyway:  I had tiny children to entertain.

We made it to the ocean at 10 AM, after an agonizing 17 hours .  Our rental house did not allow check-in until 3 PM.  We had with us an almost 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 19-year-old.  And they were DELIRIOUS.  I was just a little nutty myself (understatement).  It has been a long time since I have seen my beloved ocean, but that day at that time, really, all I wanted was a bed.  We dug our swimsuits out of our shredded car-top-carrier (that will teach us to buy cheap travel equipment), and loaded our arms with buckets, umbrellas, swim diapers, chairs, oxygen tanks, power aides, juice boxes, books (haha), and like 85 towels. (Overkill much??).  An hour later, we were settled on a beach full of 500 other families, none who spoke our language.  The baby-children were begging for their pacifiers, and the adult-children were begging for a bed.  And thus began our beach adventure.

It really truly got better from there. We survived the drive, the first interminable day in the sun resulting in at least second degree burns for all the adults (if only we put sunscreen on ourselves the way that we lather up our babies!!!), and unloading our ridiculously overpacked van-load into the ant-infested rental house.  We slept well that night, and the next day we found a much more calm, sparsely populated beach access on the other part of the island.  We packed more appropriately (No one stumbled and fell under the load of the beach toys, floats, and chairs on the way to the ocean).  We feasted and Whataburger while watching the beautiful undulation of the very blue waves.  The children and daddy did walk up and down the shore collecting shells for Grandma and Grandpa, and mommy got a chance to sit with her babies in the shallow surf.  There were moments of pure bliss interspersed between the realities of going to the beach with two toddlers and a disabling chronic illness.  85 percent of the time I was keenly aware of the fever that kept me shivering even while sitting in the humid 90-degree beach air.  I had to chose between breathing well and going out into the ocean with the kids, and sometimes I chose the ocean.  The walk from the boardwalk to the beach was agonizing, and there were moments where I wasn’t entirely sure that I could stay upright long enough to get from one place to the other.  I tried to communicate these discomforts as infrequently as possible so that no one would feel unnecessarily burdened or inconvenienced by my disability.  They had enough to worry about.

Along with my idealistic idea of what the beach with toddlers would look like, I also clung to an idealistic idea of what the beach with POTS would look like.  I was convinced that the ocean breeze, the warm sunlight, and the salt water would be like a salve to my weary and broken body.  I thought that somehow, magically, my illness would dissolve into the sand under my feet as I walked down to the ocean.  I learned that the beach isn’t really that magical.  It was wonderful, still as beautiful as ever.  The ever-present rhythm of the ocean waves soothed my anxious heart.  The warmth of the sun did indeed soften my spirit.  The joy that my children communicated as they chased the waves and let the waves chase them back was unprecedented by any joy that I’ve seen them experience before.  I was so glad to be there.  And I was still sick.  I was shivering, gasping at times, dizzy constantly, and utterly exhausted.  My bones and joints screamed while I watched my family play happily.  I had to decline certain activities because I couldn’t move.  The beach did not fixed me, but it offered moments that breathed life into my heart and soul.  It gave my children fresh experiences and family memories that were worth the hours of travel and blistering sunburns.

When describing our trip, I told people that I hadn’t decided if it was worth it yet.  I think that I’ve decided.  It was worth it.  It was worth all of it.  It was worth it to see the delight in those little eyes.  It was worth it to sit on the ocean’s edge holding my babies.  It was worth it to watch my sweet husband tenderly hold my daughter’s hand as he helped her pick out the perfect sea shells and carry my rambunctious son into the deeper ocean because he just couldn’t get enough of the pounding waves.  We may re-evaluate the eight-passenger van deal for next time and who driving over night thinking that the babies gonna sleep, but our souls needed a fresh glimpse of majesty, glory, and connectedness.  And what’s a good story without some dramatic elements anyway?

 

 

 

The Descent from the Mountain

Oh Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising up against me; many are saying to me, “There is no help for you in God.”

But You, Oh Lord, are a shield around me, my glory and the one who lifts up my head.  I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy hill. 

I lie down and sleep;  I awake again, for the Lord sustains me. 

Psalm 3: 1-5

Throughout the summer, we have had prayer night every Wednesday night as we are preparing our satellite campus for launch in the fall.  The sanctuary is lying fallow for the summer, in preparation for the coming birth of a new worship center.  In the sabbath rest of the building, we have established an informal time of individual prayer, followed by corporate prayer and communion.  Our average attendance is four to five individuals.  Two of those are my husband (the pastor) and me (the pastor’s wife).  My husband likes to say that we are small but mighty. I think that we are small and weak. I think that God loves using the small to display the His might.  We considered cancelling the prayer time in the beginning of the summer due to low attendance ( the poor nursery workers carve out the time to come and care for the pastor’s kids and no one else).  But, shoot, it is easier for them and it’s free child-care for us.  So in all reality, it is a win-win.

Really, though, we came to the conclusion that the numbers don’t really matter.  When two or three are gathered together in His name, He is in our midst.  And, boy, did the scripture become a reality this summer.  Unstructured prayer time is not super exciting in the church.  In my experience, people shy away from it.  It is quiet, there is no one leading, and you have to really use your own brain and heart.  This gets tricky.  It also involves stepping out of the solid and into the fluid.  That is scary.  I know, because I shy away from it.  Every single Wednesday,  I have strongly considered and weighed out the possibility of staying home from the prayer time and sending my husband and the kids.  I have good excuses.  Like being sick.  That’s my best excuse, and it is ALWAYS legit.  But despite exhaustion, pain, fevers, dehydration, and everything else in the book of chronic illness, I have found myself somehow sitting in the passenger seat of our car wondering how I managed to get ready and go without bailing.  (Hint:  It’s always God).

In the beginning of the summer, I would sit in the car and kill time before entering the building.  I felt so much anxiety about going into the prayer time.  When I got in there, I prayed on my knees or in a chair.  Sometimes,  I couldn’t actually go into the sanctuary.  It was too overwhelming.  I would sit in the narthex or a classroom to pray.  As weeks progressed, however, the sanctuary called me more and more.  Some days, God would call me to the exterior of the building to lay hands on the bricks and pray in tongues and sing worship songs.  The tears started a couple weeks ago.  A power that I can’t explain has begun to stir my spirit on Wednesday nights and bring me to my knees at the altar.  Last night, it landed me smack under the wooden cross in the right front corner of the sanctuary.  I wrote in my journal, prayed, and opened my Bible to the Psalms.  This book of poetry holds new weight in my life during this season of suffering, confusion, limbo, and waiting.  I opened to Psalm 3, and God plucked a chord in my spirit that resonated with the chord that David plucked as he authored this melancholic yet triumphant Psalm.  I have never before in my life experienced the word of God exuding such life as I did last night.  I cannot understand what happened in my heart as I read the words in that Holy Bible, but it was nothing short of crazy absurdly supernatural. “But thou, oh Lord, are a shield for me; my glory and the lifter of my head” morphed from words on paper to the most passionate cry that my heart could mutter.   I read those five verses over and over again.  I repeated them through snot and tears for thirty minutes, and I felt the electrical presence of the Most High God.

I wish that words could sufficiently convey my experience of coming face-to-face with the goodness of God last night.  If they could, however, it wouldn’t be quite as heavenly, would it?  I suppose that it is okay that I cannot fully communicate or even grasp what happened at the foot of the cross, in the crux of my sickness and brokenness.  That is mostly how God works anyway.  But I left with a clear assurance:  He is so unbelievable GOOD.  Our God is GOOD.  My God is GOOD. He is so GOOD.  Hear me.  He is a good God.  Did you get it? He’s good.

Moses came down from Mount Sinai with a radiant, shiny face.  I feel like last night was my own version of Mount Sinai.  My face, however, I’m pretty sure was not shining. It had black streaks running down it from not water-proof mascara (one would think that I would learn).  I was thrilled and overjoyed and completely dumbfounded.  We know, however, that any change in emotional (or spiritual) homeostasis likes to trigger buckets and buckets of adrenaline to be dumped into my system.  So, no, I wasn’t like Moses. I was like my POTSIE self after a God-encounter.  My reaction was not nearly as cool as Moses’.  I was just vibrating out of my seat as my inhuman supply of norepinephrine created in me a human hummingbird.  The physical ramifications of my God-encounter were excessive, if you ask me.  Really, can’t a girl visit the mountain of God every once in a while without a crazy POTS flare-up afterwards?  No? Okay.  No problem.  I’ll probably keep going up there.  It’s totally worth it.  The flare-up only lasted for about five hours.

This post is not elegant (I had hoped it would be, but it’s not).  I just wanted to get it out into the world.  He is our shield.  He is our glory.  He is the lifter of our heads, no matter what our backs are bent down by.  And if you missed it earlier, God is Good.  Got it?