Fear/Hope

Fear used to be the thing that lived under my bed when I was a small child and threatened to grab my foot if I let it dangle over the edge of the bed too long. It would rear its head sometimes, but when I turned the lights on, found someone that I loved to be near to, and fear would retreat.

After losing my daughter last year, fear has taken on a new form. I hear bad news, from markets taking a downturn to illness spreading, and my heart begins to race. My mind whirls with “what if”s that steal my peace and my hope. And I worry that someone else that I love will be taken from me. I worry for all of those who will lose a loved one to senseless violence, illness, or accident. I worry that everything will fall apart again, and that this time, everything will be too broken for me too pick up the pieces and keep going.

Losing Cora was a trauma. It took me a a long time to recognize that. And I carry scars from that trauma, physical and mental. We’re working on the mental scars, and have been going to a therapist. (An aside: If you’re struggling, go see a professional. There is not shame in going to therapy.)

There are so many people suffering trauma now. It feels like the world is ripping itself apart. Fifty people were murdered and countless more injured last weekend.

And the truth is, I am not strong enough for this. We are not strong enough for this. I am not strong enough to pick up the pieces and keep going. But the basis of the faith that has come to mean more to me since Cora died is that God loved us all so much that He was willing to give up His only Son so that we could be saved from punishment for our sins by accepting Him. The point is not that I am supposed to be strong enough to keep going. The point is that I’m to turn to Him when I’m hurt, confused, and falling apart.

It is impossible to hope on my own after loss. To hope that God would allow me to get pregnant again and carry a baby who lives; to hope that it would be soon. To trust that although bad things happen as a result of sin, that God is still good. Hope is an easy task when you have not experienced loss or disappointment. When you know loss and disappointment, hope is an act of faith. Hope is a hard choice that becomes an act of worship and surrender to God, because you know the pain that loss can bring and know that God may choose to tell you “no”. Hope is believing that God is good  and will sustain you even when you are disappointed and hurt. Hope is trusting that God will hold you together when everything goes wrong.

Hope is knowing that even if everyone that I love is lost, even if I never carry a child who lives, even if my home remains empty of children or another sort of calamity visits my life, God is still good. I still choose to love Him because He first loved me. I deserve nothing, and yet Christ loves me.

God is still good. Even when it feels like the world is burning down around us, God is still good. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

If you follow Christ, live your life in the light of hope in Christ, not hope is material things or family members. Even in light of the murder that was committed just this past weekend, hope audaciously. Pray without ceasing. And then go do something. Show your love to another who is hurting. Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. May we all take our fear and pain to the foot of the cross, and then act as Christ would have acted. May we glorify God’s name by living our lives and choosing daily to trust in Him.

If you do not follow Christ, my words won’t make much sense. If God is good, why do people die? If God is good, why do people spew hate in His name? If God is good, why did my unborn child die or why did a man murder fifty people over the weekend? I cannot sum up the whole of my faith in a blog post. I would encourage you to read scripture. To examine the life of Christ and to see what He said about Himself and how He loved and lived, and how He died to pay the price for our sins. I also encourage you to ask questions. God does not require that we become perfect before we seek Him. He came to seek and save those who are hurting and those who are sick.

And when we see pain and sickness, suffering and death, and people who claim faith who wield it like a club with which to beat others, know that Christians are not perfect and that some who claim faith in God are misled. We are a poor reflection of the Christ that we serve. I pray that you would seek Him with your whole heart, because He is waiting for you to find Him.

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A New Year

On December 31, 2013, Husband-Man fell asleep while we watched the Lion King. We had planned on going to a friend’s house to ring in the new year, but his stomach hurt so we stayed home. That stomach ache turned into months of pain, weight loss, visits to doctor’s offices, and eventually a diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis. It heralded high medical bills, sleepless nights, and a year of waiting for changes and developments.

On December 31, 2014, Husband-Man and I watched four hours of Crocodile Dundee, ate pizza, and went to be early. As we lay in bed before falling asleep, we talked through this unexpected year that stretched us farther than we could ever have imagined, we talked about our hopes and dreams for the new year. We have big plans, and we’re looking forward to another year together of learning how God uses our rough spots to continue to point us to Him.

I am thrilled to see 2014 come to a close, but as we prayed last night and this morning and thanked God for our blessings that sprang to mind easily, I couldn’t help but think about the blessings that hurt the most. We thanked God not because of what we have, but because of who He is. We thanked Him not for what makes us feel comfortable, but that which makes us draw closer to Him. I praise God that we had the year that we had. We often comfort ourselves with Philippians 4:13, but often fail to take the verse in full context. In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul says:

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

The hopes that I held in my heart for 2014 we not all met. In fact, most of them were answered with “wait”. Most of 2014 found us in great need of the Lord, and we were able to walk though the experience because God gave us the strength. God is good. God provides every day, and blessed my little family by leading us through pain and uncertainty. As you plan for 2015, know that God sees the plans that you hold dearly in your heart. And He loves you so much that He won’t give you everything that you want.

Happy New Year, everyone. May you be blessed by drawing nearer to God is all situations. 

When you CAN’T Make Your Art

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I love to create. And what I love to create varies by the season of life in which I find myself.

When money was tight and Husband-Man and I newly married, I crocheted hats for all of our family’s Christmas presents. These were, however, no ordinary hats. They were designed for each family member. One was a monster with horns and eyes, others were stylish and slouchy, and others still were super functional and warm.

When studying business for a bachelors and masters degree, my art was the perfectly crafted resume or research paper. You may not find art in a visually pleasing and content rich document, but I do. I crafted it with my hands and mind, and it has the possibility to open doors of employment and avocation for many.

When I got sick of all the business writing required of me as a student, I would sing. I sang with chamber and concert choirs, practicing an hour a day and performing at concerts and on tours. I relish the feeling of my voice blending with my neighbors, creating one voice to convey a message of peace, joy, hope, or sadness.

When desperate and tired from illness and work, my art consisted of tear stained words that were sometimes legible, scribbled in a gorgeous leather journal.

This past month, I haven’t been doing my art. And I’ve been miserable.

My wrist still hasn’t healed well. I’m in and out of a brace, preventing me from cutting pieces for sewing, holding a needle to embroider, holding a book of music to sing, crocheting, writing by hand, and sometimes even typing. I’m not in terrible pain, but I’ve been told that rest is the only way my tendons can heal.

I am not good at rest.

I have NEVER been good at rest. I get antsy, and mean. I feel useless and unfulfilled.

And sometimes, I have ignored my doctor’s orders for rest, and in desperation, have tried to create something. And I have been frustrated that my creation has been weak, like my wrist.

What has God been teaching me?

That is hard to say. I’ve spent this entire year waiting, so  you’d think that this would be easy. But, my escape has been taken away from me. I can’t feel better by being creative in my normal ways. I can’t escape into a project and forget the world for a while.

So, I have no where left to turn. My art, my creation, is not here to make me feel better, so there’s only one more place to turn.

Even when your wrist is hurt, you can still lift your hands. My voice can still sing, and my mind can still study. It’s back to basics (with a lot of prayer for healing).

Happy December, friends.

Still Sick

This post is part of the 31 Days Writing Challenge, in which a group of writers post a piece every day for the month of October. Want to read all of my posts in this series? Click here

On Fridays this month, I’ve been telling the story of Husband-Mans journey through illness this year. I know that today is Thursday, but I figured you’d want to know how he’s doing now. 

So, how does Husband-Man’s story end?

Isn't he cute?

Isn’t he cute?

It’s not close to over yet. And I’m very thankful for that. The story of his sickness will only be over when he dies and is in heaven with Jesus. When you get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, you don’t ever get rid of it. Sometimes you go into remission, and other times you don’t.

His liver hasn’t been inflamed for the past six months, thanks to the treatment he’s received. Next month, he’ll go back to the doctor to talk about reducing the amount of one of his medicines gradually (barring any other issues) until he’s off of it completely. Then, he takes another drug for a few years to give his liver a chance to heal. Then he gets another really fun test to see how his liver is doing, and we go from there.

The rest of our lives is going to be a waiting game with this illness, but the rest of our lives are a waiting game regardless. What matters is how we choose to wait.

This month, we’ve been thinking through what we wait for and how we go through that time of waiting. For me, me this intense period of waiting has opened my eyes to the opportunities that I’ve missed because I was waiting passively. I have spent so much of my life waiting without actively seeking God in that waiting. Waiting on Husband-Man’s health has forced me to turn to God, because I knew I had no where else to turn. I’ve had the opportunity to live every day like his life was in danger, and have learned to appreciate him so much more. I’ve had to rely daily on God’s provision of strength and grace. I had the opportunity to learn that waiting is a way that God draws me to himself.

And it’s been a blessing. A huge, painful blessing that has impacted my life. I’m so thankful for this blessing, because if God had not brought me though this, instead of enjoying my time with Husband-Man and being active with him while he was sick, I would have sat idly by waiting for something to happen and would have missed the opportunity to walk with him through one of the hardest times of his life.

How has waiting actively blessed you or your loved ones?

Physical Therapy

After going through extensive and expensive tests for my unintentional wrist injury, I was sent to physical therapy (PT). I had never been sent to PT before, and I didn’t know what to expect. I know several people that have gone through it, and the glimpses of the room in which this magical stuff happened made me think it was like going to the weight room at the gym.

I had to go in for an evaluation, and I was surprised by what was done to my wrist. This wrist had been strapped to some kind of device to keep it still for about two months, and all of a sudden, the therapist wanted me to bend my wrist as far as it would go. She wanted me to exert force with it. She wanted me to stretch it. And moving it HURT. The therapist asked me if I’d been doing any stretching since I’d injured it. My response? No. I hadn’t been using it. Using it hurt. Stretching it hurt. So I didn’t stretch it.

And then all of a sudden, I had to use it again.

I have been going to PT for about a month now, and everything they’ve made me do has hurt. They started my therapy by making me stretch my wrist in all the directions it could possibly go at least three times a day. At first, it hurt really bad, and but after a while, it didn’t hurt so much. Then they started making my move my wrist. Wiggle to the left, wiggle to the right. Wiggle up, wiggle down. (Sounds like a board book, doesn’t it? Or a pop song.) That hurt too. And after it stopped hurting they made me add weight. First, only one pound. Then three. Now I’m lifting four pounds. (My living room floor looks like my big weights had babies.)

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They also made me stop wearing my brace. It had been important for my healing process at first, but the more I let myself use it, the more my muscles would have wasted away. My muscles have to practice being used again.

I don’t like pain. And I don’t think that very many people do. But sometimes, pain is required for healing. I need to be able to use my wrist in my work, and in my personal life. Have you ever tried to lift a small human for a hug with a hurt wrist? It doesn’t work very well. Have you ever tried to hold hands with your husband-man (or whomever you hold hands with) when it hurts to bend your wrist? I don’t suggest it.

Usually, we don’t get to heal all at once. It takes a long time. It’s hard work. I’ve had to make myself do something that wasn’t fun, and that didn’t feel good, three times a day to try and help my wrist heal.

That’s usually how God deals with my gross spots too. Overcoming the stress issue that I’ve been dealing with for the past six months for my entire life? That takes work. That doesn’t happen all at once. That takes reading my Bible every day, and giving every day to God. And sometimes, more often than I’d like, I do a really bad job at letting Him heal me.

Following God is often very, very painful. And it’s very often no fun. But God didn’t promise us fun. When He sent His son to live on the Earth, His son was poor, persecuted, misunderstood, and died (a horrific death) in His early thirties. He didn’t own a house and He didn’t have babies. I have a theory (based on no scientific fact) that Jesus joked around with the disciples. They were men. Don’t you think they tooted on one another sometimes? Don’t you think someone short sheeted Jesus’ bed a time or two? I think so. So, I think His life had some fun in it. But He also had a great deal of pain. And I don’t deserve anything better than God’s Son. None of us do.

So, what do we do with our pain? What did the man after God’s own heart do? He prayed and wrote and was honest with God about his pain, and we get the privilege of reading through some of his prayers in Psalms. One of my favorites that I read as part of the ESV Study Bible year long reading plan that I’m going through is Psalms 31:

1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
    but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
    you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!
17 Lord, let me not be put to shame,
    for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
    let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
    which speak insolently against the righteous
    in pride and contempt.

19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
    which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
    in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
    from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
    from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
    for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
    when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
    “I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
    when I cried to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
    The Lord preserves the faithful
    but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

I like how it ends. “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

So, while you’re going through the pain of healing, be strong. Be encouraged, my friends.