Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thanksgiving and grieving

This morning I got the message, one of many I have been dreading. The police brought my dad home last night. He left the house at 2 a.m. and wandered the neighbourhood, knocking on doors. He didn’t know where he was or how to get home. Another milestone reached along the terrible path of Alzheimer’s disease. I can’t imagine the worry, and, as a typical caregiver would have, unfounded guilt that my mom must be feeling. Not a great way to start Thanksgiving Day.

As a day set aside to count our blessings, it can also serve to highlight our losses. As families gather and marvel at how the children have grown, we also notice how many of us have aged. Thanksgiving and Christmas were typically large affairs when I was a child, full of extended family. As my great-aunts fussed over how tall I was getting, I noticed how they were beginning to shrink. As we recounted shared memories over much food, I saw how the memories of my elders were fading. Once my Great-Grandad introduced himself to the woman sitting beside him at the table, unable to recognize that it was his daughter. A gentleman to the end. He was a wanderer too – he would somehow get past the nurses at the home, and they would later find him on the streets. Once he returned with two black eyes. When asked I’m sure he was convinced he had been “home” to Saskatchewan – he had left there some fifty years previous to live in B.C.

At least he had the happy form of dementia. I don’t know where my dad goes in his mind, but I am grateful he no longer remembers his own dad’s final years. His dementia was dark – he was selfish, moody, paranoid.  I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of people lashing out in confusion and rage at those who love them the most. And the slipping away of a loved one can happen in so many different ways. My parents tried to shelter me from the illnesses of my older relatives when I was young, but I knew. Great-Uncle Elliot always greeted his three nieces with, “Hi boys!”, and we threw our hands on our hips and protested, “We’re not boys, we’re girls!!” The year he simply said “Hi girls” we knew something was wrong. He died not long after. Great-Uncle Bill, another practical joker, left us in a similar way.

These were the relatives we only saw once or twice a year, and the changes are so much more pronounced that way. Unfortunately that’s how it is with my dad and me now. Living in different provinces, when I do see him the changes are so drastic. Gone is the grandpa who played ball and read books with his grandsons, helped in the garden, and talked politics and sports. I don’t know if my kids remember him that way or not. I must admit I have a harder and harder time seeing him as the hero of my childhood – the man who always put the worm on my hook, and taught me about birds and airplanes. The man who would defend my honour against any unsavoury seeming boy, secure my bedroom against any monster, and could open even the tightest of pickle jars.  There is a broken shell where that man used to be.

I want to throw my hands up in the air and say what on earth is the point of all this pain and suffering? What hope is there is a world where most of us end up dying in pain, and watching our loved ones do the same? Jesus Christ is the hope. He is the only hope for this broken world. He is the only way I can make sense of any of it. I pray for the peace of Christ to work in my dad’s heart and mind. But that part of his mind is long shut. Even before this disease started to overtake his brain, my dad was closed off to the idea of a loving God – he had been hurt by the church, and unfortunately didn’t know that the church sometimes has nothing to do with Jesus. But still I pray, that somewhere in all the deep confusion of dying synapses, God will heal those memories and Dad will find the love of Jesus.

So as I gather with my husband and boys this Thanksgiving, it is with mixed feelings that I remember all the family and friends I have shared this day with throughout the years – those celebrating in other places, and those gone on, as my Papa would say, to the “Happy Hunting Grounds.” And I pray that as you give thanks today, in the middle of your own pain and loss, you find the hope of the love of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 15:13(NIV)



Friday, June 6, 2014

Look at Me!


My two close-encounters with the courts both happened in the summer of 1995. I was 21 years old. The first was because of an incident while living in Nelson, B.C. One winter Sunday night after a nice supper, my boyfriend, roommate and I decided to get dressed up. We didn’t have much money then, but we scrounged around for our thrift store best and decided to hit the town. Problem was, where do you go in a small town on a Sunday night? We had a friend who worked at the Subway downtown so we decided we would head down there to should him our fancy-ish clothes.
It was cold and pretty icy on the street. I was shivering in my little black dress and slipping around in my girly little shoes, when a car screeches to a stop beside us and a guy jumps out. He has crazy eyes. Crazy. He grabs my boyfriend and starts punching him. My roommate keeps walking, hoping to draw us away. More guys pile out of the car, but they just stand there watching. I start screaming, “Get off him! Stop it! Stop hitting him!” I scream at his friends, but they just shrug their shoulders and say there’s nothing they can do to stop him – we should just get out of there. So I keep yelling at this idiot to stop, angry that he won’t even turn around and look at me. So I shout “Look at me!! Look at me you coward! Look me in the eye!!” What’s he gonna do to a buck-o-five in a little black dress?
Crack. He punched me in the head. Twice. Then I fell down. Even though that bastard turned around to hit me, he didn’t look at me. And he didn’t say a word. Someone pulled me out of the way, then things seemed to break up. I don’t really remember how things happened next, but eventually he took off in the car and the three of us turned around and went home to put ice on our bruises.
The next day I had two black eyes. Maybe more purplish. I called the doctor in case I had a concussion or eye damage. I explained to the receptionist what happened, and she asked if he was in the house with me. What? I don’t even know who he is!   (There ended my naivety about domestic violence.) While we were waiting to go to the police station to place charges against this stranger, I was flipping through the local paper. When I opened to the sports section his face leapt out at me. Here, the day after he attacked me, he was featured in a two-page spread as a local hockey hero. While I read quotes about what a superstar and great guy he was, I nursed my bruises and wished I could tell the world what a loser he was, attacking a defenseless girl. I wanted to tell everyone what a coward he was, hitting someone half his size who he couldn’t even look in the eye.
I didn’t feel very hopeful when I entered the Nelson Police Station. Hockey pictures covered the wall. The officers listened to my statement and I told them I only knew who he was because of the paper. Turns out he had done the same thing to a few other folks that night- apparently he was in an alcohol fuelled rage - but no one else was pressing charges. I wanted him to pay – he had been drafted by the Chicago Wolves in the AHL, and I hoped an assault charge would keep him from being able to cross the border to play. I don’t know if it would have. I wanted to interfere with his career so he would have to acknowledge me, what he did. Be sorry? I don’t know. Accept responsibility.
I didn’t hear anything more about the case until I had moved up to Dawson City, Yukon for the summer. I got a message to call someone in Nelson – Justice Department, cop, lawyer, I can’t remember. They told me I needed to be in court in two days. I explained that I was way up north, hours from a major airport, and I that I hated to fly. I made arrangements to take time off work, take the bus to southern B.C., and testify against my attacker. The next day I got a call back saying there would be no trial. He paid a fine instead. I forget now if it was $200 or $400. Small potatoes for a hockey star. Small price to pay for randomly venting your anger on a stranger. Or is it?
I haven’t thought much about “J.R.” over the years, but getting the jury summons today made me think of him. So I googled him. He did go on to the AHL – and just about any other league besides the NHL, even in Scotland and France. He was a not-quite fourth-liner goon who changed teams more than he changed his socks. He highlighted in off-season hockey fight clubs like “Battle of the Hockey Enforcers” and “Hockey Gladiators” - title fights for cash and whatever glory you can scrape back up off the ice. He was, in a word, a loser. And that makes me feel a little bit better.
But he still hit me, while somehow managing to ignore the fact that I was a person, a soul.  When I do think of him I figure he must be a broken man – lost, angry, alone. And if I saw him today, yes, I would make him look me in the eye. I would tell him how awful what he did was.  And I would feel angry. And I would feel bitter. And I would feel self-righteous. But I would pray. Then I would look him in the eye and tell him I forgive him. Even if I didn’t really feel like it I would trust Jesus and forgive him.
So I guess I did just that.
And I'll probably have to do it again.





Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Losing Lent

I began this season of Lent with lofty goals – 30 additional minutes of Bible-reading per day, and a dietary-makeover along the lines of the Daniel Plan. (A whole-person health plan created by Pastor Rick Warren and friends – check it out.) I was cutting out all caffeine and sugar, as well as doing a 10 day dairy and gluten detox. The first couple of days I was pretty grumpy without my morning coffee, but I was really enjoying all the fresh fruit smoothies. The extra Bible reading was good too – I had interesting reading plans by Nicky Gumbel and Eugene Peterson. After one week I was going strong.

Suddenly everything else fell away when I had to rush to emergency with my seven-year-old. He had an allergic reaction at school and needed adrenaline, antihistamines and steroids. The first couple of hours were tense and gut-wrenching. When he was stable the doctors told me that Jude would need to stay in the hospital for 24-48 hours. After he finished work, my husband came to stay with Jude so I could run home and pack an overnight bag with some clothes and things to keep us occupied.

When I left the hospital I had been caffeine, sugar and dairy-free for seven days, but now I was in crisis. It had been a few hours since the ambulance ride, where I watched my son’s oxygen mask kick in and the injection of adrenaline subside. My fear had created a massive rush of adrenaline of my own, now I was crashing and fading. I was exhausted. I needed to keep it together and not only stay awake, but stay brave and strong for my seven-year-old who could’ve died that day. I wanted a coffee.

I had a quick decision to make – do I continue on my elimination diet, trying to stay gluten & dairy-free while eating at the hospital cafeteria for the next few days, I’m sure I could find some carrot sticks, or do I call it a good seven days and leave it for now? My weak will was certainly leaning toward scrapping the whole thing, at least for a coffee, but I prayed “God, please sustain me. Let me know what to do.” I sensed Him saying “set it aside.”

I wearily, intentionally and gratefully went to Timmy’s to get a latté. Okay, I had a couple of Timbits too. But I didn’t have 12. I didn’t scarf down a box of donuts or buy a dozen chocolate bars. I decided not to throw the baby away with the bathwater. ‘Cause I’ve done it before. I’ve been at this juncture – one slip up and I abandon the whole thing. I plan to exercise, then miss two days in a row. Ah well, might as well forget exercising at all.  I promise to write in my journal every day. A few days go by and I toss the journal behind the bookshelf. Baby. Bathwater.

As I sipped on my coffee and thought about my decision to cease my detox and diet plan, I realized this had nothing to do with Lent. Yes, it was about God – I wanted to upgrade the temple He gave me and honour Him with my actions. But it wasn’t about Lent. The detox part was really about looking for hidden food allergies. Even the 30 minute Bible plan was something I committed to do for the month of March, starting four days before Lent. These changes to my behaviour were on the surface Lentish, they intersected and overlapped with Lent, but that’s not why I chose to do them.  I didn’t spend time with God in prayer about what to do for Lent, I just did what I was going to do anyway. What was the point in being Pharisaical about my plans when they weren’t even God-ordained? Was I just cleaning the outside of the cup?

 So I got my caffeine fix with a little less guilt, grateful for the setting aside. I even giggled a little when breakfast for my seven-year-old arrived in the morning, complete with a cup of coffee. (He was happy to let me have it. After a night on a lumpy cot with one eye open, I was happy for the kick start to the day.) The mostly sleepless night gave me ample time for prayer, and I had good Bible-reading time while Jude ate his breakfast.

But there was a nagging guilt, small, slightly tugging at the corners… why didn’t I trust that God would be my strength? Was I too quick to hear what I wanted from Him?  Was my will so weak? Did I go to Him in prayer right away, or worry first? I pondered all these things, and brought them before the Lord, wondering if I had just “lost” Lent. But maybe I had just found Lent in this self-examination. Of all the traditional disciplines of Lent, self-examination has probably been the hardest for me to embrace.

So now, as Jude and I are back at home, and I know that whatever I do or don’t do for Lent, I do it for God and with God. So I am spending time getting to know myself, asking myself the hard questions about my faith, my fears. And as I patiently, coaxingly wait for the answers, I am thankful that in almost losing Lent, God is helping me to find myself.  

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Matthew 23.25-26

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11.9-10











Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dread

The dread. Every mother has it. Some have it stuffed so far below the surface that they rarely let themselves feel it. Some let it run wild, colouring every moment with worry. Some have found a nice balance of healthy fear and relaxed trust.
Every moment your kids are out of your sight there is some level of fear that something bad will happen to them. When they are at school, at a friend's house, at the park, at hockey practice. There is a split-second alarm when the phone rings. What if something happened to my child? Like the fear of the phone call in the middle of the night... What if... What if...
My call came on Tuesday. 
...It is my husband - the school just phoned him. His first words are "He is okay." Meant to calm my worry, my heart leaps into my throat as he explains, "They had to give Jude his epipen. He had a reaction but he is okay. Go to the school. The ambulance is on its way." My worst fear... anaphylaxis.
Should I go straight to the hospital? What if I miss the ambulance? I don't want him to ride in it alone...I know the terror of the throat closing, breathing thick and strained. I know the fear of the needle - the injection of the adrenaline. I know the power of the adrenaline - shaking, heart racing. Fear on top of fear. He is my son. Only seven. The thought of him going through this pierces my heart.
I race to the school, park my van behind the fire truck and run into the school. He is surrounded by medics and staff, seeming to all talk at once. "He was so pale." "It was an accident." "He asked for his epipen." "He was so brave." "We're taking him to the hospital." "He asked if he was going to die. “I’m sorry." I just want to take him in my arms and hold him forever.
In the ambulance they hook him up to a bunch of machines. They check his oxygen saturation level, blood pressure, temperature, other things I'm not sure about. As we hurry to the hospital, I try to swallow my panic, I remember the other ambulance trips... the last one with Jude was longer - two hours to a larger hospital when he was almost intubated to treat his extreme asthma attack. The first ride was with his older brother Sasha, as he struggled to breath after eating eggs at age two. I try to refocus, listen to the paramedic.
She explains that the reaction seems to be in his upper airway - he ingested particles of the peanut that triggered the anaphylaxis.  He needs the oxygen mask and Benadryl, but he is out of the initial danger of anaphylactic shock.  I explain his medical history – hives and vomiting when he accidentally eats eggs or dairy. His asthma. Eczema. No, he’s never eaten peanuts. Yes, he always carries his epipen, inhalers and Benadryl.  
We arrive at the hospital. Jude is calm - his heart has stopped the adrenaline-induced pounding. The oxygen mask is helping his breathing relax. He tells me he prayed. I promise him he is not going to die. 
We stay in the hospital overnight. He is okay. He gets a two doses of Prednisone and another prescription for when we are discharged. He needs to be medicated and monitored for 72 hours, as there is a chance of a second reaction.
Eventually I hear the whole story. One of his classmates had a puffed wheat square made with peanut butter in her lunch by accident. He didn’t touch the square, he wasn’t sitting near it. His throat started to close and he asked for his epipen. His face was pale and his eyes were glassy. As scary as this incident was, there are positives:
I am thankful that he has a healthy fear of his allergies. He knows he can die because of a peanut. (A would-be aunt neither of us had the pleasure to meet died of an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts.) But now he has survived a reaction, and knows he doesn’t have to die if he uses his auto-injector and gets to a hospital.
I am thankful that he knows the allergy protocol. The teachers said as soon as he began to react he stayed calm and asked for his epipen. He knows when to ask for his inhalers. He always wears his MedicAlert bracelet and asks about ingredients before he eats anything.
I am thankful that the school reacted quickly and correctly. They did not hesitate to administer the epipen, and they called 911 and my husband right away. They have a no-nut policy that they do their best to enforce.
I am thankful that this episode will bring about more awareness about allergies. It is something our family is all too familiar with, but there are lots of people who need to learn and keep learning about the dangers of food allergies.
But the dread is still there. His allergy is so severe that he doesn’t even need to touch a peanut to have a reaction. It is scary that what is healthy to some is deadly to him. Peanuts are a poison that parade as food. Same for me, same for Sasha. None of us know when our time on earth will end, but the three of us, and millions of other allergic individuals, know that our time could come disguised as dinner.
So I read labels, ask questions, pray, tell my kids to keep vigilant, trying to reduce the danger and the dread. And I ask you to do the same. To keep my dread down. And to keep Jude’s hopes up.



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Turning Forty


So it’s official - I am 40. Time to celebrate? It’s hard to tell. Some people dread turning 40 – it seems like an ominous milestone, like the point of no return on the aging scale - not that we can ever turn back time - but maybe it is the point past pretending that we can. Certainly 40 seemed really old when I was 10. And 20. And 30, to be honest. It is interesting how we react as we reach these somewhat artificial landmarks of our birth (surely they are more significant to our mothers?!) and reflect on our journey-to-date. Did things turn out the way we expected or hoped?  As a highly academic high school student I, and probably everyone else who knew me, assumed I would go on to a post-secondary education to get a degree or two. Maybe a masters. We would’ve thought it was a pretty safe bet. Instead I enrolled and often dropped out of a number of classes at a few different schools. My experience with panic disorder was peaking as I attempted to further my education – no doubt the fluorescent lighting and the crowded campuses and classes didn’t help. But I still think about going back to school, and I probably will. (It’s nice to be able to control the crowds and lights with an on-line course.) When I was younger I assumed I’d be married and have kids – actually I always pictured myself with three boys, but still living in my parents’ home. I did end up with three boys, and I am very thankful that Paul & I have our own home.

The part about turning 40 that makes me sad isn’t so much about the years, it’s more about being a grown-up in general. Not that I usually feel like a grown-up. Every time I have to do something particularly adultish, like negotiate mortgage payments or navigate parent-teacher interviews, I feel like a fake, a timid child hiding behind the mask of a mature and capable woman. Surely if you are old enough to have kids and a car and a house and a real job you must be mature, stable, and sure of yourself? When would I outgrow panic and self-consciousness like I outgrew dolls and crayons? Did I miss the day I was supposed to become confident and competent, shedding my fears and doubts like last season’s fashions?  I was surprised to learn that most of us are much like insecure tweens, but with bigger clothes and bigger bills.

What I’m sad about as I turn 40 is anxiety. When I was younger and figuring out this diagnosis of “panic disorder” I was told that most children grow out of their anxiety. I clung to this fact like a life preserver in the raging tempest of my life. This was a ray of hope to me that pierced the terrifying darkness of my fears. And I was certain it was true – how on earth could I as an adult still have so many fears? Imagine a grown-up too scared to go on an elevator! Imagine an adult who freaked out and bolted out of the mall because she was claustrophobic. But yes, I can imagine exactly that. I slowly but surely became that adult. The specific phobias have morphed over the years but fear still has a firm grip on this 40-year-old, grown-up mother and wife.

I know now that millions of other adults are struggling with varying forms of anxiety, and that was somewhat comforting to learn, but it was a crushing blow to realize that it applied to me. The hope that freedom would come with maturity that was a lifeline through my teenage years… Just hang in there, you’ll grow out of it… turned out to be a lie. Truth is I grew more into it - I became accustomed to fear, I expected panic attacks. I absorbed all of this terror and dread into my personality, my self, my soul.

I mourn the hope of “growing out of“ anxiety. But I am learning that it is not so much about growing out of fear as it is growing into God. I thank Him for the forty years on this earth that He’s given me, including the anxiety, for that is part of the journey that brought me to where I am today, where I am supposed to be. But now I know that even though I feel fear it is not part of who I am. I am learning that my true identity is in Christ, not in anxiety. (see Ephesians) I yearn for the peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4.7) He can do infinitely more (and better!) than I can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3.20) – His miracles far surpass my teenage hopes. Even though I still struggle with anxiety, it does not define me. As I stumble along the path God has set before me, I am trying to cast my cares on Him (I Peter 5.7), trying to lean on Him (Proverbs 3.5). I don’t always get it right, but He does. I will continue to age and change, but He remains the same, (Hebrews 13.8) and that is worth celebrating.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Judah Hill Detour

Driving to town yesterday was so exciting! I was only doing routine errands, and nothing out of the ordinary happened, nevertheless I was almost giddy. We live 18 kilometres south of Peace River, the town where we work, shop & worship. The drive is about 16 kilometres over the flat prairie, then two steep and windy kilometres down Judah Hill into the valley. Last May there was a landslide – the hillside gave way and took a chunk of the highway with it. The road was closed. Now our only way to town was north by southeast – across to the village of Nampa and up to Peace River. Our 18 kilometre jaunt became a 90 kilometre round-trip. Fifteen minutes of relative solitude on the secondary highway became at least half an hour with traffic.


The timing was ironic  - for the almost eight years we’d lived out here on our acreage, Paul taught at and the boys went to school at the francophone school in Falher, 55 kilometres south of us, so they all had a daily 110 kilometre commute. (Before I had children I probably would have considered this child abuse, but my kids loved the bus ride.) In May Paul accepted a position at the Catholic school in Peace River, so we decided to switch everyone to that school system. What a joy to have a much shorter drive, we thought… it turned out to be almost as long.

It was a delight yesterday to turn left onto the highway, after nine months of the longer route to the right. My muscle memory kicked in - I know that road like the back of my hand. I have driven it in all weather conditions imaginable – whiteouts, floods, heat waves and wind storms. I remember driving back and forth to town, pregnant and studying Jewish history, and deciding that if we had another boy I’d like to name him Judah. I remember spinning out on the ice and going into the ditch, five-year-old Sasha squealing “Whee!” the whole time. I remember stopping as a herd of elk crossed the highway single file as I was on my way to the grocery store. In just less than eight years I've driven this route over a thousand times – encountering moose, deer, snowy owls, golden eagles, northern lights and bright canola fields. I am so grateful for this drive.

But as frustrating as it was to reroute the long way, I need to keep it in perspective. So it was a 45 kilometre drive… to what?

45 kilometres to school – my kids have the right to go to school, unlike other children in this world who are forced to work or otherwise denied education. We have the privilege to choose both French and Christian instruction.

45 kilometres to work – my husband has a good, stable job that he loves. While many folks are out of work or working in terrible conditions, we have plenty of opportunities for employment, even the option of government social services to aid us.

45 kilometres to shopping – even in a relatively small northern town I have the choice of four grocery stores that carry product from all over the world. While many people in this world are starving, I can eat mangoes, avocados and coconuts far from their country of origin. We have the option of gluten-free, nut-free, low-fat, oven-ready or take-out.

45 kilometres to church – we are free to attend the church of our choice and freely worship. In other parts of the world believers are persecuted - forced to sneak into secrets churches under the cover of night or even martyred for their faith. Our church has running water, heat and even a new roof. We are not afraid to go to church.

As I drive that 45 kilometres to town I need to keep my eyes peeled for moose, but I will likely not encounter any roadside bombs or snipers along the way. The relatively small amount of additional effort it takes for us to get to our places of work, worship, learning and shopping is nothing to the huge and dangerous effort it is for some of the world to access work, school, church, clean water and food.

So as much as I appreciate my short Judah Hill drive, I also thank God for the detour. We live in a land of plenty, a land of opportunity, a land of choice. And for that I am grateful.





Sunday, February 2, 2014

Counting the Days

Health has not been the theme of my past year. Unfortunately I have experienced a lot of illness. Between migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis and some other undiagnosed issues, I spent much of the last year unwell.  Nausea and vomiting have left me weak and dehydrated. Migraines have sent me to solitary confinement with ice packs and ear plugs. Belching has made me sound ruder and more repellent than a drunken sailor. Bloating has left me with no clothes that fit and feeling six months pregnant. (Looking pregnant has been a mix of amusing and awkward – young people have discreetly wondered and asked someone else if I was pregnant, whereas adults have simply assumed and publicly congratulated me on my growing family. If you don’t know for sure I recommend saying nothing – explaining you are sick rather than expecting really dampens the atmosphere in the room. In those moments I genuinely wished I was expecting - even at almost forty – then I would know what was causing my symptoms and I would be looking forward to the resulting miracle. Morning sickness is preferable to mystery sickness.)

I have missed more work, church, meetings, kids’ activities and social events than I care to count. Do I dare to count? How many days have I missed in the past year?

Throwing up: 2-3 days/month = 1 month
Recovery/Dehydration: 2-3 days/month = 1 month
Migraine: 3-4 days/month = 1.5 months
Bloating: 7-8 days/month = 3 months
Nausea: 15 days/month = 6 months (Most of the days I was nauseated I had other symptoms, so let’s factor most of those out.)
Nausea only: 5/month = 2 months
Total: 8.5 months.
That’s about 255 sick days.

Of the 3.5 months remaining I was tired, really tired. It is hard for me to remember the last time I didn’t feel exhausted. Exhaustion is oppressive and depressive. In this disheartening and frustrating condition I have seen 5 doctors, had 4 invasive tests, and so many blood tests that the bruises on my arms sometimes haven’t healed before the next round. I think I have tried varying cocktails of 8 medications. Diagnosis? The theories have been numerous and mostly erroneous.

Why am I writing about this? I hope my motivation is not simply so someone will feel sorry for me. I am questioning and grappling with what is going on. All of these days add up to a lot of time to think about being sick. Time to ponder health and pose questions about illness. I haven’t been asking “Why, God, why?” but rather “What, God, what?” What is causing these symptoms? What is making my body feel so toxic? What can I do to feel better? What should I learn from this?

And I pray for healing – I pray for God to restore and renew my body, to remove the sickness, the fatigue, the depression. It is natural to cry out to God when we are broken and want Him to fix us. What surprises me is how this time had led to an outpouring of gratitude. As I hug the toilet and wait for the next wave of vomiting to begin I thank Him. I thank Him for things I otherwise might not:
            Thank You that this not happening because of cancer and chemo. 
Thank You for Gatorade and Gravol.
Thank You for clean running water and indoor plumbing.

As I lie in my bed in the dark, ice pack on head, I thank Him:
          Thank You that my kids are old enough to feed themselves.
          Thank You for my husband who can cook and clean
          Thank You that it is me who is ill, not my kids.

Eventually the vomiting ceases; the migraine subsides; the bloating decreases. But with it the gratitude dwindles… Just when I should be the most thankful for relief of symptoms and a reprieve from pain I seem to fall into a pattern of complaining, of feeling sorry for myself. I mourn the lost days and resent the pile of dishes, the loads of laundry, the unpaid bills that await my return to the everyday world. But instead of embracing the gift of recovery, instead of rejoicing in my ability to perform ordinary responsibilities, I resent the missed opportunities – all the activities, events and conversations that I could not join in.  The days spent entirely in bed. The days I could barely do anything for my kids. The days I barely talked to my husband. While I dwell on the lost fun, play, worship and work, I overlook the miracles right in front of my eyes - the sunrise, the birdsong, and the laughter of my children.

I don’t know why I find it harder to be positive when I am physically feeling better – I guess I get caught up in being behind. I neglect the present while I grieve the past. I practice grief instead of gratitude. When we find God when we are down and out, we casually cast Him aside when things are looking up. We call for Him in the pit, not on the plain.
Psalm 40.1-3. I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord
Sometimes I don’t wait patiently, but God always hears my cry. He lifts me out of the pit, and as I crawl around and adjust to the Light, He picks me up and steadies my wobbly legs. Now it is my part – I need to sing the new song – the hymn of praise.

Thank You, Father, for your healing, your salvation, your unfailing love. As You lift my spirit, help me lift my praise to You.