Learning and Graduating

The last few weeks months have been a challenge for me.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been sick.  I’ve been avoiding putting many statuses up on Facebook and I avoid saying anything about how I feel because if I did that every day’s status would be, “Ugh…I feel like crap this morning,” or “Another day…this totally sucks…,” or “I just want to know what’s wrong with me!  Just take me behind the barn, seriously!”  And none of those are positive or helpful things.  So I’ve avoided it.  I’ve tried to avoid the negativity.  After-all, 4 months of this…4 months of negativity would be wearing on a person…and would be tiring for all of my friends to hear about constantly.  Instead I’ve posted videos, pictures, cartoons, about the kids, or movies, or blenders.

I’ve been going back and forth with how I’ve handled each day…each moment.  I have days when I am just quiet most of the day and snap every time I open my mouth.  I’m irritated and frustrated.  I have days when I’m upbeat and positive and tell myself, “God is going to use this somehow!  I just know it!”  I have days when I have important doctor appointments and think, “This will be the day!  They will be able to give me a diagnosis today!”  And then other times when I think, “This will be the test which will reveal it’s been cancer all along and I’m dying.”  It really all depends on the moment.  I recently had someone say to me, “Well you don’t look like you feel sick.  You seem to be handling it well.”  I said, “Well, I can’t afford to lay in bed whining for 4 months.  The world keeps turning and I can’t just lay around and do nothing  At this moment I could go lay on the bathroom floor for 2 hours and just cry.”

Needless to say I’ve needed encouragement big time.  I’ve needed the support of friends and family.  I haven’t been the friend I’d like to be…or the wife I’d like to be…the mom I’d like to be.  I’ve been tired, worn, and a real drag.  Hanging out with friends has been a nice distraction, but I often find myself talking about all the labs and results and things coming back flagged and other things coming back normal and how frustrated I am and how I just wish for answers.  I’m sure that it gets old, but it is the thing that is on my mind most lately.

In my most difficult moments I beg God to remind me of why I believe in Him in the first place.  I beg for him to tell me of the times when I KNEW He was real–when it could only have been Him.  One morning after such an evening I saw a video posted by the choir director and worship pastor at our church of Alistair Begg talking about the difference between knowing and feeling.  He quoted 2 Corinthians 5:1 “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” (NLT)  He talked about going to a church and the worship leader asking, “how do you all feel this morning!?”  Feeling is so subjective…so fleeting…so changing.  He talked about the significance of KNOWING.  It doesn’t always matter how we feel.  And that is when God answers my question.  I can’t always look for times when I felt like God was around.  I can’t even always look into my personal life.  Sometimes I need to look at scriptures and prophecies that were fulfilled hundreds of years later that could only have happened if God actually exists.  Sometimes I need to look at nature and science and say, “There’s no way that such a complex system of life could possibly exist without a creator–a designer!”  I need to use my brain.  My heart is deceitful.  My heart is ever-changing.  My feelings are often vulnerable, needy, unloving, unfaithful– adulterous and easily swayed to the love of another…Money, health, success, happiness…

Today I was listening to the radio on my way to pick up Levi from school and some lady was talking about her struggles.  I caught the last 5-10 minutes of her program, but what she said was so applicable to my current situation.  This woman must have had cancer or some other disease as she talked about being hooked up to IVs and her sons and husband having to cook dinner and bring it to her bedside so they could all eat together.  She talked about having no money and living off of tomato soup for weeks at a time and becoming so grateful when they were finally able to go to the store and have choices.  She talked about how, when she was feeling sorriest for herself, she would look at her life, and then the lives of her friends and see the stark differences between them.  It would frustrate her.

I can relate.  I’m not hooked up to IVs, and I’m not on my death bed…but I feel like crap.  I watch families go on trips, vacations, outings, hiking, even out to dinner and having great times together–creating memories.  And here I am just trying to get through the day without falling over.  Laying on the couch and watching a movie together, putting a puzzle together, or reading a book together is the extent of the “outings” that I have right now.  My big trips include 30-40 minute drives to see a specialist and get poked in the arm while they remove more blood from my veins only to tell me that they’re still confused.  It is frustrating.  I’m sick of my kids watching movies and playing nintendo.  I’m sick of spending hours every week in doctor’s offices and reading up on various potential diseases they’re testing for.  I’m sick of spending time reading about what each lab is for, how it works, and what different results mean.

She went on to talk about how much they learned during this difficult time.  She talked about going on a “Treasure Hunt” during the struggle.  What are you learning?  How are you becoming stronger?  She said someone pointed out to her one day that, in a world when people don’t really know how to love each other through difficult times, her young boys were getting front-row seat lessons in how to love their wives someday and how to love their mother now.  They were learning to develop a servant’s heart.  They were learning to be grateful for simple things.  They learned that the world didn’t revolve around them.  She continued that a teacher friend of hers, who had been teaching for more than 30 years, retired and said she just couldn’t watch kids with more potential in their little fingers than many have in their whole bodies throw it all away because they were unwilling to work hard and apply themselves.  They were entitled.  They were over-indulged…handed everything and sheltered from pain…given everything but a fighting chance to survive in a world where struggle, work, and grief is alive and well.

So, for the next few minutes I envisioned my sons talking about their strong mother someday and how their wives would say something really sentimental like, “I’m so thankful that his mother taught him to be so kind and giving…”  And then I thought about what I’m really teaching them some days.  The days when I’m frustrated and tired and crying and crabby–They’re learning that it’s OK to snap at people because you’re sick…That Nintendo is a great babysitter for a 5-year old…That grilled cheese for lunch and dinner in the same day is OK because it isn’t worth it to fight with your kids over food variety…  Yeah–the negativity always finds its way back in.

So I ran into Walmart to do some returns and came back out and David Jeremiah was preaching about the story of Joseph.  He was talking about how Joseph’s life just seemed to be one trial after another and how he would graduate from one trial and move on to a bigger one.  He talked about how Joseph was first thrown into a pit by his brothers and left to die…and once he thought it couldn’t get any worse, they pulled him up only to sell him into slavery.  He landed in prison and was forgotten about only to be remembered by a friend a couple years later (two years in prison is a long time when you haven’t done anything wrong…) and off he went to Potiphar’s house.  He then became the “head slave”only to be taunted and tempted by Potiphar’s wife and thrown back into prison.  Then became the head prisoner (fun job, right?).  Eventually he landed in Pharaoh’s house and later ruled all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.  Eventually he was married and had two son’s: Ephraim and Manasseh.  Ephraim meant “fruitful” and Manasseh meant “forgetful.”  At first I had to laugh at being named “forgetful” but he went on to explain that he named him that because it made him forget the pain and struggles of his youth–being sold by his brothers, forgotten by friends, lied about, and thrown into prison.  He didn’t truly forget.  But he saw how he had been blessed.  It wasn’t as important.  The struggles made him stronger and prepared him to be able to be a good ruler and feed the world through rationing crops and grains for years before a famine.  He chose to focus on his blessing rather than on his suffering.
It made me think about Job and how he lost everything–and how, in the end, he had more livestock, land, money, and children than he had before he had lost it all.  I’m sure he felt grateful and blessed–but he couldn’t have really forgotten the children he had lost.  He wouldn’t have forgotten the pain and suffering he experienced.

So could all of this really and truly be a blessing?  Will I ever forget it?  Probably not.  But will I get through it and somehow be stronger, wiser, smarter, more joyful, more thankful, more faithful than I was before it all?  I mean, I hope so.

As I was speaking with a friend last week I told her that I think about how difficult things were after Levi was born.  The pain and struggle of PPD and the feeling of being completely and utterly out of my mind and out of control…the feelings of being exhausted…and even amidst that I was able to tell myself, “I know that this won’t last forever.  I know that in 6 months or a year I’ll be able to look back on this and say, ‘it was all worth it.’  So I know that eventually this will all be OK, but I don’t know if that looks like a complete and miraculous healing, or if I will be several years into it and be able to see how God has used be and brought me up even through this and how He will have taught me to just deal with what I’m going through.”  Her response was so profound to me.  She said, “And maybe it won’t be either of those things.  Sometimes God allows these things to happen in our lives so we remember to keep depending on Him.  We look at the Israelites and how God had JUST delivered them from Egypt and parted the Red Sea and they start grumbling.  Then God supplies manna from heaven…and they begin grumbling.  Then Korah and his men all are swallowed up in the earth for grumbling and threatening Moses and the people start doing it again.  We so quickly forget to depend on God and to trust Him in everything.  So maybe He is allowing this as a way to keep you close to Himself.”

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8   This verse is said in the midst of struggle and mourning.  James is telling people to get back with God even if it means falling apart and turning joy into mourning.  Because, let’s face it, when do we tend to draw most near to God?  When we are made aware of how desperately we need Him.

God, I need You.  I need You today.  I will need you tomorrow and every day after that.  It is painful to ask, but help me not to forget my need for You.  Help me to trust that You are the perfect Father who has known me since the formation of the world.  Help me to trust that You see the big picture and that one day, when all is made right and well in the world, I will be standing, surrounded by the millions who have gone before me and will come after me, singing, “HOLY!  HOLY!  HOLY IS THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS, AND IS, AND IS TO COME!”  Until that day, God, draw near to me.  Draw near to me even when I shy away from You.  Give me the words, patience, love, and kindness…give me the grace I need for each moment of each day. I pray, ultimately, for healing.  I want to be healed.  I want to be healthy.  But I want YOU.  Remind me that this world is not forever.  Remind me that my life is but a vapor in the grand scheme of all eternity.  My life is just a tiny blip–if even that…a short dash in an infinite line.  Help it to be meaningful.  In my moments of weakness, be my strength.  In my moments of sorrow, be my joy.  In my moments of envy, be my contentment.  In my moments of anger, be my peace.  In my moments of rebellion, be my Lord.  And, in every moment, be my Father and my friend…and the lover of my soul.

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