Trials

Life has changed so much in a year. It went from normal everyday life and problems to crisis mode. I have felt every emotion from desperation, depression, anger, denial, panic and FEAR to peace, assurance and HOPE. Every day has it’s own trials. I’m having more bad days than good ones. Losing pieces of mom everyday is the worst torture I can imagine. The thought that this is only going to get worse as this disease progresses brings horrific nightmares. The Lord has graced me with gifts of peace that have lasted weeks at a time. I’ve felt hope and love from the Lord when things around me have crumbled into ashes.

Sometimes I think, ‘If one more person asks me how Mom is doing, I think I’ll explode.’ Then within moments I think, ‘I need people to feel the pain I feel so that they will know the kind of pain I’m in.’ I want to talk about it, and then halfway through talking, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Depression hovers over me like a cloud, ready to encapsulate me at any moment waiting for me to just say the word…or rather, draw the curtain and crawl back into bed. I have to remember that better days will come. Grief is a strange thing. One day life seems unbearable, and the next I’m ready to clean my room and take on a project.

Today as I sat listening to the Lord, He revealed some things to me. He reminded me that the Psalmists were very much aware of their adversaries surrounding them. They didn’t turn a blind eye to their surroundings or impending doom and pretend everything was fine. They didn’t respond to these trials and tritely say, ‘The Lord is just so good all the time.’ They accepted and acknowledged the reality of their devastating circumstances; but they didn’t stay there. They looked to the Lord for protection, for hope and guidance. Paul was imprisoned but found contentment. He didn’t ignore the fact that he was persecuted. He didn’t live in denial that he was unjustly treated. He acknowledged his circumstances but looked to the Lord.

No one can solve the problem of ALS or of losing my mother. Everyone says that they wish they could; but not even the doctors know how to fix it. This is unjust; it’s not right what is happening to my mother and to my family. But the truth is, is that if I’m looking for someone to feel the pain I feel so that I can be comforted, it’s the Lord. Didn’t He have to watch His SON be tortured, humiliated, nailed to a cross and then take on the sins of humanity? Is there be anyone else who could relate to me like He can?

But I can’t stop there. This is a trial, albeit the worst in my life to date, but this is one of the many trials I will face as I walk through this broken, sin-filled world. If my focus is ALS, broken relationships, death or sin, then I’ll be overwhelmed. Like Peter, I will sink into the ocean, though Jesus is standing right there waiting for me to look to Him, to make Him my focus. My life could easily turn into an excuse to become a victim. But the Lord doesn’t want that for me. He doesn’t want me to have pain either, but this world is broken; so it’s not escapable. But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we don’t have to live bound to our pains and hurts and depression. No, we’re not going to leave this world unscathed. We are all affected by this broken world. We all have ways of coping with it, some good and some not so good. Regardless, the Lord’s way is for us to be able to acknowledge this pain, but look to Him as our Savior and trust that He is good and His plan is for us and only He has the ability to heal this pain.

Though this pain is unmatched in my life, though a little piece of me seems to die every day, the Lord gives me glimpses of the things he has been able to accomplish through this trial. He really is using it for good. He hates this pain even more than I do. He hurts more than I do. So everyday I have to remember to trust that He is in control. When I break down and weep, that’s ok. Sin is a horrible thing and it’s not fair that it has touched me like this. It should make me weep. But sometimes, in the midst of weeping, He reminds me of the good that He’s able to do. As I sit with my roommates and we wept together (I’m talking, ugly cry) we were still able to laugh and thank the Lord for His many blessings.

I have to get into the habit of responding to trials and suffering with praise and focusing on the One who cares, who is in control and has the power to heal broken hearts.

 

Hope

I live in a strange place. It’s like a holding tank or maybe it’s more like straddling a fence. Regardless, it’s uncomfortable and I don’t have the proper training or experience to weather this the way I feel like it’s supposed to be done. Then again, who’s telling me that I’m doing it right or wrong, anyways?

On one side, I have to get to a place where I accept what all the arrows are pointing to but no one is talking about; however, on the other side, I cling to this idea of hope.

But isn’t this the walk of every Christian regardless of circumstance? We all have our things we have to face in reality and yet we are waiting and hoping in the Lord. But what does that even look like?

I can’t hope that the Lord will heal Mom. I have to hope in the Lord’s ability to heal her. If my hope is in the healing, and she isn’t healed, then is my God good? But if He doesn’t heal her and my hope is in His ability to, then I can assume He is choosing not to because His plan is different than what I want. He is still good, He is still Lord, He still has a plan for good; He is our Redeemer.

I don’t hope that the Lord will rescue me from my pain, hurt and depression. Instead I hope in His strength, knowing that He can if He chooses to pull me out of that. And if He doesn’t, then I can trust that He has a better plan.

So I guess hoping in the Lord looks like not hoping in the things He can do, but hoping that He is who He says He is and if things don’t go according to my plan/desire/prayers, I hope that when He says He is a Redeemer He will redeem. I hope that when He says He’s good, that He is. I hope that when He says He has good plans for me, that He means it and He’ll work out the details.

Mom's got Morgan (Woody at the time) on her shoulders

Mom’s got Morgan (Woody at the time) on her shoulders

It Either Is, or It Isn’t

I have always had a hard time with my prayer life. Prayer has been a very easy way for the enemy to swiftly attack me. I remember a conversation with my mom years ago where I asked her, “Why do we have to pray? If God is all-knowing, then why waste our time praying when He already knows what we’re going to ask for?” This thought pattern has culminated into not only a lousy prayer life, but also a real doubt of whether it’s prayers that are being answered verses coincidences randomly happening. 

I’ve become very pessimistic, and I rarely see the point to spending real quality time in prayer. I see good things happen, and I push the thought off, “well, that makes sense that this would happen because of this or that.” Or, “well, we just happened to be in the same place at the same time. That happens.” This has led to a deep confusion: what is of the Lord and what is coincidence? Naturally, this gives me an out while I watch other people prosper and my mother decline. I think, “Some people simply were dealt better hand than we were; it happens. Life is just hard for us right now and we have to make the best of it.” I seem to be stuck, stubborn and reluctant to believe that the Lord provides good things. Over the past week, I’ve battled with these thoughts, and I can’t shake them. I want to believe the Lord answers prayers, but how can we know if it’s an answered prayer or if it’s just being in the right place at the right time?

Then yesterday, I ran to Food Lion for one specific thing and also grabbed some produce. I did the self-checkout thing and a lady bagged the groceries for me. When I paid I grabbed the bag and left. I got into my car and was pulling out of my space and the grocery-bagger lady was running straight for me with a small bag in her hand. The one item I had gone in there for, I had left behind; she had put it in a separate bag. She came running straight to me as if she knew exactly which car was mine.

In that instant I made a decision. It is either a blessing from the Lord, or it isn’t. I don’t get to pick and choose which good things come from the Lord. All good things are either from Him, or all good things are not from Him. This is where my faith, all my beliefs, everything I’ve been taught gets tested. Rubber meets the road.

So I decided, I have to believe that when the Bibles says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17), that it’s the truth. 

Playing tag in the two wheelchairs with Morgan around the house is a blessing of grace over us during this time. Mom finishing all her chicken minis from Chick-Fil-A, is a perfect gift from the Lord. The lady racing out to my car wasn’t just because she was a nice person, it was a good gift from the Father. Laughing and playing trivia with my friends is a gift, it’s not just a coincidence that we all wanted to get together and play; it’s a blessing.

If I can really believe this, if I can really trust that the Lord is providing these things, then maybe my faith will grow and I can start to work on some of my trust issues I’ve wrestling through with Him. I have to believe He’s at work. Maybe I don’t like the way He’s working, but He is working. And while more things pile up, pressure continues to build and projects need to get done, He provides blessings. 

So I’m changing my thought process. If something good happens, I’m gonna try to not dismiss it as a coincidence, but view it as a gift from the Lord. 

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It’s September?

August is a blur. I have a few memories of August. Morgan had a birthday, Susie got engaged, my grandpa passed away, I bought Chinese for family dinner on my way into RVA, there was food on my shelf in my refrigerator that I didn’t put there, and I did a lot of driving. A lot of driving. I’m getting Midlothian Turnpike confused with 29 North. It’s odd living in two cities. I spend the night in Richmond on Sunday nights and make it into work in Cville on Monday at 1. Then I go back to RVA Wednesday night and back to Cville for work at 1 on Thursday. That’s a lot of I-64. And gas. And coffee. Not only is August long gone, but we’re almost halfway through September. Oh brother.

To say that I have questions is a far cry from reality. I feel like I wander this earth with only questions. This idea of taking every thought captive is almost a joke. How do I fight against the thoughts of death? A friend asked if mom was saved. Thank God she is. He said, “well I know it feels like it doesn’t help, yet, it kinda helps. Ya know?” He’s right. It doesn’t help take away the pain when I watch, helplessly, as she chokes on the yogurt she’s eating. It doesn’t help when she looks at me and begs me to not force her to eat anymore even though she’s lost 20 pounds in a month. But it does help. It softens the blow. But there’s still a blow.

Mom reserves her words these days. She communicates with pointing, with her eyes and with breathless words. But when it’s time to say good night, she looks me in the eye, and as if it’s the most important thing in the world she says, “I love you”. I tell her the same, kiss her on the cheek and head to bed. There’s a piece of me that seems to die a little bit every day.

I look at other believers and think, “How did they do it? How did they go through this type of pain and make it through still so in love with the Lord?” I think of how easy it should be for me to sit back, trust the Lord, acknowledge that He really is in control, He has a plan, He’s using this for His good. I should have grief, it’s normal to be sad, it would be unnatural for me to not be! But why can’t I just rest in knowing the Lord is in control? Why am I so angry? Why am I fighting so hard against the One person who has promised to be with me through thick and thin? Why can’t I talk to Him like mom can? I went to Bible school for goodness sake! I should be better than this. But I’m not.

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The family at OBX last weekend. But missing Phoebe 😦

Maybe this is what wrestling looks like. I thought it was just a figure of speech. I never knew that I would get to the point where I would have to wrestle with the Lord. You see, I think very highly of myself. I think that I will not make bad decisions or want something the Lord won’t give me, or that I will be totally fine with how He leads in my life. I’m so very naive. But there I was, driving home from Cville, or from Richmond, or, wherever, I can’t even keep up with where home is, but there I was thinking. I saw me standing before this huge giant, this beautifully huge giant. He had His arms open. He just wanted to hold me. It seemed so easy to just let Him, but I couldn’t. I turned around and walked away. Why? I don’t know. I simply can’t believe what’s happening all around me. I want to rest assured that He has my back, I’ve been trained that He does. I’ve been told and I believe that He cares. I’m told He’s trustworthy. At so many points in my life I’ve rested in this assurance, I’ve known a peace while resting in Him, trusting His ways for my life. So why can’t I lean back on those times? Have I forgotten them? Am I just another Israelite who forgets how good God is? Maybe I am. Maybe this is what wrestling feels like. I’m holding the map in front of me, but then there’s the road I’m standing on and I’m getting mixed messages.