Something Is Changing

I wrote this 10 months ago; it’s still true, so I’ll finally post it.

I don’t think a person can go through life without changing. That’s a generally agreed upon statement. Over time, people change. We change their opinions on things, our tastebuds change, we understand ourselves better and act differently than before, now needing not so much to please people but to be ourselves. This gradual change is pretty normal. But watching the one person who gave her life for my happiness, physically deteriorate; this creates a pretty drastic and relatively quick change.

I’ve had questions about my faith all my life; that’s pretty normal and I assumed that as life went on, I’d figure things out at a steady gradual pace. But now, I need answers; I need answers immediately. I don’t need someone’s theology, someone’s opinion on Jesus, someone’s thoughts and speculations about what Jesus might say or do in any particular situation. I need to know. Gone are the days where I blindly follow rules and regulations. Gone are the days where I stagnantly, thoughtlessly obey what people tell me I’m supposed to do or not do, say or not say. Why did Jesus come in the first place? To bring more rules for us to obey? Don’t dance like that, don’t say that, don’t be with that person, sit up straight, smile and say ‘thank you’. Because if this is what He’s about, I’m out.

Here’s what I’ve been learning through the people closest to me and here’s what’s changing me:

We were created free to eat from any tree in the garden, and there was an option to eat from the tree of life or from another tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the knowledge of right and wrong), though they were advised against it. (Gen. 2:16-17) You know the story, we ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil which led us straight into death; you know this actually meant not physical death but rather a life in bondage to the law. In other words, death. So Jesus came, died and resurrected in order to bring back back the option of choosing Life. But it seems to me, we’ve forgotten that the law brings death. It always has, and it always will.

I can choose to live under the law (continuing to eat from the tree of knowledge of good/evil); or I can choose Life. I have a choice. And it’s realizing that I have a choice, that’s changing my world. I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to do, because I’m supposed to do it, not because I felt like I had an option but because it was ‘right’. Even making all of those ‘right’ choices can land you in chains and bondage just as easily as making the ‘wrong’ choices can. When the focus is on the law, it doesn’t matter which side of the law you end up on, it’s still bondage.

So what does this have to do with my mother? Why is this changing me now? Frankly, because I don’t care about doing what’s right, just to do what’s right anymore. It’s a sick game and I want to quit. If life if just about making the best choices and still there’s a chance you’ll get screwed, then I don’t want a part of it. It’s maniacal. But if life is really more about a relationship, and freedom to make choices based on that relationship, then I’m more interested in that. If my life is based on doing all the right things all the time, then I’m becoming my own judge of what think I deserve. I obviously am looking to gain something from all that hard work. But if I can still get sick and die of some random disease after doing all this work to make sure I’m ‘good’, then what’s the point? Unfortunately, the further into the law you go, and the better and better you become at it, the more miserable, judgmental and graceless you become.

If I can get out of the world of judgmental legalism, then I’m more interested in finding what this Life really has to offer. If there is really a God who cares about me as an individual and about my issues and cares about things that I care about, then I’m far more interested in Him than the god that is after behavior modification. If this Life is really an emotional being who is hurting because I’m hurting and isn’t tallying up my good points verses my bad ones, then I need Him, ’cause I’m not sure how to handle all these emotions and I need someone to carry me. (but not in the way that annoying poem goes…you know, the one about the steps in the sand and Jesus carrying me)

Here’s what changed my world: Confessing sin to my closest friends and they sat there and listened and said, ‘I’m so sorry you’re hurting’. No judgements were cast, they didn’t throw in the towel and say, ‘Well, you’re headed straight for hell!’ And it was then that I realized 1) I want this Life and it’s worth fighting and wrestling for and 2) more people need to experience this type of Life; cause once you taste this Life/grace everyone talks about but very few show it, it will change you forever.

The game of legalism/law abiding seems so appealing. But it’s low hanging fruit that’s really just rotten and dead; and frankly offers no hope to those who are really hurting and need Life so desperately.

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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.

 

Day by Day

Don’t be anxious about tomorrow, today has enough troubles of it’s own. Right? I’ve always taken for granted this idea that I can make plans months, weeks and days in advance. Who promised me days? Who knows what will happen in the next hour? 

I’ve had to learn to tell people, “I want to be there, and I will plan on being there, but I might not make it.” I hate that. I want to be able to make commitments, but that’s not a right we have. Every minute is a gift. 

Yesterday we lost grandpa. He was living at home with mom and dad for the past month or so; dad was trying to get grandpas’s strength up so he could maybe get an apartment, or if needed assisted living. He went into the hospital last week with congestive heart failure and that was that. There’s a deep sadness knowing that he’s most likely not with the Lord. I don’t know his heart, only the Lord does, so I guess one day we’ll know.

There is so much going on physically, and then there’s the emotional side. Mom got a picture of Susie and her boyfriend reuniting after a summer apart and mom started to cry. I haven’t seen her cry since Morgan graduated. Even since the diagnosis I hadn’t seen her cry. I asked her why she was crying. She just looked at me and said, “I don’t want to miss this. There are so many things I don’t want to miss.” We sat and cried together and then we talked about the things we would do to live life to the fullest while she was able and to do whatever we can to fight for her life.

Image

Right before Josh’s graduation from Marine Corp Boot Camp

I heard this is called the “war zone”. Mom isn’t well and living life like normal, but she’s not gone yet. She’s sick and it’s going downhill. Every day is the best day of the rest of her life. ALS is a horrible disease. I don’t know how people make it through this without the Lord. I don’t know how people make it through without the prayers of the saints.

I will never be able to repay those who have helped our family and mother during this time and the help they will give in the time to come. People have send me flowers, gift cards for gas and Starbucks, groceries and meals. There are no words thank can express my gratitude for what’s been done for me or my family. We feel so lifted from your prayers and meeting our physical needs. 

I’ve started a blessing jar to remind me that even though it seems like the Lord is distant and has forgotten about us, He is still working and showing love. I hope to become more like mom, who continues to mimic Daniel and give thanks to the Lord even more so under trials.

Please continue to pray for healing for mom’s body, peace over the family, grace towards one another under these stressful times.