Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why Not How?

Two days from now will mark the one-year anniversary of beginning a battle I didn’t know I was entering into. I knew that 12 months ago I was bidding farewell to life as I had always known, to my body as I had always been accustomed, and to dreams that I had always held onto but I was unaware that I was shaking the box of its contents completely. Everything as I knew it would be turned upside down and inside out, nothing was sacred and left untouched because of it and I’ve spent the last 12 months waiting to find footing so I could finally sit down to write that the storm has settled. 

I knew my hysterectomy would leave me with grief.  How could it not? You don’t exhaust all other options, pray for a hail Mary miracle, and literally pound your fists against the bathroom floor, while laying in a puddle of your own tears, and then gracefully oblige like a ballerina into the operating room. At the age of thirty, days before Thanksgiving and my next birthday, I followed the recommendation of doctors and the ones I had gone to for second, third, fourth, and fifth opinions, and let them strip me bare for a total hysterectomy. On that cold Seattle morning, my husband and I were discouraged and defenseless. In a matter of 3-4 hours my body would age just as many decades, and I would hand in my mamma-to-be hopes and dreams for the chance at a better quality of life. Our hope was that pain would no longer dictate my day and perhaps after almost 20 years of being the bleeding woman, His cloak would cover me, bind up my wounds and heal me.

However, after my operation, not only did I go head to head with “Monster Menopause” without the assistance hormone replacement therapy but my body suffered many physical repercussions because of the surgery, leaving me in a far worse state post surgery than prior. Everyday felt like living life with a stranger. Not only did I not physically look like my old self, I felt completely different. Foods tasted different, I was no longer able to sleep, I had inexplicable pain, my feet were swollen, my blood tests began to go awry, and life began to simply come undone.

With each passing day, my circumstances and my health status worsened and my heart grew weaker. As someone who had lived with chronic illness for so long I had mastered the ability to put on a happy face when needed, to get through a specific task, social event, or even a conversation. But now I found myself not even able to hide the pain I was in. Even the people I thought were my inner circle proved to not want much to do with me until I reached safe harbor.

I was dizzy. In circles I cried out to God.
Where are you?!??
Why, Lord. Why?
I spent hours in tears wondering if I could make it through. I was questioning God, wondering why He still had me in this place. After two decades of pain, illness, surgeries, hospitalizations and having been stripped of my dream to have children, instead of turning a corner I sink deeper.
The rains beat down heavier.
Have you been there? Have you asked those questions? Crying out to God, have you wondered, why? Why, me? Why, this? Why, now?

Why, did my parents get divorced?
Why, my sister, in that car accident?
Why, me that was raped?
Why, my mom that has to die from cancer?
Why, my brother with autism?
Why, did my husband cheat on me?

So many questions. And we feel entitled to every.single.answer. Sometimes, even worse, others believe they have the answers for us.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 9, verses 1-2, Jesus and his disciples pass by a blind man and the disciples ask Jesus who sinned, the blind man or his parents. The disciples assume that the reason this man is blind is because he either committed a sin or his parents did and being blind is his punishment. The disciples believe they have the answer.

I’ve been in that place before. Have you? I’ve been asked by very dear friends what un-confessed sin I had in my life that was making me so sick. How do you think that would go over if I told my best friend what a shame it was that it was the sin in his sister’s life that killed her in that tragic car accident? I’m guessing it would go over as well as it did when my friend asked me what sin was causing me to be physically ill.

Jesus answers his disciples by saying, “Neither this man or his parents sinned but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in Him.” And after he says this, Jesus heals this blind man.

We ask questions of “why” and Jesus turns and asks questions of “how.” It does not promise us in the bible that all of our questions will be answered before we meet our Maker face to face. However, that does not mean we are not encouraged to talk to God about them, to go before Him and pour out our hearts to Him. Yet, often times our entitled “why” will be met with Jesus asking us “how” the glory of the Father can be displayed in this situation.

I’m not sure the answer to the “why?” is even enough for us. I don’t know if it would provide the healing we need. But, knowing that in some way we are part of God’s greater plan, and “God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose,” that elicits hope. I will never get to see God’s hugely dynamic peripheral perspective but I can claim victory that no matter “why” in some way it is for His greater glory.

In looking at “how” we now get the opportunity to ask:
How might this current trial glorify God?
How might the pain be used for a purpose?
How might God use your weakness to display His power?
How might God reveal a characteristic of Himself to you in this situation that you would never have seen before?

It’s a hard transition moving from “why” to “how” and I will admit I go back and forth. It’s hard to even acknowledge that such immense pain in my life could do anyone else any type of good. However, earlier I mentioned how anxious I was for the storm to pass so I could sit down and write that we had reached a place of calm, a safe harbor of sorts. I was anxiously waiting to find my footing, to find my health. I wanted to send out a declaration from the mountaintops, to report something amazingly positive about how God had met me in my greatest time of need.

Yet, here I am. I write to you in the midst of a major storm. My health is substantially worse now than it was entering into that operating room one year ago. There are a lot of unknowns, a lot of defeats, frustrations, and still puddles of tears. But, in the brokenness He is choosing to use me. I don’t have to be stitched up and a picture of perfect health before I stand up and say something. My inner circle may have changed but my marriage takes deeper roots with each challenge we fight together and while the “why” seems relentlessly unfair, “how” the Father wants to take this and use it for His glory is what is most important. I’m beginning to ask how God wants me to see Him in deeper ways, how He wants to reveal Himself to me even in my physical pain and emotional exhaustion that I would never have been able to see otherwise, and how even in the darkness He wants to use me as a source of His light.

As someone who has never been a fan of confusion, this quote, written by Rainer Maria Rilke and given to me by my dad, many years ago, has never been more true: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 

Beloved Daughters, even in our brokenness we are a part of His masterpiece. Intricately woven into His grand design. You don’t have to be ready you just have to be willing. “Why” may never be an answer we receive but if we offer ourselves to live into the “how,” we can find moments of peace even during the downpour.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


I don't have eloquent words today and this probably won't end pretty or with some brilliant conclusion. Today, yesterday, the day before that and the last weeks have been desolate. I cry the ugly tears, I bang my head against the wall, my fists are clenched, and I might be better off if I only attempted to breathe into and with the assistance of a brown paper lunch sack. I am severely broken and when I look down and see the mess scattered all around me I have no idea how anything will ever come together. The musician and lyric mastermind John Mayer has a line that says, "I'm in repair--I'm not together but I'm getting there." I have yet to even reach "in repair."

If I let you in a little closer I will say this, things have gone from bad to worse. This operation, although I know it would change me physically and would bring challenges physically and cause me much emotional pain, was supposed to bring me some relief. It has instead caused me to live in my own personal hell. For starters, I'm in as much pain if not more now than I was before having the surgery, except now I have been stripped of my womanhood. In addition, I am struggling through surgical menopause and every last one of its side effects which are 100 times more intense than the natural menopause that all women face at some point and I am only 31 years old. I am unable to start hormones which I don't know yet if that is a good or bad thing but my body has gone on strike against me and since the surgery I have gained inexplicable weight. Just this last week I gained another 6.5 pounds in 7 days time. You have no idea how many hours I have spent crying tears of frustration over this matter. It isn't normal to have put on this weight based on how much I am consuming and I dread leaving the house because I have nothing that fits me, or that I can pull past my thighs, or even worse feeling anxious about being seen only further adds to my state of pain and desolation. Most of you know I suffered from severe anorexia my senior year of high school. God spared my life back then, but the mentality is something I must challenge myself in With day, after day, of added pounds that battle is hard. I am not comfortable in my own skin. Something I have spent the last 13-14 years working on. And even greater than that is when I have nothing to put on I am sent into a full blown anxiety attack every time I leave the house. I'm worried about the cautionary warnings on my hair dryer that say do not use near water because i Can't help but to sob at what life has become in these past few months. I'd like to crawl under the covers and stay there until this whole disaster is over.

So, in other news, the Oscar's made me cry. And not during a moment everyone else may have shed a tear. During Patrica Arquette's acceptance speech, she took a moment to preach about women's rights and equality and while it was poignant, well received, and something that needed to be heard from as large a stage as the Oscar's, the first line as she dipped into women's rights was, " “For every woman that gave birth, to every tax payer, for every citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights...." After she spoke, I went back and had Nate listen again. With tears streaming down my face, I said "This is why it hurts so bad. For a speech about women she identified them first as mothers. That is our society. We are mamas. We nest, we nurture, it's in our DNA. It's our branding symbol. And not only am I no longer physically a women at such a premature age, I will never join the coveted spot in the mamma's club. Let my body droop, let me have all these lumps and bumps and only be able to wear pajama pants in public, but let it be because I'm also covered in spit-up and vomit and dried up milk, and look a little loony and absolutely sleep deprived, not because of insomnia from menopause but because of a baby who I've had to feed all night and who simply did not want to sleep anywhere but in my arms, while I rocked her in my Daddy's old rocking chair.

The truth is, for everyone, we are never aware of what we have until it is taken away and we no longer have it, or never had a chance for it in the first place. Take for instance some kind of pain or irritation on your toe. It is relatively minor but it is red and a tad bit swollen. There is nothing that can really be done except to just ride it out but no big deal because it's just your toe, right? Wrong. That toe will drive you crazy. Squished in socks and shoes you'll feel it thumping in misery. Leave it out in a pair of flip-flops and someone will inevitably step on it or you'll knock it on something. You were never in your life aware of how great it was to have a healthy ten toes than when something went wrong and one of those normal toes went and threw off your whole game plan.

Well, I am aware. So very aware. For 19 years I have not had my health. When I look out at some of my friends who I'm not sure even go to the doctor other than to get birth control, I am aware of my health and you should be too. I am aware of my ability to have children and to be a mother. I know my chances of having children are obsolete and my likelihood of being a mother is dwindling based on the cost. But, I see beautiful babies all the time and watch my friends get pregnant year after year and study how precious they are as moms. And it is beautiful. I am aware of all the children and mothers around me and you should be too. I'm aware that because of my limitations and disabilities from my illnesses I can't work a regular job and this upsets me greatly because of my degrees I worked so hard to get. Yet, all around me I see my friends and family living their dreams, pursuing their passions, and at the very least making a living for themselves. I am shameful that this is not my reality, but instead mine is medical debt and bill after bill but you should take notice of your hard work and success. Please tell me you do.

My dad sent me a chapter from a Max Lucado book last night, and it really basically said what I was thinking. For so long I've clung to "hope." It has been my strength, my guidance, my rock and right now I feel like I have run out. I know, it scares me too. I know Jesus is my hope and He will restore me to higher ground and lead me out of this thicket where I can't see anything and all I feel is despair but I literally just feel overwhelmed. The one way I am still feel God's presence in this is through a series of worship songs, If any one is interested...let me know and I can send you a copy.

Spring is around the corner and I sincerely hope it is a time where I come out of this dark, dark place. Nate accepted a job offer with the County of Santa Clara and so in two weeks time we will be leaving here. The way I always thought I'd act towards this move didn't happen. Of course, I am thrilled for Nate. He has worked so hard to get where he is but we don't have a big support group down there that understands our lives nor do we have a team of doctor's in place. Also, we thought this remote, work from home job for me was a sure thing and it didn't pan out. I've been sitting here thinking for over 24 hours that I am absolutely good for nothing. I just literally feel disgusted with me and because of that not working out and although his supervisor and director approved his starting salary at a higher level, HR denied the request, so it's possible we will have to live a part for several months while we save up enough money to get a place of our own due to an increase of rent, moving expenses, we just moved a couple of months ago, finding new doctors, having to close all medical debts up here before we leave, etc. I always considered California home, especially San Jose, but right now I have nothing to give. I'm a horrible version of myself and the only people who have ever taken me in like this are Nate, two couples up here in WA and our friends in AZ. I'm embarrassed to show back up in San Jose with nothing to offer, heavier than I've ever been, and beside myself in physical and emotional pain. Please pray for a new job opportunity for me that is feasible for my health and doesn't cause me to over do it, perhaps still with the company it didn't work out with in the first place, for professional writing opportunities, for Nate to finish strong at Boeing, for packing, for financial expenses, and for hope---that it might come back---because I am just so, so broken. I at least want to get to the state of "in repair." rather than being stuck as a discombobulated mess.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Just a Speck

This past Wednesday I didn’t get the chance to attend an Ash Wednesday service as we were traveling home from Arizona and upon our return I immediately found myself in bed by 3pm. What can I say, physically things have been a major struggle and that whole one-hour time change really had my internal clock messed up (when in doubt blame it on the menopause).

What I find beautiful about Ash Wednesday is that as you are marked with the dark cross in the middle of your forehead, normally it is said, “You have come from dust and to dust you will return.” It is a reminder of our humanness and of God’s sovereign power. He created us out of dust, we do in fact have an expiration date, and when that day arrives to dust we shall return. For some, that might be the scariest thing they have ever heard, but for myself, as a Christian, my mortality does not raise my blood pressure because I know that God sacrificed His son to pay the ultimate price for my sins and therefore we are given the freedom to be honest about our future. We know that this physical life here on Earth is only the beginning of our Eternity.

It is a day for us to recognize and observe our desperate need for our Savior. A time to reflect that we are so far from perfect and without His redemption and forgiveness we are nothing but a finite body. Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season as we expectantly await for the resurrection of our King, our Savior. It prepares our hearts for a season of not only repentance but also gratitude and awakens in our hearts the most important reminder of our reliance on Christ.

Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) prior to Easter where Christians prepare for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and Easter.  Often they(we) take part in either an act of fasting from something, spiritual disciplines, repentance, moderation, or just a simpler way of life all in hopes that while doing these things it will give them more time to reflect on the life of Jesus.

For several years now I’ve struggled at what people decide to “give up” for Lent. For a large percentage of the female population it is some sort of food item that deep down they hope will have helped them lose weight 40 days later. I don’t agree with giving anything up that awards you personal gains. It is supposed to be a sacrificial time.  In fact one year, on my old bog I decided instead of giving up anything, each day I would write about one of God’s promises in the bible. It was actually really great and I did it everyday up until I landed in the hospital and had to have emergency surgery- go figure. 

As I’ve been thinking about Lent this year and what it might look like for me I actually had the horrible thought of, “what more can I sacrifice right now?”  In fact, I thought about putting in place some dietary restriction because of the significant inexplicable weight gain I have suffered from surgery. However, then I become everything I hate and such a hypocrite.

But, as I sit here today and I write about ashes I can’t help but think how many people in the last couple of months have told me, “He is going to make Beauty from these ashes, your ashes” And while I may have given a half smile and slight head nod, my tear stained cheeks have yet to see beauty. In fact, I haven’t written a post in awhile because I don’t feel like things are getting better, I think things are maybe getting worse and I’m afraid to share that. To be real and tell you that my road is still windy, that I don’t see the straight away with that black and white checkered flag waiving me in. How long will people still care? How long will they still listen?

Back in college, my accountability partner and one time roommate and dearest friend, used to drive around in our Jeeps singing at the top of our lungs the Shane & Shane song “Beauty for Ashes.” And you know what we were singing for back then? Beauty for my ashes of sickness and despair. Fast forward 11 years later and if we lived in the same city, much less the same state, I think we would be doing the same thing.

As I mentioned earlier we just got back from Arizona and my heart is a mess. Being there with our community made my heart swell ten sizes. Seeing two of my closest friends from college and watching one of them get married was amazing. Seeing Nate’s family was worth every penny. I got to cry with our friends and just be. And I also had to see how every one of our friends had babies except the one couple who we stayed with. How they wanted to get our struggle but they couldn’t and when I asked a group of friends at a table what had been going on in their lives, my dear, sweet, and hilarious friend promptly answered, “well, I’ve pushed two kids out of my vagina…can anyone top that?” And granted it was funny, it was harsh and painful.  

But, I also had to spend over half the time in bed because I was in a frantic amount of pain. I also began bleeding again and while this may sound completely absurd to you there were days when I was embarrassed to be seen based off of the way I looked. I didn’t go to the doctor this week because I was travelling but as of the day before I left I had gained 21 pounds since surgery, that is without starting the hormones, and eating about one meal a day because my pain levels make me very nauseous and not hungry. For a recovering anorexic that is devastating, it is also devastating that all of my pants no longer fit and of course there is no budget for a new wardrobe. I’m actually terrified to see my new weight and to see what happens once beginning hormones but it is possible that it won’t be until a year post-op that I will be healed enough to begin that treatment. A year. That is how slow my body is healing, how hard and extensive the surgery was, and how much pain I am still experiencing. On top of that I am experiencing major back pain because that is another one of my many health problems. Insomnia is still sticking around even though I told her we weren’t meant to be best friends.

I actually had two almost breakable come unglued moments. Twice in this past week I was asked when we’d get our surrogate and use my frozen eggs. While I definitely kept my cool on the scene I went home, screamed into a pillow, and then sobbed. I know we all aren’t expected to know are medical jargon, but a surrogate? My eggs? Why would I be so upset if that was our plan? If I were to bend over and grab two fistfuls of ashes like it was sand and then let it run through my fingers and out of my hands, dropping to the ground I would just want one tiny speck to catch the light. To sparkle or not be black. Maybe it’s golden. I wouldn’t mind silver. I’m not sure but I need this Lenten season to be about finding at least one tiny speck of beauty in all of these ashes because for years I’ve been lying face down on a beach full of them.

In Isaiah 61:3 it says, “…I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of no hope…” I know that I can’t put a time line on God and His plan for this story, my story, Nate’s story, our chapters. But, I want to use this season to remind the Lord that I am still here, faithful to Him.  And when He’s ready there are broken dreams, crushed hopes and deformed futures, heavy hearts, shattered spirits along with ailing bodies that are eager for beauty in the ashes.

For the next 40 days, I will remind myself of His love even though I am confused as to how it is displayed in my life. I will recognize my absolute need to have him in my life as my Savior, and I will fix my eyes on Him. The one who writes my story, chapter by chapter. And if by chance I’m paying close enough attention or it’s in His timing, perhaps I will see just a speck as a sift through the ashes.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Stumble With Me

I made a major mistake tonight. One I’m not proud of and one I’ll be sure to try and never make again. And while mistakes happen all the time, this one made me truly wish I could have started that conversation all over again.

As someone who has been a Young Life leader, who has trained Young Life leaders, who has worked with students, mentored students, loved on students, and in general tried my best to point them to Christ, I think a lot about what Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians. In Chapter 11, verse 6, he said “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” A very short verse, but oh what a verse. Follow me, as I follow Christ. Essentially, what we as Young Life leaders or mentors of any sort are saying to any of our friends who are looking to our example as they begin their faith journey and sometimes even continue their long obedience in the same direction. However, for the leader, the mentor, the one who’s being followed or looked up upon it may seem like a lot of pressure. Follow me? No. Really. Please, don’t. I’m kind of a mess. And I make mistakes. And I’m not perfect by any means. Let me find someone better suited for you.

But, in my bible, that verse is underlined and in the margins I have this written: “Stumble after me as I stumble towards Christ.” Well, I don’t know about you but I can actually take a deep breath if I read it like that. Stumble with me. Know that I might take a nose dive or walk straight into a bee hive and that doesn’t mean to follow me into what ever disaster I happen to be stupid enough to get caught up in the middle of, but be aware, although my intentions are of the straight and narrow, I stumble, I stub my toes, and I sometimes even stop to look around like I think I’ve got a better way figured out- but I don’t. So brother, sister, come with me and we will stumble together on our journey towards Christ.

Tonight I sat down next to Nate on the couch, it seemed like I hadn’t seen him in a week. And while I have actually “seen” him- this week has been particularly rough for me physically and emotionally. I can’t be certain of why that is but the adverse effects of my menopause has been making my sleep an issue and my physical pain coupled with my emotional heartache was making it also hard to find actual rest. Anyways, we decided to watch a movie and about 10 minutes into the movie I paused it and asked him to come sit closer to me. I told him I couldn’t guarantee how long it would be until another hot flash would take over and I would want to flee from the room and spread out like an exasperated dog back from the longest run, on the hottest day, panting like I’d never had a sip of water. But I did know, in that moment I wanted him near. And I know that my poor husband yearns for physical touch, something he has been seriously deprived of since my surgery.

We pushed “play” and as the movie began again I quickly pushed paused. I knew something wasn’t right. I looked at Nate. With his face, just inches from mine, I asked him what was wrong. I couldn’t place if he was mad or upset. but I knew something was wrong. Exasperated he said, “you know, everything.” (Cue tears as I type this)

Me: “What do you mean?”
N: “I’m just so tired. This whole thing is just a vicious cycle. And I’m so sad we can’t have kids.  And we are just barely getting by… “

And on it went. I sat there silently, holding back my tears as my husband told me he was depressed. That since he’s met me he’s silently watched me suffer physically and now is the worst it’s ever been and it’s really taking a toll on him. He said no one understands like him because he’s knows me most intimately. He wanted me to know that he wasn’t okay, that he wasn’t over his sadness- that he still was yearning for kids of his own. That watching me in physical pain and suffering was hard for him. He actually said he was depressed. For the sake of our marriage and our privacy I will leave it at that. And as I sat there holding his hands, looking at him, my silence rattled him. Pressing me for words, hot tears rolled down my face and I said the last thing I ever wanted to say, “this isn’t good because I need you to be the stronger one.”

As our conversation evolved he said the “manly” things like of course the man is always the stronger one and I stopped to correct him because that isn’t what I had meant. You see in the midst of this horrible place Nate and I are in neither one of us is required to be stronger. Nor should one of us have to be. What I’ve realized and have vocalized to a few of my friends is that we are both in our own pits, in our own dark places and neither one of us knows how to climb out of our own misery, let alone save the other person. Normally, Nate keeps from falling too far down the rabbit hole and when I mistakenly said that I needed him to be the stronger one it was that I thought he needed me to keep him from falling too far.

But I immediately thought of 1 Corinthians 11:6 and I told Nate that I had this vision, this perfect picture of he and I. And we were on a battlefield, badly wounded. Almost wrapped up like zombies from how badly we’d been injured, but we had our arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders and together we were limping forward. And it may have been the slowest limp you ever did see but I was holding onto his wounds so he did not bleed out and he was nursing mine. And while neither one of us could have stood on our own, with our arms wrapped around each others shoulders and necks, we had enough balance to become one- just as God had designed us and we were stumbling after Him together. I honestly don’t know who reads this blog, and I know this entry is a long one but if perhaps you’re a couple that’s like us and you’re in a tragic place- maybe you’ve lost a child or a loved one, maybe one of you has been laid off or you just can’t make ends meet, or maybe you just have found yourselves so far from being that couple who first fell in love---no one has to be the stronger person. Find each other out on the battlefield and limp together, towards Christ.

 Nate and I wrapped up the movie and one of the final quotes of the movie I find quite fitting for my marriage and friendship with Nathan. It said, “You are my dearest friend, my deepest love, You are the very best of me.” For any of you that know my Nate, you know this to be true. He is the very best part of me.

As the movie ended, as Nate and I often do we decided to dance.  The first song was to a song called “Hold On,” and during the song Nate whispered that no matter how hard life gets we would always have each other and that choosing me to be his wife is still and will always be the best decision he has ever made. The first song faded into the second, a song my friend Marty introduced me to called “When a Heart Breaks,” and as we swayed, I began to weep. For the heartbreak before us, the mounds of pain we are enduring, and for the overwhelming love l have for this man, the very best of me, and the ability I have to acknowledge that he is God’s greatest gift to me and although I am broken, confused, and ruthlessly hurting I refuse to ever quit stumbling toward Him.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Is this thing on?

What kind of Christian would you say you are? If the word “perfect” is popping into your head we’d better talk. Unfortunately none of us are perfect but we do worship and follow a perfect God. But, when I think of the life I live as a Christian, I think about my feet. Odd, but true.

In the times of the New Testament, students or disciples were known to be attentive listeners if by the end of the day they were covered by the dust of their Rabbi’s feet. Biblical scholar Ray van der Laan noted that the first century Jews had a blessing that expressed the commitment of a disciple to stay in the presence of the one he followed, “May you always be covered by the dust of your rabbi.” That is, “May you follow him so closely that the dust his feet kicks up is what cakes your clothing and lines your face.” Taking it further, this is also how Jesus wants us to define our relationship with him. He invites us into such intimate relationships with him and we are intended to live so much in his presence that our feet, and hopefully our hearts and minds, will be covered by the dust of the Rabbi. (God is Closer Than You Think)

I didn’t get much sleep again last night and was up before 4am. I laid and bed and many thoughts kept running through my head. I’ve been really frustrated lately with how we, as Christians, view God’s blessings or how he answers prayer (see past post here). Most of our modern western society (I can not speak about other parts of the world as I am just not educated enough in those parts) would say God answers prayer when the things we have prayed about are provided. When we are blessed by something, have received an abundance, or quite literally have seen our prayers turn out the way we would have hoped-right before our very eyes, we commonly say that God has answered our prayers.
I know I have been guilty of it. But I’m currently trying to shift my vocabulary because I have prayed for many things in life that never ever ended up happening and when I look back it wasn’t God not answering those prayers, it was Him doing that exact thing. He was answering them, which allowed me to take a different road. And while it may have caused momentary sadness or sorrow, He answered even if it felt like silence.

Which brings me to now. Like I mentioned before, I try and get my feet dirty, real dusty. It’s probably why Woodleaf is my favorite place. One summer when I served as I lifeguard there my feet had a permanent orange suntan line from the red dirt that continued to stain my feet day after day as I was constantly outside doing work. I remember one day sitting and life guarding the blog, and I glanced down at my oranged feet dangling in the water, and I was proud. I was proud that I was working hard and not out of my own strength but of His and for Him. I was covered in the dust of the Rabbi. Great Red Dust.

I keep hearing this lately and it leaves me so discontent and frustrated. My friends who have had babies, from the ones who are going through or have gone through fertility treatments, even those on the brink of giving birth or who have just found out that they are pregnant(again) have all said, “there was much prayer involved in the process and that is evident because He answered.” I’ve heard that from at least half a dozen of my closest friends. A half dozen seems like a small number, so maybe more and all I can think to myself is "Am I praying wrong? What’s this secret prayer I don’t know about? I’m not upset that my friends have babies or are able to get fertility treatments but did I not learn the right prayer? I’m following Jesus closely and for over 15 years I’ve been praying about having a child. Especially when I first heard about my diagnosis, so that would be eleven solid years and was I just saying the wrong thing?

Yesterday, I found out another close friend of mine is pregnant. She was scared to tell me but I knew it was coming. I believe God had already clued me into it. She too said there was lots of prayer surrounding it and it happened quickly.

Am I not Christian enough, not dusty enough? Is my microphone not turned on?  It leaves me with little to do but to cry myself to sleep because I realize there will be many more babies and yet not one of them will have come from me.

I read a passage the other day in a book I’m reading and it said this, “But I have to remember that the core of God’s plan is to rescue me from sin, even up to my dying breath. My pain and discomfort are not his ultimate focus. He cares about these things, but they are merely symptoms of the real problem. God cares most, not about making my life happy, healthy, and free of trouble, but about teaching me to hate my transgressions and to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.” It went on to say that this life, this story that I am living is not God’s Plan B for my life, it’s his Plan A. At that point I had angry tears and almost chucked the book across the room.This is my Plan A? The pain, the professional failure, the inability to be a mother, the overwhelming physical obstacles, the crippling anxiety, and this shadow of depression.? Wow. Really Wow.

 I think that means that the prayers my friends pray(ed) for babies and families would have never worked here. Why? Becasue this was always His Plan As for me. I don't get why He chose me, why I'm one of the lucky ones, But here I am Lord. Use me.

One thing it also means is that I still have to get dusty. Over and over again. And unfortunately, it means there will still be days and nights where all I’ll be able to muster are tears. Silent ones, heavy sobs, the kind that make you feel like you can't catch your breath, and the ones that give you a pounding headache. But blotchy face and all, I’ve heard tears can be prayers too so if you ever need a good lesson on that, you know where to find me. 

Prayer Requests: Applied for two Remote Jobs that word allow me to work from Home for my Health's sake (if any one is connected to anyone at The Everygirl please let me know! and of course Please keep praying and supporting us if you can. This road is much longer than we anticipated, with lots of out of network costs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

No Regrets?

Before I go any further, let me make one thing straight. I want things to get better. I really do. Nothing is harder for me than to look people in the eyes and either a) tell them I’m doing much better, a.k.a. lie straight to their face so we both feel a little more comfortable or b) tell them I’m still tragically hurting because most times they want to fix it. And while I’m not asking for them to fix it, I am ashamed that I’m still in this horrid place of both horrendous physical and emotional pain. With that being said, I will continue…

I feel as the weeks have carried on I’ve gotten a bit stronger, like I previously mentioned. I am playing my well-rehearsed part of “Chronically- Ill Katie.” I know when’s appropriate to smile and that short, vague, and yet positive upbeat answers are best. I can laugh if it’s called for in a social setting and then when I go home I can unravel once again. This time around it’s a lot harder than it’s been in the past. It takes much more energy, more focus and determination than ever before. Hence, if I could, I would opt to always stay at home. In fact, more times than not I am the ultimate homebody.

I know that in the stages of grief there is not one for “regret” but right now I’ve really been struggling with if I made the right choice. The last few days could have very well been my hardest ones emotionally. I’ve told you before that I feel very panicked and overwhelmed when my head and heart connect on the fact that my surgery, its outcomes and ultimate conclusions are permanent. When I am in public, or even watching a movie or television, when I see a mother with her child or a pregnant woman, I have this ultra zapping feeling. Like I can see the fired arrow, targeted straight at me and as my heartache increases and my mind begins to swirl, I realize that will never be me. And each time hot tears spill down my cheeks.

Well, this week was a little worse than just that. If you’ve ever been in an unfortunate circumstance or perhaps even interested in a specific hobby it comes with the perks of meeting new friends, of gaining a new family. For example, bikers always take time to be with other bikers. Wine aficionados gather together for tastings, and those with infertility issues find each other because no one else understands us like someone whose been in our shoes. I found out all three of these celebratory instances on Thursday and while they left me sincerely happy for my friends, they left me broken and angry for myself. I found out that one of my dear friends, and my first infertile friend raised over half the amount she needs to do IVF. She doesn’t even need to raise the full amount based on her financial status so when I heard the news I knew IVF was just around the corner. Another acquaintance/friend gave birth to boy and girl twins after doing one round of IVF. After looking at several of her pictures I rejoiced with her and her husband and their sweet 4-year-old son. How wonderfully God has blessed them. Finally, a friend who I went to grad school with received in the mail all of her IVF meds and I believe starts the process today. Granted, it’s probably true that all of their stories don’t involve as complex a medical background as mine but as I was sending my genuine joy to them, I was simultaneously  weeping in a sorrow I never wanted to experience.
There was a time when I wanted to raise money so I could try IVF, so I could exhaust all possibilities and know in my heart that it truly wasn’t possible, or then again perhaps it was and today I’d have a baby. However, I could never bring myself to do it, to ask people for that. Yet, here I am now, in between a rock and hard place, asking for help financially for medical expenses, and my friend has raised more and hers may end with a family, a precious baby to swaddle in her arms. Please don’t read into that thinking I am not appreciative of all the financial help we have received because that is not the case at all. We would not be able to manage without.
My friend with her brand new set of twins. She said in a blog about her story of IVF, that she noticed little coincidences happening throughout her IVF cycle that made her feel like God was affirming her decision of moving forward with IVF. This girl, she is the sweetest person alive, but she not only had one child, God gave her two more? I can’t help but wonder- Did he forget about me? 
Finally, there’s my friend from graduate school. She’s nervous as can be to start IVF but she’s going to do it and she doesn’t care how much it costs. I can’t help but think, we have the same education, the same background. If I hadn’t been sick all these years and been hired right out of grad school like a healthy, normal human being, would I be standing in her shoes?Regret.

At one of my doctor’s appointments this last week I was talking to my doctor about my unexplained weight gain. It is really getting to me because it doesn’t make any sense because I haven’t started my hormone replacement therapy. I know something is not right because my appetite just isn’t there either so it’s like I’m gaining out of thin air. Without an answer to what was really happening his response was, “Well you decided to have this surgery, and sometimes this just happens. It’s something you’re going to have to learn to live with.” I wanted to burst into tears. I decided? Well maybe he can decide to buy me all new pants. Regret.

Doctors have been baiting me to have a hysterectomy since I was 19 years old. Telling me that my body was so diseased and the more time that went on, the worse things would get. They never told me until a year and a half ago that I would not be able to have children on my own accord. I regret not knowing the whole extent of my problematic and complicated medical surgery sooner. If they had told me at 19 this was going to be an issue, I would have frozen my eggs then and not have waited until it was too late and my egg supply was almost completely nonexistent. Regret, Regret, Regret.

Being in pain, and I mean exasperating pain day in and day out and so much so at night that it disturbs your sleep will suck the life out of you. Combined with other painful chronic illnesses, having tried to get pregnant for 4.5 years trying everything under the sun other than IVF, incessant bleeding all throughout my cycle and having had over 16 surgeries on just that one centralized area of my body is what led the many doctors and specialists I saw to recommend a hysterectomy. All other treatment options had been exhausted to cure me of this disease and none had been successful so this was literally my last hope. It took me years to come to the decision of having a hysterectomy and in many ways it was no longer a choice that was in my hands. I had a major mass that needed to be removed because it was causing great pain and my surgeon was not keen on doing yet another operation that would allow my body to form even more scar tissue and adhesions.
The day of my prost-op appointment, one week after my surgery, I went to my doctor’s office with my mom and Nate. We talked about the surgery and the great deal of pain I was in. He looked at my incisions and then I looked up at him and with the biggest lump in my throat and fast tears pouring down my cheeks I asked him, “did I make the right decision?” and he told me, “Katie, it was a mess in there. Had I gone in to clean things up and to try and give you some margins so you could at least try and get pregnant it would have never worked. Your body was covered by disease. There was so much that was unsalvageable. Yes, this was the right time.” As much as his words stung and they didn’t stop my tears, I knew that I had been irreparable. It was like I’d been through a fire and when that happens you don’t save the charred black couch, trying to scratch off pieces of the black hardened ash, instead you get rid of it completely.

Yet today I still feel regret and maybe it’s not regret entirely about the surgery although I know part of it is because since Day 1, I had told Nate I wanted to try IVF before a hysterectomy so I knew I had tried everything and could rest easy with my own thoughts. I regret the fact  that I am jealous of every mom I see and every dad I see who has a child, by way of birth or adoption. I regret that I’m envious of pregnant mamas and how I will never experience that (heavy sobs). I regret that this is my story and it’s the one God wrote for me which makes me regret even saying that. I want to take comfort in this place, to somehow find joy in these circumstances, and instead of regret, relief.

I’m genuinely joyful for my three friends I mentioned above. I cried upon hearing all of their exciting news. Empathetic tears of joy and tears of my heavy grief when I couldn’t help but wonder if it could have been me. However, I know focusing on regret will get me nowhere and it will certainly suppress me from moving forward.
Philippians 3: 13 states it perfectly, “12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

 Right now, I’m not sure if Nate and I will ever have a family. We are still taking odd jobs and trying to raise enough money to pay off our medical debt. Adoption is expensive. When Nate and I first started talking about the future together we discussed having children together and also adopting. In my mind, I always thought the children we adopted would just “show up.” Like a friend of a friend’s uncle would have a babysitter that wanted to give her baby up for adoption and instead of going through an agency we would adopt the baby. You catch my drift? Right now it’s even hard to imagine adopting, loving an adopted child, affording to “buy” an adopted child and that's coming from one of the biggest proponents of adoption because adoptions has given me two of my most favorite people (i.e. my brother Ryan and my nephew Jax).

Not too long ago we were approached about a roundabout situation, one that we could perhaps actually afford, but as of right now it could be slipping through the cracks and we are not sure whether to fight or not. Right now I feel like I don’t have the strength to do that because throughout this entire process I never let my heart get involved but at the same time I wonder is this your will God? Please pray for this if you can. But at this time we aren’t ready to give any more specifics than this.

 To be honest I was quite nervous to ask for help in any way shape or form during this crucial time in our life because we’ve never done that before. I’ve rarely let anyone into the world of my illnesses. But, it is because of this community that we have even come this far. I knew God was asking me to be brave and open and He has blessed me by obeying Him.  That is probably my biggest non-regret ever. I will say though, if at the 6 month mark if I am still in tremendous pain, per the doctor, that will mean the surgery did not work to help the painful part of my disease and that the microscopic endometriosis is still in there, as are additional adhesions. If it comes to that, I will be heavy laden and full of regret. But for now, we will rejoice with my infertile sisters, one who is officially out of the club and the other two who are embarking on a very hard, but worthwhile journey, may God be with them every step of the way.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fog and a Match

Amidst the cold weather and insistent rain here in Seattle the city is a buzz after last week's football win that will send the Seahawks to the Superbowl for the second year in a row. It's actually nauseating how many people are decked in green and blue, how many houses and cars are adorned with a 12th man flag, and how a common salutation is "Beast Mode." Needless to say, I am not a Seahawks fan, for many reasons we don't need to get into. This does not mean I will be pledging my allegiance to the Patriots, it just means I am so discouraged by this year's Super Bowl. Anyways, back to my point...Earlier this week as evening began to hover over Greater Seattle I was driving home and with the quaint background music of a favorite song playing in my car and I was surveying the scene of Seahawk pandemonium. Of neighbors laughing together, kids playing on the street, of a few houses with blue and green lights and all I could think of was if this were my own reality show they would be filming a girl surrounded by happy people who was almost always is lost in her thoughts, in a somewhat depressive trance, who doesn't even remember what it feels like to be happy.

I sent out an update to my family last week that I then forwarded to a few close friends to tell the basic un-progress of post-op. Essentially, after arriving in Seattle after the holidays my pain began to dramatically increase. I went to my surgeon where they ran a series of tests (hooray for more medical bills) that were inconclusive. I had blood work done and a urine sample, as well as swollen glands show that I was fighting off an infection. After, physical examination my doctor said, "well, I forgot to mention this the first time but normally individuals with your amount of endometriosis take more like 6 months to recover instead of 3. I'd like us to carry out all of the 3 month guidelines to 6 months and then see where we are at. Hopefully by about a year you will really have your body back and be able to do everything normally." First, I quietly laughed to myself because I will never have my "body" back and I haven't known what normal feels like for almost two decades. I've also just turned 31 and am in full-fledged menopause. It didn't gradually happen over time it came at me like a robber in the night. Second, you're telling me that for 6 months I'm not supposed to lift more than 5 pounds. bend or carry? The problem that i'm having is that every time I try and push myself to take the next steps in recovery I begin to bleed. Anytime I bleed I am told to take it completely easy the next day as bleeding can cause adhesions which will cause reason for another surgery. He also mentioned that at six months if I am still in pain, while this surgery rid most of my disease we were unable to get all of it and it wasn't a cure for my endometriosis and I will live with that pain forever. I have four months to get out of pain or I might totally lose it, and I am not kidding. The final kicker was that between pre-op and now I have gained 16 pounds. It has been very hard to understand why as I have barely had an appetite and was not exercising profusely prior to surgery because of the pain. The doctors say they are not sure why but perhaps it is just because my physical makeup has changed but it is not a good indicator of how I will react to hormones. As a recovering anorexic this is very devastating to me. I wanted my body to go to shambles when I had my babies not over the fact that I can't ever be a mama. I tried on all of my pants this last week as we have to go to Arizona soon for a wedding and not one pair would zip. Some I could not even get over my legs.

While the physical update is bleak the emotional seems even harder. My mom texted me earlier this week to tell me she was babysitting a good family friend's baby who I love so much. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Will my mom ever watch my baby? Will Nate and I ever make it to the other side of this? Will we ever even have the money to adopt? Will our hearts ever be ready for that? I am making strides by seeing a counselor and I feel like I've gotten to the point where I can smile for people and play the happy "Chronically Ill Katie" game again. Where I don't share much, definitely hide my tears, and assure people that I am fine. But it's certainly a game. I still cry every day. I'm still completely broken.

I love living by water. Or vacationing by water. In Seattle this is common, but it's even more common in the city or by the beach. Often times when you wake up in the morning it's foggy. So during the morning hours you're pretty bundled and it's very damp outside. You may venture out for a walk, but not without warm clothes, but a lot of times people stay in their beach houses and drink a warm beverage and read. But not to worry, by mid morning/early afternoon the fog has burned off and it's sunny and everyone head out to be in the sun and enjoy the beach.

Well, right now I'm worried the fog will never lift. That perhaps I'm trapped in one of those days at the beach where the sun never comes out. Instead everyone stays in their sweats all day and huddled inside. What if I'm always huddled inside? In the dark. Like I am now. I am desperately searching for a light switch that I think should be labeled "hope" that has some sort of latch to hold onto that allows me to see some sort of life or light out on the distance.

If I wasn't 31, I'd call my parents Mommy and Daddy, and I would beg for them to just make it all go away. To "fix" it because it hurts more than I knew was possible. When I think and really realize that no baby can really come from me I weep. And I weep for the road that took me here. And to be honest I am exhausted at the journey it will take to find daylight, for the fog to burn off.

There's no doubt it would be absolutely the toughest task of a football player's life to make it to the Super Bowl. And besides just that it would be the hardest game of his life. It's the best of the best, up against the best of the best. I would say maybe this is my Super Bowl but I doubt that because I don't think my journey ends here. But I at least need to make my way through some of this fog because I need to see more than just my hand out in front of me. I need to find peace in issues regarding how we will pay for everything (, in that I can't go back to work yet, in the changes in my body and how i will manage and what I will wear. I need to rest, to let myself cry, I need to grieve-I need not pretend and I need to have a goal to experience my own authentic joy. That's my game plan right now. It's not Super Bowl but it's a start. It may just be lighting a match but any light is better than none and if I focus on that I don't need to concentrate on any of this Seahawks mania. I have too much else at stake.
Because by the way, they're not even the original 12th man. Go Aggies.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Dark Room

I felt like a little girl, scared and alone. She didn't take the time to warm the jelly up saying it wasn't too big of a deal and so there I was, cold and exposed and when I was able to see inside I remember having to catch my breath. I had to slowly inch the lump in my throat back down because I would not cry in here, especially not with her.

The first thing she blurted out was, "this is where your ovaries and uterus should be or would normally be." Instead all it was, was utter and complete darkness. That room was so dark, like someone had thrown away the key and we weren't supposed to be in there. At least I didn't want to see what wasn't there. There wasn't any place for a baby. Not even a place to see a cyst.

Having had ultrasounds now for years I'm used to them, to what it looks like, to what it sounds like. This time there was none of that. I wanted to yank her probe, to throw it at her face and repeat her words back to her, "used to be? Supposed to be? Why don't you get off your high horse, get my husband, my mom, and a box of tissues and never ever step foot in any hospital again."

Instead she left me in that room for about twenty minutes while my anxiety built and then came back to tell me I'd need to empty my whole colon before they'd be able to see anything based on the way my new anatomy lays.

I got off the table, grabbed Nate, and told him I had to empty my colon over the weekend before we tried again. In my head all I could think was, "so I just paid an extremely ridiculous amount of money to see my dark room, a place that once held my dreams and now looks like a fire took down the entire thing?"

We returned home Friday with a call from the doctor saying there was an infection in my urine and once my colon was clear we'd go back in to find the source of the insurmountable pain.

I crawled into bed Friday and while I made trips to the restroom, for the most part, laid in bed in pain or slept through the weekend. At about 5:45 on Sunday evening I got up to have more water and I started to cry finally sharing with Nate how traumatizing the ultrasound had been for me.

I'm not sure why it hit me so hard but it was awful and I hope to never visit again.

Can I tell you a secret? I'm scared. I'm so so scared. I wonder when the pain is going away. I tried starting a new job this week and had to pull back because I am still a wreck physically and now with complications and more tests I'm worried about our finances. I'm scared I will never not be sad. Many people will tell me the answer to that is counseling but again, more financial resources and what if it just leaves me here. I'm committed to trying it but I still feel so much pain physically, emotionally, mentally... Lastly, can I tell you that a lot of days I'm just scared to be on my own. With Nate at work and me at home I run scared, thinking of the empty room and trying to take care of my pain. Last week I went into a store to buy a birthday present for a friend and I spent probably 20 minutes looking at the JellyCat stuffed animals wondering if there was some way to send s telepathic message to Nate that we needed one. Is that not the most ridiculous thing? I just turned 31 and I need a stuffed animal? It kinda just shows the depths of the brokenness. Will you please pray for us?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Winter Snow

Today is our last day in California, the final day before we head back to Seattle, where our soundtrack of pain and uncertainty inevitable plays on. Luckily, I think we can turn back on the radio and the Christmas carols will be over. No offense to anyone out there who loves them, I normally am right there with you, but this year I couldn’t get behind them. If it had been up to me I think I would have taken this holiday season off. Perhaps, called in sick or at the very least, opted for a pinch hitter. Yet, at the request of my husband, who so desperately deserved time away from work, and the opportunity, to clear his head in a sunnier state with the support of family and friends we boarded a plane and headed to California.

The day we left for California was Nate’s 30th birthday and instead of meeting up with family right away, I planned for us to spend some time alone in the city. Not for a celebration, because of course we had ruled all of those out, but for a time where the two of us could acclimate to the holiday cheer we felt bombarded by. It was our opportunity to take a minute, just he and I, to rest on a comfortable bed, relish in our anonymity in a city busy with holiday preparations, and for me take one more deep breath before having to see anyone who might expect anything from me. Even if those expectations were as small as a smile, a hug, or a simple answer to a question. As time inched closer to our impending arrival with family, my anxiety arose.

My dad welcomed us into California by picking us up in San Francisco and driving us to San Jose to meet up with the rest of the family.  I remember feeling shame the first time my eyes met the soft, gentle eyes of my dad. I was embarrassed and sad that his little girl, the child of his that relied on him so heavily and still called him just to “talk” would never present him with a red-headed, freckled grandbaby. Maybe a child as pale as the two of us. Earlier in the week I had expressed to Nate that I was frustrated that if perhaps I ever got to a point where I thought I could adopt, by the time the financial resources were all in place, I was incredibly nervous that our children would never have the opportunity to be loved in the same capacity and for the same length of time as my nephews have experienced. In my head, they are delighting in the golden years of Missy and Scud and had my time table worked out (which of course we know that’s never the case) I’d have two little ones being loved by sweet Grammy and Gramps now too. I’m not sure if my dad knew when I look at him as I gingerly got into the front seat for our drive to my sister’s house by my tear filled eyes, but I wanted him to know I was sorry. I had already told my mom the same sort of thing.

When we arrived at my sister’s we gathered with the whole family for dinner. Unlike usual, I quietly ate my soup and just kind of took it all in. I was exhausted from traveling and overwhelmed by everyone around. What I had wanted to do so badly was walk in there like everything was just peachy. What ended up happening is I left earlier than anticipated, needing space to breathe, to rest, and to be in pain in some peace and quiet.

The rest of our time for myself was quite uneventful. Something I’m ashamed of because while I can normally pull it together enough to carry on in the face of my physical or emotional pain, this time around has been much different. Nate and I stayed at my brother’s and his wife’s house and for the majority of the time they were out of town. Most all of my days consisted of laying in bed, while Nate went over to my sister’s house to be with the rest of the family. For the life of me, I could not bring myself to do it. I was afraid I’d be reprimanded for having been in bed so long or than I’d be interrogated for every thought rushing through my head. While I still am physically battling a grueling recovery from my operation, my heart is a deep chasm that keeps me separated from so many things.

I missed Christmas Eve service at Church because it took me much longer than anticipated to wrap everyone’s gifts and it was so out of character for me to show up over an hour late to our family celebration for Christmas Eve dinner because I couldn’t find an outfit that was suitable attire and yet still fit my swollen body. When I found myself barely smiling for family pictures that evening and back in bed directly after breakfast on Christmas morning I knew there was no way to hide it. I was in a bad, bad place and it wasn’t something we could all just easily ignore. I wanted so desperately to go “home.” To that new apartment where I still wake up in the middle of the night and I’m not sure where I am at. To the place where I sit lonely and afraid while Nate is at work and I must sit and work through all levels of this pain head on. All I knew is I wanted to leave my original “home” because I was the big elephant in the room, the broken one, who sometimes got out of bed for a bowel of cereal, rarely had enough words to say that could actually be counted as a full sentence in the English language, and for the first time ever avoided her nephews because of a new raw, open wound sort of pain that they unintentionally represented.

I never made any plans with anyone while in California. No catch up dates for coffee, or after Christmas shopping. No day-long road trips up the coast to go exploring with Nate. Every plan became absolutely nothing other than me. A fight against my pain, my menopause, and my pride for feeling overexposed to my family. And while I avoided as much as possible the celebration of Christmas and the merriment that would easily send me into a panic I did not forget what this true season was about, which I think in some ways made it a bit harder to digest. We weren’t exchanging Christmas presents this year or decorating the house with all the usual trimmings, this year we were just waiting for the Savior. For Jesus to be born as a baby, so that he could come to Earth and we could have relationship with Him. As silly as it sounds, while He’s the only baby I will really ever need I didn’t want to think about a baby this Christmas and as I was searching for songs of comfort God presented to me the perfect non-Christmas carol anthem.

The song, I’ve been playing on repeat is called, “Winter Song,” and it talks about how our Savior arrives and how God reveals himself to us. How he comes in like a winter snow. Quiet, soft, and slow. Falling from the sky in the night, to the earth below. It mentions how he could have come like a mighty storm, or the strength of a hurricane, perhaps even the force of a forest fire. It says our sweet Jesus, our savior could have swept in like a tidal wave or rushed in like a flood but he gently just came in like a winter snow.
            Clearly this winter snow can be compared to a baby but this year it was best for me to just picture him like a blanket of soft snow. Gently rushing in- softly, quietly, slowly, and covering all the earth. Our Savior met us here like a Winter Snow.
            It’s hard to imagine leaving California tomorrow. As ashamed as I am for where I’m at physically and emotionally and while there is comfort in thinking I can hide away in an apartment, in a city, in a state, where I am so clearly a stranger- I have already panicked a few times this week at the thought of leaving, knowing that my family isn’t a couple of blocks away, or in the next room and while I may be prideful or embarrassed for how not together I am, sometimes it’s nicer to know they are there waiting in the wings.
            24 hours from now that old familiar soundtrack will be playing- pain, uncertainty, brokenness, and grief will fill the air. But I’ll add to the playlist “Winter Snow” and recognize that despite our desire to ignore Christmas all together He came in like a winter snow. He blanketed the Earth below, by softly covering all the earth in a pure cover of peace. With all His authority and power He could have raged into our lives and demanded our attention but instead He so gently let us see His beauty. He did not come down in the form of a natural disaster or violent plague but as an infant, like winter snow. And somehow I think that a blanket of this winter snow might keep me warm.
            I’m sorry that when the question arises of how I’m doing my answer still remains the same. I’m hurting. I’m in pain. We are fumbling through this very, very messy part of God’s plan for our life and it’s like He may have forgotten to send in the cleanup crew. But I suppose for now, in times of panic and absolute destitution I will reach out for that blanket of Winter Snow, realizing His gentleness, quietness, and softness that He has offered to surround us with.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Just Lean Right In

On the original Nintendo Entertainment System there were two buttons on the front of the two-toned gray console. On the far left was the power button that you had to push all the way in until it clicked into place. To the very right of that button was the reset button. This little rectangular button, with it's capitalized letters spelling a promised "RESET" were there for the player to push if you just wanted to start over. Had the game not started out as you intended? Did you miss the chance to gain the extra life along the way? All you had to do was ever so slightly, place some pressure on that right reset button and you were granted a new game, a chance to start all over. This button never stayed in place or locked into position like the power button, yet instead it was always facing outward, allowing the players easy access to begin again.

Today marks the first of the New Year and as Nate and I drove up the winding mountain rode to my parent's house last night I felt a heaviness for this New Year's Eve. The messages that so commonly surround this time of year are ones where we reflect on the blessings and the bests of the last 365 days. Most people highlight their accomplishments, the events and gifts that made their hearts swell, and make mention how while there may have been a few bumps in the road they feel taller or stronger, filled or fuller than they did when it all began. When they look up and onward to the new year ahead it's common for wishes of uneventful years of little drama, extra sleep, to stay out of harms way, and even for happiness, health, wealth, and dreams desired. It's almost as if on December 31st, they do their last load of laundry and tie up any loose ends for the year, neatly fold it, place it in a perfectly stacked shoe box of sorts, print out their most memorable moments, place them in their picture album and with their black sharpie label them 2014.  Without a second thought they lift them overhead onto the shelf, and just easily transition into another sparkling New Year's Eve.

I knew as I made the journey to my parent's last night that when I arrived they would be in the middle of hosting a lively New Year's party. There would be laughter, friends, food, and a warm environment that my parent's home is known for. But both Nate and I felt that this New Year's Eve wasn't bringing with it any magic. As the guests of my parent's party made their way home much before midnight and my parents told us goodnight, Nate and I made our way to bed. Just after we had brushed our teeth and were climbing into the sheets the ball was about to drop and we could here the countdown quietly escalating in the other room. Together we quietly tiptoed out to the living room to see the glowing television signal in the brand new year. Times Square was filled with exciting screams, cannons of confetti filled the air, smiles spread across the faces of celebrities and commoners alike as everyone embraced in hugs and kisses and amid the laughter, faintly in the background was the familiar tune of, "Auld Lang Sine."

I stood frozen in my loose pajamas, still swollen from surgery, aware of my physical discomfort and the heaviness of my hurting heart. As I watched confetti blow in the cold midnight sky and stared onto a stage where glasses clanked and toasted to a new year and a new beginning, I felt trapped. Because while champagne is being poured and toasts are being made there are others out there that aren't so  swiftly moving into the new year, who can't just glide into 2015. It's not possible for all of us to fold it all so neatly like a blanket and place it up high and out of reach. Sometimes page 365 isn't the end of the story, the last page where everything so neatly ends, even if that's our greatest wish. We can't always close the book and place it up on the shelf. Sometimes those pages run together, the ink may smear from one page to the next, and the pain we are in gets carried with us as we pass the stroke of midnight.
It would be nice if when each New Year hit we all could hit that right reset button on our Nintendo systems of life.  And then magically we'd get to start a new. Perhaps we'd be out of debt, or maybe the cancer would be gone, or the house would be organized and clean, or you'd no longer be longing for the son you lost a year or two ago. What if when the clock strikes twelve it would be somewhat of a reverse Cinderella syndrome for all of us, where you're no longer grieving for the person you miss more than words can explain or you'd suddenly have a desire to get out of bed every morning. 
This year for us, the new year didn't mean too many things. While I knew another calendar would need to hang on the wall, Nate and I knew that the ground beneath us would not somehow raise up where it so recently fell from. I knew that come January 1st, my broken heart would not find wholeness and that the shattered dreams we have been laying among would not suddenly disappear. With this new year I would not magically stop mourning the loss of my womanhood, my ability to carry my babies and my tired and aching body would not just find itself physically mended in every way. Unfortunately, there is no way to just press reset on the real pain Nate and I feel as we journey through this pain and anguish that physically aches and has emotionally whipped through our world like a hurricane. 
While we know God will not leave us here forever we are aware that we must work through the hard parts of our stories in order for a rebirth of our joy. As much as a reset button would be ideal it's just not natural. 
We don't stop grieving at the push of a button or the stroke of a clock. Pain doesn't magically disappear. And while some people can easily compartmentalize year by year there are times when our hearts will bleed from one year into the next and there's no way around it. 
This year there was no magic at midnight. And when I look back on 2014, while it was a beautiful year of love for two of the people I love most in this world, for Nate and I it was a year of incredible grief, mourning, sadness, and pain. When I look into 2015 I am too far stuck in the raw intense pain of our recent physical pain and broken hearts to see a light in the distance. So for now, I think we will just lean forward.  We won't reach for the reset button because we know that's just not possible this year. We know it's silly to imagine waking up and this all being gone. It's too late to lean back and drag our heels, we are too far in the middle. Standing up on our own won't simply cut it or get us through. And as much as my heart longs to look back and grasp at what might have been, I'm becoming ever aware if only by the heavy sobs I find when I realize what I wanted will never be, looking backward is not my best bet. I'm finding as hard as it is to move forward or to sometimes just keep going, today we can work on a heavy lean. A long time time ago I wrote in my bible that I would lean into God. I think this year He knows I can't put all of 2014 neatly on a shelf and He also knows I can't carry it with me. He knows I'm stuck and I'm in pain and while I have no glass of champagne raised to toast to the new year I'm promising to lean in. To Him. To the fact that He's still here in my brokenness, and that He somehow is catching us when the ground floor fell out from underneath us. He sees the pieces of my heart laying all around and I'm leaning into Him. He's whispering that there's no hurry, that I don't have to rush. No stroke of midnight means it all has to be better. No pressure to Push Reset. He just reached out His arm and told us to lean right in.