Clotheslined by Life

The weekend was more dramatic than I had expected or preferred. Saturday I was on a mountaintop; I could feel I was crossing that ever-so-difficult threshold of getting into a self-sustaining cycle of eating healthy and exercising regularly, and I spent most of the day relaxing, journalling, and praying, and God provided a major emotional/spiritual breakthrough. It was a mountaintop of mountaintops. Everything seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

Saturday night I had a stomach ache, so I took some meds and went to bed. Sunday morning I woke up early from worsening pain that was reaching the top of the pain scale, and it quickly became clear the pain was not about to go away on it’s own. I spent the next 28 hours in the hospital as they ran tests and pumped me full of morphine. Worried about my appendix, I was tentatively scheduled to have my appendix removed in the morning following a night of observation.

By morning, the pain was nearly gone and getting better by the hour, so surgery was canceled, I was allowed to eat again after about 36 hours of medical fasting, and by 10am I was headed home with no pain, but also no diagnosis and more questions than answers. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled I did not need surgery. I already have multiple systems of the body with chronic issues, some diagnosed, some not, that could potentially require surgery, and I don’t need to add an appendectomy to that list.

The main question I wrestle with as I sit on my porch, enjoying an unplanned day off, drinking Gatorade and eating soup and pudding as my body continues to heal from whatever happened, is “how do I make sense of these seemingly disparate parts of my life?” I believe God has given me a personal promise that I will not need surgery of any kind; that through whatever means my health will be maintained or healed such that surgery is not needed for my Endometriosis, my undiagnosed, chronic GI symptoms, nor anything else that may come up, such as an appendectomy.

It is tempting to give into fear, to give into the lie (and it is a bold-faced lie) that when anything good happens, something bad is just around the corner. This isn’t a new lie for me, and this weekend could easily be explained by that life perspective. So how do I hold onto both the promises of God, and the fact that this was my second trip to the ER in a month? What does faith look like when I get clotheslined by life, walking along fine one minute, then flat on my back the next?

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” and again in Romans 8:24-25, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Faith says “I can believe in the truth and power of God’s promises, even in the midsts of circumstances that the world sees as contradictory.” Faith says that I will choose to write the story of my weekend in way that holds to the truth of the promises of God while still acknowledging the facts.

So I will begin again, and share the story of my weekend:

This past weekend was a testament of God’s faithfulness. Saturday I was on a mountaintop; I could feel I was crossing that ever-so-difficult threshold of getting into a self-sustaining cycle of eating healthy and exercising regularly, and I spent most of the day relaxing, journalling, and praying, and God provided a major emotional/spiritual breakthrough. It was a mountaintop of mountaintops. Everything seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

Sunday, my weekend took a sudden turn when I needed to go to the ED due to severe abdominal pain. Throughout the day, from the moment I left home for the hospital, I was loved, supported and prayed for, both in person and through texts. As I leaned into the breakthroughs from the day before and shared my need with more people and more clearly than I ever have in the past, I was wrapped in not just the Father’s love, but the tangible support of my friends and family.

By evening, there were still no answers and I was being admitted for observation overnight with a possible appendectomy in the morning. I don’t tend to share much on social media, however when it became clear this was potentially more serious than most of my visits to the ED in the past (which have typically resolved so that I could go home after 4-6 hours) I shared my need on facebook. A multitude of love, support, and prayers began pouring in, with many people offering to help in any and every way I could possibly need.

By faith, I don’t see it as an accident that it was around that time that my pain began to decrease. By the time I had been transferred upstairs to a room in the surgery unit, I was turning down the nurse’s offer for pain medication. I slept through the night, and by morning my pain was mostly gone and still improving by the hour. Surgery was canceled. God’s promise to me stood tall this morning–in the face of no answers and pain that had done nothing but increase for almost 24 hours, my pain was gone and, as God promised, I did not need surgery.

It’s hard to not have answers. My endometriosis is still there (that was confirmed yesterday amid the testing) and my doctor remains at a loss of how to proceed. I have no diagnosis for my chronic GI trouble, though the symptoms appear at least partly improved over the past few months. Medically, surgery in the coming year is still a likely option. However, I will choose to stand on God’s faithfulness; I will choose to believe that what this weekend shows is that God kept his promise and healed me so that I would not need surgery.

God is faithful. God is good and only good. This is the truth that I choose to live by. When I am clotheslined by life and suddenly find myself on the ground, wondering what hit me, I pray that I will have the courage to continue to retell my story until it agrees with who God is, to believe that God only moves us from glory to glory. To rest in the goodness of God that is more true than any circumstance.

Generosity and Grace

I’ve been learning a lot lately about allowing myself grace. I have, for a number of reasons, chosen to take this summer to slow down. I’m being more strict with myself about taking a full day off every week, and am trying to figure out, as a workaholic, how to do this “rest” thing. Similarly, as much as I hate the term “people-pleaser,” I draw way too much of my perceived self-worth from being helpful and useful. I’m learning how unhealthy these tendencies are, and I believe it all comes back to worship and love.

When asked about what the top commandment is, Jesus gave two: love God and love others. However, I think I at least have a tendency to separate them too much. The second is an outflowing of the first. When a couple is in love, they are always learning more about each other. Similarly, as we love God, we grow in our understanding of who God is; it is by knowing and trusting in who God is that we are able to act in love towards others. A part of that trusting God, though, is trusting what he says is true about us. That’s the part I struggle the most with.

God is love, and it is through learning more about Love that we know what it looks like to truly and purely love another.

I’ve heard it argued that in order to “love others as ourselves,” we must learn to love ourselves. While it is true that it is only through healthy self-respect and boundaries we can love others (Brené Brown has some great resources on this), healthy self-respect doesn’t come because I focus on myself. We are healthy when we believe what God says about us. Though I may decide that I want to work harder all the time, God says I am made to have a sabbath. I have to decide to trust what God says over my own voice. It comes down to worshiping God, not myself, and trusting that God is good.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (NIV, Matthew 7:11-12)

I don’t always know what is best for my life. Like a child, I have to trust that my Father knows what is best for me and will give me good gifts. I love these two verses; Jesus goes straight from saying to trust God’s goodness to the “golden rule,” the second of the two most important commandments. I’ve been struggling with trusting in the goodness of God regarding myself and my future; perhaps for others the struggle is in a different area of trust. However, I believe it is only by trusting that God is a perfect father who gives good gifts that I will ever really love those around me.

What do you think? Do you struggle to trust that God is good? How have you found your view of God to affect how you love others? I’d love to hear from you!

From Worry to Wonder

What if we worry because we are asking the wrong question?

Worry loves to drag us down, convince us that we are drowning. Many things can be said about worry and its varied causes and symptoms. I think we try to make worry more complicated than it really is, often sadly (at least for me) in an attempt to excuse and rationalize our worry. However, choosing faith and trust over worry is far from easy, and perhaps those topics that are simplest yet hardest require the most unpacking.

One area where I struggle with worry is planning for my future. I (like most) had a dream when I graduated college. For me, it was to get a steady, good paying job, to make a home, and to spend free time and vacations learning and traveling. For a few years, it seemed like I was doing a great job of making my dream come true. Then life took a sharp turn that caused me to change my plans and reevaluate my priorities.

I question what I’m doing with my life. I crave some assurance my life is making a difference, that it matters.

All around me, the world asks, “What are you doing to get ahead? What is your 5-year plan, and what is your 10-step plan to get there?” Now hear me, I fully believe in actively working towards goals; I just think life progresses more slowly, more gradually than our pristine 10-step plan allows for. Personally I think that’s God grace towards us. I also think the path is messy and indirect, and that’s what’s so scary. However maybe that’s also God’s grace to us. Jesus instructs us saying,

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

We are supposed to not worry about our needs, but rather seek God’s kingdom and righteousness trusting God’s goodness for meeting our needs. The problem is, I’m not sure we understand or too often forget what God’s kingdom is and what it means to seek it. See, I believe we each have a purpose; a unique way we impact the world in a way no one else can. But what if seeking God’s kingdom has less to do with what we do, even with impacting the world for God, than exploring who God is and who God created me to be?

Impact is the byproduct of seeking God’s kingdom, not the method.

Worry, then, asks the wrong question. I worry when I ask “Will I get to the place I picture myself being in 5 years?” When we seek God’s kingdom we ask “How do the hopes and dreams you are giving me reveal who you are, God, and who you have created me to be?” That is a question I am willing to spend the rest of my life wondering and dreaming about.

What do you think? Does this resonate with your life and areas where you worry? Do you agree or disagree with my definition of seeking God’s kingdom? I would love to hear from you!

Photo Credit:  used under Creative Commons.