My husband, Toby, and my mom, Susan, at the annual community Thanksgiving Dinner our family hosts in Weiser. And a bag of turkey gizzards.
I am one hour and fifteen minutes removed from doing one of the most ridiculous things I never ever thought would do in my life. I was an adult leader in a weekend retreat for a group of 12 teens from our church. We fasted. Seriously. I did not eat for approximately 38 hours. I could have never done that on my own, but in the presence of the kids and the five other adults, it was ridiculously easy. I ate a bit at lunch, but haven’t been back to the trough, yet. The realization that nothing is going to satisfy me, even the best food I can think of… the enjoyment will quickly fade.
I’m different today than when I left – mentally and emotionally. I’m different in one way because my perspective on God has changed. The first night we were there our Not-Youth-Pastor, Hunter, led us in a lesson, worship music, and prayer. During the prayer he said, “God, we love you.” I realized quickly in that moment that I didn’t even feel love for God. I want to serve God, I want to please him, but I’m not sure how to love Him in the right way. In the way that a daughter ought to love a father. That should concern me and it does. I do not know how to fix it right now. I am willing to learn.
That night we split up into girls and boys groups and it started to become real about what we were doing. So, we’re really going to bed hungry? We’re just going to read the Bible, talk shop, and pray? For a day and a half? I did not know what that looked like. Who does that?
Saturday morning was quiet. I could tell that some of the kids were struggling and becoming restless and I was sort of concerned. Were they able to get passed the hunger, lack of cellular devices, and awkwardness of this retreat and find the Jesus behind it? I am so happy to say that, YES! Yes they were able! It was a day filled with Biblical lessons, life application, inspiration, motivation, and prayer. My Toby gave a lesson. I never thought he was more handsome. I was proud of him. It wasn’t just delivering his message, but the preparation that I saw him do in the weeks ahead of the retreat. He is a good man.
My Shannon and I were led by the Lord to make some pretty powerful “prayer stations.” There were 12 different themes to each station and the kids were asked to go to them and interact with the station. For instance, there were candles and matches at the “Light” station. At that station there was scripture of God creating light, Jesus being the light, and how we are a light to others. The kids were asked to pray and meditate on the scriptures while they considered how their own lives reflected the light of Jesus. We also had things like forgiveness, strength, wisdom, and discipline. This could be something easily used in Sunday school or at any revival. They were fun to make and the Lord worked through them well. At the “You” station, the kids read about God being their maker and they had play-dough, a globe, and a model-statue thingy. This activity was really meaningful to me, for some reason.
We did have a few breaks throughout the day and we tried to make it a light atmosphere, but the thing I think I like the most about these kids and their response to this process was – it was not designed to be fun, entertaining, or for their a-musement. It was a hard core, Jesus in yo’ face, what are you going to do about it challenge. It would be us leaders that would finally be the ones to crack Saturday evening. Okay, it wasn’t all leaders, it was me.
We had read and discussed Elijah relinquishing his spirit to Elisha. As one generation of leaders to the next, we wanted to pray over the kids in a special and meaningful way. We each had drawn two kids that we had been praying for leading up to the event. Even before I got to my first girl, I was crying. I just knew it would be a hard prayer. Relinquishing some of my hopes and dreams over to my Kelsie. Realizing that my time with my hands is limited and that, I am so thankful that I was able to use them to spend time with her at the flower shop.
I am not getting better. My symptoms of spasticity, tremor, and pain are very difficult to treat. The progression of my illness into my upper body has really slowed me down. I am uncomfortable, now, in any position. I usually don’t sit for too long because my legs ache and now that my upper body is crappin’ out on me, it’s really put me in quite the pickle. My neck, shoulders, and arms are just tired. Just lifting my hands up to lay on the kids, was a struggle for me physically.
I’m normally very excited to go to work and get to “play.” It is a burden now. Dana is tired. I pray for miraculous healing. I am hopeful that my neurologist will help me. I get in to see her the 28th. I can hang on for 23 more days, right? After that, Toby and I will assess the situation and see if the shop does need to be sold. It makes me cry. It might be what the Lord is asking me to do though. Maybe I have to get rid of the shop to get somewhere else. I’m just not sure.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the entire weekend was signing an agreement with all the other attendants – a contract, a call, a commission to serve God wholly and completely. I am good with that. We were asked to commit to Bible study, devotional time, scripture memorization, and to seek the Lord first everyday. I am good with that also. The part that didn’t feel so good was committing to use my suffering for the growth of the Kingdom. From the outside, it’s like, “Yes! I will do anything for the Lord!” But, when you are IN the suffering, you want nothing more than to get out.
I have been trying to recondition my mind to understand that this illness and the problems it creates can help me and are actually a good thing. I’ve been trying to accept that healing may never come. I’ve been living and waiting as though I would feel better someday and as I realize that it may not happen, I grieve for the dreams and experiences I haven’t had. I am sad to be limited by this stupid body. At the same time, I know I can offer the world a completely different perspective on things because of the uniqueness of my walk. I might help someone. And, if I can, but instead I choose to sit and feel sorry for myself… that is not the legacy I want to leave.
The difficulty in signing the agreement, for me, was a few words. Bryon presented the lesson and gave us a beautiful message on a friend he had lost years ago. The friend died, full of life and love for the Lord, and his character not only impacted his immediate circle of friends, but generations of family’s now. The friend, Bryon illustrated, lost all of his lifeblood in one moment. The rest of us who struggle, serve, and work for the Lord may not lose our blood in one foul swoop, but one drop at a time.
One drop at a time.
Can I be okay with that? For me, to be OK with it would mean that I could face my pain and illness with strength, with a good attitude, and joy. As it is, I don’t have that mentality about it. I don’t trust that it will all be OK. I’m seeing these little droplets of blood everyday and I’m freaking out and well, freaking out isn’t really helping anyways. But, dang it! I just wish I had the ability to carry this cross for the Lord with a happy heart. I want to change in that way. I want to pursue His will for my life because I know that is the place that I will be used most. If his will for my life is for me to weaken in body slowly, yet ever so surely, how can I accept that for really reals?
I am interested to see the ripple effect that continues in me, the other leaders and in the kids. The retreat is like a big rock getting plunked right in the middle of a quiet pond. We’ve only just dropped the rock. The first wave of reaction is in the works and I’m thankful. I’m tired. Our prayer as leaders was that this experience might cause a chain reaction that didn’t just end with the teens leading church today, but continues to envelop the kids in their homes, with their family’s, friends, peers and the generations that follow them.
I am thankful that I got to shut the whole world off and focus on God. That is a rare opportunity. Happy to be home with my monsters and as I type in my chair, watching all four of them cuddled up on the couch, I have tears. If this is the only way that I could have them, I would do it all over again. That makes me glad.
I think I’ve decided what I “need.” I heard this song last night by the Sidewalk Prophets. It said something about ‘show me you’re a bigger God than I could have ever imagined.’ I also read this blip out of “The Cure” by John Lynch. The tagline of the book is “When God isn’t who you think he is… and neither are you.”
I’ve had this vague understanding of who God is in my short walk. Sometimes I don’t think I fear Him the way I ought to. My friend Shawna taught me the verbage, “He knows my heart.” No matter what I say or do, he knows my heart and even if I can’t articulate my conceptions, He hears me. Sometimes it’s just me who needs to be able to articulate what I am thinking. Not so much for Him, but for me.
The other night I lay on the floor while Toby tried to massage and stretch out my left arm. Something is going on. My shoulder is tender, sore, tires easily. I am getting cramping throughout the whole arm. In places it waxes and wanes like a painful toothache. It seems to be triggered more when I have my arm bent – it does not have to be flexed. By Saturday, it had built up for 4-5 days. We’re trying to figure out how to make this pain better and I am at the point of havin’ to do something. The pain is acute. I had all three babies naturally, I know what severe pain feels like.
Tears roll from my face to the carpet beneath me as Toby tried to work on my arm. Tears are welling up in Toby’s eyes and heart. This is so hard you guys. I am so beyond tired and frustrated and sad. I cannot nurture Toby and it’s difficult that I am the cause of his anguish, even if its not my fault. I cry to the Lord, but sometimes it seems that the trials are only getting harder, faster, and more complicated than before.
Lord, hear my cry. We are not fine. Sometimes it feels like this life has started at the point of difficulty and then it just got worse with time. There are times when I see you. But, there are a lot more times when I don’t see or feel you. I’ve always felt justified in asking that if this life must be so physically and emotionally painful, that you could make something else easier. Evidently that’s not your plan. In case you haven’t noticed, I sort of need you a lot right now. Big. I need you to make your presence in my life bigger than I ever could have imagined. I need some hope to hold on to. I need a season of peace. Bless me with your wisdom Lord, that I might use it in every aspect of my life. Let me find myself living the life of trust and grace in you. Amen.
The last decent issue I had with my health was in July. It was a similar version of what I’m going through now, but in my right arm. More in my armpit and shoulder. The most similar experience that I could relate the pain to was shingles. I started on the shingles medication right away so I never did break out in the rash. Now, I’m unsure if it really was shingles or part of my disease process. July… August… September… October… November. It’s building momentum.
I need a really big God.