I Had No Idea

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I had no idea.

Not a single thought, or wandering moment, when I considered the choice before me. My heart had already spoke before the words came off my lips. “Yes, yes, I will do this.” I believed in the choice before me. I knew it was right. I understood their would be sacrifice. I envisioned, I suppose, what my days might encompass Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this past year as a mother, as a wife, as a woman- who chose to be a caregiver.

I find deep joy in giving to others. It’s second nature to me. It’s who I am. I believe in good. I believe in people. I believe in loving them to the best of your ability. Offering love and compassion to someone is a gift – having the honor to do so in their final days on this earth – indescribable. Regardless of my beliefs, nothing could prepare me for the months that would follow.

I really had no idea.

This was a time when believing in what you thought was right turned your feelings and thoughts into action – you just do. I thought I had the strength, the fortitude, to march onward. Although I had no knowledge of what lay before me, I believed I would be able to withstand the pressure. But whom can prepare you for moments like these in your life?

Looking back on it now, if you had told me then what it would be like, perhaps giving me descriptions and details of what would unfold – I may have made a different choice. I probably would have wanted someone else to come in and do all the work. Because there was no way  I was going to be able to handle it all. The daily grind of medication administration, personal care giving, driving to appointments/treatment, the constant need for attention. Working 16 hour days – day after day, week after week, month after month.

Oh.

I didn’t realize at the time how much of the burden would lay at my feet. I assumed it would be a family affair – sharing responsibilities between us as we worked together. At times it was as we combined efforts to divvy up responsibilities, but that was short lived. It was my wonderful husband, whose plate was already overflowing, who worked so hard to help shoulder the burden that lay before us. This was a new journey we were walking, together. 

The exhaustion would envelope me daily as I crashed upon the bed hoping to find some reprise and rest. I pushed through days savoring gentle moments of God’s presence with me. Seeing the sunrise and witnessing the start of another day, I would snap a quick photo to remind me why I was here. That God called me to these moments. I was learning to be still – to rest – to trust. To allow the situation to unfold and know that I have absolutely no control, this had to be okay. It was beyond time for me to learn how to be. Being still in the knowledge that these moments, no matter how crazy they are, are precious gifts from the Hand of the Almighty Father.

I was walking a path filled with instances of God breathing life into long ago dead places. When His Presence becomes known. Where His fingerprints become your marking. When you are planted in peace that permeates your soul. Your purpose clear, the calm present, a gift from the throne room of heaven.. Whispering as you collapse into God’s tender embrace, you begin to feel His love, know His love, be His love. Your existence no longer becomes about what you do – but who you are – bellowing out for all the world to hear. You are there, you are here – you are. Somehow in the everydayness of caregiving, you became cared for.

I had no idea.

This journey has been so much more than a physical one. Facing your final days on this earth your focus begins to shift as you pause and reflect on what is of most importance. All that you had invested in comes crashing down. The security you put in your bank account or shored up property can’t erase the fact that death is knocking at your door. Questioning your choices in life, you ask some very hard questions. Hoping to ease your heart, your mind and your eternal soul, you search for answers where only God holds the key.

Tending to your soul is of primal important in these precious days, what a privilege to alongside you. Emotional times spring forth as we talk about the value of life. All pretense began to drop as you face the reality that death is coming – soon. Gentle times of togetherness, laughter among family and friends and the truth spoken brings calm to anxiety filled hearts.

I had no idea.

None. Nada. Zip. That the emotional journey I would embark on during this caregiving time would take such a tremendous toll on my life.  I didn’t bargain for the way your story became my own. I didn’t know that your pain would be so unbearable to witness. I didn’t plan that the days which followed your death would immobilize me so very much. Your death became a part of my own – for a part of my old self passed along with you.

My body, my mind and my spirit are all eager for rest. Not only am I physically exhausted, but emotionally and spiritually too.  I am forever changed by these days of sacrifice, that’s the wonderful thing about love – it changes you. I am hopeful for healing. I am waiting for peace to reside. I am quiet as I listen. I continue in the practices You wrote upon my heart God, each day looking to You, for You and being with You.  I know you are here and I am enough because I am Yours..

God needed to be my life source and keep me going. He was the fuel to my engine for each day. It was just my job to wake up and move. To glance out that window and remember who was in charge. Then let Him be that one. My purpose was to rest. My aim, to trust. My hope, to live. It sounds so simple now, like some quick and easy plan or mathematical equation we often use to define our spiritual selves. Like study + prayer = Peace – who believes the eternal God who created the universe and calls each of us home in His time, can be summed up in a + b = c? How finite our minds are! During these long days that stretched into months,  I didn’t have time to study. There weren’t moments for long winded prayers. I gasped for prayer like I was gulping down air. I needed oxygen to breath and I needed His Spirit to fill me. Period.

I had no idea.

Of the blessings that would flow. Of the depths to which your love would reach me. Of the truth that your ways are higher than my ways releases me from imposing my own way on others. I am free. Because of you and my relationship with you, I am free. You are more than a ticket to heaven later, you are the life giving force in my life now. Here. Today.

We serve an infinite God! He chooses to love us in intimate and personal ways. Speaking to our hearts and our minds. He brings clarity to our thoughts. He brings hope to our musings. He is more than words on a page. He is more than an answer to prayer. He is. The Almighty God is over all and wants to bring peace and build quiet places where we live, where you live, where I live – today.

My body may be weak, my emotions may vacillate but my hope is in God. Would you put your hope in Him today? His arms are large enough to hold you. His heart beats for you, empathizes with you, loves you. Yes – you. So, don’t wonder if you are good enough. Life is too short and precious to focus our energies and our vision on our weaknesses, our shortcomings and our missed opportunities. Don’t belabor the choices you have made already in your life. Seek God out, He is enough.

All this time, I had no idea.

I Am Accepted

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Today, I go deep. It’s time to really share.

I started this blog for a specific purpose, to discuss and process through my lens of life the daily journey of what it is like to live with life threatening health issues, chronic pain and the doubts and fears that can arise from such a struggle.

This is no small feat and nothing that will change in one blog post, or with a new day upon me. It’s a true struggle as you wrestle in your life to regain control and find a new normal and just live, once again.

There’s no wisdom present, no answers quickly given, just raw, honest truth. Since I am a person of faith, I use that filter to sift through my thoughts, the fears and the journey. I am glad you are here to walk with me. So, where do we start?

The hardest place.

The most difficult thing to face living with health problems is probably not too much different than what I suspect others face in their own circumstances.  The hardest thing to deal with is quite frankly, the person staring back at you in the mirror –  me. No, not the weight you need to lose or the wrinkles that continue to emerge on your face.  It’s what’s going on inside your mind, inside my mind. These unexpected circumstances add daily challenges to everyday life. You just can’t live in denial – you must face the facts, whatever they are, including the weight to lose. But, what if the answer didn’t lie in the scale, or in the food, but in your head?

In our thoughts.

The only experience I have is my own, and it’s that voice in which I speak. I am a survivor. I have survived 3 pulmonary embolisms and 5 DVT’s. (blood clots) While I am eternally grateful for the blessings of a new day, I still had to accept that my life would not and could not be the same again. There is a very high probability that I will have another clot someday and when I do, I may not survive this time. I don’t say this to be dramatic, no. I say it because statistically speaking, it’s true.  So, how I choose to live from this moment forward drives me. Each day I awake with a fervent desire to live life to the fullest and be walking in truth. So in the morning when I see myself in that mirror I can have peace knowing I am being who I was created to be.

I want to live an authentic life.

I am in the process right now about rediscovering what this means.  I’ve spent way too much time trying to prove myself or find worth in what I did, rather than in the person I already am. There is nothing like the harsh reality of the short time span we all have on this earth to reawaken the deepest truths and fears within us. Life is short, and frankly, I want to live it.

Once I began to finally accept my limitations imposed upon me by all the clots and the damage they did to my lungs and my legs – it was time to reexamine how I was currently living. With more challenges looming ahead, this is what I learned. You have to realign your thinking, change the expectations you place upon yourself and let go of your life as you once lived it.  Sometimes this is a drastic elimination of commitments, a temporary setback or  you can chose to keep on living the way you had all along and eventually, it will catch up to you. Been there, done that!

To some of you reading this may seem like nothing new at all, it’s how you approach life. But for a co-dependent, fear filled woman who allowed others to chart her way through life and masked it all under the guise of Christianity and servanthood – these continual, consistent health problems were my wake up call and my greatest blessing.

You see, I based my identity on what I did, how I measured up, what others thought of me. I have battled it my entire life, but none so much as when I was living in circles of a faith community which for me and in my interpretation, reinforced my dysfunction. This is not to say the faith is dysfunctional, no, just the interpreter. I was the problem. I lived the life of a victim, and I lived it well.

Life circumstances being what they were, it’s how I coped.

So, this health crisis I’ve undergone, it’s been totally worth it. The constant doctor visits, lab work, medical tests and years of ongoing medical care. Worth each and every penny. Not because I can afford it, no, but because I can’t afford to continue to function and live my live the way I had been living. It took this crisis in my body to bring me to a crisis in my heart. It challenged me to seek Jesus on a deeper level and in doing so, I not only found Him, but I found me.

“Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you.  All who ask receive. Those who seek, find what they seek. And he who knocks, will have the door opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

For over 30 years I’ve been knocking on the door, continuing to knock, for the opening that Jesus says will come. I am sure He’s been opening doors for me before and I have been just too blind to see it.  Some doors I remember seeing clearly and I cowered in fear to walk through them. Others, I sprang forth and lept through!

What are your doors?

Maybe you can’t even find the doorknob, never mind the door. Perhaps you are searching for the key to unlock it yourself. Jesus say to continue to knock. Can you hear Him? Don’t give up! Find a way to form that fist and pound if you have to. Keep on knocking, use all the strength you can muster and gently knock.

Trust Him.

When the time is right, He will usher you. The Risen One Himself will reach out with Hands of glory to embrace you. When He does it won’t matter if you have your physical health, or your emotional health – all He concerns Himself with is your spiritual self. Jesus accepts you.

My first door has been learning to accept myself. If Jesus could accept me, why couldn’t I?

Finding myself, my true self, not the one I presented to the world has been a hard journey so far. It’s like digging for treasure. Sometimes you dig and dig and hit something and you think it’s a chest full of gold, but really it’s just another boulder in the way to the real treasure lying somewhere. Hand Him the shovel, let Him dig, watch Him sweat. He already has the map to my heart anyway, invite Him to chisel away and just let go.

Allow Him to chip off the fears, the insecurities, the doubts about who you are. Invite Him to recreate and renew your heart and accept with gratitude who you are and who He is. He is God. I am not.

I am accepted – and I am finding my way in Him.

If you are struggling with a current health crisis, know this, you aren’t alone. If you are wrestling to accept who you were created to be, know this, you can find a way. There is hope, HOPE.

Just stand at the door – knock.