Hello dear friends,
I'm sorry to have been gone so long! This has been an interesting few days for me. First I ended up at the chiropractor again on Friday for "round 2" on my neck and shoulders. That meant that Friday afternoon and Saturday were basically spent resting. First Things were done both days, but that's about it.
So that pretty much covers the pain part, now onto the blessings. This will take some back story, so you might want to grab a cup of coffee and have a seat... : )
Most of you know that my husband had brain surgery last summer, that my Mom died the summer before that, and that I was in a car accident a couple of summers before that. What you don't know is that during that time my husband's personality began to change drastically (because of the cyst in his brain, but we didn't know that at the time). Since the beginning of our marriage he had sometimes had unexplainable behavior when he was under stress, but now he began to have pronounced mood swings, do some odd and frightening things, was always on the verge of anger, and often accused me of not remembering things that he had never told me. He was never violent - God protected us - but you were never sure if it would escalate to that. I learned to speak very cautiously and to try as much as possible to be sure the dogs wouldn't bark when he was home because that would cause a burst of anger. During this time I was taking care of my Mom, apprehensive about our son and some choices he was making, concerned about our daughter who was dealing with poor health and food allergies at college 1500 miles away and trying to place myself between my daughter that lived at home and my husband at all times. My only hope was in God. My only strength was in God. I was physically and emotionally exhausted and I didn't know what to do. "What can I share with GraceWorks ladies when my own home is such a mess? When loving my husband has left me with this?? What can I write when I have failed in my own family? What can I tell them when I can't even bring myself to use our pages for more than a week at a time? Can I even make cards anymore? Nothing matters!" Everything seemed spiraling downward and I came to the point that I didn't care if one of us died. I just knew that it would have to be something that big before I could find relief.
The morning I took my husband to the Urgent Care center for his horrendous headache, I already had my hospital bag packed. I figured it would be a tumor of some sort and wondered if this would be God's answer and He would take my husband Home. I had very little sorrow at the thought - only relief. But God. God instead did a miracle. Inside my husband's head there had been a cyst growing since birth. One that blocked the flow of his spinal fluid and caused the ventricles of his brain to swell. Especially in times of stress, fluid would get pushed past the cyst into the ventricles, but then it couldn't escape. So the pressure continued to build and build and build. And when I looked at my husband's MRI my first thought was... "The Heart of God", and I knew that this was His plan all along. (The cyst is the white circle below the line. The heart is formed by the swollen ventricles. They should be much, much, much thinner than that. In fact the doctor indicated that sudden death wasn't out of the question when my husband was admitted to the hospital.)
My husband came through surgery beautifully and the while he lay there helpless, the Lord planted in his heart a deep new love and appreciation for me and our family. It was more than I could have hoped for. More than I had had faith to pray for. Exceeding abundantly above all that I could ask or think. Oh, friends! Our God is so amazing!!!
At 6:00 the next morning I woke up in the waiting room where I had stretched out around two. As I came to consciousness, I realized that my legs were exceptionally weak and I wasn't sure if I could walk to the phone across the room, to say nothing of getting back to my husband. I was so scared! I wondered if maybe my blood sugar had dropped - I had had a tremendous headache during surgery the day before - so I crawled to the phone and called the nurses' station. Within minutes they were there with a wheelchair and took me to the ER where I stayed for the next 9 hours. My blood sugar was normal, but my heartrate was through the ceiling so they put me through countless tests on my heart and tried every possible means to calm it. Of course, all I could think about - when I could think at all - was that I needed to be with Paul, who had said before he went into surgery that he needed me to be there for him. Long story short, they didn't find anything wrong with my heart, and I checked myself out later that night, once rest and a bottle of fluids had kicked in to make me able to walk again. My daughter became my caretaker and the next morning drove me to my long-time chiropractor (a 10 hour round trip) where he diagnosed me as having severe adrenal fatigue and worked on putting me back together. It was a hard couple of weeks. I spent as much time in the hospital as I could, then came home to rest - dealing with nightmares, panic attacks and a pounding heart daily.
When my husband came home from the hospital, we were both sort of fragile, and our time together was precious as we started to get to know one another - sort of for the first time. His words and reactions were so unexpectedly gentle that they would make me start with surprise. His love for me showed in his eyes and was conveyed in words to others. His gratitude for what the Lord had done was immense. He was a wonderful patient and my heart was full to the point of pain at the great thing that God had done for us.
But I was exhausted. Unable to think. Unable to write. Unable to keep up around the house. I didn't want to see anyone. I was upset with myself for being like this - God had done such an amazing thing! Why wasn't I able to tell others about it?? - but I felt powerless to change. I stayed in the Word, because I knew that always before God had taken me to the very limits of my strength and trust in Him before answering my prayer and showing me His plan - whether it had been with my Mom's sickness or Paul's surgery - and I just needed to wait. But waiting was so hard. I dropped my two card making design teams -- I couldn't deal with the pressure. I stopped writing on the GraceWorks blog -- I didn't feel I had anything constructive to say. I dealt with reoccurring nightmares - one night even waking my husband up trying to yell in my sleep - and blamed them on foods I was eating. And I cried with weariness and pain before the Lord often. I felt like I was frozen in a block of ice - that nothing mattered - that there was no reason to expect anything else good in life. We had used up our quota. I didn't know "who I was" anymore. I had no hope for the future. No hope except Heaven.
A month or two ago I went out with a dear, dear friend for coffee. We've been friends for over thirty years and the Lord has given us a friendship that simply picks up where it left off with no expectations or judgment. We talked on the phone during my husband's brain surgery, me waiting to see if he would come through or not, and she, sitting at the bedside of her son while he received chemotherapy for aggressive cancer. During our coffee meeting that morning we shared and laughed and cried. She spoke truth into my heart as one who was traveling a similar exhausting road, and when I came home I felt like the ice around my heart had cracked just a little, but that there really was no hope of change on this earth.
Shortly after that meeting I read a book written by a priest in New York city whose wife had died from brain disease. So many of the scenes that he described were etched in my memory as things that I had experienced with either my Mom or Paul. I cried and cried as I read and the ice continued to melt. I remember thinking that it had taken him a number of years before he wrote the book, and wondering if I would ever again have something to say.
Then, this week, the Lord led me to a book by an Australian doctor called Hope and Help for your Nerves. Oh friends, it was exactly what I needed. Exactly what God had been preparing my heart for for months and years. It talked me through all the symptoms I had been having and fearing - some of them since I was a little girl. It gave hope of recovery. It assured me that "I" was still there and when my nerves and emotions were healed I would be able to function again and make decisions, but while I was healing I needed to go slowly and be a little more gentle with myself, realizing that I needed time to make good decisions and that I would also be dealing with the panic and fear and emotions for awhile because my body was accustomed to facing *everything* the same way now - good or bad.
Reading that paragraph, it sounds so casual. I wish I could tell you how life changing it was. Not because of the book, probably, but because I know that God put the book there. It was the end of a long road of waiting and learning and I cannot tell you what a blessing this has been to me. The joy in my heart right now is immense. The world is brighter. There is hope. And, oh!, how unbearable life is without hope! To have experienced the loss of it is both a memory that will make me shudder and one that is a gem of rare price. To feel what so many have felt. How can it help but change me?? How it will affect GraceWorks I don't know. Perhaps it will take the form of a booklet that speaks to those of us that are fragile emotionally. Grieving, fearing, suffering or just plain weary. Perhaps it will lead to some new direction entirely. I'm not sure. For now it will mean that I am going to walk a little gentler through the rest of the challenge. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength" it says in Isaiah. That is my goal for the rest of the challenge. Quietly confident - trusting in the Lord who has never left me or forsaken me even when I was so weak that all I could do was cry. He has seen fit to give me the oil of joy for mourning, He has rejoiced over me with love and He has given me a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. I know that I still have some rough patches ahead. But He is enough. May I overflow His love to others from now on.
So there you have it. My coming from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy, from depression to praise. I am so thankful that I "happened" to choose this time period to take the challenge and chronicle it on the blog. Isn't it just like the Lord to prepare a platform for me to praise His Name??
"Trust in Him at all times, ye peoples! God is a refuge for us."
I'll let you know how I modify the challenge for myself from here out. Thank you for your prayers and praise to the Lord on my behalf. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate each one of you that are journeying with me. You are each a precious gift from God.