Redemption at the West TN State Fair

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2018, and I had been planning to take Charlotte and one of her best friends to the fair that evening. Charlotte was excited for days leading up to that night, filled with chatter about what she and her friend would do and see at the fair.

I wanted to be excited too, but I was mostly sad. Sad that I didn’t feel like taking my daughter to the fair. Sad that I was sad. Sad that life had become so dark and unbearable that I didn’t know how much longer I could bear it.

That Tuesday came on the heels of a Monday that was emotionally difficult: I had left work abruptly mid-morning and spent large chunks of the day crying (I know, depression is super fun). On Tuesday I found myself dreading the day and trying to figure out how to make it through. I wasn’t scheduled to meet with my therapist that week, but by an act of what I know to be God’s providence, his office called to see if I wanted to take a slot that had opened up that afternoon. By an act of what I know to be my own desperation, I quickly said yes. By the end of the appointment, my therapist was on the phone with my husband, telling him about my very specific, actionable suicide plan and recommending that I seek inpatient treatment immediately.

That’s how I ended up checking myself into a psychiatric hospital in Memphis that night instead of taking my daughter to the fair.

There are a lot of things that are hard about being hospitalized, but breaking a promise to my daughter broke my heart. After I got back home, I apologized many times, and her sweet heart of course accepted all of those apologies, but I wished I could make it up to her. Still, as much as I wished I could have been there to take her to the fair or been there later that week when she lost her second tooth, I knew that my seeking treatment was helping to ensure that I would be there for many more fairs and many more lost teeth. I had to trust that God would redeem the time that we lost.

And last Tuesday, almost a year to the very day, God gave me a gift: He gave me the chance to take my daughter to the fair. Even though it was approximately 200 degrees outside, and even though I sweat profusely and the hair stuck to the back of my neck and my hands felt perpetually sticky and grimy, it was marvelous. I watched Charlotte and her friend (the same one I had planned to take with us the year before) giggle and smile their way through three hours of rides. I watched them share jokes and scream and gesture excitedly about everything, and I couldn’t keep the grin off my own face. “I can’t believe I almost missed this,” I thought to myself. That night I was filled with gratitude–and still am–that I am still here, still living this life of mine.

I may have missed the fair last year, but this year I didn’t. And that’s what my daughter will remember. Here’s to many more nights at the fair.

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The Blessing of Pain

I’m sitting in my recliner right now, the warmth of a heating pad pressed against my back and hip. It’s a familiar scenario, one I’ve repeated countless times the last three years, after hip pain slowly began robbing me of the active life I had just begun to reclaim from ulcerative colitis. Ice packs have taken up permanent residence in the freezer, and nightly my nostrils are filled with the scent of the pain-relieving cream I rub on my aching joints. After Ava was born, I had a period of about 3 months where my hips did not bother me, and I rejoiced. Since then, however, the pain has crept back up. Pain has been a companion of mine, and while I once hoped and thought he would be a passing acquaintance, it seems that Pain would rather be my bosom buddy.

You might be wondering what pain has to do with blessing. I have wondered the same thing. I have prayed many prayers that the pain would leave, and I know my prayers have been joined by those of my family and friends. Yet God has not seen fit to release me from the pain, in spite of the various ways I have tried and tried to find an end to it. And while I have spent more than one day in tears, pleading with God to take away the pain, I have spent many other days thanking God that He has afflicted me, for the affliction has been for my good.

Pain reminds me daily that I am needy, that I am imperfect and dependent on others, and it is this neediness that sends me to Scripture and to prayer. Pain reminds me that this world is broken and makes me thankful for the Christ who will one day come and make all that is broken whole once more. Pain reminds me that though I am weak, Christ’s power is strong in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Pain reminds me that though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26). Pain reminds me that though my outer self may be wasting away, God is renewing my inner self day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). Pain reminds me that though sometimes I am sorrowful, the God of the universe has made note of every tear I’ve shed (Psalm 56:8), and one day He will wipe them all away (Revelation 21:4). He sees my pain, and He does not leave me alone in it. And on the days when the pain is less, I rejoice and give thanks for the reprieve and know that there are many for whom there is never a break from the pain.

If I were writing my story, I doubt I would have included pain as a chapter. But I am glad that my life is in the hands of One far wiser than I, for I have seen the way that pain has drawn me closer to God and revealed my sin and weakness. I am thankful that in God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted, not even pain.

“Pain is no measure of His faithfulness. He withholds no good thing from us.”

Sara Groves

 

Don’t Forget to Remember

I have missed blogging. Even though I’m fairly certain people don’t read blogs much anymore, I miss writing one. Taking up blogging again seems a bit foolish right now, since some days I end up not even having a chance for a shower (#momlife), but I want to remember this time in my life, and blogging helps me document, in an albeit public way. So I’m going to do something I did a few years ago, which is take the 30 days of November to practice gratitude. I’ll write each day (or at least attempt to do so) about blessings big and small. I am so prone to negativity, so prone to letting one bad day or even a bad few hours sour my mood, and the best weapon for that is gratitude. In the chaos of every day life, it’s easy to take things for granted and not remember all I’ve been given, but as soon as I start forgetting, that’s when discontentment and bitterness can start to fester. With that in mind, today I give thanks for this:

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Charlotte begged us to have a sister for years. She prayed for it, asked us to pray for it, and hoped and hoped. And oh, how I wanted to give that to her! But the last few years have been filled with health challenges that made me wonder at times if Charlotte would ever have a sibling. But God in His wisdom knew Charlotte wouldn’t be an only child, and in His timing we found out last year I was pregnant. Ava is a gift to all of us, but she did something only she could do for Charlotte: she made her a big sister. I watch Ava’s face light up every day when she sees Charlotte; I watch Charlotte do everything possible to make Ava laugh; I watch both of them and can barely get over the fact that these two beautiful girls are mine.

The past few months I have slept less than I can remember sleeping in a very long time. Ava stopped sleeping well at night, along with not napping well during the day, and it’s exhausting. Some days I have cried with the sheer frustration of it all. But I look at her grin and remember the Lord’s faithfulness. I see her tears and remember my own, during nights of pain and sickness when having another baby seemed like an impossible burden for my body to bear. I see her brown eyes alight with laughter and remember the prayers that were prayed for her before I even knew she would be a part of our family. Every day of her life is a testament of God’s kindness, and I never want to forget that.

Happy Thanksgiving

The day is almost over, but I was able to snatch a few minutes to write a post.  It would be a shame to have spent a whole month on gratitude and yet not write an entry on the very day of Thanskgiving.

Last Thanksgiving, I was still recovering from a week in the hospital and grappling with my new ulcerative colitis diagnosis. Having been sicker than I had ever been in my life, I was filled with gratitude to simply be alive. This is not to say that I truly felt I was going to die when I was in the hospital, but there may have been a few points where I thought death may have been preferable. But the Lord, in His mercy, saw fit to bring me through that time, and even now I cannot think of that time without being overwhelmed with thankfulness that my life, while completely changed by my diagnosis, is still my life, and it is in the ever-capable, ever-trustworthy hands of God.

Today, I am thankful that I am healthier now than I was a year ago. I am thankful that I have not seen the inside of a hospital all year. I am thankful that I have wonderful health insurance. I am thankful that I got to spend the day with my amazing husband, precious daughter, and wonderful in-laws. I am thankful that I live in a country where I am free to worship Jesus, free to speak and sing His praises whenever I desire. I am free to read His Word and have free access to it. I do not have to live in fear of persecution.

I lead a truly blessed life, and I pray that on days that I feel discontent or wish for something more that I would remember all that God has given and stop and dwell on the goodness of the Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May you know the peace and love of Christ.