This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Tag: illness

Life, Interrupted

 

Life has a funny way of interrupting our best-made plans.

 

It was supposed to have been a glorious season. A capstone season. An icing on the cake, cherry on top of the sundae season. After working harder than she had ever worked, being in the best shape of her life, leading with the grit and grace that only the best of captains can, my daughter roared into her senior season of high school lacrosse ready to take on the world…and any opponent that set foot on her field.

 

US Track and Field Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell said nearly a century ago that God made him fast and when he runs he feels God’s pleasure. How often I think of those words when I watch my daughter fly up the field, stick in hand, cradling her precious cargo as she transitions the ball up to the attacking end of the field. God made her fast. He made her strong. He made her body nimble to fly up the field in joy and strength. I can feel his pleasure when she runs.

 

Yet at this moment she lies on a table in the operating room and I am trying to make sense of the last six weeks.

 

The MRI tells us the knee pain is due to a torn meniscus, a bone bruise, and a cyst response to the injury. There was no incident. There was no moment on the field when she fell or twisted or turned and knew she was in trouble. We don’t know how it all happened, but in an instant, my daughter’s life, as she had planned it, is interrupted.

 

I just have to say it – I don’t like interruptions. I have lived enough of the interrupted life to be under no illusion that I am really in control of much. And yet, every interruption still knocks me full in the face like an overpowering wave tossing me under with the weight of its surprise.

 

This interruption is no different. I rail against it, refusing to accept that my daughter will have to miss out on everything she had dreamt her senior year would be. All I can see is what will not be. Interruptions come as a thief to steal what was mine, what was hers, and to mock us for ever thinking we were strong enough to hold onto our plans and dreams.

 

All too often I see interruptions to my plan as the great enemy, and I fight against them with all of my strength. Running against the grain, I suffer all measure of splinters in the process of trying to return to normal as quickly as possible.

 

I don’t want to consider that the interruptions just might be a part of the plan.

 

But perhaps I should.

 

 

It seems the life of faith is loaded with examples of interruption actually being the plan.

 

I think of Joseph. Leaving his father’s home to deliver a fresh meal to his brothers, they betray him and deliver him into the hands of traders, selling him into slavery in Egypt. This interruption is the first of many that will lead him to become the second in charge in Pharaoh’s household and enable him ultimately to save his family from famine. While none of his interruptions – betrayal, slavery, accusation, imprisonment – were welcomed, each was a necessary step along his journey.

 

I think of Moses. Taking a walk in the wilderness, he collides with a burning bush that forever changes the course of his life. He didn’t want to return to Egypt, go toe-to-toe with Pharaoh, or lead his people to freedom. He wanted to live a simple life as a shepherd, far from the threats that would surround him as an emancipator. This interruption would also be for him the first of many that would test and try him in ways he had never anticipated or wanted.

 

Seen through the vision of 20/20 hindsight, it’s clear that these interruptions to a life plan were not thieves of the real plan. More than likely, they actually were the plan.

 

What might it look like if I would embrace life’s interruptions as part of the plan rather than constantly fighting against them in an effort to get back to my hoped-for vision for my life? I think it looks like holding my hopes and dreams with an open hand and an open heart.

 

I think it looks like intentionally letting go of control.

 

I think it looks like flexing my trust muscles so that anger and worry have no room to settle in and take up residence in my heart and mind when interruptions come my way.

 

I think it looks and feels a lot like peace.

 

I think it looks more like how Jesus handled interruptions than how his forebears, Joseph and Moses, handled them. Was there ever a day that Jesus accomplished what he set out to do, when he planned on doing it? None of his greatest healings or miracles were scheduled events as we might schedule things. They mostly came as interruptions.

 

At the end of a long day of teaching a crowd that just wouldn’t go home, he is moved by compassion to feed all 5,000 men plus their families, even though his preference was undoubtedly to be alone with his closest friends. On another occasion, traveling to heal the daughter of a synagogue official, he is interrupted by a woman who begs for healing from a bleeding disorder that had afflicted her for 12 long years. He doesn’t push her aside, but chooses instead to heal her and bless her before sending her on her way. Teaching one day in a private home, he and all those gathered with him look up to discover a lame man being lowered from the rooftop into his presence, interrupting his planned teaching, and begging for a healing touch. Without hesitation or rebuke, Jesus embraces the interruption and heals the man.

 

Jesus’s approach to life’s interruptions was to accept them, not to fight against them, and to look for ways to bless others through them.

 

This is the example I want to follow. I know this is the way to peace. The only way I can do this is by holding my hopes and dreams with an open hand and an open heart, trusting in God’s goodness and love for me to see me through.

 

As my daughter stirs in the recovery room, I realize that she has already been practicing Jesus’s approach to handling life’s interruptions. Choosing to trust God throughout this disappointing setback, she has made no room in her heart for anger or self-pity. Choosing to bless others through her injury, she has transformed her role from on-field leader to off-field encourager. She reminds me what true trust looks like.

 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

 

Traveling in the Fog

 

The year my daughter was born was one of the “traveling in the fog” seasons of my life. An extended period of time when I had to learn to walk by faith and not by sight.

 

For 18 months I had been watching and scanning two growing masses in my thyroid, praying that the medication would shrink them enough to remove the constant threat of cancer. Scans every 3 months, always preceded by prayers that the medication would work so that I would be healthy enough to care for my two young sons. It was a season of living one day at a time, in hope, believing in God’s faithfulness.

 

Then came the good news that one of the two masses had reduced in size and I was given the green light to have another baby. Deep exhale. Had I really been holding my breath for all those months? Moments of peace. Days filled with expectation, forgetting that potential threat still loomed.

 

Eight months pregnant, my belly swollen with the promise of new life, yet my heart and mind were once again swollen with the fear of disease and death.

 

The masses were growing again.

 

Lying in the hospital bed after the doctors had successfully removed my thyroid, missing my two sons and my 6-week old baby girl, my husband accepted a job that would relocate us from Florida to Connecticut. Six weeks post-partum, 2-days post thyroidectomy, I had less than 6 weeks to buy a house, sell a house, and move a family of five across 10 states.

 

That I thought my husband’s timing on the job change was less than desirable is an understatement! Major house moves require a major plan and I didn’t have any mental or emotional capacity to develop even an ill-conceived plan.

 

I was still living one day at a time.

 

Learning how to care for a new baby girl amidst the frenetic activity of 2 energetic boys who were always on the move. Learning how to relax and rejoice and live without the constant worry of cancer. Learning how to get out of a chair with a baby in my arms and a neck that had just been cut open. (Who knew we contracted our neck muscles so much every time we get out of a comfy chair?)

 

But when the moving trucks show up, we have no choice but to move forward, plan or no plan.

 

 

Little did I know when we moved to Connecticut that another fog season would soon be rolling in, this one longer and deeper than the first. Month after month, new medical crises would emerge, feeling like blow after mighty blow to my desire to protect and care for my family. During our brief 3 years in Connecticut, my 3 little children would suffer through 5 cases of Lyme disease and my middle son would be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

 

Fierce Mama Love cries out: Why can’t I keep my children safe? Regret cries out: Why did we ever come here? Fear cries out: How can I ever protect my children in this disease-ridden place?

 

The health struggles weren’t limited to my children. My in-laws came for a weekend visit in October of that year and stayed with us until Easter, because the day after their arrival, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer where the only treatment available for her was in New York.

 

 

These are the seasons when we long for a light to guide our steps and allow us to see where the road is taking us. What we want is a searchlight. The strong sure beam of a lighthouse lantern to illumine our way, warning us of danger, spotlighting the boulders in our path that would be sure to pull us under. What we want is a light that is bright enough to assure us that we will make it to the shoreline, safe and sound.

 

What God promises instead is a flashlight.

 

A little handheld beam that illumines exactly two steps in front of us.

 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

 

Tucked in the middle of the longest chapter in scripture, a chapter that praises the beauty of God’s written word and his spoken words to us, the psalmist reveals exactly how much light we are given to guide our way.

 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

 

How very much like God. The God who fed his children manna in the wilderness – exactly enough for just one day at a time – is the same God who asks us to live by faith, one day at a time.

 

How I long to see the entire journey before I decide to follow. I want to know how much it will cost me. When the pain from these hard seasons becomes too overwhelming, I want to curl up and escape it all. I want to know that I, and those I love, will be safe.

 

Instead, God asks, will you follow me, trusting that I won’t leave you but will guide you through the raging waters? Will you let me lead you to the place where your trust has no limits? Don’t you see that the safest place for you is right by my side. My love for you knows no limits, because it cost me everything.

 

The light he shines on our path is not enough to see our way through the entire journey, but when coupled with faith, it is enough for one day.

 

Enough grace.

 

Enough peace.

 

Enough hope.

 

Just for today.

 

 

 

Days Like These

 

Today was one of those double-whammy, two-fisted, double-doctor appointment days. The kind that sucks all the life out of you, leaving a mama spent and wondering what happened to her plans for the day.

 

Still, I guess it’s better than last week’s triple play, three-doctor appointment day.

 

Five medical appointments and two small surgical procedures for two of my kids within two weeks left me with enough medicines and potions to take over an entire section of my kitchen and enough post-visit printed summaries to paper a small bathroom.

 

Some of the appointments were expected and had been scheduled far in advance; others were surprises, interruptions in a carefully scheduled life.

 

This morning’s visit with my son to see his endocrinologist was one of the expected visits. But the crashing low blood sugar just as we arrived at the physician’s office wasn’t expected.

 

Nor were we prepared for it.

 

You do have glucose tablets, right? Because you know I no longer carry them with me since you went away to college…

 

Unlike most days, today, my usually prepared son forgot to stuff his bag of tabs in his pocket. He quickly ate the snack he had brought with him but it was ineffective at elevating his rapidly falling blood sugar. Twenty minutes before, his blood sugar had been super high, too high to eat that snack. It makes no sense that his blood sugar could swing so wildly in twenty short minutes.

 

Unless you have type 1 diabetes. Then all bets are off.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

I remind myself of King David’s words from Psalm 118:24 and know that God has made this day for me. Including all the curve balls, the mini crises, and the unexpected events that come with this day. Will I rejoice in it or give into anxiety because the day is not going as I had envisioned it would?

 

Rejoice, oh my soul, rejoice. Trust and rejoice.

 

I reach into my bag and hand my son the partially eaten sandwich that I had started eating during our car ride. I quickly stopped eating it when he discovered that his blood sugar was too high to eat his own snack, so I quietly tucked it in my bag for later.

 

When it would be safe for him to eat. When it wouldn’t be rude to eat in front of him.

 

But now, he is in trouble, and I don’t care that my tummy is rumbling and that it will be hours before I can stop again to find food.

 

That’s what mamas do. We gladly hand over our partially eaten sandwiches to our children in need. Because crazy, unpredictable days aren’t always kind to those who have little control over how their bodies respond to the unpredictable.

 

We live in the tension between wanting to control all of life’s circumstances and knowing that we simply cannot control everything. And right there in that tension we discover the source of much of our discontent and grumbling. Many days there is simply far more that we cannot control than we can control.

 

But we can decide how we will respond to the unforeseen circumstances of life. Will we let go of what is beyond our control and choose to trust in the One who gives us and those we love our very breath? Will we trust Him enough to rejoice even amidst the dark, uncontrollable moments of life?

 

And I smile just a little bit, realizing that while I had thought myself so clever to think ahead and make myself a sandwich, I was not actually making it for me, but for my son.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

 

Today’s other appointment was not expected and I certainly had not planned for it to consume the bulk of my day. It began early in the morning, involved two hours of phone calls with nursing and scheduling staff at two different offices, the pleading voice of a mother saying, isn’t there just a small window of time in the schedule with one of your doctors, and the surprising kindness of the one who ultimately arranged for one of those squeeze-her-in-where-there’s-not-really-any-room appointments.

 

The knot in my stomach builds as my mind races to sort out what must be done.

 

Do not fear, for I am with you.

 

These words of the prophet Isaiah remind me to invite God’s presence right here in the midst of the storm. Deep breath in. Savor the opportunity for silent prayer during the long waits on hold with the medical staff. Deep breath out.

 

Two hours have passed since I began trying to schedule this appointment. Finally I hear her voice again on the other end of the phone. We have the appointment. Arrive 15 minutes early. Yes, I know the drill.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

The knot in my stomach loosens. I mentally review the schedule for the rest of my day, half-listening as the woman reviews with me more details about the appointment. I must leave home in 10 minutes to take my son to his appointment. I will have just enough time between the two appointments to take him home and pick up my daughter at school. Better pack a sandwich; it will be a busy day.

 

The conversation draws to a close, and yet I can’t hang up the phone without telling her how much she has blessed me today by her efforts to help me. She looked for the needle-in-a-haystack appointment when it would have been so much easier to say, I’m sorry lady, but there just isn’t anything available.

 

Comfort others with the comfort with which you have been comforted.

 

I speak my words of thanks and blessing. There is a pause. Then I hear her voice. It is changed. Lighter somehow. I think I hear the smile on her face, knowing she made a difference in the life of a stressed-out mama today.

 

Days like these are, unfortunately, not too unusual for me.

 

But they’re never expected.

 

And I rarely welcome them into my tightly designed vision of how my day should unfold.

 

I remember that these days never catch God by surprise. And I am comforted by the knowledge that He is right with me in the midst of the firestorm. These are days to practice letting go of control and of my need to have things go my way and to choose instead to look for the blessings that are all around me.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

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