Jiggly Bits, Inflated Udders, and a Bathing Suit

There are some choices that you realize were not your brightest only when reflecting back. This was one of mine.

Post-partum was such a wardrobe challenged time, at least for me, as my belly was stuck somewhere between marshmallow and deflated balloon.  On one hand you are delighted in your precious child, while on the other hand you are daily trying to vacuum slurp your abdominal jigglies into all the clothes while they beg you for mercy.

Jesus provides mercy; clothes do not.

So, here I sat, unwilling to go shopping for new clothes while my old ones most certainly did not fit, but desperately needing to go for a swim. No problem, I will just wear my maternity swimsuit! I could sequester and hide all the bits with ease! Problem solved.

At this point in the story, if you were watching this unfold on the big screen, I am certain the music would change–a foreboding tune to prepare you for the disaster ahead.

Everything was fine outside of the water, you know, where gravity puts everything down.  The problems began once I got INTO the water. At first, I realized that my newly inflated udders were going to make swimming more difficult simply because they were incredibly effective flotation devices.  I mean, I didn’t even have to put forth effort, and I could float with ease, the udders leading the way. It was like trying to swim with buoys strapped to my chest.  No problem, I just tried to shove them to the sides and hope my armpits would help harness them in a bit. “Divide and separate” failed me.  Nope.  One over-zealous set of flotation udders to the rescue! Whatever. I would just swim or float until my alone time was done. It was nighttime, and only a couple of people were in the pool anyway.

Enter a party of 3 skinny college kids, who clearly knew NOTHING of wobbly bits, jumping into the lap lanes on either side.

Perrrrfect.

I adjusted my goggles and pushed off from the wall, prepared to glide effortlessly through the water…when I realized that my wobbly bits had wobbled right out of my swim bottoms with a force akin to biscuit dough breaking free from its vacuumed captivity.  This was not happening…

Oh well, it was dark! Wait. The pool was lit. Awesome.. Trying to sink unsuccessfully below the water (see flotation udders mentioned above), I tried to pull up my bottoms while not drowning myself in the process. I flailed and rolled and popped my head up occasionally for air.  The more I struggled to harness my wobbly bits the more my udders threatened to tear free from my somewhat loose, v-necked maternity swim top.  I managed to push, shove, and trap everything back into submission again.

This worked until the next stroke, when my jiggly bits begged release once again and declared their freedom as my bathing suit bottoms rolled down, helped by the friction of the water as it glided innocently by.  It was at this point that I created a new stroke entirely, I’ll call it the super-uddered-flotation-wiggle-stroke. Just 10 slurps back into my bathing suit britches later, and a handful of udder re-entrapments and I was out of the pool.

I clearly rocked my mommy time (all 5 minutes of it) and the faces of the college kids sitting on the edge of the pool proved it.

 

A Lesson From My 9 Year Old

I had been running all day and had just realized that I had zero plans for dinner.  Once again all my good intentions of planning everything out had dissolved along with my give-a-crap button.  Cereal? Nah, it just didn’t sound like it would work for dinner, not long term, the girls would be hungry again in an hour.  So, on day 5 of solo parenting, in the heat, with a mouth still on fire from having surgery on my tongue, I loaded up kids and headed to the grocery store.

As we pulled into the Raley’s parking lot we saw him.  A skinny, middle-aged man, deeply tanned with a medium length white beard, holding up his sign that read, “Just hungry and ugly.”  I sighed and did my best to avoid eye contact. I didn’t have the time or energy to help, plus he was probably just scamming. I wasn’t ignorant on how things could work.

Just buy him some food.  It is hot, he is saying he is hungry, you can, so you should.  But I really don’t feel like it at all right now and there was always someone in need…

“Hey mom, did you see that guy?  Did you read his sign?” asked my 9 year old in the backseat.

“Yes baby.”

“Mom, did you see his eyes?  They look sad. You say to always look at the eyes.”

I had purposefully not looked at his eyes actually…

Just buy him some food

“Baby, will you help me pick out some food to buy him?”

With incredible excitement and a sparkle in her eyes, she sat up straight and said, “Really mom?  Can I hand it to him? Can I be the one to give it to him after we get it?”

He is filthy, she is a child, the germs, the what if’s, all the reasons that immediately flew into my head to be solid reasons to say “NO! Baby I will do this.”

What are you teaching her?

Mic drop.

What was I teaching her?  Was I being wise or just afraid?  Why was I even thinking the thoughts I was?  But more importantly, was I teaching her to love others like Jesus did and does?

But Jesus knows about boundaries!  

Wait, DID Jesus have boundaries?  If he did, would they have really walked through this filter I have in my head that screams of preserving and protecting at all costs, always, especially regarding my children!

Oh.

What am I teaching my children?  To be bold and brave or just afraid?  To be generous and kind or guarded and cold?  

Maybe my children are teaching me. Oh Lord, forgive me.  I have so much to learn.

We quickly walked through the grocery store and bought a modest bag full of imperishable items for the stranger begging outside.  All the while, I was explaining to my daughter why we were buying certain things (thinking about his possible needs and the heat), and not just throwing in cartons of ice cream.

Can it ever be a waste to give food?  Really?

I don’t know his story, but I do know I can buy some food.  Does it matter if he is scamming somehow? Nope. Because in that moment I realized that there was so much more happening than just buying food for him and hopefully helping meet his need.  Our sight was changing, my children were learning, and I was learning most of all. Because if someone has to beg, regardless of their intentions, then they are indeed in need. Full stop.

So, with an excitement that left all her limbs jittery, my girlie carefully placed the items into the bag, buckled her belt and sat beaming with readiness to hand over the groceries to the man.

Am I ever this excited to serve another?  Such expectancy. No fear. Just wonder.

After a bit of searching, we found him leaving the parking lot on his bike, seemingly empty handed.  I pulled up, rolled down the windows and looked into his eyes for the first time. Need. My beautiful, brown skinned baby looked the middle aged white man right in the eyes as she smiled and said, “We got you some food.”  Her eyes…love.

As we drove away, I took a deep breath, and looked back at my girl who represented Jesus– to both the beggar and me– as she sat beaming.

“Mom!  That was awesome (her limbs all jittery with excitement again), it is just so amazing to get to help another, right?”

Yes baby.  Thanks for teaching mama today…

 

Love Wins

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I don’t remember the first person who told me about God.  I was invited to many churches and heard many things during the first 12 years of my life.  I didn’t doubt there was a God because I knew there was evil. For some, that is a stumbling block–the problem of evil–for me, it was proof.  If there was evil, but not ALL was evil then there MUST be the opposite and that opposite was God. He was just an idea until junior high; an idea that I wrestled with often.

My first memory of evil was when I was 4.  He was 15 years old and promised it would be “fun” but that I would get into big trouble if I told.  I would ride to school with that evil for years. There were so many moments of evil in that first decade of my life that I could never doubt its existence.  It crossed gender lines and age limits; it knew no bounds.

But God?  What about him?

If you had come to me and told me I was going to hell, I would have laughed and told you I was already there.  If you would have tried to explain to me that I was a sinner, I would have shaken my head and asked you to tell me something I didn’t already know.

When you live in the darkness you need not be reminded of its presence….you need to know that there is light.

Love.  Just as I was, right where I was, I needed love to wrap around me and promise to walk with me as it changed me.  And it DID change me…one bit at a time.

That is the Jesus I know–he meets you where you are, as you are, and calls you to himself.  People can represent him imperfectly, but they will never replace him. And so, my 7th grade year, several circled ‘round me -for a time- to represent him, his love.  Their love was beyond my understanding. Yet, I was SO hungry for it.

Love won me.

True love always wins, in the end–not the love offered by the world, that is temporary and conditional– but true love.  Love that gets down in the gutter where you live and raises you up, and then holds on, without end– THAT is the good news. That he loves us, and took it all upon himself to save us and he never, ever let’s go.

What are you known for?

The truth and love are not enemies, you don’t have to trade one for another, in my experience they go hand in hand.  After-all, wasn’t that what Jesus modeled?

 

Daring God and Moving Mountains

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge,

a little human sympathy more than much courage,

and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

V and mommy

She was serious but full of compassion as she read over the lab work.  I was tired. In all honesty most of me lay dormant inside, unable to be roused since the twins died.  Now, when we talked of Ashley and Bethany, they were referenced to simply as “the twins.” But they weren’t talked of much now, the time for polite grief long gone, and life must move on.  The battles for, and adoptions of, our four beautiful daughters had long been finalized and all our energy must be poured into life with them…

“Your liver is beginning to fail.”

The words seemed to hold in mid air for a while.  She looked at me trying to ascertain if I comprehended the gravity of the situation.

I did.

I left her office and sat it my car.  Failure. Me. Age 31. Was this how my life would come to a close?  A slow, painful death of my own creating? 311 pounds–the weight I had eaten myself up to since burying the twins.  It was threatening to bury me when all I was trying to do was bury all the hard feelings. I had always struggled with my weight but this was more, so much more.  I had a problem, or a million problems. But did I care?

I cried an ugly cry.  The snot pouring out of your nose, eyes red enough to stop traffic, blubbering, smack-the-steering-wheel-multiple-times sorta cry. And when I was done and my eyes were firmly swollen to puffy little slits, the stillness spoke– Do you want to get well? He didn’t ask because he didn’t know, He asked for my benefit.  Yes, yes I guess I did. A fire began inside me in that moment. And then, the birth of the most forbidden dream of all was whispered into my heart…

Pregnancy.  Try again. What?

I could not contain the laughter or the tears.  Seriously God? Is it time to go admit myself into the mental ward because HELLO, look at me.  My name is failure. I began to list off every single detail that must be overcome for me to even TRY to become a mom again: the weight, my various health issues, the doctors response after losing the twins, the money, and on and on.

I pointed to the mountain and I dared God to move it!

I say dared because I had an attitude about it all that would make most faithfully obedient believers blush.  I didn’t doubt that he could, my attitude came with the “would he” part and the “trusting” part. But God…was bigger than all the feelings I had tried to eat away, and he was bigger than my terror.

Sitting there, 100 percent a mess, certain I was broken beyond repair, truly terrified of what lie ahead, God met me and he breathed new life.

I love how He meets us right where we are, just as we are.

He had me in his hands the whole time.  When I could not see, He could, and he carried me on to dreams that I was not bold enough to dream.  He carried me through my fears one step at a time–just one step at a time. Trusting Him is the best part and the hardest part.  But you know what?

He moved that huge mountain!  He overcame every obstacle. And the delivery of that beautiful dream came wrapped up as a gorgeous baby girl in July of 2015–14 years after first being told we were infertile.

Today, I need to remember that He is a God that can move mountains.  Here I am again, facing a huge mountain and daring God to move it.

What mountain are you facing today?

 

The Picture

Maybe it was the infertility struggles, maybe it was naiveté, or maybe it was just a really good sugar high from too much cake, but there was a time when I held the lofty certainty that I could be the perfect parent.  I know what you are thinking, “perfect, really?” Well, no, I didn’t process my thoughts in my mid-twenties with that verbiage but let’s just be real, that was the burning desire– I was never one to be content with average performance.  So imagine my horror to find that I could indeed be the crappy parent I promised God I would never be.

I can still remember the moment my therapist said the words, her legs crossed as she pressed down the pleat of her pants, her top painted in warm inviting hues–really her very personage being akin to a warm, soft sweater on a cold, rainy day–safe and inviting– “What about being a good-enough parent?

I could feel the veins in my temple start to throb as the color rushed to my face and I found myself giving the armchair an undeserved death grip while I willed my fingers into its yellow flesh.  What the heck was she saying? Her calmness was disarming and infuriating. How dare she

Would that be ok?” she asked, and I found myself wanting to cuss at her and I really didn’t understand why.

NO! That would not be ok, why would that ever be ok– in a million years, no. Did she not understand my love and devotion to my children? Did she not understand that it was up to me to give them a perfect childhood? To make up for any brokenness that some of them had started life out with? To be Mr. Rogers, Martha-frickin-Stewart and Mother Teresa all wrapped into one? My kids deserved a mother that did it all perfectly and I just needed her to understand her dang job was to FIX ME. As the words rolled off my tongue and touched air for the very first time the light began to dawn, illuminating all the brokenness to my thoughts.

You are wanting to be a perfect mom, but is perfection truly possible?” she said, calmly shifting her hands in her lap as she grabbed her mug to take a sip of her tea.

Oh. Ohhhhhhhh. Dang it. Dang her.  How dare she? Why was I angry with her?  The depth of this depravity was not her doing but she was the one bold enough to point the stage light toward the steaming pile of crap.

Where did that leave me? What would this mean? If what she said was true then I don’t understand the mommy-hood picture I am aiming for anymore. 

The picture.  The picture of the perfect mum.  I knew immediately that this perfect picture hung in my head needed to burn.  It was all a lie. A mirage. It was also a means of torment. The yardstick by which I would measure myself every dang day and find myself failing.  But how could I not fail? I had set myself up for no other option.

Perfection isn’t possible.  The enormous pressure perfection burns into one’s shoulders actually breaks the barer. Yet, I ran after it like it was the great prize that determines my every worth and the entire fate of my children.

Snap.  There it is.  The why. If I do it all right then I will earn my motherhood honor badge and have avoided all the struggles and all the pain and all the problems that could befall my children, ever.  The picture in my head, haunting all my moments and reprimanding me like a brutal taskmaster every time I fell short. That impossible dang picture. The lie.

I sat in my therapist’s office, broken–not because of all the hard circumstances I was trudging through (like I thought)–but because of all the lies that lay buried beneath it all like a festering wound eating away at my spirit.  So, as the tears streamed down my blotchy red face I vowed to understand what good-enough parenting looked like and I finally let the fire burn the perfect picture away.

The freedom…

Good-enough parenting:  Where you work at getting it right a bit more than you jack it up, you deal with your crap and model that process for your kids, and fall heavily into grace in the midst of “I’m sorry’s.”  It is a messy place full of learning about love, compassion, and forgiveness. It keeps showing up, pressing in, holding onto peace and running after the truth that leads to freedom. And, knowing that when all else fails, there is always therapy.

 

The Fire

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The oxygen mask strapped to my face felt like a muzzle holding in my desperate cry. I grabbed for it to yank it off.  A stout hand firmly put it back in place and commanded me to breathe. Breathe deeply! A blurry image of a nurse sat next to the head of my bed, repeating her commands at regular intervals like the hands of a clock striking the next second, minute, hour. Breathe! I could no longer feel the pain that less than an hour before had torn through my body without mercy. My body was numb now, empty, and once again barren. I heard someone whisper–something about sats not yet stabilizing, the fever, the sepsis, it was still too early to tell.

I could die.

I could see the blurry outline of my husband sitting with his head in his hands, I knew this was all just too much to process, he was numb too. His hands wove through his dark hair endlessly, his tell of boredom or stress. He was not bored.

I could hear the tears falling.

Where was she? Where was my second baby girl?  We had just gotten to 24 weeks. She had a chance, unlike her little sister born just 2 weeks before.  It all floods back–the team working on her in the corner of the room as soon as she was born, desperately fighting to help her–my husband and my mother helping hold me down as the doctor fought to stop the bleeding–me fighting to stay alert, to get a glimpse of her, desperately wanting to draw her close to me.  Septic. 15 minutes she lived, while my life slipped away.

Why did I survive?

I remembered the specialist’s words again in that moment, spoken not long after my water broke at 17 weeks, their advice: terminate the pregnancy.  “The odds are not good. You, the mother, could die.”

Then let it be.

“I will not kill them. I cannot, regardless of what it might mean for me!” I had said it passionately and without hesitation as I carefully walked out of the small, cold office praying that even then the amniotic sack was resealing.  I knew I served a God who could do miracles, and I would hold onto that hope with every fiber of my being through the weeks to come.

But sometimes the miracle doesn’t come. Sometimes the fire just burns, and ashes are all that remain.

“Let me die!” First a whisper, then I rip off the mask and let it out in a long roar.

“LET ME DIE!”

The nurse is unflinching in her demand for me to breathe and calmly places the mask over my face again.  I have no strength to fight her.  My husband comes over to me, tenderly leans in close, and whispers how he needs me to fight, how he can’t lose me too.  My heart breaks for him and his pain.

I can’t.

Not even for him. Not for our 3 foster daughters either. Not for my mother, who I hear choking back tears as she stood to the side.  My fight was gone.

After years battling infertility we had finally gotten pregnant through IUI (intrauterine insemination), and in the span of a month everything had been lost. I had given birth to two precious baby girls, born less than 2 weeks apart, and watched them both die, powerless to save them.  I could not do this. I could not live through this. I did not want this to be my story. I was certain. And so I begged God to just take me home–over and over again.

Then a whisper played through my mind…

Be still and know that I am God.

A sweetness in the words was almost palpable, but my mind and heart still pleaded with God for a merciful end to my agony.  Again and again, it echoed through my mind, then my heart, then ministered to my spirit in ways no words could ever convey.

Be still and know that I am God.

I didn’t even understand that day what it truly meant, not really.  I just knew that it was a promise of His faithfulness, somehow. In a darkness so deep that I questioned if there would ever be light again, it lit the match.  He was there. In complete desolation, He was there. Though I did not understand, and I was shredded to the core, He was there. Though I did not feel his arms, He held me, gently, reminding me of His love.  Though I questioned, he never wavered.

I know that now…looking back.

This week, almost 12 years later, I learned the Hebrew root of the words be still.  It means to release, go slack, to let go.  I had to smile.  That is exactly what God has been teaching me how to do since that day.  To let go of my fears. To let go of what people think. To let go of my children. To let go of all the hard I face.  To let go of all the things, and sink deep into The One who is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine.

I think I am beginning to get it, just beginning.

What I began to learn 12 years ago I continue to journey into, like peeling back layers of an onion, going deeper and deeper to the heart, His heart. I can bring all my pain, all my hard, all my tears to Him.  I can pour myself out at his feet. He is safe. And in return, He gives Himself, a precious perfect peace that defies all understanding–even as the fire rages. It was true then; it is true now.

He is capable of raising new life up out of the ashes!  I continue to learn that new, beautiful, wonderful things do come, even in the hard, even when there are scars, but the most precious of all these will always be his presence.

What do you need to let go of today?

 

Surrender or Fight?

Will I fight for me?

As I stared at my reflection last night (after everyone else was fast asleep), I saw a weary, worn-out, battle-scarred woman looking back at me.  The seasons she has pressed through glimmer in her eyes as she looks at her aching frame.

I have heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy.  I would say that not seeing the truth and walking in it’s freedom is the true thief of joy.  It isn’t about anyone else, it never really was.  It is all about your sight. The mirror can only reflect that which you choose to see, and you are the one who chooses where to put value.

Last night I took the time to truly see me.

It has been a long, hard couple of years in a body battling autoimmune issues dipped in a torrent of never ending pain.  I see it in my reflection. I see it in the inflammation and the weight gain and the wrinkles and the gray hair and the atrophy.  I see it. I feel it. Profoundly.

But I also see a warrior.  I see a woman who has not given up, even in the darkest of darks.  I see a woman who has done her best to battle through the terrifying unknown and FIGHT for her life even as she fights for others.  She is a poured out offering to her Savior, and she rests in His delight. She is battered and bruised but…

I see she is not done yet.  

And I hear that still, small voice ask again, “will you fight?”

There is a season to all things.  This is my season to fight, to press, to not surrender in defeat.

The labs were not good. The pain is not gone. There is more work to do. The end is unknown. The dreams are unrealized.  But the victory is certain! She trusts the one who holds her victory. And she starts again…

She starts with what she CAN do.  She takes it one moment at a time.  She equips herself with knowledge and wisdom.  She presses into the one who holds her perfectly and who alone can do all things.  And she belly crawls, slowly if she has to, toward the finish line.

She will fight because only her Savior gets her surrender.

 

Pushing in, Holding on, and Refusing to Give Up

Backstory:

Valentines Day 2012 I have weightloss surgery to help save my life and buy me time to change my health, while I continue therapy to understand why I use food in ways it was never intended.  I take on the full time job of what I describe as “dealing with my crap.”  I work hard, become an athlete, accomplish physical feats I never dreamed I was capable of.  All the while secretly hoping one day to try and get pregnant again before I got any older.  I would begin to learn I could stop running from the hard stuff and take it on, and battle through it.  I was fine, until things were not in my control.  I was fine as long as eating a certain way and working out a certain amount meant weightloss.  I was fine until I just couldn’t lose any more weight and it wasn’t making any sense, so my lowest weight never dipped below 208 pounds.  My heaviest was 311.  I began to learn about how my autoimmune issues played a much bigger role in weightloss but time was ticking.  So, I put my weightloss journey on hold and dove into the world of infertility again.  We would try to get pregnant, pour in all the hormones, I would gain weight (about 15 pounds), it wouldn’t work, I would spend a few months trying to lose the weight but a few pounds would stay on each time before we would try again, each time with more hormones.  Then we moved on to the mac-daddy of all infertility treatments, IVF.  It was our last try.  I was up to 228 pounds, a size 12, the day we began the IVF ride.  After inserting the approximately $10,000 worth of injectable fertility meds, the day of our embryo transfer, I was tipping the scale at 243 pounds.  Amazingly, we got pregnant with our precious baby girl, and I worked hard to eat well, exercise regularly, and only gained 11 pounds during my pregnancy.  So, the day I gave birth I weighed 254 pounds.  I had no idea at that time that the pain in my hip would not be normal postpartum pain, or that it would grow worse, or why.

After giving birth, I started exercising as soon as I could, determined to lose the weight as quickly as I could and restart my weight-loss journey again. Between the exercise and all the breastfeeding, I lost all the weight I had gained from the pregnancy and some of the IVF hormones in just a few short weeks.  However, the pain in my hip kept growing more intense with no relief.  So, when our daughter was 3 months old I decided it was time to figure out the problem because it was clear to me by now it wasn’t going away.

I started at the chiropractor who quickly determined something was wrong.  I did acupuncture.  I then went to physical therapy (PT), which gave no improvement after 6 weeks.  Then I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who quickly determined after doing an x-ray that I had a glut med tear and simply needed more PT.  After an additional 6 weeks, still no improvement, it was getting worse.  At this point, after a horrible battle to try and prove I was indeed in pain, which had been growing worse for over 6 months at this point, I started on pain meds.  I took 1-2 just at night so I could have a break and actually sleep.  The constant pain made me fell like I was loosing my mind.  I went back to the same orthopedic surgeon, who decided that now, I didn’t have a glut med tear, but instead it was bursitis, and a simple injection would fix me up in a jiffy.  That simple injection put me at risk for a serious stomach ulcer because I had had stomach surgery, but I did it anyway.  It did nothing to help.  The pain just continued to get worse, while the pain meds became less and less effective as they often do.  The PT suggested he believed it was a labral tear, which would require surgery.  So, I went to a different orthopedic surgeon, who decided to do MRI’s with contrast to see if it was a labral tear.  The results were inconclusive, and so with great attitude, he decided I should have another shot, this time in the joint, which would put my stomach in jeopardy again and in no way fix whatever the problem was.  I had had enough.

Jjagged bone growth

Jagged bone growth

I did my research, and found an amazing orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Stephanie Pun, at Stanford who I was hoping would be willing to see me; she was my last idea.  Amazingly, I got in.  She looked at the MRI’s I had had done, she did her own x-rays, and she ran a test that included injecting numbing meds in my joint to see if it brought relief.  It did.  The x-ray clearly showed a large bone spur and the injection left her to conclude that surgery would indeed be beneficial.

The normally 2-3 hr surgery took about 4.5 hours.  When she went in, she saw that not only did I have a labral tear, but part of it had ossified (turned to bone) because it had been going on for so long.  She had to shave 4 mm of jagged bone growth off my ilium, remove 2mm of ossified labrum, reattach the torn labrum and the labrum where my ilium was shaved down and shave 2 mm of bone off of my femur before she was done.

Pictures from surgery

Pictures from surgery

16 months after the pain began.  But onto the point of this post….

For over 13 months I have essentially been unable to exercise, due to the pain it caused.  It has been maddening.  I have been given pain meds and antidepressants to help deal with the pain, both of which cause weight gain.  And, I am sad to admit, I have not regulated my eating, to be healthy, because I just couldn’t manage to make it a priority on top of everything else.  Today, I got on the scale, and I officially weigh more then I did when I gave birth to my daughter, 262 pounds.

And so, with a heavy heart, I start over, again.  This time I have to relearn how to walk, and while I have about 3 months of painful PT to look forward to, I won’t be able to go back to the gym until 6 more months have passed.  During that time I have to hope and pray that this surgery will have indeed freed me from the pain (because there are no guarantees) and that I will be able to regain normal activities again one day.  This unknown, this journey is one of the hardest I have ever been on.

I am not good in the unknown.  I don’t do well with this level of hard.  Chronic pain and being immobile are truly horrid for me.  However, I will press in, I will move forward, and I will work hard to do all that I can.  So, starting today I am weaning off the crutches I have lived with for the last 2.5 weeks.  I am beginning the weaning off of all the medications that I hate being on to begin with.  And I am tackling my diet, the one thing I have some control over.  It is time to work hard to reduce the inflammation in my poor body, and hopefully start to feel much better.  Here is to never giving up, even when you want to, even when you are so weary you can’t see straight, even when you have no idea what the end outcome will be.

Be Still

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It began as a whisper in my soul,

The day my water broke when I was 17 weeks pregnant with our twin girls,

The day the specialist strongly suggested I terminate the pregnancy because it could cost me my life,

The day I held our 21 week-old-gestation baby girl as she took her last breaths in my arms,

The day I watched as they tried to save our 24 week-old-gestation baby girl as she took her last breaths, as they worked to save my life,

The day I stood at the smallest pink casket conceivable and said good-bye to two of my daughters,

The day we decided to fight to adopt our first three girls,

The day our oldest decided to leave our house, mad, two days after she turned 18,

The day our second oldest decided to leave our house in pursuit of a boy,

The days of anger, heartache, and pain after pain as we tried to fix all the broken,

The day I learned I couldn’t,

The day I stood in court and wondered if we would win our battle to adopt our fourth little girl,

The day our oldest told us she was pregnant,

The day our second oldest told us she was pregnant,

The time after time when we have been treated with scorn, when all the anger from their journey gets poured out on us time and time again,

The day after one yells, “I DID NOT CHOOSE YOU.  I HATE YOU!”

The day when once again a child walks away,

The day after what feels like unending drama and unending pain,

The days I wonder what am I doing all this for?

The whisper has grown to a gentle, loud, rhythmic beat in my ears over the years; patiently, unendingly He reminds me…

“Be still, My soul.”

I had no idea it was the title to an old hymn, until just this year.

And then I read through the stanzas for the first time, and wept; I wept at God’s precious love and faithfulness to me; I wept because for the first time I felt like I was truly beginning to understand all that he was saying in just a few words.  I recently read this description of the hymn and it is SO very good: (emphasis mine)

“Life is noisy.  A hymn like “Be Still My Soul” gives me assurance that in the noise of life, my soul is held secure in the silence- silence that goes before and behind me.  In the noise of my emotions or daily work rhythms, the silence between the happenings is a constant.  The silence helps me find my place in the world, to see who I am,  and it makes space for my soul to listen to God.  Even in the most joyful tones of life, as in music, the space between the notes is just as important as the notes themselves.  Hebrew scholar Ellen Davis translates the first verse of Psalm 65 in this way:  “To you, O God, silence is praise.”  Silence is praise?  You mean I don’t have to say or prove anything?  I can just be here, be who I am, where I am, and let the silence envelop me?  Like Job’s declaration of God’s goodness in spite of his personal losses, Katharina echoes:  “Be still, my soul, your Jesus can repay, from his own fullness, all he takes away.”  These are challenging and comforting words, strung disruptively close together.  The challenging part is the reminder that we are not the ones in control.  If space is a kind of loss, the comfort of the stanza is this:  like music notes on a page, we ought to submit ourselves to receive both the notes themselves (like joy) and the space between the notes (like loss) before God.  He, in His fulness, is the Great composer of our souls, moving us in and out of seasons, giving and taking away.  Using both space and melody, He composes our lives into a symphony far more dynamic and beautiful than we ever could have written for ourselves.  Admittedly, we can’t always hear the music that is being written in us.  Sometimes, the people around us can hear the sound more easily than we can.  It’s then that we need our friends to sing it for us and sing it to us.  In a hymn such as “Be Still My Soul,” in both space and melody, we are instructed in the practice of silence and the symphony of grace.  We are encouraged to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” (Psalm 37:7).  And we are invited to “begin the song of praise.” ~Sandra McCracken

And just in case you have never actually read the stanzas to this hymn,
written by Katharina A. von Schlegel back in 1752, here they are:

“Be Still, My Soul”

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In every change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart

And all is darkened in the vale of tears;

Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,

Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.

Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay

From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on

When we shall be forever with the Lord,

When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.