Tempted to Quit

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This is not a post about weight loss, though if you must know I can now brag about my ability to play give-and-take with the same 40 pounds. I can list that under my super powers along with my ability to sausage myself into a pair of spanx like it is an olympic sport! But that is not the point of this post.

Sometimes I am tempted to quit.

Do you ever feel like just giving up?

The hard space you are in never seems to end,

The doctor calls with the news that you have cancer,

You never seem to overcome that thing that seems to be destroying you, or maybe

the pain is relentless and you are weary.

And the elixir of despair roles in, blankets you and tempts you to just quit.

I have learned that some people quit showing up for their life long before they actually die.

Unable to cope, they mope and they turn to whatever can offer some whisperings of comfort.

I have been there.

It is the space of defeat and disillusionment.

9 years and roughly 70 pounds separate the woman in these 2 photos.

But the digital numerals on the scale were never the point, the storyline and the struggle can’t be tiddly summed up in a photo. Oh, photos can be so misleading, so let me peel back the curtain of what you do not see…

The photos don’t tell of the children missing, the health battles, the parenthood struggles, the marriage counseling, the parents dying, the rejection suffered, the pain continuing, and one thousand other tear dwelling spaces.

However, the photos DO silently proclaim a woman who has not quit and will not quit.

They hint of a woman who keeps showing up for her life and fighting for her freedom.

And today, dear one, that is my message to the one who is weary…surrender but don’t ever quit. In the midst of the storm Jesus is there, offering to carry you through, giving himself, and declaring His love for you.  With Jesus, surrender feels a lot like freedom. And I am slowly but surely learning that you can find freedom in the hard spaces because God never wastes a hurt. He has you.

Focus your gaze carefully, breath deeply, surrender completely, and take the next step holding onto the One Who Has Mighty Plans For You. This too shall pass.

The question is always, will you allow God to shape you through it, or the enemy to destroy you because of it? We freely choose. And I pray today that you will always choose freedom.

Share with someone you love and remind them to keep taking the next step.

 

Suffering

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Delicately pink and offendingly small.

Small enough to hold what once was two souls in their unfinished frames, and yet big enough to bury all my hope for the future.

I stared at the coffin as the numbness ran through my flesh, the numbness felt like a protective cloak that was holding in what was left of my sanity.

How do I grieve the loss of my children, God? How can I possibly keep going?

I looked down at the ground, carefully covered in that fake plastic grass carpet that attempts to pretty up a dying scene and hide the newly hewed out hole of earth that will welcome the latest to their return to dust, and I kept picturing my flesh falling forth into the hole.

I thought, just fall into the freshly turned dirt, heavy with the dust of those who came before. Fall in and join the dead, for what is left of you now? Hope is gone.

Let me die here with them, Lord. Why did you let me live? 

The melody began in my mind, softly, tenderly declaring words of hope and truth that were not felt by even one bone of my flesh. A song of praise, of praise to the God of dust, to the one who gave and to the one who took away.  All of my spirit joined in the chorus playing in my mind as the tears poured down my cheeks in surrender. How could I be filled with a song of praise to God while I stood at my twins’ graveside?

Was that one moment any less miraculous than if He had saved them? Or was it simply not what I would have chosen?

When would I ever choose to suffer? When would I ever choose pain? No, I would choose what I could control and fix and whatever felt good, but never would I choose pain.

What if there is profound purpose in the pain? Even as I type those words my flesh is ridiculously offended. Because, really, my self indignation wants to tell God how He should write the story differently, and it begs the question of his goodness. But does God owe me anything at all? And what could He possibly give me when I am faced with suffering, apart from my cries to remove the pain?

I am sitting in this space, over 13 years after the burial of my twins, asking the same question as I sit in yet another season of suffering and pain.

I read from Genesis to Revelation of some who came before, of God’s faithfulness, of His abilities to do far more than we can imagine, of His love. While something deep inside me cries out a deep and resounding, “Yes! True!,” they also feel like mere words on a page as I sit in this season right now. Should my feelings be what lead me? Only if they lead me to Him in eventual surrender of the simple realization that I am not God.

Remember.

I read of monuments they once built in the times of the Old Testament.

Monuments to remember what God had done.

Monuments that declare that God is bigger than their battle, bigger than their pain, that He always has a plan.

And I will myself to remember that scene, in that cemetery, with that small, soft pink coffin and with God pouring forth a song of praise in the darkness of death, and I remember anew how unfathomable His love really is. My mind still can’t comprehend how He was able. He became my hope without end. I did not come to my end that day, and light and beauty did dawn again.

In the suffering seasons, I have learned that His greatest gift to me has not been in the removing of my pain, but in the depth of His presence.  I have no words to express the mysteries of intimacy with God, apart from the deep certainty that He is worth everything, He is who I was created for, and He is my perfect peace in the storms. It is a gift of knowledge and intimacy with God only learned in the profoundly hard spaces, quiet possibly because that is what it takes for us to see and hear Him most clearly– the certainty that we need our Creator for our very next breath.

My feelings, while informative, are horrible drivers.

I have to fight to see the truth-

And to hunger for Him like the thirsty long for water in the desert.

God promises it will be hard. He promises it will cost us. He promises it will be worth it. But most profoundly He promises to give us Himself. In this we receive the most incredible gift, and this is the detail that changes everything, making the impossible possible.

This, my friends, not the absence of suffering, but the presence of the Savior, is the very pulse of the abundant life.

 

Persistence Over Perfection

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By nature I am a quitter.

Quit the hard.

Somewhere along the line I bought the lie that the dream life was one of my comfort.

Today I looked longingly at the park, blanketed in a thin layer of fog, and ached as I thought back to all the hiking I used to be able to enjoy on its crazy lava rock terrain. How I had gotten to the point where I could run its trails and hike for miles… It feels like a lifetime ago.

I had worked so hard to get there, and now, after the last 3 years, that all seems like it was really not so hard after all. Perspective.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been tempted to quit in this season, often wondering if it was a season or instead a lifetime sentence. I don’t know how many setbacks there have been–too many to count. It has been 3 years of pain, surgery, rehab, and work. It has been wanting to quit a thousand times a day and battling fear. It is hearing my littlest ask over and over again, “Mommy, are you still hurt today?” It has changed me.  And along the way I found myself desperate to quit, for God to fix it all and take away the pain, and if he wouldn’t, then to find some crutches. Crutches, the things you can lean on instead of God.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I wanted to mute the megaphone, all the while believing I was trusting God. This week God pointed out the crutches by informing me of some painful truths, and asked me to stop quitting. The crutches were costing me.

Hard seasons demand change. That I change implies my discomfort, that I grow, that I seek, that I am chiseled and that I trust Him.

The hard keeps me at the feet of Jesus, acutely aware of my need of Him. There is a profound gift there, even when we can’t see it through our tears.

This week I laid down my crutches.

I leaned on Jesus.

Persistently pursuing Him instead of trying to do any of it perfectly. Just as I am, fears, tears, and ugly bits pressing without ceasing into his arms. Persistently pressing my body forward through the squats, the lunges, the walking, the fear.  Perfection implies no mess, but my mess is exactly what he wanted me to offer over to Him. Persistent over perfect, always.

This week was my first week of victory in over 3 years.  It turned out I didn’t need those crutches after all; all they did was slow me down.  He had me. He was and is my perfect strength.

 

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.