Sour lemons or sweet cherries

Its been a year. One of those years where you go…

‘Oh that was kind of difficult, how did we do that?’

It’s hard for me to admit that it has been a challenge because in all honesty we are beyond blessed…not to mention being blessed is something that happens with or without the hard stuff…

From a tangible standpoint we have food on the table, we have good clean water to drink, we have a home, a place to lay our heads, Kevin and I have one another…and our babies…well, looking into their eyes every morning is enough to show me God’s beauty in my life every day that I breathe.

Intangible – well that is easy – to know Christ…is to truly live..whether life hands you sour lemons or sweetly ripened cherries.

It is also hard to admit that this year has been hard because I have so many loved ones going through much harder…more difficult life changing, painful things right now that to compare….well it just doesn’t. However, everyone has their struggles…and if you don’t, then you are probably no longer breathing…some with huge struggles..some with smaller mountains…but it all matters…all of it…because it’s all part of being alive…the good, the bad, the unplanned, the valleys, rivers yet to cross…all part of the mystery that is to be here. So since this is the place where I empty out my heart and empty my cobweb-full head of thoughts, ponderings, fears, hopes, ahas, uncertainties etc……since this is the place I get to exhale… I will share some of our year and why it was a tad frustrating at best.

In January I began having many health complications; Seemingly out of nowhere I woke up one day feeling like I had been hit by a mac truck…and never really felt the same again. I was incredibly weak, fatigued, flu like, lethargic,arthritic…

getting out of bed everyday was a victory

making my kids lunches was a victory

playing with my kids was a victory

reading a book was a victory

leading worship was a victory…

cracking a smile became..yet another victory.

all of the everyday things that I do, need to do, have to do and should do, suddenly became…

“Uhhh how am I going to get through this?”

“How am I going to have enough strength for this?” .

When I say I felt flu like everyday…I don’t mean that I was kind of achy – I mean I felt like a 98 year old woman every…day… of my life. I would make a sandwich for my kids and be worn out, talking felt like effort, my vision was strange, my knees were weak…I had burning sensations that ran down my back and neck. My hands were arthritic. My entire left side of my body would experience a pins and needle sensation or would go cold and at other times.. numb. To say I was a little afraid of what my body was doing…or where it was heading…well that is an understatement. This went on for four months…left for two and came back for more..

Countless days I spent at Cleveland Clinic with doctors suspecting possibly MS or Lupus. I can’t even begin to count how many times they emptied out my blood looking for answers. Blood tests, MRI’s, neurological testing all became my new normal.

Over the summer some of the tests revealed Lupus. I was shocked…and yet not at the same time. My body was NOT normal. It made a lot of sense in light of all of the weirdness that I was becoming unfortunately very accustomed to. At least this was an answer. Not an answer I wanted but it was better than some of the other things that my body was pointing to. My new normal was illness. I accepted it. Oddly enough I wasn’t angry at God. I mean a lot of people were angry at God for me. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t thrilled with it but I guess…I have lived long enough to know that everyone struggles. No one is exempt. We live in a fallen world.

Life is…hard.

I am walking with friends who have had their children diagnosed with autism, friends who have lost parents, friends who have lost husbands…loved ones who have lost dreams. I have watched people lose loved ones to cancer, I have watched friends develop illnesses just like me. I have watched a lot of of pain this year. Every week I walk along side a group of Single Moms who have struggles in areas I have never known..I watch really strong people being broken…again and again.

Being in ministry has opened my once innocent eyes to a very weary broken world…so why was I any different? I wasn’t. I’m not. I guess that is why I wasn’t really surprised by my recent inconvenience.

After more and more and more prodding from more doctors than I care to remember I was retested once again and the Lupus tests came back negative this time. Whoopee..awesome..but I still felt horrible…so again I was transferred to another rheumetologist who then then diagnosed me with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. What? Yeah. I know some would say “oh you have answers”…for me though it doesn’t really feel like an answer. I like getting to the root of things…Ive been lumped in a category of symptoms – now what makes me this way? I haven’t figured it out yet. I take care of myself the best I can and right now I am in a bit of a ‘remission’ as it comes and goes every few months and hangs out for quite a long time.

Apart from my own illness 3 out of 4 of my kids have ended up in the ER for really scary things. My youngest had a seizure just a few weeks ago and let me tell you watching your child turn blue will take your breath away like nothing else. My middle baby ended up in the ER for breathing problems and pneumonia over the summer and my eldest daughter ended up severely dehydrated from a stomach virus with yet another scary ER visit with all kinds of IVs etc.. My husband who is a firefighter was taken off duty for awhile for some cardiac issues as well…which came first the chicken or the egg? Maybe all of the kids illnesses and mine gave him heart weirdness? Who knows. I don’t really know a lot…but I do know that it is a lot to deal with all at once.

At the end of the day – we are all alive. God was with us. I’m thankful for the ER who really did do their job to make me feel like not so much of a wreck about my kids. I’m thankful that we found some answers to my weirdness…not all of the answers..but some.

It’s been a year. Our entire year hasn’t been horrible…it’s actually been really great in other ways but…this kind of stuff..well this was hard. Navigating a family of 6 is challenge enough without adding illness..worries etc. But we made it through.

If you’ve had one of these years…a hard year…know that you aren’t alone. Know that it matters. I can’t promise you how or when it will get better..but God knows and sees you…your struggles and walks through them with you. I think one of the conclusions I drew from this year …which is a lesson God loves to teach me…

I’m not in control

This world is not perfect

This world is not our home

We are not home yet

We are being pressed to be perfected

We are not alone

We can use our pain to empathize with others…so while all of this is NOT ‘all good’ …it will work together ‘for good’

Most importantly we can bring our pain to Him who has suffered greater than we ever could and in the beauty of experiencing whatever trial it is that we are amidst we partake in the suffering of the Savior…we get to know Him more…we get to cling to Him more…we get to be made…more…like Him.

I don’t know what your year has looked like. I don’t know what this year will look like for you either. What I do know…is that each year is part of your story.

Each moment.

Each breath.

Each victory.

Each struggle.

All of it.

It doesn’t always make sense, it’s not always how we plan it, it’s rarely ever convenient…but it does, can and will draw you closer to Him if you let it…whether we are running to Him for comfort, solace, hope or strength from those sour lemons or leaping into His lap with thankfulness and gratitude for those moments of sweet cherries…it should all always draw us closer to Him….sour…or sweet.

Blessings in 2014 all.