Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Strength AND Weakness


There is a psychological syndrome that stands out so vividly from my studies in college. I had never heard of it until that particular day in class and immediately felt like all eyes were on me or like I was in a spotlight when we began studying the ins and outs of this problem. It is known as impostor syndrome.  I know that there are physical challenges and changes that can happen in our brains and/or body systems that cause true & serious mental and psychological diseases. I also fully believe that because of this, satan lies to us and fights a battle in our minds that often causes us to believe we are captive to issues that aren't really there. Please don't misunderstand my point - there are many real, diagnosable mental or psychological diseases that can affect any one of us, just like physical diseases...but unlike physical diseases, the enemy can mask things in our minds because a scan or blood test can not prove or disprove it and cause us to be crippled by what may be, within our minds. 

In no way do I "claim" to have impostor syndrome, but there are times, that the enemy wages a war in my mind that causes me to doubt every positive work, accomplishment or calling God has for my life and family. Many of you have spoken such kind words to me over the course of Mark's illness that have encouraged me and put a smile on my face as I share the things we have seen & felt. We've had the privilege of hearing that others have been challenged in a good way and motivated to keep the faith through troubles they are facing as well. That blesses us and makes me thank Jesus that He is bringing so much good out of this bad situation we've been walking through. There are still days though that I'm overcome with emotions, that I struggle to keep balance, that I don't lay my frustrations at Jesus' feet & don't always think before I speak. 

Those times, cause me to doubt. I ask myself if I've even really felt all the things I've been able to share through this blog. And then, on top of that, I can get down over doubting myself and the work God has done in me through all of this. I often think of and fear, in a good way, being like Jonah. Enduring a major struggle {living in the belly of giant, swimming creature seems pretty overwhelming and then being a part of projectile vomit seems like a pretty rough "rescue"}, then finding a way to complete the task God has in front of you, receiving a reward {huge vine growing up before your eyes to provide you shade and rest}, yet throwing it all away because of wrong attitudes and motives...this is NEVER how I want to live my life.

Yet, when I walk through difficulty, stay strong in faith, and then struggle, I wonder how different am I from Jonah?? Then the enemy piles on the lies and guilt, and feelings of being an impostor flood my mind. As I was reading a devotion earlier today, God gave me a beautiful picture that I hope I can convey to you clearly. My happy place is the beach. I literally feel like I breathe better, I think more clearly & peace flows more freely. I love to watch sea oats and after growing up near the Gulf, I feel obligated to protect them when I see them. Just ask my kiddos how I act if they even get near one...I'm sure they would say I act like a crazy person...haha! Sea oats do a huge job, yet even a gentle breeze can sway them and give them the appearance of being weak. These small stalks though, have roots that do an irreplaceable job. Without these weed-like structures, our beaches would never be able to with stand the continual battering they take from the wind and the waves. 

This morning, God so graciously showed me that being blown, feeling emotions and even struggling to stand is not a failure and certainly not an admission of being an impostor. If my roots are deep in Him, then when my emotions show or my frame becomes weak, I'm able to show my weakness and His strength. He is holding onto my roots because I've allowed them to grow deep in Him and He desires that we do everything we can to keep that growth going deeper and deeper.  There is no limit to the depth we can go in Him. There is a limit to the physical abilities we can accomplish and the length of life we can live on this earth, but there is no limit to what is unseen, to what happens in our quiet place, that only He and I know about. 

If you're swaying in the wind, look within, and check your roots. If they are showing, don't give up and allow yourself to be uprooted and fly away. Focus on your roots and on pushing them deeper into our Maker. When we can be honest about our weakness, He can be stronger in us than we ever thought possible! 


This week is truly an opportunity to put some more depth on our roots.We are hoping and praying that this will be the final week of IV meds for Mark. How will we respond if it isn't? How will we respond if it is? Then there are still several things ahead that we will just have to continue to pray and wait for the answer and the plan. One being the incision that just doesn't want to close. Another, will the pacemaker be necessary or not?  I often pray that I will live with stronger awareness of so many things that God has shown me over the past couple of months & I trust that just as He has kept us and worked through the unexpected, the near death & the unknown for us, He will continue, no matter what may come. A new phase of recovery is on the horizon, and we are thrilled to finally be at this point. We know that cardiac rehab will have it's challenges, but they are worth it for improved physical strength for Mark and knowledge to walk out the future plans God has for us in greater health!

I feel like so many of my endings are the same, but the feelings and heart behind them are always sincere - we are so thankful for all the prayers as well as tangible signs of love and care that have been shown to us. We feel unworthy of it all, but receive it with deep gratitude and pray that the reaping of those seeds sown by so many, will be far greater than imagined! 

Monday, September 16, 2019

40%

The return address on this manilla folder was not legible and I had no idea who sent it or what might be inside. As I pulled these papers out, it felt as if I was seeing our situation for the first time and tears flooded my eyes as I sat in car line. It has been 8 weeks since we first went to the hospital, yet in this moment, it felt like I was hearing all the difficult conversations that had happened over the month of Mark's hospital stay, all over again. 


Often times in the middle of the struggle, you are simply in a position of survival. You don't always view the entire road map, so to speak, just the part currently being traveled. I believe God helps us through painful, dark places this way, but at some point, reality comes. The vantage point shows not only where we are, but where we've been & occasionally a glimpse of what is ahead. This was an intense moment of reality for me. Reality of what has been, reality of what can no longer be, reality of not knowing what could be ahead...but also reality of God's goodness. 

Those realities brought uncontrollable emotions. Three 100% blockages. 100%. That in itself is hard to grasp, plus three more significant blockages just blows my mind. I couldn't help but think of all the "what ifs" and lately, I do this often. In this situation, I believe it's okay. It's proof of God's protection. Just a few days after hearing surgery was our only option for treatment, we faced the immense difficulties of surgery day. Those are still for another day. Some other time when my heart feels more prepared to open up to that, but there were moments of breathlessness, moments of overwhelming questions, moments of waiting upon waiting upon waiting, moments of emotional heaviness that literally became and still does give an actual physical heaviness in my chest. As we tried to settle into home, I felt an uneasiness and as I watched Mark, I knew something was not as it should be. When we returned to the hospital and the ER doc grabbed my shoulder and thanked me for bringing him when I did, I knew this wasn't an ordinary fever/infection. Again, so thankful for what I didn't know at the time, but as we began to feel that we were climbing out of this pit we had fallen into, and more information became available, I realized a bit more why the ER doctor has made that statement to me two weeks prior... 40%. 
40% chance of rain typically means go ahead with your outdoor plans. 
40% battery life on your phone doesn't warrant rushing to plug it in. 
40% off is a decent sale, but it doesn't grab my attention. 
But a 40% mortality rate is HUGE. How can the same percentage have such a different weight?! The type of infection that Mark has been fighting off has a 40% mortality rate. This number sunk deep within me. With all the other complications he has had, I had a moment of just curling up in bed and crying out to God. It wasn't some deep, faith-filled prayer, it was just a cry of heaviness. A cry for help, for peace & for healing. I read something recently though that put a spark in me and can be applied to big and small situations the same...Being certain of the wrong things is what makes faith fall apart, not simply doubt. 

In my moment, I felt doubt about our situation and doubt that I could adequately care for Mark as he needed for proper healing as well as keep up with all the other needs of a household of 7. But what I was certain of in that moment, even with my doubt, was that God would not leave me. That He saw right where I was and exactly what I needed! What's even better is that I was certain that whatever came, God was in control and would work through it all if we allow Him to do so! I love this quote from George Mueller - we say and sing about walks of faith yet so often do everything in our power to fight the "opportunities" we face that could do more for our faith that any sermon or Bible study could ever begin to do!  Be certain of the goodness of God today. You may have doubts about how things can or may turn out, but you can be certain of God's nearness to you, no matter how low the valley may be, how fast the waters may rush around or how dark the night may be. 


We are continuing the walk in the certainty of His goodness and plan for our lives, even when the road ahead is blurry. The ups and downs are visible, but the road we've already traveled gives us assurance of His faithfulness. The past week has brought a very welcome shift. The worry of every feeling "normal" again has lessened as Mark has had several days of feeling more like himself finally. His body reminds him fairly quickly that it's still healing, but he and we, are so thankful for this shift. He is still receiving IV antibiotics daily and we pray that his incision will close back up so that when we see the doctor again at the end of the month, he will not need to continue the IV meds. We simply can't say how blessed we are to have so many folks reminding us daily, that they are standing in faith with us and lifting Mark's name to Heaven for total healing.
We are thankful!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Transparency

Transparency is the quality of being easily seen through or, in a business/work setting, is defined as honesty and openness. I've started to blog recently, numerous times, only to shut my computer and set it aside or even shove it under the bed....why? Because transparency is hard for me. Honesty is not hard. The part about being able to see through, to see what's really going on... that is hard. I am a private person in many regards and in our current situation, it's hard for quite a number of reasons. Openness leads to many more questions, unsolicited opinions & concerned thoughts from others that just bring weight or worry and the problem lies in knowing it's most always well-meaning, precious family or friends reaching out to try to help bear the burden during this time. I find myself wanting to sequester with my little {or not so little} crew for an open-ended amount of time and just be. I know that through all of this, God has been working on me. Makes me think of a song I loved to sing as a little girl - "He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be...

As I've processed through some of my own insecurities and struggles in these areas, I thought about my transparency with God. So often I tell myself that I'm pouring out my heart, but in reality there is some cloudiness to this declaration of "transparency". God knows it all, yet we so often try to sugar-coat or even overlook things that we need to be open and honest with Him about. Just today I read in Obadiah 1:3 "You have been deceived by your own pride". Pride is definitely an area I'd guess that most people have a hard time being transparent about and here is says that this is the very thing that deceives us!  If nothing else, I've certainly noticed my need to more transparent with the One who created me and knows it all already! That brings so much freedom!!  I pray that if you find yourself in a similar place of clouded transparency with God, that today, you will begin to clear your thoughts and conversations with God so that He can also bring an openness and flow of His blessings into your life!  

So in all transparency :) I'm going to share some of what's been going on. This is not a totally transparent account. There are still many moments and thoughts that have happened since July 24th that I'm working through. Processing. Asking God to help me see His goodness and purpose in every difficult moment. Also praying that God will use those situations and help me share them in a way and at a time that He can receive the most glory!  

We've been home {again} for three weeks. In that time we've had five doctor visits, weekly home health visits, weekly medication deliveries, twice daily infusions of IV antibiotics taking 4-7 hours each day, vital signs every morning & evening and that's all just for Mark. We've had to work through some major struggles that our children internalized over the course of this illness as well as some not-so-great habits they created during our time away. We started homeschooling our 6th grader and it has been quite a learning curve for both our now middle schooler and myself. Our foster kiddos came back to us two weeks ago and it has been like starting all over in many ways, except they are comfortable with us and willing to push the limits on most things. They've also had a couple of doctor visits as well as other standing weekly appointments....add homework, kids chores and just the everyday household duties of a family of 7 and some days seem like living in a pressure cooker. We are so thankful to all be back together though and wouldn't change it a bit....well, except for all the laundry ;) I'd be fine with less of that. Hahaha! 

These are the things that are hard for me to share. I'm a bit of a control freak and I admit it...that's the first step to recovery, or so I'm told ;)  I know that sharing this often sparks offers of various help and for a control freak, that's hard. I'm still looking for socks and washcloths that my Littles "helped" put away while Mark and I were gone. Hahaha! I mean, how many places in our house could they be hiding. There are also a number of things I feel I'm behind on completing like thank you cards and homeschool schedule, meal plans and my "summer" clean-out. Then I'm reminded of the scripture that tells me to "be still" - "be still and know that I am God". Not in the sense of kicking back and binge-watching 4 hours of netflix when my kids still need socks or there are boxes of meds waiting to be put away or wet laundry has been in the machine for 6 hours, but just in taking a moment, often throughout each day to breath in Jesus. To refocus on Him and what He needs me to do in that moment. What my family needs in that moment. Not the crazy, plan an activity for two weeks out and make a list of all supplies needed kind of need, just simply what do I need to do today. Since we've been home, I've been starting (most days) praying a prayer I've never prayed before. It's kind of become my focus and theme - "Jesus, help me leave nothing undone today, that YOU desire for me to accomplish." I've noticed a great difference on the days I forget to start by making that declaration over myself and I'm thankful for this little phrase that the Holy Spirit brought to me in this time. Nothing undone! In conjunction I'm striving to be totally transparent with myself and with Him each night on how well I accomplished the "undone".

To wrap up, we've had so many sweet folks, asking for updates and wanting to know what's going on...all the above are largely why I haven't posted yet, but also because we wanted to get through both doctor appointment this week before we passed anything along. So here's a brief health update on what we've been dealing with, or really what Mark has been dealing with - He is slowly getting stronger. SLOWLY...and that part is hard. Patience is hard at times and in a recovery setting can be so discouraging some days. He still doesn't have much feeling except intense pain in his right foot, which makes walking very difficult. We're on some new meds to try to help with this, so just waiting to see the relief they bring. Last week, his incision opened back up. Not a good thing. We have had two doctors look at this and will be seeing another about it this next week. Due to this and some drainage at the incision site, they have extended his IV meds through most of September rather than ending them this coming Monday as originally scheduled. The picc line that he received medication through has begun to give some problems, the worst being a great deal of pain for Mark in the right side of his chest. We are praying that this will settle down so that we can stay at home and continue to use it for the remainder of his time on IV meds. His CT scan of the abscess looked really good in response to the meds so far, and makes this opening of the site so strange, but man are we thankful that the abscess is so much better. Our visit with his cardiologist this week was an overload of information about changes we need to make as a family, plans for cardiac rehab and potentially placing a pacemaker. We are super thankful for him and know that God chose him just for Mark!  I can not express how thankful I am for those that have brought meals during the past three weeks!  It seriously has been the greatest blessing as I've been able to spend time with all the kids in the evening and we've gotten back into some sort of routine. It seems so inadequate, but thank you!  Also, huge thanks to those that have sent cards of encouragement and financial gifts during this time!  You guys have also blessed us tremendously and we honestly pray for God to return the blessing to each of you many times over!  We are thankful for all of your prayers, they do far more than anything any of us could ever do!!  


Didn't Know How to LOVE

What a downer title, I KNOW...  Especially 2 flippin' days before Valentine's Day, right?   I am completely undone tonight thou...