I’ve spent the last several nights lying awake in bed drafting brilliant blog posts until 2am- although, truthfully, anything can seem brilliant at 2am. Usually that’s a sign that the things that are in my head need to get out otherwise I might never sleep again.
2015 was unbelievable for us- and by unbelievable I mean it was mostly, well, awful. I had high hopes and believed that the Lord had given us a clear word about some good things but as has happened many times in the past, those good words were a life raft to bolster us and gave us something to hold onto in the midst of really challenging circumstances.
I started the year with surgery and as soon as I recovered from that I hurt my neck. I’ve never been in that much pain for so long without any type of pain medicine. It was never ending pain & insomnia for months. I’d go to bed at 10 and still be wide awake at 4 trying to find a position that didn’t hurt. And since I didn’t sleep, Travis didn’t sleep. During that time I was at my wits end more times than I can count. I was exercising a lot, especially before my chiropractic appointments because I wanted to give my body the best chance of getting better. One day when we were walking, Travis and I were talking about how difficult things were (we were also being really stretched financially) and we recognized that this was a time of testing. I could see clearly that God was after something in us. In the beginning I had no trouble believing that God could miraculously heal my neck or for that matter, heal the tumor that I was going to have surgery for (it wasn’t cancer and nobody ever thought it was so we weren’t ever concerned about that) but I knew that God’s plan was for me to have surgery and that he wanted me to go to the chiropractor. Faith for healing wasn’t what God was after, He wanted us to trust him to provide for us financially.
Times of testing squeeze us and whatever is inside of us comes out- kind of like a tube of toothpaste. There have been times in the past that I’ve been squeezed and terrible things have come out- unbelief, doubt, fear, lies that I believed were true, a host of things that were just ugly but I don’t regret those times because I didn’t know that those things lived inside of me and I couldn’t repent of them and truly change until I knew they were there. Then the real healing could begin.
This year I was determined to be honest with God and honest with myself. In the past I have been a “pulling up by my bootstraps, forge ahead, we soldier on, put your shoulder into it” and whatever other strength cliche’ there is kind of person. I’d stuff my emotions, do my best to not feel anything and just keep going. And I did get through whatever ridiculous trouble I was in- exhausted and weary and sick. I was weary at times to the point of wanting to die. I’m here to tell you that is no way for a child of God to live. This year when the pain was too much I told God it was too much and He comforted me. When I felt like I couldn’t keep going I told God that I couldn’t keep going and He gave me strength. When I felt like I was never going to get better I told Him that I “felt” like I was never going to get better but that I knew He would deliver me because He promised that He would. In the past I’ve let my feelings dictate my beliefs and what I feel in any given moment may be the farthest thing from the truth. This time I acknowledged my feelings but declared that His promises to me are true regardless of how I feel.
And then one morning, Travis got the call that nobody ever wants to get. His mom was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and was given 6 months to live.
I can’t write about everything that happened next. I’ve sat down to write about it, Travis asked me to write about it and I’ve gone over and over it in my mind and I just can’t. It was too much. To watch someone that’s so vibrant and full of life decline so rapidly, to watch life being quickly taken away by cancer is too much. We had 5 weeks with her from her diagnosis until she passed. The days that I spent at the hospital were both gut-wrenching and precious. I treasure the moments that we cried together, prayed together & laughed together as a family. I saw friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years and the time I spent with them was precious.
The loss clobbered me both emotionally and physically. I felt shaken and had difficulty reconciling my belief that God would heal her with the reality of what happened. I know that God can heal. I had no trouble believing that pancreatic cancer wasn’t bigger than God. I believe that God will answer any prayer that we pray according to His will. I laid hands on my mother-in-law and prayed for her. It was a strong prayer, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit and I know that she did too. Even though she was on a ventilator, her eyes met mine and she squeezed my hand so hard that I knew she heard me. I know that God heard me. And He took her home.
After we got home we all got sick. And when we weren’t sick, we still felt sick. The loss hung heavy over our home and the cumulative effect of stretched finances, surgery, chiropractic, Travis also hurt his neck (which was bent at an angle like the Leaning Tower of Pisa when he stood up straight), losing his mom, and then Thanksgiving and Christmas was too much. I found myself panicking at the slightest thing. And once again Travis and I walked and talked. I came to the realization that everything was too much and so my body was overreacting to everything. After we talked I felt much better and much more calm. The next day I woke up feeling like I was getting a cold which ended up turning into bronchitis. My parents and Amanda and Daniel were coming for Christmas and during the week Halle got bronchitis, Chloe got pneumonia and Amanda, Daniel and my mom all got sick too.
The year that was 2015 never let up in its intensity and Jesus never failed to faithfully walk us through it. I was in the shower one day, feeling so sad about my mother-in-law and the shower is often where I end up crying. I was thinking about the verse that says, ‘…There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother’ and the Lord spoke to me and said, “I don’t walk you through things just because I’m obligated to, I want to walk you through this”. And He has not ceased to faithfully walk us through it. The years that I relied on my own strength to get me through things left me weak, sick and weary. This time I feel happy, hopeful and full of faith.
I’ve heard people say that “God won’t give me more than I can handle” which is a misquote of 1 Corinthians 10:13,
“13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
That verse is talking about temptation not the normal difficulties of life. Circumstances of life are often more than I can handle but 2 Corinthians 12:9 says,
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
As hard as this past year was, I’m happy with the way I handled it. Not because I was strong but because I wasn’t. He was strong for me and gave me the strength I needed to endure. I was, for the first time, honest with God and with myself about my weakness- I let go of my pride in my own strength and relied on His perfect strength. I pray that I always remember how to rely on His strength because I never want to go back to my old ways of doing things.
I hope all of that makes sense. In a way I feel like a soda bottle that’s been shaken and ready to burst, spewing words all over the place. I want to write more about God’s faithfulness and His unchanging character. I want to write about His greatness. And I want to write about what color I’m going to paint my bedroom and about what crazy things I’ve been throwing in a blender lately (avocado-spinach smoothie, anyone?) I guess we’ll see what 2016 holds.