Thursday, February 23, 2012

The other side of prayer

I'm laying in bed in our hotel room in Cincinnati at the Marriott Springhill Suites where we have stayed over and over again the past two years.  We have tried others on the Kentucky side of the river to save a few dollars, but they are a little yucky and scary, and so we made a pact last time we would just stay at our "home" hotel from now on.  The evening sun is falling in a perfect slant across my bed.  I feel nostalgic in a very strange way. 

Today we saw Dr. Crone, Danica's neurosurgeon, for the last time.  He is retiring.  I know he treats all his patients with care, but, like everyone who has been a part of Danica's story, he expressed how truly remarkable her case is and how miraculous her healing has been.  The brain and cervical junction MRI was as clear as he has ever seen a year and a half post decompression.  Yes, there is fusion and a little sling holding her cerebellar tonsils from slumping, but her CSF flow is amazing, and her brain stem is safe.  The best news is he does not believe her spinal cord is in any way tethered.  The remaining bladder and bowel issues may be from the "damage" during her early development when her Chiari was causing so many neurological symptoms.  He recommended we follow up with a pediatric urologist but also reminded us time may be the answer.  Then we heard him say the most amazing words, "If she remains without other symptoms you do not need to have another MRI for three and a half years." 

Literally thousands and thousands of prayers have been offered up for Danica and our family.  If you are reading this now you are probably counted among the dear people who have lifted us up.  Where do we go from here when the specific pleadings have been beautifully answered through blood, sweat and tears?  We must go back and praise our God who does all things well and who answered in ways exceeding, abundantly more than we could ever ask or think. 

As I booted up my computer to write this post I was reminded in an email about what the other side of prayer should look like.  Ann Voskamp wrote this in her book One Thousand Gifts:Finding Joy in What Really Matters:

When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks...

[Consider how] Mary, with embryonic God Himself filling her womb, exalts in quiet ways: "My soul doth magnify the Lord" (Luke 1:46).  So might I! Something always comes to fill the empty places. And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me. This, this, makes me full, and I "magnify him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30).

What will a life magnify? The world's stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? Or God? Never is God's omnipotence and omniscience diminutive. God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It's our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks and I swell with him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot.

This, I think, this is the other side of prayer.

This act of naming grace moments, this list of God's gifts, moves beyond the shopping list variety of prayer and into the other side. The other side of prayer, the interior of His throne room, the inner walls of His powerful, lovebeating heart.

I am in a great deal of pain from the drive here and the walking and the waiting and the stress of this trip.  In the back of my mind I recall all I've learned about "occult" tethered cord and worry maybe this man who was so right about so many things regarding Danica might be wrong about this.  I now have to move forward in my mind to my appointment with Dr. Tinkle tomorrow and my surgery in March.  I think about going home.  Just like Sunday night when Dan and I were away my throat has not been sore, and I have not had swollen glands since leaving.  This confirms for me there is something in the basement where we live really causing an allergic reaction.  I worry it might be the subtle dampness and lack of airflow that only people with autoimmune issues are really bothered by.  I worry it might be Delaney's puppy, Twixy.  I dread going back, because I really have felt awful since I moved home.  The area of my fusion hurts so bad.  My hands are shaky.  I have gained over ten pounds since I went on daily prednisone, and I feel the self loathing creeping in.  I am many things, but I am not "fat".  I won't be.  Earlier this week I tried not taking my meds because I wanted so badly to get off them.  As the day went on the pressure built in my head, and I knew these were in no way placebos.  I NEED them.  I feel frantic to find a way back to my size eight. 

My chest begins to constrict, and I forget to breathe until I hear Danica humming a minuet in the bathtub.  It's a grace moment. I check my email and see a dear family has made a donation for my upcoming surgery, a gift reminding me He will make a way.  He has always made a way.  Gratitude begins to calm me.  How am I so easily distracted from our celebration of amazing news for our girl?  Have I learned nothing?  Am I really back to doubt this soon?  I return to read Ann's words.  Focus on Him.  Praise Him.  Look at His heart.  I feebly begin to thank Him for the great things He has done in us and for us and through us.  How can I not live on this other side of prayer having witnessed powerful healing in Danica's body these past years?  How can I not believe this too is still possible for my own fragile health?  Peace and joy can only be found when glorifying Him and enjoying Him.  This is why we are here.  This is what He made us for. 

Tonight I ask that in the same fervant spirit you have made requests for us you will as generously offer praise.  We have reached an important marker on this journey, and we add another stone to our altar of remembrance.  Our hearts swell in thankfulness to our good God who does all things well.  We pack our bags tomorrow and set out again.  We cannot guess what is next.  It may be a valley of shadows.  It may be a steep mountain to climb, but we go where He leads. We will glorify him.  We will enjoy Him.  Our destination is sure.  Our hope will not disappoint.  Won't you continue on with us?

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