Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In spite of imperfections and about deliverance

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...”  Annie Dillard


It's Spring today.  Somehow in the last year I have become so ill that even this sacred season of renewal and rebirth is lost to me.  I am alive but feel trapped in a body that will not let me LIVE in any meaningful way.  I am grieving this along with so many other things I once enjoyed that have been taken from me. 

I grew up in a sweet little town in the Shenendoah Valley.  Every single day of every season the Blue Ridge mountains put on a show.  I was a girl who pressed Dogwood petals in my books of poetry and clipped Peonies for my room.  I played outside from morning until night and came in with grass stained feet, dirt under my fingernails and high off every sense being awakened by the wonder of God's creation.  My mom worked beside my sisters and I in our large vegetable garden and taught us to recognize every flower and tree.  Our windows were always open and our sheets smelled so much like sunshine we didn't even complain about how scratchy they were or if an occasional lady bug found her way in with the laundry. 

The day I turned sixteen I got my drivers license.  I began going to our sweet local park not far from our house to swing and look way up in the aged Maple trees.  I would bring a blanket and lie on the grass with my journal, dreaming and writing and praying.  I was was also dating my first boyfriend then who brought to me an even greater appreciation for the outdoors.  We began taking hikes on the Parkway.  Several times I drove to Humpback Rock and hiked all by myself.  I needed to be as close to God as I could get.  I needed to be alone there in all that beauty.  At night I would sit on our porch in an old flannel shirt, wrapped in a blanket and watch the moon and stars.  I was fascinated with His handiwork in the night sky.  Looking back I realize how dangerous some of my gallivanting alone probably was, but I didn't feel afraid.  This was before I was wounded and survived to tell about it.  I sometimes wish I could go back there if only for a moment to just remember what it feels like to trust so completely again. 

Now every single spring thing reminds me of how sick I really am.  A Hyacinth could put me into cardiac arrest when just last year I kept one in the window of our home.  I am dazed and confused by this explosion of the world around me where I once found so much joy now being off limits.  As I type this my face is burning red and tingling.  Instead of episodes being contained they are lasting longer and longer and I am weaker and weaker after each one.  I am afraid.

On Sunday night my parents returned home from a trip and spur of the moment Dan and I decided to take time to go get something to eat alone.  One of our favorite things to do is go to BRAVO and split an appetizer and dessert.  When we arrived there was absolutely no one at the bar and so we chose to sit there knowing we weren't ordering a full dinner.  Dan ordered a beer, a very rare treat for him these days.  We began to talk and dream like we always do when we finally get time alone together.  We felt a little normal.  I had a slight headache, my neck was painful and the lower part of my spine was stretching and buzzing, but overall I was able to block these things out and be in the moment with my husband.  Suddenly, like a freight train bearing down on me, a sickening smell hit me in the face.  I looked up and a man and woman had come in and sat about seven stools from us.  She had on the strongest, most noxious perfume I had ever smelled.  I began to gasp.  The instant physical reaction was like something out of a movie.  My neck and face became flaming red and so hot.  My throat started to close up and my heart was racing uncontrollably.  I grabbed my purse and ran from the restaurant.  Dan saw what had happened to me and smelled the stench.  He paid our bill and left his beer only half gone.  Our fun was over.  Just like that I can be sent into a tailspin physically by almost anything.  I never know how high the toll will be if I choose to leave home and participate in life.  The sad thing is I am just not recovering from Sunday.  I fear the combination of that intense reaction with my once beloved spring has taken me to a new level of mast cell activation.  I am helpless to know what to do.

Tonight my family will surely head out into this beautiful neighborhood, something we always dreamed of when we lived on the other side of town.  It is one of the biggest blessings of our basement home.  I will not be able to go.  I won't be able to watch my children ride their bikes or sit on the back patio and talk with Dan.  I will be inside, a place that is probably making me sick too just not as bad.  I don't know why God is taking these last things that could offer me much needed hope away from me.  I grab a volume of Annie Dillard and experience some of what I love about this world through her words.  I stumble across the above quote, and it makes me cry.  The imperfections of this fallen world attacking my every cell, the brokenness of this body scarred and sometimes barely breathing, the longing of my heart to call even this mess a real life continues to shine as something beautiful.  Only God is able to redeem me in spite of all this sin, sickness and sorrow.  Only by His grace and through His strength can I survive . . . and even shine.


I never finished this post from yesterday, and I realize it might be more meaningful to write an entirely new one today, but God has answered my fear and discouragement in some very powerful and tangible ways in the last twelve hours.  I will write specifically about these in the coming days, but I have to tell you the Holy Spirit is moving and working in lives and hearts, and I am reminded to be faithful here in this pain because it is His plan for me until He will DELIVER me.  God sent me this Word in my inbox accompanied by a note of encouragement. 

"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many." II Corinthians 1:8-11

I have many times a day when I feel burdened beyond measure and despair even of life.  But listen! (There is always good news!  This "sentence of death "I carry acutely these days (one that in reality we all carry through Adam) should  be the reminder, "We should not trust in ourselves."  God raises the dead!  He is delivering us moment by moment with Grace and He will continue to deliver us!  Oh how I love this last part. 

"YOU helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through MANY."

Your prayers.  Your gifts.  Your thanks to God for all the good He's done and requests for the good He is sure to accomplish . . . You are working out God's deliverance in our lives. 

Satan has been on attack in my heart telling me I am not accomplishing anything for the Kingdom of God and becoming worthless even to those closest to me, the ones I am surely called to love and serve.  The TRUTH has been brought over and over to me.  THIS SUFFERING IS GOD'S WORK.  ENDURING IS GOD'S WORK.  TELLING THIS STORY IS GOD'S WORK.   

My surgery is a week from today.  I have had enough of these now to tell you the days leading up to a trip like this and an operation like this become frantic as I try in my very weak frame to plan and prepare for the girls who we will leave behind, for the logistics and paperwork involved for hospitalization, packing for myself the things I'll need in the hospital and then at the hotel, filling prescriptions (I am currently on twelve), and remembering to keep breathing and praying and surrendering during it all.  I am also off my aspirin as of Monday due to the risk of bleeding and the pressure in my head is much worse.  In even this God is bringing wisdom to the very specialized doctors I see to understand things they have not . . . DVT in the dural sinuses, blood clots, venous pressure . . . scary stuff.  None of it is beyond the knowledge of the God who intricately created this body and wrote my days.  I humbly ask you would pray and ask others to pray for every detail of this trip and my surgery and the healing.  With so many complicated health issues, some we do not really have a plan for yet, it adds a new layer of anxiety.  Please pray Dan and I will calmly move forward in difficult days and God would be glorified by our response to each and every situation and outcome.  God is using you in our deliverance.  Thank you. 

Our hope remains.

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