Friday, January 15, 2016

Trusting God in the big things and freaking out over the little things.

Being married to someone who has severe, chronic health problems has tested my faith more than just about any situation I have been through in life. I have been through a lot in my life, but the constant battle of fear, hope, peace, and dismay has never been so intense as it has been on my husband's health journey. I have wrestled through the questions of why my husband remains sick. God's word says that He is a healer, and that nothing is impossible for Him- even curing diseases and health problems. I have wrestled through the questions of WHY God hasn't healed my husband yet. He may never heal him, if it's not His will. That was a hard pill to swallow. However, I have come to terms with the fact that if God has allowed this into our lives, there is a reason for it. I know that God is good, and I know that he has a purpose in everything He allows into our lives- even if it isn't orchestrated the way I would want it to be. This week had me holding onto that belief with every ounce of my being. It has also made me love my husband more than I ever have. It has also shown me quite a lot about myself, and how it is very easy for me to depend on God for the big things, but I tend to depend on myself for the small, everyday ones.

The day after we got back from vacation, my husband went to a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment. While there, he started having bad chest pains and trouble breathing. His doctor sent him to the emergency room, and they admitted him to the hospital. The next day, they announced that they would be taking out his current pacemaker and putting in a newer, more sophisticated, heavy duty one. They had talked about putting in this new pacemaker a few weeks ago when he was in the hospital, but with the most recent hospitalization, the urgency of getting a new pacemaker became apparent. With two hospitalizations for heart problems within the last month, they figured that they couldn't wait anymore. I am so thankful for intelligent doctors and the lifesaving work they do!

Honestly, when he called me and told me that he was going in for surgery, I was sick to my stomach. So many thoughts flooded my head. I have watched way too much Grey's Anatomy and House episodes- and just about everything that had gone wrong in surgery on those shows flashed before my eyes. I was really, really, tempted to freak out. But then I felt a peace come over me. A peace that can only come from God. He reminded me that he is nowhere near done with my husband and I yet. I know that deep down in my heart, but the reminder helped me to put things into perspective. Nothing was going to happen to my husband during his surgery, because God still has plans for him. BIG plans. I knew it. I just had to stay focused on that thought instead of letting my mind wander to places it shouldn't be going. Freak out inducing places. I didn't have time to have a breakdown when I was dealing with something of this magnitude- especially when I turned around and saw my three year old little boy staring up at me.

A friend of mine came and stayed the night with me the night before his surgery. She was here when I got the call. She watched me with anticipation, waiting for the freak out moment that never came. Instead, I started crazily cleaning my house. Cleaning everything- and then re-cleaning everything. I could feel her watching me- waiting for me to break down, to cry, to freak out, to start screaming. But I just.... cleaned. I almost think that if I would have freaked out it would have been less awkward for her. I'm sure it looked like I was just shutting down. You know- before people snap, they are usually calm. Calmness in these types of situations weirds people out, because it isn't expected.

You see, I normally am a freaker-outer. My friend that witnessed my frantic cleaning knows that about me as well- which is why it was probably awkward to her that I wasn't having a breakdown. Faith is not really my strongest spiritual gift (but it is my husband's- his motto is that no matter what happens, it will be okay). I freak out over little things. If my plans get disrupted. If we are late for something. If the house doesn't stay clean. If my Judge Judy doesn't record. If I get a lower grade on a test than I thought I was going to get.  Stupid things. Things that really don't matter in the grand scheme of things. Things that pale in comparison to your husband having heart surgery. That's what I freak out about. So you would think I would REALLY freak out about big things like a doctor cutting into my husband's chest to put a device into his heart. I expected myself to freak out too.

Then I had a realization. My husband has been through a lot of hospitalizations since I have been with him, and honestly it was probably only the first time that I freaked out. All of the rest of the times, I have been surprisingly peaceful. One time (ask him about it- he is very happy to tell the story lol) he was having chest pains and I told him to go to the pharmacy to check his prescription interactions. There was no panic, no "let's rush to the hospital- you could be DYING!"  How is that possible when I can't maintain my peace when my Judge Judy episodes get messed up? When I score less than what I desired on a test? When there are socks in the middle of the floor? Yes, it is only made possible by the peace of God, but why can't I channel that peace into my DVR?  It makes no sense.

I started thinking about it, and realized that the reason I don't fly into a panic about the big things is because A) I shut down to protect myself from being hurt as I have had too many people die on me already and can't afford to let my head go there B) I KNOW there is nothing I can do to change the big things like death, and C)  I HAVE to trust God in the big things, because they are totally out of my hands. Sometimes in the little things, it is hard to remember that God is there, that He is in control, and that he cares. We have an illusion of control when it comes to the DVR or the cleanliness of our house. Those are small enough things where WE can fix them, so it is easy to freak out when they aren't going as planned because we feel like we should be able to exert power over them. Like they are our responsibility. That freaking out will motivate us to do what we are supposed to be doing to make things right. However, when it comes to a family health crisis, it is never more obvious that we have absolutely no control over the situation. We MUST depend on God, because HE is the only one who can do ANYTHING in those big situations. As much as we try, wish, hope, or do- sickness and death are totally out of our hands. So why freak out? We are powerless (we are actually powerless when it comes to the DVR and the house to a degree too- but it's much harder to convince ourselves of that).

When life is so crazy and scary and out of control, it forces us to turn to the one who is. We don't fight to make things better because we know that God is the only one who can. We don't freak out because we know that it will do absolutely no good in comparison to the size and scope of the problem that we are dealing with. There comes a point where we know that all we can do is turn to God and desperately pray that He will fix the situation. Things like this really knock you to your knees and force you to a surrendering point. You realize just how NOT in control you are, and you have to trust that God's purposes will prevail. You have to hold onto that thought- especially if the outcome isn't what you wanted or were expecting. We HAVE to trust God in the big things- in the God sized things. He is the only one big enough to handle them.

I know this because of the life I have lived. I have had horrible, tragic things happen in my life and been in situations that were far and above my ability to change. In each of these situations, God brought me through the other side, He brought good out of them, and he revealed to me just how powerful he really is. I know that God shows up in the big moments- even when they are dark and painful and seemingly hopeless. I have been down that road with Him too many times to count, and he never disappoints. The little things, though- those are harder. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the concept of God showing up to somehow use my lost Judge Judy episodes for good. It is easier to get lost in the small, everyday things and believe that we are the ones who are in control. That we don't need God to fix it because we can. There is no false sense of self-sufficiency when it comes to the big things. We realize that He is God and we are not, and that there is no sense in freaking out because His purpose is going to prevail whether we like it or not, and without our input.

My husband got released from the hospital yesterday, with a shiny new pacemaker. All was going well (he even ventured out to bible study), and then he started bleeding from his chest. A lot. And his blood was THICK. His incision site started to swell, and he said he needed to go to the hospital. He went, and this time I was alone- with my three year old sleeping in his bedroom. Maybe I would freak out this time now that there were no witnesses.

Well, I was peaceful enough that I fell asleep on the couch watching Judge Judy episodes (oh the irony!), and received a call at midnight from a friend of ours that works at the hospital. She let me know that they had to take Ben back into surgery, because there was internal bleeding somewhere or a slow leak in his heart. THAT was a scary thing to hear. I'm not even going to try to lie. But again, what could I do about it? I prayed and prayed and asked God to heal my husband and give the doctor's wisdom. I clung to what I KNEW- that God is good, that He is my husband's protector, and that he is not finished with him yet. Still, my mind was trying really hard to veer into territory that it shouldn't. I tried to imagine life without my husband and I couldn't. I kept telling myself that God knows the plans He has for BOTH of us, and that I need to accept that whatever the outcome may be, God would be there, and that He knows what He is doing.

I woke up this morning to a call from my husband telling me that the surgery was, in fact, to remove three blood clots that had formed under his incision next to his heart. They did emergency surgery to cauterize them, and they were keeping him at the hospital for a few hours for observation and then sending him home. I so wanted to scream "they should just keep you for the next 4 weeks (his recovery time) so they can protect you from this happening again!" But again I was reminded who is really in charge. Doctors and nurses are great, but in the end God is the one whose will prevails. He will protect my husband ~ whether in the hospital or out. I know He loves my husband enough to guard his life. If I trust that He is good, faithful, and loving, there is no need to freak out.

He is good, faithful, and loving. Even when my Judge Judy episodes don't record. Learning that is the tricky part. Surely if I can trust him with my husband's life, I can trust him with my DVR. Giving up control of the big things are easy- but to a control freak, the small things are hard. The illusion of control is much harder to destroy when it's things we believe we are self sufficient at doing. I am slowly learning that God is all sufficient in EVERY situation, and that on my best day, I am a miserable failure at running my universe- even if that universe only consists of controlling the wayward socks that seem to make their way onto my living room floor and getting my DVR box to record. It's good to be reminded that we make horrible Gods, and that we sometimes push God aside when it comes to things that we think we can handle without Him. Even when we think we know better, or that we would work out a situation differently- it's important to remember that there is a reason that God is God and we are not. When we think that we can control things better than God can- and freak out in the process- there is something wrong. Sometimes it is harder to recognize God in the small, mundane stuff. Maybe that's why God allows the freak outs over the lost Judge Judy episodes. So it's glaringly apparent how truly insufficient we really are without Him. How could I possibly think I could protect my husband's life better than God when I can't even manage my DVR?  It's a lesson I'm slowly learning.  Hopefully I don't have to sacrifice too many more Judge Judy episodes to fully learn it.

My husband right out of surgery with his shiny new pacemaker.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

God is an ARTIST!

Our Chalet in the Smokey Mountains
My family was EXTREMLEY blessed to spend the past week in a Chalet in the Smokey Mountains. We stayed at Fairhaven Ministries in Roan Mountain, Tennessee, which is a ministry that is specifically designed for ministers, pastors and missionaries to have an affordable place to get away from the unrelenting demands of ministry where you can completely unplug and be ministered to yourself for once. I can honestly say that this trip took my breath away! The beauty of God's handiwork absolutely astounded me. I was amazed and in awe the entire trip at how glorious a workman God is. On top of that, I got some MUCH needed rest from frontline ministry, and spent family bonding time that none of us will soon forget. God truly spoke to me during this trip and refreshed me to get ready to get back on the frontlines of ministry when I got back. I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures of our time there- even though pictures don't NEARLY do it justice. The beauty I was exposed to there is just too exquisite to be captured on camera. We are SO blessed and thankful to EVERYONE who made this trip possible! They are memories that will last a life time!
The on-grounds prayer chapel.

Justin enjoying the view

The beautiful Smokey Mountains.

Not a bad backdrop ;)

Justin throwing rocks in the pond.

One of the waterfalls RIGHT outside our Chalet! At nighttime, all you could hear were the sound of the waterfalls and the leaves in the trees! So peaceful!

Another beautiful waterfall.

My handsome husband and I!

There is NO ONE else I would rather share this beauty with!

Justin says hello from Fairhaven!

The beautiful mountains at sunset. SO breathtaking!
Daddy and son smooch!

Some creepy dolls we found on top of a creepy abandoned building.

We drove over the border to get some REAL North Carolina barbecue in North Carolina!

Photos don't do it justice!

These boots were made for walking!

Side view of the Chalet.

Chairs on the HUGE wrap around porch!

Beautiful chandelier inside our chalet!

Some reading I enjoyed while I was there. You would be surprised how much reading you can get done with no TV, no internet and horrible cell service!

Another gorgeous chandelier.

Justin enjoying the fire.

Icicles on side of the mountain rock- even though it was well over 60 degrees in January!

We wound up in the Hamptons ;)

These police have their priorities straight!

Huge vine swings in the mountains- I felt like Tarzan!

The pond in front of our chalet.

THIS is why they are called the Smokies!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalms 121:1-2

He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth-- the LORD God Almighty is his name.
Amos 4:13