Thursday, January 19, 2017

Good or Right

Earlier this week one of my favorite events occurred:  my women's Bible study started back up.  I love my Monday night ladies!  I was delighted to see each and every one of them.

Our leader, Julie, is so precious.  She's a spiritual sister and mom and friend to me.  I tell her that her prayers are like a spiritual back rub.  Sometimes when I bump into her after church, I can feel my soul let out a contented sigh.

On my first Sunday back in church after our time at Cleveland Clinic, Julie walked across the sanctuary to come hug me.  She sat down and asked me how things were going.  I gave her the same plastered smile and basic info that I had given others.  Cleveland Clinic had taught us strategies to cope with Nolan's chronic pain.  We would be fine.  But Julie cried and gave me a hug.  Then suddenly I was crying.  Because Julie saw the hurt I thought I had hidden.

Our gathering this week was our first since November, so we had a little catching up to do.  Julie asked me to give more details about our time in Cleveland and how we are doing since.  I still have a hard time even forming complete sentences about our time in Cleveland.  I fumbled a bit and then told my group that Nolan has attended every school day since we've been back home.  He played in two basketball games (one went very well and one went very poorly).  His head pain is still bad and his nausea is very bad, but we are plugging along with life.  We are acknowledging small victories as we find our new normal.

Julie tried to summarize by saying, "So Cleveland was good?"  I froze.  I can't actually say that Cleveland was good.  But there is something I can say.  So I said, "Cleveland was the right move for us."

Good and right aren't always the same thing.  Our three weeks in Cleveland were unspeakably hard.  Sure we had good moments and huge blessings.  But I would not characterize our experience overall as good.  However, I can say that going to Cleveland was the right thing to do.  Ultimately, I would rather do the right thing than the good thing.

But I didn't always know that Cleveland was the right thing.

There was a point in Cleveland when I was just done with everyone and everything, and I didn't want to be sitting on a gross bed in a tiny room with all my family members within six inches of my body.  I didn't want to put on shoes to go down to the dining room to eat what someone else had chosen (but thank you to all who so generously provide meals to Ronald McDonald House residents!!).  I didn't want to have every minute of every day scheduled for me while I homeschooled two kids and fought for another.  Jared was busy trying to keep up with work and participate in back-to-back conference calls in a loud, tense environment.  And I just wanted to be somewhere hidden and safe with someone who already knows me and loves me as I am.

So I sent a text to my dad and sister.  They are my tough love people.  They show me endless grace and let me be sensitive and emotional and analytical.  They know when I need sympathy (always).  They are also no-nonsense people who can offset all of my *ahem* quirks.  I can count on them to pray for me immediately, and they can usually say something to give me a needed nudge.  But don't tell them any of this because it will feed their bossiness.

So back to my Cleveland crisis.  I reached out to my dad and sister, and they replied immediately with prayers and sympathy.  I didn't even know what I needed or what I was expecting from them.  I just knew I was stuck and couldn't move forward.  Then my sister said the words I desperately needed even though I didn't know it.

She said, "No matter what comes of your time in Cleveland, it was the right thing for you to do."  I was focused on how hard everything was and I just didn't think the limited improvement was worth all the hard.  My sister reminded me that I couldn't control the outcome, but I was doing the right thing just by being there.

I know lots of other people are walking hard paths.  Some of you are choosing to do the right thing, even without seeing the benefit or the outcome.  Sometimes in the absence of results, you and I have to simply hold tight to the comfort of knowing we are doing the right thing.

It also helps to find somebody whose prayers feel like a spiritual back rub.


Thursday, January 12, 2017


My dad recently had knee replacement surgery on his right leg, and I have been able to help him with parts of his recovery.  I've seen him push through excruciating pain as he does exercises to strengthen his muscles and increase flexibility.  He is working hard, and it's a painful process.

I have been delighted with each baby step of progress he makes.  I'm thrilled to see him walking with a cane instead of a walker.  I keep track of how many degrees he can bend his new knee.  I see that working through his pain is accomplishing something.  His pain will be worth it in a few weeks when he is fully healed and can do all the things he couldn't do before.  (The bigger reward will come when he is healed from the second knee replacement, but I'm still so excited about his progress here and now.)

I shared with my dad that I'm inspired by him because in my own household, pain does not serve the same purpose.  In my home, pushing through pain does not bring progress.  There is no end in sight for Nolan's constant pain.  There is no discernible reward.

I do not yet see what Nolan's physical pain--or my family's emotional pain--is accomplishing.

I've obviously battled with this for over a year now.  Sometimes I've done a better job than others at letting go of grasping at the bigger picture.

When we were staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland, I had a deep conversation with another mother while we were doing laundry.  She said she struggled a lot with why her daughter had to go down the difficult road they are on.

I told her, "I had to break up with Why.  We were in a toxic relationship."

I really meant it.  I had broken up with Why and was putting my energy into moving forward. 

But Why is a stalker.  Why is a creep.  Why sends me texts when I'm trying to fall asleep and peers in my window when I'm stunned at how difficult parenting really is.

I'm certain that I've had bouts of surrendering the search for what God is accomplishing, and I've chosen to simply trust that He knows what He is doing.  I've held hands with Trust.  We have embraced when I couldn't hold myself up any longer.  Which has been a lot this last year.

But then more stuff just keeps coming.  Someone hacked my store credit card and made a purchase.  Our cat is now diabetic and requires insulin shots twice per day and repeated vet visits.  A violent stomach bug hit two of my kids and I have an actual phobia of puking.  A long-fought parenting battle with our middle child has reared it's ugly head with fresh vengeance lately.  I have to make repeated phone calls to get other people (insurance, medical personnel, etc.) to do their jobs. 

And I find myself exhausted and wondering, yet again, what all of this hard stuff is accomplishing.

I was thinking this morning that this is the longest I've waited for God to start revealing His purpose in something.  But then I remembered that's not true.  After my friend Megan was murdered, God and I wrestled for two years before He brought me to a place of accepting that He does things differently than I think.  That He never forsakes us.  That He is far more protective than my eyes perceive.  That He can heal any wound.

I'm still trusting that He will bring me to a similar place regarding my current battle.  I never thought it would take this long, and there truly is no end in sight.  So I'm trusting that there's an end I just can't see.  I'm trusting there's a purpose I don't know.  Because I choose to believe that God is good and works all things for His glory and the good of His children.  I often have to make that choice (to believe) multiple times per day.

I really was doing well.  I even started a couple blog posts that were much more upbeat than this one.  But it was too awkward to jump back into actually posting my writing because too much time has passed and too much has happened.  I'm still processing everything.  I'm still not ready to talk about our time in Cleveland.  I think there are parts of that month that will never leave my mouth or my fingers on a keyboard. 

I have napped almost every day this week.  I just can't seem to get through a whole day on one night's sleep.  I think my body is trying to recover from over a year of not sleeping well.  I like the idea that my body is trying to recover.  Maybe that's it.  Maybe I'm moving into the recovery stage.  My dad was in pain for a long time before his surgery was finally scheduled.  The surgery was violent and traumatic.  And now the recovery is painful.

I'd like to think I'm in recovery too.  The physical wound--whatever caused Nolan's headache--has not made any progress, but that doesn't mean I can't start healing as we work post-wound.  My dad's new knee will never be exactly like his old one, for good and for bad.  When asked how we are doing, I have been telling people we are working on finding our new normal.  It will never be the same as the old normal.  For good.  I'm trusting.