Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Grateful for the Journey

Most people outside of my family don't know the full extent of my condition. It's been a difficult and scary 6 months, not knowing if I'll ever fully recover from this ailment; not knowing if I'll ever be able to walk well again. I've been bracing myself. I braced myself for the idea that I would never run with my children. That I'd never take them hiking or for a bike ride. That anything active we did as a family, I'd be cheering on the sidelines. And you know what, it would be okay. If I never got any better than I am right now, we could still have a wonderful, happy life. Above the things I can't do, there are SO many things that I can, and would, do with my family. We would have fun and we would be happy. And hey, it would sure be character building for my kids to grow up with their mom in a wheelchair! They would learn early on to be helpful and patient. ;)

So I accepted it. And as soon as I stopped looking at this as a trial to overcome, and started looking at it as just the way life is right now, I was able to be happy. The ups and downs, the unknowns of the future, the pain that I felt daily, had all been wearing on me. I was so scared and so impatient, waiting for life to get better. And that's when I realized I was going about it all wrong. I can't view this as a trial to overcome; that life will be better when I walk again. I felt like these precious young months with my babies were just passing me by. How silly of me. What a blessing that I was able to be home with my babies, snuggling with them, spending every waking moment with them because there was literally nothing else I was able to do on my own. These precious months were not passing me by, they were given to me to be enjoyed to the fullest extent. Sure, I couldn't run around with my Carson, but I could read to him, and cheer him on, and smile and laugh with him, and snuggle with him, all while holding my Gordon close, hangin' out in the wheelchair. I was unable to be busy in life, so I was able to give everything to my kids. How fortunate I am!

And then I looked at all the lessons I've learned along this journey. I appreciate so many things on so many new levels, and I have a much deeper understanding of what's important in life. My husband and I have a deeper appreciation and respect for one another, as we've had to watch each other bear this unique load that we've been given.

A few years ago, I had a real struggle with anxiety. I went to counseling for 6 months, and with that was able to stop my anxiety attacks and be gentler with myself. Had I never gone through that, I think this current trial would have been extremely more emotionally challenging. My old yearning to be constantly on the move would have probably plunged me into depression when I lost my ability to walk and take care of the house. I would have sat there shaming myself for being lazy, even if the "laziness" was out of my control. But, that's not how it was. I had already learned how to treat myself more kindly and that it's okay to have limits. I had to exercise great patience and humility as I watched other people play with my children and clean my house. But instead of beating myself up for it, I figured out how to accept it as an exercise that the Lord wanted me to practice.

I learned that I am not unbreakable. I had always had pride in thinking I could do anything I set my mind to. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." What I didn't realize about that scriptural quote is that we have to take God's plan into account. We can do all things that God wants us to do, but we can't do all things we want to do. This is a very significant difference, and I had to come to terms with it. But in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that matters is what God wants me to do. He sees the whole picture, so I need to trust that he knows what I need much better than I know.

C.S. Lewis wrote a beautiful metaphor about trusting God's plan for us: "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

I read that, and I believed it. I thought of the scripture, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow." We need to stop worrying about our needs, and instead worry about doing the Lord's work. He'll take care of our needs, and just like the lilies, we'll grow the way HE wants us to grow. So I submitted myself to God. I understand that he has a plan, and I trust him. Build my palace.

A couple of weeks ago, my immediate and extended family held a family fast for me. I was to the point where the specialists were at a loss, and they were easing me into the idea that I might not recover. My mobility was slowly improving, but my pain was not, and, I was scared. So I asked my family to fast and pray with me. And we did.

Now there wasn't an instant recovery (clearly, as I'm still in a wheelchair, haha). However, I did notice an instant, and significant, decrease in my pain. I've been cautious to get too optimistic about it, because I've had good days and bad days throughout this whole process. But ever since that family fast... my walking has continued improving little by little, and my pain levels have astounded me- in a good way. I used to just lie on the couch and ache. I was never not in pain. That isn't the case anymore. I still feel pain, but it's low and very bearable. I'm at a point where, even if this is as good as I get, I could live with this. I was scared of being in pain for the rest of my life. But take the pain out of the picture, and, I can handle a wheelchair!

But then I went to physical therapy yesterday. My therapist was absolutely thrilled with how much I've improved. She really honestly thinks I'll recover. It looks like it will simply be like this: as hard as I work, is as good as I'll get. I'll be able to walk as far as I can strengthen my muscles to go. So there probably won't be a day where, "Ta-Da!" I'm better, but, I'll just have to always work to keep my muscles strong, and my abilities will improve with that. Pretty good motivation to exercise and stay in shape, right?!

So anyway, the bottom line is, I'm feeling good. I'm excited about the prospect of getting better and being able to walk. I'm thrilled that my pain levels have been under control. I'm grateful for all of the many lessons I've learned on this journey. I'm motivated to press forward and to use any improved mobility to do good and serve the Lord. I have faith that the Lord is forming me into who he wants me to be. I have a renewed testimony of faith and fasting, and I firmly believe that it helped me. Even if I never get all the way better, I know that life will be great. Hard, but also happy. Brock always says, "Carson, Gordon, and I love you! We are your three biggest cheerleaders!" I am the most blessed girl in the world.