Real life is found in the battle. Or at least that’s what I’m learning these days. Real life isn’t the edited version of what we read in books or the movies we see in the theaters – real life is raw, broken, vulnerable, painful, but it’s also, often times, filled to the brim with joy and laughter. Real life is quiet moments of solitude mixed with loud moments of excitement. And real life is just as much the tears that you shed or the quiet prayers you whisper when you’re alone.
Early last week I was formally diagnosed with Chronic Intracranial Hypertension. The cause is unclear and it’s an unexpected diagnosis. 1 in every 100,000 people suffer from this condition and 90% of those individuals are middle aged, overweight women who also suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, and the list could go on and on. Those of you who know me know that I don’t fit the textbook for this one. It’s unclear what the cause of my sickness is and they are still running additional tests and making sure nothing was missed.
After 12 days in the hospital, I was sent home with a new medicine to try, extremely awful headaches, and equally awful nausea to match. The dizziness, nausea, and pain left me laying in the middle of the floor in fetal position at times. However, within 3 days the medicine has finally started working its way through my system and…so far, so good. My headaches aren’t GONE, by any means, but they are lessened. There is still work to do with dosages, treatments, and tests, but right now in this moment, I’m in the best spot (with headaches) that I’ve been since early December of 2017.
However, the battle is still raging. I believe that’s true for every single individual – it just comes in a different form for each of us. But this past Sunday, we closed our church service with a song called “No Longer Slaves” and I found myself with my arm around my boyfriend, tears streaming down my face. Not the cute, one or two little dainty tears type – the sobbing, messy mascara, runny nose, ugly crying type.
“You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears are drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God.”
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I was crying. Part of me was just so thankful to Jesus that we finally found an answer to my headaches – once you have a diagnosis, you can begin a course of action to treat whatever the issue is and that, in and of itself, is a HUGE step forward. But also, part of me was angry and scared. I was angry because I’ve already had to fight for my life once and it was a battle that robbed me of years of my life, robbed my parents of financial comfort, and broke the hearts of people that I love who had to standby and witness the entire thing. Angry because I had to give up going to Belize and Haiti to do missions work this summer – something I am passionate about and places where I felt the Lord had called me. I’m scared because I don’t know what’s to come – this is a chronic condition, meaning that it won’t ever go away. When a doctor mentioned brain surgery as a potential option (after exhausting all others, of course) all the blood drained from my face. Brain surgery, ya’ll. All of the sudden I’m living in fear of turning 26 and being kicked off my parents insurance, fear of the new year coming because it means starting over towards reaching our insurance deductible, etc. My new “normal” has become IV’s, blood draws, scans, and multiple doctors appointments in a week – and that should never be normal for anyone, much less a 24 year old.
When fear sets in suddenly I’m nothing but a burden to my boyfriend, I’m a bad friend to the ones I love, a bad dog-momma to my Rachi, and a needy, money sucking daughter to my parents. I don’t want to be THAT girl…that girl that always seems to have some crisis going on in her life. Those thoughts are signs that I’ve become a slave to fear.
But I think that facing the new reality of life with a chronic condition SHOULD be scary to anyone – and fear of the unknowns is also perfectly normal. Feeling fear is a lot different than letting fear control who we are and what we do. And it’s crucial that we can identify the difference and know when fear is taking on too strong a role in our lives. Inevitably, we will all experience seasons in our lives that feel so out of out control, but those moments that we’re drowning – they’re supposed to be brief.
In my current season of “real life” I’m learning that we can make our own plans and have our own dreams, but ultimately, the way of the Lord is the way we need to go. We can dig in our heels and plant our feet. We don’t have to like whatever we’re going through, but if we allow the Lord to be seen and felt throughout all of it, then there is no doubt that it will grow us. One of the primary lessons that I’ve taken to heart during this season is that God won’t always show up in the ways we think that we need Him too. God may not “fix” whatever we’re suffering through at any given time, but I believe we can rest assured knowing that He is suffering through it with us. When we think He is silent or that He doesn’t see or hear our cries of pain, we must remember that He doesn’t owe us an explanation for why we experience the things we do. But regardless of any reasons, He can take the worst, ugliest, most painful things in this world and transform them into the most wonderful. He can make all things new again. Even people.
I kind of feel like my body has abandoned me right now. I know I’ll get over it, it’s only temporary. I’m trying really, REALLY hard to be kind to myself these days – to remind myself that I did nothing to deserve this. This isn’t a punishment for some sin I committed 5 years ago or anything like that. I’m telling myself to quit looking for reasons that this has happened and start looking forward…to solutions, to new ways of living, to all the blessings hidden in plain sight.
I don’t know what my future holds, and at this point, I know better than to make any concrete plans of my own. The Lord works in mysterious ways, my friends, and although I didn’t ask for this and I definitely did NOT want it to happen to me, I’m deciding to make the conscious CHOICE each and every day to seek the Lord and His provisions for my life. He has my best interest at heart. He designed this body that I find myself being so angry with. And He makes no mistakes, so, like I said – I’ll get over my annoyance with this vessel He blessed me with and I’ll move forward with determination to do whatever it takes to take good care of it. After all, this is my temporary home away from home (heaven).
“I am nothing without You.
I will take You at Your unfailing Word.
More than all I want, I will seek You first.
I will bless Your name when the night is long.
God, You have my SURRENDER.
I’ll cast my cares on You.”
So, battle on, my warrior friends. Real Life is worth it.
“For his anger lasts only for a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
-Psalm 30:5 (NIV)
“So we do not lose heart. Thought our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“I believe that the attacks on your life have much more to do with who you might be in the future than who you have been in the past.”
― Lisa Bevere
“We fall apart when we look at our fears and inadequacies and compare ourselves to every other runner. But fix your eyes on a God like Jesus, and you will not quit. You will not shrink back. Not from others, and not from yourself. Risk something. Step out and fail. Be the fool. Build a life that needs our God.”
― Jennie Allen