Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Heart of the Brave

This morning I seize a few precious moments of quiet while munching Irish cheese and strawberries (of the American variety.) Back from across the ocean after days of pressing beyond fatigue, I finally take a moment to stop. Stop posting pictures on social media, stop chasing Facebook feeds in between medical appointments and STOP unpacking and washing and sorting and re-organizing. I've been up at 4 am and then, thankfully, at 5 as my body adjusts to another time zone, and I've been rushing forward so I can elude the fatigue. 

Sometimes life is like this. We run, not towards something, but from it.  There is a biological alert set off by pain. Fix it, stop it, hold it at bay. Chase after anything that takes our minds off it... we become afraid to sit still because we might just fall apart.  Prolong the chase, numb the pain, escape for one more moment. Yet I have learned it's the falling apart I need most.

I saw it this week- big burly guys allowing grief and loss pour out, recognizing the biological need for release. Such willingness to face devastation is beautiful. Breath entangled in tears, sorrow reaching across the room, touching every kindred heart. It is excruciating to sit there and try to remember how to breathe and not break down- because I desperately need the breaking down. We need this disassembling of walls because they don't hold us together; they hold us apart.

In medically challenging circumstances we speak of 'daily braveness'- and what is bravest of all is to look into what has broken us and grasp the hand beside us so we can begin to heal. This is consecrated community- we need each other. When a heart has been dragged across shards of shrapnel, the truth is that we are only alone in the battle if we choose to be.

Near the end of last week the opportunity was offered to give feedback. The heart of the question was how to best meet the many varying needs of such a large group. Some desperately need to hear the others' stories, and some are not ready to hear that which stirs up their own woundedness.

I don't have all the answers but I know this: pain is a sign that something needs to be dealt with- whether in spirit, soul, or body. When pain rises up, the guttural reaction is to press it down, hide it behind a brave front. I am still learning that it takes great courage to face the pain- and even more to share it. Yet sharing is cathartic- especially in a group of souls who walk a similar road. The greatest gift offered is the gift of hearts who understand. I've shared more than once that sometimes, when I talk about my life, people look back at me with a cross between shock and horror. Last week all I experienced was empathy and encouragement and extravagant love. 

The gathering together in a real life adventure, the living and eating and sharing stories and bonding over shared suffering is a balm like no other. These gatherings carve out a climate of safety- a place to cry out and not be judged. Sometimes this gathering can save a life, a marriage. And sometimes, it is the anchoring of a floundering soul.

There is such courage within the men and women I met this last week- they are a very real reminder that I do not walk alone. Healing can seem a titanic task- yet these brave souls embody this truth: our strength is in each other. When we can't be strong on our own, we do not have to be. 

We may be broken, but we are all in this together, and healing is possible- when we are willing work through the pain, with help from understanding hearts and those trained to help us.

Fight or flight is a daily choice; we all have the power to choose. We can claim daily braveness and choose the work of healing, day by day,  moment by moment, never alone-   until the darkness becomes a little brighter, and in time, brighter still. 

~Just Me 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Happy, Or Whole?

All I ever wanted was a normal, "happy" life. As a teen I assumed I would marry, have children, and live the average christian life- singing in the choir, teaching children's church, maybe lead a bible study every now and then. When I was called to a "special" ministry I thought I would end up serving in an orphanage in a poverty stricken country, or perhaps be a missionary's wife. I never would have imagined that I would end up in the suburbs near Dallas, not leading bible studies, or teaching Sunday School, but rather, facilitating medical care for three family members with various medical diagnoses. 

Special indeed, this "Special Needs Lifestyle".  Am I happy? Some days, yes. Some days I am a stressed out wreck. Some days it's all I can do to balance it all- and forget about "keeping it together". But I would not trade this journey for all the "happiness" in the world, because this often chaotic life is what teaches me about God's plan for my wellness and healing. 

There's been a lot of buzz on social media regarding whether God wants us to be happy or not. My go to quip is "God wants us to be WHOLE, not happy." On a deeper level, I would add that God created us for fellowship with him. Happiness cannot complete us-Only God can. Chances are, we are going to face a lot of days where we are not happy- and it's imperative to know Who to run to in the chaos and in the calm.

Recently I've found myself frustrated, anxious, and generally under a lot of pressure. Parents of typical kids may breathe a sigh of relief when they send their kiddos back to school, yet I tend to find myself putting on the Armor of God and going into battle. Sometimes the way is smooth and school personnel are knowledgeable and cooperative. Other times, not so much.

This year I am "training" a new school nurse who has experience and knowledge, but has been distracted by the learning curve and her case load.  This past week has been frought with challenges- a veritable emotional minefield.

I felt angry when the new nurse did not focus on our (multiple) conversations long enough to answer her own questions.
I felt frustrated when she couldn't find the supplies I had brought to school for his care (important items like insulin and snacks). 

I felt out of the loop and anxious when she called the emergency line at the diabetes clinic each time my son's Blood Glucose level was out of range- instead of contacting me or simply following the care plan.

I felt determined when I called the nurse's supervisor, relieved when the supervisor listened to my concerns, and scheduled a meeting the next day to resolve the issues. 

I felt a lot of emotions this week, and none of them have been happiness. Anger, yes. Comfort, yes. Relief, yes, YES!! As each obstacle has been prayed over and then overcome, I've known God's guidance, provision, and goodness in the midst of my struggling.

I've been reminded to take care of me to offset the stress: to exercise (movement releases stress) and pray, pour out- another way to relieve stress. I've found comfort in placing everything that is out of my control in the hands of the One who can change others' hearts, and heal my own. Release of pent up emotions has been key, and I've found healing as I get out into the green spaces I love to walk and pray, run, and release.

I've also been reminded to rest. Creating new care plans and working with multiple teachers for each of my sons (16 teachers, not including the Counselors and nurses), as well as managing the many medical appointments has left me wiped out physically and emotionally. I am learning to take time to recover in spirit, soul, and body. To BE STILL. To Rest and pray... release and find rest.

Am I happy at this very moment? No- but I am content- and Peace in heart, soul, and body resonates long after momentary happiness has passed.

"Too Blessed to Be Stressed?" Not so much. While I appreciate the reminder of perspective, sometimes I am stressed, regardless of perceived "blessings". At the end of the day- and in the middle, and the early morning too, the true blessing comes as I connect with God. Often, He works not to remove the stressors, but rather to soothe me in the midst of them, granting wisdom to walk through the battle connected with his love, and gentle strength. There is courage in connectivity to the One who carries and equips.

 For me, the Blessing is God, Himself. A precious Presence in my life, this Voice leading, guiding, calming me when medical chaos- or life in general- would otherwise overwhelm me. It's when I get to a quiet place and BE STILL that I recognize he IS the blessing- whether I am "happy" or not, whether life is what I want or not, whether a storm is raging or not.

There is only One who IS the gift in my every moment. The One who holds me in the quiet places, and in the storms too. I am at peace in God alone. Happy? Not recently, no. But joy comes as I connect to the One who is my Source- the One who moves me to greater wellness whether it's enjoyable or not.

I used to want to be happy- and while I don't object to happiness (I still prefer it to those other emotions) at the end of the day I have to confess I'd rather be whole.

~Just Me