I struggled, wrestled and cried in the early morning hours of our wedding. I had been out late the night before with my girlfriends and thought that I could stuff all the rumblings inside. I learned that they had a sneaky way of pouring out in the early mornings. So instead of waking some of the bridal party that was sharing the same room with me by my tossing and turning, I decided to slip out quietly to the living room. The rain was pouring. On my wedding day. How quickly the sun that had shone the day before disappeared. I remember asking myself “was this a sign?”. Ha! I wasn’t raised to believe in signs.
I pulled a raincoat over my pjs, found my running shoes by the door and snuck out. The thoughts coursing through my brain where to big and too loud that if I wasn’t careful would wake a sleeping house. I walked all over the neighborhood. In fact, as I am sitting in my house now, I am recalling walking past this very house that morning…how crazy to now realize I am living in this house. I remember flicking away the heavy branches, dripping with rain, away from my face just across the street…
4:30 am I found out was God’s hour to get my attention. Something I would be reminded of many years later.
I was going against everything I had been taught. I was choosing to marry an unbeliever. I was walking into a situation that some could say was doomed before we said our vows. But even in my running from God, even in my disregard to make Him a priority in my life, I was never far from His Spirit. Even as a child, I can recall specific times the Spirit has led me.
That morning was no different. I was told I was free to make the choice, that God knew the deep love I had for Richard, but that I had to fully admit to myself and God that I knew it was not going to be easy, if I chose to marry him. There would be no running back to God and blaming him if things fell apart. You see, God is God, but He is also a Father of free will. He showed me this that morning.
June 17, 2006.
We said our vows in a room packed full of friendships from our childhoods, people who had known us when we were babies, family from afar and friendships we had made in our adult years.
I was calm, quiet, I didn’t have a lot to say. Richard on the other hand couldn’t stop chatting, had tears flowing from his face, but when it came time to say our vows, we said them to the best of our abilities not knowing the depth of what they would truly mean years down the road.
Today, we celebrate 13 years of marriage.
By God’s grace and His alone.
I won’t go into the history of our marriage, there are other blogs you can look up about our marriage if you want to.
Today I want to share what hit me a few nights ago. We crawled into bed, after our nightly date on the couch. Babies tucked in bed, big kids still playing in their rooms enjoying the freedom of summer nights. I was tired, not feeling well. I had shared with him in a prior conversation that I felt like some of the old symptoms I have dealt with on and off for the last year were beginning to come back. But this time, there was a self-awareness attached to the situation.
You see, April 2018, on good Friday, I found myself getting a CT scan. Excruciating pain that was keeping me up at night and a found myself barely able to walk without feeling like I was going to vomit led me to that point.
A nurse called later with prescriptions to be picked up and confirmed that I had kidney stones. The chronic heart burn that I had been dealing with a few months’ prior wasn’t getting any better either. So, I was thrown some meds and hoped things would get better in time for our Easter service. For all you men that say you know what childbirth is like because you had stones…well, coming from a woman who has delivered 5 babies…NO you don’t.
What I didn’t realize is that things were just getting started.
A few months later I was diagnosed with ulcers. I lived in a chronic state of pain. I could point with my eyes closed the spots where the pain resided. My diet drastically changed. I soon realized what my body could and couldn’t handle. I was angry, frustrated. How could this be happening, I worked so hard to be healthy. My purse looked like a mini pharmacy, I never knew when I was going to be plagued with pain and also lived in fear that more stones would show up.
Then something broke in me.
Like completely broke.
I found myself, hyperventilating in my front yard, vision blurred and wanting to crawl out of my skin. I couldn’t gather my thoughts and most of all felt like a foreigner in my body. I called Richard and work and told him something was wrong.
For the next 6 months, I learned what it meant to have a panic attack. I learned how debilitating they are. I learned that they are real. I learned that they were not going to go away. I learned that after years and stuffing and stacking trauma in my life, my body/mind said ENOUGH. In my journey this year, I also found its common for caretakers of chronically ill family members to have PTSD.
There were nights I just cried on the couch next to Richard telling him, I don’t know what is wrong with me. At first, I recalled him looking at me with an investigative approach. This was not the bride, the woman he had married. He was the one to show emotion, he was the one to be irrational, he was the one to flip flop. Instead the black and white, calm, reality driven woman he married was replaced by a fragile broken soul.
Anxiety became my companion. I literally learned to survive on less then 4 hours of sleep a night. 4:30 being my mind’s best time to spin like a top.
A few months later came the diagnosis of a hernia in my stomach. More meds, more changes, more side effects to deal with the meds. Nothing was normal anymore.
I was barely keeping it together.
Through counseling, through meeting with my spiritual director, through talking with my pastor and through going through the School of Soul Formation, I have been learning how to quiet my restless soul.
It has not been easy. I was ready to walk into the doors at behavior health and get over my pride and say, “I don’t care what you give me, just give me something to make the anxiety go away”. It was through walking with a small group of people that I could trust, that I was able to start to find help.
As of now medicine has not had to be part of my story. But I am also going to say, that if it had/has to be part of your story or a story of someone you love, its ok, God gave medicine for a reason.
What I did realize a few nights ago, is that Richard is part of my healing journey with my battle with anxiety. That the man that God told me, it was up to me if I wanted to walk a hard road, has been the very man to help lead me gently back to health, back to me. The road we walked has been very hard, things could have been very different had Richard not responded to his own personal call from God.
After months and months of little sleep, he watched the normal lively parts of me die, my capacity to handle the simplest of things, became the very things that left me white knuckling my day. He had to carry me and yes at times, my duties, while working his full-time job.
Some of you might be reading all this and saying, “what?” “how” or “I would see you and you looked just fine”. That’s the thing about anxiety, anxiety is hidden so well, especially in a society that sees mental health as a taboo topic. I learned to hide, stuff it even more in public settings, which usually large groups of people sent me in fight or flight on a regular basis.
Prayer has become the only thing that was holding me together. To say that my prayer life with God has changed is an understatement, it has transformed.
But what I do want to say is that in all this, the man that I pledged my soul to has held me together as well. Has loved me even when I was not who he envisioned when I said I do. He has served me when I was unable to pull myself together and be present, while fighting the battle field of my mind.
I wish I could tell you my battle with anxiety is over, its not, but as I am doing the soul work that God has asked me to do in this desert season, as I am facing trauma that I told myself that I would never deal with, I am learning that even in this CRAPPY season, God is still in the midst of it, caring for me.
How do I know?
Because last night, like all the other nights the last few months, my Husband, my partner, my lover, my best friend, my companion, my protector, my dreamer, my silver fox. Last night, he laid in bed next to me, read scripture over me and prayed for me. As he makes sure that the word of God is the last thing my mind processes, as he entrusts my soul to God, I am finding minutes that were stolen from me over the last year slowly come back to me in my sleep.
This is part of our story we never thought we would have, but then again we didn’t think we would be living in Ketchikan, we didn’t know we would have 5 kids, we didn’t know Cystic Fibrosis would shake our foundations, we didn’t know the ministry field would be a calling for me, we didn’t know that he would be where he is now in his career.
But if this has to be part of our story. I am really thankful to have found someone who has taken his eternal vows seriously.
To love me in sickness and in health.
13 years with this man!