In sickness and in health

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!

A leader in the making

Leadership skills, it’s what I tell myself multiple times during the day when I find myself standing up to the 4 foot giant of a leader that is embodied in her tiny little body that forces it’s way into my lap most mornings. She shoves my arms up to make room,while I try to sip the last of my hot tea.

Asking for your opinion is not something that you will find her do.  She states things, clear as day.  Her statements are affirmative, no wavering.  She has come to a conclusion and is certain of her beliefs.  Don’t try to sway her otherwise.  She will not back down.

It’s not coming from a seed of superiority that some might think when they hear such confidence coming from such a tiny little soul.  Quite frankly it is because she has weighed the options, she has taken into account what could be and she has determined what she believes to be true.  She doesn’t decide things on a whim.  There is so much thought put into what she decides to speak on.  I will catch her in a packed room, most of the time here in our house. 7 people + ALL the neighbor kids that have found they are always welcome fill the place up. There she will be, quietly folded in the kitchen chair, dark black eyes surveying the conversations around her, watching how other conduct themselves.  She is quiet, her eyes move from person to person, you can see the wheels are turning at a rapid pace.  

You might miss it if you don’t know her.  You might think that she is just quietly sitting, unaffected by the room of people living their lives, but she isn’t, she has already made up in her mind what you need or how she might have said or done something differently.

She loves, she loves so well.  Like a minimum of 3 kisses at bed time, 1 for each cheek and 1 on the forehead.  Every tight squeeze around the neck is counted outloud.  Having a bad day?Her little arms will hold you tighter and they will squeeze you until you feel like you are going to pass out.  Sometimes her independence can make you think she doesn’t need you.  Sometimes you feel as though she is putting up with you, but its when you walk out of a room, far enough away that gentle conversations can’t be had, you will find her on your heels. Wondering why you left her bubble.  She gets life from other people’s energy.

They way she cares for Veil makes us want to keep her like this forever.  She is so patient, always trying to teach Veil how to be a big kid.  She helps Veil go back to bed when they get up WAY to early on the weekends.  She will fix Veil’s shoes when they are on the wrong feet, only after watching Veil put them on wrong and waiting for Veil to realize she needs her help.  She will always push her “super high” on the swing, even when Veil has had more turns then her.  She will make sure that when a snack or treat is being dished out, that Veil will not be left out.

In just the last few months there has been a shift in her.  Her eyes have been set on the fact that she is going to kindergarten this fall, how she will be in school all day like her siblings.  No more pickups after lunch by daddy and quite afternoons while Veil naps.  She has asked her family to help her count down the days until she turns 5.

She has dreams, she already knows that she is going to grow up and get married and move away one day.  Something that her siblings grappled with when they were older than her.  It’s a fact she has accepted in a way to either help herself cope or maybe help her momma cope. She recently informed me, “when I am a mom, I am going to live in Hawaii, so that you will come and visit me and take care of my kids”.

Oh Boo, you had me at when “I become a mom”…Hawaii would just be a bonus

Ya’el Ariel Ruth, you are 5 years old today.

I have not ever taken you for granted.  The little life lost, before I ever had a chance to hold them, paved a way for you to be cherished beyond all measure.   I wanted you, even though you were such a shock for us.  You came into the world, wide awake, ready to take on the world.  You slept so peacefully on daddy’s chest for weeks, making sure that he would never ever be able to deny his need for you.  You nursed like a champion and I wondered if you were every going to wean.  Veil took care of that for us.  You have always had a glimmer in your eyes, even as a baby, I knew that if I saw that look to be aware of what you would be doing in the coming minutes.  Even now, I treasure the times something happens or a family member is being obnoxious, because I look for you.  I have learned that what I am thinking is no longer carried by me and only me, I know that I can look you in the eyes and we both read each others’ souls and find comfort in knowing we aren’t the only ones who think or see things the way we do.

I hope that you always pull me into the room where the music is blasting and say “come on mom, just dance!”.  I hope that you curl up in my lap when I am fighting my anxiety about the day ahead and encourage me to just breath as you pull my arms tight around you. I hope that you always look for the ones that need help and instead of doing all the work for them, you show them how to help themselves.  You are not an enabler; you are a teacher.

Ya’el Ariel Ruth, I pray God in his goodness continues to remind me that you are so strong because He made you to rise above, to not be afraid of your voice when the world so often tries to quiet women, esp. strong women, I pray that you will choose humility in the times your truth might not be the truth, that you always remember there are always 3 sides to a story: yours, theirs, and the truth.  I pray that God will give you abundance when it comes to loving others, that you will use the gift of discernment and choose to be His hands and feet.  I pray that you will always love big, that you will always love loud, and that you will always love God more then anything this world has to offer.

Happy birthday Boo