So for my birthday last month all I asked Justin for was to let me stay in bed a few hours so I could watch t.v. and drink my coffee by myself. Pitiful, yes, but that's really all I wanted.
We made it to about 8 am before Maggie started banging violently on the door with the force of her brace, " Mommy, mommy, I want mommy!".
So I opened the door and pulled her into bed with me. We started watching the movie "Soul Surfer" about a young shark attack victim. I thought Maggie might last 5-10 minutes. But believe you me this child watched the entire movie without moving. Which is crazy because she won't watch Elmo or Dora for more than five minutes.
She loved it so much that throughout the next horrific month we let her watch it whenever she wanted, which was pretty much everyday ( we did fast forward the graphic shark bite scene I promise!). It was a lot of tv, but we were thankful to have any distraction from her pain.
The movie is pretty good for a Christian film - the gorgeous Hawaiaan landscapes and surf scenes draw you in as the story unfolds about a family that is raising their kids on the beach, homeschooling their competitor daughter so she can surf six hours a day. The loving, happy family surfs together, laughing and having fun to a movie soundtrack of songs that include "This is the life." It truly was.
But the viewer knows that this beautiful and godly family, seemingly with everything going for them, was about to face a trial like they'd never known before. The opening scene we see them at an idyllic beachside church service singing "Blessed be the Name of the Lord." The lyrics are foretelling to the story: "He gives and takes away, he gives and takes away, my heart is here to say, blessed be your glorious name..."
* * * *
So after that horrible week I wrote about yesterday, I told Justin I was done. Finished with this madness that encircles my life: doctors who don't call you back, nurses who don't care, people who are heartless. Something inside me had changed that day, I told him. I'm not sure what exactly. I think watching your child suffer day in and day out eventually does irreversible damage to a mother. And I felt damaged to the core.
So as our lives seem to be crumbling around us, all I can think is "Lord, what else?"
I get chills up my spine thinking of Job and how he lost everything, including his children.
I resolve not to leave the house. Reduce risk of getting in an accident that could harm my children or at least leave our insurance-less family with a massive hospital bill.
Oh me of little faith! Obviously this was not realistic! How silly it all sounds now, but it's true, for a few days there I really tried to live outside the realms of God's sovereignty.
* * * *
As I got weaker, Justin got stronger. Funny how that happens in a marriage. He starts asking to pray with me more, begins reading Scripture aloud to me. I - who have always wanted my husband to lead me spiritually - withdraw emotionally.
And it's not that I was turning on God, because I'm praying silently all the time. But more that I wanted my husband to know the depth of my anger and sadness.
Maybe I felt like if he knew the true despair I felt, he could put on his super hero cape and fix everything pronto. Partly, I admit, I wanted him to feel guilty, like somehow any of this was his fault, which it wasn't, but I suppose I just wanted someone to blame. I told him I just wanted to go home to my family to escape this suffering in Dallas. Dagger to a husband's heart. Sin played out in a marriage.
* * * *
After our first insurance appeal was denied, we stayed up late one night, Justin trying to comfort his hysterical wife who was convinced ( and rightly so) that life as we know it was over. Having a child with major medical problems can suck every last penny out of any family, and that's when they do have insurance.
I cry hysterically. He says he's never seen me so upset before. We talk more and more about the various paths our life could take and what that means for Maggie's health, for our family, our house, our children's schooling.
Then we both remember the day when I was 15 weeks pregnant and we refused to terminate our pregnancy, saying that no cost- financial, physical, or emotional- was too high for the life of our child.
We were brought to our knees once again, realizing that three years ago we told God we would give anything, everything for Maggie. Our lifestyle, our finances, we didn't care what it cost, just wanted that baby on the ultrasound screen.
Out of his infinite mercy He gave us that miracle, and yet here I was, three years later, already bitter with little faith in the One who gave us the impossible and provided for our every single need since.
I fell asleep crying that night, humbled once again.
* * * *
You know, even though I've learned my whole life that God's power is made perfect in our weakness, that faith as small as a mustard seed is all we need, that His Spirit intercedes and prays for us when we are too weak and don't know what to pray, somehow I still have in mind that I have to be really strong in my faith before God's going to really go to work and answer my prayers. It's just not true though.
It was actually at this weakest point that I saw God at work (hello, I sing "Jesus Loves Me" every night at bed time, you think I would get that when I am weak, He is strong!).
Incredibly the very next day blessings abounded. It was so out of left field, too, that there was no question it was from the Lord. First, we got a call that they accepted our second appeal (which rarely happens they say). Our insurance would be reinstated immediately. Praise God. Second, blessings abounded on Justin's business, confirmation that we were on the right path. Third, we saw a new GI doctor who gave us hope for Maggie's stomach issues and eating.
This kind new doctor prescribed a previously used medicine at a higher dose to induce hunger, and a few nights later she actually took a few bites of a chicken nugget. Her terrible dehydration also kicked in some survival instincts because she actually started drinking water! She hasn't consumed anything liquid by mouth since she was 8 months old. Granted it was a little messy, her mouth is so weak it runs out the corners of her lips all over her shirt, but who cares? Furthermore, she learned how to use a straw! Sounds so mundane, but it's huge to us.
Justin and I have both been in awe of His mercy, when the world let us down, we realized that He was still holding us up
* * * *
It didn't hit me until a few days ago that maybe we started off the month watching Soul Surfer for a reason. I know its crazy to think a two year old can identify with someone else who is struggling, but I swear she was drawn to the movie like nothing I've ever seen before . And it was so good for Mary Lawrence and I to talk about the movie, about Bethany Hamilton's disability and how she looks different than other people, but she's still the same. How she struggles like Maggie, but how God gives her the strength to keep surfing and living a happy life in spite of it all.
Everyday as the movie played in our den I heard the hymn, "Blessed be your Name," yet it didn't click until much later that the hymn was based on Job 1:21:
And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
Our March was capped off by a funeral and burial, which really brought this verse home to me. My dad and his brothers had to start going through all their mother's things and cleaning out her house of over 60 years. It was such a reminder of how we come into this world with nothing and leave with absolutely nothing. All these things that matter so much to us really don't matter at all.
And it might not be at the end of our life that our beloved possessions are taken away - even the most financially secure families can lose everything. Because everything on this earth really belongs to God and He has the power to give and take away. Do I really grasp that now?
I ask myself : was I saying "Blessed be your name" throughout this past month of struggles? Would I say it still if, like Job, I lost my house, my insurance, my possessions, my children? Like David in the wilderness as his enemies seek his destruction, would I sing, "Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you"? (Psalm 63:3)
My mom and I were discussing all this and she reminded me of a moment at a friend's funeral when the grandfather, who had lost his granddaughter and son in the previous months, stood up at the front of the church and said loudly with the outmost conviction: "The Lord gives and takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." That's all he said and then he sat down.
Do I have that much conviction as I say those words? Will I next month or next year or in 10 years when faced with tribulation? I hope and pray I do.