Thursday, October 31, 2019

Sovereign - part 2

"I think I’ve made a horrible mistake. I shouldn’t have gotten on this plane. I shouldn’t be here.”
Fewer words could’ve been more discouraging than these, but I couldn’t get them out of my head. I had heard these thoughts replay over and over again for about thirty minutes before I had made myself feel even sicker. I had gotten up to go to the bathroom to cry a few times before but this time the 'fasten seat belt' sign kept me in my chair. My brother, Clay, was sitting next to me and quickly noticed when tears started streaming down my face. He asked what was wrong and without thinking, I made my thoughts audible.
“I am so sick Clay. I should’ve stayed home. I shouldn’t be here. I’ve made a horrible mistake. I can’t stand being on this plane anymore. I just want to go home.” 
Tears and sobs escaped my soul in a slightly suppressed manner so I wouldn’t make a scene. It had been a VERY long day, complete with throwing up teenagers, delayed flights, and middle-of-the-airport-floor card games. An emotional breakdown did not need to be added to the chaos of traveling. We sat there for a minute with my head on his shoulder, me sobbing and him probably wondering “what the heck am I going to say to this crazy lady?” 
He answered me in a low tone, and it was only then that I could hear he was crying too.
“I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know WHY you are sick. I don’t know WHY God wants you on this trip. I don’t even know why I’M on this trip. All I know is you ARE supposed to be here. I think I’m on this trip to be here right now for you. You’re going to make it.”
He was right about most of that. The only thing he was wrong about was the hypothesis that he was only on the trip for me. The Lord had more purpose for him than just caring for me. However, in that moment he understood and accepted the fact that sometimes the Lord just sends us for one person, and that’s enough of a reason to go.
Let me take you back to the 24 hours before embarking on this rigorous journey for a moment. We had already spent a long Sunday evening in and out of various medical centers trying to figure out what was wrong. The next morning (Monday) I woke up to my mom saying, “They worked us in this evening. Somebody cancelled last minute. Your imaging is at 6:20pm tonight.” That was cutting it close, but as long as we could get good results by 9:00am Tuesday morning, I could get on the plane. The hours that followed were miserable. I wasn’t strong enough to stand for more than a few minutes at a time, let alone finish any of the last-minute packing that still needed to be done. Thankfully, my mom and brothers helped me finish (Really they just did it for me). I had a packed bag, a scheduled brain scan, and a whole lot of hope. I also had a spinning head, a racing heart, and a numb hand, but I wasn’t about to let any of those things ruin what the Lord had planned for me. He had told me to go to Kazakhstan, so that is what I was going to do even if it killed me. 
We were just about to pull out of the imaging center when my mom gasped and said, “Faith, look!” I stared in the direction her finger was gesturing and there was the most beautiful rainbow. It was then that I felt the Holy Spirit speak, calming me with these words, “I promised you would go back someday. Don’t forget, I’m pretty good at keeping promises.” 
After we got home, the waiting began. It didn’t take long for my primary care doctor to call and let us know there was nothing that alarmed them on my MRI. It wasn’t until the next morning that we heard about the other imaging of my brain. That one was clear too, so I was mostly okay to fly. We still didn’t know what was wrong with me, but we had scheduled some appointments for after the trip. I was still sick and could hardly get out of bed. I questioned for a long time whether I should go or not (let me be honest, I had a few emotional breakdowns along the way, too). Eventually I stopped crying long enough to listen to the Lord, but His came through my brother Clay’s mouth. “You aren’t going to weigh down the team. We all care about you enough that we will carry you through this trip if you get worse. If everybody else gets too tired, I won’t.” When Clay stopped speaking, I still felt the Holy Spirit talking to me. “I will not let you fall this time. You are weak, but I am strong. I’m going to teach you how to do ministry from a place of rest. It’s time for you to slow down. I know you hate that, but that’s why I had to interfere.”
So, I went. But on that plane from Frankfurt to Almaty, I broke down. I lost sight of what the Lord had said to me and of what he had promised me. My doubts were bigger than my faith, I’m sorry to say. I’m just thankful the Lord didn’t leave me in that place.
Every day was a series of battles, but the Lord always fought for me. I still got crazy tired and sick occasionally, but my team was very patient and very caring. When I would lay down or sit up, my head would spin, but throughout the day I could see clearly.
 It wasn’t until the last night of kids’ camp that I realized the Lord could not only sustain me, but he could ACTUALLY be the strength that kept me going. Previously that day I had been bed ridden yet again. Almost everybody at this point had an ailment of some sort. I wasn’t even the only one unable to function. One of our team members suggested that we all get together to pray over the sick before the event that evening. We worshiped and prayed for a long time and we even anointed each other with oil (thank you "aunty" Jam for the peppermint oil contribution to our prayer session). Y’all would not believe the miracle that followed. Each and every one of us, including the bed-ridden, were given new life. Not one of us looked or felt the affects of our sicknesses. Some of us were temporarily healed, and others were permanently healed. We all made it to the event with a skip in our steps. We worshiped and danced and listened to the lesson (it was in Russian, so we just nodded along as if we understood). Now this night already felt like a success, but I hadn’t seen anything yet.
I was about to learn the lesson that my brother had learned before the trip. “If it is all only for the one person, it is worth it.” I stepped out of the event when I noticed a young girl laying on a couch in the next room. I went in and asked the woman who was with her what was wrong, and they said she had passed out. I couldn’t do anything. I was helpless. She was helpless. But my God was not. He had just healed a dozen people. Surely, He could do it again. I sat down with her. I prayed. I sang. I waited. I don’t know how long I was in that room with that girl, but that’s not important. What was important was she was the one I was sent for. And I did everything the Lord needed me to do that day in HIS strength, not my own. The connection I made with that girl will last forever. When she woke up, it was like nothing had ever happened. The Lord was her strength too. She clung to me for the rest of the trip. Thinking about her sweet little voice brings tears to my eyes. She wasn’t the only person I feel I was sent for. The Lord did His work through my body in other ways too, but as we were departing from Almaty, Kazakhstan, I knew that if I endured all that just for God to touch that little girl, it was worth it.
Still so many unanswered questions, but one thing I was sure of, I would never be the same again.
The wheels left the ground and I held my breath…

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sovereign - part 1

It was a regular day.

I rose early, like I always do. I made coffee. I let the dogs out. I did my Bible study. I went to the gym. 

When I returned home from working out, sweaty and exhausted and needing a snack, I was greeted by a strange sight.

My 17-year-old was laying flat on her back on the couch. At 10 a.m. She was pale, and when I said hi, her response was weak.

"I feel really dizzy," she commented. "Like, if I sit up I want to throw up because my head starts spinning so bad."

I am not an alarmist mom. Never have I ever been. I'm much more likely to say "rub some dirt on it and suck it up and go" than I am to take a child to the doctor. In fact: I once made this same dizzy child walk around for 3 days on what I diagnosed as a twisted ankle before finally caving in and taking her to the doctor. It was fractured. Poor kid. BAD mom.

So, I did what I always do when a child is sick or hurt. I listened, I asked questions, and then we moved forward with our day. I gave her a snack, some headache medicine, and a big glass of water.

She was leaving for a missions trip in 5 days, after all. No time to be sick. Too much to do.

But she didn't get better, not really. She's tough, and rallied a bit. But she looked pale and weak. Concerned medical friends encouraged me to take her to the doctor.

So a Sunday afternoon found us at Urgent Care.

As we sat there, waiting, listening to the doctors discuss her symptoms and say big, scary words like "heart murmur" and "eye-abnormality" and "brain issue" that they wanted to rule out...

I had this slow-motion, internal meltdown.

It wasn't just a regular day anymore. It wasn't just a lack of proper nutrition or hydration or nerves that were making her sick. SOMETHING WAS WRONG.

But I kept my face neutral. Because she kept looking over at me from the exam table. Seeking support from my eyes. Checking on me to see if I was okay.

She knows me well, this first-born of mine. SO I looked at her only when my eyes were clear, and spoke only when I could get words out past the block of panic in my throat. I gripped my phone tightly in my fingers to still the shaking.

It was such a long day. I won't bore you with the details of emergency rooms and doctors who thought I was being overly dramatic, or nurses and attending physicians who told my child there was nothing wrong with her but that, to be safe, she shouldn't go on her trip. There's no reason to rehash how I was totally calm with the doctors and nurses, but how I straight up dissolved into a basket case when we were alone. 

My husband and daughter looked at me, and I knew they knew I was barely holding on. 

"I cannot be involved in this decision," I said finally, my voice trembling and tears spilling over. "Rationally I know that I cannot be rational. I'm freaking out. So I'm going to just sit here."

Because, you see...Sundays can start off normal, and they can end up being the beginning of a spiral of pain you don't think you'll survive. 

I had lived a Sunday just like this before. With hospital rooms, and brain abnormalities, and unanswered questions. My sister...she died...on the mission field...of a brain bleed...

And everyone who looked at me was thinking "she's being overly cautious because of her history..." One of the doctors even SAID that to me.

So I let my rational, logical husband and daughter discuss what we wanted to do next. And I trembled, and my jaw shook from holding back my terror, and I could not get warm enough, no matter how close I snuggled to my girl in that tiny, sterile bed.

We left the hospital with only a few questions answered. She wasn't pregnant (no kidding, stupid doctors) or on drugs (again...no kidding) or anemic. They had done preliminary blood work only, and found nothing of interest. So...we returned home.

Her primary care doctor was as unsatisfied as we were with the lack of results and answers. So there was more waiting, and more tests. And still no pinpointed reason for her dizzy spells and heart palpitations and eye-abnormality. 

But...as Tuesday morning dawned, a brain bleed had been ruled out. That was what we needed to know for sure before deciding whether or not she could get on a 15+ hour flight. 

I won't lie. I have never been more afraid. The shaking was only barely concealable. I was on the brink of tears all of the time. 

Her doctors really didn't want her to go. Since we had no reason for why she wasn't well...they wanted her to stay. 

My husband and I talked alone, agonizing over what to do. "Do we let her decide? It seems like such a big thing to ask of her. Do we just tell her she can't go? It'll break her heart. And what if it's the wrong thing? What if we stand in the way of what God wants her to do?"

I sobbed. I begged God to give us a clear directive. 

And...so did she. 

Because she was afraid too. For herself, yes, and for me. She knew, even though I was trying so hard to hide it, that I was triggered worse than I ever had been. She knew I looked at her and I saw my sister leaving, and that I couldn't stop the reel in my head that went "you hugged her goodbye and you never saw her again..." 

It choked me with its terror, those memories. And so I looked at my kid...pale, undecided and trying to be brave for me, and I told her the truth. "You cannot make this decision because you're worried about me. The Lord was with me when your Aunt Joy died. He will be with me if you go on this trip. If you feel like He is telling you to go...I'll be okay. Ask Him what He wants you to do, and do that. If you want to stay, that's okay too. But you decide, for YOU, what He wants."

An hour before we needed to leave for the departure of the trip, she said to us, "I think I'm going to go."

And I swallowed hard, and my husband nodded.

And we held our breath for the next two weeks.