chronic…peace?

My sister has battled a chronic illness for 12.5 years, one that almost killed her at first and kept her in a medically-induced coma for most of the next five months. She has been in and out of countless doctors’ offices and in the hospital too regularly. It’s quite possible that, in any given year, she sees more medical personnel than I have in my entire lifetime, and I’m her Big Sister.

Coco missed most of her oldest son’s first year of life–my parents and other sister helped to care for him while she was comatose–and her second son is more-than-miraculous given he was unintentionally conceived while she was taking drastic drugs. Her sons have never known their mom without a life-defining illness and they, with their dad, have proven incredibly resilient. We wish they hadn’t had to.

Summer before last, my dear friend had emergency eye surgery to repair a torn retina. Surgery should have fixed the problem, but for the last year-and-a-half she has been in and out of the doctor’s office two-five times per month. She has had additional emergency surgeries (one resulted in 472 laser blasts to her eye). She has received second and third opinions. She has had more than one allergic reaction to medications that have resulted in additional doctor’s appointments. Almost weekly she has had to change her activity levels and schedule to accommodate healing, and she has been advised not to travel more than two hours from the nearest retinal surgeon.

She finally switched surgeons for a more aggressive approach and endured an invasive fix-all surgery. Surgery successful, and she had post-op complications. Months later, even more. “Wait…” might be the most difficult word to hear when you thought you’d already done everything necessary.

Our Tween has cyclic vomiting, a migraine variant that, for the most part, bypasses the headache and sets him off hurling. Daily, and regularly, until the school day’s over, at which point he feels (mostly) fine. It sounds like faking, but no kid would intentionally vomit this often or violently. He loves school, and he would much rather be there than running for the toilet.

It came on 2.5 years ago and at first we thought it was an odd flu. When Week Two, punctuated by an entirely-well weekend, repeated the exact pattern, and then the whole thing repeated a few months later, we began looking for other causes.

A year ago–after his worst-ever cycle, three weeks of morning-to-bedtime puke–his neurologist put him on a preventative med that worked: he had an entire migraine-free year! Exactly a year later, it seems to have stopped working.

He is now in his third cycle of this school year. Different from every cycle before this fall, they are less violent; he can go back to sleep; and they last only a few days. He has missed thirteen days scattered throughout eight weeks, which means he’s missed one-quarter of the current school year. He likes his teachers and classes; he has friends; he wants to be there; and migraines have laid him flat.

Because these cycles have been different, we don’t know what to expect. Which means we don’t know what to do and our lives feel on hold.

On Tuesday I talked with my friend after yet-more disappointing news. On Wednesday I talked with my sister as she anticipated difficult doctors’ appointments. On Thursday, when Tween returned to bed rather than school, I heard my own voice say what my loves had said before: “I just want my life back!”

So I have been praying, “peace of Christ,” my new mantra. When in the car, I turn the fan on my face to remind myself that God wants to blow His Spirit, His peace, into my life.

I pray peace for Tween, as we expect anxiety is a likely player in his migraines (though he can’t articulate it). I pray peace for Guy, who so desperately wants to fix things that he gets angry when he can’t. I pray peace for myself as I day-after-day take short days in the office to come home and work nearby my kiddo, who by that time is usually attempting homework sans class instruction. I pray peace as our plans for days and dates and celebrations fall to the wayside of illness.

I pray peace for my sister. I pray peace for my friend. I pray peace for our world…

I want my life back…and yet this, for now, is my life. No bother comparing “old normal” to “new normal,” today is life and this is what I get. Peace of Christ. Peace of Christ, friends.patricksbreastplate

Help. Thanks. Wow.

Anne Lamott, or as others call her, St. Anne, claims that the Essential Prayers sound this simple:
Help.
Thanks.
Wow.

I have prayed many, many words over many, many years, but I’m not sure I could come up with a prayer, petition, or praise that wouldn’t fit those three categories: help, thanks, wow.

Other than Tween staying home to vomit all day – and yes, this almost feels normal in a skin-crawling, crazy-making kind of way – today had been a good day: gym time, coffee with a friend, productive meetings; a friend brought her kids over to help Tween with homework (read: play), which meant moms also had time together.

Too much of an almost-good day? Teen locked his jaws on a potential outing to which I’ve said a solid, emphatic “NO!” I know he wants freedom, and I get that I represent his jailer, but I can’t say yes to this one. But ADHD hyper-focus shuts down his compassion and he bites hard, and long, and it’s all I can do to breathe and answer in a whisper so as not to provoke him further.

Interruption: the splash of Tween being violently ill.

Breathe. Pray. Breathe. Pray.

I made dinner and left it on the stove. I mentally went back to work to avoid my life’s chaos. When I thought I’d heard the end of Guy and Teen hashing out the same conversation I’d endured earlier, I cautiously emerged. Also, Tween was feeling better and able to eat.

I ate a few bites. Teen apologized and hugged me harder than ever. Even so, I spied my little eye into the liquor cabinet (Mexican food = margarita, right?) before Guy mentioned he’d chilled chardonnay. And then I noticed the pinkish light through our windows.

I poured two glasses of wine and invited Guy outside. Glasses clinked, we stood silently and watched as blue became grey became pink, peach, plum, dusky purple. The horizon lit orange, fire colors. Hot and intense, casting now yellow, autumnal light. We followed the light from front yard to back, where we sat to watch the colors change through our tree-silhouetted skyline. I thought, “This is what I needed. I am putting myself in the way of beauty (my “word” for 2015). This beauty, this WOW, will help me breathe.”sunset

Help: Help us make it through this abdominal migraine cycle. Help Doctors discover a way out of future cycles. Help Tween persevere through this mountain of work. Help Teachers respond with grace and kindness. Help Teen put his focus on Needs rather than Wants. Help Guy and I to stay on the same page in this whole parenting deal. Help maintain my sanity!

Thanks: Thanks for these three fantastic men you’ve put in my life. Thanks for Friends who surround us – with prayer, moral support, offers to cook and shop and even tutor, pop-in work and play dates, even tangible gifts (Homemade feed corn ice-heat packs? Awesome! Essential oils? Escential!). Thanks for killing our blender just as Guy was in Costco, and Big Thanks for the VitaMix he brought home to replace it. Thanks for holding us safe in Your Great Big Hands.

Wow: Seriously, this gorgeous sunset? WOW! The picture doesn’t do it justice. That these vibrant colors came from smog, sure, but I am wowed that you continually choose to bring beauty from bad, redemption from our rubbage. Tonight, I am wowed that you are an ever-present Help; that you are the source of any good thing for which I can say Thanks; that you are our WOW.

And just in case I sound too precious, Teen demonstrated his love for me – his goofy-kid way of saying sorry yet again – by trusting me with his beauties just as I finished writing (evidence that I’m growing in love for him, too, that I let these two crawl around on my lap).snakes

Let it Be

Last week God gave me a miracle of closure.

Almost a year ago, a long-time friendly acquaintance, a would-be friend had we shared greater proximity in the time we’ve known one another, well, she threw me under the bus.

She observed and entirely misunderstood an encounter I had with someone else. Instead of talking to me, she spoke poorly of me to others. Word got back to me, and I got back to her.

Because I’m better in writing, I wrote her a note and took the high road for the sake of the relationship. I didn’t attempt to explain, simply stated that I thought there had been a misunderstanding. I apologized, even asked for forgiveness, for having unintentionally offended her. I expressed gratitude for our relationship. I never heard back from her.

Which meant that every time I saw her I felt injured and sad. Stung. Rejected.

But I also felt like I’d done what I’d needed to, and the rest was on her. Best I could, I had to let it be.

Last weekend Guy and I attended a local art and wine festival. As we sipped cold beer in the shade, hiding from the blistering sun while we listened to an exceptionally good Beatles cover band, quite suddenly SHE was standing directly in front of me. She was laughing and hugging us both. She introduced us to her husband. She gave us the whole run-down on how she’s doing, how her kids are doing, kids I’ve prayed for, kids who have moved from early adolescence through college graduation in the time I’ve known her.

As if nothing had ever happened. She was exactly the same friendly, happy acquaintance I’ve always known.

We parted ways and eventually found a quiet table. Stunned, I reminded Guy of the situation a year ago; he never knew who the other player had been. She has a job now and can no longer attend our regular gathering. Barring any more spontaneous God-encounters, that may possibly have been the last time I’ll see her.

The band’s song broke through my reflections: “Let it Be.”

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Of course Mary’s situation couldn’t be more different, but her words of wisdom ring true just the same: Let it be. Whatever God intends, let it be. God noticed this one small ache in my heart and orchestrated closure. He asked me to forgive, and when I still couldn’t forget, He brought joy. Let it be.

Those words have stuck with me this week as Tween has caught us up in another cyclone of abdominal migraines. They warned us it could get worse and the variation in this cycle, the night-time vomiting, the not-enough-warning make-a-mess vomiting, yup, they’re worse.

sick QNot to mention the middle school homework piling up. And the silence from his teachers, despite our request for class notes and extra directions necessary to understand the assignments.

The specialist has ordered more tests, and referred us to another doctor who will likely order more tests. Meanwhile, the anti-nausea meds continue to be ineffective.

Panic threatens to drown me, and so I whisper words of wisdom: Let it be.

We didn’t ask for this. We don’t know what causes it or how to stop it. We simply take each hour, each episode, as it comes. Really, what choice do we have?

God cares about the little things, and so I trust that He cares even more about the big things. Keeping life in perspective, there are Much Bigger Things than a week of vomiting. But for now this is our Big Thing, and I will trust that God cares.

Let it be. And as I was reminded again yesterday, let me be still and know that He is God. He will be exalted among the nations. He will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10).

He’s got the nations. He created and sustains the whole earth. He’s certainly got us. Amen.