The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” ~Psalm 32:5
Yesterday morning, I laid awake in my parent’s bed at 4:00 a.m., (medication does some strange things to your ability to sleep, folks) watching the first glimpses of morning reach up to steal away the darkness. I put down my phone, on which I had been doing my due-diligence as a devout Christmas elf on Amazon for an hour, and counted my blessings. Such a simple thing to do; so numerous are our blessings, we don’t realize all the flowers we’ve picked until our basket begins to break! It’s something I’ve tried to practice each morning before I get out of bed: to re-center myself on what He is putting in front of me, not what He is taking out of me. It makes the light of morning sweeter, and the carpet under my weak feet a little softer in the early hours of the morning. Of these blessings, which I counted through as individually as I could, I thanked God for His prayer warrior women.
God builds up our temporary bodies through the Church, to work for Him amongst each other. That is a blessing. The women he prepared to help me, through my mother’s connections in the community and her work, are blessings I could sing praises for. A group of three of her co-workers, they prayed over me like the fervent, faith-strong believers they are. They visited me in the hospital with muffins (Thank you Mrs. B! And round two was just as good), lifting my family up to Him so gracefully and powerfully they could very well be angels of His own. The blessings have increased since then, like ripples in a pond. Though I still lean fully into Him on this path He has made for me, each woman reaching out is a blessing to support my arm, if only for a brief amount of time. Some travel parallel paths: they are faint lights in the distance God has shown me as a promise of the joy in my future. Some are mere steps ahead of me in this path He has laid out, extending a hand so I can make it over a spot I find too difficult to tread on my own. Each one an equal blessing He has handed me, that I may do the same for those in Him one day.
“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:15
Though I have barely begun to discover and follow this new path God has revealed for me, though it is still often shrouded and confusing, and though my steps often grow weary and unsure, I am ready to turn back and offer a hand, just as my family in Christ have done for me to lead me on the path when I grow weak. So, without further ado, comes my list of what I’ve learned so far in my walk with Him being made new. Some of this advice is brain-specific, mind you, so if it gets too off-track, just give us “cranies” a moment to chat out our neuro problems.
Without further ado, my devout readers,
What to Expect, in the Middle of the Completely Unexpected:
- Normal is gone
- I found I gave my heart a lot of unrest coming home, wishing for normal. Normal is gone. There is no new normal. I nearly had a breakdown my first night home from the hospital, over, of all things to worry about post brain-surgery, my green Adidas shorts. They were in my bedroom: I could picture their exact placement, haphazardly laying amongst my other sleep shorts, in my middle bottom dresser drawer. But my mother couldn’t find them, and that was that. I couldn’t climb the stairs in my own home, to get to my own room, to open my drawer to put on my sleep-shorts; and that was all that mattered in that moment. My dad, ever the rock, was there to talk some much needed momentary sense into me. “I know,” he assures me, voice calming as can be. “I know it isn’t normal. But normal is gone.” And he was right. Accept this. As soon as you do, you can focus on God and healing. I have found solace in Isaiah so many times since my diagnosis when my soul was in a well, and return to Isaiah 43:19 for this bit of biblical wisdom: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” How am I to allow Him to work through me and show me my new path in life if I am constantly casting glances over my shoulder at a past that was not nearly as rich in Him as it is now? The clearest thing about my path ahead is God’s intention to teach me to rely on Him fully: to not be tempted to turn from Him to the right or to the left, despite the fact that the comfort of my familiar world is being left behind. The sooner you learn to brace yourself fully on Him, He will lead you along the path He has made for you whether you can see it or not, you need just trust in Him and allow Him to work through you. I am not afraid of tomorrow because I know God is already there.
- You will be tired.
- This part may be “cranie” (aren’t the terms ICU nurses have the best?) specific, so hold on to your hats, people. If you went through brain surgery, you will be tired. Exhausted. You will feel like a soccer mom who just ran a sleepaway camp, threw a Christmas party for the whole grade level, and took a break to hike Mount Everest in between and then some. If you’re like me, this will be a frustrating mental block for you. I am not a napper, which is counter-productive from all the rest you require. Why do I need rest from more rest? But rest is important. You just made it through, praise God for your doctors and nurses, the hardest fight of your entire life. God needs you to be still in Him so He can heal you for the battle ahead. And that’s essential. In Isaiah 46:4, He reminds us that He will sustain us, carry us, and rescue us. In Exodus (don’t you love how He repeats the important stuff?), He tells us we “need only be still.” When being still is our only option, it seems impossible. The easiest thing for us to do as humans is to shift our burden away from His feet, and run off to our own path in whatever sinful safety we’ve found in life. There will be moments you can barely make it to your couch, where each step seems to scale a mountain and fall into the ocean below, where you wonder where all your life has gone. These moments tempt me most to raise my hands in defeat and maybe I have a time or two. But only to call on His strength, for I am nothing but the mustard seed He has chosen. But we are all nothing, chosen by Him to become a path for His light. Do not turn from Him. Keep yourself with Him and He will reveal His path to you. You will be shaken: literally, mentally, physically to your very core. But remember His promise to you in Isaiah: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fires of oppression, you will not be burned up; …because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.”
- You will not be all there, and that’s okay
- Ding-ding! That’s right, folks! Chalk-up the Double Jeopardy board, that’s another “cranie” specific point! We’re really on a roll here. Particularly challenging for me (Normal is gone, anyone?) is the frustration of being a burden while I am healing. I have told my father multiple times in this journey “I wish I could do this alone.” I forget so easily what God explains to us in 1 Corinthians 12:27, how all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you a part of it. Knowing you need to depend on the body of Christ to support you is a hard fact to face, but you cannot do it without them or Him right now. You will be confused, you will need to be led down the stairs, you may need to have your family search for ten minutes for your phone, which grows legs every time you set it down. I have always been a go-getter: let me push myself as hard as I can, attend all the DECA meetings, hold the cow-heart in anatomy lab even if I have to stay late, fit in some work in between. Now, I need to be watched over to ensure I don’t leave my medicine (which my parents set an alarm for and brought before me like an offering) setting on the counter forgotten in the thirty seconds it took my mind to wander off like an elderly woman in a nightgown. Don’t be discouraged: it will get better. You are still you. And while you get there, remember, Moses was so weak and tired during the parting of the Red Sea, God ordered the Israelites to hold his arms for him. The body of Christ exists for us so His will may be done through our own Earthly bodies. Rely on your family in Him to lift you up right now. He has blessed you with their graces for exactly such a time as this. Allow them to lift you up, let them wrap your fingers around His wrist when you cannot anymore. You will have low moments: moments where you know you aren’t there, and it will be frustrating. But isn’t it incredible, that God created your temporary Earthly body for this, to use you in His perfect way? You are temporary and frail; He is not. Allow Him to be your strength in these hard times, clinging to your high tower like David in Psalms.“My flesh and heart may fail. But God is the strength of my heart and my glory forever.” Psalm 76:26
- You will be scared.
- Again, I am turning back to Isaiah for this one. God asks us not to be fearful. But he knows us. He knows our souls. Like a parent who knows His child, he tells us not to be fearful, then immediately takes our right hand, and repeats Himself in Isaiah 41:13: For I am the Lord, your God, who takes your right hand and says to you: “Do not fear. I will help you.” Like my daddy every time he wraps his hand around my own in a hospital bed over my IV, which is a feeling he is growing used to, God knows. We are not Him. This is life-altering. You are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, steps wobbly and brain pounding: of course you’re scared! Last night, I sat in a hospital bed waiting to find out if I was having a heart attack. My parents sat across the ER room with silent tension, and though every bone in my body felt such exhaustion I wanted to cry, I could not close my eyes in fear. The EKG came back clean. And I could have cried for hours in relief poured out to Him, in the sheer relief of knowing, again, He carried me through a valley. My grip on Him tightened, my hands raised in praise. Well, they actually held those of my Momma. But still in praise.) But in the overwhelming moments of fear, do as He commands you. Cling to Him, and no one else, and find peace in Him. Since my diagnosis, I have felt many things: fear the least of them .Chief amongst them comfort, understanding, grace. I fear the unknown, I fear the pain. I am only human. God did not give us a spirit of timidy or of fear – but He allows us to fear. He allows us to fear so that we turn to Him, so that we know when to cling to Him. I cannot imagine the fear that reaced out to Joshua while he was in the promised land, but when he returned to the Israelites, he had a firm hand on God, and laid the blessings that God showed Him through the fear out at the feet of His people. That is what you must do. Cling tightly to His hand in your fear, and He will lead you through with more blessings than you thought possible. “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadoow of shame will darken their face” -Psalm 34:4-5
- Be thankful.
This last point is not a “what to expect,” but rather some good-ole, Southern-style, unsolicited advice. Sorry, no French-Silk pie with this, it’s good enough on its own. This is a choice, of course. One of those prayer warriors I referred to earlier has a saying that is just perfect: “Advice is just that, someone else’s advice. You take it or you leave it.” In my journey, since the morning in that hospital, I have felt everything I described in my blog, to the best of my rambling-minded, addle-brained ability. His grace, His peace, His love; my thanks. So, so much thanks. That He would take me, a woman so small and with so little to give to Him, and create an entire path for my life through Him. I, who struggled daily with turning away, knew to throw my hands up to Him, because I had no choice but to praise Him that my dad, in his habit of sleeplessness, stayed up late enough that Saturday night to hear me fall into a seizure. I praise Him that my momma held me in my non-lucid state, her presence all that let me know I was alive, while the paramedics came. I praise Him for each and every doctor, nurse, and radiologist who smiled with me through my pain and most vulnerable moments in that brick of a hospital bed. It is worth noting, for my own bragging rights, that I was a favorite patient in the ICU, as I’m a pretty spunky gal. Being the youngest patient on the floor by about fifty years helps, too! I am blessed that each time in the hospital my brain pounded so hard within my skull it felt like I was drowning in the Marianas trench, I came out feeling His blessings pour through me with a painless grace that left me so filled with Him I literally raised my hands to Him in the bed. The ceilings of my hospital rooms have seen the tops of my hands in praise so often they may as well be the ceiling of a church. I praise Him for bringing me through with my family waiting at my bedside, their love so tense and precious it wrapped me like a blanket. Do not forget: the Bible is the most popular love story ever written. God and all the prophets on Earth didn’t need a Romeo or Juliet to pull that off. Just pure grace and love so powerful it literally shook the heavens. I have never felt closer to God in my life since the moment I felt His wings around me in that ER room, sheltering me, promising His love and protection. Nothing reached me in that moment but God. He reached out and held me, showed me that He was making me new. I knew now, and know in this moment “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal later.” My great-grandad’s favorite sermon to give said we are all vessels for His light, that we can only shine once we were cracked enough for Him to shine through. God reached into me and changed Me, where I saw nothing, and I have felt awash in His light since then. I felt His grace pouring through me like a beacon,and work each day to walk this path He made new for me to walk. Perhaps this is the moment for which I’ve been created. All the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be; this and the days ahead no exception. The strength I do have, bolstered in His word and family, keep me renewing my joy every morning when my mother wakes me up dutifully at 4:00 a.m. for my medication. God has called me to a new path, and who am I to do anything but praise Him in return for picking me from His garden to grow up into a warrior of His? In moments of truest trial and hardship, cling to Him, trust in Him, and know not to turn away from the future purpose He is creating through you. The path He has created for you will not be one of ease, but God’s greatest warriors are those who remained faithful in times of trial, and He has chosen you to become His warrior. He is making you new!
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” -2 Corinthians 4:17