Over a year ago, I wrote a post entitled, “Keepin’ It Real.” Welcome to part 2! I know I have been absent from writing for a longer period of time than usual, but a lot of life has happened in between. It’s hard to know where to even start!
First of all, my mother-in-law spent eighty plus days in the hospital. It’s hard to even believe that is true at this point, but it made for some very long days, weeks, and months, for everyone in the family. Around Christmas time, especially, it was hard to remember what “normal” for us even felt like anymore. We just couldn’t believe that the year before, we were all experiencing Disney-and here we were wondering if that would even be possible again. Praise be to God that she is now home and continuing to improve a little each day!
In the midst of “Gran” being so sick, I think everyone in my family got sick more times than I can count. It just felt as if we couldn’t come up for air. I also spent much of the winter packing, getting rid of “stuff,” and packing some more for our family to move. (NEVER doing that again!!!) Then, as soon as we did move, we ALL got sick again! (And you moms know- even if you get sick, you still get to take care of everyone else!;-) )
Throughout all of this time, I had days where I just fell completely apart. Cried about the smallest thing. Worried about things I usually wouldn’t. I would get so overwhelmed at everything going on, that I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything. I know that on more than one occasion, I literally talked aloud to God, asking if we could just have a little break.
Recently my mom gave me a book that someone recommended to her, after hearing some of my “story.” I don’t get a whole lot of time to do much other than be a parent, but I knocked most of this book out in a few days’ time. The title, No More Faking Fine, got my attention pretty quickly. I’ll be honest, I thought that “faking it,” must be what my mom thinks I do; thus the reason for giving it to me! Esther Fleece does a wonderful job in the book of explaining how much we miss, both in relationship with God, and others, when we pretend things are always going well. (I only underlined almost everything in the book!) I think we all may “fake fine” to a degree. I know I have certainly done so at times in order to simply survive the day. I’m sure you can relate, when someone asks an innocent, “How are you?” We usually have a quick response, such as, “I’m good, and how are you?” (A lot of times I’m thinking, they probably really don’t want to hear about the fact that one of my kids is sick, I really could use a nap, and I have no idea how I’m going to get everything done that needs to be.)
In a previous post, I talked about how I grieved deeply for about a week when we first got Lindsay’s diagnosis a little over two years ago. Sort of as if I were a robot, I decided that my grieving period was up at the end of that time. I thought that I needed to get it all out, and then move on with my life. While it’s true that I cannot stay in a constant state of sadness in order to be able to function with daily life, it was foolish of me to think my grieving was over after a week. Far from it. I’ve heard several parents of special needs’ kiddos speak of coping with a lifelong disability as similar to opening a door, looking inside for a few minutes, and then closing it back before seeing too much. While in our heads, we know that there a lot of unknowns about the future, it is almost impossible to try to digest too much at one time. At the same time, as Lindsay gets a little older each day, I get sad for different things. Sometimes they are completely unexpected, like the other day when she had been playing in her room for a little while. When I went to check on her, I noticed she had a little gash above her eye. It was already beginning to close, and I noticed a little blood that had dried in her hair. She was as happy as could be while I cleaned her up, but I got so upset wondering what had happened. I knew she was fine, but the fact that she couldn’t tell me what happened just overwhelmed me. I wondered if she had cried when it happened, and no one heard her. I started worrying about how many things might happen that I will never know about. I was not only sad, but angry, that my child does not have the ability to do something so simple. It still hurts to see kids her age and much younger, be able to run, slide, and play with age appropriate toys. It’s hard to have to park in a “handicap” spot and get stares from people wondering why you are carrying your four year old into church, or the grocery store. So while I accepted over two years ago that this syndrome would change the way we go about daily life, the grief still comes in unexpected waves.
One of the things that reading Faking Fine did for me, is it gave me permission to feel the way I feel. Much of the book focuses on “lament” as a language that God wants us to express to Him. We can often get caught in the trap of thinking that we should just be stronger, if we want to be a good “Christian.” I love the way Ms. Fleece describes her own grieving process, as she relays how her counselor explained to her the very necessary steps of confronting every bit of hurt we have experienced, in the effort to heal. “Lament, he said, is simply expressing honest emotions to God when life is not going as planned. Whether we’re hurt, frustrated, confused, betrayed, overwhelmed, sad, or disappointed, lament is the language God has given us to talk to Him right in the middle of life’s messes. It’s real talk with God when you’re hurting, when all you can do is cry out for His help. It’s a prayer that says, God, I’m hurting-will You meet me here? And as such, it is a prayer to which God always responds.”
The book goes on to say that God doesn’t just want our “happy.” He wants us to be honest with Him. He wants us to cry out to Him, ask questions of Him, and realize that He hears it all, without judgment. Probably the most profound quote to me was when Fleece talks about the fact that God is present with us in our laments, and that knowledge has to be enough sometimes. She says, “Sometimes we need to love God more than the happy ending we are hoping for.” What that says to me is that even though I may express my deepest desires and hurts to Him, He may not provide a “quick-fix.” Instead, I must learn to find happiness within the hurt. Building my relationship with Him is superior to getting all of the answers I want.
In my experience, there is so much happy in the midst of so much hurt. I see it every day, when my boys voluntarily carry Lindsay to their room to play, offer to dry her hair, fix her iPad just the way she likes it, or sing along with the same silly songs she listens to every day. Listening to the boys pray at night always gives me a perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have. One night after life had been particularly crazy, and we were all getting over sickness, Carter ended his prayer with, “Thank you for our good life. Thank you. Thank you.” I remember thinking, “Boy, I’m glad he thinks this is the good life!”
Finally, this quote from Grey’s Anatomy a few weeks ago caught my attention enough that I had to rewind it several times: “You don’t get to call what is normal. When you have a child, you might not get to have what you ask for. You get what you are given. And it might be wonderful. And it might be painful. And it might be both.”
Until next time…