Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Giving Thanks

Did you guys see all the "Thankful November" status updates on facebook? I loved reading them. One, however, made my stomach sink a little every time I read it.

I'm thankful for my health

Over the past few months, my doctors have been able to rule out just about everything that could possibly be giving me the horrible pelvic and abdominal pain I've been in for almost 2 years. Which has left us with the dual diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Accute Myofacial Pain Syndrome.

Unpacked, those terms basically mean that I have a hypersensitized central nervous system that causes me to feel pain from everyday stimuli. My husbands hug and my son's snuggle bring me both joy and pain. The fibro is an all over ache that you can find quite easily by gently squeezing any of my muscles. The myofascial pain manifests itself in knots of hyper-tender points throughout my abdomen that cause me constant pain (and are what sent me to the doctor in the first place).

Myofascial pain syndrome isn't recognized by a lot of doctors. In fact, I probably would have said it sounded like a fake disease myself, until I became the one whose life was being turned upside down by it and no other plausible explanation can be found. The great news is, it's not fatal and there is a wonderful pain clinic in DC where I'm receiving treatment under a neurologist and physical therapist for a disease most doctors don't even know about.

Coming to grips with this diagnosis has been my battle these past few months. At first I went back and forth between self pity and rationalizing why "it's not so bad". I struggled with seeing so many healthy 25 year old friends of mine who don't spend 1 day every 2 weeks getting poked with needles to help tense muscles release. However, I also have a 25 year old friend who has battled leukemia for several years and recently had to have both hips replaced because of a side effect from her treatment. Who am I to complain? I am thankful for my health.

Slowly, God convicted me that playing the "who has it worse/better than me" game is asking the wrong question. The answer is always "yes, someone does have life harder/easier than I do." The question God wants me to be concerned with is, "Am I willing to glorify and praise him in the circumstances I've been given?" Or, will I waste my life waiting for the way I thought he was going to use me to take place?

Life is not how we imagined it would be before we said "I do". After a day of running after our very active toddler, I struggle against crabbiness in the evenings. David does quite a bit of the housework in addition to being the bread winner. Sometimes I have to go lie down for an hour or two the pain gets so bad. Our house is often messy. Not just a little bit. We definitely never thought we'd be delaying having a second child or wondering if I'd ever be physically able to carry another. We don't answer phone calls, have people over for dinner or keep in touch with family as well as we should because we are so exhausted from trying to cope with the pain and it's effects on our family.

Watching our dreams being deferred month after month has been painful. Slowly though, we are learning to trust that God is offering us something better.

The catalyst for beginning to understand this was a sermon our friend, and church elder, preached about the Israelites coming out of Egypt. Apparently there were two roads to the promised land (check out Exodus 13:17-14:4). A nice, short, easy one and the way God actually took them, through a barren desert. Had they been given the choice, I'm sure the Israelites would have picked the short road. Wasn't God's plan for them the promised land? He'd said it himself.

However, although God had taken the Israelites out of Egypt, he still needed to take the love of Egypt out of their hearts so that they wouldn't be led astray once they reached their destination. Before marriage we had our eyes on the promised land of a large family and thriving marriage. We've found ourselves in the desert. And it's taken me about a year to realize it's not a mistake or a detour.

We're here because of the things we can only learn when all of our dreams seem to be crashing down around us. We're learning to love one another, not because it's easy, but because it's what we've been called to. I'm no longer the bouncy, joyful wife David used to come home to. Even when I'm able to avoid outright crankiness and harsh words, I tend to be more subdued. It hasn't stopped him from being the most amazing husband and father I could ever imagine. It's made me love him even more for all the responsibilities he has so willingly taken on. I'm learning to parent, not in my own strength and wisdom, but on my knees, because I know I am unable to meet my son's needs on my own. We're both learning to trust God to write our future, rather than dictate our dreams to him.

I am thankful. Not just for the level of health I do experience, but for this refining fire that has come into our lives and shaped us in ways we could never have imagined when our eyes were looking at the promised land. We are in the desert and our eyes are on God.


The Vogt Family said...

Beautifully written, Sarah! As women, I think it's a constant battle not to ask the question "Who has it harder/easier than me?" You're exactly right that if we spend too much time dwelling on the perceived blessings or misfortunes of others, you miss the opportunity to find blessings in your own life.

It seems like this message has become apparent to me over and over again, specifically throughout the last month. I just finished a wonderful reflection on the Nativity (a little late, I know, but in my defense, it was only given to me three days before Christmas) about, among other things, how "the world" would have seen Herod as the one to envy, the one who "had it all" when in reality, two peasants who lived in anonymity during their time, Mary and Joseph, really had been the ones chosen and blessed by God.

And the song on the radio this morning, Blessings by Laura Story.

And now this post.

You are in our prayers, Sarah, that you continually find joy in all things and that God gives you strength to answer His will for your life. Even though I'm probably 1,000 miles away, please do not hesitate to call if there is anything I can help with!

MichelleG said...

Hugs from all of us. Glad you have answers even though not the answers I would have chosen for you. We love you all!
--The Glandons