I can still feel my heart ripping… torn by the sounds of the screams from the depths of the soul of my then-2 year old. She was again being pulled away from me, forcing the release of her clothes-shredding grip, heading back for yet another parent-less night of sleep while Robby was busy talking to the 8+ different doctors involved, and I laid there helpless, fighting a battle I didn’t know if I was going to win. A battle that had no end date. A battle we didn’t even understand. That was January, 2016.
Today, June of 2017, that same 2 year old is now a 4 year old who is not bound by separation anxiety or panic attacks or meltdowns or fits or outburst or insecurity or attempts for attention or nightmares or sadness. She is Ellie. Vibrant, dancing, creative force, unintentional comedian, accidental class-clown, incessant singer…more concerned about the difference between earthworms and slugs than when mommy is going to have hair again or what cancer is.
This kid prays for mommy’s “tummy” quite often, yet shows no signs of worry about it. Yes, it has been a daily journey of us helping her to recover from the gaping wound that the initial tearing caused. Every month is better than the previous, and some moments, even though the storm has not yet calmed completely, the darkness of the clouds seems nearly invisible. 18 months of daily helping her to see that feelings are OK. That she can feel sad, angry, anxious or afraid sometimes, but that these feelings shouldn’t control us. We’ve tried our best to help her see, from her 4 year old perspective, that Jesus is her constant. He is the rock that doesn’t move, even if everything around her feels like it is. That God can make her heart “feel better” and we encourage her to be thankful when she feels sad, because there’s always something to be thankful for, and joy and comfort always follow thanksgiving.
(The girls enjoying breakfast after spending the night in the hospital)
Faith tells us the safest place in the midst of the storm is the Rock that is stable. Obedience tells us how to cling to the Rock. And grace is God’s gift of divine enablement to do so. Being obedient to moment-by-moment choose the Word’s perspective over the world’s perspective. To choose faith over fear. To live and act like freedmen and not institutionalized captives.
“He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.”
I could write a book on this. The ups and downs. Our other 2 kid’s perspectives, questions, processing, and reactions. Today, I’m just thankful. Thankful that ALL of our broken pieces can not only be mended, but they can also be re-formatted to fit into the greater puzzle of purpose of our lives, through Jesus. Thankful that we can grow, heal, and be filled with joy, and that doesn’t have to wait until the clouds have parted and the rain has stopped. Thankful that by faith and obedience to His Word and Spirit, a path can emerge that takes us THROUGH the storm, rather than just grace to wait for it to cease. Pain is made into beauty and trauma can make way for compassion, empathy and endurance – for the betterment of others, and for us to better know God himself. My pastor once said, “I’m thankful for the scars in our lives, whether physically or figuratively. It’s a chance to point to them and show them to someone and say, ‘can you believe what my God was able to do!’”
On my very first day of chemo we had the girls memorize Philippians 4:6-7 and we recited it every day together before being separated each night for the remaining two weeks of that initial 18-day hospitalization.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Just as it requires great pressure to produce a beautiful diamond, so it is in our hearts… and in our kids. When their world is shaking around them, give them the solid rock of scripture to stand on and love and boundaries to surround them, and they will feel secure. Secure enough to be transformed under the pressure rather than be crushed by it.
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” -2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Trauma doesn’t always have to end in tragedy. Crisis doesn’t always have to end in defeat. The perspective gained from having been a level I trauma nurse for 4 ½ years opened my world to the life-altering effects of physical trauma. The impact is no less with psychological trauma… just different. These experiences for me have filled in the truth that faith in my Savior, Jesus, is what gives an alternate ending to trauma and the possibility of victory in crisis. Thank God for hope. Thank God our outcome is not defined by what we see in front of us. Thank God our disappointments don’t have to be a cage or prison, and that the challenges of life can have a redemptive purpose.
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust…” -Joel 2:25
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” -Hebrews 11:1-3