Honesty Central: Getting Real

Getting RealWith the exception of a few posts, I haven’t blogged for close to a year. Not since my son, Kyle, relapsed with leukemia. I wrote a few posts on that topic that I won’t repeat. But here are the links if you or someone you love is struggling with cancer. When Life Stops, Wishes, Wants, and Secrets Fantasies, You Want Me to be Thankful for What?

I’m a writer. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been published or in what venue, that need to create lives in my soul. It’s part of who I am. It is who I am. You’d think the first thing I’d turn to in a crisis or a struggle would be writing. At least in a journal.

But I can’t. I don’t. Some days, I just won’t.

Writing is more than putting words on a page. Writing is letting emotion flow to build a story, whether that story is fiction or truth. Once I open the emotion dam, everything I feel rushes out and I’m so busy trying to deal with the aftermath, I can’t do what I need to do. I can’t take care of Kyle and my family.

In a way, I’ve had to compartmentalize in order to function. Shut down what steals my focus. And for me that’s been writing.

Yes, I have breakdowns. There are leaks in the dam. I’m not that strong. I cry. I vent. I whine and whimper. But then I seal everything up so I can get out of bed and do what has to be done. Life moves on and I can’t request a time-out to get myself together.

But there’s another reason I’ve been quiet. If you don’t appreciate honesty and failing and a story that is still waiting for a happily-ever-after, you should probably stop reading. There are far more uplifting posts in the backlog of my blog.

The biggest reason I don’t blog anymore is because I don’t have anything to say. Nothing that will benefit anyone else, anyway. My usual posts are inspirational. Lessons or insights God has taught me.

I’ve been a Christian since I was four. Until Kyle relapsed, I’d kept that childlike faith that God can do anything. That He’s there for me. That I don’t need to understand my circumstances in order to believe.

Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen. People make bad choices that affect others. Death and disease and heartache walk among us every day. But in the midst of all the chaos and confusion, in my heart I’ve heard God’s voice and felt His peace. Somehow, that had always been enough to make life right.

The first time Kyle got cancer, when he was ten, I ran into a bathroom stall in the hospital and begged God to take all the bad feelings I would have toward Him away because I knew I couldn’t climb the cancer cliff without Him. And He did. Over the almost four-year battle, I was frustrated. I was angry. I was hurting. But I never blamed God. I felt that He walked beside me. I wrote a post about that too. Can God Find Me Anywhere? Even in a Restroom.

Today, I’m propped in bed with a broken ankle. Kyle still has fifteen months of treatment. Two more hospital stays and lots of clinic visits. I’ve already missed some of those. I’m his caretaker and I can barely take care of myself.

In the seconds after I fell, my first reaction was a plea to rewind so I could step left instead of right. My second was to shout out to God—Why this injury? Why now?

 

Here’s the laundry list I’ve taken up with Him in the days that followed:

Kyle needs me—physically and emotionally.

My family needs me. See above.

The steam on my stress-level is already rattling the lid of what I can handle.

My faith has been shaky all year. I’m already at spiritual rock bottom.

Are you listening? Are you real? Or is it that You don’t love me anymore?

 

Since the week Kyle relapsed, a year ago Christmas, that childlike faith I’ve carried all my life has been slowly chipped away.

If you’re still with me, I’m going to be honest about why I’m sharing this now.

I know I’m not the only person who struggles and questions. I may be the only person who admits it publicly. But that’s who I am. I can’t lie about my faith. And I can’t share uplifting stories when I don’t have any.

Knowing I’m not alone in my spiritual struggle comforts me. So, if you’re standing where I am, you’re not alone. You’re not a bad person. You’re not even a bad Christian.

God isn’t afraid of your questions. He’s bigger than that. He isn’t afraid of your anger or your frustration or the bad words that might slip out while you’re raging at Him.

Here’s what those years of childlike faith have taught me—the worst thing I can do is shut down the lines of communication, strangle my bad feelings, and walk away. Questioning God is not the same as disrespecting Him.

 

So I have another laundry list we might consider together:

What if in the coming days, my childlike faith isn’t enough?

What if I need to know exactly what I believe and why?

What if I need to be broken to be rebuilt?

What if I can’t see the truth in the ocean of my struggles and I need to be still and wait?

 

I don’t like where I am—spiritually or physically. I hate watching my son suffer. I hate not being able to help him. I hate being stuck and immobile and not able to fix everything.

But I’m on a journey.

I haven’t written this last year because I like to share what God has done after the journey ends. But I don’t see an end. Not yet. And maybe sharing in the journey is the most important part.

Maybe God’s plan is too big for me to see and understand until I’m farther along the path.

 

DSCN6581Hebrews 11:1-3 (NIV)

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance

about what we do not see.

This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command,

so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

52 Comments

  1. I wish I was there so I could give you a hug. I have no words. Just know there are people out there who care and are praying for you.

  2. Oh thank you for your words, beautifully expressed. I’m praying for you and Kyle..

  3. LORI YOU ARE ONE AMAZING WOMAN AND DO NOT FORGET IT

    OK,

    HERE IS MY HUGE HUG!!!!

  4. You are right, the destination is not the answer, it is the journey. For some reason you have been given a son who is fighting for his life every day. He is strong or he would have been gone long before now. You are definitely part of his strength. The ankle is an interruption for you to get some rest. God hasn’t given you a choice. Kyle is a grown man and is a great tribute to you and Pat. God didn’t give him Leukemia, I don’t know what did. He doesn’t deserve any of this but he has it. He has thousands of people praying for him and you and your family. He is still alive. For that we are grateful. Praise God…..

  5. Thanks for your honesty. I so get how you feel. I really needed this today. :-)

  6. I’ve been a Christian since I was very young. I come from a long line of pastors and missionaries on both sides of my family. STILL in a different process than you have experienced, I’ve been to the brink of the abyss of “what if” that you describe. Even now looking back on the event that almost cost me my faith, I see no explanation or tidy process as to why God did not do a better job of intervening. My trauma event involved a rape at knife point, a child perpetrator, and a whole slew of details that seemed tailor made to mock my beliefs. In the early season of after math I even told my husband, “I can’t believe in a God who would allow me to be connected to what happened….He already knew my history that own father had been similarly harmed as a boy on the mission field. How could a God who knows a person’s difficult history allow a similar event to re-visit a person??? What kind of a God does that? I ask God on your account the same type of question. “What kind of a God allows a mother to become physically unable to care for a child in such distress?” What kind of a God indeed! I told my husband at the point of my crises that I would no longer go to church or be a Christian…..I would sooner be an atheist than believe in a cruel God…..And yet somehow, I could not stay “without faith” I came back to God fussin and screaming. You are right. It is not disrespect to agonize our situation with our Creator! Anyone who reads the Psalms can see this. God is able. God is here. God hears and He is doing. Our perceptions are flawed at best about what He is doing. We need to get honest. A friend of mine likes to talk to me, because I tend to be quite honest about the struggle I have had to believe in God when life is so painful. Such talk seems to be taboo among many Christians. We must write only when we have answers. Talk only when we can praise. I’m sorry. I think that is a false persona and not real. Such caution reflects a faith that is drummed up and not God-reliant. To me “rely” on God means I hang onto HIM as dead weight while He carries me through the danger and over the precipice! It’s All about God being able and NOTHING about me being able! Bless you!!!

    • I’ve seen many terrible things happen to people who didn’t deserve it. I’ve seen things that were direct answers to prayer destroyed because of the selfish actions of people who would claim to be devout Christians and had no trouble sleeping at night after what they did because their hearts are so self-righteous they can justify anything. But it wasn’t until the day I held my dead child’s body in my hands that I questioned, not whether God existed, but whether He was a cruel monster, or worse, uncaring. And I hated God in that moment. And I especially hated some of the Christian do-gooders who chant that everything has a purpose in God plan, every event is under His sovereign control. Because a God who plans the future, or whose sovereign control over the future tolerates/includes rapes and murders and dead children isn’t anything good. But thank God I was in seminary when this happened. Because you are right Lori, a childlike faith that has not questioned or thought through what it believes can not stand the tests of life. I learned from brilliant teachers and Godly professors many of whom wept with me, that while God is all powerful that doesn’t mean he ‘decides’ or exercises sovereign control over all events. Bad things happen and will happen until Christ comes again to end human suffering. While it forever remains a mystery why God does intervene sometimes, the reality is that we live in a fallen world and we will fight against the pain of that world until it is remade for us. God can use the bad in our lives, can grow us, can make us more and better from it. But he did not cause the bad, and he weeps at it as much as we. God did not cause cancer, it was not part of his PLAN that some get cancer, just as it was not part of his plan that I should hold my dead child. But He knew it was coming, and He was prepared to love us through it. And from our pain He can mature us and prepare us to help others. No answer to the pain of the world ends all questions, all Why? But in the end our faith must sustain us that we love a good God. A God who does not design evil.

    • Lori Freeland |

      Oh, Ann, I’m so sorry about what happened to you. I don’t understand either why God lets some things happen and not others. But as much as I walk away and get angry, I seem to always come back to my faith as well. Maybe we’ll never have answers and I hate that. But what I’m learning is that I don’t get to choose what God reveals and what He doesn’t.

  7. Hey Lori!
    Big hug! I so understand. Love you, girl.

    I truly believe this ankle problem is for your sake somehow. What if you need this rest or you might develop some permanently disabling illness from the stress?

    As you said, sometimes it’s about “what we do not see.” We don’t see what would’ve happened if God hadn’t changed the course of events.

    Remember when my heart slowed and almost quit after my son’s stressful illness? God had been warning me to rest, but I didn’t think I could. Well, two ambulance rides and a hospital stay taught me I better take His advice.

    God loves you. You’re being forced to rest. And I know it’s hard – would’ve been impossible without this ankle break – but please rest. See what happens if you do. I bet God will do something interesting. Much better than the alternative of seeing what might happen if you don’t.

  8. i just watched this clip yesterday. thanks for being so transparent. you are such a blessing. Ps. It isn’t the end!

    http://www.bethel.tv/watch/2241/sunday-night/2014/12/21

  9. PS:
    I and so many others are praying for your peace and Kyle’s.
    You are loved. Of course you hate what’s happening. Who wouldn’t? I hate knowing you and Kyle are suffering.

    But through it all – you know you are not alone. He walks with you through the pain. He is also there to give you rest.

  10. When you look back on this part of your life, you will see only one set of footprints because God is carrying you through this. Hang on. He won’t let go.

  11. I used to think I’d done something wrong and that’s why “bad” things were happening to me. That caused me all kinds of shame. Luckily, I eventually realized that pain was my friend and that God had sent it to me to show me a hardened part of my heart I needed to love unconditionally.

    Joy is not an emotion. It’s a state of being where a person accepts all of their emotions, no matter how uncomfortable some of them are, and is able to be with them unconditionally (that’s what unconditional love is) instead of avoiding them. I use a book called The Presence Process to do emotional work and it’s changed my life. I’m excited to feel anything now (anger, fear, grief–whatever). Anger sucks, bigtime, but because I know how to respond to it now instead of suppressing it by avoiding it, it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s exhilarating sometimes. And when anger or another uncomfortable emotions integrates, it’s awesome. I laugh and cry (good tears) at the same time, and my heart burns (a good burn). That lets me know another hard part of my heart just unhardened and joined the positive parts of my heart. Our emotions are our energy. They’re where we get our drive and willpower and inspiration. They’re wonderful. But avoiding the uncomfortable ones kills our inspiration. Heck, it kills our ability to feel at all, eventually. And apathy is awful. Hate isn’t the opposite of love. Apathy is. It’s an inability to feel. The Presence Process made me so much better at feeling, and it was like adding another dimension to life that made it so much more awesome!

    Before, I’d go to movies and have one or two emotional highs briefly. Now, through the entire movie I can feel emotions both at the emotional level and in my body, through almost the entire movie! It’s the coolest thing. And my relationship with God is much stronger. He speaks to us through the emotions, actually. Not properly dealing with emotions means we’re cutting off our relationship with God. Not many people know how to deal with emotions properly. I was lucky to find that book and utilize it. I highly recommend it. It would change your life in a matter of days and you’d start appreciating the situation you’re in. And you’d heal more quickly, too (that’s scientifically supported, as well as supported by testimonies). I think it’s the most important thing we can do for ourselves, our families, and our friends. We, and they, are worth it.

  12. Lori, your openness about the situation is so inspiring, and I know it will help so many others who feel the same way as you do. You are so much stronger than you believe. I’m sending virtual hugs, and glasses of wine! Love you dearly, my friend.

  13. Hugs. Praying hard for you and your family, Lori. You are such a blessing in my life. Wish I was closer so I could help you but God is with you! Love you so much, my dear friend.

  14. Janice Norwood |

    Lori I have missed your postings and was very glad to see this one. My heart goes out to you. Keep hoping and praying as you trust God for His Perfect Plan for all involved. He’s for you and for Kyle. He can handle any question or emotion you give Him. That’s unconditional love.

  15. I feel like any words I can say are woefully inadequate. What you have gone through, and what you continue to face…you are one of the strongest people I know. You and Kyle will get through this.

    I wish I had more, could do more. Just know there are so many of us our here bending all our minds towards sending healing light your way. :)

    Angela

  16. Hugs to you, Lori. I don’t know how you do all that you do and still remain standing ~ even if on only one leg. You’re an inspiration, and I’m rooting for you and Kyle. Hugs and smooches! xo

  17. Thank you for being authentic, Lori. Sometimes I think there’s a false notion out there that Christians are naive believers who cheerily whistle our way through our days. But some days, this is a struggle — one I take on with true commitment, but a struggle all the same.

    Because bad things — like my best friend dying of breast cancer years ago and leaving a six-year-old child, or a young man like Kyle having cancer at all — do happen in this world. And somehow when things are incredibly hard, life often finds a way to pile something else on top.

    This is probably why two of my favorite scriptures are Isaiah 43:2 (“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown…”) and John 6:68 (“Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life”). Because I take heart in knowing that God allows difficult times but He walks beside me, and I remind myself there’s no one else I can turn to who has words of eternal life.

    I pray, however, that God eases your burden, gives Kyle healing, and summons back your hopefulness and laughter. And that someday soon, my beautiful friend, you can write again.

  18. Holding you and your family jn my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your sincere honesty. Rarely do we talk about when life doesn’t end “happily ever after” or when we have yet to grasp the truckloads of insite from our current circumstances… “God is faithful!”…my prayer even when my faith is nothing more than a numb reflex I hold on to for dear life…

    • Lori Freeland |

      I have been amazed at the response to this post. I knew I wasn’t the only one out there. I think it helps to struggle together.

  19. Courtney Richerson |

    I really appreciated reading your honesty in your blog. Thank you! It truly gives me hope that I am not alone, and that comforts me. So much has happened in my life in the last four years, that even my close Christian friends are speechless. Death of children, parents, relationships, and careers…and now with the most recent brick…my health; it is more than one person can bear! I do not know what will happen next…BUT I am still standing on God’s word, and believing that He can make something good from all this suffering. God Bless. Courtney

    • Lori Freeland |

      Courtney, my heart hurts for you. When we suffer, we empathize so much with others. I know that feeling–the one that says, “I can’t handle one more thing,” and then that one more thingsstrikes. It’s exhausting and so hard to keep going some days. But I believe knowing we’re not alone does make a difference.

  20. Thank you for being honest. I know just how you feel. So many want to share the good stories but we feel like bad people if we share the bad. We all struggle sometimes but I think the best thing we all can do is be honest with ourselves, each other and God. So thank you for you honesty. I needed to read this today. I am praying for your speedy recovery and complete and speedy healing for you son.

    Sincerely,

    Candice Wood

  21. Beautiful, helpful, uplifting. I follow Kyle’s story on your FB page & pray often. Lori, I just wanted to tell you I nominated you for the inspiring blogger award. See it at http://wwww.janetkbrown.com You may not be up to following the guidelines, but I still wanted your blog on my list of nominees.

  22. Julie Chaddock |

    Wow! I love your honesty. I felt like what you wrote was exactly what I am feeling right now. My childlike faith has disappeared and I have so many questions and doubts. Thank you so much for sharing. Knowing you are not alone is comforting.

    • Lori Freeland |

      I think knowing I’m not alone helps me to move forward. Other people are walking the same road. And eventually, we will find answers. It feels impossible some days, but I know from looking back on the past, that seasons change. Life doesn’t always stay so hard.

  23. Thank you for putting into words what is so hard to express. I appreciate you being real…..in many ways, your words are a mirror of my silent voice. Thank you…..

    Prayerfully,
    Aj

  24. Lori,
    My heart breaks for you and your son. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I completely understand the feelings you are having. For 4 years, my mom who is my best friend and “my rock” has struggled with endometrial cancer. The cancer that was 90% curable at first now has her under hospice care. As I was rushing her to the hospital a few weeks ago, I tripped over my dog going down the stairs and broke my finger which needed surgery and 4 pins. I thought I was at the end of what I could take then my son got a concussion and tested positive for mono. My daughter’s dorm mate was murdered by her boyfriend 3 doors down from my daughter while she slept. I went in for my yearly checkup and was sent for several followups. Tomorrow I will get the results from a suspicious breast biopsy and endometrial biopsy. I already know I will need a hysterectomy in the next few weeks. My husband is struggling with diabetes which has seemed to get worse lately. After much prayer, he signed a contract to transfer to a different state 1000 miles from our home right before this all happened. I have felt so desperately sad and angry and confused lately that I can’t stand to live in my own head. As I was waiting for my 2nd biopsy this week and struggling not to break down in the waiting room, the verse “on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart for I have overcome the world” kept going through my head. I don’t understand why these things happen, but it helps to know I’m not alone in the struggle. Thank you so much for sharing and my prayers are with you.

    • Lori Freeland |

      Linda, I can feel your pain through your words. My prayers are with you as well. What’s been helping me lately is hanging on to what God has done in the past–other times He’s pulled me through the storm.

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