Twelve years ago, on a sunny Tuesday morning, I dropped my younger kids with a friend to run my oldest to the pediatrician’s office. I made the appointment early, planning to take him to a special breakfast for just the two of us afterward.
Kyle had spent the summer battling headaches, fatigue, and various viruses. Expecting a diagnosis similar to Mono, I was stunned when the doctor not only informed me that Kyle and I wouldn’t be going out for bacon and eggs, but that we wouldn’t even be going home.
Tears brimming in our doctor’s eyes, he instructed me to drive straight to the children’s hospital, where he’d arranged for a pediatric oncologist to admit Kyle to begin immediate chemotherapy.
Oncologist. Chemotherapy. Cancer.
Heart in my throat, lungs twist-tied, my brain refusing to fire, I couldn’t process…READ THE REST ON CROSSWALK.COM.
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1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
“Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
This morning, I hopped out of bed, raced to the bathroom, and stood under the hot shower for fifteen minutes.
I know what you’re thinking. Big deal. I do that every morning. You’re so not jealous of my quarter-hour shower.
But maybe you should be.
A few months ago, that same morning routine went something like this:
I rolled over to face the wheelchair parked next to my bed, my broken ankle waking with me, the throb timing itself to match the staccato pulse blaring from the alarm.
I killed the sound and fumbled in the nightstand for another dose of pain medication that had worn off during the night. Which meant I actually slept a few hours straight. Pill swallowed, I started the forty-five minute countdown before it even began to touch the pain.
Shivering, I curled tight against the bottom sheet two pillows propped under my bad leg and tugged my sweatshirt sleeves down over my hands. The surgical site on my ankle, home to eight screws and a plate, couldn’t tolerate any weight. Not even a summer sheet. While my foot and leg burned all night, the rest of me froze.
When the throb in my ankle calmed to a much nicer ache, I scooted close to the wheelchair, and pep-talked myself through the physical process of getting up. After a brief struggle to sit, I slid off the mattress onto the chair, the ache in my ankle spiking, angry to lose its elevation.
Foot straight out and raised as high as I could hold it, I wheeled into the bathroom. Only to remember I’d forgotten to lay out my clothes the night before. If they weren’t on the counter next to the tub, where I had to sit to dress, I’d end up wheeling back into my room completely au natural.
And au natural in a wheelchair? So not attractive.
Clothes retrieved, I wheeled back in, and fought to close the double doors behind me. The shower door was easier. The trick came in reaching far enough in from a sitting position to turn on the water all the way. After a little effort, the handle moved around to warm.
And that’s when I realized my husband left for work without putting the shower chair back in the stall after he’d finished up.
There was no standing under the hot spray for me. There was no standing at all. Not from January to June on an ankle that broke, healed wrong, and had to be rebroken. During those six months, I lost most of my independence.
There’s a lot you can’t do when you’re down an ankle. Walk. Cook. Clean. Laundry. Stairs. Drive. Shop. Or reach anything taller than four feet. Daily things I’d taken for granted.
Now you can see why this morning’s quarter-hour shower was so remarkable. It had always been remarkable. I just never noticed until I couldn’t do it anymore.
After the doctor cleared me to put weight on my ankle, I started physical therapy.
One of the ladies I met complained about the exercises, having to go three times a week, and how painful rehab could be. One day she looked at me and asked, “What’s your deal?”
I grinned. “I’m just happy to be able to walk.” And I was. Getting out of bed and landing on both my feet was enough for me.
I’d never been more aware of the phrase—You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
And we don’t know what we have until it’s taken away. But what if we could use our loss to see life in a fresh way? What if I took the experience with my ankle and applied it to the other things in my life I tend to blow off as a guarantee? What if we were grateful now for the things we are able to do every day? What if we took time to see the average as remarkable?
How would that kind of thinking change our days? Our world?
What remarkable abilities do you not realize you have today? Make a list of the everyday, average things you do and thank God for each of them. Because some days, we’re lucky to hop out of bed and stand in the shower.
Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
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When I got pregnant with my daughter, Maddy, a few of my other pregnant friends were choosing to give birth au natural.
My thought—Why not?
I’d had epidurals with my boys, but because I’d progressed quickly, I didn’t get them until well into labor. The pain early on hadn’t been that bad. My friends had done it. I could woman up.
If you’ve had children, naturally or not, you’re laughing now. You may be laughing even if you haven’t given birth. And you should be.
Fourteen years after the trauma of labor and delivery au natural, I can laugh too. Most of that day has faded into memories and stories Maddy likes me to share.
About my false bravado in going epidural and drug free.
About my grave error in remembering how much I hate to suffer.
About the Nazi nurse and her soothing words of encouragement. “Of course it hurts, you’re having a baby.”
About my poor husband who had to listen to me scream, “How could you let me do this? You’re sleeping in the driveway. Forever.”
About Maddy rushing into the world while my doctor was still running down the hall.
But there was a darker side to that day, a trauma I haven’t forgotten, that I’ve never shared with anyone. The feeling of being abandoned and isolated during the worst of the pain.
In the hours leading up to and during the actual delivery, time and space seemed to fold in on itself and lock me in a vacuum until everything but hurt disappeared.
I lost track of who was in the room, my husband’s grip on my hand, every sound but my heartbeat echoing in my ears and my voice begging for the birth to be over. My world tunneled like I’d been sucked into a black hole. A black hole even God couldn’t breach.
“I can’t do this,” I told God. And there was silence.
“Make it stop,” I begged. More silence.
“Why did you leave me?” I cried. Silence. Silence. Silence.
Can you relate? Have you ever walked through an hour, a day, or a week feeling alone, abandoned, invisible? Have you survived a trauma that left you emotionally dead and spiritually cold?
Maddy’s birth wasn’t my first, last, or worst black hole moment. I’ve lived through others.
The morning my dad walked out.
The day I knew he wasn’t coming back.
The season my marriage fell apart and I didn’t see God’s plan for redemption.
The weeks following a friend’s death.
When anxiety held me in a chokehold.
Both times my son was diagnosed with cancer.
Some moments lasted hours. Others months and years. But length is relative. Ten seconds can feel like ten hours when you’re stuck in a void. And when I’m sucked into that vacuum, it looks like I’m alone, sounds like I’m alone, feels like I’m alone.
Yet God promises we’re never alone.
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:8 NIV).
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV).
If I believe God’s Word to be truth, then I must also believe that no matter how much I feel abandoned, I am not.
I can’t always trust my feelings, especially during those black moments. I can trust God. But taking His word at face value is hard when it requires going against my senses and believing in the unseen. That’s where faith comes in.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
The good thing about black hole moments? They eventually end. The better thing about God’s truth? It lasts an eternity.
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