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Monday, October 17, 2011

Finding Joy in our Circumstances

I have the privilege of participating in one of our church's weekly Bible study groups. We are currently studying Max Lucado's Experiencing the Heart of Jesus {Knowing His Heart. Feeling His Love}. I don't find it coincidental that this study came in the season in life that I am currently living. God has a way of orchestrating His perfect timing for things such as this. Max presented the following question in the study guide, "Are you hoping that a change in circumstances will bring change in your attitude?" If I were to answer that honestly (which I did) I would say "Heck to the yes!" Mr. Lucado then states that if so, we are in prison. What we have in our Shepherd is greater than what we don't have in life. I could stop this post right here and this could have an impact on someone, but I wish to "journal" this for me, for my family in years to come & with the hopes that it may encourage or inspire just one that may read this.

Our story begins back in late February when my hubs came home from his job of 6+ years no longer employed. No severance, no "buy out", nothing. A simple, unjustified termination of his employment. I won't go down that bunny trail as I fear I wouldn't exemplify a very Christ like attitude in doing so. Here we were, a new family of five (baby McKenna was only six weeks old) with no source of income, a large debt owed to the hospital, medical insurance which would end the end of March, and a fairly new mortgage payment (we purchased our new home in October 2009). Gulp. We felt our world rocked. We experienced every emotion ranging from anger, desperation, fear, resentment, self pity, but NOT joy. How could we feel joy given the circumstance? Time passed by. One month, two months, then three before Travis was able to secure another full-time position. Our household income was reduced drastically (read this with all caps!). Benefits within the new company didn't start for another 90 days meaning we had 4 1/2 months of insurance premiums we were financially responsible for. As a very close friend said once "Our pocket book was vomiting in large proportions." Our saving grace was/remains to be our Dave Ramsey emergency fund/3-6 months of saved living expenses. God has sustained us and not without being humbled. That is another post in and of itself. Our family, close friends and church family have shown themselves to be the hands and feet (and extended pocket book) of Christ. Again, we are/continue to be humbled.
So life has gone on in our new "norm" for the past few months when several new health conditions paid a visit to yours truly. I fell very ill, very suddenly the 1st of August. A friend and neighbor rushed me to the local emergency room where I was diagnosed and treated for rapid onset vertigo. I wouldn't for the life of me wish this on anyone. My world was spinning out of control (literally), I was sweating and shaking profusely & then the vomit hit. It is the worst feeling when you are completely incapable of caring for your little ones. Symptoms have returned on occasion but on a much more manageable realm. Several weeks later I began experiencing floaters and clouded vision in my right eye. This went on with no change for four weeks before I broke down (remember finances are always at the forefront of my mind these days) and scheduled to see an ophthalmologist. After a thorough examination I was referred to a vitreoretinal specialist to confirm the diagnosis of posterior vitreous detachment.
This is a brief description of PVD: The eye is filled with a clear jelly-like substance called the vitreous gel. Light passes through the vitreous gel to focus on the retina. When the vitreous jelly comes away from the retina this is called a vitreous detachment. PVD can cause symptoms such as floaters, little flashes of light, or a cobweb effect across your vision.
And I fit that description to a T. I was told several (choke) very reassuring things.
1. I have a rather large detachment. The largest my physician has seen in his years of practice.
2. Although PVD is rather common, it is common in those age 65+.
Hello, I am 36. According to my math 65 is a looong way off.
3. I have to live with it. I am scheduled for further evaluation the end of this month when they decide if further testing is necessary. They prefer to dodge surgery as they only perform the procedure 2 - 3 times each year due to the high risk involved (surgery can lead to a detached retina). My mom lived through that x 2. No thank you, thank you very much.
Then MY world stopped momentarily. My mom had her annual mammogram screening which returned abnormal results followed by another mammogram and sonogram testing. Again, the results showed an abnormality so she was scheduled for a biopsy. Two days later she received a call from her surgeon's office with very unexpected news. Invasive ductal cell carcinoma of the right breast. We followed the advice of the surgeon and sought out counsel with both a medical oncologist as well as a radiation oncologist. It was at these appointments that we learned that mom's tumor is what is known as a triple negative tumor (estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and Her2/neu receptor are all negative). Without going into a long explanation this is not favorable and is one "piece of the pie" that is does not work in her favor. Mom had her surgery Friday the 7th. Praise the Lord her lymph nodes tested negative and the surgeon was able to remove the tumor and the surrounding tissue was clear. We received word earlier today that the actual tumor size measured larger than the original pathology report therefore chemotherapy and radiation therapy are a must. Can you imagine for a moment the emotions she is dealing with? Fear, anxiety, sleeplessness, trusting in her bodies ability to stay strong. Joy? Joy doesn't come naturally in circumstances such as this. I would do anything to take her place - to be the one to face treatments and the side effects from them. But since that isn't possible, I will continue to stay strong for her, to be there for her and to pray Romans 15:13 "I pray that the God who gives hope will FILL YOU with MUCH JOY and PEACE while YOU TRUST IN HIM. Then your hope will OVERFLOW by the power of the Holy Spirit" because I have full confidence that she will come away from this a stronger person. She/we have thee most amazing support system.
One personal story shared within the Lucado study says "We can use any tragedy as a stumbling block or a stepping stone. I hope this will not cause my family to be bitter. I hope I can be an example that God is wanting us to trust in the good times and the bad. For if we don't trust when times are tough, we don't trust at all." So Mom as you read this, know that we are leaning on you to trust! God is much bigger than this. Put your big girl panties on and get ready to fight!
All this to say, God desires for us to find joy in our circumstances. His gift of delight is always given to those who know they are needy. It is not awarded upon request, but upon surrender. SO, I surrender. I cry out for joy in my circumstances. "Think about God's joy. His is a joy which consequences cannot quench. His is a peace which circumstances cannot steal. Jesus showed us by example how to live a life of joy. Circumstances couldn't affect Jesus' joy - it was untouchable."
Those who have the joy of Jesus have a stubborn, unshakeable peace.
I'm stubborn all right but Lord, give me a stubborn unshakeable peace within me.


Rene' said...

Love you friend and love your family! Thank you for sharing your story with a pure and honest heart. It has blessed me by reading it and I know it will bless many others!

Prayers are being lifted up.. when sisters in christ are yolked together the Lord has a way of 'putting' people on our hearts... Your mom and family are continually being prompted in my heart by the Holy Spirit.
Stay encouraged as you cast your cares upon the Lord..HE WILL SUSTAIN YOU.

Anonymous said...

Preach on, girl! I love you and your sweet family. Know that I am praying for your precious Mom's healing! Love you all! Dianne

Phyllis said...

I just read all your blog and looked at all the pictures. Christine, you were so honest in professing your faith in the Lord,and surrendering to Him all your problems. I pray that God will show his grace and have mercy on your family. It has humbled me. Be assured that I do pray each day for your family, my heart is heavy for Travis as he is struggling ,too. I love all of you, and the three grandchildren. Seems you have friends who share your faith and pray also for you. I did enjoy all the pictures, helps to keep me in touch. Love, GG in Spfld.

Sweet Floweret said...

What a rough season.
My mom suffered with vertigo and a friend of mine does as well. So thankful that you have Jesus. Can you imagine going through any of what you did/do without Him!?! Bless you today.

Katie said...

Hello again, Christine. Thank you so much for sharing your link on my post; I have read every word.

Having been through much of the same, myself, I can't begin to tell you how I admire your braveness in sharing this story here. But what I am most amazed by is your utter faithfulness to the Lord. He was, and is obviously working in your life in truly amazing ways!