Weathering the Storm (Part Three)

This is part three in a series.  Click here for Part One and here for Part Two.

I was devastated.  We were being transported via ambulance to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. A three hour road trip at this point in the story felt impossible for many reasons.  For one, my husband was in no condition to leave his bed;  I couldn’t imagine him being carted across the state.  For another, I was so beyond exhausted after several nights without sleep that I didn’t think I could find my way to my car in the parking lot, let alone to drive somewhere I’d never been–downtown Detroit didn’t sound like a picnic.  I was going to be even more alone than I had been so far.  The weight of the world and the future of our family felt like it rested somewhere between my shoulder blades.

As they prepared the ambulance and our drivers and all of the paperwork, I called my beloved friend and told her I was leaving.  Would she please watch out for my children–the two at home loading our moving truck and one with her family much too far away to be comfortable.

She basically said, “No.  I’m coming with you.  Whatever happens you cannot be alone in this.”  And then she told her boss and left work and arranged for my car to be picked up from the hospital and brought home, and took her place driving behind our ambulance.   She would soon guide me through mazes of hallways and secure our hotel room and haul my bags around and help me rally–and walk the halls and pray for us.  My other beautiful friends rallied as well.  They brought food to my kids and called and texted them and stopped over to hug them.  Beautiful friends were  texting me dreams and visions God had given them for us, and more folks than I knew how to count were praying.  All my bases were covered.

The wise man prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  It is the storm within which endangers him, not the storm without.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

I got into the ambulance with my husband in the back and began a three hour road trip in a rainstorm at 80 mph listening to eighties music with a stranger (the driver) while eating a Lunchable.  Strangest, most surreal moment I can remember.

And then we arrived.  A huge hospital–completely scary and overwhelming as we entered through the emergency room and wound our way through the maze up to our new intensive care unit.  It all started all over again.  The million questions, the dozens of doctors, the transfusions, resisting fear, standing on faith, barely sleeping, just staring at my husband’s face…

Except this time, I had to leave him at night and  go to a hotel room and wonder if he would be okay while I wasn’t there.  Here, the staff quickly became our compassionate lifeline.  Here, God was about to reveal some answers…

 Storms make the oak grow deeper roots.–George Herbert

There is an enemy out there and he whispers lies.  He waits in the shadows until it’s dark and the world feels scary and then he quietly whispers lies into folks’ minds.  Sometimes he waits until you’re almost asleep and then he SHOUTS a scary word and makes you startled and unsettled and afraid.

But then…then, there’s a sweet and gentle whisper, like a beautiful melody wafting along on the breeze ever so faintly waiting to be heard, bringing words to remembrance.  Words of peace.  Words of love.  Words of truth.  Harder to hold on to, so elusive are they.  But they are real.  

We have heard both.  Lots of lies from the dream-dasher.  As I look into my husband’s eyes and see the same desperate look my sweet daughter gave me after hemorrhaging after childbirth–the same begging-for-help expression–the same pale features and drawn face, I heard lies.  From one hospital to another, there were doctors who told me that there was no way our dreams could happen.  I was told my husband would be here for weeks.  I heard words like cancer and leukemia.  We were asked if there were things that we had done to remove God’s protection over our lives.  We sought our God and asked why He brought us to this place.  Had we missed the mark somewhere?  Was this a lesson He was teaching us?

Time and time again, He responded ever-so-quietly.  We had recently told Him to give us a story.  To use us for His glory.  That if He wanted to fulfill our dream and His plan that He birthed in our family, that whatever the story was, we would tell of His goodness–shout it from the rooftops.  

This enemy, he tried hard to unseat us.  He wanted us to doubt and feel abandoned and to kill the dream.  

But this…this is the story about how he failed.  How God is bigger.  How God even uses the hardest of things to show His love–if we wait for it.

I remember back just a week or so ago.  I was driving in the country.  It was a lovely spring day.  In front of me at one point was the biggest hill in our area.  It struck me that this hill looked quite daunting upon approach.  If I had to climb it on foot, I would be overwhelmed, and quit before I even started.  As it stood in front of me, it looked like my car should strain to climb it.

But, in truth, as I began my ascent, in my cutest little Honda Pilot, it didn’t even really feel like I was on a hill.  On either side, spring flowers were blooming.  Halfway up, the hill hardly looked steep–just a slight grade.

It just depended on how I looked at it.  In the rear view, it was just a thing in my past.  No big deal.  A place I’d been.  rear view

I could have stopped at the bottom and gotten myself all worked up over the possibilities.  What if my car stopped and rolled backwards when I got halfway up?  What if I just couldn’t climb the hill?  Maybe I shouldn’t even try.

But I would have missed the victory!  The view from the top is spectacular!  The perspective from that vantage point is priceless.

Once the climb is over, it ceases to look like any kind of issue and just looks like a place I’ve been.

That’s where I want so desperately to be.  Over the hump.  On the other side.  I know it’s there.

I hate this hill at this moment.  But in me, it is producing something.  Some sort of strength.  An amazing sort of closeness to my heavenly Daddy.

And you should see the flowers along the way!

To be continued…

In the midst of the flurry–clarity.

In the midst of the storm–calm.

In the midst of divided interests–certainty.

In the many roads–a certain choice.

–MaryAnne Radmacher

Despite the fear…

A few days ago, I was out playing in the waves with my family, big swells that kept most other beach-goers away.  Usually all manner of folks can be found at my beach, lounging and wading and a few actually swimming.  On this day though, the weather people had warned of dangerous rip-currents and I would agree that if you’re not physically strong enough or experienced with Lake Michigan specifically, you should not tackle the waves.  They can be killers.  Without exaggeration.  Mostly because people underestimate their power.  But, where you swim in them is super important as well!  In fact, a life was lost that day as a young girl swam too near a channel and got swept away by the currents there.

I underestimated, too once.  Actually, both Christian and I forgot the strength and wildness that manifests itself in my beloved lake.  Kyrsten was little, maybe 5?, and we ran out to the lake on a stormy night to play as a storm came in.  Justin did fine.  He was strong and had been a solid swimmer for his entire life.  He took off and happily swam until the waves dragged him back to shore only to do it all over again.
Christian had Kyrsten with a noodle for floating help and the three of us took off happily out into the waves looking for the sandbar that had been there for weeks previously.  The undertow has this way of separating you as you head out so we were quite a ways from each other.  I was swim/walking with all my might until I could no longer touch bottom and then I was swimming hard to get out to that sandbar that I just KNEW was not much farther.  The only problem is that the storm and waves had moved the sandbar.  I wasn’t going to be able to get that far.  But, as the waves began to overcome me and I started taking in water instead of air, my brain got that confusion that they say drowning folks get and I couldn’t think straight.  I forgot to turn around and let the waves bring me back to safety.  I just kept reaching for that stupid sandbar.  And then all of a sudden, I knew.  After spending my entire childhood in its waters, I knew my beloved lake was going to claim me.  I couldn’t breathe and I was out of energy.
I looked for my family and waayyy far over I saw Christian trying desperately to keep his head above water enough to save little Kyrsten who was clinging to the pool noodle trying to breathe as well.
I caught his eye and just shook my head and screamed, “I CAN’T!”  He looked at me and shook his head.  He had given up as well.
The next thing I know, I am on the shore sputtering and coughing and practically kissing the sand with relief next to my husband who is doing the same thing with my little girl.   I don’t know how I got there.  Well, I do.  It had to be miraculous because there is simply no way I could swim that far.
It scared me but good.
Honestly, it put real fear in me.  Fear that was unfamiliar and that I did not welcome.  I had never before been afraid of my lake.  Had a healthy respect for it, yes.  Afraid, no.  Since then, I fight panic that rears up in the depths of me in moments that I don’t even see coming.
But, swimming!?  I am now sometimes afraid while swimming way out deep.  I can’t even believe that I say that.  I have been a lifelong fish, and now, all of a sudden I will, for no reason, find myself terrified out in the water on occasion.
Like in that stupid kayak.  I panicked.  For no reason at all.
I hate that more than I have words to describe.  I like to feel strong and usually I am unafraid.
This time, after a great swim (with no moments of panic) I sat on the shore and let the waves crash on me and I realized that it’s not the idea of death that scares me in the least.  Not to sound morbid, but bring it.  I simply cannot wait to meet my Jesus.
It’s the process of getting there that I don’t necessarily crave.
It’s always the process, right?
I wasn’t the least bit afraid to fly around the world to a little tiny continent adrift in the ocean on the other side of the world.  It was the process I dreaded, and with good reason, I might add.
It’s not the living in a different home far from everything familiar that I’m scared of.  It’s the process of moving and not knowing and ripping away from here that I don’t really long for.
I don’t mind being a little old lady someday, as long as I didn’t burn so many bridges along the way that no one wants to be around me anymore.  It’s this whole process of aging that, well, it sucks.
BUT, you don’t get from newlywed to old, happily married couple without having survived some processes along the way.
You don’t get in shape with out the treacherous, miserable workouts along the way.
You don’t know how big God is until He’s held your hand through the dark.
It’s the journey that builds the muscles physically, emotionally or spiritually.
It’s in the living that you find your strength!
And darn it, I want the strength.  I want to have learned enough along the path to prevent later pain.  I want to have learned my lessons and pushed through the fear to a place of peace.
Don’t you?
I heard there will be big waves today.  I’m going swimming.
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