The broken place: The progression of a hard day – and thoughts on what it means to be blessed

A touching post from my friend, Heather Davies, one of the most resilient people I know. With American Thanksgiving coming tomorrow, I thought posting this would be appropriate:

“I dedicate this post to my best friend who is teaching me about the beauty of weakness and vulnerability in the hard places in her own life. God is using you to do beautiful things my love. Hold fast the dawn will come
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Wednesday was a hard day. Not a bad day, but a hard day. It was also one of the days I look forward to most in the year, it was my baby sister’s birthday. I was so excited about it, as for her job she travels across the country leading a group of students for CMU’s outtatown program. A great job, but for sisters as close as we are, every moment away from each other kinda stinks, and this year she was going to be home for the night (wahoo!). Frankly I couldn’t wait to celebrate the beautiful blessing she is in my life. But Wednesday as I said turned out to be a really hard day. A really really hard day. At around 3:00 I started feeling that familiar rolling nausea that tells me my head isn’t feeling so hot, and I’ve overdone it. This was rapidly followed by severe head pain and mental fatigue. Truthfully it does kinda feel like getting hit by a bus. I did what I have learned to do in this circumstance. I laid down in the dark, put peppermint headache oil on my head, tried brain exercises, everything I knew to get my pain levels and that consuming freaking roiling nausea back under control… and it seemed to be helping a little but not enough.

I had to get ready to go out for my sister’s birthday dinner, we were meeting her at a restaurant between work duties, but I still wasn’t feeling so hot. So I used another trick I’ve learned. I took a shower, straightened my hair and did my makeup to the 9’s hoping these things would signal to my brain that it was time to snap out of it… time to buck up and feel better because we were going out. I was willing to pay for my time out later, just not now. Sometimes this works… sometimes my brain rallies and I rally and I can do it… but yesterday it didn’t. By the time we reached the restaurant, the bright lights from the cars in the opposite lane had caused the pain level of my headache to go from a 5 to a 7, I thought I was going to throw up. I felt miserable, but it was my baby sister’s birthday, this day, this one thing I needed to make special. So I did the final trick I have learned in case of a necessary task on a hard day. I faked it.

I should note I mostly don’t let people see me when I am in that much pain…. I cancel my plans with people, I arrange my schedule to make sure I have time to rest between visits, often for a few days at a time. When I say sorry I can’t make it I’m too busy, a lot of the time it’s because I have plans… with myself… to rest, because I have to, because I’m in pain or I know I will be soon. But I don’t know how to tell people that, so I tell them the things I am doing, omitting that they are not as close together as I make them sound. On days I am in pain but I can’t cancel I have learned to fake it, to be more bubbly and more upbeat, to smile brighter and laugh louder then at other times, to drown out the screaming in my head … because pain I have learned to cope with, pain is just one of those things that has become part of life and I never want other people to feel they are making it worse or causing it, because its been a year and a half, and frankly I’m tired of talking about it, so I pretend I’m ok. Also I’m an extrovert, sometimes it is more important for my mental sanity to see people when I’m in pain then to stay at home alone and feel ok, and I want to p retend life is normal, because sometimes that feels good… But also, to be honest, it’s hard for me to be that vulnerable, that weak before people. It requires fighting every false instinct in me to “have it all together” and “stay upbeat”, and though I am working on it, it’s harder then it sounds even when people expect it, to show that you are indeed not ok. Now can I say that more and more I do actually feel ok when I see people, and if I pace myself as I have learned to do and listen to the signs, I can pretty much ensure that I am well rested enough and feeling good enough to be pain free while seeing a friend so we can have a nice visit… but some days, like yesterday, that doesn’t always work.

We walked into the restaurant and I was all bright kisses and happy birthdays, because that’s what you do for the person you love most in the world on their birthday. But as I was sitting there battling that pain, that nausea, that mental fatigue, even talking became a struggle. All I could do was “smile big and laugh loud” and ask lots of questions because these things are things that don’t give away the fact I can barely talk due to my pain levels. At one point I got up from the table to go to the washroom because I didn’t know if I could keep up the conversation without starting to cry. I ran into an old friend I haven’t seen in years, and was really happy to see, but I couldn’t express that because saying hi and asking how he was just a huge strain, forget instigating a conversation from there.

I came back to the table, dinner continued, our food arrived, and for several minutes the food and water seemed to calm my nausea, and I was able to enjoy the time with my sister. My pain dropped to a more manageable 6 on the pain scale. Dinner finished, we got back in the car, I rested on the way home, my pain eventually got back down to a 5… I thought I was home free. But then my sister asked my mom and I to pick up a friend from the ferry…. no problem, I was feeling better, and it was a pleasure, so we drove to the ferry, and that’s when things started to really ramp up. The pain bumped back up to a 6. We brought Jac’s friend home, Jac met us there, there was a cake, laughter. The pain ramped up to a 7. We all chatted around the table, I faked it and joked and laughed more then anyone, pain levels up to an 8. Jac’s friend left, things quieted down, but I was on a pain trajectory that wasn’t going to stop just because things had gotten quieter. Once you pass an 8, the pain’s pretty much on autopilot, I don’t need more triggers to keep driving it up… my pain increased to a 9, I made my way up stairs, trying not be violently ill on the way from pain, dry heaving from nausea. I brushed my teeth, my pain increased to a 9.5. At this pain level I am unable to think, it hurts to breath, live, exist, I feel hopeless, and I feel like dying, and every time the pain gets this bad, the words that rise to the surface are not my own, they are screaming angry swear words, they are a result of the fact I cannot manage my emotional filter when my head is fatigued since my injury. Essentially those words are not mine, they belong to a raw un-depressed emotion bursting to the surface wanting to be let out inside me, but I fight not to say those words, because if I open my mouth and they are what comes out then the injury is winning… I become the injury. I am not my injury, these are just my circumstances. I climb into bed, I close my eyes and I cannot stop the tears from streaming down my face, I am tensed up and my face is contorted with pain, the pain level is now at a 10 and I want to scream and scream. It hurts so much, so f – ing much and the nausea is so unexplainably f – ing horrible. I just feel like dying when it’s like that…. Just anything not to hurt like that.

And then in the midst of that mind numbed place I feel HIM near. “just lay back, just rest, I am with you”… It is powerful. I can’t explain it. But he just right there in the midst of it with me in my most vulnerable, my weakest moment. I didn’t need to hide my pain from him, and I didn’t need to tell HIM how much pain I’m in, I don’t have to, HE knows, HE shares it… I am not alone, HE feels it too and he grieves it, HE is right there with HIS sweet presence me and HE will not leave, not til this is done, HE will carry me through… I took a deep breath, I was still crying, but somehow, just his presence, just the knowledge he is so close, and that I don’t have to pretend anything causes my face to relax a little, and this somehow makes the pain seem less acute… and unbelieveably somehow in the midst of this moment, the thing I find myself thinking over and over to combat the pain and the injury and its dark raw emotion is “ I am so blessed, I am so blessed, I am so blessed”… because somehow even that much raw pain, I knew that is the truth that doesn’t change, and I needed to hold onto it to get me through that dark night.

A few weeks ago weeks ago, I was reading Isaiah 61, “ I will trade you the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, I will trade you a crown of beauty instead of ashes… and you will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for his glory… “ and the promise “I will give you a double portion” when it occurred to me, that for a long time I had held onto this bible verse as my promise from God that my circumstances would get better and I would get better soon. But it hit me that maybe God had already given me all of these blessings and in my grasping for control I have been missing them and making myself miserable… I began to realize in that moment that maybe the double portion in this verse is not a change in my present circumstances or even my struggle, maybe it’s not physical healing at all, but maybe it’s a change in perspective. To know that in my weakness how blessed I am because HE is with me… we have a God who is just so close… and what I experienced on Wednesday night is that in HIM our weakness is not something to be ashamed of, or to fight, it is a gift to boast in the Lord in. Because not only is God near to the brokenhearted (psalm 34:18), and to those who are weak and crushed in spirit… He is the God who showed us in the garden of gethsamine it’s ok to be weak, it’s ok to ask for the cup to be removed, but if it is not removed, that he can still bless us, for HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). For he is the God who will never forsake us, will never leave us (Deut 31:6) even in our darkest night … and that is why we can be blessed even in the midst of our most broken circumstances. That love HE has for me and for you, it never changes. This is why in these valley of death moments, we must not lose heart. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” 2 Corinthians 4:16.

What I experienced on Wednesday night was a fight against my flesh for surrender. Every time I repeated “I am so blessed”, I felt the truth of that fall on me thickly, and I began to know the truth of it more and more.. and as I did so I found myself beginning to let go of the ashes of control at not getting my own way, of not getting different circumstances and the fruits of control (ie. despair, frustration, confusion, self glorification and bitterness) melted away with it. What took it’s place was the blessing of the beauty of surrender (death of self) and the beautiful fruits of it (ie. peace, purpose, and his presence!). It was beautiful and I was so blessed.

So I am praying for you and for me that we will begin to see more and more that blessing does not just come in the form of a beautiful engagement, or a promotion at work, or just a great coffee at the beach, but that we can see the truth that God is able to bless us and give us a double portion, even when we are outwardly wasting away. Our problems and weakness are so important for as Max Lucado said, they are the place that allow God to turn sin to grace and sickness to miracles, even when our circumstances don’t change. They are the place where we can get to meet him and know him more intimately… for me this feels like my double portion… and this is the unchanging truth of why we are blessed even when we are outwardly wasting away. I am praying that we would learn to give glory to him in every dark night, rather then giving glory to great circumstances. Praying blessings and Shalom over you my dear friends.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers my recovery seems a bit ambigious at the moment, in terms of the fact I can’t tell if I am improving or not. My first treatment came to an end and I am trying to decide what to do now. Nevertheless I have never felt so genuinely joyful or so at peace. I have accepted my circumstances for what they are, and am trying to just live in the moment, in the full blessing of the double portion of what God has for me, acknowledging the full reality of what I am going through, but seeing how God is in it, truly I have never felt God so close, it is just the coolest my precious gift of my life and I am so grateful.… Thank you for your constant prayers and love, it has changed so much for me.

To HIM be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Read more on her blog: theheartofchangeislove

Heather Davies on the Justin Minott Blog

 

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