Monday, June 11, 2012

Who Says, "Things Happen for a Reason"?

In order to fully appreciate the lessons of the past few weeks, I have to back up to a seemingly unrelated time, and relay seemingly unrelated events.  A series of images come to mind...

Staring blankly ahead at the wall, for hours, unseeing, empty
Lying frozen in bed, unable to get out, get showered, get dressed
Endlessly crying - through work, through speech therapy, through home life
Crawling down the hallway, so beaten by life that I could not walk
Daily doctor and therapist appointments ...specialists who tried to discover and remedy the reason I could not sing, the reason I could not lift my arm
Voices raised with my husband, in anger and contempt, in desperation and fear
Months of constant anxiety attacks, unable to leave the house, unable to listen to music, unable to watch a movie or TV
Not wanting life, as it was, to continue

A year ago, I would have been mortified to share any of this.  Today I stand strong in the knowledge that, with the Lord's help and His arms wrapped around me, I chose a different path and one I was meant to share.  A path of healing, acceptance, obedience (er, most of the time :), and faith.  A path without pride.  A path without control.  A path seeking peace.

My therapist, amidst the darkness, told me to find a few things daily that made me feel good, lifted in spirit, then actively seek them throughout each day.  They were simple.

Sitting outside in the sunshine
Texting my girlfriends (no phone calls, wasn't ready for that yet)
Sitting in my living room in front of the window, watching the birds flit
and the leaves on my magnolia tree blowing in the wind
Playing brickbreaker on my Blackberry (hypnosis at its finest)
Watching Modern Family DVDs

This was what you did all day, you ask?  And to that I answer a resounding "yes" that's all I could do at the time.  I was happy I was getting out of bed!  Recovery began with these simple steps. 

I told Dr. Gray, however, that I wished I could add "reading" to my recovery list but was finding I could not sit down with just any book.  If there was even a hint of hurt or illness or family strife in the plot line, I would start having an anxiety attack.  She suggested that I start small and read something comprised of short, inspirational quotes or stories...something without a plot that I could easily pick up and read but just as easily put down. 

I went home and perused our bookshelves (you must remember, I was hardly leaving the house so going to the library or Barnes & Noble wasn't an option) and found "Your Best Life Begins Each Morning" by Joel Osteen.  This copy had been given by my friend, Annie, to my family years earlier and truthfully, I had never picked it up.  I think I wasn't meant to.  I think God was saving it for this very time in my life.

Rather than reading the entry from that day's date, I just started from the beginning.  I was struck.

"...Is your first reaction to...describe yourself in terms of past experiences...in terms of losing or just surviving than fulfilling your dreams?...It's time to enlarge your vision.  He wants to pour His far and beyond favor on you.  He wants to do big things and new things in your life."

From that moment everything changed.  I read that book, carried it with me everywhere.  When I started getting anxious, I pulled it out and read from the beginning again.  Then I read "The Prayer of Jabez" (another book that had sat on my shelf for years untouched).  Next I went to the Women of Faith conference at the Honda Center, an annual commitment I have with dear friends, and at the break, I bought Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and all three of Andy Andrews books for sale:  The Noticer,  The Traveller's Gift and The Final Summit.   I found that what I had always heard was actually true...if you put garbage into your body, you'll reap garbage.  If you put in things of worth, you'll reap things of worth.

Later, I started writing this blog just as a way to make myself write each day.  But I discovered that the more I wrote, the more I looked for ways that God was working in my life, the more things changed.  My perspective changed.  My marriage changed.  My family changed.  God was changing us all.  I tried transparency rather than control.  I began to pray in earnest thanksgiving rather than "qualification" or "need."  I even said prayers of gratitude for the hurt, the pain, the scary, the dreaded.  This was extremely foreign at first (and I admit, I thought it was a ridiculous thing to do!) but over time I truly recognized that the more I needed God, the bigger was my opportunity to lean on Him in His grace and goodness.  What a gift.

Fast forward to three weeks ago and the call that changed my family's world...my father was being moved home into hospice.  He was preparing for death to new life.  We were all going to gather around him to await his Heavenly homecoming.

The night before I was to leave, my husband said to me, "You know, I've been thinking about all of your pain and hurt and anxiety from last year.  How we didn't understand at the time why it was happening or what the purpose was.  I think this was the purpose.  Because if you had not had those terrible months, you would have never gotten closer to God.  You wouldn't be leaning on Him as you are now.  And you would never be able to handle your dad passing if you didn't have Him to lean on."  My eyes filled with tears at my husband's profound perspective and I said, "I was just thinking the same thing today."  Then I cried and cried, saying silent prayers of gratitude for my husband as he held me close.

I will leave you with one thought. 
I try not to make this blog a preaching forum
or a cautionary tale for what may happen if the reader doesn't have a
great relationship with our Father. 
We all hear Him in different ways and in different moments. 
I do not claim to be any type of authority.  
After all, I am simply
an ordinary woman listening to our extraordinary God.   

But I will claim authority here...today...this once. 
I know,
with no doubt,
that each of our stories is written in advance with God's touch on everything.
There is a reason for all of the pain we experience.
We may not know it at the time we're going through it.
We may not understand it.
We may question it.
We may feel
sad
angry
helpless
fearful.
These are human emotions that we experience as we process pain.
But if we hang on
trust
have faith
pray with gratitude
(yes, even for the hurts)
the reason will eventually be revealed to us.
Maybe not in our timeline.
Always in His.
Always for us.

If you are struggling today, I encourage you to look ahead in faith for what
beautiful things are in store for you...
lessons you can learn from your struggles...
grace you can share with others. 
There is a reason for your story
I pray in gratitude that He will show you that reason.

...Giving thanks for you, your stories, and your ability to honor Him through sharing them.

Photo credit:  jade95_2010

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