Thursday, January 2, 2014

Emmanuel (God with Us)

"Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will give conceive and give birth to a son and call him Emmanuel." Isaiah 7:14

It has been a long and harrowing year and I have been silent and absent from my blog for far too long. I could tell you that I have been experiencing writer's block, or that I have been preoccupied with more pressing things - both of which are true - but the raw truth is that I have been derailed!

About this time a year ago, the train I had boarded was going at a pretty good clip.  Not speeding, mind you, just chugging along.  Our bed and breakfast business was booming and I was in the process of taking my coaching and writing business to the next level.   I had grand plans for it all and not only was I going places, but I was enjoying the journey as well.

And then it happened - without much warning, the train ran off its tracks.

It seemed to happen in an instant - the pain struck like a knife, then went away. A few seconds later, the pain stuck again this time more insistent and then stayed.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  That was my preliminary diagnosis.  A series of tests ensued.  Exams, Ultrasounds, Blood Work, etc.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  Two trips to the emergency room, doubled over in pain. my normal bodily functions compromised.  The hoped for diagnostic tests not run. Pain pills dispensed.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  Finally in desperation, my husband drove me two hours to Ochsner Hospital's Emergency Room to get a battery of tests run.  We waited over three hours in a room filled with flu patients, and the tests took another three. Finding out there were many issues inside my pelvis, I was given some prescriptions, stronger pain medicine and a referral to a GYN pain specialist - which was not until two weeks later because of the Christmas Season.

We arrived home early the next morning, I slept for a couple of hours, but was soon up again because of the pain.   Later that evening, I took a pain pill, went to bed and slept. At some point during the night, I got up to go to the bathroom and began to feel quite woozy.  I headed back towards our bedroom and barely made it into the room, before losing consciousness, falling and hitting my head on the foot-board of our king-sized sleigh bed, then bouncing off and hitting my head a second time.

Either the hit on the bed or the scream that came from somewhere inside me, woke my husband and my youngest son and they ran to help me up. But I was too weak to even be helped up and I insisted they let me lay there until I felt stable enough to be picked up and put back in bed. At that moment I felt so utterly helpless, and truth be told, hopeless.  I didn't know how I would make it another day, much less another two weeks until I saw the specialist.

Christmas came and went. All around me, people were celebrating the birth of Christ - Emmanuel (God with Us) and for the first time in my life, I missed the joy of celebrating His birth and did not feel my the usual joy of His presence.  My family cooked and cleaned, lovingly cared for me, attended church and exchanged gifts.  I lay in bed weak and in pain, simultaneously grateful for their presence, yet wishing at times to be left alone.

"Hysterectomy."  Finally, the long awaited appointment arrived.  After consultation with the doctor, it was determined that I needed a complete hysterectomy and my surgery was scheduled for the first available date - February 5.  I was originally told that I would have a six week recovery period and then I would feel like "a new woman."  But after surgery, the doctor informed me that it was a "mess it there" and he had to do extensive work and that my recovery period would now probably take 6 months to a year.  But he assured both my husband and I that the surgery had indeed proved absolutely necessary as I was just one stage away from cancer!  MY Emmanuel (God with ME) had cleared the path before me, long before the train derailed, and prepared a way to save me from a worse fate, in spite of the fact that I did not "feel" Him with me.

"Pelvic Floor Dysfunction."  The recovery period has been long and arduous, and I developed complications from the surgery.  Several months into the recovery period, I was diagnosed with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - a disorder of the pelvic muscles which causes chronic pain.  I have been referred to physical therapy and am blessed to have a team of PT's who are very invested in helping me overcome my pain.

It is now a year later and we have just celebrated Christ's Birth again.  I had hoped that all of my issues would have been resolved by now, and while some are getting better, I have developed new and puzzling symptoms and once again find myself undergoing tests and waiting.

"Possible MS." The spoken words in the doctor's office at first startled me, now terrify me. Waiting is not something I ever do well and in this circumstance, it is even harder.
But as I look back over the past year, I am in awe of the many ways God was with me.

I am so grateful for my loving husband who has been with me each and every day - whose love and strength enabled me to keep going, when at times, I wanted to give up.
I am so grateful for my children and grandchildren whose phone calls and visits brought laughter back once again.
I am so grateful for the care and concern of my friends and their prayers which sustained me.
I am so grateful for the knowledge and compassion of the doctors and nurses who cared for me and who are caring for me still.
I am so grateful for my sweet doggie who  made it his personal mission to stay close to me and keep a watchful eye on me and even licked my tears, which fell too often from my face.

I am so grateful for the winter that gave way to spring, for the beautiful gardens we are blessed with, which provide  the perfect place for prayer, rest and recovery; for the melodious songbirds sitting in our trees each morning who serenade I look forward to each morning and evening; the scampering squirrels who daily fight over the hickory nuts that have fallen to the ground and try to find new ways to get into the bird feeders; and even the occasional surprise bunny whose presence makes it into our garden, brings instant joy to my heart.

 I am grateful to be reminded that it is not always in the extraordinary that we meet with God, but most often it is in the ordinary. I am grateful that I have been forced to slow down and have been given the opportunity to drink in the beauty of God's creation, but even more grateful that I have been given the opportunity to drink more deeply of Him.

"EMMANUEL." God with us, God with you, God with me. Emmanuel - Born of a virgin, laid in a manger; fully God and fully man, yet without sin; who lived and dwelt among us and became sin for us; who died our death on the cross; who rose from the dead and is and has been eternally our Emmanuel (God with us).

"EMMANUEL." I don't know what the future holds, but I do know WHO holds the future.
And that gives me courage to face the future - whatever it holds. His strength enables me in my weakness to continue to serve Him with the gifts and calling He has given me. His grace enables me to take one day at a time.

It won't always be easy, nor will I always like the detours that the Lord in his faithfulness and love for me determines are necessary, nor will I always understand or know the answer to "Why?"

But, I think that now, at long last, I am ready to surrender my hand to His, as He helps me up the steps and back onto the train, because I know in a deeper way now than I ever did before, that there is an unseen person, sitting next to me and His name is:

 "EMMANUEL." God with us, God with you, God with me; Then and Now.