Thursday, March 28, 2013

Square One

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73: 21-26 ESV

In 2007, I cried because I couldn't eat a hamburger. This wasn't some radical diet; I just couldn't open my jaw wide enough to take a bite. And all I wanted was to eat a hamburger.
I have a kind of inflammatory arthritis - rheumatoid arthritis. All that means is that my body periodically tries to attack itself and floods my joints with white blood cells, leaving them swollen and painful.
It started around September of 2006 with my right thumb, and I thought that I had just jammed it, but by February of 2007, I was practically immobile. Every joint in my body was painfully full of fluid. I couldn't function. My feet and ankles hurt so badly that the weight of a blanket was too much to bear. I got locked in my own bedroom once because I couldn't grip the doorknob hard enough to turn it. I had trouble washing my hair because it was difficult to raise my arms that high, and standing up took so much energy that I could only manage it for ten minutes at a time.

And then my jaw locked up and I couldn't eat.

The medications were never ending - Planquenil, Methotrexate, Enbrel, high dose Naproxen, Prednisone, and Cymbalta were all on board - every day. I even had one of those old-lady pill dispensers.

Most of the time, I couldn't wear shoes because my feet were too swollen. A lot of the time, I couldn't sit down or stand up without help. And some of the time, I couldn't drive because I couldn't control the steering wheel.

I wanted to die. That's not hyperbole. One of the meds I was on, Enbrel, has psychological effects, and I, who am already prone to depression, was swept into the darkest emotional pit I've ever been in. All I did - all I did - was lay on the couch and sleep. In a nut shell, it was the worst year of my life. A total loss of independence and self-sufficiency coupled with extreme pain.

And then - it stopped. All of the sudden, within a couple of weeks, my flair ended and I could stop the meds. I could flex my fingers. I could stand. I could rest comfortably.

Thank. You. God.

Of course, I didn't thank Him then. I chalked it up to the right combination of meds or a reduction in stress or just my body finally working things out and calming down, and in hindsight, it was probably all three of those things, but that doesn't mean it wasn't God's work.

I think sometimes that we expect God to make his presence known in burning bushes, booming voices, or parting seas. I think we look for His intervention to be over the top - a clear sign of his magnificence, mercy, and power. And sure, God can work in extremes - the plagues of Egypt, the salvation of the Jews, the Resurrection of Jesus - but that doesn't mean he has to.

Jesus healed the sick - not with a wave of his hand and everyone in the crowd was suddenly cured, but in an up-close and hands-on and painfully slow way. One by one.


I am in a flair again. After visiting my rheumotologist for the first time in six years yesterday, we have decided that I'm back to square one: trying out meds, monitoring symptoms, and tracking the progression. Thankfully, this flair is no where near as extreme as the one six years ago, but I have to admit that I have some anxiety about it. I'm scared of it developing into the same level as it has been in the past. It's already becoming difficult to take care of the babies - what will I do if I can't even hug them? How long will it last? How will I work? I am scared of finding myself back on the couch, sleeping fitfully, and in pain.

But, I will survive.

God will bring me through it, one way or the other. He did before, and He will again. This is just my road, but I don't have to walk alone. I have the strength of my husband, the love of my children, and the support of my friends and family. And I have God - God who does not abandon us in our hour of need.

Every day, God blesses me, and sometimes I see the miracle. And sometimes I don't.

My challenge, therefore, is to keep my eyes open - to count my blessings and look for the miracles that will shepherd me through. It is always darkest before the dawn, but joy comes in the morning.

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