Jun 11, 2013

Finding Hope in Illness.

There is a story behind these beautiful tulips growing in my garden. They were planted in 2005 and now it is 2013, eight years later:

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March of 2005. As you can imagine it was a complete shock and a very traumatic time. I was told in the emergency room that I either had a tumor on the spine or MS, and then I endured a barrage of tests including a spinal tap and MRI.  In the midst of the trauma I was comforted by the love and care of many friends and felt that I was being taken care of by God in so many ways. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay with whom I worked at English L’Abri for many years sent me a basket of spring bulbs which were joined by many other beautiful flowers. I later happily planted out the tulips in the basket as the other flowers faded, around 8 of them in all and hoped that I would see them again the following year.

 Bulbs symbolize hope for me as they lie underground for most of the year, only to erupt in spring with their joyous proclamation of renewed life after a long winter. Dear Susan cared for me beyond the initial diagnosis and even though she was across the Atlantic she sent me books and letters and promised to pray for me every day. Both she and her mother would call to see how I was doing and assure me of their love. After a hard year the following spring I was delighted to see the tulips come up again, just as beautiful as ever (this is no sure thing in Minnesota). Once again that next year Susan would pray and call and write, faithfully caring beyond the initial trauma and helping to encourage me through the challenges. I found that over time I could see many blessings along with the challenges and felt that I was seeing some spiritual growth despite and even through my circumstances. I was learning about grace and God’s love in weakness, finding that the Lord was indeed sufficient. There were many difficulties; having to learn to ask for help, humility of not being able to do what I once could, trusting others, living with uncertainty - there were so many things. 

The next year once again the tulips came back and this time to my surprise there were even a few more. So time passed and Susan kept praying and caring and the Lord kept proving himself faithful, teaching me more about his love all the time. Year after year the tulips kept coming back, each year with even more, so 8 years later I now have 30! If you do not garden you probably do not know that tulips usually last for only a few years and then die off, and I have never known of them multiplying, yet that is what they keep doing. Year after year there are more and their beauty just increases. 

Year after year Susan has faithfully prayed and her prayers, I am confident, have borne fruit. I know that the Lord has been faithfully bringing fruit out of this broken and difficult experience of MS. I am able to better empathize with the suffering of others and am seeing more fruit in their lives as I pass this love on. I have learned to know more joy and peace as I see so many ways that I have been taken care of and I am feeling a greater contentment as I realize that not being in control of everything is not frightening but liberation. Christ’s love, which I know more fully through the love, care and prayers of others, has brought fruit and the tulips to me are a symbol of this love triumphing over brokenness. No, I am not healed, but I hope that I am a better person and by the grace of God I know that I will break into bloom whole, healed and perfect when that final Spring of Christ’s return comes once for all.

Jun 1, 2013

A physical disconnect: dreams and reality.

Sometimes my head and my body get so disconnected from each other. In my head I make plans for the day, informed by what I need to accomplish and what I would enjoy doing. This is what I need to do: laundry and clean the bathrooms which I have put off for far to long and can no longer be ignored. This is what I want to do: garden, putting compost on the fruit tree, weeding the dandelions, clearing the weeding I did yesterday and then if I have energy this is what I want to do most of all: look for morels.

The sun is shining on a Saturday for the first time in so very long and I am excited to get out, so eagerly I had breakfast, got dressed and ready for the day. I tried ignoring the fact that I had a whopping headache but by the time I was ready I felt like death and could no longer ignore the fact that I was terribly sick. Just walking down to the basement and back upstairs nearly floored me so reality came pounding on my door. So now I am in bed blogging.

Every one has days like this, but with MS they happen too often. Things pile up and objectives too often are failed. There is a disconnect between my mental identity and physical reality. Most of the time this serves me well as MS is not who I am, it is what I am dealing with. I am much more than my physical abilities, I have many relationships, creativity, chickens, a pretty garden and a meaningful relationship with my creator God. I have a great deal to be thankful for. I also know that one day I will have a renewed body in heaven with no illness, all things will be made right. Until then though, I will have to deal with this disconnect and learn to listen to where I am at today, today I have MS and a bug and need to rest, maybe I can birdwatch out the window? I am thankful though that today will not ultimately have the last word.
I will content myself with looking out the window at my garden.