“How is your health?” is always somewhat of a complicated question. As I sit here, with my pajamas on, unwashed hair, coffee next to me, I ponder the fact that my ears do ring much louder after I have had caffeine. Today is one of those days in which I have time to sit in the quiet for awhile as the baby naps. My toddler and husband are out on an errand, and I am here, once again. Just me and my thoughts.
I often find myself avoiding this place of self-reflection, because of the unknowns. Where will it go? What will I discover? Do I even want to uncover what has been lying dormant there? And then, frequently, the notion that my inner life doesn’t matter quite as much as another mundane, “urgent” task floods my brain and the valuable opportunity for quiet just slips right on by.
Today, as I resist that urge to flee, I think about my health.
The ever-changing, ever-puzzling world of chronic illness.
There are times in which I feel motivated to stick to a regimen that I know is best for me. No dairy, no gluten, no processed sugars. No caffeine. No alcohol. Exercise. Three nasal sprays a day, correct medicines in the morning and night, and of course the weekly putting-on of my big girl panties to give myself a shot that makes me instantly feel like hot garbage.
And then there are times when I opt to drink the caffeine for the energy and deal with the after-effects, as I’ve done most every morning lately. Or when I dare take that bite of cake because I’d rather enjoy the moment now and take the risk of feeling worse later.
I was talking with a friend last night that cares a lot about me. That is a treasure in itself, but what makes her an even better friend is that she asks questions. Good questions. She asked, “how is your health?” and my answer caught me off guard.
“I’m good, well, I think, I mean, I had a rough patch with my sinuses after my dad passed away, which is mostly better except that I think I might be going back to the ENT any day now for the ear that doesn’t have a tube at the moment. And really, ever since I was diagnosed I haven’t had any MAJOR issues, like the kind that other people have with my disease.”
It occurred to me that I don’t know what “good health” really is, for me. What is “remission,” anyway? Is it going off of medicine altogether, or is it staying in a period of low-level maintenance for an extended period of time? I think it really depends on the disease, and the person. And this person with this rare disease is still in the process of figuring it out.
And then I remembered what my holistic doctor told me at my most recent appointment with her. “You need to just rest in the fact that you are in a recovery period.”
I have never once thought of myself as being in a “recovery period.” I have always (subconsciously or not) looked at my health as something I can work toward. Something I have the power to improve. Which is a bit comical, seeing as I was hit with an unexpected disease that has no known cause and has radically changed my life.
You see, I have been holding onto a sense of control that has ultimately been detrimental to me. Yes, our choices have consequences. Good or bad, they do affect the way we feel and heal. But I have put all of the burden on myself and my choices, when ultimately, I can’t control what tomorrow brings. I do not choose the outcome of my health and life in the end.
I saw this so clearly with my dad and his situation. He fought with everything in him, harder and stronger than anyone I’ve ever known. If his ultimate outcome on this earth was dependent on how hard he fought for good health, he would be here, training for a marathon right now.
But this is where faith comes in. Without hesitation, I would have wanted to my dad to go back in time and never be diagnosed with stomach cancer, never experience any suffering, and get to stay here on earth with us for as long as possible. Deep down, I know that’s the way it was supposed to be. No sickness, no suffering, together forever.
It was supposed to be that way from the beginning.
Instead, we are stuck with a world that is messed up, broken, filled with sickness, pain, suffering, loss, and if we’re lucky, some recovery periods mixed in.
The past year has been a doozy for our whole family. But one of the things my dad liked to talk about was that this earth is so temporary. We are in what will eventually be like a passing moment in the breadth of eternity.
So, I can take that knowledge and live in the awareness that today is what I have been given. I can do my best to make good choices, but ultimately my life is in the hands of the One who made the universe. I can rest. I can remember that I am loved, first and foremost. And that my suffering is not in vain.
For Christmas, my sister gave us all a framed quote that came from our dad’s journal. It reads,
“God is in control of my life, today and every hour of every day. He gives me the fruits of the spirit even when Satan tries to bring ‘self-pity’ into my mind. These trials present me an opportunity to show God’s love and presence in all of our lives. Keep praying. This is a chapter in our lives but not the whole story. God is the author and I can’t wait to see how He uses this for His Kingdom.”-Scott Butler
If I strive for anything in this new year, this new decade, I want it to be this. And to daily, consciously, place my life, my health, my kids’ lives, our family, into His hands. They are all so much safer there than they are locked up inside of my own mind where I am vying for control and dominance over them.
“This is a chapter in our lives but not the whole story.”
My dad saw the mystery, the beauty in the fact that all of this will eventually come together for good. Even if the ultimate outcome is beyond what we will physically see with our eyes on this side of heaven.
I want to see that too.
So this year, I hope we can all come a little closer to the perspective my dad held at the end of his life. Cease striving to be ANYthing that we “think” or “expect” that we SHOULD be on our own accord, and let our souls rest in the God who made us and promises to restore, support, strengthen and establish us in His infallible ways.