Umm, HELLO God! Can’t You See I’m Trying To Be Awesome Here?!
Am I the only one that feels like for every step I take moving forward, I somehow take two steps backward?
This past month I have committed to moving forward and making small improvements in my life on a day to day basis. The thing is, I’ve hit some challenges and walls in this process. In the past few weeks, I’ve wanted to throw up my hands and scream, “WHYYYY!?” at God and at life. Here’s what I’m running up against: Life still happens!
No one gave my universe the memo that I’m on this special mission to personal wholeness apparently.
Let’s take finances for example. Two months ago, I decided to work on becoming debt free. I didn’t actually do anything to move forward until I started this blog. A few weeks ago, I downloaded the Debt Snowball app, I made an ambitious budget and a plan, I signed up for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University last week, and got to work. I’ve had some successes: I set up my emergency fund for Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 1, and went to my first class last Thursday. I did the homework. I also paid off one of my 2 credit cards a few days ago, and it felt awesome!
So, life is awesome, and I’m trucking along, right? Not quite, here’s my situation. Remember that emergency fund I set up? Well, life happened. I went to the hospital with severe chest pain, and it turned out I had pneumonia. On Monday (2 days ago), I noticed Sam had 3 spots on his face after school. I thought it was weird he would get 3 pimples at any given time, so I lifted his shirt to see it there were any more. His torso was covered with a rash! Yup, another hospital visit. He has chicken pox. He’s out of school for the next 7–10 days if everything goes smoothly, and I’m out of work. He’s uncomfortable, it hurts, and he can’t sleep. I can’t sleep. We’re not happy campers. On top of that, a wind storm damaged the shingles on my house last month, and I got a call yesterday telling me I need to fix or replace my roof and some of my siding. My insurance deductible is $1000.
I tell myself that I’m not starting back at square one, and it’s not a dire situation. I can still work from home. I won’t be fired. I can help my little guy with homework and he won’t fall behind at school. I am not completely broke. My bills are all caught up. I don’t have to worry about that credit card payment anymore. I can replenish my emergency fund.
Let’s be honest though. The situation stinks. And it’s hard not to feel like God is working against you. I can only control so much. I can’t control the wind, the rain, illness, etc. These are the things slowing me down from moving forward with my goals. I have to wonder why. What is the purpose of it? Does He want to test how committed I am to this goal? Does He want to see if I’ll stay faithful to Him? Does He want to see if I’ll continue to praise Him through this? Is He putting pressure on me to mold me into something valuable? I feel like a big ugly chunk of coal right now to be honest. Squashed by the world on my shoulders.
I left this post unfinished yesterday praying for answers to these questions. This morning, I received a response in the form of an email. Jacqueline Rose is a friend of mine, and emailed me the following letter. Little did she know her letter was exactly the response that I have been praying for. Mind you, I haven’t shared with anyone that my son and I have been ill.
We may not be in the same sects of Christianity. We may not have the same traditions and forms of worship, but we love the same God, believe in the same Jesus, and are led by the same Holy Spirit. The idea that God can put hardships into our lives so we can turn to Him, offer these things as a sacrifice in order to connect with Him on a deeper level. To give us an opportunity to turn to Him, remember the sacrifice He made for us, and be grateful. The Bible does say we should pray without ceasing. The problems and challenges I face throughout the day may just be gentle and not so gentle ways for reminding me to recalculate my direction and turn my compass back to Jesus. If that’s the case, than aren’t all these things really just blessings that I should be praising God for? The answer is YES!
I thought I’d post it in it’s entirety.
Today marks Day One of being on short term disability. Nearly 3 months prior to my 29th birthday, 108 pounds soaking wet, the second time in my life I’ve had to take an extended leave of absence from work… the umpteenth time I am “sick”, the 800th doctor’s visit, the 1000th antibiotic/medication/steroid, and so on. Yesterday, I inhaled 9 nebulizer treatments over the course of 12 hours in order to allow my body to breath. The night before, my unbelievably supportive and strong boyfriend (God bless his soul) had to lift me out of the bathtub and carry me to bed because I was too weak and in too much pain to walk. None of this is new to me, as I have slipped into the role of “the sick kid” many times throughout my life. What is new, however, is my perspective and a glimpse, an insight, an inspiration if you will, into the blessing of my cross.
Any “good Catholic” knows about The Cross, about suffering and sacrifice, about “offering it up”. I know these phrases, believe in them, and have used them in whatever capacity I could over the years, in cooperation with God’s grace and as my faith deepened. But perhaps I now understand that the illness that has plagued me my whole life is truly my personal “cross to bear”. And perhaps I now understand on a deeper level what Jesus meant when He said, “Pick up your cross and follow Me”. And, even further, perhaps I now finally understand why the great Saints talked about “loving the cross”. Yes, we each have our cross to bear in this life. Yes, we must deal with it. But, love it? Why would I love my cross? Why would I LOVE anything that brought me any kind of pain or suffering what-so-ever?
Well, for one, the blatant, outright, obnoxious kind of suffering that Lyme Disease (or any other medical condition) shoves in your face provides you with something big and clear to offer up. I sometimes think it’s harder to recognize and offer up our day-to-day struggles. We forget to count sitting in traffic, the person who cuts us off, the person who is rude to us, when our kids are challenging, when our spouse is less than love-able, when our spouse is less than like-able, when our coworker makes us want to own a gun (kidding… kind of), when we try our best and still everything goes wrong, when nothing goes as planned, when we are tired from a long day, when we are PMSing, when we are let down, disappointed, confused, frustrated, discouraged, ET CETERA… We forget to place these “minor” annoyances in the category of “suffering and sacrifice”. But, aren’t they? Doesn’t it take a little bit of suffering and sacrifice to just get through the day? And, therefore, left unrecognized, they are also left un-offered-up. But when you have a fever so high you feel like your face is going to explode and when your body feels like someone is stabbing you with a knife from head to toe- well, that’s easier to recognize. In those moments it’s easy to say “Dear God, I offer up this pain for so-and-so. I give this to You to atone for my own sins and for the sins of the world. I give it to You as an offering on behalf of my friends and family- please bless them. Dear Jesus, I unite this suffering to the suffering you experienced on The Cross. Thank you for giving me this small glimpse of what You went through.”
So, yeah, Lyme Disease gives us real, tangible, meaty stuff to offer up. But what else? Sometimes people experience suffering and God does not provide a way out of it. Many people can’t beat their illness for whatever reason (only God nows). But what about when God allows you to have your cross, but then provides you with all the time and resources necessary to not only carry your cross, but also thrive under the weight of it? I’ve carried around Lyme Disease since I was approximately 8 years old. But God has also placed amazing people, resources, and knowledge in my path. My mother (the forever-caretaker), my father (the bottomless bank. … kidding… kind of), Mike my holistic nutritionist, Sophie Costantino, Father John, Dr. Manganaro, Dr. Kerr, David my acupuncturist, my professors in OT grad school, my professors in undergrad, and now my incredibly supportive boss and coworkers, my very own deeply loving and supportive Phil Spang the 4th (I was once told that Spang men are the best kind of men. Phil may just be proving that to be true), Mary the Blessed Virgin, Jesus, The Eucharist, The Sacraments, and God the creator of the Universe Himself… just to name a few. Yes, I am blessed.
So what if I finally stopped trying to be “the tough guy”? What if I finally stopped saying “I’m fine” even when I’m not? What if I finally started getting realwith myself and saying “No. You are not fine. You are very sick. You have Lyme Disease. Your immune system sucks. You will probably never be like that superhero character named Sarah Neault… I mean Barrs… or whatever. You have a lot to deal with. You have all the tools and resources necessary to be well. So, let’s begin. Let’s carry this cross. And let’s continue to carry this cross the rest of your life.”
And then what if, with time, effort and mostly importantly God’s Grace, I got well? And then, by continuing to carry my cross, I stayed well (for the most part. Ya know, I think a sniffle and cough here and there is “normal”)? And then what if by staying well, I was able to help others get well? Imagine if I could help or encourage just one “sick person” to get well and stay well? And what if by staying well I was finally able to live out my dream of being a good wife and mother? And what if I could provide my kids with a good example of living a healthy life? And what if my children were better off for that? Well, wouldn’t that be nice. I dare to say I’d call that a blessing. … And that blessing came from carrying my cross… So, my cross was a blessing… Ah, there it is. There comes the “love” part. That is how you learn to love your cross: When you get to a point where you realize your cross is allowing you to help someone else. And that is meaning. And that is life. And that is a piece of the joy and peace that Jesus was always preachin’ about.
So let us recognize our cross, pick up our cross, carry our cross, and maybe even someday LOVE our cross.
“I plead with you. Never, ever give up hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” — Pope John Paul II, aka Saint John Paul the Great
Can I get an AAAAA-MEN up in here? haha Love you all … but seriously… shouldn’t we send this to Oprah or something?
KIDDING!…. kind of 😉
… no seriously, I’m really kidding about Oprah… 😉
Pretty amazing, huh? Thank you Jacqueline for giving me this much needed reality check. And for making me realize that my life IS pretty freaking awesome.
Please pray for Jacqueline. Please pray that He continues to use her in the most wonderful ways. I, for one, am so thankful to have this insight, and I hope you guys can get inspired by it as well.
Originally published at www.daretowalkonwater.com.