I first heard Emily’s story when she emailed me very bravely sharing from her gut. I opened my inbox to a message that was raw, transparent, and honest from a woman I had never met before. He earnest pursuit of God in the midst of all that has been thrown at her is inspiring. She deeply desires to find God’s purposes in the midst of her pain. I think what I like most about her courage in sharing her story is that she is sharing it without a fake ending of “and we lived happily ever after.” She shares from chapter ten rather than from the end of her story. I find that refreshing, in a world of people pretending to have all the right answers when facing all the wrong circumstances. I hope you enjoy her honesty and her Eminem quotes:) – Willow
As a 39 year old I felt betrayed by my life.
God wasn‘t showing up like I expected and for that matter a bunch of other people weren‘t either. I was drowning in everything – every relationship and worthwhile endeavor, everything I was compelled to do in Christ’s name, or for my family, or own devices, everything that filled up my days. I was not flooded with busyness .. I was drowning.
All the while I was earnestly praying, “Thank you for today, thank you for my family, thank you for enough to eat, a home to live in, a reliable car, thank you for my freedom”.
Let me stop right here and say that “pep” stories given by my fellow Christians, especially those packaged with enlightened Christ-filled moments and glossy endings, clawed at me and made me want to curl up into a ball. I was sure something was wrong with my “Christian-ness”. God seemed to be working in others’ lives; they had a close relationship with the Father and enough faith to carry them through the good and the bad. I felt like my yoke was busted or half on or something; my burden felt anything but easy and light.
Here’s the postcard version of my life at 39: strong marriage, funny husband, three charming kids, the right friends, a part-time job at a non-profit agency, a minivan that drove to sports events many times a week, two Bible studies, volunteer work. Blah, blah, blah. You know what this postcard looks like.
What I was hiding was the truth, the fact that I was drowning.….
My kids were hard, they were really hard. I love them with everything in me but I was unprepared to be their mother and aid with their needs. The challenges and struggles that God put in my precious children’s lives were front and center in my life. No matter how many times I would lay an issue at His feet I would find myself awake at night, weighed-down under the crush of worry and ‘what-ifs’.
And when the weight was already feeling like too much, three people in my life were diagnosed with deadly cancer. “Why death from cancer, God?,” I thought, “not these people, this is NOT right!”.
At work, I was worried I might get laid off. Instead I got a promotion and quickly felt unprepared for the position, like I was in over my head. My doctor continued to tell me that I was depressed and that I had fibromyalgia because I was exhausted. I had headaches, high stress and odd symptoms that were increasing. I felt unwell just about every day. Medical debt continued to climb. The marriage we once had was buckling under the strain.
I felt I was doing the will of the Father…. frantically paddling, faithfully praying “Holy Spirit help me to be a good servant, better mother and to know the will of the Father”. To quote a song, God’s love “overwhelms and satisfies my soul”. Except it wasn’t doing either for me. And if God is always good and unchanging than the problem was me. What was wrong with me? I was praying, I was studying, I was seeking. “Jesus, I’m overwhelmed and I don’t want to deal with all of this anymore.”
No fairy dust sprinkled down on me when I turned 40 but I couldn’t wait to turn the page and get rid of 39!
40… Life was still hard, work was still hard, marriage was still hard, and mothering was still tear-filled. I was drowning but the water was only at my lip, I wasn’t going under just yet. I think very few noticed I‘d lost the dingy (just the boat kind, not the personality). No life line was thrown my way. “DAMMIT, aren’t you paying attention . . . GOD HELP!!!”.
Fast forward half a year to a bring-me-to-my-knees experience. I went into shock when I heard the ARNP say I had a BRAIN TUMOR. “Lord please let me live”. Six weeks later the benign lime sized tumor was removed.
This past year following the craniotomy has had struggles and hurdles. I am on two horrible medications. I have new medical problems arising with my heart, kidneys and vision. I have issues recalling vocabulary and general mental struggles (like calling every appliance a refrigerator or crying when I couldn’t get the last dozen puzzle pieces to fit. I can laugh about it’s because it pretty funny, even though it’s happening to me.) I have seizures. I’m not able to drive. I resigned from my job (which I had gotten good at). I now have an awareness that I don’t have control of the next day, week or my whole life.
Encouragement has come from expected and unexpected sources.
Expected – the Old Testament: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Unexpected: Eminem…”Do not miss your chance, don’t blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime”.
An opportunity?!? An opportunity to trust in God. Our life has been refocused and things that at one time increased stress, have melted away or been moved to the back burner. I am physically healthier, emotionally stronger, have grown spiritually and in general I am a happier person.
And I am thankful for a lot for a lot of things. I felt the power of being a vessel of other people’s prayer (that was pretty cool). I am thankful for all of my prayers, past and continuing. I am thankful for delicious meals, kind and soothing words, and taxi services. I’m thankful for a tremendous group effort in which I got a beautiful, new, periwinkle bedroom to recover in. It still makes me happy. And in 20 years there hasn’t been a year that could match my growth in love and gratitude and dependence for my wonderful husband.
39 was agonizing, it was the hardest year of my life, I was failing and I was toiling so hard. 40 is still hard. My body is not fixed. Life is messy. I am messy. I can see many ways God has brought me to and through this time. I trust He will continue to do this.
So why the heck have I written this when I said stories, where it all gets packaged up, make me curl into a fetal position of faith inadequacy? Here’s why: I did not, do not and will not achieve a life nor spirituality that fits on a small glossy postcard with a serene picture (and requires a less expensive stamp to send!).
Today my post card looks the same as it did when I was 39. However there are volumes that don’t fit on a postcard. “God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit travel with me even though I don’t sense it every day. They see the whole picture and guide me. And there is more to be written.”
If reading stories like Emily’s inspires you to share yours, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We would love to hear from you.