Around the time of my “wreckaversary” each year I write about my car accident. I usually write about how the news called me the “Christmas Miracle” or about how the fire from the accident burned so hot that it caused $250K in damage to I95.
On past wreckaversarys I have also written about how I was in the car when it hit the semi-truck, and eyewitnesses testify that I wasn’t thrown from the vehicle. Yet, I mysteriously ended up in the median with no burns but the ones from my airbag.
Lastly, I have shared in past wreckaversary posts about how the Honda Corp did an in-depth investigation of my wreck to try to figure out the mystery of my survival. They concluded that if I had hit the truck even a centimeter off from where I did that I would have been crushed.
But I have never shared this part before. I thought it was just too special to share. Or maybe deep down I believed it was just too weird to share. If you know me well than you know my obsession with Weird God. I’m out of the closet with Weird God so I might as well share the rest of my story…
The last thing I remember as I went airborne toward the truck was thinking “I’m about to meet God”. I was right. The impact of the accident caused a massive explosion. All around me fire was raging, yet I never felt its heat or saw its blaze. I wasn’t there. I was walking on the ocean with God.
No really….I was a little girl again, maybe around 2 years old. I was wearing a red jumper with a white blouse. I had 2 pigtails with red ribbons tied sloppily in bows. I was in Gods arms and we were walking on top of the ocean. We walked in silence, for we just understood each other. I rested my little blond head on His chest. My red ribbons flapped in the ocean breeze. It was a typical beautiful sunny day out in the middle of the ocean.
Eventually God stopped. He communicated to my heart somehow without using words. He shared with me that the whole world was His and that He could show me anything I wanted to see. I giggled and communicated to Him that I wanted to see fish. God smiled at me, then touched the water with His hand. When He touched the water 3 fish came out. They were swimming in mid air in front of my face. One of them tickled my nose. I laughed.
Suddenly I sensed joy in My Fathers heart. I looked up at His face. It was the first time I looked at Him. We locked eyes. He has gentle eyes. He was crying. He smiled as He cried, then He held me even closer to His heart. Gods heart spoke to my heart that He was delighting in me. My request to see fish delighted Him. My giggle delighted Him. My little crooked pigtails with red ribbons delighted Him. I was His treasure and I delighted Him.
My visit with God on the ocean came to an abrupt end. I was in the median coughing up blood. My head was pounding. I remember a man holding me up and asking me for my moms phone number. I remember the helicopter ride to the hospital. I remember the nurse with the green eyes. I remember my mom flying me home to Ohio to recover. But I don’t remember the flames from the fire…because I wasn’t there. I was walking on the ocean with Weird God.
This is a long post. It won’t be relevant to all of my readers. But there are many who are walking through the tragedy of miscarriage and need to know that they are not alone. For some reason, miscarriage isn’t talked about. Perhaps we feel shame. Maybe we feel our sadness may burden others. So we just don’t talk about it. This can leave us feeling ashamed, sad, and alone…very alone. I know I felt that way.
So here is my story of Gabriel. His life was’t his to live, but his story is mine to steward.
This is an interesting week for Team Thompson. October 6th was the due date given to the baby that we lost in February 2018. We had named the baby Gabriel.
3 years ago this week God gave me a very vivid dream. I had it 3 times in a row that night. Each time God woke me up and declared with urgency “I am protecting Gabriel!” I didn’t know what God meant. But, if He woke me up with the same message 3 times in 1 night, it was important enough for me to write down and remember.
February 2018 was rough. I have a daughter who is medically fragile, and she was in the hospital for almost a week. I never left her side, in spite of having discomfort with my pregnancy. My daughter needed me, so I would have to get help for myself later.
“Later” was a terrible day. I loved ultrasound day when I was pregnant with my other 3 children! There had never been a complication detected on an ultrasound, so I felt comfortable going to see my little peanut alone. In hindsight, I wish my husband had been there to deflect some of the daggers that went straight for my heart.
The ultrasound technician told me that she didn’t know what she was looking at. The one thing she knew for sure is that Gabriel didn’t have a heartbeat. The doctor offered to send me home with some medication to “take care of it” (trigger my body to miscarry). It? It! His name is Gabriel and there was a promise on His life! God spoke it before he was conceived! Offended, I politely declined the invitation to miscarry my son because I wanted to seek God and stand on the word He gave me.
“Protecting Gabriel”. I knew He would. I’ve seen miracles. I know my God. I’ve judged Him faithful. My faith is unmovable and steadfast. But could it withstand the onslaught of the 2 weeks of fire that followed?
I sat alone in the car after that ultrasound and cried. “You are the God of the impossible”, I prayed. “What do you want me to do? I will fight. I will pray. I will rebuke. I will declare. I will contend. I will surrender. Just tell me what to do! I can’t do this without you!”
His answer surprised me. “Stand. Stand your ground. Don’t fight. The battle is mine. Just stand.”
But what does “standing” look like? I didn’t know. For the next 11 days I went on an emotional rollercoaster as I struggled to comprehending “standing” when my body and mind just wanted to “sit down” for a second.
Standing looked like refusing to doubt Gods sovereignty. Standing looked like calling friends to help me pray through the intense battle in my mind. Standing sometimes looked like crying out to God for mercy during sleepless nights. It looked like refusing to let my circumstance dictate my expectations. It also looked like making a conscious effort to keep myself aligned with Gods truth and not my symptoms. It looked like praise. God calls praise “a sacrifice” because it is a choice to praise Him when we are in the valley.
As the date of my follow up ultrasound approached I found myself exhausted. I didn’t know how I would manage to find the courage to look at the monitor. I cried out to God for mercy. Yet, I never doubted God’s goodness or his ability to perform a miracle in my body.
On the way to my appointment God reminded me of a favorite verse in Jeremiah. It was a strange “pep talk” from the Lord. I wouldn’t know why He chose that verse until later.
Jeremiah 31:3 says “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”.
I focused on His words to me as Travis and I walked hand-in-hand to the ultrasound room. I prayed once again for God to give me the courage to look at the screen. I was expecting to miraculously see a beating heart. I held my breath and turned to look.
Nothing. No change. No heartbeat. Just a hollow sack containing cells that should have been Gabriel.
“Death, loss, and destruction” became more than just a plan of the enemy. They became a tangible feeling. After my D/E, “empty” also became a tangible feeling. I didn’t know that having my uterus vacuumed would result in my body feeling just so empty. If I was a doctor I would have named a syndrome after that feeling. “Sudden Tragic Empty Womb Syndrome”. I wasn’t sure that this self-diagnosed syndrome had a cure. It felt fatal. My baby was dead, and I now felt dead inside.
That night in the shower I shared my grief with God. I felt injustice. Of all of the things, what topped my list of injustice was that it was my sons 7th birthday. I had to tell him that he lost his brother in his birthday. The next day was his birthday party. What was I going to wear? If I didn’t wear maternity clothes then I would have to explain to everybody what had happened. Not at a party. It was too much. Was there no mercy for the broken-hearted?
Yet in my grief God spoke. He often speaks in the shower. God gave me a simple invitation. He said that He is the God of “today”. When I had my D/E, my pregnancy was now officially “yesterday”. God invited me to partner with Him in the new things that He was doing because it was a new day. He invited me to follow Him FORWARD.
His invitation didn’t feel anecdotal. It didn’t feel like he was trying to put a Band-Aid on an arterial bleed. He wasn’t testing my faith. He wasn’t promising me that suddenly I wouldn’t feel sad anymore. He wasn’t asking me not to grieve my loss. He was simply speaking life-giving perspective at my point of tragedy.
In His mercy He offered to lead me out of my fatal syndrome, if I would allow Him. Getting stuck here was a choice. I could get stuck in “yesterday” where there was death, loss, destruction, and emptiness, or I could simply take His hand and let Him lead me forward out of it.
But how could I trust the God that had allowed my baby to die? How could I take His hand? He spoke over my son that he would be protected, then my son died. Did God change His mind? Had I done something wrong? Trusting God suddenly seemed risky. Where was my unshakable faith?
Yet hope was calling out to me from tomorrow. I had to try to trust, even if it was risky.
I knelt in the shower with my hands in the air as a sign of surrender. I chose to let my God lead me out. I asked for courage and strength. I declared that yesterday was gone and that I would willingly align with Gods new plan for me for today. I cried and cried and cried.
Surrender didn’t cancel out the pounding of on my heart of my unanswered questions. Like a robber beats down a door to steal valuables, the questions beat on my heart. They threatened to steal what was valuable to me…hope. Why did God speak to me in a dream and tell me that He was protecting Gabriel? Why did He give me such a bizarre verse in Jeremiah that morning? Mostly, I needed my Father to answer my hearts biggest question: “was I faithful”.
Four years have passed and I still don’t know why I had the dream. I may never know. I continue to ask God to show me what I might have missed. However, God did address my other 2 questions. As always, His answers came in surprising ways. God knows just how to communicate to me in a way that I will understand. He “gets” me.
I got out of the shower and picked up my bible. I looked up Jeremiah 31:3. It seemed weird that God gave me that verse. There must have been SOME reason He had given me that verse for that baby on that day. Jeremiah 31:3 reminds me that I have always been loved and that God is kind. I needed that reminder going in to my appointment. However, after my appointment I needed to know that I would be ok, and that I would know joy again.
That’s when I saw it. The very next verse says: “I will build you up and you will be rebuilt. And again you will dance among the joyful.”
Built up and rebuilt. Joyful. There it was. My weird God knew that I needed to know that I wasn’t stuck here. Grief wouldn’t leave a permanent mark on me. God was rebuilding me! There was a promise of joy! Not just joy, but dancing with joy! I visualized myself dancing among the ashes as God made beauty out of them. Wow. How amazing to walk out of a tragedy dancing!
A few things were settled. I wasn’t stuck. He was leading me forward out of yesterday and into today. Today was a new day. Today I was rebuilt and dancing. Today there was JOY for me! But, I still needed to hear from God whether I was faithful in the trial. I wanted so desperately to be found faithful.
Have you ever heard of a “push present”? I hadn’t. I’m pretty sure that if I had known what it was then my husband would have been in a load of trouble! I pushed out 3 babies and evidently he was supposed to give me something for it. My kiddos are such little treasures themselves that I always felt that they were my present. Now I come to find out I could get a baby AND a present? Hmmmmm.
I may be the only person who was new to the concept of a push present. I had to look it up. Evidently, a push present is a gift given to a mom to reward her for a job well done pushing out a baby. The thought is that a mom goes through a lot carrying and birthing a baby. There is pain. There is risk. Our bodies get wrecked. It is exhausting. The theory is that we are deserving of a little something extra for being willing to endure this.
I had taken the risk. I had carried a baby. I had gained the weight. I had 6 weeks of morning sickness. My boobs hurt. I endured the embarrassment of having to do a “no baby” announcement only 2 weeks after doing our “baby announcement”. We had medical bills for the pregnancy. A vacuum had sucked out my baby, but I still gave birth. It felt like injustice. If I didn’t have a baby in my arms then how would I gauge what “a job well done” looked like?
The night Of my D/E I laid in bed exhausted. I didn’t think there were any tears left in my body yet I couldn’t stop crying. Again and again I wondered if God would answer me and how he would tell me If I had been faithful in this trial.
That’s when Weird God did something else weird. I closed my eyes for just a minute. When I did, I saw the beautifully wrapped present. It was pink and gold with a white bow. I can still see it now. There was a tag with writing on it. I pictured myself reading the tag. It simply said “push present”. I definitely got the impression that it was tuning from God. Curious, I grabbed my phone so I could see if a push present was a real thing.
As I read the definition I was wrecked. Wrecked with the love of a Father who would stop at nothing to love me in my grief. It was like he knew exactly how to communicate to me that he found me faithful. He reached down from heaven and touched me on earth. I had been faithful. God himself found me deserving of a push present. Weird God used a concept I had never heard of before to communicate an answer to my deepest question during my darkest hour.
In the days that followed many beautiful people reached out to me. I was so touched by the outpouring of love. I think many friends were surprised that I was moving forward and not stuck. Many said “how are you really doing”. I didn’t know how to help them understand that I really really really really was full of hope. Sadness was there, but hope had become bigger than sadness. God allowed me to bypass a traditional long grief cycle by inviting me to let Him lead me through it. I wasn’t stuck in the sadness. Sadness was there. I courageously addressed the sadness and didn’t turn a blind eye to it. But the sadness had lost it’s sting. I was above the sadness addressing it, not in it.
The best part of the story? That beautifully wrapped pink and gold push present is now tangible. Her name is Gabrielle Joy. She is named after her big brother, and after the joy that came from being rebuilt. As I held her in my arms for the first time 2 years ago I became aware of a new syndrome. “Sudden Tangible Redemption Syndrome”. Gabby was born the same week that we lost Gabriel the year before. I am certain that God knew that February was a month that needed to be redeemed for us.
In closing, I didn’t get stuck. I moved on to joy without looking back. I chose to not ignore the sadness of loss, but to allow God to change my perspective on the sadness. I took a risk and trusted the God that seemingly had allowed my unborn baby to die. God is still rebuilding me. But I have learned the art of dancing among the joyful.
If you have experienced the pain of miscarriage, you are not alone. Im so deeply sorry. I see you. I understand the shame, fear, and sadness. I know why Mothers Day is hard for you. Whether you had to push your baby out or had it suctioned out, you are deserving of a push present. You are not flawed. You are valuable and worthy of love. It takes courage to let others in to our struggles. Vulnerability is risky. What if we are judged? But if you cant see Gods hand leading you out of your sadness, please allow others to be His hand for you. If you need to talk, please reach out to me.
“Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him”
Elie Wiesel, Night
I have had quite a bit of sales training in my life. Once I even attended a seminar entitled “How to Handle Objections”. In all honesty, I thought the seminar would teach me how to talk anybody and everybody in to buying anything and everything. I found that concept to be quite fascinating! But instead of learning “manipulation 101” at the seminar, I was actually taught a concept that changed how I respond to seasons of adversity in my own life.
The question behind the question (QBQ).
The concept of QBQ suggests that our first reaction to adverse situations is typically outward-focused. Therefore, the questions we ask while in adverse situations are often incorrect and unproductive. These questions come from a place of victimization and defeat. For example: ”Why is this happening to me?” “When will it be my turn?” ”Who dropped the ball?” However, we can actually position ourselves for positive and empowered forward-motion in our situations by asking different questions. These are the QBQs. They look like: ”What can I do to help?” ”How can I make a difference?” “What does it look like to be my best self right now?”
Asking myself QBQs has helped me keep moving forward. More specifically, I have had profound moments of healing when I ask God my QBQs…
“Hank, what can I do to help my situation right now?” “Hank, what can I do to make a difference?” “Hank, what does it look like to be my best self right now?” “Hank, who do you want to be for me right now?”
These specific QBQs have propelled me forward sometimes in seasons of paralyzing fear. This has been my rhythm for several years now.
But what happens in a season when the questions look different? What if the adverse situation is more of a life-and-death situation? What if it’s about more than being uncomfortable, its about saving the life if your child?
“Why can’t the doctors find what is causing my child to be so sick?”
“What do I do when there are no answers?”
“Will my child suffer her whole life and then just die an early death?”
“What am I missing?”
“What if I have to move forward without her?”
But the most sobering question of all is the heavy one that is actually driving all of the other questions. It takes all of the courage in my being to approach this question. It isn’t empowering. It doesn’t move me forward past adversity. It seems more heretical than helpful. But it is so freeing to ask God the question behind all of my other questions…
“Hank, why haven’t you healed my daughter?”
There it is, heavy like a bowling ball dropping on a wooden floor. But more than asking “why”, my heart cries out from the weight of the millions of bowling balls that have been slamming against it as I wrestle this one…
“Hank, are you powerful or are you good? A powerful God would’t ignore a problem He could easily fix. A good God would not allow my child to suffer. Either you can heal my daughter but you wont, Or you can’t heal my daughter, but you want to.”
And like a wrecking ball comes the heart of it all…
“If you are neither powerful nor good, why are you worthy of my praise?”
My QBQs are not structured in a way that beckons me forward. Yet, I desperately feel as though they must be asked and God must address them if I am to move forward. What do we do when our questions keep us stuck? I don’t know. But Im finding the courage to ask them anyway.
“I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions”
Elie Weisel, Night
“I was very, very religious. And of course I wrote about it in ‘Night.’ I questioned God’s silence. So I questioned. I don’t have an answer for that. Does it mean that I stopped having faith? No. I have faith, but I question it.”
I believe so much in the power of courageous transparency. I just didn’t realize that I often lack the courage to be transparent. I never considered that I might be hiding behind my smile. I love smiling! My smile is real! But so is the anxiety. So is the struggle. So are the questions. So is the grief.
A few months ago a man with whom I respect greatly asked me how I was partnering with rest in that season. I had no idea what he meant. I sleep sometimes, therefore I rest. He knew I didn’t understand. He didn’t correct me or try to explain himself. He just simply said “You are more than just a machine spitting out miracles. You are a daughter.” But I was too busy healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the leaper, and casting out demons to consider why I was actually doing all of it.
The dangerous thing about signs, wonders, and miracles is that we can fall for the trap of believing that they are required for God’s acceptance. If our understanding of our authority in Christ is greater than than our understanding of our identity in Christ, we can begin believing lies. We can begin believing the lie that our ability to perform miracles is somehow a sign that we are approved by God. We can think we are more special to Him than others who haven’t facilitated miracles. Or, we may believe the lie that signs, wonders, and miracles are a sign that we “have arrived”. Arrived where? Relationship isn’t a destination. Lastly, we can believe the lie that they are are requirement on the road to earning Gods acceptance. I know this because I have believed all of these lies.
My very wise friend checked in with me again recently. He wanted to know how I am partnering with rest in THIS season. Because I now understood his question, I actually had an answer. I am partnering with rest by learning to be kind to myself. I’ve been through a lot. I’m just now realizing the extent to which trauma has robbed me. I am partnering with rest by reminding myself that I matter too.
“I am going to remember to eat today, because I matter too.”
“I am not going to hold my breath when I feel triggered. Breathing is essential, and I matter too.”
“I am not going to do all the things for all the kids. I am going outside to pick flowers, because I matter too.”
“Today I will drink more than coffee. Hydration is essential, and I matter too.”
“Instead of writing thank you notes, I’m going to sleep. I need a nap, and I matter too.”
Learning to be kind to myself IS rest. Working to earn acceptance and approval robs me of my capacity. My capacity is already low because the trauma browser is always open in my head, draining my power. But now I am learning to rest. I rest because for the first time ever I see that I matter too.
How are you with self care? How about rest? Have you realized yet that you are valuable and worthy if love, completely separate from any contribution you may make to this world? So you know that you matter too? You do.
I’m breaking protocol for a second and posting about my daughter on my blog. She has a separate page on my website, but it felt right to post a message to Clara here.
Clara has been through a lot in her 6 years of life. She is medically fragile, and some years it seems as though she spends more time in the hospital than home. She is way braver than me. And, she has a way better attitude than me. So this letter is to Clara. She is not just my daughter. She is also my hero.
My Beautiful Clara, I am writing this to you while I sit next to you in the hospital. You are sleeping, and I am standing guard. Child Life just came in to bring you a tea set, but you were too tired to play. I went to the vending machine and got your favorite cookies. Sadly, you were in too much pain to eat. So I’m watching you sleep, thinking my deep thoughts and wishing I could somehow take this all away from you.
You have faced every life-threatening emergency with such courage…and good manners. Many times I have been standing my ground as a Mama Bear against doctors who don’t listen or maybe just don’t care. Meanwhile, I often hear you with a soft, trembling, weak voice thanking the nurses for giving you an IV. You barely have the strength to speak, yet you use your strength to show gratitude. I’m the one who should learn from YOUR example.
Together, we have endured many many trips to the hospital. We have fought together, as a team. We have endured you getting several hundred IVs. You are always scared of the pain, yet you willingly give your hand to the nurse. We have the same dialogue every time…
“Mom! Help me!”
“Look me in my eyes and borrow my courage. I have extra courage, and I will share it with you right now. Just look at mommy.”
“But it’s going to hurt!”
“It might. But there is nothing we can’t get through together. I’m here and I won’t leave you.”
“But I’m scared!” “Scared is good. It means that you are still alive! And courage doesn’t mean that you don’t feel scared of the IV. Courage means you give your hand to the nurse even though you are scared .”
“But it’s not safe!”
“Then let me scoop you up and hold you close. Pretend I am a blanket. Wrap yourself up tightly in your Mommy blanket until you feel safe.”
Sitting here in the quiet watching you fight for your life has brought things full circle for me. I have the deafening sound of silence blaring in my ears. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. I feel scared. I feel alone. It doesn’t feel safe. I’m worried. And for once I believe I would prefer your IV alarm and vital stats monitor to be going off loudly and simultaneously. The noise is more comfortable than the silence sometimes.
You know that extra courage I gave you when you needed it? I may need some of it back. Can I look in your eyes and have some of your courage? I’m scared. Can I crawl in the hospital bed with you and pull the blanket over both of our heads? Can we hide there from your diagnosis together for a minute? There is nothing we can’t get through together. But if you don’t get better, I won’t have you to walk me through the broken heart. Losing you would hurt. A lot. And the pain would be a reminder that I’m alive…but you are not.
When I first met you in the NICU I promised you something. You were hooked up to so many machines. I was scared. Through tear-filled eyes I promised you that I would fight for you. I would never stop fighting for you. But, you needed to fight. “Come on, little one. FIGHT!”
I have made true on my promise. I will never stop fighting for you. But I will also never stop being in awe of your kindness and good manners toward others even though you are fighting for your life. I will also never stop fighting back the tears when you are finally sleeping. For in the quiet I remember two things… how far you have come, and how far I have to go.
“Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right But even winners can get wounded in the fight People say that I’m amazing I’m strong beyond my years But they don’t see inside of me I’m hiding all the tears They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around I drop my sword and cry for just a while ‘Cause deep inside this armor The warrior is a child Unafraid because his armor is the best But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest People say that I’m amazing I never face retreat But they don’t see the enemies That lay me at his feet They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around I drop my sword and cry for just a while ‘Cause deep inside this armor The warrior is a child”
Let me set the stage for some of my new followers. I started project Shine almost 5 years ago. Since then, I have been unashamedly writing my blog with no regard to trivial details like spelling and grammar. Stick with me long enough and that will become apparent to you!
I write for 3 reasons. First, have you ever filled a water balloon so full that it popped? That’s me. I am a giant balloon full of stories. If I don’t get those stories out of my head, I feel like I may legit actually pop. Hence the blog. I also write to encourage and inspire. I have seen the miraculous, and it is too big not to share! Lastly, I write to be a good steward of my pain. There have been great miracles, but there has also been great pain and sorrow. I don’t want to waste the pain. I share about the pain so that it will not have been for nothing.
If you have been reading my stories for all 5 years, you will notice a recent shift in my tone. My writing reflects my season. So much of my early writing focused on sharing about the amazing love of Jesus, and the seemingly endless miracles I was encountering.
God is good and He doesn’t change. But my seasons do change. My current season heavy. This season is often characterized by the foreboding tone of grief. I believe there is value in vulnerability. It takes courage. If you fully understand the depths of a persons struggle, then you can fully celebrate the heights of their victory.
The bi-product of engaging in my journey may be that you are encouraged in your own journey. I’m going first, and it’s uncomfortable. I feel like I’m unraveling. Next time I will let you lead!
In full disclosure, I started going to trauma therapy in the spring of 2021. I didn’t know that I was anxious. Christians don’t get anxious, they get on their knees. Christians don’t have anxiety attacks, they have faith. I didn’t know I was depressed. Christians have joy, not depression. I didn’t know that it wasn’t “normal” to never eat, never sleep, or to spend 24/7 rehearsing which of my 4 children I would save if my car drove off a bridge and quickly submerged under water. Christians don’t have trauma, they are a new creation.
Somewhere between my less-than-ideal childhood and having a chronically sick child of my own, I started shutting down. I destabilized. Christians stand on The Rock. Christians are supposed to be stable. But what happens when Holy Spirit (I call him Hank) invites a Christian to to take an honest assessment of their own mental health? I don’t know yet. I’m in the middle of it. I don’t have the answers or the victories yet.
Some of my writing will now be about this journey that I am on to find solid ground as I reprocess trauma. Its okay to not be okay. Its okay to be a Christian who feels lost sometimes. And, I hope that what I write in this new season will bring you hope. Its not very popular to discuss complex trauma and PTSD within Christian circles. But maybe it should be! Maybe its time that The Church developed a scope for mental health, trauma, and abuse.
I’m coming apart at the seams And everyone’s pulling at me And I am unraveling The smile isn’t quite what it seems But it does well to hide what’s beneath All the pressure is staggering And in the unraveling, father unravel me And when I can’t feel a thing Have mercy and let me bleed I know it’s dumb But I have been numb For way too long I don’t want to be alone anymore I don’t want to survive anymore And I want to feel, unravel me Unraveling by Cory Asbury
I would like to thank Amy Watson for helping me with courageous vulnerability. Amy hosts the “Wednesdays with Watson” podcast. I highly recommend it!
John G. Lake was a missionary to South Africa in the early 1900’s. While he was there they had a massive outbreak of bubonic plague. Lake bravely cared for the sick and dragged the bodies of the dead away from the villages. Eventually Britain sent a medical boat with supplies and doctors to help contain the plague. When the doctors saw what Lake had done, they couldn’t believe it! He willingly put himself at the epicenter of a plague and yet he didn’t get sick. Astounded, the doctors asked Lake how he had managed to not catch the plague.
He said “I wore a mask, washed my hands, practiced social distancing, sprayed Lysol everywhere, and bathed in hand sanitizer. And then I got the vaccine.”
Has that response become so socially acceptable and familiar that you glided through it without wondering if that was Lakes ACTUAL response? It has become my conviction that fear is faith in the devil. Fear disguises itself as wisdom. It is “the way that seems right to a man but in the end leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). This post is my heart for myself and the church. It is a call to action! It is a call to examine what we really believe. It is a call to raise the bar. I’m not writing as someone who has arrived, but as someone who is walking this out with vulnerability right here with you.
Are you curious how John G. Lake ACTUALLY responded when doctors asked him how he managed to care for e sick and dead without catching the plague? He responded “I believe that ‘the law of the spirit of life’ has set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). As long as I walk in the light of that law no germ will attach itself to me.”
Broken down, the scriptural context for Lake’s response is that the finished work of the cross brought us the life of the Spirit of God. When that happened, we were freed from “the law of sin”. What is the law of sin? It is every evil that came into the world through sin such as spiritual death, disease, depression, poverty, addiction, early physical death, etc.
Not quite convinced of this truth? Neither were the doctors when they questioned John G Lake. So, Lake insisted that the doctors to do a microscope experiment. Lake showed the doctors that when foam from the lungs of someone who had died of the plague was examined under a microscope, the disease cells would still live. If they put the foam in Lake’s hand and then examined it under a microscope, the disease cells would die immediately. This proved scientifically the power of belief!
Again, I’m not judging anyone for their level of belief or condemning anyone for fear. This isn’t just another opinion about vaccinating and mask wearing meant to make you feel like you are on the wrong side of the fence. This is simply a story of one man who raised the bar for the church during a pandemic.
What do you say, church? Shall we give genuine belief a try? History and science have proven that belief is a powerful weapon against a virus. The bar has been raised. Lets go eradicate this thing!
This is a long post. It may not interest you. That’s okay. I encourage you to read it anyway. Sometimes we all need a little reminder that one kind word of encouragement can make all the difference. This is especially true if the recipient of the kind word is the parent of a child with special needs.
Walmart. I never would have expected an employee at Walmart to be the one who touched my heart today. I can climb a 5.10a mountain and guide a class 6 rapid. I am skilled in wilderness survival. I can out-shoot my husband. But I do not have the skills necessary to shop at Walmart. Shopping at Walmart is like showing up to a gun fight armed with only a Q-Tip. But faced with the choice of risking my life to make a Walmart grocery run or allowing my kids to die of hunger, I did what any Mama Bear would do. I put on my big girl panties and risked my life to save my children.
This was a particularly high-risk mission because I wasn’t alone. I had my 6 year-old with me. Clara has special needs, and I never know what to expect with her. And today was no exception. The show she put on for the cashier even sent my big girl panties running away in fear. It was not pretty.
I started unloading the shopping cart at check out. I had to move Clara to the front of the cart to get the groceries that she had been sitting on. When I moved her, she caught a glimpse of the giant Walmart sign. Big mistake. She began trembling and screaming and I almost dropped her. Her leg bling (what we call her bilateral AFOs) got caught on the cart and she screamed louder. I hugged Clara and then grabbed my phone. I tapped my Disney Plus app and started Monsters Inc for her. I made sure that she didn’t see the Disney sign. That one makes her tremble and scream as well. I then continued unloading my groceries.
“Are you her mom?”
The voice came out of nowhere. The Croods have nothing on the mental kill circle I had going on at that point, so I had to slowly crawl back to reality. I disengaged my mental spears and looked around for the source of the voice. It was my cashier.
Honestly, I was so pleased with the question that I almost forgot to answer. I laughed a bit inside, thinking for a moment about how maybe-just-this-once I had been confused for the hot young babysitter. (Mom jeans, paint in my hair, and pink plastic glasses) Nope. Definitely I was still the old tired Mama Bear. Nuts!
“Yes I am.”
I said it stoically, still unloading groceries. I wasn’t in the mood to talk, so I tried not to engage. Clara could explode at any moment, and I didn’t want the cashier to be collateral damage. Clara sends emotional shrapnel in all directions when she is triggered. But then I locked eyes with the young cashier. He was probably in high school. He had fun hair and gentle eyes. He smiled a genuine smile at me.
“You are a really good mom.”
Stopped.Me.In.My.Tracks. That phrase was like a giant EMP to my autopilot. The kind cashier somehow must have known that I needed to hear that exact thing at that exact moment. What the cashier couldn’t have possibly known is that I had spent the day feeling like anything-but-a-good-mom.
The reason Clara was with me at Walmart was because I had just taken her to see the new Boss Baby movie at the Theater. Trauma therapy has taught me the importance of reprocessing traumatic events. We had downloaded the first Boss Baby movie on our iPad so that Clara could watch her favorite movie in the hospital. It often takes multiple sticks to get an IV started in Clara, so Boss Baby was Claras distraction from the IV pain.
I wanted to make this Boss Baby movie an exciting and happy way to forget that the first movie was associated with pain and sickness. Once Clara walked past all of the signs in the theater that scared her, I think she had fun. But I didn’t. I was fighting discouragement, fear, and failure. I wasn’t present for Clara at all. All I could think about is that I lack the courage to schedule Clara’s MRI.
Clara has two potentially life threatening things going on in her brain. She had a spot on her pituitary gland that showed up on her last MRI. It is either a benign cyst, or a brain tumor. Her last MRI also showed encephalopathy. That is either a one-time injury to her brain (probably from a seizure or the time she stopped breathing after she got her tonsils out), or it is a spreading degenerative brain condition that would result in death. Only an MRI will tell us for sure. But I lack the courage to schedule the MRI.
I suddenly understood how my Mother-In-Law could know she had breast cancer but not make a doctor appointment until it was stage 4. Once the labs and images are performed, there’s no going back. The diagnostics permanently reconstruct reality in an instant. My MIL went from “having a little rash” to dying in an instant. My daughter could go from “beating the odds” to dying in an instant. I’m not ready to face that. And for that I felt like a failure during the movie.
I’m rarely present for my kids. I’m constantly on “high alert” because of Clara. Her very life depends on my ability to recognize symptoms and complications and respond quickly. I wasn’t present for Clara’s grand movie event. And for that I felt like a failure after the movie.
My mind was on my two older kids while I was collecting groceries at Walmart. They go to camp this week. I want to walk them in on their first day. I want to celebrate them. I want to be their confidence as they try something new. I want to help them feel secure. I want to hug them goodbye and tell them that I believe in them. Yet, I’d have to get Clara out of the car to walk the older two in to camp. Clara has mobility issues and it’s very difficult to get her out. She is also scared of many things. The sign on the door at camp may set her off. Her anxious tantrum may embarrass or scare the older two. I fear disappointing the older kids, and for that I was feeling like a failure at Walmart.
When that sweet young cashier took the time to tell me I was a good mom, it snapped me out of my spiral. He was a stranger. He didn’t know the magnitude of my struggle as a mom. He just made a conscious decision to encourage me instead of judge me. He had the courage to speak up. And when he did, it changed the trajectory of my day. I felt seen and affirmed.
So Walmart cashier with the fun hair and gentle eyes, I hope that you are promoted. You were kind to a stranger. You responded with compassion instead of judgement. And you spoke up when it counted. These are lessons that good moms teach their children. So please tell your mom that she’s a great mom. You know how I know she’s a great mom? It takes one to know one.
I’m going to tell you a shocking and little-know fact about me. And then things are going to get weird.
I am a Leisure Professional (gasp). But, I am not the Leisure Professional that you are thinking of (Where is your mind?!). I have an Outdoor Recreation Management degree. My passion and area of expertise is wilderness survival. I am a tall, skinny, bubbly blond who wears makeup and gold hoop earrings. I bet you never saw that combination coming! I seem to embody the definition of oxymoron. I am a walking combination of opposite things existing simultaneously.
Ironically, it was another oxymoron that threw me off of a cliff a few months ago. I landed so hard at the bottom of that cliff that I realized I needed trauma therapy. You see, I had lived my life being certain of the miracles that I have seen. In many of my worst moments I experienced supernatural and unexplained intervention. The bible tells us that faith means being CERTAIN of what is unseen. I did what I thought a good Christian SHOULD do and be certain of the supernatural intervention. I never stopped to consider that trauma and miracles can exist simultaneously. That doesn’t sound very holy, so I ignored trauma and embraced the solidarity of faith in the miraculous…until I couldn’t anymore.
I am very comfortable in the physical wilderness. I wrote an entire curriculum on physical wilderness survival. I know how to survive in the physical wilderness because I have spent much time there. It is no longer threatening, but familiar. Interestingly, I am in a metaphorical wilderness that has no survival curriculum. What jerk traversed the land of Uncertainty and didn’t write a survival guide for the rest of us?
A couple of months ago I found myself at the border of the land of Uncertainty. My backpack was overloaded with the weight of childhood trauma, questions, fear, doubt, shame, and disappointment. Why disappointment? I had incorrectly assumed that the Evangelical church would provide a Sherpa. You know, to help me navigate tough terrain and maybe carry my load for awhile when I couldn’t stand under its weight. My only tools were my default optimism, and the kind of blind faith that I was taught to cling to growing up in the church. That is pretty much the equivalent of a dull pocket knife and a couple of wet matches.
I took my first shaky steps onto the scorched land of Uncertainty. I picked up the phone and made an appointment with a Trauma Therapist. I then set up camp a few feet in to my new territory. You know, not far enough in that I couldn’t just hike back out if pioneering this new land was a poor choice.
I then unzipped my backpack and pulled out fear and shame. I soon learned that they were poor traveling companions. They sat by the campfire with perfectly good marshmallows. Yet they ignored the marshmallows and began roasting ME.
“You are going to deconstruct your faith in this wilderness.”
“You are on a slippery slope of backsliding into Atheism.”
“You will lose all credibility as a Christian speaker and writer if your audience finds out you camped in the land of Uncertainty.”
I listened in agreement. That is what I have been taught to do. Be the peace maker. Don’t cause conflict. So I passively slipped away to my tent to hide. I pulled out a pen and a piece of paper and began drawing a realistic smile. I then placed the smile on the outside of my tent to confuse fear and shame into thinking that I was happy, not hiding. Once my fake smile was firmly affixed to the door of my tent, I felt safe to think for myself.
I thought about how sad I felt to not have an Evangelical Sherpa. Even if I did, they most likely wouldn’t have a map for territories like abuse, mental health, and trauma. I thought about how insecure I felt embracing the land of Uncertainty, and all of the questions that came with it.
“How much of who I am is merely an adaptation made to survive trauma?”
“What should I take from times when I experienced trauma and divine intervention simultaneously?”
“Is the God that I know the ACTUAL God, or one that I have constructed based on indoctrination and trauma?”
“Is faith ONLY defined as certainty?”
Suddenly everything seemed so unclear. It was like thick, rolling fog had descended into my camp and concentrated in my tent. I fumbled around my tent until at last I again found my pen and paper. So much was uncertain in the land of Uncertainty. I needed to work up the courage to pioneer ahead. So I decided to write down a list of things that are unquestionably true. Surely there was SOMETHING certain in my life.
I am certain that I am not 12.
I am also certain that I am not yet 100.
Im certain that my name is not Ruby.
I am certain that I am not in the NBA.
I am certain that I do not have my pilots license.
I am certain that I cannot see without assistance.
I am certain that the scar on my abdomen did not come from a shark attack.
I am certain that I can kill aloe.
I am certain that gravity exists, possibly just to mock me.
I am certain that my list of uncertainties now outnumbers my list of certainties.
I am certain that I do not like the worlds hottest hot sauce.
I am certain that muffins are breakfast cupcakes.
I am certain that I do not know my favorite color.
I am certain that I want my children to experience less trauma and more joy than I did.
I am certain that I do not want to grow old.
I am certain that I have never been able to find my Chapstick when I need it.
I am certain that I hate wearing underwear.
I am certain that I feel most confident in gold hoop earrings, heels, and lipstick.
I am certain that I am a disappointment to my younger self.
I am also certain that my younger self set the bar way too high.
I am certain that I have never known where my keys, phone, and wallet are simultaneously.
I am certain that squid is not actually a food. Neither are snails.
I am certain that not everybody knows that the left lane is for faster moving traffic.
I am certain that all lists should not end on a number that makes sense.
I got to the end of my list and suddenly remembered a fellow sojourner I had met along the way. Anne Lamott’s brave words swept out enough fog for me to find my sleeping bag and pillow. I crawled inside my sleeping bag, zipped it up over my head, and fell peacefully asleep with her voice in my head.
“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Certainty is missing the point entirely.”
Have you ever been certain that you entertained an angel?
We met an angel on Tuesday. The stranger the circumstances the more certain I am that something beautifully supernatural is going in.
We were headed to Clara’s speech therapy appointment and stopped at a busy intersection to let a woman walk past. She walked with a strange slow shuffle. Naturally, I looked at her feet to see if there was something wrong. To my surprise I saw that she was wearing men’s shoes that were many many many sizes too big for her. I half expected her to straight wipe out in the cross walk.
She was walking so slowly that I was able to get a good look at her. Her shirt had holes in it. She looked as though she was an older woman. She was eating a large bag of chips as she slowly shuffled across the street. Something about her was so strange and extraordinary that I recognized it as a divine appointment.
I didn’t have an extra shirt to give her, but I was willing to give her my shoes. There is not a thing that I own that I would not be willing to give away if someone needs it more than I do. I called Clara’s speech therapist and told her that we would be a couple of minutes late. I also asked if I would be allowed to enter the building without shoes. Our speech therapist laughed and said “sure!”. She knows me well enough to know that if I don’t have shoes on, there is probably a very entertaining story to share.
We followed our strange friend to a side road where we could stop and talk with her. I pulled over and introduced myself. I told her that we noticed her shoes and wondered if she would like a pair that fit better. I tried to hand mine to her through the car window. She smiled a beautiful smile and offered me some chips. She reached through the window and said “Hi! I’m Anna from Hawaii! I don’t need shoes but let’s be friends.”.
I was a bit shocked by her reaction. I had that second of “Wait. What just happened”. While my mind was reeling with how to respond, I was able to get a good look at her. She was not an old woman at all. In fact she had the most beautiful face and eyes that I had ever seen. It’s like she transformed from old to young right before my eyes. Her smile was genuine and her eyes were kind.
I told my new friend Anna that I was so pleased to meet her and that I could now brag that I have a friend from Hawaii. I told her that it was on my heart to bless her and asked her what she needed. She just kept eating her chips and smiling. She said there was nothing she needed. I offered her a ride. I told her that I would love to pray a prayer of blessing over her before we left. After all, that’s what friends do.
I prayed over my new friend, and I spent a moment encouraging her. I thanked her for her time then drove away. I looked in my rearview mirror as we left and watched her grab another handful of chips. All I could do was smile. I was certain that I had just had a divine appointment with an angel.
Have you ever been suspicious that you might have entertained an angel? Id love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below.