Friday, April 22, 2016

Ilana's Journey

I know I have a lot of new followers who are just beginning to learn about Ilana's journey. I created this video of her journey a few months ago and shared it on her Facebook group, but forgot to share it here for those who aren't on Facebook... Here you go! Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I can't always stay strong... And it's okay!

What do you do when the world seems so very dark? When it seems like God is gone? When you find yourself so overwhelmed with grief, guilt, exhaustion and stress? When you can do nothing more than hide in a closet, literally crying out to God. Yelling at Him. Telling Him that He doesn't care because He's so far away?

I recently celebrated my 30th birthday... While birthdays are usually an exciting time, I don't know what it was about this one that made me so completely emotional and sad. I looked back at my life over the last 30 years. There were certainly exciting and happy times! I never imagined that by my 30th birthday, I would be married for 10 and a half years to my best friend, my high school sweetheart. That I would have been given birth 3 times. That I would have traveled to Ethiopia twice and adopted two boys. That I would have two 9 year olds, a 7 year old and a 2 year old. I never imagined I'd be living in a beautiful area of Florida...

But I also never imagined that when I turned 30, I would have gone through some of the hardest times imaginable. That at 20, I would have given birth to a child with a cleft palate, who would have to eventually undergo 3 surgeries. That I would have given birth to two premature babies - one at 31 weeks, one at 34 weeks. That I would have a son who suddenly goes blind in one eye and has to endure 3 surgeries to try to correct it. Only to find out on my 30th birthday that his vision now lasts no longer than 2 seconds in that eye. I never imagined that I would have to go through the heartache and pain of having to hand one of my children over to another family after he was my own son for 2 and a half years. For his well being and for my other kids' safety, he had to be adopted into a new family. In the last 2 years, we've had to endure 6 surgeries (a total of 12 in the the last 9 years) between all the kids and I. And then 3 days before my birthday, I found out that we'd have to endure yet another one. Because we found out I have a very high chance of the same cancer as Ilana's. And removal of my thyroid is the best option. We won't know for sure about malignancy until surgery... Even so, it's scary...

Just 3 days before my birthday, I got to see very well just what Thyroid Cancer has done to my daughter. Some have made comments about "One great thing is that she hasn't had to endure chemo." They were right. She hasn't had to go through that. But she had to endure days of complete isolation. She had to endure nights without a hug and kiss from anyone. She had to endure getting violently sick without a single comfort from anyone she loves. Except encouragement in the form of words. From 10 feet away. All while in isolation for her radioactive iodine treatment. She's had to live months of what they call "hypo hell". Where her body has to learn to function without her thyroid. Did you know the thyroid affects just about everything in your body? Without one, your body canNOT function (which is why medication for the rest of her life is absolutely vital). She literally feels like hell every single day while they're trying to regulate her body with medication. Only, looking at her, you'd have no idea. On the outward appearance, she's great at hiding it. It's rare that she'll ever complain. Plus, we homeschool. She's able to sleep in. She's able to take a nap. She's able to lay around the majority of the day if she wants to.

Wednesday she was blessed with a tremendous experience of getting to not only see Pentatonix in concert, but she got to MEET them. It was literally one of her dreams coming true. It was amazing. My heart was so overjoyed to see the pure joy on her face. Yet I was able to see just what a full day of excitement and activity does to her. How is it that this sweet 9 year old was living a completely "normal" life just 5 months ago? Where she could wake up early, play hard all day, go to bed at a normal time, and never have any pain... And now? She can't wake up in the morning without still being tired. She can't go a full day of acting like a kid without being tired? The day she met Pentatonix, she was in tears from me trying to pick her up for a fun photo with her friends. Because every bone in her body hurt to the touch. Her eyes were red and bloodshot from pure exhaustion by 7pm. She couldn't walk long or stand in lines. We had to sit on the floor several times because she just hurt. All over. She was in tears in the bathroom at the concert because she was so sore but didn't want anyone to know. She was so excited to be there and didn't want anyone to worry about her. Seeing Pentatonix for her was SO worth it all. But seeing that floored me. It was so hard to see her this way... It took her several days to recover fully... I thought for days about this...

All these thoughts piled on top of each other and instead of being excited for my birthday, I was sad. I was depressed. I sat in my closet and cried tears of sorrow. Tears of exhaustion. Tears of frustration. I cried out to God asking "why?" I yelled at him angrily, asking why he keeps letting these horrible things happen to our family. I felt so alone. I felt like God just didn't care. I didn't want to go to church the next day because I was just so angry. 

For so long, I've been okay with it all. For the most part, I've stayed strong. Somedays I've felt like, I'm a believer. I know God has this. I have to stay strong. I have to trust Him. But you know what? Sometimes life gets so hard and so overwhelming that you can't stay strong. That saying of "God won't give you more than you can handle" is a bunch of baloney. He does. It's just that He won't give you more than you can handle - with HIS help. But even then, there are times where it feels like you still can't handle it. And that's okay.

God doesn't command us to always stay strong. The great thing about God is that He's such a great father that He can take it. So when I was angry and saying some terrible things about God, He was okay with it. He loved me still. There are times where my kids have told me "I'm so angry with you, Mommy!" and I respond with "I know it. But I still love you!" And I have no doubt that God did the same with me.

The great thing about it is that God understands. He understands we're human - He made us after all! But He also understands through Jesus. He sent Jesus here. Jesus was human. He had real human emotions. In John 11, you'll find the shortest verse in the Bible: "Jesus wept." While cleaning the other day, this verse popped in my mind and I began to think long and hard about it... Jesus' friend Lazarus had died 4 days before. Jesus went to see Lazarus, knowing he had died and knowing he was going to raise him from the dead. Yet when Jesus saw Mary and everyone else weeping, he got angry. He got upset and then he, too, wept.

I may be completely off on the interpretations of these verses, but what I felt like God was saying was despite Jesus knowing the outcome, He still WEPT. Jesus KNEW Lazarus would live again. He TRUSTED that Lazarus would live again. Yet he still became so overcome with grief seeing everyone crying. And so He cried, too. He could've easily "stayed strong" through His belief. But He didn't.

God reassured me that as a human, even when I know and trust the outcome (that God's got it and His plan is perfect), it's still okay to weep. It's still okay to get angry. It's still okay to not be strong sometimes. It's still okay to grieve and cry out to Him. And He can take it. Because He loves me so very much...

I've learned that it's so important that even when you don't feel like praising Him, do it anyway. Even when things don't make sense, praise Him. Even when you don't feel like going to church, go anyway (it's usually a day with a sermon you really need to hear - or was the case for me). Even when you can't pray, ask someone else to. Find a safe person who you can truly be real with and who can listen and then turn it to God for you and can pray against any spiritual attack on your spiritual life. I'm so thankful that I have a husband who does this and who helps me get out of my "funk". I'm sure this won't be the last time as our future holds so many unknowns... But no matter how many more valleys we have to crawl through, even when I feel like I can't go on, I know that God will be right there carrying me through it - even when I get mad at him.... I still hate what all we have to go through. I'm still angry and wish life could be "normal"... But I'm thankful to have a Father who understands and loves me despite my anger and frustration... And I'm thankful that I don't always have to be strong and that I can draw strength from Him...