It’s dark and the floodwaters are rising. I’m swimming with as much strength as I can muster to try to reach the water’s edge. Yet, it’s as if I’m getting nowhere. I’m not moving. The current is too strong. The waves crash harder and the water rises higher. It’s up to my neck. I can’t touch the bottom. I’m struggling with keeping my head above the water, but my arms are becoming tired. I’m not sure how much longer I can stay above the floodwaters…
“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.” Psalm 69:1-3 (NLT)
“Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day? Wake up! Don’t you care what happens? Why do you bury your face in the pillow? Why pretend things are just fine with us? And here we are – flat on our faces in the dirt, held down with a boot on our necks. Get up and come to our rescue. If you love us so much, help us!” Psalm 44:23-26 (The Message)
These verses have played throughout my mind so many times over the last few weeks. They reflect my not just my mind, but my heart, and I feel so much like David described… The first paragraph is how I’ve been feeling lately. I’m losing strength and questioning where God is in all of this chaos, as we get slammed with wave after wave of grief, trauma, medical issues, and life. When will the waves stop so I can just catch a breath? When will the waves stop so I can rest? When will the floodwaters dry up and I can walk “on land” and have a sense of “normalcy” for a bit?
These past few years have been so difficult, and while I’ve journeyed on and always kept my eyes focused on the Lord, it’s as if I’m walking deeper into darkness and am struggling to find His light in the midst of it all.
I had a breakdown moment last night, where I poured out all my feelings to Michael, questioning him where God is. And later begging God to show me that He is still here. That He is still present. Deep down I know He is there, but goodness gracious, it’s hard to remember it when I feel like I’m gasping for air every day.
We recently moved, which is a blessing. But that move comes with downfalls. You see, we moved to a ten acre property with my sister and her family. Ten kids. Ten acres. RENU Ranch. This is the blessing. The downfall is that our home is still not finished. We have been living in a one bedroom, one bath home with a makeshift kitchen (i.e. an oven, stove, and refrigerator – no counters. No kitchen sink) since December. Our kids have been sleeping in bunk beds in the living room, until recently when our house was opened up for the addition, when they’ve been sleeping in an RV (that friends blessed us with) with my mom. While I feel terrible complaining, knowing we are blessed to have beds to sleep in and food to eat and many of our problems are "first world problems", it’s gotten old. Our kids are missing a sense of normalcy. They’re missing our normal routines. They’re missing the way life was. I keep telling them it’s temporary, but heck, even I struggle with it... Even though I know things could be much worse.
We are hoping and praying our old home sells, but so far we haven’t gotten many showings because the housing market is a bit finicky and buyers are taking their time with newer/higher priced homes. This is a struggle and burden, as we need our house to sell so we can continue paying for the renovation/addition on the property. But so far, no “bites” and I’m stressing over finances.
Aydan had surgery #7 in January. This one was #5 for his eye. Since his prior surgeries, Aydan has had some pain and discomfort in his left eye (the one that had the detached retina), along with photophobia (extreme light sensitivity). Unfortunately, after a month, the issue was worse and he was in more pain, and we learned that the surgery didn’t take, and we were referred to a specialist an hour away. She said his case was just too complicated and that he really needed to be evaluated at Bascom Palmer (a hospital, specifically for eyes) in Miami (3 hours away). We promptly made an appointment and met with a pediatric ophthalmologist. He confirmed that Aydan was officially blind in his left eye. No vision occurred any longer. He told us that Aydan is no longer allowed to play any sort of contact sports or do anything that can result in trauma to his head/face, as he’s at such high risk of the retina detaching in his right eye. He wanted us to see a pediatric retinal specialist to see what our options were in relieving the pain and photophobia he was having. The photophobia was so difficult that he can’t play outside much during the day unless he’s in the shade and wearing a hat because it causes such extreme pain in his eye and head. We made the appointment, which was 4 weeks away. In the meantime, we followed up with his original retinal specialist (not pediatric), who did not offer much help and made me more frustrated and confused on what the right decision is for Aydan.
I feel like we are just in a constant fight for getting good medical care for our children. While I’m certainly no expert, I guarantee that I know my children better than any doctor. Aydan is a boy who rarely complains of pain, so the pain in his eye and head isn’t “normal”. The light sensitivity is not “just a thing all kids have”. Not one of my other kids have such extreme sensitivity to light that their eye shuts on its own when in any light or sunlight. Not one of my other kids have pain so bad with light that they’d rather not play outside in the sunshine. Not one of my other kids sometimes struggle to participate in activities because their eye hurts so much. Not one of my other kids have to hold one of their eyes shut while watching a movie because the television is too bright and hurts their head. This is NOT something “all kids have”.
I’ve read countless medical journals about all the surgeries Aydan has had. All the side effects. All the symptoms he’s having. Hours of research. And I’m just so confused and struggling with the right decision.
We can either remove the band that was placed around his eye 3 years ago, which should help with straightening his eye, and hopefully help with the photophobia and “squeezing pain”. This can result in issues with his eyeball where there’s a chance he can actually lose his eye. Or, we can choose to do nothing and allow Aydan to live in pain and with the light sensitivity for the rest of his life. Either choice is difficult and a struggle. We meet with the pediatric retinal specialist in Miami on Monday, and I pray she sees our side and understands a bit more on what all Aydan is enduring. I’m not sure how much more fighting for good medical care that I can take.
Along with this, we recently had to give Max away. Max was our beautiful German Shepherd that became Aydan’s best companion and such a therapy to Aydan’s PTSD. Max loved our family too much and became too stressed (which had emotional and physical side effects on him) and became completely overprotective to the point of biting two strangers. For his safety, we had to give him to our dog trainer who could train him to be more of a work/protection dog because he just couldn't handle the stress of being a "family dog". This broke our hearts. Saying goodbye to him brought many of us to tears, but watching my sweet Aydan sob to the trainer, asking him to please take very good care of Max (leaving the trainer in tears, as well), my heart broke. I knew the outcome of what this would do to Aydan. I knew it would cause his PTSD to spiral out of control. Yet, I had no idea just how bad it would get and how bad depression would hit. My heart ached as I watched him over the next week and I struggled with questioning where God was when we had a long talk with Aydan later that week and learned of some things going through this sweet boy’s mind. Things no 8 year old should ever think or worry about. I became angry. Wondering how much more this boy would have to endure.
My heart is becoming so overwhelmed and weary. After the last two years, it feels like it’s just been hit after hit after hit. I know we've overcome even greater trials than these and yes, there have been blessings in between and I have always been great at remembering these... But as I said before, it’s getting harder and harder to breathe when you’re already tired and you get crushed by each wave crashing down upon you.
I’ve been crying out to the Lord, especially at night when I lie awake for hours. I’ve been trying hard to remember this verse. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” – Psalm 55:22
While it promises that the righteous will not be shaken, sometimes I’m not so sure that that is true. I feel so completely shaken lately. Sometimes feeling how we can continue on and how I can muster up enough strength to endure much more. As I’ve researched it more, I’ve come to realize it means that he won’t let us be shaken FOREVER. He won’t make us endure these trials FOREVER. Eventually, He will bring us out of it.
While I understand this, it doesn’t necessarily help or make things any easier. Just makes me question more on when He’s going to say “Okay, enough! You have fought. You have endured. Your trials are done for now. Breathe and rest in Me.”
“Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.” – Psalm 55:1-2 (NLT)
If anything, it’s comforting to know that David had so many struggles like I am. Questioning where God was. And while I’ve felt guilty thinking all these thoughts, I’ve also learned it’s okay. God loves me even when I’m upset. God loves me even when I’m questioning what in the world He’s doing. I take comfort in the fact that I know He will never leave or forsake me. Even during times where I just want to give up. He doesn’t. And for that, I praise Him. If for nothing else, I praise Him for being there always, even when I can’t quite see Him in the darkness.