Still Learning Through Suffering (A Life & Health Update)

God has moved in my life in mysterious ways, to teach me lessons I would not have learned by any other means. I have a wandering heart; I have an idolatrous heart. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, here’s my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above,” is a song that I can sing and mean.

After Liza was born (you can read about that treacherous pregnancy here), I was done with suffering. I needed a chance to breathe, settle, heal, and adapt to life again with a newborn. The trials were behind me, and it was onward and upward, or so I thought. We had sleepless nights (of course) and nursing difficulties (again), but those things were expected, and I was just content to finally have my girl in my arms. That first month was hard, recovering not only from a C-section, but from the horrific pelvic separation I get during pregnancy. I remember having NO idea how I was going to care of this baby, but my resourceful husband tied a sturdy basket to my walker with soft blankets inside, and that is how I got her around our house the first month. It was difficult, but it was happy, so happy.

I don’t think Liza was more than a month old when my church split. Blogger Land isn’t the place to divulge all that, but let it suffice to say it was sudden, unexpected, and drastic. It was upheaval that I certainly wasn’t looking for at the time, and it shook me.

I was tired then, really tired, but who isn’t tired with a newborn who has her days and nights mixed up? But then one night, when Liza was 2 months old, I fainted and my husband couldn’t wake me up. He called 911 and I woke up by the time they arrived, but fainted again when I got to the hospital. My hemoglobin had crashed dangerously low, and I needed a blood transfusion.

I continued to be tired, and honestly, I have been tired ever since, and have especially struggled to raise my iron levels.

Somewhere in the mix of this, I realized Liza was not meeting her milestones. At three months old she still couldn’t raise her head off my chest at all, and wasn’t able to turn her head to look to the side well either. I didn’t handle that realization well at first. Why couldn’t I move past these long years of difficulty? Why would God put me through all these difficulties, and then place me in a situation where I worried daily for the baby I had waited so long for? I felt like all my happy moments were being tainted by the foreboding that hovered in the back of my mind, and I was driving myself crazy over it.

But you know what? God taught me about surrendering while I waited for that little peach to lift her head. He worked in my heart to accept whatever His hand had in store, and not to worry or be afraid. He took that worry from me, and when she was four months she finally lifted her head. And guess what? At 15 months old, she has started walking. She is doing great, and I have had extra joy at all of her milestones.

I turned 30 last September, and wrote about some of the lessons I learned in my twenties here. What I didn’t say, is that I really hoped, and even believed, that somehow the dawn of my thirties could mean the start of easier happiness. I don’t know if that expression makes any sense to you, but it does to me. Maybe my health issues could stay behind me. Maybe I could succeed in some of my goals. Travel somewhere. Further my education. Publish a book. Run around freely with my kids. Hike mountains with my husband.

Man I hate when the things I hope for in this life turn to disappointment. But I’m still just 30 right? There’s a lot of space between here and 40. Hoping can be such a difficult and painful endeavor.

Well, I think we have found the reason for my ceaseless exhaustion. I had a scope done through my throat and into my stomach before Christmas, which showed blood in the stomach and a large tumor which can be seen pressing into my stomach, changing the shape- kind of like how a fist pressing into a balloon would appear on the inside. The doctor said it has likely been developing for years, and it will need to come out.

Over the next month or two I need to have a few more tests done to determine where this mass is coming from, and collect biopsies. The doctor says that often these are not cancerous, and I don’t ask a lot of questions, I just take him at his word. I am expecting to have surgery in the next 3-6 months.

Suffering is often God’s tool to remind us of what really matters in life. I am grateful He is doing that for me. In all my ambitions and hopes, I so easily find myself distracted and discontented. The past year has not been my strongest spiritually. I have wanted so badly to take over the reins of my life, and steer it in a direction that I like. I have had very little patience for learning the lessons God wants to teach me through suffering and weakness, because I have fervently wanted to be well and strong. But in God’s goodness and perfect timing, He has been opening my eyes to my own sin and folly. He has used the past years to prepare me for this. Thank you God.

   I’m not angry about facing another trial, and for me that is a big deal. That means that God has done something in my heart through all these difficult events. I am not arguing that I deserve that “break” this time, or that “easy happiness” I have been seeking so long. My heart has grown in conviction of many things these past few weeks, and I have been brought to repentance in a few areas, and for that I thank God. In brief, here are a few things God is teaching me right now:

1. I feel more certain that God is good, and that He has given me infinitely more than I deserve. I am a sinner through and through, and I deserve an eternity in Hell. God gave His Son Jesus Christ to save me from my sin, and what else is needed? He has given Himself; He has given it all.

2. I am more convinced that not only is God good, but my life is good. There are people on this planet who have unimaginably dark and painful lives, and I am not one of them. I am surrounded by amazing people and blessings every day. Part of a poem I wrote recently says:

“For all the misery and madness
Daily grind and tired sadness,
Wasn’t there always some pleasure to know,
Too often left with untied bows?
I grumbled and forfeited delights
That now grow in sweetness
While I fight.”

3. I am more confident that God’s grace is sufficient in all things, so that no matter how weak I am, sinning is never my only option as a response. This is important for me. When you are weak, tired, often sore, and trying to take care of small kids, you feel at times that you have every excuse to lose your patience. To rant. To sin. But we have a bible that says God gives grace to weak people. When we are weak, then He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). His grace enables me to glorify Him, and washes me when I fail to.

4. I know that the God I serve is the same who became “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3),” so that for all my sadness I might have a compassionate great high priest and friend (Hebrews 2:17, 5:2).

5. I am reminded of what matters most: That every day, no matter what I can or cannot do, I am able to love God and love those around me.

 Galatians 5:14 “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The wonderful thing about trials that dwindle you down, is that you’re forced to refine your goals. That can also be a terrible thing, but it is a blessing too. This is my goal lately. I wake up, I pray “today, God help me to love my husband and my kids. Help me to be patient with them, to be kind, and to show them your love.” That’s about it. That’s what I’m working on right now, and it is a wonderful, fulfilling, joy producing goal, and one that is so easy to lose sight of when life is easier and options wider.

So. I want trials to end. I want to have this surgery, and recover, and leave it behind me, and feel better. Travel somewhere. Further my education. Publish a book. Run around freely with my kids. Hike mountains with my husband.

But God is sweet to me in all of this. He has surrounded me with precious people, and flooded my life with goodness. I am encouraged that the suffering in my life hasn’t been in vain, but that despite how many times I have fought against the purposes of God, He has been faithful to keep pruning and shaping me.

Romans 5:3-5 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

If you have read this, thank you, and thank you if you remember to keep my family and I in prayer.

One thought on “Still Learning Through Suffering (A Life & Health Update)”

  1. Dear Charlene,
    Thank you for sharing your heart and your transparency. We are praying for you and believing that God will touch you with His healing hand.
    We love you, Mom & Dad Peens

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