Sometimes, I don’t know what to write here. I stare at this blank white screen, and think of the thousands of things I could try to communicate. And it’s hard to know exactly which ones I am willing to sacrifice on the vast alter of cyber space.
I know there are people out there who have read about our story and wondered, “Is it really that bad?” I know this…because some of those same strangers have actually written to us and asked us if this is really “a true story.” Someone wrote me a few weeks ago and said, “I just need to be sure…did all of these things ACTUALLY happen to you?”
First…Why in the world would I make all this up in the first place?
And second…it’s a billion times worse than I can fully articulate. You can’t put an exact measurement on suffering. You also can’t fully contain it with a few jots of black ink on a white screen page.
But I am trying.
And all I have to say, to the people who have written and asked if this is really our life, and if this blog is really an accurate reflection of our pain…is yes.
All at the same time.
Yes, my hands still break out in horrible inflammation and bleeding every single time I touch something from the “Mold House.” I am now convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our doctor was right…we really did have to get rid of everything.
Yes, I do have thousands of dollars in medical bills to wade though this week. I sat down to look at some of them today, and got so discouraged that blood tests cost $300 a piece. But those same blood tests are finally starting to show improvement in my body for the first time. And as they do, I become increasingly convinced that God has finally provided a doctor who has given us reason to hope. He even named her “Dr. Hope.” Noted irony.
Yes, Emma is having a very hard time with some of the things that have happened to us. Yes, she cried all the way to school this morning. And yes…I ache watching my little girl have to wrestle with theological questions far beyond her pay grade.
And yes, we are profoundly weary. We are so very tired of the fight. And on these days when the weariness seems to seep down into the very deepest parts of me…
That is when I know exactly what to write.
And so, today, without further adieu…I want to address what’s really on my mind.
Well, really, reptiles of every variety.
I know. Enter that from literally out of nowhere.
But reptiles have been on my mind all week.
I am terrified, and I mean terrified of lizards. Lizards, salamanders, and snakes…the trifecta of terror for me. It probably began when I was a small child, but what really sealed the deal was a rather traumatic moment involving a honeymoon, a few thousand Italian lizards on a sunny mountainside, and…me. But to make a long story short, let’s just say that I am at odds with nature, and I do not like green scaly things.
I’ve run into these agents of Satan more times than I would like, but it’s usually been while visiting tropical and foreign lands where you kind of need to expect these things.
So…imagine my surprise when I walked outside the mold house one day last summer, and came face to face with one of these…
Honestly, I could barely even handle googling this monster. I still cannot believe that he became a daily part of our lives.
But there he was, on the very week of our June miscarriage…slinking around our backyard. Staring at me. Daring me to be afraid.
I couldn’t even breathe. Couldn’t. Even. Breathe.
It felt Satanic.
And I am convinced that it was.
Because WHAT IN THE WORLD was a giant IGUANA doing in my backyard!?
Especially…on the very week our sweet baby died.
When baby Charlie died in January, we were utterly incapacitated by a level of shock and sadness that I have never known before or since that day. Nothing has ever hurt so badly, as having to bury a healthy, full-term baby boy…who died suddenly in your body, though absolutely no one could tell you why. It was the most wrecking moment of my entire life. But my immediate reaction was not afraid.
But in June, when the second baby Zeller died…I was introduced to something else entirely. Terror.
I begin to feel a new terror filling my soul…the fear that sorrow and suffering were always going to be our story. That, unlike literally every other grieving family I knew…we were never going to get a new chapter, and never going to get a new rainbow baby. Terror that we…had entered the Job-land of devastation and loss, and we were never going to leave. That our life was never going to change. And. I. Felt. Terrorized.
And then, on that incredibly low week, we experienced a number of deeply painful things all at one time.
On the very day that our June baby died, we got an incredibly hurtful email from someone we don’t even know who “wanted to inform” us that, “God was punishing us for our bad theology, and that all of our babies were going to die.”
Um. Ok. And who are you? And what do you know about me? Or for that matter…the great mysteries of the eternal plan of a Sovereign God? Or the why’s and how’s and when’s and who’s of the death of every living, numbered-days creature He has made…since eventually EVERY SINGLE ONE of us are going to DIE?
Needless to say, I was hurt and angry and really, really frustrated that in the midst of our Job-like life…enter Job’s lame and idiot “friends” from stage right.
And that…is the day I saw the first iguana.
I say “first”…because more were coming. For just as they said to Jesus long ago, “My name is Legion: for we are many.”
I probably wouldn’t have even put it together, but then it happened again. In the midst of more suffering.
In August, I began to realize that something was desperately and devastatingly wrong with my body. I felt like my body was completely shutting down on me, and none of my fourteen doctors…could tell me why.
I crawled into the shower one day, feeling terrorized. Terrorized by pain. Terrorized by the unknown. And most of all…terrorized by what felt like the increasing onslaught of the enemy.
As I stood there in the shower, I started to have this strange feeling that someone was actually watching me. And I looked up…and there he was. Lounging on the branch outside the window, literally less than a foot away from me…lurked another iguana. He was smaller than the first, but just as green, and just as ugly. And he was watching me shower, the little creep.
I know that some people love iguanas. I know that some people actually give them to their nephews out of love for their eighth birthdays. But no one who loved me…would give me an iguana for my birthday. Let alone three or four or five. I honestly don’t even know how many ended up in our backyard…they didn’t exactly wear name tags. But there were definitely at least three little monsters back there of varying hideousness and size.
And we simply could not get rid of these things. We finally gave up and quit going in the backyard all together. And then one day, it seemed as if they had finally gone away.
I breathed a sigh of relief that our “friends” had vanished, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking of Jesus in the desert and how eventually, “when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.”
An opportune time.
And in November…that time came.
We were so very hopeful when we found out at the end of October that we were pregnant again. And so devastated when, once again…another baby Zeller died.
I shouldn’t have been so surprised when, literally, the very next day, I walked outside the mold house, and BAM!, there he was again…slinking around the backyard. The enemy.
But this time…we decided it was time to fight.
Imagine one little iguana surrounded by SEVEN men and two small children with large sticks and a big box. With our army mounted, we were ready to finally put an end to this reign of terror.
And then, at the very last second…the green monster stood up on two legs, just like the Geico gecko, and…RAN AWAY. I mean, who does that?!
At this point, I decided this was no longer a job for amatures. In January, I called the county trapper, and he came over to investigate. He couldn’t believe that we had so many iguana’s in our backyard, because he had never even heard of such a thing. He’d hunted both a boa constrictor and several Rodents Of Unusual Size, but had never heard of an iguana infestation anywhere else in our county. He promised me that if we saw him again…he’d come back and he’d be ready.
It simply wasn’t to be.
Because I realized something important as I watched the county trapper drive away.
There will always be enemies.
By God’s grace, a week after the visit from the county trapper, we found out about the black mold growing in our house, and made an emergency move to a new place.
A place with NO yard…and therefore no iguanas to traumatize our lives.
And yet a place…with new terrors. A place on a busy street…where I constantly fear that one of my sweet glories will accidentally run out into traffic. A place with a steep staircase…where Fred and Sophie have already each tumbled down twice. A place…that could end up becoming a hot house for black mold…just like the last place.
Because all it takes is one water leak. One leaking roof. One broken water heater. One disaster.
And that…is life.
We are all, always, only one disaster way…from the worst moment of our lives.
And I know that your life is also filled with so many things to be afraid of…just like mine. And we have to live with these terrors in either healthy, or not so healthy ways.
So, why in the world am I saying all of these things?
Because I just survived a very dramatic, and yet successful rescue attempt.
We were literally rescued by God…out of a home that was killing each and every one of us slowly. We were rescued from a place where we were dying, and brought into a new land where we actually now have a fighting chance at life.
It felt like a rescue. And it was. Our bodies are healing. Our minds are healing from the neurological damage. And maybe just maybe…our souls are healing.
And then, to add to the rescue attempt, we were reminded in the most profound and incredible way…that just as Satan has agents in this cosmic battle…so too does our King. A King who chose to use His agents, His very own children…to help our family begin a new life. And I am grateful beyond words for not just the rescue…but for the unique story He is writing. He didn’t need to use people for this story, but He did.
And I think I know why.
Because we are still in the battle of our lives. For we, just like each one of you, still have to live in this dark and broken world where babies die, and six-year-olds ache, and iguana’s visit the only home in the neighborhood where every single person is already terrorized and weary beyond belief.
Because Satan…is still alive.
You can take a family out of the iguana house…but Satan is still a snake.
And he has a very large bag of tricks up his sleeve. And this week…his tricks have been discouragement and disbelief.
I am discouraged that anyone would doubt our story. That anyone would judge our decision regarding our doctor’s order to get rid of all our stuff. That anyone would chose to have anything less than compassion on our family. I see Emma’s tears. I see my bleeding hands. I see our totally broken hearts that are so very tired from this fight…and it feels like that mean guy who wrote us all over again to tell us “God was punishing us.” As if HE of all people knew the MIND OF GOD.
I don’t even know all of the reasons God does all of the things He does in this world. I only know this…
First… He is God, and He doesn’t owe me all of the answers. And He’s probably not going to give them to me anyways. He has told me only one thing…it is all for His glory. And someday…He is going to make this right.
And second… I am in the middle of the story. And even more than that…I am in the middle of a BATTLE story.
And it is a fight.
I have a picture in my mind of a large, and very dark battle scene. On one side of the field…are Satan and all his demons. Fear, death, iguanas, the cruel and uninformed things haters say.
And on the other side of the field…is Jesus. On a white horse. Ready for battle, and absolutely assured of His win. Jesus Himself…who has the sword of truth in one hand, and is infinitely more powerful, and completely ready to defeat that age-old snake. Ready to do battle with him in little ways, even today. And some day soon…in one big way. Completely. Finally. For eternity.
He has promised to “crush” that snake. And the promise that this is not the end, the promise that Jesus still reigns…is the only reason I am not sitting in a corner, completely immobilized today.
All of my past fears…fears of death and pain and sorrow and sickness and iguanas and suffering deeply…well, every single one of them…happened to me.
But I have hope…because I get to read the end of the story. And He has promised that some day soon…NONE OF THESE THINGS will reign.
HE WILL REIGN.
Until then…I have resigned myself to the battle.
And to the painful reality that, just as God has used His kids in profound ways to encourage our family and stregthen our faith…Satan can use people in the same ways. Some intentionally used by him, but most, probably unintentionally used by him. I am convinced that he who can use iguanas…is not beyond using people.
I know that our battle is ultimately not against flesh and blood. It is not against people who can be hurtful intentionally or unintentionally. Or even against the iguana’s who just “happened” to appear at all of the times I felt the very most broken and weak. Satan would love for us to think that our battles in this world are of such a common variety. But we cannot afford to be deceived.
For our battle…is against a Snake. Each and every one of us. Each and every day.
Because God’s battle…is against the snake.
And He who has been fighting that snake for a very, very long time…has not left us alone in this battle for faith. And He has used so very many of you to teach me that precious reality.
Your prayers…strengthen us to fight for faith. Your giving…has made it possible for us to actual begin healing. And it has been an indescribable gift, because it is incredibly difficult to fight a battle well…when you’re laying in a trench broken and bleeding. And most of all…your faith in our great warrior God…your encouragement about who He is…your belief that HE IS GOOD…has been an encouragement to us on the darkest of days. And your kindness in loving (for most of you) us total strangers…has reminded me that people are not the real enemy.
Thank you for walking this journey with us. Thank you for believing us. And most of all..thank you for believing Him. For believing the promises of God. For believing that each one of us who are His…are in the battle of our lives.
And for believing the one thing that matters most…that you’ve read the very last line of very last page…
And He wins.
And someday, He’s going to take down that Snake.
For His glory and His fame.