Every morning, I wake up inches from someone’s tiny face. Most days, it’s to Fred’s impossibly long lashes and delectable cheeks. And it’s usually accompanied by some super important announcement. Like this morning, when Freddo announced in his cheery stage whisper, “Mommy! I found a new freckle behind Sophie’s ear! I found it while she was sleeping!”
And that’s how I begin my days.
On one hand, I’m so incredibly thankful for the three alarm clocks that God has kept in our lives, who bring so very much sunshine to our dark days. On the other hand, mornings are still really hard for me.
Especially in the deepest throes of grief…waking was the most painful moment of every day. Waking up and having to remember all over again, day after day, that all of it…every horrific moment of the last two years of life…actually happened to our family.
There have been so many months where I have absolutely hated waking. Sleep is just so deeply disorientating. And waking up to our broken, bleeding, aching life morning after morning…has not been easy.
Lately though, most mornings my first thought isn’t on what we have endured…but on what we have coming. I usually wake up now and think, “One day closer. How many more until eternity?”
Even as I write that…it sounds hyper-spiritual. But it’s so not. I’m just in the Land of Forever Sad…on a very big countdown to Happy.
I’ve learned that this is really the only way to take on an endless stream of really horrific days. And this summer, though filled with so many good things that we really needed, like lots of rest and reading and long runs on the beach…has also been filled with pain. Lots of physical pain for me, because of my recent re-exposure to mycotoxins. But also, lots of soul pain.
And last Sunday…was one of those days. Fred must have slept in that morning, because Emma was the one to wake me. And she tiptoed into my room with far more than Sophie’s freckles on her mind.
“Well,“ she sighed, “You’ve probably heard from Uncle Pete that I’ve got questions.”
At bedtime the night before, while we were out on a date, Emma had had some very serious questions for her Uncle Peter. He had thought he was just agreeing to tuck her into bed. But bedtime around our house is usually a crash course in theology.
“Uncle Pete, I just don’t understand. Why has my family had to suffer so much?”
“Uncle Pete, Is the mold a penalty God has given my family? Because it FEELS like a penalty?”
You know, typical seven-year-old stuff.
And last Sunday, as she climbed up on my bed, I knew it was going to be a tear-filled morning. She looked at me with those huge brown eyes and said, “I have just experienced so many hard things. And I am afraid that so many more hard are coming.”
Yeah. Me too.
“I am so scared. Are more babies going to die?” Are you going to die Mommy?”
I wish I knew, Ems. I so desperately wish I knew.
I cannot stand pat and breezy Christanese thrown at my own unanswered questions and aching pain…so I am certainly not going to dish those out on a tender little person whose been forced to ask the same things.
So, what DO you say?
We talked about Job…I skipped the G-rated Children’s Bible version and told her everything. We talked about faith…I told her that faith isn’t believing that if you pray and give God your “desires of your heart list” (read: list of demands) He is in any way obligated to comply. And I told her that as much as I wish it were not true…eventually we are all going to die. Some soon, some less soon, but all of us within our lifetimes.
But mostly, what raced through my mind as I sat there with my precious girl who actually will have to grow up in a world full of so much pain she can’t escape…were rocks.
For most of the summer I’ve been on a “Social media/Technology Fast.” I don’t have too much to say about that, except that it was lovely. I didn’t miss it. Any of it. Ever. For the most part it was totally wonderful and completely liberating to step back from all of the noise. I know I wouldn’t have liked it for a lifetime, but for 40 days…it was an incredible gift God gave our family.
But there were days, especially the days when I was the sickest and struggling the most with the horrific symptoms of neuropathy…when it was also very lonely. I didn’t miss the means of connecting with people, but sometimes I did miss the connecting.
And since Facebook and Email and Instagram and Texts have become one of the main ways the Body of Christ actually connects and speaks into one another’s lives…it felt like the Body of Christ had gone silent in some ways.
It wasn’t that God had no ways to speak to me. He spoke to my heart through His Word. He spoke to my heart through family and friends I saw in person. And He especially spoke to my heart through Reid…who was with me so much that we went a whole glorious week without even texting, because we were always in the same place.
But perhaps the most surprising way He spoke to me in all of the silence of those forty days…was through rocks. Well, stones, technically.
After being re-exposed to mycotoxins in June, my body totally began to tank. It felt like I was watching all of the health I had fought so hard to regain, completely slipping away from me. Enter an onslaught of new symptoms and drugs and blood tests, all of which were frustrating and exhausting.
On the worst days the neuropathy was so significant that I could barely talk, move, or see. And there I was, in such incredibly scary pain, and I was talking to almost no one. No one except my doctor. Everyone else was on radio silence…and she was on speed dial.
I am so incredibly grateful to have a doctor who actually knows enough about mold toxicity to know that neuropathy is a common, though horrific symptom of poisoning. She didn’t minimize my symptoms, or throw around sunshine about how this was all “going to be ok.” Neuropathy…can be for life. The vision problems I was having...can lead to blindness, permanent or temporary. And not being able to move…is just plain terrifying. And after two weeks of my slide into the abyss of neuropathy…I was a wreck by the time I went in for my next appointment.
One thing I like about this doctor is that she’s not one to break out the Kleenex box. She didn’t cry with me or beat around the bush. But she did say something to me that was deeply, deeply sobering.
“You have been hit very hard by this. And I know how scary neuropathy can be. I also think that you have been so lucky.”
Ok…where is she going with this? Because the LAST thing I feel is “lucky.”
“You have so many things going for you. You are the ONLY one in your family who is still struggling with toxicity…and that COULD still be true of your entire family. You and your husband have stayed together through something incredibly trying. One of the worst things I have seen in so many patients is that it is incredibly difficult to survive this together, and you are still together and surviving. And it seems like you have an incredible network of people who have helped you in unprecedented ways to get the help you need.”
There I was, in the middle of my doctors office, who….though she is an incredible doctor…has never once given me the impression that she shares my belief in the God of the Bible and His supreme goodness and sovereignty.
And it was like the rocks were speaking.
And I started to cry. I just kept thinking of that verse in Luke 19…
“And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
She may as well have sat there and said, “God has taken care of you. Even I can see ways that you have been so loved and protected in this, in spite of everything that has come your way.”
I have no idea what my doctor believes, about, well, much of anything…besides mold toxicity. It honestly isn’t the point. I sat there in that doctor’s office, on one of the lowest days of my very low life, and God reminded me of His goodness through her.
“I AM…And I CAN STILL SPEAK.
I AM…taking care of you.
I AM…protecting you from a billion things you can’t even see. (Probably because you are so busy looking at all of the things I have chosen not to protect you from at this time.)
I AM…even so obvious about it, that even your doctor can see.
And I AM…the God who uses whomever I WANT to speak.
And then, she said something else. Something only the God of Rocks would know I needed spoken to me.
She said, “I know this is bad and I know this is scary. And there have been some very bad days. But whenever you have one of THOSE, you HAVE to stop and tell yourself…
“THIS…is a bad day. And more are probably coming. And there will be good days someday.”
By “Someday” she probably meant lower-case “someday”…that shaky someday that mocks my days…the day when toxic mold is not constantly destroying our entire lives.
That’s what she meant by Someday.
But I knew what He meant by Someday.
And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately…especially on all these bad days.
I hate that my seven-year-old has the weight of the entire world on her fragile little shoulders. I hate that she has to worry about more babies dying…when all around her, all her little friends are getting fat, healthy baby siblings. I hate that her childhood has been filled with watching mommy take her daily B12 injections, and Mommy go to doctors, and Mommy cry in pain. And I hate that I can’t even tell her, “Mommy isn’t going to die sweetie.”
Can any of us, honestly, make such a ridiculous promise to the people most precious in our lives?
No. Not really. Much as we wish we could.
And so…I made her the one promise I could keep. I held her in my arms, as the salt poured down the freckled cheeks that have seen far too many tears for such a short life And I said,
“Emma, I am not sure of much. But I am sure of this…
“THIS…is a bad day. And more are probably coming. And there will be good days someday.”
And that…is pretty much the only thing I don’t hate about suffering. That even on the worst days, especially on the worst days, when He’s short on material and only stones can speak of His glory…He speaks to me. And says the one thing that really matters, the one thing we all need to hear and believe to truly make it through this life…
There will be good days. Someday.
And He is worth this long wait.
But the wait is not easy. And lately especially…the wait has felt really long, and my faith has felt really weak. And I wanted to ask you to pray. To pray for my heart in regards to the Rock.
We live in a town with a very big rock. The other day I met a new friend at church and she asked me where we lived. I said, “We’re the house closest to the rock.” I didn’t think anything of it, until she called me later that week and said, “I’ve been thinking…did you mean more than JUST that? Like you might really be the house closest to the Rock?”
Umm…No. That would be cool. Cool to say that. Really cool to think. And even cooler for that to really be true. But most days I feel like we are actually about ten billion light years from the Rock. Like anyone and everyone are closer to the Rock than we are at this point.
“No,” I said, “I just meant that we are literally the house closest to the rock. Not…The Rock.”
But it got me thinking. Never once, in all of these months of living in this house, have I thought about how close we are to that ridiculously huge Rock. Of all the moments in life to live so close to a weirdly big rock…this one takes the cake.
Most days, I can’t even see the Rock. It’s literally right out my window, but there is so much fog in our town that usually I look out the window and see, well…absolutely nothing.
Such a picture of my faith.
I know that there are people who read this blog and wrongly think our faith is astonishing. But it’s not. It’s really, really, really not. Most days, I feel like I am literally being choked off by a fog so dense that I can barely breathe.
The fog of chronic pain. The fog of unmet dreams and hopes and plans that I had once had for our little family. The fog of so many tearful Sunday mornings, when my children have to ask questions that most adults may not even get to in their lifetime. The deep fog of grief over our precious babies. And the really deep fog of my shattered faith.
But if there is one thing I’ve come to realize after six months of living in this little sea village that always smells like fish, with barking seals, and a fog horn that wakes me up every morning…
Whether I can see it or not…the rock is always, always, always there.
Steadfast. Immovable. Strong. Looming. Even terrifying at times. But always unmoving.
Half of the time I cannot even see it. Not even a shadow. Not even a glimpse. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that there was not a big Rock towering right beside me. All I see…is fog.
And then, all of a sudden, the sun comes out, the fog lifts, and it is there.
He is there.
Where He’s always been.
Speaking to me.
As only Rocks can speak.