Here we are and many months have passed. Life has thrown some pretty big changes my way, and I am now facing the loss of my job as I am just not able to keep up with it, my family, and my health issues. The church has really gone above and beyond in accommodating me with my illness and its hard to face that the time has come for me to to be done working. It feels to me like I'm throwing in the towel somehow, even if I know in reality that's not true. It still feels like a form of giving up and giving in to this illness. So, now we are into the fun-filled process of seeking disability and I am facing no longer being able to work. Maybe if I hated my job it would be different, but I very much love what I do and for so long have felt that God called me to be where I am in the church. Finding out I could no longer do it was pretty devastating and its taking me time to absorb.
Along with that is facing that this isn't some health issue that will eventually go away (although I've known that for awhile, just put off facing the inevitable.) I've recently gone through testing to see if it could be Central Nervous System Vasculitis-which is something I suspected awhile back and promptly shoved to the back of my brain. My continued loss of control of my body and my brain have made it impossible to ignore and thanks to God throwing some heavy stuff and good friends and family my way I am back on track in seeking a diagnosis. Going through illness with a lack of a diagnosis is wearying, whether its months or years. I am now in my seventh year with whatever this disease (or diseases) is (or are). I was diagnosed with Polyarteritis Nodosa, but there was talk that they may not have been correct due to some test level, and even that shouldn't be causing all of the issues I am having. For awhile they were thinking PAN with Multiple Sclerosis, but no sign of MS in any MRI or lumbar puncture over the past 7 years. My brain shows some slight degeneration, but of the sort that can be benign...or not. So now I've gone for a lumbar puncture, CT angiogram, and bloodwork to see if CNS vasculitis is making its mark. For some reason I was drawn to this disease about 3 years back and now here it comes again. I am not borrowing trouble, the trouble is here and I'd just like to know what sort it is and treat it.
All of this means that the past month has been full of some pretty darn big changes and uncertainties for my husband and I and our family. The disease is not only affecting my body quite significantly, but also my cognition and memory which in turn has negatively affected my ability to work. So, we're back to one income and may not be able to stay in our house and have lots of medical debt and are worried about health insurance and my coverage.
But, in what should be the most distressing and fearful time of our lives (outside of the girls' births and my later near death experience), we have been showered with so much love and have come together as a family in holding each other up. God has blessed us in a multitude of ways, and I am so thankful for everyone He is working through and those who have come out of the woodwork to show us care and love. I'm holding on to these verses (11-14) from Jeremiah 29: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and bring will you back from captivity. I will you gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you to the place from which I carried you into exile."
Many of us know verse 11, but I'm clinging to the whole passage. When I share with people, I often stop at the end of verse 13, or am tempted to stop partway through verse 14. The rest seems so, well, harsh. It's a letter sent by the prophet Jeremiah to the "surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebudchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon." Its a letter to from God to His people who had been exiled. You see, God's people of Israel, referred to in the Bible as His chosen ones, His children, were thrown into exile. Their journey is a long one, fraught with many instances of turning away from God and willfully choosing their own way over God's. A few years back I read through the Bible front to back for the first time in my life. As I read through the Old Testament I found myself so frustrated with God's people because they JUST KEPT DISOBEYING HIM. Like little children who choose their own way in shortsightedness. And then one day, I realized that I am doing the very same thing, over and over, when I choose to live life on my own without Him, in all the big and small ways I choose my own path over His, and willfully delude myself into thinking I'm not really turning away from Him, not really sinning. But I am, A LOT. MUCH OF THE TIME! And here I was so frustrated with the Israelites in the Old Testament, couldn't they see what they were turning from?!?! How many more ways did God need to show them His love, His miracles? Manna from heaven??? The plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, so many things that God had already shown them and they DIDN'T GET IT!
And then I realized that not only do I have those events, but I have the entirety of the Bible and all of the miracles it contains and that I know of the most precious miracle and gift of all-His Son, Jesus, who came to save me from my sin. And I have all of those moments in my own life where I know God has been working. And, just like those Israelites, I still turn to myself instead of to Him. The letter in Jeremiah 29 is God's message that for every one of us who is "in exile" He is still there for us, still loving us, still there with His arms open wide with plans to PROSPER and NOT TO HARM US, still there with HOPE AND A FUTURE. It's that love and that hope that I cling to, that I hold fast to, and that sustains my family and I right now. I am praying to God, and I admit I do not know where or how things will happen in our lives. I don't know how this disease will progress, I do not know if we will need to find a new place to live, I do not know how we'll keep up with healthcare and rising medical debt. I do know that God loves me and my family and that even when things are seeming to crumble around us, they really aren't, God is there, answering our prayers even when we may not realize it right away. And when that realization comes, wow. I am thankful that now in my walk with God I am quicker to see it, faster to realize it, and the best part is that usually I am thanking and praising Him in very short order for the blessings He gives us.