The dictionary defines trauma as:
A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
The problem is, you don’t always know that what you are experiencing is traumatic, because in the moment, you are too busy experiencing it. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing your best to keep up with the demands and responsibilities, until one day it all catches up to you and you think:
When did it start being so overwhelming to get dressed?
When did I stop loving so many of the things that made me me?
When did I stop living and start to just exist each day?
It’s like, you wake up from the fog of trudging on through a difficult season, and you realize that there was a lot more damage than you noticed at first. In fact, the damage affected so many areas, so many little hearts, so many details that you’re not even sure where to start with the clean-up and healing.
When I attended the One RB World Conference in Washington D.C., I was shocked at the tears that sprang to my face in the first ten minutes. As I listened to stories of survivors talk about their mothers who took them back and forth across the country for treatment, my breath caught in my chest….and it hurt.
You see, I frequently tell our story and so I’m used to it. There’s a rhythm to it, and I have learned to anticipate many of the questions I get so often:
- What’s the prognosis?
- Why do you go to NY for treatment?
- How’s he doing?
But what I could not be prepared for, was hearing someone else tell the story of what I have lived the last two years. It’s only then that my heart breaks with sympathy and understanding for the sheer exhaustion of all personal, natural resources in a situation like childhood cancer (or many other situations like it). I hear the pain, and the worry, the depletion of finances, the toll on the family, and the relentless hearts of moms and dads who have fought insurance battles, treatment decision battles, personal battles, all while trying to “keep it together” and save their child’s life.
It wasn’t until I heard it from someone else, that I understood why I am so exhausted all the time.
We made the decision for Ben to stay home from New York because we didn’t feel like we should both be gone on Noah’s birthday-especially since we were both gone last year on his special day. Caleb, recalling his 11th birthday, which both mom and dad missed because we were in New York said succinctly, “Yeah, that was awful.”
Especially this last year, I have had so many physical ailments that I have just become weary of being in (almost) constant pain. Tests and doctors have revealed very little and so you’re left wondering, “Are they just missing it? Or is this really all just *stress*?”And quite honestly, that part of it all is still a mystery. If it is all just stress, then I feel like we need to make some major life changes!!!! But what, exactly, would those be? We need Ben to work night shift so we can keep paying our bills. Whether there is something wrong that they just haven’t found yet, or whether it really is stress that is wrecking havoc in me…. I have to remember that my God is the God who heals. Even trauma, in His hands, is molded and fashioned into something useful-not that it doesn’t hurt. But it doesn’t hurt without purpose. (Grant it, it may be a purpose that I don’t understand or can’t see).They say that when you lose a limb, you can experience phantom pains where the limb used to be….your nerve endings are angry and aggravated that their signals have nowhere to go. Well. I’m looking around. I’m assessing the damage. And the best I can do today is to make sure the signals have somewhere to go. I can’t guarantee that there won’t be pain–in fact, I can guarantee there will be. I just need to make sure that the signals aren’t ignored. That they are heard, that they are understood to the best of my ability, and that I get help. I must bring all the pain I find–whether it is missed birthdays, endless amounts of “pokies”, or my own weariness–to the throne of God’s grace. I must let the tears fall, and feel the ache in my chest, and I even have to just have days where the exhaustion of getting up and dressed is just too much.The dictionary defines healing as:
The process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.
So this is my heart’s prayer for our family. That this season would be the season where healing begins. Romans Chapter 8 was so encouraging this morning as we read it as a family:“…letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace…You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you…For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children…For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
The trauma is real. It is painful and difficult. But the healing, when it is complete, will so far outshine the trauma that it will swallow it up by life and peace.
The healing may not be complete until heaven, but as the Spirit gives life within me, I will walk further and further into that healing until it is all I know.
As the kids and I were praying the other day, I saw a picture of myself, standing, watching the waves come straight for me. I felt that feeling: I’m barely keeping my head up right now, I am not going to make it if more waves come. And then I saw myself, stretch out my arms and fall backwards into the water. I heard the verse in my mind:
“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”
I remember when I was first mothering quite a few and they were all little. There would be moments where I would feel overwhelmed by the constant needs, the loud noises, the endless need for correction. I would feel this feeling, like the waves were coming and I wasn’t going to make it.
I remembered that I would always hear a whisper: “Go further in.”
Get down on the floor and play cars. Read a story. Get out and take a walk.
So, when I told the story to Ben about the waves coming, and hearing the verse about all God’s waves having gone over me, he reminded me of something about waves.
When you feel tossed about in every direction, and you feel like you aren’t going to make it…..if you fight the wave, you become more panicked and you lose air more quickly. But if you just let the wave take you wherever it is going, you conserve energy and you are often able to come up for a short breath of air.
And so, while I have felt much like I am being tossed about by a wave, with no clear idea exactly where the wave is headed….
I’m going to stop fighting the wave.
I’m going further in.
And maybe I’ll even find that healing occurs along the way.
Maybe I’ll even learn to swim again.