As I have taken several doses of caffeinated medication today, in an effort to relieve myself of a stubborn migraine headache, I find myself sleepless. My mind is full of chatter and I fear the only way to give it rest is to alleviate it of its thoughts. I have not published on my blog in almost a year and a half. For no particular reason. Life just took a different path. My heart is heavy with thoughts of those I love in need of prayer for one plight or another. As I go through my mental list of the many loved ones fighting their own battles, my thoughts turned to the 25 years I've been on my own crazy health journey. That's a long time in the valley. Let me back up a bit....
For the past two weeks, Pastor Mike has preached about life in the valley. We've all been there for one reason or another. For me, its been my health. For the first 10 years of my time in the valley, I felt completely alone. I didn't look sick. No one believed that I was. Not even the doctors! All the medical tests came back that I was "normal" so I must have been making it up. I could not tell the doctor exactly where my excruciating pain was coming from, so it must not have been real. I laid awake night after night sobbing in pain and all the doctors could do was assume I needed a psychiatrist. Now, I have a list of diagnosis longer than a page - none with a cure - a long history of symptom management with a future that does not expect to be any different. I still do not look sick, but at least now my doctors believe me.
I am not alone. My children have health issues. My siblings as well. My cousins. My aunts. We are all plagued with a variety of chronic illness, autoimmune diseases, depression, anxiety, cancer, and more. Now I am not alone. This does not make the valley any easier. For me, it makes it worse. Misery does not like company! My heart breaks for my loved ones.
28 years ago I found God. I say it this way because I know God has always been with me - it just took me awhile to figure it out. God puts up with a lot from me. I have cursed Him - even blamed Him for forgetting me. I have felt like my faith must not have been strong enough - when He didn't heal me. I have prayed for a miracle for years, and have seen none. Scratch that last comment. I didn't see the miracle I prayed for, but have seen many miracles over the years. God has always been with me in the valley. He has carried me when I didn't have the strength to walk myself.
Brad and I were just talking the other day. I have had a couple of weeks where I am reminded that I am sick. I have enjoyed a respite from my symptoms for some time now. A remission, if you will. I really try to remember when, at 35 years old, I was walking with a cane and unable to stand on my feet long enough to do anything around my own home. I couldn't go out of the house. I could barely get out of bed. I'm reminded of a time about 10 years ago, when it took me an hour to get our of bed in the morning. That is IF I could get out of bed. When I was at the doctor several times a week and taking 20 pills a day. I'm reminded of a time 5 years ago, when I couldn't get out of bed at all. When my doctor was putting me through tests I can't even fathom at this moment and I was taking over 30 pills a day. When I was 3000 miles away from my support system and prayed for death every day. I'm reminded of a time 2 years ago, when I spent about 3 - 4 hours every single day for a year, hooked up to an IV while I poisoned my body with extremely high doses of antibiotics, in an effort to put Lyme disease into remission. This is was my valley.
I look back on this journey and realize how very blessed I am. I have a husband who stands by me and lifts me up no matter what it takes. I have children who have stepped up and cared for me - prayed for me - and cried for me. I have a strong family, whom I've grown to depend on for strength. Most importantly, I have God. Through it all - illness, loss of business, bankruptcy and financial woes, and I know without a shadow of a doubt how we got through it all. We were never alone. We always had a roof over our head. We always had food in our bellies. The bills somehow got paid. We made it over every hurdle.
We sang a song last Sunday called God on the Mountain. The lyrics remind me that the same God who rejoices with us on the mountain, is with us in the valley. Last Sunday was hard for me. I was in pain. I was dealing with vertigo. My hands were cold and stiff. I was accompanying my dear friend on the piano, when I missed an entire page of music. I was mortified and felt horrible for her as she kept singing like the beautiful song bird that she is (without me). Today as I reflected on that I was reminded that for over 6 years I couldn't even play the piano. My hands wouldn't work! Now I play every day. Sometimes, the stiffness causes an blooper, but I keep playing on. I play for God and He only hears perfection.
God is constantly pulling me out of my valley. The past 25 years have not been ALL bad. Not by a long shot! We raised a beautiful family. Our marriage is incredibly strong. My faith is never ending. I've learned to focus on the good days and let the bad ones go. I believe very strongly in the power of prayer and the strength of a positive mind. I work very hard to focus on the ups, and let the downs go. I have more good days than bad. I still take about 12 pills a day, but less than half are medication. The rest are good supplements. I only use my cane when I'll be on my feet all day. I play the piano every day. I chase my grandkids around. I am back at church and playing in the worship team. My times in the valley are now measured in hours or days instead of months and years. I feel better at 50 than I did at 40 and that's saying something! I have a beautiful new career. My young parent's-to-be think I am helping them through a trying time in their life, but they have no idea about how they all have fed life to me! Witnessing the miracle of birth, breaths new life into me every single time I see it. I am so grateful and thankful to my daughter for introducing it to me, and to God for directing the path of my life through this magical door. Who would have thought that I could stand on my feet for a 48 hour birth? This is a crazy thought to me now - even as I write it!
God in the valley. Without Him there, I surely would have perished years ago..... I am forever grateful!