As the various seasons have come and gone, Ryan has experienced continual changes from surgeries and hospitalizations to new hardware and tubes. And for the past couple of years, his health has stabilized. Do not get me wrong, it has not improved, in fact, he continues to decline. But it is an expected loss of muscle tone and strength. It is a familiar decline in balance and verbalizations. It is a known change we have acclimated to. He is still experiencing negative changes to his health, but Travis and I have learned to accept them more easily. This weakening is a known road of experienced and expected turns.
Just the other day Travis and I sat on the couch discussing the past few years. I recently found a couple old journals and sat next to my love reading about past difficulties and stress as we navigated the unknown road of disability. Raising a child with continual medical problems is exhausting, lonely and emotionally draining. I remember years of withdrawal from friends as I sunk into a life of feeling unworthy and unequal. I remember years of financial struggles that I felt separated me from those around us as I allowed myself to fall into the trap of believing I could not measure up and provide for my kids like their friends’ parents could do. I remember years of comparison as I placed people quite unfairly into boxes in my mind – these friends were well off; these friends took vacations we could not afford; these friends had it so easy because they could go to movies and eat out at a moment’s notice – things we could not do with Ryan; these friends had bigger houses or newer cars than me. I was so unhappy and discontent in my circumstances and the path I was walking that all I could do was convince myself why everyone around me had it so much better than my family and me. I was so focused on all the things that truly do not matter – the material, temporary pleasures in life that do not satisfy the soul. And in my emptiness and state of constant assessment of others, what I missed what the blessing of provision. In the midst of surgeries and sorrow, struggling finances and wavering faith, I continually looked at the glass as half empty. I could not grasp the viewpoint that says if your glass is half empty, get a smaller glass. Perspective is everything. So as Travis and I sat together and reminisced over years of hard, we took the time to talk over God’s continued provision and grace. And there have been many of those moments.
We remembered August 22, 2010, when I journaled the following: There is no money. We can’t pay bills without dipping into credit and there is no credit reserve to use anymore. We have no savings except for $10. Ryan is heading to the hospital in the next two months or so for two brain surgeries and 10-14 days in the ICU. There will be no income at all during that time. We already have approximately $4,000 in medical bills we can’t pay. The deck is falling apart and we just found termites in it. We have bathrooms we can’t fix and other stuff around the house that is falling apart. I’m trying so hard to have the faith of a mustard seed. I don’t need a lot of faith to move a mountain. God is able to do far more than we can hope or imagine. Not my will but my Heavenly Father’s be done. My reserve is gone. I have nothing but to trust God to meet my every need. We continue to give God our first fruits in tithe even though we can’t pay our bills. Lord, use this situation in our lives for your glory. I pray you will deliver us from this oppression and bring glory to your name.
And provide He most certainly did! He did not take away the difficulties, but he provided. Though the highs and lows came like the ocean’s tide, His provision never faltered.
June 10, 2009: Today our mortgage payment is due, about $544. I looked at the account online this morning knowing yesterday we only had $401 in the account and that I needed to somehow get a deposit in early today to cover the mortgage. Well, this morning I discovered a $45 balance and the mortgage payment had come out yesterday. Absolutely impossible, but possible with God. He provided even though I cannot wrap my human brain around it. The math does not add up. Praise God for His provision. I am so unworthy but He is good! Thank you God that your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness to me!
Sometime long ago, I do not remember which year, we had a pastor show up at our door unexpectedly with an envelope in his hand. He said the pastors at the church we were attending knew we had been going through a difficult time with Ryan, and they wanted to do something to bless us. In the envelope were two tickets to the Family Life Marriage Conference in Omaha along with two nights at a local hotel plus extra cash to pay for food.
Another time a friend stopped by to give me a book she thought I should read and bought for me. After she left I flipped through the book and found a check for $500 in it. We also had other moments when anonymous checks showed up in the mail or friends would show up at the door with food, flowers and gifts for the older kids. Pastors have stopped over to pray for our family before surgeries, and acquaintances have sent encouraging notes in the mail.
Years ago, Travis was an elder at the church we were attending, and we went over to someone’s house on a Sunday evening for a meet and greet dinner with a pastoral candidate, his wife and a number of other leaders from the church. The wife of the candidate told me as she and her husband were flying to Nebraska just two days earlier, she was praying about the visit and said God gave her a message which she wrote down. He said, “while you are there, look for Kim. Embrace her tightly. Encourage her with my love. Let her know that I see her, her longings, her disappointments, her hurts, her struggles. I will lift her up. I will lift her up.” She sat there at the table next to me with tears in her eyes and said all weekend she was waiting to find Kim. And that night, on her last night in town, she finally found me. I sat there staring at her in complete awe, stunned with the raw emotion of complete shock that God would use a stranger to send me a message of hope. Even now, all these years later, I can still barely grasp the creative ways God chooses to speak.
There is a book called Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God (Sheila Walsh) and in it she says to learn the art of “rehearsing your victories”. I love that statement because it is a beautiful picture of exactly how each of us should live every single day. Instead of focusing on all the things we do not have, instead of comparisons and judgement, instead of seeing the glass as half empty, we should all live each day keeping track of the victories we have experienced and logging the experiences of God’s faithfulness in our lives.
Sheila also says this in her book: For as long as I can remember I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Perhaps you know that feeling. It’s an insidious intruder that whispers to us whenever we begin to feel hope again. For me, I was afraid to be happy because I assumed at that very moment I finally found happiness, there would be a thud.
For years I lived a life exactly as she described – waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the next bad thing. Sitting in expectation of the next loss, the next hard, the next financial blow, the next health crisis. And what I found, what I have had the joy of experiencing at every bend in the road on this journey, is that no matter what my day looks like, no matter how much stress presses in on me, no matter how many times God blesses us unexpectedly, He is as present in the storm as He is in the beauty. He is as faithful in the low time as He is in the victory. He is as near in the uncertainty as He is in the blessing.
Years ago when we were first married, my older sister, her husband and I were sitting in their family room chatting about our futures. Carrie and I got married just nine weeks apart so we were in the same season of life – newly married, dreaming of our futures with children, exciting careers and all the changes life brings. We were excited and spoke of our hopes for our days ahead. And in those moments of planning and daydreaming, I told my sister and her husband that I had the strange feeling one of us three sisters was going to have a disabled child. We all kind of laughed and thought is was a weird premonition. But years later, after five children between us, God gave Travis and me our sweet Ryan. And then came his broken body and years of ups and downs. I forgot about that moment way back in 1994 or 1995 when I had the peculiar thought about having a disabled child, then one day the memory came to me. And that moment of awe brought the realization that all those years ago, God was preparing my heart for Ryan. He was working in me for the ups and downs to come. He was giving me a little piece of what my future would hold even when I did not realize it at the time.
Now all these years later, Travis and I revel in the blessing of provision. We have come such a long way. God has blessed us with stability in our jobs. He has provided financially and allowed us to have a season of comfort where we get to be on the giving side of things and bless others. He has handed us peace when difficult moments come. He has given renewed hope for the future. He has created dreams of caring for disabled adults in the years to come.
Through the tears and sorrow of days past, I cannot discount the many blessings and lessons learned from a loving Father who has met us at every turn, who has carried us when the load was too heavy to carry, who has gifted us with family and friends to join us along our journey. We have experienced many highs and lows, and I can honestly say I would not change a thing because I have fully experienced a loving Father who most certainly has my back and has faithfully provided for our every need.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 ~ 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. I will be found by you declares the Lord, and I will bring you back from captivity.