Well hello there, it’s been more than a while since I’ve been here. How are you? I hope you’re doing well. To tell you the truth, I have no intention of blogging regularly again in anywhere like the near future, life is altogether so many shades of busy (in a good way). But last night I shared a story in church about the altogether-so-many shades of busy from last year, which was very much not in a good way. Many of you will know this story, if you’re friends with me on Facebook, although I haven’t told it like this, from my perspective, until now. And there are a few of you who used to have this blog turn up in your inbox regularly, who may occasionally wonder what ever happened to me.
I’d thought from time to time about writing out this story, but it was so long, so big, so…much…that I’d not had the inclination to until now.
It was a tough year, last year, but the thing about tough years is that often you learn a lot. This was definitely the case. Would I want to go through it again? NO. Am I grateful for the lessons it taught me? Yes.
Note: I wrote this for church. It’s pretty God-dy. But I’m sure you can deal with that 🙂
When I was young I was taught that it wasn’t “all about me”. Other people have lives too, and things going on. Get on with it. Do it yourself. Don’t expect other people to solve you problems for you, do it yourself.
Hands up who knows this is true?
And hands up who knows that the lessons we learned as a kid aren’t always exactly the way our parents intended them, and as adults sometimes we need to get bigger, Godly perspectives?
This story starts in June last year, when my workaholic husband was running late for an appointment one morning, parked his car, tripped over a curb in a hurry, and broke his foot. I’ve never dealt with a broken foot before, praise God, all bones in tact still here, and it was a big adjustment to our family to learn how to slow down and deal with a husband and father who’s unable to do the stuff he used to be able to do. Basic things like making a cup of coffee and taking it to table to drink were incredibly difficult, and I had to learn to slow down more and look out for him, and remember what those difficult things were, like showers, coffees, getting a book from the bedroom. We were all pleased when he was able to hobble around without crutches, and looked forward to things being back to normal.
Looking after someone who’s in pain isn’t an easy thing. We’re not at our best when we’re in pain. It’s just the way things go. And we don’t necessarily get taught how to deal with people in pain, either. We just pray, and hope, and wait for things to get normal again.
Things didn’t get “normal” again though. He got sick. It was July, everybody had the flu, and one day, after a few strange nights of sweating and being really tired, Tony couldn’t get off the couch. He didn’t want to see the doctor, and we tiptoed around and brought him drinks when he was up to it, and ice packs when he was hot, and blankets when he was cold, and looked forward to things being back to normal again.
Who likes “back to normal”, hey?
AND THEN…(who likes “and then”?) his leg started to cramp. And I mean REALLY cramp. He couldn’t walk from the couch to the toilet. He couldn’t stand. He couldn’t sit up without intense pain. The doctors didn’t think it was a blood clot, and, after a day waiting in the emergency room, sent him home.
Who knows what it’s like when your little trials escalate into big trials? When you’re thinking that “just around this next corner things will look up” becomes “just around this next corner is a whole new mess of stuff to deal with”.
You can’t help but waiting, still, for to things getting back to normal.
We were doing okay. I had two part-time jobs, and changed my hours so Tony wouldn’t have to do too much. I became the sole parent, and the care-giver to him as he needed it.
I’d not been a care-giver in that capacity before, not unless you count having babies and toddlers. It’s a strange, new place, having to take care of all your husband’s needs like that, as well as everything else, especially because he was in so much pain, and so tired all the time. I made him countless cups of coffee, washed his sweaty pyjamas, did all I could.
I felt so torn between needing to be a caregiver to my husband and love him as best I could and the need to take care of myself as well.
I remember going to bed one night very early, pulling the doona over my head and crying from sheer exhaustion. I felt like I’d let Tony down so badly, but I simply couldn’t give any more.
God spoke to me then, and said “even nurses only work 8 hour shifts”. I knew then that if I didn’t look after myself I’d be no good to Tony. What kept me going was the thought that in a few weeks I was going to Melbourne for a writer’s retreat, and by then, surely, everything would be all right.
Then it was August, and Tony’s birthday, and I bought him new pyjamas because he was still sweating through his old ones every night, and then, a week or so after his birthday, I packed the fridge with food for the week, wrote out the kids’ schedule, booked Tony an appointment with the doctor to get some antibiotics or something to knock these night sweats on the head, and I hopped on a plane to Melbourne.
I went on the Wednesday, the same day he went to the doctors, who sent him for blood tests. He got the test results back on the Friday. The doctor called him at home and said “I want you to get to hospital first thing Monday morning.” The doctor then called back, and said “actually, I want you to get to hospital NOW.”
I was in Melbourne. The people who’d normally take care of our kids were all away. I sent out an emergency text to some close friends, “please pray”, and “can anyone look after our kids?” I spent an hour on the phone, trying to get back to Hobart as soon as I could.
I can only tell you a little of the fear I felt that night. I was already exhausted, depleted, laid low by six weeks of caregiving and waiting for my husband to be well again, and now he was hospitalized, and not one of the doctors knew what was wrong with him.
All I knew then, was that God knew. All I had was to hold onto the fact that God was there, that He cared, that He knew what was going on.
I also had to accept the truth that if God wanted to take Tony to Himself, that that would have to be okay as well. You just never know what life’s going to do.
I got home the next day. I was exhausted. My prayer life was reduced to “Hello God, please help.” I wrote out a scripture on a post-it note and stuck it to my kitchen cupboard, and that became my bible reading. It was from First Peter, and said, “By His wounds you have been healed”.
I couldn’t do anything more. I didn’t have the strength. I’d been caring for a sick husband for three months already, and things were just about to get worse. Yet this is where the strength of God took over.
The Bible says that when we are weak, He is strong. I learned a whole new lesson last year about what it meant to rely on the strength of God, what it means to be supported by Christ.
I’d been taught as a very young Christian that God was all I needed, that I shouldn’t look to people for help, but to look to God. This fit in nicely with my own beliefs, that if something needed doing then I needed to do it myself.
Only half of that is true. The people who’d taught me that I’d needed to rely on God and not people, back twenty years ago when I first became a Christian, didn’t know the situation I was in. They didn’t know the depression I was suffering. They didn’t know how much I needed help when they said “God is your help”. And I was just a young Christian, and didn’t know enough to question it.
But last year, these weeks when Tony was in hospital, Christ indeed became everything I needed.
The Body of Christ knocked on my front door and handed me an icecream bucket of soup.
The Body of Christ nourished me with bags of groceries, frozen pizzas, Woollies chooks, casseroles, cupcakes, loaves of bread.
The Body of Christ brought round coco pops and Milo cereal and muesli bars for my kids, and muffins for their lunch boxes.
The Body of Christ took care of my kids, and took them out on play-dates and bought them ice creams.
The Body of Christ arranged for my house to be cleaned.
The Body of Christ took my dirty laundry and brought it back washed and ironed.
The Body of Christ sent me cheques in the mail, and dropped grocery vouchers off in my letterbox.
The Body of Christ visited Tony in hospital, week in and week out, and the Body of Christ interceded and prayed on my behalf, when I no longer had the strength.
You might be saying to yourself now, “what do you mean, the body of Christ did all those things for you?”
And I would say to you, 1 Corinthians 12:27
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
I’m incredibly pleased to say that, after a massive surgery, removal of a large tumour, two drains to remove the pus from his body, and a whole lot of doctors help, Tony is now fit and well. Sometimes its easy to look back at last year and think “Oh boy, I’m glad that’s over!” but other times I tend to ask why? Why did this happen? Why was Tony sick for five months, God? What was all that about?
And just as quickly as I asked it, God showed me the answer.
Suddenly, I saw those five months from God’s perspective. God did many things in both Tony and I in those months, but one of the most powerful things that happened was we learned what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt. When one part of the body rejoices, we all rejoice.
I really want to encourage you tonight: whatever you’re going through, God WILL use for His glory, and to teach you a deeper, a more beautiful, aspect of Himself.
The book of James says “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds”, and that’s a tough thing, but it’s true. God loves you so much, and He will always use whatever life throws to make that love real to you.
(The picture below is a sight I got very, VERY used to. I’d like to finish this post with a single post script: Thank you, so very, incredibly much, to the doctors, nurses, cleaners, people who deliver newspapers and food trolleys, and everyone who calls these corridors “work”. You were all amazing. You all worked so hard to ensure Tony was well looked after, as comfortable as he could be. I had only the smallest glimpse of how hard you all work, and, day after day, I was so grateful to you. You rock. Thank you!!)