3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort….We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us.”
1 Corinthians 1
These words written by Paul are just as true today as they were 2000 years ago, and they have never been more meaningful to me personally as they have been over the past 36 hours.
Five hours before my husband was scheduled to leave the house for his overseas trip to Italy, our daughter became very ill with an illness of the stomach variety. Those who know me and read my blog know that I have a mega phobia of all things related to stomach issues. I actually become anorexic due to anxiety when people around me (family, friends) have a stomach sickness. In a weird, totally illogical way, I choose not to eat so that if I do get sick there won’t be anything in my stomach to come up. Also my anxiety reaches a panic attack pitch that lasts for days as I hover and wait to see if I will get the bug or not. The combination of not eating, drinking, or sleeping makes me almost as sick as the sick person. Not pretty.
My wonderful husband knows this about me. He is usually the one to provide comfort and clean-up when stomach sickness strikes. He’s the rock. I’m the trembling leaf barely hanging from the vine.
So when the sickness hit, he took care of all the clean-up and comfort. He was my hero while I shook uncontrollably in bed, alternately hating myself for my affliction and feeling intense mommy guilt for not being able to provide the comfort myself.
I was angry with God for allowing this to happen. I was angry with myself for planning that stupid vacation anyway and exposing my daughter to whatever it was she picked up from the ocean, the hotel pool, or Schlitterbaun. And my panic reached an unprecedented peak as I realized the whole responsibility of care would shift to my shoulders when my husband left for the airport at 4:45am.
I sent emails to my family asking for prayer. In my wildest nightmares, this scenario ranks up there with the one where the elevator drops out from under me and I fall to my death. Only it was real.
I’d like to say that I opened my Bible to the Psalms, read, and prayed myself to a calm state of mind. But if I told you that it would be a lie. Instead I trembled nonstop, chain-chewed gum like a smoker chains cigarettes, and re-read the adventures of Stephanie Plum, bond enforcer extraordinaire. I put a heating pad on my aching chest. I cried. I got up and stood across the room from my daughter, reassuring her that I was NOT angry with her or disappointed in her in any way and that I loved her, feeling guilty that I didn’t just cross the room, gather her in my mommy arms and offer her my comfort. I blamed myself for planning a vacation that ended in sickness. I vowed to never go on vacation ever again. I resolved to move far away from other humans and hunker down in a cave where we’d have no contact with other humans ever again. Then I took back that resolve because my wonderful sleep number bed would probably not fit in a cave.
These things were running through my head when my husband left. My daughter was sleeping in between bouts of throwing up. She was on the couch. I couldn’t bring myself to be in the room with her, so I went back to my bed and kept reading Stephanie Plum. I’ve read so many Stephanie Plum books that I’ve adopted a Jersey accent in my thoughts on account of the dialogue between Lula and Stephanie. I’d eat a doughnut for comfort like Stephanie except that I fight against anorexia during these episodes. I read Stephanie and then tiptoed to the living room. I heard my daughter get up to throw up again, and I stood way back in the other room, asking her if she needed me.
My daughter is a rock star. She knows how I get. She didn’t need me to help her. I was so proud of the way she was able to get sick and then go back to sleep. It might not seem like an accomplishment to everyone else, but I somehow drew strength from her reaction.
As I washed laundry I kept hearing a song by Casting Crowns called The Power of Christ in Me. Have you ever had song lyrics jump into your brain at precisely the right moment, sometimes even before you knew that you needed the reminder?
If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves
I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong
Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me
A friend called me and told me that she had just been reminded herself that God is not surprised by anything that happens to us. She reminded me that even though things look bad…even though we feel pressed beyond what we can endure, those are the times that we draw near to the Lord. And then she prayed with me, right then on the phone, that the Holy Spirit would flood our hearts and bring us peace.
I’d love to tell you that instantly my shaking went away and I was able to eat a cow, but that would be a lie. The shaking subsided little by little until suddenly I realized — on the way to the doctor’s office — that the only thing shaking was my foot as it pressed the gas pedal. Then as my girl had severe nauseous moments and dry heaves, my shaking came back….and then it went away again…like ocean waves.
Another dear friend called me and gave me much encouragement. She told me about the sermon she heard on Sunday…about how troubles seem to come in waves…and how it is during the bad times that we draw near to the Lord. My brother sent me a text with encouraging verses about God being our Comforter in times of trouble…
I was thinking at that point that I really wished my troubles didn’t have to include my phobia. I could think of lots of bad waves that could hit us that would draw me closer to the Lord without making me have to deal with this panic. Rabid skunks, robbers, broken air conditioners…
Oh wait! The air conditioner DID break. It probably happened the very second my husband’s plane took off for Rome. Every time he travels, something breaks. It’s the story of our lives. Now that I am surgically officially menopausal, I get very toasty at times. Having a broken AC on a humid, 80 degree plus day is not my idea of fun. Maybe I’ll sleep in the freezer tonight.
Just kidding. I think.
What strikes me tonight is that somehow I’ve made it through the past 36 hours despite the intense panic and anorexia. Today I even ate three meals — small meals. I had to force myself through the fear, but I ate. I might regret that if I end up getting the bug, but if I keel over and pass out from dehydration and malnutrition and low blood sugar, who would take care of my girl? Despite my intense panic, I somehow made it to the grocery store three times to get fluids and crackers and whatnot. I made it to the doctor’s office and back home. I am washing the vacation clothes on the SANITARY setting of my washer not once, but twice, per load. I Lysoled everything I could think of that my daughter touched. I brought my girl gatorade, gatorade popsicles, ice chips, cold washcloths, Tylenol, Zofran, crackers, thermometer, etc.
How did I do what I was afraid would be impossible? I had been tempted to beg my husband to forgo his trip to Italy, to bail out on the marathon he’s been training for, all on account of my intense fears and her sickness…but I didn’t ask and didn’t accept when he offered. Because somehow God rescued me despite myself. He rescued me without me even knowing I was being rescued. So even though I read a lot of Stephanie Plum to distract my brain instead of the Psalms, God used my friends and my family to help me. He gave me song lyrics and verses to remind me that HE makes me strong even though I remain weak.
So all glory and praise to God…for making my girl feel better…and for helping me cope. I can’t do this without Him.