After my sisters and I shared this on Facebook a couple days ago we have gotten an overwhelming response of love and support. We are so grateful for people doing what they can, loving my family in tangible ways. Thank you so, so much. Each prayer, each encouraging word, each donation or show of support touches our hearts in a way I can’t quite explain. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I have felt very much at a loss for words the past few days, yet certainly not at a loss for whirling thoughts. Recently a friend used the word “tornado” to describe her thoughts. I think that aptly describes my mind lately. It is very tornado-like. Occasionally a word or two will fall from the twister and land at my feet amid the rubble, but when I pick them up and put them together they make little sense. They are anything but eloquent. I desperately want to be able to put into writing what I think and feel-with regards to my dad’s diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s, with regards to what is going on with our family since then, with regards to what it means for our future, with regards to how I am processing. And I will, but not today. For now, here is something I wrote back on January 21-one week after his formal diagnosis. I hope it shares a piece of where my heart is in all of this.
I never wanted to move to this neighborhood…
Have you ever had the feeling that your whole life was leading up to something specific? As if every thing that went “right” or “wrong” was preparing you for something bigger? Lately I have.
I look at some of the events in my life that have seemed out of my control, that were clearly orchestrated by God and they seem to be making a little more sense now. Some of the events I hated and resented at the time. Some of them I didn’t think much of. Peter and I have said to each other many times how blessed we are to have found each other early in life…like at 14 and 15…and be married by 20 and 21. We know what we have is rare and a beautiful, undeserved gift. I have known for a while what a gift our children have been, but 2 out of 3 of them were “unplanned” pregnancies. The surprise of Hayleigh came just 8 months into our marriage, at a very “inopportune” time. Recently Peter and I have said to each other that we understand in a whole new light just how much God has blessed us and given us the gift of an “accelerated” life. We said it when Peter’s dad was diagnosed a little over a year ago with terminal prostate cancer and we have said it with even more certainty now. God knew what He was doing. He gave us each other and our kids young so they could know their grandpas, and so our dads could know their grandkids and gain from them incredible joy in suffering.
For years I struggled with debilitating Depression. I cried out to God. I wanted to know what the purpose of it all was. I wanted to know what I endured was for a greater good than what it was accomplishing. This was my lack of faith, certainly. I had to come to a place where I accepted what God gave me and didn’t demand anything from him in return-either in the forms of healing or an explanation. We have had difficult family situations which brought us anguish. This past year or two things have seemed to mount up against Peter and me in many ways-his job, our finances, my bad health for months before the gluten allergy diagnosis, mental health issues, things breaking, plans changing etc. etc. I often wondered what on earth God was trying to tell us!
But with some perspective, and with what is going on now, I have had some somber “ah ha” moments. To be honest, I wish I wasn’t able to have those moments. I would much rather live in the dark as to God’s purposes than have His purposes be what it seems they are. I would much rather not know why God ever did ______ than to say a long goodbye to my Dad as he withers from such a ruthless disease. But I am not given that choice. So rather than settle in a place of doubt or resentment (a place I have been before and have no desire to return to), I chose to accept what is-even if I hate it. And I chose to be joyful. I choose joy, not in spite of the circumstances, but because of them. I don’t want to be glib. I don’t want to pretend this doesn’t suck, just really, really suck. It might sound easy for me to say I am choosing joy in the midst of the sorrow. After all it is not me who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Trust me though, it is not easy. And…it is not of me.
I really believe that God has been preparing me for many years of my life, and certainly in the past year or so, for this-this horrible news and the certain struggle that it brings with it. In his infinite wisdom, out of His compassion and love He has given me grace-something I do not deserve, but so desperately need. He has allowed me to struggle. He has groomed me. He has taught me how to have joy in crappy circumstances. He has taught me what really matters. He has taught me to control my anxiety over little things. He has taught me to trust instead of worry. He has taught me to relinquish control. He has taught me what the “peace that transcends understanding guarding my heart and mind in Christ Jesus” really looks and feels like. He has taught me what it means to really rest in His care and to feel His comfort. Really I guess He has taught me faith. I still have so so much to learn, but I am so grateful for the hard fought lessons He has taught me over the years.
If I did not know what struggle and pain, and true, deep sadness felt like before now I would be crumbling. If He had not walked with me through difficult things before this when I could not see the end from the beginning, I would be lost. If He had not allowed me to hurt before and to wrestle with the tough emotions and the tough questions before now, I would be paralyzed. But I know my theory of suffering-not just in my textbook or in my head. I know it with my fingers; they are used to being wrung in anguish. I know it in my eyes; they are used to being clouded by tears and circumstances causing them to not be able to see. I know it in my mouth; it is used to whispering single word prayers in the midst of confusion and despair. I know it in my heart; it has been here before-or at least to a place in this neighborhood. And my heart knows that Jesus is here. He lives in this neighborhood. And He is up to something-something bigger than me, bigger than my pain, bigger than my eyes can see now or may ever see. I know that no matter how hard it hurts,(and it does, and it will), that God is going to bring about my dad’s horrible illness for His glory. There are few things in the coming days and years that I am excited for now, but this is one of them. I have seen firsthand how God brings about his glory in unexpected ways, often in the middle of the most painful, challenging things. I don’t have to just say that with hollow words. I have lived it. I consider that a blessing. It is a comfort to me now. This neighborhood is not entirely unfamiliar. I know God’s glory lives here. If He chooses to use this, even this, for His glory, than I consider myself honored beyond what I am worthy to be a part of it.
Like I said, there are few things I am looking forward to in the future anymore. But one of them is this: I get to see and live and experience God’s glory in the midst of the ugly. I get to watch as God spreads His fame and renown around the earth. I am excited to see how God turns what we see as bad into something undeniably good. I am excited to witness God’s glory here-in this neighborhood, not in spite of the surroundings, but because of them.