The cheap, standard clock hung over the drab wallpaper across the room from my bed ticks on.
I hear it.
Day and night.
Though it keeps the same time, no speeding, and no lapsing, the days here feel long and the nights even longer. Especially when sleep is nowhere near, due to treatment side effects.
I found my way into the hospital last Thursday morning with this recent severe flare of illness. I have avoided it like the plague for a couple years now, having many close calls with various chronic issues. My health wasn’t always like this. And I’ve fought it hard. Done most everything within my power and with prayer and wisdom and the help of others. But this time, no matter how much we all did, my body just could’nt keep up.
Surely just a couple of days, Andy and I thought.
Late that first night, my doctor came to explain the IV therapy needed takes an average 3-7 days to reverse the situation, with many folks making the turn around day three. Monday seemed a hopeful day to be discharged.
We didn’t know this process can be quite the up and down, and up again roller coaster. The severe dehydration coupled with very heavy blood loss that had been brewing over time sent my blood pressure to dangerously low levels. With no improvement by Saturday, they warned us an ICU trip would be next if they couldn’t get it up. That was scary to hear! We called on many to pray, and the hospital went to work doing their part.
Two days of hitting it hard finally got me to a consistent, acceptable level today, and kept me out of ICU. But like the steroid treatments that have stolen my sleep, the treatments for the blood pressure set off a whole other issue, severe fluid retention. That created severe chest tightness, pain, and shortness of breath the past couple days. Sending sleep even farther from possibility. Because of the blood pressure issue, they can’t give me anything to reduce the fluid or else I’d fall back to low BP.
Sunday rose with hope.
And little bit of strength as my admitting issue with Ulcerative Colitis was turning a good corner. We still held the possiblity of going home Monday on the brain, too.
When the physician later explained that night I could possibly be here another few days, I cried. Not just any cry though. I cried a whisper of prayer to Jesus to catch my heart. Not the blood-pumping muscle, but the one that holds my core being. The heart that He resides in. The heart that holds within it the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23)
Then night came.
On top of little sleep, pain, and struggling for each breath. Other side effects not necessary to explain created new wars within my body that caused me to feel like I’d been in a fight, on top of little sleep. Resulting in a very, very worn out me. My plans to sit in the chair more today quickly turned to a welcomed long nap instead.
Prior to all this, I had been exercising the past few years to weather the storms better. Now, a walk around this tiny, sterile room is tiring. Sitting up in a chair is wearing.
As of Monday, I was hooked to a heart monitor to figure out why my heart rate keeps dropping too low throughout my stay. More specialists. More tests. A bit of a scare from some of the heart doctor’s words.
We cried again when that doctor left the room. We prayed. We lamented. We did not shove our heart or the blow into a corner as if it didn’t hurt or shock us. The ache deep inside that this is not the way things were meant to be is a reminder of the Kingdom of God. Pain reminds us we were made for more. So we cried for Jesus to catch our hearts once again. We confessed that the Kingdom of God is our life, our hope, our very breath. It is a Kingdom we have been granted the gracious authority to bring wherever we are.
A friend truly does love at all times, and God knows when we need hearts the most – those winks that say I’m here and I love you through the tangible touch of a sister friend.
God also has a sense of humor with his affection. Like when the honeymustard blob on the hospital plate comes out shaped like a heart.
My “themes for the year” are showing up in ways I never would have expected.
The clock ticks on.
The world says run.
It tells us a myriad ways of how. Even the church gets caught in the push. Yes, our journey is likened to a race in Hebrews 12:1. But it never tells us to be the fastest. The only mention of how is with endurance, throwing off every sin that would hinder our steps, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, reminding us how HE did it. The point is not to be first, nor to compare ourselves to another’s race and pace.
Our race includes periods of rest.
Jesus pleads with a deep heart cry for us, “Come to Me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you…” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)
Do you hear the beauty? Can you feel the rhythm? The freedom that will come when Jesus is allowed to set the pace, even if the pace is slow.
I’ve allowed frustration in sometimes during this incredibly full year that has often disrupted my plans and my pace. Frustration gives birth to discouragement. Discouragement to shame. And shame tempts and taunts to quitting. No matter what the clock says, no matter where time finds me, I want most to feel the rhythms of grace as they carry me, telling me Jesus is the keeper of time.
(You can read more about the beauty of these themes here.)
I leave you with this:
The morning I woke, before the doctor told me I had to be admitted, my eyes opened to a notification from Instagram. I try not to go there first any morning, but I trusted the source and opened it.
Before any new hard came to me the day of this writing (Monday), God brought this Insta post first, along with an attached personalized prayer from author Mary DeMuth, reminding me that when I am tired walking through the Valley of Weeping (for a few years, really), have blisters, and can’t always seem to make progress, God will walk with me and empower me to take the next step.
He will be the living water. For me. For you.