I look at my watch. Again. Five minutes. I only have five more minutes until he has to leave. Again…
This happens every single time. He comes to visit for a weekend and it’s absolutely wonderful. But at some point the weekend ends. At some point our time runs out. At some point he has to leave. Again…
I wrap my arms around his waist and lean close into his chest. I’ve learned that if I grit my teeth and look away, I’m less likely to cry… He wraps his arms around my back and leans his cheek against the top of my head. I grit my teeth harder and will the tears farther back.
This is how it always ends.
This is how every goodbye begins.
Standing beside his car, still trying not to cry, I decide that talking might help me change my pattern of thinking. If I can get my mind off of the inevitable goodbye, off of the negative time between, and onto the next visit, the next time I’ll see him, maybe I can get through this with a little more grace than I typically do.
“It’s only three weeks this time until I get to see you again!” I say in what I hope is a light, happy tone. Of course, in my head I’m thinking, Three weeks. Three weeks of long distance. Three weeks of feeling like half of me is missing. Three weeks… “That’s only 21 days and that’s shorter than our normal four weeks apart.” Sigh. 21 days is so short until it’s the 21 days he’s not here…
“I know,” he responds as he hugs me tighter.
He’s always so much more positive than I am. It’s like I have this root of negativity in my mind that pops up whenever it pleases, which is often. I’ve been praying about it…
“I’m gonna miss you, Brandon. A whole heck of a lot.” There they are. I feel the tears stinging the backs of my eyes, begging to be loosed. Deep breath.
“I’m gonna miss you too. A whole, whole heck of a lot.” He pulls away and looks at me. He’s so serious, but a smile is playing at the corners of his mouth.
I smile up at him as a tear finally falls down my cheek. How swiftly he wipes it away and another follows. Dang it. I was going to be good this time. I wasn’t going to cry! I think to myself. Granted, I think those things to myself every time. It only rarely works.
“I love you,” I say, trying to smile and keep the wobble out of my voice.
The answering gleam in his eyes is enough to pull me over the edge. I tuck my head back into his shoulder and squeeze tight. “I’ll see you in three weeks. Not long at all. You’ll be back before we know it.” Even I’m not convinced… The wobble in my voice gives me away even when my face is hidden.
I look at my watch. Again. Two minutes…
“You need to go,” I say against his chest.
“I don’t want to leave.” He squeezes tighter again.
“I know. I don’t want you to leave either but we’ll be together again soon. And one day I’m not gonna have to miss you so much. One day you won’t have to leave me and I won’t have to leave you.” Please let that day come soon, I silently pray.
He pulls my chin up and forces me to look at him as he says, “236 days.”
“236 days,” I echo. “Then I’ll be your wife. Then I’ll be able to see you everyday. Then when we say ‘goodbye’ it’ll just mean that I’ll see you later that day. I can’t wait to marry you. 236 days.” So. Far. Away…
“I can’t wait to marry you either,” he says as he puts a hand on my cheek and wipes away the tears that are quickly replaced by new ones. “I have to go.” His words are so at odds with what I can see so plainly in his eyes: I want to stay. He kisses me one last time and pulls away. “I love you.”
It’s strange. The moment he pulls away it truly feels as if a piece of me is left there, with him. “I love you too,” I whisper as he turns away for the millionth time to get into his car to drive away for the millionth time. I wipe at my tears.
I’ve endured five years of this. Five years of waiting a month to see him for a weekend. Five years of making the most of the time we have together and trying not to fall to pieces when we’re apart. Five years filled with so many goodbyes…
I hate goodbyes. Hate them. Especially when they happen so often. Especially when they are filled with so much emotion that you can’t even think straight. Especially when they mean so much.
He turns his car on, rolls his window down, and tells me again that he loves me and will see me soon. I return the sentiment and give him one last kiss before he pulls out of the driveway.
I stand on the porch, tears streaming down my face, as I watch him back away. Just before he leaves, he holds up the “I love you” sign and smiles through his window. I sign and smile back through my tears as he drives forward… Away from me… Again…
Every single time he leaves, I watch until I can’t see him anymore. Until he rounds a corner or gets too far for me to see. Sometimes I wait there for a while. Sometimes minutes, sometimes longer. Most times there are tears. Most times the tears come more quickly and forcefully after he is out of sight… But there’s something about watching him leave me. Again. And again. And again…
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, This isn’t fair! What did I do wrong? Why does everyone around me get to enjoy their relationship all the time and I only get monthly visits? Why do we have to suffer this over and over again? For years! Why didn’t my friends have to wait this long? Why do they get to love each other so easily while we suffer again and again?
No! I would NEVER wish this on anyone. It sucks. A lot. Knowing that someone is your husband and knowing that you have to keep waiting and keep being apart is awful. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through this. I’m thrilled my friends didn’t have to wait 6 years like I will. I’m so happy that they are able to love their people as often as they can. And I know that I also have friends who haven’t yet found their person and I know that is extremely difficult: to watch everyone else experience what you are dreaming or praying or hoping for while you still can’t or aren’t. And I know that there are so many other people out there waiting longer and traveling farther. No, it isn’t fair, but as a wise woman once told me, “Life isn’t fair. Fair only comes once a year.”
No one’s life is easy. No one’s life is perfect. If you think that it is, you’re either wrong or blind to the imperfections in your own life. Sometimes it’s just harder than others…
I have to remind myself each time Brandon leaves that God has a plan for us. And not only does God have a plan for us, but that this is His plan for US, not other people. That God wants us to be in this exact situation at this exact moment for this exact amount of time. I have to remind myself that the Lord is the only one who can help me get through the negativity, and the depression that comes with it if I don’t surrender my negativity to the Lord, when we are apart. That may sound dramatic, but it’s the honest truth. When we are apart, Satan uses any bit of negativity and turns it into something I fixate on if I am not careful to keep my eyes on God. It is in those moments that I have to remember that regardless of what I want or think I need, God knows best and He has it all under control.
So, here’s to 230 days until our monthly goodbyes become a thing of the past and something we thank the Lord for teaching and guiding us through. Here’s to 230 more days of learning through the distance and loving across the miles.
Remember that post I just did on surrender? If you don’t, you can read it here. Basically, it was about me struggle bussing to surrender my plans and desires and life to the Lord even though I know that He is definitely the one who should be directing my life. Not me.
Well, yesterday the Lord blew me away.
Not only did He heal my shoulder miraculously, he also provided something I have been praying a very long time for.
Let’s start with the shoulder.
I have had pain in my right arm/shoulder for eleven weeks now. Yes. Eleven. That’s almost three months. I can’t tell you what in the world happened to injure it, especially to injure it for a full eleven weeks and counting; I just woke up one morning with sharp pain in my neck (which is nothing new to me considering that neck pain is a chronic, daily reminder of my life with VEDS) as well as my shoulder, which was very new. The strangest part was the decreased range of motion in my right arm/shoulder. I couldn’t lift my arm to the side past a 45 degree angle and I really couldn’t shrug my right shoulder either.
This pain and reduced range of motion, as well as some surging/traveling pain down the entirety of my right arm, have been consistent for eleven weeks now. The surging comes and goes, but the limitation of movement and pain has been a consistent companion. Many people had mentioned that it sounded like a rotator cuff injury, so after putting it off for so long, I made an appointment with my doctor. He did some x-rays and decided that he thinks it is a problem with the vertebrae in my neck, not my shoulder. So, an MRI of my neck was ordered and I am still waiting for them to contact me to schedule it.
That night, I went to the Monday night prayer meeting at my church, like I always do. I told the ladies about the persistent pain and what the doctor had said. This isn’t the first time that I’ve brought physical pain to prayer. In fact, I bring that with me almost every week. Those ladies are always faithful to pray for whatever new pain exists or the lingering pains that cling to my muscles or joints and refuse to be released. They prayed for me, as they had done many times before, and we all went home.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My whole body ached all night and when I woke up yesterday morning, my neck was so tight that my right shoulder was one to two inches higher than my left shoulder at rest.
I tested out my arm to see how badly the neck pain and tension was affecting it.
It went passed the 45 degree mark all the way above my head. I tried it again. And again. I just did it again now. It still pops and my neck hurts some, but my range of motion is back!
I shrugged my shoulders to test the movement there. It went passed the typical stopping point. Although my neck still hurts and I don’t have full range of motion back, it is definitely a God thing!
You can’t look me in the face and tell me that going to the doctor and getting proof of an injury and then waking up the next day with the evidence almost completely gone is just a coincidence. That, my friends, is some divine healing! A touch from the Lord’s hand! Can I get a hallelujah!?
So, needless to say, yesterday was already shaping up to be a phenomenal day. However, that was just the beginning.
Yesterday I also received a letter containing a check that pretty much covers the rest of my graduate school tuition. Read that again. And again. Now, that may not be impressive to some people, but that is a direct answer to my prayers followed by an overflow of blessing on top.
I have been praying fiercely that the Lord would provide the money that I need for my tuition each semester, which is no small sum. I asked Him to surprise me and I have have no doubt in my mind that He would provide in one way or another. The past three semesters, God has provided my tuition in a myriad of ways and on a timeline that I could never understand, but He has never delayed and He has never let me down. He has been more than just faithful. He has been… Wow. There aren’t words. There is no way that I could contain how good and perfect and absolutely, miraculously, indescribably incredible the Lord has been to me. There just aren’t words. He cannot be contained in a paragraph or a phrase. He cannot be described with the meager words of my unremarkable language. He has certainly surprised me more than once just in how He has provided for this one particular area of need and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will continue to surprise me and He will continue to be the Almighty, Sovereign God that I know Him to be. I know that He will continue to defy the odds and do the impossible. He is good. All the time. And all the time. God IS good.
So. Yesterday was an absolutely phenomenal day. I saw the Lord answer not one, but two major prayers in my life right now. I had been praying for another $4,000 just to get through the coming Fall semester. The Lord did one better and provided enough for this semester and the next! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord!
And thank YOU! Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me and with me. Thank you for believing and trusting that the Lord would answer. Thank you for encouraging me in prayer and in person. Y’all are awesome and I pray the Lord blesses your socks off and reveals Himself to you in new and awe-inspiring ways.
God is good! Can I get an Amen!?
Surrender: (sur·ren·der / səˈrendər). verb. 1) Cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority. 2) Give up or hand over (a person, right, or possession), typically on compulsion or demand. 3) Abandon oneself entirely to (a powerful emotion or influence); give in to.
Definition credit: Google search engine.
If you ask 20 different people what surrender means to them specifically, you will probably get 20 different answers. For instance, if I were to ask you to define a moment in your life in which you felt as though you had surrendered or were surrendering something or someone, your answer would differ from mine.
That, my friends, is called perspective.
I have a totally different perspective on the verb “surrender” than you probably do. And in all honesty, I’m sure that my viewpoint on that ever so complex word will likely change within the next year. Why? Because I am going to face a magnificent moment of surrender sooner rather than later.
Allow me to explain.
This word, surrender, has been coming up frequently in my life. It was the topic of a weekend camp that I attended and since then it has refused to leave. In fact, it has decided to swirl amongst the inner workings of my mind and drive me mad. Or, more likely, the madness I am currently experiencing secondary to the swirling surrender will draw me out of the bondage within me that holds me prisoner and will free me to be a much better me. I’m hoping for the latter of the two.
You see, the word “surrender” isn’t really a pleasant one. It entails leaving something behind or giving something up, usually for good. As in, when you surrender it, you don’t get it back. Ever.
Well, sometimes we do get surrendered things back. And sometimes when we get them back, they are better than before; or maybe we are just better than before. Maybe we had to go through the time of surrender to better understand what we had so that we could appreciate it all the more once it was given back to us again. Or maybe, just maybe, we have to surrender something that we perceive as being the best for us so that we have open hands to receive what truly is the best for us.
The problem is: when you surrender something, you can’t just expect to get it back. That’s not the point. The point of surrendering something, especially when you are surrendering something to the Lord, is to humble yourself enough to say, “I don’t have control over this anymore; it’s all Yours.”
Easier said than done, right?
My Sunday school teacher has a lovely saying: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.”
Can I get an Amen??
I mean, seriously. We sit there and say, “Oh, Lord, You are so good! You created all things and You know all things. You are working everything out for good and I know that You are sovereign and You are in control. I am relinquishing control of (*insert whatever you are surrendering here*) to You. Thank You for taking my burdens and giving me Your peace that surpasses all understanding.” Then what do we do? We pick up the thing we just laid down in surrender and we walk away carrying it as if we know better than God! I know I do it. I lay down my worries and anxieties and then I come back later that day and pick them up again! It’s a never ending cycle. I’m just thankful that the Lord puts up with me and loves me and gives me more grace than I could ever deserve!
How do I surrender? How do I take my life and every single thing in it and give it up? How do I take my worries about the future and lay them on the altar of sacrifice? How do I take my plans and desires and relinquish control of them? How do I surrender all that I am and all that I have?
It should be easy, right? My mind should be able to grasp the concept that God is more than able to handle my life and all of its relatively minuscule facets. I should be able to accept the fact (not theory or assumption, but fact) that God is far more qualified to run my life than I am.
Let me try to use an example: Me trying to control my own life and refusing to surrender it is like me trying to fly an airplane or spaceship with no prior knowledge on the subject. I look at the innumerable controls that I know nothing about and think that I’m qualified to not only operate but control it all. In the meantime, I am refusing the help of the wise and knowing pilot who is sitting back, just waiting for me to ask him for help (the Lord is our pilot, He is the one who directs our paths and teaches us where to go). I am also refusing to even attempt to read the manual that tells me how to fly the aircraft (the Bible, which is like our manual for life) because I can totally do it on my own. Oh yeah, and I have no clue where in the world I am supposed to be flying the plane or spaceship, so I’m basically just wandering around and acting like I have it all under control and I know what’s best for me… All the while, I am gracelessly flying myself into oblivion; ignoring every warning sign that passes me by; ignoring every flashing light warning me of my imminent demise… And the worst part is, I think I’m better off like that. I think I’m better off with me in control, rather than removing myself from the driver’s seat and surrendering control to the pilot, who knows where we are going and knows the best route to get us there with the least amount of turbulence…
One day I hope I learn how to keep myself on that altar. I pray that the Lord helps me to be a living sacrifice, completely surrender. I pray that I obediently go where He leads me and surrender the things that I need to relinquish control of. I pray that God teaches me how to walk away from the altar without picking everything back up. I pray that I humble myself enough to walk in obedience and servitude all the days of my life.
He’s getting me there. One day at a time. Very slowly, but surely, He is getting me there.
So here’s to tomorrow: a fresh start and a new day. A new opportunity to surrender what needs to be released and leave it there. I’m willing to try. Are you?
It is a beautiful spring evening. The sun is slowly setting along the horizon, located on your right. A small river runs soundlessly on your left, hidden by some trees with faces carved in them. The sky is still a brilliant blue and the clouds are starting to shift from white and gray to warmer shades of pink and orange with the coming sunset. There is the sound of children’s laughter from the nearby playground. A very slight breeze sets the leaves of the surrounding trees into just enough motion to draw your eye.
You are sitting on a playground swing. The black stretch of seating beneath you feels smaller than you remember, but it still holds your weight. The chains in your hands are dark and weathered and in your mind you hear your mother’s voice saying, “be careful not to pinch your fingers in the chains!” You take a deep breath of evening air and push off, setting yourself into motion. The air whisks past you as you begin to pump your legs. The wind in your face is familiar and a smile begins to form as you slowly push yourself higher and higher.
Your hair shrouds your face and then is driven back as you swing back and forth. Joy bubbles up within you and you realize that your smile has broken into laughter, music to your ears. You remember a time when you never thought you could reach this height and relish the rush of wind in your ears. Your legs ache from the too small seat beneath you being pulled tighter in by the chains at your sides, but it is not enough to drown out the feeling of absolute exhilaration.
You cease striving to swing higher, and instead rest in the movement until it becomes a gentle sway to and fro. The pounding of your heart and rapid breathing slow as the swing does, until everything is once more at peace.
This is where my joy is found.
This is where I find Jesus. This is where I talk to the Lord and praise Him through my laughter. This is where I listen to His voice in the rushing wind and the peace that follows. This is where the chaos of the world around me turns into the rushing of the wind in my hair. This is where the anxieties and stresses of my life are released and I find peace in the movement and in the stillness. This is where I am free and the only chains that hold me are the ones I cling to, keeping me in my seat.
This is where my joy is found.
Where is yours?
At the beginning of my time as a graduate student, one of my professors had us write a letter to ourselves and seal it in an envelope. This was done so that we could read our letters one day. When things were tough and we couldn’t remember the joy we had at the beginning of it all. When the insanity that surrounded us never ceased and rest was no where to be found.
Today was that day.
Life is tough as is. Throw in graduate level classes, clinic schedules, enough homework to drown the most studious of individuals, financial struggles, and work responsibilities… Well, you get the picture. Basically life is crazy and we’re swamped. I mean, I’m sure there are some phenomenal women in my cohort who are thriving and pushing through this insanity with grace and ease. Sadly, I am not one of them. Not even close.
Today my professor brought our letters into class and I opened mine.
I pulled out the envelope to see that I had written quotes on the outside of my letter:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged for the Lord Your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
“Who by worrying can add a single day to his life” -Matthew 6:27
“Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7
“________ is a big problem, BUT GOD IS BIGGER!”
The one that caught my eye was the last one. It is something I came up with for a lesson on David and Goliath and one day I want a plaque with those words to hang in my home at the height of Goliath. I made each child a laminated bookmark so they could write and rewrite their problems on the line and then realize that although it was a big problem, our God is bigger. God is even bigger than the insanity of the Speech Pathology graduate school program!
Once I opened the first part of the letter, I realized I had written even more things on the next flap of paper before I was able to read my letter. These grabbed my attention even more than the first verses and quotes because they are all things that God has said to me. Whether through a time of prayer, a song, or a Bible study, each of the following has been the voice of the Lord in my life speaking directly to me. (If you need the Lord to speak to you, maybe He can use these!)
“It’s gonna be worth it all.”
“Seek Me and be still.”
“Quit worrying. I’ve got this. Now, let Me got this.”
“I will provide.”
“Don’t give up. I AM here and I always will be.”
“Be [I AM] still.”
“I will give you rest.” (PRAISE JESUS FOR THIS PROMISE!!)
“Circle, then shout, Gentry. Then I’m going to bring the walls down. This battle will not be won with muscle, mighty warrior. This battle will be won by faith.” (this refers to the battle of Jericho when the Israelites circled the city in prayer and then shouted in victory)
And the real kicker:
“I’ve gotten you this far. Do you really think I’m going to give up on you now?”
I don’t know about you, but that one just slapped me in the face. Duh! Of course God won’t give up on me. He’s been faithful and gotten me through every hardship up until this point and I firmly believe that He will get me through this insanity.
If you would like to know what my full letter of encouragement said, please feel free to continue reading. I hope these words can help even one person remember that God truly is in control and He has a purpose and a plan for everything that is happening in your life. Don’t give up. He’s got you.
Take a deep breath. You’re fine. The Lord’s got you in the palm of His hand, remember? Everything that you are going through has a purpose and He will reveal that purpose to you when you are ready for it. Don’t forget about all of the other times that He’s been there for you and literally walked you through.
Remember when you sat in a quiet room with your family and two doctors seated around a big table. Remember how it felt when you heard the doctor say, “you tested positive for Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.” Remember the days and weeks after that appointment when you realized that your mom and brother had VEDS too, that you would probably never have your own children, that life with Brandon would forever change, and that your life would forever be marked by a bracelet with a label on it. Remember that feeling of being completely overwhelmed?
Now, do you remember how the Lord got you through all of that? How He walked with you through every question and every valley of darkness. How He sent people to pray for you and help you through it. Remember that? If He got you through every part of that valley, don’t you think He will get you through these two years of grad school?
“You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God can use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive, but don’t despair either. With God’s help, you will get through this.” –You’ll Get Through This, Max Lucado
Calm down, be still, and seek the Lord. All you have to do is ask Him and He will give you what you are lacking. So ask. But make sure that you aren’t too far away to hear Yhwh speak. This graduate program is only two years of your life, but your relationship with God is eternal, so make sure you are putting Him and keeping Him first. “Seek first His kingdom and all of His righteousness and all of these things will be aded unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
You’ve got this because He’s got you. Don’t worry. It won’t help anything. Instead, pray like the overcoming warrior that you are.
-Your Wiser Self
In case you were wondering why I spelled Yahweh without the vowels, it was purposeful. Try to pronounce it without the vowels. It’s a whisper! Yhwh is a holy name of God that is literally only a breath. The thing is, you can’t hear Yhwh if you’re not close enough to hear His whisper. So get close and listen up!
Just a little food for thought. It’s one of my favorites.
Have you ever had someone look you in the eyes and say, “Dream bigger! Your dreams just aren’t good enough.”?
Well, me either. Not really. It wasn’t so much a person as the Lord’s voice in my head one day as I was praying. He was very clear, though; my dreams were not up to His standards. So I upped my game.
First, I brought Him all of the dreams I did have: a house, family, good job, blah, blah, blah. Basically, all of the typical girl dreams, including a nice guy with a ring and a wedding eventually. Yeah… I’m pretty basic.
Then, I gave up my dreams and asked God what it was that He wanted me to be dreaming of. (That is an absolutely terrifying question to ask Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God… Do it. I dare you.)
His answer wasn’t what I was expecting. Actually, He rather surprised me.
It was as if my dreams were pieces of clay that I had molded and spent so much time perfecting myself. They were well thought out and I had taken pieces of each of my dreams from different places: a detail from my best friends dream wedding, a characteristic from the storybook prince, a spark of life from my past experiences. But all of my hard work wasn’t good enough…
The thing is, God didn’t just waltz in, snatch up my dreams, and throw them by the wayside. Instead, He asked. He requested that I willingly surrender the things I had worked so hard on, but He also promised something better. So I did. I gave them all up. And what He offered me was so much better than I ever could have imagined.
I gave Him my dream of a house in the country with a wraparound porch and a swing. He gave me a massive house ready to hold friends and family from near and far, ready to serve anyone who walked across the threshold. He gave me a home filled with love and joy that echoed off of every wall. He gave me a wraparound porch for all of the kids I love and teach to run in circles throughout the day. He gave me a swing to sit with friends and family and converse about life and to sing to the kids around me as we swing away from the worries surrounding our lives.
I gave Him my dream of a family which had been shattered by the diagnosis of VEDS. He gave me a home filled with kids from all over the world. He gave me a family of adopted kids better than anything I ever could have imagined on my own. He gave me a church family bigger than any biological family I could ever have.
I gave Him my dream of a good job with good pay. He gave me a better job than I ever could have found on my own. He gave me experiences I didn’t know I needed. He gave me coworkers who would support me in Christ. He gave me my mission field in the midst of my work life. He gave me everything I would ever need, provided by His hand, not mine.
I gave Him my dream of a nice guy, of prince charming or whomever else girls dream about. He gave me a man to stand by my side when no one else could. He gave me a man wiling and able to support me when I forget to support myself. He gave me a man better than any prince charming, shadowhunter, Mr. Darcy, or superhero could ever be. He gave me a man who kneels in prayer with me and worships beside me. He gave me a man who would never run away, no matter how bad life gets.
Then, He gave me a new dream: to travel. To see the world He had so deftly created and continues to create and renew each and every day. But He didn’t just give me the desire to see it on a TV or computer screen. No. He gave me beauty beyond my wildest dreams and joys I never knew I could behold, all with my own eyes. Adventure. Journey. Explore. Travel. To see it all for myself and enjoy every step of the journey, every moment of the adventure that takes me wherever He leads.
The Lord didn’t take my dreams and toss them in the trash. He transformed them. He remolded them into something more beautiful than I could have imagined, something I never knew I wanted.
So go ahead. Dream bigger. I dare you.
As awesome and incredible as my relationship with Brandon is (at least in my eyes, anyway), we have had more than our fair share of rough patches. There have been a couple of times that we’ve come close to ending everything and walking away from each other forever. This post is about one of those times.
If you want to read our story, you can find the entirety of our rather long story here.
A couple of months after I was diagnosed with VEDS, my friend, Katie, and I went to Chic-fil-a after prayer. We started talking about different things and somehow we got on the subject of my relationship with Brandon. Things went South quickly…
I questioned everything. I mean, it’s not like I hadn’t done that before. I had. I’ve had many conversations with the Lord, asking whether He was sure that Brandon was the right guy. (Don’t judge me. Every girl has their doubts. Even girls who are blessed with young men who don’t tuck tale and run when their girlfriend is diagnosed with an insane genetic disorder with more problems and future complications than could ever be noted… I know. I’m insane.)
Allow me to describe myself while in this type of mindset. I worry that I haven’t heard the Lord correctly and I question every decision I’ve made concerning Brandon. I worry that I have fabricated God’s blessing for our relationship over the last years. I worry. I doubt. I don’t trust. In other words, I allow Satan to whisper lies in my ears and I choose to believe them over what I know the Lord has told me.
So, there we were: Katie and I were sitting across the table from one another in Chic-fil-a. A few others were seated in various places around the restaurant, but we were far enough away to have a conversation without worrying that we would be overheard by our nearest neighbors. Because of that, our conversation flowed for a while and then moved on to the terrible subject of long distance relationships and my doubts.
I didn’t know what the cause of this incredible and sudden onslaught of doubt was. I couldn’t pinpoint where the overwhelming feeling that I had to break up with Brandon came from. All I knew, is that after spending an hour or so in prayer with our prayer group, I felt this burden and I felt that it was from the Lord. It terrified me. I felt as though the Lord was telling me that I needed to break up with Brandon. No reason given. Just a heavy burden that weighed heavier with each passing moment.
Of course, we had problems. Every couple has problems. Our main struggles consist of distance and a love language barrier (on top of me being an overly emotional person), but it isn’t like we wallow in our struggles and allow them to consume our every thought. We had difficulties. We still do. But in that moment, it seemed as though every trial we had ever faced rose up before me and would not allow me to ignore them or pray them away. Instead, the mountain of never-ending trials threatened to overshadow everything and plunge me into a despair so strong that I would never be freed from it.
However, the most peculiar aspect of it all, is that it seemed to come from God! It didn’t feel like a temptation. It didn’t feel like doubt. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, it felt like a test.
Talking with Katie, I came to the conclusion that God was asking me to break up with Brandon to prove that I loved God more than I loved Brandon. But this wasn’t just a ‘break up with you today and date you again tomorrow’ kind of feeling. It more along the lines of a ‘break up with you and never see you again’ kind of thing. So, with a heavy heart and tear-stained face, I walked to my car and sobbed a prayer on my drive home. I begged God to show me what His will was. I begged Him to ease the weight I felt in my soul…
He didn’t. The weight clung heavily all the way home. It worsened as I texted Brandon the most dreaded words: “we need to talk.”
Later that night, when Brandon got off of work, he called me. My heart hammered and I was crying before I was even able to say, “hello.” I must have said, “I don’t want to do this” and “I love you” a million times in that conversation…
I told him that I felt like God wanted me to break up with him. I told him that I had felt unloved and unwanted by him because he still didn’t speak my love language, even after multitudes of conversations about what that means and how to do so. I told him about my doubts and worries that I had heard the Lord wrong when He gave me the blessing to date him. I told him all of it. Let me rephrase that: I sobbed my way through attempting to explain everything that was chaotically clanging about in my thoughts. I’m pretty sure the whole, “let’s be friends” thing was even stated and explored for a while.
When I finally gave him time to speak, he was calm. (That freaked me out more than anything.) His voice was quiet. He listened to each word I said and simply replied in a manner of acceptance. He didn’t seek to change my mind. He never once raised his voice, he simply said, “if you feel like this is what you need to do, then I understand.”
There was no fight, no anger, no frustration. There was simply an acceptance of the inevitable end.
And in that moment, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t bring myself to hurt this young man I loved so completely. That was the thing, I still loved him! It wasn’t like I was fed up with him and he had frustrated me to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore. I simply felt like the Lord was calling me to do the one thing I never wanted to do. So, regardless of my feelings and desires, I was determined to do what God asked of me.
I have never identified so completely with Abraham than I did in that moment.
There is a man in Genesis, named Abraham, who was told by God to sacrifice his son as an offering to the Lord. Not like, give him up, but sacrifice, as in kill on an altar. Abraham obediently took his son, Isaac, up a mountain with everything needed for the sacrifice except an animal. Once they reached their destination, Abraham tied Isaac to the altar. Then, just as the knife in Abraham’s hand, poised to kill, came slashing down, and angel of the Lord stopped him. The angel called out to him and showed him that the Lord had provided a ram stuck in a thicket for the sacrifice so that Isaac didn’t have to die. The hard part is, if Abraham wouldn’t have tied Isaac up and raised the knife to sacrifice his beloved son, he never would have been shown the ram.
The willingness to sacrifice our own desires has to come before the Lord’s provision and blessing.
That’s what I learned while on the phone with Brandon that night. Only after I had come to the point of being willing to end my relationship with Brandon and had actually attempted to do so, was I able to see the provision. As soon as I had told him that I had to break up with him because I honored and loved God more than I loved him, the weight seemed to lift.
This simply confused me even more. First, I felt as though God wanted me to break up with Brandon. Then, only a short while later, I felt as though God was saying that I didn’t actually have to break up with him, I just had to be willing to do so. I had to show where my loyalties lie. I had to prove who I loved more and who I truly served.
As the weight lifted, and the confusion set in, I had to talk it out with Brandon: the one person who was completely fine with me breaking up with him… (I personally think that is a whole other problem we should probably address…)
In the end, through every sob and change in thinking, we ended up staying together and promising to pray it through to determine what exactly the Lord wanted us to do and then reevaluate where we were and whether to continue our relationship or end it when he visited almost a month later. Praise the good Lord in Heaven above that the final decision was to stay put, together, and really strive to focus on Christ, keep Him at the center of everything, and listen to how He wants us to live our lives and then obey.
So here we are, still together, and still waiting to see where He takes us next.
After I got diagnosed with VEDS, my relationship with Brandon took a negative turn. If you want to read the beginning of our story, you can find that here.
A few days after I was diagnosed, as I was driving to work, I prayed that the Lord would give me something to hold onto while I grappled with living with VEDS on top of every other thing I was dealing with.
So He did.
I was sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face. I was praying. Asking God to give me something, anything to hold onto. I felt like I was drowning. I felt like this new knowledge that I did in fact have Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome was going to send me into the darkest pit of despair. I needed something to cling to; to keep me from falling into the pit that threatened to ruin my life and steal every ounce of joy I had ever known.
So I pleaded with the Lord to give me something. Anything.
And then it happened. In my little two door car, trying to see past the tears that filled my eyes, hearing the cracks in my voice as I cried out for help. I saw it.
It was about five years into the future. Brandon and I were married and we were in our room getting ready to go to sleep. We walked over to the bed and he reached out his hand to me. I took his hand and we knelt down beside our bed with our clasped hands between us on the quilt. We closed our eyes and started to pray. Just like we did every night. When I opened my eyes, our clasped hands were old and wrinkled. We had the hardest time getting off of the floor with our old knees. But we still knelt beside our bed and prayed together every night. Just like we always had.
I was frozen.
That was it. That was my hope. That was my promise. That was the thing that I could cling to for the rest of my life. When my world started to crumble again, I could remember that promise that came straight from Heaven.
I had been given visions before and I’d had dreams that I knew were from the Lord, but nothing had ever compared to this. It was so vivid and I knew it was just for me in answer to my prayers. I had asked God for hope. I had asked Him to give me something to cling to; to keep me from slipping into the darkness. And He answered me. He is so good.
He gave me hope. But not just a fleeting hope. This vision that He gave me filled me with joy and hope and peace. It has continued to fill me with joy and hope and peace. Through every trial and every temptation to give up and sink into despair, this vision has been a reminder of God’s plan for me.
Just because a doctor says that my median life span is 48 years doesn’t mean that I can’t live to grow old and kneel with my husband in prayer every night. Just because a doctor says that I’m at an incredibly high risk of rupturing anything in my body at any moment doesn’t mean that I can’t live a full life. Just because a doctor says that it’s really risky for me to have kids doesn’t mean that I can’t adopt the sweet kiddos that need someone to love them. Just because a doctor says something doesn’t mean that God can’t turn what he says into a new dream, a new blessing.
Just because I have VEDS doesn’t mean that I can’t live a long life with the man of my dreams. It doesn’t mean that I have to live in fear. It doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on me and I have to walk this road alone. Actually, it means the opposite.
Being diagnosed with VEDS has opened my eyes to just how near God is every single moment of every day. The vision He gave me has reminded me of that more times than I care to count. Chronic pain and a different issue every day makes life a little more insane. But it also makes me a little more thankful for each day I see and each moment I get to live. It makes me realize how incredibly blessed I am to have a man like Brandon who is more than just willing to walk through this insane life with me. He wants it. He is actively choosing me, with all of the crazy complications that come with a life entangled by VEDS.
He chooses to stay with me instead of walking away like most rational people would. He chooses to help me through the nights that I’m plagued with negativity. He chooses to hold me when the tears overwhelm my joy. He chooses to pray for me when I don’t know how to pray for myself anymore. He chooses to pray with me and help me to see the good all around me. He chooses to point out the positives and remind me of all of the blessings the Lord has given me. He chooses to walk with me through each of the painful moments, letting the Lord lead us on this crazy path that we call life. He chooses to love me, in the rare good moments and the frequent bad ones.
So, Brandon, it means the world to me that you actively and presently choose me, regardless of every problem we have faced and all of the craziness I’m sure we will face. You are my sunshine. Truly. When skies are gray and all I can see is the negativity, you help me to see the sun hiding just behind the clouds. You remind me that the Lord is still there and He is ready and willing to carry my burden and give me joy. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. And I pray the Lord never takes you from me.
This post is going to serve two purposes. The first is to take a look back at a year ago, September 17th 2015, when I was diagnosed with VEDS (which in turn, led to this blog). The second is to continue my story with Brandon as it relates to that fateful day. If you would like to read the beginning of our story, you can find it all here. If you would like to know more about VEDS and how I explained it, you can find that here.
One year ago today I was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, otherwise known as VEDS. When I walked out of that doctor’s office, I knew my life would never be the same. One year after that day, I can say that I was definitely right.
The doctors gave me so many limitations: don’t lift more than 20 pounds; don’t exercise with any repetitive motions or heavy weights; don’t run; try not to do anything that makes your blood pump harder in your veins; oh yeah, and if you ever get pregnant, it will immediately be a high risk pregnancy and you have a 50% chance of passing VEDS to your kids. Just to name a few. They even threw in a median life span around 48. Have they stopped me? No. Did they give me pause? Heck yes.
The thing that gave me more pause than anything else had nothing to do with me. It had to do with my mom and Brandon.
First, let’s talk about my mom.
She’s literally one of the most incredible women on the planet. I’m pretty sure she knows everything and I’m not the only one who would say that. She is asked about anything and everything, unless it’s sports. But I don’t have to defend her to you. If you know her, then you know how fantastic she is. If you don’t, then you are missing out on knowing an amazing woman of God.
When the doctor told us that based on the data they had, VEDS patients had a median life span of 48, my first thought was, “I can’t lose my mom. That would only mean a few more years with her. That can’t happen.” I held it together in the doctor’s office, but trust me, I had more than my fair share of tears over that thought when no one was around.
Yes, it was an awful thought. Yes, I cried over it. And yes, there have been many prayers over that whole situation. But a few months later our suspicions were confirmed when my mom’s dad was also tested and diagnosed with VEDS. Considering that we have some semi-distant cousins who also have VEDS, we are also assuming that my great grandmother and her sister also had VEDS. Why is that important? They both lived to be in their 90s. My grandfather is currently in his 60s.
Know what that means?
We are defying the odds and making the doctors eat their words! Life span of 48?? Ha!!
There is so much peace in knowing that the Lord has been watching over my family with VEDS for decades. He has been helping us defy every odd that has been placed in our path. That, my friends, is one of the many ways I know that God is good.
Now let’s move onto the second thing that gave me pause: Brandon.
Before I was able to walk out of that doctor’s office, it was as if moments of my future life were flashing before my eyes. The problem was, they weren’t very nice ones… *insert dramatic blur to dream vision* I was in my 30s sitting in yet another doctor’s office and he had no answers for why this was happening. I had to visit what seemed like a hundred doctors each year because of all of the problems I was having. I was being wheeled into the emergency room because a major organ had ruptured and they were going to try to save my life, but the likelihood of them being able to save me was minimal. I was slipping away while giving birth to a child, realizing that I would be leaving my husband wifeless, perhaps childless if the baby didn’t make it, and that baby may have the same disease that caused me so many problems if he or she made it… A life of pain. A life of heartache. A life of frustrations and trials and worries… *insert blur back to reality*
Needless to say, I had a lot on my mind.
My brother, Parker, was diagnosed with VEDS a couple of months before, which is why we were tested for VEDS at that time. Since Parker had already been diagnosed, we knew what to Google. We knew what the geneticist said about it and we had some resources to look at, so the 6 weeks between when the blood work was taken and the results came in were filled with learning more about VEDS and how it could potentially affect us for the rest of our life.
Brandon and I had talked about the fact that I was in the process of being tested for VEDS. (Granted, I waited a few days to tell him that my mom, sister, and I had gotten tested… He wasn’t too happy about that…) So when I called to tell him that the blood work had come back positive, it wasn’t a big surprise. We had been planning for that.
I’m sure that Brandon wasn’t too thrilled when I basically told him that I thought it would be better for him if he let me go and found someone else to be with. His life would be better. He would’t have to deal with all of the doctors and medications and bills and problems. His life would be easier and probably a lot simpler without me in it. So I offered him an out. I gave him a way to leave without guilt and without any hard feelings. I didn’t want him to be stuck with me and VEDS for the rest of his life. He deserved better than that.
The problem with that whole conversation was that he didn’t agree.
A year ago we were 21. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many 21 year old guys who hear that their girlfriend has a progressive and chronic genetic disorder with many limitations and still decide that they would rather live that life with you than leave you for anything or anyone else.
That moment made me realize how much Brandon really did love me. It wasn’t that he felt obligated to stay with me or anything like that. He had prayed about it and thought about it deeply. He actively chose me, knowing everything that came with that choice. He chose me knowing how many sacrifices he would have to make. He loved me not only in spite of all of those things; he loved me because of them.
Here are a couple of the things he told me after I was diagnosed with VEDS:
“Let me be your leg to stand on when you can’t stand on yours. Let me be your rock when you need it. I’m here for you and I’m not going anywhere, so you better get used to it because you have a long time left with me!” and “I know that there’s a lot that I’ll have to deal with in this life if I’m with you, but who’s to say that it’ll be easier without you? No one!”
Each day and each moment that has filled the last year of life with VEDS has taught me so much. But most of all, it has made me realize how short life is and how quickly it can all change. Brandon not only loved me in that moment, he loved me for every moment after that. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He held me while I cried and suffered through an insane diagnosis. He kept telling me it would all work out and God had it under control. He worked with me through one of the roughest seasons in my life and he continues to do so each day. I guess you could say he’s a keeper.
The Lord was able to take that crazy day and turn it into a blessing. It has definitely been a rough year, but I have been blessed beyond measure since that day.
However, as blessed as I was and as loved as I was after that day, I went through a rather difficult time. I felt guilty for dating Brandon because I felt like I was dragging him into a terrible life. I felt bad for the people around me who had to deal with everything too. In reality, I would have preferred leaving everyone I knew and living by myself and taking care of myself so I didn’t burden anyone else. Granted, that didn’t really work. At all. But I did still slip into a short season of not understanding why this was happening to me.
One day on my way to work, I prayed that the Lord would give me something to hold onto while I grappled with living with VEDS on top of every other thing I was dealing with. So He did.
But I’ll tell you about that next time.