Hidden Paths and Unexpected Joys

“Chris, do you think we have PTSD? After all we’ve been through in the past three years, do you think we should do something, go to counseling, go on a trip–I don’t know, what will it take for us to be rebuilt and restored?”

Chris thought quietly as our car sliced through the open expanse of South Park, Colorado, one of my favorite stretches to drive.

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Oil pastel of South Park done by former TCA and JBU student Kenny Crane (see link below–he’s talented!)

My question came from a knotted, anxious heart, worried that we might somehow miss out on important steps that would keep us from getting weird (suffering often has a way of making one feel decidedly out of place in normal society) or help us stay healthy in spite of all the trauma. I long for us to feel strong and capable once more.

Again I asked, “What do you think it will take for us to feel filled up and whole again? I don’t think a vacation, no matter how spectacular, would do it. What we’ve experienced and are in the middle of is much deeper than a vacation.”

Scattered herds of antelope grazed the slightly snow-covered ground as we continued on, their beige and white coats just barely darker than the surrounding landscape.

“You’re right,” Chris finally responded.  “A vacation isn’t enough. But just as God has had a path for us through this impossible last year, he has a path for the way forward too.”

Simple, reassuring, true.

I felt my heart relax, realizing that again anxiety took control because I was trying to take control. And I don’t have to turn my panic into action right now. I can take a deep breath and consider the path behind us, letting the unmistakable signs of God’s past sovereignty refill me with confidence and hope that he will not now fail us.

A few recent examples came to mind:

Y-90 Update

In my last update I shared how God had already begun answering our prayers regarding this next, step in Chris’s outside-the-box treatment. Friends, as the days unfolded since I wrote, we experienced what I can only conclude was the surgically precise and omnipotent orchestration of God in our circumstances.

You may recall that we’d heard unusually quickly from our insurance that they were going to cover the three-part procedure. Our doctor described it as “too good to be true,” and yet we had the green light we needed, allowing the medical team and Christopher to move ahead, completing the first portion (preparatory phase) in late February. A week later, on March 6th, Chris arrived at the hospital for the second, and most important, part of the treatment only to be greeted by a flustered and panicking medical team who informed that a “mistake had been made,” and that somehow “Chris had slipped through the cracks.” Insurance wasn’t, in fact, agreeing to cover the medication. But the hospital had already purchased it, and it’s only good for 48 hours.

After a few hours’ delay, we talked with various people from the business office as well as the doctor administering the treatment. No one had a clear explanation of what happened (we have yet to hear one!), but they all strongly encouraged us, between embarrassed, effusive apologies, to go ahead with the procedure since we’d already come so far in the process. Oh, but could you please sign this form agreeing to pay $42,000 should the hospital not be able to iron out this small wrinkle with insurance? We had their verbal assurances that they would get it covered…but that signature was quite the elephant to swallow!

The procedure went smoothly, and we continue to pray that God makes it effective in eradicating the cancer spots in Chris’s liver. It usually takes 3-6 months for results to be evident in a scan, and so we wait.

In the meantime, here’s what I think: If a mistake hadn’t been made, causing Chris to “slip through the cracks,” we’d still be waiting on insurance and thus the treatment as our doctor originally predicted. And guess what; a few weeks ago the hospital called: “Insurance is covering the procedure.” I believe that since the mistake was likely made by someone in our medical team (possibly necessitating the hospital to eat the cost), they felt especially motivated to fight insurance on our behalf. I’m not sure they would have felt quite so passionate about getting it covered otherwise, haha!

So, while our doctor is still scratching his head about this “bit of a snafu,” I’m smiling at how easy it is to picture God stepping into the best laid plans of mice and men and causing them to go awry for our good and his glory!

Milestones

Chris already wrote a great update about our spring break highlights, but I just have to add a few thoughts. When we first arrived in CO, our plan was to hammer out a big to-do list at our house in Longmont. We stayed focused for a few days, but found ourselves sinking slowly into sadness and the first stages of despair: it is so hard at times to be physically present in the Colorado life we’d like to resume yet know that we can’t reengage yet. So we fled south to Colorado Springs for a few extra days.

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Kicking off Spring Break ’17 at Ivywild in Colorado Springs

The unplanned, early arrival allowed me to share with my sister Emily’s Moms in Prayer group on Tuesday, March 21st.  It was the first time I’ve gotten to share with a group, in person, about what I’ve learned about prayer during seasons of suffering. I didn’t realize until I’d just begun sharing that the 21st was the one-year anniversary of the phone-call-that-started-it-all. In reflecting on the year with these women I felt a surge of gratitude and wonder at God’s gentle and consistent care. How sweet of God to lead me to a place of praise and gratitude exactly one year later! And not only that, but when I finished, the group leader told me that each week as they pray, they focus on a specific attribute of God, usually one given to them as part of the prescribed curriculum they follow. This particular week it was God Heals.

God had more for us in store that afternoon, but I’ll let Chris tell about that :).

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So, maybe it’s a little dorky, but not only am I super excited about spring (March 21st!), I was pretty proud of my new-found iPhone skills 🙂

An Over-the-top Gift

So Chris already shared about how we got to go skiing for two days and how that was an answer to an earlier prayer. I simply have to point out the incredible generosity and joy of God as a good father to us. When I prayed that Chris would get to go skiing, I imagined it would probably involve just the two of us, making a typical, exhausting 2.5 hours drive each way to one of the smaller, less expensive resorts we’d normally ski, and that Chris might only have energy for a few easy runs.

Instead, how like God to say, “No, I’d rather you share the experience with friends, in a beautiful home right next to the slopes of the biggest resort in the state, and Chris will crush those double black diamonds. Oh, and I’ll throw in a hot tub outside your bedroom too…and why don’t I throw in a second day at another resort for good measure as well.” So. I’m amazed and thankful, and I hope you are too.

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The best kind of trunk is a trunk full of gear!

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Divergence of the ways…guess which way Chris went, and which way I went!

Continuing Ahead

Not every day brings the answers to prayer that we hope for, or hot tubs, or double black diamond thrills. Many days continue to be mundane, a struggle against fear and for hope, a fight for contentment and against envy.  Sometimes the future still feels impossible and scary. It reminds me of times I’ve stared up at a sheer rock face and wondered how Chris would manage to find a route up. Yet little by little, I’d watch amazed as he’d scale up on imperceptible toe holds and hidden knobs. The way was always there. In my case, I often need a guide to point it out, but the route becomes clear along the way. It may not even be visible to those observing, but I can assure you, our Guide is with us, he’s holding our feet steady, and he loves us generously and joyfully. This truth makes the way through suffering more than just a matter of survival–we’re learning we can thrive too.

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A few years ago at Shelf Road in CO; Photo credit: Daron Short

Check out more of Kenny Crane’s incredible talent here!

6 thoughts on “Hidden Paths and Unexpected Joys

  1. Thank you, again, for writing. I am grateful.
    Two things stuck out. “Suffering often has a way of making one feel decidedly out of place in normal society”. True! And yet desiring, well, sometimes, to still engage like a normal person.
    And this!
    “The way was always there. In my case, I often need a guide to point it out, but the route becomes clear along the way. It may not even be visible to those observing, but I can assure you, our Guide is with us, he’s holding our feet steady, and he loves us generously and joyfully. This truth makes the way through suffering more than just a matter of survival—we’re learning we can thrive, too.”
    thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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