Strange Gifts

It’s hard to believe that it has been over 7 weeks since I hit my head and got this life-altering concussion.  Last week, I had an appointment at the neurologist to get the results of my EEG.  Praise God, my EEG was great.  There is no permanent brain damage.  However,  he did say that he expected it to be 2-3 more months before I felt back to normal.  Even with the great results from my EEG, this news was really discouraging to me.  I’m just now writing about it because I think I’m just now getting my head wrapped around that.(*Medical side note:  I have elected not to take the medicine prescribed to me through this process.  I’m very sensitive to meds and it is not worth the benefit to me.  I’m not sure if it has slowed my recovery or not but I just wanted to share that for those who have asked questions about medicine.) Thankfully, God has been changing my attitude of disappointment to thankfulness through the gift of perspective.  In the scheme of things, 2-3 months is really nothing.  And this giant pause from life has also revealed some strange gifts given to me.  Here’s a list of a few…

1. the gift of seeing our children’s strength

Our kids’ lives have been wildly interrupted over the last few weeks.  They’ve been shuffled from place to place by a number of people.  They’ve eaten whatever they’ve been given. They’ve worn dirty clothes (repeatedly).  They’ve had more responsibility than ever before.  They’ve put themselves to bed.  It’s been crazy…but they have rocked it.  I’ve seen them be tough and tender, positive and encouraging, smart and strong.  As a mother, you hope every day that you are teaching your kids these traits, but at these young ages,  you rarely see them surface.  This experience has given me the gift of seeing those traits surface and stay a while.

One child was sent to the corner, and the other child joined and stayed for the duration of the punishment.  Talk about team players! Haha!

One child was sent to the corner, and the other child joined and stayed for the duration of the punishment. Talk about team players! Haha!

2. the gift of ministry

I have learned so much about how to minister and spread the love of Christ to others. Before this injury, a large portion of my ministry was public.  I sing on stage at our church; I lead a large group of young moms; I lead a book study;  I work on staff at our church, etc.  During this time of recovery, God has shown me the beauty of private ministry – the kind that no one knows about except for you and the other person.  We have been so loved.  Many people have not asked questions, they’ve just done what needed to be done.  We didn’t even talk about it they just did it…and it was so beautiful.  Also during this time, God has brought us new ways to love others.  He has given us opportunities to serve Him through serving people in new ways that no one else will ever know about…and again, it is so beautiful.  In a way, I feel like I’m actually starting to “get” real ministry for the first time.

 

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This little love bug ministered to me by unexpectedly sharing his kisses. That always makes a Mama feel better.

3. the gift of time

Being engaged in a private ministry means being available to sense and respond to need.  It means listening to the Holy Spirit of God when you feel that nudge to reach out to someone.  I have always had those nudges in my life but I have not always responded.  You know why?  Because I was too busy!  There was no time to write that note, or pray in earnest, or share a Bible verse, or cry with someone.  My busy schedule stole me from God’s intimate, personal, and precious work to souls. I cannot be all things to all people and I have no desire to do that.  But I can be God’s embrace of love to somebody who needs it, and I don’t want to miss that chance. What a gift this strange time has been if to teach me just this one thing.

4. the gift of watching life without me

One of the hardest things for me during the last 7 weeks was watching my life go on without me in it. I have experienced a grieving process because many things have felt like a great loss.  At the same time that I’ve felt thankful to all who stepped into my “normal” responsibilities, I’ve also felt deeply sad that I was gone.  This sounds dramatic, but it’s almost like seeing your life after your funeral.  Some folks are sad for you; some folks are actually glad that you’re gone, as if they’ve been waiting to take over for you; some folks are not affected at all; and to some, a certain few, you are irreplaceable.

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Many things take on a new perspective when you become a shadow in your own life.

This last “gift” has taken me the longest to see as a gift.  And I would be lying to say that I’m not still grieving some things.  But very few get to see their life without them in it.  Very few get to have the definition that comes along with this perspective.  Very few are forced to let go of the “important” to grasp hold of the eternal. For that, I am grateful.

Waiting on diamonds

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The last week has taught me that this recovery process is going to be full of ups and downs.  (That’s life, right?)  I had a great start to last week, only to end the week in a puddle of tears.  A friend (who is an ICU nurse) explained to me that the brain will make the body regress if the brain is not ready to heal.  That is exactly what I experienced last week.  I felt good in the beginning of the week and tried to get back into many aspects of my regular life but it must have been too soon.  I have definitely regressed.  Many things that should be simple are still so frustratingly hard.  I dropped an entire cake.  I’ve spilled countless drinks.  I’ve dropped and thus shattered 3 glasses.  I’m socially awkward.  I forget nearly everything.

Emotionally, it feels like I’m going through a bit of a grieving process.  I really miss my normal life.  In the last few weeks, I’ve met some well-meaning folks who have told me about their concussion or their child’s concussion, etc. who was back to normal after 3 days.  I really don’t know what to say when people tell me these stories.  I’m so glad that happened to them.  I’m intensely sad at times that is not my story… but there is nothing I can do about it.  Thank you to all of you who have been patient with me.  You have no idea what kind of gift you are giving me.

Today I read in Psalm 5,

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning.  Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You do I pray.

Then I journaled,

Lord, I may have never felt this vulnerable before in my life.  I’ve never felt like I needed Your shelter so much.  I’ve never desired a Protector so deeply but You are all these things.  I don’t have many words these days but I do have plenty of groans and cries. Thank you for hearing me and knowing the sounds of my cries. Just like You give a mother the ability to hear the difference in her baby’s pain cry, scared cry, tired cry, mad cry, You do that with me. I pray to a God who hears what I do not even say and that is so comforting.  Thank you Lord.

May you, my friend, be comforted by a God who hears the sound of your cries.  May you rejoice today in the mystery of God’s works.  May you see Him in your pain and loneliness.  May His face shine upon your tear-stained cheeks to turn your tears into diamonds.  

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Brain Update 4

I am so happy to share today that I am really getting better!  This past weekend, we saw a bit of a turning point in my memory, energy, and ability to tolerate noise and light.  I’d say I’m up to about 70% of normal now and that feels great.  This has been such a strange experience. Maybe because it was so unexpected, maybe because I was so ignorant about brain injury, I don’t know but I think it will take me a while to keep processing.

I am able to tolerate short spurts of reading now (Hallelujah!) and a few days ago, I was reading back through my devotional journal.  I’ve been studying the book of Colossians and this was right at the beginning of my study, from September 1st.  I copied the following verse…

 

 

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” Colossians 1:3

Then I wrote, “Lord, how I would love to be known like this…having great faith in Jesus, love for the saints, and hope of heaven as a motivating factor.  Lord, is my faith too safe?  Am I showing my kids extravagant love or just love+busyness? I don’t want faith to seem boring to them.  Help me with this Lord.  In my daily routine and life, will You help me display great faith, hope, and love?

Reading this over a month later, knowing all that this month has held, my prayers came alive to me in a different way.  The answers to my questions are clear.  Yes, my faith is too safe.  No, I am not showing my kids extravagant love. Yes, I am showing them lots of love + lots of busyness. Yes, our schedule is way too crazy.

I don’t want to over-spiritualize this whole experience, but I really do want to learn from it. And I think that God totally chose this to interrupt our lives to make us ask some hard questions and re-evaluate some things.  I feel like my spiritual toes are on the edge of the cliff and I’m excited to see where God leads next.

Brain FAQ’s, Update 3

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Our son wrote me these sweet notes a few days ago, thus coining my “broken brain” phrase. It’s interesting to see how he is processing all this.

So, I’ve discovered over the past week that my friends are very detail oriented – that’s probably one of the things that makes us friends (it takes one to know one, right?). Several of you have asked a lot of really good questions that I’m going to try to answer here. If you don’t have these questions, then stop just reading here, my non-detail needing friend.

1. How long will your recovery be?
Oh, how I would love to know the answer to this question but unfortunately, there is no way to tell. It was explained to us that a concussion is a bruise on the brain. And just like bruises on other parts of your body, you simply have to wait for them to go away. We have also learned that no 2 concussions are alike, just like no 2 bruises are alike. Some people may have a concussion that is a quick recovery with little symptoms, some may have long recoveries with lots of symptoms, and everything in between. My recovery so far has been really slow and the Doctor advised us to expect that I will continue to improve at this pace. He does expect a full recovery (yeah!) but it may be weeks or even months before I get there.

2. How can I write these posts but not read?
I write these posts on my iPad with the brightness of the screen turned all the way down so it does not hurt my eyes. I don’t re-read what I’m typing because that does hurt my head (so sorry about all the errors that I’m sure are everywhere). The computer has actually been a huge blessing to me during this time. It is 100 times easier for me to type than engage in conversation.

3. Why is it so hard to talk?
I’m not sure I can fully answer this question. I am physically able to talk. I don’t think I sound exactly the same but I don’t think my words are really slurred or anything like that. There just seems to be a huge disconnect between all that is going on in my mind and what is actually coming out my mouth. I’m not sure what is happening but I just can’t seem to get out what I am trying to say. I start sentences without finishing them. I repeat myself without meaning to, etc. Conversation is probably one of my biggest sources of anxiety right now. Maybe it’s because I actually know how awkward I am to talk with but there is nothing I can do about it. That is another reason why typing has been such a huge blessing. There is no disconnect between my thoughts and my fingers.

4. How is my memory?
I can remember everything before hitting my head just fine. Since hitting my head, my short term memory stinks. I often begin a task and forget what I was even trying to do, or start something and not finish it (I’ve found food I prepared for myself but totally forgotten to eat several times.) I often have to look at a calendar to remember the day, or check back through my texts to see if I replied to someone, etc.

5. How are my spirits?
Here’s the deal…this is not fun. It is lonely and frustrating and exhausting and frightening but it could be so much worse. I can think of many blessings that are tucked away in this unexpected season of life. I can see God’s mercy to our family. I can sense the love of Christ through the body of Christ. I can see a much more compassionate me emerging from this experience. I can see unknown sinfulness being brought to light and dealt with. I can even see specific prayers being answered that I’ve prayed for our little 5 person family. And when I think of all those things, I really thank God for His mercy. I needed this. That car door did not have to injure me as badly as it did. I’ve probably been hit harder than that before in my life but God chose this to happen at this time for His purposes. So each day is up and down, but all in all, I’m thankful.

Life with a broken brain update

Thank you to all of you who have commented, texted, emailed, brought food, and prayed for us. Every time we go through a difficult time, I learn so much about how to help others by the help we receive. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I’ll post updates here as much as I can for 2 main reasons…
1. It is the easiest and best way for me to communicate right now. Please don’t take it personally if you have texted, called, or emailed and not heard back from me. I just don’t have the stamina to answer many things. Please know that your messages are encouraging me greatly. Some times they are what gets me through the harder moments.
2. I want to raise awareness about brain injury. Prior to this experience, I literally had zero idea what a brain injury was like. I viewed concussions as a more common place, less serious injury and boy, was I wrong! I feel terrible now for being so ignorant but I just didn’t know any better. Perhaps I can help others by journaling through this experience as best as I can. One of you already said that this has helped you understand a family member going through brain injury right now and that is wonderful to hear.

As I wrote in my previous post, this has been a crazy and scary experience. I think part of me is still surprised this is happening since I was perfectly healthy just a few days ago. Every day is up and down. Yesterday was a good day. I got up and sat on the couch a little, and even cut out some fabric for a later sewing project. Today has been a rough day. I’m so dizzy that I haven’t been out of bed for more than a few minutes. Days like yesterday encourage me on days like today. It’s hard not to think that these days are just such a waste. I feel like I contribute nothing to everything and that is where my faith struggles. I wonder what the purpose of all this is…for me, for my family, for all the people who are handling my responsibilities for me. Its just hard to wrap my broken brain around.

At the same time, I do feel like I’m learning a lot already. Here are 2 lessons thus far…
1. Never hesitate to minister and spread love to someone. Prior to this experience, I have often hesitated to help someone for many different reasons. Maybe I had in my head that I wanted to cook them a really nice meal, but money or time just didn’t allow, so I end up doing nothing. Maybe I wanted to send a super cute card but never made it to the store, so I do nothing. Ugh! I’m mad at myself for that now! I have been so blessed over the past week by simple texts of Bible verses or encouraging emails. When I’m all better, I want to lower my own personal standards of having to cook an extravagant meal, etc. and just love on folks. Thanks to so many of you for teaching me that.
2.Prepare for the dark while you are in the light. We all go through dark seasons of life. This particular one for me is not the first, nor will it be the last. I can’t tell you how often in my day I rely on God’s truth that is already stuck in my memory. I am not having much new spiritual input since listening to music and reading are still very challenging for me. I recall many mornings prior to this accident that I woke up early and felt so tired that I wondered if my time spent in the Word was worth it. Now I know the answer. It was so worth it. I am leaning on all those hours spent in study now. Dark times have a way of clarifying who you really are spiritually. I look forward to the time when my brain is healthy enough to study God’s word with tenacity. In my next dark time, I want to be proved stronger than I am now.

Thank you Lord for being made strong in weakness. May You be on display in ways I could never dream right now. Thank you for never leaving me or any of your children. I love you. Amen