Perfect Love Expels All Fear

Post-proposal selfie!

“Do you have any regrets?” the woman asks. Ivan pauses, scratches the back of his neck.

“No. Not at all.”

I think he paused too long.

***

Seven years ago today Ivan asked me to be his wife. Did he make the right choice? Did I? 

I’ve often thought if I could have seen the future, seen my accident and all it’s done to Ivan, I would have told him “no.” After all, the Bible tells us true love puts others above ourselves. I couldn’t knowingly sacrifice Ivan’s chance at a fulfilling, normal life just because I didn’t want to be alone.

Plus, there are the spectators. The whisperers asking if Ivan’s still happy, the experts claiming he’d be better off if he’d waited to propose. These voices foster my deepest fear: What if I shouldn’t have survived?

I’ve struggled with this toxic cycle for years, only admitting portions of it to Ivan and never revealing its full extent. But as I remember getting engaged seven years ago today, I’m beginning to understand why I’ve been imprisoned in doubt and self-loathing. 1 John 5:18-19 says: 

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows we have not fully experienced [God’s] perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.”

Instead of rejoicing that I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus, I’ve listened to people who look only at my earthly body, and therefore see me as a failure. And they’re right. My body isn’t as capable as most wives’. I might even have more sin problems than they do. But all of us have forgotten that my righteousness – and therefore my worth as an individual – is found in Christ alone.

So it’s not so much about whether I should or shouldn’t have married Ivan. God’s desire for both of us is that we continue growing in the knowledge and experience of his redemptive love until we lose all fear of his displeasure. As time passes, we’ll learn to love each other not just because it’s romantic, but because Christ loved us first.

For the record, I’m extremely grateful that in God’s sovereign will Ivan and I did get married, and enjoyed eleven months together before the accident.

Tune in this Wednesday!

Happy Sunday, everyone! First off, I want to say how extremely blessed I was by all the support for my last post. You’ve been my Blogging Family for the past five years, and it means so much that you’re willing to walk down this new mental health journey with me.

Secondly, I wanted to let you know that I’ve been invited to speak about my experiences on Moody Radio Florida this coming Wednesday. My time slot is 8:10-8:40 am EST, which is 5:10 – 5:40 am for those of us on the West Coast. The good news is that if you aren’t me, you can listen later after they post the episode. 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to share the link to the live station and past episodes in case anyone’s interested. I’d also like to ask for prayer as I speak about the work the Holy Spirit’s done through me. Thanks as always for your love and support!

https://www.moodyradio.org/programs/morning-shows/kurt-and-kate-mornings/

Back to the Hospital: A Story of God’s Faithfulness

We celebrated my birthday shortly after my discharge 🙂

Hello, everyone! You might have noticed I took some time off the blog after my January post about mental health. That’s because I was hospitalized in February for thirteen days after my schizoaffective disorder got worse. Although I’ve been home since February 27th, I still haven’t felt well enough to write about that experience. My psychiatrist tells me post-psychotic depression is quite common for patients like me who’ve been hospitalized for serious psychosis. Once they recover from their psychotic symptoms, their brains get overwhelmed by sadness and fatigue. But in spite of this obstacle, I feel it’s time to share the amazing things God did during my stay this February. 

My story begins with me being admitted to a nicer hospital than I had been for my first three times. (This was my fourth hospitalization in five months.) A mental health hospitalization usually begins with the patient checking into the ER for some psychotic or otherwise dangerous symptom. (In my case, I hear voices commanding me to do bad things.) After check in, the ER transfers the patient to whichever mental health facility has the first available bed. This can happen very quickly or very slowly…my records are 3 and 30 hours, respectively. As I said, I was at the same hospital the first three times. Although the doctors were competent, living conditions were Spartan, facility hygiene was debatable, and the staff’s respect for patients was minimal. 

Thankfully the new hospital was completely different. It felt like a twenty-first century hospital instead of an institution from a different era. Nurses behaved like nurses instead of prison guards. Unlike my previous stays, patients were generally calm and well-behaved. 

“How can I serve you here, Lord?” I whispered one night at the beginning of my stay. It was one thing to reach out to people who knew they’d hit rock bottom. How could I connect with patients who still felt like they had a measure of control over their lives? God’s answer appeared in the unlikeliest of places – a secular meditation class. 

Instead of leaving us to while away the hours with nonstop TV and elementary school coloring sheets like the old hospital had, this new facility filled our days with classes. Most of the classes educated us about managing our disorders, but some were recreational, like art class or Friday Jeopardy. Meditation class was the universal favorite, however. It ran after dinner from 6:15-6:50 and consisted of an all-unit meeting in the dimly-lit rec room. The meditation coach would ask patients what positive self-affirmations they’d like to hear, then recite the affirmations in a soothing voice while everyone lay prone on yoga mats, soaking up calming music and inhaling delicious scents from a diffuser in the corner. 

I was personally uncomfortable with the self-affirmations since, as a Christ follower, I’m called to follow Christ’s example. We’re told that

“Though he was God,

he did not think equality with God

 as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

He took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form, 

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on the cross.” ~ Philippians 2:6-8

I’m obviously not called to sacrifice myself to save the world, but I am called to live a life of humility that glorifies God, and I’m not sure how asking someone to tell me I’m awesome, or beautiful, or powerful is compatible with that calling.

Nevertheless, meditation class proved to be the key to reaching my fellow patients. When the meditation coach announced she was taking a four-day break for President’s Day, everyone was crushed. And that’s when God prompted me: What if volunteered to lead a meditation class? Meditation is part of the Christian spiritual life, even if Christian meditation is the opposite of what we were doing each night in the rec room. All I had to do was get the patients in the same room with me, then let God do the rest. 

But there was the problem of the nursing staff: was a patient even allowed to lead a group session? By God’s grace, the nurse on call that night happened to be the most adventurous one on staff, and was happy pushing boundaries to help patients have fun. When I asked about leading a meditation class, he even offered to help me set up the room like the regular meditation sessions and lend me his phone to play relaxing music. Why not? I thought. The attendees were about to be exposed to something completely new. It couldn’t hurt to keep the environment familiar.

Patients began trickling in at 6:15. I wasn’t surprised to see some of my friends, but the group didn’t stop there. The nurse finally closed the door after we ran out of yoga mats for people to lie on. Father, please help me, I prayed as I took off my mask. 

“Thank you for coming, everyone.” I hoped my voice was loud enough. “Today I’d like to read you a Psalm that describes how closely God cares about each one of you.” I flinched at the revelation that this was not a normal meditation class. No one reacted. “Before we get started, does anyone have any needs?” There was no way I was doing self-affirmations like the meditation coach,  but I’d wondered if I could get anyone to share prayer requests since they were used to sharing self-affirmation requests at the beginning of class. Sure enough, hands raised all over the room, sharing hopes and worries and everything in between. I scribbled furiously on a piece of scratch paper, then tucked the sheet in my Bible for the end of class.

Finally it was time for Psalm 23. I read slowly and tenderly, personalizing the verses just like I sometimes read the Psalms as personal prayers for myself. When I finished, I paused for a few moments to let the words sink in, then began praying through our list of needs. And just like that, class was done. My heart was pounding and I was breathing hard as my fellow patients filed quietly out the door. What now? This was not the meditation class they’d been expecting. What would they think? What would the nurse do? Had I violated some sort of Kaiser religious policy? Somehow I knew God was pleased with what I’d done, even if I only got to do it once.

I was on my way back my room when one of my friends stopped me in the hallway. 

“Thank you so much for class,” she beamed.

“Oh, well, glad you could come.” I was surprised she was so enthusiastic – and unsure I should take credit for something that was so clearly from God.

“You’re doing it again tomorrow, right?” 

I was stunned. It had never occurred to me that people would want to come back and do another Scriptural meditation, especially since I’d skipped the self-affirmations.

“Well, I’ll do it as many times as you want,” I stammered, “but I don’t want to force it on people. Maybe we should do a headcount first.” The headcount justified the class.

In fact, it justified many more classes. My meditation class became so popular that it continued even after the secular meditation coach returned: She would run her class at its usual time and I’d start mine an hour later, at 7:45. Those evenings taught me the word of God truly does not return void. Several people told me that they weren’t religious or didn’t believe in God, but they still showed up to listen to me read Scripture every night. God was also very gracious in giving a high level of attendance. The hospital had 16 patients while I was there; my smallest class was 8 and my largest was 14. 

 I’m amazed at how powerfully God answered my original prayer that night in the hospital. I think his answer, combined with my previous experiences sharing God’s truth at the first mental health hospital, continue affirming that I’m called to do some sort of ministry to this population. There is so much red tape around accessing hospitals unless you’re admitted, and patients’ lives are so volatile that it’s hard to connect with them unless you can empathize with their experiences. But these are things God is equipping me to do. I don’t know how or when the next phase in this journey will come, and I’d dearly like it to come without more hospitalizations. But I’m praying that God would give wisdom and direction, and give me the courage to accept wherever he leads. In the meantime, I have the privilege of staying connected with several friends I made during those two grueling weeks in February, and seeing how God continues to work in their lives and mine.  

Pray for Ukraine: Those Who Chose To Stay

Hello, Blogging Family. No one could have imagined the suffering and hardship the people of Ukraine have endured over the past two weeks. Their indomitable spirit in the face of such imposing odds is truly inspiring, and we can pray that God will enable them to be victorious against their Russian adversaries.

In addition to praying for the Ukrainian military, refugees, and displaced families, I’d like to draw your attention to two specific families and their ministry in Kyiv.

Bruce and Aimee and Greg and Hue Chon are missionaries that serve a church and seminary in that city. They were given the opportunity to return to America when Russia invaded Ukraine, but they chose to stay with their church instead. While that choice seemed risky at the time, it grows more dangerous with each passing day. I’d love to give more specifics about their families and ministry, but can’t do so at this time for security reasons.

Please join me in praying for protection for these families, for their church, and for their seminary students. Please also pray that God would fill them with peace and enable them to shine as lights of hope in a city filled with darkness and fear.

We can take comfort in the knowledge that all of us serve a God who defends the innocent and the oppressed:

“But I know the Lord will help those they persecute;
    he will give justice to the poor.” ~Psalm 140:12

Unreached.

My discharge from the rehab hospital 5 years ago…

“Why the **** can’t I stop shaking?” my friend sniffled, tears running down her cheeks and into a mass of unbrushed raven hair. “They’re messing with me, I’m tellin’ you.” She laughed and swept a strand of hair from her eyes, then resumed crying. “The voices are messin’ with me.” 

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. I knew exactly how she felt. My friend and I both have schizoaffective disorder – a mental illness where we see and hear things that others don’t – and we both can tremble convulsively during acute episodes, sometimes for up to 45 minutes. Medication and therapy are long term solutions, but there’s no cure for the disorder, and short episodes can be frightening. 

“None of my coping skills are **** working!” She muttered as her body shook more violently. Then I realized that I had one resource my friend did not. 

I tried to swallow my own panic at what I was about to do. 

“I’m so sorry this is happening and – you can totally say no – but can I pray for you right now?” I held my breath. We weren’t supposed to upset an already agitated patient. 

“Sure.” She didn’t take her eyes off the table in front of us. “I need all the help I can get.”

Please Lord, have mercy on us, I prayed silently. Then I laid my hand on my friend’s shoulder and prayed for God to show his power and love by healing her shaking, and to use the episode to show my friend he was with us and cared about her personally. She stopped shaking before I finished praying.

“Wow. It really worked,” she said after my “Amen.”

This weekend marks five years since I was discharged from the rehabilitation hospital after my original accident, and one month since my last inpatient hospitalization for schizoaffective disorder. I’ve been hospitalized three times in the past three months, in order to obtain the correct diagnosis and medication plan, for a total of twenty-seven days. Needless to say, this is not where I’d planned to be five years after my accident. 

In some ways, being diagnosed with a mental illness feels like more of a failure than my seizure setbacks, although that’s not true. Schizoaffective disorder is often genetic; while I don’t have a notable family history of mental illness, doctors think mine is caused by my traumatic brain injury. But personal feelings aside, God has used this second round of hospitalizations to open my eyes to a group of unreached people who need the love of Jesus.

Praying for my friend wasn’t an isolated opportunity. I estimate that I’ve shared my faith with at least thirty people, this fall and winter. During my second hospital stay in November I heard a patient asking for a Bible, only to be told the facility didn’t have any. Thanks to my parents, we were able to donate Bibles to each of the units and even delivered them on Thanksgiving Day! Returning to the hospital a few days before Christmas took a heavy toll on me emotionally and spiritually, but it made me happy to see that the Bible on my unit already had plenty of wear and tear and was being read almost daily. 

My personal Bible, followed by the ward’s Bible, was actually my easiest access point to sharing my faith with friends and new acquaintances. I happen to have a Bible with a pretty cover: People mistook it for a journal, and some would stay to read a passage after they learned their mistake. “I’d buy a Bible if it looked like yours!” one friend joked in November. In December I did give another friend my personal Bible during my last hospital stay. 

The unit’s new Bible was also a wonderful access point. It was in high demand, both as an object of curiosity and as serious reading material; once word got out I was a Christian, people began asking me to recommend passages to read. The unit Bible was so popular, in fact, that I had to scramble for a chance to read it on my own in December. 

My dad recently asked me why I thought the Bibles were so popular – and why people were so ready to listen to the good news about Jesus. I don’t know for sure. Perhaps God put me in the right place at the right time on three separate occasions. But if I had to guess, I’d say people in a mental health facility might hunger for the light and love of Jesus in a way that’s deeper and more vulnerable than someone who isn’t locked in a facility with no visitors – or even windows. I don’t have a perfect answer for Dad’s “why?” question but I know what I saw and experienced. I believe God has some future work for me to do with these dear, nearly-inaccessible people, and I pray that God gives me wisdom to learn how to serve their community as I look forward to the future:

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” ~ Romans 10:14

The Health of the Mother

My name is Grace because I have two older siblings in Heaven.

“Don’t worry too much,” my OB-GYN said in a soothing, motherly tone. “We can always take care of a pregnancy if anything goes wrong.” 

“Umm, no – ” I stammered. “ – No, not really. I would still go through with it. Can we go over birth control options one more time?” 

The year after my accident, Ivan and I learned I should never get pregnant. Not I could never. I should never. My two traumatic strokes, uncontrolled seizures, and heavy neurological medication meant I could die if I went into labor. This was a tremendous loss, especially since Ivan has always dreamed of a large family, but we learned to accept God’s will and make peace with our future. 

Until last year. 

Last year I found myself back in my doctor’s office, praying the pregnancy test would come back negative. Ivan and I had picked a birth control method that seemed effective and met our ethical standard for not terminating any life after conception. But no method is perfect, and last year we faced grueling days of discussing the “what-if’s” before I could take the test. Was I brave enough to say no to an abortion if my life was actually on the line? 

Thankfully, that test did come back negative, but God used our gut-wrenching wait to force us to flesh out what we really believed about choosing my life over a hypothetical baby’s. 

As Ivan and I hashed and rehashed our dilemma, we realized that terminating the potential pregnancy would be like holding the baby accountable for other people’s mistakes. It wasn’t the baby’s fault that I’d been hit by a car, or that the birth control hadn’t worked properly. If we didn’t deserve to die for those things, neither did the baby. No matter how early we confirmed the pregnancy, the pre-born baby would still be a living human made in the image of God. Psalm 139:15-16 says: 

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.” 

It was frightening to surrender my choice to live, but how could Ivan and I tell God which of his two creations to spare? If the baby’s days were laid out in just as much detail as mine were, it would be arrogant to assume mine were somehow more valuable because I’d learned to walk and talk. What we could do was trust that we serve an all-wise and all-loving God, whose choices are always in our best interests. 

It’s one thing to argue from personal experience, but it’s another to learn from one of the most influential women in history. The “real” Mary of the Christmas story was an unwed girl between 13-15 years old when the angel told her she would be Jesus’ mother. Although we’re used to an idealized version of the story, the truth is that the angel told her the end result – she’d mother the Messiah – but didn’t give her any prediction of daily life until then. Unwed motherhood carried the death penalty in Mary’s day. While Mary knew she wouldn’t die, she still risked losing her fiancée as well as being ostracized by society, both of which could threaten her survival after Jesus’ birth. 

In our day, a teen mom facing these obstacles would be an automatic candidate for abortion. But what does Mary do? Instead of arguing with the angel, she responds to his message with gratitude: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38). It’s easy to discount Mary’s story because she lived two thousand years ago and has attained an almost divine status in some churches, but the truth is that she was a teenage girl who embraced a terrifying proposition with truth and grace. 

I write all this to challenge our thinking on abortion, especially in light of the upcoming Supreme Court decision. Are health or socio-economic status really valid reasons to prioritize one human’s life over another’s? Or do we accept these arguments simply because their advocates are standing in front of us but their victims are not? My goal is not to condemn anyone who may have had an abortion in the past, but to stimulate us to a clearer knowledge of the truth and a firmer resolution to uphold it. One of my favorite Bible passages that speaks to this issue is 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Let us not fear what may happen to us – or our loved ones – in the future, but let us trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to love our neighbor as ourselves. Even if our neighbor is unborn. 

Five Years Since the Accident

Hello, Blogging Family! Today marks exactly five years since I was hit by a car that ran a red light as I was crossing the street. I was carrying my violin since I was on my way to play my first Christmas concert of the season, and the driver hit me before he hit his brakes.

Mercifully, I don’t remember any of the actual accident: we learned the details later when police reviewed security camera from the intersection. What I do remember is God’s relentless grace toward us over the past five years as we’ve walked a surprising road toward physical and emotional recovery. In light of these experiences, Ivan and I would like to share some Bible verses that have encouraged and challenged us on our journey. 

~

GRACE

Matthew 6:33

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

This became one of Ivan’s and my key verses when we were dating since a graduate piano student and a college senior need multiple employment doors to open before they can marry! Thankfully God honored our desire to submit to his will during that period, and he’s continued to honor it as we’ve crossed bridge upon bridge after my accident: finding a job in Silicon Valley, treating my seizures in spite of a difficult diagnosis, and affording a house on a single income. Now, we still want to submit our plans to his will as we embark on a new treatment and recovery journey.

Psalm 139

In my last post, I mentioned memorizing verses 7-12 to ground myself during the tumultuous onset of my mental illness. But the truth is the entire Psalm has been my foundation over the past five years. From marveling at God’s intimate knowledge of my emotions, to trusting his plan for the body he designed before the world began, to renewing my commitment to follow him wholeheartedly, I continually turn here for encouragement and perspective. 

~

IVAN

Job 1:21

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

Job 2:10

“Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

God has promised us a perfect eternity with Him in Heaven, but He has not promised us a perfect life on earth. Sometimes we forget this, and get confused or angry when bad things happen to us. We think and feel that “it’s not supposed to be like this.” And in a way we’re right, since God created us to live in perfect harmony with him. That is what Heaven will be like. In the meantime, do we love and trust Him enough to accept the bad as well as the good, no matter how much it may hurt for now?

Psalm 68:19

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”

Often when I think about reasons to praise God I think about the “big” things He’s done like creating the universe and human beings, as well as the work of salvation Jesus accomplished on the cross. This verse highlights another equally amazing aspect of God’s love for us—the fact that our daily burdens are not too trivial for Him. Some days feel more burdensome than others, and some burdens far outweigh others. Yet God bears these burdens with us, for us, every day. And He bears us in His arms.

~

CONCLUSION

Romans 11:36

“For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”

We printed this verse on our wedding programs because it encapsulates our goal as Christ-followers: We want to glorify God with our thoughts, words, and actions, no matter what blessings and trials come our way. This isn’t a goal that we pursue out of obligation, but out of gratitude for the salvation God has made available through the death and resurrection of his Son. In Christ, we have eternal life and a hope that will outlast all earthly circumstances.

Thank you for walking with us. We love you all!

Darkness and Light

Discharge selfie! 😉

I’ve written and rewritten this post in my head several times, and it may be one of the hardest posts I’ve written. But a wise friend advised me to “proclaim boldly of God’s strength and humbly of your own weakness” as I draft my thesis, and I hope to do the same with this post.

***

Ivan and I have written about my traumatic brain injury (TBI) deficits a few times over the years. We spelled them out explicitly at first, then mentioned them less frequently as time passed and my symptoms plateaued. They include irrational anxiety, fear, and sometimes anger, and typically surface in open-ended situations or overstimulating environments. 

Put a different way, part of my brain is like a severed telephone wire: The logic parts of my brain stop “talking” to the emotion parts when I’m stressed. As you might imagine, this disconnect can put a strain on Ivan’s and my relationship, and I’m thankful for grace he extends when I panic during a “TBI episode.” 

During my initial recovery, we’d developed strategies to work around these deficits and have coped reasonably well for the past five years. But this year I grew more volatile and less resilient, and even took multiple blogging breaks as my TBI episodes began interfering with my ability to handle everyday life. These episodes were no longer the brief anxiety flare ups Ivan and I were used to navigating. Now I felt hopeless and worthless every day, in addition to panicking when things went wrong. I assumed my mood would lift with prayer and Bible reading, but the “broken connection” between my knowledge and emotions meant I continued to get worse.

I lost weight and hair. In October, I started running away from home every day without knowing why. Then came the voices and visions inside my head.

Mental illness is a sensitive issue and the current healthcare model prioritizes treating symptoms instead over the diagnosis, so I’ll summarize by saying that I’ve undergone two multi-day hospitalizations in the past six weeks. At first doctors were puzzled since my symptoms are serious and I have no  history of mental illness, but they finally traced them back to an imbalance caused by my traumatic brain injury. 

The past few months have been a lot to absorb, but I’m grateful for a clinical answer – and treatment – for a constellation of symptoms that have been an added burden for an entire year. This treatment will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, but the outlook is positive, and I’m blessed to have a team of healthcare providers I trust. I’d like to close with a passage from Psalm 139 that I memorized during my first hospital stay. It’s given me hope during my worst moments and continues to bring me joy every morning: 

“I can never escape from your Spirit!

I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;

if I go down to the grave, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning,

if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me

and your strength will support me.

I could ask the darkness to hide me,

and the light around me to become night –

but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

To you the night shines as bright as day.

Darkness and light are the same to you.”

At Least I Won’t Get Tetanus…

Mom is long overdue for a picture on the blog!

“And you’re still having seizures?” My primary care doctor scrolls the “ongoing health conditions” cluttering my electronic medical record. Different providers have coded my seizures differently over the years without bothering to streamline previous entries.

“Sort of. I stopped having huge ones after I started that medication at the top of the list, but I still have smaller ones a few times a month.” 

“Never mind. It says ‘epilepsy’ way down at the bottom.” She scribbles a final note on my disability recertification forms, then hands the packet back to me. “Epilepsy, history of stroke, history of traumatic brain injury. That should do it.”

“Thanks so much! Sorry I have to bother you with a bunch of paperwork every year.” I fold the papers and reach for my purse.

“Oh wait – ” She frowns at the computer. “ – it says here you’re due for a tetanus shot. I’ll have the injection clinic call and set something up. Stay safe!”

By God’s grace, I have stayed safe through an eighteen-month pandemic and three rounds of Covid injections. Yet the same was not true of my tetanus booster this past Wednesday. Mom shuttled me to Kaiser at 8:30 am for what was supposedly a quick injection – until I started having seizures on the way home. They didn’t stop until around 7:30 pm.

Two years ago, fifteen seizures would have been an automatic ER trip. I’d like to think we stayed home this time because we’ve accumulated neurological life experience, and this may be true. I remember reminding Mom that there’s not much ER doctors actually do unless someone has an abnormal seizure or stops breathing. Although my memory gets fuzzier after that, Ivan must have agreed with me since he taught all his classes that day.

But whether or not we possess deeper neurological wisdom than in previous years, I suspect the real reason we stayed home is that we’ve gained perspective on what constitutes a “routine emergency.” I was not in danger of dying from my current symptoms, unlike the day I got food poisoning and had sixty-seven seizures in twenty-four hours.  

In fact, Wednesday featured several other protagonists with significant needs: Dad is still mid-recovery, and Mom is facing the physical and emotional grind that all caregivers face, no matter how much their loved one is improving. The last thing she needed was a second, higher-maintenance mouth to feed. (I mean this literally, since I stayed at my parents’ condo while Ivan was at work.) As for Ivan, next week is his choirs’ first live performance in two years. The last thing he needed was an absence two classes before showtime. 

But Wednesday’s biggest lesson was one of gratitude. Four years ago we used to wake up each morning wondering how many seizures I was going to have that day. Three years ago, we’d wake up praying I wouldn’t have an atonic seizure, since I often struggled to breathe and took hours to recover. Two years ago, I had fewer big seizures but still worried about little ones: a single incident could spark a week-long migraine. This year, I still have seizures and migraines several times a month, but thanks to better medication they’re no longer the first thing on my mind in the morning. 

Sometimes it takes a really bad Wednesday to notice how many answered prayers I’ve taken for granted. 

Truth in Trials

Hello, Blogging Family! Some of you know that my Dad’s been experiencing some health issues over the past few weeks. I mentioned in my last post that Ivan and I limit what we post about own lives online, so I won’t get into specifics about Dad’s health out of respect for his privacy. However, I would like to share what God is teaching me through an experience where I’m helpless to help someone I love. This is a trial we all experience at some point, and I hope these thoughts encourage you in some way.

Since my post-accident memory isn’t the best, I could only remember encouraging Bible phrases – not passages – as Dad’s situation developed. The first phrase was one I’d been praying over for most of the summer as it applied to witnessing for Christ in a secular society: “…We will speak the truth in love, growing more and more like Christ…” I was curious why God kept bringing this phrase to mind as I prayed for my Dad, so I looked up the original passage:

“Then, we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing more and more like Christ who is the head of his body, the church.” ~ Ephesians 4:14-15

Dad’s situation seemed detrimental to his ministry goals, and I thought it was even more unfair that my parents would experience their own health trial after they’d sacrificed so much for Ivan and me. But after reading Ephesians I realized I was buying into the “fairness” ideology that doesn’t account for God’s grace. I can’t always make sense of His  plans, but I have to trust that the God who sacrificed his Son for our sins – the epitome of an unfair bargain – sees our needs and will meet them perfectly. 

The second verse that was cycling through my mind was: “Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.” (Colossians 3:10). I’d been pondering this verse for a while, and it seemed fairly obvious that trials offer a deeper opportunity to take up my cross and rely on Christ. Still, I was still curious to look up the whole chapter and see how context altered or expanded the idea: 

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” ~ Colossians 3:1-4

These verses actually come before the verse I’d been considering. The only way to put on our new nature as Christ-followers is to fix our eyes on the prize he’s won for us: an eternity with God in heaven. As much as I love my Dad and am praying for his health issues to be resolved, I can take joy in the fact that Christ has already ensured his spiritual welfare, and that we’ll all spend an eternity worshiping God in heaven.

And finally, there’s the book of James. It wasn’t hard to remember James 1:2 after five years of memorizing it every year as a kid in AWANA: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” But I still wanted to see how the passage ended since I’d been so encouraged looking up Ephesians and Colossians. Sure enough:

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4

This passage contained the four words that struck me the most of anything I’d read so far: So let it grow.

My natural tendency is either to resist trials or pretend I’ve got them under control. As I watch a loved one suffer, I’m also reminded I have the potential to resist on someone else’s behalf. Surrendering a trial’s outcome to God is the hardest response, but James says it’s the only way to increase our endurance. 

So let it grow. 

We’re still not completely of the woods with Dad. On a personal level, my brain injury damaged the part of the brain that connects logic with emotion, so reviewing what is true about God doesn’t always counteract anxiety. But the Holy Spirit is bigger than both struggles and God promises to remain faithful as we renew our minds daily in His Word. My hope is that these passages can encourage those of you facing uncertainty – and inspire you to be curious about the context of every verse God uses to encourage you along the way.