"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up."
What does this look like for me? It doesn't mean that those hard, cling-to-each-other hard, times will ever not be hard. It doesn't mean that the memories of Luke's diagnosis, when we were told he had a 50% chance of also having Down Syndrome, or the night he aspirated and needed a brain scan, or the three times we handed him over to the surgeon are erased. No, they will never be gone, but they are less painful to visit.
It means that for the first time, I am more confident than fearful that Luke will come through just fine this current cold he has (I knew he'd get more sick this year as a preschooler, but the first week? Really?) and that the benefit of him experiencing preschool outweighs my fear of him getting sick.
It means that I am truly okay with not knowing when his Fontan will take place.
It doesn't mean that I don't think about his weight, his color, his energy-level, but it does mean that more often than not I am in the moment with him, just enjoying life with him.
It means holding my friends' heart healthy babies with a heart full much more of joy than grief over our family's circumstances. To be honest, it has been hard for me to enter into my friends' joy over their new bundles, the sting of what we didn't experience overshadowing the beauty of new life. But lately, slowly, I have felt different. And I'm so thankful to God for restoring these parts of me when I wasn't even looking.
I am big on allowing yourself to feel what you're feeling. I have met the sweetest new heart mom who is understandably shaken by her son's recent diagnosis with a congenital heart defect. This baby boy was diagnosed at two days old with double inlet left ventricle (like Luke), has had his PA banding surgery and will have the Glenn in the next several months. I think it's easy for us moms to think we shouldn't feel grief or sadness or anger, that we should be able to "move on". On the contrary, I think we need to feel the breadth and depth of emotions that come with the territory of suffering before we can move toward healing those parts of our hearts, and that's what I encouraged this mama to do. In our family, my job is to encourage Rog to allow himself to feel what he's feeling and his is to encourage me not to dwell too long on those feelings. It is definitely a balancing act. To feel but not dwell. Because it is oh-so-easy to dwell.
I have read the following Bible story several times before, but just recently as I've begun recognizing this restoration work God is doing in me, I read it with new eyes. It's the story of Jesus healing an 38-year paralytic.
"Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people — blind, crippled, paralyzed — were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, 'Do you want to get well?'
The sick man said, 'Sir, when the water is stirred, I don't have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.'
Jesus said, 'Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.' The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off."
It seems like a strange question Jesus asks this man, but it leads this man to admit he has no hope of healing without help. We don't know if he was feeling sorry for himself, or complaining to Jesus, but before he could say anything else, Jesus speaks. "Stand up and be well."
This is how hurt becomes hope: We bear one another's burdens, we ask God for help and trust Him to do what He does best — restore.