At every military post we say goodbye to, I find myself in deep gratitude to God as I look in the rearview mirror. As I glance back, I see His stamp on that season of my life and I can leave with peace and praise. At some posts, I find that God uses me primarily to bless others, and at the next place, He's at work using others to bless me. However, I have struggled to see His fingerprints while stationed here in New York. The large majority of my time has been spent battling one illness after another, and I feel like I'm missing God's plan in my sickness. I often find myself wondering how to be a strong woman of God when I feel so weak. The months left here in West Point are few and I don't want to leave His plan unfulfilled if my flesh is standing in the way.
I spent most of our first year in New York sick with hyperemesis gravidarum as I carried our third child. Shortly after Isla's birth, we began our second year here with my diagnosis of Lyme disease as I pursued the root cause for my mysterious chronic nausea. As we began our third and final year at West Point, I was diagnosed with Lyme yet again after another tick bite this summer. One hundred and eighty doses of antibiotics later, my immune system appears ineffective; additionally, negative side effects from the medication showed up with vigor while I continue to battle the symptoms of Lyme. Instead of seeing God at work, I initially found myself asking why He put me here, a place with neighboring borders to the Lyme capital of the world. God, what is Your plan? How can I be used here in my illness? Once I was ready to stop wallowing in my pity party, I regained the rare peace you can attain through a relationship with Jesus. I pulled on my big-girl pants and recalled all the of miracles He has worked in my life, all of which started in the valley. These impossible feats I've witnessed are real, evident, tangible, and instill in me immeasurable hope. I KNOW the Lord is at work in this. I am already seeing the fruit of God's mysterious ways as I learn to hold His hand through this trial and trust him without borders, even if I'm on the Lyme capital border!
We have seven months left here in New York--seven more months to serve and learn, and love others at West Point and in our community. It's feeling very final. If you're a military spouse you can relate to the fact that I'm already mentally moving! I'm making my checklist of what has to be sorted, sold, donated. I'm narrowing down the attractions we want to experience before we move on to another place. I'm thinking about the people God has given to love me and to love on and I'm already beginning to miss their friendships. But, as God does, He's revealing His glory near our parting. The multi-colored pieces of his masterful mosaic are starting to make an image. I finally see His plan, and it's an eternal one. (I'll save that for another time!) As the picture God is creating finally emerges, I am gaining peace in my sickness. I am realizing that His plan isn't thwarted in my weakness. So, I am embracing this season as a strong woman who is ailing and trying to learn to do it well. We will all find ourselves here at some point, floundering in the sea of sickness. It's part of this ride before we're lavished with perfect health in Heaven. In the meantime, let's go forth and conquer our weariness in a way (or seven ways!) that glorify God.
1. Pray: When we are at our weakest, our knees should be at their strongest. They should be building strength as we desperately and daily seek the Lord through our illness. Begin this time with praise. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for and our God is forever worthy of our praise. Ask God for healing and direction, wisdom for your medical team, and support from your friends and family.
2. Enlist prayer partners: One of the greatest blessings God has bestowed on me is a handful of Christian women who love the Lord and love me. We pray for each other during our trials and rejoice together when God grants our prayer requests. At this season of life, it's typically a quick text message. If you don't have prayer partners, seek a group of people you can count on to pray for you. Matthew 18:20 encourages us, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
3. Rest: Our bodies need rest to heal. For a tenacious, independent person, this step is counter to our being. How can we rest when there are chores to be done, babies to raise, work to be completed, errands to run, friends to help, obligations to fulfill, events to attend, and the world to save?! You'll get back to all that, God willing, but in the meantime, you have to work on your health first!
4. Confide in family and friends: As a person who thinks she can do it all (and perfectly!), it's challenging to admit how feeble I actually feel. Even on my roughest days, I find myself pushing through and no one knows the depths of my suffering. That's not beneficial to my healing or to my family. We need to honestly express our situation so others can understand and be in a position to offer help.
5. Ask for help: Request help from your loved ones, from the little things like certain chores you cannot muster to more significant requests, like prayer. Be specific if you need to so others know how to support you.
6. Give yourself grace: When we feel lousy, it's hard to maintain our patience and compassion. Frequent missteps in attitude and speech seem to occur more readily and I'm finding myself often seeking forgiveness. This is part of my sanctification process, learning to be gentle in spirit while my flesh is ill. I'm reminded of God's grace and need to accept it when I fall short in heart and deed.
7. Trust God: We can't understand God's reasonings or foresee His plan. He has changed my life so dramatically from the time I became a believer in Christ and moved mountains over and over that I have full trust in His plan for my life. Maybe He is allowing me to experience Lyme because my knowledge will one day help others, maybe it's a path that leads me to connect with someone I otherwise would not, maybe it's a way to draw me nearer to Him, maybe it's to build some aspect of my character, maybe I needed this to clean up and prioritize my family's health. Who knows? Only God does, and I trust His love and plan for me through it.
As I'm beginning to plan for my tenth military move, I'm getting out the dust cloth to wipe off that rear view mirror. Soon, West Point is going to be a place of the past. I will drive away with another season of my life in the books. Will I let it be a story of a woman plagued with illness or will I let it be a story of a woman who used her weakness to grow stronger in Christ?
Have a few extra minutes? Listen to my anthem as I work through this chapter of life. I can't help but relish in God's glory!
NO. MATTER. WHAT.