Have you ever felt as if you’re walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” either figuratively or literally? It’s dark, and you wonder if and how you’ll survive.
Lately a few lines from Psalm 23 have been on my heart. I can’t get the out of my head. (Yes, I know there is a lot of empty space in there.) I hate that I had to take a break from writing for the past few weeks. Thank you to those who asked where I was or wondered if something happened. Something did happen, and that’s what put these verses on my heart.
I have Mast Cell Disease. It’s an extremely rare, incurable, life threatening, allergic like disorder. The best description is “allergic to life.” Every day my body is fighting an allergic reaction, often it’s “idiopathic,” no known cause. On a good day, it’s mild. On the worst days, well it is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I frequently experience anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic reaction which causes me to be unable to breathe. I need epinephrine at home and then more treatment at the Emergency Room. Last week was one of those trips to the ER. It’s also one of the driving forces of why I have to look for Jesus In Every Moment (you know, the overall title of this blog.) While so far, I have a 100% survival rate when it comes to anaphylaxis, and I do anything I can to distract myself while I’m receiving treatment, the truth is, I know my life is in danger. (I know my best friend would appreciate it if I stop joking about not seeing the “white light” yet, but hey, I get my laughs where I can.)
Last week, laying in that hospital bed in the ER, hooked up to monitors, receiving multiple medications, while looking cute in my rainbow Vogmask and custom penguin hospital gown, (I’m even allergic to the gowns they have at the ER, plus they’re ugly.) I couldn’t get Psalm 23:4 out of my mind.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (ESV)
I knew I was in a place well equipped to prevent death, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the shadow of it. I usually have music playing while I’m there, and this time was no exception. I had to remember I didn’t need to fear because God was with me. No matter the outcome, He was there. (In case you were wondering, I did survive.) Yes, God was there and I lived, but where was He in the details? This was my 22nd anaphylaxis. Was he really there caring for me?
Yes, He was. I often talk about A Jesus Moment. It’s a moment when something good happens, in any situation. When we recognize those moments, we are seeing God show up. So, where was He? Where did I see His hand working? What was good about a life-threatening situation?
I had an EpiPen at home, medication that saved my life.
I had my parents to help me.
I had my mom to take me to the ER and stay with me.
I had friends who were praying for me and encouraging me.
The road was icy, but we arrived safely.
There was a parking spot next to the door.
I had access to medical care.
I had a custom gown that didn’t cause an allergic reaction. (and looked cute!)
I had one of my favorite nurses and one of my favorite doctors.
I was taken care of quickly and with skill.
They followed the unique protocol necessary for someone with Mast Cell Disease.
My nurse, Chris, was fast on his feet, and quickly got more epinephrine when I needed it.
He managed to get my IV on the first try.
I was given a room with a door that completely closed so I wasn’t exposed to other triggers that could cause another reaction.
Pillows are a scarce commodity in the ER, but two blankets folded just right are even more comfortable.
We had a good laugh when my doctor said I could unhook my monitor so I could use the restroom, but never told my nurse. He was VERY concerned when the alarms went off.
I was stable enough to eat a snack, and Chris was able to get me the good graham crackers.
They still had up Christmas decorations that made me smile.
After a few hours of treatment and observation, I was able to go home.
God was everywhere. Finding Him in those little things did something huge. It brought joy!
Somewhere around 2AM when I was enjoying my graham crackers, Psalm 23:4 came to mind.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” (ESV)
While that may have come to mind because of the snack, I’m pretty sure that verse isn’t literally referring to the best graham crackers ever on a hospital tray. (Seriously, they have the good brand!) Yet, it did seem like a metaphor unfolding. That verse says “He prepares a table.” It never says God forces us to eat.
Do we miss see God moving in our lives because we choose to never partake of joy giving things He provides? We have to choose to let God take care of us. We also have to do our part.
Think of how frustrating it would be if you cooked the perfect meal, complete with your family’s favorite foods, and all they did was stare at it, then complain because they couldn’t taste it because they weren’t eating. They aren’t babies who need to be spoon fed, and neither are we.
God’s love, provision, and goodness are here for us at every moment, but we have to reach out and grab it on our own. He won’t force us to accept Him or the gifts He has for us. Sometimes it’s hard to find the good in horrible situations. I can tell you I’m not a perfect example and never will be. When I knew I was going to need to use my EpiPen, I was silently begging God to stop the reaction. Afterwards, I was mad because this happened again. I wanted to be at home in my comfy bed sound asleep, not on a thin mattress in the ER with an IV in my arm. I definitely don’t like having hives on a daily basis, or having to stop as I’m writing to make sure my oxygen levels are okay. Yet, God is good. One night last spring after I used my EpiPen and was grabbing my bag to take to the hospital I said out loud (rather angrily) as tears were streaming down my face: “Show me where you are!”
And God did.
He knew I was hurt, angry, and scared. He also knew I was desperate to find Him. Just like that night a week ago, He showed up in many little places. I had to simply keep my eyes open and know that even though the enemy of Mast Cell Disease and the shadow of death from anaphylaxis surrounded me, He placed good things right in front of me.
I do sometimes question how much I should share about Mast Cell Disease. I don’t want to be known for having the scary, rare, life threatening illness. I want to be known as someone who finds joy in it all, and hopefully shares that with others. This quote from Morgan Harper-Nichols for QWCdevos perfectly sums what I hope to be:
No matter what kind of things are thrown her way,
She will not break.
And not because she’s unbreakable,
But because her joy in the Lord is unshakable.
Sometimes it’s a hard choice, but when you ask God, He will help you. He may also throw in some graham crackers just to make you smile.
I have a challenge for you. (Come on, it’s been a few weeks.) Today, think of one good thing no matter what you’re going through. Find the joy. Ask God to show you where He is, and He will. I’d love to hear what it is, so consider leaving a comment on the blog as well.