Have you ever yelled at God? Not just one or two lines of frustration but a full-on tantrum based on anger, fear, confusion and, yes, a whole lot of frustration.
Did you scream for a solid twenty minutes, a blubbering mess of tears and snot?
I have. I did. I railed at my God the entire drive home as I fought nausea and vomiting, pain in nearly every joint, and fatigue so deep I could have slept for days, except my body hurt too badly to allow such a thing.
Thankfully, I was alone in the car at the time.
Correction. There were no other people in the car, but I wasn’t alone. God was certainly there, listening to my every word, every question I wanted answered, every bit of vile disdain I threw at him.
As if the drive wasn’t enough, my tantrum continued inside my home. After I spent a few minutes dry heaving in the toilet, I recoiled to my bed, wrapped myself in blankets and sobbed into a pillow. My husband was quickly by my side. Not knowing what to do with me in this form, he did all he knew to do; he gathered me in his arms and let me weep into his chest.
I cried much of the same words I’d screamed in the car. When will this end? Am I being punished for something? All I want to do is be a mom and a wife. Why can’t He let me have that? I’m so tired. I hurt. I just want it to be over. Why? Why? Why?
Why don’t I hear you, God? I hear friends talk about listening to God’s voice, so why haven’t You shared Your voice with me? You allowed this disease to ravage my body and my life, and then You just left me here alone to figure it out. Where are You? Please, God, talk to me. Send me a sign. Send me something to let me know You are listening! I feel so alone.
I had screamed these words while driving. I’d cried the words into my husband’s chest. And later, I whispered them again, after asking God to forgive me for behaving like a petulant child and to please, please let Izzi have this moment.
You see, I had scheduled a playdate for my six-year-old Izzi. Paisley was the first friend in her class she’d ever shown any interest in inviting to our home. This felt significant, and I didn’t want to cancel. I loathe when my sickness affects my children’s lives. I want their world to be untouched by this darkness inside of me. I want their childhood to be “normal,” even though I realize it’s too late for that.
The playdate itself was doable, even if I was too sick. I knew my husband and older daughter could handle it. The complication was that this particular friend is much like our Izzi, shy around new people and extremely timid without her mom. I knew to keep the playdate I would have to be well enough to entertain Paisley’s mom, Jen, while our children played. I had never met Jen. Aside from the occasional posts I’d seen on Facebook, I knew nothing about her, and, I guessed, she knew little about me. Given the amount of time I had spent with my head in the toilet that morning and the fact that much of my body was wrapped in ice or heating pads, I didn’t know if could fake normal for an entire afternoon. Heck, I didn’t know if I could stay awake for one conversation, let alone hours of them.
But I didn’t want to disappoint two little girls.
This dilemma made me furious at God. I had accepted the changes and the profound loss in my life. I’d lowered my standards to a degree a healthy person could not imagine. I asked for little. So why couldn’t God allow me to be well enough to spend an afternoon with a fellow mom? Why couldn’t He give Izzi this??
The momma bear in me was wide awake, claws out and mouth open. It wasn’t about ME being sick, it was about my Izzi being allowed to enjoy a simple playdate, to have a normal life despite the unreliable health of her momma.
Undeterred by my symptoms, I forged ahead with the playdate. If I got sick during it or if I fell asleep while Paisley’s mom was talking, so be it. I figured I’d explain my sickness at the beginning of the visit and hope her mom understood. I took more medicine and mentally steadied myself.
Izzi was positively ecstatic as she’d waited, yet when Paisley and her mom finally knocked, Izzi was too shy to open the door. This was all she’d talked about for weeks, but her introversion kept her rooted to my side. I opened the door and immediately realized little Paisley was having the same struggle. As her mom and I chatted, the girls would not leave our sides. Their armor was on and their shields were up. This was not the kindergarten classroom. They were unsure in this different environment.
So Jen and I ventured upstairs under the pretense of me showing her the decor of our 110 year old house. When we reached Izzi’s room, we stood and talked while the girls slowly began to venture from behind us and actually play.
My nausea was completely gone. My joint pain was tolerable. The fatigue had abated.
We stood for about twenty minutes, then I showed Jen the rest of our home, stopping in the upstairs reading nook. We knew if we went downstairs, the girls would retreat with us. So we sat in the nook, me in the recliner and Jen on the floor, just a couple feet away from each other, and although we had just met, this felt as natural as breathing. We talked as if we were childhood friends, reconnecting after decades apart.
Now comes the God-wink you’ve been waiting for. You knew it was coming, right? Well, I didn’t. Frankly, I was terrified that in my honesty and yelling, I had angered God. I was so relieved at our daughters’ playing and my worst symptoms temporarily subsiding, I thought those two things in themselves were gifts I didn’t deserve after my outburst.
But that’s not how God works.
I shared a little of my Lyme story with Jen, including my endless search for a specialist who would be able to cure me, and at some point she said, “I saw Dr. Onishi, too.”
I blinked as the recognition of those words hit me.
My Lyme Literate MD operates in Pennsylvania, just across our West Virginia border. Only a handful of people around here even know of him and those who do only know him because they, too, suffer from Lyme or other tick-borne illnesses.
Jen, like me, credited Dr. Onishi for putting her on a treatment of prescription and holistic medicine that likely saved her life. The odds of the two of us sharing so much of the same narrative are impossible to even imagine.
I listened to her story, noting amazing similarities no other person in my daily life could possibly understand. The constant pain. The loss of time. The uncertainty. The treatments. The fear.
Above all, that feeling of aloneness, that no one else gets it because so few in our area have been diagnosed with Lyme disease. That people doubt our sickness or our treatment or our inability to maintain a normal life. The frustration of this all.
We talked for hours. The girls played and giggled just a few yards from us as we discovered our miraculous connection.
God didn’t just send me the sign I’d begged for. God sent me A FRIEND, a fellow mom, a kindred spirit in our bodies’ betrayal of us, a woman who GOT IT completely.
After dinner, Jen and Paisley said their goodbyes, and we all hugged, gently, as if we’d known each other forever. Her story had breathed life back into mine, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel so alone in this journey.
As they drove away, I wrapped Izzi into my arms and asked her if she’d had fun.
“It was the best playdate ever, momma!“she responded.
“I really like your friend Paisley,” I said.
“But you know what?” I said. “I think I might like her mom even more!”
She grinned and wiggled out of my arms to play with her sister. I collapsed into my spot beside the fireplace, a cozy chaise that has become my “Sheldon spot” this winter. I closed my eyes and took inventory of my body. Still no nausea –what a gift. Some pain and soreness. My head hurt from concentrating for so long. But mostly I felt overwhelming exhaustion.
Before I slipped off to sleep, I whispered, “I’m so sorry for questioning you, God. But thank you for showing up in a big way, in a way that left no room for doubt. I asked for a sign and you sent Jen. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Peace filled me then and I slept, wrapped in a soft blanket and my Father’s unwavering love.
Too often I feel abandoned by God. But here’s the truth; how I feel is not how it is. The pauses in our life are places meant to strengthen our resolve, not weaken it. I must trust that my healing –should it come on this side of heaven or not –is based on the grace of God. Even on the bad days, the truth is God is still good, and He will carry me through this season just as he’s carried me through the ones before.
And now, thanks to a “random” playdate for my child, I am blessed with a kindred spirit, an unexpected friend, to walk beside me on this journey.
I had requested a sign, and He responded.
“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:6
I will not be shaken. Will not is tough for me; should not is unfortunately more realistic. No one is perfect, but will not be shaken is what we should strive for every day.
Thankfully, he loves us even when we don’t achieve it.