[Luk 9:62 NKJV] 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I have been dealing with a heavy heart lately…actually, if I’m honest, I live with a heavy heart since Ariel’s diagnosis. Lately has been worse because my daddy died all of a sudden. I miss my dad. I miss the days before Ariel’s leukemia diagnosis. I miss the carefree days of just enjoying our babies, the joy of our marriage restoration, and having both of our dads around.
It is so hard looking at our pictures now…something I used to love. Everything is seen through a datestamp. I look through the pictures and something wells up within me and wants to scream at my son in that picture, “Enjoy it, son, Granddaddy is gonna be gone in 10 months!” Or every picture of Ariel is viewed as pre-diagnosis or post-diagnosis…and I so wanna climb into that picture and go back to pre-diagnosis days. I can’t help it, that’s just how I feel.
The past few weeks have been especially trying. Ariel has been sick…the praise is this is the first time she’s been sick since her diagnosis in over a year! She’s had a stomach bug. And while she handled that like a champ, unfortunately, it’s taken a toll on her already delicate GI system from all the meds she takes. When one of my babies gets sick, it’s hard. But when Ariel gets sick or doesn’t feel well, I don’t handle it well…I admit. I worry. I fret. I stress. Not that it does me or my family a bit of good, but, again, it’s what this Mama does. I just want her better.
Her dad finally asked about what life would look like after treatment ends in 13 months. It was a great question I could never manage to think of, since I can’t get past the stage we are always currently in. Once treatment ends, we will still be going to the doctor once a month for another YEAR! Then it will slowly taper to fewer visits over the next FIVE years till we are just going once every six months! I swallowed that news. When we left the hospital that day, I cried in the car as we were driving home. I knew they would monitor her closely after treatments ended, but I never imagined this. This is our life. This is my baby girl’s early life. She won’t remember a time without hospitals or clinics or pills or needle sticks or procedures. I was devastated. It’s all very heavy.
There’s such a strong duality to all of this. I am so grateful my baby girl turned five years old yesterday…ARIEL IS STILL ALIVE. I STILL HAVE HER. When she feels well, she’s full of life and fire and sheer will. However, there’s this flip side to it all. This is a very difficult and, apparently, long journey to trudge. Life is so fragile. I feel like we are always one step away from this vast precipice and any chaos we experience or one more extra thing and our lives shift out of balance ready to topple head-first into the expanse. That’s not really a fun way to live. It’s heavy.
Thanksgiving this year was so picturesque. It was this normal bustling holiday. Kids were excited about the meal while watching the Macy’s Parade. JW and I were busy in the kitchen preparing the feast. A handful of guests came. I watched football. JW took the kids hunting. Then I went Black Friday shopping while they cooked s’mores over a fire. It was normal when normal isn’t normal at my house. I couldn’t believe it. It was the most wonderful Thanksgiving I’ve ever experienced. I walked around the house thinking how happy I was, but my happiness nowadays is muted. It’s no longer carefree happiness with giddiness and a light step. My happiness is experienced in the heaviness…will it always be this way? I hope not, but at the same time, I’m so very grateful for it now. Heavy happiness is so much better than the sadness my life could be…and I know that full well.
I want a life that isn’t so heavy. I long for carefree days. I want the joys of my babies in perfect health. I want my dad back. I long for simple days and normalcy. God knows my secret thoughts. He knows the desires of my heart…better than I even realize them. This holiday weekend, I read a t-shirt that said, “Don’t look back, you’ll miss the road ahead.” That grabbed my attention. Then yesterday morning my heart was heavy again, because it was Ariel’s birthday and she started out her day vomiting all over the floor and I had to clean it up. Then my morning message popped on my phone: “The only thing the past has to offer you is lessons. It’s time to look ahead and move forward!” Honestly, God, I don’t wanna move forward. I don’t like this path I’m on. Can’t I just get off this crazy train?
But God doesn’t leave me alone. He makes His presence known. He lets me know He’s here on this crazy train next to me. As I was sadly going through pictures this weekend, I noticed something I’d never seen before. Around times of tragedy, there would be pics we had taken of rainbows. Who doesn’t love rainbows? So we try to get good pics of them when we see them. But I started noticing a trend, and I couldn’t believe it. Ten days before my Father-in-law died, there was a huge wide rainbow in the sky. Around the time my dad died, I found a rainbow on my bedroom floor and used it as a science lesson for the kids, thinking nothing of it. Then yesterday morning, I felt inclined to read the Blessings of God I have typed out hanging in my kitchen…and there it was…another rainbow on the blessing sheet! I believe God, in His way, is reminding me of His promises: His promise that He will bring health and healing to Ariel, His promise that we will laugh and will rejoice again, His promise that great shall be the peace of all my children. I cling to these promises daily.
I also cling to the promises that have already been fulfilled. I just had a birthday myself. The background pic on my phone is of my husband holding my birthday cake with the candles lit and all the love in his eyes. I don’t forget there was a day when that wasn’t the case, or that I didn’t know if I’d ever celebrate another birthday with him again. What you don’t see in the pic is in the bottom corner there are three tiny kids all excited to be bringing their mama gifts. They don’t understand THEY are the gifts. And somewhere sleeping in the background is the tiniest one whose name means there will be happier days ahead.
Our journey is long and hard. My heart is heavy most times right now. I miss my daughter’s health. I miss being able to lean on my dad for support and his love. I do wish I could go back, but God is telling me not to look back. He’s promised me miracles. And I have learned that when God promises stuff, I gotta hold on to my hat, because it’s gonna be big! I tell you, I’m ready for big!