(Written in August 2016)
Two years ago I agreed…actually sought out…to have a surgery that I had always considered a “last resort”. However, my health had reached a point where it now sounded like a dream.
Since my second spine surgery in 1995, I had lived with severe constipation due to nerve damage done to my bowels and bladder. The damage was irreparable. So at the age of nine years old, I learned how to self-catheterize and do a bi-weekly bowel routine that consisted of a large dose of laxatives followed by 10-12 hours of cramping, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and occasionally blacking out.
Mentally, this routine was brutal. Physically, it became unbearable. I did this bowel regimen through high school, college, into marriage, through pregnancy (the worst), until Promise was six years old. (There were nights where I even nursed her while on the toilet! I’m sure she’ll love hearing that when she’s older.)
The day following this routine, my body would be completely exhausted. Once my Chiari Malformation was diagnosed, we realized that the continuous straining on these nights was exasperating the symptoms of this brain malformation. We knew it was a cycle that could not continue any longer, both in order to preserve my health and to improve my quality of life.
So in November of 2015, after much testing and discussion with my colorectal surgeon, I had a loop ileostomy placed. It has been a life-changing procedure that (even with its challenges) I am abundantly thankful for.
Recently I began having cramping, nausea, and vomiting. After two weeks of experiencing this, my colorectal surgeon sent me for an X-ray that confirmed I had stool in my colon. I was blindsided and shocked by this news, because I didn’t know this was possible after an ileostomy. I have learned that with a temporary ileostomy (it can be re-connected to my colon) this can occasionally happen.
All of this has launched us into a (sooner than expected) discussion of when to go back into surgery to create a permanent ileostomy by removing my colon and rectum.
As I worked through the questions and emotions of removing these organs and my body changing, yet again, I felt tired and weighed down.
I cried. I slept…a lot. Then I woke up and I knew that crying and sleeping were beneficial for a time, but I also knew they couldn’t be my long-term solution for working through this grief.
Promise was at an impromptu sleepover and Chris was out of town. It was 11 pm (but I had slept all day) so I turned on my “Meredith Andrews Pandora Station” as loud as it could go and began doing the dishes. Those of you who have struggled with the heaviness of depression can understand what a huge step this was. All I wanted to do was crawl back under my covers, but I thought I’d try praising and thanking God…not even for the situation…but simply for who He is.
I realized in that moment, even if I couldn’t thank him for this new hurdle yet, I could still thank him for his character and his promises. Those are not affected by my circumstances.
As I sang, I cried some more, and then I felt his peace and joy wash over me.
There is a reason that “Praise” and “Thanksgiving” are mentioned as commands so many times in the Bible. They are vital to our health and can change our perspective when our situation is unchangeable.
The book of Revelation is a “revelation (in Greek, apocalypse) from Jesus Christ”** or a prophecy recorded by John. In Revelation 7:9-13, it describes the saints that have endured suffering in the name of Christ, have come out of the tribulation, and have had their robes washed white by the blood of Christ. And they are on their faces before the throne of God saying,
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
– Revelation 7:12 NAS
I was reading a commentary on this passage and there are two powerful observations about this group of verses;
“1. They acknowledge the glorious attributes of God-his wisdom, his power, and his might.
- They declare that for these his divine perfections he ought to be blessed, and praised, and glorified, to all eternity; and they confirm it by their Amen. We see what is the work of heaven, and we ought to begin it now, to get our hearts tuned for it, to be much in it, and to long for that world where our praises, as well as happiness, will be perfected.” – Matthew Henry:: Commentary on Revelation 7, Blue Letter Bibl
Stuart and Jill also reflect on this idea of “getting our hearts tuned” for heaven while here on earth, in their recent book, “Improving with Age: God’s Plan for Getting Older and Better”. They say,
“Consider this possibility: Could it be that wasting away physically and being renewed spiritually are equal and opposite realities? Could both these processes be preludes to, and reminders of, the physical return to dust and the spiritual return to the Creator? Are we living now in processes that will be completed later in eternity?”
Praise and thanksgiving towards God in the midst of our suffering will transform our perspective to that of an eternal one and give way to chronic hope.
** “How to Understand the Bible: A Simple Guide” by Mel Lawrenz
**Printed in the Winter 2017 Issue of Just Between Us Magazine. JBU is a magazine designed to “encourage and equip women for a life of faith” and was started by Jill Briscoe 26 years ago. To learn more about JBU, visit their website, and/or subscribe, click here.”