Killing Me with Mercy

I can’t deny it anymore. I don’t know what it is, but I know things are happening. I have never been an ER patient before, and this morning was my 3rd visit in 3 weeks. God is going to get my attention, one way or the other…

He Knew Me before I was Born…

For some reason God has always called to me, even as a little girl. Like I’ve mentioned before, I was not raised in a church-going family. My mom had a framed scripture hanging up in our kitchen, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And I remember opening a Christmas present early (a nice outfit) because I wanted to go to the Christmas Eve service with my godmother at the Lutheran Church down the street. I received a Precious Moments Bible for Easter one year and I remember the pictures being so reassuring to me. My Aunt Sandy gave me my first diary, and ever since then, as long as I was writing, I was okay. Even back then I had the Lord’s Prayer written, on the left hand of the picture below.

It’s so fun to read some of the things I wrote back then. I read some of them to Dillon: “Ryan is such a pest! He does everything just to annoy me!” And together we giggle at my dramatic 7 year old self. “Nobody cares about me or ever gets me anything! Ryan gets everything! It’s not fair!” And literally the next line in the same entry reads, “I got a kitten!”

I felt compelled to put all my diaries together, chronologically. Trying to see where I veered off track for 13 whole years. I was actually surprised when I realized how many there were, and how therapeutic journaling had obviously been to me throughout my life. As long as I’m writing, I’m okay.

My Test of Faith

My last journal isn’t pictured. My last entry I’d written is interesting to me, dated March 5, 2005. I had been listening to one of my favorite songs at the time, Misty Edward’s “Simple Devotion”. I knew I was at a crossroads. “I’m at such a weird place, God. I feel like I’m no longer a baby Christian, but I haven’t been really growing either. I know there are plans for me…I wish You would bring a girl into my life that’s my age who can help me grow and I could trust [my best friend was away at college and my other friends were in different seasons–motherhood, moving away, etc]. I feel torn…we both want this godly relationship but we’re not sure how to go about it. We act like we’re married, but we’re not. I keep getting this idea of time apart…I know when we first started going out I had made a promise that I woudl be single for six months to a year, and I didn’t really go through with that. Are You calling me to go through with that?”

Slipping Away…

The sequence of events after that is kind of fuzzy. We kept dating. I started school to become an LPN. We had a lot of fun together, and with our friends, but they weren’t our church friends. We enjoyed each other’s company, but we didn’t include Him.

Through a set of circumstances the military is well known for, we were forced to make a decision…either separate or get married. He had gotten orders overseas for a year, and then would relocate away from Montana once he was back stateside. If I wanted the military to pay for me to go, we would need to get married, and soon. So we did.

People ask me what made me stop going to Church. It wasn’t a big dramatic moment, but a series of day to day choices to make other things a priority over spending time with God. It was no single moment of, “I’m not going to go to church anymore!” It started as, “I need to study…I can read my Bible later.” “I’m so busy, I just need to skip church this week.” It was a series of choices to put whatever earthly things I was caught up in first, before God. Yes, I was busy with school, but I had plenty of time to go out with my friends after, to the bar. Yes, I needed to study, but I also somehow managed to binge watch an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy. Then one day I realized how distant He had become, and instead of turning to Him, I turned away, uncomfortably pushing away my shame by tucking my Bible further out of sight.

Realizing I Need Him…

Fast forward 13 years, and I’ve realized instead of saying, “Yes, God, I hear Your whispers and I will admit I was wrong and come home…” I have stubbornly tried living life every way I can without Him, and even though I have everything that matters most to me–Nate, my boys, my family, my home, my job, my art, I have nothing without Him. Because even with everything going for me I was still so unbearably empty I needed to drink 3 boxes of wine a week to anesthetize that void, and in my worst moments of weakness, struggling with feeling maybe it would be best to just…slip away to end that haunting ache. I wasn’t joyful, sad, mad, or any other emotion. I was just going through the motions, empty.

I would like to say I have no regrets, but I do. I regret choosing anything over God, and in the process, hurting someone a whole lot more than if I would have chosen God to begin with. I regret missing out on all that time with God, but I also believe He knows me better than I know myself and He already knows what my life will bring, and so knew what choice I would make. I think He knew I wasn’t strong enough to get out of my own way and to just trust Him, so he led me to Nate, someone he knew would love me enough to let me be myself, flaws and all, and would love me enough to have no issue with me going to Church once I found my way back to Him. I’m sure sometimes Nate wonders who this person is that he married…he’s only ever known career-focused, family-loving Jen with wine as my vice of choice.

A side note: I know God will use my story for His purpose, and I would love to be able to reach young women who might not realize they’re looking to boys for their self-worth when they should be using all that amazing time to learn everything and anything they want—explore the world, see where your fascination with spelunking or surfing or fishing or orb weaving or whatever lights the tiniest spark in your soul. To see that there is such an amazing world out there, and all of the drama of middle/high school, cliques, and boyfriends just isn’t that important in the big picture. There are so many better things to focus on, to get your self-identity from! And whatever really makes you passionate–well, that’s your soul leading you down your path. Once you get married and especially once you have children, your time is no longer your own. Being married is a blessing, but so is being single!

He Leaves the Ninety-Nine…

I stumbled on art journaling in 2004, thanks to Pinterest, and was immediately hooked. I was starting to find my way back to writing again, but in a more exciting way of trying to understand what I was feeling. Looking back, it’s so painfully obvious, but when you’re in the middle of it, it just feels like you’re drowning.

But He is mighty to save, and He has a plan…I’ve written before what happened the night (February 15) that I was home sick and stumbled on Kelly Rae Robert’s art courses. That I decided to sacrifice my wine for her class and felt my soul leap.

So technically my last drink of wine was Valentine’s Day, February 14. I’m not counting steps, I don’t classify myself as an alcoholic, I just found something better.

But ever since I started on this journey in February I have been sick. I have worked in nursing homes and hospitals for the last 16 years and I have never been this sick. It started Valentine’s Day with a cold. No big deal, Robitussin for the cough, rest, get better. I loved watching Kelly Rae create her work as I laid on the couch, her words comforting and loving. I got better, but still had the dry hacking cough that just persisted, annoying enough for my co-worker to notice but not annoying enough to pay much attention to.

Then the ER visit for that pain in my RUQ abdomen that seemed to have spontaneously resolved. Is it from the Robitussin and cough drops I’ve been living off of? I don’t know but at least my liver is still functioning.

Then last week I started getting sick again, incapacitating headaches that aren’t touched by Motrin or narcotics, fevers, chills, night sweats. My dad makes me go to the ER Sunday and I’m diagnosed with pneumonia and started on antibiotics. I see my primary provider the next day, he adds some medicine to help with the cough. I take my Zpak faithfully and I just don’t feel like I’m getting better, and the steroids are messing me with my mind and emotions. I spent the first day on cloud 9, cleaning and cooking and dancing with Logan. Then spent most of yesterday crying as I watched Kelly Rae Roberts’ create her beautiful art…I laugh as I cry but I can’t help it.

In between her videos I consult Dr Google, trying to figure out why I have been sick for so long, and realize I might have consumption (tuberculosis). All the symptoms fit to my prednisone addled brain. This morning I wake up, drenched, I can feel my heart palpitating again and I know I’m getting dehydrated again. I have a peace about it as I wake poor Nate up to tell him I’m going to the ER.

He’s already missed too much work from me being sick to stay home with the boys and I call my dad and Brenda, who come right out, at 4:30 AM. Dad takes me to town as Brenda stays with the boys and Nate goes to work. I ask my dad if I’ve ever been this sick. He shakes his head no.

A Quick Lesson in Humility

I get the same nurse as last time, and my conversation with my mom echoes in my ears. I don’t really care for this nurse…strikes me as gruff and her bedside manner needs a little polishing, and to me it’s hard for me to answer her questions. I had talked to the ER manager about my experience last time, the good and the concern, ideas I had as someone on the “other side” instead of being the ER nurse, and noted how much progress they’ve made, how hard they’re working to become the best. He explains to me she’s new to Montana and new to nursing, which kinda surprises me; she carries herself differently–more confidently.

She’s efficient as she does her assessment. I speak up and tell her I wear hearing aids, and especially with the mask I have a hard time hearing her. She immediately speaks up and I can see her demeanor change. I talk to her as she starts the IV & gets the labs going. I compliment her ballsiness to move to Montana, away from her family, for a job. She’s meeting people and exploring Montana, and this makes me happy. I tell her she comes off a little condescending sometimes, but I have no doubt she is developing into an excellent ER nurse. She looks at me with surprise.

She had no idea how she came across to me, and her being a new nurse, she wasn’t able to chit chat like a more experienced nurse would. She was task oriented–carefully focusing on starting the IV when a more proficient nurse would be able to smoothly go through the motions, etc. I was way too hard on her and this was my lesson…for assuming she was looking down on me when actually, she was just trying to do the best job she could with her experience level. We don’t know where people are coming from, or their backgrounds. They probably don’t even realize how they’re coming across, and I was slipping back into my habit of making things about me that aren’t.

A Sight for Sore Eyes

She left at 7 am and my soul danced as Donna walked in. Now this is an experienced nurse…flight, charge, she’d seen it all. I always say she’s forgotten more about nursing than I’ll ever know. She’d also scared me witless when I first met her as I started on her shift and she was my charge nurse. She could be gruff and could easily give the impression she might not really care for you. What I quickly realized working under Donna was she has a heart of gold and if you want to get her to smile you just have to tease her a little. Donna did her eloquent nursing dance, getting things in order and picking up on things with her constantly assessing eyes, making sure I was comfortable, checking on my dad, without me even really noticing all that she was doing.

The doctor comes in and I’ve worked with her before…I’ll be in good hands. Whatever she tells me, I know I will trust her and not start down more rabbit holes of hantavirus, tuberculosis, and whatever crazy maladies Dr Google likes to taunt overwhelmed sick patients with. She listens to me and lays out her game plan. The pneumonia is still there, but it’s getting better. Follow up with the chest CT scan in a few months to make sure it’s resolved. Follow up with my primary provider. Continue my medications, and rest. She tells me I’m sick, and this pneumonia isn’t just going to go away overnight. It’s going to be a while getting back to my baseline, and to give myself time to get back to normal.

As my dad and I drive home I realize I don’t even know what my baseline healthy is anymore. If I wasn’t drinking a few times a week (in the beginning, when I fell away from church), or pregnant, or drinking a lot (after weaning Logan), I had been sick since February 14. But during this time (as all my ramblings detail) God has shown me He is right here, working behind the sciences, and He’s waiting for His prodigal daughter to come home…a friend got me hooked on this song, ‘Reckless Love’…

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me

You have been so, so good to me

Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me

You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me

You have been so, so good to me

When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

And I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

Whether being sick was His way of drawing me back to Him before I could slip away again, I don’t know. But being sick has forced me to dig up diaries, to be still and realize all that I have in the last few months. And what I’ve realize is the more I boast about my weaknesses, the stronger He becomes in me, and the more people respond to Him.

For when I am weak, You are strong…

As I was almost done writing this post, I looked out the window to this as Misty Edwards sang “Killing Me with Mercy”, her lyrics describing the way I feel perfectly as I gaze up at this spectacular cloud (this picture has no filter/edit aside from cropping)…

God is so good.

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