Monday, April 22, 2013

Grace in the midst of suffering

This is the next part of this story.

I have to preface this post by saying it is the one I have been dreading writing the most. I get emotional just thinking about that Sunday. Part of this documentation process, Ive realized, is making myself process and heal from the experience. As I mentioned in the last post, God kept me from writing prior to this point. I instinctively knew it was not time to reflect, and I have to believe it is because he has something else to teach me about it now.. two weeks later. But still, its been more difficult than I anticipated to continually put myself back in those shoes. I apologize if this post is more disjointed and I seem less emotionally invested, it's a coping mechanism.

A conversation with a friend via text:

"I'm blogging and hating every second of it. Not because I don't want to write, but because it's so scary and overwhelming revisiting these experiences... I'm scared to write Sunday, I started hyperventilating just thinking about it."
Her response:

"[Your posts so far] are both fantastic and I love you for having the courage to put it out there!! Keep being brave, it's not only for you :)"

And maybe that's the heart of the matter. I feel overly indulgent writing these posts. It's so personal and raw, that it feels unfair to burden others with the events of Week Two. But maybe that's the point. If one other person can take heart from my struggles, from my vulnerability, then it is all worth it.

So I will write, stop procrastinating, and write, because week two is where the game began to change.

Sunday, April 7

 I woke up that morning in a fantastic mood. Lilly was in great spirits; when I opened her cage that morning she proceeded to jump out, and into my lap. She was so content just being next to me. If I stopped petting her she'd start running in circles around me, grunting and stomping until I paid attention to her. It was adorable and heart wrending. I kept thanking God over and over again for her health and appreciating the moments we had together. As I read my morning scripture I am struck by this verse:
"But that's not all. We also brag when we are suffering. We know that suffering create endurance, endurance creates character and character creates confidence." ~Romans 5:3-4

I think about the verse and how applicable it has been to my growth over the last week.I got dressed for church, and as I left that morning, I stopped by one last time to pet her head, tell her I loved her, and made sure her litterbox was clean.I was ecstatic to go to church as I hadn't been in almost a month (due to travel schedules, work schedules, and one Sunday event). I have amazing friends and support there, and after church was a huge community dinner, a great day to worship the Lord! And boy did I have things for which to thank him.

As I arrive in church and sit down , friends flock. “How is Lilly? How’s your grandmother? What is going on now?” I fill them in as best I can, as well as sharing other details that were not social media appropriate. One friend comments “Wow. I feel like when it rains.. it REALLY pours with you! That sounds like a rough week.” I agree, and as conversation turns to catching up on other details I turn to our weekly handout to check out the scripture passages and accompanying quotes. My heart stops in my chest at the title.”

Grace in Trouble
 (James 1:1-8)
James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, beacuse you know that the testing of yoru faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

"Pain is not something most people like. That is why we run from it as far as we can. That is also why we aren't free. Jesus hardly ever goes to those places where we run.  When pain comes (or when we fear that it will come), don't run away. Run to it, and you will find you have run into the arms of Jesus. Then you will laugh and dance in the freedom and reality of God's sufficiency and the power that becomes awesome in your weakness." Steve Brown

"The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt." Thomas Merton

I instantly tear up reading those quotes, my friend looks over and gives me a sympathetic smile “I had a feeling you would react that way.”

The sermon is for me, as evidenced by his quoting the exact scripture I had highlighted that morning. Our pastor talks about dealing with trials in our life and their purpose. The entire time I think back over the past week and the lessons it has taught me. I contemplate the irony that while March was officially my month to be positive and trust God, April is the month that is putting that into practice for real. The pastor highlights the following points:

We better have an all-terrain faith
Grace changes everything.
1. God is for us in our troubles not against us.
2. God is working through our troubles to develop us.
3. God will continue his work until it is finished.
4. God will provide us with the wisdom we need to endure.

He also speaks about an article written by a pastor on the evening before his own cancer surgery. The points inspire me to write another post (which will go up at a later time). I know that this sermon is for me, and I acknowledge the lessons God is funneling at me… and yet I feel uneasy. Particularly the line about God continue his work until it is finished. It feels too simple; while the last week has been hell and certainly stretched me, the solution feels like it came too easy. I brush the feeling off, and consciously choose to trust God. I start getting jittery as my blood sugar drops and I can’t wait for lunch on the lawn outside. We take communion, I joyfully partake, thanking God again for his provisions, and then race outside the second we are dismissed to grab my food.

It’s an absolutely beautiful April afternoon in Miami. We spread out over the front lawn of the church, devouring our paella, laughing and talking, enjoying the fellowship. I share the experiences of the past week with new people, we talk about the lessons I am learning, and how they can apply to other people. I simply enjoy the moment, and then turn down an offer to watch television with friends across town as I want to go home and check on Lilly.

The moment I walk in I know something is wrong.

The litterbox is completely empty again. She is huddled in a corner, convulsing, and her body is cold to the touch.

I can’t process this. Only four hours prior she had been running around, perfectly normal. And now this. My stomach begins to churn and my mind races. I call my parents in tears and fill them in. I can tell she is rapidly deteriorating again, and my worst fears seem confirmed. We haven’t fixed the problem at all, we just prolonged it. The end seems very imminent, and she isn’t fighting for herself anymore.  Unable to sit there and watch her fall apart, I step outside to take a walk.

I contemplate my options; I can’t afford to pay for another week of treatments.. just to only prolong her life another week. She seems to be bad enough off that I don’t expect her to make it more than another few hours. I think about calling the vet, but know the emergency fee alone is $250. I call my parents, we talk. I tell them that I want her buried at home. I start making mental plans for taking her back to their house. I get home…dread going in, not sure if Im more afraid that she will have passed, or still be alive and suffering. I go in. She’s still alive, but even worse.

I can’t watch this. I want to be with her, but I can’t watch this. I cover her with a washcloth to provide some warmth and start begging God to take her quickly. This is torture. I go for another walk and a friend calls. I tell her what is going on. She is heartbroken for me, and comments that at least I got to spend some quality time with her. I agree wholeheartedly, and comment this is why Im scared. It's almost like she turned affectionate just so we got some more time together. Emotionally, I am prepared to let go, I just hope it goes quickly. Another friend calls, we talk, I share.

I get home. She is still alive and I start worrying that she might not pass before the night is over, which would make driving three hours to parents difficult. I call the original friend who had called the vet for me and ask her advice. Maybe it is more humane to have her put down than suffer like this; I can’t fathom making that decision, but perhaps it is time. She recommends I at least call the original vet to ask his advice before I make a decision. I tell her I’m worried they will pressure me into treatments I can’t afford. She prays with me. I call.

The same tech as before answers the phone. I explain my rabbit has been with the vet this past week, but is has seriously deteriorated and I am contemplating if I need to put her down. I ask if there is any way I can just speak to him. The tech tells me the vet is actually off for the day, but he will try to call him. Two minutes later the vet is on the line.

“What’s going on??”
“She’s sick, and shaking, and cold, and not eating or drinking, and can’t move. I can’t afford to keep doing these treatments and putting her in more pain and I’m trying to figure out if it’s time to let her go.”
“NO! It’s not time to give up! That rabbit was doing GREAT on Friday, remember she’s on antibiotics right now, there are a lot of other factors. Please, I’m on my way in myself for something else. Please just meet me there in 30 minutes and we can see what’s going on."
"Are you sure it's financially worth it to keep doing this when its not helping?"
"Please. Just come."

My gut tells me to do it. I agree. I call my parents and fill them in. They are naturally concerned for me; not that they don’t trust the vet, but they don’t want me put in a position to make decisions that I feel pressed to make. I decide to call my friend and ask her to come meet me there. It’s a huge step for  me; while I am perfectly willing to do favors for friends, I have a difficult time asking for them in return. I feel awful asking her to drive 30 minutes out of her way, but the moment I say it, she tells me she is getting in her car. She will be there as soon as she can.

I put Lilly in her travel kennel, sobbing the entire time and get in my car driving. Begging God for clarity. Pleading for her to be out of pain. Desperately hoping I can afford it. As I pull into the vet’s office I find myself repeating over and over “Please let me be able to afford this. Please don’t take her yet.”

We go inside and I sit in the same exam room, alone, and this time I don’t try to hold back the tears. I pour my heart out in weeping as I wait. Alone.

About ten minutes later I hear the vet come in, he comes in, takes one look at me and asks “What’s going on?”

I fill him in. He says we will check her out, and tells me he came in with his family because he needed to check his son’s blood work anyways. I see his son and his wife whom I had met previously. They calm me down as the vet gets things ready. The wife reveals that they themselves have two bunnies at home, suddenly I understand better why he is so good with Lilly. My friend arrives as well and immediately runs to hug me. I feel better, crying with relief now.

I am no longer alone. 

To Be Continued..

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