God is personal each time, though I forget almost each time

This morning I woke up to my cell phone ringing with a “Scam Likely” ID. Dismiss.

I rolled back into bed wondering how I would manage today, feed the kids, teach, etc. God, will I be a mess like I was yesterday? I had a bout of stomach spasm that feels like the effects of food poisoning that comes in a flash and diminishes in an hour or so. Whew, I had to call off everything and just lounge on the couch.

This sudden stomach issues happen every few months. It’s my body’s way of telling me to stop the restlessness, doing, and striving. Once I get close to checking off the list of things I needed to do this semester for the kids, my body reacts this way. I did not want a repeat of yesterday.

I started the day by cracking open my Bible and hoped God had something for me. Even though it’s a positive experience getting started is the hard part. I decided to read some Psalms and picked today’s date as the chapter to read, which I realized now is the 20th and not 21st. My goodness.

I kept reading and through Psalm 23, which is familiar to many. I’ve memorized this Psalm written by King David in my late 20s at a time when I had sporadic panic attacks in NYC subways. It felt like a death trap on rails. Because of this I preferred to walk than public transportation or when I had to go somewhere, I’d whisper this Psalm to myself and try to look normal as possible.

But today the 2nd verse stood out in blinking lights.

"He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength..." Psalm 23:2-3

God is very personal. I need just that, a renewing of strength that only God can provide. As though He wanted to make a point that my concerns are heard, I soon scrolled through my email and found that a friend had shared a Bible verse with me from her YouVersion Bible app.

It was a moment of simultaneous belief and nonbelief that here was the first verse of Psalm 23.

No trumpets sounded or the ground beneath rumbled, but God gently affirmed that He knows and hears me. It is okay to rest (whether mental, emotional, physical). Thanks J. for sharing part of Psalm 23 with me!! It was more than a coincidence.

Image sent from friend

Strength is not something even the strongest have in unlimited abundance; it’s not humanly possible although my skewed perception tells me it is for some people. Some days you need rest to renew; also, I don’t need to have Hulk-like strength to feel productive and enough.

Thanks for reading my God-meeting-me-where-I-am story today! I hope everyone has a wonderful evening and you find some moments to rest and renew yourself.

Hawk eyes this afternoon

Sitting on the couch hawk eyeing Ellis. Morning was fine until she complained of a headache. Told her to drink some water. She did. Didn’t make much of her complaint.

Cuddles with me on the couch during online church service and she gives me that look. It’s the I’m going to barf look. Now I realize she’s serious. Elliot turns to me and says “I’m scared” probably thinking we’ll be away at the hospital for a day or two.

Several rounds of throw ups and I imagine this situation getting worse with dehydration and continuous vomiting. When I get her nausea medicine from the fridge, the expiration date was April 2020. Good news that we haven’t needed it in a while but when you’re stressed you get irritable and irrational.

Gave Chris the evil glare since he’s the medicine manager & pick-up person: not his fault but I felt like being mean to him. These kinds of situations bring out the worst in me towards him. He takes it in stride but it doesn’t make it good either.

Our hospital bag is packed and I’m dressed to drive to th ER if the headache continues. As I was getting ready, grumpily and anxiously, she fell asleep. Maybe she’s sleeping it off. It’s been an hour.

Pediatrician did mention that her abdominal migraines would become head migraines as she gets older. Her proposed remedy: dark room, quiet space, cool air, and sleep.

We’re the only ones in the living room, mild breeze wafting in from the open window and water flowing sounds from the fish tank. I pray and hope her deep sleep will relieve the headache. And I pray the others in the family will forgive me for driving them out of the living room and being so irritated.

At church today the message was about being a light in the world. I did not live up to that, maybe more like a cannon ball.

Thanks for reading my harried thoughts. I’m so thankful to have this space to share the ups and downs of my life adventures with you all.

A few Sundays ago…hopefully after her migraine she’ll be this smiley again today

Pretending smiles

Kids discovered a little patch of wonder on top of a dingy storm drain during an afternoon walk. This stopped us in our tracks as we long marveled at this micro world. It looked nothing like its surrounding hard and tough exterior. Beauty is found if we look deeper and closer.

This sight was what I needed that day; it’s been one of those weeks where unexplainable sadness swept over me again and I dreaded its effects: crying randomly, withdrawing, insomnia, oversleeping, feeling unworthy; the list goes on but I’ll stop there.

UNDERFACE
β€œUnderneath my outside face
There's a face that none can see.
A little less smiley,
A little less sure,
But a whole lot more like me.”
- Shel Silverstein

It was an ironic turn of events, because I was half-done writing a positive post about how glad I felt my depression was finally lifting. I’ve been more proactive taking care of my mental health by meeting with a psychiatrist that began 6 months ago. It’s a tumultuous emotional and mental process that is hard to describe. It doesn’t look like anything is wrong from the outside, but inside it’s a tangled mess of questioning, accusing, and belittling myself. This kind of stuff is not something you bring up lightly during dinner or mention it in passing without getting raised eyebrows.

I’d rather hide it under a smile and not get into it. But this pretending takes a lot out of me. It’s at these times that I need to turn to God for help, but I do the exact opposite. I turn away deliberately filling my life with distractions. I refused to read or even get close to opening the Bible during this time. Sometimes the misery is familiar and getting better is frightening. You want to share to get some support, but it’s hard to be vulnerable and to feel like you are burdening the other person with your problems.

Anyways, that’s how I’ve been feeling these days. I felt better after reading God’s word, which I have been avoiding, and reminding myself firmly that God has a purpose for me. He encourages me when I least expect it and reaffirms that depression does not disqualify me from love. What a journey! When I feel sad, I don’t know why I have to explain that I’m not faking the funk. It’s a vicious cycle of ups and downs.

Isaiah 40:31
"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
How did this grow there?
Lush and vibrant

This blog is a snippet of my life journey and this messy bit is a part of it.

Readers, I appreciate you being here and reading my posts! I feel extremely blessed for this blogging community and for family and friends. God encourages me through them and I hope to do the same for them.

What a leaf fossil taught me about pain

A new month already and cooler days will be here soon.

On a short stroll with Ellis yesterday, we found these leaf fossils on the sidewalk. How does something so delicate imprint on something as hard as concrete? The details are intricate and the shapes distinct. I wish I could tell you what kind of tree these leaves are from. (If you know, please share.)

It’s been a long week with the leg pain that bothered me from the beginning of this year. It started with knee pain that aggravated the leg, probably from compensating for the knee. This has made simple tasks painful and strenuous, and kids don’t fully understand that mommy needs to rest. They rest alongside me, but they forget why we’re resting and jump on me.

I have this assumption that if my physical body hurts, then I am unproductive and useless. Pretty dumb to think that, but when simply bending down shoots pain up my legs, I wonder if it’s true. It’s when I’m vulnerable that the devil uses lies like this to wear me down.

God never lets me down…He didn’t have to show me but He probably knew I’d spend the rest of the day angry that maybe I could’ve prevented this pain. This flare up gets triggered when I try to do too much and hold Ellis like she’s still a baby. With her 3 year heart anniversary last week, I went overboard and held her a lot. She’s 39 pounds.

I should’ve known this was going to happen.

After the short stroll, I called the doctor and was told a cancellation opened up an availability. Can I get there in an hour? Yep, I’ll be there. Result: inflammation of the muscles; take anti-inflammatory medication for the next 2 weeks. I wish I didn’t have the pain at all, but God teaches me patience and acceptance of things I cannot change.

Love who I am, the way I am.

These leaf imprints remind me of human spirit’s resilience even in tough circumstances. We leave a mark when it seems like life is tossing and turning with no anchor. I thank God for showing us this random fossil. Confirmation that a tender leaf is strong and can alter an impenetrable surface.

Heart-fix anniversary: 3 years later together

Three years ago this month, we reached an incredible health milestone for Ellis. She finally underwent the 3rd phase of her heart surgeries. This was the goal to reach, meaning that she would’ve survived the first 2 surgeries and was doing well enough to undergo the 3rd one. She’d finally have normal oxygen saturation and less stressed blood circulation through her lungs and heart.

I’m not saying the above for sympathy or to be dramatic, but it’s honest sharing of fears we had of “oh no, the worst could happen.” When I talk about these fears with few close people, I’m stopped right away saying everything will be ok. Chris can’t even go there and shuts down when I get hysterical about Ellis’ health. It’s hard because others feel uncomfortable hearing this stuff. I end up consoling them and feel silenced again. Can’t be positive all the time even though I try.

3 months old

I didn’t pay too much attention to what the doctors said about her skin and nails turning pink post-surgery. But there was an immediate difference; her nails turned pink and the bluish tint on her face disappeared. Now, she could cry and we wouldn’t have to freak out like lunatics that she’ll pass out from it. 

The recommended time to undergo this procedure was 2-4 years of age, depending on the child, and she was already 4. The only hurdle was her slow weight gain; the goal was 30 pounds. The extra weight would provide some cushion and more energy for her body to help in recovery. Her weight hovered in the mid 20s for over a year, and each weight check at the doctor’s office filled me with anxiety. I dreaded hearing that her weight-to-age percentile suggested “failure to thrive”: her weight didn’t make it on the chart compared to similar aged kids.

Since she was born, I’d panic at the small gurgling sound coming from the bassinet or car seat. The first few times caught me off guard, but this became a regular occurrence for our family. Throw ups were a way of life that interrupted whatever we were doing; this happened often during mealtimes, and I was surprised at how we were able to clean it up and go right back to eating. This became our norm. I could even drive with my left hand with my right arm to reach back to comfort or hold the bag. 

Back in the day before Elliot could talk and Ellis was just months old, Elliot became my unofficial helper. When he’d hear the familiar throw up sounds, he’d run to me pointing to the baby that something was wrong.

Playing with Hot Wheels car and rocking bassinet. Elliot is 2 and Ellis, very baby

On seeing my panicked face, his little legs would run to fetch me a barf towel for his sister. Through the years, Elliot’s been a good sport about this even though I can sense more of his frustration. When he was younger, he overlooked it and wondered why she was always doing this; more prone to help. But after many incidents of accidentally touching it, or walking over it with his bare feet (like he did recently), he’s less patient about it.

Just stepped on Ellis’ throw up and in state of disbelief. Got mad at sister for not making it to the toilet on time. Mixture of crying and laughing. Summer 2020

The other night I started swiping through old photos on my phone, going all the way back to 2017. Remembering how the surgery was postponed 2 times, 2 vacations cancelled the night before the trip due to Ellis’ sickness, and latent fear of the future, I cried again. It’s weird how I tell myself that I’m done crying, but I can’t help it. Even though there were many fearful and sad moments, I try to remember the good memories of how we made the best in that situation.

They were small things: Elliot taking a ride in the hospital wagon, picking out food from the cafeteria, Elliot surprising sister with a small toy each night, Ellis saving a Jello for Elliot, me enjoying coffee and treats that friends brought, sitting down with friends to just sit there and get hugged, and thankful that Chris held us all afloat in this chaotic time.

Hanging out together during recovery of 3rd surgery

Hearing the past, Ellis whimpered a little while Elliot assured me that the wetness from his eyes were from yawning.

I reminisce wondering how we made it out alive, albeit my nervous breakdown that came later. Help of our wonderful friends and family members sustained us. If we were alone, I’m sure we would’ve crumbled under the pressure.

God loaned us a fragile one, perhaps to make us stronger despite our fears and weakness and realize that He is the ultimate peace giver in the storms. It’s our story of experiencing God’s presence in a vulnerable situation, unlikely time of feeling extreme love, and finding unexpected joys in that hospital space.

Waiting for the doctors in the surgery waiting area. This is my favorite picture of us holding onto each other. Her little hands on my chest, familiar smell of her face, and her usual warm embrace made my heart break. Outer body goes about doing what I need to do as a caretaker; still smiling; inside, withering under fear.
ICU. She woke up groggy and started crying slowly with a hoarse voice from the effects of the breathing tube. She asked me to come closer to her and asked if her stroller were nearby. When I said yes, she told me to get it so we can go home. Nurse turned on “Beauty and the Beast” movie for her…she hates that movie to this day.
Later in recovery, doctors recommended she take walks to help drain the blood from chest tubes. Amazed at the miracle.
My favorite peeps
Discharge morning
2020. Growing up, and finally lost her first tooth!πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜Šβ€
Birth
7 years later

*All posted pictures have been approved by Ellis. πŸ˜œπŸŽ‰