Monday, December 10, 2012

Joy in the Struggles

Doggie Duty
In the short time Bill's been gone, I've gained a new appreciation for all he did around here. Now I get to gather the trash, clean the leaves out of the pool, clean the hamster cage, and... pick up doggie doo. This past Friday was my first time to take on that unpleasant task. Ethan made himself scarce, but Allyson eagerly volunteered to help. The only problem was that the shovel was too heavy for her, and she just about conked me upside the head. Plus she flung poo dangerously close to my ankles.

So I took the shovel from her and handed her the plastic grocery bag full of poop. She stuck with me through the first three or four of Lola's "deposits," but then the stink was too much for her, and I was on my own. I held the bag in one hand and the shovel in the other. It wasn't nearly so easy as Bill makes it look, but I managed to get the job done.

I was just putting the shovel into the shed when Allyson shouted, "You missed one! Over here!" I shouldered the shovel with a sigh and plodded over to the swingset, from which Allyson gleefully pointed out the pile I'd missed.

I set the bulging grocery bag on the grass and headed back toward the shed. I hadn't gone three steps when Allyson got Lola riled up, so that she tore across the yard and right over the bag of dung. It split down the middle. Argh!

I got another bag and gingerly eased the broken bag into it. Whew! And Pee-u!
Allyson and Lola on Poop Scooping Day

A More Pressing Concern
Doggie doo is really the least of my concerns right now. My biggest problem has been insomnia. Although I've felt at peace in the daytime, trusting God with all of my worries, I've passed hours and hours of sleepless nights in my big, empty bed. The first night I realized we were going to separate, I was not at all surprised to be up the entire night. My mind whirled with thoughts and fears.

But over the subsequent two weeks, the insomnia did not subside. During that time I got only one full night of sleep. The other nights I would sleep from one to four hours, or many nights not at all. I can't explain it. I don't lie there worrying or even thinking. My mind is mostly still, and if it's not still I'm praying or praising God. But my body refuses to let go and drop into sleep. If I do manage to doze off, I usually jerk myself awake with a violent kick.

About a week in, I saw my family doctor, who prescribed a sleep aid which worked wonderfully.... at first. And then I seemed to develop tolerance.

This past Thursday night, I asked my mom to come stay with me so she could help me get Allyson ready for school the next morning. Before bed, I soaked in a lavender-scented bath, took a preparation of melatonin, lemon balm, and chamomile, and then prayed over the phone with my friend Rhonda while my mom hugged me.

I was so relaxed! I felt like a limp noodle, deliciously drowsy. I fell right asleep.... and was wide awake just 30 minutes later. At first, I was calm. I read over the scriptures about rest which I'd copied down during the day, and I read over the prayer my friend Gentle had emailed. Here's a portion of what she wrote:

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." (Jeremiah 31:25)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
He doesn’t say, “Let me think about it, maybe tonight, maybe another night.” No. Your Father says “I will give YOU, my sweet daughter, the rest you seek.” Believe it Sarah. All your HOPE is in Him for everything else. Put all your hope for sleep and rest in your Father…who will surely give it to you.
"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me." (Psalm 3:5)
"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)
I lay down again, comforted and quieted, and waited for sleep to take me. It didn't. I prayed, thanking God for sleep. I praised him for the rest that I knew was coming. I felt that rest, but there was no sleep for me.

At 1:00 I climbed out of bed and knelt in my bathroom. (I think I was too aggravated with God to go in my prayer closet.) I rocked back and forth, in a full-on panic attack. My chest was so tight that I felt the knot of anxiety as a physical pain. Tears trickled from my eyes, but I didn't even have energy to cry.

"Why have you forsaken me?" I whined. "Why don't you help me?"

I don't really remember what happened next because I was so tired. But I remember rereading Gentle's email and turning to the book of John. In chapter 4, I read the story of the official who asked Jesus to heal his son. He wanted Jesus to come with him, but Jesus said, "Go. Your son will live." (John 4:5)

Here's what caught my eye and set my heart thumping, in the next verse: "The man took Jesus at his word and departed."

"Okay, Jesus," I said aloud. "I'm going to take you at your word. Your Word says I can come to you when I'm weary and burdened, and my soul will find rest."

Kneeling on the bathroom floor, I sang a song that has brought me much comfort these past months. "Just as I am, I come... Oh, Lamb of God, I come."

After four choruses, I thought maybe it was time to go to bed, but then I felt the need to open the Psalms. My Bible fell open to to Psalm 62, and my eyes were drawn immediately to verse 1: "My soul finds rest in God alone."

"Yes!" I said. I meditated on that whole chapter until my eyes felt too heavy to read anymore. My mind was calm, but my chest still felt tight.

I climbed into bed anyway and asked God to wrap his love around me. Within moments, I felt absolutely soothed. The pain in my chest dissolved, and in its place was a warm sense of security. As I dozed off, I woke twice with a grin. I clearly felt God saying, "I'm taking care of you. This is my plan." And then, "I'm taking care of Allyson too. This is all for your good."

This was around 1:30. I'd like to say I slept peacefully until morning, but I didn't. When Allyson joined me at 3:30, I woke up and couldn't settle back down. But I was able to enjoy the warmth of her sweet body against my chest, which had grown tight again. I breathed with her breaths and delighted myself in this time with her, and again the anxiety melted away.

It wasn't until morning that I was awake enough to recognize the sacred echo God had given me. First  there was Gentle's email about putting all my hope for rest in God, and then the same message in Psalm 62. In retrospect, I know it was worth a sleepless night to hear so clearly from God.

 All the next day, the peace and love I'd felt in the night stayed with me. I knew God was close to me, and He was giving me strength. Since then, I've continued to struggle with insomnia, but God has given me grace and comfort. I'm also taking a different prescription sleep aid, and that helps too.

Life Goes On
In the meantime, life goes on. Christmas is still coming, with all the joys it brings. Last night my family and my friend Elizabeth came over to decorate sugar cookies. We had such a wonderful time together. We ate a crazy meal of cheesy beans plus asparagus, sauteed zucchini, and a delicious salad that Elizabeth prepared. Plus lots of sugar cookies, of course.

Allyson Pouring Lots of Sprinkles

My Sister Amy and My Silly Niece Savannah

My Sister Emily Cleaning My Wreck of a Kitchen

Allyson with Beautiful Cousins Hillary and Savannah

Nephew Charlie Being Cute

So many treasures in the darkness!

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