On May 9th I passed from my twenties into my thirties and launched a new series as a way of looking back at both the highs and the lows (more here). Today I continue this series by looking at something that radically changed me during my twenties and helped me to re-chart the course I was on and that was my battle with health problems.
During my childhood and teen years having good health was something I certainly took for granted. Other than cold's and flu's the sickest I had ever been was a bought with chicken pox that lasted for a couple of weeks. But all that changed during my twenties.
In 2003 I underwent surgery to remove a mass that turned out to be a mature cystic teratoma, the fancy word for dermoid cyst. The doctor was surprised because after they opened me up they found I had not just one, but two and I can clearly remember him saying "I've never seen that before". Little did I know those five words would be repeated to me time and time again by medical professionals in the coming years.
Fast forward two years, nearly to the date later and I was back in the OR getting yet another dermoid removed, along with a massive liquid cyst.
Two weeks later I was back in the OR again as a post-operative infection had taken a scary hold on my body. So much so that the only solution was to reopen my wound and leave it open to heal, while being packed and unpacked twice a day.
Six months and many secondary infections later said open wound finally healed, but in many ways my health "adventure" had only just begun. In the coming years I was plagued by sleep issues that had me awake most of the night and feeling dead tired most of my days. Then came other unpleasant side effects that come as a result of sleep deprivation. And thus the story went. Trapped in an endless cycle as one system that was off would effect another and then as soon as that was treated, a new one would pop up.
As difficult as it was, and believe me it was, looking back on that time period I am thankful. It might not have been the story I would have wrote for myself, but I am so grateful for what I learned during that time, for the incredible people who showered me with help and encouragement, and for the opportunities I had as a result.
I've said it before but it's true. Had I not gone through what I did, I would have never written my first book and I would have never written my soon-to-be-published second. My ministry would not be what it is. And I certainly wouldn't be where I am spiritually, relationally or emotionally if I hadn't go through the Refiner's Fire that shapes us when the storms of life crash in without warning.
It's also prepared me for the journey I'm on right now that I would have been completely unprepared for if it wasn't for my past history and remembering how faithful God was to me during that time.
So what are some of the things I learned during that time? I'm glad you asked. Here are a few:
I learned how lucky I am to be alive and to live in a country that provides health care for its citizens .
I learned the beauty found in simplicity and the wonder that can be found in the everyday: stopping to stare at the stars, looking out the window in awe as the snow flakes float down to the ground, taking time to stop and enjoy moments overflowing with life and love and beauty with family and friends.
I learned to never take my health for granted and that as bad as things can be, they could also be worse.
I learned that there is so much more to the word "healing" than the physical. That God is bigger than any box I could place Him in.
I learned that the people who come alongside you when things are bad are a gift straight from heaven and these are the people who you need to invest in and do life with.
I learned that my identity isn't wrapped up in a degree or job title or what others think of me.
I learned that I am not capable of controlling my life or anyone else's and I was never meant to be. That job belongs to God who can see the road of my life's journey from start to finish.
I learned that physical pain doesn't hurt nearly as much as emotional pain does.
I learned that life is not all about me and that my comfort and my desires should come last, not first, when serving others or God.
I learned that it's more damaging to the soul to live a life that is risk free than it is to put it all on the line and fail.
I learned that deep relationships can take a lot of vulnerability and work, but the richness that they add to a life makes it worth it every time.
I learned that things are not always as they seem and thus if I want to walk through life with clarity, I need to be looking through God's wisdom, not mine.
I learned that just believing in Jesus looks much differently than following Him.
I learned that no matter how many crazy dreams or ideas I can come up with, nothing I author will ever be as amazing or life changing as the blessings God has for me.