Thursday, October 3, 2013

On Being Sick...

Yes. That is me. Sick.

Today, it's just pneumonia (for the second time in 3 months), leaving me in a glossy fevered coughing exhausted state, which triples the fatigue and doubles the gag-reflex of the nausea of my 11-week pregnancy (if my mom reads that, the gig's up--we haven't told yet), on top of still recovering from last year's battle with spinal meningitis--twice--that included a nearly amputated foot that I just started walking on again in May. As I write this post, the fever has been creeping up, and I have already accepted that tomorrow I most likely will have to go to the doctor or the ER, and pray they will allow me to come home with pills instead of admitting me to the hospital with IVs.

Welcome to the other side of my life--the life I have lived since late 2009:  hospitalizations, surgeries, ICU, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, wheelchairs, ports, IVs, medications... all that fun stuff.  All while mothering 6 children (the sixth born in the midst of all that!). I don't talk about it much because I'm really just overwhelmed by it all most of the time... gasping up prayers to God in the moments I don't remember to just leave it all to Him. There are a lot of those moments.

Illness is quite the spiritual classroom. It has done a lot to change my spiritual perspective, as I've struggled to sort out the "why's" behind it all.  What IS God doing when He allows this? And He doesn't choose to heal? What?

Well, I've been learning what. Here's a testimony of things at this point, for what it's worth:

1. Head faith is no good. Watch out for that!  When I first fell ill, my initial response was to be "Super-Christian."  I had all the head knowledge to put up a good front that God was good, all things work together for good, how could I accept good from God and not bad, trials refine our faith, blah, blah, blah.  Head faith only works for so long. The power of the intellectual mind can carry us far, and I found myself able to even sit in a chemotherapy chair with grace and peace.  But that grace and peace slowly failed me as the trial wore on. Suffering despairs the heart, and deeper faith is needed. Not understanding. Just faith. Blind, simple, childlike faith, with no understanding. Like my littlest children trust that they are going to be fed and clothed with no understanding of how that really happens.

2. Faith is in things unseen and unknowable.Faith really is learning that I can't have faith in anything I KNOW FOR SURE--that's not faith. By definition, it is no longer faith if you know all about it, or even think you know. That is why faith is in things unseen, and in things only hoped for (you don't have to hope for things you KNOW!).  I don't understand what God does or why. I don't know what meeting Him is going to be like, or what He has planned for all eternity. The Bible says we can't know it!  If we could, it wouldn't require faith to believe in Him!  Illness leaves me needing to have faith that God is perfect, in ways I cannot understand. If I did understand everything, that would rob me of my faith, which robs me of salvation, because we are only saved through faith.

3. The question of medicines and treatments can be difficult for a Christian. When do you wave the white flag and say, "That's enough!"  What do you do when you really just don't think you can face any more treatments or illness? Well, I learned to take Paul's example.  He knew when he had fought his fight and finished his course, and had peace about going to be with Christ.  When I faced a difficult night, debating whether I should call in my family to say goodbyes, I did not have peace. I begged God for an answer to that. His answer was, "Finish."  I knew I still had a fight to fight--there were still treatment options available to me, and I still had a course to finish--a husband to love and children to raise. I will fight and finish until God has made it clear with His peace that my fight  HAS been fought and my course HAS been finished.

4. Suffering is necessary for perfection. Jesus needed to suffer to be able to offer perfection to us. Suffering is necessary for God's glory.  What glory would there be in God redeeming this body of mine if it were perfectly healthy? But, oh! How beautiful it is going to be when He redeems this broken, sick, tired body of mine. What glory!  And how He will be pleased if I have learned to willingly give this earthly body to Him  in willing sacrifice, just as He gave His  for me.  Oh, the glory and the beauty and the eternal perfect health is coming... and  how glorious it will be!

5.  Illness should not make you stronger. It should make you weaker.  Weaker is always the goal.  The Bible doesn't say He makes me strong when I am weak.  It says that just HE is strong WHEN (while) I am weak. If I am not weak, then He is not strong, because my self-strength shoves Him aside. Lord, let me learn to always be weak and rest in your strength alone. Always.

6.  Weakness is humbling.  There is nothing more humbling than being exhausted, weepy, despairing, sad, crumpled, overwhelmed, unable to cope with one more (hospitalization, pill, IV, fever, headache, nausea spell, tired day, doctor's visit, needle, etc.). There is nothing more humbling than being unable to care for your husband, home, and children. The world tells us we are good when we are able to cope with these things with grace.  The Bible tells us we receive grace when we are humble, and for most of us, it takes a whole lot of crap like this to crumple us into a heap of humility.  Thank you, Lord, for putting me in the position to receive the grace I asked for.  Keep me here.

7. I'm not chronically depressed or suicidal. Being ill for the long term has been hard, hard, hard. I have many despairing moments and days. Lots of tears, crumpled spirits, and overwhelmed moments where I just try to exist.  Satan has tried to tell me there's something wrong with me. That I'm a bad Christian. That I'm weak (ha! Can't fool me on that one!). That I've relapsed back to my old days of mental illness.  But the truth of the matter is I'm closer to Christ, through sharing of His sufferings, than I ever have been before. I prayed to die to self, and I'm dying to self. I feel the death of "fleshly Cam" as my submitting to weakness and humility kills the prideful, greedy, health-hungry flesh. That is painful! It is the sword, and the pruning. It's willful self-death, like God calls for. Not suicidal tendencies! :-)  I WANT my flesh to be dead. And yes, I will mourn it. But not for long!

8.  Illness forces you to find God's rest. It is nearly impossible to learn to rest in the Lord when you don't need rest! When I am so tired, I can do nothing, but I'm surrounded by zillions of things to do (namely a husband, 6 children ages 1-19 who need trained, advised, listened to, played with, and homeschooled, laundry, cooking, chores), you actually can learn that God can handle these things! I had no choice but to give God my to-do list, and let Him give it back one item at a time, as each moment came up.  God is a perfect manager of my to-do list. All gets done that needs be done. As J.R. Miller says in chapter 3 of his book Life's Byways and Waysides, there is only ever one present duty. Here are some lovely excerpts from that chapter (you can read the whole chapter here.)

Duty never is a haphazard thing. There never are a half dozen things any one of which we may fitly do at any particular time; there is some one definite thing in the divine thought for each moment.

We have only to take the duty which comes next to our hand. Our duty never is some far away thing. We do not have to search for it— but it is always close at hand and easily found.

The law of divine guidance is, step by step. One who carries a lantern on a country road at night, sees only one step before him. If he takes that step, however, he carries his lantern forward and this makes another step plain. At length he reaches his destination without once stepping into the darkness. The whole way has been made light for him, though only a step at a time. This is the usual method of God's guidance. 

9.Living today as if it is my last is a lovely way to live. Really, it is. I've always WANTED to live this way. It's a very popular saying, "Live each day as if it's your last." But I couldn't ever do it. But now I can do this much better than before.  Being continually ill, I am faced with the reality that at any moment, I could be rushed right back to the hospital again, unconscious, or in ICU. As I type this post, I know I may very well be in the hospital by tomorrow. This physical life is fragile and fleeting, broken, diseased.  I could meet Him today. That is reality for me. Not head knowledge any more.  These days, most days, I do obey Him more, honor Him more, keep my eyes on Him more, rely on Him more.  My words to my children are more patient and loving--it could be my last day to "mother" them. My actions are quite consciously honoring my husband--I do things I know he likes that I used to not bother with when he wasn't around: like making sure the baby's hands get washed after every potty trip (even if he doesn't touch anything), and choosing more wisely how to spend his money at any given moment. Overall choices change--choices in what to eat, how to spend my time, what to read.  I wish I could say I've got this down completely, now. But not yet. I was never even close before. But now there are days and parts of days I live this way: honoring and obeying the God I may meet at any moment. Maybe another 10 years or so of sickness....

10. Tears and Questions are okay. Anger, Complaining and Whining isn't. It's hard not to get angry and complain. These days, I really have had enough, I feel, and I quickly get angry and want to shake my fist. But I've learned to see my anger as a red flag, heed the warning, and turn it into tears and questions instead. God sees tears. They move Him. Tears are the sign of a broken and contrite heart. The humble heart. God is there, and pouring grace when we are pouring tears.  God accepts our questions:  Why? How long?  They are another sign of humility--a sign of someone who has chosen to wait on Him. Anger, complaining and whining are the sign of a rebellious heart (can you say "Israelites?). The sign of stiff-necked, stubborn, "I don't like this and I want what I want."  No.  We should want only what God wants. Only the will of the Father--even unto suffering and death. Just like Jesus, who only lived to do the will of the Father, even unto suffering and death. Jesus wept. He suffered. He questioned, "If you could just let this cup pass from me... even so, let Your will be done." He loved and trusted His Father completely and knew that all would be beautiful and good when the Father's perfect will was accomplished. That Perfect Will is in effect right now. This moment. It is eternal, with no beginning or no end. I'm trapped in a place I can't see the beauty and perfection right now... but one day I will see it! Which leads to my next:

11. Sickness is a great prompt to think on things eternal, something as Christians we are commanded to learn how to do. The healthy person does not need to think eternally--it is too easy to be "doing," and "planning," and "running," etc.  Oh... eternity with a perfect God. I have no idea what it will be like, and cannot remotely imagine (God tells me in His Word I cannot imagine, so I don't even try).  But this I know, and it is my hope eternal. One day:

All shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well.
--Lady Julian of Norwich

What hope that is for the person who is despairing and sick. And how much easier it is to learn this SO important way of life. The sick person no longer wants to think on this world--it is horrid. The sick person suffering sees suffering everywhere, and is ready for God to redeem it all.  I did pray to think eternally. God knew what it would take to let me see the HOPE I have in Him. What a precious gift! I am so grateful!

12.  I have to watch out for my selfish motives that interfere with God's Holy work! How many times have I planned strict diets, vitamin or exercise regimens, fasts, or made strict scripture-reading/prayer time commitments. All trying to "force" the hand of God--or gain a means to an end!  Oh, I've learned the folly of this! Yes, I still choose to eat more wisely--but I've weeded out the motive of doing it to improve my health.  Only for the glory of God. Whether healthy or well, I should choose to eat for His glory!  He showed me this by allowing my illness anyway!  A lifetime organic vegetarian can still come down with cancer overnight. Regardless of what we eat, we are sin-cursed, in need of redemption, and God is ALWAYS WORKING to get us to His Perfect end.  How can we know the ways He works?

I know for me personally, God does provide opportunity for my spiritual growth by making dietary restrictions NECESSARY.  I sometimes have to eat a certain way, or I do pay for it. And I praise Him for the opportunity to practice self-control, for His glory!


If you are dealing with illness, beloved, take heart. He is working. He loves you. Oh, how He will be glorified to redeem your broken, sick body one day. Give it willingly, in faith. Cry those tears, and let grace come. Crumple in weakness, and just let HIM be strong. Be nothing. He is everything.

Here are some resources that God used to greatly encourage me:

Revelations of Divine Love, by Lady Julian of Norwich, her writing gave me great little glimpses of the coming beauty and perfection I am unable to see right now. Much. needed.

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann VosKamp

Life's Byways and Waysides, by J.R. Miller (Chapter 3 in particular)

Sarah's Blog, Amongst Lovely Things:  God sent her as a personal gift of grace to me, and her lovely writing has encouraged me through many tough moments and days this year, and without her I wouldn't have been prepared for the places God is now leading me (Really? A baby on top of all this?). Her heart for stopping to see the beautiful in the midst of the hard, to stop and see the grace that Satan works so hard to make sure we miss: She gives love and glory to God.

And a big thank you to my sisters in Christ, those of you I've met through my blog over the years, who have been with me through all of this, praying, encouraging, listening, counseling, and praying! I wouldn't have made it without you! What a special gift and blessing! You know who you are! :-) God bless you 1,000 times in return!

P.S. I have written other posts in the past during this journey, and each time I write a new one, I have learned more. So... this one may be obsolete shortly. I don't know the work God does and don't pretend to know. By next week, I may have learned something completely different! But I do know I will still be following Him! My Shepherd! The One Who first loved me!

P.P.S. And don't even ask or say a word about me being pregnant. My husband and I were mostly rendered dumb and stunned, and we're just feebly waving an internal white flag of surrender to God on the whole matter... and hoping for a girl!


  1. Ohhhh Camilla. You KNOW I'm praying for you. Praying, praying hard. Chin up, Buttercup- you can so do this. xoxo

    1. Thanks for the prayers--I know I am being prayed for. The grace and help is apparent because I can feel it--I see myself resting in peace and responding in grace, and can't explain it other than prayers for me. I prayed for you often today, too.

      UPDATE: I am HOME after a shot and a prescription. Grace: had a delightful nurse who declared I was to "skinny" to find a good place for the shot (not remotely true), and then she carried on and on about how I only looked 33 and just couldn't possibly have a 19yo, or 6 children (ridiculous--I will be 44 next week--but I enjoyed her fawning flattery), and "Love Shack" (Banana-rama--you are probably not old enough for that) playing on a little boom box in the ER (small town bonus).

      Prayers will be for your rest and peace as I drift off to sleep. Thank you, Sarah. You have helped me in Christian love and sisterhood, and I thank God for you! :-)

    2. Grace! :)

      Glad you are home. Will be praying for you all week long.

  2. Always in my prayers and in my heart and mind :)

    God is amazing and his love for you is nothing short of A Million Skies!!!!!!

    Love you my friend,

  3. Camilla, I read this earlier this month and was very touched by it! (My chemo brain just kicked in today reminding me I had difficulty posting that day and I still needed to reply!)

    First of all, let me say congratulations on your pregnancy, I pray your baby will be healthy in spite of your current difficulty. I feel you have accomplished so much already - not many can boast that they have six plus children, let alone raising them with such a Godly example!

    I appreciate what you said about food, there are so many different opinions out there about eating the 'right' foods - to avoid this or that cancer or disease. So many forget that God said he 'sends rain on the just and on the unjust' and 'not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit'.

    Even the story of Daniel fasting from the Kings meat has been twisted to say that to be healthy we should eat as he did - instead of recognizing the supernatural power that was displayed in Daniels robust health as coming directly from God - not from Daniels choice of food.

    But I digress. I hope this sees you better, and you are on my prayer list. As always, God bless you!

    Chris Welborn

    1. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers--and the agreement on the food issue! And... I would love for you to write more of your story (hint hint).... You remain in my prayers, too! And your family, of course!--Cam