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Ten Truths of Trials

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We have been through a lot lately, mostly in the form of sudden, life-altering medical diagnosis for two of my children.  I've cried, been deeply disappointed and found my sense of humor all at the same time.  I've learned a lot myself and the wonderful Lord I serve through the process.  I have tried to accept the situation we're in, although it still feels surreal at points.  Through it all, I have prayed that I could walk away from this experience with increased wisdom.

Here are a few of the truths I have discovered in this early phase of what will be a long journey.

1.  It’s the details that sneak up on you.
I always thought my undoing would come in a dramatic moment when the diagnosis was revealed or another serious piece of bad news was shared.  In reality, those are my bold moments.  When they are upon me I know I must press into God and I am strengthened.  What tends to get me the most is when we're trying to get out the door for a critical appointment, I can't find my keys and then someone manages to spill something on themselves.  It's like the world ended and I can't catch my breath.  I'm doing better at sensing those moments are coming and taking the necessary actions to gain control but there's nothing like a cesspool of seemingly unimportant demands to reveal the raw emotions under the surface.

2.  People will say ridiculous things.
I hesitate to give examples of some of the things I've heard regarding my children's conditions and treatments for fear that someone will recall making the statement to me.  Most issues we're dealing with aren't common and are steeped in myths and misconceptions.  It was hard to hear certain things over and over.  I don't always feeling like being an advocate; educating the masses next to the lettuce in the grocery store.  I suppose one advantage of having *mostly* invisible issues is that we can often fly under the radar in instances where we don't need obvious accommodations.  When I first started dealing with probing questions and borderline insulting comments, it was hard not to take them to heart.  In my worst emotional states I could rant and cry to my husband over a sentence or two for an hour.  I am slowly understand that by and large, these comments are completely innocent and are born out of ignorance.  The sad reality is that we aren't brimming with tact and social graces these days.  And sometimes people just don't know what to say so they open their mouths and start talking.  It doesn't mean it doesn't sting sometimes though.

3.  The silence is deafening.
The flip side to ridiculous comments is those who say nothing.  Generally, this comes from those individuals that we were once close to.  It's amazing how things shift and change when you have to withdraw  from life a bit.  There are those you seem to never hear from again.  It's harder when you know those individuals are aware of your situation but for whatever reason, you have left their thoughts.  My lonely heart has been able to offer up grace for these people as well.  I've come to realize that sometimes silence is the response of those who don't have the necessary words.  There's a bit more painful reality is well and that is that life does move on for others even when I'm standing still.  It's a struggle for most people to keep up with the fast pace of their own life.  I certainly can't expect them to keep up with mine as well.

4.  Your relationships will change.
My husband and I have both found deeper trails to be the great equalizer in relationships.  When the pressure is on they are either a negative or positive influence on your life.  It was hard to let go of the negative ones but I'm thankful that we have.  I never could have predicted who would rise to the occasion vs. who was more concerned about whether our lives were suddenly too dramatic for their liking.  I am thankful that we now have a clearer picture of the character that stands behinds those that support us.

5.  No one will fully understand.
Obviously, I'm nowhere near the first person I know who has faced a significant medical diagnosis with one of their children.  When I saw others go through it in the past, I tried to imagine what it must feel like.  Having been there myself I can now say that it is nothing like I imagined nor could I adequately articulate the experience.  It's unique.  The closest I have come to finding understanding is from support groups specific to each issue.  Even still, it only fills a piece of the void that longs to be understood.   

6.  You will always lose the comparison game.
The aspect of human natural that wants to win does not go away when difficult times arise.  Sadly, it tends to manifest itself in a terrible game of Who's Difficult is Most Difficult.  When someone wants to pull the game out, it's easy to get tempted into playing.  But I will forewarn you, no one ever wins.  Ever.  Trials aren't a competition nor do you need to justify to yourself why you find the situation difficult.  If it's hard to you, it's hard.  If someone else finds their situation hard, it's hard too.  One person's difficulties do not add or subtract from the difficulties of another.

7.  Your family has a separate journey.
Each member of your family, both nuclear and extended, will find their own way to process and cope with difficult situations.  Don't forget that your children (if that is the source for a trial) have other people that love them that need to hurt in their own way.  Not only will the process be different, it will most likely run at a different pace.  It's important to keep this in mind as you try to find support. 

8.  Either your standards or your sanity lowers.
If you like to live in a land of "always" and "never", expect that to change.  When I suddenly found myself inundated with what seemed like endless tasks at a point where all I wanted to do was run, hide and take a nap, things had to get dropped.  In our case, we watched a bit too much TV and ate less healthy food for a spell.  When I felt ready, I put us back on track.  I did feel the temptation to heap my lowered standards on a growing pile of my inadequacies.  Instead, I tried to recognize that I have limits and those limits need to lower when the going gets tough.   

9.  You can still have peace.
In John 14:27 Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  It's true.  Ask for it often.  Expect to receive it.

10.  You can choose to be better.
In many ways, the last few years represent some of the best of my life.  I have prayed long and hard that the Lord might grant me patience and compassion.  My prayers have most certainly been heard.  I'm amazed at how quickly I have become unrecognizable to myself.  There truly are blessings in the valley.  However, I have come to find that these are not automatic rewards.  As I feel myself pressed and stretched, I realize I have a choice with how I respond.  If I stay humble, content in my situation and seeking guidance from the Lord, I can witness vast changes within myself.  If I choose to complain and breed discontent in my heart then I will ultimately find myself bitter and pessimistic.  Either way, the choice is all mine. 
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