August 16, 2108
Indecision remains a terrible lingering fog for me. It paralyzes me at times as I try to make even the simplest choices. I’m sitting on the edge of the bed staring at the open closet — completely unable to select something to wear. Not because there isn’t anything appropriate to the occasion, which is church, but because I simply can not make a choice. I’m confused. I’m looking at the clothes but not really; I’m looking somewhere else.
To help you understand the trauma caused to my brain in January 2017 I’ve briefly defined the cerebral malaria which changed everything. Before this I was better able to manage my other health issues.
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Malaria is caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium, which is spread through infected Anopheles mosquitoes. Plasmodium falciparum is the deadliest species of Plasmodium that cause malaria in humans and accounts for approximately 50% of all malaria cases. If drugs are not available or if the parasites are resistant to them, P. falciparum can cause severe malaria because it multiplies rapidly in the blood and can thus cause blood loss as a result of anemia. In addition, the infected parasites can build up clogging small blood vessels. When capillaries carrying blood to the brain are blocked, cerebral malaria results. Cerebral malaria accounts for a significant proportion of malaria mortality, and also has the potential for neurological deficits and cognitive impairments in survivors. Each of the doctors who have evaluated me have plainly stated that they cannot conclusively say how much the cerebral malaria plays into the current state of my health though they believe it does. Mine is a complex case with several conditions and contributing factors.
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“If you’re too confused to select clothes for church, perhaps it’s better for you to stay home and rest,” Stephen gently said as he absentmindedly played with my hair. He was right. Indecisiveness has always been a red flag and he’s usually the one to recognize it first. If it builds to anxiousness, as it was heading toward this particular evening, then my beloved knows to step in and direct me. I try to comply without whining because I’ve learned over the many years of dealing with this foggy brain of mine that he’s right. Nonetheless, a couple of tears trickled down my cheek. I really hate missing church.
The next day dawned brighter and I was afforded the singular blessing of some time alone with Danielle. She knew I needed to talk about personal things and had instructed the kids to play outside or read in their rooms. They cheerfully scattered leaving us with quiet cups of tea and coffee. I was passing through a small crisis of heart and I needed a feminine ear for some of my questionings and doubts.
I had been reading some helpful and thoughtful books regarding the spiritual trials that physical challenges can bring. But I felt like I just wasn’t attaining to the pinnacle of growth and achievement as the writer. “Why can’t I sustain this? Why is everything such a difficult challenge, so up and down with no consistency? I do okay for a while and then it falls apart!” She listened and we talked, I cried (yes, again!), we prayed and it helped. But one thing in particular stood out.
Now here I was later in the evening, in my own cozy kitchen, looking out the window and replaying that one particular thing. “Mom, let me answer you in the context of something I struggle with to keep consistent — homeschooling. I just saw this quote on a homeschool forum I belong to and I believe it applies to you as well, ‘You can’t compare your entire homeschool year to another’s Instagram moment.’ In those books, you’re looking at selected snapshots from an entire life and wanting to fit them all into the end product right now.” That was big; that was helpful! The woman writing the books in question wasn’t deliberately misleading, but she had taken years of agony and boiled it down to a couple of books showing her spiritual success in the face of truly great physical challenges. In doing so, a lot of the rough edges get left off, and things appear rosier that they certainly would have been at the time. It’s not intentional but it’s just the way it is. Danielle had really caused me to measure my progress differently and to see how far I actually had already come. I needed that fresh outlook on my circumstances. And she also reminded me that, in all likelihood, this author didn’t live at the top all the time either. Memory can be selective at the removal of many years, it’s human nature.
One thing I had told Danielle, and about which I had cried buckets of tears with Stephen on that Sunday he suggested I stay home, was that I can’t find the person I used to be. The one who taught the 15-week ladies’ class at church and who traveled speaking at churches and mission conferences when home during Ebola time. The one who has confidently traveled alone internationally many times; who managed a growing, busy mission station. Where’s the one who designs artwork for Illustrated Evangelism? Where is that person? What happened to her? Will I ever be able to see past this fog?
As I stood there alone in the dark and considered all these things two verses drifted into my mind.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.
Isaiah 42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
And then, the familiar Gentle Voice, “You now have the opportunity to redefine yourself. How will you choose to do that?” That was all but the thought was intense and terrifying all at once.
I’ve been in a train wreck, my health is a shamble and I get to choose how I will come out of that wreck. I get to redefine who and what I am. Indeed, how will I do that? What are my true priorities? The spiritual response to my physical circumstances is up to me.
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Post Script: This idea of Redefining has been a big help to me as I set new personal goals, make ministry decisions, and move forward in dealing with my health issues. I’ve talked with Stephen a lot about this thought since that night when the it first came to me. He’s encouraging of me as I eagerly talk to him about the progress of my redefining. It’s something I take seriously and I’m learning a lot about myself as I continue to grow in the Lord. I’ll be returning to this theme for a few more installments and it’s my prayer that it might provide help to others who are at a crossroads in their life whether health related or otherwise. The Lord is so very faithful to give me light for each new step! He will do the same for you.