Hello, Sunshine

My journey in suffering started out so quietly that I barely knew what I was dealing with. A hard day here, a difficult boss there. Slowly, difficult times began to stack up.

Then David lost his job and the floodgates opened wide.

We were instantly launched into a long journey through adversity. Wave after wave of trouble hit us. Year after year we endured, with barely enough time or strength to catch our breath in between the crashing waves.

Suffering touched every aspect of our lives; job loss (twice), chronic health conditions, financial hardship, infertility, near-death experiences, car accidents, death, fractures in family, fractures in friendships, the loss of our only child and more surgeries than I care to recall.

After 11 years, we became accustomed to hardship. Dare I say we were habituated to it.

But now, it seems the tides are turning.

A warm breeze is blowing through our life and it feels like we are entering into a season of peace, or at the very least, a season of less-trying experiences. From where I stand, the majority of our challenges appear to be dissolving bit by bit. Sure, somethings like infertility and childlessness will likely never leave us but many of our other trials are slowing. The healing is coming and the darkness is lifting.

For the first time in over a decade, life feels light.

After a long season of suffering, it can feel downright uncomfortable to emerge from beneath the wet blanket of dashed dreams and crippling despair. Year after year, eventually you become accustomed to life being hard. You become accustomed to always bracing for impact.

Like coming out of a cave after many years of groping around in the dark, stepping out into the sunshine of life can be disorienting at first. The effort it takes not question or doubt the credibility of your new-found positive circumstances is immense. You can’t help but wonder how long the sunshine will last before another storm hits. And yet in the midst of this wariness and confusion, Jesus whispers, “Do you trust me? Do you trust that I am good? That I love you deeply? That I don’t intend adversity to follow you around forever? Allow yourself to hope…

Ah, hope. Such a wonderfully tricky thing for those of us who have endured life’s worst.

At times it seems easier just to not even go there. Keep your head down. If life goes well for a time, great – but always be ready to brace for impact. Hope can seem like such a gamble. Dare I hope that my darkest days are coming to an end? Oh the pain I would feel to take hold of that hope, only to have life take another detour into pain and suffering!

Hope can lead us astray if it’s grounded in the wrong things. The Bible never tells us to place our hope in our circumstances. No. That would be a grievous error, sure to disappoint. Instead, we are to place our hope in Him. The Unchanging One. The God who will always be there to carry us and to lift our faces from the dirt. The God who will never betray us or turn His back when life gets hard. And it will most likely get hard again one day.

Our ability to hope is directly correlated with our confidence in God’s goodness. If we are utterly convinced that God is good and that He loves us, we can safely hope. Hope placed in His hands will never disappoint.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement
and good hope,
 encourage your hearts and strengthen you
in every good deed and word.” -2 Thess 2:16-17

Hard things likely still lie ahead for me, for you. But God is good. And right now the skies in my life are clear for the first time in a long time and I’m going soak up the sunshine for as long as I can.

HelloSunshine

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The Overflow

About a year ago, I felt a stirring in my heart. I sensed that God was suggesting something to me, nudging an idea across my path. It was subtle. Just an idea that kept resurfacing from time to time. It wasn’t overt. It didn’t slap me across the face or grip my heart with intensity. It was more a whisper of, “what if…”

I can still hear the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit planting seeds. “Beck, what if you did something that combined your theological training, your counseling background and your first-hand experiences with suffering?” I would turn it over in my mind from time to time, wondering what the Lord might be suggesting. Start a support group? Return to counseling? Help out more in the Care Ministry at my church? Nothing I tried on seemed to align with what God was bringing up. Then one afternoon God just spoke plainly to me as I was carrying a load of laundry up the stairs.

“Write. Write a book. Write a devotional. A 365-day companion for people who are suffering and walking in a season of darkness.”

I set my basket of laundry down and stood there for a moment. Of course. Of course He would suggest something crazy like this. Something I felt completely unqualified to do. Something so crazy and overwhelming it could only come from Him.

I laughed because I couldn’t help but agree with His vision. I saw a quote by Toni Morrison once that said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” For years I tried to find a 365 day devotional that would walk me through my suffering. Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman was the closest I could find and it was written in 1925 – even the revised edition I have feels a bit antiquated. Oh how I wished I could have found a companion to walk me through my darkest days and help shape my perspective of suffering. I so desperately needed a new way of looking at my wounds.

What I was looking for didn’t seem to exist. There are 90-day devotionals for those waiting on miracles, 30-day devotionals for people suffering with depression, 50-day reflections for women going through cancer, year-long meditations on hope and a wealth of nonfiction books that offer lots of insight for those who are going through hard times. But there isn’t a book to journey with someone through the long haul of deep suffering. And there needs to be. There needs to be something for the person who is facing more than just a season of difficulty and needs to cling to Jesus for dear life. Something for the Christian that longs to hear of God’s overflowing love for them in the midst of darkness.

I’ve learned that protesting against God’s will doesn’t get you very far. It just delays the inevitable. So I consented, “Yes Lord, I’ll do it. But can you help me every step of the way? Because I will surely make a mess of this without Your guidance.” I didn’t even bother to explain that I have zero writing experience outside of this little blog. I didn’t tell him that I felt unqualified and ill-equipped for such a huge task. He already knows those things and He still asked me to do this. So I obediently surrendered my hesitation and I said yes in faith.

The first step was coming up with topics. 365 of them. Gulp.

I started with a pretty little notebook and I began to jot down ideas whenever inspiration struck. Most of the ideas were born of the overflow of inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Ideas came from every possible place and it every possible way. Sermons, the Bible, books, dreams, quotes and conversations. More than a few times the Holy Spirit would just spontaneously give me an idea on a random Tuesday afternoon. There were entire days when ideas overflowed out of me like a waterfall of divine inspiration that I could not stop.  As I sit here today, exactly 9 months later to the day, I have 365 ideas for topics.

The next step? Write. Trust that the words will come from the overflow, just like the ideas did.

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The Quiet Side Of Infertility

My friend Caroline was putting together a post for National Infertility Awareness Week and she asked me to contribute a short little snippet describing what I wish more people knew about infertility. This got the wheels turning. I spent a long while thinking about this. Probably too long. I have never really participated in NIAW, but this year I felt like I had something to say.  I wanted to share something that would be impactful….both to the infertility community and to those who do not struggle with infertility. I wrote Caroline an email back so answer her question and I said:

“Sometimes infertility is quiet. It doesn’t always look like hormones and injections, IVF, doctor appointments and charting your next steps. Sometimes it is just quiet prayers, faithful hope and a patient longsuffering.”

After sending that over to her, I thought…”man, I could really expand on that. Maybe I’ll just write a little post about what I mean. Maybe it would help someone else.” The theme of NAIW this year is #startasking. So I thought I would start a dialogue for anyone who wants to start asking a questions about what the other, the less obvious side, of infertility looks like.

It’s so easy to equate infertility with the endless striving for motherhood. From HSGs to charting and ultrasounds, negative pregnancy tests to Clomid and injections, IUIs and 2nd opinions…I’ve been on that side of infertility. I’ve been on the side on infertility where every moment of my life was consumed with how to get pregnant. “Maybe if we try this drug…maybe if we see this doctor…maybe if I memorize this verse or pray this prayer…maybe if my faith were just a little bit bigger…” I camped on that side of infertility for a long time. Years.

But now I’m on a different end of the infertility spectrum now. 

I don’t mean that I am done with infertility. No. Infertility is still very much with me. I still have a uterine fibroid and poor egg quality. I still only have one fallopian tube, which is likely blocked now. I still have a cyst on my brain that affects hormone regulation. I still am not pregnant. Infertility may stick with me for many years to come. It’s like a monkey on my back that won’t jump off no matter how many bananas I tried to throw. So when I say that I’m on the “other side” of infertility, it doesn’t mean that infertility is no longer a part of my life, my prayers or that it doesn’t occupy any space in my heart.  

What I mean, is that I’m on the quieter side of infertility now. The side that is no longer striving, trying, planning or researching. The side where actively pursuing medical treatments is over and you’re done trying to fix what is wrong, or maybe you realize you can’t fix what is wrong, like in our case. Not many people ever make it to this side. Often, IVF, surrogacy, surprise pregnancies or adoption enter the scene and this side of infertility remains a dark unknown that people are glad to pass right by. 

Since many people avoid this place, either intentionally or because God supernaturally intervenes on their behalf, there are consequently very few people on this side of infertilityIt’s like a secret land that no one really knows about. It’s scary at first, you don’t really know what’s over on this side. Like…. what actually happens when you get off the infertility treatment crazy train? Is it so dark that you can’t see? Is it just utterly hopeless? Do you feel stagnant since you’re no longer actively pursuing something? Do you just wander around aimlessly hoping for a baby to drop out of the sky? Are you just forever lost at sea? I get it. I asked all of those questions too when we made the decision to stop actively pursuing medical treatment.

It’s an interesting place to be, especially when there are so few who have gone before you. There’s not exactly a guide for this stage. To my knowledge, there isn’t a book or step-by-step directions on how to navigate these waters we have found ourselves in.  

To be honest, the quiet side of infertility is very peaceful. You can hear yourself think and the Lord speak. You’re in a place with new views and horizons. You can travel and not worry about ruining a cycle. You can stop stabbing yourself with needles and taking crazy pills (looking at you, Clomid). Your head space is a little clearer because you’re no longer obsessed with trying to fix what is wrong. You also have a little extra time and money since you’re not blindly throwing them away into the pit of fertility treatments.

I’m here to tell you it’s really not a scary place. It’s just not. 

Are there still sad days and despairing nights? Yep. Do you still mourn the loss of a dream not yet realized? Yes. Are friendships strained because you don’t fit in? Definitely. But this is also a place of opportunity for strength and incredible growth. It’s a rich land that is full of potential, which I am just now beginning to lean into.

Ultimately, this is a place of deep dependence on Jesus. He helps keep me keep my head up when the world wants me to second guess the path I’m on. It’s so easy to question this side of infertility. To wonder if we really continue to hear God correctly. To feel insecure and left behind. It’s so easy to crumble under the pressure to conform to society’s standards, the infertility community’s common bonds, the Christian community’s expectations.

It takes a lot of obedience, courage, strength, hope, faith, prayer, perspective, peace and humility to stay here. But knowing that we are firmly walking in alignment with God’s will for our life is a beautiful thing. Even if it’s hard and doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing, both within and outside of the infertility community.

So, if you’re thinking about stopping fertility treatments, or if you’re not comfortable moving forward with more, or if the funds have run dry, or if you feel the Lord leading you to simply rest and trust in Him…I’m here to tell you, it’s ok to do that. You don’t have to dive head first into things you’re not comfortable with or don’t feel called to. You don’t have to keep putting your body through hell. You don’t have to justify your decision or explain yourself. You don’t have to worry that you are “giving up.” 


Being on the quiet side of infertility is perfectly fine. There aren’t many of us on this side, and it takes a lot of guts and prayer to make it here and stay here. But if you do make it, you’re in good company and you can rest assured that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you as you trust in Him for His perfect plan.

The River

I decided to post the first paper I wrote this semester to my blog. Not because I think it’s amazing or worthy of public appreciation (ha!), but because it describes so well the place where I currently am and I want to remember this place. The paper was to be a personal spiritual journey reflection paper. We were to identify an obstacle (ha! I have like 14 and I couldn’t choose so I rolled them all into one and just called it “suffering”) in our spiritual journeys and the steps we are taking to overcome it. Alongside that, we were to develop a word picture or analogy for this obstacle. These things have been floating around in my brain since oh….2009 and I feel like I am starting to finally make some progress with marrying the ideas of God’s love and the role of suffering in life. 

So here is my first paper affectionately titled, “The River.”


When I started my first day of school at Denver Seminary, my husband David was in the hospital with two large blood clots in his lungs. I quietly slipped out of his hospital room at 4:45am after a restless night’s sleep listening to him struggling to breathe and fighting through pain that his morphine drip was not helping. I walked through empty hallways with my books in hand, passing nurses in the cardiac wing who looked at me quizzically. Little did they know, I had a long drive ahead of me to a very important class that I refused to be late for. My husband is probably the only person who truly understood how important it was that I make it to class, despite, or perhaps in light, of his tenuous condition. 

My husband’s health crisis which kept him in the hospital for a week due to complications occurred six months after I endured three painful and mostly unsuccessful spinal taps, which were three months after I had brain surgery to repair a rare and degenerative vestibular condition. Brain surgery was on the heels of my husband’s job loss, which was on the heels of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which almost cost me my life and resulted in the loss of our only child. The loss of our pregnancy came after three years of infertility testing and treatments which have brought us no closer to parenthood six years later. Suffice it to say, I have become acquainted with suffering.
Despite the brevity, I do not recount this grim list of events casually. Each one has made a deep and distinguishing impact on not only my day-to-day life, but my spiritual life as well. I share these events as a way to set the scene for describing the subsequent spiritual wrestling match that has taken place in my heart. 

Through the vast majority of the trials I have experienced, my faith in God and my enthusiastic pursuit of Him have not wavered. I have clung tightly to Him as David and I have weathered the storms that have come our way. I have continually sought the Lord through prayer, worship, Scripture, godly counsel, church, spiritual direction and a simple but deep longing in my heart to know and experience Him more. Along the way, however, a shift occurred in my perception as I unknowingly began to view God’s intentions for me with trepidation. My belief that God was good held firm, I just did not believe His intentions for me were good. I knew God was loving, He just did not love me quite as much. Subsequently, the door to my heart began to slowly close as I rationalized my way through why God would intend such hardship for me. I still sought after His wisdom, comfort, peace, guidance, presence, grace and forgiveness, but my pursuits ended there. 

During a guided retreat in November for CF606 which I was auditing at the time, I was made painfully aware of the impervious state of my heart. One of the retreat exercises entailed reading through various verses and writings about God’s love. Aggravated, I regarded this exercise as futile because of my conviction that God did not actually love me. Why spend an afternoon reading through things that did not even apply to me? It was in these moments when the Holy Spirit confronted me with my deeply errant view of God and His love. Does God’s love automatically equate with blessings or a lack of problems? Does the Lord’s goodness mean one never suffers or experiences hardship? Should the natural response to trials be closing one’s heart off to God in an attempt to self-protect? I was overwhelmed by how far astray my assumptions about God’s nature, which is characterized completely by love, had gone.

The retreat was a catalyst for reshaping my perspective. How I viewed suffering, trials and pain in light of my renewed sense of God’s love began to change. Conversely, how I viewed God’s love in light of suffering, trials and pain also began to change. As I opened the crack to the door to my heart wider and wider, my mindset began to shift and I have been more welcoming of God’s love in its various forms. Much of the Old Testament has been particularly transformative, allowing me to gain insight into the relationship between God’s love and the suffering of His people. One section of Hosea 6 has brought me considerable enlightenment in regards to God’s love and His intentions in suffering.
Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us 
down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise 
us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going 
out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the 
earth (Hos 6:1-3 ESV). 
Isaiah 30, which speaks of eating the bread of affliction and drinking the water of adversity (Is 30:20 ESV), is a perfect description of the nourishment I have become familiar with and has given me considerable great insight into the Lord’s recognition of suffering and what He intends for it. 

The purpose for my suffering remains partially veiled. I do not believe the Lord has fully revealed His design for it in my life, nor do I believe my heart could bear the full weight of such purpose at this time. However, as I look back over the years, I survey remarkable maturity and growth that only suffering could produce. As gold is refined in a fire, so has my heart been refined by the trials. I cling to James’ words in the hopes that the perseverance produced by these trials might one day be made complete so that I would be fully “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (Jas 1:4 NIV).

If I were to further speculate, I might estimate that the suffering I have experienced serves, in addition to developing a mature faith, as a precursor to ministerial calling, whether that be in the realm of chaplaincy, spiritual direction or simply helping friends who need companionship while walking a difficult road of their own. Despite my blindness regarding the reason, I intend to continue in my pursuit of vulnerability before God. No longer will the door to my heart receiving and reciprocating God’s love remain closed. That is not a state to which I wish to return and so I will remain unflinching in my reception of His love, whatever form it may manifest itself. This includes intentionally remaining open in prayer during subsequent hardships, such as my husband’s recent hospitalization. The temptation certainly existed to adhere to past faulty beliefs the second we walked into the emergency room. As a result it takes extra intentionality to refute past convictions and continue forward in my simple but transforming belief that God is indeed good in my life, He is indeed for me and He does indeed love me.

As I have begun to explore the relationship between God’s unconditional love and His purpose in suffering, I have been led to a word picture of a river. A river is a wild and unbridled force that cuts through rock, plummets as a waterfall over cliffs, frequently floods low-lying areas, forms steep canyon walls, carves paths through impenetrable terrain and on occasion, injures the occasional recreational enthusiast. 

A river also shapes trade routes, provides irrigation water for fields and farms, nourishes surrounding flora, provides drinking water for wildlife and people alike, allows for spectacular scenery, fly fishing, rafting and outdoor relaxation. Rivers are wild and scary but they are also life-giving and peaceful. They are a vivid juxtaposition of wonder, life, necessity and goodness with rampant power, torrential rawness and a hint of danger.

If I wish to lead others to the water of this mighty River, then I myself cannot be afraid of it. I must be willing to submerse myself in these mysterious and often painful Waters. It is not enough to sit on the River’s edge and remark on its beauty, take photos and urge others to jump in while I stand at a safe distance, afraid to get wet. If I aim to attend to others along this river of God’s love, I must be a guide who is not hesitant to get in the boat and face the rapids head on. I cannot walk the shoreline shouting instructions at those who were willing to enter a boat, I must enter the River myself.

To draw the picture of a rafting guide out further, if my boat were to capsize with myself and crew in it, I cannot swim to shore, set up camp and count my bumps and bruises for the subsequent few months. There is no progress in rehashing old wounds while maintaining a victim mentality. If my boat were to snag on a log in the River and the air began to escape from it, I cannot wave my white flag and decide to walk the rest of the journey. The River goes places that cannot be traversed on foot. 

This is why I left David’s hospital room that Wednesday morning. Since that retreat in November, which opened my eyes not only to my own errant ways of thinking but also to the conviction that I was being called to begin the Christian Formation and Soul Care program at Denver Seminary, I have been utterly convinced that hardship should not hold me back from exploring more of God’s love for me. It probably would have been much easier to skip class, defer my studies for a semester and ruminate over yet another hardship that we have endured. I love my husband deeply and wanted to care for and support him in any way I could, but we both also were highly aware of the significance of not letting another health crisis impede the journey towards further spiritual growth and development. So I tiptoed out of his hospital room and back into the River.

Upheaval

Honestly, I thought my next post would be about how grad school is going or how the move out of our house went. I never imagined that I would be writing about what it’s like to operate in crisis mode 24/7 or what it’s like to watch your husband not be able to breath or how many times I prayed that God would spare David’s life.

Believe me, I wish I was being dramatic. We have had a scary ride these last 10 days or so. Probably the scariest in my life. I haven’t really even begun to process what has transpired. Too much has happened. Too many tears. Too many nights without sleep. Too much disruption.

It has been a total upheaval.

Writing is usually my first step to processing something the Lord is doing in my life and so this blog post is more for my own heart to begin to make sense of things than for your reading enjoyment. No offense 😉 The days have blurred together and I know that if I don’t get something down, it will be harder and harder for me to remember or be able to piece together.

I mentioned in my last post that the buyers of our home had moved up our closing date to February 1st. It was a tight timeline but we knew we could get our house fully packed and moved by then. I had rented a POD to store our furniture and we were steadily chipping away and packing boxes. I left David in charge of the heavy stuff so he spent last Saturday lifting and carrying heavy boxes. Towards the end of the day he mentioned that the side of his ribcage was hurting. We chalked it up to a pulled muscle and continued with our progress.

On Sunday the pain was making him wince every now and then. When he stood up or sat down, he’d close his eyes and say “man! this really hurts.” Again, we chalked it up to a pulled muscle. A few times he was doubled over in pain and I suggested going to an UrgentCare. “They’re just going to give me some Advil and tell me to take it easy” David said. Monday was no better, though he did finally see an in-house doctor at his work who confirmed that it was likely a pulled muscle. She literally gave him Advil and told him to just take it easy.

Tuesday I woke up to David struggling to breathe. He couldn’t talk or move. His eyes were shut tight and he had tears running down his cheeks. I did my best to put some clothes on him and rushed him to the ER which we thankfully lived 3 minutes away from.

At first, the ER doctors thought it was some minor complication from a cold he had the week before. They seemed genuinely unconcerned. They ordered an EKG and a chest x-ray which came back clear. But when a triple dose of Morphine didn’t take away David’s pain, I saw a change in the ER physician’s demeanor. He looked at the lab results and noticed a test for blood coagulation came back abnormal. He ordered a CT scan and they immediately took David out of the room.

When the doctor came back, it looked like he wanted to cry and apologize at the same time for not taking us seriously from the start. “You guys, I am so glad that you came in. David has two large blood clots in an artery of each of his lungs. If you had waited to come in, or tried to push through the pain any longer….. this would have ended very….. very badly.” In 25% of people who have pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lung), sudden death is the very first symptom. Ultimately, it kills 1 out of every 3 patients who have it.

He was immediately admitted to the cardiac unit and given all sorts of shots and pills and drips of IV medicine. The first 2 days were pretty bad. His pain was out of control and he really struggled to breathe if he moved even the slightest bit. Morphine + hydrocodone truly did nothing for his pain. It was so hard watching him be in such sustained pain. David is a tough guy, he’s had all sorts of broken bones and injuries- in 13 years, I have never seen him in such physical distress.

We had some really beautiful sunsets out David’s windows. Every night was a treat to watch.

It was only once they introduced a very strong anti-inflamitory pain medication called Toredal that things started to finally turn around. His chest pain lessened, his breathing was easier and his spirits lifted. Praise God!

Interestingly though, after he started this medication, he mentioned having a touch of a headache (Note to Self: if you’re ever on opoid prescription pain killers and still have a touch of a headache, it’s likely more than just a headache). That was just before he threw up. Even more interesting, the doctors and nurses didn’t find any of this the least bit troubling and decided to discharge him after a 3 day stay.

He came back to his parent’s house after being discharged. Within hours, the pain in his head grew worse.

What happened after that was a blur of 2 ER visits, stabbing pain, worried doctors, relentless nausea and vomiting, MRIs, blood tests and CT scans. There were talks of bleeding in his brain due to blood thinners, talks of severe reactions to the blood thinners, talks of spinal taps and of stroke risk. For a while they thought perhaps the clots in his lungs had traveled to his brain. There were lots of tears, prayers, Morphine, Dilaudid and Zofran. And then a readmittance into the hospital for a 2nd time.

I didn’t sleep for a span of 48 hours. I couldn’t take my eyes off of David, watching each breath he breathed and thanking God for allowing him to be alive.

He was admitted to the neurology floor where neurologists worked to figure out what in the heck was going on. While they tested out theories and prescribed various treatments over the next 2 days, David was in a state of utter torture. His pain was what the hospital staff referred to as “unmanageable” meaning, no medications helped. Even the strongest of the strong, Dilaudid (about 3x stronger than Morphine) would only touch his pain for a brief moment. His nausea was also unmanageable and the only way David got any relief was literally by being unconscious. One particular drug called Phenergan was very helpful for just knocking him out and giving him a little reprieve from the agony.

During these days, I got a strong sense that this thing was bigger than ourselves or the doctors’ abilities to help. I stopped being able to pray intelligible prayers and simply began begging the Spirit to intercede on our behalf. I called upon the name of Jesus more times than I can count. We had a revolving door of support come through. David needed complete darkness and silence, so much of the intercessory prayer happened outside of his room but that didn’t make it any less powerful! I’ve only had a few times in my life where I could literally feel myself being carried by the prayers of others, this was one of those times.

After 2 and a half very long days, eventually the neurologists gave us explanation for what David was experiencing. He had a condition called status migrainosus which is characterized by 72+ hours of relentless and unmanageable pain, vomiting and nausea. They confirmed he had no blood clots in his brain and no bleeding in his brain. This condition put him at a heightened risk for stroke and began evaluating him several times each day for stroke signs. But ultimately, they believed there were no abnormalities in his brain and that he would be ok.  I truly believe God spared him from a multitude of worse-case scenarios.

They finally put him on a steroid protocol with a mix of IV medications which aimed at breaking his pain. After about 14 hours, he slowly moved into a more coherent state of mind as the pain began to dissipate. The next morning, he ate a few bites of food. He smiled. He kept his eyes open. He spoke in full sentences. He began to slowly turn the corner. The steroids helped him so much and really brought him back to reality again…a reality with much less pain, confusion and torment.

Terrified to be discharged prematurely again, David and I decided it would be best for him to see how he did without any pain or nausea meds in his system before we agreed to be discharged. We stayed long past when we needed to, just to make sure. He had so many ups and downs over the week, we didn’t want to go home only to have him relapse yet again. But after 12 hours of reduced pain and no nausea, he seemed to still be doing well so we cautiously went home.

He has since been on the mend and recovering well. The blood clots are still there. They will probably stay in his lungs for the next few months, but the doctors feel confident that they will not get bigger and they should dissipate with time while he is on blood thinners. We still have some testing to do in the months to come to see if the blood clots are due to a coagulation disorder.

He seems to have recovered fully from the pain and nausea, which is a big blessing. His body is handling the blood thinners well and aside from not being able to mountain bike, shave with a razor or really do anything that could cause bleeding, the blood thinners don’t seem to be too much of a problem.

Somewhere in all of this, we moved out of our house and into my in-law’s home. We sold our home. And I started grad school. But those are different posts for a different day.

For now, I will simply thank God for His favor and protection over my sweet husband. And I will continue to smile and stare at him as I watch him breathe 🙂

Soul Care

Looking back on it, I can recognize that what I experienced this summer was probably a “dark night of the soul.” I didn’t see it at the time. At the time, I just felt spiritually burdened, alone, confused and pretty hopeless. For a while I wondered if it was depression, which I have struggled with in the past. It felt like a familiar feeling…and yet, different. Then I thought maybe it was an identity crisis of some sort. But even that didn’t explain the extent of things that I was feeling. I thought maybe it was spiritual warfare, but I’m really sensitive to spiritual attacks and can identify them pretty quickly. While this was certainly darkness, it wasn’t darkness from the evil realm. 

In hindsight, I fit almost exactly what Saint John of the Cross described in his poem “Dark Night of the Soul”. He literally describes a dark night of the soul to be “a contemplative purgation or nakedness and poverty of spirit.” Yes. That. 


My first 2 failed spinal tap attempts certainly triggered it. But this dark night wasn’t just about spinal taps and it wasn’t just contained to that exam room. It wasn’t about frustration with medical appointments and a slow healing process. It extended into my everyday, my prayer life, my job, my marriage. I think it was just my time. My time to fall apart and fall to a spiritual depth that I have not known since becoming a Christian 12 years ago. If you talked to me at all this summer, you probably picked up on it. My typical “joyful in the Lord” personality had a quieter, withdrawn, reticent quality to it as I worked through my confusion, pain and internal wrestling. 

Saint John of the Cross explicitly states that a dark night of the soul is all about union with God, not separation from Him, although it might not feel that way when you’re actually in it. The dark night ultimately prepares you for a deeper union and connection with God. You’re stripped of all you know in order to enter into a new level with God. It’s intentionally disorienting. Intentionally disintegrating.

I can’t say for sure that I’m fully out of it, I know it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight. But I’m on my way. I have more clarity than I did back in July and my hope and understanding have begun to be restored. God’s tender care has begun to restore my heart again. I am so very thankful for that!

The restoration has come through the process of “soul care.” 

It started as I was looking up Fall class schedules to audit at Denver Seminary. I wanted to get back in the classroom and keep learning, but knew I couldn’t keep up with an Old Testament or Exegesis of Revelation class haha! So I started looking at the Christian Formation program and one class stuck out to me. It was called “Scripture, Formation and Soul Care.” It immediately grabbed me. I could practically feel God saying “Hey Beck, your soul has taken a beating. You should probably learn how to care for your soul. Take this class!” Got it, God. And so I signed up.

The class has been nothing short of amazing. It is truly what my heart and soul needed in this season of life. I didn’t really know what to expect. I mean, how does one take care of their soul? Is soul care really a thing? Is that different than taking care of your heart, mind or body? And if so, what does it look like?

One aspect of Soul Care that we are learning in class is called Lectio Divina. I’d never heard of it before, but interestingly enough, just a few weeks before class started, one of my Bible study leaders game me a book called “Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness.” I didn’t quite understand what it meant at the time, but since starting this class, the book has become invaluable to me.

Lectio Divina is a Benedictine practice that is all about experiencing (not studying or memorizing) God’s Word through meditation and praying the Scriptures. It’s about calming your mind and experiencing the Living Word through the written Word. It’s unlike any way I’ve ever approached the Bible before. There’s no “right way” necessarily, but there are some steps involved in the traditional form of Lectio Divina. They involve silence, slowly reading & meditating on God’s Word, praying through the Scripture and finally contemplating your experience.

I have to free myself of feeling like there is a “right” way to do this, lifting expectations and just allowing the time to be what God intends it to be. It’s a pretty open-ended process, which I struggle with sometimes. I like having solid expectations, knowing what’s going to come. And this goes against all of that, but it’s been very rewarding so far! 

One thing I love about praying through the Psalms is that the Psalms are full of emotions…emotions we don’t necessarily feel permitted to really feel towards God. Like doubt, anger, fear, complaining, lamenting, hurt. But the Psalms give us full permission to identify those emotions and bring them to God. My friend Stacy told me a few weeks ago on the phone after my botched spinal tap attempts that my feelings of God abandoning me sounded downright Biblical. “Really?” I thought, “it doesn’t sound like a very godly way to talk.” Low and behold, those very words are found in Psalm 22. In fact, Jesus quoted Psalm 22 while he was on the cross. The Psalms give us permission to feel all the feelings. To pray about them, dwell on them, let them rise to the surface, cry them out and let God care for your heart in the process. There are few few emotions that aren’t found in the Psalms. Murderous rage? Check. Abandonment? Check. Despair, anger, joy, fear, hope, encouragement, sadness and discouragement? Check check check.

A few other aspects this class touches on are spiritual retreats, meeting with a spiritual director, guided meditation and reflective writing. Honestly, they are things I don’t have much experience with (aside from reflective writing) but I’m coming to realize how impactful they can be as I begin to integrate them into my spiritual walk with God. Sometimes my time with God can be so cerebral…it’s all about knowledge, Bible studies, memorizing, learning, learning, learning. Of course there’s nothing wrong with learning, but sometimes I miss experiencing God because I’m too focused on learning. It’s nice to introduce experiential dynamics back into my walk with God.

There’s a lot of ins and outs to soul care and I have only been exposed to the tip of the iceberg. I can see how soul care can lead a strong Christ follower into new seasons of self-reflection, growth and spiritual maturity. And I’ve certainly seen how it can lead a hurting, limping, wounded soul into a season of healing and restoration. My soul has already received an abundance of care, who knows how awesome I’ll feel by the time the class is over in December! 🙂

Suffering

As I lay on the table, feeling every inch of the long needle go through my flesh and move closer to my spine, I quietly cried out to God, “where are you? why is this so painful? I prayed that things would go well…so why aren’t they? why have you left me here in pain? where are you? this is too much for me to bear.”

To say my spinal tap went poorly yesterday would be a massive understatement. It’s a long story why I even had to do it in the first place…something about my neurologist being concerned about elevated spinal fluid pressure. That’s not important. What’s important is that I didn’t respond to anesthetic, leaving me wide open to feel the excruciating pain of not one, but two botched spinal tap attempts. Hands down, one of the worst and most traumatic events of my life. I have no words to describe the pain.

After the surgical draping was removed, iodine washed off and medical staff had left the room, I laid there on that table utterly inconsolable. The tears simply refused to stop. David prayed over me, read verses with me, uttered soothing words to me…but my pain, sadness, anger, disappointment, despair and discouragement would not be assuaged. After all this time. After all I have been through….

I was mad at God. Mad that He left me high and dry. I sought Him for help, comfort and peace. All I got was a hole in my back, horrible pain and the added anxiety of knowing I have to go through this all over again in the near future. I’ve never been so mad at God before. Not when I found out I had to have brain surgery. Not when we lost our only child. Not when David lost his job. Not when I was enduring endometrial biopsies, blood draws, hormone injections and surgeries. Words can’t begin to describe the waves of pain, doubt and anger that washed over me.

This was the final straw. Rock bottom.

Maybe it seems dramatic that a spinal tap could rattle me so much, but it did. I’m not a dramatic person. Truly. But I discovered a new low, a level of discouragement I have not known before. I can only liken it to Paul saying he “despaired even of life.” After all I’ve been through…was it too much to request that I make it through a simple spinal tap without complications or blinding pain? It went back to my constant struggle with Him…why is He able, but not willing? 

God didn’t let me sit at rock bottom for very long. 5 hours, maybe before I read some powerful encouragement last lifted me off the ground last night. And this morning brought with it new perspective, fresh advice from a dear friend and healing through God’s holy Word.

I’ve thought a lot about suffering over the past year. Why some people suffer tragedy after tragedy, while others seem to skate through life without a worry in the world. Why God answers some prayers but not others. Why He heals one person but not the next. What the purpose of hardship is. What God does with suffering and our character. Why my suffering is drastically different than a Christian living in Syria. It’s all been rolling around in my mind like a dryer on Wrinkle-Shield. Every week or so, I’ll have new thoughts, new questions, new ponderings that tumble around about the role of suffering in life.

I think the first step to figure out the purpose of and response to suffering is asking myself, “what is the goal in life for a follower of Christ?” Is it to have a happy little life? Days full of blessings, joy, puppies and rainbows, avoidance of all affliction? The answer here in the West is probably very different from the rest of the world. In America, we view pain and suffering as a stink bug that just landed on our shoulder. Quick! Shake it off, squash it! Don’t let it touch you!  I’m convinced the rest of the world doesn’t think this way about hardships and pain. Surely Jesus didn’t think this way.

Assuming the answer to that question has something to do with living for the glory of God, allowing Him to use us and accomplish things through us to promote the Kingdom of God here on earth, we have to accept suffering will be a part of it. If it was true for Jesus, it will be true for us. One of my favorite authors, John Eldredge said “If God doesn’t use suffering to accomplish maturity, what exactly is He going to use instead? A lack of suffering turns us into little narcissists. We have to loosen our grip on the demand that life work our for us and embrace the fact that suffering allows us to know God in ways that others don’t.

In the last 24 hours, for the first time in my life, I have felt like I can relate to Jesus in a way I never have before. Through suffering. From Gethsemane to Calvary, he suffered. He suffered physically, emotionally. He despaired so deeply, it was as if the life was being crushed out of him in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:34). He asked for the cup to pass him by, to be spared. Yet he, the Son of God, was not spared. “God sometimes says no. Sometimes He calls us to suffer and die, even if we want to claim the contrary. Never did a man pray more earnestly than Christ prayed in Gethsemane.” (Surprised by Suffering, R.C. Sproul).

Jesus had his answer. He knew what fate lay ahead of him and he stayed the course. He didn’t flee Jerusalem or stomp his feet in a tantrum about things not working out. He pushed through to the bitter end. And His suffering was ultimately redeemed for His (and our) glory. We are called to participate in Christ’s sufferings. Some of us may participate more than others, but we all experience it. We can’t escape it. I can’t escape it. So I might as well try to take hold of it the way Jesus did.

My beautiful friend Stacy called me this morning and spoke words that I know were inspired by the Holy Spirit. She said “If God were a helicopter-parent, He could have swooped in yesterday and spared you that pain. But instead He chose to allow it, intended for a larger lesson that will last a lifetime.” I don’t quite have the full picture of that larger lesson, but I know her words were true. There is purpose in pain.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, maybe I never will this side of Heaven. I haven’t landed firmly in a place of peace over all this yet, God and I are still wrestling over a few things. But I do know that God is good. That He intends suffering as a way for us to share in His glory, to participate in Christ’s suffering is to participate in His exaltation (2Tim 2:11-12). His comfort flows into our lives just as His sufferings do (2Cor 1:5). I’m trying to rest in this truth, I guess it’s the best place to start.