Chapter Nineteen: Counting Your Blessings

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

My surgery date was originally set for June 12th, 2017. When UVA called to let me know that was the earliest date they had available, my very first thought was, “but can I make it until then?” At that time, my situation was the worst it had ever been. The pain–even with medication–felt unbearable. June 12th felt like an eternity away, but I knew I had no choice but to make it until then. Just a few days later after discussing various circumstances, we changed the date to June 22nd….adding ten additional days to the wait time. Honestly, it felt impossible. 

But the months, weeks, & days absolutely flew. In fact, it went by too quickly, & by the time the beginning of June arrived I was grateful for the extra ten days. & just like that it was just a week before my surgery, & honestly, I wasn’t handling it nearly as well as I let on or nearly as well as I wanted. It was the thought of being completely open & exposed on a cold, hard operating table with my body in the hands of someone I had barely even spent 15 minutes with, the apprehension of the unimaginable pain I knew I was about to endure, the fact I would have to stay in the hospital (my most dreaded place) for an entire week that provoked it all. The mixed emotions were very real. On one hand, I was scared, nervous, tense, discouraged, & a total mess. I laid awake at night sweating as my heart pounded a mile a minute. I wept frequently with a broken heart. I had nightmares where I would wake up petrified & panic attacks that would lead into borderline pseudo seizures. Satan was attacking at all angles…physical, emotional, & spiritual. I never actually considered taking my life, but the thought of dying in surgery didn’t scare me at all. In fact, I welcomed it. The idea of meeting Jesus face-to-face & experiencing total healing was one I prayed for sometimes.

I simply didn’t know if I could do it…….

……….but I knew I had to.

But on the other hand, I had peace about it. It probably doesn’t sound that way from what I described above, but I did. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was my next step. I knew this surgery was the best decision I could’ve made at that time. I knew I was as ready as I could be. I knew I had prepared myself for the worst while hoping for the best. & deep down, I knew that even though I didn’t have this, God had it. I knew He would be holding me, strengthening me, protecting me, comforting me, & loving me through the entire ordeal, no matter what. 

So with that in mind on June 19th I put my earbuds in, grabbed my favorite blanket, settled in on my bed, opened my journal, & started writing the straight up truth: 

“Today it finally happened. I let go. The peace I’ve longed & begged for has arrived with crazy joy. I believe I can do this for the very first time. I will have faith over fear & I will fight. I will praise God even as I go through hell. Because God is still faithful. He is still reigning. Many have prayed with me & for me. Blessings have been showered continually. Whether on earth or in heaven this will pass. This is only a season. Jesus, you know my thoughts & feelings towards this surgery. You know each fear, anxiety, & frustration. I’m surrendering it all at the foot of the cross, leaving it there, & walking away. All I have to say is whatever comes my way I will praise You…running to You & not from You. Thank You that You are merciful, loving, kind, omnipotent, ever present, & so much more. Thank You that You will hold my hand, comfort me, & grant me a divine peace. Thank You that You are greater.”

Okay, so, I’m going to pause for a second to clarify I didn’t just magically wake up on June 19th with a complete mindset change ready to write that journal entry about my new found peace & joy. It didn’t didn’t just happen overnight. So, how did I get there? I had to make a conscious (okay, maybe begrudging is a more accurate adjective! 😜) decision to count my blessings.

I’ve been told to “count my blessings,” countless times. & you know, I try really hard to do that. I really do! But the unfortunate truth is, we’re human, & counting our blessings just isn’t exactly our natural instinct. It’s a lot easier to count your miseries. 😂 We are prone to dwell on the bothersome roadblocks in our day rather than the little rays of sunshine. But they’re called “miseries” for a reason….they make us feel miserable! & whether we realize we’re doing it or not, it’s too easy to get trapped in a cycle of dwelling on them continually & allowing them to completely dominate your thoughts. & that’s exactly what I had been doing. 

So I chose to actively & deliberately count my blessings.

Now, let me clarify that I didn’t choose to count my blessings as some positive thinking facade or a way to “mask my real feelings.” I chose to do it as a sign that I was going to steadfastly trust my Heavenly Father no matter how difficult the circumstance. I decided I was going to seek out the daily blessings, actively thank Him for them, & see what happened. Rather than lingering on what I’d been missing, I chose to focus on all I’d been given. & I gotta admit, I did not feel an overflow of pure joy & peace immediately at all. In fact, in the beginning, it felt like a mundane chore, an inconvenience, an annoying act of obedience due to my “Christian duty” more than anything. But the more I rerouted my focus, over time something started to change in me….even if I didn’t notice it right away. Space began to open up in my heart. I truly felt happier, freer, more open, contented. & as a result came that journal entry on June 19th. 

In the wise words of Vaneetha Risner, “when I choose to face my miseries directly & find blessings in them, something miraculous happens. I view all of life differently. I see my circumstances through a lens of faith. & I am able to declare with confidence that, even in the worst of circumstances, God is still good, & there is much to be thankful for.”

Would I have chosen this path for myself? Never. Did I want to walk through hell? No way. But in those sweet moments, I was opening my mind & my heart to see my journey from different angles, different perspectives, through a different lens. I could see God working in me in ways I couldn’t before. I could see Him using me in ways I couldn’t before. I could see Him providing for my needs in ways I couldn’t before. I could see Him  I was grateful for all He had done in my life in ways I hadn’t been before.

& no matter how seemingly impossible my day seemed, I could always cling to this: the One who holds the world, the One who conquered all, loves me recklessly & unconditionally. & that is absolutely something to be grateful for. 

& you know, some might argue that those feelings didn’t last. Admittedly, I did panic the night before my surgery. Satan knew he hadn’t won the battle for my heart & attacked hardcore with his fears & unknowns. But again, God was faithful to provide for my every need. He led me to call three amazing friends who patiently listened to me cry & be real about how I was feeling. They selflessly & willingly distracted me from my emotions, encouraged me, & prayed with me until the wee hours of the morning. & when I wasn’t on the phone, I was listening to worship music…allowing God’s promises to ring louder, clearer, & stronger than Satan’s venomous lies. 

All too soon, my alarm went off & the moment had come: it was time to get out of the comfort & safety of my bed, into my last shower with an unmarked body, & into the car to make the trip over the mountain to the UVA surgical department. & you know what? I would’ve thought that would’ve been my toughest time emotionally.

But it wasn’t.

I got into the backseat & I felt an immediate, inexplicable peace that surpassed all understanding. Words fail to describe it. I smiled & sang the entire way to UVA. I sang lyrics like,

“Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well with my soul.”

“I need Thee, oh I need Thee, every hour I need thee.”

“Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart. “Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art”

“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing. Tune my heart to sing Thy grace”

& the absolutely crazy thing is I meant them.

I believed every word I was singing to heaven. 

In reality, I had no earthly idea what I was walking into at on June 22nd, 2017. I had no idea that it was going to be worse than my worst fears. I had no idea the level of excruciating pain I was about to experience. I had no idea the complications that would ensue. I had no idea the hell I was about to walk through. I had no idea my faith was about to be tested like never before or that for the first time I would want to run away from God. I simply had no idea.

But I had made a promise to Him in that journal entry. I had promised that whatever came my way, come hell or high water, I wasn’t going to run from Him. No matter what.

& I was going to keep that promise.

Lol, Satan. Jokes on you.

So despite those unknowns, I walked into UVA with peace & joy & it did not waver. It stayed as they started placing the IVs. It stayed as I underwent surgical prep. It stayed as I met with countless doctors who explained in detail what was about to happen. It stayed as I looked my parents in the eye & told them goodbye. It stayed as the nurses wheeled me away to the OR. & it stayed as I laid on that foreign operating table surrounded by scary looking surgical tools & masked strangers. & there is no other explanation for that than God & God alone.

& as they started injecting the anesthesia & asking me to count down from ten, it still stayed. & my last thought before I succumbed to deep sleep was, “here I am God. I’m trusting you.”

& thus the journey began.

 

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