“There is a miracle in your mess, don’t let the mess make you miss the miracle.” -Patience Johnson.
Two years ago today I had recently undergone my first major surgery & was rushed to the ER with post-op complications of heavy bleeding, severe anemia, & excruciating pain.
One year ago today I was recovering from my second major surgery & went on a first date with my Jesus loving, amazing boyfriend.
Today I have truly never been happier. As of just one month ago, I’ve been given a completely clean health report. I am working, volunteering, traveling, spending time with friends & family, in a relationship, & living life to the fullest.
What a difference 730 days makes, amiright?
Quite frankly, it blows my mind. As I sit here in quiet reflection, amazed, one phrase stands out the most:
The Miracle is in the Mess.
The morning after my lidocaine test I walked into Dr. Redfield’s office completely confident of three things:
1. Jesus was always ever so faithful.
2. Due to how successful my diagnostic test results were, they were going to offer me an auto-transplant.
3. I had lived twelve glorious hours completely pain free, & now I was ready to do whatever it took to live the rest of my life that way.
So when Dr. Redfield looked me in the eye & solemnly informed me of what I already knew—that it was going to take another major surgery to grant me my wish—I didn’t bat an eye before assuredly giving my response.
Yes. A thousand times, yes.
In that moment, everything finally felt right in the world. For the first time in two years, it looked like there would be no unforeseen hurdles, surprises, or roadblocks standing in the way of me & restoration.
But then my Mom & I were informed there was just one “little” problem.
While my surgical team was performing my diagnostic, they simultaneously did a cystoscopy, a procedure that examines the urethra & the lining of the bladder. This was simply routine, & another example of how phenomenally thorough the hospital is. But unfortunately, the cystoscopy showed that my bladder was quite agitated. In fact, it was red, swollen, & even visibly bleeding.
At first, I didn’t think too much about it. So another part of my body was in pain. What else was new? But when he showed me the images they’d taken I was shocked. All I could think was, “ouch!!”
Then came the “little” problem. The fact they wanted to pursue this & get it under control before offering me an auto-transplant.
Immediately, I was hesitant & skeptical. I mean, of course my bladder was going to be agitated. Heck, it felt like my entire body was agitated! I had dealt with at least three major compressions (that we even knew of!) + lack of blood flow. That’s definitely going to cause some damage, especially to the bladder. Plus, the lidocaine test had surpassed our every expectation. I had a mind-blowingly amazing response. Surely that meant we could confidently proceed with the surgery, right?!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I did understand their reasoning! This was obviously contributing to some degree of my pain, & they didn’t want to put me through another major surgery unless they were absolutely sure it would solve the problem. They wanted to ensure they were only operating under the best of circumstances, & genuinely cared about the big picture. It meant the absolute world to me, & I appreciated their consideration more than words could express.
Since we both understood where the other was coming from, we compromised. As we discussed the plan moving forward, we decided to proceed with both concurrently. We would start the process for an auto-transplant (setting a date, submitting for insurance approval, etc) & the process of meeting with a urologist at UVA to further investigate what they were calling “interstitial cystitis” (a chronic condition causing bladder pressure, bladder pain, & sometimes pelvic pain) simultaneously. We worked as a team, doctor & patient together. For the first time in the medical field, I felt heard, & it was an incredible feeling.
But even so, I had such mixed feelings about everything. On one hand, it was incredibly frustrating to find out about yet another health problem. Would the list never end? Oh, & the word “chronic” is never encouraging either. Plus, I had to go back to UVA. The hospital that held my very worst memories. The hospital I had learned to vehemently distrust. The hospital that ironically would now determine if I could even have an auto-transplant. I just kept thinking, “here we go again.”
But on the other hand, I absolutely loved Wisconsin. God was visibly opening doors. I desperately wanted my life back, & this was providing hope like never before. I kept hearing God whisper, “trust Me, daughter. I have this.”
& He did.
Less than two weeks after safely returning home, I had an appointment with the urologist of Wisconsin’s choice. Before I knew it I was in another all to familiar UVA clinic examination room, heart pounding & brain swirling a mile a minute.
But then, to my complete shock, the specialist agreed with me.
For the first time in UVA medical history, my doctor agreed with me.
He said it made perfect sense that my bladder was agitated because of the strain my other compression syndromes had placed on it. He said he didn’t believe it was interstitial cystitis, especially since the treatments we’d already tried hadn’t eliminated any of my symptoms. Then, as if that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, he was willing to email Wisconsin to clear me for surgery that very day!
I walked out of the office completely & totally stunned. I mean, could God make His will any clearer?!
As it turns out, He could. I received an email that very weekend from my Wisconsin medical team clearing me for surgery. Overwhelmed with gratitude, my entire family cried tears of joy, praising God for every mountain He had moved to bring us to this divine point.
& suddenly, just like that, I was downright terrified.
Because even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was my God-ordained next step, it was a scary thing to look another major surgery in the face after what I’d been through with my first one just less than a year before.
The best way I could think of to verbalize my mental state to my loved ones was that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. While obviously my situation didn’t even compare to His, I could definitely relate to how He must’ve felt. Just like I ultimately wanted this surgery, Jesus ultimately wanted to sacrifice Himself for us. Just like I really wanted the end result of healing, normalcy, & living a pain-free life, Jesus also wanted the end result of salvation, restoration, & healing. But most of all, just like I was terrified of the surgery & year of recovery, Jesus was also scared to endure the pain & suffering it would take to achieve His goal. He cried, “my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” That’s exactly how I felt. Like Jesus, I was completely surrendered to my Father’s will, but wished there was an easier, less painful way
In the days leading up to our Wisconsin trip, I hated still. I avoided still. Because I felt shattered. I felt like if I uttered one word of how I was feeling or let one broken thought pass my mental barricade I would crumble into a thousand pieces & it would take a long, long time to put me back together. I felt sad there was so much brokenness in this world. I felt heartbroken to leave Luke & my home for six weeks. I felt disappointed that I would have to miss things I had looked forward to my entire life, like my best friend’s high school graduation. I felt terrified of change. I felt angry that this was my life. Because it wasn’t fair. It was exhausting. It was painful. It was scary.
But somehow, deep down, my mind still knew the miracle was in the mess.
As usual, it was during my quiet time when I realized that too often I’m quick to highlight the verses that speak of God’s incredible, groundbreaking miracles but brush past the ones telling of the human realities, the mess.
Even worse, I forget that without the mess, the miracle wouldn’t even be possible.
For example, in Mark 5 I read about how Jesus healed a woman from her chronic bleeding disorder, relieved her suffering, & granted her the gift of peace. I read about how He performed the seemingly impossible by healing a synagogue ruler’s daughter.
The miracles are simply astounding, & I pour over the stories again, underlining them with my pen so they’ll stand out in my Bible. Of course, I’m underlying the verse that states, “daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace & be healed of your disease,” but I’m definitely not so quick to underline the verse that follows it stating, “they laughed at Him.”
& what about Mark 6? Next I’m reading about Jesus & His twelve disciples preaching to the unbelievers, casting out demons, & healing many of the sick! It’s incredible, & once again I’m captivated by the miracle. I’m highlighting the verse that proclaims, “& He divided the two fish among them all. & they all ate & were satisfied.”
But then it says, “they took offense at Him.”
& I realize yet again that the life of Jesus wasn’t just incredible miracles, but messy realities.
The truth is, Jesus was laughed at. Jesus was rejected. Jesus was misunderstood.
Even more than that, Jesus felt human emotions. He wept. He hurt. He feared.
& as I’m thinking about it, I realize what an every day reality this was for Him.
& because He lived this reality, He is the perfect one to turn to.
Because Jesus understands.
New York Times Bestselling Author Lysa Terkeurst states, “Jesus teaches us from that tender place of knowing this pain personally. Best of all, He chose to do His miracles in the midst of messy realities.”
So, with this precious reminder, I did what my heart needed to do for the umpteenth time. I dove into His promises.
After Jesus fed the 5,000 with the two fish & five loaves, the disciples boarded a boat & quickly found themselves in the midst of a terrifying mess. A storm brewed, accompanied by high winds, rough waters, & crashing waves. They were helpless, scared out of their minds!
But I absolutely love Jesus’s response.
Mark 6:50-51 says, “immediately He spoke to them & said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, & the wind died down. They were completely amazed.”
& that’s when I realized. I was close to God, but feeling far away from His presence. I could hear God, but Satan’s lies were ringing louder than His promises. I needed God, but was wary to release control yet again.
Just like He did with the disciples, Jesus was whispering to not fear because He was with me. He wasn’t going to run away from my mess. On the contrary. He was going to get with me in my boat & stay right there with me through it.
Overwhelmed by my revelation, I heard Him whisper, “withness breaks brokenness. I am with you in the fire. I am with you in the OR. I am with you in the hospital. I will hold you, protect you, love you, & strengthen you. I will gird you with My armor. Just rest in Me.”
I needed to stop crying out in fear, & call out to my Heavenly Father in faith.
So when we weren’t sure whether or not our insurance company would approve the surgery, I didn’t cry out in fear. I called out in faith. We had to wait over a month before receiving approval, but Jesus taught us so very much about trusting His perfect timing, & on May 7th, just a little less than a week before we had to leave for Wisconsin, we got the call insurance had approved it. A miracle in the mess.
The day before my surgery, I had a day full of pre-op appointments & met with my surgeons. I was solemnly informed this would probably be the worst week of my entire life. My surgeon said the pain would be excruciating, the recovery would be a beast, & I would want to give up. I would be angry at myself for making the decision to put myself through this hell, I would be angry at my parents for bringing me here, I would be angry at my medical team for doing this surgery, & I would regret doing this surgery with everything in me. It broke my heart to hear. But I didn’t cry out in fear. I called out in faith. Because my surgeon didn’t do that to intentionally terrify me or upset me. In fact, he didn’t even want to tell me that & he felt SO bad when the tears came! He was simply being honest & upfront in an effort to prepare me for what was to come…something I had never, ever experienced in the medical world. He genuinely liked me, cared about me, & wanted to help me. As a result, I was able to allow myself to trust him completely. A miracle in the mess.
Then they handed me a form to sign my consent for them to put me through this. & I signed it. Willingly. & I felt absolutely crazy for doing so. Every fiber of my being wanted to run far, far away, but deep, deep, DEEP down I knew that this was for the end result of a better quality of life. He told me in a few months, I would start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, & this horrendous experience would be worth it in that moment. & I desperately needed that to be true. I knew I couldn’t live like this anymore. So I lost it. I cried. But I didn’t cry out in fear. I called out in faith. Because I knew Jesus wasn’t wavered by my mess. He was already in my boat. The miracle in the mess.
So I took a deep breath.
& I put my game face on.