In South Texas, it’s a big deal when we have our first drops in the temperature around here. About a week ago, we experienced a fun dip in temperature, which has now left us back to 70-almost 80 degree weather. But the drop in temperature was a big deal and so refreshing for me. In South Texas, there is not a changing landscape to watch with each new season. Save for a few weeks in April, when the bluebonnets cloak the highways and open fields, it remains fairly brown around here, year long. We end a dry, brown summer and go into a dry, brown winter. Fall does not bring reds and oranges and yellows mixed with greens, eventually fading to brown. Winter does not a bring blanket of pure white. That’s not to say there isn’t beauty in the browns and faded greens here. There just doesn’t exist a lot of see-with-your-eyes changes. While the scenery and the views don’t change, a change does come, though. Last week, the air became crisper and cooler. The smell of fireplaces became unavoidable when walking around the neighborhood. Coldness was being felt in toes and noses beneath coats that didn’t seem warm enough. This invisible, but felt change of season with a welcomed cold front in South Texas that week reminded me of the change of season in my own life.
As school started this fall and the hustle and bustle of life got going, I was at my best. New part-time job that I am loving, working with areas in my field that are my favorite, kids coming home with smiley faces in their agendas that I signed every night, lunches and clothes prepared every evening for the next morning, and a welcomed routine after a great, structureless summer. Slowly, things began to pop up that interrupted the routine and sense of balance that was created by my logistics team (ie: me!). One of the biggest interruptions came when I discovered an uncomfortable lump in my breast which became very large, very sudden. I saw my doctor and we quickly learned it was a hematoma. Because of it’s size and the discomfort it brought, my doctor aspirated it with a needle, but within 24 hours, it was back. Lab results revealed that the medication I take for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia was severely suppressing my white blood count and my platelets. So, I took a break from my cancer treatment drug and my blood counts recovered. My doctor attempted to aspirate the hematoma again, with no success. I was then sent to a radiologist who attempted to drain it with an ultrasound to guide him. No success.
All the while, I was on a break from my cancer treatment to take care of this hematoma. Rather than have surgery, I opted to leave it alone. The next decision that needed to be made was whether I restarted the drug that caused the bleeding in the first place or to switch to a new drug. Even though the drug I have been on for four years kicked cancer’s butt, it’s kicked too many of my healthy cells to the curb, as well. So I opted to switch to a new drug that should allow me to maintain my good response I’ve achieved, and hopefully avoid the bleeding issues and suppressed counts.
In the midst of all of this, my kids began to have random health issues as well as the normal “back-to-school strep, stomach bugs, and colds.” The random health issues included things like stitches, hernia needing surgical repair, joint injections, eye-patching, unexplained low iron counts. Throw in some issues with my girls’ behavior at school and I started wondering if we were on The Truman Show where people were watching to see when I would crack and lose my mind.
And I kinda did. I’ll spare you the details, but we found our way to an overwhelming place of grief and isolation. My tantrums began to show up in ridiculous moments that were not big issues. At one point, I had a huge tantrum because I was jealous of my husband’s metabolism that allows him to eat everything he wants without gaining weight. Another high point was the time I lectured all the kids on the bus that they needed to listen to the driver because their parents were trusting him to drive their kids to school safely. To be fair, the bus was completely chaotic and out of control. The only thing we did right during that time was fight the isolation and share openly with our close friends and family what was going on. Talking to God was difficult for me because I didn’t really feel like there was anything left to say. Friends began to pray for us. Some people at church prayed over us when we had nothing left to pray. Through the prayer of others, a fog began to lift. We began to look back at the month with fresh perspective. We remembered the Seussical Musical performance with one of our kids, the rave parent-teacher conferences, the teachers who are doing their best to help our girls through their behavior challenges, the financial means to find ways to pay for a very expensive season of medical visits, the awesome night of Trick-or-Treating, the friends who began fostering a new little baby from the NICU, the awesome way God multiplied our time to fit it all in. These were the moments that were documented on social media. I saved the bad moments for those closest to me. ;)
But, here’s the thing. Like the changing of the seasons in South Texas, the fog which began to lift wasn’t a result of a changing landscape in my life. Nothing really changed. The medical appointments still continued, my hematoma was/is still there, we were still preparing for a hernia repair surgery for our girl, still patching an eye after school each day, we hadn’t figured out how to help the girls with their behavior challenges at school, and we did not have anything close to a grasp on a helpful treatment for Darah’s juvenile arthritis. What had/has changed was my ability to see beyond the circumstances to the see the beauty and blessing. My ability to sense God in places where He had seemed so distant. My ability to pray again. The tantrums over stupid things and big things happened less frequently and the isolation felt less lonely.
This changing of seasons was not even through my own prayers, but through the prayers of others when I was too weak and numb to pray. I was reminded that He is bigger than circumstances. The South Texas summers are long and hot, dry and barren. We often look to God to quickly change the circumstances when the heat gets too hot and the summer drought has gone on too long in our lives. Sometimes, He does this through beautiful orange and red fall leaves and blankets of white from first snowfalls that display His majesty in visible ways. But, sometimes, He blows His cool wind on the still-brown that allows you to feel beauty and find joy anyway.