Simple Christmas

I collapsed onto the couch and stared at my bare Christmas tree. I know there are purist out there, but I seriously love whoever invented the prelit Christmas tree. I told myself I would decorate it tomorrow, but in my heart, I knew that was a lie. Truthfully, my mind kept going to January when I would have to carefully take every one of those glass ornaments back off the tree. I just couldn’t do it. I decided not to decorate the tree this year. In fact, we decided not to decorate any of our trees. I let the kids have their trees in their rooms, but sans ornaments. We had to cancel family photos twice because of illness, and I let go of that perfect Christmas card I had pictured in my head. In fact, I let go of Christmas Cards all together.

These last couple weeks have been tough in our house. Kris had a flare which meant his symptoms came back plus he got a cold from the kids. The doctor adjusted his medications and he spent several days in bed (two of those included thanksgiving and my birthday). The kids have been sick and finally it hit me last week.

Confession: I don’t typically get jealous over other people’s Facebook and Instagram photos, but it was hard for me on Thanksgiving to see so many smiling families all put together. I had a hard time seeing the professional family photos with the sweet smiles and coordinated outfits. I wanted that so much this year. But I have been clinging to this verse from Isaiah: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19).

On Monday, November 28, our Women’s Ministry hosted an evening called Adore. It was a time to come before God at the beginning of the Christmas season, to give Him our first fruits of Christmas, to set our hearts and minds right, to slow down before the hustle and bustle of the season. It was powerful. I shared pieces of our story and what God is teaching me (coming soon!!) and then we got on our knees together and prayed for one another in small groups. As we shared about our needs this Christmas season, my mentor, Amy, looked at me and said “I’m just so excited for your family this Christmas. You’ve been forced to slow down and become laser focused, and I can’t wait to see come January what God did in your hearts and in your family this season.”

We won’t be able to go to Christmas plays or Disney or parties like we have in the past. And just for good measure, to make sure we REALLY aren’t tempted to add anything to our schedule this Christmas, Kris broke a toe last week. Yep. For real. But Amy is right: what we are able to focus on simple truth of Christmas: The Jesus, our Savior, humbled himself, becoming like us, to save us from our sins. He didn’t sit in heaven and say, “Get yourself together and perfect, then we will talk about this saving business.” God made a way:

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved that world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympatize with out weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

After adjusting his medication, Kris seems to be doing better! He was able to return to work the week after Thanksgiving, and today he worked his first full day in the office. This is huge! I am so incredibly humbled by how many prayer warriors we have. We feel it; we feel the prayers of those who are standing in the gap for us. In many ways, we are still in that “low battery” mode around here. We thank God for the good days and persevere through the hard days. One day at a time, we keep going. We pray that his body responds to the medication and begins to heal itself, that the iron infusion he had two weeks ago boosts his iron levels and for us to stay focused on the how (and not the why us).

As hard as it is some days, I am loving the simplicity of this Christmas (well, most of the time). We are watching a LOT of Christmas movies and spending time as a family at home. I bought the She Reads Truth Kids’ Advent Cards, and we’ve had great conversations each night centered around the real reason for the season.  The beauty of Christmas is in the simple truth that Jesus came here. He came to give us hope, grace and mercy. He didn’t come to condemn us. He came to save to us just as we are. Simple Christmas.

The Good Stuff

I love November (and it’s not just because it’s my birthday month, although that’s a huge part of it). There’s just something sweet about this time. It’s a month of setting our minds toward being thankful. The weather is just the tiniest bit cooler. Gone are the skeletons and jack-o-lanterns of October. Little pieces of Christmas begin making their appearance, but the craziness hasn’t. November just makes me want to pause and look around and just be thankful.

Last year at this time, God brought me this verse:

Psalm 40:9-10 “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.”

I think we often tend to hide or downplay what God has done for us, afraid that we will hurt someone’s feelings. We don’t share the amazing stories of what He has done because He didn’t do that for someone else. Does that make sense? It’s as if we are ashamed of what God has done for us, or we don’t want people to think we are bragging. I don’t want to be the kind of person who thinks ill of someone who shares what God is doing in their life. I want to be the kind of person who boasts in His name and praises God for the great ways He moves in the lives of others as well.

I wanted to take a moment to pause and be thankful. So here is what we are thankful for as we continue to walk this road:

– An answer: we have a diagnosis, which means we have a plan of action – movement in the direction toward healing.

– Our families: The moment Kris was in the hospital, his parents made arrangements to come down. My parents immediately stepped in and took the kids for an entire week. Since then, their availability to us has been amazing. They’ve been here at the drop of a hat to get the kids on the hard days. When we are exhausted and tired, they’ve come to help. It’s been wonderful.

– Our friends and Life Group: you know when people say “let me know how I can help” and then they never can get around to it? Well, that’s not how our friends have been. It started with meals because truthfully, that’s all I knew to ask for (we southerners know a hot meal is always a good place to start). We didn’t know what we needed. But as we have figured out where our stress points are, we have been able to ask for help in other ways. We’ve had friends take our kids to school and bring them home as we juggle doctor appointments. One friend offered his Saturday to help Kris with tasks around the house. One epic day two weeks ago, we had a dead battery in one car and a flat tire in the other (and my family was out of town!). One friend drove Kris to the auto parts store at 8:30pm to get the battery and another picked him up at 6:30am on a Saturday morning to get the tire fixed. One friend called me and said “I’m doing my grocery shopping tomorrow; send me your list.” She didn’t ask if I needed anything; she just said send me what you need. Y’all! I have been blown away by the love and support of our dear friends. Guys have stepped up to lead Life Group while Kris is too sick to teach. Several brought us food multiple times while we were in the hospital. We truly have amazing friends around us.

– Our Heavenly Prayer Warrior: I’d love to be able to say that I have had the richest prayer life during this chapter, but the truth is, I just haven’t. Not because I don’t believe God or I’m mad; it’s because I’m just so exhausted mentally. I’ve never clung so tightly to Romans 8: 26-27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” I know there are a lot of fancy words in there, but basically, this verse means that when we are weak and we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit is praying for us. I’ve uttered countless “God, you know…” prayers these last months. I can’t even form the thoughts some days, but God knows and the Holy Spirit is a Prayer Warrior for us.

– Our Earthly Prayer Warriors: I have been truly humbled by the number of people who are standing in the gap for us and praying for us. There is an army of people surrounding us with their prayers – for healing, for guidance, for peace. I am so thankful for each one. I truly am.

– Time: God has given us the sweetest gift in this illness: we have been forced to slow down. Kris hasn’t worked in 10 weeks, but we have been able to soak up some really great family time. And it’s not the way I imagined. We aren’t able to go out much (with three kids, that’s exhausting even when you don’t have an energy-depleting disease), but we have embraced our time at home. Yes, it’s chaotic and no, we don’t sit around and sing kumbaya, but we have had some sweet moments playing Wii bowling (when my four-year old daughter legit beat every one of us), swinging in the backyard, building Legos, playing board games, eating dinner as a family and so many more. One aspect that has been particularly sweet is the extra time with just our youngest. Most babies don’t get this much attention from both mom and dad and we’ve really embraced the time with just him. I snapped this picture a couple weeks ago:

 

img_3357-2

We had lunch – just the three of us. It truly has been a sweet time. I mean, if that doesn’t make your heart melt…

– Doctors and Medicine: The system isn’t perfect; I get that. But I am just so thankful for the men and women who research, develop and learn about medical conditions. I am truly blown away by the minds and technology behind the medications that Kris is on. We are also thankful for doctors who know this disease inside and out and can provide wisdom and insight in an area that’s new to us. Kris is turning a corner; that’s a huge praise. He’s sleeping more, has longer periods of energy, expanding his diet. Our prayer is that the long-term medication will work… that his body will accept it. We won’t know that for sure for a couple months, but so far, so good.

– God: I know this might sound like the perfect cap to a Sunday school lesson here, but I mean it. I can truly say I am so thankful for a God who doesn’t leave us or forsake us. I’ve really been honing in on His true character and praising Him for who He really is. He has been kind to us. He has provided for us. He walks with us. He is steady in a world that is ever-changing. He is truth in a world that can’t make up its mind. He is peace in a world that is so full of hurt. A friend said to me the other day, “I’m just so sorry you’re going through this.” Honestly though, I am not. God is doing a new thing for Kris and me. It’s so hard, but I am beyond thankful for the hard place. He is stretching me and growing me and teaching me to rely on Him in a new way. I may never know the reason, but I know He is using this.

 “Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

What About Me?

The flight tracker said we only had 10 minutes until we landed, but all I could see out the window was gray clouds. I pressed my forehead against the plane window waiting anxiously for my first peek at a dream come true. Then, suddenly, the gray clouds began to fade and there I saw it: green. Green fields divided by old stone walls as far as the eye could see. Ireland. I had finally arrived in the country from which my first name derives. Erin is Gaelic for Ireland. Inside I was squealing from the surreal feeling. I was in Ireland. And while this trip isn’t how I thought it would happen, I was still here none the less.

In the midst of all the craziness of Kris’ illness and treatment and doctor appointments, I was offered an opportunity to travel to Ireland for work. We went back and forth about me going… should we both go? Was it just not the right time? In the end, we decided it was too amazing of an opportunity to pass up. Truthfully, I think God knew all along what a much needed break it would be. And I think He may have even had a role in making everything come together so quickly. Like when I finally said yes then realized my passport had expired just a few months earlier. I quickly pulled everything together and overnighted it to the passport office for expedited renewal, praying I had filled everything out correctly. That was a Friday. On Thursday, just six days later, I opened my mailbox to find a large envelope from the passport office. My heart sank. I must have filled out something wrong. By now, I only had about five weeks until I left. It would be a gamble to resubmit now. When I opened the envelope, there was my shiny new passport. SIX DAYS – door to door. When has that ever happened in the history of passports?! I digress.

As the day approached, I began to have feelings of intense guilt. What kind of wife and mother was I to leave my family in this state for an entire week? I had never left my kids to go out of town for this long, let alone cross an ocean. Fear wanted to grip my heart, but Kris reassured me time and time again that this was good, not only for me, but also for him. My amazing parents offered to take the kids for the entire week. Kris would be able to rest with no distractions. The kids got the grandparent treatment for a week. I got to go to Ireland. It seemed like a win-win-win.

For seven years, I had been writing the story and piecing together gorgeous video clips of this country. Now I was going to finally get to experience it myself. The driver picked us up at the airport, and we immediately set off for the Cliffs of Moher. I couldn’t wait to behold it with my own eyes. As we trudged up the hill with a chilly wind blowing, there they were: The majestic cliffs! We climbed higher and higher to get a better view. Then we came down and climbed to the crest of the first cliff and looked back. It was breathtaking. I snapped photo after photo and pushed my brain to soak it in: the mud beneath my feet, the way the light hit the layers and layers of rock protruding from the almost 700ft high forms, the one tiny piece that seemed the stand alone, the sightseers that, despite multiple warning signs, climbed beyond the safety walls to stand on the edge (I might be a bit of a rule follower), the blue in the waves that crashed on the rocks below, the giant cave that seemed to hold secrets I would never discover, the giant cows in the pasture right on the other side of the path. Truly: there are cows everywhere! I was so struck by the majesty of this place. There’s something about nature that just makes God feel so close. It was as if these cliffs and rocks were crying out for His glory. Millions of people come to these cliffs each year. They’ve been featured in many movies. They are truly stunning, and pictures don’t do them justice. Finally it was time to leave, and I ached to stay. Later as I sat jet-lagged in my hotel room, I swiped through picture after picture. And I felt myself collide with a truth that’s really hard for me to believe somedays: I am more beautiful and precious and treasured to God than those landscapes. The cliffs are stunning, yet I am called His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). The cliffs are breathtaking, yet I am called wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The cliffs are majestic, yet I am called His heir, a daughter of the king (Galations 4:7). And in case you are wondering, so are you!

In the recesses of my heart, I knew God was reminding me that He cares. One of the struggles for me in this journey is feeling like I am in last place: when the unexpected circumstance hits, my plans are the ones disrupted. I am the one that has to cancel my haircut because a child has (yet another) fever. When Kris has a rough night of sleep and he’s too exhausted the next day, I am the one that has to push through my own exhaustion to keep our family moving. Those thoughts weren’t healthy thoughts, and I’m learning some important lessons about focusing on me during this season:

1. You can’t neglect yourself.

Our counselor said it best: If I continue to push my needs aside, I’m going to stretch and stretch and stretch like a rubber band, and eventually that rubber band is going to snap. And it’s going to hurt. Kris and I have found new ways to make sure I am getting recharged too. Ireland was a huge part of that recharging for me too. While it was a physically exhausting trip (every night in a new hotel and shooting 10 locations in 7 days), it was refreshing for my heart and mind to step away from driving to and from school and laundry and dishes and homework and cooking and doctor appointments. I read 2 1/2 books, ate good food, stayed in the most amazing hotels and experienced some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s essential.

2. You don’t have to do it all.

I’m not talking about the “saying yes to too many things” doing it all. I’m talking about the “if I don’t do it, no one else will; it’s my responsibility to keep us moving forward” doing it all. I say it to others all the time, but I have hard a time with this one myself: I don’t have to be the hero. I don’t have to be the one to save the day. Others call it being a martyr, but it’s the idea that I purposefully put my needs way down the list then (very loudly) tell everyone how hard it is to be me. I am learning to stop before I go too far down that path, and let Kris know when I need a break. Kris can recognize when I’m heading that way too and will make it possible for me to get the break I need. He’s pretty amazing like that.

3. You don’t have to do it all… alone.

There’s so much more to this that I’ll write in a later post, but I am learning to lean on other people like I never have before. We have had friends ask what they can do to help, and we’ve asked boldly (like pick Kris up at 6:30am on a Saturday and take him to the tire shop boldly). We have amazing community around us. It’s so important. It’s why I encourage newcomers to our church to get involved in Life Groups, so you can do life together – the good stuff in life and the trials of life.

So, yes. In the midst of everything going on, I went to Ireland! Kris spent seven days resting, sleeping, gaming, reading and watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy. My kids had the time of their life with Mumsie and Pops, and we were all better for it.

Being Real vs. Being Positive

I don’t see the glass as half-full, but I don’t see it as half-empty either. Here’s why: because even when you see the glass as half-full, you recognize that it’s also half-empty… that the glass is still lacking. For me, I look at the glass as all-full – that God has given me all I need in each moment, not lacking in anything. I think if I were a superhero, my super power would be positivity (I can totally feel the cheese factor oozing from that cartoon). Now before you think that I’m just bragging, there’s a reason I tend toward positivity: one of my top strengths from the Strengthfinders test is Positivity. The main point of the Strengthfinders test and book is that these strengths are engrained in your DNA, in your personality. It’s how God created me. We are all given strengths; they just look different for different people.

 

Kris and I have walked some trials in the last decade: trying to get pregnant the first time, getting laid off, trying to get pregnant the second time. But with each trial, I was able to Positivity my way through. Through the tears of month after month of not getting pregnant, I felt God tell me over and over that His timing was perfect. I knew it would just all make sense when we got to the other side (and it did). Positivity. When I got laid off, it was an answer to prayer. I was so thrilled to be able to stay home with my baby and start freelancing. Yes, we had to make some major adjustments to our budget and lifestyle, but I was home with my son. Positivity. When it was time to try for baby 2, I just knew God’s timing was perfect. He proved it before, and so month after month, for an entire year, we waited. When we found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I can’t explain it other than it all made sense. Positivity.

 

When we left the hospital in July, we were honestly naive about the road ahead of us. We knew it would be hard, but I’m Mrs. Positivity. We had our answer, our diagnosis, and we were ready to go. But returning home was a harsh reality we weren’t ready for.

 

The thing about Crohn’s is that it is actually rare but almost everyone has heard of it and almost everyone knows someone who has it. But very few know what it is like to actually walk the path from diagnosis to remission. A few people along the way have said “Oh, I thought he was fine now.” They had no clue that this could be a year-long journey. The great news is that there is new research and treatments that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Crohn’s is an incurable, chronic, auto-immune disorder where the body thinks the good bacteria in the intestines are bad guys and begins to attack. The disease prohibits his body from absorbing nutrients, particularly iron, which makes Kris really exhausted. He is in physical pain some days. Crohn’s can also cause joint pain, and Kris has had pain in his knees. At the height of the worst, it was painful to walk or even sit. Right now, his body can’t handle high-fiber and hard to digest foods, which means no raw veggies, no whole wheat, no beans, no seeds, no nuts, no fatty meats, no high sugar foods. Different people have different triggers – some can’t do dairy, others can’t do gluten. It’s a giant puzzle to figure out which combo of foods trigger his symptoms, but thankfully, Kris loves solving problems and puzzles. We’ve received a lot of advice from a lot of people, met with a dietician, researched and read books, but at the end of the day, his combo of triggers are his personal combo of triggers. It’s trial and error.  Test and adjust.  And if we can find the right treatment, there’s hope he can go back to eating some of the foods he loves. For now though, my foodie has had to give up most of the foods he loves so much (like donuts and apple fritters). Stress is another huge factor for Crohn’s. He’s not working right now, but having three small kids is pretty stressful at times (okay, most of the time!). Let me pause quickly and say his work has been AMAZING! They watched his health decline just as much as I did, and they have been so supportive in making sure he gets healthy too. Kris writes down everything he eats, drinks, how he feels after each, tracks his sleep, activity, mood. It’s a good thing he loves data! This may be the biggest data collection project of his life.

 

We are in the midst of finding the right treatment. The first one we tried was pretty conservative, and it turned out that it wasn’t enough. We had to be more aggressive. While we have seen some improvements here and there, the new meds take 4-6 weeks, and we are only on week 3. He hasn’t been sleeping great, which also affects his energy level and his ability to drive (particularly long distances or in traffic). He has a limited amount of energy each day, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Before he was sick, Kris didn’t sit still. He hated just sitting on the couch, but some days, that’s all he can do. It’s hard on him, because he wants to be well, to play with kids, to provide and help around the house. He has to work hard to not overdo it, because my sweet husband is a textbook overachiever. It’s one of the things I love about him.

 

The hardest battle inside of me has been reconciling my positivity with my reality. Here’s where I have to be honest, and it’s a weird place for me to be. I am, after all, Mrs. Positivity. Life is really hard right now. Is it the hardest journey anyone has ever walked on this earth? Not even close, but the journey we are walking has turned our “norms” upside down.

 

You know when your phone battery hits 20%, and it asks you if you want to go into power save mode? That’s me. I’m in power save mode. I’ve shut down what isn’t essential and only done what it takes to function. I haven’t doubted God’s presence. I’m not angry with him or questioning “why us?”, but it is hard. I collapse at the end of the night weary, exhausted. But I felt like if I was real with people, if I explained how hard life is, they would think I was complaining. I’m not a complainer. I am Mrs. Positivity.

 

Thankfully, we have amazing friends and family around us. They have allowed me to be honest without thinking me a complainer. They have stepped in at the drop of a hat to help with the kids, bring food and help with other challenges that pop up (like flat tires and dead car batteries). They’ve let me cry when the weight of the burden just feels too heavy. Through this, I’m learning three lessons about realism vs. positivity:

 

1. Being Real Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’re Complaining

Sure, we all know those people who just seem to be full of complaints; every time they open their mouth, you brace yourself. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s okay to be real when someone asks you how you are doing. I don’t have to hide the truth of my reality.

 

2. Being Real and Being Positive are not Mutually Exclusive

It’s possible to have a positive outlook on your situation while still allowing people into the realism of your journey. I really hope that what people see when they read this blog: that life is hard, but God is good. I can still let people in on struggle. God never promises us a struggle-free life. In fact, He promises the opposite (John 16:33). But God doesn’t let anything go to waste and His light shines brightest in the dark places of our lives.

 

3. Being Positive Makes the Difference in Being Real

God has taught me a great deal here through the years. When we shift from asking “why?” to asking “how?”, we allow ourselves to see beyond the pit, to zoom out and see beyond ourselves. We shouldn’t close our fists around our stories, but instead be open-handed, pointing people to Jesus every step of the way. And yes, as my friend Sarah Beth says, we can beat on God’s chest in the hard places and ask Him why and cry out to Him. He can take it. But if that’s all we ever do, I believe we miss out on the biggest blessing, His greatest kindness to us: the hard places.

 

Because the fact is, I am so thankful for this hard place. I get to serve my husband in a way few wives will; I get to daily live out my vow “in sickness and in health.” I know God is doing something here, though I don’t know what it is yet. Our story is getting worse before it’s getting better, but I see Him working and drawing us deeper into each other and deeper into Him. While everything around us points to success, when you are at the bottom of the pit, it’s hard to imagine. Dreams seem to be dying for both of us, but God is birthing something new.

 

When a gardener trims back bushes, he can’t just cut the branch off at the dead point. He has to cut off some of the live part too. In Hebrews 12:1 and Philippians 3:12-14, the authors both point to throwing off everything that hinders and forgetting what is behind. That means the good stuff too. I’ve had to throw off a lot lately – coffee with friends, lunch appointments, grocery store runs, date nights, birthday parties, family outings… but I am running. I am surviving on essential. I am enduring. Someday this may tie up with a bow that rivals the size of the ones I used to put on my baby daughter’s head. Maybe it won’t have the happy ending I imagined. We may never be back to the “normal” we once lived, but I will be better for having walked this path. I don’t want to miss what God has for us in this. So instead of asking why, we ask how. How, Lord, will you use this? And we will share that story in faith that he will use it.

 

A New Chapter

“I’m going to the ER.” Those words usually strike panic, but for me, they brought relief on that Monday morning in July. It had been five months since my husband, Kristofer, had begun to not feel well. Five months of sickness, weight loss, low energy and a slew of other symptoms that just didn’t add up. I didn’t doubt that the ER was the right choice, and when the ER Doctor looked at him and said, “Something isn’t right. This is not normal, and we are going to figure it out,” I was instantly filled with a supernatural peace. I can’t explain it. I just knew God had us and had us here.

This is our journey… my coming out story. Because as I’ve walked these last few months, God has continually brought me back to the importance of our stories and not hiding what we are going through. It’s not a way to get sympathy or have people feel sorry for us; it’s a way for us to use our lives to point people to Jesus. I’ll share more here as we journey how He is growing Kris and I and moving in our lives as we walk through this, but I’ll preface the rest of this post with this: our story isn’t done. There isn’t a pretty little bow at the end. We are still very much in the thick, in the valley, in the day-to-day battle, but God is right here with us.

When we checked into the ER that Monday, I had no idea we would still be there Friday. Test after test came back clear. Great news… Except we still didn’t know what was wrong. I started to lose count on how many vials of blood they drew. It was so hard to watch the man you love more than any other human get pricked again and again and again. People asked me how I was really doing, and I could honestly answer fine. I felt guilty answering that way, but I was there to get my husband back. I was there to figure out what has been ailing him for months. And each Doctor that came in and said “we will figure this out. There’s definitely something wrong”, fueled my peace in being there.

I really can’t explain it in any other way other than the fact that God had truly wrapped himself around us. I’ve been going through Priscilla Shirer’s “Armor of God” and I don’t think it was by accident. The week before all this happened, we delved into the shoes fitted with gospel of peace (Ephesian 6:15). The key to unlocking His peace (which is His gift to us at salvation) is thankfulness. I was armored up. I truly had so much to be thankful for here: we had a HUGE room! We had a private room. We had assurance from doctors that this was the right course of action. Just a week before this, I minimally tore my tendon in my ankle and was wearing one of those fashionable boots. But instead of chasing three kids around, I spent a week with it propped up in a hospital room. We had friends who said “lean on us,” and we did. Friends brought food, coffee, treats, hugs, games.

One was my dear friend, Stacey, who walked this path over the last 12 months with her daughter. She brought me coffee with an extra shot and vanilla scones. She kidnapped me, parked under a gorgeous old oak tree and just let me be real. It was the first time I tears welled in my eyes. She poured so much wisdom and grace into me and allowed me to just talk… About whatever I needed to. On that Monday, she said she felt like this was so similar to her daughter’s journey. She just felt in her gut that Kris had a similar issue. When she dropped me back off, my heart was refreshed and my strength was renewed.

The next day we readied for another day of tests… This time invasive ones. I held it together; I still hadn’t cried. But then they wheel your husband away, and you can’t hold the tears back anymore. I waited, made small talk, read a book and checked the board again. In my heart, I prayed. It may sound weird, but I didn’t feel like I needed to pray much…. Kinda like I just knew God was here, that He was protecting us, that we were going to get the answers we needed. Plus, there was an army of friends and family on their knees. They were filling in the gaps.

An hour passed.

“Mrs. Warren? He’s waking up. You can come see him now.” I kept my phone handy, laughing and documenting all the funny things he said. My sisters know that the best way to get my husband to do funny things is giving him sugar. He’s even funnier on anesthesia. And while I was laughing about his sadness over not dreaming about unicorns and rainbows, the doctor walked around the curtain and just dropped the bomb: “Mr. Warren, you have Crohn’s disease.” I honestly felt the tears well up and my knees start to give in. I forced my mind to pay attention to what the doctor said. Words like “significant case” and “aggressive treatment”. I had to be brave again. I had to keep my loopy husband in check and focus my brain and dig to find out what this all meant. We began to tell people over the next couple hours and with each one, it began to sink in. And the words from my sweet friend hit hardest: “Erin, he’s super sick.” But “He’s going to live. Well.” This was truth my sweet positive nature needed to hear. As it turns out, she was right all along. Kris had a similar condition as her daughter. I really appreciated her honesty, and I know that it was not by accident that God had brought her into my life. She told her story, even in the mess, and now we were journeying together.

Kris and I are now three months into this journey, and I can honestly say this has been the hardest season I’ve ever walked. But God is good, and He is writing a beautiful new story for Kris, our family and me. This wasn’t what we expected, but we trust Him. Thank you for journeying with us.