In the Midst of Fear and Grief

Biographies of bold disciples begin with chapters of honest terror. Fear of death. Fear of failure. Fear of loneliness. Fear of a wasted life. Fear of failing to know God.

“Faith begins when you see God on the mountain and you are in the valley and you know that you’re too weak to make the climb. You see what you need… you see what you have… and what you have isn’t enough… Faith that begins with fear will end up nearer the Father.” ~Max Lucado

Though we still may not have lost a loved one, grief is still possible to experience. To experience grief, you need not be standing at the foot of a closed casket or next to a hospital bed watching for the next breath of a loved one to be the last. Grief can begin before death. Grief can sweep over you for things lost in life – friendships, quality of life, loss of family relationships, etc.

C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear… the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”

The comfort I gain from the quote above is that although I know fear does not come from the Father, it can lead us deeper into Him. When you ask what you will do without your best friend, a child, or a parent that has just died, the loss of your quality of life, a wayward child – who will you turn to for encouragement, support, and comfort, it is as if you have just opened the door to the arms of your heavenly Father. It is as if you hear Him whisper, “I want to be all of that for you and more.”

Unfortunately, I have run to the wrong places for comfort before running to the arms of God. I have sought after best friends instead of seeking a greater intimacy with the lover of my soul. I have listened to the counsel of others before praying for guidance from the One who holds my future in His hands. I have sought peace from other means before praying to the God of all comfort.

Yes, God uses others in our lives to help us to grow, but they cannot grow us nor can they give us peace. They cannot fill the hole that only He can and wants to fill. Those people in our lives who we trust with our love, our fears, our hearts – they are needful, just as we are. They are vessels God works through. But, they are not God.

When I hear the word ‘fear’, I think of Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (surgeries, chronic diseases, heart problems, dying marriages, lost children), we do not have to fear anything, for our God is with us. He will never leave us. His rod and His staff, tools used for protection, bring comfort and peace to us.

Fear immobilizes us. Faith gives us courage. And courage happens not because of the absence of fear but because of it. Courage, even though standing with heartache and weeping tears of what can feel like unending sorrow says, “Even though the valley of death surrounds me, I will not fear, because You, my God of all comfort, are here for me.”

We must believe that is true, even when we don’t feel like it is true. Faith and courage do not rest on what or how we feel but on what we believe and know to be true. And one thing I know to be true…

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:22-23

Even in the midst of fear.

This Is What Young Onset PD Can Look Like

Not so many years ago, I was taking 27 pills a day to curb my Parkinson’s symptoms. That number didn’t include the supplements that I was advised to take along with my medication. You take some of the pills to mask the symptoms and you take the others to combat the symptoms caused by the pills that are aiding in making life a bit ‘easier’. That is some 700+ pills a month. Over 700 pills to help you stop shaking so much, to keep your mood somewhat elevated, to ease the physical pain that no one else knows is there, for aiding in the reduction of rigidity in your muscles, and more. This is what PD (Parkinson’s disease) can look like.

My symptoms, when going through my medical history with my Movement Disorder Specialist (EVERY PD patient needs one of these, if at all possible) over the years, he discovered that my journey with PD began way back in high school. Yes, that time of playing in the band at Friday night football games and Thursday night basketball games and wondering why I felt like I was trembling inside while sitting on the bleachers or marching on the field or studying for exams or whenever they (the tremors) felt like making themselves known.

Up to 44% of those with PD have experienced internal tremors. This is also what YOPD can look like. In my early 20’s the tremors continued and I started having gut troubles. I didn’t think much of it, but looking back on my medical history my doctor felt confident tthat PD was playing a quiet role way back when.

Fiona MacDonald of Science Alert says, “Researchers have noticed that people with Parkinson’s often report…digestive problems, up to 10 years before they notice tremors. There’s also evidence that people with Parkinson’s disease have different gut bacteria to other healthy adults.” This is also what PD can look like – but you can’t see it.

I began reading through my journals (kept from way back when) and began to see my symptoms actually did begin in high school. But they were subtle. They were unpronounced, minimal, silent, unassuming. There was some rigidity. Internal tremors. Gut problems. Not much but enough to put a connection to. This is what Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease can feel like.

When I was 32, I was misdiagnosed with Lupus and medicated with pills that didn’t make a difference. This is not uncommon.

I visited my regular doctor for twitching in my fingers and shaking in my hands, the right one most predominantly. I was 44 by then. I knew something was wrong. She sent me to a neurologist. I didn’t like his diagnosis nor his bedside manner so I found a Movement Disorder Specialist (MDS). His diagnosis was the same but his bedside manner much better than the neurologist, so I stayed with him.

For the sake of pity, I often don’t let people know how I’m really feeling. People treat you different when they know you have a disease. I don’t necessarily want to be treated different. My heart is still beating. I am living. I have too many weeds yet to pull, too many roses still to prune. I have grandchildren to watch grow and (hopefully!) more to be held. I have things to paint, to fix, and to make. I have birthday cakes to bake, popsicles to slurp, and summer days made for catching ladybugs. I don’t have time to wallow in a sea of sorrow over a disease I have but would rather not. But – since I do – I recognize that there are times (and they are increasing in number) when it’s okay to be treated different and need help. Really okay, because…

that’s what PD can look like.

And Just Like Mary

Tuber Rose
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

I feel so weepy today…

I’m not sure why.

I cried over the way the piano player was playing “When I survey the wonderous cross…” Perhaps it was his beautifully pure voice. Or maybe it was the joy on so many faces as they accompanied him in worship. Maybe it was the story of Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, wanting to be taught by him, knowing she was so loved by him, certain of soon being saved by Him.

Maybe it is getting back on track, slowly, in my relationship with the Jesus that Mary adored. Being reminded there is no other person, no matter how good, that can fill a void only He was meant to fill.

I haven’t lost my way. I am finding that with Parkinson’s (and I am certain many other diseases), you lose your ability to concentrate, to stay focused, to keep on track. I am finding that with Parkinson’s you find yourself losing your stamina and your energy isn’t always what you want it to be and most likely never will be again.

It is in those times of testing the lack of resilience that you weep. For things lost. For dreams most likely never experiences.

And then you find yourself at the feet of Jesus, just like Mary. And just like Mary, you weep as you worship one like no other. One who loves like no other. One who forgives like no other. One who saves like no other.

And those tears, they wash away the pain. They wash away the heartache. And just like Mary, you know this is not how it ends and again, sitting at His feet, you worship.