It was 3:47am and the ceiling tiles were closing in on me. Honestly, I’m surprised it took so long. We were now on Day 16 since everything changed and I had spent all but four nights staring at those tiles. With each new room, hallway, and section of the hospital came more tiles. They were hard to miss. Some brightly shared the interests and passions of their pediatric painters. Some boldly shared a faith that gave them strength to endure. And then there were the hardest ones: those that marked a tribute to a precious child now in the arms of Jesus.
That night, it seemed as though every ceiling tile I had lain or walked beneath was desperate to tell its story. Regardless of the final outcome, each bore the scars of a child who should have been running at recess and picking flowers in a field, but was instead connected to cords in a hospital bed for weeks, months, or worse.
As I lay there thinking about the hundreds and thousands of mommas who had lain beneath these tiles, there was commotion from a new admission next door. After this long in the hospital, new admissions were old hat for us. But this one grew intense quickly. From what I could hear, she was probably 3 or 4 years old. Within seconds of being in the room, she was screaming and begging for mercy as nurses and doctors were trying to calm her. She kept pleading, “I am NOT happy,” and “Get me out of here.”
I had to agree with her. It was difficult to find happy in this place. In fact, it is one of the hardest places I’ve ever been (and I’ve been through some pretty hard places). I laid there listening to the screaming with visions of ceiling tiles dancing in my head and the tears became uncontrollable for all of those children who had been here before us… and their mommas.
There’s no doubt it’s awful to be the patient, but I had to wonder if it was worse for the mommas out there. Watching your baby suffer isn’t for the faint of heart. There really are no words to describe the emotions that well up when the nurses hold him down for the 4th try at an IV while he screams for you to help him. AND YET YOU CAN’T.
Even in the quiet moments when he sleeps, the vision of the tube haunts you as you remember his pleas for help. I’ve found that these moments have been some of the most difficult for me to find self control. It’s amazing how hard it is to remind yourself that the nurse is helping your child when he is screaming the opposite. There’s just something about someone hurting your baby that makes your momma bear flesh want to punch them in the face. (Fortunately, I’ve managed to restrain thus far, hehe.)
I laid there that night thinking about those ceiling tiles and wondering about the mommas (and daddies) behind all those precious ones. Where were they now? Had they survived it? Did they punch the lights out of a nurse? Did they throw themselves on the floor in a tantrum? Had they taken it out on their spouse, forever damaging their marriage? Did they have any hope, or would I find them unable to get out of bed most days?
My thoughts were interrupted by Luke’s whimper and slight turn so I could see his face. The glow on his face was precious and the peace of sleep warmed my heart. In that moment the trauma of tubes and missed IVs was faint and I remembered the flowers we had left on the counter in a frenzy to get back to the hospital. I thought about the friends who had washed my underwear and those who had delivered countless gluten free meals to the hospital (and yet even more to the kids at home). I thought about those who had come to just sit with me even when no one had any words to say.
I felt thankful. Thankful for the friends who had taken the other kids to activities, let the dogs out, sent gift cards, and prayed thousands of prayers. I even had an arsenal of friends who were doing everything possible to hold my business together while I laid here staring at the ceiling tiles. In that moment, I remembered God’s amazing provision for families in the wake of disaster: community.
I realized in that moment that the only way to survive something this hard is by having friends on each side holding up your arms in the battle… just like Moses had (Exodus 17). The truth is, God has provided what we need in the hard times: each other. We don’t have to resist punching nurses and erase visions of ceiling tiles on our own. Which brings me to the point of this post.
Do you have a community you can count on? Are there people in your life who would come to the hospital and pray over your baby at 6am before a massively dangerous surgery? Is there anyone to hold your hand, help your other kids, or wash your underwear?
Find a community for the storm
If the answer to any of those questions was NO, you’ve got a problem. The Bible promises that storms are going to come. We need to be ready. As a Christian, there’s no excuse not to have a community. Even if (like me) you live 10 hours away from your family, are divorced, employed, and still somewhat new in town.
Of course this isn’t a “how to get more gift cards the next time you’re down on your luck” kind of post. Please don’t miss my point. You (and I) need to be involved in a church body and possibly even other Christian communities on a regular basis, giving, serving and yes, letting others serve you because this is the way God designed it. This is how we can best do life in a fallen world. This is His provision for help.
If you don’t have this community today, it’s time to get proactive. Find a church. Keep “shopping” until you do. (I don’t buy the excuse of not being able to find one.) If you don’t believe those around you in the pews will pick up and do something if your life falls apart, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG CHURCH. There’s another one around the corner.
But also, it’s important to note that you have a responsibility for becoming a part of the community. Sitting in the back row once a week isn’t enough. You need to get involved in your church and become transparent enough with others to build relationships. If you don’t, people will never know what you need and you most likely won’t have the support God has for you. Truthfully, they may not ever even learn your name. Don’t wait for the church to serve you. Step out and get involved first. God will handle the rest.
Do your part in the community
We’ve talked about the first requirement of being involved, active, and transparent. But the second is even more important. Every single person in the community has got to be as giving as we are able. It’s the way God designed it. If we are willing to step out and be transparent enough to invest in others and let them invest in us, we will never find ourselves staring at ceiling tiles alone. Period.
Don’t wait until life seems perfect to start giving. Even if things are hard for you, the most healing thing you can do is reach out and help someone else. Don’t let the enemy debilitate you with your own situation. (To be honest, I prefer to focus on praying for and helping others when things are hard for me. Sure takes the extra stress off my own situation!)
And secondly, don’t let the enemy tell you that what you can give is not enough. We all have been uniquely gifted. Some of my friends were able to give large gift cards or cash. This was a tremendous blessing when everything was turned upside down overnight. But there were many other things we needed. Some friends have given countless hours in prayer (or sitting next to me saying nothing audible at all). Both of these particular helps have blessed us beyond my wildest imagination. Neither more than the other. Both very much needed.
Trust me, anything at all you can do for someone else (even when things aren’t hard), is a blessing to them. Don’t belittle it or neglect it on account of the enemy whispering, “It’s not enough.” Communities supporting one another in any way possible is not only a witness to the family involved, it’s a witness to everyone watching.
So today, stop what you are doing and help someone. Send them a note. Drop by some chocolate. Buy them a cleaning service. Anything. If they are facing something hard, DON’T ask them what they need because they probably don’t know. JUST DO SOMETHING. (And if you would like some simple and practical ideas, check out our Random Acts of Kindness bingo and our RACK Christmas printables. Both have tons of ideas for loving on someone else.)
**If you’d like to receive more frequent updates on Luke’s progress, read prayer requests and be encouraged by our journey, you may join this Facebook group. I will update there more frequently than posting here on the blog. Your support is a blessing to us. Thank you!