A story and a prayer request

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A few weeks ago, I had a full-blown panic attack on the Bay Bridge.  I was driving by myself; the traffic was thick and combative; I was running late for my doctor’s appointment at UCSF despite having left Concord three hours early; I had already been anxious about getting Herceptin after being really sick from the treatment three weeks before; and my phone died right as I got to downtown San Francisco, taking with it my beloved Google maps that had been telling me where to go.

Without warning, right as the screen of my phone went irreversibly black, my rising anxiety turned into a panic I could not control.  Sweat and a waterfall of tears blurred my vision.  I tried to take deep breaths, but they quickly turned into hyperventilation.  My limbs started shaking, making me have to grip the steering wheel with a vice-like hold.  Far back in my mind, I knew this was too big of a reaction to the situation and that is was in fact a dangerous time to fall apart, but those thoughts just fueled the panic and I could not pull myself together.   

I prayed, in between gulping breaths, the Holy Spirit would lead me to the hospital.  I told the Holy Spirit I knew he could do it; I promised to tell the story to everyone who would listen: “The Holy Spirit led me through downtown San Francisco in rush hour traffic to exactly where I needed to be.”  I could already see how my momentary pain would strengthen my faith and bless others.  

And yet, as I gulped and cried and shook and still drove, I just kept feeling more lost.  Each road sign seemed vaguely familiar, and yet each turn led to more and more unfamiliar places.  Traffic was not letting up, and people were angry with my hesitation, so I finally pulled over.  Some people walked by.  I rolled down the window and asked desperately for directions.  It could have been my splotchy, crazy eyes that made the woman say (in English), “I don’t live here, and I don’t speak English.”  I rolled up my window, buried my head in my hands and cried and cried.  

Even though in that moment I knew that God’s plans are always better than my own, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why didn’t you just show me where to go?  This seemed like it would have been a good story.  And I really REALLY believed you could do it.”  I felt defeated and alone and so ridiculous for not being able to stop myself from falling apart.

I looked up to survey my surroundings and saw a man watching me from across the street.  He was looking at me with such pity, love, and understanding I got the feeling he had been watching for awhile.  When I made eye contact, he hesitated for a moment and then dashed across the street in the one gap in traffic I had seen that morning.  I rolled down the window, and he asked, “Where do you need to go?”

This is one of my favorite moments I have ever experienced.  He did not ask me if I was lost, because obviously I was.  He just saw my distress, looked on me with compassion, and ran toward me to show me the way.  I’m sure he thought it was no big deal, but it was a REALLY big deal to me in that moment when I felt so completely lost and alone.  

When I asked for directions to UCSF, he chuckled a little and said, “You’re almost there.  Just a few more blocks down from us and you’ll reach it.”  

I thanked him, trying to infuse those two words with more gratitude than they could actually hold, and I drove to the hospital, which truly was just a few more blocks down the same road and in the same direction I was driving when I decided to pull over.

The thing is, God was answering my prayer in multiple ways right when I decided to ask him why he wasn’t answering my prayer.  He was leading me in the right direction and he was providing a compassionate stranger to guide me the rest of the way.  This illustrates the lesson I have been learning in so many ways since we have moved down to the Bay Area: God is always working in my life; it just rarely is in the way that I would predict.  He doesn’t write my story the way I think is best.  He writes it best because he is best, he knows best, and his endings are always best.  It is when I try to take the pencil away from the author (as Pastor Jer from our new church said in a sermon recently), that I get confused, lost and panicked.  

With this conviction, I want to ask for prayer for my sweet little Everett.  I have hesitated to put this out on social media in order to not make it a bigger deal than it is, but then I realized that everything to do with my sons is such a big deal to me that I covet as many prayers as people are willing to pray.

Tomorrow Everett is getting an MRI of his brain.  There has been concern around his head from the time he was a wee one, and we have had a few doctors ask us to consider a precautionary MRI for various reasons.  Until now, we have prayerfully decided to wait, because Everett behaves like a healthy little guy without too many obvious reasons for concern.  Recently, he has started to have intense headaches that are localized in one spot.  He screams and cries because he thinks he has hit his head behind his right ear, but he hasn’t.  Our pediatrician here wants us to get an MRI, and after praying about it, we agree.  This means he will have to go under anesthesia, which we are not excited about, but I believe will be just fine.

Over the last few days, and especially today, I have had people reaching out to me to let me know they are praying for me.  Many of these people know about the MRI, but many of them do not.  I have felt like I am back in that moment in my car when I looked up and realized the man was just waiting for the opportunity to help me.  I'm tempted to forget all of the trust and relationship building God has done through my own medical journey when anything potentially scary rises up with my sons.  I can easily find myself in full-blown panic mode, letting my mind careen toward an imagined future where Everett is sick. Through people's prayers and generous care-taking, God is showing me--once again--that he is already answering these prayers even though I cannot yet see how.  He is writing a story in Everett’s life that will truly be the best even though I wish I could spare him the chapter about this test.

Thank you for those of you who are already praying, and thank you for those of you who will pray.  Here are a few specific requests surrounding tomorrow:

  • I pray tomorrow will go smoothly and Everett will not be anxious.  
  • I pray Everett will tolerate the anesthesia well.
  • Ultimately, I pray this is nothing and all they see is a super healthy brain.  I pray that God is directing us and the doctors in this so we can have peace of mind about our little guy’s head.
  • I pray, personally, I resist the urge to despair over a future that is not my reality in this moment.  I don’t want to imagine a world with a sick little Everett, and right now I should not do this.  But it’s hard not to go there.  
  • I pray we can bless the doctors and techs we encounter tomorrow.  (Although, I know this one is a given, because Everett blesses everyone he’s around:-)

Today I pray for those of you who are feeling lost, alone, and panicked.  I pray God will direct you down the right road, and that he will use people to come and show you compassion.  And I pray that today you get a glimpse of the beautiful story God is writing with your life.