Sick Again? Seek again. (Chatter Letter from the editor, February 2013)

During one of the first years we really started observing Lent at IBC, I was pregnant with my son Drew. He was the size of a lima bean in February of 2007, but he might as well have been Andre the Giant Baby. I was so, so morning sick. And so, so tired. Every day was an effort in simple math: four steps to the kitchen + three steps back to the couch (bigger strides) = getting a snack without throwing up. Food was the anathema; food was the cure. I hated food, I needed food.

People usually associate Lent with giving up foods like coffee, chocolate, or cheese in order to experience their need for Jesus in a deeper, more cellular way. Some people get up earlier or give up TV or find ways to stop leaning on the usual suspects in order to find God to be richer, stronger fare. I wanted to participate, I really did, but I didn’t think I could handle adding any more difficulty to my life. I was already living Lent, and I was living it against my will.

As it turns out, managing morning sickness is a full-time job. Or at least a “part-time ministry position.” I would pour whole bottles of TUMS into the interior pockets of my purse. Like an angry, pregnant chipmunk, I would walk around with two tablets in my mouth at all times, one for each cheek. I stored an empty plastic bread bag on the floorboard of my car in case I had to be sick while en route to the doctor’s office. My bedtime routine was worse: slap a ham-and-cheese sandwich together and place it on my bedside table. That way at 3 a.m. when I inevitably woke up ready to retch, I would have an emergency snack waiting to soothe the sick. (Gordon frequently woke up with half of a ham sandwich languishing in his face. I’d switch it up sometimes to PB&J to give him a little variety.) It was all so upsetting. The scale was going crazy, renegade. I was out of control. No medication was working. Nobody understood. And all the while, a little pecan-size seed of bitterness was growing and stretching and gaining momentum right there alongside Baby Drew.

The key Lenten passage from that time was Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness by Satan. The devil tempts Jesus with power and praise, but first he tempts him with something simple: bread. Jesus had been fasting, and it’s here we find the most understated verse of Scripture: “After fasting forty days and forty nights, [Jesus] was hungry.”

Ya think?

Satan says to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). Jesus answers him by saying that a person’s physical need does not represent the totality of his need — that people live not only by physical food but by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). Jesus could have turned the stones into bread, but he let the stones remain stones.

At the conclusion of one of the first Lenten services at IBC, everyone was invited to take a small white stone home as a reminder that sometimes we are called to let the “stones” in our lives remain stones — stones like unchangeable circumstances that require patience; stones like the needs we feel but choose not meet in order to connect with God in a deeper way.

I felt the Lord gently hugging me, saying, “This morning sickness? It’s a stone. Instead of fighting it, let it draw you to me. Let this be your Lenten journey. Let this stone remain a stone.” I took the white quartz and slipped it into my pocket.

Instead of chocolate, coffee or TV, I had given up my right to feeling good. I carried my little white stone in the console of my car next to the jar of ginger caplets I would raid after every meal to help keep my food down. When I made Gordon pull off at the 121 Wal-Mart for supplies to make a white-bread-American-cheese sandwich, my stone was there, silently softening my heart. Slowly, I grew to accept this light and momentary affliction that often felt so heavy and permanent. I grew to see it as a trigger, a simple question-and-answer that punctuated every hour:

Sick? Seek.

Sick again? Seek again.

When Easter weekend finally arrived and IBCers were invited to bring their stones back to signify the completion of Lent, I kept mine in my car. I didn’t want to give it back. I still haven’t, six years later.

I don’t think it was mere coincidence that Easter of 2007 was when my morning sickness completely lifted. Like fog that burns away at mid-day, my 24-hour, 20-week nausea evaporated into the sunlight and pastels of Easter. A new me had resurrected; a new pregnancy; a new appreciation for who and what I really need — what I needed more than TUMS, more than sandwiches, more than control.

Are there stones in your life that need to stay put? Lent might be a good season to practice the art of just letting things be what they are.

– Julie

2 Comments to “Sick Again? Seek again. (Chatter Letter from the editor, February 2013)”
  1. Grandaddy says:

    My dear Julie, I did not know that you suffered so long—–I am sorry. Thank you so much for the blog–my stone will remind me to seek. love you, grandmama

  2. Julie,
    This post is an incredible and thoughtful read. I’m so sorry you suffered so much during pregnancy (I feel like I’m going to have some of the same problems when I’m sick). I feel like I’m in a similiar season in that I keep.getting.sinus.infections. It’s beyond frustrating, as I think I’m either allergic to Kansas or our house here. Or both. 🙁 It makes me long to come back to FW even more, but I feel God speaking to me through this post. I will think of the smooth white stone, and use this to draw closer to Him. Thank you for this important reminder! (My dear friend and writing hero-miss you! 🙂

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