If you’re new to this guest series, here’s some backstory. I chose a handful of women I admire and asked them to respond to the following: “Where are you currently experiencing the squeeze in your life and where are you currently finding some space?” Of course, each of them has answered in their own way, with their own stories. And it’s been a gift to read their unique perspectives and to offer their insight to you.
Today, I’m so honored to welcome Deanna Ramsay, mother of four and extraordinary vocalist (she and her husband sang in my wedding almost 11 years ago!). Deanna’s story is about life unexpectedly spinning beyond our control, and what happens as we walk that unknown road. If you’d like to read more about Deanna’s life, you can follow her at www.deannaramsay.com.
Here’s Deanna in her own words . . .
Learning to Breathe.
It was 8pm on a Tuesday night and I was driving my husband to the Emergency Room because of a 4 day long headache. I know what you’re thinking. We thought it too. “Really? The ER? For a headache?!?” But Jon’s parents had popped by our house that night and insisted we go, since headaches are out of the norm for him. With 4 young children, a trip alone to the ER seemed like as good a date night as any, so off we went.
We expected them to give Jon an “extra strength something” and send us on our way. But after 3 hours, we found out that our lives would never be the same. An MRI revealed my husband had a golf ball sized tumor in his brain. He was taken in a wheelchair to Intensive Care and I was instructed to go home and gather some belongings, since my husband was going to have brain surgery in the next 24 hours and we wouldn’t be returning home any time soon. This was 9 months ago. Today, my 38 year old, handsome, strong, talented husband who has been a Worship Pastor for the past 15 years, is still recovering. He is left with a little bit of tumor still in his brain, SSD (Single Sided Deafness – meaning, completely and permanently deaf in his right ear) and the right half of his face is paralyzed.
There are few things that can prepare you for those middle-of-the-night phone calls you never want to receive, let alone make. There are fewer things that can prepare you for the weeks and months (and eventually years) that will follow.
With every nurse that came into our hospital room, I felt The Squeeze. The squeeze that says life is different. Breathing felt different. Harder. Each doctor’s appointment, each meeting with a specialist and every argument on the phone with our health insurance company came with a squeeze. There became very little room for margin in our lives. Very little room to breathe comfortably. Because not only was my husband sick, but my 9 year old had baseball practice, my 7 year old needed extra help with her math facts, my 2 year old wanted me to read her “just one more book” and my 1 year old thought the only way she could possibly exist outside of my womb was if she was perched on my left hip. All. Day. Long.
I’ll never forget that first night in the ER. My phone was dinging nonstop from friends with offers of childcare, meals, running errands… My knee-jerk response was what it had been my whole life. “Oh no, I’m good. I’ll be fine. Thank you though!” I hated the thought of putting someone out. Well somehow, God gifted me with friends who completely ignore me. 🙂 Within hours, a hot breakfast was at my front door. My kids were picked up. Friends and family were by our side. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this squeeze I was feeling would only persist and continue, getting stronger with each passing day. And my only hope at breathing again would be by engaging in community and allowing the Body of Christ to, well, be the Body of Christ. This sounds simple enough, yet I don’t know anyone who is “good” at accepting help. And at the risk of bragging, I’m REALLY good and not accepting help. 😉 You see, my entire life I had preached the value of community. But in this season, I quickly realized the form of community I’m comfortable with is the one where I am helping someone else. Where I am the listening ear and the helping hand. What I’m not comfortable with is the type of community that requires me to receive. The one that has someone else serving and meeting my needs. But that idea of community isn’t humble. It’s prideful. Ugh.
People brought meals.
[I squirmed in my seat. I felt the Squeeze, but in a different way. It squeezed my pride.]
They cleaned our home.
[Squeeze again. Dangit this is uncomfortable. But then came a tiny breath.]
And did our laundry.
[Ugh. Squeeze! Breathe.]
And decorated our home (inside and out) for the different holidays as they came up.
People ran errands. And babysat. And made sure the bills were paid. And brought Diet Coke. Oh the glorious Diet Coke. Between that and Jesus, I knew I was going to survive. 😉
[Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.]
It was as if with each encounter, God was holding my face in His hands, looking into my eyes and saying, “I didn’t create you to go through this alone. I created you for community. ALL types of community. The kind where you serve and the kind where you are served. The kind where you offer extravagant love and the kind where you receive extravagant love. Don’t fight this gift I’ve created. The Body of Christ is a beautiful, living, breathing part of Me. On Earth. Feel My love through My people. Don’t fight it. Find rest.”
As I surrendered the brokenness in me (called pride), the squeezes decreased and my gratitude increased.
This is good. This is right.
And then came The Letter. A knock on my front door. An envelope put into my hand. And as Jon and I sat on the couch and read the words, we wept. “Dear Friend, My entire life I have questioned the church… Watching your journey has made me realize what fellowship and the church could be like. …Frankly I have never had the honor to witness or be a part of the love a community like that could give. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.”
The Body of Christ was operating how it was created to, and people were being drawn to Jesus by its pure and profound beauty! And here I thought someone bringing us dinner was about me feeling like a burden and them feeling put out. How limited my view had been! God’s ways are so much higher than our ways!
Friend, we were designed for community. The full expression of community. We were designed to breathe – even if it means relying on others to help you. We were not designed to go through life alone – even if it makes you feel needy. Even if it requires you to swallow your pride. We all will go through seasons of being in need and we’ll take the humble posture of receiving. We also will all go through seasons of being in abundance and we’ll take the humble posture of serving. There is no right or wrong position. As long as both are accompanied by a posture of humility and gratitude.
Will you allow God to bring healing and hope to your life through His Body here on earth? Will you put His Body on display to the world around you? As we courageously say “Yes,” we will find a more complete, healthy, fulfilling, God-honoring way of living. We will find healing. And we will become healers. We will find love. And we will become lovers.
This is good. This is right.