Reading the lyrics of "Wonder" by Natalie Merchant the other day brought me back.  Made me think some things over.  I had to scan a few photos in for another post, photos from my childhood album.  This is my favorite picture in that album.  Whenever I start thinking I might be making some headway in this photography hobby of mine, I look back and I am reminded that I have a long way to go to match my dad's black and white film and Canon A1 with it's old kit lens...a photojournalists camera, his first major purchase as a high school student.

I remember fainting and nearly dying at a friend's wedding when I was in high school.  I remember them thinking I was pregnant and hemorrhaging or something, and how I said a thousand times through gritted teeth that was impossible.  Made some remark about a second virgin birth.  I remember that it felt like an accomplishment to have these graduation pictures graduate.  Already, I was sure of nothing.

There was a day when the tallest of my brothers still fit in my lap.  I remember missing him when I decided to move to campus for my second year of college.  I remember trying to put blush on just prior to this photo so I would look a little less dead.  I look back on that decision, the decision to move out of my childhood home, and it is one of the few I truly regret.  It started an inexorable trajectory that pulled me away from Christ and introduced so much more pain in my life than had to be.

I kept fainting.  I was wheelchair bound for part of my sophomore year.  I lost weight.  I woke up once to a professor giving me mouth to mouth.  I kept taking pictures, trying to learn to be like my dad and mom.  I questioned God and especially Christ.  I didn't understand what it meant to share in His death.

I made new friends and squeezed in a few duets between hospital visits.  I went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and they told me I had heart failure and I might need a new heart.  They told me they didn't know exactly what to make of my situation, and put me on six different medications.  It seemed to work pretty well, even though they didn't know what they were doing.  I tried to forget about the God I felt abandoned by.

I kept playing hockey.  I loved it and I was afraid to stop.  I was afraid that stopping anything would mean that I was giving up, that I gave in to dying before I hit 20.  My teammates begged me to take a break after I quit breathing once on the bench and once on a roadtrip home from a tournament.  I ignored them and wore a Medic Alert bracelet.

I graduated from college, even though some said I should never be a nurse because I might put my patients at risk if I fainted while on duty.  I had quit fainting in my junior year and finally got my driving license back for the first time since my freshman year.  I started drinking because I was no longer on cardiac medications.  I gained weight and felt horrible.  I started to wonder if God really was there.  I went to a hundred different churches, temples, tabernacles, home groups, yoga classes, B'hai meetings, and prayer sit-ins.  I couldn't find anything that explained anything.  I accepted, once again, that I did truly believe in the Christian God.  I started to read the Bible every day.  I figured if I could conquer all 1,600 pages of Les Miserables, the Bible should be light reading.  I read straight through and found it surprisingly interesting.

I didn't really know what to do with a new lease on life.  No one could explain why I got sick in the first place, nor why I got better when I did.  Doctors cautioned me that it probably wouldn't last.  I decided taking care of people even sicker than me would be a good start.  I understood what it was like to be a sick kid, so I became a pediatric intensive care nurse.  Some of my patients were on dozens of I.V. medications, each I.V. pump outweighing their tiny bodies.  I worked constantly to drown out the noise in my own head.  I read my Bible every single shift.  Lamentations, I and II Corinthians, and the Proverbs became my favorites.  I wrote notes on almost every verse.  I loved those kids as hard as I could.  I cried with their families when they died.  I kept a book of all the stories I never wanted to forget and someday I planned to write a real book from them.  A little girl named Sissy broke my heart.  I applied to become a medical foster parent so she would have somewhere to go.  She had been abandoned at the hospital to get a heart transplant at age 3 and her parents never could be found until after she died.  She died the day after I submitted my application to become her parent.  I had big questions for God.  I still don't know the answers to some of them.

I kept taking pictures.  I still wasn't as good as my parents.  I spent a lot of my overtime pay on film and film developing.  I broke an engagement.  I tried to get started in a church and failed.  I was afraid to bike some days because I could tell my heart was giving out again.  I prayed that God would rescue me.

He showed me I was redeemed when I held hands with my future husband for the first time during a prayer circle around a dying child's bed.  I didn't know I could ever feel that way about someone in an instant, and I was pretty sure it was divine intervention.  I hoped my future husband wasn't blind to God's will, because my heart was already broken physically and I wasn't sure if it could take another crack.  He wasn't blind to God's will.  He listened to a wise, Godly couple and grew closer to God and got to know me better, just because they said he should (that, and my "algore is a risky scheme" sticker convinced him it was worth a shot).  Somewhere around the time we started dating, my heart stopped again.  Out of the blue.  I was down for 4 minutes and everyone said it was a miracle I wasn't a vegetable.  I signed myself out of the emergency room A.M.A. before they could get a 24 hour hold placed on me.  I didn't follow up with a cardiologist.  I tried to trust God, and failed miserably most of the time.  I told Aaron when he asked me to marry him (well, later on in the evening).  He didn't seem to mind that I might die.  He said everyone does sometime.  We got married.  I was happy for the first time in many, many years, deep down in my core.

We had four kids, even though doctors said neither of us were capable.  They came pretty close together and knocked the socks off the medical world.  I got cancer.  Doctors gave me odds of survival.  I barely listened.  I had a tubal because my heart started to fail again when I was pregnant with Caleb.  It didn't work.  I got pregnant again, and there is another baby waiting for his first hug in heaven.

I still don't know why He put me here.

I still don't know why He kept me here.

I still don't know if it will be my heart that brings me home to heaven, or my cancer.

I do know that nobody has an answer for me, except God.

I do know that it is safer to trust Him than to doubt Him.

I do know that when the day finally comes, and my ticker stops for good, there is a mansion waiting for me on the other shore.