A Fond Memory
As a kid, I spent hours playing in Spring Creek. A long section of the creek ran through the golf course close to my home. When central PA was saturated with rain, which was not uncommon, Spring Creek would transform from a bubbling brook to rushing stream. And depending on the section of creek it could be waist deep. My friend Hallie and I would spend hours at the creek bed. She lived on one side of Spring Creek and I lived on the other. Of course there was a bridge if you went out of your way. But it was much more fun to go across the water.
I recall many muddy adventures. There was the time when the creek was very low and me and Hallie decided to become the Joan Goodall of Spring Creek. With our bare hands we rescued the flailing fish in the shallow sections and transported them by bucket to the deeper sections.
There was the time we constructed a crossing point. We’d find larger rocks and debris to create a path of stepping stones. After much rain, we tested our handiwork. You could barely see the makeshift path that crossed the stream, now covered in water. As you can imagine, the adventure, was a somewhat dangerous muddy mess.
Life Seems Muddy
I have fond memories of mud. But if I’m honest, today, in my current situation, life seems muddy. And it feels a bit as if I’m slogging through it which is not all that fun.
Nothing is clear, or decided. While there have been some dramatic reminders of Ian’s significant progress, the moment we think it’s time to make a bigger move, something will happen that says… “not so fast.”
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injuries are as unique as a fingerprint. And for those of you who have experience with a “muddy” diagnosis, (a health situation that is unique, not easily labeled, not typical) you know that resources, treatment and help is downright challenging. I’ve found that the medical community is powerless unless they squeeze you into some sort of a known, neat and tidy box. In other words, they need clarity for any useful help. And in the TBI world clarity is elusive. Once you qualify for very general ‘disabled’ help, it’s like sifting through sand trying to find what is appropriate.
Debbie, Cool your Jets
It is as if Ian’s status has forced me to cool my jets and consider next steps as they present themselves. SLOWLY. I’m forced to accept the muddy, be ok with the unknown, and embrace one day at a time while God makes my “path straight.”
Ian is coping with his six credits at the University of New Mexico. Painting and Drawing. We have established a workable routine. His mornings are not demanding, giving him time to get ready independently. He spends his afternoons at UNM and then rides the SunVan home. But for Ian, reality still bites. He is impatient and discontent with the “what is.”
This week Sheri joined the routine who is now Ian’s “assistant”. It was most definitely God’s doing to connect us. Fifteen hours a week she is available to help with what he needs. Cooking, folding, cueing, driving, reading, shopping etc. He thinks of her begrudgingly as a second mom. I think of her as manna from heaven! The goal is to establish a routine with Sheri, while he lives at home, to prepare him for that independent place someday.
But 75% is Average
And that is where the muddiness comes in. Naturally, Ian is ready for someday to be now. He is independent about 75% of the time, a solid C if it was your math grade. 75% of the time Sheri is completely unnecessary. But in life, 75% does not keep you safe. And that fact is a tough pill for Ian to swallow.
With limited short term memory or problem solving skills it is impossible to prepare or anticipate what help may be needed. For example, “The gate (to our neighborhood after taking a walk) isn’t working how do I open it? I can’t get my retainer out of my mouth? Where is my SunVan ID? Did you change my UNM password, the website isn’t working?” That list doesn’t include the misses I notice— forgetting his medicine, wearing the left insert in the right shoe, forgetting to schedule SunVan.
What are the chances that Ian’s misses happen on Sheri’s watch? Ian admits he doesn’t want to live alone, but rather wants to live with friends. How exactly do I pull that off? That is a lot of pressure on so-called friends. (You know those twenty something ultra responsible, non self-absorbed, college student friends). Friends who may not realize they are friends. Unidentified friends. Muddy. It’s all very muddy.
Is there mud in your life?
As I wade through the muddiness of our situation, I’m guessing on some level you can relate. What mud is in your life? In other words, what situation, what relationship, what health challenge, what circumstance is unclear, frustrating and causes some fear? Does it feel as if you’re slogging through and your life is somehow less until it’s “resolved”. In my humble experience, either you’re in the midst of the mud, you’re just coming out of the mud or you’re about to walk into the mud. You can’t live this life without encountering mud. Unclear. Un-fun. Uninvited. Mud.
While we are often somewhat powerless to remove the mud in our lives, (to change our circumstances) our response is what matters. As I seek Him to pull myself out of the mud, God has reminded me of His truth.
First, don’t wallow — you are NOT alone
Don’t you love that word? Wallow — “to indulge in an unrestrained way. To take pleasure, to indulge oneself, example, “she seems to wallow in her self-pity.” It’s so easy to feel sorry for ourselves, to focus on the unfairness of it all, to sulk and feel alone in our misery.
Here’s what works for me… when the mud is especially deep and heavy give yourself a time out. Go to your room. Enjoy a good cry, whine, complain, wallow, scream if you have to. But then, this is key. Wait for it…. come out of your room. 🙂 Remind yourself you can only do what you can, not what you can’t. The truth from scripture is that in spite of the fact you may FEEL alone, you are never alone.
Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Second, Trust the sovereign God over all mud
Your muddy circumstances have not caught God off guard. Just because your efforts to clear out the mud have failed, that doesn’t mean that God has failed. Even if your circumstances make no sense and it’s impossible to reconcile how a good God could allow XYZ to happen, scripture tells us not to lean on our own understanding. He promises to make our paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6 . And, you may not be willing to hear the truth yet, but the fact remains, there is purpose in the mud. Romans 8:28.
Third, play in the mud
That may sound utterly ridiculous. And it may take some time. But I think God ultimately wants us to play in the mud. I think he wants us to live fully in our present situation, even when it’s muddy. It’s tempting to isolate yourself and wait for the mud to clear as if you put your life on hold. Don’t do it! Life will pass you by. More importantly, imagine your testimony? Isaiah 43:18,19, Psalm 16:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It is deepest and darkest and muddiest in the middle
As I think back to that childhood stream and the sheer delight I had playing on its muddy banks, it occurred to me… Spring Creek was deepest and muddiest in the middle. And so it is with our circumstances. Even though it has been almost 18 months of recovery time since Ian’s accident that caused his TBI, we are still in the middle. The middle where it is deep, and dark and muddy.
God is with me in the mud. God is leading me through the mud. And God is pleased when I trust Him enough to play in the mud. And that is true for you too.
Melinda Davis says
Life is muddy. Truth. This piece of writing is powerful. We all encounter mud daily! Thank you Debbie for reminding us that we are not alone.
Thanks Mindy! You have mastered Play… and I believe as adults it’s an important skill. I appreciate your comment.
Joy in claiming grace for today and grace to face tomorrow.
Yes! Grace shows up big in the mud.
Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom that God has taught and is teaching you in the muddiness of life and in the lives of those we love most. Very helpful in this season. – Colleen
It is great to hear from you Colleen. And thank you for taking the time to let me know it resonated with you. Please share! Prayers for your muddy season, my friend. Debbie
Debra Harbaugh says
Face it…Life IS muddy! I worked with patients of all ages that had/have with TBI’s. The young people would recover faster than the seniors, however they were never the same again. In all areas they needed help. I worked with a lawyer from down south and for the first 4 weeks he believed he was still a lawyer and walked around speaking in gibberish!!! He did slowly get better but his judgement was never the same. He purchased a new car without even telling his wife! Why? Because he had a very bad TBI. After several months in rehab he began to put real sentences together and it was much easier to talk to him. He had 6 months of outpatient therapy and they he was discharged. This is NOT enough therapy but that is all the family could afford.
I am glad Ian has Cheri as an “assistant” which is as you said….Manna from Heaven!! Hang in there Deb and try to take it one day at a time but in the long run it may take a very long time, even years for him to be “normal” again. However, he does have his drawings and can make a living from his art. Do Not be afraid to ask for help and remember to get Muddy when ever you can.
All my love,
🙂thank you Debra
Diane Newswander says
This is a great article and very appropriate analogy of life circumstances! I have certainly been in the mud many times and God always gets me thru! I love how you expressed so many different feelings with Ian and the impact of his injury from a moms perspective and also Ian’s perspective. Thanks for sharing your journey Debbie and relating this back to our awesome God and how HE gets us through the dirt and mud!
Thanks Diane. So good to hear from you. We all encounter mud that’s for sure. I’m pleased this has resonated with you.
Anne Kole says
Thank you Debbie! I’ve heard of playing in the rain, but your analogy of playing in the mud is new to me and not “muddy” at all! You are right: all of us have been in the muddy places, are there right now, or will be. And it resonates with me because I am uncomfortable with unresolved issues. I’m glad you reminded me that it is through trusting God and not my own understanding that will get me through. Praying for you and Ian.
Anne, we are works in process!!! Thanks for sharing how it resonates with you.
Cathy Jones says
Debbie, I loved your words on “Mud”. I feel like I’m right in the middle, slogging away, and I know several people that are also there. Thanks for these words, Debbie. They were so helpful.
Amen. I am so pleased to know my article resonated.