Thursday, 17 April 2014

When You Hear God Wrong And Get Mastitis

Almost a year ago our lead pastor and lead associate pastor went to Southland Church in Steinbach Manitoba for a weekend long retreat. They both came back and said that they will look back on that weekend as a turning point for them. To understand how impactful that statement was on me would mean I would need to explain how much I respect both of these men and their individual walks with God. Frankly we don't have time for that, so just take my word for it- that's a pretty big statement. Right away I wanted to go. I told Chris immediately- if there was a way for me to attend a weekend like they did, I wanted to be there.

A few months later our church sent the rest of the pastors and a couple other staff members to the same retreat. I knew I had a chance to go if I paid my own way, but we had just found out I was pregnant, and I was sick all the time, as well as feeling nervous about our budget once baby arrived. Spending $400 on a plane ticket to Steinbach didn't feel wise. So, as much as it broke my heart I stayed home. Thankfully there was already talk of us hosting the same retreat (with the pastor from Southland!) at our own church in the future. I was so excited! ....Until I heard the date was set for March 28 & 29th.

My due date was March 27th.

That hardly slowed down my enthusiasm for the weekend. I was determined that I could and would attend. I decided to pray very intentionally and asked other to as well. I figured if I had the baby a week early, I would be set. 7 days to heal enough to sit on a chair nursing my baby all day? No biggie! So that is how I prayed- Lord, let this baby come a week early, or not until after the 29th! I always imagined that I would end up being overdue anyways - so many women are with their first, and I was measuring small my entire pregnancy.

Elliott arrived exactly one week early on March 20th. For the first couple days I didn't think about the conference at all. Chris and I talked about it once Elliott was about 3 or 4 days old. We already knew I was healing really well. Physically there were no concerns with going. Chris expressed his concern about the emotional aspect of the weekend. The retreat was called "Encounter God"  and was one that promised to be quite impactful. There would be opportunities to hear from God and to be set free from bondage and sin... this was not a light hearted praise service. This was a time to dig deep and unpack the areas of your life where you have struggled. Was this wise to enter into at 8 days postpartum? Right away we both leaned towards no, but decided to take a few days to pray about it before we made a decision.

On Wednesday, two days before the retreat we were asked if we had made a decision. I hadn't shared it with Chris yet, but I was feeling like I was leaning more towards yes. Chris was still leaning towards no. We talked it out, and even though Chris still felt quite hesitant, he agreed to go- especially because I was now advocating strongly for it. I felt like God had answered my very specific prayer of Elliott coming a week early. I couldn't ignore that, and took it as a sign that I was meant to be there. If God wanted me there so badly, perhaps there was something I needed to work out with him? At the very least I imagined that he would be faithful in making it a positive experience for me. So, with all that in mind, we were decided. We would go.

Thursday night I woke at about 12:30 am with fever chills. Chris wasn't in bed yet, and so for a few minutes I lay awake assessing how I was feeling. I realized that my right breast was VERY painful. Fever chills and a painful breast? I knew right away it was mastitis. It went from bad to worse in mere minutes. The fever chills took over my body causing me to shiver uncontrollably. I couldn't get out of bed and was freezing. I texted Chris asking him to come to the room. He arrived, concerned, and became even more so when he saw me. I asked him to cover me with another blanket, and explained that I was sure I had mastitis, and what that meant. I felt so ill, all I could do was cry, which only made my shivering worse to a point where my entire body was shaking. Chris laid beside me and held me close as I wept, which seemed to be the only thing that helped. I felt so panicky because I had no idea when Elliott would wake up to eat, but I knew I couldn't possibly get up to feed him in the state I was in. He had already been sleeping for about 2.5 hours, and up to this point in his life he had only slept longer than that once or twice. That panicky feeling only made the shaking even worse. Chris suddenly had a thought- doesn't Tylenol bring a fever down? (umm, duh!) Yes! Thank you Jesus for reminding him of that! Within 20 minutes of taking some, I started to feel the fever subside.

Right away, my thoughts turned to the conference, and how it was obvious I wouldn't be going. I was upset about not being able to go, but much more so upset at myself. Had I heard God wrong? Was it my pride that led my decision? I had told SO many people throughout my pregnancy how I was going to the conference- baby would just have to come a week early or afterwards. Now that it worked out that way I realized I felt a lot of pressure to show up. Also, I remember reading that mastitis can be a sign that Mom is doing too much and it's her body's way of telling her to slow down. Then the guilt hit - was I so concerned with appearing as though I was handling a newborn with such ease that I was putting too much strain on my healing body? Had I unknowingly put my health in jeopardy, and now I couldn't care for my newborn as well (or so it felt)?

These thoughts swirled in my mind as I cried and shook in Chris' arms. I admitted all my feelings to him and he prayed for me, as well as for healing for my body. My shaking slowed, and my tears dried up as I received His grace.

I laid awake as I waited for Elliott to wake so I could feed him. I couldn't possibly sleep with all these thoughts running through my mind, and I used the time to work it all out with God. I imagined he would wake at any moment, but it seems that the Lord had a lot to work out with me because Elliott slept longer than he ever had before - a full SIX hours. (He hasn't slept that long since that night.)

The truth is that I really had not been doing too much. I had only left the house twice- once for less than an hour, and the second time for maybe 3 hours. I hadn't lifted a finger all week long while Chris made every single meal and kept the house tidy. I think I did one load of laundry because I felt bored one day, but aside from that I had spent the majority of the past seven days on the couch, getting up only to change Elliott (which Chris offered to do more than half the time) So all in all, the question of whether I had done too much was answered with a resounding No.

My pride however; that may be a reasonable thing to question. Oh Lord, how I look forward to the day when my pride is not the first thing I confess before you each day...

Just to be clear- I do not believe God gave me mastitis to punish me or even to teach me a lesson. I do think that he used the situation to speak to me in a way that was impossible for me not to listen. I am thankful for the lesson I learned, although I would be lying if I said that I was thankful for the timing.

The lesson is simple.

There is no substitution to earnestly seeking God's will in every single situation. I made a lot of assumptions on what God must have been saying based on what I had prayed throughout my pregnancy, as well as based on what seemed to be an "open door" to attend the conference. The truth is though, that I did not ask Him specifically if he wanted me to attend or not. I didn't ask him before I had Elliott, and I didn't ask him in those days of deciding after Elliott had been born. I knew I desired to go, and it seemed as though God had made a way for me to be there, and so I proceeded.

Basing decisions on "open doors" alone is unwise because it discounts the fact that we have an enemy in this world that also has the ability to present opportunities before us. I think we often assume that if the opportunity seems positive it's from God, and negative means it's not from God. I think the enemy loves to trick us though- masquerading his traps as positive experiences so that we won't think twice, and we certainly won't seek confirmation from God. The traps are not necessarily there to create a negative experience. If I had not come down with mastitis, I don't  think I would have had a bad time at the conference. The trap is that over time, with situations like these we can be tricked into thinking we don't need to talk to God or ask him if we should proceed or not. Over time we leave him out of the equation altogether, and that is a dangerous place to be in.

For those that are wondering, Elliott and I are doing wonderfully now. (Well, he was always doing wonderfully) It was pretty rough at the time, but I now feel completely over the mastitis. Hallelujah! 

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose today...

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