God is with us.
It used to feel like such a trite Christian phrase to me... something I would sing at Christmas.
I knew it was true in my head but I didn't KNOW it to be true by my experience.
A series of circumstances changed all of that for me, flipped it completely on it's head, though, and I began to experience Immanuel- God with us- in a very personal way.
3 years ago (or was it 2? It all blurs together now), my oldest daughter got your standard run of the mill strep infection.
Except that while we successfully killed the infection, her body went into full blown autoimmune encephalitis and our happy, cheerful, kind, energetic and FUN kid became extremely ill.
She was angry all the time.
She raged at us daily- the details of which are hard for me to type out.
She was bouncing quite literally off the walls and couldn't hold still.
Meltdowns were our new norm.
She would look at us but not be able to "see" or hear us. It was like talking to a wall- she was lost behind the curtain that PANDAS had created in her brain.
By the goodness of God, we found a doctor who was able to accurately diagnose her within months (while many families wait years), we were able to get her started on treatment immediately and began the healing process. However, I was completely unprepared for how long and earth shattering the process of healing would be.
The pain of watching your child suffer and not being able to do anything about it.
The pain of people misunderstanding and mislabeling you as a "misfit" parent who just doesn't know how to discipline their child (yes, we've heard that more times than we can count).
The pain of daily having to let go of any hope or expectation that your child would return to themselves again.
The pain of finances lost, debts made, and little to no progress to show for it.
It all became too much. I could no longer pray about the issue. I could no longer fight for her healing. I had to just completely to surrender to Immanuel: God with us.
It's not just a trite saying- it is the presence of God HIMSELF in our circumstances, making himself known on our behalf.
And when I did, incredible things started happening.
I began to ask the question: If God is with me, then what is He doing right now that I can begin to keep my eyes on?
If God is with us, then what does he want to BE for me right now that he could not be at any other time?
And within those questions, God became real to me in depths I didn't even know I needed him.
He held me when I wept, wailed and experienced a sorrow I didn't know was physically possible to bear. A sorrow I didnt even fully disclose to friends because it was all just too much to explain and I knew they would hurt too. The sorrow of wanting to hide in the bathtub and never come out because of the terror you were experiencing at the hands of your own child- none of which she could control.
The despair of watching your child regress, lose physical and emotional capacities and be overtaken by these misdirected antibodies.
Immanuel got angry with me when it was all too much and I couldn't bear another second of seeing her and the rest of us suffer as collateral damage to this disease. I would hear him say "I'm angry too! my heart is broken along with yours. Everything you're feeling- I'm feeling it with you. I am GOD WITH YOU. I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU. I am committed to this process with you."
Immanuel could take it when I got angry at HIM for not rescuing me the way I wanted to be rescued, for not minimizing the pain, the blow, the suffering... and you know what? I'm not ashamed to say it because those feelings are all very real and its important to be honest.
There came a point in this process with the Lord that I had to stop praying the way I had been and I had to start declaring what He told me was true- because I was praying from a place of desperation and fear that what I had hoped for would never happen. He was praying for me from a place of victory, trust, protection and peace!
Once I began to see the promises of God that were meant to roar from my belly, out my throat and into the air- things started shifting for me. But it came from a place of so deeply knowing His presence in the pain FIRST. His ability to hold me in the moments that were filled with sorrow and loss and confusion and hurt and misunderstanding. His ability to wail with me in anguish over what we as a family experienced because of PANDAS, knowing that he was roaring all the more loudly in HOPE for our future.
I began to have dreams about her healing: what it looked like, where were were and the fruit that would come of it. I began to wake up in the morning with a treatment idea in my head that I had never heard of (the list is too long to recount), and lo and behold- the treatment would work (don't worry, I always ran the treatments by her doctor first!)
We began to see angels in our home, in our car, at doctors appointments. BIG, amazing angels. And it wasn't just me seeing them this time- my kids would point them out too. (If you don't believe angels are real, are meant to be seen and experienced as facilitators of God's covenant with you- reach out to me for some resources. They are ASSIGNED to you for a reason!)
He is Immanuel.
He is God with you.
His presence changes everything.
Healing is our portion- it may come through doctors, medicine or alternative treatments but it is always miraculous and it is ALWAYS God's heart for us.
This is what I want to leave you with today, and it's not going to be a challenge to muster up the faith to believe that He is Immanuel- but its a challenge for you to invite him to SHOW YOU that He is Immanuel and to ask Him how he wants to show up for you in this season. How He wants to show you tat He is with you. He is for you. He is covering you on all sides. His tangible presence was meant to be felt and experienced.
Psalm 18:35 "You empower me for victory with your wrap-around presence. Your power within me makes me strong to subdue, and by stopping down in gentleness, you strengthened me and made me great!"
And after you read this, pop back and let me know what begins to shift for you!