Surprise Me

It’s been said that “Life is an adventure.” I would agree with this statement, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that the word “adventure” is not synonymous with the words party or celebration. I think many of us — myself included — associate adventure with “a good time.” We need look no further than “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to know this is not always the case.

Off the top of my head I can name at least a dozen experiences I would consider adventures, though not pleasant ones; things I tried once, endured, and will never do again. That’s the idea, though: you can’t be sure you won’t enjoy something until you’ve tried it. I can say with full assurance that oysters, outdoor camping, stilletos (or any abnormally high-heels, for that matter), cities bearing extreme temperatures, prune juice, attending tourist attractions during peak-season, traveling long distances on small boats, that stuff you put on pizza to give it an extra “kick,” experimental skin-care regiments, and outdoor concerts where they permit smoking, are all things I will never do again.

To some degree, an adventure is an activity or process whereby you are not certain of the outcome. Either it will be positive or negative; seldom will you have an ambivalent adventure. That is, unless, you consider trying out a new wattage of lightbulb an adventure; which, in that case, I am not judging you . . . well, maybe I am a little.

;-)

Some adventures are not within our control, however; you’re along for the ride whether you want to be or not, so buckle up.

Many of you will know I’ve been away for some time. This is because the last month of my life has been, to date, the most portentous adventure I have ever had. (I should mention now that I am doing much, much better presently, and where the physical issues are concerned, I am finding tremendous relief.) Over the course of what has felt like eons, never have I felt more abandoned, terrified, frustrated, isolated, despondent, frail, and grief-stricken. Paradoxically, never have I felt more loved (Michael Olsen, my heart beats your name), more cared for (Friends, both internet and tangibly based, your prayers, texts, e-mails, and comments softened sickness’ axe), more reliant upon a strength not my own (Father, I am yours, wholly and entirely), and strong. Yes, strong.

Because I survived.

At 30 years of age, I can say with a hundred precent certainty that it is true: whatever does not kill you will in fact make you stronger. Had I been given the option to forgo this growing opportunity, I would have steadfastly declined. Martyrdom isn’t really my thing.

Though I saw many doctors, not one of them could tell me what was going on. Could be this, could be that, this might be related, or it might not, and on and on. One thing they did agree on: get some sleep and try to relax. Hmm, alrighty then. Lovely advice; however, do you know what does not help one suffering from anxiety related insomnia relax? Multiple physicians expressing, explicitly, that it is imperative that you relax. A little counterintuitive, if you ask me.

I gave it a shot, though.

I read — thank you, Diana Gabaldon; once more you saved me from resorting to terrible literature — and I drank lots and lots of Sleepytime tea, with honey. An addict of anything sweet, I began to look forward to that part with great alacrity. And, after a while, lavender candle undulating beside me, I would begin to relax. Once I thought myself drowsy enough to nod off, I would make my way over to the bed and . . . . . . .

wait.

And there I continued to wait for some time. Usually I saw dawn’s arms stretch through my window before my eyelids shut for any length of time. My mind can be a wondrous place to frolic and play, to invent and explore; it can also be a prison. Many a night I lie awake wondering if tonight would be the night the Lord would take me home; shaking and shuddering with such vigor my bones ached and I dare not cry for fear of disrupting the fitfully slumbering beast named anxiety. This was my fear: that I might die. It grabbed me by throat with three spindly fingers, and squeeeeezed.

After a few weeks of this I realized that the only thing more frightening than actually dying, is spending large quantities of time contemplating when it will happen and how. In my bathroom was a whole drawer full of bottles, offering a reprieve from these thoughts; things that would numb it, numb me. But there was only one cure.

Complete surrender.

Just look at that sun! He made that!

Looking at this picture led me to consider something: we, the human race, we only needed not to burn or freeze to death, you see? A device, a source, a functioning constituent capable of rendering our survival, that’s all. It didn’t need to be a healing power, curing jaundice and imparting vitamin D on its rays. It certainly didn’t need to be pretty; turn the sky into a living, breathing painting each morning and evening. It didn’t need to consort with the breeze either, where together their union soothes our bones pliable, drenches our skin in warmth, prickles our skin, all to send a rush of shivers down our back. Wherever your feelings may lie on the sun’s derivation, you can’t tell me that when you look at it, whether it’s peeking over a mountaintop or melting into the horizon, or even simply glowing radiantly behind a curtain of diaphanous clouds, you don’t feel something stir and saunter deep within you; a visceral reaction.

This picture, it is me surrendering. It was taken last week while on a hike with my sweet husband. I wasn’t feeling wonderful, but I wasn’t feeling horrible either, and so we made the best of it. You see, I’ve decided that symptoms aside, if I can stand, walk, and talk, then I am going to do everything I normally do. I am going to exercise, I am going to go out to dinner, I am going to eat popcorn in bed. I may not be able to make myself unafraid, but I can choose how I will respond to that fear. I choose to live. So long as I am alive, I am going to live. And I do this by surrendering. I suspect I’ll have to do it quite a few more times. Millions, perhaps. The things that change who you are, good and bad — they don’t happen overnight. Where this road is leading me, I do not yet know, but therein lie the adventure, yes?

So, here I am. Surprise me.

Hoping you are well,

~ Cara

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39 thoughts on “Surprise Me

  1. Cara, I am so happy to find your post before I shut down for the day! You are younger than my own daughter, but I have thought about you. You are fortunate to have a loving and patient husband. You have courage and strength! Peace and love to you! Turn away from the darkness and come to the light…

    • I am honored your thoughts have been with me, and I thank you dearly for your prayers, Jonel. Yes, I am fortunate and blessed beyond my deserving. God gave me an angel rather than a husband. ;-)

      The Light, He lives within me.

  2. Oh Cara- I am so glad to hear that you are slowly starting to feel better! As I have posted to you before, I also struggle with crazy anxiety, and so on some small level, I can relate. It is an awful battle, but acceptance has been the best medicine for me as well! That picture of you and the sun is absolutely breathtaking and the epitome of surrender (and happiness!) You will continue to be in my prayers and I’m sending peaceful vibes your way!! xo, Amber

    • Amber,

      Yes, I remember your previous comment where you shared your own battle with anxiety. I think this illness touches those such as you and I; those who are extra, extra sensitive, highly compassionate, overachievers. I don’t mean to assert labels onto you: I speak of myself, but I imagine you and I to share some of these attributes.

      I thank you for your prayers, and I will be lifting us both up, asking that we might find grace for ourselves, that which He so generously dispenses upon us.

      Xoxo,
      ~ Cara

  3. Oh my goodness, hon. This post made me laugh, tear up, and breathe. Once again I leave your site feeling as if you’d read my diary and written it all down in your own words. I can’t even tell you how much I relate, how much my heart goes out to you, and how very much I love you, sister girl!

    I was teaching some fourth graders a song today about cheerfully greeting the morning. I asked them to close their eyes, and picture rolling hills, completely darkened by the night. Stars are overhead, and they slowly start to fade as the sky lightens from inky black to smoky grey. The sky lightens to purple, mauve, and then the first ray of sun breaks the night open, as glorious, buttery rays streak towards you to alight on your face. It’s morning. The day has come. When they opened their eyes they looked so peaceful. And looking at them, I felt so as well.

    May you continue to find peace, to find release, to find sleep.

    • Christy,

      I’ve missed you! You have been on my heart lately and I was planning to e-mail soon to see what was going on in your neck of the forest. ;-)

      After reading your comment I offered up a quick prayer of gratitude. *** Little fact about Cara: before I publish anything, usually I’ll ask that God would use the post to touch someone, even if only one person. What I have to say, even if it’s personal, I don’t want to be about me, if that makes sense. I want to be the vessel, not the actual source.

      Anyhow, I believe you were my one! So I am blessed. I am blessed you continuously, however. Thank YOU for sharing your moment with your fourth graders. What a cool thing to do with them . . . and you know what, after that, I feel a little calmer, too. So, thank you doubly.

      Peace to you, my friend,

      ~ Cara

  4. Hi Cara, I’ve missed your posts and I love this one. Surrender is surprisingly freeing, I have found. Your words remind me of a sleepless night I spent in stomach churning anxiety as I was recovering from cancer treatments and fearful of a recurrence (over six years ago and no sign of cancer – praise God!). After wrestling with God for his assurance that I would never have to face cancer again (He gave me no such thing), I realized that I had no choice but to surrender. And then I slept. I pray that He will fill you with peace and confidence that to surrender to him is no risk at all. Bless you, Cara.

    • I did not know that you were a cancer surviver, Judy! And yes, Praise God; six years and counting is most certainly something to be thankful for! Your sleepless night experience sounds incredibly similar to mine. It was a few weeks ago now, but I can vividly remember lying there sprawled over my bed, thinking the end was near; and then . . . a flood of peace came over me and I thought, okay, so if it is, all the better that I might be in His presence sooner. It was as if I handed myself over to Him. I slept well the rest of the night. ;-)

      Blessings to you, too,

      ~ Cara

  5. A highly motivating and heartbreakingly beautiful post. I am terribly sorry for the physical challenges you’ve been facing, but I’m glad you are facing them head-on. In your surrender you’ve committed to fighting your pain. I am pulling for you, Cara. Prayers your way. :)
    Elisa

    Glad you are back!

    • Thank you, Elisa . . . I am always so grateful when someone is touched by what He has to say through me. Thank you for the prayers, too!

      Yes, it’s been difficult, but I AM better for it. Bravery doesn’t just happen; you have to earn it.

      Xoxox,

      ~ C

  6. Hope you are getting better! Not sure what’s going on exactly, but I do hope the docs figure it out soon. And yes, the sun is a great source of hope to look at for inspiration… well, not to look directly at it, cos that’ll burn your eyeballs out.

    • Thanks, Drew. You know, after a while I had to stop hoping the doctors would figure it out, because honestly, chances are they won’t. I am getting better, and for that I am thankful, but really I rest in that the greatest Physician of all is watching over me. I couldn’t ask for better hands to be in. ;-)

  7. Good on your Cara for looking on this as an adventure rather than a trial or a burden. There’s nothing like a competitive streak… to not care about having to win but hating being beaten. Offering up to the Universe is a winner’s tactic :)

  8. Cara, I’ve missed you and I’m glad to see you again! I didn’t know and I think it’s lovely that you pray for your posts to touch someone’s life in someway. I’ve been the lucky recipient of your prayer and I see it happen with many people in each of your posts. You are truly of gift!
    Hugs, Beth

    • Beth, I have been touched time and time again by your willingness to share with me the ways you have been blessed by what God has said through me. I can think of no Greater reward than that. Some of my fondest moments have come from a response from you, so again, thank you for taking the time to do that.

      I’ve missed you, too; though I have managed to keep up with your posts. Your ingenuity dazzles me.

      Xoxox,
      ~ C

  9. So glad you have found your sunshine, Sunshine. ;-)

    Ask for a surprise and I deliver a surprise: not that I am a contrarian, but changing the wattage of a light bulb can become an adventure. (I promise I’m not making this up.)

    At my place of work we needed to find the proper wattage for the main hallway…with its 28 foot ceilings. The adventure came with using a scissor-lift and a 24-ft ladder to access the fixtures! A death-defying adventure, right? Surprised?

    Much in life is not as one first perceives it. Much depends on Point of View…which your post illustrates most beautifully. Happy day, Nikki

  10. I was delighted to see your post in my e-mail this morning. Struggles, adventures, are all conquered one step, one -sweet- step at a time. I know this. I will share with you another time…Get up everyday with your love of the Lord and fierce determination- you can overcome -you can! I for one will be cheering from the sidelines..<3 and hugs.

  11. Cara,

    You’ve had such an uphill climb for so long now. I am delighted beyond words to see you have reached the summit and can see the beauty before and around you. Just like that amazing sunset and your triumphant silhouette! It is true, that which does not kill us makes us stronger. And how marvelous that you were given Michael to stand beside you and give you a hand to hold on to when you lose your footing. I too am thankful that He gave me my wonderful husband. Life would be completely gray without him and our girls.

    Sharing your joy! Much love to you.

    Lori

    • It really has felt like an endless uphill climb. For the time being the terrain has flattened out, though I don’t expect it to last long. In truth I don’t want it to. I only need enough time to catch my breath; after that I become comfortable, reliant on these earthly things that distract me with their shiny surfaces. The struggle is what keeps me grounded, focused on Kingdom things.

      Michael, my Michael is an angel. After I hug God and tell Him how very nice it is to meet Him in person, thanking him for giving Michael to me as my husband will be the next order of business. ;-) I know you know. Gray is right — we are so blessed!

      Love in buckets coming back at you!

  12. Oh my! Good for you in getting out and living, loving, and enjoying. It may have taken a moment to get there but you did! Like you said, you may never have an answer and you cannot control that. The fact that you are taking over what you can control is wonderful. We are over here wishing and praying all the best for you and maybe tonight with the help from God, you will be able to shut off your mind and simply rest… that will be my prayer for you throughout my day.

    With Love,
    Jenna

    • Oh, I’d say it took more than a moment — more like three weeks! — but yes, me too, Jenna! Fear, more than anything else, is the worst of obstacles; immobilizing really. With God, there is no fear, and that is where I must remain if I am to be sane and useful.

      Thank you . . . I so appreciate those prayers. I slept last night, a wondrous thing indeed! I hope for the same tonight; we’ll see. Whatever the account, I trust He is here, in slumber and in sleeplessness.

      Hoping you and Trent are well!

      ~ Cara

      • I was praying for you last night before I went to bed for about 30 minutes. I am hoping you had a deep sleep with angels by your side healing your body through the night! I have been thinking about you all day yesterday and this morning and each time I do I am saying a prayer. Know you have an army of prayer warriors around you!

      • Jenna, I am so touched you would take time to lift me up in prayer. Thank you . . . More than I have been in the last month, I feel at peace with my situation. So even though I may not be receiving the sort of sleep that is consistent or restorative, I feel His presence with me, reminding me that it is Him that will provide what I need. I trust it is due to prayers such as the ones you are praying that I am able to stay positive and hopeful in what might otherwise feel like a hopeless situation. Thank you, thank you!

        I have been wondering too, how is everything going with your parents?

  13. I’ve been away from WordPress and I’m so sorry to hear about the terrible time you’ve had. I’m glad you’re feeling better now. And I love your attitude! Good for you in meeting your struggles head on. You’re a brave one and your writing is an inspiration.

    • You and I both! But I think taking time away from blogging is necessary, lest we get burnt out. Glad you are back ;-)

      Yes, it’s been difficult — still is many days, but I have faith that God will sustain me during this uphill climb.

      Hope you have been well and are still taking tons and tons of gorgeous pictures!

      • lovely photo,and good to read a post that i can relate to as always a joy to read.One small thing though high heels come on! I cling to the hope that one day i can wear high heels again and not fall over(oh no wait its my husband who clings to that idea) sending lots of health and happiness your way.xx

  14. I always say, “It takes all kinds.” And so there should be those who love heels and those who can’t wait to fling them across the room. You wear your heels and strut. Start of with a kitty-heel, I bet you won’t fall over. Me, I’ll stick with my sandals. ;-)

    Best to you!

    ~ Cara

  15. Love the total surrender with the Sun shining brightly image. This is how we should embrace our days, rain or shine, not so good or even days of feeling low. Thanks for the inspiration,”if I can stand, walk, and talk, then I am going to do everything I normally do.” have a blessed day…best wishes to you and your family.

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