September 3rd.

It has been one year from the September 3rd that forever changed my life. For most people today is just Thursday, September 3rd 2015. For me it’s the one year mark from the worst day of my life.

If you know much about my past, you will know that claiming one specific “worst day of my life” is a very big deal. I’m sorry to say that if you can’t pin point the exact worst or best day of your life then you probably have not had it yet. This can be both an encouraging or discouraging idea.

It still blows my mind that we can wake up and believe it will just be another day in our normal lives. That’s what I thought when I woke up one year ago. I had a lot to do, a puppy to take care of, a long drive to a doctor’s appointment, a house to show, and cookies to bake for my aunt who had recently broken her arm. I completed these tasks with mild stomach cramps, which were nothing new. It wasn’t until I slowed down enough to eat dinner that I recognized the stomach cramps for what they really were.

And so I curled up on my couch and called my mom and told her I was having another bowl obstruction. I had too many to count in the past nine years and 80% of the time I needed to go to ER and be taken care of for up to four days with MRI scans, steroids, NG tubes, NPO diets, and a constant stream of IV morphine.

I was determined not to let that happen this time. I would stay home, suffer through the pain and be back on my feet in two days all by myself. I had done it before and I didn’t have time to waste in the hospital. And since my parents lived a hour away, two of my roommates were out of the state and I couldn’t remember where the third one was, I really didn’t have someone to drive me there anyways.

My little baby Gypsy was the only one with me when my life turned upside down. And when a pain similar to someone ripping my guts in two pierced my right side my puppy sat bolt up right and put her face in mine and stared hard at me. I hadn’t even made a sound. The pain was too intense to say or do anything, but she knew. And when your dog is concerned about your health, you go to the ER.

I called my roommate Natalie and she raced home and brought me to the hospital. After multiple episodes of fainting, screaming bloody murder, sobbing, and cursing like I never have in my entire life, a nurse came into my room and told me my intestines ruptured and I was going to be prepared for emergency surgery. I was slowly dying and surgery was the only thing that would save my life.

I think I scarred poor Nat for the rest of her life that night. No one, not even my parents have seen me in that state- because I had never been in that state before. But like the amazing person she is, she held it together, at least in front of me…

My parents arrived as I was being wheeled away to emergency pre-op. It felt like a dream as the surgeon explained what would happen. I remember saying in my head over and over “This can’t be real, this can’t be real”, and watching my dad partially faint because he was watching his worst nightmare come true for his little girl, and thinking “Put me under fast so I can escape this pain…this life.”

I didn’t know that things would be worst when I woke up. I didn’t know I would have a seven inch scar straight down my stomach, I didn’t know my small intestines would be poking through my side and I couldn’t have ever imagined the burning and horrifying pain that engulfed my entire abdomen.  And so September 4th at 3am became the 2nd worst day of my entire life.

Not for the first, or even second or third time in my life, I was put in ICU. It was a haze of pain, grief, crushing disappointment, and shock that I have never felt before. And then on September 5th I had another open surgery to remove my entire large intestine.

The next nine months were the hardest I’ve ever had. It’s too much to explain even. I was pushed and tested in a way that seemed unconquerable. And there were times when I stopped fighting and my family and friends and God had to do it for me.

I have never had more happen in one year of my life than in this past one. I underwent four major surgeries in eight months, had a body part removed, learned to live with an ostomy, suffered from depression and grief and utter exhaustion, hit my lowest low and then clung to God. I was healed entirely by Jesus and was able to let go of sickness being my identity and found it instead in God. I accepted the scars and changes of my body and let go of my physical expectations. I invited God to speak with me and found comfort and understanding that I never dreamt of. I became leader for my church’s young adult ministry and I applied for a mission trip to Europe. I celebrated when the man my sister loves asked her to marry him. I had my ostomy reversed and boldly refused medical interference because of my faith in God. I listened as my brother and his wife announced they were having a baby. I got on a plane and went to Germany to talk to the students there about Jesus. I moved into a new house while my sister moved into her new apartment, knowing I would never live with her again. I stood beside her as she married an amazing and loving man and I gained another awesome brother.

And then I slept for an entire week.

Our lives can change a hell of a lot in one year, even in one day, or in one split second. Last year I would have given anything to be where I am now: healthy, whole, and not in pain. I am abundantly grateful that God has answered my prayers, and yet…I find myself yearning for more, for something better. Some might say it’s because we are human and humans are never satisfied, that we always want more because we are greedy. That is true to some extent, but I don’t think wanting something more is always a bad thing. It comes from our deep desire to be with God, our yearning for heaven. This world can’t give us what we need. So while some people think I’m greedy or immature for always wanting more, I say my desires simply cannot be met by this world and so I will probably spend the rest of my life wanting more, while at the same time treasuring dearly what God has blessed me with.

heave must be our home

Today is a hard day for me. But I expect there will come a day, maybe 10 or 15 years down the road when September 3rd loses some if its sting. When I don’t cry the night before remembering what I have lost or wake up with a heavy heart wondering “what if”. A time will come when I can point to the best day of my life and it outshines the worst. I will have new dates that become important, like a wedding anniversary and my children’s birthdays to celebrate and remember. And when my little ones are running and keeping me busy I predict I won’t even realize it is September 3rd until someone asks me the date… and then I will stop in amazement for a second and think about that infamous day and how far I’ve come and how far I still can go. And I will shake my head at this crazy, crazy world we live in and feel joy that the best is yet to come.

But for now I will try to trust God and live in a way that will make my future-self proud to look back on how I beat the odds and made it through the hardest year of my life.

Be young.

Be wild.

Be free.

With love,

❤ Mariah

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