Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Refiner's Fire

There is an inexplicable sort of urgency in my heart for this one. An urgency God wouldn't let me get over. I have a pattern I like to keep with my posts and their content, but it's been burning and I've been ignoring Him... Until now. In obedience, I write.
Four and a half years ago, my family started on the most difficult journey we will face (or so I pray). Never did we expect to be tried and tested in the ways that we were and are and will be. But today we stand with more strength, more faith, and more love. However, it isn't an easy road to walk.

In the beginning, my mom noticed my dad's memory seeming to slip. She expressed concern to us kids, but we told her it was nothing; he'd never been one for details. We all started paying more attention and months later, we agreed things were not right. We sought the help of a neurologist and he went through weeks of testing, MRIs, doctor appointments. All the while we waited for an answer.

One by one things were ruled out. Tumor, no. Alzheimer's, no. Dementia, not that either. Then came that fateful Monday night in July 2009. The doctor's office: they had a diagnosis, but it needed to be discussed in person, in the morning. A call that didn't bode well. Doc said, "Things don't look great."

After a night of no sleep and lots of tears, I went to work, just like Popsicle would want me to, just like I had for weeks.

On July 17th, 2009, a neurologist diagnosed my 56-year-old father with Early Onset Alzheimer's. He said despite the lack of genetic evidence he was sure my father was losing his memory for good. He warned that my dad's age would lend the disease to be more aggressive. "Make arrangements," he said. 

There are no words to describe the searing pain, the utter fear, and the deep panic that sets in with a diagnosis. I immediately drove home to spend time with my family. My brothers played in the pool with my dad like always. My mom spent hours on the phone letting all of the relatives know the results had come back and we faced a battle with one of the most mysterious diseases known to modern medicine. I sat numbly, reveling in the familiar noises that would one day be gone. 

One call. Two calls. Turned into dozens of calls. Reliving the diagnosis over and over and over, sharing with family, sharing with close friends. Quiet conversations amongst one another filled with sorrow, with tears, with doubts and questions. Promises made for the future when things don't look good, when he's unable to care for himself, when we're not sure what to do for one another.
Why God? I ask. I spent years asking. God, why? Why us? Why him? Why? Why my mom? Why Jeremiah in his youth? Why now? Why not later in his life? Why, God, why?

While I still wish this all away. While I wish it wasn't us. While I wish so desperately it was different. I see His truth in this. We are being tested by fire like in 1 Corinthians 3:
"This work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." -1 Corinthians 3:13-15
We still don't know what's going to come of all this. We don't have an end date for the suffering that's being endured. We don't know what will take him from us and to His Heavenly Father. But we do know that God is doing His work among us.
I know that I don't want to just barely escape through the flames. I want to be thrown into the fire only to burn brighter than the flames. I want to be blinding, like the blue flames that compose the hottest part of the blaze.

I want to know that God placed me in the hottest of heats, in the toughest of times, and I made it with His presence there to keep me cool. Thankfully, my family -the people that mean the world to me- get to join me in this journey.

My dad is slowly losing his whits. He's content, but unaware. For him, his ignorance is bliss. For us, family and friends have made a safe and loving space for us. It is there we mourn, we seek protection from the flames, we feel encouraged. It feels as though the fire's dying. Slowly, ever so slowly, it's dying. And the flames, though smoldering, still burn, reminding us that we are not yet there -wherever there might be. His refiner's fire is continuing to work on us making us more like Him.

It's not easy. Or fun. But the bible never promised easy or fun. It promised to glorify Him.
"God gives, God takes. God's name be ever blessed." - Job 1:21
Some of you are in the midst of a season of burning hot flames. It may look like disease or divorce or loss or heartbreak or waiting. It may not look like our fire, but you're in it and you feel it and you want relief. I feel you. And I encourage you to stick it out because it'll make you all the better in spirit, in life, in love. 

You can do this. You will endure. You will survive. 
He will sustain you. 

28 comments:

  1. boom baby! you are so right and today was one of those more challenging days. cling to what we know...God has a glorious plan for each of us and for our family as a unit...i couldn't be more blessed to have each of my children to help travel this unknown path. ams i love you...you're my favorite girl (always). i wish i could express the journey so well.

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  2. Well it's official, i have finally cried while reading one of your blogs. For some odd reason this week has been so tough and i can't stop thinking about dad and all thats going on. Thank you for the little boost i so often need.I love and miss you,Bubs

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  3. Posted by Peter J. Minegar April,27 2010I have many thoughts over the last months. Chris showed me what Faith is, every thing is based on our faith. Now I pray morning and night, to show me the way Lord, to share what I can. I will follow Jesus Christ and rejoice in his heavens when all is done.Until this completes, I will be the best disicple I can do. Thank you Amber, I owe you a fancy dinner, (Rubio's Dinner, right next to Amber's home).

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  4. amber, i don't know you. but I know this: God is faithful & has molded you into a beautiful young woman.He's molding me too.

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  5. Beautiful post Amber. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers you and your mom are one tough cookies and handle this hardship with such grace. You are a true inspiration.

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  6. Wonderful post. You have such a strong faith and that will help you! This disease is devastating - to the person diagnosed, as well as to the family. Many days, it's harder on the family. Continue to lean on your faith and those around you. It will help you through the difficult days. You and your family are in my prayers.

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  7. So sorry to hear of what your family is going through. I have a love one that has Alzheimer's, it is such a difficult disease. Praying for you.

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  8. Very sad to hear about your dad. My grandfather went through Alzheimer's and my grandmother is going through it now. It is a difficult disease for everyone involved. It has definitely made me and my family appreciate every moment so much more. Praying for your family!

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  9. Amber, I really admire you and your family for your strenght. What is happening to you is terrible, but you keep being united, positive. I had a look on your mum's blog and she seems to be a really brave and strong woman. All my thoughts are with you !

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  10. Wow. I have no words. I cannot even imagine the pain and heartbreak you must be going through. You are one brave girl and a beautiful writer.

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  11. this is beautiful my sweet girl...and dad looks so young & handsome & alive. some days in the think of the sick, i forget who he was-what he looked like-how his life could overflow the room. love you!

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  12. "It may not look like our fire, but you're in it and you feel it and you want relief...stick it out, because it'll make you all the better in spirit, in life, and in love."

    If you keep writing like that, the world is gonna seek you out girl. Wisdom. Freaking wisdom.

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  13. This is such a beautiful post. I will be thinking about your family. If there is anything I can do please let me know. We went through this with my uncle and I know how difficult it could be.

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  14. Thank you my dear Megan. You's a doll with such a heart. <3

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  15. Such a devastating disease on all fronts and for all parties involved... Plus, there's such little knowledge about the movement and progress of it. Thank goodness for a great and knowing God with deep love for us in all this mess. :)

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  16. I can't imagine going through it twice over girl. Can't imagine it. My heart breaks for families that experience this once... Much less twice.

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  17. Thank you Mathilde. We are so thankful for the thoughts and prayers that encircle us daily especially in moments of exhausted sadness. :)

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  18. Thank you Miss Hazel. :) (such a dear and lovely name to me!)... The hurt and heartbreak is mended little by little with the words and encouragement of others, JUST LIKE YOU!

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  19. The pictures shake my soul just a little bit at a time, BUT I'm so thankful for them regardless of how not like this he looks now... I forget too. I love you.

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  20. Oh how you encourage my tired and weepy soul. Oh how you do.


    I may or may not have printed this off and stuck it to my computer to remind myself of other strong women writer's confidence in me.

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  21. Oh Jessa, thank you. Prayers and thoughts work a delightful charm in our most weary of moments.

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  22. Thank you for your prayers Ashlee. On days when it seems neverending it's the sweetness of others that happens to get us through. :)

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  23. Such a beautiful post Amber. My family dealt with Alzheimer's with my grandma and it definitely is so hard to go through. Your strength and faith through this is inspiring. The Refiner's Fire song is something that has been close to my heart since I was a teenager. It has such beauty.

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  24. I'm sorry to hear about the hardship that you and your family are going through. You seem to have a resilience and resolve that will be hard to break and that's just what these circumstances require. Keep strong x

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  25. Your faith is so encouraging. The work being done in you now speaks louder than the pain you are enduring...you are shining brighter than the flames. Thank you for posting this...it's a timely read for me since tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of my dad's welcoming into eternity. Well actually, I read it last week and didn't get a chance to leave you a comment, but because of what tomorrow is I was reminded to come reread this beautiful post of yours. And I am reminded that cancer did not win. JESUS WINS, and he is forever healed, even though it still hurts to miss him here. And through our suffering and reliance on Jesus, He is glorified! Hugs to you!

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  26. I pray for you daily, Amber. The grace you and your mom show through your writing it absolutely indescribable. I don't know how we crossed paths - but I do know that God has surely used you in my life in countless ways, already, even though we are so far apart.

    My favorite part is when you say... "I want to know that God placed me in the hottest of heats, in the toughest of times, and I made it with His presence there to keep me cool. Thankfully, my family -the people that mean the world to me- get to join me in this journey." I love you friend!

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  27. Just saw this ;)

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