Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Value in the Struggle

It is the last day of 2013.  I'm keenly aware that I just posted yesterday, but I don't want this year to end or next year to begin without making this message pivotal today and always:  There is Value in the Struggle.

This lesson in living is the content of a blog post written by our dear & beloved friend, surrogate son & Pastor in Arizona, Greg Rohlinger.  He's endured a 3 year free-fall into a disease known as Multiple System Atrophy (MSA in short).  It behaves much like M.S., Lou Gehrig's & Parkinson's all rolled into one.  It is fatal, but not until it has robbed you of every stitch of independence & dignity synonymous with it's characteristics.  

No one with MSA has lived beyond nine years.  Most succumb within 2-5 years.  Greg's now 3 years into it.  Worse, he has the most aggressive form of the disease.  That said, he expects a miraculous healing, all the while looking for the goodness & grace to be found while enduring.   

So I say to myself this morning:  Listen up, Kathleen.  This is what it looks like to see God's hand in everything, even everything that remains when all seems lost.

Greg speaks:

Last night when I went to bed I was cold. Lori put a couple blankets over me to help warm me up.  She even tucked the blankets in over my shoulders to ensure that I’d stay warm over night. It worked well, and I quickly fell asleep.

This morning I woke up before sunrise, I’m guessing around 6:15. When I first woke up, I realized that I couldn’t move at all; nothing worked.  I tried moving my arms, my legs, even my eyelids … no luck. 

As I lay there, I began to wonder, “Is today the day the doctors have been warning me that would, at some point in this process, be the one on which I lose the ability to control my movements?  Could this really be the day?"

I took a moment to thank God for waking me up today, and then made the determination that if I had anything to do with it, today would not be the day. 

I quoted some off my favorite Scriptures, reminding myself that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength I need.” Then I went to work.

I focused and tried to move my arms; but the blankets were too heavy and too tight for me to move them. I focused and tried my hardest until finally my eyelids began to open just enough to allow me to survey the room. Although blurry, I could tell it was still dark.

I continued to push with all my strength, trying to move my arms. I grabbed at a wrinkle, and tried to move the blankets off of me.  Slowly, inch by inch I was able to nudge it off of my shoulders. Straining with everything I had to break out from the weight of the blankets enveloping me, I realized I am living out the illustration I’ve used in my message “Value in the Struggle”:  I am the butterfly in the cocoon.

It’s a familiar story to all of us; the caterpillar finds a branch or leaf, spins himself into a cocoon, and then goes through a metamorphosis. Over a period of time the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. When the transformation is complete, the butterfly begins the hard process of breaking out of the cocoon.  He struggles and pushes and slowly breaks through the cocoon, frees himself of its constraints and is able to fly away.

If you want to short-circuit what God is doing in the life of a butterfly, help him out of his cocoon. The problem is, if you make it easier for the butterfly by peeling away the cocoon, it will come out of the cocoon with underdeveloped wings, unable to fly.  It is in the process of struggling to break out of the cocoon, pushing and straining against its constraints that the bolo begins to flow into the wings and the wings develop their strength.  When the butterfly finally breaks out of the cocoon, it’s ready to fly. 

There is value to the struggle; God designed it that way!

As I struggled to break free from the constraint of the blankets, I had to laugh at the irony of my situation. I determined I was going to do this. I wasn’t going to call out & wake up Lori to help me. I was going to win this battle. I fought with all my strength, at points resting, sometimes falling back asleep. I watched the sunrise through the blinds. I continued to fight, resisting the feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to make it.  I asked God to help me; to give me the strength to do this. After more than 2 hours, I finally broke out, moving the blankets enough to lift my arms and move them freely.

It felt like a major victory to get my arms out from underneath the blankets. I laid in bed and quietly celebrated that today was indeed, not the day I would stop moving. 

I did wake up Lori, asking her to give me my morning meds. I continued my struggle and by 10:00 a.m. I was able to move my legs. With each small victory I was reminded “there is value in the struggle”. It was a great feeling when I finally rose out of bed and grabbed my walker to make my way out to the kitchen.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with today: maybe it’s the struggle to save your broken marriage, maybe it’s the financial struggle to make ends meet, maybe it’s the struggle to find significance in your life. I don’t know what your struggle is, but I do know that there is value in your struggle. God has designed it that way. The great news is you don’t’ have to do this alone. Ask God to help you. He has promised He will never leave nor forsake you. Keep fighting, keep struggling…you may not understand why you’re going through this, or how you’re going to make it, but God is going to use this to develop you, to make you more like Jesus. 

From one butterfly to another, there is value in your struggle!

The Rohlinger Family, July 4, 2013
L-R, Brittany (family friend), Greg (standing), Lori,
Zachary, Jake & Brooke (riding Greg's scooter), and Josh


Debbie Petras said...

Amazing! Such words of wisdom from one who has struggled and yet continues to teach and share with others. Pastor Greg is glorifying the Lord with each day as He trusts Him. Thank you for sharing Kathleen. I will never forget meeting him when I went to church with you in Arizona. I loved how he immediately grabbed his wife and he prayed for me. What an honor and what an example. Take everything to God in prayer ...

Blessings and love,

Sharon said...

What a testimony! Thank you so much for this very uplifting story. I love the lessons that Greg gives - value in the struggle indeed. And I am also reminded that a cocoon can be a dark and lonely place, too. But sometimes God does His best work in the dark places!

"And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness--secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name." (Isaiah 45:3, NLT)


manthano said...

Thanks for this post.
I have been wondering how Greg was doing.
Still continuing to pray. But now I understand
the struggle better.

Again, Thanks.

Sonja Goodson said...

Greg's testimony makes me bow my head. I've thought so often of he and his family. What grace, Kathleen, and thank you for sharing. It will remind me to keep praying. God's light in his life is shining so clearly. I pray they continue this journey with new strength for each day.

Happy new year friend, to you and your whole 'gang', prayers continue.

Just a little something from Judy said...

Ever since you've shared Greg's story, I have thought and prayed for him, his dear wife, and their children. Especially going through a similarly painful situation with our dear friend, who just lost his battle with ALS disease. I appreciate this update and seriously cannot imagine what all he faces in life. Wow! So painful for all of you to stand on the sidelines and watch through it all.

Thanks for sharing this. I will continue to remember them whenever God brings them to my mind.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

This is a very powerful read for me tonight, ministering to me in the deepest of places. Please let Greg know...


Sheryl said...

WOW!! i'm so glad i just "happened" upon this today. i hope i can find his blog...i would love to share this. pray for you and yours often, sweet friend.