Royal But Ordinary Victorious Things

Niagara Falls | Canada

“I don’t know what this is but this is not labor. Labor is not this (kind of) painful.”

Twelve hours of pain later, I was admitted to the ER just weeks before Cruze’s due date in mid-February in case it was labor, it wasn’t.

After a series of scans in the ER, nothing amiss about the baby was found.

Instead, I found out gallstones were developed in my second pregnancy. A relatively common occurrence brought on by a lethal mix of pregnancy and stress hormones (estrogen + cortisol), which had led to my first gallbladder attack.

(I also found out I was one of those Covid-asymptomatic people, I have been “Covid-free” all these while only due to never having had any symptoms!)

Towards the end of 2022, the random attacks have become classified as chronic pain with onsets as regular as every other night. It usually starts around midnight and lasts for 5 hours. I’d be soaking in my bath tub in hot water as pain relief for several hours through the night. Blessed with two superbly sleeping babies, but it was these attacks that kept me up all night.

A lot of blood work was done to determine potential triggers but everything indicates my health is tip-top. So it was reduced to likely genetic factors, and, the hormones. Surgery to remove the entire organ was recommended to put an end to all the pain.

Still, with any organ removal, it brings forth another set of mortality risks.

I had lost my beloved grandfather to liver cancer (after surviving pancreatic cancer). Research has shown the malfunctioning or absence of the gallbladder – a relative of the pancreas and liver family – could affect the functionality or risks of developing cancer in these critical organs, especially if genetic influences come into play as well.

So I remained uncertain, and ended the year turning to alternative treatments: TCM and acupuncture. The first week of my 2023 sees both an acupuncture session along with completing my first two bottles of TCM herbal medication (24 pills a day y’all!), as well as, another meeting with my surgeon to schedule for a potential surgery this year.

Chronic pain isn’t new to me. The attacks would also re-trigger dysmenorrhea after my period had returned post-breastfeeding.

Dysmenorrhea was a regular fixture for 7 years of my life in my teenage years before it became random once or twice a year. (That is why pregnancy is “blissful” for me as I did not have to be concerned about dysmenorrhea until I was done breastfeeding.)

The doctors prescribed me with The Pill since I was fourteen to manage their onset. I had turned to many vices in my teenage years and youth to cope with the magnitude of physical pain I had to live regularly with even as a healthy individual – that was why my faith eventually became such a radical turning point in my life after I became a follower of Christ almost two decades ago.

Then came a year like 2022.

It was a year traversed between finding my way home, and finding what I didn’t know what I was looking for – for all year my soul was in deep search; seeking.

It has hit me there are these ordinary victorious faith things I may have forgotten in a year of doing hard things, unsettled, unequal and uncomfortable things.

We ended the year on the road for nine days trekking across the country – stops in Chicago, Michigan’s Ann Arbor, Colorado’s Vail, and to clock Cruze’s first international trip to Canada, Maise’s second, and this mama’s country 49.

Throughout the trip, it kept coming back to me how it shouldn’t be this easy.

After a year of doing hard things, I was so stunned by how the trip unfolded… we had breezed through mostly. It was the most stress-free week I’ve had all year despite even a denied boarding flight due to passport issues, pivoting plans, two 8-hour drives with two little ones… I kept wondering — wondering if I was missing something.

Then I stood staring at the majestic crashing in of the Niagara Falls, and I felt a foreign yet familiar love crashing all over me.

That extravagant romance He had been (and always is) lavishing upon me that I had tasted so distinctively in the days of my youth – and it sounds silly to type this out but – I had somehow forgot how He loves. (Cues: David Crowder Band’s “How He Loves”.)

So I think of 2022 as a year where the world fell into a deep, desperate deception of a hurricane hustle. Ultimately, I was most disappointed in how I did not live staying true to what I had set out of at the start of 2022 to continue to abide to ‘slow living’.

“If I allowed all the different roles in my life to define me instead of who I really am in Christ defining them, I would get all messed up. Why? Because I would be basing my identity on my erratic performance instead of God’s truth that I’m His child and victorious in Him.”

Christine Caine

So eeps, 2023 is still about slow living – more specifically leaning into frameworks like Rule of Life / Practicing the Way.

As my fast and furious 2022 creeped to a close, my soul was repeatedly reinvigorated by the call to live “an ordinary victorious life” – but also to re-position myself as a member of the ultimate royal family – and live like it.

Two nights before ushering in 2023, I received my theme verse of the year in 1 Peter 2:9 — which turned out to be the verse of my devotion a day later! That really just sealed in my spirit going into the new year of healing, rebooting, and expanding.

At the core of working through identity in 2022 is reckoning with how much I do not relate to “motherhood” out there; or that I enjoy motherhood in a very different way. But it had constantly felt like I had to “just keep swimming” to stay in the trenches.

Society demonstrates the ‘all-or-nothing’ (the stay-at-home parent) or the gung-ho ‘have-it-all’ (parents with all the help).

Neither is actually really victorious in itself as they are just part of societal design. And life is mostly found living in the tension of the in-betweens.

At the end of the day, life is about being victorious. Thriving, because of His grace.

What I was reminded of in our year end trip was how it is easy for me — because it is grace. It always has been so.

And grace is the place where the wonder of God captivates us. ‘Wonder’ was my word for 2022 that I could not reckon with all year.

I did not like what I see in the world, and I had no idea how much stress navigating this by the world had also put on my body. Until – an organ is now at the brink of surgical removal. He sure got my attention.

The saving grace is that I was out of vision of my call or career. So I am just relieved it took all year to recenter my next steps of “returning to work” (or protected from the hurricane hustle, really). I now have the career clarity and know the miracle I’d need.

But also if you know me, or the rebel in me, it is the most uninspiring way for me to live by societal norms or expectations. And I do think, the conformity to a certain societal brand of “motherhood” had underlined my 2022 unfavorably. So hello 2023, I digress.

Taking back my Royal crown, I’d be making some bold, unusual moves. Even if the world may disagree, but this world is not my home.

That home, for some of us, is on the road and royal all the same. (Selah, Psalm 84:5.)

So long, 2022.

Part I: The Year of Doing Hard Things

Part II: Unsettled, Unequal and Uncomfortable Things