Kathy Sebright

Writer. Speaker. Believer. Runner. Truth Enthusiast.

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The only way out is through

I know that sometimes you feel like you are failing at everything. I know you feel the burden upon your shoulders to keep the entire household in some semblance of order as the world spins out of control. I’ve seen you awake at 2am, crying while everyone else is asleep. I’ve seen you pacing the hallways in the hospital praying the same prayer over and over. I’ve seen you stand vigil at a bedside sure that your world would cease to exist if this tiny fragile body went away. I’ve felt the same desperation to trade places with your child or loved one wanting more than anything in this world to spare them the pain. I’ve seen you struggle with your faith and heard you curse God’s name. I’ve seen the pressure surround you from all angles with a world that goes on around you while your life seems to crumble in front of your eyes. I’ve heard you screaming desperate pleas for healing and for peace. I’ve seen you hold the tears back when those around you deliver biting remarks and dismiss the pain that you are in. I’ve seen your body break down, your heart break open, and an endless stream of pain. I have witnessed your undoing on the very deepest level. I understand the pain, anger, and helplessness because I have been undone as well. Sometimes I have wondered, would there ever be a way out?

Just a few months ago, my 3 year old son went in for another skull surgery. We waited and waited anxiously for him to wake up, wondering and worrying about what would happen. It IMAG1705took about 8 hours for him to fully wake up. The first words out of his mouth nearly broke my heart. In a pitifully weak and scratchy voice with a throat that probably still hurt from the breathing tube came the quiet squeak “I got hurt” amongst the steady beeping in the background. Then he started to cry blood red tears, which can be normal for this type of surgery but still unnerving to see. Talk about being undone. I choked back my own sobs as I tried to be as brave as possible for him. And for a minute, in an absolute pained panic, I wanted to take it all back and make a different decision to not have the surgery. My son needed this surgery no doubt about it, three neurosurgeons agreed. The closer it got, the more I both wanted and didn’t want him to have this surgery. I know it was what was best for him and that it was going to help him, it was going to give his brain the protection it needed, and aid him in going farther in this life. But on the other hand, I have watched him suffer so much and so greatly already. I didn’t want to sign him up for any more pain and suffering. I wanted to protect him. I knew this had to happen no matter how badly I wanted to spare him the pain because there was no way to get the end result of this major surgery without going through it first.

I have questioned God time after time during the worst of it, demanding a way out, begging for my son’s health, and wanting so badly to understand this and somehow make sense of it all. The answer was devastating silence because in time I realized, it’s not for me to understand. But I think I understand a little more now than I did before. I can almost see God seeing us suffer. It must hurt Him as it hurts us. He doesn’t want us to have to go through this. He doesn’t want us to be in pain. He wants to protect us. But He also knows what is going to help us and what is going to aid us in going farther in this life even if we don’t understand it. There is no other way for us to get to where He wants us to go without going through this first. The end result is what He wants and there is no way to shortcut it. The only way out is through. So we must keep going and keep trusting, even when it’s hard. I pray that you find the strength and courage you need to go through the storm you are facing regardless of what that storm looks like. God wants to go through this with you until you are out. Trust Him. Keep the end in mind. And go.

Job 29:3 By his light I walked through darkness


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You can always go back home

Originally posted at http://www.erinelizabethaustin.com/blog/you-can-always-go-back-home

Ever had that vague feeling of Déjà vu? Like you’ve been here before, done this before, and seen all of this before? Ever stared in the mirror for so long your own reflection didn’t make sense? Ever wonder what has happened to you? To who you used to be? To your entire life? Ever been caught in the swirling vortex of emptiness? The desperation surrounding you like black does a night, the hope that life will ever be better completely out of reach .Ever been so hopeless you wonder what the point is anymore?

I have sat wide eyed clutching my sanity by a very thin thread. I have, at times, let everything good in me be extinguished by the pain I was in. I have been hopeless, desperate, anxious, and so full of fear for what lie ahead I have forgotten how to live. It’s a cycle, a long, hard, exhausting cycle that I’ve been trying to break free of ever since my son was first diagnosed. It ebbs and flows, some days I can conquer the world and other days I am reduced to a pile on the floor. I can go from feeling capable and strong to helplessly out of control. I can feel strong in my faith and feel God’s plan for my family one minute and the next minute rage at a God who could allow my baby boy to suffer so. The struggle is constantly changing me, chipping off more of the old me and exposing more of the true me underneath. It’s a painful process, one that leaves me feeling vulnerable and raw at the end of the day. I was just like everyone else, until suddenly I wasn’t. My son was just like everyone else, until suddenly he wasn’t. I never signed up for this. I never checked the box for optional yet honorable suffering on the release forms when I took my baby home from the hospital. It blindsided me. It came running after me and no matter what I did, I could not escape it. I went down kicking and screaming, fighting this monster I couldn’t see or predict. It didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t escape it. This was going to be our new life.

There’s a lie being circulated out there about caregivers, about parents of special needs children, and really about anyone that has ever been broken apart in two and had to find a way to carry on. The lie is that God only gives you what you can handle and I don’t believe it for a second. I’ve lived it. I know I had way more than I could handle. I’ve been crushed under a burden I couldn’t move on my own. I have fallen apart and been put back together again, the pieces of my broken heart precariously glued in place, but I can tell you it wasn’t on my own. I didn’t handle it; God did. I couldn’t put myself back together; God did. I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel; God knew. I couldn’t love God; God loved me anyhow. When I was at my most broken and hopeless, screaming like a wounded animal, God was there. When I was crawling up the wall, desperate for a way out, God was there. When I was sitting in the hospital, time after time, God was there. God was always there, I just had to be willing to see him. He didn’t want me to do it on my own. He wanted me to trust Him, to rely on Him, and to believe Him. I spent a long time refusing to do just that, sure that God had turned his back on my family. When there was nowhere else to turn, I turned back the way I came, back towards the God that had always been there despite my erratic behavior.

When you are struggling and I mean really, desperately struggling, God can get easily washed out in the pain. There is a wall that goes up in between who you used to be and who you are now and God was on the other side of that wall for me. I’ve been here before I’d think. I’ve done all of this before, and I’ve seen it all before. It was all apart of the process. Up, down, and back again-the never ending cycle of change.

If you are in the middle of that tumultuous cycle, I grieve with you. I know the pain you are in. I pray for peace as you transition into this life that doesn’t make sense. I know God has given you more than you can handle and I won’t tell you everything will be okay, because I don’t know if it really will. I will tell you that whatever happens, there is always God, even when you don’t feel Him, even when you don’t see Him, and even when you desperately want Him to not be there. You can always go back home. You can always turn back around.

2 Corinthians 1:7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

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The Pit

Originally posted at http://www.erinelizabethaustin.com/blog/stuck-in-a-pit

The truth is I don’t know what it is like to be sick. I am 30 years old and have been in good health most of my life. I am a distance runner that regularly puts more mileage on their shoes in a week than on their car. I don’t take any medications, I don’t have any specialists, I don’t undergo surgeries or procedures, and I don’t have a medical history. So why am I even talking to you? What on earth can we possibly have in common?

I have been down in the pit, you know the one. Down so deep, I couldn’t be reached, reasoned with, or comforted. The pit is empty and hopeless, full of only fear and uncertainty. There is only lateral movement allowed in the pit, never up and never forward. You are stuck there in this dark limbo until you choose to climb out. When I hit the bottom of that pit, in true Kathy Sebright fashion, I crossed my arms and refused to let anyone help me out. To call me stubborn is a laughable understatement. It is true ten thousand times over. Why shouldn’t I just stay in the pit?

People started to gather at the top of the pit, staring down at me. I heard their voices high above me and saw rope after rope thrown down until it was an overwhelming tangled mess. They wanted to help. I dug my feet in deeper. I saw some give up and walk away, their lifeline they once offered to me now at a pile by my feet. Some came and went at odd times, showing up only so they could see the disaster up close and personal. Still others belittled my pain, spoke of how much worse they had it, talked about me, and condemned me both for my lack of faith or faith in the first place. “Where’s her God now?” they wanted to know. When days turned to weeks and weeks to months, there were only a small group of people left. I saw the concern etched on their tired faces as their tears sometimes fell into the pit. I still refused to grab the rope. God put me here. God can get me out. He knows what to do. Heal my child. Make him better. Take it all away. That was the only way I would be ok again.

I was at war with God, in a hostage situation even, trying to force him to meet my demands or else. I spent months in this stalemate, the refusal to budge, the refusal to see this as anything else but underserved punishment, and blinded by the eyes of a frightened mother. I raged at God. Do something. Anything. Don’t just sit there.

There are no words for what it is like to watch your child suffer. I have searched the depths of my soul for a way to paint this picture to those that have never been in our shoes, but I can only come up with an example. More times than I can count or that I would even like to admit, I have begged God to let me trade places with my 2 year old son, until I am crying and screaming reduced to a pile of a person on the floor. I have begged God to strike me down dead this very minute, in the middle of this prayer, in order to spare my son. I will die right here, right now if he will only heal my little boy’s brain. Take away the malformation, the lesion, the hemorrhage, the pain, the seizures, and the uncertainty. No more surgeries, scans, medications, therapies, or alarms in the middle of the night. Dear God, just take it all away. Sounds desperate, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

The pit consumes you, engulfs you, and changes you, whether you want it to or not. You can never be the same person again once you climb out and that’s not all bad. The day I grabbed the rope and decided it was time to trust God with my son is the day that everything started to change. It was like turning on a light in the middle of the night. At first it hurt to look at, but then it was brilliant and beautiful and I don’t know how I ever saw anything without the light.

If you are in the pit right now, I want to personally throw a rope down to you. Do not despair. You are not alone. You are not forgotten about. God is still holding that rope down to you, even if others are not. Start climbing. He will not leave you there. Trust him. The rope is full of promises for a better tomorrow, a hopeful future, and peace that passes all understanding but only if you take it. You must surrender control. Throw your arms into the air, grab hold of that rope, and let God pull you up.

Today is an ever fleeting moment, gone before we even realize it has slipped through our fingers. I have learned to trust God with whatever will be of my sweet son Emmett. Thy will be done. Emmett is His first, mine second. It was the only way I could be ok again. You can be too. Keep climbing. Live in the light.

Job 33:28: God has delivered me from going down to the pit and I shall live to enjoy the light of life. (NIV)

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The courage to stop pretending

Originally posted at http://www.mops.org/blog/courage-to-stop-pretending

I could tell you stories of pregnancy and loss, and of holding a tiny lifeless baby in the palm of my hand. I could tell you about the leap of faith it took to try again and the heartbreak of losing yet again. I could tell you about months of bedrest with another baby not expected to live. I could tell you about the first time I called 911 while I watched that baby, my 1 year old son Emmett, unconscious and seizing in his crib. I could tell you about putting on a brave face for my 3 year old son Travis, trying to figure out how best to explain it without terrifying him. I could even tell you about the treadmill run in the hospital for Emmett’s first surgery, while I ran for exactly 7 hours and 26 minutes waiting and praying he was going to be ok. But none of those are quite it.

I think the most courageous thing I have ever done was stop pretending. I was a great pretender. I could smile even though I wanted to fall onto the floor and cry. I could laugh even though I felt hollow and empty inside. I could cite my strong faith while raging against a God that would allow Emmett to suffer so greatly. I could sit calmly in public when just hours before I had been screaming and breaking things up against the wall. The pain emptied my very heart and soul and hung me out to dry. The fear of the future, of the unknown, and of what would happen to Emmett ignited me with a fire so fierce, it threatened to burn me to the ground. The old me was gone, swallowed whole by this wide-eyed insomniac clutching a medical binder as thick as phonebook and pretending to be ok. My old world was gone, replaced by a new one with sterile white walls and words I couldn’t pronounce. This was the life that I pretended to live for much too long. There was no big pivotal moment that spurred me into action. One day I just woke up and said Enough. It has to get better. For me. For them. For all of us. I can’t pretend any more. I sought counseling. I learned to manage my fear and anxiety and let go of what I couldn’t control. I learned it was ok to not be ok and that I didn’t have to pretend for anyone. I learned to stay in the present and eliminate what if questions. Most importantly, I learned to live again, even happily in spite of our circumstances, and that took the most courage of all.