I had a health scare recently that involved a lot of blood work and a lot of waiting. During this three-month process, I was anxious and fearful. I was consumed with thoughts of everything horrible that can happen. Worst-case scenarios rolled through my mind like movie trailers: suffering the pain of sickness and side effects of treatments, losing my abilities and capacities, dying and leaving my young children motherless. It was horrible.
As I prayed, I was reminded of the passage from Matthew 6:25-34 and sensed God was giving me a way to fight worry. The truth of this passage is that I am valuable to God and that He knows me and knows what I need. The promise of this passage is that I will receive what I need when I look to God. I meditated on: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt 6:34 NIV). I would say to myself, Mary, don’t worry about later. Be present today. Don’t let later distract you from today. One day at a time.
I hated that the worry and fear were distracting me from potential joyful and life-full moments with my family, with my friends, with God. I wanted to be different. My heart really longed to not just be okay health-wise (though I did not stop asking for that). I really longed to be someone who would be okay with any test result and any circumstance because I really did trust God with everything, including my three precious boys.
And by ‘okay’, I don’t mean the total absence of pain, sadness and difficulty or some idea of perfection. By ‘okay’, I mean a sense of peace and groundedness even in the midst of those things. By ‘okay’, I mean trusting that God is present and at work in any situation, even if I cannot imagine or see it. By ‘okay’, I mean having hope that God sees me and will bring me the help that I am needing.
A week after sharing these things with my spiritual director, we received great news! My blood tests were normalizing so the worse case scenarios were cut from the picture! I was so relieved and thankful. And as I gave thanks to God, I also said, “I still want to be someone who learns to be okay with whatever might happen. I still want to be someone who does not get knocked out so easily.”
Well, want to know what’s happening now, 4 weeks later?
I am being tormented by fleas (and we do not have any pets)! After multiple flea bites on my legs that I attributed to being outdoors, we started to spot fleas in our cars and in our home. And the bite count on my body jumped from a few to 17, then 25, and now over 50! I can’t even tell if I have new ones because there are so many. We completely cleaned out our cars, set up flea traps and bought 5 different kinds of flea killer. We are doing load after load of laundry in hot, hot water and I am vacuuming like it’s my favorite hobby. Vacuuming is definitely not my favorite hobby.
Copyright: Konstantin Pelikh / 123RF
I am confused, frustrated, angry, and uncomfortable. I am highly allergic to bug bites and no hydrocortisone cream is helping. I am so distracted and preoccupied with this flea problem that I am unable to do much else. I am short-tempered and mean to the people I love the most. I hit the lowest point when I looked down the hall and saw two of my boys throwing my pillows on the floor—where the fleas are. I lost it. I screamed at them and cried. I hated who I was in that moment and how I was reacting and behaving. And I felt so powerless and out of control.
Clearly, I was not okay, and I had no idea what it even looked like to have a sense of peace in this overwhelming situation. And I felt so alone.
I sat in my office for the next hour, texting my best friends for prayer as I wept.
Thankfully, I am not alone.
I feel the arms of God embrace me as my friends come around me, as they pray, validate my feelings and lovingly point out my mistakes. I know God is present to me as my friends fight the fleas with me, by giving me new ideas and calling an exterminator for information.
I do not know why I am being tormented by fleas. I do not know when we’ll be rid of this problem. In the meantime, I am trying to practice Matthew 6:34. I am vacuuming and spraying flea killer, as needed. I am sitting with my sons as we build block houses for their animals and play Uno. I’m having a drink with my husband. I am trying to be present to all of today and not just the fleas of today.
I recently learned something about sheep that seems quite timely. Flies torment sheep. When flies show up, sheep panic—becoming frantic with fear and bashing their heads against things to get the flies away from them. A good shepherd will put oil on their heads to protect them against the flies. Almost instantly, the sheep calm and can eat and rest peacefully. Interesting, right?
God, please come and put oil on my head. I don’t even know where these fleas came from! I just want them to go away. Please make them go away. Please kill them all. And please make me different. Help me to not just react to the fleas. Help me to not become this person who I don’t want to be, but help me be present—choosing patience and love, instead of anger and meanness. And even in this extremely trying and itchy time, please help me be present to today and those around me, instead of being distracted by this frustrating flea problem.
Mary Chong Carrera was born a friendly, fiery extrovert with a flair for drama. Growing up has brought a healthy dose of wisdom; she's learned to appreciate being still and quiet.
Mary attended Santa Clara University, where she cultivated great friendships, studied accounting, and fell in LOVE with Jesus (Christ, not her husband--that Jesús came later).
Mary has a passion for people and loves developing friendships, empowering leaders, and walking with others as they explore faith. She's wife to Jesús, mom to three adorable sons, Jesse, Ángel and Sebastián, part-time InterVarsity campus minister, and full-time human trying to engage with the world with love. Though her big Chinese family drives her up the wall sometimes, she loves them to pieces and knows she wouldn't be who she is without them.