• Natalie Maxwell

Her Kind of Normal

"Everything looks normal, said my daughters cardiologist and then he paused and said, well normal for her."

I knew exactly what he meant by it. He meant that although my daughters heart would never look and function like her typical peers, there were no changes from her echo two years ago, so no reason to be concerned.

I thanked her doctor and nurses, agreed to let him know if we see any signs of sudden onset fatigue or blueness in her skin or lips, but if not agreed we wouldn't need to see him again for two more years.

Every doctor's appt is extremely traumatic for our girl. This picture was taken right after we got her vitals taken which left her very distraught and anxious, compared to her sister who is apparently having the time of her life.

We left through the doors of a building made to look like an inviting castle, and as I buckled my two daughters into their car seats, and as I waited in the McDonald drive thru for chicken nuggets, and as I drove my daughter back to school where she would have two more hours of her school day; I kept thinking of three little words that the cardiologist had said and the the depth of the truth that they carried.

"Normal for her"

Years before our daughter with the special heart would enter our family, our first born son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at 20 weeks in utero. The days, weeks, and months following his diagnosis were some of the hardest storms my faith has ever weathered. We eventually found other people who were further along on their unchosen journey and they told us a phrase that I'm not sure I had heard before then (probably because I never needed to hear it), "you will find your new normal."

It was comforting and infuriating at the same time. On one hand, the thought of our new life not feeling scary and unknown someday was attractive, but on the other hand, I was still clinging to any remnants of what I had known life to be before a diagnosis came crashing into our reality and future dreams.

There was surrender and trust that took place while our son was still safely nestled in my womb but really the breakthrough came after he was born. After I stared into the face of our precious and perfect miracle and I didn't see a statistic or a diagnosis or these things that we felt had robbed us, but rather I just saw a baby... my baby... and I realized that despite what the world may see when they look at him or his medical record, he was perfectly loved and crafted by a creator who doesn't make mistakes.

And that's when I realized that maybe "normal" wasn't what my heart truly desired. Maybe outside the walls of "normal" was a beauty unlike anything I could have imagined, a beauty that is powerful enough to break the chains that tie us down and convince us that this life is where our treasure lies.

Do I sometimes miss life before echocardiograms and IEP's and before I needed to know about things like the affects of trauma on the brain and the inner workings of human attachment? Sure! Do I sometimes miss life before my heart was broken by the realities of life behind children's hospitals and orphanages and institutions? Sometimes.

But like my son and my daughter, my heart no longer looks "normal". It's undergone surgery from Holy hands and because it's been broken and repaired so many times it no longer looks or functions like the majority who make up this idea of "normal" we have in our culture.

God chose a different kind of normal for me and I truly believe he longs to break all of His followers outside of the walls of the majority. It took him placing a broken heart in the tiny chest of our first born for us to wake up to what truly matters, but He writes each of our stories in their own unique ways.

How have you been broken lately? Instead of trying to rush through those feelings and realities to get back to life as you knew it, what if you asked God to change your heart (and therefore your life) through the pain. I believe that there is healing after a breaking, but it should heal us in a way that makes us look different on the inside (and therefore the outside).

My challenge to you is to find your own kind of normal, it may look and feel scary and dangerous at first, but I promise you, you'll find the beauty in time and really life is too short for anything else.

There is a story in Mark 5 that is pretty intense, in it Jesus goes with his disciples to a region and there finds a man possessed by demons. This man was tormented by the demons that had overcome his mind and body. Jesus went up to him, spoke to the demons and cast them out of the man and sent them into a herd of pigs. The pigs, numbering 2000, then ran down the bank and over a cliff into the lake and drowned.

Pretty crazy right?? But here's where it really gets shocking...

"Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened when they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon possessed man and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

What the what?!?

From first glance this story just doesn't make sense at all I mean, these people had just witnessed an incredible miracle!

Here was a demon possessed guy living among them who the Bible describes as someone who "lived among their tombs, no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones" yeah that guy, they were more scared of a guy who did a miracle and brought peace and sanity where there once was torment than the guy who they had tried in vain to subdue??

I don't remember when I wrote them, but in the margins of my Bible are these words, "They wanted their normal more than the power of Christ,"

Think about it, they had grown accustomed to the demons living among them, sure it wasn't ideal, but they had learned to manage it.

Then comes Jesus. He's not about just managing surface level issues. He didn't just find chains strong enough to hold this guy down or a place far enough away that they would no longer hear his cries, he wanted to get down to the root of the issue, but in the process he shook up their comfort and security. Those pigs were these people's livelihood.

You see when Jesus brings his change, when he goes after our demons of complacency, doubt, legalism etc. it absolutely will require us to surrender our security and comfort. The question is are we okay with that?

We have to want the transformation and power of Christ more than we want the comforts of this life.

At the end of the story after the people had begged Jesus to leave them and Jesus is on his way, it says the man who was demon possessed goes to Jesus and begs him, "take me with you.".

I think we need to constantly be checking ourselves and asking ourselves which camp we fall into. Is it the group of people who were terrified that Jesus would disrupt the lives they had built for themselves, or is it the man who cared more about being with Jesus and telling the story of how he had been changed?

A mission minded prayer

Father reveal to me the places in my heart and life where I've chosen my comfort over the radical change that you desire my story to possess. Break my heart for the things that truly matter and give me a normal that breaks through the barriers of my culture, my preconceived notions and my pride. Create for me a life that is comfortable with the uncomfortable and runs after the impossible because that is where you are Jesus and above all, I want your presence.

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