Flea Bites

Corrie ten Boom tells the story of her life in Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp, during World War II. At one point, she and her sister, Betsie, were moved into new barracks into conditions that nauseate me to even think about. When they were assigned their bunks, they found the pallets not only filled with the the stench of bodily fluids, but they lay down into a bed covered in fleas. Corrie asked her sister how they were to live in such conditions, and Betsie turned her to the Word. In I Thessalonians, Paul writes, “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, praying constantly, giving thanks in all circumstances…” In all circumstances, not just the pleasant ones… not just the ones we want. So Betsie and Corrie stood in the middle of a concentration camp–the foulest conditions, most horrendous torture and executions imaginable–and they thanked God for fleas. Fleas! Fleas that they knew would make their lives miserable. Fleas that would bite and sting and itch and make sleep impossible. They thanked God for fleas.

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I prayed. I thought about so many people in my life who are struggling. I prayed for my grandfather recovering from triple bypass, for my grandmother’s loneliness while he is in the hospital. I prayed for friends who long to get married and start losing hope as each year passes by. I prayed for people in my life and in the lives of my friends who struggle with physical ailments–too many to name. I thought of those who will hurt through the holidays because of loss in their lives–whether a week ago, a year ago, 10 or 50 years ago. How their ache doesn’t go away. I thought of those struggling in their marriages or going through divorce. Loneliness, pain, conflict, fear… I’ve said it before–we all have our pain. Our lives are full of fleas… pain that bites and nags and makes us feel miserable.

This morning Audrey woke at 6:00. Ow! Flea bite! Then Asher got up at 6:30. Another bite! My kids are never up before 7:00! But wait, I got to spend more time in the Word and prayer this morning because of it… because my mom said, “I’ll get the kids, you go back to bed.” Thank you, Lord, for fleas.

Today I have my fifth chemo treatment. I’m so nervous. I’m nervous about starting a new drug. It’s unknown. I’m nervous about a possible allergic reaction or nasty side effects. I’m nervous about spending 5 1/2 hours in “the chair”. I get 3 needle sticks today, plus an IV (which they sometimes miss the veins), and I have a horrendous fear of needles. It feels like a lot of fleas are biting this morning. And the one thing I hadn’t done is thank God for the fleas.

So I did, and He brought so much awareness of His hand. I’m thankful for a new drug that is one more way that they can hopefully prevent recurrence and give me time here to live with my family and serve the Lord. I’m thankful for 5 1/2 hours in the chair because I get to spend that time with Barb, my chemo buddy, who is an amazing woman of God, and I will learn so much from her today. I’m thankful for the needles (it’s hard to say that one!), because without them they wouldn’t be able to check my blood counts or give me the treatments which will hopefully heal my body. I’m thankful for cancer because it has driven me closer to Jesus, deepened my love for Brian and intensified my delight in my children. Thank you, Lord, for fleas. You are faithful.

And He was faithful to Corrie and Betsie, too. Weeks after they prayed and thanked God for their fleas, Betsie came to Corrie, excited. They had been given incredible freedom in the big room where they worked, knitting socks for the German soldiers. When asked to come in and sort out some confusion about those socks, the supervisor refused to set foot in the room. “That place is crawling with fleas!” she said. Corrie and Betsie were overwhelmed… they were faithful to thank God for things which they didn’t understand.

I think my struggle with being thankful has come from a misunderstanding of what thanksgiving really is. Being thankful doesn’t minimize the pain. It doesn’t take what I’m going through and throw it all away or make it meaningless. In fact, being thankful deepens the meaning, because it helps me to see my Savior and it drives me to focus on Him in the midst of pain. The reality is we live in a fallen world, and I hate the fleas. I hate cancer. I hate my treatments. I hate, as Bri put it in his last entry, the dull routine of surviving chemotherapy. But I love my Savior and I am thankful that I can see His hand in the midst of all of this. I hate that acquaintances, friends and loved ones have to struggle and suffer, but I am thankful that I have friends to pray for, and I am thankful they are in His hand, too.

Neither go back in fear and misgiving to the past, nor in anxiety and forecasting to the future, but lie quiet under His hand, having no will but His.
(H. E. Manning)

8 responses to “Flea Bites”

  1. Oh, dear Angie, what sweet truth! Yes, He is faithful to bring you through this glorifying His name, just as He was faithful to Corrie and Betsie. You are His treasure, the apple of His eye. Nothing can separate you from His love.

    I will be praying for you today, and over the next few days as you find out how this new drug will affect you. Trust in the Lord, dear friend, for He is the one who makes paths straight.

    I love you!
    Sarah

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  2. So much conviction…so little time…

    Thank You, Spirit, for speaking through Angie and into my life. I do have so much to be thankful for and dare I admit it, even the hard things. Bless my friend now, I pray. Amen

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  3. B. A. Schlegel (Kristin Mullenix's aunt) Avatar
    B. A. Schlegel (Kristin Mullenix’s aunt)

    Angie,

    What a strong woman you have been and are becoming! I pray that your treatment today will not be too hard on you this week. What a roller coaster these can be. I will pray for your counts, your body, and for your spirit to be lifted by the Lord. Thanks for letting us struggle with you. Your words have strengthened me today.

    Love, Aunt BA

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  4. Angie! How right you are!

    We Thank God soooooo much when things go right (sometimes barely thanking Him at all) we forget that everything He gives us is something to bring us closer to Him. Thank you for sharing the wisdom God has been giving you. I rarely take time to thank God for fleas because I am to busy praying for butterflies. The cool thing is that sometimes the fleas are His idea of butterflies, we just can’t tell. That’s what you made me realize, thank you angie!

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  5. Angie,
    Thank you for sharing about the fleas in your life that you are thankful for. The story of Corrie and Betsy ten Boom is one of my favorites and it never ceases to overwhelm for their gratefulness in harsh situations. How truely blinded we are! Thanks for the reminder…

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  6. I found your blog about a month ago through another JMUers blog. I’ve really enjoyed catching up with you all through it.

    Angie, thanks for being so open and honest with all that you are going through. Your last post really ministered to me. It’s wonderful to see the Lord’s working in your heart and in your life. I’ll keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may continue to give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.

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  7. Sherry Misantone Avatar
    Sherry Misantone

    Ang,
    Thanks so much for the reminder, many of which I have had this week to be thankful in all circumstances. Yes, God wants us to be a thankful people, & He helps us by His grace to do this, b/c I know I sure wouldn’t be if it weren’t for His aid! I was reminding myself to be thankful for my sweet boys this morning at 2am when Danny woke up & needed to climb in bed w/us (& proceeded to snore loudly while I tried w/o success to sleep!:)) Hope your new treatment goes well. We continue to hold you up in prayer daily.

    Love ya,
    Sherry

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  8. The Hiding Place is one of my favorite books. Corrie Ten Boom really makes it so clear that God is in charge of every single moment and thing in our lives! Even fleas … biting, jumping fleas. I love that Betsie encouraged Corrie to thank God for the fleas, even when they had no idea what the fleas meant – what a great example of trusting God amidst unknown and seemingly dark circumstances. Thanks for writing about the fleas … I pray you’ll be thanking God for them in your life and that I submit to the Lord and thank Him for them in my life.

    with love, Jacquie

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