Contending for the things we hope for is not striving, it’s guarding our hearts in the hallways between what is now and what will be. Have you ever fought for a cause; wrestled for it in faith, prayed your brains out, and wore the carpet down in kneeling, pleading for an answer? Any answer? Have you submerged yourself in hope, believing for a miracle, or a healing, or a solution, or the salvation of a loved one? Have you been contending for years, or even decades, for this hope? But instead, you found yourself in limbo between victory and battle. It wasn’t a defeat, but it didn’t quite feel like a win. This, my friend, is actually holding your ground, standing firm, and anchoring to hope. It’s contending in faith while you are stuck in a hallway. It is what the scripture in Ephesians 6:13-16 is talking about– Therefore, put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Picture this with me; a person’s feet are dug in, they’re standing against an invisible wall of opposition and refusing to surrender. This is the scripture played out; After having done all to stand, STAND THEREFORE! It is the pressure of the circumstance that props you up to stand. You’re not leaning on it, you are pressing against it. You are contending in the hallway for the promises. You are pressing through the pressure. The tension is winding you up, even more to plow through. HOPE will win.
As I mentioned before in previous blogs, I, once again, had to fight the VA for Ryley’s behalf. In August 2011, Ryley was medically evacuated from Afghanistan with grand mall seizures. After CT scans and MRI’s, the civilian neurologist, that worked in an Army hospital, diagnosed Ry with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to his frontal lobe. But through the years, these records were conveniently lost in the system. I fought for Ryley’s treatment early on and was part of his care, meeting with nurse case managers, involving congress and making appointments and so on. I was being an irritant to the army for my son. And, like the children’s show, Blue’s Clues, I kept a handy dandy notebook of all of Ryley’s medical records. I learned early on the Military did not want to acknowledge Ryley’s head trauma. I don’t want to go on and on about this; as I mentioned in previous blogs, this has been a 7 ½ year battle. The bottom line was, the VA was once again trying to deny his injury, change his rating, and wanted to remove 60% of his income. This required a new evaluation. It has been nearly a year of us contesting the decision, and with that contesting, they could not touch his income until a hearing. We were in limbo of a decision.
I’m not the “kill the competition” kind of mom, but I will stand up and stand for my children’s rights. I will address injustices and challenge any bully. And the Army or VA was no different in my eyes. When Ry was injured, I was ready to contend. However, I did not enter this battle with the knowledge of the long war. I had no idea how corrupt the VA was, nor did I realize they were notorious for losing medical records. And honestly, I was tired. The best thing I knew to do was to declare scriptures of victory and pray for truth! As I waited, I worshiped, I rejoiced, and I praised God for being Ryley’s advocate.
Did I do this with ease at first? Absolutely not. In fact, when the letter came last February of the VA’s decision to reduce Ryley’s benefits, my heart sank. We immediately contacted an organization that knew how to navigate us through the system; The Disabled American Veterans (DAV). After a request for a hearing, we waited nearly a year to hear back from the VA. During that year, I was kind of hoping this whole mess would just be dropped. Then, in December 2018, the letter came of the appointment for his evaluations. When I read the letter of his scheduled appointment, I felt fear rise up. I was afraid of the “what if’. What if they take away Ryley’s benefits? What about all these years of working towards his independence? What will this do to his mental health? The “what ifs” piled up. Then I began to plan in my head the worst-case scenarios and what to do (you know, because I’m a problem solver). But then the sweet calming presence of the Holy Spirit hushed my anxiety with these words, “Holly, I want you to Dare to Hope Again.” Only Jesus can calm the momma bear in me like that.
I knew Jesus was not asking me to plan for the worst, but toexpect the best, to not prepare for a battle but to declare victoryand to shift my thinking and see this from Gods perspective. So,with those four words, I shifted my panic prayers of the worries of the “what ifs”, to the declarations of the praises of “AS IF!” I gathered my documents and enlisted my trusty prayer partners to join in the battle for Ryley’s benefits! I took every record I had of Ryley’s injury. Speaking of which, the VA had no record of his three–month stay in neurological rehab, or the diagnosis of his head trauma. This is common in the case of paperwork. And we have learned to keep multiple records. Ry and I showed up, trusted Jesus and then, after I showed them a few copies of my handy dandy medical documents, we left. It was very anticlimactic. My hope was sifted, tested, and tried. I was challenged to believe what I declared; that God was going to do what He said and contend for Ryley. It would be a month before the letter came back from the DAV of the VA’s decision.
As My husband and I read the letter, we lost our breath.There it was in black and white; Ryley’s benefits would not be touched, and his head trauma was finally documented by the VA. Do you have any idea what that means to us as parents, or even to Ryley? To know that our son was injured, we had documented proof, but the army and VA has been trying to cover it up for over seven years. He was not given proper treatmentafter he was discharged, and we had to look elsewhere for his healing. This last fight, the one the VA chose, was finally the one that gave us our biggest and best win.
I realize this is a long blog but bear with me as I attempt to encourage you. You see, these lengthy battles we fight, they have an end. The middle is the worst part. You can’t see where you started, and you have no sight of the finish line. So, don’t get comfortable in the hallway, don’t get used to a life without windows, there is a door at the end, and it will open. God sees from the end to the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and it’s how we behave in transition that tests our faith. Those long nights of worry can be flipped to worship. Those thoughts of doubt can be tipped into songs of praise. Our fear of the “what if” can be our trigger to Hope in the “As if!”
Romans 4:17 says God, who quickeneth the dead and calleth those things which be not as though they were (KJV). God declares those things that “are not” as though they were. Don’t you think we should get into agreement with the One who knows the end, and who sees the finish line? Hope is worth the risk. It is worth contending for. Don’t let the hallway scare you. Instead let it do what it is designed to do; transition you to the victory that is waiting