Update on that Spongy thing inside my Noggin’

  I am completely slacking on blogs right now which breaks all the rules of regular blogging.  Sorry about that!  I’ll catch up soon.  Right now I’m at a great conference and have tried to be as fully invested in it as possible, but there has been a part of me distracted.  Some of you that began following this blog when I started writing after finding out that I had a brain tumor and you walked with me through that journey and the recovery and even though the blog has become a little bit something different, I do still want to give you an update on that good ole brain of mine because I believe that this community of support has been invaluable and really a holy presence in my life and I can’t imagine my life without your prayer and support.

I have been doing 3 month MRI and neurosurgeon check ups over the past year.  For the most part, I try to keep moving with life and I give a sincere and concerted effort not to let these worries and fears rule over my life.  Then comes the time when I get the envelope from Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery in the mail with all of my appointment times and as Mike and I see it, I can feel the background stress and tension in me and those I love.  The unknown is so completely…humbling…scary…difficult.  There’s so much to unpack there but that would be an incredibly long blog and mine are already probably way too long.

Last week I went to my (I don’t really care to remember how many its been now) whatevereth MRI and the techs were asking how I was doing and what I was there for, all that good stuff and I told them my hope that maybe this was the visit where I could be increased to every 6 months or every year instead of every 3 months.

On Monday I met with the neurosurgeon and he said that it was the radiologist’s opinion that the part of the tumor still up there in brain/motor cortex land may have grown slightly but that it was very slight.  His opinion was that he didn’t see a change and disagreed with the radiologist.  We then had a lovely back and forth where I looked at the comparison MRI’s myself and tried to understand and that I got a chance to ask some hard questions.  Since Mike was not with me, I could ask some of the things that I want to know and would like to understand but that I don’t want to alarm, worry or hurt someone else by them hearing the questions or the answers.  Does that make sense?

So even though it was not my most favorite news in the world, I was okay.  My amazing doctor said he was going to take the tumor to the tumor board for them to decide if it had grown or not.  I called Mike and my parents on the way home and was okay.

Primarily I was okay because I was leaving the next morning for a conference and I just didn’t have the emotional energy or the whatever to process it.

Yesterday afternoon while I was in a workshop, the doctor left a message and when I hear him say his name I immediately get a little freaked out on the inside even though he’s a fabulous doctor – like fabulous – but it’s just anxiety producing.  But then he says an AMAZING thing – the tumor board doesn’t see any change.  AND because this place on my lovely brain has stayed consistent this year, I get to stretch the time between MRI’s to 6 months!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (I could probably mash exclamation points for a while on that one.)  That may seem like a little thing, but it’s such an act of hope and grace and peace to me.

And though I didn’t shed a tear on Monday, I couldn’t stop crying off and on yesterday evening.  Is that crazy?  The bad news – I take it and I’m like let’s do this thing.  The good news – I’m a basketcase.  In talking with a dear friend and colleague about this last night I told her as I was trying to process and express my layers of feelings that I really needed to blog about this.  For some odd, crazy reason this is how I started this journey – blogging.  And it has been such a healing and cathartic piece or even peace for me.  There’s something about putting it out there in writing and narrative that makes it something that I feel a little more grounded in.  I guess we each have our mediums – whether it’s walking outside or making pottery or playing baseball or journaling.  And I am thankful for this one.

In the midst of this I know that there are those walking incredibly hard and deep and heartbreaking journeys right now.  I think of the family members that are living this reality right now and the friends and loved ones who have faced challenges that I know not of.  Please do lift up in prayer those who are in the midst of the struggle of the unknown and in this thin place where anger and fear and sadness and grief and life and death and joy and pain are so close to the surface at times.  Each of us walks this journey at times.

And we’re not alone.

I have seen Christ in the colleagues that I’ve shared with here and that continue to uplift and inspire and challenge and hold me accountable.  I have seen Christ in my family who continue to battle for me.  I have seen Christ in the countless people that continue to tell me they’re praying for me or those that just give me space to be…and to feel…and to just cry or laugh or talk about it or not talk about it.  I have seen Christ when I’m by myself and I am vulnerable and just laid bare as a child of God.  Although there is no doubt that I would not have chosen for this piece of the puzzle of life, I have felt Christ’s Spirit and promise more tangibly and have felt the Body of Christ more profoundly and genuine than I have felt in my life.

I am grateful for a community of people that I can keep it real with on the sad days and the angry days and the joyous days and the rock and roll days.  I am grateful for a Savior who continues to be that Great Redeemer and Strong Protector and just that Amazing Grace who support us and girds us up in mighty, mighty ways.

So that’s my brain.

And one of the awesome things – 6 MONTHS!!!!!

Grace and peace to all of you.  I am gratefu for you all.

Tonight, Tonight – Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Jam

It’s a dreary gray day here in South Carolina.  We need the rain and I’m loving the cooler weather.  I’d probably be down with the gray skies too except it’s doing more pouting and looking gloomy than actually raining.  Let’s get it going clouds!

It’s funny to me how much the weather can affect our moods.  Every Wednesday when I would write the Wesley Weekly email to the students I finally realized I talk about the weather all the time.  My desk faces some big windows so you see where mind is.

Right now I’m closing out our Summer newsletter getting ready for a conference and doing various crazy things that are on the never-ending to do list.  But I’m reminded how easy it is to get derailed.  You can get some bad news or read something on facebook or email or hear about a meeting where your name came up or remember something that can send your day in a spiral.  Or you could in general not be feeling well or be in the midst of something that has you just feeling blah.  Sometimes I’ll find myself not in the greatest of moods and I’ll have I try to remember – when did I start feeling this way?  Is this just a general “funk” or did something prompt this?

We all have different triggers.  Some of those are questions about the future or if we’re really living our vocation or what we’re called to do or money concerns or health concerns or family worries or whatever.  There’s all sorts of anxieties and fears out there and it’s almost like the lie in wait for us in the shadows ready to jump is or being to creep in.

I have this funny suspicion that Jesus doesn’t want us to live a life of burdensome worries and mopey-ness.  I’m not saying Jesus wants you to be sunshine and rainbows all the time and I totally believe he walks with us in the most mopey of mopeys, but I also think there are some days when we’ve just go to jam.

The song, “Tonight, Tonight” by Hot Chelle Rae keeps popping up on my radio and I keep playing it on my youtube at work.  Don’t worry I haven’t watched all 5 million times that it says it’s been viewed.  Do you ever just jam in your car when you hear a song that is just fun and funny and you just start dancing and digging it?  Or have you ever done that with a group of friends or on a retreat or whatever?  I distinctly have some of those memories with Faith Hill’s This Kiss and Macy Gray and the Dixie Chicks.

I’ve been playing this song, one to keep me moving and awake on this dreary day, but also because it’s fun to jam sometimes.  Can you picture Jesus jamming along with you?  A stretch?  Maybe not.  But I can totally feel like sometimes we just have to let go and get moving.  Sometimes that means regrouping.  Sometimes that means some new inspiration. Can you hear Jesus being the one that says, “Come on?”  or “We can get crazy, let it all out.”  Now I’m so not saying that this was the intent of this wonderful Hot Chelle Rae.  Probably far from it.

But I am thankful for this sort of fun music that make you feel like you’re joining a live, active, vibrant party.  It’s not always a party day, but I’d like to think that Jesus invites us to the dance and seeks to give us that abundant rockin’ life!

So if you come by office today, be prepared – you could see a very silly and terribly dancing Narcie.  Join in.  Dance.  Have some fun.  Even on a rainy day.  Even the uncoordinated kids.  Even the serious and grouchy among us.  Even the ones that certainly don’t have time for this.

Join the dance.

And may that energy and passion and fun and levity and release and liberating feeling bleed over into our faith.  Yep, life can be challenging at times, but it’s also awesome and amazing and so much to be thankful for!  This isn’t a prosperity Gospel but it is join in on the freedom and contagious fun of life in Christ!

I Want to Go Home

There’s something about that saying, “I want to go home.”  We’ve been at the beach this past week with my fam and the kids had a blast playing in the ocean and the pool and going to the inlet to see Aunt Guyeth and catch crabs and play with Nemo the dog.  It was a great week.  But it’s funny, every time Enoch would get tired or cranky or even not get his way, he would say, “I want to go home.”

Now that didn’t mean that he really wanted to go home.  We would ask him if he wanted to pack everything up and get in the car, and of course he said no.  But there’s something about saying, “I want to go home.”

This past Wednesday parsonage families across the South Carolina Annual Conference moved.  These families are always close to my heart during this time of year because I remember how that was as a preacher’s kid in a parsonage family myself.  I don’t attempt to speak for all preacher’s kids because we all have different experiences and see things differently, but for me “home” was a big concept.

In the early years, my two brothers and I were sent to our grandparents house while Mom and Dad moved everything from one house to another.  They would set up our rooms with the our “stuff” and toys in them and it would feel a little more like home by the time we got there.  In one of these first houses, apparently I wrote my name and our phone number on the mattress in my bedroom in case it got lost.  I didn’t realize that not even the bed came with us and this was a running joke for the family that came after us.

We’ve gone down the road of explaining to people, yep, in our church one family moves out in the morning and another family moves into the parsonage in the afternoon.  For some reason, that’s a hard one for people to get.  It is a little strange.

As we got older we knew that when Mom started playing Steven Curtis Chapman’s “For the Sake of the Call” that we better get ready to move.  The Spring around the Cabinet convening time was always a time of anticipation/nervousness/fear that this would be the year when we moved.  And different families do this so many different ways in terms of how it’s communicated to kids, how the transition is made, how much of your own furniture goes, preparing the child to move, etc.

Now I want say that every move was great.  Or that every transition was smooth.  Or that each of us felt the same way about each place we lived.  There were definitely highs and lows and everything in between at each place.  But however we were taught to understand it, we knew that we were moving and that this wasn’t just something that was Dad’s job – it was his calling and that God would take care of us too.  Does that mean everything was always sunny and rosy?  Nope.  But I think I can speak for Josh and Caleb as well when I say that we wouldn’t be the people we are today if not for all of these experiences.

Even those times when we would say, “I want to go home.”  And that home be a house that now had another family living in it at our old church.  Some clergy couple friends have said that their daughter is having a hard time saying goodbye to her friends and her school and I totally get that.  It’s hard and tough and not fun.  And not all of us cope well.  Not everyone makes new friends easily and wants to leave the old town behind, but I think there are a great many of us that learn some things about ourselves along the way – making new friends, being able to talk to a wide variety of people, seeing different places and different communities and how different churches work, and all sorts of things that are just engrained.

So blessings on those this week in between “homes” and trust that not just home is where the heart is but home is also where you make it and how you create it.  Even if it’s the one picture hung on the wall or that one stuffed animal or everyone being together.  May we know and trust that our home is with God and that it’s not just something we cling to when we’re scared or angry or things aren’t going our way, but is something that is eternal and can’t be taken from us.  May we feel it and may we know it.

Prayer for Moving Preacher’s Kids

Lord Jesus, please bless all of these children moving this week whether they’re toddlers to teenagers.  Give them peace and strength and courage as they move from place to place.  Help the move be an easy one.  Give them the friends that they need and the comforts and hope they need for them to feel at home.  Create a haven and shelter for them in this new place and a community of faith and support to surround them and lift them in this time of transition and uncertainty.  Provide the teachers, youth leaders, people that will give them that word of encouragement and will nurture and help them grow into the people you created them to be.  Give their parents strength and clarity and the rest they need to not only be pastors and leaders but also spouses and parents.  Give them the time and priorities and balance of both church and family and the vision and tenacity to know what needs to happen when.  Help these families find the special things that they need and locate the right box or restaurant or grocery store or park.  Give them not just a physical house, but a real and spiritual home.  Help make their way easier and for them to know and trust in your providence and love for them.  Surround them in your grace and peace that they may be wrapped in your mercies anew each day.  In your name we pray.  Amen.