Here We Go Again.

In December I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon in Charlotte and since it was the last day of classes here and was a 7 hour drive, I decided to cancel it and find a neurosurgeon here in Gainesville.  I didn’t make this decision lightly and I looked up all sorts of things about the awesome program here and I asked around to a number of people.  I saw my new neurosurgeon for the first time on Valentine’s Day (ha!).  He ordered an MRI to be done the Monday after our spring break trip to Costa Rica (March 11th).  On Tuesday, March 19th while Mike and I ate lunch with Evy, the nurse called and said that the doctor recommended surgery.  She then set an appointment for me to talk to him about this for today, March 28th.

Mike and I of course called our parents.  I didn’t want to say anything about this before we knew anything, but needless to say, we’ve been pretty distracted this past week and because I try to be a reasonably transparent person, it was hard to preach on Palm Sunday or for either of us to function without a twinge of something always in the background.  My parents came to visit last night so that Mom could go with us to the appointment and Dad being the great MacMac that he is, could hang out with the kids this morning since they’re on spring break.

Three years have passed since the first surgery.  To review, my doctor in Charlotte removed what he could of the tumor but left a strip near the motor cortex of the brain.  The type of tumor I have is an oligodendroglioma and very thankfully it’s a grade II (low grade).  At the time, research and common practice said that you take a watch and wait perspective and treat symptoms.  Now, research says that you resect as much as you can of the tumor so that it does not increase in grade.  They will use computer guidance to make sure that they are as precise as possible in removing as much as they can of the tumor that remains.  All of the risks associated with brain surgery are still at play here (duh.), but even more than that, because this is on my motor cortex, there could be temporary weakness in my right arm, hand and face.  As he said, scenario A is much like the first surgery – I come in on Friday and have surgery, I go home on Sunday, and I go back to work on Wednesday (this is also because I’m a crazy person that likes to work – yes, I know).  Scenario B is I go into surgery on Friday, hopefully still leave on Sunday depending on some things, go back to work in two weeks, and then possibly do physical therapy and rehab for a month.  If removing as much of the tumor as possible gives me a higher means of this not turning into something worse, I’m willing to risk either scenario.  The doctor’s suggestion is to take the “earliest elective opportunity” to do the surgery.

I’ve decided to do the surgery in May – most likely either May 10th or May 17th.  What does this mean for our family?  The kids were 1 and just turning 3 when the first surgery happened so they thought Mommy was on a trip of some sort.  They’re 4 and 5 now so we’ll be handling things a little differently.  They’ll still be in school so that should help.  I am blessed with an incredible extended family….and in essence I consider y’all a part of that as well.  Mike has been an absolute rock in all of this and I can’t begin to thank him for living out the weight of our vows every day.  The irony of asking him today – do you want to have the surgery around our 11th anniversary (May 11th) or around your 34th birthday (May 16th)?  I know that God is with us and will provide – whether that’s within the surgery, recovery, sanity, financially or us trying to squeeze in two more days at Disney before June 6th when our passes expire =0).  I’m also looking at the beginning of May so that I can be present for all of the end of semester fun, but before things ramp back up for summer.  I didn’t plan on a surgery during my first year here in Gainesville, but I know that there’s an amazing staff, student leaders and board here and we’ll be good to go.  As always, I’m pretty open with questions – so if you have one, ask me.  I also tend to use the blog to process and answer things as I can. (Don’t be afraid.  I’m not “broken” or an invalid, and I’m still the same person.  Human as can be, but trying to figure it out….so ask, don’t just wonder.)

As soon as I get the actual date of the surgery, I’ll definitely post it and I will hugely appreciate all of your prayers!

So all that to say, I don’t have any big actual blog “reflection” tonight.  We just completed the Maundy Thursday service and I’m pretty spent at this point, which I guess is just about right with Good Friday coming tomorrow.  I am increasingly struck this Easter season that there’s no fast forward button between Palm Sunday with the Hosannas and Easter.  I also appreciated a song that my parent’s sent me when I told them this last week.  It’s Tenth Avenue North’s “Worn.”  Hope that during this Holy Week we are reminded of our redemption, peace and hope in Christ in the midst of the sometimes dark despair.

For those visual people out there that want to pray over an image….rock on.

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Every time I think of you

Gator Wesley is doing 24 Hours of Prayer today as part of Holy Week.  I’m grateful that students and staff have signed up to intentionally pray for our ministry, community, nation and world and that they are lifting up the importance of the power of prayer.  One of the scripture passages that Holly selected for people to meditate on comes from Philippians 1:1-6:

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.  Whenever I pray, I make requests for all of your with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.  And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

It is a blessing to have fellow travelers on the journey.  I’m not just talking about mentors and colleagues but also students, friends, and the broader community of faith.  I look through facebook pictures and read statuses of friends and students who are living out what it means to be a disciple and who are living out kingdom work with little to no fan fare, and I feel myself echo the words of Philippians.  Every time I think of you, I give thanks to God for you.  I may not be the best person in the world at keeping in touch and maintaining connections, but I am grateful and ever embracing the real community that exists when life is shared in times and seasons and when we are connected by our common purpose of sharing the Good News of Christ.

As we walk through this Holy Week, may we remember that we don’t walk this path alone.  May we remember the suffering servant that humbly blazed a trail for us with his life, actions, witness, and power this week.  And may we continue knowing that God who began a good work within us, will continue this work – with God’s grace, strength, peace, sustenance, and light – until the day of his return.Image

 

Pruning in Love

This past week 24 people from Gator Wesley served with Pura Vida Ministries in San Jose, Costa Rica. The theme was “Abide” and focused on John 15:1-17. If you haven’t read this passage in a while, check it out. It has all sorts of nuggets of wisdom and good food for thought.

Verse 2 has particularly struck me saying, “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” I don’t know about you but I’m not always a fan of people removing things or pruning when it doesn’t fit into my schedule or what I think is good for me. Some of the control freak in me wants to know the who’s, what’s, and why’s of pruning and all of the intricate details so that I can fully analyze the situation. Getting negative feedback or personal criticism isn’t something that makes us feel good. It often hurts. It can seem callous and cold or completely unmerited. It can also be our natural inclination to rationalize and push it to the side and not want to move forward. There are times when we need to shake it off and consider the source, but there are also times when people point out blind spots or things that we’ve been wrestling with and trying to name and figure out. This is still often uncomfortable and hurtful to hear out loud, but it also is a growing edge.

That’s the thing that I like about this passage. Jesus is not just randomly removing branches or tearing us down. Jesus isn’t haphazardly pruning a little bit here and a little bit there with no rhyme or reason. It’s not like when I try to cut Enoch’s hair thanking God that it’s curly enough that even if I completely mess up, it will be camouflaged enough that people won’t notice. Jesus removes and prunes so that we bear more fruit. It’s not pruning to criticize or punish or intentionally wound, it’s pruning to make us stronger and more reliant on him and his love.

To make sure that we know that this isn’t about us not being good enough, Jesus says in verse 3, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.” The definition of cleansed is “To free from dirt, defilement, or guilt; purge or clean.” So it’s not about us measuring up to unreachable goals, it’s about abiding in the love of Christ so that we can be in tune enough with the Spirit that we can tell the difference between needed pruning and the roar of the world around us. It’s letting God lead us to a place where we make a home with God – leaning on God’s grace, truth, discernment and strength.

This pruning is so that God may be glorified and that we bear much fruit and become disciples (verse 8). Sometimes correction, facing consequences, and hearing a hard truth is for our own good and our own growth. We want our communities to grow and thrive and we want the world to recognize us as disciples of Christ. As we look at pruning others may we look to the rest of the passage as we “love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you” (verse 12). May we prayerfully speak in love and hear in love. May we surround ourselves with people that really know us and truly love us. A community that, “knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” May we also realize that Jesus is one of these friends that wants us to dwell and abide in him, to keep his commandments and draw joy from that, to love one another, and to realize that he has chosen us and continues to want the very best for us.

*The video is Jame Grace’s “You Lead.” I appreciate that it lifts up that no matter how much the world is pushing or pulling, we are led by God in this crazy journey called life.