Posted in Cancer, Community, Healing, Love, Shelter, The City Harmonic, Uncategorized, Vulnerability

Love, Heal Me

Mike and I got turned on to the band The City Harmonic because they had their song “Mountaintop” on one of the CD’s that he gets in Worship Leader Magazine.  We immediately were fans.  I don’t know if you know this about me yet, but if I’m blasting my iTunes on the computer in my office, I’m being productive.  I’m in the groove.  I love music.   Music is one of the ways I tap into God’s voice.  Music has a way of moving you out of your own way so that you can see the kernel of truth.  We hear music.  We sing along.  We think about the words.  It taps into the deep well of our souls in a way nothing can and it can come to us in our times of need.  I remember bits of hymns or praise songs or scriptures when I’m at my most vulnerable and raw.

This morning a song from The City Harmonic came on my iTunes.  It’s called “Love, Heal Me” and it has a powerful story behind it.  One that I knew about, but I didn’t discover the youtube video until today.  As a congregation, many have been battling cancer and everyone has been touched in some way by cancer.  I know this for sure and for certain that God doesn’t cause cancer or any other disease.  God doesn’t want any of God’s children to suffer.  “Everything happens for a reason” is no where in scripture, but God working all things for good (Romans 8:28) is definitely there.  The Psalms are full of people crying out to God in grief, in anger, in desperation….and God was with each of them then and God is with each of us now, no matter what battle we face.

Eric describes his bandmates, their families and the fans coming alongside him as he journeyed through cancer.  He says, “I kept saying I can’t write this right now. I can’t say these things right now.  I believe them, but I can’t say them right now. He said (talking about lead singer Elias) I think you need to write it.  I think we just need to do it.  And in that, in and of itself, him as a brother forcing me to deal with what I was processing at the time. That’s what we’re hoping to do with our music to the larger body because the truth is, I was in a really vulnerable and raw place and it really helped to get the songs out and to state what I knew I believed and what I knew to be true even if I couldn’t feel it at the time.”

My desire is that for the Church to come alongside people, to not give cliched answers, but instead to listen, embodying love and grace for all.  I want the church to be vulnerable and raw and for that to be okay.  Jesus doesn’t call the perfect.  He calls the messy people that don’t have it all together.  Don’t worry….that’s each and every of us.  As Roberta Porter writes in her poem Transforming Love, “God wants our lives — not Sunday morning shiny, but all the fragments of our failures, shards of struggle and sin we’ve gathered, hidden, on our way.  And in Jesus’ transforming love, his willing brokenness, sacrifice, rising, our sorrow and pain become gifts to be used for others, our weakness the dwelling place for the Spirit’s strength, our broken-open lives bearers of God’s grace.”  Even those who have been turned off by the church.  Even those who are angry at God.  Even those that feel like God has forgotten them and is not listening.  The world doesn’t need all of the “right” answers, the world needs a Church that is authentically caring about each of us, loving each of us exactly where we are, taking the time to build relationships with each of us.  As we sit at the feet of the Rabbi, as we learn to be true disciples that walk the way that leads to life, may we take off our masks.  May we let the scales of stress and expectation fall away.

Most of all, let us never forget GOD IS WITH US.  Every step of the way.  Through good times and bad.  Sometimes we need our Christian community to remind us of who we are and Whose we are, for them to help us sing when we can’t make a sound, for them to lift us up when we fall.  There’s an old Irish proverb that I think exemplifies what I believe the image of Christian community to be. “It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”  It is in the shelter of each other that people live.  My prayer is that as we continue to battle whatever adversity life throws at us, we draw closer to one another and to the One whose mercies are new every day, even when it’s hard for us to believe that.

“Love, Heal Me”

I’m broken down
I’m on my knees
I’m crying out in my disease
I’m so worn down
So won’t You speak
and tell me how
You care for me?
’cause You are God
You heal all things
Your name is Love
So Love, heal me
I’m broken now
Won’t always be
Yes, I’ve seen pain
I’ve seen grief
But how it fades
When I sing
These songs of love:
They help me see that
You are God
You heal all things
Your name is Love
So Love heal me
And I’ll hold on
‘Cause You heal all things
Your name is Love
So Love, heal me
I’m falling down
I’m on my knees
I’m singin’ out: You’re what I need
I’m singin’ out: You’re what I need
I’m seeing now You’re here with me

“Praise The Lord”

Praise the Lord when it comes out easy
Praise the Lord on top of the world
Praise the Lord ‘cause in every moment Jesus Christ is Lord
Even in the middle of the joys of life
There is always grace enough today to
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Won’t you praise the Lord?
Praise the Lord with the world on your shoulders
Praise the Lord when it seems too hard
Praise the Lord ‘cause in every moment Jesus Christ is Lord
Even in the middle of the long, dark night
There is always grace enough today to
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Won’t you praise the Lord?
Praise the Lord if you can sing it at the top of your lungs
Praise the Lord like every moment is a song to be sung
Praise the Lord: though it might take blood, sweat and tears in your eyes
There is grace for today so praise the Lord
There is grace for today so praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Won’t you praise the Lord?
There is grace for today so praise the Lord
Posted in Brain Tumor, Cancer, Health, Helpless

Survival Mode

I had coffee with a friend last Thursday night, and we both intentionally want the friendship to go deeper than just our kids play together, so that’s why we made it a no kid time coffee date. Two-thirds of the way through the conversation she asked me, and I’m paraphrasing here, if I had processed the surgery? I stopped before answering because I want to be honest in our burgeoning friendship, and I said no. Not entirely. That stayed with me throughout the entire weekend. I was shocked at the strong, protective feelings her initial question evoked and there was a definite shift in the conversation.

Mike and I celebrated a long overdue date night. We had received a gift card for Mark’s Prime, a fancy place in Gainesville (thanks Brittany and Brian!) and we splurged ordering appetizers, steak, and dessert. (See Mom I do make an effort to eat red meat the week before chemo!) Then we watched a movie just right for us. Saturday was spent in typical fashion, Evy talking to Mr. Sun on our way to Krispy Kreme, Enoch threatening to put Mommy and Daddy in time out if we yelled any louder at the football game. Then Sunday it was a full day at Gator Wesley.

I didn’t consciously think about my friend’s question until they started my IV for the contrast in the MRI this morning.

Then left with no phone or book or students or laundry or things that need cleaning or ways to procrastinate, I was left alone and perfectly still with my thoughts for a whole 45 minutes. I’ve had longer MRI’s, but this FELT longer. I was trying to pray. To be present. To make this time somehow “productive.” To fight off the occasional panic attack. But the question remained.

And then fast forward to the doctor’s appointment. The oncologist’s resident came in first to ask me a few questions. I was struck by two things. The first the only person to have cancer in my family was my paternal grandfather (prostate cancer). After my grandmother died of a heart attack, the results came back the next day that she had leukemia. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t have our fair share of health problems, diabetes to the extreme on Dad’s side and cholesterol and extreme heart disease on my mom’s. But growing up, cancer was never something we worried about. My grandfather was given 6 months to live when Dad was a little boy and then he lived until I was a junior in college.

The second was how different this recovery was to my first surgery. They were DRAMATICALLY different. In 2010, I came out of surgery completely normal (or as normal as I could be…). The surgery in 2010 I had no deficits, except recalling some names. I woke up in ICU talking and thinking clearly, and I went back to work a week later, ready to be back. I experienced the same pre-op that I had before, but waking up in the recovery room unable to speak but fully understanding all that was happening around me and to me….(what I was experiencing was apraxia, which I define below)…and the nurse(s) wondering aloud what was wrong with me, they had never seen someone come out of brain surgery like this…and my people pleasing nature coming out for sure…me wondering how to communicate to them about my pain needs…wondering all the time if this was permanent…the doctor checking in because the nurses apparently called him…me trying to communicate with my eyes the helplessness I felt…and sobbing when I couldn’t communicate with the doctor. That’s the last time I cried in the hospital. I guess I flipped a switch. Moving into survival mode.

I was reading back through my “notes” before the MRI. Iphones have these things called “notes” that are an app where you can type directly into it. At the end of May/beginning of June this was my preferred method of conversing because it was still hard for me to speak at that time. Somehow it was easier for me to order the words if I typed them. In the midst of “notes” of song lyrics, movies to watch, quotes from speakers at the UMCMA conference, benedictions/prayers that I had to type up to say them, notes from our staff retreat in NYC, was this hidden gem. May 24, 2013, exactly two weeks after the surgery, I typed, “The quickness with which I speak comes back?” I imagine this was thrust in the face of Mike at some point, as I gathered the courage for days to ask that question.

I ended the work day with a meeting of a newly formed clergywomen’s covenant group. I could barely articulate to them the events of the day. They had seen the facebook post so they knew the results of the MRI. A fellow clergywoman, I had not met before today, at the end of our conversation, called me a beautiful person and I answered honestly that I don’t feel that way now. I repeated my answer, but I was unable to add or articulate the words that would disguise my bruised soul. So it was left hanging out there.

So on my way I called Mike debating if I should go home or back to Wesley before freshman small group. And he said that he had been feeling the same way. He didn’t understand it either. He said he had walked around the neighborhood with the kids and that made him feel better, to get out the excess energy. And he encouraged me to do a blog, because that’s the way I process. Why are we not feeling relief/excitement/joy at the good news of the MRI results? I don’t know. Maybe we never turned off survival mode. Maybe during “recovery” we never quite recovered. Maybe it takes time. My mom texted me tonight, “Ask Jesus to show you where he was” in the post-op. And that may lead to an entirely different blog post.

I’m glad for the friend who asked the question. Because she, without her knowing, set me off on a journey towards healing….

*** Apraxia (from Greek praxis, an act, work, or deed[1]) is characterized by loss of the ability to execute or carry out learned purposeful movements,[2] despite having the desire and the physical ability to perform the movements. It is a disorder of motor planning, which may be acquired or developmental, but is not caused by incoordination, sensory loss, or failure to comprehend simple commands (which can be tested by asking the person to recognize the correct movement from a series). It is caused by damage to specific areas of the cerebrum.