Posted in Family, Health, Holy Week, Mommy, Support, Thankful, Trust, Tumor, Unexpected

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.

Image

Posted in Community, Easter, Faith, Health, Holy Week, Miracle, Prayer, Support

Miraculous

ImageI got a phone call on Friday after a long week of good, fun, tiring and yet rewarding work.  It was not a number that I or my phone recognized and I’m usually tempted to let those go to voice mail since you never know if it’s a survey or a wrong number or who knows.  But for once, I didn’t.  It was a student who had something to give me.  A pastor of hers knew that she was a student at Winthrop so she wanted to pass something along to me.  That’s all she really said.  So I had no idea what this could be.

When she stopped by Wesley, she handed me a beautifully colored picture.  I love rainbows and bright colorful things so I liked the picture instantly.  She then said that it was a Mandala and as the picture says on the back – it’s a contemplative practice.  Rev. Annie Edwards who I don’t know, created this for me during my brain surgery in 2010.  She started it at 11:45 am and finished it at 1:30 pm – truly roughly the time of my surgery.  As she writes on the back, “This was done for you during your surgery, with love and compassion.  Your Dad is my friend.”

It’s beautiful and something I’ll treasure.  As are the prayer shawls, books, pictures, everything that has been passed along to me that I can share with others.

I am admittedly sometimes flippant about the surgery and I in some ways am pretty successful at brushing it off.  In my day to day life – I don’t walk around with a sign around my neck that mentions it.  When I get an invitation to the survivor’s dinner for Relay for Life, I am more often than not – surprised.  But I think, as is often the case with the things that we are flippant about, most of my bravado comes from a place that is truly grateful and humbled by the outpouring of love and support – so much so that I don’t know if I can express how much it means or how much even when it’s not at the forefront of my mind – that I depend and rely on the prayers and the Spirit of mercy and grace that I feel ever present.

It’s not something that I’m afraid to talk about, but it is something that’s deeply personal.  So yes, I keep it on the About Me part of the blog – though I’ve debated that – and it becomes a part of the fabric of my life.  Not definitive of all of who I am, but yes a defining moment….among many.

One of the things that struck me on Friday was yes, the picture, but also what the girl from Winthrop who I’ve never met, said to me as she delivered.  She talked about what a miracle it is.  I asked her what she meant and she said, “You.  It’s miraculous.”  No, this is not a big head moment.  I’m not slapping myself on the back. But part of me did want to slap my forehead at the “Doh!” moment.  I don’t know about you but I think it’s easier for me to see the miracles around me – my students, Spring, healing of friends and family, the birth of a child – but it’s harder to see ourselves in that way.  I don’t know if we can even wrap our minds around that.  But we can sure as heck be grateful.  And hugely grateful at that.  For the prayers of so many, for the love that encircles us, and for the hope of the resurrection.

During this Holy Week, my hope is that I not rush straight to the resurrection but that I take time to attend to the twists and turns between Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday and that I’m attentive to all that is the darkness and despair of Good Friday because we all have felt and walked and witnessed times like that.  And that when I hear the Good News of the resurrection on Easter morning that I feel both the impossibility and the miraculous and the ever present and real hope and promise that it offers.  May we know and see the miracles in each of our lives, our communities and the world around us and may we claim and treasure them!

 

**  Dad’s reflection on this time period – Holy Saturday Redux – http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/holy-saturday-redux/  I think about it around this time of year…and I appreciate his honesty.

Posted in Advent, Balance, Busy-ness, Centering, Devotional Life, Faith, Health, New Years, Tune Up

Time for a Tune Up

I’m sitting at the car dealership where there’s a computer kiosk, right beside a vending machine selling 5 Hour Energy Drinks.  Really.  In a car dealership you need 5 hour energy drinks?  Maybe so.  I don’t know if you would like to drink one in a waiting room though.

My car has needed an oil change for the longest time.  It’s one of those new kinds that instead of looking at the lovely sticker that the last oil change put on your car saying what mile to bring it back on, it tells you you’ve got 15% oil life left, 10% and so on.  Let’s just say I’m way over after the 0% and when you do that it flashes at you at all times this little yellow wrench.  You would think that the little wrench would have been annoying enough that it would have spurred me on to take the car in.  Quite the contrary.  In some ways it was a fun game to see how long it would take me to notice.  Especially on a drive to Columbia, there were many miles that I didn’t notice and then out of the corner of my eye I would think, what is that thing flashing and lo and behold I would remember the wrench.

Yes, it would inspire some guilt and I would think gosh, I am really stinking at getting things done right now but then I would remind myself it’s the end of the semester, things are crazy, a break is coming.

I don’t know about you but it seems like that’s a habit in my life.  There are times when I push through the busy and just keep going well past the yellow light of the wrench blinking.  Last night I began praying before I went to sleep and in my mind I started saying the words to the blessing I often pray when sharing a meal with the students.  That’s not a good sign folks.  When what naturally comes out is just the pattern and is not so much the heart, that gives me pause.

But is it a pause that I will do something about?  I don’t know.

You see, I would like to think that if my prayer life or my family life or my work life or my scale of sanity had a blinking yellow wrench every time I woke up to show me that I need to get a tune up, I would actually do something about it.  I would right the wrong or at least make an intentional effort.  You would think this, right?

But then again, I have gone hundreds of miles with this blinking light and as much as I feel guilty when others drive my car or if someone sees the blinking light, it hasn’t forced me to remedy it.  I may know that it needs fixing, others may see that it needs fixing, but if I don’t make the choice to do something about it, than it languishes in it’s oil-less misery getting worse and worse with more and more damage.

I think there are seasons where we wonder, is this the time?  Is this when I should make the change?  Is this the moment to make some new habits?

And then – at least I – think, well it’s not New Years and it’s not my birthday and it’s not some milestone moment.  Am I really going to do whatever this Is at least 6-8 times to actually make it a habit?  Is this a good enough moment?  Is it a dire enough situation?

When I first talked to my neurosurgeon about the brain tumor, one of the perhaps idiotic things that I asked, was if taking my vitamins now and exercising now what make a difference.  I’m not saying those things would have made any difference in the grand scheme of things but I look back at the irony of that question, like – can I get a do over and actually do things “right” and that make everything better?

We don’t do things like take seriously our devotional and prayer life, be fully present with our kids and treasure our spouse, and try to live as an example of the love of Christ instead of just a harried, frustrated, tired person, just because it’s “right” or it’s going to be the cure all.  We do these things because they help to make as whole.  God doesn’t command things just for the heck of it or so that we can walk around with halos.  God commands things because God wants the best for us and wants to save us as much heartache and hurt as possible.  The Honda company doesn’t just have the wrench light up for no reason, but because it’s something that I need to deal with NOW and not 1,000 miles later.

So what are some things that we need  to take seriously?  Is our check engine light on?  Or is it just an oil change that is needed?  What are some areas that we see as things that need our attention?

The awesome thing is that we don’t do all the work by ourselves.  Just like, I’m not the one in the shop working on my car right now, I’m also not the one who has to try to “fix” my life all by myself.  It’s not even really about fixing.  It’s about being open to God and God’s leading and opening our eyes to our growing edges.  This is not because God loves us any less or that anything can separate us from the love of God, because we know that’s not true, but it’s so that we are firing on all cylinders and are ready for whatever life may throw at us.

Oh my all of these cars references are killing me.  One more though – let us this day, this Advent, not just waiting for New Year’s, let the Great Mechanic open us up and give us the tune up that we need.  Let us be open to that.  Let us be ready for that.  Let us take it seriously and be ready.  Even in the midst of the hustle and bustle, there are times when we need to take a breath and pause things for a bit so that we can continue on in the most full and abundant way that we can.

Posted in Death, Dreams, Future, God, Health, Impossible, Romans 4, Tired, Trust, Tumor

A little too much…

I don’t know why but it’s been a hard couple of days in thinking about brain tumor land. Don’t worry nothing new – no change. This sounds so morbid, but on Saturday night I dreamed that I died – literally – and then went to heaven. Let’s just say in my dream, heaven was not what I expected. The pros – my three cats greeted me at the entrance. Who knows what that means…could be because two weeks ago I found out that the oldest cat Pug is in the beginning stages of kidney and renal failure or then again it could be because they greet me at the door all the time and any time they have thrown up a hair ball somewhere or made another mess Mike likes to threaten them. =0)

I don’t remember a ton about the dream or how things were laid out or anything and I am not at all saying that this is what it’s like or any sort of premonition at all (is that enough disclaimers there?), but I spent the dream waiting for people to get there. Now I know that heaven is heaven and duh we’re not going to be miserable sitting around swinging our legs back and forth waiting for the rest of our family to get there, but that was the dream. It sucked. Royally.

I didn’t really tell anyone about it until yesterday primarily because I had been thinking about it a lot and I know that if I say something out loud or if I write about it, in some crazy way, that helps me to process and make sense of things.

And then brain tumor stuff has just been popping up everywhere – wonderful friends checking in, a minister on the conference prayer list that we should be praying for, on everyone’s cancer statuses yesterday which was great, me still trying to get hair gel to smooth down the little hairs from the scar that are now long enough to look a little ridiculous, and the sometimes headaches and tingling that I often ignore but sometimes in one of these moods, wonder about. It is so stinking frustrating sometimes. On Sunday at the South Carolina delegation meeting we listened to a presentation on Benefits and Pension for close to two hours hearing about possible changes at the upcoming General Conference. When talking about life insurance and death benefits and spouses and pensions and insurance and disability for that long there is a large part of me that wants to just think of this as a tiny bump in the road and things are going to be fine and I’ll make it to the mandatory retirement age of 70. It could happen. I know that it could. And there’s another part of me that wants to figure out ways to provide and care for my family no matter what will happen and looking at all scenarios have as much of a plan as I can.

For the most part, I don’t even like bringing it up because I know if I talk to Josh about it while playing basketball or Mike about it when we get home from Wesley or to whoever in some ways, especially for my family, it stresses them out too. They don’t know what’s going to happen any more than I do.

It’s scary. And there’s still a part of me that is angry and frustrated that this is even part of our lives. There’s enough to worry about with kids and bills and living out one’s calling and vocational discernment to actually deal with all of this.

So that’s where I am. Saying to God it may just be a little too much and that I’m a little tired of battling in so many areas.

Are pastors “supposed” to say that? Who knows. But if I don’t keep it real and have my integrity than to me I’m nothing but a hypocrite and someone in denial.

The irony of this is that last night I preached during our sermon series on the book of Romans about God making impossible things possible. We were specifically looking at Romans 4 where it talks about Abraham and his faith. We then had some time of silence at the end where we could have a chance to think about some things that we would see or do or figure out or try or find if only we didn’t have doubts or fears or even sometimes “reality” holding us back. What would you do with your life if you could do absolutely anything and money nor education nor baggage nor what people would think were obstacles for you? What are some of your hopes and dreams for your family, your friends, your community, your church, your work? If we threw all of the “buts” out the window what would we grasp hold of and pursue?

What are the things that get in the way of that? What are some things we need to let go of in order to move forward and try to make our dreams into a reality?

These aren’t questions that you wrestle with for five minutes and than you’re good to go. Or maybe that works for you. I find that I have to intentionally pray and meditate and think and actually force myself to look and open my eyes and heart to the possibilities while telling my fears and frustration and failures to “shut it” for a few minutes so that I can see the light.

Because sometimes it feels like it’s a little too much. Actually sometimes it feels like it’s a lot too much. As excited as I was to move from 3 months to 6 months in the amount of MRI checks, there is a scared part of me that is nervous about that. What if that’s 3 months of something growing and us not doing something about it? I know that my doctors would never have let me go longer if I wasn’t ready to, but that’s what fears do…they somehow make it where even the things you want, you’re nervous about because you’re still feeling a way into a “new normal” or any kind of normal for that matter.

Then you go down the list of all of the people that have it so much worse than you and that things could be a million times more terrible….but that’s not comforting. I don’t want anyone to be going through anything like tumors or cancer or sickness and uncertainty of any kind. Does it mean that you’re thankful for all that God has done, is doing and will do? Sure. I have no idea what I would do without that. I need those times between me and God where I can say what I need to say and cry out and wrestle and not be censored by anyone.

We need time to sit and rest and be with God. We need time to let our fears and frustrations and disillusionment and grief go so that we can let new life spring forth not just in the midst of the weeds randomly despite everything, but in ways that we nurture and water and grow.

So I guess in this rambling post that may not be for anyone except for me writing and figuring this out – I need to find and make time to discern and be open to what God would have me do in this time and place, what God is calling my family to do, our community to do, Wesley to do. I need to trust that it’s okay that sometimes it’s a little too much and it can be heartbreaking and angering and discouraging and annoying. I need to realize that God is bigger than all of this – crazy dreams, long talks on benefits and pensions, things in my life playing up to my fears – and that God is with me and walking with me and comforting me each step of the way even when I want to bless the world and God out sometimes.

Posted in Community, Faith, God's Providence, Grace, Healing, Health, Thankful, Theodicy, Tumor

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.

Posted in Campus Ministry, Faith, Health, Life, Sermons

Choose (Abundant) Life

It’s that time in the semester when the students are getting really stressed out.  Have you ever wondered why they phrase is stressed “out” and not stressed “in”?  Yes if the stress starts leaking everywhere, it’s eventually going to come out, but there’s so much inward affect that stress has on us.  Facing challenging, difficult, and overwhelming situations from every direction can take a huge toll on a person and as the “prayer” section of Winthrop Wesley’s prayers and praises notebook seems to heartily begin to outweigh the praises you know people are starting to feel down and discouraged.

Around this midterm time it can feel like when it rains it pours.  It seems that when things begin to get hard, the difficulty sometimes can grow exponentially.   A couple weeks ago, we looked at Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and I feel like some of the themes in that text are cropping up all over the place.  God clearly lays out two courses – two ways in which life can go and God asks for us to “Choose life.” 

Choose life even when things seem out of control or insurmountable.  Choose life even when there’s no way things could in a million years work out.  Choose life even when by all logic in this world there aren’t easy or clear answers.  A pastor colleague of mine who frequently amuses and challenges me with his facebook statuses, posted this earlier today, “I watched some news this evening.  I watched FOX, MSNBC and CNN. The message I got? We’re doomed. There is no hope. Pack up your kids and head to the hills. Empty your bank account and hide your money under the mattress. Stock up your shelves. Be afraid, very afraid. And Justin Beiber made the cover of Rolling Stone. Yep, the world is coming to an end!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or crawl under the bed myself.  I admit that I have caught a little “Bieber fever” in that I enjoyed his Glee episode and some of the songs are quite annoyingly catchy, but I’m not watching the movie.  That’s neither here nor there.  His status was another reminder of very much what the world gives us.  We’re doomed.  There is no hope.  It’s like one of the Charlotte local news networks that Mike and I refuse to watch because the guy always seems so happy when something really awful has happened and he gets to report on it.  I know you’ve got to sell the news but do you have to be so gleeful about an awful car accident or shooting or fire?  

There’s a lot in our world that says yep, we’re doomed.  It actually would be a lot easier to say that in a lot of ways.  You don’t really have to work to bring about change and transformation when the world tells you it’s a waste of time.  What’s the point? 

But is that the way of faith?  Is that the way of the cross?  Or more significantly – the way of an Easter – resurrection people?  Is that the follow up of the verse – “Choose life so that you and our descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lords swore to give your ancestors to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”  It’s not just choose life.  It’s not just choose to believe in the bright side, the cup half full, the silver lining.  It’s not just reject the negativity that we all know is contagious, the complaining and criticism that does harm and not a bit of good, the spiraling of fear and angst that has no end.  It’s choose life that you may live – loving God, obeying God, and holding fast to God even when all may seem lost or today feels about as cruddy as it can get.  It very clearly reminds us that Jesus said he came to bring us abundant li

What does the word abundance conjure up for you?  Abundance is enough for everyone.  It’s more than enough.  It’s awesome.  It’s bountiful.  A bountiful life.

Is it hard to believe this sometimes?  Yes.  Heck yes.  We got word on Friday that Mike’s 2 year old cousin, Lachlan, who was born with some heart defects and has already experienced heart surgeries, now has a brain tumor.  The neurosurgeon would like to operate and the family is meeting with the cardiologist this Friday for approval of the surgery.  I can’t imagine what Leslie and Cullen are going through in these days as they await these appointments.  There aren’t any words or platitudes or anything that can sermonize that or make it go away and be all right. 

There’s that choosing though even in the midst.  And sometimes we can’t make the choice on our own.  Sometimes it takes a community of faith, a family of strength, a body of believers united in hope to help us continue to choose life.  There are good days and there are bad.  Sometimes it means that we need to cut out some of the negative – whether a toxic situation, person, or past hurt or wound that we haven’t given to God.  Sometimes it’s not letting our fears or our worries rob us of the joy of today.  We have to make the conscious choice to step away, turn off the news sometime or change the channel of our hearts and life. There are days when I know and feel and rest in the promises of God for the life that each of us is given and there are days when I get on Wikipedia and start the worry spin cycle of why’s and what if’s and let me tell you – that path leads nowhere good, productive, or very positive.  That’s where that holding fast to God comes in.  Holding fast to that peace that transcends all understanding, holding fast to the hope and strength that only God can give, and holding fast to someone that can give us more comfort and love than anyone else.  We will hold fast to the promises of God. 

I’m not saying that we all walk around as Pollyanna’s because life is real and it hurts and it really is scary sometimes.  The key is going back to the Source of life – to the Creator that knows our hurts and the things that keep us up at night and even the things that we don’t want to say outloud.  May we in the coming days and weeks and times of uncertainty or chaos or stressed out to the max, find ways to ground ourselves in the power of the One who ignites, breathes and drenches us in new life and hope each and every day.

How will you choose life today?

Yes this is beyond cheesy in some ways and pretty old, but definitely goes with the text – Big Tent Revival’s “Choose Life”:

Posted in Death, Faith, Health, Tumor

Would life change for you?

I know I haven’t posted much about the tumor lately and to be honest I haven’t wanted to.  This is not because I haven’t been thinking about it but the opposite.  I think this summer when everything happened, I didn’t really process or take the time to think about everything because it was so fast and then it was the school year and semester and you know how crazy that is.  With a little bit of a break over the past couple of weeks, it’s been tough.  I have a friend who says she only blogs on the bad days, but for some reason, I don’t.  I’m not saying that I haven’t had challenging days and hard days and have not blogged, but when I’m really wrestling with something, I just don’t always want to articulate or “sermonize” it.

After Christmas I did my latest MRI and the next day went and saw the neurosurgeon.  He said there was no change, so the little line of tumor on the motor cortex hasn’t grown and for that I’m thankful.  He didn’t really say anything new, but for some reason I took it more to heart.  I asked him whether I should get off of the seizure medicine or not and he said that was up to the neurologist but he also warned that it is more likely that I will have another symptom whether seizure or otherwise before an MRI would actually pick up a change.  Then he said that it’s not a question of if the tumor will come back, but when.

Now, I know that he’s said this before and I know that this type usually recurs but for some reason it hit me worse this time.  I think it’s because there’s a huge part of me and a sense from a lot of the people around me that everything’s fine now and back to normal and that I have to lead my life as I’ve always lived it.  And I do really want to do that.  It’s hard to tell if I should just go about business as usual or if my life really has changed completely.

I am a huge fan of wikipedia.  That may be completely against my English teacher self and I know it’s not always right or accurate but if you want something quick and consise – especially when I’m trying to figure out history during the Tudors or looking up actors or actresses – it’s a great site.  Did you know that I didn’t even look up “oligodendrogioma” which is the tumor that I had/still have a piece of?  Didn’t even think about it in the rush of the summer and semester.  The diagnosis and the treatment and much of the article follows exactly what we’ve been doing and I didn’t even think to look there.

Now part of me is glad that I didn’t.  I didn’t know that the median survival times for a grade 2 is 11.7 years or for a grade 3 is 3.5 years.  That’s a median I know and as the doctor said I could still live to be 80.  But how does knowing that information affect my life?

Not that we ever know specifics or a particular time table but if you knew you had say 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years to live, how would that affect how you live your life?  Would it?  Would you change what you eat or how much you exercise or if you take your vitamins?  Would you spend more time with friends and family and try to make more meaningful relationships?  Would you change careers or look at fulfilling your hearts desire in a different vocation?  Would you live your life differently?

I’m not talking about Tim McGraw’s, “Live Like You Were Dying” song and sky diving and rocky mountain climbing – love the song but that’s too cheesy of segue for even me to post.  I’m asking a real question.  How would you live your life differently?  Or would you?  Maybe it’s better just to keep on keeping on and keep fighting and do the best you can and not change anything.  Or maybe we should be living our abundant lives to the fullest every day regardless of any prognosis, time table, or outcome?

I don’t know.  I don’t quite know how I feel about this yet or if this changes anything.  I know that I believe that prayer is powerful.  I know that when I read that article or I read other materials about this tumor that it is miraculous that I have come away from this with very little deficits – not being able to remember names and numbness and tingling every now and then is significantly different than what could have happened.  I thank each of you and my community folks for this.  I know that God walks with those on the 3.7 year side as well as those that live to be 80 and that God’s mercy, love and grace is shown to each.  I know that we all have “stuff” to deal with and for each of us it can be a long and winding road.

When I think about New Year’s resolutions or I think about the future, I think very much of how we live our life.  How do we let our lives speak?  Would you live your life differently knowing…?”

Here are some quotes from the beloved Parker Palmer:

“Verbalizing is not the only way our lives speak, of course. They speak through

our actions and reactions, our intuitions and instincts, our feelings and bodily

states of being, perhaps more profoundly than through our words.”

“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.”

“Humility is the only lens though which great things can be seen–and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.”

“As a young man, I yearned for the day when, rooted in the experience that comes only with age, I could do my work fearlessly. But today, in my mid-sixties, I realize that I will feel fear from time to time for the rest of my life. I may never get rid of my fear. But . . . I can learn to walk into it and through it whenever it rises up . . . naming the inner force that triggers . . . fear . . . Naming our fears aloud . . . is the first step toward transcending them.”