250px-WonderWomanV5In my mind I was wearing a cape. I was Wonder Teacher. I swirled my golden Lasso of truth over toddlers and they both admitted to and apologized for biting their friends. I tossed my Golden Tiara and unruly pre-k students immediately gave me their attention. My Bracelets of in destructibility protected me from tears, whining and arguments with incoherently exhausted little ones. I had skills. Preschool teaching skills. When I spoke? Kids listened. They even -mostly- did what I said. My days were spent playing in multi colored macaroni tables, sand tables, serving meals and cleaning up meals, potty training and teaching pre-reading skills and social skills. I loved it and I was good at it.

I remember my last day as Wonder Teacher. I stood near the classroom door at 5:30 watching totally out of control parents attempt to stuff wriggly preschoolers into jackets. I tried not to look smug as they struggled to do what I’d been doing with ease all day- getting their children to obey. I smiled as I moved in to rescue those having the hardest time. I used my tough but loving teacher voice. It worked. I hope they thought my smile was just my love for their kids…..it was.

Mostly.

I was also smiling about my secret. I’d taken an at home pregnancy test that weekend. I was excitedly: pregnant. As I watched those little bodies file out of my classroom, I was convinced 100% that I was going to be fabulous. Actually- I was pretty sure I was going to be a better parent than every one of those people who had just rushed out of my room.

I was ready. I had skills. I had a teacher voice and I wasn’t afraid to use it. I knew the warning signs for toddler meltdown. I knew scheduling and the value of structure.

I was also: 21. A newly wed. And yes-we planned our pregnancy. We’d been together for years and we were sure we were ready for kids.

That night I ended up in the emergency room.  I remember the invasive touches in the place I was feeling the most fear ever. I remember a few of the doctor’s words: “Spotting. Threatening to miscarry. Nothing to do but go home- try bed rest and wait.”

Overnight, I went from Wonder Teacher to paranoid bed rest wreck. I cried through Oprah. I cried through bags of Salt and Vinegar potato chips. I cried when my husband had to do laundry after work. I cried when I had to call work and let them know I was hanging up my Wonder Teacher outfit for good. I cried when I had to drop my college class. I also: continued to spot. Just enough to keep me on bed rest. I spotted just enough to cause panicked calls to my husband at work saying things like: “I think this is it. Don’t bother coming home….you’ll be too late.” (more…)

0001Caution: morbid, possibly melo-dramatic post.

(If you’re my mother- or a close friend- don’t freak. I’m fine. I’m just being honest about the fears that happen when Moms face surgery and or chronic illness. )

Purpose: To give voice to those concerns so that moms find out they aren’t alone.

What if: I die?

  • Have I done enough?
  • Have I loved my kids, enough?
  • Disciplined them enough? Too much?
  • Taught them enough?
  • Modeled enough healthy things? (Lord knows, I’ve modeled enough NOT healthy things.)
  • Loved God, enough?
  • Loved others, enough?
  • Will I go to heaven?
  • Will someone do my hair and make up so I look like a supermodel instead of just a dead version of me?

Who will:

  • Counsel and explain this all to my kids?
  • Keep up the laundry and the house? (I mean: who will remember to flip the couch cushions so they don’t break down.. and keep my OCD positioned pillows in their correct places????THIS IS IMPORTANT.)
  • Make time for each kid.
  • Encourage my husband. Be there for him. Love him? (Not sure I want anyone else to do that.. also: don’t want him to be without support)
  • Find all the things that are right where they should be- in plain sight?
  • Remember to lock the patio door-  front door and the cars?
  • Feed, water and groom the pets?
  • Remember garbage night? (and keep it holy…. sorry- sounded like the Sabbath there for a minute… oopsy told you- dramatic)
  • Mediate all the things that require mediation?
  • Throw out the underwear and socks with holes in them?
  • Clean up cat puke? (It’s a scientific fact: Only moms can see cat puke. To others it is invisible. Cat vomit creates tiny tears in the time/space continuum that can only be bridged by moms. Apparently.)
  • Throw out all forms of junk mail, so my family doesn’t smother in advertisements for credit cards and window replacements?

What if:

  • It hurts and I can’t hide it, and it scares my kid? (My kid- not a fan of seeing mom in pain. Nether am I, actually.)
  • It hurts and doesn’t get better?
  • The surgery doesn’t work?
  • The surgery makes it worse?
  • I end up paralyzed?
  • The surgery works, all goes well- and then it turns out I DO have Lupus and everything else body-wise goes straight to H***?
  • I can’t do my make up after surgery? (hello, vanity- party of one.)
  • The surgery works, I DO get better and i don’t have an excuse for why EVERYTHING still, doesn’t get done? (It won’t. Trust me.)

What if:

  • This is just the beginning?
  • I don’t heal according to my “Schedule?”  (Hello- 6 weeks puts me at mid august, I have a vacation first week in September, and school starts after the holiday…)
  • I lose more range of motion than I want to? (Seriously? Spinning my head around as a PMS warning sign- is just so: effective.)
  • I get addicted to the stupid meds, stuck in a burning crack house and fall through the floor only to have my friends and family watch me  die as the building explodes? (Sorry- just re-watched the last season of House…..PS: not faking my death. I promise. )

These are the thoughts and fears the fly through my mind like mosquitoes, as I clean house, wait for more blood tests and get ready for surgery. They don’t stick around long… just long enough to suck a bit of my peace out and give me a rash. They need to be recognized, addressed and then smooshed. Preferably before they have sucked up enough peace to leave a smeary mess when I splat them.

They need to be smooshed.

Because the truth is- in all likelihood…. All will go well. I will heal. I won’t die. Whatever autoimmune thing I have going on can be treated and managed. If I do die? Well, God has been there taking care of my family all along, and he will continue to. Even there.

I wish I could say I’m not afraid. That my faith means I know that all will be fine. But it doesn’t. My faith means that whatever happens…. God is present. Right there, in the messy middle of it. In pain, in sickness, in grief and fear. In celebration and healing. In all things. Present.

So that’s my prayer as I finish getting ready for surgery and for facing whatever autoimmune thing I have going on… (or don’t) …

“Dear Lord, I love you. I don’t like pain. I don’t like surgery. I don’t like fear. I don’t like the questions that I have. I don’t like the lack of answers to those questions, or even all the answers I do have.. it’s possible the house could overflow with junkmail and cat vomit if I died.. it’s just a fact…. But, lord,  I love you. I need you. Lord- whatever happens… be present. Be with me and my family… even here. Amen.”

So readers…. how bout you? Fears, rational or irrational as you face surgery, or serious illness? What do you do when they buzz in your ears like mosquitoes ready to suck the peace from your life? 

I:

  • Tell myself the truth.  (God is in charge and able, I am not. The world does not actually, revolve around me.  My kids and husband would be fine and are brilliantly capable of handling the house and life.)
  • Talk about the fears and concerns.
  • Talk to friends who’ve experienced what I’m experiencing.
  • Pray. Listen. Read and listen to the things that fill me with peace.
  • Do what I can to prepare what I can prepare.
  • Feel the feelings- then move on.

Do the next thing.

Which today, is: Get ready to meet friends for lunch, instead of worrying myself into a headache or working myself into so much pain I can’t stand it.

See you after surgery! Prayers appreciated- As of now, I’m scheduled for 11:00 A.M Eastern time- tomorrow- July 3.

Betadine, hand sanitizer and latex with undertones of stale urine and sweat. The aroma of sickness. The smell of the hospital. Even with my scent- challenged- since I had a nose-job- nose- it invades. And, I hate it. I also hate the noise: stifled weeping, strangled breathing, hushed talking- all accented by the whirr and beep of machines that ventilate, monitor and hydrate. I hate the darkened doorways and overly bright hallways. Walking from one to the other has an almost strobe-like effect, almost always resulting in a migraine. Or maybe it’s the stress of seeing people I care about sick and in pain that causes my inevitable after the hospital visit- headache. It could be both. Did I mention I’m not a fan of hospitals? Yeah. I mean it.

I hate hospitals.

Recently, I spent some time at a hospital, again. And I realized something…..It’s not the hospital I hate so much….Doctor’s and nurses are caring people- and I like caring people for pete’s sake. And I (usually) like the people I’m there to see……

What I hate, is feeling helpless. I’d rather be “a helper.” When something goes wrong- I’m like a second grader asked to help the teacher. I love it. I  love to problem solve. Got a sickness? I’ll look up the protocol for treatment. Afraid of the doctor? I’ll go with you. Headache? Here’s an Ibuprofen. I’ll pray for you- too. But-I love to find creative ways to accomplish goals. I am task oriented- I love to produce. From meals, to laundry, to do lists and  knitting …..I’m all about product.  I hate video games (Most games, actually) because they’re  a waste of time.. You don’t have anything when you’re done. I’d rather: make something, do something, clean something. Anything. The thing is….

Hospitals are places where I can’t produce anything. Except maybe- annoyingly loud noise. (Not usually appreciated in a hospital setting. Just saying.)  I think the noise is my verbal attempt to “do something.”  Anything. To help. Even when I can’t. Which- during that recent time with a loved one?  I couldn’t do. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t problem solve.

I was just: there. (And- yes- I was annoyingly loud.)

But- having been the one in a hospital bed before………sick and in pain- well and sitting near someone not well- in fear. I know this: even when you can’t DO anything to help- BEING there, matters.

Even when you think they don’t know.

Even when you think they can’t hear.

Even when you’re annoyingly loud- or awkwardly quiet.

Even when you think it’s too late and there’s nothing left to Do….being there- matters.

Being there- is doing something. It is a gift.

Presence- is a gift. A holy gift. A gospel gift. It matters. To the sick- and to his maker……

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

The hungry. The impoverished. the sick and imprisoned……how we love them- matters.

More than we know.

Hate hospitals? Go anyway. Fear the homeless? Offer a kind word. Just acknowledge that they exist.  How bout the imprisoned? Visit. Maybe even those who’ve imprisoned themselves…. in fear. in isolation. In pain. Visit.

Today I offer a challenge- if you know someone who’s sick- whether long term or not- reach out to them. Offer your presence. You don’t have to have answers or fix anything… just be there.

It’s enough.

A blue backpack has taunted me all weekend. “How are you going to send him out into this kind of world? What IF….”  The backpack stops from this:short.  Even an inanimate object doesn’t want to voice the fear we all feel.

My brain battles back… “What are the chances? Our school is safe. I have to trust God….”  But, still. tonight, I’ll pick up that backpack and do what moms all over America are doing. I’ll check homework. I’ll pack a lunch. I’ll sign notes and layout tomorrow’s clothes. Only, tonight, instead of a soundtrack of mental to do list review and complaints about smelly lunch leftovers in a lunch box, there will be a cacophony of fear:

  • “Maybe I should homeschool.” (Again. I’ve already been there.) 
  • “Are there flak jackets that fit under uniform shirts?” (I’m afraid to google this. If child sized flak jackets exist… well.. it just makes me sad.- Sadder. Which is hard to imagine.)
  • “Can a backpack be retro-fit with kevlar? Are there bulletproof backpacks? Should I talk to my kid about what to do…. IF?”

If I were a bazillionaire- I’d be tempted to buy an island and build a compound where my family and loved ones would be safe from sick or evil people. I’d put a bubble over it to protect us from chemical and biological warfare. I’d filter our air- and be sure to have a sustainable agriculture model that would feed us healthy, chemical free foods. I’d make sure we are UV protected. I’d have internet filters that would keep inappropriate content from ever being visible. (I can’t imagine surviving without the internet at this point…) I’d stockpile:  food, medicine, books and yarn. (We all have our vices.Oh and probably have weapons.. but as you can tell, i’m more about comfort than weaponry.) We could probably survive a zombie apocalypse, but, I’m not sure we could survive each other. I’ve been with these people on car trips.

We’d probably die of suffocation. Emotional or otherwise. Which- would make me a mass murderer, wouldn’t it?

It’s probably good that I’m not a bazillionaire.

Since I’m not, and honestly- even if I  were- I’m not sure I want to be locked away on a secluded island with even just my own brand of crazy….What DO I do next? What do I do Monday morning? After 20 children and their teachers were killed…. in their classroom? And a mother was killed in her home. And a broken, sick, messed up 20 year old killed himself?

Parent’s everywhere have experienced yet another paradigm shift. What once felt safe…. feels unsafe. What once was unthinkable, is more than real. I’ve spent the weekend trying not to think about it. I turn off the news after brief updates. My husband put up the Christmas lights. I did laundry and knit gifts and ordered other gifts.

But now- it’s Sunday, and the blue backpack beckons. The clock is ticking. Monday is coming. So is: carpool and pickup and leaving my child all day in the care of others….

Out of my control. (As if I have control here… but that’s another article, altogether…)

What next?

There’s only one answer….. I will pack the lunch. I will check the homework. I will pack the taunting bag and make sure he doesn’t forget it. I will layout the school clothes. I will wave goodbye as he carpools. I will be there to pick him up. I will do the next thing. Because that’s what moms do. To do anything else would be to let sickness and evil win.

I will be nervous. You may be too. I will have fleeting thoughts of island oasis’ and stockpiles that would make a “prepper” look like a sadly outfitted overnight camper.

I will pray. I will trust.

I will pray that God will protect…… I know He does… but I will also pray that God will be present – even here. Regardless of the circumstance. As he was- in Sandy Hook. In the heroic acts of teachers- and first responders, and the invisible loving arms that welcomed little ones too soon, into eternity. After a year of facing several surgeries, and cancer and financial struggles and all the rest of life we’ve experienced…- I know this for sure: Awful things happen- But- he is near. Even here.

Friday- I chose love. Today? I choose trust. In my fear. Trust that no matter what happens Monday- God will get us through- as he will those so hurt on Friday and everyday.  To choose to withdraw and to try and seclude ourselves into safety… would only be letting evil win.

Which is all grand to say… but that backpack. It still taunts. I am still afraid. The world is not safe. I want to choose trust… but how do I manage the emotion?

What works for me:

  • Honesty. I will talk about how I feel. Even though I’d rather avoid it.
  • Connection. I will listen to the fears of others. I will find solace in not being alone.
  • Compassionate Action. I will do something to help others. I need to remember that this isn’t about ME. Nor, is life.
  • Prayer for me. I can’t change my emotions…. but God can, and He can help us get through anything- even a normal Monday shadowed by fear- which is what most of us will experience tomorrow.
  • Prayer for the grieving. I don’t have words- but I can weep with those who weep- and pray that God will be present in their pain.

So- let’s start now…. together. Pray with me?

Dear Jesus-  I come to you with a weary, fear  and grief burdened heart. I come to you with a backpack taunting me…. how can I send my child out into a world that is so dangerous? A world so full of all the things that cause tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting? How can I trust …  when I know that death, murder, sickness, abuse  and accidents all happen? I trust by remembering your presence in other pain. I remember your tender care at the cancer center. In hospital rooms. In funeral parlors. I remember your love in the darkest pains of my life and how you [eventually] bring light into the darkness. remembering helps me trust. I love you Lord- and ask you to be near the broken hearted. I ask you to be with every parent fearful as they pack backpacks for Monday. I ask you to be present as we face fear and choose trust. Lord- I know that in the end- sickness and evil will not win….let the defeat begin in me. In Jesus name- amen.

Moms, dad’s how are you feeling? How are your kids feeling? What works for you?

And… if you happen to be a bazillionaire… do you have any room for a nice family of five in your compound? (Just saying…… still feels like an option….) If you’re new to my site- and are wondering why the nest pic? Enter  “Even here” into my search bar…. you’ll find the stories of how God has shown himself  in nests….

**note: I use the term evil — not as a moral judgment- but to represent all that can break people and create fear and acts like SandyHook… – abuse, mental illness, sin, evil…

“Toes pointed. Dip, swoop step. Dip, swoop, step. Now, right hand extends- REACH- Lean forward. Stretch. You can do this….. Hand Down. Kick legs up. 1, 2 Legs over…..”

“BAM”

All the self-talk and coaching in the world couldn’t have stopped it from happening. Instead of a graceful round-off- as planned-I landed flat on my butt. On the floor. The balance beam a few feet away- mocking me with it’s blond wooden sheen. Which wouldn’t have been a problem (I was well padded  even back then.Yup- I’m butt cursed. Or blessed. Depends on your perspective.)except my lungs quit working at the same time. Apparently they are not as well padded.

I couldn’t get up. Actually? I couldn’t move. I fell over in slow motion, like a rag doll left in a breeze. “Shake it off. You’re ok.” I heard my “coach” call out. (This was in the old days, when gymnastics cost less than a college education and was mostly for what we called: fun. The term “coach” applied to a tall bald guy who liked to wear shorts to work. Which is okay- because I was no Nadia comaneci. Obviously. Hence the Butt slam that left me breathless.)

Except- I wasn’t  okay. I knew it. Actually-  I was pretty sure I was dying. My chest was making all the movements that normally caused oxygen to flow through my lungs- but it wasn’t flowing! I felt like someone had held a Hoover over my mouth and sucked the air out of my lungs like deflating a balloon. Then, it felt like they’d put just enough Elmer’s school glue in to make the sides stick together and make it impossible to refill. I wondered if the world had suddenly “vaccuumized” itself. Or if maybe the Earth’s atmosphere had suddenly gone AWOL. But, since I was the only one drooling on the floor mat-  I knew it was probably just me. Dying. Possibly due to my round- off. Which was more like a flop- off and onto the floor.

I was panicked and paralyzed. The more I tried to breathe- the more I couldn’t. (more…)

“It should be in the glove compartment.”

There may have been some reproach in the tone of my voice when I said that. I mean- isn’t that where the proof of insurance always is? Why does everyone think I know where everything is? It’s not MY car.  Besides- I get tired of my uterus being mistaken for a GPS. (And I may have a slight case of PMS- just a heads up.)

I spent the next hour digging through glove compartment boxes, the fire safe and the dreaded “mail basket.” (AKA: the basket -where mail goes to die.)

Apparently my GPS is as glitchy as our Garmin that sent me the scenic route to my last speaking gig, because I did not find it. ANYWHERE. I did, however, find approximately $327.00 dollars worth of un-mailed thank you, birthday card and holiday cards. And a pair of leopard print shoe laces. (I wondered where those were.) (FYI- your insurance company can probably email you a temporary copy. Just in case, you know- you also have the filing skills of say, a senile beagle- as I, apparently, do.)

Fortunately- the email arrived in time for middle child to take it with him for his road test. (And the printer was not out of ink. For once.) Bullet dodged. In addition-hubby’s car was cleaned out- because I could not search through that mess without cleaning it up. (Which is probably why searching for things takes me sooooo long. I make huge messes then have to clean them up as I go. Okay- I clean them up after I find what’s missing- griping the whole time. Hmm could it also be a clean-up conspiracy where my guys know if something goes missing- I go cleaning?)

Anyway-once the road test was passed- we needed to gather the child’s “puppy papers” so he could become a  legal driver. (more…)

We were 15 minutes late. Which- while it is  typical of being- well: me. Is  NOT what you want to be for your husband’s first appointment at radiation.  Talk about heaping extra stress on yourself when in an already stressful situation. Oy. However- you do your best when trying to get a kid to the bus and still manage to put on enough makeup to not scare the cancer patients.

Or maybe it was because we really just didn’t want to go.

Walking (like a ridiculous race-walker in pumps because the 12 seconds I saved running from the car to the oncology/radiation center’s doors makes the difference between living and dying. Forget the doctors. We have speed.) into the oncology/ radiation center is yet another slap in the face of cancer- denial. Even though it’s about getting well- it still stings.

Late or not- the staff was great and we only waited a bit for our appointment. (Weird- you never see doctors running in late cause they feel so bad…. yet- they are always: late. But- I digress.) It’s not necessary to go into medical jargon- but suffice to say we’re moving on to the next steps required to kick prostate cancer’s butt.  We’re ready to fight and are thankful we have a God who both “gets” us to our cores- and loves us- in addition to friends and family who love and support us.

However- a slap in the face of cancer denial- also makes you feel… well… a lot of stuff.

Like:

  • Moments of panic. Because while we know God is both good and in control and has the power to heal- he doesn’t always.
  • Moments of overwhelming sadness. Because talking to your kids about their Dad having cancer- just. sucks.
  • Moments of uncontrolled giggling because of the irony of a “siemans’ CT scan machine being used to detect prostate cancer….(Say it out loud. Think about it. I’ll give you a minute…;)
  • Moments of  being afraid to make a decision about care- because: DUH. We aren’t doctors. I Don’t WANT A CHOICE. Just tell us what will kill the cancer!!!
  • Moments of overwhelming love for the superhero-survivor that is my husband.

Sometimes all at once.

Especially when you walk out of yet another consult appointment, feeling like your head will explode due to fear/ stress and choice of treatment overload and have to wait while he gets his photo for his official “I’m a cancer patient” get out of everything free card. (Still don’t know what that was about- but seriously- they had to take his picture before we could leave.)

My neck and jaw and head felt like molten lead as I plopped into the nearest chair to wait for his glamour shot. I wondered if my brains could leak out through my ear for just a split second. For another second I kind of wished they would… cause the THINKING about cancer is almost as bad as the HAVING of cancer…. (i.e. the stress sucks. I’m not just talking about ME– I’m talking about my husband….we’d both like a lobotomy to help us cope- k? Thnx.)

Which is about when my glassy, overwhelmed eyes landed on this:

Which looks suspiciously like this:

My inked reminder that God is with us….

In pain. In beauty. In Peace. In fear.

Even Here.

And I knew he was.

Dear Lord- thank you for being with us in this cancer- I hate this.. but I love you— amen

I stared at the fork in my hand.  I stared at the steaming pan of enchilada’s in the middle of the table.  Through the steam, I saw the smiling, gaunt face of my red-headed, dying friend and his beautiful, gifted with hospitality-wife. I smiled back. I looked to my left and saw my husband, to my right sat my toddler, forks also in hand.

“What if the doctor’s are wrong?  What if we can catch it from a fork?” I hated the thought, even as it formed. It was 1990. Until then, AIDS had been a news story, a health ed subject and a topic of gossip to me. Suddenly, it was very real. It was frightening, deadly and risky.

That day, AIDS stopped being a news story and became part of my story.

Why?  Because it was killing our friend. And it had the potential to kill our friendship.

Fork in hand, I had a choice to make. Would I allow my fear to pile hurt on an already bloodied and dying friend?  (There were some who whispered that people dying from aids “were getting what they deserve. And had brought it upon them selves” We saw how much this had hurt them more than the virus. itself.)

Or, would I trust in God and live the gospel I said I believed?

I swallowed my fear, and I dug into the pan, filling my plate, my husband’s and son’s with enchilada’s,  sauce and cheese.

Around that table, we shared a communion of enchilada’s and diet coke. We laughed. We cried. For a few moments-we lived the gospel.

I remember his bony, scaly red hand as we held hands to pray. I remember the tinge of fear again invading my heart as I reached out to clasp it. I remember the smile and warmth that met my hand in return.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

It wasn’t because we were fearless or a good people. We aren’t.  We did it because we’d be desperate for touch if we were dying. And because the example we have is Christ . He touched the un-touchables of his day.

I wish I could say that prayer brought healing. It didn’t.

Our friend died.  Because AIDS kills. It still does. Every Single. Day.

Some ask where God is when people suffer.  I think he’s eating enchilada’s and drinking diet coke with them.  I think he holds a rough, scaly, bony hand in prayer.

When we let Him.

Today is World AIDS day.

My question to you is- Will you let him?

Wondering what you can do?  Here are some ways to touch someone:

World Vision Sponsor a child affected by AIDS

Bloodwater– Donate $ to help find a cure and to help treat those who hurt.

In honor of our friend (Alan) we’re sponsoring a child through World Vision.  His name is Daniel- he is a first grader who lives in Tanzania.

I reached back and struggled to lower myself into my long awaited place of comfort: “My chair.” 

Everything hurt and all I wanted to do was sit down, put my feet up and take the strain off my neck and shoulders in hopes that the spasming would stop.

It didn’t. Instead of sinking comfortably into my place of respite, I plopped. (Plopping is not good 2 days after neck surgery.) Instead of sinking into a comfortable position, the chair pushed back against the neck brace and made the pain worse. “Maybe it will be better with my feet up.” I thought- leaning back and pushing back from the arms of the chair.

It wasn’t.

Unbelievably, it made it worse.

“Help me.” I sobbed to my husband. I was desperate to get comfortable.

He helped me from the torture chair, and up to the bed. We tried stacking pillows behind me. I could’t even lean back without straining my neck. I never even made it into the bed. “This won’t work.”

I felt panic welling up inside. “If I can’t lay down, I can’t sit down and I can’t stand up…am I going to have to go back to the hospital?” Let’s just say that was not an option. I’d had enough of the “restful” “recovery” time in the hospital. (Which included being bothered every 13 minutes to see if I was still alive…. or something like that.)

I ended up on the couch with 16.9 bazillion pillows propping various body parts into alignment. Before getting up to go -where all women who’ve given birth to 3 children have to go every 19 minutes- I activated the early avalanche warning system- I had to. The pets and children could have been lost in a pillow catastrophe.

It wasn’t comfortable. It was miserable.

The next day- we headed out to the closest furniture store to find a chair that would work.

It was like a scene from the three bears- The first chair was too hard, forcing my head into an angle the neurosurgeon would have vetoed immediately. The second chair was too soft. My butt sank into oblivion. Which normally wouldn’t have bothered me, except for the whole- “every 19 minutes” thing that would require a hoist or a forklift to get me out before my bladder imploded….Not good. I was in bad enough shape- an imploded bladder would have been more than I could take.

Finally, I settled into a chocolate brown microfiber recliner.

Every part of my body said: “Ahhhhh…”  The muscles in my neck and back relaxed. The salesman flipped up the arm of the chair and I heard a chorus of angels sing the doxology. It had: heat, massage and a power mechanism to raise and lower the feet/head…….

Finally. Comfort. Sure.. I was still in pain. But, in that chair- I could relax into the pain instead of fighting it.

It made all the difference. I’ve been living in (and out of, that chair every 19 minutes) by the miracle of electricity… I’ve never been so thankful for a piece of furniture in my life. It’s bionic and I love it.

When you are in pain, finding the most comfortable position/ place to rest is more than just about comfort.. it’s about healing. Your body needs to rest in order to heal….

While my neck is healing up just fine..

I’m now in another kind of pain. Another season of waiting, healing…..another wave threatens to overwhelm  me like an avalanche. This one is worse than pillows.

I’ve been looking for a place to relax into. It’s not as simple as finding the right chair this time.

I’ve tried a few things…. cupcakes (too messy and I could outgrow my chair at this rate… that would suck.) Shopping… (too expensive- even on black friday.) I was tempted to get my bike out and ride off some of the stress…. but that seat could put me back in the hospital if I fall….(The truth is…lately? Everything that can go wrong, IS… So, I was smart enough not to risk it….) Nope. Not one of the chairs I tried was right.

I felt that desperation again…. “If I can’t get comfortable, I’ll end up in the hospital.. only tis time it will be the psych ward, not the neuro-surgery wing.” 

I put down the cupcake. I logged out of Amazon. I closed the garage door. (Where my beautiful bike has sat since before my surgery:( )

I sat. On a hospital waiting room chair. (my mom was having her hip replaced… we were waiting… again…)

(Side note- hospital waiting room chairs are probably the least comfortable chairs on earth. I think that’s a plot to assure return business.)

The tears came.

The pain came.

The fear came.

The avalanche hit.

Instead of looking for a more comfortable spot, I just sat.

The truth is- I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed by all that was hitting me at once.

I cried out. (In my brain- ok?  I told you I was trying to avoid the psych ward….I wasn’t screaming out loud… but people, in my heart I was screaming. Trust me.) “God you promised you won’t give me more than I can handle… and if you think I can handle this? YOU NEED YOUR HEAD EXAMINED. Your assessment is seriously off. I don’t WANT to do this. It sucks and I quit.”  

I waited for lightning to strike me dead…..(Some of my theology is entrenched in cartoons… justsayin)  To be honest- for just a moment the idea of being instantly in heaven sounded pretty good. I am exhausted. In that moment- I could understand Job’s wife’s admonishment to “curse God and die…” I always thought that showed she was cold hearted… but maybe…just maybe she was the Dr Kervorkian of the old testament…..maybe she thought cursing God and dying would end the suffering sooner than later….

Instead of a bolt of lightning …  two words struck me. Two words I know God spoke to me a long time ago….. (But not in a galaxy far far away….I’m not that crazy, yet.)

“Even there.” 

Maybe the words bounced back from my memory… or maybe they were spoken to my by the one I know as God…. But I heard them. And I remembered them.

Suddenly, I sank into that uncomfortable hospital waiting room chair, just like it was my chocolate brown-bionic recliner. Not because “even there” means so much… but because of the promise that surrounds those words….

Psalm 139

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

“Even there.”

“Even here?” I asked.

“Even there.”  The words were more than words… they were truth. And I knew it.

Right here. I am not alone. God is with me. He “gets” me.  He guides me. He holds me- more safely and comfortably and securely than any bionic chair….Even in a hospital waiting room, even when the emotional avalanche hits…. Even here.

Maybe, it’s not about the chair after all.

Dear Lord- I don’t know who’s reading today or what kind of pain they are seeking comfort from- but, I pray that your words would ring truth to each of us….Even there: In fear, in pain, in bad diagnosis’,  in times of loss, in times of  financial crisis….Even there. We can find comfort in pain and rest even in an avalanche…..or an awful waiting room chair….I love you lord and ask you to be present… even here.. in Jesus name… amen. 

“He takes the shackles off my feet, so I can dance”

Mandisa’s words mocked me and brought tears to my eyes. I was afraid. I was in pain. I was on crutches and waiting for answers about what was wrong. “Do I have bone cancer?  Will I need surgery? Are they missing something? Will I ever be able to walk without pain?” The thoughts invaded my time of worship… or maybe they became prayers.  I could not dance.  To be honest, I could barely walk. I desperately wanted to dance. I’m one of “those” people. I am as expressive in worship as I am in everything else. The truth is, I am as hyper in church as I am everywhere else. I can’t sit still. I’m the Tigger of Christianity. It was torturous to not be able to dance. I swayed. I wobbled. I tapped my feet and pushed my limits. But, I did not dance.

The tears streaming down my face, left mascara skid marks.(FYI: Not a good look.)

That was one year ago.

I was angry. I was serving Jesus and (to be honest) I was suffering as I did it.. and I could’t even dance. Something I love so much -I think it’s part of my DNA. I felt totally ripped off. But- as Mandisa sang…. I found hope and joy… there are bigger shackles that I’ve worn- that keep me from dancing more than physically. Shackles of shame, fear, doubt insecurity. As I stood there…. I thought about all the ways God has been removing those shackles.. My tears of sadness and fear and anger- turned to joy. I knew that If he could remove those shackles- he could removal the shackle of pain I was going through….

A few weeks later- I was referred to a new doctor- an oncologist. (Yeah, that was fun. NOT.)  In the first 5 minutes of our meeting she confirmed that it was NOT cancer- and that she could fix the stress fractures that had caused me so much pain. A week later, she did just that with a chunk of titanium and some screws.

Last week- Mandisa joined us again at MOPS International Convention and she sang the song again.

This year- I could dance. And I did. But, I had to be careful. I’m once again, in a season of sucktastic pain. Every time I try to get healthy-(Ive been biking- as per the doctors recommendation to give up the running thing- cause we know how that ended.)  my body falls apart. We recently found out I have some pretty crummy degeneration of discs in my neck. And bone spurs. And Arthopathy. And moderate to severe narrowing of and impingement of some nerve roots in my spine. It stinks.

I’m in pain. I’m having neurological symptoms. (pain, weakness and tingling in my arms and hands in addition to my neck and shoulder.) I am having a hard time doing simple things, like buttoning my pants, cutting my food and securing my bra. Sometimes I laugh about it. (I call it the Zombie hand) Sometimes I cry. I am afraid. Yesterday,I had an MRI and I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon next week. I have a family history of severe back problems.(My dad has Degenerative disc disease and has had several procedures and my mom had her spine fused from t3 to the pelvis in March, due to severe scoliosis etc…..)I honestly have no clue what they will find/ recommend.

But I know this: one year ago- I faced many of the same questions, fears, doubts and anger….and he took the shackles off my feet (once again) so I could dance. I believe he’ll do it again. When Mandisa sang those lyrics again this year- I left the session with mascara skid marks once again. And once again- I found hope in those words….He has a plan.. to remove our shackles…… not just to let us stubble around through life- but so we can DANCE.

I’ll be honest- I don’t like the current plan. I hate pain. I don’t want surgery. I am angry and afraid. Those mascara skid marks were made by a mixed bag of tears.. hopeful ones that God will help, and angry ones that I’m in pain again. along with some happy ones that my leg is so much better…

I may not like it- but- I  know this- God is involved. I can already see it. My primary care physician gave me a referral to a neurosurgeon. Who just so happens to be the neurosurgeon who changed my mom’s life back in March by fixing what so many doctors had said could not be fixed. Her spine.. He gave her life back to her when pain was stealing it. He removed the shackles so she could dance……He’s also the head of neurology for a hospital our insurance participates with. I have to believe it’s not an accident. It’s God’s presence at work in our lives.

I wasn’t expecting that the hand/ tingling thing was my neck. I thought I had carpal tunnel. (Web MD: FAIL) I went into shock when my primary care physician said he thinks I’ll need surgery. I didn’t hear another word he said. But- when he handed me that business card. Of the doctor I prayed would help my mom.. I felt God. I was still afraid- But I’m confident that God will remove this shackle to.  I WILL DANCE.

My favorite verse- “He who began a good work in you, is faithful to complete it.” I believe he is at work even now. Completing his plan for me.To remove every shackle. So I can dance. If not here- someday in heaven.

I don’t know how you’re feeling today. But – someone out there is probably feeling shackled just like me. Angry. Scared. Desperate to dance- but shackled by something that won’t let you.

  • Is it fear that keeps you from dancing into the call of God in your life?
  • Is it anger that keeps you shackled to hurt?
  • Is it an unmet desire that has you shackled to need that makes you feel like you are too needy to give- or maybe even live?
  • Is it physical- sickness/disability junk that keeps you from – literally (or figuratively) dancing?

You’re not alone.  Neither am I- this (and MOPS International) is a safe place to share our shackles…share them in the comments- I’ll be praying for you. Maybe we can even help each other shed them- so we can dance. Together.

Lord Jesus- I pray for each one who reads- your word says you desire to give us freedom… I pray that we can find it  and hope in you. Remove our shackles Lord, so we can dance… in Jesus name- amen.

Shackles-

Written by Warryn Campbell, Erica Atkins-Campbell, and Trecina Atkins-Campbell

Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise You
I just wanna praise You
You broke the chains, now I can lift my hands
And I’m gonna praise You
I’m gonna praise You

In the corners of mind
I just can’t seem to find a reason to believe
That I can break free
‘Cause you see I have been down for so long
Feel like all hope is gone
But as I lift my hands, I understand
That I should praise You through my circumstance

Everything that could go wrong
All went wrong at one time
So much pressure fell on me
I thought I was gonna lose my mind
But I know You wanna see
If I will hold on through these trials
But I need You to lift this load
Cause I can’t take it no more

Been through the fire and the rain
Bound in every kind of way
But God has broken every chain
So let me go