RSS Feed

Finding I AM

Over the past month, I’ve been participating in an online Bible study through the Proverbs 31 ministry called Finding I AM, How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart.

Each week, we’ve studied one of the 7 “I AM” statements that Jesus makes in the New Testament. It’s been eye opening and humbling and convicting and reassuring, all at the same time.

This week, the study came to a close with this declaration that I want to share with you. It encompasses each of Jesus’ I AM statements so beautifully.

Jesus, You are the satisfaction for every deep longing in my heart.

When I’m hungry for quick fixes or starving for affection or craving lesser things, Jesus, You are my Bread of life.

When I’m confused and anxious and exhausted from all my fragile efforts incapable of fixing my struggles, Your light brings clarity. Your light chases away my darkness. Your light of hope dispels the shadows of hurt.

You are the Good Shepherd who will find me no matter how lost or off course I wander. You speak tenderly my name and whisper wisdom I need. And then You encamp at the gate of my heart. You are the Sheep Gate, always there during my coming and going, protecting and providing for me.

When I get afraid of the daunting things that feel impossibly dead to me I will not be consumed with anguish or grief. Jesus, You are my Resurrection and my Life.

You are the Way when there is no way. You are the Truth in my life that silences the lies that scream in deafening tones. You are Life, certain and secure.

You are the true Vine I cling to and receive from all that’s needed to not just survive but to thrive. What I am facing today may be a delay or a distraction or even a devastation for a season, but it is not a final destination. For You, The Great I AM, will have the final say. You will write the final words to my story. And because they come from You-the source of all that is good and right and true-the words of my life will be glorious.

This was never about finding my answer. This was about finding You, the Great I AM.

I hope this encourages you the way it did me.

 

(excerpt taken from “Finding I AM” by Lysa TerKeurst, LifeWay Press)

Hello Again!

Wow, it’s been two and a half years (YEARS!) since I’ve updated this blog. So much has happened in that time, to all of us, huh? I’ll spare you all my details except to say we went ahead with gamma knife, Heath has been healthy, my dad finished radiation and is enjoying a quiet life at home with my mom, and Alex is hoping to finish community college this year and transfer to Mizzou in the fall with a focus on computer engineering.  Pippin and Merry, well, they’ve given us a couple heart attacks with their antics, but they’re still sweet little guys most of the time.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking and soul searching lately. My place of employment closed in November and I’ve been unemployed since then. I’ve applied to so many jobs I’ve lost track. I’ve even signed up with a temporary agency, but still, here I sit. I’m learning that through this process, I have neglected my spiritual life so severely, I can’t believe God hasn’t thrown up his holy hands in frustration and defeat. But he’s so faithful. He’s allowed me to go through probably the worst depression of my life. I thought of suicide daily. I had absolutely no hope or faith that anything would get better. Thoughts of the future terrified me and I just wanted to die. I couldn’t see any other way of things getting better.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder earlier this year and I’ve been on a rollercoaster of medications and therapy since then. My particular brand of bipolar has me trudging through deep, dark pits of depression with hardly any of the ups (or, mania) that some consider a hallmark of this condition. For that, I’m actually thankful. I have done some pretty destructive things to myself, my family, you name it. But, thankfully, the medication cocktail I’m on, and the grace of God, has kept the highs in check and the mania at bay.  I wish I could say the same for the depression.

Out of desperation, I began to pray to God to take the depression away. I told him I could no longer handle it on my own and that I feared I would try to take my own life. I knew that what I was feeling was a lie, my emotions were out of control and terrifying. I was literally wallowing in them with no apparent escape.  This went on for weeks. But then, I woke up one day, and I felt that my prayer had been heard and my mood had lifted. I felt like I could breathe again. God had allowed me to shift the focus off of myself, something I thought I would never be able to do, bad as I felt, and see that I needed him. If I was to sustain this “remission” of sorts, I had to trust God and start to renew my walk with him.

So, here I am, I’m reading my Bible daily, I’m in three separate Bible studies (I could never see myself in even one, let alone this many!), and my prayer life is bigger and better than it’s ever been. It’s like, once I took the focus off of me, I could see that it just wasn’t about me. I’m just one piece of the plan, my role is small, but I couldn’t fulfill my role while I was too busy focusing on my depression.  I don’t mean to simplify or negate anyone else’s experiences with mental illness, but I’m simply sharing my own experience. I know how serious mental illness is. I’ve not only been there, I am there. This is what’s working for me.

This morning, I was reading about Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. This is the only miracle mentioned in all four gospels. I happened to be in Mark and John today. It’s a beautiful example of Jesus’ statement that he is the bread of life. He took five little loaves of peasant bread and two fish, and fed all those people with twelve baskets of leftovers! This occurred right after the disciples had witnessed Jesus miraculously healing the sick. So, here we are with two instances of miracles, back to back. But then we come to Mark 6:52. I’ve been wrestling with this verse all morning. Jesus had just walked on water and calmed the wind and waves and the disciples were completely amazed “for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

How could the disciples miss this? How many miracles did they have to witness? They were doing life with Jesus and were firsthand witnesses to everything, yet they still weren’t getting it.

It made me wonder, is my heart hardened so much that I don’t see what Jesus is doing in my own life? Am I so focused on myself and worrying about not having a job or being so depressed, I’m missing the ways he’s ministering to me? What am I failing to be thankful for and how is my faithlessness skewing my vision?

I know God will provide a job for me in his time. Every time I go on an interview, I ask God to withhold an offer if it’s not the job he has for me. So far, I guess I haven’t found the right one because here I sit.  It’s a constant struggle to commit to that prayer. To be patient. To wait for God’s timing. I see our savings account slowly dwindling and I get fearful all over again. When I know, I know, I know, God will provide what we need.

I don’t know when I will again be employed. An offer could come today. Another interview could get scheduled. My husband could get a promotion. I don’t have to know what God’s plan is. Of course, I wish I did. Until one of these things happens, however, my job is to remain prayerful and trusting that God really does know what I need and will provide for me (for us) as only he can.

That is my struggle. Will you trust God with yours?

Probably not okay

Most of you know by now that Heath and I traveled to the Chicago area last week to meet with doctors and specialists at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. We had intended to stay only 3-4 days, but it was actually six days of appointments, tests, shuttles, and more sick people…enough to break your heart many times over.

I guess we’re lucky. I guess because Heath’s already had surgery to remove the bulk of the tumor and the rest of it is slow growing, we have more time than a lot of the people we met. We didn’t feel the same sense of desperation that was evident in so many of the faces around us. The “laugh or cry” attitude of their family member or caregiver accompanying them was one of the few points of sameness we did share.

The first few days, I kept waiting for “the catch” to this place…the other shoe to drop. But it didn’t. This place was wonderful. There were miracles everywhere we looked. People who were told they had only months to live are now years past that initial prognosis. Lots and lots of things I could tell you about what we saw and experienced. The bottom line for us is that CTCA recommended gamma knife as well, and they were very upfront when they told us that we’d have “a better outcome” if we went back to Barnes and Siteman. So, we’re pondering all of that and will make a decision sometime in the coming weeks. We have time.

But I’m tired. I know, that’s a recurring theme with me these days. Honestly, I don’t remember what it’s like to feel energized or excited or even happy about anything. I know I’m depressed again, if it even let up from last time. I sort of doubt it. I haven’t seen my therapist in almost a month, but I’m working on that.

While we were away, Heath and I talked about our faith and how we each seem to be handling this whole brain tumor thing differently. He knows I’m struggling. He asked me outright if I was angry with God. You know what? I am. I am very angry. And I guess there’s no sense in pretending I’m not. My faith has waivered. My arms are pinwheeling. I’m stumbling through the dark and I can’t even lift my head to see if there’s any light at the end of this horrific tunnel.

There. Now you know. And it’s probably not okay for me to tell you this. But, I’m nothing if not open on this blog. Some of you have commented to me in real life that you admire that. So, there’s some more for you.

I’m tired of being hit over and over again. Any one thing that’s happened to my family in the past year and a half has been enough. Any.one.thing. But we are getting carried out to sea. And it’s overwhelming. And I’m tired. I’ve built this wall up because the emotions are too much. There isn’t enough time to cry all the tears I’ve got stored up.

Right now, the name of the game is survival. Every day survival. Long term survival. There doesn’t seem to be a difference for me. And I’m really not okay.

Gamma Knife (or…Round Two of Heath’s fight against meningioma)

So I haven’t posted in awhile, and I want you to know it’s due to so many things. My depression was really getting out of control again, our son is preparing to graduate high school in a few weeks, my dad is now halfway through with radiation treatments for prostate cancer, and I started a new, part time job waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant during the week.  

Not a lot of time to ponder life’s mysteries. Or maybe too much time? I haven’t figured that one out yet.  About six weeks ago, we met with a radiation oncologist to address the residual tumor in Heath’s brain and explore our treatment options. Of course, we could have chosen to do nothing. Lots of people do. But, after careful consideration and even more imaging, it was explained to us that it’s just too close to the optic nerve and that darn carotid artery. The RO strongly recommended radiation and soon.  She told us that gamma knife is probably our best bet because the tumor was now small enough (barely) and still far enough away from the aforementioned “prime real estate” that the radiation beams could be targeted quite precisely. Here’s a short video that explains the procedure, and the nurse who appears in most of the interview is also the one who we met this morning during the planning MRI.  He was absolutely wonderful. He took us on a tour of the gamma knife facility, showed us where each stage of the procedure would take place, and even “paid” for our parking today.  I can’t tell you the relief that Heath and I both feel. What started out as a morning full of anxiety and unknowns, became one of peace and hope and even a bit of healthy anticipation for what’s ahead.  

We saw the actual machine.  We were able to touch and hold the frame that will be used to stabilize Heath’s head, and we were treated like guests instead of a patient and his “emergency contact” as we have felt at times during this ordeal.  Wanna see a couple pictures from this morning? Well…okay.  

The first picture is of the gamma knife machine. It looks a lot like an MRI, or even a CT scanner. 

Image

 

This next picture is of the frame that will go on Heath’s head–we had it upside down here, but you get the idea.Image

 

So, there’s the latest. We don’t have a date for the procedure, but we’ve asked to be scheduled for mid to late June. We wanted to be able to enjoy graduation and all the activities surrounding it without Heath feeling like crap.  Barnes has been very accomodating in this regard and we are thankful.  

And thank you, for your thoughts, your prayers, your well wishes, as we continue to walk this path…one foot in front of the other. 

 

So, admitting you have a problem is supposed to be the first step, right? I have a big problem. Maybe not BIG big. Maybe just a little big. Either way. I made an appointment with a therapist/counselor/psychologist/shrink. I guess I thought I could handle everything just fine on my own, thankyouverymuch. But, I’ve been making mountains out of mole hills lately, so that would suggest I need a bit of help, huh?

I probably should have made the call before now. But I just really, really hate asking for help. Even when it’s really, really obvious that I need it. Instead, I reach boiling points. Some of you have seen that.

This means I’ll probably be taking a break from the blog for awhile. So, if you don’t see any new updates, just rest assured everything’s going ok. Heath’s back to work full time. We don’t know yet what our next step is in his brain tumor treatment plan. Alex is still graduating high school this spring. My dad’s starting radiation for prostate cancer in a couple of weeks. And Pippin and Merry are still plotting mutiny, as always.

Thanks for reading. See you later.

Over it, already

Sometimes, I wish life had a fast forward button. (Yes, I’ve seen that movie.) 

I’m so incredibly tired. 

Heath is finally back to work, today marks the end of the half days. Next week, it’s full steam ahead. He couldn’t be happier. I’ve been catching up on household stuff that I couldn’t do with him around for one reason or another. And maybe, just maybe, the weather will warm up and stay that way and we can finally enjoy the end of winter.

It’d be nice if we could enjoy the end of the “brain tumor chapter” of our lives, too. But, it’ll always be a footnote on the page, no matter how far into the book. Last night was another reminder of that when we had to go to Barnes for a (scheduled) post surgical, possible pre-radiation MRI. 

It’s nice that Barnes has evening hours for these kinds of procedures. But it’d be even better if we didn’t need them at all. I still don’t understand why this terrible thing has happened to my best friend, again. I don’t understand why some people seem to escape life’s big challenges and some get hit over and over. I know we’re not promised a fair deal. I get that. But I’d like a little breathing room now.

I’d like to sleep through the night. I’d like that corner of my mind to not be constantly occupied by dark, dark what-ifs. I’d like tension-free shoulders and no stress headaches. I’d like to go more than a month without a serious medical issue in my extended family. I’d really, really like that one, like…really.

Sorry for being such a downer today. I’m finding that there are little things I can do to minimize the anxiety and stress I feel. I’ve cut down on a lot of small distractions, like online gaming, etc. And I’ve been cooking entire meals for my family nearly every night, from scratch even. 

I wish I could find this elusive “normal” everyone keeps talking about. The one everyone keeps saying things will get back to? Because it hasn’t happened yet. And I’m afraid it won’t for awhile. How do people do it? At what point do you throw up your hands and say, “you know what? This, this is how things will be and I’m not going to fight it anymore!“? 

The struggle is exhausting. Surely you’ve seen that line about always being kind to everyone, because they’re all fighting a battle you know nothing about. It’s so true.

It was a good day

This morning we went back to Barnes yet again for two more medical appointments, both follow ups, for Heath. The first visit was with the opthalmologist who has been treating a condition in Heath’s vision in which one eye does not sync up with the other. Her suggestion was to place a temporary prism “sticker” over his non-dominant eye and see if that would help correct the double vision, and it has, to a large degree. So, she sent us off with a prescription for new lenses, one with a permanent prism and that should be the end of that.

 

Next, we went to see the neurosurgeon for Heath’s six week post op follow up.  Heath was especially nervous about this appointment because he has been itching to go back to work and he was afraid the doctor would make him wait longer to do so.  But…Dr. Dacey asked Heath straight out if he was ready and then gave him the okay to start with half days beginning next week.  We also will have a new MRI done at the hospital on Thursday evening and that will determine the next steps. As we realized this morning, Heath very much still has a brain tumor, but it is residual tumor, meaning “left over” from the portion that was able to be removed. And this residual tumor rests in a delicate area that has to be dealt with sooner or later.  That is sobering. 

 

But today was not a day for worrying and we celebrated by going to the art museum and spending the rest of the afternoon wandering through the exhibits and enjoying the day together.  I even managed to get Heath to pose for this:

Image

 

All in all, this has been a very good day. The only thing that would make it better is if our boy was home with us to celebrate.  As it is, he’s on his way to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to compete with his drumline, Freedom Percussion.  Good luck to all those great kids, we are sure proud of them and all their hard work.