For better or for worse

For better or for worse…

It’s been five days since my post on Entrepreneur’s unexpected brain surgery. Definitely a low point in our 36 years of marriage.

For richer, for poorer…

Emergency Room visit, five-hour surgery, recovery, and in-house rehabilitation; not to mention more CT scans, MRIs and other tests too numerous to count; and we’re not even to the part that involves treatment for any remaining cancer cells…let’s just say I’m feeling the “poorer” part of the vow. We met our deductible in…oh, about the first minute.

In sickness and in health…

In less than a week’s time, my over-achieving, fiercely independent, take-no-prisoners husband…the man who has come back from countless athletic injuries, a hematoma under a shoulder blade, rotator cuff surgery, knee surgery and, most recently, a kidney removal from cancer…has been humbled beyond belief by the need for a walker and help with the most mundane daily living tasks.

Because the cancer mass in his right temple measured 4.7cm and went deep into the brain, this necessitated the neurosurgeon cut around inside his head. And when people cut around inside your head, there’s trauma, swelling, bleeding and other damage that results in diminished physical abilities, capabilities and strength, And that’s in addition to the psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma that occurs when your body and thought processes don’t want to play well with what your brain want them to do.

But I signed on for the long haul. And a long haul is exactly what we’re facing now. Unless someone has faced this type of humbling disability, I’m not sure it’s possible to convey the feeling of sheer terror and helplessness that accompanies stepping into these unchartered waters.

It’s hard to remember that today’s “reality” will not be the reality of a month from now…or two months from now….or six months from now…or a year from now. Success will not be measured by the calendar days but rather, by accomplishments…however long they take.

Our lives are forever changed by this event. I’m not sure I can even comprehend what our family will go through over the coming weeks, months and years. All I know is I will be beside him every step of the way. I will celebrate the small victories as well as the major milestones. I will cry. I will curse the fates. I will pray.

“I will hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
~Isaiah 41:13

But I know we are not facing this challenge unarmed. We are not climbing this mountain alone. The outpouring of prayers and support is literally spanning coast to coast…as well as a few across the pond (a shout-out to my international Facebook/Bloggy friends). We are connected to an amazing support system and unbelievable prayer warriors. Earthly angels sent to minister to our family. No, we are far from facing this alone.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”
~Isaiah 35:3-4

And I need to remember this when the days seem overwhelming, when the nights are filled with fear, when the odds look like they are not in our favor.

entrepreneur-surgery

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
~CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

But, I’m sure it’s going to feel more like this…

We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. 
~Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966)

Thirty-six hours

Thirty-six hours.

That’s all that stood between us and our family vacation to Mexico. Luggage is packed. House sitter scheduled. Last minute cleaning in progress. We were leaving for the airport about 2am Saturday for a 6am flight….on the beach in a short 48 hours.

And then this happens.

Entrepreneur decides he needs to go to the ER. A nagging headache that had been previously dismissed as due to stress, sinus or seasonal changes took a massive turn for the worse. Coupled with nausea and the belief his head would explode, we head to the ER. Oh, and he’s got the flu.

And then this happens.

With a four hour wait ahead of us in the ER, docs send him for a CT scan to try and narrow down the cause of his headache pain. I head to teach my class at the university, thinking I’ll come back to take him home with some meds for his headache. We’ll resume the Tamiflu regimen and be good to go later on Friday.

And then this happens.

He texts me and says it’s not good and is being admitted to the hospital. “We see what looks like blood and a mass in the right temple area of the brain.” I hear phrases like aneurism and brain tumor. I hear the words I never wanted to hear again…..renal cell cancer met. I hear these words, yet they don’t really fully register.

I’m numb and my brain is in a fog. Somewhere in the cloud the word surgery is spoken.

Surgery. Brain surgery. This coming Tuesday. Valentine’s Day.

So not how I’d planned to spend that day. In four hours, we’ve gone from eagerly anticipating a relaxing tropical family vacay….to surgery for a hematoma or possible brain cancer.

All foreseeable plans cancelled. He’s admitted and taken to his room. MRIs and more scans are scheduled for the morning. But those are only to help determine how to proceed with the surgery. He’s in severe pain as we settle him in for the night. The next day will be filled with neurologists, neurosurgeons, oncologists and other medical personnel. He settles into the bed, a nurse finds him some food. Pain meds follow.

I retreat home and begin sending updates to family and friends. No sleep ensues.

So, now, it appears we’re going down this path again. A path I knew might be a possibility but never thought it would ever be this soon,,,,or in this form. Odd how two words can shake me to my core….brain surgery.

Thirty-six hours.

quotography-thankful 72

One Word for 2017

This ended up being a long post, so grab a cuppa and get comfy. I hope to see you all at the end.

Back in 2015 I started choosing One Word for the new year instead of those pesky resolutions that are always broken before the snow thaws in the spring. In 2015 Entrepreneur was facing a cancer diagnosis and my One Word was Fearless (fear less). I believe it helped me focus during that time and continues to be a reminder today.

In 2016, my One Word was Present. I wanted to focus on trying to be more engaged in life, physically, instead of living vicariously through today’s social-media-technology-addicted world. Did I succeed? Overall, I’d say I had mixed results. I did really make an effort to not be obsessed with my phone at the expense of enjoying the moment. Some days were very successful…some were colossal FAILS. But it did make me realize just how easy it is to get sucked into living a virtual life instead of a real one. Last year helped me try and find a balance and use social media more sparingly. Plus, taking care of grandchildren doesn’t lend itself to distractions! In fact, I found myself so present in their well being, work and teaching that a lot of other things took a back seat….like blogging. Which also explains why this post is more than two weeks late.

This year, my One Word is Joy.

I’ve become painfully aware that, while I enjoy a lot of activities and have had many happy moments, a deep feeling of Joy is something that has been elusive the past few years.

Most people would define Joy as feeling extremely happy or something that gives great pleasure. But I think I disagree. Happiness and pleasure are temporary…and most of the time they’re dependent on external influences. Once the source of the happiness is gone, then what? I tend to go in search of the next happy or pleasurable moment. So my life becomes a string of happy/pleasurable experiences…or not.

No, I think Joy is something completely different. To quote CS Lewis,

Joy, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

And, oh baby, is it ever hard to find Joy in the world today. That is, if Joy is defined as something tangible and measurable. And, who doesn’t equate Joy with the feeling of satisfaction and happiness when our world is all good? But, what happens when our world falls apart? What happens when we suffer bitter disappointment, unbearable loss or extreme suffering? But, let’s not be so fatalistic. What about the days when those technology devices we are addicted to don’t work seamlessly? What about when the basement floods or the (pick an appliance) breaks? What about when, after picking up after a toddler, we turn around to feel like a tornado went through the house right behind us? What about the never-ending stress of worrying about your children’s welfare? We certainly are not happy campers during those times. How is it possible to still feel Joy when it seems as though Life’s purpose is to exhaust us into submission?

I suppose it depends on your worldview. Happy and pleasurable moments come and go. If I base my mental well-being on only the things that go right in my world I’m probably not going to be very enjoyable to be around much of the time.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
~James 1:2-3

So easy to say, so hard to live. Many times I wish God would not test my faith so much.

If I base Joy on having a worry-free, prosperity-filled life….well, let’s just say I’m setting myself up for an epic FAIL. No, I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

My goal this year is to be more aware of when Joy speaks to me; to pay more attention to my inner voice so I’m not distracted by the temporary elation of pleasure and happy moments when everything is going my way; to be able to feel calm amidst the irritations, inconveniences and injustices of this life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13

And just to begin this journey with a positive attitude, here’s a photo of a recent instance where Joy made an appearance.

meridia-sunset
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
~Psalm 16:11

Dear Younger Me

If I knew then what I know now…….how often have we said that? Or, I’d go back if I could take the brain I have now with me.

Do you ever wonder how different life would be if your younger, more stupid self had been sent a letter by your older, much wiser self?

We’d be able to see what younger self was about to do and warn them, Hey dumb-@$$, don’t do what you’re thinking about doing or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. How awesome would that be? We could avoid a lot of pain, suffering and hardship.

And yet, all those stupid mistakes my younger self made…and the lessons learned….has molded me into who I am today. Okay, maybe I could do without some of those aspects but, on the whole, I know all those experiences happened for a reason. They all were part of a bigger plan and served to skool me in much more than academics.

lisa1976And yet…..if I could warn my younger self about life, here’s what I would say:

Dear Younger Me,

Love yourself. Regardless of what that tag on your clothing says, love the person inside those jeans. If, in your opinion, the packaging needs work, then take measures to become a  healthier me. And remember, you are more than a number on a pair of pants.

Stop being afraid to take a risk. But what if it’s a mistake? Then, it’s a mistake. The awesome thing about life is there’s always the opportunity for a do-over when the sun rises. Don’t look back when you’re 60, 70 or 100 and say, I wish I would have done…….

Life….your career, your marriage, your children….will be a roller coaster ride most of the time. Sometimes it will all feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, and other times it will feel like an out-of-control, downhill race to the finish line. And there will be those loopy-loops in the middle that make your stomach lurch. But the good and the bad serve a purpose, even if that purpose is above your pay grade at this time. So, don’t be afraid to live, laugh and love….a lot.

Don’t obsess over the small stuff….or small people. Everything from traffic lights to idiot drivers to that five cent error in the checkbook. Life is much too short to be angry or worried over these things. And, likewise about small-minded people whose mission in life is to make you feel inferior and inadequate. These are part of those character-building experiences your parents told you about.

Don’t wish away the pain. Emotional, physical, psychological. You’re going to feel all of it more than you’d like. It sounds trite, but the pain is there to teach and, if you let it, mold you into the best version of yourself. Rarely are lessons learned from the easy, good times in life. Life lessons are mainly learned through pain, heartache, struggles, challenges, devastation and loss. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is. So, embrace the pain and discover what you are supposed to learn from the experience and then move forward…not backwards.

Your faith will wax and wane like the moon. Life experiences will bring you to mountain-top epiphanies, but will also lay you flat with doubts. Through all of this, do whatever it takes to understand these are challenges designed to refine your faith and strengthen it. But even if you walk away and do unspeakable things, remember it’s never too late to turn around and come back. You are never too far gone for forgiveness and grace if you truly desire to have it. God may have just let you wander around feeling lost for a reason.

Some day it will all make sense. But, perhaps not in this life. And that’s okay. You don’t need to figure it all out. Trust that things happen for a reason and God has a specific mountain valley abyss path you need to take. Pray for guidance, and use your head and heart to make the best decisions possible. It will all get sorted out in the end.

With love,
Your Older, Much Wiser Me

And then I’d leave Younger Me with this music video.

Sharing with Life Through the Lens

That kind of woman

As if fashion magazines weren’t detrimental enough.

It’s common knowledge we, as women, feel more inadequate after viewing “women’s magazines” that are supposed to be targeted to us. Ridiculously thin, gorgeous models and unrealistic beauty expectations can make even the most confident woman shudder with self-doubt.

But if you really want to feel inadequate, read Proverbs 31. This is Super Woman, personified. And I wonder just exactly who was the inspiration for such praise? Because she doesn’t sound like anyone I know. And certainly not me.

Before we collectively throw up our hands in despair, know this….. the Proverbs 31 woman does not literally exist.

Nope. Never has, never will. Sure, there are those who may have come close, but they are few and far between. The majority of us will never evolve into this dream woman.

And that’s okay.

It’s speculated that King Lemuel may be King Solomon, which makes the person giving advice none other than Queen Mother, Bathsheba, wife of King David. A woman who knows a thing or two about what sort of wife a king might need by his side.

It’s also speculated the Proverbs 31 woman is most likely a combination of many women. She is the personification of years of wisdom…not a literal checklist to determine a woman’s worth. Of course, we should aspire to the virtues in this passage, but reality is such that most of us will never be able to live up to all these expectations.

So stop obsessing. This is not the gold standard for women. Stop and think about the women who are considered role models in Scripture. They may surprise you.

Eve: a woman who can’t follow directions.
Sarah: a barren woman who conspires with her servant, Hagar, to give Abraham a child. Then she turns on Hagar in resentment and bitterness, and has both her and her son exiled.
Rahab: a prostitute.
Ruth: a pagen daughter-in-law and despised foreigner.
Naomi: a woman who is without husband or sons.
Esther: a woman who manipulates events to sway the odds in her favor.
Bathsheba: a woman who succumbs to adultery with King David; and after her husband is murdered, she is made queen. Years later she plots against David to make sure her son, Solomon, inherits the throne over his older brother.
Mary, mother of Jesus: an unwed, pregnant teenager.
The woman at the well: a Samaritan woman who’s had five husbands and currently living with a sixth man. She is despised in both religious and secular circles.

Not a Proverbs 31 woman (in the literal sense) in the bunch. In fact, some ‘virtues’ are seriously lacking. What is important is God used each of these women to fulfill a larger, divine plan. He used their strengths and weaknesses and equipped them to be women he wanted at that given point in time.

I read Proverbs 31:10-31 and can’t help but feel I don’t measure up. When that happens, I have to remind myself that even though I’m seriously flawed, in Christ, I’m accepted, free from condemnation and can never be separated from God.

I’m a work in progress….just like all the other women listed above. But, the one thing that ties us all together can be found at Proverbs 31:30.

Proverbs 31

Playing along with those at Life Through the Lens

LTTL & Song-ography

daff and drops 72Texture by Kim Klassen; Lily, 80% screen with selective masking

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise.
~Laura Story, Blessings

Rain. Storms. Tears. Perhaps the hardest part of being a Christian is the resignation that we will have storms in our lives. We will have tears. We will have trials and hardships…sometimes unbearable hardships. Being a Christian doesn’t give us a fee pass from experiencing any the hard stuff in life. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we’ll magically live a charmed life. In fact, many times, it’s exactly the opposite.

This is a hard concept to explain to a non-believer. Why is there pain and suffering? Why are there trials, disasters and disappointments? Why would we look at these things in our lives as blessings and mercies in disguise?

Well, isn’t that a good question.

By human nature, we don’t appreciate pain and suffering. So, why are Christians so tolerant of God, who may not grant their wishes answer their prayers with desired results? Wouldn’t it make sense that God would want his children to be happy? Wouldn’t he want us to live a comfortable life, free from stress, trials, despair, fear and disappointment?

Not all the time.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
~Romans 8:28

Well, that sounds a bit trite, doesn’t it? It sounds like a great way to excuse God from ensuring “his children” are safe and happy. After all, isn’t he a Cosmic Vending Machine…a Divine Sugar Daddy…that’s there to grant our whims and wishes, and give us what we want if we agree to stick with him?

It’s a hard mindset to adopt…this suffering-for-no-apparent-good-reason thing. In reality, this is why many people walk away from Christianity. We seem to think this is a negotiable “you do [this] for me and I’ll do [this] for you” type of arrangement. Mutual benefit….but only on our terms.

Newsflash: we need to get over ourselves and see what is actually happening. After all, if you’re a parent, how many times do we say ‘no’ to our children when they whine about what they want? How many times do we let them struggle with a project or learning a new skill? Parenting is hard…it’s difficult to mold our children into responsible adults. If we step in and make their lives easy all the time, what does that teach them?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
~James 1:2-4,12

Trials, persecution, suffering, despair, disaster, challenges, failures….they all work to build character. When facing the challenges of life, the Christian realizes these things cannot be overcome without help….and that strength comes from a humble heart and the reliance on a sovereign God that knows what we need, and when we need it. Although, during those time, it usually bothers the control freak in all of us that we’re not privy to the bigger plan. We like being masters of our own destiny…just like our children.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Paul said it so well. All to often our prayers sound like this: “Puleeeeeze God…take this (fill in the blank) away from me.” When, in fact, it would be better to pray: “Help me through this, Lord, and show me what I’m suppose to learn from it.” Big difference.

While on this earth as a man, Jesus asked God the Father to take away what was about to happen to him. Jesus, the divine, accepted the persecution, suffering and, ultimately, death knowing his suffering was fulfilling a larger, more beneficial plan for redemption and salvation. And because Jesus experienced suffering, fear, disappointment, pain and despair while as a man, He uniquely understands when we experienced the same. Christians draw closer to Jesus during those times in our lives because we know He understands and will not abandon us. We may not like His methods, but we trust in His mercy and grace to make us stronger and shape us into a better being.

Linking up with those who share
at Songography and Life Through the Lens.

Reminds me there’s time to change

cuppa72Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair
Hey, hey, hey, hey
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s time to change
Hey, hey, hey, hey
~Drops of Jupiter by Train

 It’s been an interesting 30 days. The mug in the photo above has sat, untouched, in my cabinet for more than a month. A lovely gift from a kindred spirit who knows me well. It’s not that I don’t like it….I do…in fact, I love it.

But….I have not felt like an amazing woman lately. And every time I look at that mug, I cringed with the hypocrisy I’ve felt. The last 30 days have taken me down an unplanned archeological dig of self-reflection and discovery, and I wasn’t happy with what was unearthed.

While excavating my character, I tripped over more than a few boulders and fell flat on my face into some deep crevices. I call them Arrogance, Pride and Selfishness. And I’m not proud of any of those accomplishments.

It was an oh-so-easy slide down that slippery slope. Looking back, evidently, there was no resistance on my part. My brain did a masterful job fabricating justifications that glossed over reality and blinded me to the person I had come to be. The odd thing is, I hadn’t considered myself all that flawed. Guess that should have been the first red flag.

Sometimes, God has a funny way of getting our attention. His expectations are clear and his bar is set high…but he does realize he deals with fallen creatures that tend to turn a deaf ear to most of his instructions. Fortunately, he dealt with me on a personal level to not-so-subtly reveal these things to my heart. And to say it’s been a humbling experience is an understatement.

[Repentance] means unlearning all the self-conceit and self -will that we have been training ourselves into… It means killing part of yourself, under-going a kind of death. ~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

With those horrific realizations…and it was a horrible feeling when I finally owned up to them in my heart….my spirit broke. I felt very unworthy and ashamed at many of my actions, mindsets and decisions. I vowed to change, begged for mercy and  for divine help in reinventing my character.

And, although, this was a very painful experience and I’ve felt lower than an earthworm, I’m so very thankful it happened. I’m also thankful God, in his infinite mercy, decided to discipline me with grace. And that realization has not been lost on me. I deserved none of it.

The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us. ~C.S. Lewis

The mug is slowly coming front and center…not as an arrogant, narcissistic statement, but as a reminder that, with Christ’s mercy and grace, I can work towards becoming a godly woman; one that will be able to extend mercy and grace to others in the future. I also realized I can’t be a blessing to anyone while I’m beating myself up. So, as of today, I will try and put aside the personal and focus on others.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. ~Philippians 2:3-4

More than anything, I want to possess authentic Christianity, and for it to be evident….with words, or without. I know I’m a work in progress, and I will fail many more times before I leave this world. But, because of this experience, a veil has been lifted and I believe in moving forward, I’ll succeed in reinventing myself….again.

Participating today with lovely people in Songography