October 20, 2016
Yesterday I turned 60! Rich and I are in Arizona for meetings that begin tonight. We came a few days early to rest and celebrate that I made it to my sixtieth birthday. I think turning 60 would not have been so difficult had I not experienced heart failure six months ago. I have often said to folks since then, “I feel like I turned 80 over night!” My body has had to adjust to my heart’s capacity. It has taken six months of recovery to get to a place that I can set a rhythm that seems to be working out okay. I definitely have to have time for my body to reboot itself.
One of my favorite passages is Matthew 11:28 from Eugene Peterson’s Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I love the line, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Since my heart failure, I have been “Forced” to live the unforced rhythms of grace. I have had no choice. Here is what that looks like for me:
Depending on people to care for me. Rich and Alex have had to do the bulk of caring for me. I cannot emphasize how they have paid attention and attended to my every need. My family and friends have filled in with visits, prayers, meals, gifts and so much love that I think my heart is being healed from all the goodness being poured into my life. This has been an absolute necessity and so very hard. My need for others to do or provide for basic needs like cooking, cleaning, rides to places and so forth has been very humbling. The gift of receiving has become an unforced rhythm of beautiful grace.
Rest – I need to rest in order for my body and brain to work. Rest for me has become vital and a source of peace and strength. Whether I am actually sleeping or sitting and spending hours coloring, rest is a rhythm of grace that literally I cannot live without. Forced rest (an unforced rhythm of grace) has taught me that time is a gift to be treasured. Being present to the present moment has never been more real to me.
Surrender – Every day I have learned the grace of surrender. First of all, to the best of my ability surrendering my life and will to God. Letting go of the things I have no power over. I have learned that control over one’s life is an illusion. I have control over some things, choices I make minute by minute but in the larger picture of life and in my moment to moment breathing I know that God is the giver and sustainer of my life. The grace of surrender has become my lifeline to the transforming love of Jesus.
Gratefulness – For me, facing death square in the face and surviving has brought a new level of gratefulness for my life that I have never known before. I notice the smallest kindnesses, the smallest offerings of beauty and grace and I am truly thankful for every gift this life brings.
The poem Guesthouse has become my practice of grace.
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. – Jelaluddin Rumi, Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks
I am learning that the practice of gratefulness enlarges my heart for God, for my family, friends and enemies.
Faith, Hope and Love – As a continuation of gratefulness, I am thankful for my upbringing in the Roman Catholic tradition. I learned to love and know Jesus as a young girl. I loved mass and I loved my school.
Faith is a gift from beyond that enables me to believe and trust in the goodness of a kind and loving King of the universe!
Hope can be a challenge. When I think about hope I think about the song lyrics, “I get knocked down but I get up again.” I heard Dan say, “Hope is like a petite little old woman who can kick your ass!” That has been my experience. As much has hope presents a challenge to me, it also grounds me in the sentiment from Julian of Norwich, “but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’
And finally, “Love.” I cannot count the ways in which God’s love has been shown to me through out my life but especially in the last six months! I have experienced God’s love in so many ways, experiences that show me and say to me, “God sees, God knows and God has this!”
Here is one example. In the last twenty years I have had a reoccurring experience of people calling me “Ruth.” Either by people that don’t know me and think my name is Ruth or by people who know me well and call me Ruth and then say, “Why did I call you that I know your name is Rose??” This has happened so many times that I have wondered if there is some message to me from the biblical character Ruth. I have read her story over and over and have had many aha moments relating to her story and the work of God in her life. But here is where I know that God sees and knows me. I subscribe to a wonderful weekly email written by Ronna Detrick called “Notes from Her.”
I received this one yesterday on my 60th birthday! There is no way this was a coincidence! Dear One: Unplanned and unwanted, we often face tremendous loss, great sadness, and painful sacrifice. In the midst of such, we are hard-pressed to see how any of these things could possibly work out, heal, or offer anything good. But one day you will be surprised by delight, joy, kindness, and redemption that is yours to overflowing. You will recognize that you have, somehow, landed yourself in a vast and beautiful love story. You will see that you have been crafting a legacy beyond all imagining; an impact that lasts for generations. I promise. This was my life. And so too, yours. I am Ruth and you are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.
There are so many ways the unforced rhythms of grace are holding me in the unconditional, unfathomable love of God. These are just a few that come to mind as I celebrate 60 times around the sun!
September 30, 2016
It has been six months since I found out I was in very serious heart failure rather than having acute bronchitis. I am feeling pretty good. My body is adapting to my heart’s capacity. I have just started cardiac rehab that consists of exercising while attached to a heart monitor to see how much exercise I can do without putting stress on my heart. I am learning my limits. The past two weeks I did over schedule myself a bit and ended up feeling pretty rundown for a couple of days. My body actually felt sick. I am learning to pace myself. Even though I feel better I still have a lot of limitations because of my condition. I am easily out of breath and need a lot of down time so my body can reboot.
A very interesting thing has transpired. From the day I came home from the hospital I began coloring. I am not an artist but I found myself wanting to sit for hours and color. As coloring books came with almost every visitor (I am so grateful) I found myself binge coloring! I could not focus on reading, watching much TV but I color for hours and hours at a time. A few months ago the strangest thing began to happen. I would be coloring in the quiet, no one around and random memories began to present themselves. I would not be thinking about anything and a memory of being four-year-old in the backyard smelling the laundry hanging on the clothes line, or I am in the hospital after my oldest son was born, or I am on a trip. Random memories from all stages of my life started coming up. Mostly good memories were coming up. I was a little afraid that it was because I didn’t have much time left. I thought, “My life is passing before me” and it made me wonder if my body knew something. I recently told my therapist about it and he said, “No, your coloring is accessing both hemispheres of your brain and it is healing the trauma of the last year that landed you in heart failure and almost dying!” He said it is like doing EMDR work. It is amazing to me that we are wired to heal. Without even knowing my brain craved the very thing that could bring healing to the trauma. If I go a day without coloring, it is almost like an obsession. I need to color!
Living As Though You Don’t Have Much Time Left
Have you seen the commercial that goes something like this? An elderly man is looking out the window singing, “The sun will come out tomorrow.” Then the voice over says. “For people with Heart Failure tomorrow is not a given.” I actually don’t like the commercial because it reminds me that tomorrow is not a given for me. Because of that realization it has made me very mindful of how I want to spend my time and energy. I find it interesting that living as though I don’t have much time left has not made me anxious trying to fill each day as if it is the last. Just the opposite has happened for me. I want to savor memories, moments, and I have learned in this season that rest is a must. I am living in the present moment more than I ever have in my life. Early on when I came home from the hospital my friend Julie Clark prayed for me. She had a sense that I would find treasures in the day-to-day moments as I recovered. This has been absolutely my experience. One quiet morning while sitting on my deck drinking coffee all of a sudden my faithful little dog tore off barking at a squirrel in the trees. The next thing I see and hear is a crow landing in the tree, “Caw, caw, caw,” and Mr. B goes doubly crazy! Then the next-door neighbor’s cat has been calmly watching the animal circus in our backyard decides to jump in. She jumps from tree to tree, enjoying teasing my little dog. Mr. B runs from tree to tree – the squirrel, the crow and the cat exceedingly thrilled that they are tormenting this little white dog. I was so entertained! These are the moments I sit and marvel at the beauty of creation and I am grateful for the treasure it truly is.
I have also spent time reflecting on my life. This past week I have noticed so many little things. Things I have taken for granted and now realizing how rich my life is. Several weeks ago as summer was coming to a close, Rich and I sat on the deck and noticed dragonflies, butterflies and all matter of small flying creatures. We sat in the sun and gave thanks for where we live and how gracious God has been to us for the past twenty years! We will be married twenty years in December. We thought about how insanely blessed we are to have been able to travel to places we never imagined we would be able to see. I have been to Italy, France, and Thailand with Rich, Alex and Nicole. Rich and I have been to Italy three times! We stopped in Iceland on our way home last summer. I have been to Africa, India and England not to mention so many places in the US. As we rehearsed how all of these trips were amazing in such different ways we sat in quiet and tried to take in all the goodness we have experienced thus far in our journey together.
I have been thinking about a bucket list. I have a few things I would like to do and see and if none of them happen I can honestly say my life has been thoroughly a gift. Our kids, grandchildren, family, friends and last but not least our church are the things I treasure most.
I am going to end my six-month update with a Psalm that read every day. I pray it for my life and I pray it for my kids, grandchildren and for folks that I know who are experiencing infertility. It grounds me in what is true.
Psalm 139The Message (MSG)
A David Psalm
139 1-6 GOD, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!
7-12 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
17-22 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
all the men and women who belittle you, God,
infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, GOD,
see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Your enemies are my enemies!
23-24 Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
August 31, 2016
Actually September 4th will be the five-month anniversary from when I found out that I have massive heart damage. Today as I sit down to write about my recovery the number one word that comes to my mind is “Thankful.” I am so thankful to be alive and for the family and friends that have surrounded me with everything I need in order to recover. Honestly, I now know how rich I am. I cannot imagine what people do if they do not have the safety net of family and friends to get through something like this.
My husband, kids and grandchildren have been absolutely amazing! They have surrounded me with love and support. My sister, her husband and kids and my cousins have shown that our family bonds run deeper than I could have imagined. I do not have enough words to express how much I love and appreciate them.
This weekend we had a family gathering in Portland. My Aunt Virginia (my mom’s sister) and Uncle Nick have seven children. They are all adults and have their own kids and grands. It has been a long time since I have been with this part of my family. We reminisced and laughed so much. The good, good memories of growing up in our highly dysfunctional families came to the surface and it was good for my soul! I lovingly call them My Big Fat Italian Family. We grew up close together. There is a bond with them that is much like a bond between siblings. Something so deep because we share not only the same DNA we also share so many memories, both good and bad. I like this quote by Marion Garretty: “A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.” I remembered this weekend how much I love all of them. We share so much in common and that commonality bonds us for life.
Again, I do not know how anyone gets through the most challenging of times without faith. I guess you really don’t. Whether you have faith in God or the Universe or not it is still a matter of faith. Faith in whatever it is that gets you through. For me faith is about the transforming love I find in Jesus and the people that are conduits of that love knowingly or not. I love VCC and the Vineyard and I am so grateful to be a part of this family.
I cannot leave out friends. Rich and I have some of the best friends on the planet. Friends have provided so much love and support. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends. Old friends and new ones we have met over the last year are treasures that we don’t ever want to take for granted.
So today I sit in a calm sea of gratefulness. It is like floating on an air mattress in the Mediterranean off the coast of Positano listening to Italians on holiday, smelling the sea air and basking in sunlight.
All I can say today is thank you for every prayer, every good thought, and every gift.
August 19, 2016
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines recovery as:
• the act or process of becoming healthy after an illness or injury : the act or process of recovering
• : the act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty
• : the return of something that has been lost, stolen, etc.
The first and third sentences above describe the process I am in. There will be no returning to a normal state after this past year but there will be a new normal. I have small glimpses of what the new normal will be but there will be no returning to the old normal.
I am very much in the process of becoming healthy from heart disease. I am very much in the process of seeing how what has been lost and stolen is returning in new and beautiful ways.
I have been letting grief and sorrow have their voice. It’s not pretty but necessary. If the loss of the last year does not get to express itself then I am doing my heart no favors in hope of a new normal.
I was sharing my deep sadness and anger with someone recently and they said to me, “You are right on track, I was waiting for you to get in touch with the anger and sadness but you could not until you were out of ‘survival’ mode.”
Today I am practicing gratefulness for my life just as it is. With all the questions to be held, mystery, sadness, anger and goodness and beauty I am grateful. I am grateful for an amazing family, the best of friends and for a church community that practices the way of Jesus.
They showed the broken rhythm of my heart
With inky ripples traced in peaks and troughs
The night when sudden life was torn apart
Left echoes like a dry persistant cough
This paper trail more signature of self
Than any scribbled scrawl of given names
More indication of my vital health
Than any poet’s talk of light or flames
My quick survival charted there as fact.
“And here, you see a murmured aftershock”
The remnant spider scribe of heart attack
My ailing pulse, my brittle ticking tock
Once took a moment’s beat to catch its breath
And left me reeling at the edge of death.
August 4, 2016
Four months ago today I was admitted into the hospital after tests showed my heart was extremely damaged. I am still very much in recovery mode yet I have improved in ways unexpected by my doctors. I absolutely believe that my heart is healing from receiving so much prayer, love and support. I am learning how to listen to my body and pace myself. I feel like my body aged twenty years overnight. There are many things I cannot do. For example, I don’t think it would be wise to go on roller coasters quite yet! I probably could get away with “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” or, “It’s a Small World.”
In many ways the past four months have been like riding a roller coaster. My cardiologist warned me over and over that depression is a very real thing during recovery from a heart condition. While I have not gone into a full on depression, I have definitely had my moments! My life changed in a moment. There was no leading up to it, no planning for it, it just happened. I thought I had bronchitis, I learned I had a serious heart condition and then everything changed. My friend, Bill Faris did a talk on Transitions. I have heard him give it a few times. His thoughts have come back to me many times in the past few months, “Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.” Bridges’ Transition Model
Change happened to me quickly. Transition is very much where I find myself today. The first stage of transition is ending and letting go. There is a lot of letting go. Letting go is painful. It is like little deaths. Little deaths physically, emotionally, socially and in many other ways have come. Some have come rather abruptly and harsh while others came in the most gentle way. This letting go is teaching me. Teaching me to surrender, to live in mystery and know that there is not always an answer. Teaching me to name my fear, my anger and sadness. Teaching me that confusion and disorientation is not my new normal but a way through. Teaching me to name and grieve the loss. Teaching me to create a lot of space for the unknown. Teaching me that it is okay to color for hours, kiss my grandkids every moment I can and to say “Thank you” over and over throughout the day when I realize how loved and blessed I am.
I am in no hurry.
No place I’d rather be
July 5, 2016
We recently held our NW Vineyard Regional Conference. I went with the understanding I would have good boundaries and not press the limits with my health. I did fine! I rested every afternoon for several hours and it was just enough to reboot my body. The conference was all I had hoped for! The conference speakers, Eric and Julia Pickerill, Le Que Heidkamp and Lance Pittluck brought words of wisdom, encouragement and challenge for our region. Every worship set was incredibly beautiful! And Robin. He worked so hard and did an amazing job of bringing encouragement to so many. The venue, Grace Chapel Church blessed us with so much hospitality that we did not have any breakdowns in any area. I am so grateful for every volunteer. From all that served the kids to personal times with prayer and spiritual direction to the volunteers that gave us an amazing BBQ! I am so thankful that the Washington Area won the coveted traveling Area Trophy! Sorry Benson, we will take good care of our super hero!
I came home from the conference exhausted in every good sort of way. For now, this is the way life goes for me. I need to rest for days after an outing like a conference. I am learning how much I can do and how much I need down time. I am getting into a good rhythm.
When I met with my cardiologist after the conference he was completely and pleasantly surprised by my progress. He has said many times that even the smallest improvement in my ejection fraction would make a difference and he never believed I would improve. He told me many times, “I think your heart is as good as it is going to get.” When he saw that it had improved 5-10% he was shocked and full of smiles. Rich showed him pictures of me teaching at the conference – he smiled so big and then asked me how I prepare for something like that.
My doctor is very puzzled by my situation. He said that all the tests show that I probably never had a blocked artery. Blocked arteries are what usually cause heart attacks. He said that when Dr. Hall did the angiogram she saw one artery that was thin and fragile and that it had possibly had a block and self-healed. The more he observes what has happened and compared to tests of my heart eighteen months prior to this episode he has concluded that I might be very likely suffering from Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome). Whatever is going on with my heart has proven to be somewhat of a mystery to the doctors. All I know is that my heart has improved and I have hope and faith that it will continue to improve over time.
For my poker friends, it is kind of like at the end of a hand when someone sees your cards and says, “You were drawing dead” and others say, “No she had a couple of outs” and even though you didn’t win the hand you are still in the game. That’s how I feel about my heart. I have a few outs, not the least being faith. I believe in healing. However you think about healing, be it having a positive attitude, fate, karma or in my case trust in a God who still heals today, I know I still have outs for my heart to improve and I believe that God spared my life.
I am so thankful to every single person who has and continues to pray, support, encourage and love us. Our family, friends and VCC have walked through one of the darkest valleys we have traveled thus far. This one did not take me down to the “felt” and I am so very grateful!
June 28, 2016
Today Rich and I went to see my cardiologist to get the results from my 2month post-op
echocardiogram. I like my doctor so much. He had big smiles as he read the results and heard how I have been doing. He was so happy! My heart was at 10-15% when he first met me. It moved to 20% after I was in the hospital and they took 6 pounds of fluids off my chest cavity. When I left the hospital and with every follow up appointment he would tell me my heart was as good as it was going to get. Today, the echo showed my heart at 25-30%. This is YUGE!!!!!! We asked him again if he thought this would happen and he shook his head and said, “NO.”
I absolutely, without a doubt believe that the prayers of the people have carried me through and my heart is healing. Thank you thank you! Thank you for all the prayers, good wishes, good thoughts, love and support.
Last week was the Northwest Vineyard Regional Conference. I had no idea how I would do attending the conference. I definitely had to have good boundaries and rest for several hours in between meetings. My body would reboot and I was okay. I received so much prayer and love with all my NW Vineyard tribe! I loved the conference. Eric, Julia, Lance, Le Que and Robin were the best. Everyone was amazing! The host church, Portland Vineyard, the NW Leadership Team, all of the Worship Leaders and team, the amazing kid’s leads and volunteers, all the volunteers, Darlene and Nicki! Thank you to everyone at the conference. Thank you Vineyard USA for all of your support, love and encouragement!
I thank God for all the goodness in my life. I am deeply loved and cared for. “I lack nothing.” Ps 23
June 10, 2016
Today is just over two months since I had surgery to insert the ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) unit in my chest. They tell me I have a “State of the Art” unit. It is actually quite large and is taking a little getting used to.
On Monday I went to have the two-month ICD check up. Technology is fascinating. They lay a device just over my clothes where the titanium box is bulging and the computer inside the box downloads all the activity that has happened in the box to a computer that measures if I have needed the pacemaker or defibrillator. As the nurse was watching the download she says to me in a cheery tone, “You are pacing 99% of the time!” I asked her if that was good news to which she replied, “It is very good news, your pacemaker is keeping you alive.” She then went on to tell me that if I kept pacing 99% of the time that the battery life would last seven years! So even though my heart needs the pacemaker 99% of the time, the defibrillator has not needed to restart my heart – very good news!
I am feeling stronger every day. I don’t feel sick, I don’t look sick and the reality is I have limitations on my physical capacity. The doctors tell me it will take some time for my body to adjust to my heart’s capacity. Next week I have another echocardiogram to see if the retraction rate of my heart has improved since leaving the hospital. Any improvement is good!
Last night I officially resigned as Lead Pastor and Board Chair of VCC. It is so bittersweet. When change happens this quickly it takes time to get in touch with all that goes with the change. I am more than grateful that VCC can continue on under the leadership of Jessica Ketola. I have no doubt Jess is ready and it is her time. At the same time, this transition is happening so fast I have feelings of loss that have to be processed.
Loss, so much loss so quickly, so what do I do with all this loss? First, I thank God for all of the people that love, care and pray for me. So many people that I cannot even fathom. Prayers, encouragement and gifts from all over the world and from people I have never met. Prayers and love from family and friends. There has been and continues to be an outpouring of generosity and kindness that brings me to tears and humbles me to no end.
Secondly, I have an amazing support system. My family beginning with Rich, the kids, the grandkids, my sister, Fluf, nieces, nephews and cousins have loved me so well! VCC, Vineyard Church communities, pastors, colleagues and friends have literally made personal sacrifices on my behalf and for that I have no words to express the gratitude I have. A good friend taught me a meditation for my heart. She had me put my hand on my heart and think of what I am grateful for, she had me try to be in touch with holding that gratitude in my heart. That is the best way for me to express my thankfulness and it makes my heart happy! My therapist has literally saved my sanity, walking me through the last year and helping me see what is true and what is right and good. I could not be more thankful for him and the time he has taken with me. Lance Pittluck is my overseer in the Vineyard. He has been so supportive as he has brought needed pastoral care to me, VCC and the NW Region.
Last for today but not the end of it, my faith in God. The presence of Love from the Spirit of God is an experienced and living reality in my life. I am not afraid to die because I believe without any doubt that I would be in the fullness of Joy if I were to pass from this life to the next. Don’t get me wrong, I want to live and I am grateful I am still here! I am so grateful for all the ways Jesus has loved me, graced me, strengthened me and in the midst of so much surrender has sustained me. I love the Triune God with all my heart!
If you do pray, I have two requests. First, that the echocardiogram will show improvement and second, for the NW Regional Conference June 22-24 in the Portland area. Please pray for me for strength through the conference. I am so looking forward to being with everyone!
For every prayer said on my behalf, every text message of encouragement, every visit, every FB message and post, every phone call, every good thought and well wishes for me I say, thank you! There is an old song we used to sing and today as I write this post it comes to mind. “Every good and perfect gift comes from you, Father of Lights.”
P.S. I am still coloring like crazy!
June 3, 2016
Sometimes life happens and the way forward seems like driving through dense fog in the mountains. Years ago I was driving home from Kelowna BC with a van full of teens. It was late at night and as we drove through the mountains the fog was so dense I could literally only see a few feet in front of us. I had to turn on the brights and slow down to about 10 mph. In some ways my life these past few months has mirrored driving that van with passengers through the fog in the mountains.
On April 4th my life came to a sudden halt with the discovery that I had had a heart attack in February. I was misdiagnosed and thought I had bronchitis for two months. I learned that after a flight to San Diego and then to Thailand it was a miracle I am still alive. Since that day I have been in a recovery process that will continue for the next while.
After the fog cleared a bit, I was told by my doctors that the last year had taken a heavy toll on my heart and that they were disabling me permanently from pastoring the church. As Rich and I talked with my cardiologist, the doctor was adamant I not return to the lead pastor role. After hearing about what the role of regional leader and teaching at The Seattle School entails he said I could continue with those roles. My plan is to continue as long as my health and those that oversee those areas think it is a good idea.
Rich and I knew immediately who we would want to take the role of lead pastor of VCC, Jessica Ketola. Jess has worked closely with me the past four years. Jess has had a lifetime of ministry experience and to us, the Board and our congregation she is the obvious choice. Jess and Dave also believe that the invitation was from the Spirit and Jess accepted the role. Jess was unanimously approved by the Board and set in on Sunday night as the lead pastor of VCC. I am so grateful because Jess carries the dream of God for VCC deep in her soul. She has already led the church twice in our absence for extended periods of time. She is not a novice and she is ready to lead us forward.
Most churches take at least a year if not more to transition. This transition is happening overnight. Please pray for Jess and VCC that it will be as smooth as possible and the way forward will be full of new life. I can already see the signs of new life sprouting and I am very, very thankful for Jess, Dave and the amazing community that makes VCC the special place that it is.
For me, I am already sensing the stirring of what it means to have more time and focus on the region, my teaching and some writing. I still take this path one day at a time as I continue to recover. I feel stronger every day and still spend most of my time coloring, praying and now dreaming with faith and hope about what life is going to be like. A new chapter is starting and I want to savor every day being alive loving my family and friends. I am not in a hurry about anything and I feel miraculously graced to live without daily anxiety. I have to brag about my family. Rich works every day, comes home, makes me a heart healthy dinner, cleans the kitchen and then dreams with me while I color:-) He has been amazing! My kids have been so supportive – and my grandchildren that pray for their Nonnie and love to see my owie. I love them so very much!
Again, thank you to so many who have loved, supported and carried us through this time.
I love this poem by Mary Oliver – The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Today I am five weeks post surgery. The past weeks have been filled with visits from family and friends, cards in the mail almost daily, meals prepared for us, unexpected gifts, an abundance of prayer, well wishes and good thoughts sent to and for me and my family.
I am on a two-month medical leave of absence from VCC. The VCC Board of Directors along with Jess and Dave Ketola have graciously picked up the reins to everything VCC related and continue to move forward with VCC’s purpose for existing. Jess and the team carry the vision that we believe God has given us. They are unrelenting in continuing on in spite of all that has occurred. I could not be more grateful for them and for everyone’s love, support, and encouragement. I don’t even have adequate words. So, so many people have shown love and support through so many means.
The update on my health has not changed. I will be monitored closely for the next while. In a month or so I will have another test to see if I have stayed the same, improved or if my condition has worsened. As I am tested and monitored my medical team will advise what is needed. Right now the biggest need is for rest to give my body a chance to heal and adapt to my heart’s capacity. It is a slow process. If you are someone who prays and I come to mind would you continue prayers for healing, for my blood pressure to stabilize (I run very low) and for VCC that Jess and the team are graced with strength, provision and most of all direction and decision-making? Thank you!
I spend most of my time coloring. Some people binge watch TV, I binge color! My recovery is going well. I have been surrounded with help. I definitely have moments of worry, anxiety and wondering about the future. I cannot stay there. I have to take this one-day at a time for now. Coloring has become a practice for me to focus on something in the present moment. Meditation and prayer also have become super important practices for me to help stay focused on the present.
Rumi’s “The Guest House” speaks volumes to me these days.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Again, thank you so much for all of your prayers, good thoughts, encouragement and love.