February 18, 2017
One year ago today I was at The Seattle School for meetings. I was not well. I had not slept much all week because I had a dry hacking cough whenever I would lie down.
Our meetings ended for the day. Amy, Jess and I were walking up a hill to go to dinner when I stopped. I could not breathe. I didn’t feel pain in my chest I had shortness of breath and I could not continue walking. Jess went and got the car and we went to dinner. I got home went to bed and coughed all night.
The next day I stayed home thinking I needed to rest and get well. I went through the weekend without improvement. First thing on Monday I went to the doctor. He diagnosed me with chronic bronchitis and for the next seven weeks I went about my life thinking I had bronchitis when all the while I was in congestive heart failure. In the weeks ahead I made two trips, one to San Diego and one to Thailand. When I returned from Thailand I was so sick my doctor finally decided to run tests to see if perhaps my bronchitis had morphed into something else. I ended up having an echocardiogram on April 3rd with the test result showing I was in heart failure. My heart had somehow taken a severe beating was enlarged and was only at a ten percent ejection fraction! The cardiologist did not know how I survived air travel to Thailand and back. He said, “You are lucky to be alive.”
In prior posts I have shared what happened from that time through the past ten months of recovery.
Today as I think back on this past year I have many feelings. So many thoughts. I am not sure how I can articulate how thankful I am to be alive. I am thankful for my family, friends, our faith community both local and beyond, for my doctors and therapist and for all of the love, prayers, care and support.
I have recovered beyond what my doctors ever thought possible. In my faith tradition, we believe that God is real, alive and active in our world. I believe God hears our prayers. So much of what I sense, believe and know about God is pure mystery – in fact I believe that is what ‘faith’ is – it’s believing and trusting in what you cannot see or prove. It is a deeper knowing, a sense and an inner trust in something bigger and greater than what we see. For me, it is a deep sense and a glimpse of something I cannot quite reach. It is a whisper that tells me this is not all there is, that one day all will be made well. Faith then fills up and pours over into hope, hope that whether I live or die I will be okay. Hope that no matter what my circumstances or how scary the world appears there will be a time when things will be made right.
So today, I am spending time sitting with thankfulness. Holding every kindness that has been given to me over this past year. Taking into my heart every prayer, every kind word, every gift and intention for goodness from countless people around the world.
This Psalm says it best for me:
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“LORD, save me!”
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I trusted in the LORD when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”
12 What shall I return to the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
January 2, 2017
I am thrilled to welcome 2017! Saying goodbye to 2016 is okay by me. 2016 for all of the heartache (literally) and loss had so many gifts. Yet, I am happy to look forward. The end of the year marks a transition point for me. I am invited to look back to see what happened and to look ahead to what might be. 2016 is done. I cannot change what happened. The new-year is coming, it’s just two days old, so much of it not yet unfolded, a mystery. I think about reflecting on what has been, and for me looking back as a journey reflecting for a moment on the detours, the rest stops, filling stations, adventure, crossing bridges, getting stuck in dead ends, etc. When I reflect on the past year this way I know it will resurrect both joyful and painful memories which give me the opportunity to take not of the state of my being, body, mind and spirit and to remind myself this a time to discern God’s presence with me in all of it.
Janet Rupp in her book, “May I have this Dance” has great questions to ask at year-end:
As you traveled on your road this past year,
Meet someone who helped you find direction? Yes, I met so many that guided me through one of the most challenging years of my life.
Find an unusual treasure on the roadway? So many! I have blogged about many of them in prior posts. I have a gigantic list of the treasures I have found on the road this past year.
Encounter any dead-ends? Oh yes. And in some ways as the “way closed” (Parker Palmer) it was hard, sometimes made no sense but in the long run such gifts.
Fall into a ditch and work your way out? Hmm – almost dying (literally days away from drowning in my own fluids and crashing twice in the hospital) falls into this category. It is now 9-months post heart failure and I have improved (to my doctor’s immense surprise and delight) 100%!!! I did not work my way out on my own. I had tons of support from my family, friends near and far, my faith community, my therapist and my larger faith community known as The Vineyard. So much care, prayers, love and support is how I came out of it.
Get lost? Why yes I did. From the time I went to Thailand in March and came home almost having died, I was in a fog. Everything changed in a moment. My life as I knew it was over. I felt lost in so many ways.
Search for your way back home? I always felt at home. I feel at home in my own skin so though I felt lost in a fog – I did not at any time feel I was not at home. Home for me is with Rich, my kids, my family, friends and faith community. Home for me is being with Jesus every moment of the day. Even in the hospital when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, I felt at home whether I lived or died. Death did not scare me. I knew in either state I would be home.
Cross over a bridge to new freedom? In so many ways! For me almost dying gave me so much freedom. It makes living all the more sacred to me. The freedom to let go, to live my life to the fullest from day to day is the greatest gift that came from this last year.
Spend time in a place of beauty and rest? My home is that place for me. Having my home to recover in has almost felt like I have been on retreat for the past 9 months. I could not be more grateful for the gift of a beautiful place to live and my family and friends that share my home. There were other places too. Trips with just Rich and I or with family and friends. So, so much goodness!
I thank God for:
Those who have helped me along way. From near and far, in thought and in deed.
The treasures I found on this past year’s journey
The dead ends when the way closed
When I fell down and was able to get back up mainly because of prayer, love and support
Moments when I felt lost, you were there for me, thank you
The grace to be at home wherever I am because you are there
Guiding me through crossing bridges to new freedoms, thank you
The places of rest and beauty, home being number one!
I am grateful to you, Father, Son and Spirit for all the ways you are with me and for the gifts you shower daily. Thank you for your mercy, for your goodness and unfailing love.
The Journey to Come
I am spending time this week naming my hopes for what’s to come. Some things I am thinking about:
What am I anticipating?
What are my hopes?
What practices will help me be open to what is being birthed in my life in this season?
How can I be open to gifts even if they come disguised in the most challenging ways?
I love this quote by Thoreau “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by and infinite expectation of the dawn.” To me the dawn is God in whatever terms you relate to God.
2016 brought many unexpected moments, challenges and gifts – I wait in hopeful anticipation the gifts 2017 will bring. It seems appropriate to end with this prayer from Walter Brueggemann
On our own, we conclude:
there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short
we should seize the day
seize our goods
seize our neighbours goods
because there is not enough to go around
and in the midst of our perceived deficit
you come giving bread in the wilderness
you come giving children at the 11th hour
you come giving homes to exiles
you come giving futures to the shut down
you come giving easter joy to the dead
you come – fleshed in Jesus.
and we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing
and we take food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbors who sustain us
when we did not deserve it.
It dawns on us – late rather than soon-
that you “give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
By your giving, break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance………mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.
Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your muchness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving we may endlessly give
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder,
without coercive need but only love,
without destructive greed but only praise
without aggression and invasiveness….
all things Easter new…..
all around us, toward us and
all things Easter new.
Finish your creation, in wonder, love and praise. Amen.”
? Walter Brueggemann
December 1, 2016
It is just about 8 months since I learned I was in very serious heart failure and it is only a few days until Rich and I celebrate our 20-year anniversary!
Recovery continues to be my way of life. Next month I will have another test to see what’s happening with my heart. I will find out if it is improving, staying the same or…
I am learning how to adjust to a new way of life. I am feeling so much better and yet I am not able to physically do what I used to do. It can be frustrating when my physical ability fails me. I am getting better at not scheduling beyond my capacity but who am I fooling it is HARD to say no to things I love to do. The other side of that coin is REST. Never have I leaned into rest like I have to now in order to reboot my body, my mind, my being. This is my new normal.
We hosted Thanksgiving for 21 at our house and then two days later semi-hosted a baby shower for our daughter. By Sunday morning my entire body hurt. I told Rich, “My bones even ache.” I have had down time, resting all week to reboot. I didn’t do too much, it is a point of fact that when I do things I will need to take time for recovery. When I hit my limit I have to rest.
I still have a long way to go to recover emotionally and spiritually from all that led up to my heart failing. What I do have is an amazing support system. Family, friends, church, therapist, doctors, and a Spiritual Director – how can I not be recovering with so much love and support?
In many ways I feel like I am in an incubator. An old life is passing and a new life is emerging. My life seems to correlate with the seasons right now. We are in Advent, a time of “Expectant Waiting.” I think of Mary, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she was “highly favored.” My friend DeAnn one day last summer shared with me how she was thinking about Mary’s life and what it might mean to be highly favored. DeAnn pointed out that being highly favored of God for Mary meant a life full of sacrifice, obedience and suffering. Yet, the Son of God was conceived and grew in her womb. She is remembered to this day as being blessed. I wonder what God is birthing in my life. I wait, I wonder, I pray and I have hope.
A good friend gave me a birthday card with this quote: “You go on by doing the best you can. You go on by being generous. You go on by being true. You go on by offering comfort to others who can’t go on. You go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and allowing the pleasure in other days. You go on by finding a channel for your love and another for your rage.” Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
My therapist suggested that my spiritual discipline for this season of my life be “pleasure.” How lovely is that? It resonates with the above quote for me. Finding channels for love and for rage. The truth is I can find pleasure in so many things that I love. Finding pleasure in allowing a channel for my rage has been a new experience and a profoundly healing one. I will continue to allow the unbearable days to pass and allow myself to be present to all of the beautiful pleasure that surrounds me daily. Speaking of pleasure!
Our 20th-anniversary is December 6th! When I reflect on the past twenty years with Rich I can honestly say it has been one wild ride! We have traversed dark death valleys more than once. We have been taken to amazing heights on so many occasions! We have fought like dogs and cats and we have got on like love birds. For me our marriage has been like wine getting better and better as it ages.
Here are a few things I love about Rich. He insists we play! Left to myself my life can become much too serious. Rich actually schedules fun for us. Rich love me, he loves our kids and our grandchildren. He loves God and sharing our faith has become the glue that cements us together. When we got married Rich had five children, I had two and we had at the time two grandchildren. We had Alex together and now we are expecting grand baby number 22 in January!
Rich and I have a tradition. Each year on our anniversary we try to remember what we did for all the previous anniversaries. It’s fun to try and remember where we were, what we did, and what our life was like. For me remembering is an important practice. It is in remembering all the good, the joy, the bad and the sorrow that I know life is woven together and made into a beautiful story.
I would not trade my life for anything (well just about anything). From every valley, mountain and all the in-between is where my story intersects with a larger Story being worked out in human history. A Story that is heading for all things being made right. That is the Hope I hold onto for dear life. No matter what happens, there will be a day as Julian of Norwich speaks of, “but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Amen
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.
February 17, 2012
My stepson, Ben is battling cancer. He was diagnosed in Korea in late October. Had surgery in November. Complications after surgery. Ben, his wife, Hyemin, their son, Daniel and Hyemin’s mother, Leigh returned to America just over one week ago. Ben is battling for his life. Would you join him/us in prayer for a divine intervention? The prognosis is very grim, Ben needs a miracle. I believe in miracles, I do.
I have felt the grace of God in so many ways through so many people. Our family, friends and our faith community, Vineyard Community Church have surrounded us with love and care. I read this in a book recently, “Suffering enlarges the soul’s capacity for great joy.” This is a season of joy and sorrow taking up equal residence in my soul and in the soul of those I love.
I will pray for Ben’s healing, for God to have mercy. I will trust in the goodness of God no matter what the coming days bring. Ben is strong, he is a fighter. I’m joining with all the prayers around the world for healing for grace for mercy.
July 26, 2011
I am amazed at how many conservative Christians promote divisiveness agains Muslims. I just finished reading Carl Medearis‘ excellent book, “Speaking of Jesus” and what I can’t understand about conservatives is how they skip the “love your enemy” command of Jesus. The more we demonize and dehumanize people of other faith traditions, sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender the more we lack the very essence of what it means to follow Jesus. A good review of history proves this out to be true.
My hope is that the conservative branch of Christianity would take a long, cleansing breath and really buy the fact that God does not need defending. He is quite big enough to run the entire cosmos without another round of crusades.