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
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.
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.
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.