Tag Archives: peace

No Turning Back, No Turning Back

no turning back

Photo Credit: Roost Photography

“What if I wasn’t created with love and intent for a specific purpose? What if I really am just an abnormality explained by science… essentially, a cosmic mistake? There’s a mystery behind being known and understood that gives life meaning.”

I wrote out these words at 1 am as I sat crying silently in my bathroom and let myself travel down the mental path of questioning what my life would look like if I truly believed those first two statements.

It was frightening. It looked like despair. A life void of value. Complete, unending darkness that would swallow me. It looked like death.

But I needed to sit in it. I needed to let myself go there and feel that in it’s completeness. I needed to find out if God’s love was deep enough and wide enough to cradle those questions.

Surprisingly, after all the pain that I’ve experienced, I never had questioned that God allowed the formation of my spine to stop at L5, leading to permanent life long damage of a clump of some of the most important and delicate nerves in my body. I had always just accepted it.

Recently, I uttered a phrase to a friend who is hoping in her journey with singleness. I said, “You know what your life would look like if you abandoned your belief that God is good and has a purpose in all of this. But you don’t know what it will look like if you keep trusting him. There’s hope in that.”

I realized that I’ve played this mantra over and over silently in my mind but had never given a voice to it.

know what my life would look like if I abandoned my faith in Jesus. I would be angry and cynical about my pain. I would be self-centered, my faith would rest solely in doctors and my identity would be my disease. I would use alcohol and cutting to numb the emotions that I didn’t have the mental strength to process. I would make all my decisions based on my feelings. I may have not even had the opportunity to write this because in a moment of mental exhaustion, I likely would have chosen suicide.

I’m in the middle of a 30 week seminary class titled “Biblical Theology and Interpretation”. Every Monday night, I leave the class feeling like my mind is going to explode from information but what  I am learning about how to study the Bible and about the Bible itself,  are life changing.

This weekend we looked at how to deal with doubt and hard teachings in the Bible. We focused on John 6: 48-69

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

If you’re familiar with the Bible, imagine being the Jews and hearing Jesus say this for the first time. They would not have had his death on the cross and Resurrection to put it into context. They would have had no idea of our modern tradition of communion. This all would have been gross and confusing. It’s not surprising that the response of MANY of his followers was to “turn(ed) back and no longer walk(ed) with him.

I love Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’s question, though, “Do you want to go away as well?” He doesn’t reply, “Of course not! I totally get everything you just said and I’m in it to win it, no questions asked!”. Rather, Peter’s response suggests that he had thought about turning away and if he did, to whom he would turn to…and he was one of Jesus’s best friends!

But ultimately, Peter chooses to stay because of everything he had “come to know”. A better translation of this would be because of everything he had learned over time…the time he had spent living with Jesus. He had seen and heard enough truth to believe that Jesus was “the Holy One of God.”. Did he doubt? yes. Did he lack understanding and probably think some of what Jesus said was hard to accept and a little crazy? yes. Did he think about turning back to his former life and job as a fishermen? yes. But he knew enough to know that going forward with Jesus was filled with more hope than turning back.

I know what God has done in my life up to this point. I know what my life would look like without his death on the cross and Resurrection from the grave. I know enough to continue clinging to my faith.

As I continue to have increasing pain and disheartening diagnosis’, I have found myself humming this familiar tune;

“I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.”

This video shows the story God has given me. It was created and used by my home church, Elmbrook and I hope you are encouraged by it. Video filmed and edited by Matt Roth.

Much love,

Adri

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Plodding in the Desert

Hope Coloring Page

I’ve been spending time in the desert lately. Things have felt dry and parched and starving for refreshment. I’ve traveled this terrain enough times to know that there is purpose in it, but it doesn’t make the journey any easier.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve felt a shift. That’s the only way I can describe it. Something is different with my health, but I can’t put it into words. My body feels tired all the time and it’s really hard to process that. I’ve shared these feelings with a few close friends and Chris (of course) but it’s made it difficult to write. I’ve needed a lot of me and Jesus time, with no other voices involved.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve sorted things out, but I haven’t. God’s given me a few incredible gifts along the way…things I think he knew I’d need to keep on pressing on.

One thing I do know is that along with this “shift” has come an even greater urgency for me to share with you how real God can be in your life and how very much he is needed.

It’s been a tough year so far with my health. I shared in my last post about complications with an infection in my foot. Shortly after that, I took a hard fall to polished concrete at my favorite restaurant on a date night with Chris. Ironically, Chris was about the only person in the restaurant to NOT see me fall. After a few weeks of feeling as if I’d been hit by a bus, I went in for X-rays to check out (what I thought) were cracked or bruised ribs. It turned out that I had a compression fracture in my vertebrae just below my fusion in my thoracic spine. The assumption is that is happened because of the fall, but much like a cracked rib, the only pathway to healing was time and rest. Months of time and rest.

Which brought us to the end of March in which Chris and I took a belated Anniversary trip to Puerto Rico. The warmer weather and steady climate did wonders for my pain, but the endless hours to lay around on the beach and “think” were a surprise I hadn’t bargained for. Finally on the last night of our trip, over an amazing dinner, I apologized to Chris for being so quiet the whole week (my timing is impeccable, I know). I told him the more I tried to figure out why I was so introspective, the more introspective it had made me. (Introspective is a fancy word for quiet and boring).

And then it hit me; this was the first time Chris and I had done a beach vacation…just the two of us, no family or friends…in five years. And in five years, my body has changed a lot. I had a major spine surgery that changed my entire neurological makeup along with shortening me an inch (still peeved about that one…) and an ileostomy bag placed. So to go on a vacation where you’re pretty much living in a bathing suit 24/7, was hard on me. I felt self-conscious and embarrassed (for Chris) the whole time. I was frustrated that I had to use my wheelchair so much, because getting around at the pool without my leg braces is hard and dangerous. The stares bothered me more on this trip than they ever had before. And it bothered me that it bothered me.

puerto rico

And it hit me afresh like a tidal wave that my health is not getting any better, but in fact is getting worse.

I keep having this re-occurring nightmare where I show up at the office of my Neurologist. In my dream he’s a faceless individual…older, kind…but I never am actually called into be seen by him. The dream progresses (they improved the elevator in one of them…) and I see him in the waiting room, or at a coffee shop in the hospital lobby, but I never hear his diagnosis of me and I never actually get real clinic time with him.

It’s troublesome to me and I think it probably has to do with a pending appointment I have with a new local neurologist here in Milwaukee in June. I’ve had the appointment scheduled for several months now, after my primary doctor urged me to find someone to look into a tremor that I’ve developed. They think it’s further autonomic dysfunction due to my deteriorating nervous system, but it would be good to rule out any other neurological causes (MS, fibromyalgia, parkinsons, etc.).

And I think that’s when I start to come full circle about this “shift” I’m feeling. I think part of this shift is that I no longer have a great desire to figure all this out. I’ve gotten to a point where a diagnosis is just a name. I know there is no solution, no cure, and so it all seems so futile to me. But I have this internal wrestling going on inside because I would never want Chris or Promise or anyone that I love to think that I didn’t try my hardest to live the longest, healthiest life I could.

And so that is a small window into what my desert has looked like lately. Ironically, all of this comes after giving a talk titled “The Battle for Hope- How to Keep Getting Up When You Get Kicked Down” at our Church, Elmbrook, in early March. How I’ve listened to my own advice over and over and over. I’ve repeatedly told myself that it’s not about feeling God, but knowing the truth of God. It’s about making a choice to keep plodding along, even on the hardest, driest days….that somehow God will not let that go in vain.

I was laying in bed last Sunday night, Chris silently sleeping beside me. My health and the future of my health felt like a weight on my chest and I was silently trying to muffle my sobs. I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to get out of bed and get on my knees by my bedside. Again, I knew it was God’s spirit because it’s not a thought that would naturally come from my human-ness. I mean getting on my knees is hard for me. It hurts. My left foot is at a permanent 90 degree angle, so it’s uncomfortable. Really awkward.

After a few moments of wrestling in my head with whether or not I was actually going to do this, I slipped out of bed and onto the floor. And I wept. And I surrendered my health to God, afresh…asking him to take it all. As I crawled into bed I had the most incredible peace where the heaviness had been. I wanted to read my bible but it was down in my car, so I opened up the bible app on my phone. Apparently the last time I had been reading it had something to do with looking up the verse we named Promise after; Psalm 145:13 NIV.

As my eyes read through verse 13 and into verse 14, my breathe caught in my throat. I had never paid attention to the verse following “her” verse but it read:

“The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”

I know that no matter what lies in front of me, or for however long this desert period lasts, God will lift me up if I continue to bow my life to him.

-Adri


Resolutions- “Whatever’s in front of me, I’ll choose to sing Hallelujah”

iPhone 762My “stats” page just informed me that it’s been three months since I posted a new blog entry here.

It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been talking…crying is more like it… with God about a few things and have purposefully avoided writing. Not because I am scared to let you see into my brokenness, but because ultimately, what God has to say about it is what matters.

Sometimes I need to just stop and be quiet and listen to that voice inside of me that I know is God-breathed, because nothing in and of my human-ness would have formulated that thought in my head.

Promise came home from school, after returning from Christmas break, and announced (while standing on her chair, as she does with most of her “announcements”) that while discussing what “resolution” meant at school, she told her whole class what my New Years Resolution was.

My heart started racing. I broke out in a cold sweat as I frantically replayed in my mind, every resolution that I had mindlessly rattled off (serious or otherwise) over the past week. I’m not big on New Years Resolutions, but I am big on jokingly making them up.

Oops.

(Lesson learned. Promise is more social in class than I thought she was. I have no idea where she gets that.)

After coming up empty on what Promise could have possibly shared with her entire class, my anxiety was calmed as she said, “Oh you know Mommy, the one about getting an alarm clock and not keeping your phone on your nightstand.” *Cue a collective sigh of relief*

As is evidenced by the time stamp on this post, I am failing horribly at this “no electronics in the bedroom” resolution.

In the days and weeks that have followed that announcement, God and I have been having some more serious hear-to-heart talks about resolutions.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that in 2 minutes I am turning 31, or if subconsciously my body just knows that it’s getting tired, but the weight of my health has been unusually heavy at the start of this new year.

I’ve struggled more than I ever have before with seeing friends and acquaintances experience physical healing in their lives, while my situation remains unchanged…if not worse. I’ve silently cried out the, “but why not me, God?” question repeatedly in my head.

If anything, I feel like my faith in God’s power to heal me is more confident now than it has ever been.

And the only answer that I’ve gotten is that that is not God’s plan for my life right now. Is he capable? Yes. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, now lives in me. Of course he is capable. I believe that with my whole heart.

As my friend, Jill, so wisely shared with me a few months back; God has healed me. I can’t think of myself as being excluded from his healing. He’s healed me to the point that he knows I needed to be healed in order to accomplish his purpose for my life.

I am alive. I am walking. I still have my legs, as cumbersome as they may be. That is all a certain extent of healing that God has allowed to take place in my life.

It’s just not healing on my terms. Which is where faith and resolve come in.

The lyrics of this song by Bethany Dillon hit me hard the other day as the spilled out from my Pandora station while driving;

“Who can hold the stars
And my weary heart?
Who can see everything?

I’ve fallen so hard
Sometimes I feel so far
But not beyond your reach

I could climb a mountain
Swim the ocean
Or do anything
But it’s when you hold me
That I start unfolding
And all I can say is

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
Help me to sing hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
I’ll choose to sing hallelujah

The same sun that
Rises over castles
And welcomes the day

Spills over buildings
Into the streets
Where orphans play

And only you can see the good
In broken things
You took my heart of stone
And you made it home
And set this prisoner free

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
Help me to sing hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
I’ll choose to sing hallelujah

Songwriters: Leonard Winston Dillon
© Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.
And so as I step into another year of living with all of this, my resolve is that “whatever’s in front of me,  I’ll choose to sing hallelujah”.
-Adri

 

 


A Restful, Invigorating Inner Climate

Two weeks ago tomorrow Chris and I found ourselves walking into the Columbia St. Mary’s Cancer Center building in downtown Milwaukee. Having spent a considerable amount of my life in medical buildings, I was struck with how peaceful this particular clinic was. The east wall of the waiting room was solid windows that displayed an impressive stretch of the Milwaukee Lake Michigan beachfront. There was a courtyard with cascading waterfalls and fragrant flowers. As I walked through the “chemo area” I noticed boards on the wall where patients could post notes about things they were thankful for. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe all hospital buildings should embody this same concept.

The appointment went as well as it could have. My doctor was kind and personable and even has a seven year old child, to boot!There was nothing glaringly obvious indicating cancer but on the same token, he wants to look further into the cause of these night sweats and my elevated eosinophil count. The type of night sweats that I’m having are typically indicative of something awry with my immune system. We talked through our game plan, which is essentially a few months of lab work, scans, possible biopsies, and lots and LOTS of waiting.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, 8/5 at 10:15 am) Chris and I will meet with my hematologist, again, to discuss the results of a blood smear that he ordered at my first appointment. For the past two weeks, he’s been studying my blood under a microscope, trying to discern and observe how my white and red blood cells reproduce. I’m continually fascinated by the way God has created our bodies and the knowledge he has given doctors. Tomorrow we will find out if my cell reproduction is normal or if there are irregularities. This will be a good indicator of whether or not there is a blood disease or infection going on. If he has noticed something “off”, I will go in for a bone marrow biopsy that would be extracted from my hip, in order for him to then study my stem cells. If my blood looks normal, I will most likely proceed to seeing a bone specialist to try and determine if these night sweats could be caused by a slow moving, underlying bone infection.

I also had an echocardiogram about a week ago to ensure that “all is well” with my heart and the vascular system that moves my blood in and out. This was precautionary more than necessary. Precautionary, so as to make sure that no sneaky infectious bacteria has decided to settle in and set up shop in my arteries.

An echocardiogram can only show what is physically taking place in my heart, though. If someone could invent an echo that showed the emotional and spiritual well-being of my heart, the results would look a lot like the cancer building I described above. On my heart wall, you’d be able to see a large “Thankful Board” on which I’ve been mentally posting little notes. One of the notes would have a quote scrawled on it that says,

“I’ll be praising God for all eternity, but only during my brief time on earth can I bring Him joy through praising Him in the midst of pain.”

This is a quote from the book “31 Days of Praise” by Ruth Meyers. After reading it, I immediately posted it securely to my heart wall.

I really have no “gut” feeling about what tomorrow’s appointment will bring. But I do know that God has been conditioning me for over 20 years to praise Him in the midst of pain, so no matter what the results of my blood work show, that is what I’ll do.

“Even in troubled circumstances, or when God does not choose to work in spectacular ways, praise can help us view our situation through different lenses. It can help produce within us a restful, invigorating inner climate.” -Ruth Meyers


Anything really means ANYTHING

My conversations with God have sounded a lot like this over these past few days;

Me: “So God, when you say “Do not be anxious about anything… you don’t really mean anything right? There are some really BIG things that it’s OK for me to be anxious about, right?”

Holy Spirit: “Nope. I really mean anything and everything.”

Me: “But God, you know the phone call I just got from my doctor the other day. I have trusted you with so many things in the past…I think I’ve earned being able to worry about this one.”

Holy Spirit: “No…really. I know you won’t be living my best for you if you worry about this. You’ll miss what I want to teach you in the waiting. I promise to give you what you need to get through today and that’s it. We’ll worry about the strength you need for tomorrow when you wake up tomorrow…”

Me: “Ok, well I’ll try not to worry but I probably still will. And besides, if I don’t worry, how am I supposed to pass the time between now and my appointment on July 22nd? I feel frozen, like this can’t be reality. My head feels like it’s outside of my body right now. How do I function feeling like this? All I want to do is sleep so I don’t have to think about it. And if there’s any way you could shut down Google between now and then, that would be awesome too.”

Holy Spirit: “Keep talking to me about this. Get into your bible and really see what I have to say about this. Ask other people to pray that I give you the strength and peace you need. Then when you are sleeping, people will still be praying. I’m not going to withhold peace from you. It is possible to have peace and still function during this waiting period. We’ve been here before… many times. Look how close we’ve grown because of it. Trust me. And DON’T Google it. Just DON’T”

This conversation started after a phone call that I received this past Wednesday from my primary doctor. I had gone in the day before to discuss night sweats that I’ve been having. They started after my spine fusion three years ago. They were sporadic and occasional at first but have increased in frequency and severity as of late. If I go 2 or 3 nights without having one, that’s a good month. And it’s not like I’m just getting hot at night. I wake up and my pajamas are wet, the sheets are soaked, and I can feel sweat trickling down my skin. So I finally decided it was probably good to have it checked out. Chris decided it was probably time, too… poor guy.

After my exam, my doctor and I agreed that there didn’t appear to be anything to be concerned about, but he’d run a complete blood panel, just to be thorough. During the visit we were able to rule out the possibility of the night sweats being caused by early menopause or my antidepressants. I left his office with us agreeing that it, most likely, was just my autonomic nervous system being its crazy whacked out self. During my last surgery, they hacked through some pretty major nerves and disrupted my nervous system quite a bit, so this explanation would be totally legit.

So I was a little taken aback when I received a voicemail from my doctor the next day,  asking me to call him back. “Nothing urgent” he assured me, but he needed to discuss the results of my blood panel with me.

When I called him back, he said that one of my white blood cell counts was moderately elevated. He asked if I had asthma or was experiencing any seasonal allergies? Nope. Could I have a parasite? Was I having Diarrhea? Well I have an ileostomy so that one’s a little tough to tell 😉 But no, I hadn’t noticed any changes in my stomach or bowel function. After we had covered all of those fun topics he said, “Well normally I might just ignore the elevated levels, but since you are having the night sweats that are getting worse and the fact that it started after your spine fusion, I think we should be thorough and have you see a hematologist in our oncology department. Sometimes this elevated type of white blood cell can indicate a underlying bone marrow infection or cancer.”

He gave me the name and number of the hematologist and as I hung up the phone and went back to blow drying my hair, the weight of everything that he had just said came down hard on me. Oncology. Hematologist. Bone Marrow. Fusion. Infection. Cancer. I picked up my phone and texted Chris. He called me right away and together we let all of those words sink in.

I knew his mind would be flooded with the same thoughts mine would because he was sitting right next to me four years ago when my neurosurgeon was listing the risks of cutting my spine in half and fusing it back together. He had explained that rather than grafting bone marrow from my hip for the “glue” for the fusion, he would take bone marrow from bone he was removing from my spine and ribs and mix it with a synthetic bone paste that in a very small percentage of people, was thought to increase the risk of cancer. But on the flip side, mixing this paste with my own marrow would provide a much stronger fusion and with my bones being as small as they are… we needed that.

Chris and I knew the risks. With surgeries that major there are always risks. But now all of those words came flooding back into our minds with a new urgency. In addition to this, I had mentioned to Chris about 4 or 5 months ago that there was an area of bone on my thoracic spine that was really tender and painful. It’s still there, but I had been ignoring it because … well… I mean they CUT ME IN HALF. I didn’t want to be overdramatic about a sore spot. I had even had my PT work on that area a few times, just to make sure it wasn’t a knotted muscle. Now my stomach felt knotted as I recalled the fact that bone tenderness could be a symptom of Leukemia.

After Chris and I were done talking I called my Neurosurgeon in Chicago just to loop them in. They said to go ahead and be seen in oncology and keep them updated because these symptoms are definitely abnormal. If they do discover some sort of bone marrow infection, it could infect the hardware in my spine which would be devastating.

Then I called the oncology department and set up my appointment. It’s July 22nd at 3:15 pm and I covet your prayers for both the appointment and for the waiting time until then. We are not new at the waiting game. I learned so much in our journey with diagnosing my Chiari, but it’s still not easy to think about having to go through another health situation that requires so much patience. Again, because of the complexity of my case, everything is difficult to diagnose. For each new symptom, there could be at least two possible causes. This can lead to major mind games going on in my head. There are moments where I feel almost certain that when we walk into my appointment on the 22nd that he will say, “There is absolutely nothing to be concerned about”. Then moments later, I feel pretty confident that he will want to look into this more; do a more extensive blood test, bone marrow biopsy, or CT scan of the tender area.

But the one thing that Chris and I DO know for certain is that God is still completely in control. This is not shaking him one bit. He will continue to use this for his glory and kingdom work. We are thankful that I have doctors that want to be thorough. And as my friend Erin said, God has only asked me to walk the road of waiting right now. Nothing more.

So in an earnest effort to do that and only that, I write about this not to compound the worry and “stir the pot”, but to ask you to pray. Specifically pray for mental strength to continually bring my anxiety and worry to God with Thanksgiving for all he has already done in my life and all that he will continue to do. Please pray that answers will be clear and that God will provide the physical strength to tackle whatever is next… whether it’s cancer or just having to live with a overactive autonomic nervous system.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” -Philippians 4:6 out of The New Living Translation Bible

Much love,

Adri


%d bloggers like this: