Why Does God Amaze Me?

I need to put somewhere, to be found, by someone at just their right time in life what is stirring in my heart today. I’m not a good writer but that doesn’t matter. What matters is I have a simple story to tell that I pray reaches someone, someday, when they most need it. It would have no impact on anyone I know today but I can tell you that it has impacted me tremendously today. I haven’t written anything in WordPress in a very long time. Today I feel compelled to write.

I have a pacemaker. I’ve had a pacemaker since June 27, 2013. Most people who have them have a fairly uneventful road with them. That has not been my story.  Yet, woven through all the hardships with it was unseen touches of God. Oh, if only I can do this story justice with words…

From the day my first pacemaker was put in there were problems. They are generally designed to last for 10 years or more. That was not to be for me. You don’t have to understand what it means that a pacer has to “capture”. All you need to know is that mine wouldn’t unless the power from it was cranked to the max. Through a very rough and rocky road, I only got 3 years out of my first pacer before it was time to change it.

During that time there was never really a day I felt well. I had a bloating issue I wish I could put into words. The doctors would ask me was it “this”? or “that”? No…they were baffled and so was I. But more than baffled I was physically miserable. Almost every day I was unable to walk more than 10-20 steps without having to stop for a few seconds before I could go on.  There were no symptoms that would have set off alarms for any of my doctors—no chest pains or the like. They just assumed that my long time panic disorder was to blame.

There were other problems too. I made many visits back to the cardiologist because I just didn’t feel well. My heart rhythms did odd things. The exam would show that was true but the rhythms were not dangerous. Once again, chalked up to my panic disorder.

On my all too frequent visits to the cardiologists to have my pacemaker checked I’d experience what I knew really was severe panic before each visit because, for me, the process was so physically miserable. Not to get too technical but a pacemaker records every heart beat you have. From my limited understanding if the doctor wants to know what my heart was doing on a specific date and at a specific time he can see that information. Generally they don’t look for that. Instead the “programmer” (the device that “interrogates” your pacemaker) spits out a report that tells the doctor any abnormal events that have happened with the heart during whatever time period he requests the information for. This process of interrogation is not painful but it is very unpleasant; at least it was for me. I know some people do not experience any problems at all. They are the blessed exceptions and not the rule.

During the interrogation the doctor drops your heart rate down very low. Many people actually pass out. I’m thankful to God I’ve never actually passed out but I’ve come very close many times. One unique thing for me is that not only do I feel quite miserable while the device is being interrogated but I continue to feel quite miserable for the next six to eight hours afterwards. All that to say, this is not a visit I look forward to—ever.

After three years it was time to change my device because the battery had reached the point where it needed to be changed. This should be a 45 minute, uneventful procedure. That was not the case for me. My pacer change took 3 hours to do the open procedure and I had no anesthesia during this time. When the procedure was over I asked my doctor, who I’ve neglected to mention is a true genius, what his biggest concern was. In his very monotone way he said, “Infection. Your chest was open too long.”

Unfortunately, he was right. A few short weeks after implant I was once again back on the operating table to have the infected pacer removed. I had a temporary pacer placed through my neck for a few days before I went back a third time, once more fully awake, to have the next pacemaker implanted on the other side of my chest. It was a very long and very painful 90 minutes for me and an exhausting 90 minutes for my very able bodied 75 year old + doctor.  That was August 12, 2016.

Today I went in for my normal every six month interrogation. Life was very different today.  By now you are probably bored and wondering “So where is the God part in all of this?”

Throughout this nearly 5 year process I have been able to recognize glimpses of God in all of this. Somehow—for some reason—today it all fell into place. I am still processing it as I write. Maybe that’s the only reason this is being written–so I can really process it all.

On June 27, 2013 I was at work and I felt fine. I was standing in another room talking with some people when I began to feel “funny”. When you have panic disorder you are used to feeling “funny” without notice. Without saying a word I returned to my office and sat down. I found that I was starting to pass out. Right before I actually would pass out, I’d feel ok and this repeated several more times.  Normally the people in the next room that I had been talking with would have remained in there for a very long time to come. Not today. That was a God moment. Within a minute or less they came out and I said, “I don’t feel well.”  Off to the hospital I went.

At that point I had not had a heart attack. My heart was just beating too slowly to maintain consciousness. Eventually I was admitted and when I was put in the bed they increased my nitroglycerin IV. Within less than a minute of that change I felt the elephant on my chest I’d been asked all day if I had been feeling. Within a minute there was a mad rush of people into my room with the “Crash Cart”. It seems my heart had stopped beating—AND!—I was still speaking. (God moment.)  They were somewhat flabbergasted at that. They decreased the nitroglycerin drip and my chest pains went away. That night I was told I did have a heart attack and I was scheduled for a cardiac cath and a pacemaker—possibly stents—the next morning.

I’m a very obese woman and I have very small vessels that can be seen. I’ve always had problems having blood work done because of my tiny veins. In general, women have smaller vessels then men which is why when they do have heart issues they tend to be more serious. After the procedure and the placement of the pacemaker the doctor came to my room and he was pleased but perplexed. God moment coming… Not only did this obese 64 year old have clean vessels I had large, man-like vessels. That was good, good news for me.

I left the hospital on July 2nd. On the night of July 3rd I looked at my pacemaker site, which had been flat except for the stitches and it now looked like someone had placed half of a lemon under it. Of course with the next day being the 4th of July the best I could do was call the doctor on call who said, “Just watch it.”

A couple of days later as I was walking I looked down and noticed the front of my shirt had a saucer sized spot soaked and brown. Yes. I panicked. It wasn’t infected but there was definitely something very wrong. It took weeks but it did heal.  After that all the problems I mentioned before–bloating, irregular rhythms etc—began. It was a very unpleasant 3 years.

When I was in the surgical suite for my supposed 45 minute procedure they discovered when they opened my chest that one of the leads from my pacemaker was not attached to my heart. How long had that been the case? No one could tell.  They were all rather confused but never said much. Later on I did a lot of research and discovered (God moment) that pretty much my heart shouldn’t have been receiving any benefit from my pacemaker at all for the past three years with only one wire, and yet I was definitely alive.

They were now faced with a new dilemma. My chest was open. It was a room not set up for anesthesia and no anesthesiologists were available. Our only choice was I needed to buck up…and I did.  I have always had a high pain tolerance but there were moments through this that I really can’t put into words other than….GOD.

Their second dilemma was greater. You see, for 3 years I had become 100% pacer dependent. That meant that I needed that pacemaker to make every beat of my heart—beat. How were they going to keep me alive while they changed it?

There were six, possibly seven, people in that room. I knew three of us believed in God and in Jesus (thankfully the doctor was one of them!) but I didn’t know about the rest. This seems like an odd point to bring up at this moment but it becomes important (at least to me) shortly.

The clock was ticking and my wonderful doctor knew that every second counted because the longer my chest was open the more I was at risk. They had devised a plan but it was a plan the doctor was not happy with but really didn’t have much of a choice about until the assistant watching my heartbeat informed the doctor that my heart was beating on it’s own. He told the man that could not be correct since my heart had not beat on unassisted in over two and a half years. The technician was quite certain of what he said. (God!) As the doctor progressed hoping (I’ll assume praying too) the tech was right he ran into a new problem. The tip of the wire connected to my heart wouldn’t come out. I don’t know anything about how they got it out but I knew how badly it hurt and I knew it took a lot of precious time.  Finally three hours and a few minutes later the procedure was done.

The next several weeks were physical and emotional hell as it was apparent that my pacemaker site was not healing properly. I was put on various antibiotics. I eventually had to have a PICC line threaded through my veins and into my neck and carry around a heavy IV bottle in a bag 24 hrs a day. And, despite all of this, after showering one night I looked in the mirror and there in the wound I saw my pacemaker. That was a 100% guarantee it had to be removed…again. Problem. Where was it going to be placed?

The next day I was back in the hospital and the following morning I was back on the table. This time…anesthesia. It was a very wise decision on the doctor’s part because the procedure did not go as planned and I would not have done well being awake (God knew!). When it was time to implant the permanent one on the other side of my chest I asked the doctor what happened if this one became infected. Suffice to say there were “solutions” but—not really. It boiled down to, I would be in VERY big trouble.

As I mentioned the second implant was difficult for both the doctor (he implanted it deeper which was physically hard on him) and very painful for me. Before I left the hospital I had not only the new implant site on the right side but a very large and open hole on the left side where the infected one had been removed. The possibilities for infection for either site were not in my favor.

I was supposed to be seen by infection control specialists but for reasons I won’t go into my cardiologist took on the overseeing of my wounds himself. This is something he NEVER does for many reasons. (Have you seen God yet?) That man and his staff saw me weekly—sometimes twice a week—and guarded both the wound sites like they were their own. I healed uneventfully. Believe what you will, I call that a miracle.

In the days, weeks, months that followed all the symptoms I had—the bloating etc—vanished. My heart was beating on its own most of the time. The battery still had 14 1/2 years left on it after nearly 2 years. So what made today’s visit different?

In the beginning I had to have my pacer interrogated every 3 months. That meant that I’d have that dread for days prior knowing how miserable I’d feeling during and for hours later. “I’d” do everything I could to keep my mind busy.  The last thing I needed was lectures about my blood pressure to boot. I knew my blood pressure was actually fine all the other times but telling that to my cardiologist didn’t impress him much. He was a numbers guy and what he saw didn’t tell him my blood pressure was fine.

In preparation for today’s visit I ate all the right things and didn’t eat the wrong things that would affect blood pressure. I made sure I was in a rhythm of great sleep habits. My exercise program that I’d been involved in for 4 months was going great.  Then came last night.

I woke up at 3 AM and that was the end of my sleep. Hmmm… I was supposed to take my meds promptly at 6:15 AM so they’d peak right as I was in the exam room. Work got busy and that didn’t happen for an hour later. HMMMM!!! There was a third issue but it would definitely be an “eeeewwwww” moment so suffice to say it was the trifecta of “not good signs for a good blood pressure day”.

Just as I was on the verge of starting my panic, from “no where” (if you still believe that) came the story of Elijah when he faced the prophets of Baal and challenged them. If you recall the story both sides prepared an animal sacrifice. The Baal’s went first. They called down fire from their god, Baal all day long. They worked themselves into a frenzy even cutting themselves to no avail. There was no fire from the heavens from Baal to consume the sacrifice. Finally it was Elijah’s turn. He prepared the altar in a way to honor the Lord. Then he dug a deep trench around it. He had them cover the sacrificial animal and the ground with not one, not two but three troughs of water. He called upon Jehovah, the Great I AM answered and not only consumed the sacrifice but the fire licked up all the water besides. And now you are asking…SO?????????????

That may not have spoken anything to you but it was a culmination for me of all the little things throughout this process. All the “just so happens…” moments that seemed insignificant—maybe a little “cool” at the time moment—but insignificant, came together as a much bigger picture.

Remember I mentioned earlier I didn’t know during my first procedure who was and who wasn’t a believer in the surgical suite? Well—as they were taking me back to my room that day, after that 3 hour procedure, the tech was confused and even a bit angry, I think. He kept saying, “That’s not possible. Your heart couldn’t have beat on its own for 3 hours when it hadn’t done so in nearly 3 years! ” I asked if he doubted the doctor. He said “No. Besides the recordings from your pacer prove the truth of that.” I asked then how he explained it. He said he couldn’t and no one could. I told him I could. I told him about the hand of God in my life through so many things and all the individual things from the first time I nearly passed out on my office desk. I think, in a way, he got even angrier. But I have to believe that, at the very least, for a long time to come, he thought about that. And, that seed is still planted in there to be watered again some day. God wastes nothing and He’s a multi-tasker. He used it for me and that gentleman.

As for me? No sleep. Wrong timing on medication. And third unmentionable and my blood pressure was 116/73! That has never happened. Do you know what else has never happened? I’ve felt totally fine all day long. No 6-8 hours of feeling absolutely miserable after the interrogation.

What is written here, despite being 3000+ words long, is just a glimpse, a very tiny glimpse, of all of the hand prints of God that have taken place in the past nearly 5 years in just this one situation in my life. I could fill a small book if I delved into all the other areas of my life. No one would read it. Maybe no one will read this and that is ok. I was told to write it. If I’ve learned nothing else…I’ve learned to be obedient even when I don’t understand.

The final thing He reminded me of today is that until my day and hour of leaving this world is up nothing and no one can take my life. It’s His. Likewise, when my time does come, nothing and no one can keep me alive one second longer. There’s tremendous peace in that for me today. I am expected to do my part to choose wisely in all areas to minimize my own suffering, but I never have to fear ever again that *I* am in control of my life or death. That may not be a big deal to anyone but it is for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There Is No Tomorrow…

aging Minus 31 degrees on a work day morning and my car was 102 steps away. I had a few choices but none of them were good. The people I could call for rides have trucks or high SUV’s and I no longer have the strength in my arms to pull myself into a them. When we know weather will pose a problem for me they carry a stool in their vehicles. This record breaking cold took us by surprise.

I could stay home, but I really couldn’t afford to do that. With each passing thought, as I stared out the frosted over window, I felt those old feelings of fear and anger rise. Fear for so many reasons—what if I fall? My doctors have told me to be very careful in extreme heat and cold, so what if this affects my heart? What if–what if—what if… Anger—“I HATE WINTER!”  Suddenly, I heard the Voice that whispered, “Child, you don’t live there any more.” – The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

One thing I love so much about God is everything about Him is irony. If you want love, give away all you have; if you are in financial need put your last two coins in the coffer; if someone asks for your shirt, give him your coat as well. We are all appointed a number of days and no matter how you view it, my days remaining are few in comparison to a lifetime. And yet, He has been birthing a new me for nearly 6 months now and it makes me smile each time I see Him rework a section of my tattered tapestry.

This particular morning I walked away from the frosted window and waited to hear His plan. That is new for me. I’d have denied it but the truth is all my life I’ve pretty much made choices and asked Him to bless them as I started walking forward. As I waited, quietly, I started getting dressed. I was careful to layer my clothing, “just in case”. I did my morning routine and still there was nothing but peaceful silence. I had determined not to move out of my apartment until I heard the Voice yet again. [Hearing His Voice has become the newest and greatest delight in my life. It is now unmistakable, unlike ever before.]

The second one of my Vibram Arctic Grip insulated boots was tied ( “the safest on ice” bought during that foolish time when I believed I could control the minute to minute of my life). I walked towards my coat. I pulled my Balaclava down over my head and zipped it over my mouth and nose. I hesitated with each move straining to hear—I may be going quite deaf but His Voice I hear without distortion. Finally as I slipped my arm in the second sleeve I heard—“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Deep breath, grabbed cane, backpack in place and out I went—102 steps to journey.

Remember how I HATED WINTER? I often still say that out of habit more than anything, but I discovered I really didn’t hate winter. I feared winter. As I emerged out of the safety of the apartment building door the air was crystallized and dancing like individual prisms in the lights. It was so beautiful!  The stillness, not the cold, took my breath away in the most wonderful sense of the word. I never even felt the biting cold that morning.

There is a small bush halfway along my journey. It has skinny, wispy branches that seem to be everywhere. Normally it bends and twists in even the slightest breeze. This morning it was totally still and covered in frost. I hesitated for just a moment to take in the beauty that He created from what was dormant and appeared dead. Irony.

All the way to work I pondered all that had taken place that morning. How far He had brought me. I would have never believed there would be a time when I would live in the present and free fall into His arms like a small child trusts her daddy to catch her.

As my days grow fewer I am more renewed than ever before. I feel better than I’ve felt in a very long time and yet my mobility seems to decline at an accelerated rate. At a time when I’d expect to be slowing down I hear God calling me to more and more.

I have a carefree spirit that I never before possessed. I have a beautiful friend that has been gifted in abundance with the ability to put the Spirit within her into written words she shares. I have no such gifting so I’ve only twice shared things I’ve written. Now? Like my 3 year old grandson proudly exits preschool with his Rembrandt masterpiece in hand, I will share even if no one hangs what I have to say on their refrigerator.

I love more than ever in my life, yet I no longer explain the “why” of me to anyone.  Among a  journal full of lessons from this past 6 months one always stands out—everyone has a story and unless you can live in their head, don’t judge. Oh what an arrogant prig I have been most of my life! But—I don’t live there any more.

I had long forgotten the expression, “There is no tomorrow”. At 11:59:59 PM it is today and at 12:00:00 AM it is today. Tomorrow never comes. I’ve spent all these years fretting about something that will never come. But—I don’t live there any more.

I may have 20 minutes or 20 years left on this earth but each day He prepares me more and more to be properly dressed to join Him at His table. As I grow older in my body I keep growing younger in my spirit. Irony—OH how I love it!

As I put my car in park in front of my office I heard His Voice yet again. A verse from Psalm 92 this time: “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.”

Our God wastes nothing.  He uses us until it is time for not only tomorrow to never arrive but time, itself, stands still. Don’t despise your wrinkles or your slower steps. Look around you. You may be very surprised by what you see.

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There’s a Hole in My Pitcher

ImageIt’s Saturday once again. I always wonder how I can go to bed on Friday night so full of life and wake up the next morning so depressed that I can barely function. This day is even worse than most. It is the end of March and it looks like a blizzard going on outside my window.

I have a very blessed life. If I were to write down all the positives and negatives in my life the positives would outweigh the negatives many fold over. I can say that with absolute honesty. I could see it to be true if I wrote it on paper. There would be a part of my brain that would know it to be truth yet, I’m not able to absorb it. It feels like there is an impenetrable barrier that surrounds the portion of my brain that easily accepts that 2+2 really is 4, and I’d never even think of denying that truth, yet shoves out the positives if they dare cross over the barrier and treats them not as “truth” but as fleeting occurrences not to remain.

Ah, but the negatives! Those things play over and over in my head like a very unpleasant symphony. I can hear every squeak of the string instruments; every missed beat of the drum. They not only are absorbed they grow roots and tentacles that burrow into every part of my emotions, and even my soul. Like a cancer they press on areas of my brain and my emotional heart and cut off the blood supply and paralyze those portions to the endorphins that should flow for more than a fleeting moment at the sight of my newborn grandchild; a word of kindness; a genuine hug from a small child happy to just see me.

I’ve prayed much about this but no answers come. I’ve read and meditated–even thought I had a direction for an answer a time or two–but I’m no further along than when I started seeking the cure.

Saturday…the day where there is no work to go to. There are few, if any people, that intersect my life, and frankly…I don’t want them to. I love my solitude. Yes. I am certain it is solitude and not isolation. It is the day when I press closest to Jesus. By days end I reach a place I have no ability to put into words. I’m with Jesus and Jesus is with me and this world really doesn’t exist; I don’t want to come back to it either. But, my time to leave is not yet and I must return to real life.

Sunday…my two hours in church are the highpoint of my real life. I never want the service to end. I’m filled with joy for so many reasons, but mostly because I smell, I hear, I feel and I deeply sense the presence of God all around me. It is, for me, bliss. Why, oh, why can that not last beyond the church doors? It has left me by time I reach my car.

I don’t have the answers and for reasons known only to Him, God won’t show me the answers. For now, all I know is there is a definite hole in my pitcher. The water that would quench the agony of the depression and loneliness drains out so fast only enough to stay alive is absorbed, yet the dire thirst remains. Monday comes…busyness… For now that must suffice. I thank God that I do know there will be a day when there will be no more pain or depression and my pitcher will always overflow. And that is how I hang on…Saturday after Saturday…

 

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BRINGING DOWN GOLIATH: How God Keeps Me Humble!

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In the course of my nearly 65 years I have been accused of many character flaws and overall shortcomings. Sadly, far too many hit the mark, but I digress. The one thing I’ve never been accused of is being “dumb”.

I suppose we all have to have something to hang our hats on when we are very insecure people. Since that was my one “thing” I apparently was good at, had going for me, I’ve spent a lot of time in my life practicing my skill, for lack of a better term.

I always liked school and I always did really well at any academic endeavor I attempted. Yes. I’m the student that all the C- students hated when the class was graded on a curve! Guilty! (In retrospect…I apologize. To this day I’ve never needed to know how much of a shadow was cast by a 27 foot oak tree at high noon or the square root of 2,49998447009876–if there is one.) If I scored an “A” I was worthwhile. I had value. I was somebody!

Oh, to be sure, I’ve been humbled a plethora of times in my life! Many of those times were in a classroom. Statistics beat me. Yep…no matter how hard I worked the best I could pull out of that class was a “B”.  More humbling was Piano 101.

I practiced, literally, 6-8 hrs per day (those were the glory days when I was blessed to not have to work outside of the home). Not too far into the semester the inevitable happened. I was asked to do something different with my left hand than my right hand AT THE SAME TIME!! Uh..that’s just crazy talk! No amount of practicing ever got this accomplished. [I kept believing that surely, somewhere, there was an accomplished one handed pianist. FYI…I’ll save you the Google time…there isn’t.]

There was a young man in the class. He’d saunter in about 5 minutes late each day. I am not sure when the last time was that he combed his hair. More times than not it was also quite obvious he had been out quite late the night before with his best friend, Bud Weisser. However, despite the fact that this very nice (he often offered to help me considering I was “old”; 37 yrs at the time!) young man had never touched a piano in his life prior to Piano 101, he’d hear what the teacher played and then he’d play it. I was in awe of him and hated him all at the same time. Ok, not really…I really liked the kid. But he did give me pause to think: “How hard could this really be??? Surely I can conquer it!”

Well, the fateful day came. The teacher, also a very kind and patient man, asked me to stay after class. In the kindest way he knew how he suggested that perhaps it would be best for me if I got my music credit in his Music Appreciation class. I was crushed, but, I knew he was right. (By the way…I got my “A” in that class so that salved the wounds.)

My challenges and humblings were not restricted to the classroom nor were most of them amusing. However the one I had today even made me laugh.

What you need to know about me is that without instructions I can’t screw open a bottle of water. No..REALLY! I got a great deal on a new vacuum. It’s just a cheapy. I don’t need a Dyson for my palatial teacup. It sat in my entrance hall (all of maybe 3 feet long) for several days. Since we are currently living in a state of the Age of Winter, as C.S. Lewis describes it in my beloved Narnia books, all my usual sources that I rely on to assemble things for me—like my 14 yr old granddaughter–have not been able to get here.

As I stared at that giant, intimidating, box taking up so much space in my teacup AND my dirty rugs I, once again, thought…”How hard could this be??” Box opened!! Good start!

Read instructions…”should take about 5 minutes to assemble…” Check. I can do that. “Need a screwdriver…” Hmm, getting trickier; going to need tools. Ok, I’m still confident; no power tools needed. Screwdriver found! Yes! Begin assembly. “Snap the back into place.” What??? Where?? That’s all this stupid booklet is going to tell me??? How am I to know where or how??? Oh bother… I finally did figure it out. I was very pleased. Next…put in two screws. WHERE???? There were many hole options. Well, trial and error later, I finally found where they went. By now I’m getting a bit cocky. (Ok, I’m LONG past the 5 minutes assembly time and I’m not even half done but, I figured there was a learning curve.) The next step…attach some sort of holder to the handle. Well, I’ll cut to the chase here…I never did figure that part out. I just decided since it wasn’t vital to the functioning of the vacuum I could live without it. I will say snapping in the handle gave me just the boost I needed after having to surrender my attempt to attach the hoozydinger that I not only couldn’t attach but never even found. Buttons popping with pride just a bit prematurely..sigh…attaching the other end of the hose came next! But first, attaching the hose to the sucky portion (I’m sure there is a technical name for that but, hence, it will forever be known as the sucky portion) took more manual dexterity than I was blessed with. I had to hold open some sort of little trap door thingy while, at the same time, shoving the hose into the hole. (I can see where using my crevice tool will be rare since I’d have to re-do this trap door trick again to do that). Where to snap (I never want to hear that word again preceded by the word “just” as long as I live!) the other end of the hose had me for more time than I will even confess. Finally like finding that needle in the rug you knew you had dropped and HAD to find…I found it. Eureka! (Actually…Dirt Devil. And, may I say…APTLY named???) Hose attached. 45 minutes later, and minus one Hoozydinger…vacuum cleaner assembled. High five me!! Yay!! I did it!! Time to vacuum!!

Have you noticed the picture above? [ WARNING!! If you struggle with bladder leakage you might want to adequately prepare before reading further.] Before I go further and you fear I may have had a stroke, I want to be clear that I DID try pulling on that end thingy! Anyway—I stared at that and stared some more. I read and re-read the instructions but for the life of me I had no idea how to get that thing in my wall. I searched the box for an adapter. YES! I really did think it was a plug in for another country. (Hey, if you just wet yourself, I can’t be responsible…I DID warn you!) It took me 30 MINUTES!!!!! to finally figure how to pull harder on the cover. Voila!! The pesky end came off and I was a vacuuming fool. I’m proud to say, my Teacup has never looked better! Ok, so that is two hours of my life I’ll never get back but I now have learned how to assemble a basic vacuum cleaner. [If I haven’t already told you the story of my Swiffer fiasco, well…all I can say is it involved YouTube and outside help. I can’t bear to revisit that lesson!)

“Romans 12:3

For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

If ever there was a totally left brained person, it is me! One of the many things I’ve had said to me in my life is, “If you had half of a brain you’d be dangerous!” Apparently there was some truth to that. Fortunately, the danger is only to appliances and other mechanical things like figuring my way out of a Chinese finger toy! If nothing else, my lack of right brained skills has taught me a very valuable lesson in life…

Matthew 7:1-3:

 “Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye?

 

Speaking of that…dusting awaits! Where did I leave that Swiffer???????????

 

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I Want To Believe…

Reach out from behind your walls, they say

Throw back the curtains and let in the light of love, I am told

This time it will be different…you’ll see

I want to believe…

The wounds barely healed from the last time I dared

When into my life walks yet another risk; I’m still raw

I want to believe…

 

Trust God! Venture forward! Be vulnerable! You’ll see…

Isolation is from the enemy, never meant for one of His!

I want to believe…

 

Life is ebbing away and I stare at the scars all over my soul

Was it worth it? Who did it help? Was there a bigger plan?

I want to believe…

 

Finally all hope fades. I’m bled dry, my heart is pierced beyond repair

I have no more chances left to give; I am dead while still breathing

I wanted to believe…I gave it my best try

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911—THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!

It happened so fast that I didn’t even realize what was happening. It didn’t seem like a heart attack (that may be because at THAT moment it wasn’t) but I did know there was something very wrong.

I was at work when my non typical symptoms hit without warning. Since I am a “Person of Panic” I can even remember thinking to myself, “I think I’m supposed to be really, really afraid right now.” But…there wasn’t the least bit of fear. Fear’s absence seemed odd not only to me but to the ambulance attendants. I think, in retrospect, they might have thought for a minute that I was a bit “simple” and didn’t understand what was going on. That thought was soon dispelled when I began speaking “medical-ese” to them and explained that I was an RN.

I clearly recall the one EMT reading my EKG strip and asking me, “How are you speaking to us????” I think once he uttered the words he realized that he shouldn’t have but, oddly, even his words, which should have caused me great fear, evoked…NONE.

As they were getting me all situated in the ER again I had a nurse ask me the exact same question. This time she explained…”You are incomplete heart block. There are several seconds where your heart is not even beating. HOW are you speaking to us?” I kept waiting for the panic, the terror, to set in but it just never did.

A man who is not only my pastor but such a part of me that he could not be more like a son to me had I given birth to him came to see me. When he arrived my family left the room so we could speak. I remember telling him that I might not have much time and there were things I had to tell him. I was as matter of fact as if I was just late for a train. This tiny voice in the back of my head kept whispering…”This is just weird…”

I finally got put in my own room. I don’t think I was there 5 minutes when all of a sudden I felt something really unpleasant going on in my heart. I told someone to quick get me in the bed. Next thing I knew…in came the crash cart… they stopped in their tracks when they saw that I was talking.  It just so happened (hmm…) at that exact moment a cardiologist was walking past my door. The nurses grabbed him and showed him my rhythm. I later found out my heart had stopped for about 4 1/2 seconds. The bottom portion was not beating at all…that’s bad because that’s the part that sends the blood and oxygen to your body…but the top portion was beating just fine. Diagnosis in lay terms: I was plugged in to the electricity, the pump was in good shape but I had frayed wires and there was no electricity getting to the pump to tell it to beat.

The doctor explained that first thing the next morning I’d be receiving a pacemaker. Keeping in mind that I am someone that frets for 3 weeks before a mammogram the fact that  I took this news with barely a shrug struck everyone…including me…as, again…weird.

Later that night the doctor returned to tell me that my labs had come back and they indicated that somewhere along the line that day  I had actually had a heart attack. So, he was adding a heart cath to the menu for the morning.

This is a test I had always feared more than words could say for many rational and irrational reasons. But, this news elicited no fear response at all. He then said if there were blockages I might need stints or even open heart surgery. “Ok” was my reply. He looked at me oddly and said, “You do understand what I’m telling you, correct?”  I assured him that I was an RN and, if I did say so myself, a darn good one so, yes…I clearly understood everything he said.

I didn’t sleep well that night but not from concern but because they had me on a pretty high dose of IV nitroglycerin which was giving me a really nasty headache. The next morning arrived, I brushed my teeth and before I knew it they were there to transport me to the cath lab. OH…I forgot to mention, I was going to be completely awake for both of these procedures.

I’ll fast forward a bit or this will be far too long. The cardiac cath was a 25 minute breeze. No stints were needed. In fact, he said that I shouldn’t get cocky but I had the heart muscle of a 30 year old, vessels were almost completely clear and I even had wide vessels which is odd (and good) for a woman. Onward to the pacemaker…

I was strapped to the table including my head turned to my right for more than two hours. I couldn’t move in any way. I confess, that was less than fun but certainly not horrible. Through it all…I was totally fine. And then…

It was all over…I did extremely well…pacer seemed to be working like a charm and here came the panic and fear that had, essentially, been only a low simmer for the past 5 years back with a vengeance. At one point my entire body tremored so badly they didn’t know if I was having a seizure or what was happening to me…and neither did I. To say that I was hysterical is really an understatement. They finally gave me a “little shot” that just happened to knock me almost unconscious for nearly 10 hours.

It was the next day they sent me home. The roller coaster that I’ve been on ever since will be a story for another day. But not wanting to end this part of the story on a “Pointless” note, I have since learned that through all the worst parts of my experience I certainly was neither in shock nor denial. For as long as I can remember one of my prayers has always been, “Father, “I am the servant of the Lord. Be it unto me according to Your will, Lord.” But if I might ask one thing, may I have Your perfect peace when my time comes to leave this world and enter the next.” Even though I didn’t leave the world, and God granted me an unknown number of days to remain, He was faithful to His Word–

John 14:27

27 “I leave you peace; my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does. So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

And…I wasn’t.

More on the “roller coaster” and God’s hand prints even in that another day….

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The Worst of the Worst

I am a big C.S. Lewis fan. One of his more difficult books–The Four Loves–has been digging so deep in my being that I can barely think of much else.

Lewis talks about the various human forms of love and then finishes the book with the love that is God. One point he makes (and my paraphrase won’t do it justice) is that God had no need to create us and yet, with the full knowledge of His Son’s back being splintered on a Cross, with His flesh hanging in ribbons, nails through His hands—He created it none the less.

The greatest indignation of the Cross was not the beatings or the nails…it was the spitting. The beatings and the nails were ordered by the authorities, the spitting was a voluntary degradation–insult to injury, if you will.

My mind then goes to the thief that hung next to our Lord. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst of the worst. It wasn’t just done routinely any more than we execute criminals today. Yes, many were put to death in the times of Jesus but the more “routine”, common, forms of execution were beheading or hanging. So there nailed to a cross next to Jesus is not just a common criminal but a heinous criminal. In the last waning moments of this mans life he cries out for forgiveness and repents of his retched life. His request is heard and granted by a Savior gasping for every breath. If I were hanging, nailed to a cross would I hear anyone’s pleas but my own? Would I use one of my final breaths to grant a gift to a stranger—a stranger loathsome in the eyes of most, no less? I don’t even have to contemplate that question. The answer is simple; unequivocally, selfishly, NO!

    One of the criminals on a cross began to shout insults at Jesus: “Aren’t you the Christ? Then save yourself and us.” But the other criminal stopped him and said, “You should fear God! You are getting the same punishment he is. We are punished justly, getting what we deserve for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

This awakes in me the realization that I have, for so long, chosen to conveniently forget. Jesus died not only for me—which, knowing who I really am, makes me weep—but He died for the worst of the worst. He died for the serial murderer, the stalker, human trafficker—the pedophile! How can I pray for such as those? In myself I can’t—I WON’T! I thirst to see them suffer. And as I thirst for their blood and suffering, I hear my Savior say to the Father in regard to me—“Forgive her. She knows not what she does.”

I don’t want to leave you with a wrong impression. I fully want to see these people judicially punished for their crimes. I don’t think Jesus would want less. Yes. He is a God of mercy, but He is also a God of justice. But their crimes and offenses do not give me a pass on praying for them. [My mind can not yet even go to taking their place. I doubt in the flesh it ever will.]

But even the scenario of the heinous headline makers is still far removed from me in a sense. While my heart may break for some poor victim that has suffered at the hands of these “worst of the worst”, the truth is…I haven’t. It brings things a bit closer to home for me when I am reminded that I also must earnestly—that is an important word–pray for those who have inflicted pain on me. Some wounds have come by accident and some, by intention. I have always known I must forgive. I have always known that forgiveness is impossible from my own efforts. I have walked long in those truths. What is new for me is that not only must I forgive but, I must love. I must pray. I must remember who they are in His eyes. If I thought forgiveness was impossible, I am learning a new depth to the definition of that word.

     But I say to you who are listening now to Me: in order to heed, make it a practice to] love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred, Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you [who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you]. Luke 6:27-28 AMP

So—HOW? One word, one minute, one breath at a time in obedience until there are no more breaths left in me. That is how I see living in the “now”.

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