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Grateful, thankful, indebted…

September 5, 2016

When I grabbed my purse and my keys and walked out the door of my house ten days ago, I had no idea that it would be nine days before I returned home.

The fact that I have indeed returned home is a point of overwhelming gratitude.

I had no warning whatsoever about the drastic turns my life was about to take. And I’m not going to give you the detailed story/timeline here for two reasons:

1. I am zealously guarding my energy output, and

2. I am still piecing it together myself.

But I can at least sum it up for now, knowing that even that much will be incomplete, but the only way you can rejoice with me about God’s goodness in this is to have an idea of what He’s taken me through.

I left home that morning on August 29th because I’d had an odd pain in my abdomen since the prior morning that wasn’t resolving, and it was the advice of my primary care physician to go to the ER where they’d be able to run tests she wouldn’t be able to run in her office. I was uncomfortable but otherwise pretty healthy and strong, so I simply drove myself there. From there on these are some of the things that went down, in no particular order, and as best as I remember them at this point.

1 Emergency Room, 3 Intensive Care Units, 1 regular hospital room, 2 ambulance transfer rides (complete with lights and sirens), 1 CT scan, 2 ultrasounds, 3 code blues, 4 cardioversions (that’s where they shock you with the paddles), 2 sets of chest compressions (but 0 broken ribs, yay!), bunch of bags of lidocaine dripped into my veins, 1 heart catheterization, 1 MRI of my heart, countless tubes of blood taken, countless ECGs, countless needle pokes, 1 picc line, 1 extensive ablation (a procedure where they cauterize bits of the heart gone rogue that are throwing off its groove in a rather deadly way), 1 ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator permanently under the skin on the front side of my left shoulder), a ton of medical professionals scratching their heads and saying “this makes no sense; God must really want her in Brazil!”, a fair number of merciful doses of valium, a bunch of bruises, the talk of the local cardiology world for the weirdness of the case, more people than I’ll ever know petitioning heaven on my behalf, and 1 husband who set aside his life to be with me, guard me, pray over me, comfort me, and generally attend to every need he possibly could.

What does any of that have to do with a pain in my abdomen?  Nothing. The pain in my abdomen is from a gallbladder being naughty.  I “just happened” to be in a hospital room when my heart went into a deadly rhythm and decided to quit. In fact, I “just happened” to be in a hospital room every time it happened.  And no, it had never happened before, and there were no warning signs that it ever might.  It is possible, although it would be difficult to prove it, that this was all kicked off by a dose of Zofran given with some pain medication for my abdominal pain, since it is listed as a rare side effect. But we’ll really never know. The cardiologist who took on my case at the third hospital specializes in the electrical part of the heart, and he said that in his 17 years of practice, I was only the third case of this he’d ever seen. It’s really, really rare, and rarer still that anyone survives it.

I don’t know what God is up to in this, but it is so plain that He’s in it that the medical professionals would frequently make mention of how only God can orchestrate a story like this. They all knew I was less than a month from my date to leave for my ministry trip to Brazil, and so often when they’d leave me they’d say something like “have an amazing time in Brazil!” or “you’re going to have a great trip to Brazil!”. Normally, that would be a strange thing to say to someone in a bed in ICU. But it was as if everyone knew something deep in their knower when I was too tired, too strung out, or too medicated to keep it in the front of mine.

The ablation procedure has brought my heart rhythms back to a much more normal activity, and as it heals it continues to normalize even more. The ICD, which is a personal defibrillator implanted under the skin of my chest, is a safety net in case something ever goes wonky…it will detect the wonkiness and try to correct it nicely, and if that doesn’t work it will shock the wonkiness right outta me…which completely resets me to a normal rhythm. I hope I never need it, frankly, but that’s something I have to trust God with. He’s been so faithful and He’s shown Himself more than trustworthy.

For now I am resting, healing, and regaining strength. I am keeping the eyes and ears of my heart open for every new thing God wants to teach me in this season and through this crazy ride of a story.

And I’m expanding my vocabulary with words that all mean thankful.

Untitled

August 23, 2016

I haven’t even started to write and yet the post editor insists on a title.

How would I even know that?

How would I summarize or describe something that doesn’t yet exist?

It would be different if I came with intent, and I suppose it’s not unreasonable to think I might.

You probably would.

But I just showed up.  I didn’t know what else to do.

I once knew someone who believed in intention, but when intention dried up and blew away, she went to live in a box.

I didn’t know I should be sad to see her go.

When she left I turned on the television…the CD player…the radio…anything to fill the silence she left behind.

But silence infected with noise often begins to take on a life of its own, and on the day I couldn’t get into my kitchen because the noise was taking up too much space, I turned them all off and slumped to the floor.

It was there I discovered that my thoughts were louder than the TV had ever been, and the volume control knob on them was broken.

They lived in technicolor and surround sound; they were relentless and merciless.

I eventually broke a window to let some of them out so my head wouldn’t explode.

Sometimes it exploded a little anyway.

You probably noticed.

I wonder if Ms. Intentionality knew this could happen, and if she would find it worth checking out of that box to explore the option.

Sometimes it’s better to break a lease than to be driven insane by four tight walls and a ceiling that’s too low and an impossible standard.

Then again, it would probably frighten her to realize I’m no longer afraid to harness the crazy and see where it runs.

 

 

 

Violent disarray

August 22, 2016

I used to like that place

It had my favorite rooms

But then I got new glasses

The lenses fixed my eyes

That place I now find garish

I squint in the neon black

It’s a silent war zone

The air is way too dark

This is our arrogance

This is our indulgence

We’re blinded by the darkness

We sing victory songs from our cells

 

From our divided mouths

We beg peace to visit

Our words garbled by

our open switchblade tongues

We pound on the tables

We stomp on the floors

Anything to drown out

the deafening silence

Our minds are the war zone

We stare down the enemy

that taunts from the mirror

This is our insolence

This is our violence

Our altars are dripping with blood

But we’re oblivious to the sacrifice.

 

 

 

The shoes

August 18, 2016

 

I had an awesome pair of dancing shoes

They were very expensive but a fine investment

They matched all my clothes perfectly

I never wanted to wear anything else

But then one day a friend asked me to try ordinary shoes

I wanted to say no

I would have said no to anyone else

But this wasn’t that kind of friend

And so I handed him my lovely shoes

He nodded his head towards a pair of faded and worn sneakers in the corner

They didn’t match and they had some holes

It was like lacing sadness onto my feet

They felt like they weighed a ton

And my feet no longer wanted to dance

They didn’t even want to walk to the mailbox

I glanced at the faces around me and then down at their feet

They were all wearing sad shoes

Ill-fitting with holes and broken laces and dangling buckles

Soles encrusted with thick dark mud

Here and there I saw a pair of shoes abandoned

My heart broke

I knew the shoes had swallowed the person who once wore them

Pulled the yes out of their heads

Sucked the breath from their lungs

A person gone for lack of dancing shoes

I turned with tears to find my friend holding out my wonderful shoes

I began to pry frantically at the old pair on my feet

They would not budge until he knelt down and gently removed them

I sobbed as he quietly cradled my feet and replaced my shoes

My feet were once again comfortable

The shoes still matched everything

But my dance was forever changed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recalled

August 14, 2016

I watched him weave a path through the darkness

He knew all the land mines of the night

The sticky knotted webs suffocating broken prey

The blades still dripping with pain

Empty bottles and frozen screens

Brains throbbing inside of sharp-edged skulls

Red eyes squinted in the approaching light

The ground littered with lock-jawed shame.

His fingertips gently brushed the anguish as he passed

His breath suspended in the air

Fear recoiled at his reach

But what his fingers missed his breath did not

 

I observed him from a safe distance

Then suddenly he was before me

I was reminded there is neither safety nor distance where he is concerned

I lost my breath and could not move as his eyes locked to mine

He reached forward and put his finger on an old scar

Long ago healed and faded and dismissed from my thought

At his touch a gasp escaped my lips as the searing pain resurged

Only for a little while, he said

Only until you’ve remembered well

I realized that I did not want to remember

I did not want to feel that pain again

I wanted to be done

But as he pierced me with his gaze I knew I would never be done

Because I too know the path through the darkness

My blood is soaked into the ground there

He wears me like a glove

I carry his breath

And what his fingers miss his breath does not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carving around the outside

August 11, 2016

 

I called for an appointment for a makeover

Nothing drastic, I thought

Maybe a trim, boost in color

I thought you’d be too busy, really

And it would likely be weeks before you had an opening

Maybe months

But you had other ideas

I don’t know why I thought you wouldn’t

You wanted to build a house

You wanted to plant a garden

You wanted to clean out my closets

You wanted to have a bonfire

And you had ideas about what to burn

I didn’t want to tell you no

But I saw the look in your eye

I heard the tone of your voice

I knew the furniture would be too tall for me in that house

I knew there would be snakes in the garden

I didn’t want you to see my closets

It was me you wanted to burn

And here we are again

My lips are forming yes

But I can’t look you in the eye

You will see into the middle

You will see into the mess

So you peer at me through the crack in the wall

I pretend I don’t notice you noticing

But I can feel your eyes burning a hole in my heart

You remind me I gave you permission

This will warm your bones, you say

And I admit I’ve caught a chill

I never quite warmed up after winter

That’s why I wanted a makeover anyway

But of course you already knew that.

 

 

 

What the marrow sees

August 7, 2016

I saw what saw

and I never said I didn’t

but you didn’t see and so

you assumed I couldn’t.

I didn’t want to argue

didn’t want to scare you

didn’t want to make you

shove your fingers

in your ears

as you backed away slowly.

Even on the days

my bones catch a chill

and the colors are dull

and I begin to wonder

if the wind will ever come again,

I know there are embers

and no veil is beyond tearing.

There will be breath

and I will live

And there will be words

and I will see what

you have said

and then I cannot help

but burn.