A week ago at this moment I was on an all-night flight from Brazil to the US. I was tired enough from my three-week trip that I actually slept for about three hours on the flight, which may be a record for me. I’m starting to wonder if I need to check into those tranquilizer darts they make to take down elephants.
Stepping off the plane in Sao Paulo was like taking a deep breath after holding it for a month. It was my 3rd/4th trips to Brazil with Global Awakening, and after the crazy month I’d had (wild story here if you haven’t read it), it felt like the first normal thing I’d done in a long time.
Yes, I know. Flying to Brazil to do three weeks of intense ministry isn’t normal for most people. But it was the first time in weeks that I felt like me, like I was doing something that was normal for me. And I loved doing it.
But…now I’m home. And to be honest, I don’t know what normal looks like anymore. I’m trying hard to resist trying to force it look like it looked before I drove myself to the hospital on August 26. I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s a gift to be alive, and any grief over unexpected and undesired changes must be tempered with that reality.
It’s better to be alive than to have a chest without a tender scar.
It’s better to be alive than to be able to take a decongestant if my sinuses get stuffy.
It’s better to be alive than to be free of taking a medication that wants to eat my stomach, and also free of the alarm I set for twice a day so I never forget to take it.
It’s better to be alive than to be free of lumpy little tiny computers implanted in my chest.
It’s better to be alive than to be able to drive.
That last one really bites.
I’m used to going where I need to go, when I want to go there. I am accustomed to being unlimited by distance if it’s drivable. Road trips are common for me, mostly solo. My van is known by close friends as my “prayer closet on wheels”, and I often keep up with preachers and speakers by listening to podcasts while on the go.
But there’s a law in Florida that says that if you lose consciousness, you can’t drive for six months. Which I did. You can’t really go into a lethal heart rhythm without eventually losing consciousness, because your brain stops getting blood flow. The reality is that I don’t yet know if I’ll ever be cleared to drive again. I have a little over four months left of the six month legal requirement (on the assumption that what happened in August doesn’t happen again or my device doesn’t fire, because that would re-set the clock), but it’s not just about the law. It’s also about the recommendation of physicians who look at my specific case. And more than that, I have to have the peace of heaven over this. No matter how much I want to drive, I must have peace that I would not be a danger to anyone if I got behind the wheel. And those things are all unknown right now.
The scar on my chest will toughen up, and it should be 7-10 years before the device has to be replaced.
I can use essential oils if I get stuffy, or better yet, I can learn a new level of living in divine health where I don’t get a stuffy head, even in the middle of this other attack on my physical well-being.
It’s possible that I won’t need the stomach-eating medication for more than a few month, since it’s really just to help my body/heart find stability after all the trauma it’s been through.
The lumpy little computer doesn’t stick out all that much, and I’m praying that its primary job will be to testify to God’s goodness in healing me, rather than tracking a goofy electrical dysfunction from the pit of hell, which needs to go back where it came from. It’s always more fun to track heaven than hell anyway.
Maybe one day in the not too distant future I’ll really get to debate whether I would prefer the Honda CVR or a Toyota RAV4. Or I could hire me a Jeeves or a Hoke. Probably a Jeeves, because I suspect I’m more Bertie Wooster than Miss Daisy.
Perspective is powerful stuff. Lack of it can be powerfully damaging. I don’t want to be caught up in what I can’t do, although sometimes it’s so in my face that it’s hard not to choke on it. I want to glean every gift hidden in this mess. I don’t want to miss a lesson that could teach me something that upgrades my thinking or my maturity. I want to live in unreasonable hope and outrageous joy, undaunted by opposition. After all, I’m alive. In spite of blatant attempts from hell to render me otherwise, I am very much alive, and gratefully so.
I have to admit, however…some days I feel like a third grader tackling a master’s level course.
They say I talk too slow
and maybe it is true
I don’t want my words to paint an apple
when my brain means a screwdriver
Because then you’d never understand
and it would be my fault
because I forgot to be careful
Words have weight
I feel them in my chest before they
ever roll off my tongue
And when I release them I know
the universe will never be the same
once it holds their vibration
I have much to say but I’m not a microwave
Words don’t reconstitute with a pour-over
of boiling water
I am unable to counter this inconvenience
or perhaps just unwilling
They say I talk too slow
But I think they just listen too fast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.