Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When Life Gives You Scars....

I wish I had the words to complete that phrase.... When Life Gives You Scars... then what? Lots of thoughts come to mind... When Life Gives You Scars...
...Embrace Them.
...Hide Them.
...Flaunt Them.
... Put Vitamin E Oil on Them.

This short life has given me lost of scars, figuratively and literally. The most recent being a 7.5 inch line of nastiness down the middle of my chest. Some days I feel like wearing it like a badge of honor and other days just the ugliness of it catches me off guard.

I won't lie that intimacy is also different now. I want my chest covered because, while there are times that my scar wears like courage, it certainly never feels attractive. My husband says and expresses otherwise but I can't help how I feel. It's an eye sore, for sure. So with this scar I wrestle. Hide it in shame or wear it with pride? The answer depends on the day.

In time my scar will fade and seeing it in my reflection probably won't surprise me and will feel like part of me. Physical scars do fade. But what about emotional scars? Do they fade or change with time? What do we do when life gives us those?

Now I'm back to finishing the title to this blog, I think. What if when life gave us scars, we learned from them? Our pastor once shared that when trouble comes we must see ourselves as students and not victims. Maybe the scars are just the reminders of the lessons learned.

A couple of years ago I had a very hot pizza stone burst on my stove top and come crashing down right where my 2 and 4 year-old children were standing. Miraculously, in the fraction of a second it took for the searing pieces to land, my two little ones weren't standing there anymore. They didn't know to move, nor did they have quick enough reflexes to jump out of the way. They were just there one moment and out of the way the next. It truly was a miracle. The scorching pieces of stone melted the linoleum in the kitchen, leaving a large scar in my kitchen floor. Yes, it looked bad but every time I saw it, I praised and thanked the Lord for what He did that day to spare my children pain and disfigurement. That scar in the linoleum served as a constant reminder of what He did and was there for a lesson to be learned in God's faithfulness. I wouldn't trade that scar for anything.

So it is with my other scars... from brain surgery, heart surgery, miscarriage, marathon bombings, etc.... I have learned and grown from each one. What's underneath those scars is a beautiful picture of a heart that's learning, growing and maturing. As Ann Voskamp would say, "it's the ugly-beautiful.:

Yes, life will give you scars but when it does, learn from them.

"Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When Courage Doesn't Come all At Once

Last week, my son was playing at the park with a few of his buddings when I overheard them setting up their make-believe fun. They were assigning roles as I heard one of them say, "I wanna be the brave one." And another, "No, I want to be the brave one." They went round and round trying to decide who would get to be the brave one this time.

If you've been reading my blog then the one thing I hope you have gotten is that the Lord truly gives the peace that passes ALL understanding... he really does! I have experienced it many times and it was especially present in the weeks leading up to my diagnosis and surgery. But there are times when I just don't want to be the brave one. Times when I just want to kiss courage good-bye and pull the covers over my head.

That was how I felt in the wee morning hours on the day of my surgery. Unfortunately, I didn't wake up with this heavy dose of peacefulness that would carry me through the whole day. I woke up and was like... Oh yeah... today's the day I have open heart surgery. And then my body was paralyzed. Not paralyzed with anxiety and fear that makes your heart race and your body shake. But I literally couldn't or didn't move. I just lay there and wondered what would happen if I just stayed in bed and chose not to go to the hospital. If I didn't show up then they couldn't do the surgery, right?? But I needed the surgery so I not-so-bravely reminded myself that irrational thoughts wouldn't get me anywhere (although I didn't want to go anywhere at that moment:).

I decided to break the day into bite size chunks. First I prayed for the courage to get out of bed and it came. As I sat on the edge of the bed, I prayed for strength to walk to the bathroom. With each step I prayed for courage to take the pre-surgery, sanitation shower. And then getting dressed. Getting to the car. Walking into the hospital. Putting a smile on my face.... On and on, one step at a time. It all strung together into a peace-filled early morning. The Lord gave me the same strength, courage, peace and even humor that He has given all along. It was all there for me. I just had to ask.  Yeah, there are times when I don't want to be the brave one but those are the times I have to remind myself that sometimes courage doesn't come all at once.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I Wore My Runner Shirt Today

So I woke up today feeling a little Forest Gumpish. So I got decked out in my running gear, stepped off my porch and I started to run. And I just kept on running. I ran down the driveway. Down a hill. Up a hill. To a stop sign. Then I turned around. And I ran down a hill. I ran up a hill. And I ran back down my driveway.

In case you're adding up the distance... that's 2 miles! I ran two miles today- non stop!!!!! And in twenty minutes (insert more exclamation points:) Me.... with the 7.5 inch scar (I measured it yesterday.) and split sternum. Me who just had open heart surgery 7 weeks ago and emergency surgery 5 weeks ago. Yes, recovering-little-me. AND IT FELT WONDERFUL!!!

When I got home, I put on my shirt that says, "Runner" because that's me.

Answered Prayer

I had the heart cath on March 6th and found out that day that I didn't have the terminal illness that was suspected. The cardiologist did find an anomalous RCA and scheduled me for a CAT scan to find out the origin and course of the artery. I knew that the CAT scan would determine if the anomaly was benign or malignant and whether I would need heart surgery or not.

I had the scan on a Wednesday and received a call from the cardiologist the next day. They told me that they needed to see me to discuss the results. My appointment was scheduled for the following Tuesday. Up to that point, I had such peace about all of this but with that one phone call, I became unglued inside.

After much soul searching over the next couple of days I realized that I wasn't fearful of the outcome. Instead, I was bothered by the wait. I didn't like that the doctor knew my results and I didn't. I wanted to know my "fate" right away. This impatience manifested itself in me in the from of constant internal turmoil. I woke up thinking about it, went to bed thinking about it and struggled with those thought all day.

This was so out of character for me. When I went through brain surgery almost a decade ago, I was flooded with the peace that passes all understanding. In every difficult situation along the way the Lord gave just what I needed, when I needed it. This constant anxiety became a big internal struggle for me.  I was reminded of a story I heard from Francis Chan where he talked of a church member who was a former Mr. Universe or something like that. His wife was also a body builder and together, they were quite an impressive pair. Anyone would expect that their children would be strong and tough, too but what if, he mused, they were the weak, little twerps. Then he made the connection between that scenario and the Lord.

We serve a mighty and powerful God who is capable of ANYTHING. Why then do so many Christians was around fearful and anxious when we're His children? It just doesn't add up! Because of this, I could not accept anxiety as a "normal" emotion given my circumstance. God promises peace in ALL situations so I began to plead to the Lord to help me through the impatient feelings I was having and to replace them with peace.

For days, this way my constant prayer but no matter how hard I prayed and how much scripture I read, I couldn't shake the anxiety. I felt so strongly that no matter what I would have to face in regard to my health that I wanted to look back and know I pleased my Heavenly Father with how I handled it so I prayed even more.

Finally on Sunday, still two days until my appointment, I pleaded with the Lord to give me a word or something that would ease my heart and mind. Later that afternoon, a good friend of mine came to visit. When she heard about my heart troubles she prayed for me as we walked around camp. She had no idea of the inner turmoil I was facing but as she prayed for me, she said, "And I thank you Lord that you already know..."

With those words and the realization that God already knew the results, I was filled with peace... a peace that washed away the anxious feelings. It was so elementary (Duh! I knew that God knows everything!) but that was the word from God that I had prayed for earlier and it was just the reminder I needed. I didn't need to know my results right away because God already knew. God is so faithful to have answered my prayer.

With that, I went into Tuesday with true peace and patience. And wouldn't you know, my cardiologist was ill on Tuesday and couldn't see me until Wednesday.  When the doctor's office called to reschedule I didn't even feel upset for a moment because I immediately recognized it as a test to see if I would only trust Him for so many days:) I praise the Lord for bringing me through that experience and He has continued to give me what I need to walk this out. He is faithful!!!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Seven Week Update

Can you believe it has been 7 weeks since my OHS? The time has really flown by. I am happy to report that I am doing better than I ever thought I would be at this point (and I have high expectations:). I truly anticipated a full 12 weeks before I could handle my normal day-to-day activities and feel like myself. But... here I am, feeling like I'm at about 80% of "normal" (I use that term loosely!). That's especially encouraging because many people told me it would take 1-2 years before I felt like myself again (which is how it was for me after brain surgery so I understand). 

Here are some recent highlights:

  • I am regularly walking 3 miles (in my NB shoes) and jog several short sessions during those walks. This past Friday, my jogs totaled 1 of those three miles. 
  • I am preparing meals and doing regular clean up around the house. Certainly not sweeping, mopping, or lugging around baskets of laundry but my delegation skills are as sharp as ever!
  • I can take care of my children, run errands with them and take them around camp, just like before surgery.
  • I can get dressed in normal clothes. When I put a t-shirt on over my head last week, I made sure everyone in the house knew!
  • Thanks to a dear friend, we spent all day Saturday at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta (a 1-2 hour drive). I navigated the crowds with the best of 'em.
  • My happiest milestone... I am sleeping in my bed and on my side. Ahhhh.... never underestimate the power of sleep.
Speaking of sleep, last night our littlest blessing came into our room around 1 AM complaining of an upset tummy:(  She ended up vomiting from 2-4:30 AM. This may sound crazy but I was so happy and thankful to be physically capable of caring for her, which involves hopping in and out of bed at a moment's notice. She had a touch of a stomach bug about three months ago, at the same time that I was in the hospital for a heart cath. I ended up staying overnight in the hospital due to a minor complication and then staying a couple of nights at some friends' house so make sure that I didn't get the bug. Being away from her when she needed me was difficult. I'm just so happy to be able to be her mommy- in the happy times and the yucky times!

The only restriction that the doctor says remains on me at this point is no lifting over 10 pounds until 10 weeks post-op. That's only three weeks away and you can bet that the first "thing" I pick up with be my sweet little four year old. We have a lot of holding to make up for!

P.S. Please pray that I don't get whatever Little Bit has. I don't think that would feel too good in my chest:) Thanks!

 Two of the girls waiting for the 3-D show to begin.

Two of my favorite guys. This was taken outside the Aquarium after our full day. (And there's my narly scar  Badge of Courage:)