Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eight Things I've Learned {about healing from Open-Heart Surgery} in January

One thing that helps me write is doing so in "community" and one community that I have enjoyed is Emily's "Let's Share What We Learned in {the Past Month}". Unless I take a peek over my shoulder on the past, I don't always appreciate the lessons I've learned. It is beneficial to acknowledge them and then move forward—one step at a time.

Which brings me to the first thing I learned.

1. I was struggling to come up with a "One Word" for 2015. I process my thoughts pretty slowly (as most things I do) and was mulling over half a dozen words but they didn't quite fit. I was sitting in the rocking chair, while Jon was preparing supper, stirring something in a pot on the stovetop. I threw out the question, "Jon, what do you think my word should be for this year?" As fast as he could give that something one more stir, he tossed back the perfect word: "Endurance".

It was a reminder of how much we have grown together in the last half of 2014 and how much we need to keep pressing on in this race that has been set before us.

2. Life, at times, feels like a marathon with the finish line never-ending-miles away, but in the grand scheme of things, it's really a 100 foot sprint. Life is a vapour and all life will fade away. So, I've learned once again that life doesn't always go the way we dream or plan. And along the way, God places people to cheer us on when we are not sure we can put one foot forward. In times of trial and transition, we need these people. We have been blessed with many.

When we found out that there were such people desiring to help our family in the area of our children's education while I continue to gain strength and recover, it made the transition from home to a small local Christian School so much easier than I could have ever imagined. And I've learned that my children have transitioned well.

I've also learned all about new things that come with "going to school" such as: "Have you unpacked your lunch-bag?" (or else the cut peppers that didn't get eaten for lunch are a smelly mess on Sunday evening), "Have you finished all your homework?" and such things like, "Look at the new dance move I learned in school today!"

3. I am a firm believer that fresh air and sunshine and the beauty of creation will do a lot to heal the body and mind. But, on days that I'm feeling crummy I don't necessarily want to step out into the freezing cold. So, yeah, I challenged myself at the beginning of the month to get outside everyday this year and snap a photo of something beautiful while I am out in the great outdoors. I've missed only once so far because it was minus-crazy degrees Celsius out (that converts to -30 something with the windchill) and my oxygen hose would have frozen in five seconds flat. 

You can follow on Instagram, if you wish, and join me at the hashtag #greatoutdoors365. Let's get out there!

4. Playing games is another way that I've learned that has been helping me in my recovery. Part of the recovery process is emotional healing. Coming home after 80 days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, I experienced shell-shock and ongoing Post-traumatic Stress from the surgery and prolonged stay in the hospital. It would be an understatement to say that coming home, although wonderful and what I had longed for, was extremely difficult. My Mom, helped me during these times, by playing board games with me—something to get my mind engaged in thoughts other than the negative ones of what had happened and what I thought was going to happen!

If you come for a visit, be prepared to play a game of Quirkle, Skip-Bo, Bananagrams, Card games, Settlers, Blokus, anything. I'll even play Vanna, in our vintage game of Wheel of Fortune. Just please don't ask me to play Uno or Risk (too many times).

An added bonus is that games are a fun way for four year olds to learn and review number sequencing, patterns, colours, and how to win and lose well (yeah, no mercy in games in this house). 

5. The new hardware in my heart is noisy. The more quiet the house is (which is what has happened since the "First Day of School"—see number 2) the more I can hear my valve click shut. If you are ever sitting beside me in relative quiet, you might mistake me for a clock or a ticking time bomb. I'll be glad when I've learned to grow accustomed to the sound. For now, what I have learned is the best way I could explain it to my littlest one as I was tucking her into bed and she was concerned about "that sound—'do you hear THAT BOOM BOOM sound?'" was to tell her: "the ticking is because Dr. David fixed my heart that was sick and now we can hear this message (spoken in staccato): 'Ma-ma-loves-La-el-Ma-ma-loves-Lael'" over and over and over. She was delighted to hear that. But then, that got her thinking and the next thing she was trying to figure out was how that sound got there and her jaw dropped before she could say, with her hands punctuating her words, "You mean, Dr. David cut you open and cut open your heart! He, like, cut open your skin, and cut your heart!" Oh dear, the things we have to learn in life. 

6. In a hot bath recently, I counted on my fingers all my nieces and nephews. There are enough that I keep forgetting the number and I think such profound thoughts like that late at night these days. I'm waiting for my sister to deliver her baby that will make me an Aunt for the 23rd time. She is on my mind a lot these days and in thinking about my sister's stage of waiting to deliver, for some reason it helped me to act as midwife to release some of my own words

7. Words go well with tea or coffee or a sweet vanilla latte. I could never figure out why anyone would drink hot water, when all these other options are available, but it has become my "special-tea". Other than a morning coffee, I've been having a hard time drinking a full cup of tea since my surgery, so I tried hot water (so as not to waste all the tea and milk). I learned that this "special-tea" of mine is quite soothing and found that the plain and simple does me just fine right now, thank you.

8. Water is a basic human need. As is oxygen. A wonderful thing I learned this month, and is an answer to the prayers of many, is how my body has healed in terms of the oxygen I needed. I came home from the hospital on assisted oxygen and had a 50 foot line trailing behind me, yanking on my nose whenever somebody's foot, mine or the others in the house, tripped on my 'tail'. No one could tell me for sure if my body would ever be able to be free from assisted oxygen. Healing takes time and the hardest thing to do when you want healing to come is wait for it. Which is why "Endurance" is such a good word for me this year (see number 1).

Well, for a few weeks now, my oxygen saturation stats have been holding stable during the day. It has been a lesson in how our bodies have been made to heal, but that healing takes time. And the only way to move forward is to take one step at a time, trusting in the One who heals.
". . . we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

And now after delivering all these words in the midst of a loud household on a Saturday, I need to go take a deep breath in the great outdoors, come in for a hot cup of my 'special tea', play a game or two of 'President' before a hot bath with the music (thank you Christa Wells and Nicole Witt for sharing your beautiful songs) cranked up loud to drown out the tick-tick-tick of my new heart valve.

Maybe then, I will hear that I've become an Aunt once again. (See number 6).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Need For Endurance to Run This Race {Life After Open-Heart Surgery}

Words that breath life cannot be birthed until they have been carried to full term and made ready to be delivered.

I've been burdened with the weight of bearing these words, but unable to bring them forth. I've been stuck and some might call it writer's block, but you'd have to consider yourself a real 'writer' to blame the block. It's more like they, the words, have been choked deep down inside me and I was too weak and weary to release them. Now, lately, they have been keeping me awake at night and I wonder if it's time to start gently labouring. To take some deep breaths and bear down in the pain and see what beauty might begin to emerge.

So, I'll take the role of midwife and speak softly and firmly to the heart and soul holding onto these words deep within and remind her to let go of the fear and with courage and love and a whole lot of brave to ease these words out and surrender them and trust.

There have been so many lessons of surrender and trust in the One who is Sovereign and breaths life into all and sustains life and is Life. But to hold onto them so tightly and refuse to let them out, well, they will only intensify the pain and not do anyone any good. The time has come to let them out into the world, wrap them up to be received, and hand them over that others can share in the blessing of the Suffering and Joy.

Five months ago today, this heart thought she was brave when she was wheeled into high-risk open-heart surgery, but coming out of it was a whole new story. For weeks after, when her body baffled even the wisest of Doctors, set-backs were relentless, and Death was a persistent knock at the door, she wanted to welcome it. And then she would remember that she had a husband and three young children and she would find that she was stuck in the middle of Living and Dying. Her husband would stand by her side and plead with her, look straight as arrows into her eyes and tell her that it's not her time for answering That Call and he firmly believed that God was not finished with her here on earth. "To live is Christ and to die is gain", she would scratch with her pencil on the clipboard when she had no voice and she would try to find a middle ground. But, with Living and Dying there is no middle ground, only Looking to Jesus so as to not grow weary and lose heart in the Living and run with endurance till we come to the end.

She knows her days, like everyone's, are numbered, but fear keeps her from, at times, living each one to the fullest. Every moment of her days she needs to surrender her life to and trust the One who knows every intimate detail of her time on this orbiting earth.

But, when Death is meddling with your Living, this trust confronts an entirely new vulnerability. She weeps in the darkness and through tears sees that it's not so much the welcoming of Death, but it's the desire for the Suffering to end. And when she keeps waking up and there is no end of Suffering on this spinning globe, she stands face to face with Grief. This Grief keeps her company for days and reminds her that Suffering is a result of Sin but at the same time this same Suffering transforms her, one degree at a time, into the very likeness of the Son of God. The One who endured Suffering for her sake and conquered Sin that she might know Life Eternal. And she learns all over again that God's glory shines brightest in her darkest days.

She's swollen with painful memories, but somewhere in the middle of Surrender and Trust is the Hope that she keeps speaking about to her own soul.

There is life to be lived,
lessons to be learned,
strength to be gained,
grace to be received,
glory to be revealed.

There are words that breath life and need to be birthed and Grace and Gospel to be spoken to her own soul to keep her moving forward with Hope in God. To prod her on to take one step more, one step more, give her faith for one step more, and with the need for endurance to run this race set before her even as it dips into deep valleys and great Suffering. For as she moves forward and along the way, she will find that Joy has been waiting for her in the midst of Suffering all along.

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