Humbled

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Gentle Reader,

Six days in the hospital. Strapped to a machine. Trying to find a good position for sleep in a hard bed. Listening to whaps and bangs and wheezes. Searching for something to watch. Drifting in and out of consciousness. Becoming BFFs with the pain pump.

There’s nothing like having major surgery.

The surgery was scheduled for four hours but ended up taking a little over five. I said good-bye to my family about a quarter after 9:00 a.m. December 12th and didn’t see them again until close to 7:00 p.m. that night. At least I think it was around that time. I was far too drugged to know for sure.

The tumor was a little larger than a golf ball. My surgeon was able to scoop it out without having to take too much liver tissue with it. I have an incision that starts just beneath my sternum and runs down around my rib cage, where it finally terminates at the spot where my elbow hits my waist.

My skin is torn in several places from the tape. Tape everywhere. Tape to hold down the central line poked into my neck, tape to hold down the epidural line, tape to hold down the drain lodged in my abdomen, tape to hold down the IV. Steri strips cover the incision, their corners beginning to peel.

At least a dozen total strangers have seen me naked. I shuffled down hallways, pushing an IV pole and hoping that my rear end didn’t make an unscheduled appearance. I heard people scream and moan in the middle of the night. I relied on nurses for everything from sitting up to showering. I called them at 3:00 a.m. when the pain pump began to buzz. They put up with my lame sense of humor, made sure I ate throughout the day and pushed me to move even though I didn’t want to.

Now, at home, I rely on my family. My mom helped me shower when I first got back. Chris monitors my pain pill schedule and sleeps on the couch so I don’t have to be alone in the living room. My brother comes over during the day and we watch movies. My dad brings me medicinal goods such as Pepsi.

I’m living in the recliner, propped up by five pillows. The dogs nap on the ottoman by my feet. Tears sting my eyes every time I see the incision, every time I breathe deeply, every time I try to shift into a more comfortable position. I need to laugh but when I do the pain is so great. I am tired and frustrated. So I make use of the coloring books my mom and my boss got me. Swiping crayons across the page is deeply satisfying.

I have recited Psalm 23 more times than I can count. I’ve begged God for strength, for relief, for hope. He has answered. He has continually buoyed my soul above the mire that would drag me down. I am laid low, but I am not done. I ache, but the ache will not last forever. Breath comes dear but it comes nonetheless.

I am in the valley of the shadow, but I see the sun. God is here.

My journey to faith. (15)

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Five Minute Friday: Turn

Gentle Reader,

‘Tis that five minute time with Kate and the gang. We: turn.

Go.

Ugh. Down with a cold, the second one in three weeks. Got my tissues, my soup, my orange juice, my cough medicine – the cough medicine I’m not really supposed to take but I’m so desperate for sleep that I’ll take it anyway. It’s not good for my liver. My liver who’s playing host to a guest.

It’s a tumor.

Or a tumah.

Depends on your accent.

It’s really bizarre to be told that you’ve got this bubble-like thing growing on one of your organs. You’re happy when they say it’s almost surely benign, but still. It’s a thing. A thing that shouldn’t be there. And now you’ve got a consultation scheduled with an oncologist who specializes in hepatobilliary tumors.

At least he’s a dog person, according to the information your mom found.

I don’t know if I’m overwhelmed or just smack in the center of that peace that doesn’t make any sense. Either way, this is the truth to which I turn:

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This is one of those “God said it so I believe it” times. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Surgery and recovery and tests. Long words I can’t pronounce. The possibility of being force-fed Jell-O.

Whatever comes, God will save me.

And you.

Stop.

Let us turn to Him.

My journey to faith. (15)

The Detox Diaries: Five Vials of Blood

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Gentle Reader,

The doctor.

We’re developing quite a relationship.

Today’s visit marked the fourth to his office in a seven-day span. I’m getting to the point where I know what information the receptionist is going to ask me to confirm before she asks it. I just start rattling off numbers and dates.

I told you that I’d been called into the office to discuss the results of the blood work I had done last Monday, and that God had been faithful to give me peace for that appointment. I am beyond thankful for that, because things aren’t the greatest. They could be worse; I’m glad that my blood sugar level is fine and that my triglycerides have stabilized. All this walking and avoiding delicious food has done some good. My liver function is, however, neither fine nor stable.

Without a medical degree I can’t properly explain the situation, but what I do know is that there are two enzymes, AST and ALT, in the liver that work to filter the blood and break down the yuck stuff. Both of mine are at much higher levels than they should be. This can be an indication of leakage from damaged cells caused by liver inflammation or cell death. Basically, my liver is not working like it’s supposed to, but my doctor doesn’t know why. He ordered more tests and has referred me to a specialist, whose call I am anxiously awaiting.

So, round two. Today I got poked again and forked over five vials of blood. These tests will reveal the levels of iron and copper in my blood, as well as the level of some very long word that began with an “a.” The lab will also run a complete hepatic panel, though I don’t know what that entails. I assume that they are checking levels of other enzymes that hang out in the liver.

I hurry to get to appointments and then wait for the results. Hurry up and wait. That is the great test of patience.

This testing and stretching of my limitations moves me to a place of thankfulness as I think on the fact that God knows all things. He knows the end from the beginning, and the middle part, too. He knows what’s going to happen me. None of this is a surprise to Him. I cannot unravel the mystery regarding the will of God and the will of man; I believe that man is free and that God is free, and somehow everyone has real choices to make, but I completely reject Open Theism. While God chooses to relate Himself to us via Scripture and the Spirit in a way that we can sort-of grasp, using the element of time, God is not bound by the clock. Time is not some force that has always existed in an uncreated state. He is completely outside of time and sees it all.

This is greatly comforting to me – God is bigger. He isn’t up there in Heaven biting His nails. He isn’t phased by my situation or by my coming to Him over and over again asking for help. He isn’t unsure how to respond. He knows exactly what I need, when I need it, and why I need it. More importantly, He knows all of this before I even know to ask and so often graciously works in my life without my uttering a word. He simply and awesomely provides.

He knows what’s in those five vials of blood and what it all means. If it will bring Him glory and me good, if it will be the best thing for the outworking of His plan, then He will remove this burden. If I walk through more tests and waiting and illness, then that is somehow what’s best. Whether I am healed by His touch, through medicine or on the other side of Eternity, I will be healed.

That is the outcome.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

The Detox Diaries, Five Minute Friday Edition: Fill

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Gentle Reader,

After my two-week hiatus I am once again linking up with the FMF crowd at our new hangout, Heading Home with Kate Motaung. Yes, our beloved Lisa-Jo has passed on the baton. But that’s okay! Sometimes it’s right to let a good thing go.

For this first post with Kate, we: fill.

Go.

“Omer”

I’m running on empty today, God

What You gave her just isn’t enough

I need You to meet my need

Adjust Your outpouring supernaturally

I don’t want to complain

I don’t want to be greedy

I just need enough of You

To fill the omer within me

I wrote this poem, based on Exodus 16, years ago, but it came to mind as soon as I saw this week’s prompt. God has answered this prayer over and over again, today in a parking lot being the latest occurrence.

Just a brief recap: as many of you know, I live with some chronic health issues and back in May began the process of coming off of Cymbalta due to liver problems. Thankfully the withdrawal symptoms have passed, but the road to an understanding of what’s happening to my liver is a long one.

A long one full of potholes.

On Monday I had blood work done. Tuesday the doctor called and told me that my enzymes were elevated. Higher than they were in May. I needed to come and see him as soon as possible and get a referral to a specialist. I stayed late at work yesterday so I could leave at mid-morning today and trek across two towns to get to the appointment. He didn’t tell me much more than he did on the phone, but I got the referral and an order for more labs, to be done tomorrow morning.

I’ll be honest: I freaked out when I got that call on Tuesday. I’ve made changes to my diet. I’ve been exercising. I was really hoping that, after two-and-a-half months, there would be some improvement. I certainly wasn’t expecting things to be worse!

The closer I got to the office today, the larger the lump of panic in my throat. Pulling into the packed parking lot, I located an open space beneath and tree and clunked into the…whatever that concrete thing is that keeps you from running into the grass on the other side. Turning off the engine, I closed my eyes, took and deep breath, and prayed.

Okay, God. I need You. I need You really bad. I need You to fill me with that peace, that peace that doesn’t make any sense. I don’t need high blood pressure right now. Calm me down. Help me to hear what the doctor says and make whatever decisions I need to make. Give me clarity. I am with You, Jesus. You are with me. 

I got out of the car and finished with, “Let’s do this.”

My blood pressure? 117 over 70-something.

Almost before the words came out of my mouth, the peace flooded in. From head to toe, I was filled. Completely. There wasn’t any room for fear. I listened, I asked questions. When my doctor told me not to freak out, I smiled.

Because whatever happens, I’m with Jesus. And His plans are good.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.