An old friend kissed the bride

This time of year is so wonderful for so many reasons. The last six weeks of the year are always so exciting and hope-filled. Celebrating Jesus’ birth. Christmas music, family getting together, people being kinder to each other, the food, the treats, the stuffing. Did I mention the food? Unfortunately there is a darker side to this end-of-the-year excitement. It’s difficult for me to even write about it. It can’t be ignored though. So, I’m putting on my big girl boots and wading in. Here goes…

There is a scourge on our society. I think it began in the ’60s, maybe the ’70s. I’m not really sure and it’s just so disturbing that I can’t even bring myself to research it more… What am I talking about? Have you any guesses? Here’s a hint: it involves horribly unnatural things that no person should have to bear seeing. Disgusting, horrific things. Ok, I’m just going to be blunt. I’ve always been horrible at being subtle. I’m talking about….

Jack frost1

Oh. Shudder. Shiver.

The dry heaves.

My eyes!

The heart racing, adrenaline rush inducing horror of claymation.

Did you guess correctly?

I’m 100% serious. Claymation. Forget waterboarding for torture! This right here is the ticket!  I’d sell out my family if you forced me to watch claymation.

I didn’t realize my completely rational fear of claymation until I was in highschool and I went to the theater with some friends to see the movie “James and the Giant Peach.” I somehow didn’t know that clay was involved. I watched most of the movie from behind my fingers (meaning I basically just listened to the movie. Like an audiobook.) Occasionally peeking out to see if the horror had lessened-it hadn’t! Kind of killed my punk-rock image. Just a little.

From what I can remember, I think I watched Jack Frost at too young an age and it was just too scary and sad and that attached to my brain under the heading “All claymation.” I’m slightly curious as to what would happen to me if I actually tried to sit through Jack Frost again. I think I’d have to have a bucket and Depends on.  I suffered through the early Wallace and Gromit videos because they were such fun stories, but I could taste bile the entire time. The newer, smoother claymation isn’t so bad, but still, total bile taste.

Have you noticed how so many of the “classic” Christmas movies are clay? Rudoph and the Santa movies and of course Jack Frost. And…. Sorry, I blacked out and lost my train of thought. I can’t remember what I was saying. I can’t even start with Gumby and Mr Bob… Breathe… Breathe…

My fingers are literally shaking right now. Shaking! Just from finding the stupid picture I posted here and talking about it.

I can hold my own in many uncomfortable situations. I’m a tough chick. Have Rudolph playing on your television? You will see absolute panic in my eyes. You will see my soul die a little.  I will run from the room and try not to throw up. For real. Because of the profusion of channels playing and replaying so many Christmas related claymation movies this time of year, nowhere is safe. Except my home. They’re forbidden. My kids don’t even know they exist. So, if  I’m not alone in this totally reasonable phobia, know that my home is safe. I think there should be a hand shake for people who have claymation free homes so we can identify each other. So we can make informed decisions about accepting or declining invitations to Holiday parties or even just dinner during this time of year. So we don’t have to brace ourselves in case of surprise-claymation movies. If you surprise me with a claymation movie, I probably won’t trust you anymore. Just so you know.

So, am I alone in this?

Am I crazy?

Can we make it stop?

Can someone create new Classics?

Pretty please?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may your day be claymation free!

 

PS- the post title is a quote from Jack Frost…

That shows the depths of my love and commitment to you all!

 

 

It is well with my soul

This is not written as a “Poor me! Pity me please!” post. This is to give those who have the fortune of not experiencing chronic pain (or chronic health issues of any kind) a glimpse. I am determined to be a voice for the untold numbers of people fighting a battle every. single. day.

My fingers ache. Bone deep pain. They are slow to respond to my brain’s message to move. Having to grab something with finger strength and grip alone is difficult. My fingers are hesitant to change position if they’ve been in one position for very long. Mindlessly loyal to the status quo. “We’re good here! It’s too much work to move! Thanxbye!”  I find myself looking at them to get them to move. Gently (sometimes not so gently) urging them to do as they’re told. They feel swollen even though they’re not. That feeling of too-full, overripe. Like they may split open like a past ripe melon.

My head. Low grade headache is the norm. I can not remember what it feels like to not have a headache. Migraines 3-4 times a week. Sometimes it feels like my skull is made of knives and my brain is bouncing off them. Sometimes it feels like my head is in a vise that is being tightened. Sometimes like a knife through an eye (or temple)  into my brain. Foggy brain. Words called forth disappear into vapor. Default emotion being numb or depressed or worn out. I joke that I have a “Man-brain” now- I’m almost totally unable to multi-task. We’re depending on Noel’s memory and that is a little scary!

I have burning pain down both arms and sometimes the backs of my legs. In my arms it’s constant. The only thing that changes is how badly it burns. From a low-burn to throbbing, aching flame. My head feels too heavy for my neck. Sometimes it’s so bad I have to sit in “my” chair and recline a bit to take the pressure off my neck. My neck and shoulders are tight and ache. Turning my head to either side hurts. Shooting pains up my head and down my arms.

Last October-early November, I realized I’d had a headache or migraine everyday for at least 2 months. I’d just adapted to it. Which is absolutely frightening. How quickly does dysfunction or illness become “normal” to us! What else have I adapted too that is harmful and destructive? I went to my doctor, I take headaches changing very seriously now after a friend’s brain tumor. He ordered a brain MRI. That came back clean. At the urging of my wise friend, I requested a Cervical Spine MRI. This came back with some items of interest. Herniated disc. Syrinx. The syrinx brought in the neurosurgeons. Waited 3 weeks to hear back only to discover they did not want me as a patient. Second referral. Waited weeks. Finally called the big city hospital only to discover my doctor’s office hadn’t sent the information they were supposed to. More weeks go by in incredible pain. Holidays and anniversaries. I’m checked out in pain. Or from the medicine. Finally see neurosurgeon. He doesn’t think my pain is from the syrinx or hernia (which is tiny). Orders another round of scans. Brain to butt. Wait weeks for results. Finally get a blow off call. “Everything looks great! Come back in a year so we can check the syrinx!” Super!

Everything looks great!!!  I’m bedridden many days. Parenting from a pillow. What now? Physical therapy- I got kicked out. “I’m not helping you. There’s no point in continuing.” More pills. Vicodin, cymbalta, lyrica, topamax, nortryptaline, nabumetome, toradol, tramadol, flexeral, steroids, imitrex. Meet with local neurologist. Who hadn’t read my file before seeing me. Proclaimed that I had sleep apnea. Get a cpap and you’ll be fine! But we’ll try propranalol for migraine prevention- just in case. He made sure to tell me that it wouldn’t cause weight gain like some other meds… One week of taking it and I gained 14 pounds. Super. More vicodin, gaba-pentin, also trigger point injections- which worked 1.5 times. Occipital nerve block. Nothing. Have two sleep studies. Get a cpap. I’m sleeping better but the pain is the same. The circles under my eyes are the same. Did I mention I went off everything? I don’t drink alcohol or consume artificial sweeteners, so that was easy. Also no caffeine, gluten, citrus, nightshade, dairy, eggs, blah blah blah. Supplements! Yes! Magnesium, CoQ10, Iron, EFA’s, Multivitamin/mineral, garlic, cayenne, and I can’t remember what else.

Chiropractor, physical therapy, massage, myofascial release, epsom salt baths, prescriptions, essential oils, natural supplements. Blood tests to rule out Lyme, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and all the other usual suspects. All negative.

And prayer. Praying without ceasing. Family and friends praying for me. Crying and petitioning God on my behalf.  Having hands layed on me. My head squeezed tight and commands for the pain to go in Jesus’ name whisper-screamed in my ear. Asked how I’m doing and giving an honest answer to be met with; “Don’t claim that!” “You’re healed in Jesus’ name!” “Read more healing scripture!”

I was in crisis mode for over 6 months before I realized that this crisis wasn’t a crisis anymore. This was my new normal. For how long, I had no idea. But I had a family and life had to happen. Birthdays came and weddings came and important days came and I had to get out of bed. We couldn’t keep eating takeout and fast food and frozen pizzas that my saint of a husband brought home. Bills had to be paid and I’m the bill payer. So I had to choose to make a sacrifice. Birthdays, weddings, special days and commitments I’d stupidly made (thinking, surely I’ll be better by then! Ha ha.) had to be honored and followed through on. Laundry had to be done. Supper had to be cooked. Life must continue. So I cooked and baked and decorated and celebrated and photographed and helped and it was lovely. Once an event was done, an obligation fulfilled, my body would collapse. Horrific migraines- so intense that I’d rather be in labor again than experience that pain. Exhaustion. Pain from head to toe. Sometimes for days after. This was the choice I had to make. To be present for my children, my family, my loved ones. I had to suffer.

It hurts to be touched. I hug my children anyway. I cry when my 4-year-old asks me if I’m better and if he can touch me. It hurts to drive. I drive my children to activities and homeschool events anyway. It hurts to use my camera. I take photos anyway. It hurts to sit in most chairs. I go places anyway. It hurts to chop and stir. I cook anyway. People with chronic health issues do it anyway. When they can. Sometimes they just can’t. “They’re missing church again!” “They aren’t at their child’s event again!” “They didn’t bring food to the potluck!”

My skin thickened. Scar tissue. From the judgement. The comments. The silence. The assumptions. The disappointment. The isolation. The rejection couched in spiritual words. I am embarrassed to say that I have feared man more than God. My focus shifted to pleasing man and worrying about that rather than on seeking God. Hurt and pain from people caused me to assume God was waiting for me to do it all correctly. That He was maybe angry, definitely impatient for me to say the right things, do the right things, then He could fix me. If only I would (fill in the blank) I started to feel condemnation when reading His word.

But then… Oh I love that… But then!!!!

Mine eyes were opened, my heart set free. A confrontation with a person (which, random, right?!?!?) A weekend filled with renewing and fulfilling conversations. The book of James. The “Oceans” song by Hillsong. A Sunday school class and a sermon at a church in North Carolina. Beta-testing a personality study, and more things that  I just can’t remember. Brain still foggy. I believe that through my suffering I am being perfected. Perfected meaning, being completed. I do not believe that God sent my pain. I believe He is using it for good. I am a stubborn, opinionated person. I have learned mercy and grace and humility through this experience. In possibly the only way I could learn it. By having to receive those things from others, from God and from myself.

I am no longer focusing on people or the why. I am focusing on the who. (whom). Nothing about my pain has changed. Nothing. We are pursuing a procedure that could help relieve some of the pain. Insurance has to approve it. It may make a giant difference in my pain. It may not happen. It may not help. That’s not the point. The point is that I’m not a victim. I don’t need to apologize or strive. Through the suffering, through the storm in my life, Jesus is still here. He is with me. He is for me. The point isn’t a perfect life with nothing bad happening. The point is when the trials come, and they are guaranteed to come, it’s not if they come but when they come. James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Instead of running around trying to “do everything right,” like there’s some formula for a perfect life, I’m focusing on God. On Jesus. I’m reminding myself that everyone is in a battle. We don’t see most of what people are fighting. Yet we are so very quick to judge. To assume. To think that if they’d just do it how we did it, they wouldn’t be where they are. I’m learning to respect each person’s journey and story. To not limit God and assume He can only work in one way. He is the God of abundance and beauty and variety. My eyes are finally able to see Him in the storm and the darkness. He is the light and the hope regardless of circumstance. The strong tower that will keep me, keep you, safe. And that is more than enough. It is enough that I really and truly can say that it is well with my soul. Right now. In the midst of this storm. In the dark of night. It is well, it is well with my soul

 

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine”

This song has been my anthem for the last 9 or more months.

The last few years I have struggled with chronic migraines. The last year I have had chronic daily pain and migraines (3-4 migraines a week, “regular” headaches daily). I have not had a single day pain free. It took me about six months to realize that this wasn’t going away any time soon (because I’m super quick to catch on to things), and I needed to adapt to my new normal. For however long it stays. The last few weeks I’ve finally started to see some victories. I finally feel like I’ll be ok no matter how long I am in this battle. It is exhausting, it is guilt-inducing, it is frustrating, it is suffocating, it has absolutely turned my life upside down.

However, “where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, He’s never failed and He won’t start now, So I will call upon His name, and keep my eyes above the waves, When oceans rise my soul will rest in His embrace, For I am His and He is mine.” I know that God sees me and I trust in Him. Do I believe He caused this? No. Is He allowing it? Yes. He could end it. A miracle or the right pill or procedure could fix it. It hasn’t happened. Yet. The circumstance is not the point. The pain and the healing are not the point. What will I do in the depths, is what matters. Will I trust Him enough to allow His grace to be enough? Will I step out of the boat, into the unknown and keep my eyes on Him? Will I love Him? Will I live for Him? Will I believe Him? Honestly, I’ve had some moments (days, really). Dark moments where I’ve doubted and questioned and considered giving up the fight. And it is a fight. Every single day. Sometimes every minute. At first I joked that if I got out of bed, that was a victory. Then the days where I didn’t make it out of bed began to increase. Then it became if I was still able to laugh that was a victory. Then the days I couldn’t laugh increased. Finally I am to the point of if I’m still alive and love Jesus then I win. “Hi, I’m Lindsey! Lowering the standards for women, wives and mothers everywhere since 2000. You’re welcome!”

I’ve been forced to accept that I can’t do it on my own. Not even with my fantastic husband. I am a doer and a fixer and a nurturer and a caregiver and it is hard to be unable to do those things. To be on the receiving end, instead. It is humbling and clarifying. I really am enough. Because of Jesus, I am enough. I don’t have to do or work or fix or give anything to anyone and still He loves me. In case I was confused about who really “earned” my freedom. My good works weren’t enough to save me before I accepted Jesus and they’re not enough to save me now. In fact they are completely unecessary unless they come from the overflow of my heart and not from a sense of guilt or obligation (that’s called religion. Which Jesus wasn’t a fan of.) Being absolutely unable to accomplish the basic functions of a mom and wife and woman have burned this into my soul. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. I am the beloved of The Most High God.  Irrevocably a child of God. He doesn’t need me to do anything. I’ve finally grasped that concept. No more guilt (well okay, way less guilt, because hello, I’m a mom). No longer fearing that the word “No” was a four letter word! It isn’t! I promise you, you can say it! Even in church! To church people! It’s not a swear word! Try it! I’ve said more “No’s” in the last few years than in the previous decade. Wow is it freeing. For real, try it. Next time someone asks you to do something you really don’t have the time, energy or money to do, just say no. They might faint if you’ve never said it before, or ask to pray for you, that’s ok! Just keep using it and they’ll get used to your boundaries. I promise!

The point of all this-yes there is a point- is to say I’m going to try to reenter the land of blogs. I also want to encourage others who are suffering or struggling in all the thousands of ways people can. His grace abounds in deepest waters, His sovereign hand will be your guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds you, He’s never failed and He won’t start now.

He’s never failed and He never will.

 

 

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Three years ago today…

So I disappeared from the interwebs for a while. Have a post about that coming but this is way more important.

Fifteen years ago (wow I feel old now), I shared an apartment with three other college students. We drew straws to see who would share bedrooms (four girls in a two bedroom apartment). Jes got stuck with me, and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We have only lived in the same city for four months-that one semester fifteen years ago. We have lived 120 or so miles apart the other 14 1/2 years. We drifted apart for a few years-life just got busy in our separate cities. Eventually our lives became very similar. Staying at home with kids. Awesome husbands who worked long hours. Miserable pregnancies. Trying to walk out our faith as woman, wife, mother, Christ follower. At some point we started talking on the phone daily. Or almost daily. Sometimes for an hour or more at a time. Most of the time we wouldn’t even be talking to each other, but rather mothering our kids with the reassurance of someone whose butt we didn’t need to wipe being present also. (it’s the little things, people!) She is my people.

IMG_4111
Jes, Jim and their kiddos

Jes and her husband Jim are amazing people. I’ve known them so long and am just so used to the awesome that is them, that sometimes I forget that not everyone is like them. I know, I’m spoiled! Jes and Jim managed to have five kids in the same time we had three. They win that contest! (wait, it’s not a contest?!?) Almost four years ago they had some serious drama. They sold their home and the closing agent stole the money instead of sending it to their mortgage company. Surprise! You’re in default on a mortgage you thought was paid off! All of this happened during the holiday season. Not fun. Kind of a little bit of stress. Through it all they kept trusting God and clinging to hope. During this time Jim started having headaches. Figured it was stress related-ya think?!? Finally things got less stressful; the house was sold and they moved to a bigger, better, nicer neighborhood. Yay fun! Now life is normal! Except the headaches stayed. Jim went to the doctor- could be a dozen benign reasons for the headaches, but standard protocol is to have an MRI. No problem, just a detail! Waste of a good Saturday!

That MRI was three years ago today. It showed that yes, Jim did have a brain (phew!) but it also revealed a walnut sized tumor in his brain.

Follower of Christ, husband to one, father to five, host to one brain tumor.

I vividly remember getting Jes’ text as I sat in the Wal-Mart parking lot. “They found something.”

Somehow I made it home.

“They’re operating tomorrow.”

Noel and I went to the hospital to pray and love and support.

Can I just say something here?

Cancer sucks. I hate cancer. I’d like to punch it in the face or stab it in the gut and watch it die a slow horrible death.

One year of chemo. Radiation of the entire brain and entire spine. Medulloblastoma is not a cancer that jokes around. It wants you dead.

Even in the darkest of dark though, God’s love burns bright. Jes and Jim have trusted God with their lives, their children, their future. It’s not all smiles all the time, but at the foundation of it all is trust and faith. The belief that God has a plan. That what the enemy meant for bad, God will turn to good.

I could list so many challenges they’ve faced in the last three years it would make you want to cry, but I could list twice as many gifts and blessings that have come about from it too. Not the least of which is this guy:

IMG_4883 (1024x683)
Jim with baby Silas

He is nothing short of a miracle baby. Now they have six and we have four. They win by a landslide!

The point of all this is to ask for your prayers for this amazing family. If you want more info they have a caringbridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jimcrandell

Jim still gets scans every few months to make sure the monster is kept away, so this is a long term battle.

I just want to honor this amazing couple and their beautiful family on this weird anniversary. A day where the life they thought they’d have died, but also the day a new life with new hope was born.

 

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

“Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

PS: I forgot to add that Jim had scans today to make sure the cancer isn’t back. Please pray for clean scans!

 

On why I hate New Year’s Eve

December 30th, 2005 I got the call that Grammy had been rushed to the hospital with severe breathing problems. Collapsed lung or pneumonia or maybe-those-spots-really-were-lung cancer or all of the above. It didn’t seem super serious, she was awake, alert. She was receiving oxygen at the hospital as she had been for months at home. No biggie for a chain-smoking 79 year old. We kept our plans of hosting a New Year’s Eve party.  The next day, New Year’s Eve, uncles, aunts and cousins had flocked to Grammy’s hospital room. Noel stayed home with Ethan and Will, (who were 3 1/2 and 14 months) and set up, cooked for and hosted our party. I went to the flower shop to pick out flowers for Grammy. They were low on bouquets, they only had Lilies. They told me the hospital doesn’t usually allow such fragrant flowers. I told them who I was and who they were for, (my aunt works at this flower shop), they bagged the flowers and hugged me. Tears came to my eyes as I realized this may be more serious than I expected. Up to Grammy’s room. Most of the family was there. For some reason the conversation kept turning to food as Grammy sat there with her cup of canned fruit and water. At one point I was alone with Papa and Grammy. Those 30 minutes spent are sacred to me. I shared with them that we were expecting. Grammy grinned from ear to ear and asked all kinds of questions. Papa just held Grammy’s hand. I told them if it was a girl she would be Natalie Margaret- Grammy’s name was Margaret. She was pleased as punch about that possibility. I told them they were sworn to secrecy for a few weeks. (No one beside Noel and one friend of mine knew I was pregnant.) Nods and smiles. Everyone trickled back into the room. It got late. Grammy kicked us out. I hugged her, kissed her forehead, told her that I loved her and I left. I drove home bawling. Praying she’d recover. I went in to my home filled to bursting with friends and family having a wonderful time. I tried to smile and play. I wasn’t very convincing. A few hours into the new year my phone rang. There was no question why my phone was ringing. I was sobbing before I answered. It was Mom. Grammy was gone. I sobbed and sobbed and finally slept and woke to sob some more. The next day I got the bouquet of Lilies back. The reek of them turned my pregnant stomach. They made me nauseous but they were my last gift to her, they stayed in the far corner of the dining room until death claimed them too.

At Grammy’s visitation I learned from an aunt that Papa was telling people I was pregnant. This one nugget of hope and happiness had bloomed in his mind; there’s a baby coming. I gave Papa a break and didn’t tease him about forgetting that little detail of being sworn to secrecy about my pregnancy. You get a free pass from a lot of things when your spouse of over 60 years dies. I had to tell my mom that she would be a Nana again in the back room of the funeral home at her mother’s visitation. The relief that Papa wan’t losing his mind, that I was in fact pregnant brought relief and fleeting smiles amidst the tears and grief.

7 months later we rushed to the hospital thinking something very bad was happening to my baby. Fresh blood, intense pain, but not contractions, days before my due date when the boys had been overdue. The nurses were not panicked, but urgent. In the chaos and blur I heard a voice. The voice of a friend who I’d known since high school. Slightly awkward seeing each other for the first time in many many months and she’s gonna examine my cervix, but we handled it with class because that’s how we roll. I was dilated to 8 cm. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that I was in labor. 3 pushes and a few minutes later, my friend handed me my tiny, swollen, beautiful little girl. Natalie Margaret had arrived. The second person to hold her, the person to hand her to me, my friend, was the same nurse who had been one of the people with Grammy when she died.

Last to first. Death to life. The beauty of the symmetry takes my (OCD) breath away. Even in the dark and the sad and depths of despair- He is there. God is there. If we trust Him, trust that He has a plan, we can see Him even in the darkest of night.

Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”