Amazin’ Grace

I went to a funeral service on Saturday, a younger childhood friend of mine who had left this life too early. The message was simple and sweet and the point of it all – we were there with the purpose to remember, grieve, and love, not to cast our judgment.

I left with the phrase, “There but the grace of God go I,” ringing in my ears.

I am a bull in a china shop when it comes to relationships and life! I thought, “I am sure one person that needs a lot of grace to be in people’s lives.” I trust very few people and let very few into my innermost thoughts. If you think I overshare, here, there is actually MORE you don’t get the privilege of knowing!!!  How about that?  And even if I let you in, you’re on, like, a 10-year probation period to see if I can really trust you. It’s part of my past, part of something I am working on, and if you can’t accept it, I am sad, but I am okay with it. Very cautious with my heart.

For two days after my last post, on changing the negative thought life I was condoning for so long, I felt awful.  I could not combat the dark voices in my head and wasn’t feeling supported in my environment.  It was so hard.  I had just written about overcoming negative self-talk and the process by which God was showing me to do it.  There seemed to be a cement veil between what I knew when I typed my blog message to when I needed to act on my message.  I was crushed.

My consolation was to hide, to isolate, to protect myself.  I know that pattern isn’t right, but it’s self-preservation.  We go back to what we know our brain tells us we’re in fight or flight.  I muddled through Monday, still not quite able to bounce back.  Monday night posed an even bigger struggle as I was challenged and defeated.  I didn’t understand.  I didn’t do anything right – I didn’t talk right, I didn’t listen right, I didn’t apologize right, I should have done this, I should have done that.  I was bad.  Very, very bad.

Tuesday came in with a busy day and I slumped my way to the dentist for a tooth extraction.  Ugh, right?  As I sat, I texted, and when I got home I couldn’t sleep.  I was just so disturbed by my bad feelings and overwhelmed with confusion.

I am 100% confident someone prayed for me about 2 on Tuesday afternoon.  Thank you to whoever did this!  I am aware of the Spirit manifesting its presence in me and I knew I felt God.  I felt His peace, spirit, and power come back to me and I knew, with certainty, I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was.  I got confidence in myself because of God’s confidence in me, through the mercy of Jesus, and by the work of his Holy Spirit.

I went home and tested His will, and found that instead of approving my confidence, it disproved what I had been feeling so sure of moments before.  And just when I thought I was a real whack job, the mystery unfolded.  The light came on.  In a precious little twinkle of His love for me, He gave me a glimmer of His sovereignty.  God gave me the chance to show pride, arrogance, and the muscle of how I had been wrongfully accused and treated.  He also gave me the opportunity to be His very precious daughter who is gracious, abounds in mercy, and chooses love.  I chose love!  I chose to speak softly! I chose to speak life!

My confusion about how bad I had been quickly withered away.  “There, but by the grace of God go all of us.”  We are not here as judge and jury.  We are here to love.  We may do things differently than others, but if at the heart of it is love, the intention will always be revealed as pure.

God’s love never fails.

 

 

1 Corinthians 13:8

Dana the Discipler’ish

Yesterday, after several weeks of missing them, I met with my two girls.  Not my girl’s, but God’s girl’s.  Two girl’s I chose, with divine appointment, to enter deeper into His presence by studying, reading, and actively pursuing the word of God and it’s application as a human person.  Discipleship.  Not the first time I’ve done it.  A new season.

Ironically enough, the study guide I chose for us to work on this summer is entitled, “A Daughter’s Worth” by Ava Sturgeon.  I wanted to work on Joyce Meyer’s “Battlefield of the Mind for Teens” but, this other book somehow elevated itself in the last minute ordering, well over a month ago.  I selected this for the girl’s and now here I am wondering if it was actually chosen for me.  Ha.  I see what you did there, Jesus.  Clever.

With my latest state of mind, and the ever-increasing shadows I find inside of me, I wasn’t sure that I was the right person for this job.  I wrestled with it.  “I do believe!  Please help me with my disbelief!”   (Mark Chapter 9)  I pray words written in His book.  Still no words of my own at times.

Instead of starting this series, the books happened to be stuck in a car in Boise – surely by His design- so, I chose to just to get real.  Not too real, but real.  We did our usual start, prayer, a chapter of the New Testament, journaling…  and then, I shared my heart.

Basically, I just cried.

I told the girls a few of my specific struggles and my confusion about God as my “Abba” Father, my provider, and my healer.  I shared how tired and how much pain I was in.  I confessed that I didn’t want to screw them up or cause them to stumble.  And, finally, I asked them for help.

They both insisted that I wouldn’t mess them up.  Ye of little faith.  One shared that when she thought, “Christian,” she thought of me.  Oh mercy.  Let’s lower the bar, here, sister.  No pressure, right?

They each offered encouragement.  “Don’t give up.  God still cares about you.  Don’t give up on Him.”

And the other, “This sounds like Job and God restored everything to Him, like, double.”

As a mother, I have found one of the safest places to be is wrapped in an embrace with my children.  Their innocent hugs come without judgement, no other motives, and no pain – unless Tate is running toward you, then you naturally post a defensive position to receive her fierce love.  God’s arms.

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As a mentor of two beautiful young ladies, I see how God has also provided me the seat of a student.  God’s extension of love and wisdom.  In the presence of two innocent minds full of wonder, love, and awe of God, it is hard not to be refreshed with their hope.

At the Cross

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Mount Soledad in San Diego.  Mama Sue and Dana.  March 2016

Standing at the cross of Mount Soledad in San Diego, last month, mom and I took in the scenic view as we embarked on this crazy journey of cancer fighting.  Fighting for life.

It’s interesting that our host would advise this location as one of our tours.  Now used as a war memorial, the cross stands among the beautiful blue skyline of San Diego despite legal efforts to have the piece removed.  The cross still stands.

I reflect on the meaning of the cross and the death of Christ on the cross and there it was…  He wasn’t at the cross fighting for His life, but ours.  Fighting for OUR lives, by sacrificing His.  The only perfect offering that could satisfy the Creator and bring  the grace of life – full and everlasting – to all who believe.

It really is kinda wild to believe Jesus is who He says He is.  To believe the scriptures.  To choose to believe, by faith, with your heart, that He died for you on the cross…   and thankfully He did that we might receive the Holy Spirit.

And with this Spirit, the power to commune with God intimately and continually.  What a gift.  All of these doors for San Diego’s cancer treatment have flung wide open.  By the grace of God and with the power of the Spirit.

It is, with faith, that I must conclude Jesus is leading the way for this spectacular cancer treatment that we are days away from embarking on.  May we be sensitive to His guidance.

Tomorrow my mom and I fly down to San Diego to meet with the surgical oncologist and go through a round of pre-operative testing.  It’s a super quick trip and we will be back Friday night.  Wouldn’t you know, the chaos of flower shoppin’ would ensue this weekend as well?  My Mother’s Day preparation isn’t quite where I had hoped it to be, but God will surely work this out, right?  A couple of angels have volunteered at the store this week, and next week I have a great staff lined up.  Lord, help me trust in You during this busy, chaotic time.

My blogging time is not accounted for, but I need a moment to rest and be still, so take that.  Most of my spare time is, for the next week and a half, absolutely rare and intentional.  If I believe Jesus can do rad things like rise from the dead, heal the blind, walk on water, and ascend into heaven…  surely I can have faith that He will take care of my silly flower shop needs, my pain, my mom’s enormous cancer procedure, my family, and all of the anxiety and stress that are attached to this life right now.  Right?

As much as we associate the cross with Jesus, it’s also a symbol of our association and heir to His mercy, love, power, and grace…  May I look upon the cross as a symbol of life full and everlasting.  In the weeks ahead may we rest all of our worries, doubts, and fear at the foot of the cross.    May He provide mama healing, peace, and comfort, super natural.  We thank you for your provision, direction, and hope, Father.  Amen.

 

A complicated, beautiful mess.

I have a moment.  One unoccupied, take advantage of the quiet, moment.  Life is blurrish.

In January, I had the mindset to sell the flower shop.  My beloved.  I was realizing my place was to support Toby and our children and I was feeling defeated in my physical self.  At that time I put the shop on the altar of sacrifice.

Little did I know that February would upend me and despite my notion to sell the shop, I didn’t have time to prepare.  I was trying to run a business, Toby had to be gone for work, Valentine’s Day, I prioritized finding a surgical oncologist for my mom, and then there is house and children and that silly MS thing.  I found myself with no time to organize and inventory and prepare the paperwork for the proper sell of a business.

What is my goal?  Take what I can get and get out quick?  Or, wait, re-stock, re-group, and take the time to sell it well.  I still haven’t finished my research on how to valuate a business.  My business.  My mind is always whirring and positives and negatives both stung me hard.  With all of this cancer talk and not knowing what was to come, I chose to cling to what I knew.  Ultimately, my brain and my heart couldn’t decide if I could lose them both.  My mama and my shop.  If I was going to lose my mom, could I stand to lose the structure that the shop forces me to have?

I’d like to think I was one of those who would just pick up the pieces of life and keep keepin’ on.  But, I know myself.  I know how chronic illness and depression pull you into idleness and days of pain turn into months and years of pain.  Pain, regardless.  I need something to draw me out.  The intention of the shop was to be that place.  But, that place had turned into something to avoid.  Paperwork piling up, behind on bills, taxes overdo, more bills, and all the people…  people I loved with relationships that turned bitter.  Life took a hard twist and friendship was broken and things at the shop aren’t the same.  And, things got more complicated.

The complicated issues of cancer on top of the complicated layer of flower shop on top of the complicated layer of family with three complicated kids on top of the layer of complicated MS on top of the layer of complicated everyday life…  would the fabric of my life be softer without some of these layers?  Could I weave a more fluid life?

I could.  I think I could.

But, then my choices to fight hard would turn into the easy choices of submission.  Submitting to cancer doctors and surgeons who gave my mom up for dead.  Submitting to my presumed future disability instead of doing what I can now.  Submitting to dreams left unfinished.  I know reality, and I know that I may do some of these things in the future.  I know submission can be a beautiful thing when done for the cause of Christ.  With these things, however,  I am not there yet.

We are waiting for biopsies and tumor board meetings and surgery dates for my mom.  She has a very realistic chance at a few more years of life, instead of certain death.  We are fighting hard at the shop to pay off debt, then to restock, then to start growing again, all with the thought of making the business a more valuable asset to sell at the right time.   The right time.  His time.

I’ve been learning about hope.  Hope is trusting in His timing.  And, the thing is, is that if we have hope in God, we have hope in two things.  We have hope that even if cancer hits hard, we are heaven bound because we believe Jesus died to make this possible.  We have a second hope that God isn’t going to leave us hanging.  We may be hanging by a thread sometimes.  A complicated, barely there thread from the complicated fabric of our lives, but we have hope that He won’t leave us that way.  All this hangin’ makes us stronger and soon we are swinging into the next step He has planned for us.  His plan for us to have a good life, a beautifully complicated mess, and have it to the full.  Amen.

 

 

My One Defense

44.  That is the number of days that I have been on this restrictive gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free fiasco of a diet.  We’ve (me and Tob) been detoxified and cleansed.  We’ve been vitamin’ed up and herbally enhanced.  We’ve drunk a lot of water.  It’s been good and bad all at once.  The whole purpose and intention for this was to feel better.  A desperate attempt to change the direction of my health.

I wish I could say so many good things.  There are several, actually!  I am mentally and emotionally pleased with myself for accomplishing something hard.  Cutting out sugar is something I would not normally do with sound mind!  I love all the foods that are bad for me.  Getting to the point of being thankful for lightly salted vegetables and brown rice – a beautiful meal for millions in the world – was difficult for me.  Being thankful for the manna.  Will you choose to be thankful, or not?

As far as the effects of the diet on my health; I’m unsure of how this detox and cleanse have impacted my body at this point.  There are a few things I’ve definitely noticed:

1.  I have zero wart on my thumb.  My body was able to fight that off after a year of it being there.

2.  I’ve lost like 10 whole pounds!  My jeans fit better, I’m leaner and within a handful of pounds to my ideal weight.

3.  I’ve completed something I set out to do.

We are sticking with the diet indefinitely.  I know, right?  Who would do that?  It must be doing something, huh?  It’s hard to see the good that it could be doing right now.  I think I will have to give it long-term approval.  I am exhausted.  I was tired when I started this diet and I’m just as tired now, if not more.  Sleepy fatigue.  It is very frustrating.  I want to do so much, but I’m just inexplicably tired.  I’m still at that place where I’m not sure when to sleep and when to fight it.  Lately, sleep has won.  I’ve maintained a regular sleep schedule during this diet, and for most of the year so I’m not sure what more to try in this area.  There is some medication that my neurologist said I can take for the fatigue.  More pills.

My leg pain is steady.  I feel like my left knee and ankle are pretty weak these days, on top of the pain from the spasticity.  I take Baclofen for this and it definitely helps.  However, there is a deeper, wandering aching – almost like a toothache – type of pain that is almost always lurking deep in my legs somewhere.  I say “toothache” because it is often ranges like that annoying pain where you know something is wrong with the tooth all the way to needing a dentist right NOW because of the pain you can’t ignore.

In addition to needing help with the pain and fatigue, I have a few other things that I’m just now starting to personally research.  I have been studying things like “clonus” and how to differentiate benign familial tremor from tremor caused by disease or damage.  The tremor has not lessened.  I feel pretty awkward when I notice people noticing it.  It’s like wearing a bright red Britney Spears latex jump suit.  People notice.  My left hand is the back-up plan.  I’m not very good at making it my dominant hand now, which I probably should be.  It is getting more difficult to write, particularly, signing my name type of stuff.   As luck would have it, my left forearm is crapping out on me!  I’m not joking!  Lefty is the back-up plan and lefty is getting weak.  I’m unsure what this means.  I have an odd sensation of pressure wrapped around a good portion of my forearm.  It “feels” weak.  I think the neurologist felt that my right hand was noticeably weaker than the left at my appointment.  I think we should pray for lefty and possibly righty.  I will not be human if I can’t use my workin’ hands!

Not only will this particular blog serve as super record keeping down the road, it’s also helping me get my thoughts and primary concerns ready for my appointment at the Multiple Sclerosis center of  OHSU in Portland.  That’s right.  I got an appointment!  This June.  I researched the clinic while waiting for all of my paperwork to be filed.  Which is another mystery in and of itself.  My information was faxed over to the clinic in November/December.  I got an appointment with Dr. River, my neurologist here, in January, so I didn’t pursue my application at OHSU as aggressively as I should have.  Meghan, sweet Meghan, reminded me I needed to be brave and after speaking with this angel, I got courage and called the clinic to figure out the status of my junk.  I had to get more information from Dr. River sent, a week went by.  I was laying around the house feeling bad.  Doing nothing.  I called again.  They need more paperwork.  I was totally confused at what other paperwork they could want.  Turns out, my chart was mixed up with someone else’s.  After a very influential phone call from my sister at the doctor’s office here in town, OHSU called to offer me an appointment that very day.  I was so shocked when the lady said she was calling to get me scheduled.  I’m like, ‘Wait, what?  Like, the doctor is going to see me?  OH!  MY! STARS!”  I felt so redeemed.   Thank you, Lord.

The doctor I was randomly paired up with is very knowledgeable in Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology.  She has special interest in dietary influences on neurological disease processes.  Um, could I not have found her at the most perfect time?  I am totally prepped!  45 days, now, into a variant of the diet she advises for conjunctive MS therapy.  I am so prayerful for this appointment.

At the same time, I am fully aware that I cannot rely on this doctor to fix this mess of mine.  I know I can’t.  I’ve been there before.  I think the best strategy for my brains and my heart going into this is this:  she is a part of my faith journey, a very intentional act of God.  If she helps me, it is with divine guidance and wisdom from Him.  I understand that this may be nothing more than a waste of fuel to drive to Portland, she may not even want to actually talk to me when I get there.  She may be a jerkface.  Regardless of what happens, I will go with the Lord, I will come back with the Lord, I will pray for the Lord’s hand to be in this, to lead me, to help me and to be with my doctor.  My hope can only be in Him.  I am so much closer to believing He is always with me.  Amen.

 

 

Crossing the Jordan

I’m almost afraid to type today.  Afraid too much of the truth might come out.  Such a difficult time of my life.  I feel terribly alone and scared and sad.  Trying to cling to the Lord.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to breathe.

My marriage has seen better days.  Toby and Dana.  Two peas.  We’ve been together since we’ve met, less the one week it took me to lure him away from his long-time girlfriend.  Best friends.  Able to do pretty much anything together.  Despite everything against us – dysfunctional childhood homes, divorced parents, financial distress, health issues, and the regular chaos of life – we made it 12 years, or so.  That’s amazing in this society.  They should give out big trophies to people who make it to another anniversary.  People like trophies.  Maybe people would like marriage if there was a trophy incentive.

Most men do not hang around when the lady is sick.  It’s a fact.  Right now a lot has fallen on Toby’s shoulders.  I am unable to keep up with the kids and stuff.  Tears fall off my cheeks as I type today.  Heartbreaking in black and white.  I think all of the little stresses in life have just added up and completely overwhelmed me – to the point that my plate is overflowing and I’m dropping oranges to pick up grapes, ya know?  A constant juggling act.

I think the biggest issue at the core of all of this, is the inability to schedule – from one day to the next to one hour to the next!  If you’re up all night in pain, you’re less likely to want to be busy in the morning and the morning is typically your best time… and you don’t always have a rhyme or reason to what is causing that pain to stop it.  Once it gets out of control, it’s more difficult to calm down.  In addition – there are other symptoms besides pain – I’m having cognitive issues – speech, speaking, short-term memory, inability to do regular tasks – I have to write down every step to complete a day of chores.  I’m emotionally different.  I’m withdrawn, irritable, and sensitive, at times I feel no emotion where I know I should feel something.  The fatigue is really intense right now.  I went out to shovel a bit in my garden a few days ago.  I got two scoops tossed and my arms and legs were done.  I cried.  Yesterday I was able to get a few more licks in and that made me happy.  I feel so restless.  So much I want to do.  I suck at this.

I suck at trying to deal with this and I’m a terrible wife.  Trust me.  Toby feels so unloved and unappreciated.  I complain, whine, and feel sad all the time that he wants to be out living.  I am constantly asking him to be home because I need him here to help with kids or so that I can go to work or because I’m just fed up and past my threshold for the day.  I am jealous of jiu jitsu.  I know, I’m a brat, huh?  I am very selfish and somehow make everything about me.  If I don’t change, and allow him to escape for training and his life in Boise, I’ll probably lose him forever, because he is at a loss of what to do.  Our marriage is very fragile right now.  He is a fix it person.  How do you help someone so lost as me?  I’m not fixable on this earth, I don’t think.

I am dealing with so many issues past and present – my dad, my mom, excessive self-loathing, a disease I don’t know how to fight, how to run a business, educate my kids, keep a home, and raise a husband with his own life and hopes and dreams.  It’s hard not to feel so stuck.  Wanting to go run and play and work hard and make my way, but only physically being up to rest on the couch.

If you know me, you know the person I am right now, is not the person I am.  Please, please, please know that I am not myself.  I don’t know how to get through this.  I’m going to go visit with my primary today and get some anxiety medication that should help settle things down up in my brain so I can get some rest in the other parts of my body.  I am uncertain if the diet is helping, and I’m at day 27.  I do not feel any change in energy level or pain this week.  I got a monster flu-bug and spent most of Wednesday night on the floor of the bathroom.  Haven’t done that since my early 20’s.  Ugh.  I’ve had a couple of other infections come up since doing this clean eating, healing diet.  They discourage me in the sense that my body should be able to easily fight them, but my immune system is super shot down.  Wondering if it’s worth it.  I’m pursuing medical specialists, but it all takes time.

Still unsure what to do with my business.  There are employees there relying on income, but I am just so tired of spending all of my energy there when that is what I am doing – getting my employees paid.  It does give us a lot of financial freedom.  I am able to purchase groceries, help with a bill here or there, and it’s my source of my personal money.  The money we do get from it is not worth the stress and headache of it all right now.  I went down there a bit last night, paperwork stacked up, chores to do, open house to prepare for, weddings, funerals, prom in a few weeks, Mother’s Day without my mama, graduation, Memorial weekend, Fiddle Week…  I came home and felt like I was going to have a nervous break down.  I told Toby I would rather just close the store than go through the Jordan… because it feels so big.

Please, please, please pray for me.  I need God to do a big work in me.

 

 

It’s ALIVE!!!

A few weeks ago my daughter, Quincy, read through Robinson Crusoe for school.  We listened to parts of it on audio and I overheard Robinson say, when he crashed to the shore of the island, “Thank God I am alive.”  I can still hear it plain as day.

“Thank God I am alive.” It wasn’t so much the way it was said, the context, or even the circumstances.  It was my reaction. I immediately thought, “Why would anyone be thankful for that?”

In my mind, death is entry into a place with no pain.  Hear me clearly:  I am not suicidal and I make sure to keep a dialogue going with my husband when I do fall into the ditch of depression.  As much as there is for me here, I can say without hesitation, that I am excited to be in heaven.  Death has no consequence to me.  It is my freedom from this suffering.  I have nothing to lose.

In those moments of realizing just how disconnected I was from this life, I became saddened, angry, and guilty.  It’s not that I am not grateful for the beautiful blessings I have in my life, it’s just harder to appreciate them when you are unwell.  The revelation that I was so beaten down in body and mind and spirit, just flooded me.

I chose to kick things in high gear and be more aggressive than I wanted to be with my application to the neurology department at the Mayo Clinic.  Once and for all, I could face this MS thing and figure it all out for sure.  My case is so atypical and complicated. Is it really MS?  Is it really progressive MS?  Nothing has been easy.

After speaking with my family practitioner, my friends with Mayo Clinic experience, my husband, and doing my own research, I felt confident that if any place could help change my life, it would be the Mayo Clinic.

This brought me so much hope. What if life didn’t have to be painful?  Hope.  Nobody sees how much I can’t do because I’m worn out. Nobody sees how much Toby and the kids have to sacrifice beause I don’t feel well. We don’t get vacations, we get medical tests, treatments, and hospital bills.  My husband works in a job he is amazing at but has no passion for, because of the health insurance we have to have for an illness we can’t treat.  I needed hope.  Big hope.

My prayer life changed over the few weeks we prepared the final paperwork. I felt *IN* my prayers.  Friends prayed, family prayed.  Aaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnd:

I totally got rejected.

I guess I don’t meet the application criteria.  We are not given that information. The letter was extremely vague.  Toby brought it to me at work Saturday afternoon with the saddest eyes.  I left in tears, certain that life was going to suck forever. We had all prayed.  I was asking for a doctor…  how could the Lord deny someone a doctor…  in America?  It seemed like a cruel joke.  Get my hopes up, put myself out there, and then whack me in the knees while everyone is watching.

Is this really the God I believe in?  It rocked my world.  Toby and I talked about doing this life thing with God and without God. Sometimes it feels so much easier to do it without God because how can you explain a father who leaves his only son on a cross to die and blesses his daughter with a life of struggle and pain?

Ultimately, Sunday morning I had to make a choice.  I was up most of the night crying. Thinking I would start getting my business ready for sale, anticipating that in the next few years I would be a vegetable just like my grandma was.  Yay Jesus!  I was irreverent.  Bitter.  Upset.  Guarded.  I felt forgotten, rejected, alone.  “Sure, He is always with us,” say the perfect favored people who never get ditched by God.

Sunday morning Toby and Tripp stayed asleep late.  The girls were routinely taken to church by grandma.  I debated what to do.  Did I want to go to church?  I did not want to be any closer to God.  He was freakin’ me out.  I did, however, find a very curious spot in myself that questioned what Jesus would have done.

I’ve been studying him. The human Jesus.  Trying to understand why I should value what he did, because honestly, it didn’t mean enough to me. I have actually thought, “I didn’t ask him to do it, but I am supposed to be thankful because I get to live a life of pain and misery?  Thanks, Jesus.”

I can only confess these intimate thoughts because my mind has been renewed.  The thing I find inexplicably interesting right now is that I absolutely do not know where I stand with Father God.  But, me and JC are tight.  Is this even possible?  My brain is slow.

After debating a half hour or so, Sunday, I finally decided I would go to church.  But, I wasn’t getting fancy, I wasn’t showing up until service started, and I could not talk to anyone about the Mayo. No eye contact.

I made it to church, puffy eyes, in the middle of a row, perfectly alone.  And then, I spot the gold dishes stacked up in front of the Pastor’s podium and stare them down.  Communion.  Publicly partaking in the bread and juice as a symbol of your acknowledgement in Christ.  The pastor cautioned us that our hearts ought to be right with God before we take communion.  Was I?  My heart was hardened.  My eyes burned with tears for two reasons:  1.  Was I right with God?  and  2. I’m alone.

If you have intention tremor, it is extremely difficult to make visually guided movements with your hands.  The test they use in the neurologist’s office is having the patient use their pointer finger to repetitively touch their nose, the doctor’s finger or pencil tip, and back to their nose.  If the tremor gets worse the closer you get to the target, it’s defined as intentional tremor – it’s only during meaningful, voluntary actions.  Like getting communion cups and breadcrumbs.

Here I am trying to figure out if I should partake or not and, if so, how do I do it?  I decided since I went to church in pursuit of Jesus, I wasn’t completely righteous, but righteous enough to make the choice to participate.  “Righteous enough” was probably not the commitment the Pastor was looking for. But, I decided I was gonna do it.

I glanced at one of the ushers to the left and a lady down the pew from me to the right who walked in late.  Tate was right by me, but that’s like having a giant gorilla in a parka with a badminton racket to rely on.  I finally decided the usher on the left was quickest and I tried to discretely ask her to grab the tray for me.  I whispered that I needed help.  She nodded and smiled and then…   did not move.   As the tray was passed before me I had no choice but to grab it.  I reached for it with my left hand, but as I tried to grab the 1/4″ bread piece, I knocked others off the small dish in the center and I knew I couldn’t get the teeny juice cup.  I switch hands.  It is at that moment of crisis when me, the usher, and my gorilla girl all sort of realize, my tremor is going to spill all of the juice.  My usher-friend realized what I had been asking and stepped right in.  Toby is almost always with me, so this has never been an issue.  But, the more I sat there with my miniature fluted cup and bread…  I felt embarrassed and mad all at once.  I didn’t know how many people behind me saw me shake.  I wonder if they thought I was detoxing.  I sort of hope so now. Fun story.

The experience rubbed me the wrong way and it felt like another one of God’s cruel jokes.  Deny me the very medical help that I need just to take part in Communion.  Frustrated.

My pastor and his wife checked up on us later that day.  I don’t know why.  Nobody has clearly told them how clinically crazy we are.  Messages.  Prayers.  Friends.  By Sunday evening, I felt like I was brushing myself off. Monday I was sad, but in the Word.  Today I took a much needed day off. It was difficult, actually.  I went out this morning almost lost as to what to do. I came home from an errand and felt myself somehow moving forward in an awkward way.

Honestly, I think I’ve got some valid points to be a little pissy.  God has heard an earful.  I can’t tell you if I please Him or appall him. All I can say  is that I am super thankful that mercy trumps judgement because I suck at life and I can’t imagine him liking me.

I felt led by the spirit to write a letter to the radiology group that serviced my last MRI.  I’ve asked for them to explain what I don’t understand. Basically, I need something bad to happen before something good can happen.  The last MRI indicated lesions in both hemispheres.  My 2009 scan only had lesions on the right.  If I do, in fact, have new spots, it will help validate the progression of the disease and open doors to treatment.

Somehow, getting crushed by the medical giant of the Earth doesn’t hurt as bad today.  I think the reason why, is because I made a choice.  Even though I didn’t want to, I went to church.  I chose to take communion. I chose to meet with my small group Monday morning to talk Bible.  I am getting better at handling disappointment as a Christian.  It has been a process.  I am so weak in faith that I feel sort of like a fish out of water when it comes to trusting God’s plan.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13

God is my only hope.  By default.   LOL.  And, I’m thinking I’m gonna make it.  I believe in His strength.  I know I am a wiener at all of this.  Who knows?  Maybe I will be miraculously healed.  Maybe I will end up in the care center like Gramma Franka and Toby will come visit me every sunday just like Papa Roy.  Maybe I will never get any better, but never get any worse.  How I handle it, as trite as it sounds, is a choice.  I can choose to allow this illness to come between me and God.  I can decide it’s too hard to get out of bed, too embarrassing to take communion, and too painful to move…  and I will go back to that desolate dark place I came from, shrivel up, and wither away.

I will make a choice.

Thank God I am alive.

…the least of these…

Dude.

This week has been absolutely amazing.  We are surely not on the other side, just yet…  but being in the midst of this storm we call ‘life’ and getting to see those glimpses of God’s hand at work – it’s enough to bring you joy, hope, peace, humility, and grace all at once.  I am not there entirely, but there have been moments.

I have made a conscious choice to allow my struggles and pain, disappointments and failures, hopes and dreams, quite public.  I’ve been extremely vulnerable.  I have doubted this transparency.  I’ve wondered how many people view my posts, status updates, and blogs as mere cries for attention, pity parties, and desperation.  I have lived in those places for a lot of my life and I know I’m susceptible to take up residency there.  It is a tender place in my heart and shameful to me.  My friend Bryon delivered a sermon several months ago and  he is the one who was able to verbalize for me, how depression, worry, and fear can be places of permanent housing rather than momentary thoughts or experiences.  It was a vivid illustration in my mind.  Convicting.

It was the same sermon that he eluded to some struggles that he himself had been enduring.  When Bryon speaks, you should prolly listen.  He started out telling us that he didn’t see himself as a doctor, a pastor, or one with all the answers, but one just like us with problems, disappointments, and issues.  I was on the edge of my seat.  I thought he was going to share a specific, tangible, authentically personal experience with us and…  he didn’t.  I felt cheated!  I wanted to hear this amazing life changing testimony, but Bryon took the message in a different direction.  It has intrigued me that I remember being curious about why he didn’t reveal details about his personal stuff.  Instead…  he talked about Ivan.

Anyone in Weiser knows wheelchair Ivan.  I’m not exactly sure of his condition but it is a physical and mental handicap.  Ivan was active in the community despite his disability and honestly, he was so active at times that people got annoyed with him!  His “help” was not always helpful.  Bless his heart.

Bryon would go and, at times, push Ivan from the care center to our church.  It is far.  It was hot.  Ivan is not small.  Bryon knew that he wasn’t bringing him so much to worship or to see his friends or to give witness.  He brought him because Ivan asked him to.  He brought Ivan so he could sleep in a different environment!  Every Sunday that Ivan requested and every Sunday that he could, Bryon would sacrifice to wheel him to church.  And then, one day, Ivan wasn’t at the care center.  Bryon missed his brother.

It’s seeing someone like Bryon, so beat up, bruised, and defeated by the politics of the world get up in front of a group of his peers on Sunday – not to validate his own woes, but to declare how great the Lord is in giving him the friendship of Ivan- that makes you consider what is valuable.  In hindsight, I love that it means more to me now, that Bryon was able to stand up and praise God, regardless of his own circumstances.  His faith, his story, his purpose does not change.  Bryon is who he is in Christ before anything else.

This week, because I am the polar opposite of Bryon and cannot keep my mouth shut, I chose to express my pain.  In doing that, I have been blessed to have the most intimate, amazing, fulfilling conversations with some of the most remarkable people on two legs.  I am blown away.

***One young girl, age 20, lost her mother this week in a tragic accident.  I had the courage to talk to her a few times.  I asked pretty direct questions the softest way I could.  She told me that she knows God is with her mom and that is what is bringing her this amazing peace and sound mind during this time.  It is striking, you guys.  She is articulate, thoughtful, angelic.  She said if God didn’t exist, there is no way she could have survived this loss.

***One older woman, who I knew had health struggles even when I was young, talked to me about her chronic health condition (I didn’t mention any of mine to prompt her) and how she had endured this structural skull problem, that was later complicated by multiple brain and skeletal surgeries.  She showed me her shoulders just under her shirt collar – the structure of her clavicle and irregular muscle tone were obvious.  Holding up her head is literally an all day painful task.  People look at her and think she is capable and well because it is a hidden condition.  Dealing the cards she was dealt with a smile is too much sometimes.  Pain is a way of life.  She offered a beautiful story and when her husband scooped her up from the shop to take her on another errand, I asked him how he had held up seeing her like this.  I thought of my Toby.  Her husband’s eyes softened, he patted her back and gave his wife all the credit.  Agape.

***I talked to a woman I admire deeply today, for the first time ever, about her daughter that she lost several years ago.  I’ve wanted to comfort her a long time ago, but never knew what to say.  Today, I just asked.  Her other daughter was with her.  They both reflected fondly over their daughter, sister, and friend.  It was beautiful to hear them talk about those very difficult days followed by the regular challenges of life that don’t care how much you’re hurting.  It was beautiful because they were there smiling and sharing with me and my mom and it was so real and special.  If they can make it through such horrific tragedy, then maybe I can make it through my stuff, too.

I know that I do tend to have a dark side and that at times, it may seem my glass is always half empty.  I have whined and complained a lot in the last few years.  Yeah, I’m not promising crap!  I know I have some venting in me, yet! But,  I am so tired of living in the land of the miserable and I am ready to live in the place of healing, hope, joy, and grace. It is a process.  Please continue to be patient with me.  I’m trying. Pray.  I pray that I may end my days with joy.

In the moments that I have revealed my weakness, the Lord has made me so strong in all of you.  The encouragement, messages, phone calls, texts, visits.  They are natural and meaningful between you and me and I am so thankful.   I am so thankful.

The Cure

I think I’ve decided what I “need.”  I heard this song last night by the Sidewalk Prophets.  It said something about ‘show me you’re a bigger God than I could have ever imagined.’  I also read this blip out of “The Cure” by John Lynch.  The tagline of the book is “When God isn’t who you think he is…  and neither are you.”

I’ve had this vague understanding of who God is in my short walk.  Sometimes I don’t think I fear Him the way I ought to.  My friend Shawna taught me the verbage, “He knows my heart.”  No matter what I say or do, he knows my heart and even if I can’t articulate my conceptions, He hears me.  Sometimes it’s just me who needs to be able to articulate what I am thinking.  Not so much for Him, but for me.

The other night I lay on the floor while Toby tried to massage and stretch out my left arm.  Something is going on.  My shoulder is tender, sore, tires easily.  I am getting cramping throughout the whole arm.  In places it waxes and wanes like a painful toothache.  It seems to be triggered more when I have my arm bent – it does not have to be flexed.  By Saturday, it had built up for 4-5 days.  We’re trying to figure out how to make this pain better and I am at the point of havin’ to do something.  The pain is acute.  I had all three babies naturally, I know what severe pain feels like.

Tears roll from my face to the carpet beneath me as Toby tried to work on my arm.  Tears are welling up in Toby’s eyes and heart.  This is so hard you guys.  I am so beyond tired and frustrated and sad.  I cannot nurture Toby and it’s difficult that I am the cause of his anguish, even if its not my fault. I cry to the Lord, but sometimes it seems that the trials are only getting harder, faster, and more complicated than before.

Lord, hear my cry.  We are not fine.  Sometimes it feels like this life has started at the point of difficulty and then it just got worse with time.  There are times when I see you.  But, there are a lot more times when I don’t see or feel you.  I’ve always felt justified in asking that if this life must be so physically and emotionally painful, that you could make something else easier.  Evidently that’s not your plan.  In case you haven’t noticed, I sort of need you a lot right now.  Big.  I need you to make your presence in my life bigger than I ever could have imagined.  I need some hope to hold on to.  I need a season of peace.  Bless me with your wisdom Lord, that I might use it in every aspect of my life.  Let me find myself living the life of trust and grace in you. Amen.

The last decent issue I had with my health was in July.  It was a similar version of what I’m going through now, but in my right arm.  More in my armpit and shoulder.  The most similar experience that I could relate the pain to was shingles.  I started on the shingles medication right away so I never did break out in the rash.  Now, I’m unsure if it really was shingles or part of my disease process.  July…  August…  September…  October…  November.  It’s building momentum.

I need a really big God.

the cure

#controlmeself

This week I did a lesson on “Self-Control” for our community high school youth group.  I know, right?  Dana “Slyter” doing a lesson on self-control.  In my heart, I associate that “Slyter” part of my life as a part of shame.  I feel like Dana Slyter was much more of a disappontment than Dana Clary.   Mostly because in response to a difficult childhood I spiraled out of control.  The illusion of control that I did have was a web of lies and I was spinning and spinning and soon just…  wound up so tight.  I was done.

My 17th and 18th years were so hard.  There is something extremely challenging about that transition from kid to adult.  Figuring out how what you know matches up with the rest of the world.  I wasn’t naive in the sense of bad stuff happening, but extremely ignorant to how the world handled life.  I sucked at life.

I am not even joking.

I could not discern if who I had been all the years of my life was really who I was or who I had become because of my circumstances.  That really bothered me for some reason.  I didn’t want to keep doing what I did for the sake of…  everyone else?  It was at this uncertain time, there was no boundary, no right or wrong, no limit.  There’s the saying “if you don’t spend your money, it will spend itself,” or something.  The gist is, if you don’t set the budget and say, this ‘is what it is’ AND stick with it, then just throw the money in the trash because you’ll end up wasting more, etc., without a plan.

I had a basic plan at 17.  Go to college.  Become a doctor.  Get married.  Make adorable babies.  Become really important.  Make lots of money.  Happily ever after.  The end.

This is a lovely plan.  The problem is, I was so emotionally and mentally lost that even when I was where I needed to be physically, I screwed up.  Big.  I made it to step one of my above plan.  ROFL.  Seriously.  I graduated from my small high school in pretty good standing.  I wasn’t a good kid.  I had attitude and entitlement issues on top of being severely depressed.  I didn’t know I was depressed.  My freshman year I started out like a rainbow.  I ended my senior year more like mud.  Stuck.  Ugly.  Slow.  I lost all but a couple of close friends.  My Justin.  He checked up on me when he didn’t have to.  We didn’t really talk about my issues, but he tried hard to get me out of my mud and involved in life.  I love him over and over again.

I’m not sure that I was suicidal, but I was in a very dark place.

My mom and I had moved into town my junior year.  It was after my sister left for college and I think it just became harder for my dad.  Life.  He was worn out and totally lost himself.  The business was stressful.  There was no relief for him.  Alcohol helped him get the release he was looking for, but mom and I couldn’t be around it anymore.  It was a hard choice for my mom.  Being a single-parent on top of being emotionally abused, left her in a really bad place.  I was pretty devastated when mom said we were moving back in with dad out on the highway after several months of freedom.  I think it was near the end of my junior year.  Maybe that summer?

I started smoking somewhere here.  Puking.  Not eating.  Exercising uncontrollably.  Partying.  Boys.  I think that this type of rebellion is common in this age group – we’re looking for something to control.  But, to someone who is emotionally unbalanced, this normally difficult experience is overwhelming and it’s easy to find immediate comfort in these areas.  Comfort we’re not getting anywhere else in the world.

I made the biggest mistakes of my life during this time.   I moved out of my house within a few days after high school graduation.  I was gifted enough money to live on that summer and stayed in my sister’s apartment in Moscow.  Not Russia.  I chose to go to the University of Idaho.  Big mistake.  Big.  Huge!

I tried to do the school thing.  I couldn’t focus.  I was hardly sleeping.  Not amnesia.  What’s the sleeping problem?   I started drinking heavily.  There is a party every single night…  somewhere, in Moscow, Idaho!  I found most of them.  I tried marijuana for the first time here.  I lost my virginity.  Multiple times.  I think I attended about 1/4 of my classes.  I honestly don’t even know if I passed any?  Grades, which had once been my entire identity, meant nothing.

Looking back at this – on paper – I am so embarrassed.  I hate that this was me.  On the other hand, I can see how desperately bad I was hurting.  This was not me.  Anyone who knew my character knew this wasn’t me.  People tried to help.  I don’t know if I would be alive without Gretchen.  If at any point in my life I was suicidal, it was then.  I thought about it all the time.  Death surely had to be better than this life.

That spring I got pretty sick.  The consequences of my lifestyle caught up to me.  I also didn’t realize at the time that I was beginning to get “really” sick.  I had a decent case of walking pneumonia and Mono which resulted with my spleen getting enlarged for an extended period of time.  I left “school” abruptly that spring.

When I graduated at high school, I spoke at graduation.  I was an almost perfect 4.0 student in the toughest classes our school offered – physics, calculus, trig, chemistry, honors English.  I was no joke academically, a gifted and talented student since 2nd grade.  I was honored to be my school’s homecoming queen my senior year.  I won another pageant thing once.  I was even the student body president.  I had the resume, the credentials, and the mind to be great at life.

As I put together my self-control lesson I thought about how inadequate an example my life is to these kids.  As painful as it is for me, it’s also the perfect illustration to help them.  We are body, mind, and spirit.  Without any of these areas nurtured and taken care of, we’re not complete.  And when we’re not complete and out of balance, we do stupid stuff to try to fix our lives to make it feel right.  We put a sugar packet under a wobbly table.  That’s the problem with the world today.  Everyone comes up with a temporary fix.  And, when you don’t even have the knowledge to fix the wobbly table like a carpenter, to know what ought to be right, you’re in quite the pickle trying to figure out feelings and life situations you’re never possibly going to understand.

My heart and soul were defeated in these tender years of my life.  There was no love there.  No joy.  No passion.  There were dim flickers of light in the caves of my spirit at times, but nothing that could balance out the awkward tripod of my body-mind-soul trifecta.  Nothing but the good Lord could fix this.

I think age, time, and Toby all helped to bring me out of the depths of quicksand during that rough chapter of my life.  As soon as I started to climb out, though, more stuff with my body started to go wrong.  When I was 19, we started with all of the ovary problems, Endometriosis, cysts, etc..  That started blurring into the chronic neurological problems that were full blown by age 23.

It is only because Christ is living in me now that I can see, and must trust, that I needed to go through this yucky stuff.  The plan I had was not where he needed me to be.  I wouldn’t have my Toby if things had gone the way they “ought” to.  Accepting this as the truth of what happened, no longer blaming my parents, myself, or God for my problems has a very liberating element to it.  We all did the best we could and you know what?  It’s not over.  God has a better plan in store for me!!!!

That excites me!  I am no longer aimlessly wandering around to find my place in the world, but do what I can where I am with what I have to serve the Lord.  There have been a lot of consequences to my lack of self-control:  financial, reputation, damaged relationships, and trust issues.  Only the Lord could turn something so gross into something so glorious.  Amen,

Only God can work in such rad ways.  I think through all of my preparation for this lesson, the thing  that still stands boldly out in my mind was this relationship between self-control as a worldly and spiritual concept.

In the world we identify self-control as the ability to control one’s own thoughts/judgments, behaviors/actions, and emotions/heart.  Body, mind, soul.  In the Bible, Jesus orders us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind.  The three areas that we are to have control over by the world’s example is body, mind, and soul.  The thing Jesus says is the very most important in the whole Bible is to love God with the same three areas.  On top of this, I realized…  Jesus was our example in body/behavior, the Holy Spirit is our counselor on matters of the heart, and God gives us the very Word for our minds to meditate on.

The Trinity is the very truth of our self-control.

Blows.  My.  Mind.