Post Surgery Thoughts

(This was written and posted on brookiesblography.blogspot.com, a week after surgery. My apologies for neglecting to post it here.)

Whew. So now, a week post-surgery, I am behooved to address the cosmos (and more importantly, friends) regarding our recent and continuing trial (though Praise God, the worst is over!)…

* We survived the steamroller! 🙂 To God be the glory.

What an experience, what a testimony, what a mighty God! He never leaves us, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.. I will tell you that though I knew we would come through this (by God’s grace alone), I distinctly felt that ‘shadow’ on the day of surgery…knowing that God’s ways are above ours, and that if His justice were satisfied, we’d long ago have been consumed.

He does not have to appeal to my reasoning and understanding to do what He sees fit. My own parents–both of them–lost their fathers at an early age. My mom was almost two when her dad died, and my dad was five. Knowing that the Lord has preserved them all this time, even without the presence of their precious fathers, I knew the Lord would keep me and my own children, no matter what. So with that knowledge, knowing that EVERYthing God does IS right, I faced the day.

This is not to disregard the peace I felt from the day we heard about the tumor. I knew Wes would make it through. But even if I was mistaken, I also knew God is faithful.

* Moms rock.

My parents arrived in Tennessee from Wisconsin (looonnnnng, 14-hour drive) on Monday night. From that moment on, they have been such a support throughout this experience. Mom has taken over the care of our older three while I tend to Wes and the Beebs (our little 5-month-old), and her help has been invaluable. She is truly the greatest Oma on the planet (I’m sure that statement could bring many other Dutch grandchildren to blows). She has taken over homeschooling, reading to them, bathing, feeding, and playing with them, and she even took them to pick pumpkins (one appropriately-sized pumpkin for each child–so cute!) yesterday. Thank you, Mom. You’re the best. Many thanks to Dad, too, who had to turn around and drive back to WI on Saturday to care for his wonderful church (to you who read this and attend Lighthouse Pentecostal Church, you rock! Thank you all for adopting us).

Wes’ mom has been no less supportive and helpful. She (as you may have read) is a nurse for a neurosurgeon here in Knoxville, and her knowledge and experience has been such a blessing. I can call her instead of bugging our doctor’s office every time I have a question. She stayed the first night after surgery with Wes in ICU while I went to get some rest at the hotel with the baby. I’m SO thankful for this…we were all sleep-deprived by this point, and the sacrifice she made that night to ensure Wes wouldn’t be alone was so appreciated (though she would tell you it was no sacrifice at all). She also brought me a certain container of cookies on the day of surgery–so thoughtful! I’m sure I’ll be paying for that indulgence ;), but I appreciate her thoughtfulness so much.

Many other important words of thanks can be found here. Words are not enough.

* We now have one more reason to appreciate fall.

We were married in September and are mega-fans of turtlenecks, so we already have reason to count fall our favorite season. Add “evicted brain tumor” to that list, and even one’s birthday becomes a distant second. 😉

So there’s a few of my thoughts.. Thanks to all of you who continue to pray for us! He is the God who hears.

(Dear friends, please excuse the inevitable errors in my posts throughout the next few weeks…I am snatching a few moments here and there to write, and do not have quite the time I prefer to self-edit. Thanks for your forgiveness!)

Things I learned today

  • That it is indeed possible to duplicate (or closely imitate) Cracker Barrel pancakes. A word of caution, however: they are probably about a bazillion calories each….but uber tasty! 🙂 (my tips: fry them in bacon grease and plenty o’ butter for the salty/crispy edges, use real buttermilk, and let the batter rest for about 30 min.)
  • That an impending life event can actually be a de-motivator…yeah, that means I didn’t get much done today. Oh, well.
  • That Winston Churchill wrote a lot. And well. His “Inside of the Cup” series (Vol 1-7) is strinkingly good. So insightful. (I’m only on Vol 2, so don’t quote me on 3-7 yet.)
  • That there really is no place to find decent (little girls’) tights for cheap. $10.50?? Really, Gap, you’re being a little greedy. They’re plain, black tights.

So now, haunted by a cluttered closet and piles of laundry, with an early morning before me, I bid you Adieu…or Guten Abend for those with Germanic preferences.

I leave you with a ponderable quote:

“Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”
–Winston Churchill

leaning, clinging, trusting

By the grace of God, I have been able, for the most part, aside from a few weak moments, to keep a stiff upper lip throughout this ordeal.

Yesterday, however, someone had the nerve to post a sappy love song on Facebook, and like a moron, I clicked on it. Within seconds, I was a puddle. (Click here if you must, but be warned.)

Somehow, love is sweeter where pain has made the heart raw. I count myself among the blessed few to feel an acute sense of mortality, yet to have the chance to cherish those I love while they are still here. So many have suffered loss without a moment to say goodbye. Those folks hold my deep regard, and my heart aches for them.

Jesus wept. Lazarus had died, and Mary and Martha were mourning the loss of their brother. Jesus came to Bethany, and they came to him (at different times) and said the same thing: “Lazarus wouldn’t be dead if you had only come earlier.” But Jesus’ reaction was different to each woman. With Martha, He gently reassured and corrected her, saying “I am the resurrection and the life.”

But when He saw Mary weeping, He wept, too.

This was the same Mary who, bearing the scorn of others, had anointed His feet (‘in preparation for burial’) with the costly ointment, and washed them with her tears, humbly drying them with her hair. This same Mary, forgiven much, had sat at His feet, listening to His words, while Martha was crossly running around and resenting Mary for not helping her.

He had no logical reason to truly be sad about Lazarus—He knew that in a few moments, he would live again. What struck His heart, I believe, is the sight of one of His beloved in pain. Though He knew Mary’s sorrow wouldn’t last long, He still felt it just as deeply as she.

We have not a high priest who cannot be touched by the feeling of our infirmities. He is compassionate, understanding our feelings of helplessness and sorrow when we are powerless.

He cares for His own. He mourns with us, cries with us, though not in despair, because in Him we have hope. And on His everlasting arms we lean, more aware than ever of their strength.

The intense pain felt in difficult moments sharpens the color of life, bringing meaning into the most mundane details, teaching us to appreciate the small things that He has ordained. I am determined to see Him in everything, to catch the lingering scent of Him where His hands have expertly carved our path.

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. There is no covering up ‘no strength.’ It is the lame man who was carried to Jesus by his friends. It is Lazarus, dead in the grave. It is the realization that you can do nothing to fix your situation.

And it is moments like these that teach us to collapse on the Rock, to cling to Him like a belt, and know that we shall not be moved.

But what if..

“You’re just pretending to be strong, when it could’ve been worse–and then what would u say? You’d probably fold if things were worse.”

I always find myself in peril the moment I try to argue hypothetically.

“What if you lived in the backwoods of Nepal and no doctor was around, and you had a second big toe growing on your right foot, and your elbows were inverted, and you had to cook with your back to the firepit, and you lost your balance on your new big toe, fell backwards into the fire and suffered third-degree burns…would you trust God THEN?”

Yes, it could be worse, yes it could be easier. But this is what it is. And this is how I shall react. Yes, it could have been cancer, but praise God it’s not. Yes, it could’ve been a simple sinus infection, but it’s not, and praise God anyway. We could treat it as nothing, but it isn’t. It’s serious. We could over-dramatize it, but we won’t.

The fact is, God is good, and He is our Comforter, and our peace. It is His perspective from which He would have us to see this. From His vantage point, this is not accidental, not without forethought, and not unto death, but for His glory and His purpose. He can handle the details just fine. Our job is to trust Him.

And that we do.

When I met Him

“you know Me.”

It’s that familiar Voice pulsing through every meaningful spiritual experience, every burst of clarity from Scripture…the breath on my cheek when profound truth appears in my mind…the inexplicable sweetness in even the most painful experiences…the knowledge through the searing pain that He is Truth, He is love, He is faithful, and that all that He does is good.

The doubt that arises from the pit of hell that questions “do I really know Him?” is empty, with no basis in truth.

What is true—what I KNOW—is that 20 years ago,

standing on a cement floor at a humid Illinois campground,

on a Wednesday night in July,

I met Him.

Physically, spiritually, mentally, with more joy and inexplicable wonder than I could ever convey in words. What I had hoped, prayed, yearned, wept for finally happened that night.

Summoned by the preacher, who asked “If you don’t have the Holy Ghost, come up to the front,” I walked to the altar wearing my gray drop-waist dress with the pink scarf, and lifted my hands. I remember an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach as I made my way past the rows of folding chairs…like my body knew something big was about to happen. Two pastors’ wives prayed with me.

It wasn’t immediate, and in fact, I distinctly remember getting a bit discouraged after a few minutes…there was a bit of a power struggle, I think, because I wasn’t getting what I wanted when I wanted it.

Then, just as I gave up, something came over me, and excitement and a lightness..weightlessness.. all over my body, and my tongue started to move. It was more than the stammering lips I had experienced before. My mouth was forming strange words I couldn’t understand, and they just kept coming. I didn’t even want to stop and take a breath. As soon as it began, I knew what was happening, and remember smiling as big as I could as God’s spirit flowed through me. I opened my eyes, and the two ladies were excited, praising God, smiling with me and shouting. I did not want it to stop. I felt–physically–like I could just jump and float away.

After a few minutes of pure joy and surrender, letting the presence of God wash over me in waves, I looked around in the crowd and saw my friend Allegia from my home church, who was also praying for the Holy Ghost. Trembling under the power of God, I staggered over to her, grabbed her arm, and started praying with my heart while my mouth still worshipped in another language. Within moments, she was filled with the Holy Ghost, too! It was awesome. Truly the best night of my life. I was eleven years old.

At Illinois Junior Camp, they had a tradition of writing the names of each kid who received the Holy Ghost on this big chalkboard on the platform. Each child got to go up to the platform and tell the preacher, then write his/her name on the board. I wrote my name up there, and was so overjoyed. The desire of my heart had finally been fulfilled.

My life has never been the same. God altered my course that night, and I love Him. More than anything, or anyone, anywhere. He is the lover of my soul, the very reason I live, the One whose face is reflected in the faces of my children, the source of companionship and intimacy and unequaled friendship and love that is embodied in my husband, the presence I feel when viewing creation, the calm answer to every uneasy question my mind brings up.

There simply is no other God. He has been the best friend, refuge, strong tower, comforter, teacher for the past 20 years (as of July 27), and it is His presence and the knowledge of Him that brings value to every experience I have in life.

Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?