Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs (Part 4)

(Part 3)

As I shared the entire story with the preacher, he just nodded.  I, of course, was still crying.  I told him I felt crazy, and I didn't know about the voices and such.  Or voices at all.  I was used to my mind telling me bad things were going to happen.  That I was used to.  I was a worrier.  That's what I do.

Kids staying the night with friends?  The voice in my head assures me that the friend's house will probably burn down with my child inside.

Kids and Steven all riding together in a car?  The voice tells me that there probably will be a wreck that will steal all three from me.

These are the things I am used to the "voice" in my head telling me.  Anxiety and fear are common place.  They live in my head and have made themselves at home.

This positive voice is new to the area and I'm trying to figure out where it belongs.  This voice that brings good news and peace?  I feel sad to say I don't know that voice.

The preacher was so kind in listening, especially when I am sure that many times most of it sounded incoherent and made very little sense.  However, I told him that it didn't escape my notice that he had his mission, I had my voice, and now I had this message...

And the message?   Wow!  I mean, now someone else had a voice.

I'll admit that it got my attention.

While laughing through the tears, I admitted to the preacher that I still kind of wished there was a billboard. But just as quickly as I stated that, I relented that even then, I would still wonder.  It's hard not to leave God a way out.  I believe in Him even if Steven isn't healed.  What if I went out and blatantly spread my story and then something happened? 

Does it mean that God isn't real?  No.  This much I do know.

But what does it mean?

*****

Fear is so very real.  I've seen so much and my mind can paint pictures of some very terrible things.  However, I have found that when I purposefully, mindfully take my mind to the place where things go terribly wrong, yet my focus stays on God, I find that I still have purpose and value and the fear is not as powerful.  It's still there.  Trust me, it never leaves.  But if you purposely include God in the picture, even when the picture is of what you fear the most, it is impossible for what you fear to be all encompassing or all consuming.  It just impossible.

And I have to remind myself this.

Just the other day I was in the fetal position, in my bed, at three in the afternoon.

I do not have it all together.

In fact, right now I am in a hospital bed typing this after emailing Steven's BMT oncologist numerous times this morning as I battle the fear I have of his relapse.

Have I mentioned that I have to remind myself of this daily? Hourly? Moment by moment?

*****
That day, sitting in the living room, crying with this unknown preacher, felt oddly freeing.  Him stating that he felt he was being prompted by God to tell us that Steven would be cured felt good to hear, but him admitting that he had no way of knowing for sure honestly felt good to hear as well.  He was a preacher and he was in the same boat as I was. 
 
Preacher or not, we were both human, and he understood where I was coming from.  We are ALL human, but he reminded me that we just needed the faith the size of a mustard seed.  He shared that he felt that God had called him to start a church, which he had.  He had a church, but the location left a lot to be desired.  He felt God telling him that this would be changing, but was hesitant to put that out there because, again, what if he was wrong, or misinterpreted.  Sometimes a mustard seed can seem so large.

We talked about not wanting to put God into a corner, and how we seemingly always allowed Him a loophole.  

Not that God needs one.
 

He admitted that coming to our house to speak of his conviction felt really odd to him, yet he felt he had to do it.  He was nervous and had never put himself in this position before.  He also admitted he knew that there was a distinct possibility that down the road he could have an angry wife that would confront him and say, "But YOU said!!!" if things didn't go well with her husband, and he wouldn't have an answer. 



I told him understood that too, and I promised that regardless of what happened, I wouldn't do that to him.  I appreciated his leap of faith.  (I also appreciated the keychain he sent Steven and I while in St. Louis, with a mustard seed in the center, as a visual reminder of the faith we are called to have.)

His gift, and his leap of faith, aren't the only ones we have been privileged to receive.
 
*As I sat in the hospital, two days before Steven's transplant, I could just feel the anxiety in my body like a knot.  I desperately needed things to go well.  This transplant HAD to work.

I again received a message on Facebook.  This time it was from a high school friend.  One who had never contacted me before.

She shared with me that although I might think she was crazy, and had been hesitant about contacting me, she felt nudged by the Holy Spirit to do so.  She stated that although she didn't know how the transplant process worked, during her prayer for Steven and our family, she could envision new cells entering Steven's body and as they did, his body was filled with a great light which began to pulse through it, and out of it, like a glow.  She could see the healing of his tissues and his health and strength begin to return.  She shared that she was afraid to tell me this, for fear of sounding crazy, but after a time, she just felt so compelled to do so.

I am SO glad she did.


*I also appreciate the leap of faith by the friend that works in the ER, that held my hand and prayed with me after finding out that Steven had relapsed, and said that deep in her heart she felt a God given peace that Steven would beat this.

*I appreciate the friend to Steven who said in complete earnestness that he just "knows things" and that despite the fact that we were (at the time) heading in for transplant, he knew that Steven was to be healed.

*I appreciate the friend who prayed for me in the middle of her work parking lot and recently stated that when praying for Steven she felt like God was almost saying, "enough already.  It's been done."

I realize that there is no way to know whether or not "it's been done."  We will not know that for years. 

But last week, before our latest readmission to the hospital, it hit me.  I shouldn't wait to share all this.  Regardless of what happens with Steven, these people, and their experiences and what they have shared with me, have been great, wonderful gifts.  I have drawn on their words so many times and it has given me hope when I had nothing else to stand on.

They could have all decided not to share because they didn't know "for sure" that what they had seen, been told, or felt was real.  I would understand their hesitation.  It was the same hesitation that kept me from sharing my story as well.

However, I have drawn from their words, and their experiences, so many times.  To think of what the last six months would have been like without them would paint a much different reality.  They changed me and my days.  I have no doubt they changed Steven's too.  In that way, they did change our future.  Did it change what happened/will happen with his diagnosis?  Maybe not.  Did they actually give us a glimpse of the healing that is to come?  Maybe.  I certainly hope and pray so. 

But they without a doubt did heal us in the moment.

By the way, the preacher?  He did get his church building.  And the voice?  Well, sometimes I still "hear" it, and although I still don't know for sure exactly where or who it comes from, the message is almost the same.

Instead of saying "he will be healed" instead it now simply says he is.

*****

I would love to neatly wrap up this up and say that I have complete faith and no worries and have 100% certainty that God has told me that Steven has beat this horrible disease.

That would be lying and I have tried to be nothing if not completely honest.

I struggle each and every day.  I worry and I wonder and I doubt and I struggle to find the rhyme and reason.  I have days I feel strong, and days I feel weak, and days I think I am the worst mother ever.

I have days that I think God wouldn't have went to so much trouble if Steven wasn't to be healed, but then I remember what happened the last time that I thought that I had figured out the way God had worked out His plan.

I don't have a clue.  None.  Zip.  Remember, I'm the one that can't even keep up with the thoughts bouncing around in my head.

But I do know that I would have not made it this far without so many of you.  Even those of you that I have never even met.  People who have reached out to me, yet have never even seen my face.  Those who have made a point to send me kind words, and big prayers.

I also want to add that if I live to 100 I will never be able to thank everyone for their generosity.  So much has been done for my family during the past 17 months.  I can't even list the ways in which people have helped us for fear of missing something/someone.  It's unbelievable and amazing.  The goodness in this world is amazing and my eyes are forever opened to it.  We don't have to look for the bad, the news will willingly show it to you.  But trust me, you really don't have to look too hard for the good either.  It's everywhere. 

Please, please, please keep praying.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs (Part 3)

(Part 2)

After I found out the news regarding Steven's biopsy, I needed some air.  I took a walk out to the mailbox and had a good long cry, and another pleading talk with Jesus.  I wrote about that here:  http://helpingmeup.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-middle-pages.html

As I got back to the house that night and tried to come to terms with what our future would hold, I received a phone call from a friend.  She told me she had a story she wanted to share with me.  Without going into too much detail about it, (because the story isn't mine to tell) I will say that I heard about some horrific events that had happened the weekend before and about someone she had gotten to "know" in a round about way.  This person had heard the voice of God tell them to "hang on" in the very literal sense of the word. They didn't recognize the voice either, but there was no other explanation. And hang on they did.  This act alone, when the person wanted to let go in every aspect of their lives, and in everything they were clinging to, saved them.

Saved them, and their life. 

I am not being dramatic in my usage of my words.  Know that when I say this, I am meaning it as it reads.  This man was saved.  Completely.  All that should have been left was a body, if even it would have ever been found.

The "coincidences" of the story are unbelievable. 

However, it was the fact that this person didn't believe that God would take His time to choose him to save that made me think about my reasoning that I didn't believe that God would take His time to choose to speak to me. 

I had no doubts that God spoke to and saved that man.  I still don't.  I don't believe that God picks and chooses based on worthiness, yet, somehow, I guess when it came to the likelihood that he would speak to me, or even hear me, I did apply some sort of merit based system.  And I wasn't worthy.

 
*****

That night I climbed into bed.  My body was physically exhausted and my mind numb.  I couldn't even really piece together a prayer.  The words seemed repetitious and without real meaning.  Every prayer was the same.  The same basic theme:  "Heal my husband.  Watch over my kids.  Keep them safe."  Nothing felt like it had life or meaning.  I couldn't even summon up energy or emotion. 

I knew God must be disappointed.  I was disappointed.  And I was tired.  Very, very tired.

*****

The next day, apparently glutton for punishment, I went in to have my wisdom teeth removed.  They had been erupting and receding for years and for over a month they had stayed up.  This had caused swelling and for other issues to start arising in my mouth.  I felt certain when I took the kids to the St. Louis Cardinals game back in June, when Steven was in the hospital, that if the TV camera panned our way in the crowd it would, without a doubt, catch me with my tweezers and mini cotton ball applying lidocaine onto my cheek to numb the pain.  (I did this in approximately 10 minute intervals.) 

We are that family.

A friend of mine from high school took pity on me and twisted the arm of her husband, who was able to get me in for an appointment quickly to have them removed.

Steven had a friend that had stayed with him while I was gone.  My sister and Lakyn took me to the appointment and made sure I made it back home.  Once home, while getting settled back in, Sarah brought me my phone and told me, "you have a message..."

I wasn't as prone to the anesthetic as those you may have seen on YouTube (unfortunately) and kept my wits about me the entire time.  When I saw the message was from someone that I knew, but had never met in person, and had never received a Facebook message from before, I wondered what was going on.  Our relationship was work related and although when we spoke, it was friendly, and pleasant, we hadn't ever communicated outside of work.

The words she had typed made me stop in my tracks and made me wonder if I was seeing things.

"Kim, I was awakened at 4 am to a voice telling me a healing was happening.  I was also told to tell you that God is answering our prayers.  I know you are a believer and I had to share this with you."

(To be continued)


Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs (Part 2)

(Part 1)

I laughed through my tears and explained that one night, in the midst of one of the few times that I actually let the tears freely flow...the night before we knew that the salvage chemo had not worked...the night before we knew that a second transplant was definitely in our future...the night before I was knocked to my knees once again...that night when I prayed, I felt like someone, specifically God, was telling me that Steven would be healed.  This is not a normal occurrence for me.

I "heard" a "voice" saying, "he will be healed".

First off, this startled me.  And the voice repeated itself.  Again. And then again.

So, I wondered if this voice was just my subconscious wanting the results of the biopsy to reveal that the chemo had worked, that a second transplant would not be needed and that Steven would be healed. But the "voices" in my head generally aren't positive.

As I laid there in bed I tried some mental thought scrambling trying to block out anything but thoughts that were intentional...or thoughts I felt God really meant me to hear.

All I determined is that it is really easy to get lost inside my head.  I decided that distraction was my best option so I turned to Pinterest.  (I know, right?)  I can't honestly say what exactly I typed into my phone but I believe it was something along the lines of "religious inspirational quotes".  What it immediately brought up on my screen, on Pinterest, was "How to Know if God is Speaking to You".

Yes.

Could have been a coincidence. Possibly was. 

But the five bullet points that it outlined that needed to be met...had been. Every. Single. One.

But, in my mind, I could easily say that it was subjective and that the criteria could easily be manipulated to meet my own desires. And maybe it could.  And maybe it had.

Because, seriously, this theory of God speaking to me had ALL sorts of flaws.  First off, I wasn't sure that God would actually "talk" to ME.  I mean, ME?  Really?

I remember praying, "God, if (and that was -and still is- a HUGE if) you are speaking to me, I need a sign.  And God, you know me, even if it is a billboard that says, "Kim, it's me, God, and I am speaking to you", I would still find a way to doubt.  I'm crazy!  You made me.  You know this!  I am scared.  I am worried.  You could wrap peace up in a neat package and I would probably give it back.  Still...I am asking for a sign, even though I probably won't believe it."

*****

When I talk about voices, I think it is important to point out that I don't actually hear anything.  It's more of an imprint.  I imagine we all have these imprints.  It's the same dialogue we have we have when we rerun conversations in our heads.  Or think.  We don't hear thoughts, and we don't see them, yet somehow we are able to process them. 

So when a thought seems foreign, and not of your own mind, it becomes your job to figure out where it came from.  Who put it there?  Our subconscious?  God?  I don't really talk much about the devil, but it's just as possible that he is guiding our thoughts too.

These are the voices, the "imprints", that make up who we are, what we do, and the decisions we make.

What voices are you listening to?

*****

The next day we received the call from the nurse in St. Louis regarding the biopsy taken on Steven's bone marrow.  The first biopsy they had taken after the salvage chemo he received post transplant had been of poor quality and they had asked us to repeat it.  The results of the second one was in.  We had been told that if the chemo had put Steven back into remission, that there was a 30-40% chance that the chemo, along with the boost of donor cells, would keep him in remission, and another transplant would not be needed.  This news was what our family had hoped and prayed for, and just what we needed.

However, when the nurse began to speak, the sickness in my stomach began to overtake me.  Even though my husband, sitting in front of me at 113.6 lbs, had endured harsh chemo, the cancer had survived and was still in his marrow. 

We would be returning for another transplant.

I couldn't imagine how Steven's body would be able to physically endure going through the process again.  He was skin over a skeleton and he couldn't afford to lose more weight.  I again looked at him and what this disease had done to his body.

I couldn't imagine how I could survive another transplant.  I knew what the last one did to me mentally, and what the separation from my kids, and the sights and sound of the hospital had done to my soul.  I was irreversibly changed, and in my mind, weakened...how would I ever survive repeating the process?

It seemed that in a logical way of thinking, how could I NOT see this as a sign?  Things were not going well. That much was obvious.  Steven was NOT doing well.  How foolish of me to think that God, the same God that created the Heaven and Earth, would speak to me, as I prayed while I laid in my bed (yeah...of all times not to be on my knees) and tell me that my husband would be healed.  It was almost laughable. 

God, the same God that rose from the dead, healed the blind man, and the same God that watched as crowds that had days before celebrated his entrance into the city had turned on him and demanded his execution, would turn his eyes on me and whisper into my clouded and anxious mind that my husband would be healed...

A mind that didn't even know if it was Him that was whispering.

As I looked at my husband and my kids, and in the mirror at my tear streaked face, all I knew is what a sad state our house was in.  A sad and pitiful state.  My kids had neither their mother or father...at least, not the ones they had known prior to Steven's cancer.  Those were gone.  In their places were shells. 

One a physical shell and the other a mental.

(To be continued.)

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs (Part 1)

I looked at the message, and although I didn't recognize the sender, I wasn't all that shocked at the content.  It felt...almost oddly expected.

I glanced over at Steven and told him that a preacher was going to be coming to visit us.  It was August and our world was starting to spin faster and faster the closer we found ourselves to September 6th, the date Steven would be returning to St. Louis for his second transplant.  Steven asked if we knew him and I said that we didn't, and even that didn't faze us.  It was welcomed and not intrusive. 

We would take anything anyone had to offer:  words of wisdom, words of prayer...words of encouragement.

I'm not sure if we were looking for hope.  Maybe we were.  Maybe Steven was.  But me?  Well, I had been knocked down time and time again as I had felt hope handed to me and then taken away too many times.  I really wasn't sure that hope was for me anyway.  It felt better to expect the worst.  Then, at best, you would be pleasantly surprised. 

Hope is sneaky,  you know...it always seems to find its way in, but if left to my own devices, I would just stay on my knees. After all, it made for a much shorter fall.

*****

As I saw the car coming up the drive, I let Steven know that our visitor had arrived.  The kids were at school and we had to be leaving to get them in a little over an hour.  I was a little nervous and more than a little anxious to hear what this unknown preacher had to say to people he had never met.  One of which who was (gasp!) catholic!

I met him at the door and neither one of us was struck by lightening which I took as a good sign.  I immediately was taken in by his unassuming, calm demeanor, and we all began talking as if among friends.   He shared that he had heard of Steven and his plight when he was first diagnosed in September and admitted that he had just kind of let the whole situation slip off his radar.  However, when he was approached again after Steven had relapsed his heart had been convicted in a different way.  He said he felt that he was supposed to come to us and let us know that Steven would be healed.  This conviction alone brought him his own set of unsettled feelings.

He admitted to us that he felt odd about reaching out to people he did not know to tell them something that he could not prove.  What if he was wrong? He confessed that he had pushed aside contacting us in hopes that the conviction would pass.  It didn't. 

So he obeyed what he felt God was asking him to do and he found himself inside of the living room of two people he had never laid eyes on and was telling them that he felt that the leukemia that was threatening to take the life of one would not succeed.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

I started to cry and I said, "you aren't going to believe this but this isn't the first thing like this that has happened..."

(To be continued)