Sometimes Bad Things Happen…

There are dark moments in life. Moments when it seems that goodness no longer exists. Sometimes these moments are caused by  medical problems, family issues, or sometimes they’re a result of just a general, run-of-the-mill, crummy day. Whatever it may be, one thing you can count on in life…  bad things will happen.

I’ve recently had such a moment. The details are really unimportant. Suffice it to say, I (myself and my husband) made a decision in the best interest of my family. It was a decision that negatively affected another member. I’ve since been accused of all manner of things.

I guess at the end of the day, we, and we alone are responsible for our own decisions. Although we are influenced in our lives by past and present circumstances, they cannot dictate sound judgement. We are responsible for the here and now. Responsible for the lives of the people that depend upon us. Responsible for seeking out wisdom…no matter how badly we’ve felt mistreated.

These are tough moments where pride is stripped away, and we, in humility and faith, step out. We go against the grain. Choose the unpopular path. The path that, in all likelihood, will make us persona non grata. 

My recent situation has resulted in multiple people voicing their shame of me. I know Christ is not and has never been ashamed of me. He says so…in Him there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1) My actions are subject to his grace and no one else’s. 

This is a dark moment and cannot be ignored. It cannot be swept under the rug. We will all have these moments…but they aren’t without hope. Hope in knowing I serve one God who will provide, will answer, will listen, will counsel…will love and hold me…”even until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The “Jumperoos”

There are two types of people…

Type 1: Athletic

Type 2: Not Really

The first category requires little explanation. These are the folks whom, upon picking up a ball, bat, racket, etc., show they possess an athletic aptitude. They are not necessarily paid athletes. In some cases they are our kids, spouses, friends, etc. Then there’s the latter category. A group of people whom, when they pick up a ball, bat, racket, skis, helmet, ice skates, baton, grapple hooks, frisbee…etc., it becomes quickly apparent to those watching that they do not possess an athletic bone in their body. These are the ‘not really’ athletic group.

I belong to the latter. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent all of my life in this group in just about every sporting category save for the second grade jump rope team, the Andover Jumperoos…

So there I was in the second grade and my PE teacher announced that try outs for the school’s jump rope team were open and she would be screening us to see who could join. Her plan was to video tape us jump roping and select kids for the team. I knew I was meant for this team…if there was anything I was good at, it was jumping rope.

I was confident I was going to make the team and went home and told my mom. She supported me and smiled…didn’t really say much. I suspect she was worried about potentially dealing with the aftermath and the emotions of her 7 year old. Either way, I knew I had this.

The day for tryouts came and I was ready. The gym teacher had a VHS recorder set up on a tripod. (The thing was the size of a small laptop and took a big stick-like handle to operate…I digress.) At any rate, she started recording and I pulled out all my moves. First started out with just regular skipping rope. Then I did speed jumping…wanted to show her I was fast. Then I did double jumps…where you jump high enough you can get two rotations with the jump rope. Lastly, I finished up with criss-cross-applesauce…crossing your arms and jumping…that was my best trick. At the end of the “try outs” I was beat and my heart was pounding, but even I was impressed with my skill.

A couple of weeks later the list came out for who made the team…I was on it. I got a team shirt, my very own red, white and blue jump rope, and I got to travel to jump meets. I honestly don’t remember the meets, but I loved the idea of being part of the team. I was the smallest person on the team, but I was scrappy. Being on the team made me feel big. I knew I could hold my own.

I was cleaning out my mom’s basement a couple of weeks ago and came across my old Jumperoos T-shirt. It remains, to this day, the only athletic team for which I’ve ever successfully tried out…granted it’s only jump roping, but still…that’s nothing to sneeze about.

It’s scary to try something new…something that you don’t know will work. Personally, my biggest fear is others seeing me fail. Not sure why that really gets to me… since the truth of the matter is that people will think what they want of you regardless of failure.

I firmly believe the Lord allows for these challenges to come to our doorstep. At some point we have to step out on faith because it is the journey that changes us. The feeling of accomplishment only comes with a job well done…one where you’ve given it everything you have, left it all on the field. Of course I want the gratification of winning or ‘making the team.’ But at the end of the day, when I came across that Tshirt, it was a reminder that I tried something I’d never done before. I was confident in my ability and gave it everything I had.

Our Lord delights in life and I believe He gives abundantly when we step out in faith and try something we’ve never done. So try something new. Find a new friend. Heck, make a new recipe…so what if it ends up tasting like crap…at least you tried. Remember, the journey is the rhythm for which we get to experience the blessing. In that moment we become sojourners in His kingdom, traveling into uncharted territories. The grace is in the journey.

My Jumperoos team shirt (circa...a really long time ago)

My Jumperoos team shirt

Some Good News…

There is something  unnerving about a stranger taking pictures of your brain and then sitting down methodically, without emotion, disseminating what they find. It reminds me of when I was in labor with my son. I, as  pretty much every other mother who has been in the birthing room, am in a most unfavorable position on the birthing table. I’ve been in labor for 11 hours and due to my sons heartbeat dropping and my MS complications, my doctor is beginning to get worried. So she calls in reinforcements. Neonatologist and his nurse, surgeon (I think there were two) and his nurses for a possible emergency c-section, an additional OB/GYN and her nurse….oh, and a medical student who happens to be doing his OB/GYN rotation. I am on the table in an unmodest fashion while a whole football team of physicians along with their nurses are looking at me, assessing the situation and trying to determine a medically sound way to deliver this baby. I cannot hide. Everything is on display.

I sat in my neurologists office today at a six month checkup to review new MRIs. A gentleman sitting next to me is having someone help him complete the pre office paperwork. The paperwork has  lots of questions regarding current symptoms…for example: Blurry vision? Dizzy? Headaches? Sleep problems? Mobility issues? Etc, etc. Confession: anytime I fill out that paperwork, I lie. I do, it’s true. Do I have headaches? Yep. Dizziness/vertigo….yeppers. Mobility/coordination…let’s not even go there. The problem is that my lies get me only so far because when my neurologist pulls up my MRI…it doesn’t lie and I can no longer feign ignorance. 

I received really good news today. My new scans don’t show any new lesions. My neurologist took the time to show me my existing lesions as well as the area of the brain they affect. I’ve developed two new lesions over the last year…giving me a grand total of 5…possibly six according to my neuro. We reviewed things like: slow down, don’t exercise to the point  that you’ll throw up, mindful of the heat, work both sides of the body, find ways to engage your brain (ergo blogging 😉)…& so on.

As much as I loathe getting an MRI or feel violated when 100  images of my brain are put on a computer screen to be  scientifically analyzed by a stranger…I am most grateful the MRI blows through my lies. At that point I’m completely incapable to pull the “I’ll be fine. I’ll just drink some cranberry juice” card. I’m forced to be honest. Forced to respect slowing down. Forced to breath in a different rhythm. I find myself in a rare moment of peace amidst a storm…knowing that despite the diagnosis, despite the fear of the unknown; I’m going to be OK. 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭27‬ NASB)

Don’t Be Scared

Fear is  debilitating. It starts out small and then blooms into way more than it should be. One time, in the sixth grade, we were talking in class about how the human body chews, swallows and processes food. I began wondering…what if one doesn’t chew the food well enough and it gets stuck in your throat? Even as an adult I still find this to be a valid question. For example, my family and I recently visited a local restaurant and after eating our fried onions, burgers, oysters and chicken wings…we all agreed that dessert would be a good idea. (Dessert is always a good idea). The waiter brought out a creation of brownie, ice cream and chocolate sauce. All total the dessert was the size of my head. Enough to feed all of us…or one crazed chocoholic (me). We all grabbed our spoons and began processing the dessert rapidly. What started out as a tower of beautifulness ended up a sloppy, melted puddle in the dessert bowl. Collectively we’d all managed to take  who-knows-how-many-calories and disseminate them through the process of chewing, swallowing and digestion. Despite the size of the dessert compared to the size of our gullet, not one of us choked!

I’ve not always been so quick to gobble my food. As mentioned above, back in the sixth grade I became obsessed with chewing my food and making sure it was safely processed into pieces I could swallow. Eating with me became arduous. It took me forever to chew my food. One time during lunch at school, I had a near panic attack over a slice of very chewy, cheese pizza. The pizza was not easily chewable, panic set in and  I was convinced I was choking. The whole table stopped eating to watch my antics. I lived…thanks in large part to the fact that in order to choke on a piece of food one must actually attempt to swallow the food. I was too afraid to swallow. But it didn’t stop me from dramatically grabbing my throat and freaking out the lunch lady. I am now over my swallowing fear.

I have a followup MRI scheduled for next week. It’s to see if there are new spots on my brain. My last MRI showed new spots and my physician wants to check and see if the MS is still active or gone back into remission. There is no eloquent way for me to say this, but, I’m scared. For a million reasons…not the least of which is that MRI tubes are insanely claustrophobic.

But it has dawned on me…I have only two options in the matter. Surrender to fear. Surrender to grace. The first option  will debilitate me making it difficult to eat or sleep. I will miss moments of blessing as they will be consumed with minutes/hours of worry. Time will march forward. The sun will rise and set and I will miss it being consumed myopically with fear. The latter will provide breath; rhythm. My eyes will not be on myself but on Christ as grace only comes from Him. This perspective will allow me to eat and sleep. I will hear all my sons silly jokes and they will be a comfort. I will be able to live presently in the moment and fear will not to steal the gifts that are mine.

Neither of the options above change the perameters of my situation…In other words, I still  have to eat and chew the pizza. But this time, unlike my antics in the sixth grade, I can choose to not be afraid. This decision is not light hearted and likely I will have moments of jumping back into the “I’m afraid” camp. That’s ok. I’m not perfect. In that moment, in a calm voice, Christ’ll whisper, “Dont sweat it…I still got you.” Grace will flood back in & fear will dissipate.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31‬:‭6‬ MSG)