Meltdown Monday.

It was one of those days.  We all have them.  Days where no matter how desperately you try to keep everything sewn together with the loose threads you have, it inevitably unravels, and you find yourself frantically looking for the seam ripper because if it’s all coming apart anyway, you might as well expedite the process and get it over with!

Welcome to “Meltdown Monday”.

The collision of a stressful work environment, elevated emotions, extreme fatigue, excruciating head pain and exaggerated physical symptoms culminated into the day I had sensed was approaching, yet was unsure when it would exactly arrive.  Two things I did know for certain, however, is that when it came it was guaranteed not to be pretty and it would probably occur at the least ideal place possible…such as at my desk at work, on a Monday morning, when the traffic flow of people in and around my cubicle would be as chaotic as a colony of ants at a summer picnic.

Bless the precious heart of my boss.  She has countless balls to juggle at work and does so with much grace and talent.  She seizes opportunities to positively impact the lives of those with whom she works and takes a genuine interest in their professional success and personal wellbeing.  And while she is one of the last people I would want trapped in my meltdown aftermath, God places the right people in the right place at the right time to help us-or wrap an arm around us and just cry with us- in our moments of need.  People who, whether knowingly or not, are an extension of Jesus.

That’s when it occurred to me – it’s ok to lose it, for I was not created to shoulder the weight of the world, or my own burdens, alone.  You see, reaching the limit of my own strength caused me to turn to and rely on the unlimited resource of God’s strength.  When I say, “I can’t do this!”  God says, “I know, but I can!”  And nowhere in Scripture am I called to be an unemotional stoic.  In fact, the Word is full of many examples of God-loving people who experience meltdown moments.  Some tore their clothes, shaved their heads, and ran to the wilderness.  You can’t tell me that Peter didn’t experience a freak out moment when Jesus called him out of the boat to walk on water.  And Jesus Himself wept bitterly – literally meaning from the depths of his bowels – when His friend Lazarus died, and yet He was going to raise him back to life!  If Jesus, Who was both fully God and fully man wept – and I’m talking an ugly cry here – then perhaps the purest offering I can give my Lord is a broken heart (Psalm 34:18) and bottle full of tears (Psalm 56:8).

What about you?  Have you been holding back a meltdown moment?  Have you assumed the yoke of maintaining composure in the face of adversity for fear of what might happen if you let it go?  Are you fighting back the floodgates of tears fearing that no flood wall this side of heaven could contain them?  Is the grip of control on your life choking out the gentle touch of the Savior’s arms around you?  You have been given divine permission to let go, and let God handle it all, if you’re willing to exchange your human limitations for His unlimited abilities.  He loves you too much to leave you where you are, and He’s big enough to handle the messiest of meltdowns.

Fear Not!

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a scaredy-cat kind of girl.  The girl people love to sneak up on, spring pranks on, scare the life out of.  By my own admission, I’m an incredibly easy target.  Perhaps it’s just my nature, or perhaps it’s the fact that I was scarred for life at an early age by my big brother who used to chase me around the house in a scary mask.  Regardless, I’ve spent a majority of my life being fearful. 

Until today.

There’s a group of ladies from my church who are more like sisters than friends.  We share a kinship that can only be created by a knitting together of hearts by the Father’s loving hands.  There’s no shortage of laughter  stories, tears, hugs, prayers, coffee, “jus’ sayin’s” or “just keepin’ it real’s” when we’re together.  There’s no jealousy, no competition, no pretense.  It’s so refreshing.  We have, however, affectionately named ourselves the Fantastic 5, although in reality, we’re just some saved-by-grace Jesus girls who have been given the divine privilege of doing life together and through whom God speaks His truth and promises into each of our lives.

Today was no exception.  I share the commonality of an early morning commute to work at the same time as one of my Fantastic 5 girls.  We chat almost every morning, and the Lord totally guides the conversation.  On some mornings, the topics run the gamut of our bad hair day that has ensued, upcoming ministry opportunities, raising our children, supporting our husbands, and specific prayer needs for that particular day.  Often, one of us may lead the conversation out of the overflow of our heart and what God’s uprooting, planting, and harvesting there and without missing a beat, the other person shares Godly insight and encouragement to affirm and discern what the Lord is doing in the other girl’s heart.  As my F5 girl simply explained it this morning, “calling you in the mornings on my way to work is just as natural and instinctive as putting on my seat belt before I get on the road.  It’s just so cool!”  Whew, what a blessing I’ve been given through the richness of friendships in my life!

This morning’s conversation wrapped up with me sharing my specific prayer needs for tests I had scheduled this afternoon – an MRI, and MRV and a CFS (cerebral fluid study).  I knew that this appointment would be a few hours in length, somewhat physically uncomfortable, and all the time spent in an MRI machine, but it wasn’t until this morning that it occurred to claustrophobic me that I had never confirmed that the tests would be administered in an open MRI machine.  I had done so for my previous MRI’s, as you have to request the open machines, but of course neglected to do so for the marathon battery of tests I was preparing to endure.  As my fears started to mount in record time upon realizing this, I told my friend that I absolutely had to call the hospital and inquire which machine would be used, and beg them to accommodate my need for an open MRI.  To which my friend replied, “No, don’t call them.” 

Silence. 

What?!  I knew my friend was crazy in a Jesus-freak kind of way and I adore her for that, but this response had me completely befuddled.  What if my suspicions were correct and I was scheduled in a traditional machine?  What if they couldn’t accommodate my request to change to an open machine?  What if I end up stuck in that forsaken machine forever?! What if, what if, what if? 

Again she encouraged me not to call them, and proceeded to enlighten me in true Bible teacher fashion that God has me in the palm of His hand, that I am to be strong and courageous, that with God’s strength and courage this too would be conquered, and that it was time to throw down with the devil and fear not! 

At that moment, it occurred to me that calling them would replace Jesus’ position of authority on my heart’s throne with fear and in so doing, I would be handing over my entire day to the enemy in submission to fear which is contrary to the way I am to choose to live based on the truth of God’s Word.  The Word implores me to trust in the Lord, to not be anxious, to not worry, to be bold and strong and courageous, to know that He has redeemed me and set my foot upon higher ground, that He has plans for my good, that He is with me, and the list could go on and on.  Some Bible scholars even speculate that there are over 365 verses in the Bible that speak to dispelling fear and building faith, though one single “Fear not” spoken by my God should be more than sufficient to convince my soul that God’s got my back regardless of the circumstances.  The devil was not going to get the victory today! 

I never called the hospital radiology department prior to my tests this afternoon, nor did I ask them once I checked in which type of machine would be used, because it didn’t matter.  What did matter is that I could confidently rest in the promises that God was with me, that His perfect love casts out all fear, and that He has given me not a spirit of fear but one of power and of sound mind.  And a sound mind cannot choose to embrace both faith and fear.  Even if only for today, I chose to fear not!

You too can choose to fear not regardless of your circumstances.  Choosing faith over fear isn’t denying the existence of your feelings in the flesh – doubt, uncertainty, lack of control, despair, fear – rather, it’s choosing to yield them to a God who is strong enough to carry them for you and powerful enough to equip you to overcome them.  It’s only when we reach the end of our capabilities that God’s unlimited abilities are unleashed and we can press on through life with confidence and the courage to fear not!

Love Came Down.

Hi everyone!  We pray you had a blessed week, and for your safety during the coming hurricane and storm.

We’re leading off with prayer requests in this post, followed by reflections from last week.  May it be a blessing to you!

Prayer requests for this week and the weeks ahead:

1.  Two tests are scheduled for Wednesday, 10/30 of this week:  an MRV and an aquaduct flow study.  These tests are hopeful for determining additional information regarding the cyst, as well as identifying any issues with brain fluid retention or exchange.

2.  Appointment with a neurosurgeon at OSU Medical Center on Monday, 11/12, to further evaluate my symptoms, test results and previous MRI films.

3.  Prayers for strength, endurance, and faith in God’s daily portion to enable us to keep pressing on with work and ministry.

4.  Continued wisdom for future decisions regarding treatment.

5.  Momentum in ministry, as God is doing some awesome things, and answering some long-term prayers, through this unexpected season of health issues!  We are planning forward for 2013 and are expectant!

Reflections from last week………

Some days are just like that.  You sprint, meander or crawl your way to Jesus’ feet.  You just know you need to get there, whatever it takes.  And on the days when you cannot muster up even the remotest ounce of strength to drag yourself into the presence of the Savior, God uses people in your life to get you there.  Even if it requires cutting a hole in the roof and lowering you on a mat.

Or sending a text, making a phone call, sending an email, or saying a prayer.

Just when you need it, His love will come down.

Luke 5:17-20 says,

One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’

I am inexpressibly thankful for the friends – sisters – whom God has put in my life to carry me to Jesus when my weary self can’t seem to find the way to Him on my own.

Last week was incredibly challenging.  After a four-day run of feeling well (extreme fatigue without  excruciating head pain and pressure, vertigo and confusion among other symptoms means feeling well these days), I found myself making the descent from the physically peaceful mountain back down into the dark valley by Tuesday evening.  By Thursday, all my symptoms were back with a vengeance to the point of requiring me to leave post-it notes around my work cubicle and in my car in an attempt to stay focused on the task at hand and the tasks to come that this girl whose memory has always been sharp-as-a-tack was seemingly forgetting with each passing moment.  Usually one to maintain my composure, especially in less than ideal surroundings, I found myself in a weepy heap at my desk, alternating between wiping tears, trying to piece together words to craft an email, and maintaining some semblance of composure.  My spirit cried out, “Lord, I am so overwhelmed!  I haven’t even slowed down for one day to process all of this, and I just can’t keep it together anymore.  I need a break.  I am just done.  I can’t do this.”

At that very moment, one of my mat carriers sent me a text saying I was on her heart at that very moment, and she inquired how I was doing that particular day.  Coincidence?  Not a chance.  Divine timing?  Absolutely!  My quick reply was countered with encouragement and a texted prayer that challenged my desperate disposition, followed by her email with a link to Kari Jobe’s song “Love Came Down”, which was like a soothing balm to my soul.  God does see my pain, He does see my tears, and even greater than this, He sees the overarching plan for my life of which this current season is a vital component.  Though temporarily painful, this season is intended for long-term good.  At that moment, through His servant – my dear friend – His love indeed came down.

Minutes later I received another email from a different mat carrier, gushing about what the Lord is doing in her heart through her study of His Word, and how the lessons He is teaching her through the book of James are also meant for me and Greg.  Her honest dialogue, questions and prayers fortified my spirit and encouraged me to press on.

I could continue on for days about the impeccable timing of the Lord through the mat carriers in my life during this season, the women of God whom through their daily submission and decision to abide in communion with Him as best they can from moment to moment are being used by Him to significantly impact my life at the very precise minute that I need a response from the Lord.  Their close harmony with the Lord on a daily basis provides them the ability to discern when and how He is speaking to them to pray, text, call, and lower the mat to Jesus on my behalf.  Truly, I have been given treasures of untold wealth in these beautiful women with whom I have the privilege of doing life together.

Ladies, you know who you are.  Some of you I’ve known for decades and others a few short years, though time is no indicator of kinship of the heart.  My love for each one of you grows deeper by the day!  A lifetime of gratitude would hardly scratch the surface of the depth of blessing you have brought to my life and the measure of joy with which my soul has been enriched.  God is using you to provide the daily portion I so desperately need, so don’t ever question if He is using you to accomplish His kingdom agenda.  He undoubtedly is.  I’m living proof!

Thank you for being my mat carrier.  Not only are you God’s expression of love to me from heaven, but when you honor Him by serving me, He takes notice and says, “Yes, through you, My love came down!”

“Love Came Down” – Kari Jobe

If my heart is overwhelmed
And I cannot hear Your voice
I hold on to what is true
Though I cannot see

If the storms of life they come
And the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith
I will believe

I’ll remind myself
Of all that You’ve done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

(Chorus)
Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours
Lord I’m forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
I am Yours
I am forever Yours

When my heart is filled with hope
Every promise comes my way
When I feel Your hands of grace
Rest upon me

Staying desperate for You, God
Staying humble at Your feet
I will lift these hands in praise
I will believe

I’ll remind myself
Of all that You’ve done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours
I am forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
I am Yours
I am forever Yours

I am Yours
I am Yours
All my days
Jesus, I am Yours

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours
I am forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
I am Yours
I am forever Yours

Yeah, I am yours, I’m yours, I am yours
Jesus I am yours

 

Believe.

There are not enough words to express our heartfelt gratitude for your response to our request for prayer.  Every phone call, text, email, Facebook message, card and visit was significantly used by the Lord to strengthen us and sustain us throughout the past week.  What a treasure of untold wealth we’ve been given through family and friends-our prayer warriors-whose offerings according to the Word of God, “availeth much”.  While “thank you” seems so inadequate to say, we sincerely thank you for your outpouring of love and prayer.  We will try to respond to everyone as best we can in the coming week.

It is with some intention that we’ve delayed updating everyone since my (Heather’s) doctor’s appointment last Thursday.  The last two weeks have been a roller coaster ride of emotions, and before sharing forward with the world, we felt it first necessary to spend ample time talking with the Lord.

Though amiable and skilled in neurosurgery, the doctor with whom we met performs the traditional, invasive procedures (which includes moving down your cerebellum to provide a pathway through which to navigate to the cystic pineal gland, at which time the growth is drained-not removed-and could refill with fluid in the future) and is not schooled in the less invasive, technologically advanced procedures available at specialized facilities.  At that, the procedures he performs are at the frequency of maybe 1 or 2 every few years.  Here’s a summary of our visit with a local neurosurgeon last Thursday:

  • The pineal cyst is approximately the size of a large green grape in the innermost space of my brain designed to house a gland the size of a pea
  • There is discrepancy regarding the amount of growth in the cyst from the March baseline MRI to my recent MRI from two weeks ago (the baseline MRI documentation both cited the cyst size as 12mm and 15 mm; the recent MRI stated the measurements of just under 17mm).  Regardless of this, the cyst is confirmed to be much larger than a typical cyst requiring surgical intervention
  • Though formidable in size, this doctor says it is “inconclusive” whether or not the cyst is the cause for my current symptoms (migraines, dizziness, scalp tingling and burning, random head pain, light and sound sensitivity, tremors, forgetfulness, difficulty articulating words, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, etc.) yet we’ve read online documentation from other surgeons who have treated patients with significantly smaller cysts and attribute these symptoms wholly to the pineal cyst
  • Less-invasive procedures are “investigative” and their effectiveness and safety is “inconclusive”
  • Recommendation of moving forward with MRV and aqueduct flow tests to evaluate cerebrospinal fluid retention and exchange and blood vessel functionality, as well as lab orders for blood work to check for any indications of malignancy.  It is undetermined whether or not these tests will provide further valuable assessment of the implications of the cyst.  Also recommended having another MRI in 3-4 months.

While we were provided with additional and objective information, we honestly left that appointment with more questions than answers.  And for a black-and-white kind of girl who loves living in a world of absolutes, this lack of precise clarity left my grey-less, analytical mind spinning.  And although the car ride home was audibly silent, especially since Greg and I drove separately to the appointment, it was spiritually deafening and with much repetition, the Lord speaking clearly: “Trust Me.  Believe in Me.”  So we turned to the only source of truth and certainty for direction-God’s Word.

After a week of less than satisfying thoughts, conversations and research overly saturated with “all things pineal”, I found myself starving for something of substance to fulfill my craving for answers amidst the abounding questions.   The Lord led me to the books of Matthew and James.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 read, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

James 1:2-8 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do”.  (The Message translation says that a doubting person “worries their prayers”.)

These words were like a soothing balm to my aching spirit, and once again, the Lord spoke into my heart: “Trust Me.  Seek Me.  Ask Me.  Pray it out.  Believe in Me.”

When the Lord undeniably speaks, it warrants a response grounded in conviction from the deepest recesses of our soul.  Recesses that were now filled with peace. 

My God created the heavens and the earth, all of the creatures of the air, land and sea, and all of mankind.  My God has parted seas and walked on water.  He has fed thousands from mere scraps of food, turned water into wine, and caused the lame to walk and the blind to see.  My God raised His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead, overcoming the grave and conquering the gates of hell.  If my God is capable of performing these and other miracles, then He is more than worthy of embodying my belief that He can handle a 17mm cyst growing in my brain.  I can believe that nothing separates His love for me.  I can believe that He has plans for my good rather than my harm.  I can believe that He knows every fiber of my being.  I can believe that there is no reason for me to be afraid and that I can rest in Him.  I can believe that we will be given wisdom for the decisions that lie ahead in the days to come.  Why?  Because His Word says I can.

A captivating melody illustrating these truths has become an anthem in my soul, beautifully and simply written by our dear friend Jeremy Johnson, and Phil Naish, in the chorus of the song titled “Believe”:

“You have seen over higher mountains

And You have calmed greater seas.

You have loved deeper than this valley

So I will just believe.”

That it should take rock-your-world circumstances to finally grasp that the Lord so desperately desires to converse and commune with us on a breath-by-breath basis is quite the spiritual travesty, of which I am a first-degree offender.  Regardless of the outcome that awaits on the other side of my present health circumstances, I can testify that through this experience, because I have chosen to believe, I have been radically changed from the inside out, and it has been worth it.

So where do we go from here?  We pray it out in faith and belief that God will give us wisdom for the days ahead and the decisions yet to be made, specifically.  And we expect nothing less than that.  We believe that God will impart His wisdom through His Word, people, circumstances, the Holy Spirit, and through prayer and that if we posture ourselves as servants ready to clearly receive and respond to His wisdom that overrides all human reasoning, we will know exactly which path to He desires us to take. 

Pursuing surgical intervention is an enormous decision.  We do not want to reason ourselves into it, scare ourselves into it, or negligently put ourselves in severe financial crisis because of it; nor do we desire to delay it to the point of incurring significant physical harm from the symptoms.  Thus, specific matters of prayer include:

  1. Gathering the facts of all of our options: insurance coverage and out of pocket expenses necessary for having the MRV and aqueduct tests (and determination of whether these tests will be useful for further assessing the cyst) and whether it would be beneficial to pursue a second opinion
  2. Clarity to know whether to have these tests ran now, or in December/January, or at all
  3. Wisdom to recognize God speaking to us, and that He would do so through whatever means are necessary, even if that means significantly aggravating my symptoms to debilitating proportions
  4. Healing by any means – divine or medical intervention
  5. Continued peace to walk daily in the belief that God is going to provide us the answers we are seeking

We love you, and thank God for your covering of prayer on our behalf.  Our prayer for you is that, as you journey with us, you too would be inspired to trust God, seek God, and just believe. 

Worshiping Him,

Greg & Heather

Aside

A New Journey…

Welcome to our blog!  While we’re still quite the novices at this form of communication, we’re excited to finally be taking the leap into the blogging community as it is certainly long overdue!  We hope that this blog serves you as a source of inspiration, encouragement, and equipping in your walk with Jesus Christ and service to Him.

It is only fitting that our blog is launched as we embark on a new, unexpected journey in our lives.  It would be our privilege if you’d join us as our faithful companions in prayer.

As many of you know, I began having severe migraines in December of last year.  These continued into the spring of this year, and resulted in me having a preliminary MRI in March, which lead to the discovery of a 15mm cyst on my pineal gland.  At that time, the doctors said it most likely wasn’t related, and that we’d follow the “wait and watch” approach.  Since that MRI, the migraines have been much more controlled, but I have begun experiencing other symptoms in addition to them.  I completed my 6 month MRI follow-up last week, and the results yielded additional growth of nearly 2mm, meaning my cyst is now around 17mm in size, which is considerably larger than the “average” sized pineal gland cyst.  That being said, our next steps are to pursue seeing a neurosurgeon for further evaluation and most likely, enduring brain surgery.  This was certainly not the outcome we were expecting, especially considering it’s familiarity to the past journey Greg and our daughters walked through with his first wife who passed away from brain cancer.  But as my amazing best friend and husband continues to remind me, “we’re preparing for potential surgery, not planning a funeral.”  Perspective is everything.

Rest assured, we do not view this diagnosis as grim.  Full of human unknowns?  Absolutely!  Covered in Divine certainty yet to be revealed?  Praise God, yes!  And more than that, we view this as a call to action, a call to prayer, and a call to engage in warfare with the enemy.  The timing of this interruption is no coincidence, as we’re in the exciting process of restructuring our ministry strategy and exploring ways to grow our personal business.  But it’s just that-an interruption.  This isn’t a defeat, nor is it a closed door to what God has been doing in our lives.  On the contrary, it’s a new chapter to our story yet to be written in its entirety, and as we know all too well, God’s finest moments of glory have been written through rocky seasons of weeping that have been amazingly transformed into precious memorial stones of worship.  We expect nothing less on this new journey.  We will continue to seek Him and serve Him just as we are today, as best as we are able to.  We are still planning ministry engagements, and are living forward.  The Lord has called us to worship ministry, and that goes beyond exalting His name through music and the spoken Word to worshiping Him every moment of every day, whether walking through thorny brush or flowery fields.  We have no doubt that He is writing a new song, a greater song, on our hearts to be sung on our lips.  Our work isn’t don’t yet!

Where you are invited to join us on this journey is through prayer.  We would be honored to have you join us as our prayer warriors, covering us in the truth of God’s Word.  I’d be lying to say that my mind isn’t darting between faith and fear at any given moment, or that I can’t comprehend how in the world God is going to work out all the necessary details if surgery is to occur.  That being said, we have specific prayer needs at this time that we’d like to share with you:

  • Wisdom for finding the right doctor to evaluate my diagnosis, and potentially perform this very delicate and tedious surgery.  We are looking into a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, as well as researching a minimally invasive procedure at a facility in California which right now, seems the most promising.
  • Provision that only God can bring to fruition.  We are still looking into what is and isn’t covered by insurance, and because the procedure is so specialized, it will be a God-sized task to provide what is potentially needed financially and through insurance.  We are hoping to apply for exception coverage if surgery is prescribed, and it is necessary at a facility deemed out of network.
  • Protection of our minds, that we could take our thoughts captive unto Christ through this journey, not only through our doubts and fears, but also so that we aren’t so consumed with what is going on that it distracts us from work and ministry.
  • Finally, pray that the Lord would be glorified though this experience.  We of course would welcome His divine healing for His glory, and welcome prayers for that; however, we want His will to be done above our own.

We will be posting updates as we move forward with treatment and will share specific prayer needs often.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.  To Him be the glory!

Worshiping Him,

Greg & Heather