Good news, golf and grief…

“We would cut away a portion of your skull, lift your brain and take out the tumor. Afterward, you would look put together, but you would have lasting effects.” (“And there is a morbidity risk…” that is doctor talk for YOU COULD DIE!)

There are some things it’s good you don’t know. It’s really good I never knew this was the possible process of biopsy or removing my tumor until today (July 14, 2017) when I found out my tumor continues to shrink and the MRI and Petscan look good. I thanked Dr. Su (who, btw, I love and wish she lived close enough that I could be real life friends with her) for not telling me this information before.  Now I understand why it took them several weeks to decide the course of action for my treatment.  I also learned that before proton therapy, surgery would have come before standard radiation and I would have had a 10% chance of being alive in 5 years. Now, we think there there is a 90% chance of me being alive in 5 years. (The cancer I had is so rare, I am one of the first couple of people to be treated for it – not sure if this is at MD Anderson or in the nation. Adeno carcinoma in the nasopharyex is more prominent in Europe, but proton therapy is not, so there is no data to stage the cancer or make educated predictions. My understanding is that Adeno Carcinoma is very responsive to both proton and standard radiation.  Because of the location of the tumor, proton therapy was the much safer option.  That being said, I am indebted to doctors, scientists, and physicists who discovered this technology, and to Humana, who covered my treatments when Aetna wouldn’t.  It saved my life and my life savings. Humana a great wellness program for members too.)

Sometimes “all the facts” are food for anxiety, and poison for hope. (So stay off webMD!) The information may be true, but it’s truth that would not have been useful for my healing during the hard days.  

I know I’ve talked about dealing with anxiety in my 20s and 30s.  The past weeks have been beautiful evidence of God’s work in me.  I had several people ask the week before I left for Houston if I was nervous.  I had to ask them what I would be nervous about.  My trip was the farthest thing from my mind.  I was thinking about work and kids and what was for supper.  (Speaking of dinner, Hello Fresh has changed my life! I can cook a meal now without great anxiety or resentment.  It’s a new skill! Send me your email or cell and I’ll save you some money.  My friends have jumped on the bandwagon with me & love it too.  Thanks Mom & Angela for getting me started.). I realized I live today, today.  Tomorrow, I will live tomorrow.  It’s a beautiful and peaceful thing, a gift from God.  He taught me a new skill set for life just as Hello Fresh has given me skills in the kitchen.  He gave me Philippians 4:6-7 as life verses 5+ years ago.  He has slowly increased that to include verses 2-8, and the revelation of these scriptures has completely changed my mental health.

Philippians 4:6-8

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

I took these words literally, little by little, starting with praising and petitions when I wanted to worry.  Praise and thankfulness are a mighty weapon against the negativity of our minds. 

This week, one of my Facebook friends asked a political question that sparked my memory.  I quit watching the news the night I got the call that I needed to be at the doctor’s office the next day because something was wrong with my MRI.  When I got home from Houston, I would turn on Good Morning America before I took the kids to school, but I would pause it.  Then, I would fast forward through the negative junk that was mostly opinion, and watch the uplifting parts. Turns out, there were not that many unplifting parts, so I quit. In fact, I’ve mostly eliminated TV from my life (I do watch When Calls the Heart on Netflix. Although Today I watched the last episode… crisis😣), and I am happier than I remember being before in my life.  

Golf

Roughly four days a year, I get paid to play golf.  (THAT MAKES ME A PROFESSIONAL, RIGHT!  Ha! Take that Hinrichs clan! You may all play golf, tennis, and corn hole better than I do, but I’m the paid professional!) In reality, I’m terrible because those are the only days I play golf.  Thankfully, the event planners know that and put me on a team with people who can carry me.  Last week, I played with three semiretired men.  Three grey haired men and me.  This year, I was even worse than normal.  I’m not quite back to my normal strength.  

One of my teammates is just the greatest man.  He told the most beautiful story of God leading him to retire that again strengthened my resolve to live in obedience to the Holy Spirit.  He is a leader of leaders and well respected.  I haven’t met his kids, but I’ve been told there are pretty great, like their dad.  I noticed that every time I hit the ball he would find something good about the shot.  This had to be a challenge, but he would find an honest and positive statement every single time.  At first, I took it as just being nice and overly positive.  I wondered about his authenticity.  As we played, I noticed that he did the same thing with the other guys on our team, and they were pretty good. He really celebrated each of us as we played.  About 15 holes in I finally had enough.

“Ok.  I have to ask a parenting question.  Were you this uplifting with your kids when they were playing sports?” (He is a good athlete, and his kids are too.)  His answer surprised me.  He said he was.  He said he knew althletics came easily to him, and he always wanted sports to be about the fun of the game for his boys.  He tried to encourage them and make sure they were having fun.  From spending the afternoon with him, I suspect he is this encouraging in every aspect of life.

I know I have a pretty critical eye and tongue when I let my true colors out.  In life, I’ve learned through many social disasters to keep it to myself, but with my kids I let it out.  I’m afraid I have forgotten to remember to enjoy the fun of things.  I’ve focused on what needs to be improved on, rather than finding and celebrating the good.  I have known, and have been working on changing this, but my experience this day hammered home the point.  You know what happened as he encouraged? I felt safe.  When I felt safe, I asked for instructions on how to improve my game.  He was very helpful!  He has the reputation for being a great coach, and I have to agree.

As I have bit my tongue with my kids, I have noticed they talk more.  They let me deeper into their lives.  They ask for suggestions on things more.  I wish I had done this with Ty and Emma when they were younger.  I just really thought I was my job to help them be the best they could be… at everything.  I’m thankful that Deacon gets the refined mom.  

Grief

This year, we have learned what it is to live in grief.  We have learned the struggle and the beauty of it.  We have also learned what it is to be carried and supported by a community.  We understand the significance of card and texts and quick phone calls when you are hurting.  I didn’t get that before.

This month my sister-in-law and brother-in-law have each lost a parent to cancer. Several of my friends have lost their parents in the last few weeks.  Our community has lost a much loved young man. I have friends who have lost their health while mine is returning.  Even having gone through what we have, I realize I still struggle with the awkwardness of how to mourn with those who mourn. My tendency is to crack jokes in any uncomfortable situation (which can be a disaster), but sometimes people just need you to be: to listen, to sit quietly, or to go about the business of life until they are ready to stop and mourn.

I’ve learned what not to say: “God needed them more than you did.” “It’s God’s will.”  “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” PLEASE STOP! These are not sound teachings.  The book of John tells us over and over the God is the author of life, that Christ came that we may have life and have it to the full.  It tells us that He will work all things together for good for those that love him and a called according to his purpose. Silence is better than lies made up to fill the void or to answer questions that have no answer.

I guess I also realize I could lose my parents.  Although the whole concept seems kind of insane. My maternal grandparents are still alive and doing well.  I can’t even put my parents in a category that they are old enough to get sick, much less die.  They are so full of life and health. They still try new things (ok, mom more than dad😂), and work, and ride bikes most days (If you see a guy riding on the rail to trail in 90* heat with jeans, long sleeves, gloves and a wide brimmed hat on, that’s my dad.  I love him and I am proud of him, even if I question his fashion choices at times.  At least he’s not wearing spandex.  Cause I’ve seen some of you this week & you need to leave the spandex at home. Oh wait!  if you want to let it all hang out, I guess it’s your business.  And I will try to find something positive and true to think about it.  Thank for the opportunity to practice my new skill.)

I found this online and want to share. I don’t know the origin or the author to give credit:
He Was Grieving Over The Death Of His Best Friend, Until An Old Man Told Him THIS. Mind Blown.
POSTED 1 YR 118 COMMENTS  From the depths of old internet comments comes another incredible gem of a story. One user wrote the following heartfelt plea online:
“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.” 

The rest of the post has been deleted, only the title remains. However, the helpful responses live on, and one of them was absolutely incredible. The reply by this self-titled “old guy” might just change the way you approach life and death.

I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. 

I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents…

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. 
Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.
Blessings!
P.S I tried to find a picture of skull surgery online… way too gross to put on a blog post! 😳

PPSS Tell me about a time positive words changed your life.

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Moving On…

(June 24, 2017) It was harder than I thought.  This morning was my last day serving as pastor of Shaver’s Chapel.  I looked across the congregation at people I have grown to love, and who have grown to love me too and just wanted to cry.  In fact, before they got there, I danced in the sanctuary one last time, laid on my face before the Lord and cried.  I rest in knowing leaving is the right decision, and God has new things for them and for our family, but we left on good terms, and I think that made it harder.   This last month has been such an amazing experience. I got to marry a couple I have watched meet and fall in love.  I got to baptize a girl who has been raised in that church; I have gotten to pray over people who were nervous, and council someone who needed to forgive. I guess those seem like little things, normal pastor things, but they are significant to me. As I type, I realize that those experiences refute lies I’ve believed: “You’re not making any difference for the Kingdom.”

I’ve been pondering for days if I can make myself as vulnerable as I feel I am supposed to, but I guess it is going to happen… Here goes! I really haven’t felt like I was making any kind of difference in ministry, like people just showed up for church because they always had & that’s what good Christians do. In fact, I haven’t even felt like a good Christian.  I have felt distant from God for awhile, like a year.  I felt like I was drifting away.  I wanted to be close, to hold tight, to have dreams and visions and deep times of prayer, but I couldn’t make it happen.


This is the wall you see when you enter my living room.  I have felt so distant that I pondered removing this scripture because it felt like a lie.  I wanted it to be true, but in my head it was a lie.  I actually also pondered taking down the cross hanging on my wall and any other scripture paraphernalia that might cause me to be a hypocrite.  We weren’t doing the list: study the Bible an hour a day, pray, talk about Godly things, go to church, practice hospitality, eat dinner together, have conversations as a family, teach your kids to study, know what you believe on all political issues, no profanity, and ALWAYS BE NICE! You know, good Christian values… oh, and work, and cook (because you’re going to get cancer from all the junk in food if you don’t make homemade, homegrown meals, oh wait… too late🙄 ). I used to do the list, ok, not the cooking part or political issues part, or teaching kids to study part, but I did the rest of the list.  Somehow, the list just started to feel fake, like I was pretending.  What didn’t feel fake was the anointing.  I would still stand up on Sunday morning and God would speak through me. He really did, I was just in awe of his faithfulness in my time of need.  I would read scripture and he would bring it alive.  I would have a conversation and know He spoke, but the rest of the time, I felt like I was failing. I was an intercessor, for Pete’s sake, and I couldn’t stay awake to pray or read the Bible.  I would zone out EVERY SINGLE TIME!

I learned something in Houston.  God doesn’t love me because of the list.  He loves me because I am his child.  (In fact, I haven’t ever found the list in scripture. Parts of it, yes, but this whole jump through my hoops gig I was believing…NO. I got that sucker from people, well meaning people, but the list is trash.  It’s a lie.) God didn’t save me so I could perform great feats for him, I’m not that brilliant or important for humanity that the God of the universe needs me, but … he wants me… isn’t that CRAZY? He WANTS ME! HE WANTS YOU! (Don’t get your panties in a wad [hows that for an 80s throw back phrase] we were created for this generation & he calls us to do great things for his glory to be seen among the nations, but he doesn’t NEED us, he WANTS us.)  He saved me only because I believe in his Son.  He called me & I responded… that is it.  He loved me first and that is why I love him, I can claim not part in it.  It is all His Goodness!  

So I had this moment a few weeks ago.  This thought crossed my mind for the millionth time, “I could just walk away from it all.” But I can’t because I cant quit talking to Him.  This time, I didn’t agree with the thought.  Instead, something in me rose up.  I started thinking about Mark 13:22 “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”  And Hebrews 2:1 (just this verse was in my head, not the passage) “We must pay careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”  And this ticked me off!  I was falling away, but I wasn’t quitting, so my prayer became something like this: 

Lord, I cannot hold on to you on my own.  I am not strong enough, but I choose you!  Help me!  I choose you! You are truth, You are love, You are all I need, and I will press in to you with everything the I have.  Help me, please. I am desperate!

And he did.  And he has been teaching my heart so much through so many different places. 

Lesson 1 – Quit meditating on scripture, and what you are supposed to be, and what the church is not (that’s just pride). Instead read scripture and meditate on how great God is.

Lesson 2 – He’s big enough to handle the world without me, and that includes my children’s futures.

Lesson 3 – I don’t have to perform for him. I don’t have to perform for him to love me.  I don’t have to perform for him to love me.  I don’t have to perform for him to love me.  I don’t have to perform to earn his love. His love is not conditioned. His love is unconditional. He loves me. PERIOD, END OF DISCUSSION, QUIT ARGUING.

Lesson 4 – There is a new season coming.  Rest in Him until he’s ready to start it.  (See lesson 3 when you start doubting this). 

Lesson 5 – This one has been rolling around in my spirit for months, but finally made its way into words as I drove to work today: (07/12/17) God is good. His goodness supersedes my interpretation of him.

Food for thought: 

I’m doing a study by AJ Jones called Finding Father. I listened to this teaching today that is part 2 of a three part series on the topic. It really stirred my heart. I will be writing more on this later:  Father Types 

We are multi-churched right now. It feels good. I’m really enjoying interacting with different houses of worship.