Is your back against a wall?

We’re coming up on the FIVE YEAR anniversary of Reagan’s crisis. It happened April 8, 2014. Back then, things looked grim, like they were over. But oh, how God can take the really awful things and make them really awesome. Only God can take a locust destroyed land, and restore it, as if the locusts were never there.

It’s not every day we talk about locusts, but I got wrapped up in reading Exodus 10 and the surrounding chapters this morning. It says one day God blew in a strong east wind all day and night, and in the morning locusts “invaded” Egypt and “covered all the ground until it was black.”

Can you imagine?!

Let me briefly unpack what happens next. Pharaoh was angry, he summons Moses, says he’s sorry, asks for the locusts to leave, and then God brings a strong west wind and they all blow away into the Red Sea until not one locust was left in Egypt.

The plague of the locusts was actually the eighth plague out of ten that God brought to Egypt leading up to the mass exodus of the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt. I know when we go through hardships, like a locust eating hardship, we’re often we’re quick to blame God.

“How can He do this to me?”
If he was a loving God, he would never do this.”

Those questions are human and valid, but they come from a place that lacks the full knowledge of what God knows. When looking at the 10 plagues and the exodus from Egypt, God gave Pharaoh nine solid chances to let his people go, it was the 10th plague when Pharaoh had enough and couldn’t take it anymore and finally let the Israelites go.

Want to know what’s even more crazy? When the Israelites are set free, God doesn’t take them on the shortest path out of Egypt, he takes the long, scenic route. He took them around the desert and he had good reason, it says in Exodus 13:17-18 that God knew if they went the shortest way, they could face war and then run back into Egypt and into slavery.

Ugh…reading this, for me was super impactful. I really feel like our family has really gone off the beaten path to get to where we are. But God knew something we didn’t. In order for our family to get here, with our faith, with our marriage, with our ability to communicate and enter into someone else’s hard space and speak some of God’s hardest truths, with confidence, we had to walk that path. We had to go the long way around.

It gets better though, for the Israelites and for you! I’m telling you, read the plagues in Exodus and about God’s deliverance of Israel, the Bible is for sure not boring in these chapters.

Good news, the Israelites escape, even though they went the long way, but now their backs are literally against a wall, a wall of water known as the Red Sea, and it looks like it’s over because the entire Egyptian army is racing toward them. But God made a way. He said:

The Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:13-14

What if that was our stance toward every arrow that is flung in our direction? In sickness, in financial trouble, in marital woes, with our children, with our enemies. The Israelites stood there looking back, and God said, don’t you worry about that army of 600 of Pharaoh’s finest chariots loaded up with officers and his entire army of troops coming after you; I’ll fight that battle, you just be still.

I’ll fight the battle with Reagan, just be faithful to me, Rob and Anne-Marie.
The Lord will fight and she’ll walk again. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll eat again. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll talk again. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll read. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll smile and laugh, and we will take the long way to get there.

The thing that’s cool about going the long way, is you will only see beautiful things, gain wonderful wisdom and walk with confidence when you go the long way.

Five years ago, I firmly believed it was impossible for Reagan to re-gain anything back. You know what else looked impossible? Escaping Pharaoh’s army.

Did you know that the Red Sea has a maximum depth measured at 8,200 feet and has an average depth of 1,640 feet? Neither did I. God made a way for the Israelites by splitting the sea and they walked across on DRY LAND. The Bible is super clear that the land was dry.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”
– Exodus 14:21-22

If you feel like you’re drowning, or in a place that seems hopeless and a place where you future feels less than sure, remember what God has already done, and if you can’t remember what he’s done in your life, man…Exodus is a really cool place to be reminded of what God can do, what He has done and that putting your faith in Him is a great place to start.

If you’re thinking, “Yeah but that was so long ago, he won’t do that for me.” Then look at my family, because if God can restore us and Reagan, he can restore you too. He can take whatever you are struggling with and turn it into something beautiful that has a purpose. The path to restoration might not look how you want it to, it never does to be honest. You’re most likely on the scenic route, where you’ll see really beautiful things and learn something you never could with a shortcut. Then and only then, will you walk confidently out of your hopeless situation feeling hopeful, strong and a lot wiser.

Healing.

You know what’s crazy about open cuts and wounds? They heal.

We often say time heals all wounds but I tend to disagree with that statement. As a person who has had lots of wounds, other than just this massive physical wound that’s healed on top of my head, I think a more accurate statement is that over time, we learn to live with the scars from the wounds we’ve endured.

One year ago today I had brain surgery. Looking at me, you wouldn’t know that I have a scar from the top of my head to just below my ear. You wouldn’t know that I have titanium plates under my skin, or that I don’t have 100% feeling in my scalp, and that much to my chagrin, I think my head feels like the Grand Canyon. Rob plays with my hair every night and he says, “you really can’t tell,” but I think he’s just being a good husband.

That’s the thing with invisible hurts and wounds, if others can’t see them, it’s like they don’t exist. I’ve always said my brain surgery was a side dish to the main course of our daughter Reagan and her struggles. Her struggles are visible, so there’s an understanding amongst other people when we’re out. But there are lots of invisible struggles and everyone has them.

If you’re going through something mountainous, or Grand Canyon like, every step might look like one where a wound will be inflicted. The inevitable thing in this life though, is that wounds are around every corner, from a friend, a spouse, a family member, a Dr. report or the sidewalk outside.

Please be encouraged though, when your wounds begin to heal, you will figure out a way to live with the scars and not just live, you will be joy-filled again. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past five years it is that God is serious about seasons. He’s always teaching you no matter what the season, but the times I was closest to him and the times I learned the most, was in those really rough seasons. There was something being refined inside of me, so that in the next season something new could shine.

I’m grateful to be one year post op and out of brain surgery season, but there were valuable things I learned while there. Because of that tough season, I will walk more confidently in the days ahead, and you will too.

What a Difference

What a difference a year makes!

You hear people say that all the time, because in hindsight, problems or circumstances can be completely different in a year. What we don’t often hear is what a difference three years makes. Because that seems like an eternity, and it’s too hard envision all the work that will have to happen between now and three years from now. Can’t it just be a year of work and everything get neatly tucked into place?

God does some of his greatest work in the struggle of the desert. You might not think God is in the desert, especially if you’re relying on your own faculties to get through it. The beauty of the desert is there’s NO way you’re going to feel fed or watered unless you look up to who can provide that. The desert is survival mode for everyone and everything. But the desert is also where God is most relied on and where he’s most desired. I think that’s why he puts us there to be honest.

The desert is for two things 1. developing something within us or 2. releasing something that has a grip on us.

Do we need to develop perseverance, conviction, trust?  Do we need to release control, possessions, pride or something else that’s not helpful? You can’t hold on to unnecessary things in the desert, because if it’s not helpful for survival, it’s dead weight and it has to go. The only thing you can hold on to is Jesus, the desert makes it abundantly clear who you need and where your eyes must shift in order to gain strength and hope.

Three years ago

We would pack up Reagan’s walker and go to the mall. Reagan couldn’t walk straight and being on wheels would sometimes make her push off her feet and go in circles, which she found hilarious. To be fair, it was super cute and funny but it also made me wonder, will we ever be able to walk the mall together? Three years ago she could only walk the length of about four or five stores and we couldn’t go into any stores because they’re not set up for a child in a walker who has trouble going straight. Honestly, my soul hurt so bad to go to the mall when we had to bring the walker. I had to mentally prepare…we will get stares, children will point and look to their parents for an explanation. The parents will look at us and shrug as if to say, “I don’t know what to say, please forgive me.”

Today

Reagan is walking the mall back and forth, going into any store that looks interesting and having a GREAT time. This photo is angelic. Her shadow reminds me that angel armies have been protecting her, God has held her and us while we’ve been in the desert, and as we emerge into a land that has the fruit and riches of hard work, it is different than we expected, but we are here, still on the path God set forth; we didn’t arrive on our own strength or laurels. God paved the way, God gave us the strength so let me credit who it IS owed to so you know what I mean when I say, what a difference three years makes.

If you’re in the desert, please don’t give up. There are things you can only learn and develop within yourself while you’re in the desert. There’s no other place quite like the desert to learn perseverance or trust. There’s no other place quite like the desert to develop the amount of empathy or understanding God would like to see in you. You may want to rush it, but the desert is arduous, designed that way for you to stop trying to fix things on your own and rely on God. This process can’t be rushed and neither can gaining the character traits that are being developed inside of you.

Seasons

Remember, being placed in the desert is a season, being placed in a meadow with flowers is also a season. There’s something to be gleaned from each season of life that God puts you in. I can look back to the harder seasons and while I didn’t love being there, I can be thankful and grateful for what I learned there. Keep going. Better seasons are ahead my friend.

 

Being Different is OK

One Year Ago.

Part 2. Exactly one year to the day.

Do you ever have those moments where your whole heart breaks in two for your child? It’s happened a lot, but this past weekend I realized I needed to up my parenting game on the spot. It wasn’t just any teachable moment, it was a defining moment, a remember forever kind of moment.

Reagan was sent to timeout in her room for pulling and hitting a coworker who was over at our house, she goes to her room crying those hot tears, with her hand over her mouth and screaming because she knows she’s not supposed to do that. And when she realizes those things, this is often the scene.

I️ followed Reagan into her room, which I normally wouldn’t do. I’d allow timeout to happen for a few minutes and then talk to her, but this seemed different. I don’t know why, it just did. Through our conversation I️ asked her a series of questions like, do you know you’re not supposed to do that? (yeah! *tears rolling down her face*) Are we supposed to hit and pull our friends? (NO! *hand over her mouth and head buried in my shoulder*) Would you like it if someone did that to you? (NO! *bottom lip out as far as can be*)

I don’t know how the conversation got where it went next, but Rob and I have talked with her before about this, and she knows and we know that it’s hard for her to control her emotions and her movements due to *insert all the things* here. I remembered that she had used the word different a few times on her talker recently. So I asked her if she liked herself. And her head just fell and her lip was out and she looked me in the eyes and said no and buried her head in my shoulder. She didn’t like herself. She didn’t love herself.

Reagan, do you feel like you’re different? *sniff, sniff, big belly scream* “Yeaaaaahhhhhh!”

My heart broke into a million pieces. First of all she’s telling me this really hard thing to communicate for any 4 1/2 year old. And, I’m so glad she can communicate her feelings, but I hate that this is the feeling she’s having. She answers that things are hard for her. It’s hard for her to communicate and she’s frustrated that it’s hard for people to understand what she’s saying.

She knows sign, but she learns faster than us. There have been a few times when she’s signed and we don’t know what she’s signing.

Most recently it went like this:

Rob: “Are you signing something?”
Reagan: “YEAH!”
Rob: Does Daddy know the sign?
Reagan: “No”

And we proceed to guess what she’s signing until we get it. That time, she wanted a princess story from Daddy. She had just learned the sign for princess one day earlier and it hadn’t registered with us yet.

So in this moment I’m trying to figure out what to say to her impressionable heart and mind as I’m fighting back tears. I tell her “God made you perfect and you don’t need to be like everyone else. Being different is OK, even though it might be tough sometimes.” She wasn’t really loving that idea…so I tried again.

I told her about when she was sick, but in more details. She’s been telling me that she wants to be a Dr., specifically a baby Dr. when she grows up. So I told her some of the Dr.’s that saw her in the hospital were wrong about what she would be able to do. I told her the Dr’s told Mommy and Daddy she would never walk or talk or eat. And they were wrong.

Then I️ explained to her what a miracle is, who is responsible for miracles and that she IS a miracle. Miracles are different AND awesome. She knows God made her and that God loves her. She signs that God and Jesus live in her heart. She’s receptive to all of that. At the end I ask, is it OK to be different? She had mixed feelings about it still, but the wheels were turning about being different and being cool and how they can coexist.

Being different was the theme of the week. We drove to see Christmas lights and pointed out that they were all different, and that they were still beautiful. “Reagan, don’t you see how being different is awesome!?” She was 50/50, not quite convinced.

Having a child who is almost five that has difficulty expressing all of her thoughts, imaginations and dreams is really hard. The other day she used her talker to say “I am mad” and “I am sad.” And she cried as I asked questions that related to the signs she was giving me and what I thought she was saying and all the surrounding events.

Sometimes she wants to say something funny, most recently it was “I like Elf and toilet.” She then smiles with her fingers in her mouth as she laughs and waits for me to get it. Although it took me a little while to figure out, I learned she was referring to a scene in Elf that she finds so funny and wanted to tell me.

Buddy the Elf is different, and so loved. Reagan liked that comparison 🙂

We so badly want her to talk and to communicate with her in any way possible. We are looking to take sign language in 2018 as well as sign her up for more intensive speech therapy. It truly is a blessing to be able to talk with your children and we hope and pray for that continuously. If you think of it, please pray for that as well.

xoxo

#metoo

The #metoo hashtag is trending as a response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and assault allegations that were made last week. Many women are standing up and asserting that they’ve also dealt with sexual harassment or something worse. I can’t stay silent, I’m speaking up on behalf of all women and I think it’s safe to say we (women) have all dealt with inappropriate comments, probably from the beginning of time, that being, when we got our first training bra.

Listen, we’ve always been told, “cover up” or “your outfit is too suggestive”. We’ve been given the unimaginable task of helping guys behave or risk hearing, “well can you blame him? look at how you presented yourself.”

I want to know who’s having talks with boys and young men about how to act when a female is talking to you. Here’s step one, look her in the eyes. Step two, show her the level of respect you think YOU deserve.

Mixed messages

The mixed messages never end…from middle school and into college I was a cheerleader and the schools I cheered for were OK with my skirt being just below my butt crease. I was wearing the schools stamp of approval in the form of the schools initials or mascot on my uniform. Go get the school excited about the game in your very short skirt. Meanwhile, a boy saying inappropriate things about what he thought of me, to me or behind my back in a locker room…that was deemed to be fine and dandy. B/c on one hand, I’m dressing a certain way, as OK’d by my school, but on the other hand, that must imply something to every guy I walked by.

The female body is amazing and beautiful, but it doesn’t belong to anyone other than her. The “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk” that’s been passed down from generation to generation as OK — it’s just not OK. Getting away with assault with a slap on the wrist can’t be the norm. I’m glad people are outraged over the Harvey Weinstein situation, they should be. We all should be outraged. However, we also elected a man president who had “locker room talk” and said it was OK to grab women by their private parts b/c we want that. Explained away as “locker room talk” and half our country nodded blindly…”Ooohhh! Ok, that was locker room talk, thanks for the commentary Mr. President.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

I haven’t had to deal with half the things other women have, but I’ve endured long stares, and creepy comments…I didn’t ask you to compare how you like your coffee with how you like your women, while looking at my wedding ring, but thanks for the uncomfortable moment, sir.

This has to stop happening. We can’t chastise Mr. Weinstein and then elect Mr. Trump. Shift the conversation and use words that actually describe what is happening, stop protecting the men who perpetuate the culture.

We need our very good and honorable men (men like my husband, men who value women and all they have to offer, and there are TONS of YOU!) to stand up with us and call out other men for unacceptable behavior and treatment toward women. Help us change the conversation, describe our experiences as they actually are and protect us, not our harassers. [See above image]

So why am I choosing this to write about? Normally I write about Reagan or other things going on in our family (like my brain surgery). I’m writing b/c in 10 years Reagan will be 14 and what will school culture look like for her? Will there be adolescent boys who will defend and protect our girls? Or will they be joining in to degrade our girls? How will Rob and I react if Reagan has to deal with this sort of behavior. If he and I aren’t going to be quiet now, we sure as hell won’t be quiet then. Not only is Reagan a girl, she is overcoming disability. In this world, she has two strikes against her and it shouldn’t be that way.  In the world we’re raising Reagan in, I want her to be treated respectfully as a girl and I want her to be treated equally. We all want this for ourselves and our children. WE HAVE to start valuing each other more, regardless of abilities, skin color and all the other things that make us each unique as a person. Everyone. E V E R Y O N E needs to be valued, treated with respect and talked to kindly, whether gay, straight, christian, atheist, girl, boy, black, brown or white.

This is why I’m writing. I’m saying #metoo b/c I’ve dealt with harassment, I’m saying it for the women I know who have endured more than me. I’m saying #metoo for my daughter, so that 10 years from now she won’t have to b/c it won’t be the norm. Please stand up with me and say it. Change the conversation, change the culture. Be part of the solution.

#metoo

#metoo

One week Post Brain Surgery 6 of 7

8/7/17

It’s been one week since my brain surgery and it’s literally crazy for me to think that a week ago I was undergoing surgery for something unknown. This entire process has been an exercise in trust and faith and it isn’t over, it’s never over. This song holds so true to every aspect of our family’s journey, with Reagan and now with this new road of my brain surgery and tumor. We are open to invite others to view the journey b/c honestly, there’s no other way we are doing this except with the strength of Jesus. Please know that.

As I’ve been recovering and receiving visitors, the emotion I have the most is thankfulness. So thankful that I am able to talk, walk, eat…that the bad scenarios, even the slightest hint of the possibility of them, didn’t happen. And people say, “God is so good” b/c of that. But let me tell you, he’s still goodeven if this best case scenario didn’t happen.

I stand in my house and I look at my daughter, who is doing things she shouldn’t be doing, but also not as much as she could if her crisis didn’t happen, and God is still good. I have learned so much from her. And now I have this weird brain thing in common with her. Different completely, but we’re both on seizure medications (at least for the time being for me) it’s preventative as things settle in with my brain. As I’ve watched Reagan this last week, one of our prayers for her to be easy, calm, obedient during the recovery has been answered amazingly. She’s turning into a five year old in front of me, and all I can do is watch…b/c I can’t do much else but take it in.

While we brought people into the fold of what’s going on before my surgery, a common sentiment was, “you guys do not need to be dealing with more than you already are!” and totally I can agree and understand that. But man, it is so cool to know God has something uncharted for us, designed exclusively by him, for us to give the glory back to God in our circumstances. It requires trust. And I have learned over the last few years that this verse from 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 is nothing but infallible truth.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

God is doing something in our family that will last and to know that he will bend down, and allow affliction, for eternal glory, it makes no sense, but it’s truth. Only God can turn beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3, I encourage you to read it). It’s why I had it tattooed on my arm when we went to NY earlier this year. I wanted, and needed, the constant reminder every day. Beauty for ashes…that’s the business God is in.

A word on Trust and a shout out to my co-workers

When I chose my word for 2017, it was trust. I wasn’t happy that was the word God gave me, but it was 100% clear it was the word I was given. And I knew, I just knew I was going to have a trial. Something difficult would come across my plate, it’s through adversity that God gives you the opportunity to exercise your faith and trust muscles. The first thing I knew God was asking me to do, was move offices. I felt the change was right, but I didn’t understand all the reasons. Looking back, he was aligning so many things. I’ve added a team member, I am supported in ways I didn’t even realize I needed. The steps that were necessary required trust, action and forward motion on my part. I feel like so many moments of my year have been God revealing more and more of himself, how he cares for me, looks after me and provides for me. The outpouring of support from my co-workers and customers during this time…it’s been amazing. Every one of my customers has been cared for, and everything that has required work has been taken care of on my behalf. One of the prayers the pastors at our church prayed over me was that my business wouldn’t be affected negatively, b/c as a self employed people, it’s something we think of and I was worried. He prayed that the opposite would happen and that more business and understanding people would flood around me. That has continually happened and it’s totally God and an answer to prayer. It’s exceedingly more than I could have expected, another promise from God. Truly I am just overwhelmed and grateful, I don’t think I can ever say thank you enough…and it all started with trust.

My awesome coworkers + my broker, Justin. Shout out to my friend Rebekah for my amazing hat. I wore it literally everywhere!
I work with the best people around!
My team member Abby has been crushing it! So thankful for her and every single person I work with who has cared for me and my business flawlessly.

You don’t always have to understand the why when God asks you to do something, you just have to trust. When he says go, don’t delay. Delayed obedience is disobedience. And man, now standing on the other side of my obedience…I’m so thankful I can trust the one who made me, who loves me and my whole family and who has me covered under his massive wings of protection. I pray you will allow God the opportunity to show you that he can be trusted in your life too.

Brain Surgery Day – 5 of 7

Night before surgery, my prayer warriors came to pray over our family.

7/31/17 – surgery day

The day of my surgery I woke up right to my alarm clock at 5 a.m. and moved pretty slowly through the morning. I wasn’t in the biggest rush to get to ORMC, given what was on the agenda, but when I got there, I was greeted with my praying posse of people. They prayed over me while we waited in the downstairs main lobby and then together we stormed the halls to the 4th floor to check in at surgery.

The amount of people and prayers that I felt on the day of my surgery was completely supernatural. I was more worried about my cerebral angiogram than this brain surgery, and I believe it’s due to the peace that God provided me.

Shout out to my hubs for the photo. Thank you Sami, Lisa, my mama, Brittany and Laura and the two hospital workers who are photo bombing in the back. And Lindsey who was about five minutes behind this photo. All showing up at 6:30 a.m.!

After checking in, I was called back to have an MRI before surgery just to make sure the surgeon knew where to line everything up I presume. Then it was back to pre-op to scrub down and put all my awesome surgery gear on and get a cocktail of medications. Here’s our pre-op photo.

I love this photo of Rob for so many reasons. He looks proud of me, he looks emotional, holding tears back, and this is a total “live out the wedding vow” kind of moment. This is a potential bad and scary time, we’re walking straight into the unknown, and I am so beyond grateful for having Rob. Husbands are not just supposed to be rocks–rocks have no feelings, I can’t get comfortable on the shoulder of a rock if you know what I mean. “Vow moments” get into the thick of it, with feelings, comfort, support and yes strength, but the strength we are receiving is supernatural, not of our own power. That strength is the only way to explain how we’ve been able to get through ridiculously tough circumstances. It’s not us acting strong, it’s God giving us the strength, it’s a strength only he can dish out and it’s immeasurable.

Back to the medical stuff, I had to have so many IVs and I was stressing about those every time they said they needed to do another (I had three all together) The nurses and anesthesiology staff kept saying that the IVs were more daunting to me vs. having my head cut open. But with one in my elbow vein, one in my hand, and another in my artery on the other arm it just made everything seem all the more serious. The anesthesiologist said for these types of surgery, lots of things are monitored, like my pulse and blood pressure were not only monitored from a pulse ox reader on my finger tip, but from my artery blood pressure line. She gave me a cocktail of medications to calm me down and then I began my journey down the hall to the OR.

After moving and positioning me on the operating table, I listened to the surgeon speak to the operating room staff about what they would be doing, how it could be an aneurysm or tumor and how they didn’t know yet. The room seemed somewhat struck by the fact that they didn’t have the answer before surgery, but I felt completely confident in my surgeon and I knew God was in there with me, the room was filled with his presence.

When it was time, the Anesthesiologist came over with a mask and told me she was going to administer the anesthesia. I took a few deep breaths and as I did so, I’ve never felt so much at peace. The feeling of peace and calmness before going under was a total answer to prayer. That prayer was prayed over me that morning and I know for weeks prior to that very moment. As I started breathing the vapor, I knew God had me, he was holding me and I had complete trust that I’d come out OK.

Meanwhile, the waiting room was popping with people coming and going. A friend took this photo of my cheering section and when Rob showed me, I was so incredibly grateful to see all the support that showed up, especially grateful that Rob had a group of people to sit with him. Rob would also get text updates from the OR and share them with those waiting…here’s an example:

No one can quite communicate the feelings of that day, the waiting room or the conversation with the Dr. other than Rob, so I want to allow space for his thoughts here. I am so grateful to have him and for his ability to feel his feelings, be calm and present in moments like this and be exactly who and what I need.

Rob’s account of the day’s unfolding events

Leaving the pre-op room once AM’s surgery team was ready to take her back was unsettling. Thoughts of what this mysterious thing was in my wife’s brain, how long the surgery would take, how the surgery would go, and ultimately how AM would wake up from the surgery swirled in my mind. Would she be the same? Would this surgery take care of everything? Or is this the beginning of something much bigger than brain surgery? (Not quite sure what is bigger than brain surgery, and I don’t really want to find out.)

Upon exiting the pre-op doors, I felt God reminding me “I got this.” I had heard those words the week prior, and leading up to this date I was moving forward with this promise. But once everything got real (the IVs, the medical monitors, the beeps of AM’s pulse, the nurses and doctors), fear started to creep in. I’m certain this is all some sort of PTSD from everything that happened with Reagan and how life was dramatically changed in an instant on April 8, 2014, and I didn’t want to have this date seared into my memory as the day life changed again.

But Robert, I got this.

Alright God.

Entering into the waiting room filled with family and friends was definitely an immediate showing of this promise. There were lots of people in the waiting room, usually only one or two people per patient. But probably a quarter of the waiting room was filled for AM, and for me. I’m so grateful that during this time I was surrounded by people that were there for us and chose not to let the seriousness of the moment consume me. Conversations were had, jokes were made. Even if I wasn’t participating in the conversation, listening to them was certainly comforting and helpful.

Every time my phone buzzed with an update, I would update the room and text those that weren’t able to be there. Getting these updates were both helpful and frustrating. I couldn’t imagine having to sit for the eventual four and a half hours the surgery would take without hearing anything on how things were going. Knowing me, my mind would have begun to prepare me for every possible outcome—the good ones, the bad ones, and the worst ones.

So hearing things were progressing well was certainly helpful, but every time I received an update, I wanted to ask questions back to the OR. Obviously, this wasn’t possible, and that is for the best. The only person that could answer them was the surgeon, and I don’t want him chatting with me mid-procedure. But I still had questions.

The final update I received said “in the recovery room now”, and with that I immediately went to the waiting room’s front desk and asked when I could see my wife—AM would have been so proud of my impatience in that moment. I was told that the doctor would see me first, and then they would come and get me once she was transferred from recovery to ICU and was settled in.

When I was called in to the consult room, I asked my sister to join me so she could write down and remember the exact things the doctor said, as well as be there in case there was any bad news. The doctor came in and visibly looked exhausted, but was in good spirits. He explained that the surgery went well, that the lesion was actually a tumor called a meningioma (thanks Mel, definitely wouldn’t have remembered that) and it was removed, and that is was non cancerous. (Whaaat?!? I hadn’t even considered cancer as being a possibility. Whew!)

Once I had processed that info, I went back into the waiting room to update everyone. Everyone was relieved with the news, but I wasn’t. For me, a tumor was worst case scenario as a small section of AM’s brain would have to be removed surrounding the tumor. What was in that section that was removed? Was it speech? Would she be able to talk? Was it the ability to understand expressions and tone? (Because I speak sarcasm fluently, and that could be a problem.) I had asked the doctor before and again what was in that area of the brain, and the scientific answer he gave to the question is that section of the brain is typically dormant, so she could have a few lobes of the brain removed without any affect. In AM’s case they removed a section about the size of a sugar cube, so there should be no affect. But when it comes to the brain, there isn’t an exact science as everyone is wired differently. Just look at Reagan, being able to move and walk and do lots of other things all requires the use of her basal ganglia—but that was catastrophically damaged during her crisis, however, God has allowed her brain to figure out a way to work around that.

So while everyone found comfort in the news, I was still concerned on how she would wake up. Would it be the same AM that I left in the pre-op room hours earlier? Would she be someone different? If so, how different? All of that would be answered when I could see her and talk to her.

Robert, I got this.

Alright God, if you say so.

Walking into the ICU room was odd. I feel like I should have had more fear or timidity, but I didn’t. I remember boldly walking into AM’s room, expecting things would be okay. I knew she had just started to wake up, so I approached her and began speaking with her. I’m not certain when or what was said, but I do remember making a joke to which AM immediately told me to be quiet and said my jokes weren’t funny.

There she is. Same Anne-Marie. 

Recovery

The first couple of nights in the hospital after surgery were painful. But I had incredible nurses on the Neuro ICU floor and they were able to manage the pain and get me weird cravings like vanilla pudding at 3 a.m. and Rob was on point making sure I had anything I needed.

The morning after my surgery, my neurosurgeon stopped by and said I did great. I asked him how many staples he put in my head and he said, “just enough”.

Dr. Wehman has a pretty good sense of humor and he told me it didn’t hurt him at all doing the surgery so I should be just fine. I can totally appreciate a neurosurgeon keeping the mood light so my first request was that we take a picture together. He told me I’m the boss and obliged. I am so thankful for Dr. Wehman and his skills and I’m happy to be under his care for the next several years as he keeps an eye on my brain. I’d say surgery day was a big success.

Oh and one other thing…I had a closing, while in brain surgery. #bossRealtor #alwaysbeclosing #eveninbrainsurgery

Tim!

 

~Brain Vibes ~ 3 of 7

7/24 & 7/25

I had a 24 hour EEG and decided to channel my inner gangster rapper.

We’re basically twins.

I mean, after all the emotional processing of this whole deal, if you can’t laugh, what can you do?

The purpose of the EEG is to see if any of my brain waves look weird or can explain any of the symptoms I’ve had. It won’t change the surgery or how the neurosurgeon will approach it, it’s just for info only and I have no clue when the results will be in. I feel like I was giving off a good vibe though.

When it was time to head back into public, I decided to take my wire style up a notch, with a man’s shirt and a beanie…in 95 degree weather. Truly making it work, folks.

My favorite part was trying to wash the glue out of my hair. I tried to find coconut oil in my house, it’s gone b/c I don’t cook and when I had the coconut oil I probably let it sit there for years and it expired long ago. A friend told me they used mayonnaise for lice and that worked…seems weird to take your squeeze mayo into the shower. So I opted opted for organic Trader Joe’s Spanish olive oil, it’s fancy and in a glass bottle.

Boy, if you were looking for a “how to get glue out of your hair from your EEG” you’ve just stumbled upon THE solution to help you with that.

Rub it in your hair like this.

Let it soak for at least 30 minutes. If you get a good Bravo show going, it might be able to soak for even longer.

Wash twice and then your hair is super soft and most of the glue is out so, Voila!

There’s just six days left until my surgery and lately I’m feeling pretty good about it. I continue to process how I think things will look after surgery, how I’ll feel, what the days immediately following will be like, but I don’t know and it’s all just speculative. I’ve always loved this verse but over the last 3-4 years I’ve learned how true Proverbs 16:9 really is. It says,

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

I’d add that even though in our hearts we plan a course, the steps the Lord establishes could be in the complete opposite direction of the course we wanted to be on. That’s been a theme in our lives for sure. But I know that even if life looks hard and things seem to be the opposite of what you’d want, that doesn’t mean you’re outside of God’s will for your life. God will place you right into the center of a storm, that is exactly what he did with the disciples, and that can be his divine will for you at that moment. Don’t be afraid of the storm, link arms with the One who can calm it. The one who can give you strength to endure it. The storm will not last a lifetime, I can promise you that. Seasons happen, some last longer than others, but the season will change.

It’s also different for me to not share my thoughts as things unfold, but I really feel like it’s not time. I feel like God wants me to really rely on him and reveal my writing when the time is right. All I know is now is not the time. Keeping this big surgery news to just a small circle is allowing me to lean on close friends, family and God. It’s allowing me to keep the outside noise to a minimum, which is really important to me and something I think God wants. He wants my attention. This time feels sacred in a way. It’s allowing me to trust what I know God says in his word and have that intimate time with Him to allow all of my raw feelings and emotions space to process with God guiding me, establishing my steps if you will.

Every day Rob and I discuss how we’re feeling and all the emotions that are swirling. I’s crazy that these are the steps God is establishing, we know God’s up to something. Our society relies a lot on social media as a barometer for what they should do, or how they should feel based on thumbs ups or sad faces. But in reality, that’s so empty. I am feeling more calm as the surgery approaches and I know that my trust has to continue to grow, and it is. I’m thankful for the action of friends and people in our lives who are showing up. I’m thankful for people in business who have shown incredible understanding, more than I could have ever expected. I’m content in knowing for a fact that God…he’s got me. He’s got our family. He’s got us, and there is no other place we are supposed to be than right where we are.

My brain has feelings 2 of 7

The last few days since getting my surgery date have felt really melancholy. I’m having trauma flashbacks to when Reagan was in the hospital. And maybe this is superficial, but my head is never going to be the same. I liken it to Reagan’s g-tube and her tummy never being the same. It’s never going back to how it was, even if the tube comes out, she’ll still have a scar, a mark, a reminder of a struggle, a really really low valley that we had to crawl through.

That’s what this titanium plate in my head is going to be. A physical marker installed into my body as a reminder of this really difficult time.

Since no one is completely sure of what is in my brain, I question whether I’m making the right decision. I trust the Doctor’s experience and what they’re saying. I believe them when they say: this is not normal, there are risks to not doing the surgery and to doing it. Either way, the lesion is not normal and should be addressed.

I feel like Rob and I have been living in the land of impossible decision making for years. How do you garner wisdom? It has to come through making really hard decisions. Experience in weighing all the options and outcomes and consulting with people who are wise and through prayer.

In a lot of Christian communities we’ll ask each other, “do you feel peace about this decision?” But to be honest, having a total peace about brain surgery at this juncture seems fake. Really, the opportunity I have is to thrust myself into God’s hands and say I trust IN YOU. Not in the Doctors, but in the One who guides them. I only have peace in knowing that God has got me, I’m a complete mess when I think about being wheeled into surgery. Complete. Mess.

Never Backwards

On Tuesday I drove down to the medical records department for Arnold Palmer Hospital. It’s been three years since Reagan’s crisis and I remember so many specific details from that time.

Driving down the 408 toward downtown, I started getting teary-eyed. I remember driving down here with my neighbor while Rob rode in the ambulance with Reagan.

I remember walking around the lake in front of the hospital, moving from waves of despair to hope.

“I need to get some medical records.”

The gal points me to a clipboard with the pen that’s married to it and tells me to fill out the highlighted sections. It’s amazing to me, that here in this building, a block from the hospital, my daughter’s file sits. All the information from her stay, it’s right there. I feel like I’m a Jeopardy contestant: “What are the medical facts from April 2014?”

I paid $6.92 for a CD, that has MRI images of Reagan’s brain damage; looking at those images and hearing the results changed our lives forever. All the worst moments of our life are from that hospital stay, and this little disc of records has every note and image compartmentalized in folders, written in a language I don’t understand. That records department keeps the facts from cases that go in and out of that hospital, telling a story on paper, but never the full story.

When I left, I drove around the hospital complex, looped around the Ronald McDonald house where we stayed for weeks, and I allowed myself to feel grief for that time, thankfulness for now, and went home. Mentally I was purposeful to remind myself, Reagan’s crisis is not her identity. Her abilities and disabilities, that’s not her identity either. Those records do not define who she is. It’s part of her story, part of our family’s testimony, but not our identity.

God’s been teaching me a lesson in identity recently, and that is, that my identity is not wrapped up in my abilities, my performance at work, how I parent, how I am as a friend or a wife, and my identity is not in my successes or failures. My identity is in Christ and because of that, I have the ability to surrender to his purpose, his will and his love. Surrender in this sense is not being weak, it’s being free. Free to say, “Ok God, that didn’t happen how I would have hoped, but I know you have me on the best path for your Kingdom.” If my identity is in my sales numbers, what happens if the market goes south? If my identity is wrapped up in my performance, performance of my friends, family, Reagan, then I’ll need everything to go well to feel valued, to feel a purpose. That would be incredibly exhausting.

I know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Having your identity is in Christ, allows a more peaceful life, regardless of circumstance. This is what I’m striving toward, I am (continually) learning to trust that God has my best in mind and that his purpose for me was determined before I was ever on this earth, and his purpose and will is what is best. I have to trust that, because what my eyes see and what I understand are not the same as what God knows.

Parenting Reagan has been my biggest challenge and lesson in trust, humility and surrender to God’s purpose. Of course I can look at Reagan and know that her identity is not in her crisis, she is so much more than her struggles and achievements. She was made for identity in Christ too, and she was made for us to watch God restore her! He’s used such a terrible thing, and repurposed it for his glory, that’s what God does and only he can do it.

Never backwards. Always forward. Always.

It’s currently our family motto. Because living in the past and in the what ifs, is not the abundant life God talks about for us, or for anyone. Living with our eyes fixed ahead and up, is the direction God is leading anyway. Never backwards. Always forward. Always.