Friday, December 12, 2014

My Grandma was a very poised and polished woman.  She dressed up when she went anywhere, refused to wear jeans and was a germaphobe long before the word even existed.

Grandma Mac was also a doer.  She loved to go out for dinner and would frequently fly from DesMoines to St.Louis to see us throughout my childhood.  Whenever I was with her in a public restroom, she had an odd habit that she insisted I help her with.  She always rolled up the pant legs of her polyester pants for fear that her slacks might drag the floor and end up in a mystery liquid.

Grandma Mac was a petite woman and frequently would hem her own pants and took great pride in her appearance.  The embarrassing part of this habit would occur for me, a tween at the time, when Grandma would forget to roll her pant legs back down and she'd be strutting down the concourse at Lambert International Airport with one pant leg  rolled up and one half rolled down.  She refused to slow down long to allow me to kneel before her and unroll her pants.  I would try my best to catch her and let her know, but she was a fast walker.

That sweet memory struck me this week as I began searching scripture for passages regarding Jesus' healing powers.
In Matthew Chapter 14, verse 35 it says ...."People brought all their sick to him (v36) and begged him to let the sick just touch the hem of his garment, and all who touched it were healed."

What I wouldn't have given for a chance to touch the hem of Jesus' robe this week just like I ran my fingers across the hem of my Grandma's slacks thirty years ago.

December 27th will mark the 9 month mark since my cornea transplant and the much anticipated time to begin 'stitch removal' and get a true understanding of what the actual vision prognosis is after refraction.

I have had no vision change and honestly don't pay much attention to it anymore.  One eye automatically closes when I type or read and I rarely experience redness or dryness and never pain anymore. Everything in my left eye is always blurry.  Sometimes a little less, sometimes a bit more, but it's my reality.

This week I had an appointment at the renowned Wheaton Eye Clinic to have my eye dilated and begin the plan for stitch removal. (Not all stitches come out at once - it's a methodical process that takes some trial and error to achieve the maximum balance of cornea health and avoid irritation.)

Going in to the appointment, I was in great spirits at the thought of putting this season behind me and working towards final resolution through a contact lens prescription or new left lens in my glasses.

I left feeling like I got kicked in the stomach.  The exam revealed that I'm in the throws of cornea rejection.  My eye is not accepting the transplant and we have to work to quiet it down before an infection appears.  Yesterday, I began a dreaded series of 12 eye drops a day - 10 minutes in-between to allow maximum absorption of the Predforte and Zirgan.

The best case scenario is that my eye will respond to the drops and we can turn around the rejection. Worst case scenario is that the rejection is irreversible and I have to have the transplant removed and they have to harvest a new cornea grafted onto the surface of my eye.

The primary reason for rejection is an immune system response in the body.  It is not lost on me that all the while my 'Primary Biliary Chirosis' is silently attacking the bile ducts in my liver under the heading of an 'auto immune disease.'  I haven't given that 2008 diagnosis much thought in light of my vision challenges, but it is still very much alive and active.

As the week has progressed and I've reflected more and more on that vision of touching the hem of Jesus' robe, I've been imagining what it would feel like to experience total healing.  In my head I've reenacted how the threads of His garment would feel in my fingers and it occurred to me that the greatest thing I can duplicate from those miracles of healing that we read about in the New Testament, is the physical pose of those followers of Christ.

It is impossible to touch the hem of a cloak when you are upright and focused on going and doing.  The only way to grasp the edge or fringe of a tunic is to be in a prone or kneeling position.
The only way for me to push ahead towards healing is to stay in relationship with God.  Everyday He longs to visit with me.  He waits and He delights in me. However, if I never sit in His presence, it will be impossible to even get close enough to touch His robe.

He longs to have me kneel before Him so he can pull my chin up and rest His eyes on mine.  He desires that for me and He desires it for you too.
Will you join me on my knees?
He'll be waiting.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Naked Vulnerability

Last night I did something I really didn't want to do, I shared a vulnerable story about my life with over 200 women and a few men.  They weren't all strangers, in fact, many of them were some of my dearest friends and family members, but I fought the notion of naked vulnerability until I stepped on stage.

I spend a lot of time and energy making all of the little things in life work well together.  Encouraging others is my passion and if I can share my faith through a smile or positive encounter, I'm all in.  I'll listen to you and ask questions and sympathize and try to make you feel like the most important person in the room, because I truly believe you are.

The downside, however, is that there are very few people that I share my struggles with.  I'm not good at being equally yoked in friendships.  I am a seasoned interviewer and I work hard to actively listen with follow up questions poised on my tongue ready to aim at any lull in conversation.

Sharing my weaknesses is hard. I know I've been more open than I am now at different points in my past 42 years, but rejection and disappointment have crept in and I've become guarded.  I've shared pieces of my heart with the wrong people at times, and have looked to friends for reassurance and comfort that only God can offer.

As I prepared for the talk I gave last night, I logged hours watching 'Ted Talks' on YouTube and analyzing messages by Christine Kaine, TD Jakes, and Francis Chan.  I studied speaking styles and watched monologues, I reviewed inspiring video clips and tried my best to drown out God's quiet whisper directing me to present my very personal story.

It was evident that He was insisting that I share my 24+ month journey that led me to my cornea transplant.  I waffled, I hedged, I even whined to Him that I didn't want to be that vulnerable!  Lots of people knew about the surgery, but it was done.  I was ready to move on and talk about something else.
He wasn't.

As the days got closer I refused to write down my speech.  I needed to fill a 25 minute time slot and I had nothing.  If I could have shared about talking to teens about abstinence or technology traps or the value of being involved in kids lives, it would have been a piece of cake!   I could fill hours with interactive and engaging lessons about loving yourself and the value God sees in your life, but ask me to peel back the onion of emotions surrounding my very personal and potentially permanent loss of vision? No thank you.

As the event approached, I cobbled together a loose framework completely dependent on a foundation of the Holy Spirit doing the talking through my red lips.  It was clear that this talk was dependent on my obedience to God and nothing else.

I knew if I could do the walking and get myself on stage, clip on the microphone and give Him the glory, He would do the talking.
He did not disappoint.  It was like an out of body experience to feel God 'steal the show' - and I loved every second of it.

As I crawled into bed last night, a feeling of relief and euphoria washed over me.  I felt like a giddy little girl who had been rewarded for dying to my fears and trusting God.  I walked by faith and not by sight, and I didn't wobble even once.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Desperately Seeking Joy


 Guilt spreads over me like sticky  juice flooding the countertop and dripping onto the floor from a freshly cut melon.  It eats away at my confidence and zaps my energy.  I feel its heavy weight from the second my eyes spring open in the morning light to the last few moments of a long day.

This hasn't been an amazing summer.  It hasn't been marked by beautiful moments of closeness and family togetherness.  It's been hard and exhausting.  There have been punishments and empty promises and lots of threats.  I've struggled with constant lack of vision in my left eye and I've cried myself to sleep as I long to be a better mom, daughter, wife and friend.

On the outside I run through the paces...shower, apply lipstick, tackle piles of laundry, make occasional dinner plans and schedule trips to the pool.  I host four small groups a month and drive my kids to camps and sleepovers with friends.  I walk the dog, tell my husband I love him and I pray.

I offer grace to strangers and friends for choices they make and confessions they share with me, but I keep myself locked in chains of criticism and doubt.
It's a double standard that I can't seem to unload. When I'm alone, I long to lift it off my shoulders like unlacing shoulder pads and squeezing out of them after a long football game.  Yet they won't budge.  It's as if the laces are all knotted up and I am fighting to release myself but I can't lift them.

I have spent so many days this summer in turmoil.   I've become paralyzed by anger, self disapproval and disappointments with the world.  I've allowed them to consume me and I've wasted precious time with my family. After brooding and lamenting I retreat to the only place that ever offers any solace...the Bible.

God whispers a reminder that I'm never alone and He gently guides me to the Old Testament book of Psalms.  He guides my thoughts to Psalms 4 and I begin to read about David as he cries out to God in his distress.  David reminds me to not get caught up in delusions and distracted by false Gods.  For me it's delusions of perfect children with perfect manners and perfect moms.  He warns me to not make my projects, my material things, my desire for human approval and guilt my 'false Gods' and there is a reminder to search my heart and be silent.

In exchange for my obedience in those areas, David promises God's hope will abound.  Only when I throw off the shoulder pads of guilt and the fear of the unknown and offer my 'people-pleasing-heart' as a sacrifice to Him, will I feel His light shine upon me.  When I shake off the anger that I can only see with one eye, the frustration that my kids aren't listening, and the fear of all of the unknowns of the techno-world, I begin to clear space for joy.

Father God, I ask for your forgiveness. You didn't create me to walk in the darkness.  Please take my hand and help me to rest in your presence and to find my value in you. This is a long journey and we weren't meant to walk alone.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anger Errupts

Things have been tough at our house this summer.  Gone are the carefree days of everyone wanting to spend the day at the park or the pool together.  The times when the petting zoo and a picnic provided all of the stimulation we needed to propel us through a warm summer afternoon with the promise of an hour of quiet time watching Little Bear or Magic School Bus have vanished.
Life has gotten complicated and I spend my hours negotiating activities and making decisions about appropriate geographical and metaphorical confines for my almost 13, 10 and 8 year-old all day long.
As parents, when did we decide to adjust the street boundaries of a bike ride Ethan takes with friends? How did we fall into the lazy repetition of allowing the Disney Channel to creep back into our lives for Libby to watch, when we fought so hard to cut it out of Abby's TV viewing diet when she was her age?
Perhaps most disturbing, when did we let down our guard enough to not notice access to social media we'd never even heard of had crept in on our watch?
A wise friend shared a thought with me years ago, and I think of it often. What we as parents accept in moderation, our children embrace in excess.
Is that true in your home? I give permission one time to let the kids take food upstairs while watching a movie...I never again am consulted on that decision.  They consider eating in the bonus room standard operating procedure.  As much as I object, they wear me down and remind me of 'the last time you said we could' and I'm too tired to fight.
My view as a singular 'treat' is viewed as the new standard and I go along with it to avoid the fight in the moment for 'an hour of peace'  - but I begin harboring anger.
The anger grows as I ask the kids to do simple thing...take a shower, put your clothes in the hamper, empty the dishwasher....all of the requests fall on deaf ears.
They do not respond the first time I ask or the second and maybe not even the third.  As I ask and am ignored, the only way to get a response is to yell and threaten and finally as my anger spills over like bubbles sliding down the edge of a too full boiling pot, they move.
They grunt or huff or say 'you don't have to yell, mom!' and they get angry at me.  It's a vicious cycle just as Emerson Eggerichs points out in his book, Love and
Respect in the Family.
It's easy for me to stomp, steam and threaten and all the while I am regrettably teaching my kids that anger is the only way to get results.  Yelling elicits a response and we have slowly moved into a hostile war zone.  We are on edge, ready to defend our actions at a moments notice and the smallest irritant, like turning up a song on the radio that another family member might not like, or a request to wipe off the counter, is met with immediate hostility....because I have inadvertently trained my kids that anger gets results.
Somewhere in the battle of wills, life has become a game of survival of the fittest. The one who can throw the biggest fit or launch the loudest counterattack wins, because I am exhausted.
Is there a solution? Have we failed our kids and lost the race?
Fortunately, there is redemption and grace for this tired mom.
 In his book, Eggerichs points out,
“My response is my responsibility…My child does not cause me to be the way I am but rather reveals the way I am.”
My response to my kids behavior  is mine to choose, and it comes fully loaded with the expectation that whatever I choose, will be reflected back to me in their responses to each other and to me.  If I choose anger, it is not a reflection of what they created in me, it is the emotion I choose to react with when I don't feel respected.  The 'crazy cycle' circulates when I expect them to respect me when I display behavior that is in no way respectable.  Should they respect me just because I'm mom, sure they should, but it's  easier to retain respect when you are acting in a way that honors God.
The story of the prodigal son is used often in relation to parenting.  The parable is sometimes relayed to offer hope to parents of children who have gone astray.  As I reread that verse as a broken mom, I feel God's embrace and comfort in these words from Luke 15:20 "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."  As I gather my Kleenex pile and brush off my knees, I feel my Heavenly Father running towards me and reminding me, parenting is the hardest job on the planet and I chose you for this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Get back in the race, I've been waiting to run alongside you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Transplant complete: no vision for many months


Today is the day after my cornea transplant.  What a journey this has been.  After waiting for 6 months to have the surgery, it finally happened.    I have been without any vision in my left eye, aside from being able to see light and darkness an occasional fuzzy shape, for almost 18 months.  I had adjusted to sight in only one eye, and at times during my wait, struggled with the idea of even taking the donor cornea, feeling that I could make due without it.  Making due, however, isn't all that God has for me, so at 6:30am yesterday I registered as patient #4 at the Wheaton Eye Clinic. 

I can't even begin to count the number of prayers that were being offered up on my behalf prior to and during my surgery.  Every single one made a difference.  I woke yesterday with such a calm  'blessed assurance' that it could only have been from God.  I even found myself praying for Scott that he wouldn't worry about me and for patients #1-3 who checked in prior to me once we got to the Surgery Center. 

They called me back and began the pre-op protocol.  The hairnet, the warm blankets (those are the best part...) and the IV.  Then the eye drops began...lots of drops.  I had no sedation and no calming meds at this point, but my relaxed demeanor was heaven sent.  At the prompting of a sweet girlfriend, I kept replaying the verse from the familiar hymn "turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace"
It was perfect because suddenly nothing mattered but Him. 

As the surgeon came in, I remember her telling Scott and I how beautiful the donor cornea was.  My only concern was knowing where it came from.....a clue to this mystery family we'd been praying for over the past month.  All she knew was that it was from a 54 year old who had died of a massive heart attack.  Thankfulness swept over me and as I was wheeled into surgery my prayer changed.

I was awake for the surgery.  I had numbing drops and shots all around the eye to block the pain.  I felt some of it but I kept fading in and out as I dreamed of my precious kids, my amazing Scott and my donor.  I felt the stitching of the new cornea in place (see the tiny stitches in the photo above) and the final step was the worst, two shots directly in the eye to curtail rejection. 

What a journey, I sill have no sight, it will take months for this donor cornea to work in tandem with my eye, but I have no pain.  Tonight I am tired, incredibly grateful for my huge circle of amazing friends, my family, my mom who is taking care of two of my kiddos, my right hand assistant Abby, my adoring husband, a family who I have never met who lost their dear loved one this week, and the possibility of seeing a blade of grass again this summer.   Thank you for all of your support as I recover.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Time for the transplant.

In five days my life will be forever intertwined with someone I've never even met...and I'm nervous.
Organ donation is a beautiful concept that represents the amazing promise of returning a damaged body back to its original state.  For me it represents the promise of sight!  The chance to see things with depth again instead of in only two dimensions through a single eye.

It's a gift...but I have to be honest, not just to you, but to myself for those days far into the future when I reflect back on this spot in my journey...once this is all over and the details are washed out to sea like sandcastles covered by salty ocean water at high tide. 

I'm preoccupied with wondering about, worrying about, and praying for my cornea donor.  I wake up thinking about him or her....wondering if they are suffering or if they have a family who will be lost without them.  I wonder what that cornea has I watch the news and hear about shootings and child molesters and tremendous humanitarians,  I wonder who will be the original owner of my cornea.  Will my donor have known Christ?  Will they be sure of their salvation? Are they still alive today or have they already died?

As I dig through these layers and get to the root of my preoccupation, it is dawning on me that this gift doesn't have to be one sided.  Just as the cornea is offering me the chance to see my world again with new depth, I have the opportunity to cover strangers with prayer.  I will be able to reach out to this donor family some day and give them a visual connection with their loved one.  My gift will not be an organ that is hidden deep in my body beneath tissues and bones, it will cover the surface of my eye.  The tissue that will cover my iris, or colored part of my eye, a clear dome, that will be outwardly visible.
Whether this cornea is coming from a beloved father of small kids who has lived a sacrificial life, a teenager who was killed in a drunk driving accident whose life was cut way to short, or a convicted felon serving life in prison looking for one good decision to redeem a life destroyed by bad choices, I need their help.  Thank you God for the promise that on March 27th, 2014 there will be a donor eye hand selected for me and the promise of a new family that I will be forever indebted to.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I've lost sight of beauty.

Red nails, red lips, chunky jewelry, scarves, big earrings and bracelets that clink like a cymbal when I walk...those are the things I love to embellish myself with when I head out the door.  As I put all of those colors and metals on my lips, hands and wrists, are those the things that make me beautiful?  Is it one of those things or all of them combined that classify me as attractive?  If my nail chips or I lose an earring will I lose my status as eye catching?
As I await my cornea transplant, God has stretched me to look beyond the beauty we see with the naked eye.  As a self-professed "sun worshipper" and lover of a deep dark tan, it is a cruel twist that I now long for dark rooms and my room darkening shades.  Sunlight glistening off of the snow used to be a welcome promise of Spring, now it's torture when I look outside without my darkest sunglasses.
Yet God hasn't taken away my physical sight and left me alone in the darkness to grope for material things to adorn myself with to help me feel beautiful.  He has forced me to peel back that layer of confusion to reveal a deeper definition of beauty.

Five years ago I was gifted with an amazing idea that has allowed me to feel beauty like I had never known. I say gifted, because it fell in my lap at a time when I least expected. In fact, when I received it, I didn't even realize it was a gift. It began as a spark, a tiny sliver of an idea.

Was there a way to let young girls know how deeply they were loved by their father in heaven?  Was there a forum for Him to speak to high school and junior high school girls to let them know that they were worth the wait in our over sexualized culture?  Not a lecture, not a speech, not another list of do's and don'ts, but rather a deep method of touching their spirits in such a way as to let girls know why it mattered to their Heavenly Father that they understood their value.
That was the moment that PINC (Purity Is No Compromise) was born.  A retreat held every spring whose sole purpose is to immerse 6th-12th grade girls in an experience that brings them face-to-face with their Heavenly Father and imparts to them His standard for their lives.  Based on a two day format, Friday evening is centered on the cross and the need for Christ in their lives.  We do that through a series of experiences that appeal to each of their senses.  It's very interactive and each experience forces them to look below the surface of superficial responses.  Saturday is a building block and the girls are divided up based on age and life experience and placed in sessions that address specific challenges they may be facing.  There are also large group activities including art and drama exposure.
April 4&5, 2014 will be the fifth year for this retreat.  It has run in many different formats with many different volunteers, and amazing participants - each who has left their stamp of beauty on the event.  This years' committee is stronger than ever and their commitment to following the call of the Holy Spirit is overwhelmingly evident.  I love sitting with them, planning with them and strategizing with them.  But planning this event is not when I feel beautiful.  I feel strong, inspired, capable even confident (most days), but not beautiful.
As I continue to peel back the layers of this gift - this sliver of an idea that God has grown from 14 attendees the first year to 50 participants last year, I've uncovered a feeling of beauty that no amount of red lipstick (and I adore Saucy Sangria #14 by L'Oreal!) or sparkly gems have ever evoked before.  I feel most beautiful when I am sitting eye to eye and pouring into these amazing girls.  I love making them feel like they are the only person in the world and listening to each word, wiping each tear and challenging every self-deprecating thought they process through.
During this time of transition waiting, praying and longing for my vision to return, I am seeing beauty with greater clarity than ever before.  It is no longer a question of when I think I look most beautiful, rather it is all about understanding God's purpose for my life and embracing the moments He has given me when I feel the most beautiful.
If you are interested in registering a 6th-12th grade girl for PINC this year, find registration information at Don't delay!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Open Heart Surgery

Did I mention to any of you that awaiting my cornea transplant is forcing me to withstand 90 days of 'emotional' open heart surgery?  The waiting is stretching me and I've had some tough days.  Due to a setback several weeks ago, my surgery has been postponed from January 16th to March 27th.  

There are tons of positives with the date change...more predictable weather for driving to follow up appointments, more time to prepare my house, make meals in advance, organize 'to do' lists for the kids...blah, blah, blah.   However, there is one huge glaring negative, I can't see and I'm tired of pretending that it doesn't faze me.  It does, and I'm sick of it.  The only thing I hate more than not being able to see, is hearing myself complain about it.

Here's where the 'emotional'  open heart surgery comes in...
back in 2004, Scott and I ran the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon.  I hate running. I've run a marathon, a half marathon and a variety of 5k and 10k races....I've hated running every single one....I'm in it for the socializing.  Some runners (most!) are interested in their time, their form and their hydration.  I'm interested in the people and their stories.  I can't stand to run alone and my favorite thing to do is to run alongside strangers and get to know them.

On Mother's Day of 2004, as we huddled in our stall stretching and pinning on our bib numbers, I asked my dear husband to make me a promise.  I asked that no matter how much I complained or whined or cajoled, that he please not run ahead without me during the race.
Please don't leave me, I begged, no matter how mean I get or how many times I tell you I  can go it alone - I won't mean it.
With a quick kiss to seal the deal and an adrenaline rush as the starting gun sounded, we set out 
shoulder to shoulder awash in a sea of 35,000 runners.

Ordinarily, I would never make a request like that, but on that day I was feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead.  It was as if my words were giving a warning like a canary in a coal mine about what was yet to come.  They were prophetic and as the race got underway with temps soaring 10-15 degrees above normal, I began to get feisty.  At mile 5, I started mentioning that the run was harder than I thought it would be.  I began to complain and by mile 8 I insisted on adding walking breaks every few blocks.  Scott remained the steadfast optimist and encouraged me to celebrate how far I had come and to keep drinking water.

It felt as though someone had kicked on a furnace as we entered the stadium surrounding the Indy 500 Speedway.  I began to encourage Scott to run ahead as we took the black asphalt track that forced us to run on a slant. To Nascar and Daytona 500 fans, the track was like being granted access to Mecca. I felt like I was in Hell.  The heat was oppressive and I was fading fast.  We exited the raceway and followed the course back towards the city center.

I was fried.  I felt overwhelmed by the heat, the run and the fear that I was holding Scott back from reaching a PR. (Personal Record). Again I began begging him to run ahead.  He refused and began the familiar routine of trying to distract me with conversations about our kids or our post-race plans.

As mile 12 loomed ahead in the 13.1 mile race, I was done.  In tears, I begged him to run ahead and to leave me alone in my misery.  Then I got mean...have you ever heard of women in labor saying mean things?  I had a really fast delivery with all three of our kids and never had time to say mean things.  I save my outbursts for running in the heat at mile 12.  Rational thinking  had left me and I was mad.  I was yelling about what a dumb idea the race was, why anyone in the history of mankind ever thought of racing, how angry I was at Scott for taking my pre-race pact so name it, I ranted about it.

As I was yelling, my husband had me do an amazing thing.  He bantered with me and he kept me moving.  My anger, pain, fatigue, heat stroke, irrational behavior pushed me across the finish line and at the end, it felt amazing.

That race has become symbolic for us in our marriage.  There are many times when I've felt overwhelmed by life and I have to fight the desire to go it alone.  Yet if I can muster the courage to whisper in Scott's ear, "no matter what I say, please don't run ahead"- it elicits a connection and he can tell instantly what I'm anticipating. He can see through my bravado and he knows without fail that I need him more than ever.

As March 27th closes in, I am blessed beyond measure by the number of friends and family praying for me.  I'm not good at accepting help, but I have no choice.  As I expose my open heart to you with these words, please lean in close as I whisper in your ear, "no matter what I say, please don't run ahead."

"The more we surrender to God, the greater our ability to SEE His hand in our life." ~ anonymous