Monday, April 16, 2012

This is my story, and a page has been turned...

This past weekend was a big one. One of those life-changing moments that when you leave your house to encounter it, everything looks one way and when you walk back through the door after you have, somehow everything looks different. The furniture hasn't moved, the walls haven't been painted, the cup on the counter is still where you left it, and yet... everything feels different.

Zach and I spent the weekend in Florida for my sister's brain surgery. For those of you who don't know, 6 weeks ago, an MRI revealed a tumor in her cerebellum.

On Thursday, Zach and I got to Jacksonville just in time to help my sister close up shop at her middle school chorus room. It was the first time we had been to any of her schools so it was fun to see the place all her crazy school stories come to life.

Her school
Inside her chaotic classroom :)
Walking out the door!
That night, Lindsay, her husband Steve, and Zach and I went out to Bonefish for dinner before the big day. The three of them tortured me and my FAID (food allergy inflicted diet) with fresh bread and flavorful apps, but I held my ground and didn't break. :)

On Friday, Lindsay had her surgery. Dr. Parker, her favorite neurosurgeon, signed her head at the incision point
and we waited with bated breath to see how everything went.
The display updating us on her status and indicating Lindz is in surgery.
While in the waiting room I started reading Tara Leigh Cobble's latest book, Orange Jumpsuit.
Before heading to Florida, I asked my sister if she had a copy and she joyfully said, "We actually have two copies so you can have one. Steve and I both bought one without knowing the other had just ordered it." Score! I was excited to crack that baby open while my sister's head was...well, the same. Ha!

Tara Leigh- an author, speaker, and friend of my sister, is an incredible writer and each time she releases a book I devour it like a starved lion. Orange Jumpsuit, is no different and I tore through the pages on Friday and Saturday, soaking up her tales and the beautiful story God is writing through her life. To put it simply, Orange Jumpsuit is about the things in our life that ensnare us and keep up trapped and separated from true freedom in God, our prison clothes or "orange jumpsuit".

Reading TLC's amazing stories and how God so intimately speaks to her inspired me and challenged me to look harder for God and listen closer to his voice. It's caused me to stop and ponder, "What are my prison clothes? What do I cling to that ultimately keeps me from God's blessing and the freedom of living fully in his spirit? What do you want to do in me Lord? What do you want me to invest in? What from scripture do you want me to meditate on this year? What do you want to change in me?

One answer to my questions came Friday night, after Lindsay's surgery was over and she was quietly resting in ICU, recovering from the operation. Zach and I went to Ruby Tuesday assuming I would be able to get some food that worked with my FAID, namely chicken or fish, steamed rice, and broccoli.

As the waiter came around I was quickly met with some unwelcome news. Ruby Tuesday had no plain rice. And sadly, my world was rocked. Ha! I know that sounds so pathetic, but as previously mentioned in an earlier post, this diet to restore my GI tract is difficult and unfulfilling. I am constantly hungry and rice is really my only filling food. I look forward to it at every dinner now, hoping it will temporarily satisfy the raging monster within me. This news, paired with the fact my sister just had a brain tumor removed and food has always been like my baby blanket, comforting me in times of trial or pain, was the opposite of what I wanted to hear. Can someone please pass the chocolate chip cookies and bread and butter?!!! STAT!

As tears filled my eyes when all these realizations and thoughts came raining down upon me, I heard a whisper that said, "I want to be your baby blanket, your comforter. Don't turn to "sad girl food" as TLC puts it, but me. Your God, and your ultimate provider. Rely on me to meet all your needs." Sitting in that sticky, vinyl booth I realized how weak I was and how much God needs to do in me to free me from things that bind and things that steal his place in my life. As I waited for Zach to come back from the salad bar, in my mind I unzipped my orange jumpsuit of control and wiped my tears on the sleeve. I honestly had no idea how quickly God would ask me to fling it off completely and throw it in a heap.

(Side story about Ruby Tuesday. I can't help, but brag about my husband. So Zach immediately knew I was about to majorly meltdown when the waiter said, "No steamed rice." He got up to "go to the salad bar" and then disappeared. 5 minutes went by, 7 minutes... and I began to wonder if he had just decided to eat straight from the salad bar itself. I got up to go look and he was nowhere in sight. Frantically I called his cell only to find out that he had been running to all the neighboring restaurants trying to find me a side of steamed rice.

I crumbled. In the same moment that I was overcome with weakness and brokenness, I was bathed in such an intense amount of love and provision, albeit an attempt at provision. :) These are one of those moments when you understand why God gave us the gift of marriage and how it can show us a small glimpse into the magnitude of God's great love for us.

As we pulled out of the parking lot and these thoughts were swirling around my mind, I looked up and saw the restaurant sign was only half lit. I chuckled once and said to Zach, "Sorry for my meltdown at Ruby Day."We laughed over the silly sign and said we'd always remember Ruby Day. When we got back to my sister's house that night, Zach cooked me a bowl of rice and it was the best bowl I've ever had. It was definitely because of the extra tablespoon of love added to the recipe. :))
Reading TLC's book was maybe the most pivotal part of my weekend and has hugely impacted me during this journey my family is now on. On Saturday, as my sister got moved from ICU to a regular room, I asked God again, "What do you want me to meditate on this year or during this season of my life?" Immediately I got an answer - Psalm 86. It startled me how quickly this came to my mind with no confusion or deliberation. I had no idea what Psalm 86 was so I looked it up.

Psalm 86
"Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me— they have no regard for you.
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me."
After reading this Psalm I was kind of wide-eyed. There are so many meaningful and timely things in this chapter and it's too much for me to write out, but know that this spoke to me and confirmed that our God is a God who not only walks beside us, but before us through all things, preparing the way and showing us how to rely on him through all things. God was talking through the holy spirit, I was listening, and it felt good.

While my sister was resting on Saturday, Zach and I took a short trip to the beach and then went to Ted's Montana Grill since their special was red beans and rice. Yes. A restaurant that serves plain ol' rice. Unforuntately, by the time we got there they had sold out. Night two of no rice, but I handled it better this time and made up for it with the sirloin and salmon combo. :)

Sunday morning, we heard the initial results of Lindsay's pathology report and it wasn't music to our ears. In fact, the painful clanging sounds of those words are still ringing in my ear. As we talked options and treatments and trials, God continued to remind me that he is our healer, and our sustainer, ever present in times of trouble. I fought off the orange jumpsuit of fear like a ninja warrior, knowing my God is able to do all things and fear or worry of the future only gets in the way of being an advocate of Christ's power through the resurrection and the freedom that comes with it.

Sunday's good news included Lindsay was able to be sent home from the hospital to continue recovery. Yayuh! So far, the only side affect of her surgery and removal of part of her cerebellum is slight dizziness when walking. Praise God! Her motor skills and coordination are normal.

Here's Lindsay with the famous Dr. Parker
And us, the sisters
Headed out the door in shades all "celebrity plastic surgery style" or at least that's what I call it. Ha!
As hard as it was, Zach and I had to leave Sunday afternoon and headed back to Charlotte. On our way, we stopped at Bonefish in Savannah since they seem to be the only restaurant ever to have plain, uncontaminated steamed rice. I love Savannah and all the giant live oaks dripping in spanish moss and dark ivy reaching into the crevices of every brick building. It's beautiful and romantic and feels like an exciting secret is hidden on each aging street.

At Bonefish that night, as I was continuing to think about Psalm 86 and my abandoned orange jumpsuit of fear and all things Lindsay, I got my dinner and it looked like this.
My chicken was in a perfectly symmetrical heart shape. Seriously? Does that happen? Ever? Was this the "sign of your goodness"?

Verse 17 of Psalm 86 says, "Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me."

I took it as a comforting "chicken from God", a sort of visual reminder of his perfect plan, and smiled at his timing and his incredibly personal love for us.

So even though a page has been turned, and things in my world look exactly the same, but feel pretty different, I know God is able. I know God can be trusted. I know God is with us and working. I know he has the power to calm storms and hold the entire universe in his hand. And I know prayer and faith can do mighty things. So please pray for my sister and that her body is healed! Nothing is too big or too small for our God!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an amazing post! I can't begin to tell you how you have encouraged me today through your writing. Thank you for sharing this personal story and step in your journey. I will be praying for your sister and also for God to continue His work in your life to "remove the orange jumpsuit". I'm also going to buy that book! Thanks so much.