Father’s Day is coming up, and I wanted to take this opportunity to tell everyone a little bit, or maybe a lot, about the guy who holds that title for me. We haven’t always been as close as we should have been, partly because girl teenagers come with a side of crazy, and partly because I didn’t know him like I know him now. He’s pretty awesome! He’s mine though. You can’t have him. Get your own awesome.
He was a Dad before I came along, but in 1983, I made him a Dad of 2. And I did it in a style only I could pull off. Sick, HUGE, with a hole in my spine, and SO NOT READY to take on the world, on his birthday. Cue probably a lot of panic and fear, an ambulance ride, and a doctor who almost bought himself a punch in the face. My Daddy don’t play.
See, my Dad was in Viet Nam, and was exposed to Agent Orange while he was there. I told you guys he was a hero! As a result of his service, I came into the world with spina bifida. I’m sure he carries some guilt, but I’ve never carried any blame. I’m proud of him. He did his job, and came home. And that’s all I care about.
On the day I was born, I think a lot of things changed for him. He had to learn to be a pro-life advocate in a VERY personal way. As I laid in an incubator, looking around the room, he was given a laundry list of all the things I’d never do, all the things I’d never become, and all the reasons why it was best to let me go without treatment. Give that a minute to sink in. Remember that doctor that almost got punched in the face? Now you understand. My Dad is not a jerk, but don’t play with his kids. Just don’t. He saved my life that day. Happy birthday to US.
Some Dads cringe at the idea of a poopy diaper. My Dad learned medical procedures that would make a normal man pass clean out. He spent nights in the hospital, sleeping on those really uncomfortable bed/chair combinations that are ALWAYS broken, when he could. Sometimes he couldn’t. Sometimes, he had to work days, and nights, and days…then nights, and double time, and triple time, and over time, and ALL THE TIME, to make ends meet, and make sure I could get the medical care I needed. I don’t think spina bifida Dads get enough credit for being the financial provider AND being there to kiss boo boos and bumps.
I got so much of myself from him. My nose was his first. I write, because it’s in my DNA. He got published recently. I’m not jealous or anything. Ahem…I admire his love of God, and learn from it all the time. You won’t find him inside the walls of a church often, but Jesus flows through his blood, and he’s not afraid to show you. I hope I have that same sparkle.
I love him. He’s my life saver, my go-to for life advice, my friend, and my hero. I’m blessed. Everyone should have a hero Dad. But like I said before, this one is mine. Get your own.
I had a bad spina bifida day yesterday. Really bad. Super bad. My family has been struggling financially for a while now, so I ran out into the world to find a job, and I took the first job that called me back. I was going to make sandwiches. I could make sandwiches. Anybody can make sandwiches. Easy peasy. I had nailed the interview, and my new boss and I were very excited for me to start, so I woke up early yesterday morning, got showered, put that shiny new uniform on, and walked out the door, ready to make the world’s sandwich dreams come true!
But I forgot something. It’s something I forget often, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Here it is. I’m disabled. I’m paralyzed from the knees down. And I was going to make sandwiches. On my feet. All day long. All. Day. Long.
Uh…oops. I forgot.
See, I was raised that basically I can do anything I put my mind to, and in some ways, that’s absolutely the truth. I can do ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST, WHO STRENGTHENS ME. Absolutely. But here’s the deal. I was put in this body for a reason. It has limitations. And whatever I do, I must remember I can only do THROUGH CHRIST. It is only THROUGH HIM, and for HIS purposes, that I am able to do anything at all. My body has limitations, because I’m kind of a stubborn little thing, and I truly, honestly, think I can and SHOULD do EVERYTHING. But I’m wrong. I should ONLY do the things which CHRIST gives me strength to do. That’s my purpose here, and the ONLY way to true fullfillment. I can’t do everything, because I’m not supposed to. I’m supposed to do “Misty” things.
God created each of us with a specific purpose and a specific task that only we can do. Sandwich making is NOT my task. I couldn’t reach the pickles, y’all. For real. That girl who trained me yesterday? She’s the sandwich maker. She’s the bomb at making a sandwich. She’s supposed to make the sandwiches.
When I announced on social media yesterday that I had started and quit a job within a span of 3 hours, I was embarrassed that my body had quit on me. I was embarrassed to have had to call my boss and quit on her. I spent a lot of yesterday crying. My best friend bought me too many margaritas in order to drown out my disability. In the spina bifida world, we call those “disabilitinies.” They’re delicious, even if unhealthy.
When I got up this morning, I checked back into social media, still a little embarrassed about my failure. Here’s what I found…
Multiple messages of encouragement.
Lots of love.
Cyber hugs like crazy.
SEVERAL inquiries as to whether I had ever considered becoming a writer. SEVERAL. Because I’d be good at it. Because I’m gifted.
Can I make sandwiches? Nope. I can’t. I really can’t. I’m really terrible at it. And that’s okay. Because I’m not a sandwich maker. I’m a writer, like God told me years ago. I just needed a reminder, and I really am one of His most stubborn children. Someone else can make the sandwiches. I can’t. That’s not what I’m here for.
Gotta run. Need to go turn in my sandwich uniform. It doesn’t fit.
Do me a favor. Go look in the mirror and come back. I’ll wait…No. Really. Get up. I’ll still be here when you come back…
Oh hey! Back so soon? So, what did you see?
Can I tell you what I saw? Amazing. That’s what I saw.
I woke up a couple weeks ago from a night of sleeping in too late, and when I got to the bathroom I paused to look in the mirror. Yesterday’s makeup was smeared a little. Eyeliner was smudged into a toddler style drawing, in places that eyeliner shouldn’t travel. My hair was sticking up in places and crushed down in other places. I had pillow wrinkles and red splotches everywhere…and as I stood there, I saw…amazing. I saw a woman who is beautiful in the eyes of her Maker. I don’t match the Hollywood standard for beauty. I’m not even close. But I looked in that mirror on that particular day, and it didn’t matter. I think God let me see me the way that He sees us, at least as close as my mind can get to seeing what His mind sees. Flaws and all, I stood there, and I saw a really beautiful woman. Not a super model, but a perfect artwork, carefully and meticulously built, by a Maker who needed a “Misty.”
I think sometimes we listen to the world too much. (<—Understatement of the year). I think we look at Hollywood, and the standards of the world, and other people around us, and we compare too much. Maybe we let other people tell us that we’d be pretty if we just had a smaller this, or a bigger that, or more or less of whatever feature. I don’t think God ever intended that for us. I think that maybe we hear that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, but we don’t really absorb it.
Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are WONDERFUL, I know that full well.” I quote this one a lot. I live by it. You might be totally done hearing me say it. But did you hear that? “Your works are WONDERFUL.” His works are wonderful. His works are not average, or frumpy, or plain, or (fill in adjective of your choice). His works are WONDERFUL. You are created by a Maker whose works are wonderful, and He’s not just any artist. He is the Perfect Artist. He doesn’t have that one piece that He didn’t do so well on, so if His works are wonderful, you couldn’t be anything less.
Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. Now, I don’t know what you think of when you try to picture what God might look like, but I have a hard time believing that He would be anything less than the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. If we even have a small portion of His image built into our being, what does that say about us?
Your being is intentional. Every freckle is where it belongs. You are different than other people, not more or less beautiful. God is a creative artist. No two of us are exactly the same, not even identical twins. Ask a set of twins. They’ll be able to point out their differences. God didn’t make you like the next person, because He didn’t need two of the same thing. He needed a you, and a them. And He seems to think He did a pretty good job on both. And I tend to believe Him, because…well…He’s God.
He seems to know good art too. Have you seen a cheetah? A chameleon? Now, that is some awesome artwork right there. And He didn’t even really build those. He just spoke them, just said a word. But you though…you were built. Handmade. His own breath is in you. You are intentional and beautiful. You are one of His most favorite and intricate pieces. Could He have just said a word to bring you to existence? Absolutely! But He didn’t. He chose something different with us. He went hands on, and molded us exactly how He wanted us. He built each of us individually, for His purpose and plan, and when He did, He liked the finished product.
He doesn’t put out junk or average. He’s not an “average” type of artist. He works on a different scale. He has AMAZING and AMAZING. That’s it. No other options. So which one are you?
Do me a favor. Go look in the mirror and come back. I’ll wait…
30. 3-0. Misty 3.0. The Dirty 30. It’s here. I remember when 30 used to be the age that I measured all my hopes and dreams against. “I want (fill in the blank) by the time I’m 30!” “I want a house, and a career, and a baby…by the time I’m 30!” <—Notice there’s no husband in that dream right there??? Hmmm…
I wonder what it is about 30? Why do we measure everything by 30? What if we don’t have everything we think we want by the time we’re 30? Are we a failure? Did we miss the mark? Not measure up? I don’t think so.
Proverbs 16:9 states, “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
In my case, I think the Lord has been establishing my steps for a lot longer than I’ve been paying attention. For me, there weren’t ever supposed to be any steps…toward my astronaut dreams, or toward anything else…according to the medical community. I wasn’t supposed to walk, and I wasn’t supposed to be here long enough to try, but Jeremiah 29:11 argues, “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Looks like God had some steps in mind.
My parents were told from the beginning that I would not live. My father recently blogged about the day of my birth (ironically, the day of his birth too, a few years earlier), and stated that the doctors rambled out statistics about me as if I were a stale loaf of bread. They apologized for not, “catching the problem” on ultrasound so something could be done. At first, my dad stated, he thought that they must have meant that there was something that could have been done to fix this. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what they meant. What they were apologizing for, was allowing me to be born. I was the problem they didn’t catch. I wouldn’t have had to exist if they had “caught” me in time. My parents could have “terminated” and this “problem” didn’t have to happen. Um…ouch, a little.
Psalm 139:13-16 “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
I DO praise Him, because I AM fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame may have been hidden from the doctors, trying to solve the “problems,” but my frame was not hidden from Him! I have to wonder if that in itself was divinely orchestrated. His works ARE wonderful. I know that full well!
My dad says, he politely asked the doctor trying to “solve the problem,” to leave us alone and to not come back. Or maybe he didn’t say it politely. I don’t know. I was in my incubator, apparently putting together my own protest to the “facts” being thrown around about me. The way my dad tells it, the doctor was rambling on about my lesion and the level, and saying that I’d be immobile from the waist down, if I survived at all, when I straightened out both legs and kicked them straight into the air! Hey, that’s me! Kickin’ butt and taking names!
About that survival thing; the thing they said I wouldn’t do…30. I’m 30. Most women cringe, I think. It means we’re supposed to have our stuff together. It means “old” is coming. Wrinkles maybe.
Me? It means I made it. 30 years longer than they said. I think I win. I’m still going too, and I have a lot of friends with a lot of the same issues, who have made it into their 50’s, 60’s and beyond; a few, WAY beyond. I guess those “problem solvers” haven’t been able to “solve” all of us.
So, does 30 look like I thought it would? NO! That house? A cozy little apartment. That career? I blog about SB. For free. That baby? Not here yet. That husband I didn’t put in my Barbie Dreamlife fantasy? He’ll be home about 6:30.
30 is not what I pictured. I didn’t fail though. I think 30 looks just right to the God who planned all my days for me. Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”
30 is not what I thought. Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Well, thank God for that!
So, what does 30 look like? I’m married to a fantastic man who accepts all of me…even the “problem” part. I am surrounded by friends and family who do the same. I don’t have my stuff together. I don’t even know what stuff I’m supposed to be putting together. But I know Who to ask. And I know Who holds ME together. And, as long as I have that, 30 is good! As is 40, and 80, and 112…I don’t know how many days God planned for me as He formed me 30 years ago. I feel good. I think there are a lot more. But I do know that He will order the steps; that He has plans to prosper me and not harm me; that in Him, I have hope and a future; that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and not a “problem;” that my frame was not hidden from Him, as it was from the doctors; that all the days of my life are planned already, and He knows how many there are. Others can only guess, and 30 years is a pretty big miss; that His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not my ways, and for that I am grateful. I’d rather follow His thoughts than my own anyway.
So, there it is. I don’t really know what’s next, so I’m just going to keep going until God tells me to come home. Right now though, I should probably go get pretty. I think there’s a Cheesecake Factory date in my immediate future. I hear they have a “30th Anniversary Cheesecake.” Coincidence? I think not.
Last Wednesday, our church held its monthly Wednesday night service called Encounter. The very first one ever was held the day after my mom had the heart attack that eventually took her to Heaven, so you can probably see how these services have become pretty special to me. I don’t miss them, but last Wednesday spina bifida reared its ugly head, and I felt kinda like death. I contemplated not going, but some very small, very determined part of me continued to get dressed as I took care of the SB issues trying to ruin my day. I told James, “It’s Encounter. I’m going. We can leave if we have to, but I’m showing up!”
So, sick me got in the truck and off we went to God’s house. Where better to be than God’s house when you’re sick? Need a doctor? I know One.
We sat in the back, just in case I decided I wasn’t up for the challenge and needed to go home. And then the Pastor said something new. He wanted all of the young people to come to the front of the church to help lead the others in worship. So I sat there and waited for the young people to go…until he said, “If you’re 20 something or under, come on up!” and James and my girlfriend both stared at me. Darn James and his 30 somethingness.
So, sick me went to the front, hoping I wouldn’t straight die in front of all my friends. As I stood there worshiping, I forgot I was sick. I started to feel better. Crazy, huh?
We were standing there worshiping, and I guess the others were worshiping with us, when the Pastor started praying over each individual “young person” in the front. I’m still not sure how I made the cut of “young person,” but hey! I’ll take it!
When it came to my time to be prayed for, I got nervous because usually God chooses to read my diary through a sermon or my own personal quiet time with Him…not through my Pastor, directly in my ear, in front of the whole church! Ha! But I trust Him, so I didn’t run for the hills.
The first thing the Pastor said was, “It’s not about performing.” I didn’t get it. Not at all. I am a crazy, hot mess, and everyone knows it. I don’t put on any shows. I would have just blown it off as a miss, but he said it no less than 4 other times during my prayer. He prayed a lot of other really beautiful and (I thought) more relevant things over me, but the next day those words, “It’s not about performing,” stuck with me. I couldn’t let it go. All day long. So, I asked God to tell me what was going on here. If this was relevant, I wanted to know what we were talking about. So, I pulled on His pants leg (does He wear pants?) until the next day when I finally understood.
Somewhere along in my life, the world gave me this idea that I had to do what people thought I should do in order to make them happy with me. They’d be mad at me or think I was “less,” or even just plain drop me if I didn’t do the next right thing. Go to college. Get a good job. Get married. Have babies. Do all the right things, in the right order, that all the other good, successful people do. Say the right things to the right people. Don’t screw up. Be impressive! Can anyone say, “PERFORMING???!!!”
I didn’t even know I was doing it. I was living my life according to what the world views as success…and royally screwing a lot of it up. Some of it, my marriage in particular, I have by the grace of God, not screwed up. Other things (college) I’m just really bad at, and probably not built for. I had about 6 different majors, and I quit all of them. Ifailuniversity.com. <–I hope that isn’t a real website!
Here’s what God says to me though, and you too…”It’s not about performing!”
I cannot do enough right things, or say enough right words, or unscrew-up enough things, or dance enough right dances, to make Him love me more or see me as “good enough.” The truth is, I’m not good enough. I can’t do it. Not a chance.
Here’s the good part…
He knows. He doesn’t operate in how high I can jump (um…I can’t), or how well I did in college, or how good my marriage looks. The world operates this way, but I don’t have to, because the only way I operate at all is because God says I can. He operates in, “It is finished.” Jesus performed for me. He did all the right things, in the right order, for His Father, so I can do what I’m built for without fear of messing up. And because He calls me His friend, I kinda get to follow Him around and do whatever He’s doing. Jesus is good enough, and He says I can hang with Him because we’re friends. He won’t drop me because I said or did the wrong thing. He loves me enough that He did it right FOR me. It’s time to learn a new song and dance. I think it’s called Freedom.
Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Ephesians 3:12 In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Recently, James and I have decided to step up our game in this whole, “Serving God,” arena, and are about to embark on a journey that, two years ago, seemed out of reach and ridiculous. It will be a real stretch for both of us… a coming out of the box. It will mean trusting God to do through us what we are not capable of doing ourselves. The truth is, neither one of us has ever stretched this far, and no one would hire us in the real world to do what we are about to start doing. God’s hiring system is different though. I think He likes to take the least qualified looking person and put them in some of the hardest positions so everyone will know He’s doing a thing. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happening here.
Two nights ago, James and I were up talking about our new journey, and I was freaking out. If you’ve known me for more than a few minutes, you know that’s what I do, then I get on the horse and learn to ride, and I’m fine. But I was in the freak out, telling James, “I think God picked the wrong people. We aren’t qualified. I don’t think we know what we’re doing. Why did He pick US? Wasn’t there someone else who could do this better? Why didn’t He pick them?”
James looked at me, in that way that he looks at me right before he knows he’s going to ruin my day, and said, “Maybe you just don’t have enough faith!”
Me? Mad? Oh yes.
“I DO HAVE ENOUGH FAITH! I KNOW HE CAN CARRY US THROUGH THIS! I KNOW THAT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE! I JUST DON’T KNOW IF HE PICKED THE RIGHT PEOPLE! I DON’T HAVE FAITH IN ME NOT TO SCREW IT UP!”
So I went to bed thinking,” He’s wrong. I have faith. God can do this. I just think I’M the wrong pick! I’m gonna pee all over this thing!”
If you’re sitting there with your jaw open at how I can talk about myself that way and have so little confidence, don’t worry, I am too now. That’s pretty bad. I know.
I went into my prayer time a little bit tired that night. I asked God to fix some things in other people’s lives around me. A lot of my friends are struggling through some pretty major stuff, and I don’t know what to do to help. In some cases, I can’t help at all. That’s a pretty hard place. I’m a helper. That’s what I want to be doing all the time. But, some of my friends are going through things that are way too big for me, and I can’t do anything, so I pray every night. I was praying that particular night and handing God my excessive laundry list of things I wanted Him to fix, when I quit and just told Him, “God, You know all this stuff. You’re already working in all of it, and Your will is going to be done, so can I just lay here with You until I fall asleep? You talk. I’ll just lay and listen. Sometimes, I think I talk too much and don’t let You say anything.” So I laid there, and quickly fell asleep.
WARNING: If you invite God to talk with you, stay awake. He wants to talk. He will talk. I woke up yesterday morning and it started. I fell asleep when God wanted to talk, and He woke me up talking.
My first thought when I woke up was that James was right. I didn’t have enough faith. But it wasn’t that I didn’t have enough faith in God’s ability to do something through me. It was that I didn’t have enough faith to believe He could pick me on purpose. I thought for sure He made a mistake in picking me. I wasn’t the right choice. He had picked the wrong people for the job. The God of the universe, who had never made a mistake ever, had picked the wrong kid. Yep. That sounds nuts now. I know. You don’t have to tell me.
So I texted James and told him he was right, that I didn’t have enough faith that the God of the universe who had never screwed anything up in all of EVER, might have made YET ANOTHER right choice. Me? The right pick? Yes.
It’s hard to tell him he’s right. I’m getting good at it though. Have you met this man? He’s smart. It’s annoying.
So, that was my spiritual awakening for the day, and I thought we were done. Wrong.
I’ve recently cracked this book by Francis Chan, called Forgotten God: Revisiting Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. Pick it up. It’s a good one.
I got to a paragraph in the book that says, “Have you ever thought about what it means to be ‘known’? Though I’d been telling people for years that I ‘knew’ God, only recently have I explored the concept of being ‘known’ by Him. It’s breathtaking to picture almighty God saying, ‘ I know Francis Chan. He’s my son. I love him!”
And then it asks, “Are you confident this is what God would say if I asked Him about you? Do you know God or just know about Him? Are you acquaintances or intimate friends?”
I skimmed over this passage and thought, “Of course I know God. I’m certain He would say I’m His daughter and He loves me.” Moving on…or not. Pause.
I can’t explain how sometimes God will use a thing I remember and make it apply to now, but that’s what happened yesterday.
Immediately, I remembered a time in my early walk with God, when I was still praying for James to jump on this train with me, and I found an “in” for him to get to know the people I was hanging around…these “Christian” folks, who happened to gather every Thursday night to do “Christian” things. My new found friends were having a barbecue. I invited him, told him there was no pressure to act any certain way. We were just people gathering to eat hamburgers, and for some reason, he agreed to come.
So, we were there and everyone was eating. There was a guy talking to James about video games, or fishing, or something, and this guy’s daughter comes running up, jumps in his lap, wraps her arms around him and plants a big kiss on his cheek, then puts her half eaten cookie right on top of his hamburger and leaves to go play with the other kids.
I remembered thinking, “He must be a really cool dad. She is really comfortable with him. She just jumped right up, invaded his space, planted a big ole kiss, and even left her cookie on his plate! I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that safe with anyone.”
Now, don’t take that as my saying that I had awful parents that I couldn’t approach. I have always felt both my parents loved me, and they did everything they knew to make me safe and let me know I could always come to them for anything. I’m just saying I don’t jump in a lot of laps, and I certainly don’t just leave my half eaten food anywhere near yours. I don’t trust you that much.
But as I was thinking about that scenario, I felt God tell me, “You can leave your cookie in my plate. I am your safe. I know you, and I picked you on purpose, way before you ever knew this would come, and you are fine, no matter what happens, because I am your safe.”
I cried. For an hour. I don’t know if I have words in my vocabulary to describe what it felt like. He’s my safe place. He’s the place I can run and throw my arms around, plant a big kiss, and leave half eaten cookies. I think I knew that, but not as intimately as I do now. Cool, right?
And I’m going to be fine, because this is His plan, not mine. He already knows how it goes, and He picked me. It has nothing to do with my ability or inability to do the task. It has to do with being His, and being picked. Dang. Anybody want a cookie? I ate a piece.
This is what it felt like. These words.
“I want to sit at Your feet, drink from the cup in Your hand, lay back against You and breathe…feel Your heartbeat…This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand, I melt in Your peace…It’s overwhelming…” Yeah. That’s what it felt like.
A year ago tomorrow, I was awakened by a phone call that was the beginning of a chapter in my life that would rip me to the core, challenge my faith, teach me how strong I was and how weak I was at the same time, show me who loved me, and finally, confirm my faith, in stone for the rest of my life.
It was approximately 7:30am when I got the call that my mother had had a heart attack at work and had been ambulanced to another hospital. I needed to go there immediately. There was no further information. I don’t know how many of my readers work in the medical field, but I’ve done my share of receptionist work in various hospitals, and I know what it means when someone tells you on the phone, “I don’t know anything else.” This was bad. Really bad. They don’t tell you the really bad stuff over the phone, I guess for fear that you’ll panic and be unsafe on the way to the hospital. But I knew the code. Panic set in. My mother was either already dead, or not far from it. I knew.
I think that’s the worst feeling in the world, outside of the orphan feeling that comes immediately after you see the monitor hit 0, which means your mom won’t be back. Ever. I got to the hospital with the impeccable (insane) driving skills of my husband. Thank God for him. After being told twice that they did not have her, they finally found her in their computer and we rushed to (unit I can’t remember. Some of this day is foggy). Mom’s boss met us in the hallway. “Is she okay?” I asked. With tears in her eyes, she responded, “Come with me.” Not good. Really bad. I remember whispering to James, “She’s dead.” To this day, I’m not sure he heard me. I think I was telling myself more than him.
When we got to where my family was gathered in “that room,” the room they put you when things are bad, I realized we were last to arrive. My brother was there, my stepdad, his pastor, mom’s best friend from work, and the pastor from the hospital where mom worked. Mom’s friend and I had already had a bunch of time to pray together and get to know each other before that day. As soon as I saw her crying, I ran over and fell in her arms. I love that woman. She gave up her chair for me and I sat, not speaking. There aren’t words for this type of thing. After 6 hours of silence and tears (real time, 2 or 3 minutes) the pastor from mom’s hospital asked me, “Misty, has anyone told you what’s going on?”
“No. No one will tell me anything.”
“The doctor is saying they don’t expect her to make it through the day.”
“Okay.” More tears. Hugging my stepdad. Gibberish from across the room. World spinning. Sick. Scared. Breathing in and out. Not breathing at all. Sick. More tears. Look to my husband, whose eyes are also wet. This is bad. He doesn’t cry. I don’t remember much else in the room. More fog. Thank God for fog.
I remember them saying we could see her before they took her to…more fog…for…more fog. I remember not wanting to get out of the chair. I remember wondering if my legs would carry me. I remember mom’s friend getting me out of the chair. How? More fog.
I remember going to a hallway. My mother’s body was being wheeled down the hall. She wasn’t there. Sick. Not breathing. More tears. Dizzy. Can’t stand up. Mom’s friend held me up.
“Say something to her. She can hear you.” I don’t know who said that. I remember my stepdad telling her he was “right here, baby.” My words stuck in my throat and choked me. Can’t breathe. They wheeled her away to do whatever in wherever. Mom’s friend held me. I’m not sure where we went after that. I remember being in a chair outside “that room,” in public. I remember thinking, “I want back in that room.” More fog.
We went to another room, and church friends that I’d called, and some that I hadn’t, started showing up. Thank God for those who gather in His name. We prayed for “more time.” Well, they prayed. I was non verbal…and anorexic (who brings sandwiches to these things anyway???).
My mother did not die that day, at least not permanently. Over the past year, what happened in “that room” has become less important to me, and what she was doing in that time has become my lifeline.
You see, she was not crying. She was actually pretty happy. The difference between what we were doing and what she was doing is what keeps me going today.
My mom spent the next 20 something days in a medically induced coma, having surgery after surgery, to try and bring her back to us. She had so many machines around her that I could barely get in to talk to her. They told us she could hear us, so when I found my voice, I talked. I remember telling her before a major surgery, that if things got too hard she could go Home. We would figure it out. I have never said anything with less conviction in my entire life.
If she went Home, I would not figure things out. I would die.
She survived surgery after surgery, procedure after procedure, crossed bridge after bridge, and on day 20ish or so, she opened her eyes.
By this time, she had a tracheotomy. She could not speak, but she acknowledged to the nurse that she knew who I was. When we were “alone,” she mouthed, “unplug it.” Can’t breathe. Dizzy. What do I say? “No. The doctor says you’re going to make it. I’ll unplug it when he says otherwise.” She looked at me, stunned. I think this was the first time in my life that I basically told my mother to “shove it.” Even on the ventilator, I braced for her to knock the doodoo out of me. She never had hit me, but I would never have put it past her. She smiled, and said, “Okay. I died.”
We knew she died. They lost her for 20 minutes after the heart attack, but were able to revive her. How did SHE know?
“Yes. You died. We lost you for 20 minutes, but you’re back. I’m not unplugging anything.”
She smiled again.
“I have to know. Did you see Jesus?”
Silence. What do you say after that?
Word got around, because when your mom sits in the presence of Tha Man, you tell everyone.
She told everyone too. Anyone who came to see her, “I died. I saw Jesus!”
The inner part of me that used to fight my belief and ask me, ” Are you sure?” would come out once in awhile and tell me, “It’s the drugs,” but the drugs went away, and the story only became more elaborate. For most of the days we had left with her, she told more of her Encounter from a See n Say toy.
“I died. I saw Jesus. Took my hand. Temple. Angels ugly. God is blue, white, shiny, clear. Jesus is light. He’s not white. Warm. I’ve seen Jesus. New perspective. Laugh at devil.”
Over the last days, watching her type on her See n Say, and confirming her words back to her, just to be sure, we learned what she was doing for that 20 minutes.
Jesus led her by the hand (the right one, I asked) to the temple where God hangs out. He pulled back a curtain so she could see inside. She saw God from the back. What she could see of Him was blue, white, shiny and clear <—I know! Weird!
The angels (five of them) never knew she was there, because they were too busy worshiping God. They’re ugly, and they have ostrich feet. Completely weird!
Jesus invited her into the temple, but it was so Holy she couldn’t bring herself to go in. Jesus went in without her. I guess that’s when she came back to us. I’m not sure. That seemed to be the end of her story, or at least what we could gather and confirm from See n Say conversations. That’s enough for me.
I’ve heard a lot of stories of people who have died and come back, and for some reason I’ve always held onto my skepticism. There’s something different about it when your mom is the storyteller. There’s no reason to doubt her.
I think God sent her back to tell us so I wouldn’t worry so much. I’m not saying I didn’t hurt, or that I don’t still hurt. I know where she is though. She promised to meet me by the second pole of the temple. My faith is unbreakable now. No matter what this life brings me, I have a new perspective. I know where I’m going. I know how it ends. Things might beat me up pretty bad on this side, but God is good. In fact, I think Good is a drastic understatement. There’s something “over there,” and it’s amazing! Sign up to come with me, and we’ll all meet up at the temple!
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows. And I know this man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Several years ago, God healed some major emotional wounds that I had been carrying around with me for almost my entire life. He sat me down in a church where I knew almost no one, and for 5 weeks, He peeled away layers of hurt, anger, and resentment that no one knew I was holding except me. Today, in that same church, He took me deeper in our journey together. The topic covered in today’s sermon was whether we are “fans” of Christ, or true, white knuckle, all-in followers. Some self evaluation was in order for me. Was I a follower? A real, dig in, fight it out, sign me up, let’s do this, follower? Or was I just a fan? One who sits on the sidelines and watches the game happen?
I’m glad to say that, for the most part, I think I can call myself a true follower, but it isn’t easy. When I’m challenged hard enough, my first instinct is total panic. I want to run for the hills. My head says to turn in my uniform and forfeit the game. It takes everything I have ever learned about God and His goodness to keep my feet on the ground and stay in the fight when things don’t look good. Recently, I had a real “fork in the road” moment, with my mother’s death. I found myself in my normal battle stance, scared, hurt, confused, wondering if the life I’ve chosen is the one I really wanted to sign up for, ready to run as fast as I could in any other direction but Home. Today, after church, James and I were discussing the sermon and talking about whether we thought ourselves to be fans or followers, and I made a joke. I told him, “God must have known what He was doing. He must have known my tendency to run. I think He made me paralyzed so I couldn’t run.” We laughed. I walked up the stairs, sat down to watch TV, and then it hit me like a brick to the gut. I’m right. He made me paralyzed so I cannot run from Him. He knows my first instinct is to jet when things get hard, and how much I have to force myself to go against my entire body and run TO Him instead. In the verse I quoted above, Paul talks about asking God for healing for his “thorn in the flesh,” and when God says no, he realizes God has left it there for a greater purpose. As long as Paul has this thorn in his flesh, he has to keep going back to God. It keeps him humble. I’ve heard all this before, but today it hit me from a different angle. When I first applied this passage to my life, I thought God was trying to tell me He did not heal me so that I could relate to the spina bifida community; so I could be one of them (us) and I would stay humble to serve and love on the children whose parents follow this crazy blog I ramble on. Today, my understanding changed. Today, He told me I still have my “thorn in the flesh” so that I cannot run; so that whenever things get too tough and I want to throw in the towel, I remember how much better it is to walk through this life WITH Him than it was WITHOUT Him. He leaves the thorn there so that I still need Him, and I remember how much I still need Him. He made me paralyzed so that I cannot run. Today, I make a rather stumbly, pretty wobbly, committment not to run anymore. I will be a true follower to the best of my ability, and when I feel the urge to train for a marathon, I’ll ask Him to bring me back. God, You didn’t make me to run. I don’t want to. Take me where You want me.
Sometime, I’ll tell you guys about the woman I know who was caught up in heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know-God knows.
It hurts me to the core that countless babies are aborted after prenatal diagnosis of SB. It is incredibly hard not to take the abortions personally. I feel so connected to each child, because at one point, I was in their shoes, waiting to be born, and trusting my parents with my life. I didn’t know it yet, but I was.
These children do not yet have a voice, and do not have a vote in what happens to them, so I’ve decided to advocate. If I could go back to my pregnant mother and my father on my date of diagnosis (actually my birthday) knowing what I know now about all the good and bad that life has thrown me, I’d say this.
Mom and Dad,
Please keep me. I know it will be hard. I know there will be a lot of work for you to do. I also know it will be worth it. I know there will be countless tears, and up-all-nights, and worries, and pain. I also know there will be times you know you’ve made the right decision. You’ll know it when I grab your finger with my chubby little hand on the day I come into your world. You’ll know it when I give you sloppy baby kisses and shoot you a toothless, goofy grin accompanied with my sweet baby giggle. You’ll know it when I call you Mommy/Daddy for the first time. You’ll know it when I tell you I love you THIS BIG! You’ll know it when I go to school and make my first friend who sees past my disability and just wants to play. You’ll know you made the right choice when I bring a boy/girl home to meet you. <—Or maybe this is when you’ll realize you’ve made a colossal mistake! You’ll know it when I graduate high school and tell you I’m leaving to make it on my own in the world. You’ll know it when I bring home a man/woman and tell you, “He/She loves me, and we’re going to make a life together.” You’ll know you did the right thing when you watch me commit my life to this person and trust them with my heart, like I trusted you for so long. And you’ll know it when you see your first grandchild. Then you’ll know that the really tough decision you made all those years ago was the ONLY choice. Mom and Dad, please keep me. I have a lot to show you, and we have a ton to accomplish! Let me show you! We’ll do it together! We’re stronger than we know!