28 days…A Post of “Favorite Things”

It’s official.  We finally have the “confirmed” dates for the movers to arrive and pack and load and deliver.  Twenty-eight days until a moving company pulls up armed with tape, boxes, paper, bubble wrap…..Lee heads down in a few days, but we aren’t closing up Chicago until the end of the month.  (PS-This also means it’s twenty days until our second year graduate student is here for five days until he heads back for that final push towards the pink hood!)

Yes, I’m starting to get excited about being so close to family, doctors, the beach, the mountains, lower COL,  and also being able to get Newks anytime I want it….but as I have said…it’s bittersweet.

So, today, a post of “Favorite Things” so that I will always be able to look back and recall the things I did fall in love with during our Chicagoland adventure.

  1.  Lake Michigan  It’s truly magnificent.  Chicago side is great, in that you have the center of what makes Chicago who she is, right there.  Yet, I have to say…the Michigan side, well, it’s breathtaking.  The sound that reminds you of the waves crashing ashore at any beach in America….the blue tint to the water….the wind coming off of the lake reminding you of the trade winds at a “ocean” beach….when I needed moments of refreshment, Lake Michigan often was what the doctor ordered.
  2. Chicago Mix Popcorn  Ok, y’all.  This is some good stuff.  Garrett’s is the name everyone knows, but I grew to love Kernel’s the most.  Caramel goodness mixed with cheese goodness…..yummy.  I learned Atlanta has a Garrett’s.  Sometimes, you just need popcorn.
  3. Willow Creek Community Church  I cannot even begin to put into words what this church, teachings under Bill Hybel and Steve Carter, the mission, the awe of the Care Center..well…what they have done for this messed up heart of mine.  I think in ten years I will look back at the time at WC and know that is likely the biggest reason God moved us here in the first place…it was never the reason we thought.  This church does Jesus well….actually….it does Jesus exceedingly well.  Things I will take with me from WC: Baptism Day, “Dear Me,” “Love Everyone, Always,” and a congregation that resembled the world around me.  I’m forever changed because of my time at Willow Creek.
  4. Going along with number three, it has to be the zany, mismatched-yet perfectly matched, group that we have as our small group.  I have seen Christianity and Jesus modeled in ways that have forever changed me.  I look back to my little self when they first took us in and wonder why in the world they invited me….but..I’m so glad they did.  Lee and I have grown to love this group and will miss being part of the gatherings…although, I have suggested we do Skype small groups.
  5. Chicago Summer  Summer in Chicago is short, but magical.  Everything around you is in full bloom, showing off daily.  I’ll never get over 85 degrees being “a scorcher of a day.”
  6. Downtown Naperville
  7. Downtown Geneva
  8. The way Chicago showed me the melting pot of America, working together.
  9. Mariano’s
  10. Finally, because I’m pulling a Letterman and stopping at a Top Ten….the people.  Chicagoland, you are an area full of some of the kindest people one could ever hope to meet.  You are a shining star in our Nation..even if it’s not always reported.  You do people well….to the people of Lee’s company here and the wives that reached out to me along the way….you are the best of the best.

So, there it is.  My ten favorite things about Chicagoland.  This is just a “see you later” as the paths will cross again….open doors remain all around me.

Thanks for letting this “Bless Her Heart” girl find her way….guiding her along her broken glass path…..you are forever loved.  (Even though you did welcome us week one with a blizzard.)

 

Masks

This has been a season of sitting….and as I take two stops forward, three steps back on most days, the word “mask” keeps coming to my mind….

Webster’s Dictionary has this as a definition of “mask”: something that serves to conceal or disguise.

My time in the trial taught me lessons that I still don’t know how to put into words, but more importantly, my complete and utter disappointment in my outcome…well…it revealed my “mask.”  In some ways, the “mask” was already showing several cracks and thin spots, but it wasn’t until I was faced with something I could not process, that I was forced to take it off just to breathe.

Today’s ramblings, are about my mask…what it was hiding (some of which I haven’t even realized yet) and about the masks we all wear…for different reasons….bear with me, as I am confident we will go to Lucy’s house and back a few times….taking various detours.  Those “squirrel” moments.

I’ve been trying to remember when the mask went on…..did it go on for my disease, did it go on for things I experienced growing up, did it go on as a young Christian, did it go on as an older Christian…..were/are there multiple masks that I’ve used over the years?  Why does one feel it necessary to wear a mask?  Is authenticity something we all “say” we want one another to do, but in reality we don’t?  Are masks to protect ourselves, those around us, or to hide those human insecurities and imperfections that we worry will cause those around us to leave or think differently of us?  Maybe, they are all of the above.

The earliest I can remember possibly using a mask, had to be as a teenager.  I was awkward, acutely aware of what I perceived to be a status of “less than,” craving to belong, wanting to be normal, like my sister(s).  Like most teens, I learned to pretend…a lot.  That age where I would guess, most “first masks” are used. I became who I thought others wanted me to be…in the process losing who i was and missing out on the journey I was meant to be on….I used that mask to take a “forced road.” Like most actors, over time, the longer you play the part, the harder it is to remove the mask.  So, at some point, that mask was stuck on-stupid decisions allowed to be made by that mask I let control me.

I see my next mask mirrored in so many social media posts on Facebook.  The mask of the “perfect mom.”  Can we just get a national amendment passed to simply say, “Moms, your job is tough.  Some days, it will stink worse than a dead skunk.  Some days, you will want to run, as fast as a sprinter. to get away from all of it.  There will be nights you watch the clock tick minutes away…as you await bedtime.  There will be days  you wonder how much therapy your child will need as an adult due to the damage, you are certain, you are inflicting on them as you count your failures for the day.  But, Mom, take off the mask…be real.  There are no perfect birthday parties, no perfect methods, no perfect Sunday mornings as you shout for anyone to just be dressed..just one of you…and there are no trophies at the end of the day for the “Miss Mom Who Faked It The Best Today.”  The only trophy you will ever get is that kiss on the cheek…or that “I Love You” when you least expect it from the child you were certain was demon possessed just an hour ago.”

Can I get an “Amen” on that amendment.  I scroll down my feed and I see the masks.  I can even look back at my own during that season.  I was scared.  I was uncertain.  I was winging it most days.  I failed more times than I can count….and I’m certain God shook His head at me most days in that, “Hmm….maybe Kim wasn’t the best idea for this experiment.”  The mask hid all of that from the outside world….as far as anyone wanted to know….I was a pro.  (My kiddos will tell you loudly…I was not.)  One big hot mess.  Somehow, well, I know how…simply by God’s grace did I not drop one, oh wait…I did that…oops…sorry Meg….ok…somehow, by God’s grace that I did not forget to pick one up after school…oops, I did that too…sorry Josh…naps.  See…my mask to appear all together was hiding nothing more than a mom dancing on hot coals just trying to get to the other side most days.  Getting kiddos from birth to high school graduation….it’s hard.  I wish someone had pulled me aside during that season and ripped my mask off….but I think we were probably all wearing a mask of some sort….had social media been a thing back then..would Moms today have a record to look back on that was real, or would they see the same masks they try to wear today?  That mask that made you believe that if your kiddo wasn’t the smartest, or the nicest, or in a certain class…you were a failure-oh my goodness if they happen to bite a kiddo at school…..how could you be such a terrible parent? Satan loves to dance on Mom’s…..loves to make that mask feel like a weight on our shoulders.  I was a willing participant…I let him hold it on….and I type today wondering how many around me were doing the same thing.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Then came the mask of “College Mom.”  Who knew that such a thing even existed?  Let me say this, and hear me loudly…..letting your kiddos go off to college, even if just down the road, is the hardest thing for a Mom to do that relates to the raising of her kiddo.  You pray that seeds are planted…but at the end of the day, it’s mask on time…because you must appear to have it together in this season.  With announcement, you tell the world that your kiddo is off to college…social media is a thing now.  There is no “empty nester” support group….and there’s no time to even appear less than stoic.  Your mask must present the impression that you have prepared your child for this moment in time….they will be successful…they will make perfect choices…and you will wear their success like a well earned medal.  I’m here to tell you..this mask lies.  Kiddos aren’t perfect.  Sometimes, plans made by them and the family don’t go as expected.  This mask tells you that you failed.  You somehow did something wrong along the way that gave way to outcome A or B or C.  This is the mask that I have wanted to burn a thousand times over.  What good are any of the struggles as a Mom through this season, if we hide them from the other Moms who could so desperately use simply that sign of, “me too.”  The job of Mom doesn’t end the day they leave for college, and our mask shouldn’t be one that presents this perfect facade to the outside world.  Our pain in this season of the empty bedroom…it should be shared. When something goes not as planned, we shouldn’t have these masks on that prevent others Mom’s from realizing, “me too.”  Yet…we do..we wear those masks…and I wore mine proudly.  Like every mask before it, it was the lies Satan had me believing about myself…and about where I was in life.

As I journey, seeing that all along, there were two masks carried that never went away, never got put away.  The mask of my illness and what I showed to the world….and the mask of my faith and what that was to me-not the one I knew needed to be presented. As I open this jar, one common theme is in every single mask-the lies that Satan told me….the lies that I let myself believe as truth.  I wanted to get that out there before I talked about the two heaviest masks of all….

The mask I wore from age five….still wear in many ways today…the mask of an illness..the mask of a voice I didn’t ask for, surgeries that I have grown so weary from…the mask of regret and anger towards that illness…the mask of grief that this illness brings on so many days….the mask that wants to have me sit and doubt that I am prepared for this….that somehow, in a way that I will likely never understand…this illness will be used.  The mask that told me it wasn’t ok to be angry or question God about all of it.  That doing so, somehow made me not have faith. (Goodness, Christ called out to God on the cross!!!) That to just sit and let God know I was tired of all of it, was somehow a reflection on my Christianity.  Oh, this mask is heavy….and I like to think I’ve taken it off, but it’s still there….I’ve just decided to take some of its power away.  The mask of my illness has robbed me of plans that I had made for myself, but it hasn’t robbed me of who I am.  I’m taking that power away from my mask.  In some ways, this mask has become like Jim Carrey’s character in “The Mask.”   With the mask of my illness on, I can pretend the life behind it doesn’t exist.  I can be that person who seems to be handing it with grace.  The crushing defeat of this past month has made that pretending too great of a weight to carry…the mask of my illness has to become lighter if I am to move forward and not get stuck in my sitting. So, while I know the mask is still on, I am taking control of the power it has, but recognizing that times will come where I have to stop and sit in it. Those days, where in order to move forward, I will wear the mask…but now with a knowledge of what I’ve let it control…and my freedom in deciding if it gets that power on any given day, any given moment.

And that leads me to the mask that I am working to take off that reveals who I am as a Christian…what I believe….what I have found to be man-made….the mask that weighs so heavily somedays…that I wonder if I’ll ever have it fully removed.  I have exposed some of this mask prior to today via a few other blog posts….a mask that was/is so powerful, it shaped much of what I thought was true for so long…..truths I am working through at this season….breaking apart what is true, what isn’t true, what’s Biblical, what’s not.  Realizing how that mask, that mask that had me believing certain actions where required in order to be “a good Christian”…that I used that in decisions that caused hurt….to myself…to others around me.  And that, my friend, is authenticity.  I allowed my faith, the mask of it, to be so legalistic when it suited me…that it caused pain, hurt.  God ripped me from the pit of where this mask had taken me.  Today, I can say that mask is cracked…pieces of it missing….but the journey of trying to remove this mask has been hard.  It’s easier to just sit where you are, than to be plucked from the comfort of your little mask and forced to take a jackhammer to that mask to find what’s on the other side.

I don’t write this today for pity or any of those human desires….I write to share my masks…and where I am in the journey of the masks that I know about….so that maybe someone out there will maybe just be, “Me Too.”

There will be more on all of this….but just exposing this much has made my head feel lighter….bringing those masks out of the darkness into the light…..

Unknown

Avelumab, Evaluation Week….

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This past week has been incredibly difficult.  Difficult in a way that I don’t even know how to process with authenticity.  To be honest, I am mad at God.  I still trust Him…but I’m mad.  Forty-five years of RRP…I’m tired…tired of this broken body that I neither asked for or caused.  I entered the trial with such hope.  The idea that we may have a pathway to a cure….or even just a nonsurgical option….my mind raced ahead imagining a life post-RRP.  I didn’t allow myself to really consider being a non-responder.  I did all the things I was always told to do…I prayed, I trusted…I may have even softly begged…..and at the end of the day….I was the first non-responder.  Now, I sit trying to understand the why of it all….and I realize I’m just mad.  Does that make me less of a Christian?  Does that mean I don’t really trust God….or does it simply mean that I am human living in this world that can often seem so cruel….even to those who have the strongest of faith?

I’ve learned these past few days how cruel some of the “right things” Christians say can be….I recall learning some of these after my Mom died…but they seemed easier to hear then…maybe because I knew for certain she was now without pain….she was free from the cancer that had entered into her life ten years prior to her going “home.”  She was in peace…and I could wrap my head around that and be ok with all of the grieving process….but this….now…I honestly am struggling to understand the why of it all.

So, here’s my recap of my first Avelumab evaluation..three infusions down..two OR procedures down….and it all comes down to a CT scan.

I flew into DC on Monday so that I could avoid that 5:45 AM flight on Tuesday….Tuesday began with labs and my being able to follow up on Mr. Wesley’s house story….such a kind man.  His family came here from India…and his heart is so tender, yet so funny.  Seems they put in the contract on the house of his dreams…and then his wife became upset with him and cancelled the contract…then went to India for two weeks to visit family.  Ok….you just have to imagine this story…it is and was hilarious.  He described every detail of the house to me on Tuesday morning…he was in love with this house, but he knew…it was no longer his house to own.  I’ll come back to Mr. Wesley in a bit.  Soon, it was time to head to the CT department.  When my name was called and I entered the CT room, I was caught off guard by the weight of the test and everything this scan would stand for….a machine that is incapable of empathy…untruth…what it would tell the radiologist reading my results for the trial would be 100% without human error.  The results would be whatever they were and no one could argue against the results. Thankfully, I had made dinner plans that allowed me to escape the over-thinking nature I hold….a couple of hours where I didn’t ponder the “what if, the results…”

My fellow RRP friend and I met in person for the first time for dinner on Tuesday evening.  Irish food in Chinatown.  Such a neat place for dinner and you honestly felt as if you had stepped into an Irish pub in Ireland.  Fellow RRP folks…well..we are one big family.  The safe space of not having to explain our voice, our life…knowing the person across the table from you gets it…people you have never met in person, but you would do anything for them…because, well, our community is small, but our  hearts are large.  Back to the red line I went…and whether I wanted it to or not…Wednesday was coming.

Lee flew in to DC on Wednesday morning.  The timing worked out so that he was entering the NIH just shortly before the clinic appointment where I would be given results…where I would learn if I went on to cycle 2, or if my time in the trial was coming to an end.  Doctors have terrible poker faces…as do the trial nurses and trial PA’s…no one even had to say a word.  It was written across their face.  The defeat and disappointment we all felt…so real. The idea that I would not respond at all…didn’t even enter my mind before clinic.  I was unprepared for that result…and maybe in an odd way that was good…would being a partial responder and removed from trial be harder to take in?  We chatted about what comes next (exit CT, labs, clinic on 3/28)…and what is being learned from my blood and tissue samples…in that moment I didn’t get emotional.  I was stoic…almost having this overwhelming desire to encourage the team….my emotions would wait…clinic was over…back to the floor I went and with a quick check-out for the afternoon, Lee and I were on pass.  DC in four hours would be the goal…Lee’s first trip into DC.

DC was a very welcome escape from all of it.  Just the outdoor air and walking from the Capital to the Lincoln Memorial and points in-between.  Walking through the WW2 Memorial, the Korean Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial….seeing quotes from those before my time here on earth…words of wisdom we need today in this sea of chaos swirling around us.  Albert Einstein and I had a little chat about RRP and I’ve enlisted him to help find a cure for all of the community…he seemed receptive to the idea.  Soon, my body said it was tired and back to the red line we went…and with a stop at Bethesda…dinner at Passion Fish.  We grabbed the floor staff/nurses a box of cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes and back to the NIH we went.  Surgery time would come soon on Thursday…cupcakes delivered, thank you notes delivered to staff/nurses and to my Mr. Wesley.

Due to my CT results, I would receive no more infusions and my Thursday would be a trip to the OR for a normal RRP debulking procedure.  Still stoic…still trying to be Ms. Positive Spin…I knew it was all a lie….but mask on…I pushed through.  Surgery came and went….the plus side of surgery with no infusion to follow was that I could take the steroid push in the OR to help me come out of anesthesia quicker.  Instead of sleeping until 6 in the evening, I was awake and functioning by 2:30pm.  Oh, and no research labs since I was on the door out….now back to Mr. Wesley…at some point in the afternoon, I decided I wanted to walk down for better food.  I did not know on the basement level was better food than the room service or second floor.  When I returned to my room, there was a note from Mr. Wesley.  He left me a note to look at his house…the house he was not going to be getting…something so simple that meant so much to him, he wanted to share.  That note is going in my hatbox.  It’s a treasure.

Friday was fairly boring with the exception of my love of Zofran….fewer team members came in on Friday….and as nurses learned of my response, we all worked through that.  I think that’s what makes the NIH so special…you are part of something bigger than yourself whether as a trial participant or NIH employee.  Your win is their win…your loss is their loss.  Lee and I felt prompted to shower the unit with a bit more love, so we sent a bouquet of flowers.  Nurses and the staff on floors are truly the unsung heroes of medicine.  They deal with us when we are often at our worst…and often without a single thank-you.  When I would walk by the flowers, later in the day, I would smile knowing those flowers represented the level of care I was part of.

Saturday was everyone on airplanes back to Chicagoland.  Josh coming in for break on a flight, me on a flight and Lee landing at Midway…a quick trip to Raising Cane’s and it was indoors under a blanket…where Zofran and I continued our relationship…still ongoing today….

So, that’s the recap of the week…now back to the realness and my thoughts now.

I learned something over the weekend from Lee…it seems in pre-op…I broke down.  I broke down in front of the entire team. I have no memory of this…but I am told I was talking about the journey and how I ended up where I had so prayed not to end up.  I’ve tried to see the perspective of this…that my coming home was not the same as someone being removed from trial that had stage IV cancer…where their coming home was “going home to die.”  I was coming home to the same life I had before entering the trial.  Yes, the drug has forever altered my immune system and we don’t know if I could possibly have a delayed response….there’s just so much unknown in the world of cancer immunotherapy. I can’t let my head go there…to that possibility…because the heartache a second time…I’m just not that strong.  I’m really not strong at all…I just have learned over the course of a lifetime how to wear the mask for those around me…..but if I am being honest…I envy most everyone around me..the ease at which they talk…the ease at which they can live life…life without counting down days until the next OR procedure…life always wondering if this scan is the one that shows conversion to cancer…life without having to wonder what changes are coming to healthcare in the US….life in a world where so often, those with visible signs of being “less than perfect” are in many ways sitting on the back of the bus.

As I said in the blog before this….nothing about this is well with my soul…and I don’t know when it will be.  I’m human and want to know why I have this disease and why I didn’t respond…when others have.  I don’t want to hear how it’s all part of God’s plan…the God I love….He can most certainly use everything to His good…but I don’t believe in a God that brings sickness to his beloved.  Sickness is from this fallen, broken world…but, I’m mad today….when I stop to think of all of it…the tears just roll down my cheek…so, I am working minute by minute to push it all back down….

Do I regret the trial?  No.  I would honestly do it all over again without hesitation.  It was the best shot I have had in my lifetime….and the things being learned in this trial….they could lead towards the cure I so crave…even though I know now that a cure doesn’t mean life without a trach.  For those responding, I am so happy for them.  That’s where I can go back to family….family that cheers one another on…but also sits in the grief of the disease when necessary…which is what I am doing now…something I don’t recall every doing before…letting myself sit in the grief of my disease and it’s impact on my life….maybe allowing myself this process will help me not grieve this disease again….where I decide to live a life without the mask.

One day, hopefully soon, I can be like Snoopy in the pic below….just not today….one day.

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The Avelumab Journey…Week One

I’m going to blog/journal this season….mostly for my memory bank…so I can look back and remember…and celebrate the successes as they come..and mourn the failures as they occur.

Monday:

It was a very eventful flight from ORD to DCA.  With travel advisories along the northeast coast due to strong winds, the DC area was not included….and if you look at a map, the proximity to “travel advisory” area was….well….let’s just say the last forty minutes was a roller coaster and grown men were clutching their arm rest.  I do not have a fear of flying, but I will be perfectly fine if I never have another flight such as that one.

After a shuttle from DCA to the NIH/NCI….it was time to get started on what has been a two year journey.  (see prior blogs for more on the journey)

Let me begin by saying that the NIH is remarkable.  Walking in and knowing every single patient there is in a clinical trial…and if you know the vastness of the campus, you know how inspiring it is to see an atrium full of people…all there to either be a patient, support a patient, act as a researcher, a care giver, a member of our military in medical service…to see the goodness of our tax dollars at work.  To look at the mission statement of the facility and be in awe….to know everyone there has one purpose…medical science.  Tomorrow’s cures, todays novel treatments, and eradication of diseases of the past.  Doctors, nurses, fellows, patients, caregivers, shuttle drivers, administration, hospitality…from diverse backgrounds…from around the world…with one goal:

img_4947It’s still inspiring each time I read this statement.   To know so many across this world do not have access to such care and research and feeling so unworthy that I do.  Realizing for all the issues our  healthcare system may have, people travel from around the globe because of the  level of healthcare in this country.  Let us never forget the scientific research and the resources required to have that standing in the world in regards to healthcare.

After visiting admissions, I was taken to the unit that would be my home for the next six days.  As I exited the elevator with my admissions counselor, and we turned to the right…there it was.  Oncology.  One word…on the plaque indicating our location…the moment things began to feel real….I was really doing this.  I was here.  Soon, I was greeted by those who would be caring for me during my stay-in my private room (insert happy dance).  Nurses, research teams, doctors, fellows, social workers….just when I was certain I had met everyone, another group would come in.  This is where the NIH/NCI gets way cool.  Yes, I was there for a specific trial…but…there were other trials ongoing that my blood/tissue would be of help to.  Trials regarding the history of viral infections, trials working to map the genome of the disease, trials involving manipulation of T-Cells to create a desired response…some crazy cool research….of course I wanted to be part of that.  To know that my participation could possibly lead to answers for so many….(this decision would also cause me some unpleasant issues, but nothing worth having comes without hardship-right?) A whirlwind of activity and then it was time to use the glorious “pass” to get off campus and enjoy dinner…

I’ve been part of the RRPF for years…people have become like family…people I have never actually met in person.  One of the greatest gifts in my travel lately, is that I have had the opportunity to meet people I have spoken with for years.  This trip, was no exception.  The Woo’s have been an integral part of the RRPF since its inception.  Their daughter, Jennifer, was honestly a rock star to our community.  A Georgetown Medical graduate, she was also a RRP patient…and also had pulmonary involvement that had converted.  She exuded joy and passion and she is greatly missed by so many across this planet we call home.  Being able to sit down with her sister and her parents…and to be able to talk about RRP and finding out things about a family that has worked so tirelessly not only for their own child, but for people across the globe…it was an honor to sit with them…a debt I can never repay for the hours those original members have put in…for the goal of a cure.  Monday…my cup runneth over.

Tuesday:

Tuesday began at 5:30 AM.  My door slowly opened to my room, revealing a glimmer of light from the hallway…”Blood, I’m here for blood.”  I hear the cart rolling over to my bed and there he was…seriously, the kindest appearing man. He would be “the vampire” for my entire stay.  That’s my phrase, as there was seriously a lot of blood taken during my stay.  The wake-up call of blood draws signaled the “green light” for everyone else to begin their day with me.  There was the EKG, the CT scan, the vein assessment for aphresis (which I did not pass), clinic visit where I was able to spend time with my best friend, “The Scope”(Although, I do believe Dr. Allen may in fact be the “scope whisperer”)..and then the formality of signing final consent forms.  Everyone, from point A to point B was so kind and qualified in their role.  I do not give out medical compliments lightly, as I have a large memory bank to pull from when the words “exceptional care” are used…and Tuesday was “exceptional care.” I was given a pass to leave campus for dinner if I so desired, but the time change and my day just said, “let’s keep this party on campus tonight.”  So, I took out my dining menu (yes, an actual menu) and ordered dinner and spent some time working on “Armor of God” and of course, social media.  Soon it was time for 10PM vitals and meds, and my first full day was done.

 

Wednesday:

Wednesday began just as Tuesday did….the sound of a rolling cart approaching my bed.  He gathered the tubes…readied my arm, prepared the butterfly catheter….wait..what….my barely awake eyes noticed there were eight empty vials on my bed…inches long.  Ok..no problem….then…about tube four…a cold sweat, dizziness, tingling in my face…”I am super woozy”…..those words….and suddenly a nurse appeared, ice bag was placed behind my neck…and I felt miserable. BP was taken….64/31.  Oops.  Bed manipulated to bring my head lower than my legs.  After about an hour, it had risen enough to allow the nurse to leave the room.  I was exhausted.  And my day had not even started.  Soon, against my body saying “rest, Kim, I want rest,” it was time to head over to Anesthesia Assessment.  Again, I cannot explain the quality of care with every department that I received.  Since my aphresis was canceled due to my veins not being able to support the pressure that would be required, after my anesthesia consult, I was able to return to my room and rest.  Teams came in and out, but I took advantage of an unexpected free morning to just “sit.”  Soon, it was time for Lee to arrive and the two of us enjoy my final pass for the week.

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My, I’m pushing fluids face…while waiting on Lee to arrive.  

Lee came in and after he got settled, we left for the Bethesda Row area.  (Ok…if you know me at all, you know why I picked that area….cupcakes…) We had the kindest NIH shuttle driver.  He was this man who had a presence that would fill a room, but such a heart for what he was doing for others.  We learned he was Mormon and that he loved getting to know the patients as they returned back to the NIH.  Such a servants heart.  Soon, it was time to head back to campus to beat the clock on meds…..normally, the night before an OR visit, I am filled with enormous anxiety.  I wasn’t looking forward to the OR on Thursday, but I wasn’t anxious about it either.  I had that level of confidence in my team and in the fact God had opened this door and had it all covered.  My job was to just “show up.”  With an Ativan for good measure, it was time for sleep.

Thursday:

I was the second case of the morning.  Lee came in around 7AM, well after the “vampire” visit and a couple of nursing visits…..soon it was my time to go back to pre-op holding.  Lee was able to come with me.  He was able to stand by my side until the moment I was taken back to the OR.  IV was started by my anesthesiologist, everything verified for the millionth time, my cocktail that prevents me from getting sick verified as well….and then…right in front of me…a huddle.  Every one on my team….doctors and my OR nurses and my anesthesiologist, came together to go over the plan one  more time as a group.  That’s the last thing I remember…and even it’s somewhat vague.  Soon, I was back in the room, with no pain, no complications, no sickness…just the strong desire to sleep.  I vaguely recall Dr. Allen coming and telling me he got 12 samples…or maybe it was 14….the math is a tad fuzzy there.  The good news is that so much testing can take place due to sample count….which not only could benefit me, but countless others down the road.

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My vocal chords post-op.  The little bumps you see at the top are papilloma.  

Here’s a funny on Thursday….I barely recall having Lee order me noodles for dinner.  It seems, based upon the note I wrote listing my food options, I also asked for toast and jello….literally, zero recollection of this….the note was his proof. I don’t recall getting on social media Thursday evening….thinking maybe I should double check and make sure I haven’t caused some type of International crisis….or said something to place me on a watch list somewhere….hey…stranger things have happened.

Thursday came to a close.  Friday was coming….Friday.  And just like that, the enormity of my decision poured over me.

Friday:

I want to say that I opened my eyes on Friday morning free of anxiety.  From the blood draw, to the time I was sent down to have my IV placed via ultrasound (yes…my veins are that high maintenance)….the entire morning was just surreal.  I could see the seriousness of the decision on Lee’s face…and I felt it so heavily on my heart.  There wasn’t a moment of second guessing….just that moment of gut check… I have signed consent for a drug to be introduced into my body that will alter my immune response.  A drug created for Stage 3 and 4 cancers….but becoming more and more accepted as a possible first line defense, especially in those immunotherapy drugs already on market.  A potential game change in cancer…and if this trial is successful, a game changer in the treatment of RRP and pulmonary RRP.

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The Infusion IV is ready.

After IV placement, I went back to my room.  It was merely a waiting game now.  Waiting for pre-infusion drugs to come up and the Avelumab to be delivered.  They said when I had the Tylenol and Benadryl administered…it was almost time.  It was almost time.  50 mg of Benadryl does not play nice…let’s just put that out there.  The process was started.  The bag was hung, the tubing fed through infusion pump….and attached to my IV port.  Two nurses double checking every single step.

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I watched every drop….every move of the nurses.  

I’m not a snuggler…I honestly can’t tolerate the sensation of someone breathing close to me….it freaks me out.  In this moment, I asked Lee to get beside me in the bed.  Not out of fear. but out of that strong desire to feel safe in what was entirely unknown-Lee has been a steady safety net during countless trips to the OR…today would not be an exception.  Would I have instant reactions….and I watched…every single drop…each increase in timing of dosage….sleep from the Benadryl escaped me….she did not arrive.  Two years….two years of doctors appointments, scans, differing opinions on what course to take….and here I was….at the destination of this journey.  I don’t think I will ever forget that moment the nurse looked at me and said, “we’ve started.”

And then….a little over 90 minutes later…it was completed.  My BP doesn’t care for the drug, but not in a way that would disqualify me from the trial. I slept.  Tears were shed by Lee and I both..but sleep did come….finally.  The exhaustion of the moment overcame any desire to try to stay awake the next couple of hours.  Dr. Hindrichs, the head oncologist on my team, as well as the PA and research nurse and social worker all stopped by…I can’t recall a single word that they said to me or I said to them.  Friday evening came…..and no concerning side effects had occurred so far…

Then…night came…and I met Princess.  Princess was my nurse for Friday might.  Princess was a bucket of bubbles bottled up in a person.  She came here from Africa, completed her education and obtained her MSN.  She had been on the oncology floor for over 12 years.  Tonight. God gave her to me.  I was her only patient…We laughed about things I can’t even recall.  She shared her concerns over events of the days last week…and then…still said she would always choose hope and joy.  That’s what she wanted her children to remember.  Hope and joy.  She let me sleep Friday night.  After my 10PM vitals, she agreed to let me sleep, only checking on me by slightly opening my door during the night.  At 6:30 AM on Saturday, she came in just as bubbly and hopeful as the night before.

Saturday:

My BP was still acting up…nothing like on Wednesday AM, but enough of an issue it required doctors clearance to release me, even though my orders were already in the day before.  I promised to push fluids….it remained steady….I was free to leave.  The taxi was waiting for us downstairs at 10AM.  DCA here we come.  The driver…hilarious.  He was telling us the most bizarre stories of fellow drivers during trips to the CIA and other “top clearance” areas around DC.  He pointed out several landmark areas for us….often with the eyes off the road far longer than my heart desires….but we arrived safely.  Soon, we landed at ORD and to our little cocoon of rest.

Saturday was hard.  The fatigue from the drug slammed against me like a freight train.  I was spent.

Sunday:

I woke up after twelve hours of rest feeling refreshed.  So much better than the day before.  There would be an occasional wave of nausea, but nothing worth even making a fuss over…a few sips of ginger ale did the trick.  The fatigue was better…and seemed to come in the late afternoon after Lee and I had escaped for some Mexican food.  I’m eating…because I know it’s important…but my appetite is a tad down.  My hips are likely doing the Cha-Cha over this….oh..those cupcakes from earlier in the week…I had four out of six….in Bethesda.  Still haven’t had a commercial red velvet cupcake that I say, “this is good.”  I’m a master of red velvet…one day I hope to try one that I find worthy of four dollars.  Until then…I’ll just say…mine are better.

I’m cleared to return February 6th for another week at the NIH.  Then two weeks after that, I will come in just for the infusion….before returning two weeks after that for another full week and first evaluation of whether I stay in or I’m removed.

Today:

It’s time to head to my primary for the labs required on the weeks I am not at the NIH.  I honesty don’t know if my veins will show up.  Praying they do…because I have zero tolerance for anyone that can’t get in on the first stick….I’ll confess…I can even be rude about it.  45 years of needles will do that to you.  Needles do not bring out my most Christ-like characteristics.  I’m honest about it….that counts doesn’t it?

So far, I’m not glowing in the dark and haven’t exhibited any Hulk behaviors….the day is still young though….

To be continued….

 

 

Jesus, Labels, and Evaluation

Anyone else feel as if they  have been put into a washing machine on high spin for eighteen months and suddenly the machine has been turned off?

I’ve started this blog entry literally more times than I can count.  I’ve gone to this place in prior blogs, but I seem to be further along now….and still facing just as many questions.  Folks, this election has made me weary.  Just flat out exhausted.  So many emotions, over so many months….taking this broken girl and her heart and her beliefs on a very unplanned journey-well, not unplanned…a journey I was already on, but this election accelerated it.

For the record, we can mark in stone that I love Jesus. I believe He died and rose again on the third day. I believe in the sovereignty of God.  I believe that His Word is the period at every statement. I believe in the red letters of Christ just as much as I believe the sun sets in the west.  Yet, with all that disclosed, I am changed now….I’m different than just eighteen months ago.  I believe, I am changed for the better, or at least in the process of that direction.  Some, may wonder if I have fallen to the wayside, some may take my journey as an attack on where they are…and I certainly don’t mean for it to ever come off that way…it’s an attack on where I am…where I was for sure.

I’ve identified with the Evangelical label for as long as I can remember.  Maybe I didn’t know what that was back as a young follower of Christ, but I said I was a Southern Baptist, and Evangelical like a badge of honor on my chest.  Almost a “I believe what’s right, you believe what’s wrong” approach.  Then, somewhere along the way, I began to not feel as if I “fit”….questioned my salvation…God assuring me it was secure….so why did it feel so lost in what should feel like home?  I knew I didn’t agree with what was being touted as “feel good theology” so I knew not to go there.  I knew I didn’t agree with the new “prosperity theology”, so I knew it was equally as wrong for me.  I knew I believed fully in the red letters of Christ.  So, I began my journey there….seeking to figure out what that meant for me in a world I had become so comfortable in…my little SBC bubble of life.  That was probably six years ago….maybe seven.  No one knew….not  my spouse or my children. There was a period that I was literally broken in half…and at a crossroads.  Few knew….and few know to this day.

I went to church.  I served.  All the while, questioning why I felt so lost in what should feel like home.  Why I would leave on Sundays angry…I don’t mind leaving convicted, but I shouldn’t leave angry.  Isn’t the point to attend and leave challenged to be working to be more like Christ…to be a witness to a world seeking hope? (Please do not take my comments as not loving my church-I did, I still do.  Some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my entire life. A man in the pulpit that loves Jesus with every cell in his body.  But this blog, it’s about my heart…my journey and the questions it has raised towards myself…towards an entire label.)

Then, we moved.  I was forced to leave my bubble of life….my comfort zone…even when I felt so uncomfortable sometimes, it was familiar…it was safe…it was mine.  I moved to an area where I couldn’t just look up a FBC in the phone book, go sit down and continue.  I moved to an area where my normal didn’t exist.  I moved where Jesus was loved, but church was far different…the pulpit was different…the mission was different and yet the same….everything was different and yet, with Jesus still center…the same.

During this period of adjustment, we landed in three churches before our current landing.  Meeting some amazing people, some of which I call “friend” today.  And like only our God can do, He tossed an election into my lap and said..ok, Kim, what about all of this?  Here I was, already deep into a journey of uncertainty of where I fit….and then He forced me to take in one of the ugliest elections in my lifetime.  One that broke every norm.  During the election, right when it was really starting to become nothing short of horrific to watch, is when we landed at our current church.  It was by chance we landed there at all, but then again, God isn’t into “by chance.”

Christine Caine was coming to speak at a local mega-church.  I am a huge Caine fan.  I had to go.  We “cheated” on our church at the time and went.  And it happened.  My heart, felt at home.  Still not sure what it all meant, but I knew with every ounce of Jesus in me…this was it.  This was what my heart was seeking….missing.  My heart needed Jesus presented with Biblical truth, but with a love everyone, love always heartbeat.  That attitude that before someone can really hear about Jesus, you have to meet them where they are..not where you want them to be.  That inclusion that still holds true to Biblical truth, but with a love that oozes from the pores of those giving out the love. Most of all, my heart wanted a pulpit based on Jesus, but far removed from politics.  My heart was weary…it was tired…and it was growing bitter.  No denomination on the door….just the Gospel of Jesus and the doctrine according to Christ.

Now, let me go back to before…and during all of this…the election came.  What I haven’t brought back up today really is how during all of this…even now…I was/am struggling to my very core about the word Evangelical.  The election just highlighted that struggle in my life.  Things were said and done that were so far removed from what I believe Christ wants in us as people…towards our fellow man, my heart just reeled.  Triggers took place that brought up childhood incidents that I thought were long buried.  Then…in all of it…I saw Christian leaders I admired come to the defense…fall on the sword to defend…for what, to me, only seemed like  man desperate for the power that would come with a result.  So much was the polar opposite of what I had grown to believe over a lifetime as to what Christ expected of us as human beings…what he so called out for.  I grew increasingly confused, increasingly angry…increasingly counting down the days to Sunday morning or Wednesday night where I could be reminded….not all are falling on the sword….not all are telling me it’s my duty as a Christian to fall in line.  I saw people I care about deeply hurt by words so offensive that they had to be “bleeped” on national TV.  I saw entire groups of people called out in such hateful ways that I grew even more angry.  I’m one of the “Evangelicals” people are talking so poorly about…I’m a member of this group that is supporting such hateful words.  How can that be?  I don’t agree with any of these words.  I don’t agree with the agenda of Jesus as a political tool for power.  Maybe, I’m not an Evangelical.  Maybe, I’m not the label.

As I said earlier, I’ve blogged about this before, but today feels different.  Today feels certain.  Today, my heart is not burdened with the label.  Today, because of a church that fed my heart words of truth in hope and love….because of a horribly nasty election, because of a son in the arts, because I never felt my heart fit….I can say with a peace I don’t take the label anymore.  I don’t want it.  I want to love Jesus…and love others.  Please know, this is my journey and is certainly not directed towards anyone but myself.  With that said, I won’t lie.  I don’t get it.  I don’t get why more didn’t speak out in loud voices….why the seat on the Supreme Court was more important than speaking out against the words that hurt so many.  It sent such a mixed and hurtful message to a lost world watching our actions.  We have worked so hard to stand in Biblical truth….then when in front of a world audience…we stood silent.  At least it seemed that way by the words by leaders and people of influence.  I’ll never forget the day women such as Beth Moore spoke out so directly against sexual assault or the words that implied it.  I’ll also never forget when we came out in swarms to eat one of our own, Jen Hatmaker, when she spoke her views.  Those that counsel her spoke to her in private…why did so many of us take to social media to literally eat her alive….and discard all the good she had done for women, lost women…prior to a statement that use the word “Holy” when well..what I think of that is so complex, it’s a blog post on its own (I support and love those I know in that community and that’s all that needs to be said.)…but I’m not going to tar and feather a woman that has been such a light to so many women. No one forces us to buy books or attend conferences with any speaker….show our disagreement by no longer supporting the work…but attacking someone so ferociously on social media was heartbreaking to watch.  I’ll also never forget the words of Christine Caine on our role as Christians towards Syrian refugees.  I will also forever remember being reminded that God puts angels everywhere…and what if He has placed angels among those refugees…and the tears He must shed as we, as a nation. turn them away out of fear. What if God is sending us a nation to show the love of Christ to…and we shut the door from fear? A fear we are told not to hold in our heart. What good is our “pro-life” stance, if we turn away the least of these out of fear, how is one life more valuable than another?  Dr. Russell Moore, James McDonald (post advisory board), Bill Hybels, Steve Carter, so many female authors and speakers….literally I cannot, even now, get enough of their wisdom on Jesus…the Bible, on how to be more red letter….

I’m still angry, but less angry each day.  Those stages of grief seem to apply to almost every facet of change in our lives.  I have to think I’m more to the “sad” stage…..far less questioning of my personal “what label do I want, if any”….and more a question of trying to understand how I got here…and trying to understand where others are in their journey. Sad, because I don’t understand.  I want to….but right now, I don’t.  I sense less anger towards all of it today than even just 24 hours ago…certainly less than three months ago.

I’m processing Romans 15 these days….trying to grasp that when we were told to welcome, embrace…it wasn’t with conditions….it was certain.

I’m thinking of Matthew 5…when Christ gave his Sermon on the Mount.

I’m thinking of how incredibly heartbreaking it is that any life on this earth needs a hashtag to be heard or seen.

I wonder how many fellow “Evangelical” folks are out there that have been on this same journey I have been on….even before the ugliness of 2016.  I’ve seen more women than men based upon folks I follow.  Why is that?

Would I have gotten this far in this journey without the move…without the election?  It’s pointless to even try to say anything but, no.  What idols have I allowed to be covered with the weaponization of Jesus?  Who have I hurt by views formed from life in a bubble?  Non-Christians, fellow believers?  Are my words today possibly words another person can take as hurtful to maybe where they are in their journey?  Please know…this is my journey.  I’ve likely made far too much of it public over the past two years….but I want to be able to go back two years from now and say..ok…progress has been made.

God has blessed my beyond measure with girlfriends who know my heart and my struggles and love me anyways….just as I love them in return…even when we  may be on polar opposite spectrums on so many things.  My tribe has always loved me in spite of me.  Just as Jesus does…in spite of me…He still loves me.

I’m thankful for this season and the conviction and necessity to really work on what Kim stood for..who Kim is as a Christian.  Realizing one walk will never look like another walk.  Realizing it’s ok to question things….ok to step outside your bubble and jump in…to the coldest pool on earth…trusting there is a warm hand waiting.

My son, my gifted musician, has been more of a catalyst than he can ever know.  His circle, his footprint on the world, forced me more than almost anything else before the move to dig deep…question…consider the idea that maybe many of my beliefs/routines were more man made that Christ made.  I’m forever grateful for this influence.

In a way, I am now in the dryer after being in the washing machine for so long…and on high speed for that last several months….hopeful that maybe when I come out…a few less wrinkles in place and a clean heart ready for this new stage.

And for those reading thinking Kim has gone over the edge…nah…..can’t go over what you went over years ago!

 

 

 

 

Things We Say…2

As I continue to search my brain-bank for things that have been said for so long, that I may have just come to assume they were correct…Biblically, historically….I’m learning that when some of these are challenged outside the confines of my little nest….the pushback can be intense.  I get it.  It’s hard to accept something you took as truth for so long as not truth…or something that was incorrectly attributed to Christ or even a famous writer/theologian.  Yet, isn’t the whole purpose of this “walk” to check yourself at the door and verify truths….an ongoing process?  I hope so, if not…then Christianity is nothing more than being a seed in the ground never watered….that’s death.  The seed would never grow.

“You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” 

How many times have you heard this?  I hear it quoted a lot when people are having conversations as to the perils of social welfare in America. It’s not in the Bible….Jesus never said anything of this sort. It’s a Chinese Proverb.  While the premise is nobel, it’s not scriptural.

This too shall pass.  

Not in the Bible.  It’s origin is likely from a fable by Persian Sufi poets.  The scripture that likely most follows this common Christian saying is from 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Biblically, we are given the hope of what’s not seen, that our earthly troubles are temporary.  (PS-this is a very difficult truth to handle in the middle of the storm-show grace.)

As I sit here and look at the words in black and white, I am once again reminded of how hurtful these “taken as truth”, “Non-Biblical” remarks must feel to those hearing them.  As a daughter who has lost her Mom, “this too shall pass” seems especially hurtful.  It has been almost three years and it hasn’t passed…just become part of my normal.

Christ multiplied the fish and the bread to feed the masses.  He didn’t shout out to the masses-go learn to fish and you will be fed.  No, He fed the masses.  He saw those in need and He met that need.  I understand the premise behind the proverb, but it’s just not in the Bible….

That’s it for today….just two more.  As you read this, I do ask one thing of you.  If your fingers are tapping the keyboard wanting to comment about the woes of social welfare in America, please don’t.  That’s a politically charged worm hole that I don’t want this to head down.

Truth’s that are true:  Jesus loves you.  Period.  All of you. Good, bad, everything.  He doesn’t love you because of how you vote, how popular you are, how many friends you have on Facebook….he loves you for the imperfect human that you are.

Peace out folks….and enjoy this “National Coffee Day.”

 

 

 

Tune-Up…Things We Say

It’s so strange that I sit here typing with so much in my head and a clear understanding that I am not remotely qualified to write more than, “My name is Kim.” This silly blog that I started as a way to process life with a chronic disease has become at times, therapeutic.  In a way, a virtual journal that some folks read and occasionally like….but more so an outlet to express a day, a week, a month, a season.  Today, I sit here typing with the question swirling in my little pea size brain of….did I start this for me, for you, because I was led to by God?  Maybe, it’s a combination of the three. (This question likely to never be answered fully.)  The move to Chicagoland has forced me so far out of my little “comfort zone” and into a zone where I am forced to really take stock into things I had just taken from others and applied….people much wiser than me…so surely no need to question, doubt, research….verify.  And yet….that’s what I have found myself doing now for a few months…..what if, as I have said before…this was the entire reason I am here….that it has nothing to do with a job…a city….maybe it was the only way God could finally get my attention.  Maybe He had no choice but to pull me up from my roots….

One thing I have been exploring are things I have heard for so long….assuming they were God’s word…or at least a close interpretation of it.  Phrases we say….without a second thought as to if they really are Biblical…you know…those things “good Christians” say.

I think the first offender has to be “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  Malarkey.  Yes He will, and yes He does.  What is even the point in turning to God if we can truly handle even the hardest of circumstances on our own?  Isn’t the whole point of us being in this broken world to have us see that our only hope..our only way to navigate is by trusting God…something so much bigger than our tiny little humanness?  Everything is more than we can handle…everything.  It’s only because of Christ that we are able to put one foot in front of the other…..That’s the entire premise of faith.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message)

 “But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

God never says, Oh Jacob….pull up your bootstraps and figure it out.  If we could handle it…why oh why would God have sent Christ to die on that cross at Calvary?  We can’t.  We didn’t. We never will be able to.

This next one has been swirling in my head a lot lately….maybe it’s all the political rhetoric floating around…maybe it’s being more connected to a health community where I know folks that are wonderful, Jesus loving folks…that well…struggle…whether it’s emotionally, physically or financially….struggle is a daily routine.  It’s the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” I see that, I hear that and all I can do is sit and go…nope.  That runs against the entire Gospel of Christ….Sally, well Sally is exactly where she is because she can’t help herself….well…what if Sally really can’t?  Sally, through  no fault of her own, has an illness that makes just walking outside her home a nightmare we can’t imagine?  It seems, to me, the attitude of self-reliance and self-righteousness just doesn’t match up with Matthew 16:24. My new thought process on this is God intended us to be a community…so that when one of us is not strong…weak…whatever the issue may be…we come alongside, with Christ as our captain….to hold that person or community up….and sometimes…that’s a very long gig…sometimes it’s not.

Matthew 16:24 (The Message)

 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

There are so many more things we say…I’ve said….because well…maybe it’s because I grew up with it and just assumed…maybe it was something I heard in a sermon one day….and I sit here and just type these words going, “Man….some of these things are just hurtful to others.”  I have a feeling this season for me might be a tad long…a season where I have a very long overdue tune-up.  Last night, in a message, the challenge of “Resolve” was issued…so, my “resolve” is that I’m checking my vocabulary…my phrases…and I am going to likely blog as I uncover more of things said…that well…sound all Christian…but aren’t…just man-made gibberish.

As I close for today…I just received a verse via a group text I am part of daily…I close with this:

2 Peter 3:17-18 (The Message)

“But you, friends, are well-warned.  Be on guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off  your feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers.  Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Glory to the Master, now and forever.  Yes!”

I’ll make a point to title these blogs (my chronicle of my tune-up) so if you want to skip…well..it’s easy.  I’ll start with “Tune-Up.”  Kimmielou signing off….up since 5AM…clearly time for more coffee.

PS-Farmers Almanac is predicting a doozy of a winter here….currently looking for anyone that needs a house sitter on a tropical beach from December-March.  (Insert fact…Kim doesn’t like winter…even mild winters.)

Evangelical-4.1

I’ll be honest.  This post has been in the three sentence phase for days.  I suppose one could say the word “Evangelical” was tagged to my name all those years ago when I was thirteen years old.  I was just a kid who had a pastor come share the steps to salvation and I said, sure.  (I can honestly say that I don’t think I had a clue what I had done until about the age of twenty-I can assure  you 17-20 did not show evidence of it.)  Even now, there are days I feel as if it’s all brand new and I’m just seeing things for the first time…maybe that’s a good thing.  I think it is.  That whole, “childlike faith.”  I most certainly don’t feel qualified to preach to another person about my righteousness…if anything I want to tell them about my brokenness, my pitiful attempt to work to be more like Christ each day…and all the days as I crawl into bed and go, “well, that didn’t go so well.”  My take on the whole Gospel, is the later is exactly what Christ intended me to do.  To show all of that and temper it with the hope of Christ and the knowing the tomb is empty, my debt is paid.  That whole, be a decent human being while you are here on Earth-spread the  news and make disciples of men, even if you fall down all the time-your trust is in Jesus and He has covered all of your inequities. (Trust me…that’s a very large blanket in my case!)

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So, I’m at Evangelical-4.1.  This conversation that has played out in my head countless times over the past several months has forced me to just evaluate what that tag to my name really is and is it something I even desire to be tagged with.  (Ok, before you go getting all “oh my goodness, Kim is renouncing Christ”…I’m not, if anything I like to think of it as a reset on what this whole gig of being a Christ Follower is meant to be.)

We will have to get a little political in order for this conversation to make any sense.  Maybe even a little into the pulpit.  Be patient….I promise you will get to read the deepest thoughts of this little girl heart.  (You can skip this part, but I can’t promise the rest will make any sense whatsoever.)

I grew up as a SBC girl (Southern Baptist).  I cannot recall a time where the pulpit didn’t come out and say “Christian, vote this way.”  I grew up with all of the bells and whistles that came with the “Christian Right” movement.  The problem has always been, for me, I didn’t quiet agree with it’s mission. Trust me, if you live in the south….this conflict is a very big deal…or at least it was in my heart.  Just seemed less about Jesus and more about man’s desires. Then, God moved me out of the comforts of my SBC life and into a world where I am tossed into a conglomeration of believers of such varied backgrounds-forced to sit down and go ok..what’s the commonality amongst those in the church (hint-following Jesus, that personal relationship). Tossed into a congregation of folks that well…a lot just don’t look like me at all. Then came 2016.  Then came Evangelical being so much less than what it had meant to me.  Leaders of the faith coming out and saying the moral thing is to vote for an amoral person and stating the other candidate is the Devil.  To me,  Evangelical has seemingly become a political movement-a political agenda.  Now…back to the conversation.

Ok…so now you are at where I was for a while trying to grasp this whole Evangelical thing and if it even stood for where I was with Christ and what I felt Christ wanted from my life.  In our move, I wanted so desperatly to find what I had in church growing up in the south-I have been able to sit in some fabulous churches filled with amazing people.  I was focused on nothing less.  Four churches.  Three of which just missed something and while I wish I could quantify that with a statement of what…I can’t.  All I can say is that God didn’t want me there.  So, we are at church number four and it’s as if the lightbulbs have all gone off and God is saying…”Kim…this is part of the reason you are here.  You need to see through my eyes..not your own…not the world’s.”  “Kim, trust me.”

Kim is now in a large…I mean HUGE church.  Yet, each time I go, it feels smaller than even my smaller churches in my past did.  No, I would guess no one knows I am there right now as we haven’t plugged in yet.  With that said, I know God is there and I’m there and that’s all I need.  Even at the other three churches, except for one sermon at church A, it’s always been about Jesus and his commands, his agenda…never about a human agenda.  What my role is as a Christ Follower…how that is to play out in my life…and what that means to those around me and to those I’ve never met.  God knew I needed this and He sat me right down in the middle of it. All the talk of the southern Bible-Belt and well…Chicago-who knew!.

So, Evangelical-4.1 .  I suppose by now you are wondering what in the world I’m rambling about.  First, did you know in the entire world, only 4.1% of the population is Evangelical?  That means over 95% of folks aren’t.  Evangelicals comprise around 13% of the Christian population.  That means, 87% of Christians aren’t Evangelicals.  The U.S. has the largest population of Evangelicals.  A Pew study shows 28% of the U.S. is Evangelical.  That means 72% of the U.S population is not.  80ish% of the U.S. will identify as a Christian.  31% of the world identifies as Christian.  This all made me just stop and go..ok….80% of the U.S. identifies as Christian but only 28% identify as Evangelical.  Is it that the other groups don’t believe Christ is the Son of God, risen on the third day?  The one true King?  What is “Evangelical” in America?  Is it a “Jesus” movement or a movement with a political agenda?  Are those two mutually exclusive?  Should they be combined?  Biblically, what’s that answer.

Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

31% of the world identifies as Christian.  Even if you don’t just count those who identify as Evangelical, we are clearly the minority-just as the Bible said we would be. Across the world…Christians are being persecuted. Russia has now outlawed evangelizing outside of church-all of which the Bible foretold.Then you see stories where Nepal has one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world. Areas of the world where people, like you and me, have taken the part of “Go” and have gone. Not to spread the good news of politics or why this sin or that sin is greater than another…but to spread the good news of Jesus, His hope, His love and His desire for your life.  If you look at US numbers, if 80% identify as Christian, then why all this back and forth over liberal, conservative…when clearly we have more in common with Christ’s calling for us than anything else.  80% of us are on the same page with Christ-shouldn’t that be our focus?.

I’m sure by now some of the readers of this little blog are about to blow a gasket and will certainly send me private messages correcting my thoughts and certainly what’s to follow.  That’s ok.

I ramble on and on with all of this to get to the point of all of this.  I sat last night and just took in the Case for Christ and how His love never fails…How He is always there, He never leaves our side…and just kept thinking…”Man, I wish my friends who for whatever the reason have written off Christ, stopped attending church or my friends who are watching the words that “Christians” are saying that are anything but showing of Christ…I wish they could be here tonight.  I wish they could see what this whole Jesus thing is….and what it’s not.”  And then….with confirmation with that whole peace thing..I realized…this chick is taking off the  American “Evangelical” tag and putting on “Christ Follower.”  Answer, Follow, Go.  Evangelical isn’t a Biblical term..it’s manmade.  Christ Follower….that’s Jesus’ tag for me…and loved…so very loved and forgiven.

Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

I close with this….80% of the US identifies as Christian.  If true, we should all be on the same page…and that’s the page where we are told to answer, follow and go.  I know God has revealed to me that I have fallen way short on the Go part….and that I need to stop and view the world and its events through His eyes and not  my own. Change begins from the bottom up…while looking up.

Oh, I have political views…that’s for certain…and they likely aren’t the views of many of my followers (According to what I am certain is an accurate scientific quiz on Facebook, I don’t)..and that’s ok…because as I said…80% of us are on the same page with Jesus …and that means we all agree that Christ wins…we know the ending of this story….a broken world, with broken people all just working each day to be a little more like Christ and on most days…falling shorter than we had hoped as I crawled out of bed.  Knowing we all get the exact same amount of Christ-all of Him.  He doesn’t hold out pieces….you get all of Him. By grace and not by works.

One note of importance…none of this mitigates the love I have for every church I have attended in my life.  I have been fortunate to be in Bible believing, Bible teaching churches and surrounded by some of the most Godly men and women you could ever ask for.

So, peace out for today….this “Christ Follower” has some work to do!

(PS-I’m quiet certain this post could land me on some prayer lists….I assure you that I love my Jesus just as much today as yesterday, hopefully more and that if my life doesn’t represent what he told his disciples were his two greatest commands…well…I’ve fallen and I need to get back up and try again…and again..and again. )

 

 

 

Let My Heart Speak and Not My Foot

Anyone else about to tie themselves to the nearest tree out of desperation to escape the vial nature of this election season?  Am I the only one that daily seems to say, “I can’t believe someone thought it was ok to say that?”  (This would be a good time to humor me and say, no.) And, is it just me, or has this turned into some odd version of “The Hunger Games” and things that should be offensive to even the most hardened heart flow from the mouths of folks like water down a waterfall?  And when did we lose that “My Grandma Taught Me” mentality about things that we just shouldn’t ever say, just because we chose to be a decent human being?

This past weekend, a verse was brought to my attention in the message at church.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind all week.  Wondering, how did we get to this point where the things even “Christians” are saying are so vial that lightening doesn’t come down from the heavens and strike their tongue? Where people actually think it’s acceptable to sit down at the computer and type words that bring such hurt to others?

That verse was Luke 6:45: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

The part that just keeps resonating in my head and heart is “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  When someone speaks, we see their heart.  Wow.

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If I apply this to my Facebook feed, my heart is just heavy.  When did it become acceptable to call our fellow Christians words such as, “Stupid”, “Dumb”, “Idiot”….when did it become acceptable to type out racist and bigoted words for the world to see?  Am I to judge those words to be the heart of that person?  When did it become acceptable to tear down one another in anonymity  without any guilt?  Are we really in a game of “survival of the fittest” where the winners are those who succeed to the top by eating their own?

And then I go to Matthew 15:17-18: “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.”

I, personally, have made no attempt to disguise my political choices.  I have, however, made a very conscious attempt to choose my words carefully.  If I choose words that hurt or tear down someone else, then is that my heart?  Is that what someone that doesn’t know me will use to define me?  I should hope that we are all so mindful of what our foot tries to put into our mouth that we stop and do that “heart check.”  Will these words serve a good?  Just because I can say these words, should I?

Sadly, I’ve seen the foot talk instead of the heart even amongst those who have committed to support one another.  It’s human nature, I get it….but if those words will hurt someone…cause someone to stumble…isn’t it better to just choose to not say them and let your heart speak instead of that stinky foot?

Maybe, I am alone in on this thought train.  I just don’t see what good can come out of tearing others down to get to a point in the road.  You get there, sure…but at what cost?

And before you get your panties all tied up thinking that I think I am all that and a bag of chips, I confess that I should likely stop tweeting “someone” is a fraud.  I’ll start that now.

We have a stolen line from a movie we use often in this house….when we see something or hear something that we just want to jump into like a fly into honey…well…we just say, “Smile and Wave boys, Smile and Wave.”

So, may we all smile and wave and speak with our heart and not our foot.

 

Can a Gospel Christian Be Blue?

I was raised in the South.  I’ve lived in Mississippi, the suburbs of Memphis, Texas and Arkansas.

I’ve seen racism first hand.  I’ve seen fear of someone that didn’t look like “White America” first hand.  I’ve seen it all.  I was born in the late sixties….well after the Civil Rights marches…and still…I’ve seen it all. We live in a United States of America where not a single person over the age of 18 should have to “research” a white supremacist group.  We should all be so against the ideology of those groups that we jump to condemn  it.  America, we don’t want to go back to the days of segregation or people singled out due to the color of their skin or religion.  That’s not America.

I’ve seen poverty up close. I’ve seen homeless veterans on the street.  I’ve seen homeless single moms on the street. I’ve been able to see up close those who live in nothing more than a strong cardboard box with a door.  I’ve been a child of poverty and technical homelessness.

I’ve been part of the “poor school.” I’ve been part of the “rich school.”  I’ve been part of heated battles as districts have redrawn lines for attendance, and those arguments almost always are rooted in who parents wanted Joe and Mary to attend school with.  In 2016, we do not have equitable education in America.  I certainly don’t know the solution, but I do know it’s real.

I’ve been a child with no medical insurance.  I’ve been an adult subject to pre-existing clauses…a clause that can jeopardize the life of any American with a pre-existing disease.  Change jobs, no insurance coverage for 6-12 months on that condition.  I can’t agree to go back to that.  A mandate with issues also has some areas that protect our sick, our children, our college children.

I have never lived in a nation where the media was controlled or censored. I heard the threat of that being the case from the leader of the Red. I went back to eight grade Civics where I learned “to silence the media is the first step in silencing us all. ”

I remember the days we said the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.  The days where it seemed all was well in the United States.  We can’t go back.  Frankly, I don’t want to.  I am thrilled to know that we truly are the melting pot of the world.  Whether I like or agree with some of what we have now is irrelevant.  Give us your tired, your weary…..not give us your Baptist, or Methodist or whites.  Unless  you are Native American in heritage, you are a product of immigration.  I’m a product of immigration.  A mut.  I’m not purebred anything.  I’m a mixture of this and that, just like most Americans.

I am a Gospel Christian.  A Southern Baptist by denomination.  I am not like the WBC radicals.  I have to trust that if I can be free to practice my faith and not be associated with the radicals of the WBC, that others who practice a different religion are to be free to do so as well.  I cannot fear what I do not understand.  I cannot judge an entire group of people due to the acts of a radical few.  I would hope the same is said for not judging my faith due to the radical few within the ranks.

I’ve have a vivid memory of the Carter years, the Reagan years, the Clinton years, the Bush 1 and 2 years and now, the Obama years.  I’ve seen our country rise up in times of great trials….and I’ve also seen our country split into little pieces over a determination to “get their way.”  The word compromise has become a four letter word.

I’ve been personally chastised for even possibly considering not voting Republican.  That’s what good Christians do.  Vote Republican.

And. Here I sit today.  In disbelief that what I have been told is the “Christian” party has all but crowned a man that represents none of the values I hold to be true as a Christian.  Seeing remarks such as, “Well, I can’t stand any of his principles, but I’ll vote for him if he is the nominee…I’ll vote my party.”  “We have to take back America.”  From who? From what?  From people that don’t have white skin?  Jesus didn’t have white skin.

I sit here today in disbelief that I’ve seen a quote, “I voted Trump, but I won’t tell my kids.”  I hope there never comes a day that I am embarrassed by who I voted for.

I get people are angry.  It’s ok to be angry, but to vote with that anger.  No.  We have to vote with our values and our principles…or we become just as lost as the lost.  We can’t control who follows us, but if we look around and we are being followed by hate…what does that say about “us” or “I?”  What message are we sending?

So, can a Christian vote blue?  This year, barring a strong third party candidate, I believe it’s possibly the only way I can look into the mirror and have any hope of saying I voted for at least some Christian values and principles. Where “almost right” may have to be enough. The lesser of two evils, so to speak. This past weekend, HRC sounded more Christian than most of the candidates running Red and ten-thousand times more Christian than the Red leader.  I have to vote knowing the protection of the First Amendment is just as important as protecting the Second Amendment.  A silent America is far more devastating to our future generations than gun control.

Years ago there was a movement of WWJD.  WWJD? I can’t begin to know, but I know what he commanded of His followers…..love, spread the good news to the ends of the earth…but the greatest of these commandments was to love.  And that, is what I will do.  I choose love over hate. I choose love over fear.  I choose humanity.  I choose life, not just birth…all of it.