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.)

 

Avelumab….Cycle One….Infusion Three……

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“So, let go my soul and trust in him…the waves and wind still know his name…It is well, with my soul.”  “Whatever my lot, it has taught me to say, it is well with my soul.”

I’m going to let what’s above hang there for a bit and come back to it towards the end of today’s entry.  I finished Cycle One of the Avelumab trial for RRP this past Friday.  My third infusion is now in my past.  I’ll chronicle this trip and then take this entry much further than the other two…

Wednesday:  The third infusion trip is a no OR week.  I’ll be honest, my body was so tired from two trips to the OR in three weeks, I don’t know if I could have honestly gotten on the plane back to DC had there been another OR for this week.  It would have been a pure “God Thing” if I had…and I suppose that’s exactly how it’s meant to be….when my strength fails…His strength carries me.  And while I sit here and type my doubts of being able to do it again, I know without doubt, the strength would have been there at just the right time.  I left the chilly air of Chicago to go to the DC area of sunshine and seventy degrees.  Coat was left at home…not even a light jacket was packed.  Checked in at the NIH, rejoiced over my private room (3 for 3), and reconnected with staff that has quickly become folks I am going to miss greatly when I am done with my season in this trial.  Nurses that greet you with a hug….desk staff that knows your name as you walk into the wing from the doors.

Thursday: My incredible phlebotomist (AKA, nicest vampire ever.) arrived at 5:30 AM….bed was laid flat…because my BP is still not behaving and in small attempts to prevent another “incident” like week one, there are now precautions taken to help my BP do its thing a tad better.  I’ve stopped looking at the vial count or size….research labs are what they are…no sense looking at growing apprehensive of a repeat of week one.  My Vampire and I have had this little unspoken agreement…he comes in, I take out my arm for that day, he does his thing, turns out the light and closes the door.  Remember that….because if you know me..you know that I don’t like to speak when first awoken from my slumber….

Clinic came quickly on Thursday, and I was sitting on the familiar chair next to the scope of horrors….ok…maybe that’s a slight exaggeration….but I’m sorry….even with the nostril numb…I really don’t want to be part of the black lighted scope going down my nostril to enter the airway and view my larynx and such….and then quickly placed down my cannula for a quick peak at the lower portion of my trachea and bronchial openings.  Your body naturally wants to fight this procedure, but I cannot say this enough…Dr. Allen is indeed the “Scope Whisperer.”  He should travel-giving a masterclass in his technique.  Now…imagine my joy when I only had to do the trach scope portion….oh lung metastasis, you have given me a reprieve over a scope!  My lung lesions are my trial criteria instead of my tracheal or larynx lesions…so no scope on this third visit.  Insert very happy dance. I was then on pass for the rest of the afternoon, and after my routine pregnancy test, off I went to enjoy an incredibly beautiful day down in Bethesda.

My doctor highly recommend dinner at a new Greek restaurant.  I must say…I’ve had places such as Taziki’s, but never really had what one would call traditional Greek food.  I’m a huge fan now…I dislike yogurt…as in I don’t understand the mile long display in the grocery store.  The texture and taste just aren’t my thing.  Well, scratch that…I’ve learned there is a way that Greek yogurt and I do get along.  Crispy Brussels sprouts mixed with pomegranate seeds and mint and tossed in a thick Greek yogurt.  So yummy that I’m going to try to replicate it at home this week.  I was in the area for lunch and dinner, so toss in a very French style slice of quiche for lunch…and I think it’s clear to all, I enjoy food.  (PS…the quiche from the French bakery was unlike any I have ever had.  It was tall and light..not dense.)  The sun was setting quickly, so back to campus I went to enjoy watching my kiddo play in concert at Eastman and settle in to rest for infusion day.

Friday:  My favorite Vampire came in again….at 5:30 AM.  And you are not going to believe this…but he wanted to chat….about the negotiation process of buying a new home….umm..we have an unspoken agreement..we don’t talk at 5:30 AM…..I smiled, nodded even….but to say I was relieved when the door shut…well….again…I don’t speak first thing in the morning.  Up, showered, back into comfy clothes for the infusion and then downstairs for “real coffee.”  Then over to procedure wing for ultrasound on my two forearms to mark for IV placement. (PS-this is a super cool thing!) Back to Oncology wing for EMLA cream on those two areas and wait thirty minutes.  Back to procedure wing for insertion of infusion IV.  Back to Oncology to wait for Avelumab to come up and pre-infusion meds.  A 50mg Benadryl push and I are not on speaking terms.  Thankfully, for whatever the reason, I thought to mention my reaction to the drug to the team….and learned that my reaction was not typical and was an opposite reaction.  So, this push was diluted and pushed at a slower rate…so much better.  I did not tense up as badly, my teeth did not chatter…still didn’t sleep a wink…and did get a decent headache as it wore off later in the day…but so much better than the prior two infusions.  An hour after the pre-meds, the bag was attached and the infusion monitor programmed….90 minutes.  It’s surreal to me how much easier this infusion was mentally….the nurse and I literally chatted most of the 90 minutes away.  We were working on solving all of the worlds problems and talking about being a full-time Mom with an autistic child….and how she could work somewhere much closer to her home, but chooses the commute to the NIH because of the mission…how the playing field is level….on the 3NW floor at the NIH…every patient is an equal…cancer doesn’t care about income, status, any of that…and I think that’s what makes it special…every patient on 3NW is fighting something that doesn’t discriminate….it touches every single facet of this world…from the poorest to the richest…patients like me looking for a new cure…patients like maybe the man across the hall possibly there for a “hail mary.”  Every single person there…from staff to patient…part of research..something bigger than themselves.

Two hours post infusion, I was able to go outside and enjoy the incredible weather in the courtyard at my building.  The sun, it’s warmth, medicine for this soul.  Nausea began to creep in, so I headed back inside…insistent on “pushing through” and not taking medication.  My “cure” of flavor blasted Goldfish and a touch of caffeine…seemed to be taking the edge of.  I can do this.  6:20 my room phone rings…ok…who is calling me on the room phone?  Oh…dining services.  “Mrs. McClellan, do you plan to order a meal tonight?”  Umm…..well…..I suppose since you stop taking orders at 6:30 PM, I should do that.  I ordered my standard chicken, baked potato, salad, and a rice krispy treat.  (Do not laugh…that’s one of the few “treats” that still tastes good..and it’s a solid “go to.”)  Recall that nausea I was treating with my “cure”…..anyways….one bite of the chicken….and it was back.  My cure had failed me…enter Princess.

If you recall, I mentioned Princess in a prior entry.  She was, once again, my Friday night nurse.  Princess started prodding me to take the Zofran around 7:30 PM….I, being the self-proclaimed nausea superwoman…was oh no…I can push through it…it just a wave.  10PM….I think I’ll take that Zofran after all.  Now to backtrack a bit on my evening with Princess.

Princess and I had a good amount of time together Friday evening.  The floor was slower due to several Friday discharges, so I found that nurses would linger….and Princess did as well.  We talked about so much….Jesus….religion…differences between here and the democracy of her native African country that her family still visits..her  mother actually lives there part of the year.  (Let’s just say, I would probably have a key to my cell if I lived in her country due to my frequent visits for speaking out against elected officials…) Anyways…then we were talking about my journey the past two years as my faith has been on this winding journey…and we talked about our Muslim friends….and she said something that I will never forget.  She came here at fifteen.  She’s probably late 30’s now…”I never knew religions hated one another until I came to America.  In Africa, Muslims and Christians lived with a respect for one another.  They attended our events, we would attend theirs.”  That first sentence….it’s been on autoplay in my mind and heart since Friday.  And then her telling me she has told her Muslims US friends to consider not wearing their hijab in public…she fears for their safety.  My heart just ached.  All the while, she is oozing joy….a joy that is infectious….a joy that can only be found when one has something bigger than themselves to look towards.  She talked about the way she travels the world with her children…wanting them to see the world in the bigger picture that it is…they live simply and frugally to travel to other cultures.  It was one of those conversations you cherish…but man..that first sentence.  The night came to a close with my Zofran complete….

Saturday:  Discharge day.  When your doctor shows up on a Saturday in basketball shorts bearing the gift of a cup of Starbucks…I mean seriously….how can it not be a great day.  We chatted about what comes next….about different things taking place in the RRP field of treatment….and then…I asked a question that gave me an answer that, I’ll be honest….I’m struggling with just as much as the possible outcome of my next visit the week of March 6th.  This is where I am going to end the day to day chronicle and go a tad off the rails from the prior two posts….

(PS-about half way home, 22K feet in the air, nausea came swiftly and I just prayed that I would make it off the plane in Chicago without being sick.  It lasted all day and was the hardest wave I have experienced so far.  All I can think, is that I did not have on my “patch” that I wear to the OR and maybe that’s why it was so pronounced. Thankfully, Sunday was not that way and today has been easy as well.)

Off the rails a bit…

I knew, when I chose this trial, the bar was set high.  The bar for “success” and the bar for going on to cycle two.  Think of the bar as the same bar the Chicago Cubs strived for…and it took years..a bar so high that you wonder if it’s even possible.  For the Cubs, they finally met that bar and went over it much higher than any dream could have predicted.  That’s the bar set on this trial.  I knew my body was such that it’s not thirty…it is the age that it is…and I knew that I had to also keep in mind possible life altering damage to my organs and endocrine system that can occur with the use of this class of drugs, especially in longer cycles, rare, but it does occur.  I knew that I wanted my participation in a trial to be about more than just me…I wanted the research related to the trial as well as other trials my blood has been used for to count towards that elusive bar of “cure.” I knew going in, I could possibly be looking at three doses and then excluded….and I was ok with that…or at least I thought I was….

I’m done with my third dose.  When I return for my visit March 6th week….it’s my first trial review since inclusion.  My first CT since that initial CT weeks ago.  A CT that will be read without my trial doctors having access to the scan….they will simply get a report on whether I met the criteria for staying in….or my time has come to an end.  My bar…is 30% reduction in size of the largest lesion in my left lung.  30% of 2.4cm.  My world record level bar…is set.  Just a few mm will decide this outcome….and here I am, staring at this bar…that came so quickly….and my peace and assurance about all of it….suddenly, it doesn’t seem “well.”  I know every participant so far has responded….and I also know some have just barely, literally mm, been removed from further treatment.  Wednesday, after Tuesday CT, I will walk into clinic not knowing if I’m headed to OR on Thursday for a standard debulking procedure or if I will be enjoying DC on Thursday and having an infusion on Friday.  I don’t think they will even have to say the words….the team is so invested in the patients on this trial…it’s so personal to them…I think I will see it on their face. And again…it still doesn’t feel “well.”  There’s an unknown to all of this as well….the class of drugs in the cancer field is so young.  Literally, so many just barely out of phase III trials….there’s a huge unknown as to the how it works longterm….once treatment ends.  My disease is considered “pre-cancerous” for trial purposes…and while the lab says one thing…the reality is once you add in the variables of an individuals immune system, the host environment for the lesions….the lab can only predict so much. So, if I don’t reach that bar….will the drug still keep working to reset how my T-Cells work against my disease?  Will even a small response possibly continue on to more of a larger response?  It’s an unknown…..immunotherapy drugs for cancer are filling the pipeline of every major pharma that has a division for these classifications of drugs.  Jimmy Carter is walking around today with no evidence of disease…from his treatment using Keytruda.  The commercials seem like it’s the miracle everyone has been searching for…but reality is…the full response rate is around 30% even for cancer patients….but 30% response if you are stage 3/4 is an enormous success rate….so I take that and I wonder…if that same full response rate applies to my disease…3 in 10.  I so long to be one that hits the trial criteria to continue on….and I so want to be ok with hearing I am not continuing on….but truth is..today…I am not “well with my soul.”

Something else took place this trip….and it’s that thing that has broken my heart….a hope that I had clung to for so long…for now…not possible.  In my head, this trial would go like this:  trial, full course of trial inclusion….no evidence of disease…reconstruction of larynx…de-cannulation of trach.  I go back to life pre-trach…one I remember…a life pre-RRP, I have no memory of…so…but right now I have the best voice I have had in probably 20+ years….so now, I do have the memory of a almost real voice.  One that happens with little effort from me…one that doesn’t create oxygen deprivation headaches…one that allows me to feel almost normal in conversation even with strangers…one that I have used…a lot…often to just say something to a stranger I never would have said prior to now…a “you are so pretty” or “I love that purse” or even saying something to the child sitting on its mothers lap on the airplane….in some odd way, I feel part of this world again in a way I had forgotten what it felt like.  To be able to complete the simple act of using FaceTime and truly being able to hold a conversation with my baby girl, my baby boy, and those precious babies I so adore…..how will I be “well” if/when it goes away?  How will I accept hearing I’m likely never going to live life without a trach?  That’s the news that broke my heart….even if it works…even if I could reconstruct my larynx….the stenosis is so extensive…my life would likely be almost impossible without a trach.  I have clung to that hope for so long…that one day…it would be gone.  I just assumed….I never really asked the hard questions…maybe even I knew I didn’t want the answers…but this weekend…I asked.  And, I’m being honest here…it is not “well with my soul.”

To be even more honest…right now…looking into my return visit…I’m not sure not meeting that bar of 30% is “well.”..or will be “well” anytime soon.  My heart is broken….and my hope that this drug has indeed had such a strong response is so large…that if I hear a no…it won’t be ok then…I’m giving myself permission that if it occurs…it’s ok to grieve the loss…to not instantly go to that fall break phrase of “God knows best,” because…I will likely question it a thousand times to God if I don’t meet that bar….and given my journey with Jesus and everything the past two years…I understand now…that’s ok…..I can question it…I can be angry …and He understands and He will wait on me until I am “well.”  Then I also think…if I meet this first bar….will I selfishly start already asking for the next goal…or will I be “well” just knowing I made it to cycle two?

The song “It Is Well” in so many ways is my life song….some people have a verse that they use…but for me…it’s always been this hymn that has been changed into incredible worship music.  Bethel Music has my favorite version and it’s the version on every device I own…the song I play in those moments..those days…those weeks..where it isn’t “well.”  I cling to that promise…that hope that I honestly…can’t even understand in these current days where my heart hurts…it aches..for something I had clung to for so long…it’s a loss….something I am going to give myself permission to grieve over…just as I will either be celebrating or grieving an answer in just a few days…and I know now…that it’s allowed…it’s even welcomed….it doesn’t reflect a lack of faith on my part or even an unaccepting heart towards my life here in this temporary home….

So…today, much of this is simply not well with my soul…..but I’ll continue to trust that it will be….and that over the next few days as I look at 30% in a way I never have before…I will trust…even if the answer I don’t want comes….one day…soon…it too, will be well with my soul.

Avelumab, Cycle 1, Week 2

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela

I’d like to change the word “man” to “woman.”  Done.

Fear….anxiety…..two words that have followed me into the OR for most of my life.  It was never about a lack of faith, and I honestly find it incredibly cruel when people say to others, “If you had more faith, you would have less fear/anxiety.”  Can we agree to toss that line into the compost pile?  Back to fear/anxiety….I suppose as I grew older and learned more about what can happen in the OR, I developed a fear of the process.  Each needle would create a tension that worked against my body relaxing to lessen the pain.  Then the major medical mistake that nearly cost me my life….and an irrational fear took over any resemblance of rational thought when it came to any type of medical procedure….my first thought when coming out of anesthesia had become, “I am alive.”  Mix all of this into a life where over 250 surgical procedures have taken place….and it’s not too far fetched to say there could be some PTSD in all of this….a reluctance to do what is needed in order to live life more fully…because of the fear and anxiety of past issues and knowledge of what can and does happen under general.  None of which is in existence because of a lack of faith…if there was a lack of faith issue, I think long ago I would have grown so angry at God that I just walked away entirely.  So, I start with this on this blog entry just to gain a little insight into why what seems so mundane…is truly a celebration for me.  My entering this trial, was a giant leap of faith….a giant test of what my courage level is…and even greater test of what I was willing to work through when the fear knocked so loudly.

Cycle One, Week Two

Monday:  I arrived into DCA after an uneventful flight.  If you read about the prior flight, you know this was a very welcome change.  It’s still unnerving to enter approach at DCA and see water in front, behind and on the side of the runway.  Much like that runway at Boston.  The wheels touched down and you are thrust forward as the brakes are applied to prevent water issues.  I’m always silently relieved when the person next to me isn’t a chatter.  I am simply on the plane to get to point B from point A…..I’m not that passenger who even tries to utter more than that polite nod and smile as the person sits down in their seat.  I follow that rule of, “if earplugs are in, or a book/iPad out…there’s your sign to not speak.”  Soon, I was on my way to the NIH campus to get admitted and being the week.

Monday brought a fun adventure for dinner into Bethesda.  I was able to finally meet a Chicagoland person that I had met via Facebook through an Arkansas friend…crazy that it took being in the DC area to finally meet.  Such a great time of learning about one another…and oh the crab cakes….Alabama sourced blue crab, hardly any filler….oh how I love those crab cakes!  I am beyond grateful for the gift of independence given to me while I was growing up.  It may not have seemed like a gift at the time, but now…I treasure it.  Not being afraid to travel alone, venture into parts unknown…tackle public transit…and walk confidently as I explore…thankful.

 

Tuesday:  This week of the cycle was more downtime due to no scans or other testing outside of copious amounts of blood drawn each AM…at 5:30 AM.  Seriously..I’m calling it. Vampires…the nicest vampire in the world…but still….work done before the sun rises…and it’s blood…there’s a possible link.  (This is alternative facts.)  So, once AM labs were done, it as time to get ready for clinic that afternoon.  Back to the fear/anxiety paragraph…over the years, I have developed a true fear of being scoped in the clinic.  There have been times I literally had tears running down my cheek, simply from being so fearful of this procedure.  I know God knows that fear…and He also knew that I needed to do this trial.  The first scope by Dr. Allen in December, I used music to try to distract my brain from the process.  It was the least uncomfortable scope I have ever had.  And then we are at this past week….and I used no music…nothing…I’ve jokingly referred to him as the “scope whisperer” and I am amazed at how the fear is just gone.  Once my video was complete, I was done for the day, so I put on my “Where’s Waldo” hat and ventured back out.  PS-passes off campus are a glorious thing.  I grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at an authentic Spanish eatery.  There were  menu items I would not touch in a million years, but was thankful for a great waiter who guided me towards safe choices….I’m a fan of those safe Spanish choices.  Tapa style eating is awesome!  Then I grabbed the Metro back to campus and caught “This Is Us” on TV, and called it a day.

 

Wednesday:  Due to my pitiful, small veins, I was not cleared for Aphresis…so once my AM labs were drawn and I had seen everyone on the teams dealing in my care…and the visit from the social worker….I had a free day.  There was talk of running fluids to prop up my BP, but that would be done that night if we did it at all…..so with confidence..down to the Metro I went…I was headed into DC to the Newseum.  (If you know me, you know I am a total news nerd…so when I heard there was an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment and historical pieces from all mediums in journalism…well…my Disney World.)  Then….I was stumped.  The side of the Metro that would take me where I needed to go, was down….and the marquee with how to use the one track going both directions was down…I was a lost goose.  I had no idea what to do….so…..because I’m such a go with the flow person (you can laugh now), I came back up from the depths of the Metro and decided I would just walk into Bethesda Row area.  Being able to walk 1.4 miles in February and not be a popsicle…glorious.  I was able to pass by things on the NIH campus I had missed, always being on a shuttle or down in the Metro…able to see small businesses up close, venture into an incredibly nice Teeter….I know my being able to do such a jaunt (even if it seems small) is a gift….there are times when that would seem an impossible feat, so I am grateful for those days where normal seems almost within reach.  NIH rooms are equipped with the most awkward showers.  I can barely shower safely, so washing my hair is just a big production.  I decided to take in a “blow dry bar.”  This was my second time to use one of these, and I must say…better than a pedicure.  Once my hair was “southern high”, I grabbed a late lunch….and returned back to campus catching an NIH shuttle at one of the local hotels.  NIH makes getting around so easy.

Once back on campus, it was time to do those little rituals that I think help with OR days.  If for no other reason, those rituals give me some sense of control.  Soon, it was Ativan time…if you don’t take advantage of the beauty of Ativan before OR procedures…you should. And in the blink of an eye….the two hard days were here.

 

Thursday:  I have noticed, that OR days bring a different pace to the nurses caring for you.  I’m one of those that had rather wait to closer to time to change into that lovely gown, but it creates stress for those charged with getting me ready.  Patch-on.  Second Ativan-check.  Time to roll to pre-op.  OR days are just odd to me now.  When I was younger, the bounce back from all of it was so quick.  Now, it’s simply not the case.  I remember the IV being started….and that’s about it.  My next memory would come about 8 hours later…when I was awake long enough to eat some of a baked potato and drink some fluids…then back to my own “La La Land.”  My OR IV failed during the OR, so I woke up with one hand swollen and throbbing and an IV in the hand that had no IV just a few hours earlier.  One cannot express the confusion this created in a very drugged mind.  I would write more about Thursday…but I honestly don’t remember anything else.  Only because it’s written down, I can say there were no new growths…and maybe some change…too soon to really know if it’s change we are seeing.

The big news of the OR and the week comes at the end of the blog…

 

Friday:  My second OR IV was failing, so it was a relief to get that removed before it caused more issues.  Before I could even brush my teeth,  it was time to head to the procedure wing to have my infusion IV started.  It’s so important that the infusion IV be in a strong, healthy vein, they use ultrasound guided methods to start that IV.  I’m an IV baby.  I want the injection of local….that wasn’t written into the trial protocols, so I have to settle for the cream.  It was placed to low on both arms….so, in what can only be described as a huge moment of either delusion or bravery, I let her do the IV with full sensation….granted it was only a 22 and it was in my forearm…but I did it.  I don’t want to do that all the time, but it’s huge for me to be able to say I did it.  I stepped over another fear mountain.  Back to my room, to pull myself together for the day, eat some breakfast and prepare to get pre-infusion drugs.  (PS…I cannot speak highly enough of the care at the NIH on the oncology floor…the nurses are incredible…and they truly love what they are doing.)

My infusion head nurse was probably my age, maybe a little bit older.  The time had arrived for the Tylenol and massive dose of Benadryl….I seriously have found the Benadryl to be the worst part of infusion day.  It just makes you feel horrible and I am one of those that it doesn’t make sleepy…it makes me tense.  Not a fan, but it’s necessary to help prevent infusion site issues.  11AM.  Infusion started.  This cycle, I didn’t even glance over to the to the bag.  Not one time.  It’s infusion rate was increased twice per protocol, and soon it was over and the line was cleared…and it was done.  I ordered a small lunch and then spent the better part of the day trying to recoup from Thursday OR day.  Anesthesia just isn’t a friend to folks my age, and two visits to the OR in three weeks..well…not a fan.  The teams came by to follow up on Friday and then my Princess came on shift.  Princess….I still just can’t begin to express the joy she oozes. She stands at the computer in my room and she is singing while she charts and scans.  Seriously….how can that not make you smile?  Princess walks in, and her first words to me this visit, “Ms. Kim, you look tired.  Let’s take your night meds early.”  “Umm….can we try to wait to normal time?” “Now, Ms. Kim, I’ve been doing oncology floor for 12 years…you need to trust me on this.”  I did…and she was right.  Sometimes, there is no shame and no defeat found in fighting what your body wants to do. She helped me to see that asking for Zofran wasn’t failure…it was me realizing that what I am doing is not easy, it has consequences.  Princess is so funny….she let’s me sleep once she gets that 10PM vital…sorta.  She cracks the door occasionally throughout the night…just barely peaking in….I will miss her…and honestly the entire NIH staff when this trial is over or I am removed.

Saturday came.

 

Saturday:  Even though you know it’s “go home” day…until you know that the final check  has been marked on the discharge orders and final IV removed..nothing is certain.  With my bag packed, some resemblance to looking human having taken place by simply putting on regular clothes and shoes..it was time to head back to DCA for a flight to Chicago.  In this visit, I had been cared for by women from such diverse backgrounds.  The unit already knows me….and I was able to meet some of the other patients in the unit on other trials.  People, where this is their “Hail Mary.”  That’s strength…at least it is to me.  To see people walk the hallways that I am sure had rather be in bed…but they put one foot in front of the other and they walk.  I learned I seriously want a purple, satin robe…what strength that robe spoke as that patient walked by.  Nausea is real this time.  I don’t know why I expected to escape side effects….but I did.  Today is better…and I am hopeful that trend continues.  I know the fatigue is coming….should be here Thursday….and it’s manageable and I am prepared this time…I won’t be caught so off guard.  As Princess told me, my immune system is at war right now.  Sweets sound and taste horrible now.  Things that aren’t sweet, taste sweet.  I never thought a day would come where I would walk past cake or a dessert menu without even a glance.  That day is here.  If this works….flip-flopped taste buds…a small price to pay.

 

Closing:  I head back for an infusion/clinic only visit in nine days.  No OR this next trip.  My body is so thankful for this break from the OR.  I’ll go back to the OR on the visit after next, but I plan to enjoy anesthesia free existence for a few days.

Now back to fear and anxiety.  A few people knew what I was doing on this visit….I did this entire week solo.  On my own.  Just me…and me.  I had such a confidence in my care, and I honestly don’t want Lee using all of his vacation time sitting in a clinic or hospital….I went rogue…solo.  I cleared it with the team before I made the final decision.  Today, knowing that I can do the OR, clinic, infusions…all of it…with confidence…solo…..I can’t begin to express the wave of relief over my entire mind.  I needed to know that I could handle my health solo.  I do so in clinic settings already, but this visit..I conquered that last frontier…could I do it if there was an OR visit…could I do it on infusion day…could I make it to my gate at the airport….and I did.  There were incredible friends who prayed and checked on me all week…Lee who has learned through the years when to be there and when to just sit.  Now, Lee is coming on March 6th week.  That’s a big week in the trial and one that we both need to be part of.  Today, this past week has me thinking of my Mom and my Dad….and my Granny Louise…and my Granny Page-the people that gave me this incredible gift of independence.  I wish I had known it was a gift at the time it was happening….it’s only as a much older adult that I can look back and see how certain events and lives modeled…influenced me.  There’s a power in knowing you can do your life solo….and a joy in knowing that for whatever the reason, God has said, I know you can…but you don’t have to. A spouse that understands that unique wiring I possess and allows me that freedom to soar independently when I feel I need to-I get to make that choice as different things come and go in life.

The countdown is back on….to Week Three, Cycle One.

Oh….in other news..while in Bethesda…my son was notified he was awarded a Fellowship for the summer at AMF and my daughter turned 30 and headed out for a Waco adventure.  Thankful for kiddos that know how to soar..who take leaps of faith much more often that I could have ever dreamed for them.  They teach me….and that’s just cool.

I didn’t load any pictures into this blog post.  I am guessing a picture of my very bruised left hand isn’t necessary…I loaded some of them on FB and that’s enough.

PS, I did find that going downstairs to get “real coffee” in a robe and pajamas is totally ok….now if I could just get the same acceptance of that at the grocery store.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

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!)

ChristToFollow

 

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. )

 

 

 

Musings of the MIA

Winter has finally let go of her grip in the Windy City.  While the temperature is still not to this Southern Gal’s liking, we are on a positive track towards “wiggle your toes” weather.  All around me I’ve heard, “Oh, the past two winters have been mild.”  Let’s clarify what mild means to Kimmielou…..mild is 50’s in the winter…not high 20’s.  Clearly, we have a language barrier.  Ok, enough of me lamenting winter.  At least I am fair…..I lamented winter when I lived further south too.  I’m an equal opportunity lamenter.

Life has been slow for the most part, with the occasional perk of activity.  The big news of the day is our baby boy has walked across that college stage…college diploma one is in the books..now onward to the Eastman School of Music in the fall for that masters!  It was a whirlwind of stress and excitement during the auditions, waiting for results, choosing where to go.  When you have whittled away at your “Josh, we would love to have you” options and are staring at Eastman and Juilliard as the last two standing…..well….our kiddo went with his heart…his dream school since tenth grade.  I joke that he is basically going to school in Canada..I mean for real…I think you can see Canada from the shore of the lake on the Rochester, NY side.  (Hey…if you can see Russia from Alaska….this has to be true too.)  IMG_2819

The health saga is still in gear, but as it has become clear no one knows what to do about it…I’ve chosen to kinda ignore it for the summer.  If it works for the ostrich, it can work for me as well.  My secret plan (idea) is that the rapture is going to take place very soon and the issue will resolve itself.  (Seriously…you gotta admit..when you see this insanity we call our “Presidential Election” process….end times make a whole lot of sense.) (That’s about ten blog posts that well, I won’t even dare start….)

I suppose the highlight in the hacienda these days is my “I’m kinda joking…or not” on tiny houses or some modular type home on an acre of land…simple life….I think of my Aunt and Uncle in the Pickwick area…and they have lived what we call ” a simple life” for all of their lives and seem blissfully happy..even in the storms of life.  Things most of us fret over..well…not even part of their day.  My perfect idea is for each family member to own their own tiny house, connected with walkways…and then a wall around our “compound.”  I mean, we gotta think ahead to the zombie apocalypse.  Better to be prepared..and I am told my TN family has quiet the ammunition stockpile.

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The Struggle Towards Summer Is Real In Chicago…..

Outside of these musings and well, my joy in getting to hear Christine Caine speak (for free) and being able to worship live with Christy Nockels…life is rolling along.

So, that’s the excitement in this household of late.  My babies are growing up way too quickly…miss them daily…my kiddos are getting older and I’m still staying 40 (It’s a miracle.)….now I must go…time to look at more tiny houses and where I can park it on the beach..for the rest of forever.