Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We don't always get what we want

Today I returned to the mad scientist.

I'm not gonna lie, I was a bit anxious this morning about what the day would bring.

I had to repeat the taste/smell and salvia test that I performed on Friday.  More blood was drawn.

Then came the crazy magnetic procedure.

I sat with my feet uncrossed on the ground, comfortable in a chair and my hands in a natural position. I had to identify a smell in the room (of course there were two things that I could smell but couldn't fully identify).  The Dr began by placing the magnetic wand near what I could call my left collar bone.  After each 'pulsing' series he stops and asks me to identify the smell, the percentage at which I can smell it and if is unpleasant, pleasant or neutral.  He moves it to the left collar bone are, then my neck and up onto different positions on my head. OK, so it's not the most pleasant thing to have done, it doesn't really hurt per-sa but oh my goodness is it STRANGE.  It moves the muscles in ways that cannot be fully described.  Don't forget after each pulsing I have to identify the smell, give it a rating and tell whether or not I like it.  Then the doctor moves the wand onto a muscle that must attach to the eye because I was the wildest thing I have ever experienced.  My eye being pulsed...I knew it was coming but my eyes wanted to tighten which just made it worse.  It doesn't hurt, it's just a very weird and strange sensation.


I’m not really sure how long any of the test/procedures last because this place is a time warp and time just seems to slip by.  All I know is that I arrived at 9:30 and was walking toward my Uber pickup at just after 1:00pm.

When I finished the chemical  and putrid/rotten smell had abated just enough for me to tell a slight difference.  After waiting for about 15 minutes I was back for my final round of taste/smell and salvia test and final blood work.  

Things are not always what we hope for or want.

This procedure did shifted things to the next stepping stone  but there is a long way to walk and much to uncover.  My body has taken a hit over the past six months without proper nutrition.  I have to begin to add back in specific nutrients that will help sustain my overall health.  I have to keep a daily journal about the foods I eat and the smells that I smell on a regular basis.  I have rate them just like I do in the taste/smell test.  I have certain ‘call in’ appointments with the doctor to ensure that  he continues to see the full picture of my health.  There is an oral medication that might help with this.  It comes with its own side effects so he doesn’t want me taking it anytime soon. He said over and over, sometimes this is not immediate.  Sometimes it takes days or weeks for people to regain their smell/taste.  

Of course I’m disappointed and deflated but deep down I know that healing takes time and there is still a light shining. 

I cannot see beyond the end of the dim light.

I cannot imagine what lie beyond the light but I will continue to move to the edge of the light believing that more will come {I have hiked in the dark enough with a headlamp to know while the beam only reaches so far that I can always where to plant my feet and that if I keep walking the beam will keep extending}.

Where are you being challenged to keep walking to the edge of the light that has been placed before you?  Take courage and take a step.






Monday, July 24, 2017

Walking with others

When I realized that I needed to come to Washington DC for a series of specific test in hopes of finding some answers for my distorted smell and taste I thought of some very specific family.  Our paths have crossed many times over the past 20 + years.  I reached out to them in hopes that I could stay with them.  They of course welcomed me into their already full lives.

When I landed on Thursday I had a picture of the refrigerator. The refrigerator was filled with colorful tubs of the yogurt that they knew I could eat over the next several days.  This was just the beginning of a wonderful weekend.  Ike, Jan, Josie and Keeler welcomed me into their lives and made me feel at home; like someone who had been part of their family for some time.

As we sat together that first night Jan and Ike listened to the crazy journey that I've been on and just opened themselves up for whatever I needed in order to feel at ease with all that I needed to walk through.

They were constantly inquiring if I needed anything.  On Friday after my appointment they sat and listened to me tell them about the day; intrigued with the process but more importantly wondering how I felt about all that I had learned that day.  They included me in family decisions about what we would be doing for 'fun'. They took me to a Smithsonian that is off the beaten path and will definitely be one that I will make a point to see again.    Ike and Jan let me stay with the kids and cook dinner so that they could run some very important errands, which gave me time to learn some new board games and see the sweet, gentle nature of the two kiddos.  Josie patiently tried to teach me origami which I simply could not get!  She's amazing by the way, I'm headed home with several beautiful creations.  Keeler snuggled up against me one night while he was reading his book.

Luke's best friend in the world is here in the DC area and Ike/Jan made sure that I got to spend time with my friend who's out of the Metro stop area. Seeing Matt and Candice was a give in itself!

Yesterday we literally had a lazy Sunday.  We all sat with our books in hand flipping through the pages.  They did a few things but really we just sat!   Then it was time for a tour of the West Wing and the Eisenhower Building.  Ike has been working in the White House for the past year and oh my goodness, I felt beyond honored for him to take time out of his day off to give me this amazing tour.  There are incredible things that most Americans will never have the opportunity to see and experience.  One of my all time favorite things was standing in the Colonade walkway that connects the East and West Wing. It's the very enterance that singals that the president is moving from their residence into their place where they lead our Nation and make so many decisions.  The other thing that really made an impression was an original artwork by Normal Rockwell.  Mr. Rockwell came and sat in the  Presidental waiting room for a week and drew all of those who entered the White House to have a conversation with the President.  It's a four panel piece that is done in both color and ink, it is stunning.  It allows you to feel as though you are someone of importance and have been part of something larger than yourself.

The tour was breath-taking and I just felt honored to be walking through the halls of  those who that  led our country through both tribulation and celebration.  Ike was spectacular and I just felt honored.  I did find out that he loves President Bartlett,too! (If you don't know check out West Wing from NBC)

Today when I left they made sure that I had everything I needed for the long day ahead.

This trip would not have been possible without them.

This morning when I left Josie woke early just to give ma hug goodbye.  It made me miss my sweet Emma that much more.

Friendships are so unique and life giving.  These two people have walked with me through these last four days and have made me feel like family.  West Wing tours, food that I could eat, museums, conversations and hugs.  This  has been a life giving weekend because someone was willing to walk with me.

Who has walked with you in the unexpected?  Who do you need to begin walking with in order to bring a sense of calm and peace?  Let us walk with one another in times of celebration and uncertainty.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mad scientist

It is fascinating how interconnected everything in our body truly is.  One small thing has the power to alter one major thing.

I'm not gonna' lie the doctors office this morning was like walking back into a time warp.  The instruments were not the new shiny kind with lots of bells and whistles.  Instead they were dull, the kind of dull that tells you that they are well worn, used for specific purposes over and over.  The Doctor himself looked like a bit of a mad scientist with a tie and shirt that didn't really match, his tie skewed just enough to make him appear a bit unkept.  He spoke softly and gently, stopping me when the information wasn't that important or assuring me we would get to that when I had jumped ahead.
Taking blood from my seem to be second hat, as if he had done it a million times over, which I am sure he has.  No gloves, I think because there isn't any fear of getting a disease and that it reminds us all that we are in it together.

Over and over in his soft voice he said, this has had to been life altering.  The very same words that I have been speaking for some time now.

Small vials neatly in their rows, placed in their boxes.  I sat with my feet firmly on the ground and stuck out my tongue over and over as the assistant placed three different drops upon my tongue. My job was to identify the one that was not water. After identifying the one that wasn't water, I had to try to identify if it was salty, sweet, bitter or sour. From there I had to give a number of how strong it was from 1-100 and finish with saying if it was pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.  I had to say I think I have a really high tolerance because it took me what seemed like forever to get to the 90-100 range that allowed me to stop within those 4 categories.  Taste was by far easier and more pleasant than the smell test in which I had to do the same sequence of events but in smelling them.  I progressed to 100 very quickly with most being unpleasant.

If those things were not enough, I had to move onto a salvia test where a device was placed on my salvia gland inside my mout. Lemon  juice was placed on my tongue very 5-10 seconds  to create salvia and catch it in this specific devise.  I was once again thinking about the mad scientist, performing a series of test to prove their theory.   The truth is that it's not just a MD working to figure out the dynamics of what has happened with my taste and smell there is a biochemist that will be running all of the test and putting them together.

After careful listening and the first round of test, we do know the following.  In November of 2016 I had bronchitis as well as smoke inhalation.  During that time my brain began working overtime to override the smell inhibitors in my brain, the very thing that detects bad smell and the major inhibitor of the brain.  Inhibitors are our protectors and in the process my brain wore the smell inhibitors out leaving me with a sense of distorted smell and taste.  Clinically I now belong to a group "who have low levels of brain gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).

The good news is that this thing that I have...this thing that has been driving me crazy for 6 months can be treated.  It starts with stimulating the brain waves in a new form and new ways.  On Monday, I'll back to the office for  transcrannial magnetic  stimulation where a small round magnetic device will be placed around various locations on my shoulders, neck and head.  Again, these are magnetic pulses not electrical pluses.  The magnetic stimuli are less than the strength of the field used to obtain and MRI.

After each simulus they will be asking me to smell an odor and again estimate the categories of salt, bitter, sweet or sour along with the strength (1-100). Once the TCMS is complete I will repeat the smell and taste test that I performed today in whole as well as the salvia test to gather more data for the mad scientist!  The hope is that this will work .  Some patients respond immediately yet others respond much slower and must eventually take oral medication in order to help.

This might be a very fast change but it also might take some time and might need some additional help along the way.  Today was like watching a sweet old mad scientist listen and put all the pieces together.  Amazing that they can put such weird things together


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The unexpected

Yesterday morning I sat in worship listening to a gifted colleague lead us to a deeper understanding of God's holiness and the call upon our lives as apprentices of Jesus.

She was poised. 
                Calm
                    Dilberate 
                       Filled with calmness
                          Bold
                              Courageous            

She was filled with God's spirit.  Her words powerful

As I sat and listened I wondered if my own preaching and leadership immulated the holiness that I was witnessing.  I wanted to have what she had.

In a twist of events Emma happened to be sitting next to me in this worship service and at the end she turned to me and said "Mom, you two are basically the same person."  I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief that there is a part of me that shines the light of Christ in such a way that others are invited in. Then I asked her one question (because who of us doesn't want to know what their teenager daughter really thinks!), "is my preaching as good as hers?"  For a brief moment I saw the sweet, truthful, light-filled being sitting next to me when she responded "mom, I'm a bit biasis but of course you are, that's how you preach."  A smile rose across her face and she leaned into me just to reassure me.

I told her it was the best compliment she could ever give to me.  

There are moments when unexpected grace and assurance rises up and you have to lean in to it with all of your being.    

It wasn't that I expected or needed my teenager to affirm my preaching, I was actually wondering if the words that I speak each week somehow penetrated the thick wall of a teenager who sits in the back working the sound system, drawing or playing on her phone.   Something unexpected happened yesterday I caught a glimpse of God's presence in a teenager who doesn't have a youth group of her own,who never gets to that coveted leadership position on the conference level and who has to listen to her mother to speak the words of God in her life.  

The complement was unexpected and filled my heart but the unexpected was the glimpse of the holy that I saw in my child yesterday.

Packing

I'm packing for a four-day trip to Washington DC.

I've been waiting for some time for this trip. It's not for pleasure, this trip has a very specific purpose.

Usually, I'm a very efficient packer and can have my bag ready to go in a blink of an eye. I never worry if I'm forgetting something or I'll have enough clothes. I just know what to pack and how to pack it. But today feels different, it feels like I'm packing for an extended trip in a far off land.

I have lots of moving parts to this short trip.

It's not the navigating the Metro or calling Uber for a lift.

The moving parts are making sure that I have all my paperwork in order.  It's not just making sure I have my photo ID for my flight, this trip is about ensuring that I have my 3-day food journal filled out with as many details as possible.  I have to make sure that several previous specific tests have been sent and faxed in.  I have to make sure that I have the address of the place that is the reason for the journey.

The destination for which I am packing for is  5125 McArthur Blvd, Washington DC.

This is a place of hope.  It is a place providing a light at the end of a tunnel that sometimes zaps my energy.

You see I'm not just packing stuff and paper work. I'm packing the hope that something can be done to help the strange taste and smell that I've had since the end of January.  All of the sudden the things that once smelled delightful and inviting turned into a metallic, disgusting, foul smell and taste.  My sense of smell had quickly become something that I loathed.  The delicious smell of ribs cooking in the oven made me want to gag. The enticing smell of coffee became a dread each morning.  The sweet taste of chocolate turned into a putrid one.  All proteins (yes, any meat or nut) were out of the question, fruit, and vegetables slowly lost their fresh, juicy appeal.  Thank goodness for steamed milk with peppermint, Noosa yogurt, Joyvial GF pasta and a few other things like IBC Cream Soda, Kraft Mini Marshmallows, Haribo Sour Gummy Bears and Hardee's vanilla milkshakes for these things have kept me going.

Today I am packing hope. Hope that this weird and crazy thing isn't so strange.  I am packing for the hope that the treatment plan will let me enjoy a dinner with friends, a leisurely cup of coffee on a Saturday morning, the joys of summer garden vegetables and an afternoon piece of Dove chocolate when the day at the office is long and tedious.

I am packing hope and goodness as I make the journey to the Taste and Smell Clinic of DC.

What kinds of things are you packing for today?  Is it just the task of the day, or the schedule that awaits you at home?  May you take a second to pack a sense of hope and joy into your being today.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Something new takes time

Yesterday there were four beautiful old trees on our property at church but today has a different view.

After worship, I headed out with a group of young adults for lunch and as we made our way back to the church property, the backhoe was being delivered and set into place to begin the tree removal this morning.   This morning as I drove around the back side of campus like I always do I was in awe of the one tree that had already been taken down. The grass that was so beautiful yesterday had already been crushed under the heavy equipment used to delicately remove the trees without disturbing the buildings. Tree limbs lay scattered over the property.

These are not tiny trees that they are uprooting these are trees that have their roots in the ground for well over 100 years.  Before we knew it, a second tree was down and covering our entire parking lot.
 The morning was moving quickly as the men worked with skill and precision to remove the trees that had to be taken down in order to ready the ground and area for our new ministry center.
We have known for some time that the trees had to be removed but that doesn't change the emotions of letting go.  Tears streamed down the face of one of our long time members as the trees fell to the ground almost as if in slow motion. As I watched her tears I was keenly aware of the many who have planted their roots here at Morton Memorial and have withstood so much in order to keep our community of faith a vibrant witness of Christ among the community of Monteagle.

We know that something new is coming but today the letting go is difficult. Our landscape has been changed and what lies ahead cannot yet be seen.

The promise of something far beyond what we can imagine has been set before us.  The view is different but our purpose and mission remain the same.  We have a long way to go before a new beginning in a new space will take place.    New beginnings take time.  The landscape of our lives will be different along the way and new perspectives will arise over the months to come.  There will be grief, uncertainty, a bit of frustration and a desire for it to hurry up and be over.  Just as the trees have grown over the years, we too are being shaped into something greater and more powerful than we can fully comprehend.

Our view is different today but our mission is the same.  New beginnings take time which and cannot be rushed.  In order for new life to come, there must be a letting go/a death.  Today we let go in order to await something new.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dry and yet filled

As followers of Jesus we rarely talk about the seasons in our lives when our souls are dry.

We keep going through the motions but it seems as though nothing will quench the thirst.  The words on the pages are just that; words.  The scriptures seem hallow and flat as if there were written for someone else and some other situation. We read yet nothing sticks.  We journal yet our soul longs for more.  We go to worship and sing hymns yet our souls miss the movement of the music.  We bow to pray and our minds are blank.

If we were honest with one another we would confess that our souls are dry, that all the nourishment has left our soul and that we are weary.  Yet, alas we remain silent, walking into church, studying in our small groups as if we are perfectly filled and that all is well.

Let me share with you that you are not alone.  Last year I worked really hard with the church to fulfill our 5 year long term goals and am currently working our leadership team in new and exciting ways.  It takes a lot of energy to lead, pastor, shepherd, set the vision and keep the life of a discipleship as the priority.  I'm also a full time mom to a teenager. A teenager who is full of life, has difficult things happening in her life that need support and encouragement.  My husband is amazing yet he works full time and has endless hours of grading and school responsibilities that reach beyond the classroom.  Our lives are full.  My life is filled with breath-taking and life-giving moments and yet I've been walking through a season where my soul is dry.

TodayI was hiking and with each step my shoes crunched the dry leaves beneath my feet.  All around me were leaves that had been blown too and fro throughout the winter season.  They laid on the ground as if they had never held color, never swayed in the wind, never brought shade for hikers in on warmer days.  They were dry, crumbling on the ground.  Hiking along the rim  I could hear the rush of the springs flowing beneath me.  I rounded the corner and could see there in the midst of the dry branches a stream of water flowing freely.   I stopped to take in my surroundings and listen to the water flowing.

As I stood there listening and breathing in all that surrounded me, I was reminded that even when my soul feels dead to me that God is pouring God's self into all that I am.  God has not and would never leave me.  God emerges in my dry soul to fill me over and over again until my cup is overflowing.

I might not be able to feel God at this very moment. I might have given and given until my cup was empty but that does not mean that God has stopped filling my cup. He fills us when are dry, weary and feel as though we cannot take another step.

If your spirit is dry, go outside and take a deep breath.  Close your eyes and ask yourselves what you feel around you? What can you hear?  Now open your eyes again and take note of what you see.  God is there with you.  May you find the streams of living water running over you today.
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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Giving up

Today is one of the most somber days of our Christian year.

A day in which we gather together for a service penitence.  A service in which we connect to the sorrow that we have caused others.  It is a time of looking within the depths of our being to acknowledge the places where we have walked away from God, separated ourselves from God's purpose for our lives, and to confess the ways that we have chosen our selves over God and others.

For many Christians around the world, it is a time to give something up.  A time in which the dust that is placed on our foreheads in the stillness of the service reminds us that we are being called to remove the unwanted from our lives.  In year's past I have tried to focus on trying to take on a spiritual practice that I might not normally do within my daily routine and yet somehow something is different within my being this year (this season).

Recently, I've been thinking about Lent in terms of the characteristics that I possess rather than the things that I give up.  When thinking about what Lent entails I've been drawn back to Jesus sitting on the hillside, with the wind gently blowing and large crowds gathered around him as he conveys the foundation of who he is and why he has come into the world.

The conversation was about the way we treat others. His teaching and conversation wasn't legalistic, it was relational.

This year for Lent, I'm not giving up social media or even some favorite food.  

I want to give up making judgments about where people are in the their journey of faith or in their lives in general.  I want to tear down the walls between political parties that have caused a divide within families, churches and friends.  I want to give up the half heartedness approach that I take when approaching God's holy throne.  I want to give up the expectations of perfection that I place on myself and something on others.

Instead, I want to take on recognizing when someone is in mourning.  I want to look around and notice the deep wounds that parents are feeling when their child has wondered away, to acknowledge the grief that comes flowing like a river as friends walk through the loss of their parents. I want to take on being content in my life and my the design of who God has made me to be.  I want to take on compassion for those whose voice has been silenced or never heard at all. I want to stand with those who are hungry in spirit and in their belly; providing both nourishment for their physical body and their spiritual well-being.  I want to give up disagreement and take on being a peacemaker (not be confused with a people pleaser).  I want to give up thinking that I'm going to be persecuted and take on a spirit of righteousness isn't defined by my actions but by the love I share with others.

Lent, a somber season of sorrow.





Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The unseen

Yesterday I was in a meeting with people I love and while we were working through the details of the event someone jokingly said, yeah I'm OCD about that.  I felt my heart sink.  I knew that the phrase carries with it a complex layering of emotions and rules that cannot be merely dismissed.

I knew everyone laughed and we all knew what that meant.  It meant that we had a finite
way of approaching that particular area.  We've all heard it, we've used it as a way to dismiss a sense of rigidity in our organization, time and schedules.  I'm a person of structure, organization and schedules and in the past I've used the term myself but in the last year, I've come to understand I can no longer use the simple acronym as a way to describe my personality.

The things that you cannot are the very things that are impacting the person's everyday existence.

OCD is deeper than someone holding onto every single piece of trash, purchasing items that may seem useless and creating an environment that is overrun with items.  OCD is deeper than someone merely standing at the sink washing their hands a certain number of times before being able to move onto the next item on their agenda.  Living with OCD is like holding a different phone in each hand. Both phones are being held to an ear and on the other line is someone telling you what you have to do to make it through your day.  On one line there's a person telling you that you MUST count the tiles on the floor in to be safe.  On the other line you're having a conversation with someone else telling them how irrational counting the tiles sounds,  of course you're safe but wait what if they are right; what if you something will happen to you unless you count those tiles before moving on.  The conversation goes back and forth and eventually one of those voices wins.

Maybe it's not counting tiles, maybe it's that you have to pick your skin, hair or eyebrows in order to be accepted and fit in.  Maybe it's that you cannot sit on the edge of a couch and have to sit in the middle for fear of being harmed. Maybe it's that you have to touch a specific item in the room before going forward.  Maybe just maybe you are fearful that your pets are going to die and you have a certain routine that you have to accomplish in order to ensure their well being for the time being.    For each individual their obsession and compulsion is different and unique to, each having their own conversation with the voice on the other end of the phone.

The phone conversation doesn't stop just because you count the tiles.  There are always two voices; one that is rational and one that is irrational.  One that is boxing you into a corner and the other that is calling you to move forward.

Those of us on the outside are left to walk with a person who might seem to the world that they do  not a care in the world.  Left to walk along side someone  that the doesn't have a physical disability and yet is struggling in their own right to walk in the world, to hear the world through one earpiece and to see the world through one lens.

OCD, it's the unseen.    It's people fighting something within the wiring of their brain to make it through their day. It's people rising every morning with the courage that they can get sassy with the voices and over come the irrational conversations pressing down upon them.  It's people living in hope that they are not less than the rest of their peers with whom all things seem to come with ease.  It's the rising to do the things that you and I take for granted everyday.