Wednesday, April 9, 2014

a heart of flesh

"And I will give you a new heart,
and a new spirit I will put within you.
And I will remove from you the heart of stone...
and give you a heart of flesh."
Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV)

Getting away for the weekend was just what I needed. Some quiet time and space to reflect and just "be."

My family has continued to work with Neurogistics to help re-balance our neurotransmitter levels. Most people experienced restored health after about a year. Unfortunately, our family has experienced one trauma after another over the past four years. We have yet to re-find our balance.

After receiving my latest lab report, my sweet (and praying!) practitioner said to me, "Amy, you have the epinephrine level of a trial lawyer."

I knew she was acknowledging my stress level, but I wasn't quite exactly sure what she meant. So, after a quick Google search, I read, "Trial lawyers are under a tremendous amount of stress twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

Ah, OK. Yeah, I get it. As usual, Pam was correct. (Sigh)

Epinephrine plays a role in the "fight or flight" response, metabolism, energy, depression, and cognitive function. Last year, I was at 2.94 (a healthy range is 8-12).

I'm now down to 1.78. And, that is with supplementation! Eek. It always helps to see what our numbers are to explain we how are all feeling.

Oddly enough, Geoff got his latest results back last night. His epinephrine is actually 1.77.

Quite the pair we are! The good news? We totally get each other. (Smile)

And, of course, epi is only one of my neurotransmitters that are out of balance. My numbers were all over the board. In short, I am working (or more precisely trying to RELAX) to recover from adrenal fatigue and PTSD.

My body and brain hit a wall from the constant production of stress hormones being released and over-flooding my system.

One of the things you quickly learn about me is that regardless of the experience I am going through, I always seek to find a purpose in the struggle. A constant in all of "this" has been a deep and growing gift of compassion for others.

Although we may feel bad when we hear others are hurting, it's not until we walk a similar path that we are able to truly understand the anguish in their souls.

I am not only watching my own children experience trauma after trauma, and loss after loss. I am walking over the hot coals of suffering with them. And many times, by God's grace alone, I am carrying them. I ache for them, yes. But I also ache with them. Both as a mother, and as a fellow mourner. Blessings come through the fires of suffering.

That said, there are times when I have to set them on their own two feet, and say, "Honey, you need to walk this part of the path on your own. But don't be afraid. I will be with you every step of the way."

It's probably one of the hardest parts of being a parent. The blessing in this is that it helps me to understand the times when God does the same with me. And, it's a reminder that He is always right beside me, even when I feel very much alone.

Jesus said, 
"I have said these things to you,
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart;
I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 (ESV)

It helped to hear Pam both acknowledge and reassure me when she counseled, "Amy, you have been through both a physical and emotional trauma. That's a double-whammy. Usually it takes about a year for a person to recover from a trauma."

Thankfully, God has blessed me with a extremely compassionate and supportive husband who has parroted back those very words to me on more than one occasion. Thus, my weekend away. (Thank you, Abba, for my Geoffrey! And, thank you, G, for your patience and grace!)

After a restorative weekend away, I packed up my car and took a walk down to the beach along the inlet. As I walked along picking up different shells and rocks that caught my attention, I asked God to help me find a heart-shaped rock. I found all kinds of treasures, but none of them were shaped like a heart.

As I turned around and started to make my way back, I spoke aloud to the Lord, thinking I was alone. I'm sure the kayaking couple was more than a little curious as to who I was talking to. (Grin)

Through the course of the walk, my heart and prayer had changed.

"Lord, it doesn't have to be a heart-shaped stone. Any kind of heart-shaped-something would be great."

A few minutes later, I looked up from my search to see my host, Chris, making his way toward me. We hadn't yet met and he thought perhaps I was their new guest waiting to check in.

By this time, my pockets were literally bulging with all of my "beach finds" (minus the much-desired heart-shaped stone.)

I was actually a bit embarrassed by a couple of larger rocks I had picked up, so I jammed those in my pockets as well. Thankfully, he didn't seem to notice. (Smile)

After asking how I enjoyed their cabin, Chris began to share with me how he came to build the log cabin with his very own hands.

There we stood, amid the fog on the beach, our hearts connecting. Me with my overflowing pockets sagging, and he with tears of remembrance and thanksgiving in his eyes.

You see, Chris battled and conquered cancer of the stomach and esophagus 10 years ago. He went through chemo, radiation, and had his stomach and part of his esophagus removed. He now stands at a scant 106 pounds after losing 80 pounds from his frame.

Today, he shared with great joy he's "healthier than he's ever been." Even the diabetes he used to battle is now gone.

The plan to build the cabin came from two seemingly devastating experiences. His cancer diagnosis and a storm knocking down a ginormous tree on their property.

One day, he shared, he was sitting at home feeling sorry for himself. The diagnosis was grave, and he wasn't expected to survive. He knew he didn't want to leave his wife with the sagging roof over his carport. So, he picked up the phone and asked the city to deliver a dumpster. That very day he got started working on the roof. He then crossed another to-do item off his list. He built a mother-in-law suite above the carport.

Then, a tree fell higher up on their property. And, with a chuckle, he explained, "When you live on the water and have a flat, open piece of land, you build." It would take me too long to share all the incredible details Chris told me, but that was the beginning of the story of how the Heron House came to be.

It took him two long years of work to build his little gem of a cabin. He told me that he has also been battling the county years and has spent over $20,000 seeking to get licensing in place. This guy does not give up!

Even more inspiring was when Chris told me that it took him another 2 years and 7 sanders to finish off the inside of the cabin. He wanted the logs to be a lighter color. And, even though it was a huge job, he set about to do it every free moment he had.

He told me that even if he only had twenty minutes free, he would walk up the hill to the cabin and work on a small section. The end result is beautiful and makes the cabin feel even more cozy inside.

As our conversation came to an end, we shook hands again. But, before Chris turned away so that I could finish my walk, I looked my host in the eye and said with sincerity, "Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I think I really needed to hear your experience today." And, as the words escaped from my heart, I realized that my Ever-Faithful God did in fact answer my prayer.

Nope. I didn't get a heart-shaped stone. I got something much, much better. I received the gift of a new heart, that of a life redeemed. And, the promise of a renewed future.

In sharing his journey with me, Chris gave me a new sense of purpose and hope. Something I have been struggling with lately.

The tears are flowing as I write this. (Don't be worried, fellow-Panera diners. All's well! My King is alive...and I have a new heart of flesh! God is good. All.The.Time.)

I was encouraged by Chris' story that cancer doesn't have to mean a death sentence. Yes, I still have a suspicious lump in my breast after three long years of observation. So far the doctor's believe it's benign.

It's not something I really allow myself to worry about. Even while I'm in the waiting room, during the mammogram, back in the waiting room, during the ultrasound, and then waiting again for the final prognosis.
I actually stay pretty peaceful.

However, I will admit that after the long appointment and all of the waiting, I always need a nice long nap to decompress.

Even if I don't allow myself to fret and worry, the burden that my life could suddenly be turned on its head does take it's toll. (As does the reality that other women, and men, do have their lives turned on end and are working through the cancer diagnosis.)

Then, of course, comes the letter inviting me to go yet another 'round of waiting' next year. Boy, I will be glad to get off this merry-go-round of waiting one day! Until then, I am experiencing a tiny taste of what others are walking through.

And, even "if" the malignant diagnosis were to come, cancer doesn't have to equate to a death sentence. Even if it does turn out to be terminal. 

Why? Because my God is bigger than the dreaded c-word.

I was also encouraged by Chris' perseverance through the storms he and has family weathered. And, how he chose to spend his time. He made plans and got busy. He built not one, but two, amazing homes.

Finally, I was inspired by the truth that even if we want to complete a really BIG project (which I personally have one or two in mind), it doesn't matter how long it takes, or how small the pockets of time we have to work on them.

Over time, great things can be accomplished. 
We just need to take the first step...and then each step thereafter.

As I'm wrapping up this post, I was reminded of a picture I sent to Geoff on Saturday. As I looked above my comfy chair next to the wood stove, I happened to spy this special heart on one of Chris' carefully placed and beautifully sanded logs:

Dan Allender wrote a powerful statement in his book To Be Told:

"Your plight is also your redemption." 

That's a truth to hold onto. God can and will use every big and little thing in our lives to draw us closer to Him. I don't know about you, but I don't want to waste a single experience.

The deepest desire of my heart is to know Christ truly and intimately.

          Do you want to know the BEST news ever?
                 He desires the same.
                         Only magnify that by eternity!
                               And, it's not just me.
                                       He also desires for YOU,
                                              My Friend,
                                                    to know Him
                                                          and His incredible love for YOU.

On a side note, Friend, if you have suffered any kind of trauma or stress and have noticed a toll on your health and mental well-being, might I suggest you check out a company like Neurogistics? (No, I don't get any kind of kick-back or compensation for recommending them!) I know their program and supplements aren't for everyone, but my family has been extremely blessed by not only their products, but their huge hearts of compassion, understanding, and support.

I personally prefer to avoid prescription drugs if at all possible. Their program allows you to know exactly what your neurotransmitter levels are so they can prescribe the right supplementation. And, the vitamins and supplements help your body to heal itself and manufacture the appropriate levels you need to be healthy. That way, you don't have to stay on the supplements forever. Just something to keep in mind. 

Wow. Another painfully long post. My apologies! I keep trying to be short and concise so it doesn't take you all day to read my posts. I'll keep working at it! (Wink)

Until then, keep your eyes open. You never know when you might stumble upon a heart-shaped stone. Or, better yet, a heart of flesh!


With a heart full of thanks and joy,

1 comment:

Ellie said...

oh girl! I somehow checked your blog today - and I have missed everything you are going through!! So I cannot figure out from your blog what the last year has been about - but I'm guessing you were expecting - and you lost the baby? :( I''m so sorry you have been going through so much. please please email me and let me know what is going on!! I know you can't share freely on your blog about everything but I would love to hear from you!! xoxo ellie
email: facebook: ellie witt praying for you!!!