Sunday, June 28, 2009


June 28, 3009
How Content I'm Not...An Honest Confession

When I took a Summer School Course on "Prison Epistles" while in Bible College I had one major assignment and only 6 weeks to complete it - memorize the entire book of Philippians. For the next six weeks I listened to Philippians on cassette tape so many time that I wore out the tape.

Philippians 4:11 boldly proclaimed, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am in to be content." To a starving Bible College student this verse was a little hard to swallow (pun intended). But since I was memorizing the entire book and was required to hand write the book within a one hour final exam I couldn't help but notice the verses before and after this seemingly illogical declaration. Previous to this statement is, 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."

Herein lies the secret to contentment: Thinking on only those things God wants us to think about and taking our eyes off anything not in this list. Contentment is the result of right thinking which leads to the Shalom (peace) of God being with us.

Can I make a painful confession here? I am not content. Gradually, over the past two and a half months I have grown less and less content. I'm not happy or proud of where I have recently found myself. But I need to work through this sobering discovery and I'm going to do so right in front of you, my trusted friends and family.

When I first got out of LifeCare Rehabilitation Hospital in March I felt the best I had felt in several months. I could walk fairly easily even though I used a walker, I was looking forward to returning to my apartment, driving and taking care of myself. I had visions of returning to Cardiac Rehab and finishing the 12 weeks I started last January, of cooking great meals for my roommate every night, maybe even getting a bicycle and getting some exercise outside. Yes, I can see some of you shaking your heads - especially those of you how understand heart disease much better than I did then. I had doctors who are hopelessly optimistic and I had gauged my progress by things they had said.

Unfortunately their optimism didn't take my unique heart disease into consideration and it wasn't long before I peaked in energy and accomplishment then slowly began a sad, painful decline. The truth is everything I am dealing with (except the drooping eye lids) is internal and I strive very hard - and use my large collection of Bare Minerals Makeup - to never leave the house without looking my absolute best. Frankly, I am constantly told how great I look and I take it all in and cling tightly to those words. Sometimes I look in the mirror and if I look good enough it is easy to forget just how sick I am on the inside. That is, until I begin to stand up and walk across the room. Then the shortness of breath and the pain in my chest is a "slap in the face" reminder of where I really am.

Last week I heard a third doctor tell me, "Kathleen, I've never seen a heart disease so advance or as aggressive as your during my entire medical practice." Translation - "We don't have any idea what to do with you,"

Oh, I know - I hear you saying, "Kathleen, whose report will you believe?" I'm not discounting God's ability to turn everything around but neither do I have to hear something like that from a doctor to tell me my heart, lung and kidneys are failing. I know it every time I take a breath, take a step, or take a walk. Is there any of you who has suffered great pain for a long period of time who has honestly been encouraged by such a platitude? At the risk of offending you, let me tell you up front that platitudes or misquoted Scriptures do not ease physical pain. I'm a firm believer that through the years more people have been made to feel guilty for being sick than have been helped or encouraged. If I can do nothing else with my life may I please be used to teach people how to avoid sounding like "friends of Job" to those who are suffering physically and for one reason or another not experiencing God's healing in this life.

What does all of this have to do with not being content? Because in the course of my physical life growing gradually weaker and increasing in pain I know that I have lost sight of those things that are "true, honest, just, pure, and lovely, of good report..."

I have figured out that my brain is stuck on a mental picture of myself that is in direct conflict with the reality of my physical condition. When I am sitting or laying in bed it is very easy to visualize myself cleaning my room, making lunch, doing laundry, cleaning out the closet or driving to Sonic for a Diet Cherry Limeade. But as soon as I stand up and find myself dizzy or short of breath and have to sit down or risk passing out those mental pictures become broken dreams.

Two months ago I could safely drive myself to the grocery store, take myself to my own doctor's appointments and walk through WalMart for an hour (with my fancy walker) and even carry in my own groceries. Now I need help getting to the doctor and each time I go out I hae to stay down for two days just to recover even the shortest jaunt "outside." I've spent this entire weekend 'at home' and yet I still feel like I've run a marathon. Not only have I been losing ground since I first left LifeCare in March but my hospitalization at the end of May left me much weaker and unable to do very little without constant help. I might forget for a moment and start to think I can drive myself down to the bank or pharmacy but as soon as I begin to leave the apartment I am stopped by my own shakiness.

Because of this slow digression it is easy to catch myself dwelling on all the things I can no longer do or will never do again. A Coleman commercial on television reminds me that my camping days are permanently over. A Six Flags ad reminds me that my last ride on the "Superman" ride three summers ago was my last. Are these laments true? Yes. Honest? Yes. Just? not really (in my eyes) and they are certainly not pure or lovely - and contentment goes right out the door.

I will not find contentment concentrating only on the possibility of my healing but on focusing on those things that are EVERYTHING Philippians 4:8 lists. We cannot cajole anyone into their healing by carelessly quoting Scriptures or platitudes. That is exactly what Job's friends did and in the end their voices (and I think their ears) were silenced by the booming voice of God who boldly asked Job dozens of rhetorical questions that all had the same answer - God and God alone because He IS Sovereign - period.

And what about the statements Paul makes directly after his declaration of being content? It is here where we find a very familiar verse: 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." This is a great verse to memorize in Sunday School as it is short and to the point. But just what constitutes "all things?" We find the answer to that in the statement between verses 11 and 13: 12 "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." How many times have you actually heard verses 12 AND 13 quoted together. Somehow "doing all things" sound a much different when proceeded by words like "abased" and "hungry" and "suffer need." I am a big believer in keeping things in proper context. Paul didn't write the book of Philippians in chapters and verses - he wrote it as a letter and each sentence was connected to the one preceding it and the one after it. If we are going to truly "do all things through Christ who strengthens us" we are going too have to first "think on these things" AND also learn how to be both "full and hungry" and content at the same time. Tough assignment but great rewards - "and the God of peace shall be with you." (4:9)

I can think of only one statement that is true, honest, just, pure and lovely and of a good report all at the same time. "My God, the Holy One of Israel, is Sovereign and in conplete control no matter what my circumstances may feel like, look like, sound like or end like." When I lose sight of this then I lose His peace and I am no longer "content in whatever state I am in."

Frankly, I'm not learning this lesson too quickly. I still wish I could fly up to visit my brothers, drive myself to Sonic, cook gourmet healthy meals for myself and my roomie, go water skiing, ride a bike, walk through the mall and camp by a campfire and set marshmallows on fire. I seem to miss doing more things this summer than I have even attempted to do for the past five summers put together but I guess that is because we rarely miss something until we can't do it.

So, while your praying for God to heal me - which I DO believe He can do - would you please pray that I will regain my peace, the Shalom that passes all understanding. And would you please consider how you write and talk to friends who find themselves enduring physical or mental challenges that seemingly have no end. Ask yourself and the Lord if your words will bring hope or additional pain.

We are living in a new season in these days. An oppression hovers over whole communities - especially those with mosques. Much of the true Remnant find themselves in the midst of painful and often confusing circumstances. If you are not one of them, then please do more than sigh a big sigh of relief. Please commit to reaching out to those who are hurting without words of condemnation because I'm sure there are many around you who are truly suffering. And before you speak or "bring a word" or send a card go to the Lord and humbly ask Him what you should and should NOT say.

There is much that needs to be done for Believers in these days - be sure that what you feel "led" to do lines up with God's will and not man's agenda.

I may be down but I am NOT destroyed. And yes, I do believe I will see a restoration of my peace and my joy - and I will be sure to share that day with you. In the meantime, if you too find yourself discontent then evaluate what you are focusing on. And if you know a friend who is struggling then ask the Lord how you can be a positive encouragement rather than a verbose discouragement.

I look forward to having my contentment restored - I believe that it is as close as my mind.

From My Heart,

Thursday, June 18, 2009


June 18, 2009

Dear Friends:

With my browser set at 24 point sized font and constantly titling my head "just right" I'm typing this hoping I'm not typing any words that would embarrass me. I'm learning, the hard way and five months too late that heart disease truly is a systemic (multi-system) illness. Today my ophthalmologist said that the same thing that is happening in my heart is happening in my eyes. And the bad news is that it can't be stopped and will never improve.

Today I went in expecting laser surgery on my right eye but five times I heard "If the doctor decides to do the procedure/" I was confused from the beginning. Then he explained, after looking at today's scan that the desired result of reducing the swelling was accomplished with the precious steroid injection. But neither the laser procedure or the injection improved my sight which means that what I have left in my right eye is all I can hope for. And because my blood pressure is not under control it will continue to worsen.

So then I mentioned my left eye and that ever since my recent hospitalization and several days of overly high blood pressures I have been having problems reading, seeing small things like my pills and reading on the computer. So it was back into the "photo" room and more tests with dye were done on the left eye. When the pictures were compared to ones from seven weeks ago it was evident that the swelling was indeed increasing in my left eye.

This swelling is fluid and lipids (fat particles) that enter the eyes from leaks in the blood vessels. Imagine the eye like a basement filled with pipes for a large apartment building. When those pipes begin to leak in hundreds of different places the basement begins to fill - and this is a picture of my eye. The laser procedure doesn't stop the bleeding like I was told back in March it only reduces the swelling so I'm not looking through the extra fluid and floaters (lipids) that look like hairs on your eyeball.

The solution today was to try to stop the same deterioration that is in the right eye to happen in the left. In other words, catch it before it is too late like it turned out in my right eye.

When the doctor said that what is happening in my heart is now happening in my eyes he meant that my eyes are no longer getting the proper blood and oxygen supply but unfortunately they can't put stents in eyes like they have my heart.

My distant vision is still okay in my left eye but I've lost more of the near vision which affects my computer experience and, of course, reading. I guess a large print subscription to Reader's Digest will be next on my wishlist.

The loss seems to be slow - which is good. And for now there are some simple solutions like increasing the sizes of my fonts, etc. But it is all still disconcerting especially when I can't properly proofread what I have written and I can't see the think red line under misspelled words.

I'm learning to fill my time with things I don't need to seem perfectly to accomplish. I've started crocheting again this time making hats and shawls since I am always cold. And I play card games like Quiddler which I can easily see even without glasses.

Next Tuesday (June 23rd) I will be having appointments with my Endocrinologist, Cardiologist and Pulmonologist on the same day. It may be grueling but it couldn't be helped because of strange scheduling. But there will be some tough discussions about the future, oxygen treatments, air and car travel and a plea for an honest and clear prognosis. Please pray for me AND the doctors as some of these discussions will be difficult.

So this is what the most "advanced and aggressive heart disease ever seen" by my cardiologists looks and acts like. It doesn't restrict itself to the heart and in my case it has already affected my kidneys (and vice versa), my lungs (and again vice versa) and now my eyes - a fact I never knew nor expected. Somehow losing my eyesight is more frightening to me than even losing my life. I know that must sound strange but it is just very difficult to imagine life without seeing even though I know millions of people do so every day.

It is a harsh reality and once again I feel pushed up against a wall of hard acceptance. I only have one prayer request - that I do not lose Faith. That is more important to me than even my sight.

If you've read this far and concluded that I have given up hope of being healed, let me assure you that is far from the case. But I have no problem with stating the truth of where I am physically which still believing in a God Who is sovereign, loving, all powerful and not a tormentor. I will not go into all the reasons I believe I am where I am right now but I will state without meaning to sound arrogant or haughty that I DO believe God heals and I have both seen and personally experienced His healing power in my own life. But I also will not live my life in what I call "spiritual denial" by refusing to admit to or speaking of my physical challenges and weaknesses. Paul asked his followers to not be ashamed of his chains and I am asking you to not be ashamed of my illness. I will write more on this later.

From My Heart,

Friday, June 5, 2009


June 5, 2009

My sister has always been the one in the family to find that "perfect" gift for her siblings. I think I can safely say that each of us has received some of our most valued gifts from her and wondered where in the world she found them. Over the years she's given me my favorite clothes (starting with my very first pair of blue jeans back in 1970), my first haircut when I was 11 and 90 percent of my earring collection. But this year I think she topped them all. She gave me a Purple Heart. Now it would have been enough that the pin is 1) my favorite color being purple and 2) my favorite shape being a heart. But this pin was attached to a card with a special poem written by the same talented woman who made the beautiful pin.

Here is what it says:


Some women deserve a purple heart -
Those who struggle through adversity
One foot in front of the other
Who smile when one would expect tears
Those who find the cup half full and are thankful
Those whom you can count on...
Can turn to...
Who make our lives richer!
Women who are survivors -
Remarkable and warm
Who make the world a better place
Just because they're here
Did you know YOU are one of those women?

-Norma Marshall ©2000

Yep, I cried - right there in that nice fancy restaurant. But how many of you are doing the same thing right now? Our friend at the table has offered that once I'm tired of wearing it and showing it off she'll frame it for me. Only if she can pry it out of my hands, that is!

It's not that I want to show it off because I think I deserve it but that I want to hold on to it because my SISTER thinks I deserve it. And yes, I'm crying again right now just thinking about it.

But I have to say that I know a lot of people who also deserve a purple heart this year:
° My roommate who works 12+ hour days, five days a week as a cardiac nurse then comes home to another heart patient and gives whatever energy she has left to lovingly make sure I have my meds, food to eat and anything else I might need, listens to my honest, tearful fears and complaints and then lovingly and patiently turns my eyes to the Creator of the Universe and Ruler of our lives so I remember Who really is in control when I am terrified that no one is.
* My son who has sat by my hospital bed countless days, rushed to the ER, endured hours of waiting room hours through no less than 5 heart procedures and open heart surgery even while losing his own father from an embolism right in the midst of my own health crisis.
* My beautiful Daughter-in-Love who declared to my son "You take care of your father's estate and I will take care of your mother's affairs" and lovingly walked me through mountains of medical bills, Social Security forms and treated me as lovingly as her own mother both in and out of the hospital (Not to mention has spoiled me rotten for my birthday)
* My brother Jim who kept me laughing with his wonderful sense of humor and talent for describing hospital life to a tee.
* My big brother who had his own heart issues just the year before and inspired me with his 100 mile bike ride on the anniversary of his heart attack.
* My sister who made the drive from Little Rock several times to visit me in the hospital, endures my beating her in word card games and challenges me to Word Twist just to keep me mind from vegetating.
* My friends who have become even closer friends through these months and visited me with fluffy slippers, sugar-free chocolates, healing music CDs, a collection of stuffed animals and most of all their prayers - both when I knew they were praying and more importantly when I never knew but definitely felt them in my "heart."
* My many fellow employees at work who fought for me when the company denied disability benefits, collected monies to cover the cost of my health insurance, brought me meals, took me to doctor appointments, visited me in the hospital and made me laugh so hard my blood pressure soared and the nurses had to kick them out of my room.
* My many friends who stuffed birthday cards with generous checks that will greatly help with ongoing medical and personal expenses and sometimes specifying that some portion be spent on me as well.
* My dear friend in the corporate benefits office who cried every time she had to deliver bad news about my denied benefits and even made sure my monthly COBRA payments were paid when I had no resources to do so for myself.
* My many Facebook, email and chatroom friends who have written, read, commented, loved, prayed and supported me through this long, never-ending journey. You have kept me from feeling alone when there was no one in my hospital room, you've tolerated my competitiveness in online word games and you've made me laugh when I really felt like crying. And every time I thought about giving up I could look on my Facebook page or my email address book and see that I had 100+ friends cheering me on and know my world wasn't as small as it seemed in that closed-in hospital room - even at 3 in the morning.

So, purple heart to all of you - and my HEART-felt thanks.

I love you all and thank God for each one of you. I celebrate our friendship and commit to praying for you just as you all have prayed for me. I have a screen saver made up of pictures I've titled "Things that make me smile" and in that folder of pictures are pictures of you guys that I've take from your FaceBook pages. When my screen saver goes on it stacks each picture like being tossed from a scrapbook and I do truly smile. You are each in my "things that make me smile" folder.

Thank you - I can only pray that someday I can return the love your way.

From My Heart,