When I wrote the post below about peace a year ago, I still had a dad and never though that it would be my last Christmas with him. He passed away Memorial Day weekend which was exactly one year from when he flew down to my house in Florida during a very scary time with my health and brought me and Spritz (but not in the suitcase!) up to Massachusetts where I’d spend the year seeing doctors, searching for answers, having surgery and convalescing, with my parents right by my side every step of the way. But coming off of a year of barely seeing my family due to Covid, God had already imprinted on my heart that every day is a gift, not to be taken for granted. And that He is Sovereign, had a plan amidst the pain, and that fruit was coming! Which doesn’t mean there weren’t very dark days that sometimes turned into weeks and times of hopelessness, fear, doubt, frustration and despair. But there were also many moments of laughter, of joy, of making memories and spending precious time together.
My dad drove me to all my doctors appointments and everywhere we went he had a story of having had a crushing or paving job in the various cities we passed. He’d tell me stories of the characters he met, the way he’d retrofit each job; coming up with new designs and solutions, and the obstacles he overcame. His ingenuity and the long hours he worked often meant he finished ahead of schedule. I learned even more about not only the incredible work ethic my dad had and how much he sacrificed for our family, but also how genuinely interested he was in the people he worked with. Decades later he could recall details about their lives as he animatedly spoke about them.
That’s one word that always comes to mind when I think of my dad…animated! And in the year I spent living back under his roof, I got to witness just how animated my dad was about his Lord…his faith in a Savior who was real to him, whom he trusted with his life and his family’s life, and turned to as his source of wisdom and peace. There’s one distinct instance that keeps coming into my mind…I had just gotten off a telehealth call with my neurosurgeon and I went and told my parents about it and the big decisions about my health I had to make. My dad intently listened, and then asked to pray, and he said that he liked to picture us looking up at God through a small hole in the ceiling, while God looks down on us seeing the full picture, the entirety of our story. And thanked God that because he sees all and knows all, we can trust him with our all. How I thank God for these precious memories… for these moments that I got to see my Dads heart for his Lord, and his love for me.
3 weeks before my dad passed away he asked his oncologist to be allowed to come home from the hospital on hospice…he said that there’s nothing like 20 kids giving him a hug, and that he was going from heaven to heaven. And that peace was a vivid reality that my dad lived with right up until the end of his life here. On one of his last days he looked up at the sky and said to me, ‘the colors, the colors are so amazing!” And I think he was beginning to see the splendor of heaven that was awaiting! It was pouring rain all day on the Saturday that he took his last breaths, and then, soon after he passed, the skies cleared and sunbeams shown through the trees as the sun set. My dad in heaven, rejoicing for all eternity!
We sing carols about baby Jesus our Prince of Peace, but it’s not just a name…it is His very being. Jesus is Peace! And because of that, our circumstances can never change who He is and what He offers to us. And we can have joy, we can have hope, and we can have peace, even in the midst of the most overwhelming grief, sorrow, loss and pain.
I am beyond grateful for that year I had with my dad, and shortly before he passed away I got to tell him that I would go through all that pain all over again for the time I got to spend with him. I am so grateful that God in his loving faithfulness allowed me to see the way He was working that whole year for my good. And while it doesn’t make my heartache any less, it sure bolsters my confidence in the way that God can redeem any and every situation that we let Him!
Post on Peace from 1 year ago…
Four weeks since my tethered cord release surgery! My surgeon cut through the muscle down to my spine, removed the piece of bone covering my spinal cord, then cut into my spinal canal and removed the very bottom portion of my spinal cord, called the filum. My surgeon told me that when she cut into my dural sac, my cerebral spinal fluid came shooting out, a sign that I have had very high intracranial pressure, which was contributing to my constant and pounding headaches for the past 3 years. The filum that she removed was thick and brittle; it had not been functioning, and was keeping my whole spinal cord trapped and unable to move within the spinal canal. With that removed my spine will be better at regulating pressure now, amongst many other things! I had to lay completely flat for the first 24 hours post-op to help my spinal fluid recalibrate, then spent another 3 days recovering in the hospital before going back to my parents for the long haul…6 weeks of no bending, lifting or twisting.
It has been a challenging month, but God is faithful, and IS our strength when we are weak. While still in the hospital I had a severe mast cell reaction to the antibiotics they gave me, then when I got home had an allergic reaction to the surgical tape covering my incision which morphed into a systemic rash covering my whole back side. The medication they gave me made the issues with my heart rate much worse and didn’t do anything to clear up the rash, and I ended up on a 6 day prednisone taper…which actually stabilized my heart rate better than it had been in a few years…so God used even that for good! After the first week I started getting bad rebound headaches as the CSF pressure came back up, in addition to tension headaches from my cervical instability. But each week I’m moving more without as much pain…yesterday I was able to bend down far enough to wash my face at the bathroom sink…small wins!
It was a big step of faith having this surgery, but I am believing for our BIG God to use it to heal me in BIG ways! I’ve been reading some passages on faith; Hebrews 11 is one of those mega motivational faith passages, and Paul says that, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Then he goes on to describe biblical accounts of the superhero’s of Christian faith and says that, “Their weakness was turned to strength”! Then I was looking at the story of Mary, who walked by faith in fulfilling Gods calling on her life, and whose cousin Elizabeth exclaimed about her, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45 NIV
I’ve sought God’s wisdom and guidance through every step of this journey, and through prayer and moments of stillness in God’s presence, He’s led me in which way to go, and then given me peace about each decision. He led me to a surgeon who I’d later find out is one of the best surgeons in the world for tethered cord, and whose whole team was highly skilled in operating on patients with EDS and it’s comorbidities. I don’t have much symptom relief yet…it could take months for my spine to start functioning properly and for all the pieces to be restored, and since my tethered spinal cord went undiagnosed for 36 years, there’s damage that might have been too advanced to be reversed. But nothing is impossible with God! He gave me His peace over all of this, and I am waiting in eager expectation for all that He will do.
When I’ve thought about what it means to have peace, I’ve conjured a lack of anxiety and a sense of calmness, rest and ease. But only recently did I learn through an advent devotional that the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means completeness or wholeness. What a revelation this was to me on so many levels! Thinking of my health struggles…of wrestling with a body that so often feels broken into pieces, but the way God steps in and over and over again by giving me peace…wholeness! No matter how broken we feel physically, or in spirit, Christ came to earth to be our Prince of Peace…offering us wholeness through a relationship with Him. Jesus was born our Prince of Peace because our broken world is separated from God through sin, but that baby in a manger, wrapped in lamb’s clothes, came so that he could die on a cross, the perfect lamb without a single blemish, to be the ultimate sacrifice for us. Jesus’ birth and death made it possible for us to be complete in God’s sight…whole, not lacking a single thing!
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:2, 4-5 NIV
Isn’t this the crux of the human struggle…that there is a gaping void in our lives that we try and fill with so many “good” things, avoiding struggle and discomfort as much as possible. Yet it’s in those seasons of adversity that we have a choice to make…keep filling the void with more and more ‘fluff” that is fleeting and will never truly satisfy, or to believe that Jesus is our only Savior, to have faith that He can and will use everything for our good in our life, to keep seeking God’s wisdom through prayer and stillness…and then to watch for an outpouring of PEACE…COMPLETENESS…that will come overflowing into our lives.
This Christmas season I am celebrating and praising my Prince of Peace in a whole new way…because no matter how broken my body may feel, I can stand in His presence with WHOLENESS of spirit, knowing that His plans for me are perfect, He is healing and restoring me in His perfect timing and perfect way, He is working everything for my good, He gives me joy independent from any circumstance, and that one day, when I see Him face to face, every part of me will be made whole for all eternity!