No Longer Expert

I never wanted to be an expert.

A friend called me yesterday to recount a chance he had to help a man having a seizure. My friend told me everything he did for the student seizing. Some things he said confidently… Some not so confidently. The questions he peppered me with were typical of someone who has never had their brain betray them. It made me smile, but then he said it again:

“I guess you’d know. You’re somewhat an expert in that area aren’t you?”

Michael sarcastically entitled the event exciting. Knowing the surrounding facts, that the kid seizing fell into the street and had never seized before, I interpreted it with the reality. It was bloomin’ terrifying. In all our years of friendship, my childhood friend had only heard horror stories and seen smaller seizures. We’d had so many conversations of “what to do if” though, during the years we lived closer, I trusted him more than I trusted anyone. 

“You did everything right, Dude. The kid should be okay. You did everything right.”

As the conversation came to a close, I muttered under my breath, “Lord, what if one of the only reasons you allowed me to have epilepsy was so Michael could correctly support this stranger? Even though You’ve given so many other blessings despite the curse, what if teaching Michael what to do was the only reason? Would that have been enough for my heart? Is my faith strong enough to say my epilepsy was worth it because of that one unseen show-casing of Your glory?”

American Christians have this habit of always asking God, “What’s in it for me?” Even in light of a disease, we justify having issues if we can see the benefit. Like getting called an expert and being given respect. Or feeling God lead us to sell everything and leave our home, only agreeing because there’s a rumor we’ll get a pay raise.

We face turmoil because we’re banking on the fact that it’ll pay off for us someday. The fact is, as followers of Christ, the pay-off shouldn’t matter. When we mutter, “Use me however You want” that should be enough. We have no idea what part our story plays in the grander plan of the Creator of the universe.

He is, after all, the Ultimate Expert.

Melodic Memories

It’s just a piano, but it represents so much. As a toddler, it signified naptime at my mama’s feet. As a child, it was my fortress in endless games of sibling tag (read: sibling torture). As an ill teen, it signified time to unravel the harsh truths of loving music but being too sick to share a God-given gift with the world.

As an adult, it was just friendship. Hours and hours of my mom playing through every chorus and hymnal we could find. I’d practice artistic liberty while my mom bit back a smile when it didn’t sound so grand. Hymns like It Is WellSoftly and Tenderly or Sweet By & By brought on “remember whens” of the days playing piano was two females’ only respite from a cruel, confusing disorder.

It’s just a piano, but every time I see one, I smile. I unexpectantly choked back a laughing sob today when I realized how much this holiday season will change my perception of my mama’s piano.

Instead of just my mama and I, God is humorously and joyously adding a male singer to that duo… Wait. What? In all my years of tickling the pages of a hymnal, I never thought three people around my mama’s piano would be a reality.

Instead of closing the hymnal and promising to come back and sing more next week, I’ll be begging God for another chance to sit and make music around the piano with my mama at least annually. Wait, what? My mama’s piano is one of the only childhood memories I can recall without assistance. Getting to giggle and sing with my music-making mama once a year doesn’t seem like enough.

My pensive laughter turned into awe when I realized why I’m so shaken over this year’s changes. Sure, I’m focusing on my mother, her piano and holiday traditions, but I still can’t believe the grace of God these transitions represent.

I never thought I’d make it to 26. I never thought I’d be able to act on my dreams and talents. I never believed I’d live long enough to have to figure out Godly relationships, let alone get to figure them out.

I never thought I’d grow out of being the little girl whose only release was at the piano.

Yet as I prepare to embark on an insanely unexpected holiday season, I can only hear God chuckle and pull me in as He whispers, “I’ve given you all of this and so much more. When will you learn your life has purpose?”

It’s just a piano, but it signifies dreams that were written and left unspoken by a 15-year-old, only to be told years later by the Master of Heaven Himself. 

No Longer Beautiful?

As an epileptic teen, I had a body that made the models jealous. When you have a seizure 20 times a day for 5 years, fat doesn’t have time to accumulate on your frame. My parents tried everything. There was a season where my daily diet included potato chips and a large strawberry milkshake. (To this day, my mother harkens back to how bad of an idea that was because she had to get a milkshake, too.)

No luck, though. I was 18 years old, 85-90 pounds and I had muscle in places that made people talk. I loved it, to be honest. I thought it was funny. In secret, it became my identity — My claim to fame outside of the doctors and blood draws.

 Now though, in my mid-twenties and relatively healthy, I read off those stats and I get that beautiful glance that says, “It’s not polite to tell you you’re lying, but there’s no way you… Yeah, no.” Whereas once upon a time I felt as if I could lift anything, now I’m thankful when my arms are free of anything.

I cried when I put on a size 2 jeans my freshman year of college at 19 years old. Cried. As in, oh my word, my world is over. I’m a frikkin’ size 2. I was always told my size made me beautiful. Maybe the well-intentioned souls that uttered those words meant it made me more beautiful. Who knows. That sentiment ends depending on the number of your jeans and the letter in your shirt, apparently?

When I put on a size 6 at 22, I’m fairly certain I had the fleeting (not acted upon) thought, “Jesus, 5 seizures will make me lose a size; whatdya say?” Needless to say, I never got my wish (halle-frikkin’-lujah). A size 6, to be fair, would be heavenly these days. Just sayin’. 

I hate to admit it, but after 18 years of not having to work at turning heads, there are days it’s all-consuming to realize I’m not someone who stands out in a crowd. Americans have completely re-written the definition to “beautiful.” 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to work towards being healthy. By all means, dang it, do it. But someday soon, can we stop only reserving the word beautiful for the women and men that look like they belong in a fashion show?

 As Christians, it’s very easy to see what the world has done to beauty and stand around critiquing the critique of the critique. Why do what we can to change things when we can just put our 2-cents in and walk away without any responsibility in changing what’s wrong with our world?

I challenge you, I challenge myself, to live with the Biblical definition of beauty written on our minds.

Love for others and love for God. That’s it. That’s all beauty really is.

Don’t Touch My Butt

Though humorous, the question is never easy for me to answer.

“Why’dya touch/hit/grab my butt?!” I’ve heard that question a million times. If I didn’t like being alive so much, I’d answer sarcastically just to hide my blush and/or deep desire to laugh and cry simultaneously.

I tell people not to scare me. It used to be because my epilepsy was a ticking bomb and scaring me made the bomb go off sooner. But I can’t blame this one on my epilepsy. I wish I could. “Sorry, Dude, before I have a seizure, I have to touch someone’s butt.” I’m not a creeper.

Unfortunately, it’s due to the joys of having hyper-tension spastic cerebral palsy. Basically, all that means is the verse that says, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” is quite Biblical in my li’l body. Yep. 

The tension/spasticity  gets worse when I get scared and don’t have time to literally talk my limbs out of moving. I sound like an idiot, but there are days when a siren scares me to death and I can be heard mumbling, “No, no, no. Stay where I put you…” If you ever hear that, just ignore me.

Some days, I think I’ve conquered the whole “be humble and filled with the Holy Spirit” thing. Then I’m reminded by my disobedient limbs that I still have a ways to go. 

It’s moments where the “butt question” is raised where my pride is hurt but my heart is shouting, “Jesus! I don’t want this to be about me… Please. (Make me disappear for 30 seconds).” Being humble is a constant pursuit. For whatever reason, my Creator decided I needed my very own, permanently attached reminder.

But I’ve also learned that when all else fails, breathing deep and laughing anyway works better than attempting to explain it away. 

Heck, what else am I gonna do?

Ironic Purpose, Meaningful Life

“You’re letting me die and I haven’t even been kissed, gone to Prom or gotten my driver’s license. Okay.”

Tomorrow it will have been 10 years since I mentally went through and prayed about the things I thought I’d never experience as I was being prepped for brain surgery. Those three things were what stuck out as important… and those were the three things I was more than willing to give up if it meant God would take me Home instead of “making me” live.

Oh… How things have changed.

1o years later, none of those things are drastically important to me. I had to laugh this morning as I remembered my almost 16-year-old brain thinking my life was incredibly boring because I didn’t have those things. I was so enraptured by the lack of those experiences I even dreamed about them… I thought those dreams were all I’d have before looking my Savior in the eye.

This morning, I was humbled by the fact that such a memory brought joy, not mourning. Then I heard my heart cry, “You have so much more for me to do, Lord. Keep me here. Find me faithful. I’m not done yet.”

It’s been 10 years of joys, trials, tears and laughter, but God kept me here for a reason. I used to happily tell people my life’s purpose was to be a testimony of how to suffer and die with joy. Not kidding. Now, I’m starting to believe that I may be the last person God takes Home, simply because He really enjoys irony.

The idea of “knowing your calling” as a Believer in Jesus Christ has become a dramatically important thing. There are so many books on the topic (Thank you Os Guiness…) I’m fairly certain it has its own section on the self-help shelf at bookstores. I often feel as if I disappoint older Christians when I don’t tell them specifics in regard to what my “calling” is. Wife? Mother? Writer? Journalist? Teacher? … Hobo???

Who knows. But my ultimate calling has been ironically and beautifully defined. I have been called to plan for the moment yet live for an undefined, God-filled future. A future that I couldn’t dare to dream about as I signed a Do Not Resuscitate order 10 years ago. 

Come what may, I know the price of living on my deathbed. Now my God is giving me the right to discover the epitome of what it means to truly live.

Invaluable…?

3 brain surgeries and a “pacemaker” (VNS) should’ve killed my desire to live.   

Honestly, I’ve  heard countless times someone else’s opinion that, “there’s no way [they] could survive all that.” But I did… Every trauma became a story to tell and a reason to value joy. 

I grew up getting used to being “friends” with people who loved being around me as long as my parents or siblings were there to catch me when the seizures hit. Not once did I question my value in life. I constantly questioned my purpose… But I kept going. I knew someone thought I was valuable enough to withstand the heartache. 

This past week, I think I’ve gotten my brain around why God allowed so much to happen to me when I was young. Life hadn’t hit me yet, singing Jesus Loves Me still made me smile and gave me hope. His verbal reminder of His grace, power and sovereignty convinced me the first time. 

I rarely shouted at the Heavens for proof. I rarely had fears that I was believing in the wrong thing. 

Now, as an adult, the smallest test of my faith sends my heart into over drive and my tearducts into over time. “What if” becomes thrown at the Heavens with a bitter taste of resentment and absolute fear that I’m just a pawn in a Deity’s game. 

I have no reason to doubt God, but my life has given me lies of other things to view as powerful. Those other things have limitations, but my fear of their impending impact often leaves me unable to see the weakness in their power. 

I’m not proud of my doubts. I can very quickly identify with Thomas and Peter of the Bible as one more test looms close. All I hear God whisper is, “Baby Girl, trust Me.” … Instead of running into His arms to find comfort, I respond with:

“But Jesus! You’ve forgotten what I’ve done. You’ve forgotten who I am. Are you sure you’re bigger than this new fear? Can I trust you?!

And then, I remember the one thing that quiets my heart immediately. I remember where the battle for relationship first began and my value was first declared. 

The Sacrifice of the Son on the Cross spoke my value and future before I ever had a reason to prove Jehovah wrong. Over 2,000 years ago, He saw this timid, terrified girl-within-a-woman and allowed His son to die for me anyway. 

I may have “grown up” enough to make Child-like faith an option rather than a necessity, but this little girl will always need the Father who gave her value in the first place. 

I Dread Nothing

I took one look at my right hand this morning and choked back a sob. Its presence is small, almost unnoticeable, but it exists. It’s only one, but it’s a scratch mark. They’re back. 

Memories of my right hand riddled with scars from night seizures filled my mind. It’s been at least six years since my hand was marked with scratch scars. I never knew the arrival of one scab could fill my heart with such dread. 

I’m 98% positive the scab is from a bug bite I had just scratched absent mindedly through the night. But it’s the possibilities, the fears, the what-ifs of the remaining 2% that held my heart captive. 

I’ve learned not to beg God for a revelation of the future. The few times I could actually say I “saw something coming” were never for personal gain. But just the memories of a terrifying past filled with medical mysteries make my tongue ache with a desire to scream at the Heavens: 

“What?! What next?! Am I… When will I… Can I…? What’s my future, Jehovah?!”

Quietly, the reality of a bug bite flooded my mind. The fear of unconscious seizures gently slipped into the category of “imagination” & I felt my Heavenly Father-Daddy wrap His arms around my quaking shoulders. 

Child… Trust Me. Your future is filled with dread because you rely on fear to feel in control. Trust Me. Learn what it means to smile at the future simply because your past and your future share one thing: Me.