Praising God from a Hospital Bed

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you”

God promises, in Isaiah, when we go through rivers of difficulty, we will not drown. This does not mean, however, we won’t find ourselves neck-deep, panicking and reaching out for Him. One day after surgery, I am here. My blood pounds so hard against my ears I feel a thousand feet below the surface of the river, and I am in such pain I can do nothing but feel my mother’s hand against my back as I rock in my bed. I reach out to Him for help in this time, begging Him to bring me relief in this.

And I fall asleep in the throbbing pain into a memory of crowding into a tidy nursing home room with ten other teens, each of us clutching our Hymn books nervously. The elderly woman who invited us in was excited, and quietly bid us to start singing. At the end of the song, Amazing Grace, she shook with tears and took my hands in hers. She whispered to me that she hadn’t spoken with Christ in years, but that her father had been a pastor, and we brought peace to her soul. We may not have changed that woman’s life, but the peace that God sent into that room through each of us that evening left our souls trembling for Him.

I turn again in pain and fall into a different memory, one of freezing toes and nine degree rooms. ICE is some sort of Texan pilgrimage at Christmas, and we stopped in the day before my surgery to stock up on some good Christmas spirit before the unknowns of the day ahead. It was a beautiful wintry wonderland, filled with runny noses, wide eyes, and carols all around. The final room, however, would’ve been worth the drive and hassle in and of itself. Clear ice lined the room, all an intricately illuminated manger scene laid out before viewers. O Holy Night drifted in an ethereal tone through, still and crystal as the crowd, and my boyfriend pulled me to him as we prayed. There I felt it, just as I had in the ER room in Rockwall Presbyterian Hospital the morning I learned of God’s plan for me. Pure peace in God.

“I have made you. I will carry you. I will sustain you. I will rescue you.”

Though the throbbing in my head had not stopped, the pain slicing into my skull begins to lessen and I lay back. Through each of these memories, God gave me the strength in his blessings to ford the river. I woke up bathed in in blonde sunlight, surfacing from the greatest pain of my life, with one clear thought in my mind: “My God, I am blessed.” My dad came forward and took my hand in his, his eyes wet and happy he was looking into mine again. We both stood, prayed, and thanked God again that day. We know His work with me is not over, that there will be greater towers to climb, deeper rivers, hotter fires,. But we do know that the pain we feel now is nothing to the joy that is coming.

Where Two or More Are Gathered

“He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge.” -Psalm 91:4

Under his wings I felt safety in the realization that my life had changed forever. I never felt a moment of doubt or fear, but a sense of safety. I finally understood the pieces of the tapestry he had been showing me bits of from over the past year. He wrapped me in His arms and I felt more at peace than I had in years. In that hospital room, God held me in his hands and I trusted more fully in Him, more easily in Him than I ever have before.

But, as I am only a human, reading through the words “likely cancerous” on my MRI results make my grip on Him loosen. Family tension, stress, lack of sleep; all work together to make Him harder to hide behind. I begin to slow following him down the path. I want to be able to look ahead and see what lies before me as I have in the past, and now more than ever, it is dark and obscured.

“My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to Your word.” -Psalms 119:28

A return to our roots as a family re-bolstered me on my weary walk yesterday. The pastor of Berean Baptist Church, Pastor David Mills, was my father’s youth pastor when he was my age. Our meeting with him left me with two solid take-away’s.

  • God is good
  • God is sovereign

God is good. I will give thanks to Him. Because what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.

God is sovereign. I’m not afraid of tomorrow because I know God is already there.

It was a reminder to me of the what I have spent many hours folded in prayer over since hearing this news.

As a child, when your parent takes your hand to lead you on ahead, you do not question their direction or their reason for doing so. You lock your fingers in theirs and trust they know where you are going. God implores us to have a childlike faith in him. Why is this so hard? Why, when the path around us is dark and clouded, do we choose to stray from Him when He is the only light we see? From the moment I took His hand when I heard the news, He has been my guide down the path. I have not turned from Him to the right or to the left. God is the only light I see, though the world around me is dark and unclear. I am at peace in His fog.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Two incredible women from our Scouting community were scheduled to drop by Tuesday night to pray and wish us well. Each and every person who has laid their hands on me has lifted me up as angels of God, and I couldn’t wait for them to get here, despite the nap my mother insisted I take before hand. It was with good cause, as I was flagging big time at the late hour of three o’clock that day. At their arrival, my mother insisted I stay on the couch (with which I not so reluctantly complied) only to be called up to the door by her a moment later.

Outside our door, across our front lawn, and strewn into the street, were our brothers and sisters in Christ. Over fifty people stood looking up to the weepy-eyed pair of us, overcome by the emotion of the moment. These prayer warriors: from Scouting, from my mother’s school, from around the community of Rockwall, traveled to our home to pour out God’s love into us like a vessel of light. We were called into the center of the group, where hands were extended and prayers lifted up in support of us. Never in my life have I felt so purely blessed and closer to God than I do now.  I still cannot, despite my loquaciousness, find near the words to describe the light of God I felt that night, the healing power of every prayer He has heard, the touch of every faithful hand of reassurance. I am still alone on my path with Him, but it isn’t dark.

Tomorrow is the morning of my surgery, and I am giving thanks continually for those blessing my family and me with their prayers during this time. My final words until I wake to you will be verses I have been clinging to in this past week.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“And when I wake up, you are still with me.” Psalm 139:18

“God has you in the palm of His hand.” Isaiah 49:16

“She holds onto hope for God is forever faithful” 1 Corinthians 1:9prayers

Be Still

 

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” -Psalm 139:16B

As a teen, I was blessed to be involved in Acteens, an incredible Christian youth organization for young women. Our task was to grow in God, to commit His word to memory, and to shine his light onto the world as His ambassadors. There were simpler verses, to call on in times when a short reminder of God was needed (Pray Continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17), then there were the behemoths. Entire chapters that took weeks with whiteboards to swallow into our pop-culture pre-occupied pre-teen memories. Psalm 139 was the greatest challenge to my commitment. My best friend and I spent weeks in a church classroom on the chapter, scribbling the words, speaking in the strangest Cockney accents we could use, etching each word into our brain.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

I have returned to this verse in moments of trouble, recited it to myself in bed on nights spent staring at my ceiling fan for hours when I couldn’t sleep. It was my prayer when I had none to mind, my refuge in times of trouble. It was the first thing in my mind when I heard the words “brain tumor.” I did not feel fear; nor confusion; nor sadness. I felt understanding.

“Search me, God, and know my anxious heart.”

Hearing news like this will send your world to a screeching halt, folks. My first thought, though, was understanding. I have had vivid dreams where I sat in a hospital bed receiving this news. For a moment, I thought perhaps it was one, but my father’s bear hand on my shoulder told me it wasn’t. The rough hospital sheets beneath my fingers and grief-pained eyes of the doctor told me it wasn’t. All I felt was thanks God prepared me for this. I didn’t shed a tear. I did not wonder why. His eyes saw my unformed body. He knew this was coming. And he told me it was coming. So the first words from my mouth, as I sat supported by my parents were, “Okay. Let me see it. What do we do.” In this moment, I felt peace. This was not an exam I could study hours extra for, or a job I could put extra effort into. This was God. And no other but He and I. I have never depended more on him, more fearlessly foist my needs as completely on Him than in this moment as he desires.

I am still learning my path in Him through this, but I know to be still and confidently trust the Lord to take care of me.

 

Chocolate Meltdown

Well, the Edwards family, myself included, made it through Turkey Day. With only one meltdown – on my end, at least. Friends, family, and food overflows, as well as the gratitude that seems to well up more in my heart each day at the never-ending support of those around me. But the path to Thanksgiving was not all over the river and through the woods, and I ended nearly plopping down on the path to Grandmother’s house along the way.

Oh my, the pies!

Anyone who has been to the Edwards’ family Thanksgiving has heard of my baking prowess. I try to remain humble in life, but the one thing I will brag on and on about are my baking skills. My great – grandmother was a true Southern woman: she wore pearls, was a pastor’s wife, and could bake circles around even the most accomplished Northern baker. The Southerners are better at it. Sorry, folks. It’s just something in the water here. Though my great – grandmother did not pass on her ways to me directly, I stand in the kitchen each fall, armed with scribbled recipes and ages-old pie plates, ready to bake up a blitz. I  may not have gotten her tiny waist, but I did inherit her perfect, pie-crimping fingers, and ability to make a mean pie dough. Which brings me to my next point: The French Silk PiesY’all. I have a mean chocolate pie, and my chocolate chip cookies are ooey-gooey perfection, but these pies are to die for. I must give credit where credit is due, The Pioneer Woman’s French Silk Pie is done so right not even my GG’s magical baking fingers could’ve improved upon this. These pies are my crowning glory, my last laugh at the table I like to laud over the other ladies after whipped cream is served up.

This made the blow that much more crushing when, after a day of incredible Christmas festivities, I felt more like passing out from exhaustion than heating up an oven. Medication and stress left me feeling dead on my feet, far more like a deflated balloon than the strong-armed, baking bastion I normally am, or like to think I am. My mother, trying to swoop in and save the day, suggests she make the pies so I can take a nap, at which point my frustration festers. “This sucks!” I declare, in a very un-southern, uncouth show of my exhaustion.

And it did.

I had yet to make a single dish for Thanksgiving (which ranks in my top two holidays), and felt like a complete failure. Normally, my fingers are wrapped around bread tins and pan handles right alongside my momma’s up to the “big day.” My family had been waiting on me hand and foot for a week, my mother cleaning the house like a madwoman without my help, and I couldn’t make two pies. My father was at the store buying the pie plates for the pies as I stood blubbering in the kitchen over something I couldn’t even put into words. It all boiled down to one thing: as much as I didn’t want to admit it, normal was gone. I couldn’t be there to clean and cook and be the holiday heroine I pictured myself as. For the first time in the four days I’d known, my diagnosis was me, if just for a moment. I was a girl with a brain tumor who, as small a loss as two pies may seem, had lost out to my circumstances.

It was then my rock of a boyfriend took my head in his hands. A man who works tirelessly to encourage and build me up, he knew exactly what was going through my mind. “It isn’t about the pies, is it?” It wasn’t. It was about the normalcy I so desperately now crave and wished I’d never taken for granted. I wanted to be the energetic, tough cookie I normally was, and all I felt capable of doing was melting to the floor of the kitchen like a sad, under-whipped batch of whipped cream.

Then God steps in.

Like He has time and time again in the last week, God has taken my family in his hands, used them stir up love and good works in me despite everything that’s been going on. My mother, armed with The Pioneer Woman’s newest recipe for a French Silk Pie, (Ree, I honestly cannot thank you enough for making a store-bought crust okay in that moment) went to work rolling out the dough into the tins while I took a break from, well, my break. My dad returned home, armed with pie plates, and my boyfriend, once I’d recovered, took up our hand-mixer to ensure my pies didn’t turn out grainy. Props to him, y’all, twenty-five minutes of operating a hand-mixer is no small feat. Each bite of those pies was mixed, poured, and created as an effort of love, with no small amount of supporting hands behind me pushing me forward and helping me keep my mixing arm up. Yet again, God had taken me in a moment of depth, only to pluck me up using those around me, remind me that I am not strong. He is. Those around me are. My strength emanates not from myself, but from Him. From each of the prayers, from each of the hugs thrown tightly around my shoulders these past few days, from each of the pairs of hands folded over our table during this holiday and after.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~Matthew 18:20

Life, Interrupted

Hello all! Welcome to The Cheerful Heart. I started this blog to write the gray away and hopefully bring a little light to someone else’s life in the process.

I am a Texan native, born and raised. I try to be a sweet Southern woman (though I often fall short), and enjoy a glass of sweet tea as much as I do my super-secret chocolate chip cookie recipe. I love each and every animal on God’s green earth, family vacations, and time with my incredible boyfriend. I am a pre-nursing student with a dark sense of humor, so prepare yourself for what devilish jokes (or attempts at such) I may write ahead.

The Beginning of the Path

I have always been a lucky child, with very few health concerns, save Scoliosis and the relentless seasonal allergies that plague my brother and I, keeping our cabinets bursting with Mucinex and Claritin. A year and a half ago, I began having what I and two of my doctors deemed “panic attacks,” where I would get very distant and my heart would race. As a nursing student prone to anxiety, this was nothing I deemed a more positive outlook on life and a little yoga breathing couldn’t fix. Other than that, I was healthy as the proverbial horse.

On Sunday, November 19th, at 2:00 a.m., I woke up in a cold sweat in a panic, running for the bathroom with my hands over my mouth. The moment my knees met the floor as I knelt over the toilet, I passed out over the edge of my tub. I regained consciousness (I don’t know how long later), only to press myself back up enough to fall back against the cabinet. This happened several more times, during which I was playing a game of “Passing-out Ping-Pong.” Don’t try that at home, folks. Trust me, it’s not half as much fun as it sounds. (And it doesn’t even sound that fun, does it?) As I regain consciousness for a few seconds, I can hear my dad outside the bathroom door asking if I’m okay (I thank God, just this once, I’m not an independent college student who lives on my own). I manage a “no” before I’m out again, and that is enough for him to spring into action as the hero he has been since my childhood. My mother came upstairs, at which point they realized I passed out against the bathroom door and couldn’t reach me. Eventually, I shifted enough that she slipped in and sat holding me, limp and non-lucid, on my bathroom floor for five more minutes as I passed in and out of vague consciousness. After finally coming to a final time, I vomited what seemed to be more than I thought my stomach could hold, and regained self-awareness like a switch had flipped. I didn’t know what was happening, felt shaky and unsure, but I was back on earth for the time being.

At this point, my mom pulled me into the hall, where the EMT’s had arrived. My vitals were taken, my medical history discussed, I squinted at them all like a blind owl (My contacts were still in their case on my bedside table), and they referred us to Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall, though it was likely a case of bad food poisoning from the watermelon I’d indulged in earlier that day. How could my favorite food have done me so wrong? After a sleepless night of blood testing, CT scans, and just about the most uncomfortable beds man has ever created, the doctor came into the room around 6:30 a.m. with the test results.

The Blessing of Not Asking Why

I have always had a history of crazy dreams, so, until this happened, a dream about a brain tumor, while unsettling, was just that: an unsettling dream. Now I wonder, looking back, if God was preparing me. Preparing me to be strong and unabashed in the maelstrom of this moment. My parents sprang forth with tears at the news, holding my hands in theirs and pressing plaintive kisses on top of my head. But for me, the tears didn’t come. Not even the oh-so-expected panic attack I had become used to in moments like this. I did have questions; no, not the expected Why, as in: “God, why would you do this to me?” with head tilted to the heavens, but what. What was God’s purpose in this? To draw me closer to him? To give me the life experience to empower me to touch other lives in the future? Perhaps I’ll never know. But I knew questioning wasn’t the answer. My parents have often said, “I wish it was me,” but I’ve asked them not to. God chose me for this journey. He chose me to be strengthened and bolstered on this path, to lean on those around me, and to rely fully on him. I have never questioned, or gotten angry (which I believe I’m fully in my rights to do, if that does lies ahead). All I could think of in the moment was moving forward. What was this? How will I get off from class? Will this affect my lovely French Silk pies at Thanksgiving?! I had questions, and wanted answers

“Just the facts, ma’am”

The next day was a flurry of facts and tests and a ride in an ambulance, which was a fun new experience for me and my carsickness, during which I found out my “panic attacks” are Tachycardic episodes caused by my tumor. I was transferred to Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where we are blessed enough to have some of the most talented medical professionals in the country. Hugs abounded from hospital staff, though the highlight of the day was the mix of the warm blankets, the hour-long MRI, and the Hydrocodone I’d been given for pain. Maybe this brain tumor thing wasn’t so bad after all. Alas, the MRI ended too soon, and I was wheeled out to meet Dr. Jason Taub, an incredible neurosurgeon (if you Goggle him like I did). He informed my family that I had a glioma (which is likely cancerous) a little over the size of a golf ball in the right front lobe of my brain. Being the stickler for details I am, I pored over every scan he showed me, trying to wrap my brain fully around this.

This is it. And now we move forward with it. I have surgery next Thursday to remove as much of the tumor as Dr. Taub can, at which point he will ascertain whether it is cancerous or not. If it is, we will move forward with chemotherapy and radiation, if not, I will have a cute little scar and pictures of a gross tumor to take home! Which, by the way, I’m not joking about Mom. I really want to see it. For the time being though, I’m at home, praying incessantly, eating whatever I want, and living it up. I’m fully prepared for whatever God has lying ahead for me, and invite you to join me too.

 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I am in His hands, and He reminds me of this daily; through the doctors, nurses, family members, and friends who have given up an absolute show of love and support for me. Yes, I have a brain tumor, and no, I have never been more thankful in my life.