IF I TOLD YOU MY STORY – Part 1- Field of Manure

My Story is replete with manure

If you’d like to skip the ‘preliminaries’, please scroll down to ‘This is My Story’. This ‘My Story’ page is created so you know that I know manure. If you’d like to know more about me and other facets of my walk that may offer something you need, please read here.

Having sloshed through my own fields of manure, I have grown very large ears! It is spring where I live. If you take a walk around my neighborhood, you’re bound to pass by homes bearing the strong odor of manure. The owners of those homes have learned the ‘value of poo’ so well that they purposefully apply it their flower beds every year. They know if they, and their neighbors, can handle the stink for a season, another season will follow in which they’ll reap beauty.

Happy for the manure

I can not emphasize enough that although this story appears to be about me, it isn’t. It could be anyone’s story and is a similar story to hundreds of thousands. This particular story happened to me but you are what makes it most worthwhile. If my field hadn’t been covered with manure and if I weren’t still pushing through some of the muck, I couldn’t bring you the flowers that grew from it. Bringing you my flowers makes me happy.

Rain to our manure

I can’t say all is perfect in my physical world, nearly three years later. Chronic pain has become an unwanted companion and depression tries to steal piggy-back rides. There have been some days when those enemies wore me down enough to sneak in, but friend, I’m still here! Between God’s spirit and strength, my husband’s usually jovial manner, the prayers of friends and various holistic measures, the beasts are mostly kept at bay. Yet, while I am usually able to present an honestly victorious face for this defeated world, it’s not a bed of thorn-less roses. I have come to know firsthand, the picture of satan as a lion waiting to pounce, just outside the door. Staying in God’s Word and running to rather than away from God is the greatest key to success. This is rain to our manure.

Manure works best when spread

Revelation 12:11a says this: “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” So, conquering first requires covering by the blood of  Jesus Christ. We are given an ‘and’ here and it is the telling of our story. So not only does sharing my manure with you make me happy, it makes me a conqueror! Our stories are memorials to God’s greatness. Do you realize that the Bible is overflowing with manure stories? And look at its yield! Manure works best when spread.

My story as a memorial

My story...OUR stories...serve as memorials to the goodness of God.
My story…OUR stories…serve as memorials to the goodness of God.

We read a lot about memorials in the Old Testament. Usually made of rocks, they were nothing great to gaze upon. However, they were set apart…different from the environment around them and therefore, eye-catching. A pile of rocks in the midst of a smooth, often desert landscape was something to cause the mind to question…

“Daddy, where did those rocks come from? Why are they there? Who put them there?” And daddy has been commanded by God to tell the story, whether or not it contains manure.

Why we should tell our stories

Our stories aren’t always fun to tell. Telling means revealing. It means exposure and risking judgment from a world that wears judgment like a second skin. It often means reliving painful events in our minds.

When sharing our GOD stories, however, we reflect his glory to a world in need of greater faith, EVEN when they make us feel small. What grand memorials our manure can make! How zany and incredulous that our manure can magnify another’s faith!

So…This is My Story

2016 – It started with a ‘bang’!

My story started with a January 'bang'!

2016 started with a bang in January. A back injury of old caused severe nerve pain which made 3 months of PT ‘necessary’, but of little profit. Understanding that less weight upon my frame would cause less strain, I changed my eating habits and started losing weight. At the same time, some family events entered that caused me to fear the loss of valued relationships. I began to cry out to God from some of the deepest emotional pain and fear I’d experienced in many years. 

He answered with a beautiful promise from His Word. I typed and printed the passage of Scripture, and kept it in my purse. Whenever I started to feel the fear of loss creep in, I went to that Word an re-read it. It was better than a tonic and carried me through to a happy ending.

A Series of Unfortunate Events enter my story…

Jim’s heart

The following month, my husband received a ‘positive’ reading on a stress test, which meant there was ‘positively’ something wrong with his heart. He was told not to lift anything over 10 lbs. before taking a more in-depth stress test…a month later. His job required lifting around 50 lb. weights, so he used his vacation and sick time waiting for the test date. So, then we had that financial burden thing going on. Good news is, he took the test and everything was fine. Just like my dilemma of a month earlier, this amounted to nothing. Again, God answered our prayers!

There and back again

Then, in May, I put my dog out after a rain and slipped on a wet spot of the deck. I fell, landing with all my weight against a step corner. A neighbor called 911 and they whisked me off to the hospital where I was sent home with broken ribs and pain pills. I was told to find a comfortable place to lie down/recline and stay put. So, I obeyed.

A week later, I was in the E.R. yet again as a result of a ‘side effect’ of those pills. (ALWAYS take a softener with prescribed pain medication. That particular event became a 12-hour nightmare. from which I thought and at moments hoped, I might die before its end. After I was delivered of the concrete, (through the aid of the most compassionate nurse I’ve ever met), I healed quickly. Not my pride, mind you, but my body, at least. The answer to prayer in this case was my compassionate nurse.

Happy birthday!

Birthday blues were a part of my story...

My birthday came and went in the midst of all the former chaos. A few days later, as all was fading into memory, my husband offered to take me to a belated birthday dinner. We enjoyed Hispanic food, then came home to a quiet evening ‘puttering’ in the yard. I decided to plant my birthday flowers around our little pond while Jim took care of mowing. 

I didn’t bother to change my clothes and was bent over to dig a small hole so as not to dirty my pant knees in the soil. Well, you know how it is when you’re ‘standing on your head’…the blood rushes to it and it feels full and heavy. That evening, it felt especially full and heavy, so I stood up straight. Still, the sensation didn’t leave. Then my neck started to hurt…as if it were closing up. When that didn’t stop, I assumed I was having an allergic reaction to something stirred up by Jim’s mowing.

A different kind of pain

I thought to get off ground level and moved to a chair on our deck. The sensation didn’t leave and now my jaw was hurting intensely. Like my throat, it felt as if it were tightening and I kept opening my jaw widely in an effort to ‘stretch’ it back out, but that didn’t help. Now I was sure I was having an allergic reaction, although I’d never had one before. I went inside and sat down, but the pain in my jaw had become excruciating. I went to the back door and tried not to look panicked as I signaled for Jim to come in.

Then I went back to the living room sofa where the pain struck the middle of my back like a hand squeezing a knot into it from the inside. Before Jim was in the door, the pain radiated to the center of my chest. Jim called 911 and when the ambulance arrived, the EMT tried to get me to go into the ambulance. Funny how we glide so easily into denial, but if you can believe it, I argued.

Vanity, oh, vanity!

My story is replete with manure...and ambulances...

The EMT was good. I won’t go into all he said, but his words caused fear to override pride and he got me out and into the ambulance quickly. The ride was a blur of lights and siren and continuing, excruciating pain. 

I had been alone just a week and a half earlier, when I’d fallen and broken my ribs. My neighbor called an ambulance because I couldn’t walk, let alone drive. And now, I was worried about what the neighbors would think if they saw me going out in an ambulance again.

My ridiculous pride that day could have killed me! As it turns out, I was having a STEMI heart attack which in lay terms is called, ‘The Widowmaker’. It goes in like a lion and if not cared for quickly, ends in the grave.

Eh? What’s that you said?

At the hospital, slightly drugged but still in pain, I overheard something and turned to the nurse caring for me. 
“Did you just tell him (the EMT) I had a heart attack?
“No, I didn’t tell him you had a heart attack… I said you’re having a heart attack.”

Seeing my sudden panic, the EMT rushed beside me and calmly explained all that was taking place and all that would be taking place very shortly. Then, they wheeled me to an Operating Room where they inserted at tube into my groin, threading it to my heart. They had one heck of a time searching, but finally found something so tiny, over in a side vessel/artery, that they didn’t have a stint small enough for it and had to use their smallest balloon. 

When all God’s people pray

As all these things were taking place, something else of greater significance was happening. My husband was on his phone. He called, he texted, he alerted….he blew the trumpet in a call for prayer. And people who love and believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ prayed. They passed along the prayer requests to their friends and their friends passed it along to their friends, and so on. How many people covered by Jesus’ blood lifted eyes to him in petition on my, and my family’s, behalf? We just cannot know. How beautiful that they did. How very wonderful.

The end result

There was no medical explanation for a STEMI heart attack that went ‘in like a lion and out like a lamb’. The medical team thought there was a teensy problem on the side of my heart, and used their smallest balloon. But they could not say what it was.
They never could tell me the cause.
All my main arteries were clear.
My cholesterol was not in the ‘bad’ bracket.
B.P. was under control.
I had lost weight. 

And the doctors said…

Two cardiologists stood at the end of my hospital bed and told me the outcome of this event was a miracle…without, of course, using those exact words. The words they did use went something like this:

Dr. #1, (while still in hospital): “This is only the 3rd time I’ve witnessed an event like this in all my years as a cardiologist.” (Both doctors’ heads were totally white.)

Two weeks later at the office:

Dr. #2, “You know, this is not the usual way for a STEMI heart attack to go.”

I shake my head and smile calmly in agreement because by now, I actually know what a ‘STEMI’ is. My reaction must not have been quite as big as expected, as he continued:

“No, really! They usually come in like this.” ( Hands held about 6 inches apart.) “And then they very quickly go like this.” (Widened the space between his hands to a complete arm-stretch.) “But yours went from this”, (kept his arms outstretched), “to this!” (He pulled his hands together like ‘prayer hands’.)

The doctors stressed the rarity of my cardiac event's outcome.

Then he continued, “It’s…It’s…” (He shook his head from side to side.)

Jim: “A Miracle.”

Dr. #2: “Yes…yes.” (He nodded his head in agreement.)

And all of us, the doctor, the P.A, my husband and I, all of us, laughed quietly together as if in on some awesome, delightful secret. 

And awesome and delightful, it was.

My Story verifies: Haste Makes Waste

They had me follow the normal protocol for heart attack victims, including an array of ‘daily drugs’. The cholesterol medicine started making my legs ache a month later and they told me to stop taking it. I was a ‘faithful soldier’ to cardio rehab. I decreased salt intake, lost more weight, increased water consumption and added non-prescription vitamins/minerals for my heart health. With this and the required rehabilitation time fulfilled, all except the blood thinner were removed from my medicine list. Life was feeling pretty good!

Biking was so enjoyable that I bought a new bike and enjoyed time riding three days a week as weather permitted.  One day, Jim and I decided to take advantage of the sun after a long bout of rain with a quick ride around the neighborhood. We had several activities that day and had to squeeze the ride in before the events planned that evening.

Slow Down and Listen!

´╗┐My story taught me: No matter what, wear your helmet!
No matter what, wear your helmet!

As I jumped on my bike, I realized my helmet was in the trunk of the car. I would need to dismount, unlock the house to get the car keys, unlock the trunk, etc. It seemed like an awful lot of effort just to take a neighborhood ride for half an hour or so. I mistook the internal warning I heard , which I now believe was actually the urging of the Holy Spirit, to be my own worrisome thinking. Crying over the ‘if-only’s’ is part of a current battle I’m trying to win, so I won’t delve too deeply into that chasm.

Weeping Branches foil the fun

A weeping tree foiled my biking fun.

At the end of a few blocks, we came to a busier intersection and decided to use the sidewalk instead of the street. Long story, short; in avoidance of weeping branches hanging over a portion of the sidewalk, I hit a tree trunk and landed on the street, cracking my head against a rock on the pavement.

I awoke to mind-blowing pain and felt warm liquid in the spot where it hurt. Jim stood over me, my legs were still entwined in my bike and no one was allowing me to move. I couldn’t move my head, but my eyes found the puddle of blood pooling to my left. The pain made me think that this time, surely, I was going to die. I couldn’t die. My husband needed me and my children and grands, whether they realized it or not, needed me, too. There would be so much sadness! No, this was not a good time to die. I had thoughts like that in-between groans and loud cries of pain in the ambulance, but the pain wouldn’t let me focus on anything other than itself for more than a few seconds.

I had fractured the back of my skull. The force of the impact caused my brain to slam into the front of my skull, severing an artery. The bleeding wouldn’t stop because I was still taking a daily blood thinner. Although is seemed much longer, the ambulance arrived in under ten minutes. The EMTs lifted me and had to remove my legs from my bicycle, then crying loudly with pain as the ambulance raced loudly to the hospital. Fear gripped my thoughts with the notion I would die unable to tell anyone good-bye. I don’t remember arriving at the hospital or anything about the emergency room.

What Hubby told Me

One of the best neurosurgeons in our region ‘just happened’ to be on call in the E.R. that evening and he realized at first glance I would need surgery. There was disagreement from other doctors there, but he convinced them via progressive scans. These showed my brain progressively flooding with blood and at last all agreed to a craniotomy. The prognosis without the surgery in such a case would have been death. Jim was to tell me the decision and get my permission for them to shave my head. I vaguely remember that, but I did give permission and I think I was thinking, “Do anything.”

Bits and Pieces of Remembering My Story

Friendly Faces

-At some point, I saw our pastor sitting in a chair, looking straight ahead. I said, “Hi, Pastor,” but my voice must have been weak because he didn’t even flinch. He looked sad. I was afraid he was sad because of me, so I spoke again, as loud as I could. Then he looked at me and seemed surprised. It seems he smiled and sort of lifted his hand to wave. 

-I remember our music pastor’s smiling face over me and I remember thinking if she could smile so big, maybe I really wasn’t so bad off. I think that was after surgery in the hospital room. But later, much later, I saw myself in a mirror and much more later, in pictures. So I know she was being very brave for my sake.

-I remember my dear, sweet friend Esther’s face above mine, too. My sister in Jesus that I don’t see enough. She was there after surgery. Apparently, I spoke fluent ‘Spanish’ while coming out of anesthesia. She knew this and in her usual humorous manner, said, “Hello, Cindy! Are we speaking Spanish today?” and I replied, “Si.” before falling back to sleep.

The Family and Blankets and Blessed Food of My Story

The blanket in my story was a godsend, keeping my newly bared neck warm.

Obviously, I don’t remember the surgery. I do remember some ‘afters’….my daughters caring for me, arguing about my ability to get up to pee, Jim bringing me my favorite worship songs to play over and over, a divine, warm and cuddly blanket brought by my son, my mother-in-law’s and brother-in-law’s faces…they smiled, too. A dark-haired lady sat in a chair to the side. I still don’t know who she was.

The Feisty Gal of my story wasn’t me…

After 10 days food-less, I remember my first cup of coffee and a sandwich. I only drank about half the coffee because the left side of my face wasn’t working so well then and at least half of every gulp drizzled out of the side of my mouth. That and some other symptoms alerted our nurse daughter to a problem with my pain medication dosage. She actually had to go toe-to-toe with some medical staff, but in the end, our feisty gal won. Good thing, too. But I’m not here to go deeply into that. We’ll suffice it to say, God put her in the right place at the right time.

Hospital Food: It’s all about perspective

The best sandwich ever made it's way into my story...and my belly!

But nothing in this world can subtract from the joy my mouth felt at the taste of that first post-accident sandwich! Despite my facial ailments, I managed the sandwich by chewing on my right side after stuffing small pieces of it into my mouth. I wasn’t able to open my mouth far because the surgery requires disassembly and reassembly of the jaw, which in my case, caused it to clench for several days.

Birthing and Wishing

My Story: If wishes were real...

The days moved on and medications were slowly reduced. The worst pain of the time has faded a bit…somewhat like the pain of birthing. And indeed, there was much birthed during this time, only I couldn’t see or hold ‘the baby’ …yet.

There is so much I do not remember that my husband, family and friends have to remember. These are things that I wish they didn’t have to remember. I wish they’d never had to go through seeing me that way because my head and face were a wreck. I wish I could retract from their minds every memory of the fear and worry they endured. It is the a thought that can still bring me to tears today. I know, it’s ‘crying over spilled milk’, but I can’t help the wishing.

Acknowledging God’s Goodness

Neither can I make what is or was go away. Jim was behind me and saw me fall. He says from beginning to end, it was a 4-second tragedy in slow motion. Like me, he would like to turn back the hands of time to the moments just before the accident and make it ‘not happen’.

But we cannot. We can only move forward with what we have left and what we have left is much, very much. But enough for today. Enough for you, enough for me. 

Sometimes I say that 2016 was a banner year for me. At the time I first said this, I actually meant it in a snarky kind of way, but in truth, it was a banner year! The turbulent events of 2016, laid to rest by my Father who cares about every single thing that touches me, has caused me to see more plainly that His Banner over me is one of ownership, protection and immense, overcoming power! 

Like your story, my story goes on…

Let’s take a few minutes to be quiet, just quiet…and lean against the Lover of our souls, recognizing and resting deeply in his care.

As I conclude my story in Part 2, you will see ongoing attacks and hurdles. You will not see my manure miraculously disappear beneath a carpet of flowers. This is the part of the story where the miracles bloom right through the manure in the form of perseverance. I hope you’ll join me.

My story ends not in manure, but in a field of flowers. But remember, flower fields need fertilizer...

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