Sunday, January 14, 2018

Grooves in the Grain

We’ve been having some struggles with Tessa.
As in she’s having some struggles,
and we are trying to let her know that we aren’t coming against her, but are truly struggling WITH her.
Alongside her.
We are in it as one.

Many of our night lately have ended with draining battles.
Tear stained pillows. Frustrated sighs.
Many bed time kisses have felt hard to give, and I can feel they’ve been hard to take as well.
Her spirit has been at war.
She’s listening to lies inside her own head saying she’s not good enough.

Her hurting heart shows up regularly dressed as anger.

Tonight after yet another issue -
After she’d stormed up the stairs and then back down again.
After she’d yelled her “No”s and “It’s not fairs” and after I fantasized about just running away from it all, I found my own self near tears, sitting on the edge of her bed.

At first we did the thing.
The thing where we both talk over each other.
The thing where she acts extra kid
and I act extra Mom.

She was angry at my disciplines and flat out told me so.
Stunned at her accusations of injustice,
and not even knowing what to say anymore,
I said the only thing I could under my breath.
“God, please help me here.”
And that was exactly when the visual came.
And I knew just what it meant.

In my mind I saw a plank of wood,
and in the middle was worn a deep groove.
Then I saw a weathered pair of hands start sanding that groove away.

I was quiet long enough that she had quieted, too.

“Tessa, do you know what happens to things when something wears at the same place for a long time?”
She shook her head no.
“When you take an object, like a piece of wood, for example, and you wear at it over and over in the same place for a long time,
a groove begins to form in the wood.”

I used my hands to mimic the wearing.

“And if you keep wearing just like that,
before long a deep groove will appear.
A path gets made for even more wearing.

Our life is like that wood.

The things that we allow ourselves to do,
or say, or think - they wear a path in us.
At first with no real change to see,
but before long if we keep doing those same things or thinking that same way,
we wear a path into our lives of that very behavior that becomes like a track that is so deep within our grains it’s hard to not travel within that same old trench.
As your mother,
beyond my job to make you happy, or give you what you want,
is my job to shape you into what you were meant to become.
My job is to watch how and where you’re making your grooves,
and if one of those grooves is off track for what you’re meant to become,
my job is to redirect the route you are wearing so you don’t wear a trench so deep you can’t climb out.
My job is to help keep your surface as smooth as I can.
Free of deep pits that weaken your strength.
My job is to help you see just what your life can become;
Because what starts out looking like just a plank if plain wood,
can become SO many beautiful things.

From the moment you were born I saw something different inside you.
And I couldn’t even explain it.
It’s like I knew your plank of wood was mean for more than blocks, or picture frames.
You were meant to become art.
You were meant to be a bridge.
You had something that I saw from that very first minute.
Something God gave to ONLY YOU.
Not to Paige or Chloe or to Alena.
Not to me.
Just you.
Every one of us is born with a purpose,
but a few of us were born with a big one,
and I’ve always seen that that is you.

I need you to know that because I see it and know what it is,
I will fight for it even when YOU won’t.
Even when you can’t.
I will sacrifice my own happiness and peace because of how important it is, and I will sit on the edge of a bed some nights and shape you.

Right now you are letting a lot of outside things cloud that treasure you carry.
Right now you are pretty deep in your trench.
Right now my rough hands feel like too firm of pressing,
but what you can’t know yet is that what Im pressing against you

is sandpaper

helping to smooth you out
and make what you see as just a rough plank right now into something so beautiful.
Something you can’t believe started out how it did.
Honey, do you understand what I’m saying?” I asked.
And she nodded. And the dam broke.
And I put down my sandpaper for the night and held her until she fell asleep smooth.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Thorn

We drove up into Fountaingrove today after church.
I felt like I needed to see the enormity of the fire damage from the top of the hill.
To draw some sort of line around it in my mind.
It made it feel heavier that way,
face to face with the wasteland;
but somehow necessary for healing to stand above it all.

We didn’t stop to gawk at people sorting or sifting.
We went to try to cope with this piece of our home that was now stripped away.

As I stood there and looked out through the silhouette of charred trees and debris, past the destruction
I noticed most the contrast of the sky and the mountains beyond.
They looked bluest against the things that had been the darkest burned.
That was when the deep truth of what our pastor spoke about today fully burrowed in.

In the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how out of all the things he could boast about in his life,
what he chose to boast about most was what he called “the thorn in his flesh;”
his own private struggle that God had allowed him to suffer with
because only through pain and suffering can we truly be shaped into the best version of who we are created to be.
I thought about how we all have our own thorns.

As the pastor had said,
maybe it’s a cancer diagnosis.
Maybe it’s a troubled marriage,
or an addiction we struggle to let go.

Maybe the destruction you see is no match for the destruction you suffer inside.

But, if we let it,
This Thorn in our flesh can be the thing used to make us able to understand someone else’s struggle.
To help us come alongside.
To be able to say “Yes. I’ve been there, too.”
If we let it, it can be the thing that produces in us our life’s greatest testament to grace, and the most astounding beauty.

Like the trees and closest hills,
often what lies right in front of us looks dark.
A desolate wasteland stretching in every direction.
Sometimes we don’t recognize where we even are unless we look at the signs,
and sometimes all that was familiar is suddenly gone.

But if we lift up our eyes and we look past the places of our darkest moment,
we will see there is still blue sky,
an unchanged horizon,
and beauty that waits just beyond.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Table

My mother’s shoulders drooped today.

They that had stood strong for 70 years, and now finally maybe had met their match;
Weighed down with the sadness she bore for her best friend who has lost everything in the fires we have had here.

Her eyes were puffy.
Her sighs bore weight.

After a long hug and shared tear-welling,
she told me that she was just having so much trouble with the moving forward.
With resuming normal life as so many she loved were in pain.

Her feet felt hesitant in the marching
when her heart lay there in the ash.
She said she felt so tired.
She said she just needed some rest.

After long discussion and sharing our common ache,
I reminded her that we all need to remember our own self-care, too.

That caring for ourselves was not selfish,
but was instead a time of recharging in order to get back out there to be helpful once again.
She battled with this thought.
I could see it in her eyes.
Her body begged for just sitting in a chair.
Her brain said, “But that feels like giving up!”

I finally convinced her to take just one hour.
Just to sit in silence.
Just to take her own deep breath.

After all: There is a reason that in the flight announcement they tell you to fasten your own mask first…

I reminded her that the care of those left standing matters, too.
That that is the only way we can be the ones with the strength to hold,
and sort,
and do the lifting.

She walked out the door, only her Bible and purse in her hand.
Her eyes pointed down at her shoes.

But four hours later, when she returned,
She told me this story -
And her spirit was visibly renewed:

She had driven from the house not knowing where to even go.

Her favorite place now sitting closed in a wasteland of ash.
The idea came to just drive East.
She thought she would head to Farmer’s Lane.
She would just sit and be still awhile.

But as she got to the corner of Steele Ln. and Mendocino,
she had felt a strong urge that she should turn left.
She did,
then she had seen the Starbucks there.

She shrugged and decided not to use more gas,
and chose to pull into that parking lot.
She grabbed her purse and her Bible, and walked in to stand in line.

As she stood there,
she felt someone come to stand behind her.
As she turned to look she noticed that the woman who was now inches from her was crying.

There was no need to ask her why here.
We are all crying the same tears.

But my mother, mother of all, took this as a cue to comfort.
She spoke to the woman,
sharing the pain of our now shared views.
Our world now turned to gray.

My mom said she hugged the woman in line as she cried.
She had opened, small, the door.
Then her name was called,
her cup slid out,
She took it and had walked away.

She carried that cup to her seat at an empty table that was made for two.
She faced the street, and every sad car that passed.

She said that she had just settled in as the woman, then,
pulled out the open seat.

For the next full hour, my mom explained, that woman spilled out from her heart.
The pains of her past.
The longing she felt.
All the good that she justified she had done.

Her mother had died in an explosion and then subsequent fire.
These fires had brought back that pain.
She had suffered accidents, heartbreaks, and devastation.
The trauma just would not end.
out of the goodness of her heart,
she had adopted and was raising three siblings spared from a life they did not deserve.
She was pouring out.

Her tears dripped onto the table.
How could this be the life she presented them?
How could she offer any safety to them from here?

She explained that she just could not wrap her mind around the pain.
The past pain.
The present.
The pain that she saw coming.
She recounted all the times she had survived.
The trials she had stood tall through.

“I just don’t know why I’m still here….” she had said,
as still the tears spilled onto that table.
As cars passed, and the strangers filtered through.

“You’re here because there are still things to do,” my mom said as she looked into her eyes.

“You are here because God is simply not done with you.”

My mom explained all the things she had said as an encouragement to this stranger, now friend.
The one sitting across her table.

Tears spilled out from her own eyes.

She had invited the woman to our beautiful church.
She had offered the warm embrace.
She had passed on the same encouragement that I had given to HER about self care just shortly before,
as tears burned hot again.

Grace like a vapor.
Barely traceable,
but undeniably there.

My mom stood before me telling this story with her own tears falling.
She told how,
in feeling used for something bigger, she had been filled with the things that she had been seeking today.

In being open, she had been sealed.

Peace. Encouragement. Purpose.

Before the woman left,
after she had thanked my mom,
she casually said,

“You know, It’s the weirdest thing….
I was just driving to get away from it all.
I didn’t know where I was even going.
I thought maybe I’d walk around Safeway,
but then I looked across the parking lot and had the thought,
‘You should go to Starbucks,’
so I came.”

I don’t believe these things are by chance.

These two people,
both in need of comfort in their hearts.
Both searching for solace,
and a healing touch
brought together by the cupped hands of divine appointment.

One with something to give.

One with a need to fill.

I was reminded today of the scripture,

“A generous person will prosper. Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
- Proverbs 11:25

Out of my mom’s own need,
still, she poured out.

Out of her own pouring,
Then she was filled.

May we all be waiting at that small table.

May we all wait for the one who will sit across.

May we love each other without any boundaries.

May we never count generous loving a loss.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Out of the Ashes

The rain came today,
and I heard a collective sigh.

After the fires that have ravaged our city for the last 11 days, we have all watched the skies for any sign of it like hawks.
We’ve held our breath for the thing that would help wash it all away.
The smoke.
The ashes.

The fear.

We’ve spent our time walking around like zombies.
We’ve gone through the motions.
We’ve driven stretches we later don’t remember.
We’ve shifted priorities,
and used phrases we had never used before.
We’ve hugged complete strangers,
and reached deeper into ourselves to find which pathways best pour out.
Friends who’ve lost their own homes have raised funds for someone else.

This last week,

The broken became the glue.

The pain that has been felt in this beautiful community has been more immense than any burn.
We’ve run away far, and huddled in tight,
and stared at screens while we all cried.
The life that we knew now scattered in particle form onto whatever lawns and gardens remain.

Our lives and memories have blown mixed together all over this city like Pixie Dust.
But I see now...

We can fly.

Something has changed inside my own still-standing walls.
The attachment to my things has changed.
There’s something different now about being home.
It’s gone from what I am doing at the time
to what I actually HOPE TO BE.
Because, in all of this, I think those of us spared have to try to do just that.

We have to BE. HOME.

For the lost, and the displaced.
For the one who needs us most.

I pray that any still-standing walls and
un-damaged couches will be used for solace still.
That what is left will be given back out as a place that feels like home for someone missing theirs.
I pray that even one person’s heart recognizes their own home here
in mine.

Our view is different now.
WE are different now.

We’ve stood back up,
Dusted ourselves off,
And vowed to reclaim it all again.
We’ve become something deeper, fuller, and firmer than we were before;

and because of that,
I think,
no one is quite ready to just jump right back to where we once were.

To paying bills and watching TV shows and making appointments for pedicures.

Somehow it feels important to
linger a moment in the ash.

I went to the laundromat today and had a strange moment of feeling a little guilty for washing all of our clothes.
For the freshness.
Like by getting rid of the remnants I was betraying all of us a bit.
I avert my eyes from tabloids in check out lines now.
So unimportant “Who Wore it Best.”

I’ve seen more beauty this last week than I ever have before.
I’ve seen giving unmatched.
Unselfishness only dreamed of.
I’ve seen the the fire ignite something that I don’t want ever to be contained.

I pray my actions now are not born just from tragedy,
but from doing what one does when they have tasted what is real.

There is unspeakable beauty in these ashes.

When the rain rolled in today,
at first I thought the clouds were smoke.

When the smell of the rain drifted in through the open door of that laundromat,
I was reminded that often what looks like the worst thing that ever happened to you,
Can sometimes become the best.

Like labor pains that result in LIFE.

It looked like smoke…….
but was actually the RAIN.

I breathed in the smell of it.

It turned into beauty.

It only started as pain.

Fire came and took our home.
Our treasures, ashen piles now hide.

Fire came and took what surrounded,
But it can’t take what’s inside.


Friday, October 13, 2017

The Look Back

For years I had wanted it.
As countless times I’d driven that stretch of road,
I had wanted time to just stop for a minute and take a picture of the way the view from that point looked.

But time was always ticking.
Racing against the clock to get the kids to school on time.

Run, run, run as fast as you can…

There just wasn’t time to pull the car over and run across the road and snap the photo
of the way that the look back across the laguna towards home appeared in the morning light.

The way the hills rolled dusty green.
The way the fog lingered still.
The sun now rising.
The hot air balloon floating.

Every day that view struck me, and made me inhale the scent of my home.
Every morning I got to the top of that hill, looked to the left, thought about how blessed I was to live in this place,
and told myself one day I would stop and take the picture.

But then I'd just kept driving.

However, two weeks ago, with emotions from the Las Vegas shooting still new,
I was hit with a resolve that this time
I’d actually DO it.

I would take the picture that meant that I, Kerri Green, was chasing beauty.
I had thoughts that I would write about just how “important it was to do the things we feel pressed to do.”
To find the beauty and then to follow it.
Instead of driving on and re-wishing my wish, this time I would leave extra early.
I would make room for my dream.

This time I would pull to the side.

That morning everyone in my house looked at me sideways like I was crazy as I pushed them out of the house,
telling them I had a picture to take.
We had never left so promptly.

Don’t tell Daddy we ate cereal in the car.

As we rounded that turn I felt excited to be finally DOING the thing.
My kids yelled for me to watch out for cars as I parked and ran across the two-lane road for the shot.
I was elated. The balloon was even there!

I returned to the car.
I drove on again; a sense of accomplishment inside.

That thing I’d always wanted to do was now done!

How was I even to know the real reason I’d stopped there that day?
My thoughts on the story it would make completely off from the one I would tell.

How was I to know that mere days later, I would look from the top of that very same spot as our car sped past fleeing the largest fire in California history that was now devouring my city, and possibly our home?

The view had gone from idyllic to terrifying in days.

That look back would never be the same.

What you see here is my HOME.

Just beyond that grazed laguna.
The city where I first moved out.
Where I met my love.
Where all of my children were born.

This post card view is my late night cricket song.
My pair of kicked off shoes.
My familiar Christmas lights.

This view holds friends and so much laughter.
Games played around a table.
Cheers on New Year’s Eve.

This city is my “Good morning.”
This city is “Good night.”
The background of my photos.
My peaceful night of sleep.

Here, my beloved church lifts up its praises.
My children swing on swing sets.
My friends, a constellation.

My weather app is automatic.
My pets know to return there.


That day on that crest with my camera pointed towards those hills,
I did not yet know that I would be about to capture my very last picture of “before.”

Before the view I loved was marred.
Before 3000 homes were taken.
Before our lives forever changed.

I didn’t know that the view that morning would live on as a postcard in my mind
of all the beauty that lies
in The Looking Back.

In cherishing the moments when you have them just over your left shoulder.

In taking the time to pull to the side of the road.

My heart now longs for what was my city.

My heart now stands and waits for it at the top of that hill once more.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Ripple

I waited in line behind a guy with plaid shorts.
I noticed them as I stared and thought about the day.
One full of emotion listening to the news unravel about the shootings that just happened in Las Vegas overnight.
Being in line at the vet was the last place I wanted to be.
The shorts guy needed pet medications.
He claimed his cat was “pooping all over the house.”
I exchanged a slight smile with Alena who sat holding our own cat.

And then I noticed her.

The woman by the counter clutching an ancient looking dog that was obviously weak and blind, wrapped in a baby blanket.
The dog had clearly had better days,
but I could tell by the way the lady kept pulling her gently up to her face for a kiss that
Some of that woman’s best days had been spent with that little dog.
I studied her awhile.
I wondered why she was there.
I could tell she was alone,
and then over the plaid shorts guy’s loud requests, as I watched her sloppily sign on a clipboard,
I heard her barely whisper out,
“And that will…….cover the cremation?”

She pulled the dog close again.

She finished her forms and turned to take her seat in the waiting area, and as she did, her eyes caught mine and it was as if I heard a voice that said,

“It’s not all for you today.”
So I did the thing I felt like I should do
and as she started to walk by I caught her attention and I mouthed,
“I just want to hug you.”
Her lip quivered.
Immediate tears.
“Thank you...” she said, like she couldn’t believe.
My arm went around her.
After my turn and my own forms,
I started to take a seat and noticed the seat beside hers was empty.
Not believing in coincidence, I gave Alena a look that I know she understood and instead of taking s seat by her,
I sat down next to the woman.

At first I didn’t say anything more.
I just cried with her.
I pet her soft little dog, and whispered,
“You look like you’re a good girl.”
“She’s the very BEST girl, “ the woman said, hushed.
I told her about my own dear Phoebe, and how I’m not far behind,
and I asked her how she had known it was time.
“You just know, “ she said, suddenly calmer.
“I didn’t know three weeks ago.
But then something changed, and I just did.”

I could tell just answering that question gave her a little bit of peace.
Reaffirming to herself that she was making the best decision.
I pushed past a lot of hesitation to do so,
but that is when I reached out and patted her on the hand.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Loving them and losing them is hard, but also one of the very best things.”

Right then the nurse came and called her name.

She looked at me pleadingly with tears dripping down her cheeks.
“You loved her well “ I told her. “I can tell you gave her the very best life.”
“Seventeen years…..” She said, tears dripping again.
Then she turned and walked into her room.

The nurse called our last name next.
We were led to the room right beside.
I tried to listen as we waited to see if I could hear the moment, but I couldn’t hear a thing.

By the time we were done, the room next to us was empty.
The woman, nowhere to be seen.

My heart was heavy as I went to pay and pick up Amelie’s medication, and as I walked to the payment counter I was suddenly face-to-face with a receptionist who
I frankly just do not like.
To be honest I actually completely dread.
In 20 years of being patients at that office, she has never once cracked a smile.
She has never once made eye contact.
Her answers are short. Her voice is gruff.
She makes me feel like helping me is nothing short of torture.
“Not HER,” I thought. “Not now.”

And then the voice spoke into my heart again.
“Even her. Yes. Even her, too.”

And I knew what I should do.
Even though it went against the grain of everything I was feeling as she sat there angrily typing and ignoring that I was
standing in that window,
I asked her softly,
“How are YOU doing today?”
And I held my breath.
And her eyes shot up to mine.
And then I watched them fill up with tears.
“I actually feel like I’m about to cry,” she confessed.
I felt stunned by the sight of her underbelly.

And the chain was broken.
Just like that.

Because let me tell you: That lady started to talk.
And talk a lot.
Her day had been hard. She had a really bad headache. She was reminding herself that she loved her job.
I told her I was sorry. That I understood.
That I had headaches, too, and that unless you have them you just don’t know.
I asked her if she would get to go home soon.
I genuinely told her that I hoped that she felt better soon and that her day got better, and you know what?
That receptionist started calling me “Honey.”

Her whole demeanor changed, and I was struck with how often it is that the things we don’t like in people can be changed with just an act of kindness on our part
Even when it seems hard at first.
That the power to change the climate is in our very own hands.

I walked to my car and cried behind my sunglasses.
In awe of how a simple unwanted trip to the vet had spoken into my heart in so many ways.

Reiterrating that it’s not all about us in our day-to-day.
It’s not all about our hard moment,
or our own upsetting situation.
Reminding that we are all supposed to be here for each other.

That sometimes the purpose of our own pain is to bind up someone else’s.
Our kindness is the scaffold of life.

The simple words are what start the ripples of change when we find ourselves sitting sprawled in the dirt begging for answers on where we can even go from here.

It is the hand on a hand.
The dropping of our weapons.
The lowering of our shields.

A trip to the vet today kneaded at my heart in ways I was not at all expecting.
It caused me to deeply feel the God I love,
and listen for His heartbeat in the chests of people I would maybe normally overlook.

Who are we called to love?
Just the easy ones?
Just what looks like our own reflection?
Just the one who believes like we do?
Speaks like we do?
Lived in the places we know?
All of them.
All meaning ALL.

I started this day feeling powerless.
But I ended it being raised back up;
reminded yet again that
sometimes the softest place we tread
is the firmest place
to stand.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Dry Parts of the Shore

Sometimes if feels like the tide just won't stop coming.
So we sigh, and pick up our buckets, and shift a little up the shore,
only to have the waves soon reach our toes again.
The tide that threatens to pull us out if we stay frozen.

I'll never forget the first time I got swept.

The doctor said my blood clot was large.
The biggest he'd ever seen.
But, I had a newborn baby.
But, I was only 36.
But, I really wasn't ready...

They said it could be fatal, and suddenly their eyes looked at me different.
As I called my family to tell them they needed to come,
I looked at a picture of my four daughters.
Before long, as they whisked me away to the hospital, I prayed,
"Please, God. Let me be back to raise them."

At that time, while I was terror stricken,
the doctors implanted a metal filter in my main vein leading to my lungs to prevent any clots from breaking off and traveling there to kill me.
I remember being awake as they threaded a tiny metal basket down through my neck, through my heart, down into my abdomen.
A safety net, they told me.

Until I formed another clot above it,

And that clot became fear in the form of my own body.

The months after that were beyond harrowing.

I was scared to be alone in case I collapsed and the kids were left alone.
I was scared to drive, for fear that they clot would travel, and kill me, and I'd cause an accident in the process.
I was literally scared to move.

I had talks with the girls about how much I loved them.
They needed to always know.
Talks with Justin about if he was faced with raising them alone.
Please be gentle. Please surround them with loving women. Please remind them of me.

Fitting everything you want to say in is even harder than it sounds.

Constant appointments, several ambulance rides, blood tests, genetics testing,
all to later find that the reason I'd gotten the clot in the first place was because of a cluster of events including a genetic condition called Factor V Leiden.
My body, once triggered to clot, would have a difficult time shutting off that process.
A chain effect.

But, even though that was the most terrible time in my life,
through God's grace, I recovered.
Slowly, and timidly. Nervous to put my toes back in the water.

The girls grew. I was grateful to be there to watch it, and never took it for granted.
Time marched on, but never far from the "What ifs" of if it ever happened again.

The fear has stifled. Imprisoned. Taunted.
It has whispered to me in dark rooms, and been my alarm clock many mornings.

I had just started getting counseling for what my therapist thought was PTSD from it, when suddenly, a month ago, completely out of the blue and four years almost to the day,
I felt that familiar pain again, and the panic returned.
Surely it was just anxiety. Surely I just needed to breathe deeper.
Calm my thoughts.
But, unable to let it go, I called the doctor, and almost collapsed when after an ultrasound they told me I had a clot once again.
The room spun, I rung my hands, I can barely remember leaving that place.
HOW could this be my path again?
God, didn't I suffer enough?

And the waves were up to my waist.

Fear had returned with his ugly face to whisper, "See. I told you so. You'll never be able to get away. I own you."

But as fear tried once again to take over, God's voice reminded me that what Satan lays out for evil, God re-weaves for good.

Now I've had weeks of tests, blood work, and appointments.
Back to the same seat in the clinic waiting room that still somehow feels warm from when I left.

The doctor, in order to verify there was no further clotting up higher, ordered a CT scan. He said "just to be sure."
I went, and I shook,
and tears dripped into my ears as I lay there on my back being prepped.
I prayed in that tube staring up at the light painted to look like a beautiful sky.
As if a painted cherry blossom and a cloud was going to calm me.

I was done soon enough, and I went home.
And then I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
A week went by with no word.
Surely that was good news, right?
Surely they would have contacted me by now if something was there they weren't expecting.

By this Friday I was praying a prayer of thanks as I pulled into my mom's group at church.
Thankful for the grace of each new day. Thankful for what was obviously good.
But then I got the message.

The CT scan results had not showed any further clotting, but incidentally
had seen fluid around my heart.
A note said I needed to call my cardiologist right away.
The message said, "Try not to worry."
It should have also said, "Definitely do NOT Google."
But of course I did,
and the findings were so SCARY that the water around me looked like mud.

There are many reasons one could develop fluid around their heart, and many different levels.
You could have a small effusion, caused by a virus, or illness,
You could have a medium sized one caused from trauma or autoimmune issue, or, in the worst scenario, you could have a large effusion that could be life threatening, and often had a very high mortality rate, caused from cancer, or bleeding from the heart.
Surely mine was a small, then, I told myself.
I felt OK.
They would have called me to come in right away if it were more serious, right?

I spent my weekend in on/off fear. Crying often. Laughing some. Thinking constantly.
The waves slowly moving up further, and
Now around my neck.

This morning before I could even call her, the phone rang.
It was my cardiologist.
Her voice sounded serious as she laid out the next steps to diagnose the whys of this new finding.
I'd need an echocardiogram and some blood work to start.
Once they figured out the reason and actual amount of fluid, they would know how to treat it.
She said she had seen the report, but would need to know more before she could know how to move forward.
And then I asked it.
Even though I didn't want to.
I asked "What size are we talking? I've been looking online."
And she said the thing I didn't even think could be.

"Well, it looks like it's large."

And now I was underneath.
The undertow was so strong.
Heels pitched above my head.

She said words after that I barely heard, other than to go to the ER if I wanted to expedite things and not wait any more days to begin being treated.

So I went.
Barely able to move my eyes side to side.
I knew from my reading that sometimes the large effusions are caused by Warfarin, which I'm on for the clot. That often in that case the fluid they are seeing is blood. That it makes it very complicated to even know how to treat because the blood thinners make the fluid dangerous to drain because you could bleed out, but to go off of my blood thinners at this point could cause wide spread clotting from the Factor V,
which could also kill me.

From the minute I got to the hospital it was clear my doctor had called ahead. I was taken in quickly, and by a half an hour later, I had had an EKG, an IV started, 11 tubes of blood taken, blood pressure cuff placed, history gone over, and a chest x-ray done.
The nurse entered and said that what they were concerned about was an enzyme indicating impending heart failure.
That I would most likely be admitted soon.
The doctor came in and repeated what the nurse had said, with the addition of indicating I'd most likely be undergoing a trans-esophageal echo, which would require sedation and was an in-patient procedure.

*Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death*

I asked to please use the bathroom, and when I closed myself in, I stood and begged God. I begged for a miracle. And then I heard it:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in all things with prayer and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God."

I was forgetting the thanksgiving.
Because isn't that just what Satan loves? To draw our eyes, and hearts away from the good that we've been granted to pull us into something that stifles?
To call from the dark bushes, "Hey! Look over here!"
With thanksgiving....
Thankful that they'd at least caught this. Thankful for a quick moving diagnosis. Thankful I knew that no matter what was about to come,
He held all of my days in HIs hands and nothing could separate me from them.

I went back to the room where my mom waited, looking concerned.
I asked her if she'd pray specifically for complete healing.
Specifically, I said,
for the issue to disappear.
Those were the words.

And then something happened.

Five minutes later,
The doctor appeared with something in his hands.
"Do you want the good news, or the bad news?" He said.
"Not the bad," I replied, covered in tape, and tubes, and monitors.
"I really don't want the bad news at all."

"Well, that's good," he said. "Because there isn't really any."

I held my breath.
What was he about to say?

He said he didn't really know how, but there appeared to have been... a typo?
That it looked like the report had eluded to a large pericardial effusion, but that for some reason there was no mention of it in the conclusion portion of the report he was seeing.
He said it should have been highlighted as the number one thing, but it wasn't even mentioned.
He thought this was strange when reading it,
so he had asked to have the scans sent to him, and he had called in the hospital radiologist to help him review them.
He said that after looking at the scans carefully, they both agreed that not only was the effusion not large,
but there was NO evidence of ANY fluid around my heart, and my heart was perfectly healthy.
I could hear the second hand tick. Silence. Could this even BE?!

Furthermore, he said, there was also no evidence of additional clotting, and my filter was still in place. I was free to go home.

A gasp above the surface.

I cried in that moment like a crazy person.
Sobbing. Laughing. Laugh sobbing.
And that went on for over an hour, as the doctor, and nurses, and techs came in to say they just couldn't believe it, and congratulations.
I heard him calling my doctors with the news.

And suddenly I was laying on the shore.
Clothes wet. Face down.
But alive, and grateful that sometimes when the tide is pushing in, it's bringing you back in with it.

Because He asks us to trust and keep our eyes fixed, and He will quiet the storm.
Because "Never fails" actually means NEVER.

God did a miracle for me today.

In my physical heart, and in the heart at my core.
The one from where my real life stems.

Two doctors had seen that report and been alarmed enough to have me admitted.

But suddenly,
There was nothing there.
The beautiful sky I was looking up at was the real one.

Because He perfects all that which concerns us.
Because the promise is that though we walk through the fire,
we will not be burned.

I lift my eyes up to the mountains.
Where does my help come from?
It comes from the maker of heaven and earth.
The maker of
hearts, and blood, and bodies.
From the maker of futures.
The maker of a plan for me,
And the one who sets my feet over and over on solid ground.

I don't know what is planned for me because of the strength I've gained through these things.
I don't know the people I'll meet who might need to hear that I've been there, too, and made it out alive, and they will too.

I don't know what lies over the dunes and out into the world beyond this ocean of trial.

What I do know is that
my faith was strengthened today after seeing that I have faced fear, and possible death multiple times,
and each time have been spared,
and ever moved up to the dry parts of the shore.