Then the Floodwaters Receded

As I sit here reading Genesis 8, the cool breeze of our fan gently blows upon me the fresh air from outdoors. With the massive amount of rain we’ve had here in Georgia the past two days came a pleasant drop in temperature, one that this former Northerner appreciates immensely. But I digress … back to Genesis! This chapter exhibits the receding of the floodwaters and the resting of Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat. Reading about how God sent “a wind to blow across the earth” (Genesis 8:1, New Living Translation), I closed my eyes and pictured the scene, complete with the wind of the fan on my face. Can you imagine the hope Noah and his family felt as the waters dried up bit by bit? Did Noah stand with his face at the window, feeling God’s wind and knowing their time in the ark was coming to an end with a new beginning awaiting he and his loved ones? Did anticipation mix with gratefulness within him, causing an overwhelming excitement to well up in his chest?

Later in the passage, we read that after leaving the ark, Noah built an altar to God and made the approved sacrifices (Genesis 8:20, NLT). The LORD was pleased with Noah’s sacrifice at the altar, and I believe He was also pleased with Noah’s obedience. The man built a humongous boat in a land that had not seen rain! He lived in conditions less than appealing … on a ship filled with animals and their waste (and for that matter, family and their waste too!), being tossed about by the waves of the rising flood. God spoke; Noah listened and obeyed without hesitation. He didn’t have all the answers, he may not have understood all that God was asking of him, but he moved forward anyway, all while worshipping his LORD. Afterward, God wiped away the waters that had engulfed Noah’s life for months.

The world in which my husband, Steve, and I reside was rocked over the past few months with his diagnosis of cancer. We have been tossed to and fro by the waves of emotional and physical pain, confusion, anger, and exhaustion, to the point of feeling like we were drowning. There have been glimpses of sunshine on the horizon, and there have been moments of darkness … a darkness that envelopes and desires the floodwaters to simply consume us and be done. We have cried out, “WHY God? What do You want from us?” We have wept a river full of tears. I personally read Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” and screamed, “HOW God? How is this GOOD?!”

Another CT scan during Round II: the cancer had traveled.

I thank God for His children. In the midst of the pain and the questioning, a dear friend allowed me to vent freely, and she listened without judgment. She knows my faith is not shaken, and she, too, has experienced moments of confusion when circumstances seemed unfair. One day, I sent her a text about my feelings on the above verse. She prayed before sending this response: I don’t think we’re supposed to understand all things, just trust that He is with us through it all. The Holy Spirit’s peace washed over me when I read those words. I needed the reminder that indeed, God is with us every single step of the way though our flood. He never left Noah, and He isn’t leaving us.

Are the waters receding yet? Eh, not completely. We’re fighting a lifelong battle with high and low tides. But I know God’s promises are true. I trust, without a doubt, that He will continue to bless us and provide in ways that will blow our minds. We will praise His name and worship Him with every part of our lives … the good and the not so good. And our river of tears? Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Oh, sweet Jesus, how I long for that day! “He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Life After a Suicide Attempt

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MATERIAL RELATED TO SUICIDE AND ABUSE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED. September is Suicide Prevention Month. Often times, we think of everything we can do to help someone who is in crisis, assemble a tool box, and let them loose once we feel gratified that our work is done, we saved another […]

Life After a Suicide Attempt

My Child Wanted to Die

Trigger warning: suicide …

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My phone rang. My older daughter asked if I had seen my younger daughter’s Facebook post. Quickly, I pulled up her page to see the cryptic “I love all of you.”

My heart sunk. Julie’s battle with mental illness had peaked in recent weeks, and she’d grown silent for 2 days. Staying with her sister’s family, we hoped her nieces and nephew would bring life and laughter to her aching soul. But her silence spoke volumes, and when my son-in-law found Julie on the floor of their garage, our worst fears became reality. She had made an attempt to end her own life. My son-in-law took Julie to the ER, where she was monitored for hours. I wanted to be strong for her, but the moment I saw her in that hospital bed, I broke and couldn’t control the tears.

That was a day of revelation that moved us all into a season of change. If you would like to learn more about Julie’s personal journey, read her blog, Trauma Chronicles.

Fast forward to two years later, and Julie has become a major advocate for mental illness, suicide, and abuse awareness. Her spirit and life became renewed! She’s extremely transparent about her battle with mental illness; she is a brave woman, and I am proud of the strides she has made. Julie will battle chronic depression and anxiety for the rest of her life, and I am thankful she is still alive to continue the fight.

Team JM at the 2019 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk in ATL

As open as Julie has been about her attempt, I have yet to share with the world my perspective. As I reflect upon our journey, the five stages of grief come to mind: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Kübler-Ross & Kessler, as found on grief.com).

  1. Denial. From the first time I witnessed anxiety in my daughter, I denied the severity of her condition. After all, depression and anxiety seemed to be part of being a woman in my family, and we all dealt with it and kept moving forward. I never saw anyone get treatment. Plus therapy was just too expensive. My thought … my hope … was, “She’ll be fine.”
  2. Anger. The first time Julie expressed her desire to commit suicide, I was mad. Mad at her for being selfish. (I didn’t say my reactions were pretty!) Mad at her ex-boyfriend for hurting my child. Most of all, I was angry at myself. No, that’s not true. I was filled with self loathing. Why hadn’t I seen this coming … or more accurately, why had I ignored her cries for help?! Years later, when Julie attempted to take her own life, that same anger toward myself surfaced. In spite of getting her help, being supportive, and loving her, there must have been more that I could have done. And … I was mad at God. He created the world; he could have kept this from happening.
  3. Bargaining. I just wanted my daughter to live happily ever after. God, whatever it takes, I will do it. God, take away her pain and let me carry it instead. I don’t care if this is part of her journey. I don’t care if she has to make the choice to live or die. Tell me what to do to make this all okay!
  4. Depression. Oh my, yes. I struggle with chronic depression and take medication daily. Ironically, during the time Julie lived with us after her attempt, she shared with me resources to help when my mind went to dark places. My mom passed away 5 months prior, and the agony of losing her paired with the near loss of my baby girl at times was crushing. I thank God for His love, for family, and for friends who were there for me.
  5. Acceptance. Today, September 14, 2020, marks the 2-year anniversary of that horrific day. Like I told Julie, the memory of her Facebook post and the events and emotions that, at times, felt suffocating, will always make me cry. But that day in history also changed me for the better. I’ve accepted that depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are not sources of shame, but conditions that deserve compassion and understanding. Those who battle deserve respect and love. Acceptance doesn’t mean resolution or surrender; it means staying in the fight and/or helping others. I’ve accepted that kindness is crucial – kindness toward others, and kindness toward myself. And I’ve accepted that in this chaotic world, pain is a given, and it’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes we have to take life one day … or even one minute … at a time.

Suicide prevention is in desperate need of more research and funding for programs to help those suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Julie and Team JM support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This site provides info on how you recognize the warning signs in someone considering suicide. It also provides resources for those struggling with depression, as well as for those who have lost someone to suicide. As the mom of a survivor, trust me when I say you never want to get that call – but there is hope.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

It IS Cancer

On April 23rd, my husband, Steve, went to the bathroom after work and urinated blood.  Not just a “tinge” of blood … it looked like straight blood coming out.  He had me watch the next time he had to go, and in addition to urinating blood, there were blood clots in the toilet.  Because of Covid, we contacted Piedmont Urgent Care, and a doctor called him within the hour.  With his background of having kidney stones, she assumed it was stones and called in a prescription for antibiotics as well as one to help open things up so he could urinate freely and hopefully pass any stones in there.  She also called the urgent care facility and had him go there to have lab work done on his urine to check for infection.  The results came back positive, so he was instructed to take the antibiotics and the Flomax.  

Steve & me, shortly before “it” all began.


After midnight, Steve felt like he had to urinate and yelled for me.  He couldn’t pee.  He felt like he really had to, but nothing was coming out.  We got in the car and went to the ER at Piedmont Hospital in Covington.  It’s important to note that it was after midnight, because that made it April 24th … my 50th birthday.  (It’s not even a “Poor Heather” moment … Poor Steve was so sad that the monumental birthday he wanted to give me turned out the way it did!)  

At the ER, I wasn’t permitted to go in with him because of Covid, so I dozed off now and then while waiting in the car.  When he came out, about 4 hours later, he looked white as a sheet.  They used a catheter to release his bladder, and although painful, he was relieved.  They did a CT scan, but because there was so much blood in his bladder and in his right kidney, the doctor couldn’t determine anything.  She told him he needed to see a urologist as soon as possible because this could be indicative of cancer.  We cried.  

The next day, I called 2 separate urology offices in Covington; one was out on indefinite leave, and the other one didn’t even answer the phone or have a voice mail system.  I scheduled an appointment online with a urologist in Snellville, just to get something on the books.  They called me the next week, and there had been a problem with their scheduling system; they couldn’t see him as scheduled either!  The woman I spoke with at the first urologist’s office in Covington had recommended Piedmont Urology in Atlanta, so I called them.  We were able to get an appointment with a urological oncologist named Dr. Laungani on May 1st.  He told us (well, he told Steve in person, but I was on speaker phone – I had yet to meet this wonderful doctor in person because of Covid!) that Steve needed to have a CT scan with contrast and a procedure called a cystoscopy.  The cystoscopy is where the doctor takes a tube with a tiny camera on the end and sticks it up through the ureter and into the bladder.  Steve would not be asleep for this in-office procedure.  We went and had the CT scan done first, and then his cystoscopy was on May 18th.  The procedure went well, and the doctor reported (immediately afterward) that Steve’s bladder looked great!  However, the CT scan showed a mass on his right kidney.  Dr. Laungani explained that it could be anything – a blood clot, a kidney stone, scar tissue, or a tumor.  The only way to know was to get in there and look.  Steve’s surgery was scheduled for June 3rd.

Steve with his boys, Sam & Jamie

We arrived at Piedmont Hospital Atlanta at 6:00 a.m. on the 3rd.  The day before, he had to have a Covid test, which he passed just fine.  Because the surgery was out-patient, I was allowed to stay in the waiting room, thank God!  So I waited, and the staff kept me updated on the progress.  After it was done, one of the staff had me go to the private communication room to talk to the doctor, who called me while I was in there.  He said that the spot was indeed cancer, and that he removed it for biopsy.  He said that kidney cancer is actually found more in older men; Steve was young to have it so soon.  The best treatment was to remove the kidney completely, and that should be the cure.  I felt like I’d been punched in the heart, and I sat there and cried while waiting for Steve to be through in the recovery room so I could take him home.  

When he got into the car, he was still a bit loopy from the anesthesia.  He asked me what the doctor said.  I was shocked; I thought he would know by then, but having had anesthesia myself in the past, I understood that even if the doctor told him, he most likely would not remember!  So I had to tell him that he had cancer, and that he would be scheduled within the next week to have his right kidney removed.  Since then, I’m still not sure which was worse … hearing the news from the doctor, or having to tell my husband the hardest news of his life.

June 11th, we arrived at the hospital at 5:30 a.m.  I escorted him into the surgical check-in and waiting area, but this time, they wouldn’t let me stay because he was in-patient. (They told us ahead of time that he would be staying at least one night.)  We sat together until they came to take him back, and then we hugged and kissed and I watched him walk away with the attendant.  He was able to call me up until the time they took him in for surgery, so at least we could talk on the phone.  I went home, slept for a while, and then called the hospital at 10:30 because they hadn’t called me yet.  Turns out, the doctor was just finishing up, and he would call me soon, which he did.  He said they removed the entire kidney and ureter right up to the bladder, which is normal for that type of surgery.  He said because we caught it so soon, as long as Steve takes care of himself, he believed he would recover just fine.  
June 19th, we had his follow up appointment.  Dr. Laungani had a family emergency, so Steve saw the Nurse Practitioner, Leena, who he actually met while in the hospital.  Steve had me on video chat so I could hear everything too.  She explained that the tumor was 6 cm. in size.  The cancer appeared contained to the kidney; however, part of the kidney that was affected was the lining shared with the bladder.  Although the cancer was Stage 1, this is still what she termed as a “high moving” cancer, meaning just like it sounds – it can move quickly to other parts.  In this case, because it was in the lining shared with the bladder, Steve has to go every 3 months back to the urologist for a cystoscopy to make sure the cancer doesn’t appear in the bladder.  He will also have CT scans every 6 months to keep an eye on the other kidney, the bladder, and surrounding areas.  Kidney cancer is treated by removing part of or the entire kidney, so no chemo at this time.  The technical diagnosis was: Cancer Of Renal Pelvis, Right.

Facetiming after the nephrectomy

Following the surgery, Steve slowly regained strength, but still got tired after seemingly normal activities like taking a shower.  His recover time was 4-6 weeks.  No heavy lifting during that time, but they encouraged him to walk and not stay in bed all day.  The first follow-up cystoscopy was scheduled for 9/21/2020.   We set our minds on taking life one day at a time, and we learned to embrace the good and let go of the bad a lot more after his diagnosis.  

#fightlikeakight

Time to Book It

I’m a writer, but dang if I’ve even come close to acting like one. The good news is that I can remedy that lack of action by taking pen, phone app, or computer in hand and write again. Poetry. Thoughts and ramblings. Articles. And books. Well, at least one book. God lay it on my heart … sometime in the past five years to write a book. Now I could say that I procrastinated (I have), but I think there’s more to my delay than I considered until present day. I knew my topic without a doubt, but I simply couldn’t wrap my brain around what exactly to write, or how to write a book about an extremely sensitive topic without incriminating certain individuals and possibly causing hurt in their lives. This morning, I awoke, and I began the journey of book writing. It came so naturally that I am confident this is from God: the research, the words, and yes, the timing. I don’t expect this to be a rapid race to the last page, but I’m up for whatever the Lord has in mind. And although the answer seems clear … today was the first time I considered writing under a pseudonym. The story I must tell and lives that could be affected are way more important than fame or glory! I’m doing my due diligence regarding the pen name route. Exciting stuff!

What dream, passion, or calling have you pursued? If you haven’t started on that path, why? Post your thoughts in the comments below!

Doubt

Doubt feeds me lies. I eat and eat, but I never feel satisfied. What I don’t realize is that Doubt isn’t providing nourishment. Oh no. The more lies I consume, the closer I get to starvation. I pick up my fork and take another bite. The starvation offers no relief; when Doubt overwhelms me, I long for an end to the pain and confusion. This starvation does not end in a natural Death. I think I am eating, but instead I am starving. I think starving will lead to dying, but it only circles back to more Doubt. More confusion. More fear. Never, ever any rest.

Photo by Anfisa Eremina from Pexels

Rage

A snarky comment here

A little contempt there

Slowly the pot stirs

Until it boils over

With lashing out

And wicked words

But that’s not the monster

No, the monster lies quiet

Gaining one’s trust

Shh, he’s gone

Relax

White light

Blood red

Exploding without warning

Loud (so loud)

The profane beast attacks

Nothing is safe

No one is safe

And tomorrow, as always

It will slink back into its cave

With apologies and sunshine

And I will nurse my wounds

Until they are beyond healing

I will swallow my tears

And I will rivet a smile upon my face

Walk on eggshells

Do not disturb

The Rage

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

What is God’s Will?

As believers in Jesus, we often hear the phrase, “God’s will be done.” We sing about it, pray for it, use it in times of doubt and in times of trust. Many argue that there’s no point in praying if God’s will is going to override ours anyway. Others debate that we can present our wants to God, but that our ultimate desire should be for His will. So, what is God’s will anyway?

I read a devotional this evening that referenced 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and God shed a new light (or at least, new to me) on this verse.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (New Living Translation)

Huh. God’s will for Christians isn’t some far off mystery. It’s not a life of perfection (although we should strive to be holy – set apart – as He is holy). It’s not a perfect life, either. God’s will is that we be thankful in all circumstances. Not just the pleasant ones. Not just the happy ones. All. Of. Them.

Friend, this doesn’t mean we’ll believe every circumstance is good. Child abuse is not good. Sex trafficking is not good. With sin rampant in the world, there are a million and one things that are not good. There is only One who is good all the time, and that is God. Because of Him, we can be thankful in all circumstances. Because Jesus left the perfection and glory of Heaven for us. He became sin and died an undeserved tormented death on a criminal’s cross for us. He rose from the grave for us. He is coming back again to take us Home to be with God forever! The suffering we experience today doesn’t compare with the joy of eternity.

Was Jesus able to face the cross because He was God? Yes. He was also very much human, with the same fears and emotions we have. He did what He had to do … what He wanted to do to reconcile us with God the Father. He loved us that much, and He knew that on the other side of suffering was glory. We can trust the exact same thing from the exact same God!

We deserve death for our sins. Christ took our place. Followers of Jesus should be grateful every day and in every situation for His love. When we pray “God’s will be done,” start with a heartfelt thank You to the One who never changes, no matter the circumstance!

Vent

Sometimes, I

Want to die

Not just get

Nyquil high

No more pain

Peaceful rain

These are thoughts

In my brain

I push on

God is strong

To give up

Just seems wrong

God is near

He can hear

All my cries

And each tear

Why a Fast?

Please read these beautiful words from my amazing daughter.

Trauma Chronicles

WARNING: This post contains material related to suicide and sexual abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

“Why are you on a fast? You look great!”

“You’ve gotten skinnier! How much weight have you lost?”

“I don’t know how you do it… I never could.”

Here’s the thing: My fast has nothing to do with vanity. When God shouted at me to pursue this fast on March 28th, 2019, I wasn’t thinking, “Man, I could really stand to lose some weight and feel pretty.” I was in desperation.

I guess I shouldn’t be frustrated when they confuse fasting with dieting, yet here I stand with human emotions wanting to explain the deeper purpose, because it way outweighs vanity. When I began my fast, it had been approximately half a year since I was released from hospitalization after making an attempt on my life. 6 months had passed, and still nothing. Nothing was…

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