As some of you know, the pig valve they placed in my heart 7 years ago has been misbehaving as of late and it appears I'll need to replace it earlier than I had hoped. Since I'd been told it would last closer to 15 years, I had not placed open heart surgery on my agenda for 2014 or 2015. And, frankly, I'm booked. If I must have surgery in the next year, I believe I can arrange it in the first week of August. It's penciled in.
In another development, I've seen some stuff this year that has challenged my ideas of how God works. Or, more accurately, he has destroyed the large box I placed around him. I thought I'd given him a big enough box to move around in, but, as it turns out, he refused to be limited by what I could comprehend.
This year I've had the honor of meeting people who experience God in ways I only dream of. Like Jackie--whose stories of God's power in her life of serving the lowest of the low in Beirut is surpassed only by her personal story of physical and emotional healing. Or, the many Muslims with whom I've conversed who've had dreams of Jesus and miraculously experienced his power and love. And I could go on for hours. These men and women from Egypt and Turkey and Iran and Jordan and Israel have lived in much more uncertainty and much more faith than I, and the result is a different experience of the Trinity. One of dependence and hope and love. And, its an experience I desire.
So I decided to pray for a miracle.
Half-hearted Prayer (no pun intended)
About a month ago I decided to regularly pray that my thickening, hardening valve would reverse its disease and once again become the healthy, pliable piece of tissue its supposed to be. And, I asked a few others to pray this with me.
This is going to tell you a bit about my own weirdness, but I had a hard time getting excited about praying for this miracle and I couldn't figure it out. It wasn't that I didn't believe God could do this--I really did believe he could. But still, the prayer just didn't 'fit'. I had a hard time articulating it, but I didn't feel like this was a prayer God was inviting me to pray.
This brought up a deep, theological question for me--does the Holy Spirit help tell us what to pray for? I mean, on a personal level. Hmmmm.
Signs of Hope
Over the last month I found exercise to be more enjoyable and fruitful. Even with my damaged valve, I was able to run regularly, even increasing my pace and mileage slightly. I began to think it might be happening. Perhaps surgery would be put off indefinitely or...become unnecessary. I stopped obsessing about my heart when I ran and began again to live in the present moment. That was a gift.
But, last week I was reminded of the sporadic nature of my condition. With no warning, the tiredness, light-headedness and breathlessness reappeared. Nothing dramatic, just subtle reminders of my humanity. So I kept praying.
An Unexpected Answer
And then came the answer. "This isn't what I desire for you."
I stopped praying for this miracle today because God told me to. I think. Sometimes its difficult to discern the voice of God. But, best I can tell, this is his desire.
In a phone conversation with a friend I hadn't spoken with in a while, I shared the news about my heart. I joked that I didn't have time for surgery so I was praying it didn't have to happen. His response?
"Kelli, maybe you need a time of being cared for. I know you prefer to be the one giving, but maybe you need to receive. All this busyness and performance and activity may need to stop for a bit."
I laughed nervously as I confessed, "You know this is what I do for a living, right? I teach leaders how to rest."
"We have a name for someone like you. It's 'hypocrite.' This was not an accusation. It was a mirror.
And I knew these were God's words to me. In teaching others to submit to the realities of their physical, emotional and spiritual capacities, I must become the student as well. As I pondered this for a bit longer, God reminded me that one of my most powerful times in ministry was after my first open heart surgery. I spoke at a women's conference in Dubai 6 weeks after my surgery. And, after 6 weeks of complete rest and solitude and more rest and submitting to the care of others and the gradual process of healing, I experienced miraculous power as I traveled and spoke.
Probably not coincidence.
So I've stopped praying for my heart to be miraculously healed--at least physically. Instead, I'm asking for the grace to submit each moment to whatever God has for me. I really do hope I can wait until August to have my surgery, but I can entrust my schedule to God. Because he loves me. And he is continuing to perform miracles in my heart.
I know it's impossible to add more hours into a day, but I really thought I'd figured out a way to beat the system earlier this week.
In fact, it seemed so simple I felt embarrassed for not having thought of it sooner. My no-fail solution?
Get up earlier. Like, way earlier.
I'm currently experiencing a season of unusual busyness. Crazy busyness. So busy that my mother has told me she will not be visiting me in the mental hospital because I've done this to myself. She's right, of course. But I know that if I can make it through May, I'll be okay. And I was up for the task. I'm more disciplined, focused and productive than I've ever been and many of the tasks I'm engaged in are life-giving. The ones that aren't I get done early in the day and I've added more time for exercise, prayer and Sabbath to help me survive.
And then my carefully crafted Jenga pile collapsed. On Tuesday we received a notice to vacate our rental property by the end of May. Nothing we did, its just that the Catholic Church needs it back so a priest can move in. It's their house. They can do what they want with it. But that little letter put me over the edge.
That's the thing with seasons of high activity and low margin--it doesn't take much to throw you over the edge.
I was in shock for the first couple of hours, reminding myself that God was in control and I would be okay. I had lots of very spiritual thoughts and believed I was handling it quite nicely.
Until night came. What is it about evening that makes everything seem worse?
It took me a while to get to sleep. My mind was racing. And then I was up at 4:30 a.m. The worst time of morning. I knew it would take me at least 30 minutes to get back to sleep and then I'd have under an hour before I had to get up for the day.
And then it hit me...I should just get up now. In fact--this will be my new start time for the day. Brilliant! I add an hour and a half to my day. That's nearly eight hours in my week! I'll use it to look for houses and pack and organize stuff. See. I'm a problem solver.
I was so productive in that pre-dawn period that I had a hard time reigning it in when it was time to get started with my actual day. By 7:30 a.m. I was out the door with Madison and already three hours into my work day. After dropping her off, I headed to a breakfast meeting--fueled with caffeine--and then off to Oakland for another meeting. Also fueled with caffeine. By this time it was lunch and I'd been up for eight hours. I usually fast on Wednesdays, but today I needed food. I inhaled a quesadilla from Chipotle and stopped at Starbucks for another shot. My brother was in San Francisco for business so I headed across the bridge to see him for a few minutes. I noticed I was feeling shaky and tired and emotionally exhausted.
After spending a few minutes with my brother I headed back home via Highway 1. This section of Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beautiful and it takes me almost directly to my front door. And, in spite of this awe-inspiring scenery and gorgeous weather my mood continued to plummet. By the time I got home I was in the tank. Tired, nauseous and weepy.
I was beginning to think this new wake-up time would not be sustainable.
I tried doing some homework but it was no use. I headed to bed and immediately fell asleep for 2 hours. So much for the hours I added to my day. And when I awoke I was even more depressed. And hungry. I ate junk and became more and more irritable. My family gave me a wide berth. It was really ugly.
The world seemed to be collapsing. Maybe not today, but I could feel it coming. I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to keep up this pace. And to stop now would be to drop a lot of very fragile plates. Loud and messy.
I did get on the elliptical machine in our garage for a quick workout and that helped keep me from sinking further, but after stretching I went directly back to bed. Beside myself with panic but a little wiser about what I truly needed.
And, it isn't more hours in the day. It is continuing to trust God as I keep moving forward. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. One breath prayer at a time.
I may still get up a bit earlier in the coming weeks. But in the end, I don't want to be more productive--I want to be more God-honoring. More loving. More responsive to God's movement in my life and a more vibrant part of the community of faith.
So, I will faithfully walk and wait on God. Of course, it may involve dropping a plate or two. But it's not really about me. Its about the God who loves me and whom I desire to honor with my life.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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