(In the ER, just after receiving my xray results, waiting for Nolan to return from dropping the kids off at a neighbor’s.)
It turns out my left lung is more stubborn than my right, and after a week of a full chest tube (much larger than the previous thoracic vent, inserted a few inches below my armpit and so much more painful) attached to suction off and on and daily x-rays, my lung wasn’t recovering and I needed surgery. A Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) was performed. This is when they add a secondary chest tube (a few inches back from the first one), use one tube to insert a video camera to show them were to go, and the other tube to insert instruments and rough up the lining of my chest cavity and add talc powder, causing my lung to scar to the cavity once it was re-inflated. To sum all that up—I pretty much have a bionic lung now because there is so much scar tissue keeping it in place that it wouldn’t dare collapse again. After a lot more pain, an amazing team of nurses, and a few more days, I was finally discharged 14 days after being admitted.
(A few days into my hospital stay—things to be thankful for: Cuddles with Jace | My Pleur-Evac box that connected my chest tube to suction, allowing my lung to stay inflated | A new IV site that was so much more comfortable | Nolan’s work was amazing and he was able to use family medical leave to spend time with me at the hospital)
In the midst of the regular meds, checking of vitals, daily reports from doctors, light headedness and nausea from medications, and pain (so much pain), I would say that the overarching word to describe my emotional state was joyful. And I don’t mean happy joyful, but holy joyful. A while back I began reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts (confession: I have yet to finish the book. But what I have read has had a profound impact on me), and so much of what she taught about joy and thankfulness kept ringing throughout my heart. She describes the joy I felt as “chara,” a joy that is found in the Greek word for grace, “charis.” It is a joy that comes with grace. And, “deep chara joy is found only at the table of euCHARisteo—the table of thanksgiving.”
(Post surgery things to be thankful for: Oxygen | My pain medication that I could bolster with a button | two Pleur-Evacs attached to my chest tubes | Compression leggings to prevent blog clots, but also provided a level of comfort to my hurting body.)
I love Ann’s break down of explaining how joy is in the middle of this word for thanks. “As long as thanks as possible, then joy is always possible.” So in the midst of pain, sitting in the ER, beginning to cry and feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness since Nolan was not back from dropping the kids off yet and my nurse had said I wasn’t allowed to use my phone—over the PA system all emergency doctors were called up to the maternity floor because a baby was coding after an emergency c-section. I could be thankful—my babies were safe. I would recover. (And that baby ended up being just fine.)
In the midst of not knowing how long I would be in this situation—A friend from church immediately organized meals to be brought to my family. We ended up receiving 4 weeks of meals, plus a few more that friends brought later. I could be thankful.
In the midst of being apart from my kids—My mom, who had just returned home to Colorado the day before my lung collapsed, flew back out to take care of Jace and Reese (and Nolan too), and our house. She and Nolan kept life so normal for my kids that they were hardly phased by my absence. Life continued as normal, and probably a little better than that. I could be thankful.
In the midst of facing what was described as a “very painful” surgery and seeing that burden weigh on my husband’s shoulders—My diagnosis had a solution. And we would see the end. It was fixable, not life threatening and short term. Nothing like facing cancer with chemotherapy and radiation and statistics that were life threatening. I could be thankful.
Perspective helped with the thankfulness. And then thankfulness brought joy. But even more than that, I feel like this entire experience showed me the power of the Holy Spirit within me. Faith comes fairly easily to me in that I don’t often need proof that God is God and Jesus died for my sins and heaven is real and that by accepting Jesus I will join Him there when I die. But I do have those moments of wondering if I’ve just been duped, and bought into some great, long lasting story that has been crafted by man. But each time I have those mind wonderings, my heart asks God to show me It’s true. And He always responds—sometimes in small ways that whisper to my heart and other times that yell just in case I’m not listening. And in drawing near to Him, in seeking His heart, in getting to know Him and be aware of His presence, and in inviting the Holy Spirit to be a part of my daily life, He has been gently transforming me.
I learned about the fruit of the spirit from an early age in Sunday school. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Those fruits (emphasis on the plural), established themselves as something to be individually worked on by me. Like, it was my job to work on being a loving person. And then, once I mastered love, I could start improving my joy. There’s no telling how many times I’ve prayed, “God give me more patience (forebearance).” And I’m sure, deep down inside, the thought rested that my standing with God—His opinion of me—was based on how much of that fruit I was building in my life.
But my thinking on all this was mixed up—after all, fruit in that passage is singular. The result of a life lived with the spirit is fruit. Fruit is the result of God working in my life, not me working on my life. Instead of praying “God give me more gentleness,” my prayer should be “God give me You.” The fruit is not my doing, it’s His.
So as I laid in my hospital bed, days running into one another and seeing every ounce of pride stripped away by my dependence on nurses to do things the non-hospitalized me would totally cringe at, the Holy Spirit’s power was evident. It was surreal to see the love, joy, peace, forbearance, gentleness and self-control show themselves in my thoughts, words and attitude. I saw fruit. And it was affirmed through the words of my nurses, cleaning staff and friends on Facebook and Instagram. Through all those moments in the past of doubt and reassurance, through my seeking and fumbling, and all the times I’ve felt like a spiritual fake, God was working. And so, at my weakest, He was strongest (2 Corinthians 12:9).
It’s pretty awe-inspiring to look back and see God’s Power at work. To know that He created every inch of me (even my dramatic lungs), that not a thing I’ve said or done has been a surprise to Him and that He uses me, even at my weakest. To see that the same Power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is dwelling in me, and that Power showed itself through a 14 day hospital stay. And so my thankfulness begins again—this time for who He is and what He’s doing in me. And from that thankfulness comes joy.
I suppose August wasn’t lost after all. If anything, it was gained.