Tough Decisions

Like I said in this post, I have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome on both sides of my body. You can learn more about it here, here, or here. Even with all this information (and there’s a ton more out there), I find myself very conflicted.

Or, maybe because of it.

I have had two thoracic surgeons examine me and perform tests; they both came to the same conclusion: this is a debilitating disease that will only get worse if I don’t address it via surgery. I have been through physical therapy with no improvement. I have taken pain meds which only last a little while, if they work at all. I have been at a healthy weight (when the symptoms first appeared) and at a “less than” healthy weight.

My symptoms are getting more and more difficult to tolerate. I wake up daily with pain in both shoulders and numbness or tingling all the way down to my fingertips. I have difficulty ~ pain, heaviness, fatigue ~ in every day things like brushing my hair, shampooing, dressing, baking. I go numb when I type (I have taken several breaks while typing this post) and when I drive. Sleep is difficult as I cannot get comfortable, or I go numb when lying on my side. These symptoms are not easy to ignore; and they are getting progressively worse. I am actually starting to drop things.

So here’s my dilemma: The docs both say surgery is the only way to alleviate the symptoms; they say I’ll recover quickly and feel much better, returning to normal activities within a few days. Though some say I’ll create more problems than I will solve with this surgery.  I want to make sure that it is a decision I can live with – literally. It’s not like they can put my ribs back in once they take them out.

Lord Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to guide my decisions. Help me to do what is right for my body and my children.

First Days

I’ve heard it said often enough, “This is the first day of the rest of my life.” This phrase usually implies that there has been a change in the person’s life, either for the better or the worse.

Well, I said that phrase yesterday and it was because something ‘worse’ had happened and it looked like it was on its way to becoming the ‘better.’

This has surely been one crazy month. There have been continued medical issues, like I posted about here.

But that’s not the worst of it… You see, something happened this month that turned my life upside down. It made me question so many things. It was devastating. Add the fact that there were others involved and you have multiplied pain. As in all things, God gives us free will; and with that free will comes the opportunity to make choices. I had the opportunity to choose to hold onto anger and to let bitterness fester or to let go of the anger and begin the the process of forgiveness.

I have chosen to begin the process of healing, forgiveness and learning to trust again. But it’s not easy. There’s one person involved in this situation who expects to be trusted immediately, just because they have promised not to do it again. I believe that trust is one of those things that can be switched off in an instant, but it cannot be switched on in the same way. I believe trust must be be earned. Now, that’s not to say that the person who committed the sin is to be untrusted for a specific amount of time, or a certain number of days without incident; but it still must be earned.

The person who sinned against me should want to do everything possible to earn my trust back, if truly sorry. Questions should be expected. Doubt should be a given. This is not a punishment – I don’t really want to punish anyone. Though I did want to punish everyone involved at first.

Then I had one of those “ah-ha” moments. Like I said, I wanted everyone to suffer at first. But something strange happened. I was driving Diva home from the hospital (she’s fine, just a doctor’s appointment), and mulling all this over in my mind, when a song came over the radio. I didn’t really focus on the verses, but the chorus stood out, “Hold on just a little bit longer. He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger. The pain ain’t gonna last forever. And things can only get better.” (from Stronger  by Mandisa)

I felt at peace. I no longer wanted everyone to suffer as I had; and I just knew that everything would work together for God’s glory. God’s Holy Spirit just filled me – it was amazing.

I will continue to pray and continue to walk the path of forgiveness. I know it’s going to take some time, but I also know that God has blessed me with His Holy Spirit to walk with me, to help me, and to lead me.

It’s the first day of the rest of my life…

COURAGEOUS: Honor Begins At Home

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)

Recently I was privileged to participate in an advanced screening of Courageous ~ the latest movie from Sherwood Pictures. You will remember Sherwood from their life-changing movie a couple of years ago called Fireproof.  And after what I saw in Courageous, I think God is using another movie to deliver a powerful punch.

In Fireproof, Stephen and Alex Kendrick reminded us that marriage is a covenant. In Courageous, they remind us of the importance of fatherhood. Courageous does deliver a powerful punch and more. It’s convicting (smacks hand to forehead ~ that’s the word I was searching for when I was filling out the comment card after the movie!). Like Fireproof, it makes you think. But the real question is, how will it make you act?

Some might ask why we need a movie on this topic. Don’t fathers know how important they are? Don’t mothers know how important a father is to her children’s lives? Of course, children know how important fathers are, right? Apparently not.

The Bible tells us that God created a man and a woman and told them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22). The man wasn’t told to plant his seed and the woman would take care of the rest. God created a family – with a mother and a father. God placed the father at the head of the family (1 Cor. 11:3; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:25-29). He is there to lead, to guard, to guide, and to protect. The father has a vital role in the success of a family.

Now back to Courageous… the Kendrick brothers introduce us to four police officers and we hear about their experiences with fatherhood; whether it was as fathers themselves or their relationships with their own fathers. They did a good job depicting families that exist today – families with two parents, a divorced family and a single man. One of them grew up without a father, but had a father-figure as a mentor. One is a so-so father, another is a good father, and still another is just a weekend father. We see how their individual situations have shaped their views of fatherhood. We also see varying degrees of faith, and journeys toward developing deeper faith. A little later in the movie, we are introduced to another father who really brings a lot to the story.

The major themes running through the movie are that honor does indeed begin at home and that every home needs a father. Courageous hits us hard, right out of the gate. This movie is not a chick-flick (but ladies, you may want to have a tissue or two…). But, like one of the other attendees at the screening said, of the four movies Sherwood has done, this one outdoes them all in terms of acting, action, cinematography, message, and story.

Throughout the movie we see situations that many families face on a regular basis – busy schedules, feelings of inadequacy, fear, a need to forgive, anger, and more. More importantly, we see how to handle some and not to handle others. When tragedy strikes one of the fathers, it sends him on a journey to discover what God says about fatherhood, and he eventually confronts his own mistakes as a dad.

While you may think that this alone is enough for one movie, Sherwood Pictures takes it a couple steps further. After discovering what God wants a father’s role to be, the other men want in. They put it into practice and vow to hold each other accountable. Now here’s where you expect the typical Hollywood ‘happy ending’ – so not the case in this movie. There’s more excitement to come when one of the fathers truly needs to be held accountable for his actions.

This is a movie where there is no typical Hollywood ending; but there is resolution. Each man in this story is taken on a journey; and each has a different path with a different ending. The solidifying factor is that they all commit to the journey, all are held accountable, and all find the true meaning of fatherhood.

Be prepared for a couple of amazing ‘Daddy-Daughter’ scenes – they will tug at your heart and leave a lasting impression. But also be prepared for some intense moments – remember that the main characters are police officers.

The movie initially received a rating of PG-13, but that rating has been surrendered, leaving the movie currently unrated. The initial rating was for some violence, as well as gang and drug references. These things are certainly understandable in a movie dealing with officers of the law. One thing I noted, and appreciated, was that some of the necessary violence was implied and not directly on camera. For instance, in one scene you see the police officer tackle the ‘bad guy’ on the ground. When he loses the advantage, you see the ‘bad guy’ throwing punches but you don’t see where they land. The cuts, bruises, and blood are mostly left up to your imagination. This is especially helpful in one of the defining moments of the movie. That being said, parents need to be aware that there is some violence; and there are scenes involving drugs and gang activity.

The emotions I experienced during this viewing were many. To quote Larry the Cucumber, “I laughed. I cried. It moved me.” But that does over-simplify things a bit. Alex and Stephen Kendrick have a God-given talent for being able to insert humor at just the right moment; and at just the right level.

Thank you Alex & Stephen Kendrick, Sherwood Baptist Church, the City of Albany, and the many people involved in making this film. I believe it will change many families. Most importantly, thanks be to God for the inspiration, talents, and abilities of these men and women.

Now, Don’t Let Go of the Wheel   —   See. The. Movie! September 30th, 2011. Buy tickets, buy a show time – do it opening weekend. Show Hollywood what types of movies really matter! For more information, visit Courageous online.

NOTE: I know there are some fatherless homes that can’t change the way they are right now for a reason. I have been there, and I understand. This is a movie review and not a judgment. However, there are some families in this position that can change, and should. See the movie. Pray about it.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie

… seek the Lord, even if it means you’re standing alone.

WHERE ARE YOU MEN OF COURAGE?

* Images provided by Courageousthemovie.com