Monday, October 17, 2016

Feed Your Peace

My phone buzzed, alerting me to text greetings long before I crawled out of bed last Tuesday morning. As coffee brought the world into clarity, an avalanche of birthday greetings began to fill my Facebook page. 

While there's much to debate about the evils of our social media crazed society, by days end, I sure enjoyed being connected to so many. Sweet posts colored my day in a week of medical information overload.

I had three doctor appointments last week. Two on the far side of town. As I mentally prepped, I initially felt sorry for myself. In fact, I even decided that I would be famous by now if I didn't have to spend so much time being a professional patient.  

Between the bronchitis, right foot stress fracture, and droopy mouth episode, I've spent countless time and energy seeking answers for several months now. 

For instance, two weeks after the droopy mouth episode, my primary care doctor read the brain MRI report and told me the white matter spots were benign, not to worry. Days later, I met with a neurologist who suggested they resulted from mini-strokes and suggested I swallow an aspirin a day and go on a statin drug to lower my bad cholesterol that hangs at 118 (which isn't really bad). 

Startled, I fought panic until I realized it made no sense. 

I visited with a genetic doctor two days ago who emphasized that while the radiology report suggested the white matter spots could have resulted from a demyelinating disease (like MS) or vascular issues, it was all speculation, meaning nothing definitive could be ascertained from the report. 

No more statin drug.

I could continue and tell you about the rheumatologist I saw two weeks ago who said I had a "normal" exam. Yet when I stood to walk to my car, my legs were weak and wobbly. I could also tell you that the genetics doctor just said I have "hyper-mobility syndrome" which a rheumatologist should treat. 

It makes my head spin.

So many doctors. So many opinions. One very odd body. 

Kind of like the election.

What to do?

Pause and feed your peace. 

However, to feed it, we must first connect to the reality that the peace that passes understanding is meant to be ours.

Every day. 

No joke.

So after feeling sorry for myself over a week ago, I decided to act like my professional patient status counted for something after all. I'm still not sure what that something is. And I sank some just yesterday and had to swim my way through internal muck. 

But after spending the afternoon with my daughter-in-law, Courtney, and listening as Don and Sam built a work-out box in the basement, the peace was mine again. 

Indulging in marked down steaks, grapefruit LaCroix, mini key lime pies, and left-over birthday cake helped. But the company mattered most. Time with family mattered most.

So as the world continues to churn and bawdy election banter grieves our souls, feed your peace. 

Be intentional. Slow down. Let sunshine warm your frame. 

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are God's children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8: 15 - 17 NIV).

So guess what? 

No matter what doctors say or who's elected president, this truth remains...

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8: 18 NIV).

And with that, our souls can rest. 

All photos courtesy of

Friday, October 7, 2016

As the World Churns

Public warnings caught our attention this week:

Grab some coffee, your favorite pillow and pictures...
and evacuate!

With that, many coastal inhabitants left prized possessions and headed inland. Normal life stopped. Personal safety trumped routine. Faced with losing everything, waking to another day took precedence.  

For a few days now, we've turned from the daily grind and kept watch on a force of wind and water that can easily dismantle our way of life.

Far from the coastline, the weather here is calm. I even took a three hour nap this afternoon due to the remnants of a narcotic I swallowed for back pain last night. The deep ache is gone, but the lingering exhaustion reminded me why I don't take strong drugs very much.

But the day had been long and the pain too much to ignore.

A botched doc appointment didn't help. Lu had driven me almost an hour away only for us to learn I wasn't expected. A kind nurse sat in the lobby with me and sorted through the mishap as I wiped tears. And within a few hours of leaving, he called to say the doctor had looked over my MRI reports and definitely wanted to see me.

Thus, next week I have two pre-op appointments for my upcoming foot surgery as well as "take two" at the genetics' office.

So that three hour nap may have just been prep for the long week ahead.

In the mean time, I haven't mentioned the face issue in a few weeks mostly because I've been waiting to understand it more. After the MRI confirmed I don't have a brain tumor and didn't have a major stroke, a neurologist suggested the increase in white matter spots may have resulted from mini-strokes.

At this point, that diagnosis has been questioned and others considered. Bottom line, no one really knows why my brain has unusual spots.  

But when I think about it too much, my thoughts spin and swirl and disrupt my norm.

The same thing happened to the disciples once:

"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?'

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?'

They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'" (Mark 4: 37 - 41 NIV)

Right in the middle of the storm, Jesus spoke calm. And right in the middle of ours, His words echo the same.

So I can get worked up or I can trust. I can allow the internal tension to build, or press into peace.

We've been trained to believe a lot of things matter that don't. And what does, He promises to provide.

Oh to live with a faith that calms storms and quiets the raging winds.

As the world churns, that's my goal.

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Eggs, the Debate, and a Strawberry Moon

As the Monday night Presidential debate passed the thirty minute mark, I picked at my nails. Then, unable to sit still, I jumped up the moment I remembered a half-eaten container of Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream sat on a freezer. shelf. Having purchased it for Courtney, I was thankful she didn't eat it all.

In need of a diversion, I grabbed a bag of walnuts to go with the ice cream and two spoons. Back on our bed, Don and I indulged in tasty stress-eating while the candidates swapped verbal punches.

It helped.


However, no matter what candidate you support, these are muddy times that have left many on edge. And we'll be walking that ledge for a while.

It's an uncomfortable place. But I gained new perspective this week when I got to play God with our tabby cat, Eggs.

While my bronchial issues are much better than they were this summer, I still battle a persistent cough about once a day. After considering several potential causes, Don and I decided to rid our bedroom of carpet and install laminate flooring. Dust mites and pet dander will soon be greatly diminished in our home.

Wanting to spend as little money as possible, we moved the furniture and pulled up the carpet ourselves. So while others lounged at the beach during fall break this week, Don and I emptied our bedroom into the living room and then reinstalled it again 48 hours later.

The work was hard. But we understood the big picture gain.

Eggs, on the other hand, did not.

Used to seeking refuge under our bed, her safe place slowly unraveled as mayhem ruled.

I offered many reassurances, but no matter how many tender words I cooed, a distinct language barrier made clear communication impossible.

So Eggs got nervous. Real nervous.

And I felt like God.

While her small world turned upside down, I understood the big picture perspective.

Everything would be just fine.

Things would change. Her under-bed hideaway would no longer include soft, shag carpet. But the exchange would keep her pet dander from lingering in man-made fibers. And thus her presence in our home an easier thing to accommodate.

But as the bed came apart and the carpet exposed plywood boards, she hunched under the back corner of her cat tree and stared with large, round eyes.

Shaken, her entire world felt unsafe.

Just like ours sometimes.

But just like with Eggs, there's a big picture story being told. We know the end. And we know who's in charge. But a lot of ground-shaking change will occur between now and the time eternity unfolds.

It's not easy and often feels unsafe.

But just like I knew Eggs could trust us to take care of her in midst of the upheaval, I know we can lean all the more into the arms of The Almighty - no matter who wins the election.

So breathe. Indulge in a little stress eating. Pray an awful lot. And then remember that the same God who created the Strawberry Moon to shine its reddish hue only once in a generation, longs to lavish your soul with His love.

Rest in it. Receive it.

And maybe even, take a moment to listen to my new song. It's my favorite composition to date. I wrote it this summer, shortly after a strawberry moon graced our summer skies.

I'd been sick. Quite sick. And felt dislodged from too many norms.

But the words led me to hope again.

And they still do.

And if by chance they stir your soul, will you consider sharing the video with others? I sure would appreciate it.

Pictures courtesy of

Friday, September 23, 2016

July 2016

While Don heaps one spoonful of Folgers instant coffee in his morning cup, I had the unfortunate opportunity to learn I need two or three to make my cup worth while. Between calls to medical personnel, teaching, and now time in Reveal Audio Studios, I haven't remembered to stop at the grocery store yet this week.

But that will change soon. Sam and Courtney are coming for dinner and even spending the night. So a food stop is next.

I was hoping Nathan would join, but he's sitting beside me in the studio as I type so I won't complain... or rather, I won't complain too much.

I wrote three songs this summer and even sang them at Eddie's Attic, a local song writer's venue way across town. Snot filled my head and congestion covered my vocal cords, meaning I didn't sound great. But the poet needed to express and the experience proved therapeutic.

Listening to Nathan record background tracks for those songs today takes me far from the week of violence. For years ago, when I recorded my first two CD's  in this studio (available here on Amazon), Nathan was in middle school, unaware that his cords held a power beyond my own.

So while families fight, politicians haggle, and rioters destroy, we're building vocal tracks, harmonizing our genetically linked voices in a way only family can.

And while you may not be singing with those who mean a lot to you, I like to believe that in some small way, you're attempting some form of harmony too. Does that make me a Pollyanna? Like I'm just trying to create a world where the good outweighs the bad?

For even as bombs blow and murderers murder, I wonder if there's any chance the quiet good actually outweighs the catastrophic bad.

Deep in the book of Romans Paul commanded, "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6: 13 -14 NIV).

Even on the worst of days I wonder if there's any chance there are more instruments of righteousness than wickedness?  It sure doesn't seem like it most of the time. But for every act of evil, messengers of hope arise, providing aid in a multitude of ways.

So when July came to a close and the violence seemed unending, I spent days finishing this song. In fact, I had so many lyric potentials that I shared them at a Schreer family gathering solely seeking input.

Thus the final product is a conglomeration of verbal ideas from Papa, Deb, Mary, Sam, Courtney, and Nathan Schreer.

I wasn't going to record it today but after hoodlums trashed another city, inciting civil unrest, it seemed fitting to make it available.

Why the serious words are set to a circus-like accompaniment, I don't know. It just came out of my fingers that way and remains unlike anything I've ever composed.

May it stir your heart like it did mine.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Restoration versus Devastation: The Game Is On

The effects of coffee had long worn off as I visited with my friend Wednesday night. Curled up against a tall sofa back, I smiled when she asked, "Don't you think the bad is out there fighting against the good?"

"Ye-e-es," I agreed with drawn-out southern charm. "That's a spiritual principle for sure."

I used to quote it with my kids every morning:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities"... against the Darth Vaders of this world... (Ephesians 6: 12).

After trying to make sense of her stress and mine, I thought back to last Sunday, when it became all the more real that devastation tugs at the helm of restoration and we are caught in the middle of the war.

I posted a church photo on Facebook last Sunday. Overjoyed, I couldn't contain my excitement as I sat in a pew facing the massive organ renovation project.

For the organ that once played in Trinity Chapel on Wall Street will soon make music again in John's Creek United Methodist Church. Damaged in the notorious 9/11 attack, the organ was silenced and placed into storage. But when member's of the John's Creek church family heard about the magnificent instrument, they purposed to refurbish the pipes and move the instrument south.

It's taken years. Many years. A new sanctuary had to be built first.
But as of this summer and fall, the installation is underway.

So when I slipped into a pew on the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings, I savored the power of restoration.

Orchestra members soon took their seats. The choir processed in. Congregants stood for the first hymn and the service got under way. 

Drooling over the vast musical offerings, I sat unprepared, like everyone else, for what was to come.

About fifty minutes into the service, the pastor stood to preach. But instead of commanding the pulpit with ease, she said what I've never heard a pastor say before, "Please forgive me, but I can't preach today."

Say what?? On the 15th anniversary of 9/11??

"There's been a tragedy in our church body," she continued. "We lost a precious member this morning."

As she searched for words of encouragement, I discerned that a beloved someone committed suicide that very morning. Later I learned the pastoral staff had only been informed after the service began.

Devastation crashed over restoration, flooding our hope with despair.

After an awkward few moments, the congregants were asked to rise for the benediction, and the service ended. The abrupt conclusion punctuated the unwanted interruption and I fought to feel wonder again. The kind where the good guys win, the music resounds, and all is right with the world.

But guess what?

It's. Not. About. Me.

There's a big story being lived out, walked out, and diligently fought over. And every day we have an opportunity to join the side of restoration or to be part of the devastation.

It truly is a daily choice.

But not an easy one.

I've been swallowing prednisone for a week now and for the first time in six months, my right foot doesn't hurt at the end of the day. In fact, my right leg feels strong now that the post-surgery pain has subsided. While I'm aware the steroids may have something to do with the change, I'm still profoundly grateful for the lack of pain.

At the same time, my face pulls left. Not all the time, but enough to leave me feeling a bit tired from the pressure at days end.


They collide again.

The tug of war is in constant play. In my life and yours. I want to bask in the realm where all is restored. To float its peaceful, curative tides. But they are often interrupted.

So I'm becoming all the more intentional in my pursuit to stay faithful in the tight place of struggle. For...

"Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phillipians 3: 20 -21 NIV).

And as I wait for my lowly body to be transformed, I made a short a short video clip so you could see what's going on with my mouth. It seemed easier to make it plain rather than leave friends worried.  


And if you're interested in diving deeper into why we suffer, I'll link to the sermon that was preached at my home church this past Sunday. By Monday morning, three sweet friends had texted, encouraging me to take a listen.

Having missed out on a sermon the day before, I indulged, and it was well worth the time. 

The text is Romans 5: 1 -11.

Romans Part: 6 from Sanctuary on Vimeo.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Happy with a Dash of Snarl

Not only did I just swallow two  20 mg prednisone pills, I indulged in a caffeinated pumpkin-spice-latte at Starbucks, meaning I may never sleep tonight. Never.

While I almost chastened myself for forgetting to order decaf, it’s been too long of day for that. In fact, it’s been two very long days.

And if I didn’t live inside this body, I might be convinced I’ve become a hypochondriac.

The last several months have passed in a blur of health issues I thought I recently conquered. But alas, there was more to come. And it all started yesterday as I drove home from a podiatry appointment.

In hind sight, I hadn’t been feeling like myself for two days. I struggled to maintain balance. And as I sat in the podiatrist’s office, waiting for him to deem the stress fracture healed, I noticed my glasses wouldn’t hold my field of vision intact... which means that even with my high-powered lens correction, images still split in two.

After the doc told me to wear the orthopedic shoe for two more weeks, I took my leave. Driving home, I noticed my head turned slightly to the right, easing the eye strain. Priding myself on the unconscious adjustment, I wasn’t prepared for my mouth to pull low and left.

But it did. Out of the blue. And as I drove, my facial muscles began a game of tug of war.

The right side pulled the left side back into proper alignment only to have the left side yank hard again. The resulting spasms left me snarling like an angry pirate and fighting to smile.

However, if this doesn’t go away before Halloween, I shall buy an eye patch to aid my double vision and snarl with ease when trick-or-treaters come to our door.

Once home, I collapsed on my bed, certain the spasms would calm when I woke. But they didn’t.

I taught a lesson. Sat still. Watched a new Hallmark show. And avoided talking until Don got home.

When he did and we talked, his face registered enough concern that I knew I was in trouble.

So I drove to an after-hours clinic where I interfaced with a doctor within ten minutes of my arrival. After a careful examination, she ordered a cat scan, and a long wait ensued.

By midnight I knew the scan was clear, although I have a follow up MRI Tuesday morning. For now, with no sign of a stroke or tumor, I’m being treated for Bell’s Palsy. But for reasons I won’t explain, it took all day to pick up the medicine and swallow my first pill.

So here I sit in a Starbucks, fully caffeinated and pumped with steroids, wondering what my facial future holds.


I’ve shed a few tears. Thought about hiding away for a time. Wanted to take a seriously long, winter’s nap. But went to lunch with a friend instead.

More truth?

After a day of processing, I'm convicted that this is my moment to live what I know is true.

The King of Kings loves me. Right now. Even with a slight snarl.

This isn’t a punishment. A result of my sin. Or some sign that I’m not special enough.

It’s simply part of living in a broken world.

And broken it is.

But I know The One who heals. I serve The One who makes good from bad. And I love the way He draws near when I lay on a gurney, a bit chilled, waiting for test results.

Oh how He loves us where we are, how we are, completely in our broken state.

So I will wake and live fully tomorrow.

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

12 Days, 4 States, and a Lot In-Between

In the last two weeks, I've sipped morning coffee in seven locations in four different states, which is definitely not my norm.

So much has happened that I took a few extra days off from teaching to absorb it all. Also not my norm.

But after playing catch-up on bills, laundry, and several other things I forgot, I'm all the more aware of how out of my norm I've been.

It started in the Atlanta airport two weeks ago on an early bird flight to.... Akron, Ohio! Meet my siblings: Rara and Mark. 

From Akron we traveled to New Castle, PA to visit my parent's roots. From there we drove to Titusville, PA and spent the night close to where my grandparent's burial took place the next day. 

After much consideration I'm convinced my mom's parents now reside in an enchanted forest. Maybe it was the 21 gun salute. Or the pint sized chapel that barely held our family. Or the towering trees with the feathery pine branches.

I'm not sure.

But something surreal lingered among the tombstones, leaving me confident that death has lost its sting.

After the burial, we drove back to Akron, spent the night with my aunt and uncle, and flew home after sharing a hefty meal with family we rarely see.                                                                                                               

Storms delayed our flight and hampered the view as we headed south. But in between, we watched a sunset that lit the sky and colored the horizon.

The beauty punctuated the end of the trip well, since after only two short nights at home, my friend, Lu, and I left for South Georgia.

Last spring I became an approved speaker for Stonecroft Ministries. As a result, I was booked to speak at three women's events in Savannah and Dublin.  

Lu drove. I spoke and sang.

And when a window of time opened between events, we snuck off to the beach where I paid a $4 parking fee for a 20 minute therapy session.

The ocean had missed me.

Knowing my story, the hosts invited several women with chronic illness. Recently diagnosed with adult onset mitochondrial disease, Patti and her husband drove from Augusta so we could meet.

Sitting with her felt as rich as reconnecting with family. The mito community remains small. Few know the verbiage, the cocktail, the unique frustrations.

But Patti knows them well. And together, we will fight on.

With our tenth anniversary only days away, Don and I finally made plans to spend a few days at the beach. For those who know him well, you'll appreciate this photo of me, The Donald, and his best friend, Oswald Chambers, visiting on the sand.

Home for two days now, Eggs, our tabby cat, bolts around like her old self and order almost reigns. Another round of antibiotics took care of a lingering sinus infection and my foot seems to be healing.

So as I contemplate the coming fall season, hope wells up inside, although I'm well aware we never know what challenge may lie ahead.

"We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it" (Proverbs 16:9 MSG).

If my plans unfold as my calendar states, I'll be speaking about once a month at least through January. Within a few days, I hope to have the dates and locations on my website and amazon author page.

Maybe I can meet you there.

And whether the sun is shining or a hurricane is blowing your way this weekend, sip some coffee, take a few deep breaths, make some plans, and then surrender them before the ink dries.

From Akron, Ohio to Tybee Island, He knows best

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