Monday, April 29, 2013

More to Mom's Story

Mom walked into her eight month follow-up with her neurosurgeon a few weeks ago.  He's the guy who removed several cancerous, collapsed, vertebrae from her spine and replaced them with synthetic, sturdy screws and rods to stabilize her back.  Now, go back to last summer, prior to her surgery.  Mom had been walking around for many months with back pain that was getting progressively worse.  It got so severe that she could hardly walk, but she did, inch by painful inch.  You see, worse than the back pain, my mom was hiding a phobic fear of doctors ("white coat" fear doctors call it) from everyone around her, especially those closest to her.  So, she pushed herself to keep going, grabbing on to things as she went, leaning over things for support, hunched over in agony, taking slow, shaky, painful steps that took her breath away and stopped her in her tracks.  Mom was determined to keep her pain a secret.  For a while that wasn't so hard because she lived alone, and my sister and I were five hours away.  Eventually, though, the pain just wasn't manageable anymore.  It kept her from eating, sleeping, and functioning on her own.  She quit showing up in the office.  She didn't visit friends anymore, and she wouldn't answer her phone.  Fear was winning for my mom.

In fact, fear almost took her life. Then, somewhere along the way, Mom started talking to God about her fear and her pain.  Mom was immobilized physically by pain and mentally by her own fear, but God was very much on the move in her life.  My sister and I simultaneously got a feeling that something was wrong, and when we started comparing notes, we just knew we had to do something.  We had to get her to the doctor even if that meant we took her kicking and screaming.  We had no idea Mom was giving her weakness to God, acknowledging that she didn't have the strength or courage to get herself to the doctor.  She asked God to help her.  Meredith (my sister) and I drove late the night of August 13th and showed up at her door.  See, God made our hearts overwhelmingly heavy for Mom.  He was hearing Mom and using us to be His hands.   

This photo was taken by my sister during one of Mom's many hospital stays.
I want to take a minute to be real for you, more transparent.  At this point in Mom's story, things were not neat and pretty for Meredith and me.  We had been praying for Mom.  We urged and pleaded with Mom for a while to go the doctor, not just for her back, but to check on her general health.  She had not been to the doctor in twenty plus years.  The more time that went by, the more defensive, guarded, and angry Mom became toward us and anyone else that was brave enough to discuss her health.  We loved mom.  All of our pleas came from our love for her, so it hurt and was extremely frustrating to watch her avoid taking care of herself.  With faith and prayers, I went to bed many nights scared of the consequences of Mom's choices.  See, Mom lost her own mother to a very aggressive battle with ovarian cancer.  Mom was 40 when she died, and her experiences left her wounded, scared, and determined to avoid facing the same fate.  If Mom ever had cancer, she told me many times, she would rather just go without knowing.  But as mom discovered, cancer is nearly impossible to ignore. 

When Mom missed celebrating her 61st birthday with us because her back hurt too much to make the drive, I have to be honest, I was just down-right mad and fed up.   I couldn't understand Mom's inaction.  Didn't she realize the consequences of her choices would be devastating to us too?   And when I realized that I was going to have to drop everything, make arrangements for my kids, and leave my young family in the middle of the week to get her to the doctor, man, I was furious.  My sister wasn't mad, on the other hand, she was overcome with grief and sorrow.  She just wanted to get to Mom and see her with her own eyes. 

 Faith does not mean I am spared from being afraid, feeling lost, overcome with emotion, and wounded by pain.  Faith does not mean I always make the right choices and react the way God wishes I would.  Faith means that whatever I willingly bring to God, ever so little or endlessly ginormous, He will take it, guide me, and use it for good.  He will get me from point A to point B, making sure I am not consumed by my circumstances and shortcomings.  The catch, is, I have to decide how much I will let go and let God in. The more space I give him in my life, the more He can do.  Faith means that WHEN I do go to God with every little drop of my fear, emotion, and pain, I can know He is already at work, and He's holding my hand because I am crying out to HIM.  Faith means trusting God with all that my logical mind understands and all that it doesn't in open conversation,

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,”
Jeremiah 29:11

We let ourselves in when we got to Mom's, by that time, the dark early morning hours of another day were greeting us.  We took one look at Mom, and we knew she was in really bad shape.  We hadn't arrived a minute too soon.  Mom was a prisoner in her own bed.  She couldn't walk without agonizing pain, and she couldn't lay still for the pain either.  Mom restlessly and desperately sought a position that would give her a few seconds of reprieve from the pain, but it was no use. This was not about a flare up of sciatica as she had told me so many times on the phone.  Mom was sick. That night, as my sister and I were getting ready for bed, our eyes met in the hall, and all we could do was cry and keep praying.

The next day at urgent care, x-rays showed that Mom had several fractured vertebrae, sending us straight to the ER.  A hospital admittance revealed that the vertebrae were compressing her spinal cord and the cause was advanced stage IV breast cancer.  Just like that, Mom, Meredith, and I were facing my Mom's worst nightmare.  The months that followed were messy and painful, too, with lots of crying out to God.  The details of which I think I will spare you from hearing. 

This clutch cross was a life changing and inspiring gift to Mom, Mere, and I from Dr. Michael Hobbs when Mom first received her cancer diagnosis.  What an awesome and powerful gift!
What I can tell you is that God made His presence very clear through the entire ordeal.  There is no question in our minds that He is holding our hands.  He has taken a really horrible, disgusting, complicated, devastating, painful situation and is working it for good.  God continues to heal us, each in the ways we need healing, transforming us spiritually, and blessing us each step of the way.  He has wrapped His arms around us, bringing just the right people into our lives, to do just the right things, at just the right times.  "Don't ever discount the people that cross your paths."  My mom says that all the time.  I'm telling you, chances are good, they are God sent.  The physical facts don't add up, the three of us know we aren't good enough, and the grace and mercy God has shown us is definitely undeserved.  My God, the way He has worked on our praying hearts, showing up without question in our lives, is the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed. 

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Back to Mom's follow-up appointment with her neurosurgeon... He admitted to her that she should not have been able to walk based on the extent of the damage to her spine.  I mean, her vertebrae were pressing on her spinal cord.  Logically, she should have been paralyzed from the waist down.  Yet, she walked herself into her eight month follow-up without a walker, without a cane, on her own two feet.  She is here and thanking God.

As I sit in the pew every Sunday at church, I am overcome with joy to the point of tears.  I cry for Jesus, and I cry for my Mom.  God loves me so much that he sent Jesus to save little, very imperfect, mistake making, selfish me.  And thank God, he sent Jesus to save my mom too.  I realize, I have had the privilege of seeing the majesty, glory, and saving power of God's love right before my very eyes in one of the most important people in my life, my mom.   She is a walking miracle.

Praise God, Mom is here and doing well.  I just know God has a purpose and a plan for her.  There will be more to her story.  Stay tuned.  And by all means, remember that God has a purpose-perfect plan for your life too when you are willing to have conversation with Him and let Him in.  Mom is living proof that it's never too late, never a fear too paralyzing, a mistake too big, or a secret too hurtful for God.  Happy day, that's something to celebrate!

1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

A prayer for today-

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your unconditional mercy and grace.  I want to let go and hand over all the weakness and brokenness in my life to you.  I trust you.  I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior today and always.  Fill me with the Holy Spirit and heal me in all the places you know I need healing.  I pray for miracles in my life, Lord.

In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,




  1. Beautiful Lindsay, i'm so proud of you.


  2. You have written a beautiful and heart warming story. I am so glad that your mom continues to improve and has you and your sister.
    Many blessings and prayers to all three of you,
    Dorothy Ashworth MC'73

  3. Lindsay, your post is AMAZING. You, Meredith, and your mom are my heroines. I know you give all credit to God, which is right and true, but give a bit to yourselves. Your resolve and faith are an inspiration to all of us who read your posts. I hope to meet you and Meredith one day. For now, I am thrilled to hear that your mom plans to attend our 1973 Meredith College reunion and STAY IN THE DORM! What a miracle!

  4. Yep, I think you all are so blessed to have gone through this all together. We all adore your mother and are anxious to see her again at the reunion!