Yesterday late morning I went to go get my heart scanned. This scan will determine if I am a current candidate for surgery (it's all explained in more detail in my last post (Hope II, Miracles).
Basically, instead of waiting until I can get an appointment with the surgeon for him to examine my scans, I decided to pop the disk in from my morning's scan myself. I had watched my doctor's look at and explain the scans every 6 months or less for the past 6 years, so I figured I had a fair idea of what I was looking at.
Unqualified as I was, I looked at the scans anyway to measure the aneurysm now, and the copy 6 months ago. Short version, I measure my recent scans to show that it has grown at least 3mm, perhaps more given my conservative measuring. Since this shows a clear increase in the size of the aneurysm, and my surgeon said that ANY growth would warrant surgery...well, I started freaking out a bit.
It was in the midst of my freaking out that I found out a few things about myself and the others around me. The response when I said I needed help was overwhelming, and humbling. It was quite an experience to realize I'm not alone and there are people out there who would drop everything to make sure I'm okay.
After that rough day, capped off with running 6 miles, a few teary phone conversations, and most of a pitcher of sangria with a friend that night, I woke up this morning finally feeling at peace with what is going on, or rather at all the confusion going on. All of it made me realize God was in control the entire time. He puts people in our paths that we will need later. He humbles us when he throws wrenches into our detailed life plans (or are we throwing wrenches into his plans..?). And he gives us all of these so that we are equipped, whole, and mature people in Christ:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4
My next morning was spent at the Loundon County Juvenile Detention Center. In the strange calm I was experiencing today about my health, I dove right into it. (Literally, I tackled Kishore (of Hope Wells Up Juvenile Prison Ministries) upon walking in the multi-purpose room where the kids were gathered). He introduced me to the only two girls that were currently being held and immediately I fell back into my wild, crazy, goofy self. I wanted to put these kids at ease and let them know that I was there to listen to them, support them, and love them, regardless of why they were put in there.
The Saturdays at the detention center sort of go like this: Kishore's there early, talking to kids, and the volunteers start trickling in. At first the kids are still congregating in their own groups, and are even sometimes visibly shy or uncomfortable talking to these strangers. Then we circle around Kishore for the worship service that he leads with a mic and guitar. The volunteers try to sit immersed in some of the groups of kids - I warned the poor kids in front of me that I sing loud and off key, so they better sing loud enough to cover me up. As the volunteers start clapping along, the kids will too - by the second chorus of the first song they begin to realize they are in fact allowed to enjoy themselves.
After worship, the whole group circles up and bibles are handed out. Today we had 11 of the 17 kids choose to come to church instead of the alternative activity (that day, "current events"), and with about 8 volunteers, we had a nice large group. We each read some of Romans 1 around the circle. We get through the passage, and of course this chapter ends with "God's wrath against mankind" - at first that's all the kids focus on. Eventually most of them are speaking up and out with questions, and we went from Romans 1, to the concept of the holy Trinity, to everyone being forgiven.
We then broke into small groups - all the while the kids easing more and more into conversation and feeling more comfortable about speaking out. When I finally got to talk to the two girls again as part of our small group (the two girls, me, and four other volunteers), they seemed a bit more at ease with us and with talking. We got to hear about their stories, their hopes, or rather why they felt hopeless. It was only about another 30 minutes I got to talk with these girls one on one - but what I wanted to reinforce to them was that they were loved and cared for. I kept internally thinking about my experience the night before, and the overwhelming response I got from people who cared about me. Now that I had that confidence that there were people out there like that for me, I could convey that confidence to them: that they had similar people, friends, family in their own lives that loved them, prayed for them, and cared for them. Before we wrapped up (or were kicked out, due to strict time schedules set for the kids), the more quiet of the two girls admitted that she didn't know what to think of us at first and was afraid, but that in the end, she was glad we came. I made sure she had my phone number and email (I even peer-pressured the other volunteers to do the same) and that they could contact me for any reason at all. Since we had read Romans 1 as part of the larger group, I re-read Romans 1:12 for them: "That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith". I wanted them to know that they were each other's cheerleaders, and it was important to surround themselves with people who would support them and reinforce their good decisions - and prevent them from falling into the same cycles of in and out of juvi.
Everything considered, from the ups and downs of this weekend, I feel pretty good about where I am. I recognize that God is in control, and he sets things up the way he does for a reason. Our trials make us stronger, and equip us to pour the grace given to us back on to others.
The prospect of heart surgery now doesn't seem as scary as much as it does exciting. I don't know what will happen, and the fact that I have been presented an opportunity for such change is amazing. God never just gives us these changes, but presents us with opportunities to make the changes happen.