When God Does Not Announce His Presence

The truth is that God does not always move in the way I expect God to move. This sudden certainty sunk into my being like the Titanic into the bitterly cold ice water of the North Atlantic, slow and painful, magnificent and forceful. I mean really, everyone, everyone, thought the Titanic would be unsinkable. They were so convinced of this that, when they did hit that criminal iceberg, the people, every single one I’m sure, was wide-eyed and unbelieving. BUT, and that’s a big but, does not mean that God wasn’t present amid that tragedy.

And I felt precisely like all those wide-eyed, panicky passengers on Wednesday because I pictured Wednesday to turn out precisely as I pictured it. Not surprisingly, I was completely dumbfounded when it did not. I was completely hurt when God didn’t act as I wanted God to act. I did not know how to react. So I bumbled around. I felt sorry for myself. I cried.

Happy Wednesday to me.

It was all supposed to be very utopian and very perfect – my two favorite things that really do not exist here on this often foul (yet paradoxically stunning) planet that is polluted with sin. Polluted with evil. Polluted with oil and plastic bags and rusty tin cans. It tends to be dirty here, not as spotless as I so often coerce it to be in my mind’s eye. Just call me Pollyanna, I suppose.

Here is how I imagined Wednesday, infamously know as MRI day, to be:

  • I would wake up and enjoy a mug of coffee topped off with enough cream to resemble a glass of milk.
  • With my steaming mug of creamy coffee I would wander to my bedroom and read my Bible and get in tune with Holy Spirit, still in my pajamas of course, and prepare for the day ahead.
  • Mother Theresa and I would zoom to Winnipeg to enjoy a relaxed day in Oma’s cozy oatmeal colored, tea scented condo before heading off to the hospital.
  •  Upon arriving at the hospital, I would have a divine meeting that was completely and utterly otherworldly that would make my MRI a breeze.
  • My MRI would be quick (a mere 45 minutes in the big machine!) and God would reveal himself in such new and exciting ways that I would forget completely that I was in that miserable, wailing machine.

Here is how Wednesday really unfolded:

  • I woke up and enjoyed a mug of coffee topped off with enough cream to resemble a glass of milk. Oh imagination, you’ve done good for yourself.
  • I took my steaming mug of exceptionally creamy coffee to my bedroom and cozied onto my carefully crafted nest of blankets and pillows, readying my heart for Holy Spirit. And Holy Spirit showed up, indeed. As I opened my book it popped out at me, bold and beautiful:

“Your tendency upon awakening is to assess the difficulties ahead of you, measuring them against your average strength. This is an exercise in unreality. I know what each of your days will contain and I empower you accordingly… Look to Me for all that you need, and watch to see what I will do. As your day, so shall your strength be.”

(from Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, p. 330)

And instantly, I put God in this box. I put the Almighty in a cardboard box and closed the lid. “Now work,” I said, with good intentions, of course.

  • Mother Theresa and I drove to Winnipeg but it was as if dark, gray cloud loomed over my head. I was looking for God. I was watching – but nothing BIG was happening. We arrived at Oma’s and the walls were still oatmeal colored and the condo still smelled like tea (and pizza). And it was good. But I felt swiss cheese holes of emptiness in me because it was just good, it wasn’t magnificent.
  • When we arrived at the hospital, my mood was sour but I held on to the hope that the God that I carried in a little cardboard box was going to move in the way I imagined. Come on divine appointment, I am ready for you! But get this: The hospital was wholly deserted, save for the lady in the wheelchair at the door and the cleaning man with his mop. I was early for the MRI so I ambled around the maze that is the hospital looking, searching for God somewhere. And all I saw was a father pushing his disabled grown daughter in a wheelchair as she hummed songs and called out for him between verses. I hate to admit it, but I felt ripped off. Then I saw another dad sitting beside his two children in a twin stroller, his eyes red-rimmed from tears. I need encouragement, I screamed inwardly, not all these heartbreaking stories. I went into the public washroom, leaned against the wall and sunk into my emotions. God, I said, today I don’t particularly like my story.
  • I had to wait to get into an MRI. I sat in the sterile waiting room with Momma T, a Mother and her two disabled sons who watched as she blew bubbles made of gum for them and two men who spoke a language I didn’t understand. I then found out my test would be in the tiny machine: Now, instead of being stuck in what seemed like a cramped tunnel slide for 45 minutes, I was to be stuffed into a piece of PVC piping for 2 hours. Excellent. As the table glided choppily into the tube and the magnets began whirring and banging, beeping and screaming, I waited for God to finally show up. The MRI was tedious and I began to think about how fragile I would be if I was ever tortured – I think I would say just about anything to escape. And then it felt like I got hit with a brick in the chest. Not because of my claustrophobia this time, but because of the sudden realization that Christ died on a cross, one of the most brutal deaths, completely alone and in agonizing pain. And here I was, simply uncomfortable, soothed by the light streaming in each end of the tube and the accented voice of the technician every 3 minutes. There was still hope for me.

I left the hospital feeling disappointed, sad, a little bit dizzy. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how I had seen God a million times on Wednesday in the tiniest, littlest, most unexpected ways and completely disregarded it because it wasn’t grandiose enough for me. What an ungrateful child I am.

But I close my eyes and picture Jesus pushing me down the halls of the empty hospital in my wheelchair of humanness, helping me with what I need, moving me to where I need to be. I picture Jesus with pink crying eyes like the father by the stroller, gently stroking my head when I don’t like my story and showing up anyway even when I don’t see his actions all that clearly. I imagine Jesus as the mother in the waiting room blowing bubbles for me to keep me occupied, making a smile spread wide across my face.

“Look to Me for all that you need, and watch to see what I will do,” Jesus says, reaching out his hand to me.

The truth is that God does not always move in the way I expect God to move. This sudden certainty sunk into my being like the Titanic into the bitterly cold ice water of the North Atlantic, slow and painful, magnificent and forceful. My Wednesday did not turn out how I had imagined it would, but God was still moving, still acting, still loving in ways subtle and beautiful and sweet.

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Backpacks.

We cannot expect one another to see things, interpret things, understand things as we do, because, well, we all have different backpacks. They are different sizes, different shapes. They may be different colors, and ultimately, they may –will– be filled with different supplies.

We all enter this world gasping for breath, and as we emerge we begin to collect the items that will fill our empty backpack that is open and gaping, ready to be stuffed with the experiences of life. And here lies the crux: we will not be dealt the same supplies. For some, the supplies or the backpack itself will make life more bearable, the tools useful and advantageous. Whereas for others, the supplies will simply weigh them down, leaving them stuck lugging this mandatory knapsack full of sour memories, painful experiences and cutting words.


My backpack is green. Green like the moss that grows slowly on the aging bark of the tree in my backyard. Green like the fuzzy-eared succulents growing in the chipping terra cotta pot in my room. Green like the early spring pastures Jesus has led me through in times of healing.

And if I am being completely honest, my backpack is quite large and amply filled. Really, many of us in Canada, in North America even, are gifted with unreasonably large backpacks ready to be filled with opportunities because of our wealth, our ethnicity, our heritage, our assumed importance. This truly is an asset, but it is painful and equally enlightening when we realize that our backpacks will be a significantly different shape and size and filled with very different things than that of the boy born in war-torn Syria, the young woman who was raised in an abusive home or the homeless gentlemen, cold and alone. The size of my backpack allows me to carry many supplies that enable me to live a life of relative ease compared to many. I see this as both a generous blessing and severely unfair.19e71d8338f5b9adfc790520e6166e43

From the day I was born, my parents and many others began to help fill my backpack. Both negative and positive events have filled my backpack with supplies
needed to cope, even thrive and some supplies that have been a hindrance on my journey.

I have many things stuffed in my green, canvas backpack.

I have an eternal thermos of living water. I am sustained through the Lord Jesus Christ and because of him, I have his life-giving water in the left side pocket of my moss green life-backpack. For the Lord has, and will continue to pour out water to quench [my] thirst and to irrigate [my] parched fields. (Isaiah 44:3).

Stuffed in one of the front pockets of my backpack is a net. The net has gradually grown over the years because of the unselfish love and prayer-filled support of my friends, parents, grandparents, teachers and even strangers. This net has grown through words of encouragement — “I can tell God has an amazing plan for you, and I have loved seeing how he has poured his love out through you” —, tears staining our cheeks, laughing until our bellies ached deep and learning lessons in algebra, in trust, in history, and in honesty. Everyone has worked separately, yet together to weave a net that I can fall back on when circumstances call for it. Sure, it has a few holes gnawed in it from hurtful words, insecurities and fear of failure, but I trust that in time even those holes will be patched by people I am yet to meet.

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My dear Grandpa. One of the many who helped weave my safety net.

I also carry a love for words in my knapsack. This has been instilled in me since before I could talk; it was somewhat inevitable with teachers for parents. I love to read and write. I love the meanings of names and the roots of words. I love alphabets and spelling and grammar and literature. And when I need to recharge I can always pull this out of my bag and breathe deep the smell of the pages and stroke the crumpled and well-loved paper filled with words to explore.

But my backpack has had some wear and tear over the years, too. I have had experiences that have left me nearly destroyed and because of this my backpack has lost some of it’s youthful padding. You all know: The padding that leads you to believe that you are always safe and nothing bad could ever happen to you. I have less of that cushy padding now.

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I never know when stability is going to be ripped out from under me due to that crazy tumor that took up residence in my spinal cord many years ago. Its existence has led to two 12 hour surgeries that could have left me paralyzed. These experiences have left me a little leery of trust, in others and in God. This happens when you can’t even trust your own body to feel what it ought to feel and move how it ought to move. These experiences have made me fiercely independent and desperately needy because I require help with certain things… that is such a vulnerable place to be.Preop MRI0001

MRIs and CAT scans and EKGs and blood work and learning to walk again (twice) have also cramped the capacity of my backpack. At first, (read: for the past year and even now) it was hard to accept that I cannot do everything. I cannot run. I will never be a ballerina. And, it still feels unfair to say, I may have to be in a wheelchair one day.

These fears and uncertainties led me to a season in life when I could not handle much. Everything was stressful and anxiety sat tight on my lap, clinging to me but I kicked it down and did not allow it the space it needed. I did not want anyone to know that anxiety followed me everywhere. I was so ashamed. So I walked around with this overflowing backpack that was draining me of all my useful supplies because I wanted to look like I had it all together while anxiety followed me, begging for me to acknowledge it so that I could heal. But let’s face, we never have it all together no matter how much we may pretend. Eventually, very slowly, I learned (am learning) to care for anxiety rather than kick it away, trying to camouflage it with my overflowing backpack.

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A few hours post-surgery. Drugged and happy because my toes remembered how to wiggle.


My backpack, your backpack, is quite literally a mixed bag. Our experiences give us  useful supplies and also have the potential of draining us of supplies that we once had. But that’s the thing about life and our life-backpack, it’s always changing and constantly influencing us. We cannot expect everyone to enter a space with the exact same backpack. We must consider the experiences of people and the supplies they have received or lost because of, well, life.

We all have a backpack. And once we realize that and the implications that come with this statement we can know ourselves better and better relate to others.

So, I ask: What do you have in your backpack?

Re:

I believe it is time to reaffirm the relevance of relaxation and recreation in today’s refinement.

Relaxation is a time to reminisce on remaining childhood recall, a time to reupholster the reposing recliner or a time to reread revered novels to reawaken responsiveness to the Republican Party. Relaxation is an opportunity to reunite with long, lost friends, to rekindle a relished flame from Regina,SK or to find others who reciprocate resentment for reggae.

We ought to realize that relaxation and recreation are crucial to the revitalization of reputable reputation. Many are resolute in  rejecting relaxation and recreation, redirecting their activities to those with more reproductive value. Though relaxation and recreation appear to be set aside for recovering and recuperation alone, it must be reestablished that relaxation and recreation are not just for the recluse but, rather, for all who relish to reside in a realized reality.

Reflect:

re-lax-a-tion (re’lak sa’shən) n. 1. a relaxing or being relaxed 2. a) rest from work or effort b) recreation

rec-re-a-tion (rek’re a’shən) n. any play, amusement, etc. used for refreshment of body or mind

Both relaxation and recreation need not take away from reformed refining or cause recess from reasonable activity. Relaxation and recreation are necessary in rectifying one’s self and to later redound refreshed.

Therefore relaxation and recreation should not be frowned upon and should rather be seen as recourse and an opportunity for recovery, rebirth and revitalization to later reappear refuelled, ready to reconcile with the recognizance of responsibility.

There are many ways to recollect the joy of relaxation and recreation. Here are some recommendations to do so!

  • Remember recipes. Rather than recoil from trying a new dish, reread the recipe and reawaken your inner refulgent revelry
  • Try something new such as a regatta, attending a recital or reconditioning a relentlessly repugnant retriever
  • Go out. Check out a restaurant, maybe meet the restaurateur or go to a resplendent resort and simply retire without retort
  • Repent and receive religious restitution or revelation from the Reverend
  • Rest your retina and participate in remarkably rejuvenating REM sleep
  • Babies are revered. Reproduce!

These are just a few resolutions for reassessing, reexamining and renewing the returns of relaxation and recreation.

Balloons.

I DID A HAPPY DANCE.

That’s right. I admit that it was not graceful or beautiful, but it was me. And that is precisely what God is teaching me through this, through everything, that I can be me in any situation without shame.

When I got that phone call last week, my whole body started shaking. My legs, and arms, and hands all suddenly made of jelly. Logically, I knew that the Neuro clinic would call me after my MRI (my 16th MRI; the 16th time I lay in a small tube for an hour and a half, completely still; the 16th time I pretended I was okay as my chest burned and my stomach lurched with fear). Yet, that phone call pushed me over the edge as the “what if’s” crescendoed to a deafening scream. So, as much as it hurt, I let myself sit in that moment of doubt, of terror, and of hope, each feeling swirling in the whirlpool of my mind.

And right then, in that moment of dichotomy, the one I so often dread, shove down, and ignore, I thought of the balloons.

It’s true, every emotion is just like a balloon. The ceiling above you is filled with your emotional balloons. Perhaps, a yellow one for excitement, a black one for sadness, and a red one for joy. Who knows. But, there are two things that are certain of our balloons:

1. You can hold a balloon, but you will never, ever become the balloon.

We all fear becoming the balloon. I fear letting the sadness ache. I fear that if I allow myself to be fearful, I may become ceaselessly afraid. I fear that if I allow myself to be angry about having a tumour that is constantly affecting my life, I will become an angry person.

But, I never will become the balloon. And this realization allows me to feel what I am feeling, knowing full well, that at some point, I can release the balloon and it will gently float back to the ceiling. And I can grab a new one down.

2. You do not have to hold a single balloon at a time. Grab two, grab three, grab ten. You can hold many.

It is hard to understand this. Our balloons can be scary because often we think that we have to pick and choose which one to hold at a given time. This was my approach to my balloons for a long time. Since I thought I could only hold one, I always wanted to hold the pretty ones; I wanted joy, peace, thankfulness, and contentment.

But I ignored some of the balloons that really needed attention. In my case; anger, fear, bitterness and anxiety.

And as tough as it has been to learn that I can simultaneously hold my balloon of deep thankfulness (for skillful surgeons, legs that move, and becoming independent once again) and my balloon of anger (the one that says, “Why me? Why can’t I be like other 19 year olds? How can I ever become me?”), I am beginning to do it.

And that, that simple knowledge of the balloons, is helping me and healing me.

So today, with my anxious balloon and my balloon of dread and my balloon of hope and my balloon of faith, I marched in to see my doctor. In all truthfulness, my anxious balloon and my balloon of dread kind of had the spotlight… And that’s okay.

As I paced and chatted to get my mind off the “what if’s,” Dr. McDonald entered the room.

“The images look great! Your spinal cord is looking even better than last time.”

I keeled over and all the colour rushed back into my face.

But there was an astric to go along with his first sentence. Basically, there is still a tiny bit of tumour remaining. This month I am going to meet with the Tumour Team (which sounds pretty legit) and discuss options of abolishing my little pet once and for all.

This may mean chemo therapy.

This may mean radiation.

But despite, the astric, I grabbed my happy balloon, joyful balloon and hopeful balloon… And just let go of the others for a while.

AND I DID A HAPPY DANCE. Holding my balloons, holding them loosely. And admiring all the other balloons that remained on the ceiling waiting for their turn. All the balloons that allowed me to be fully me.

Tumours are also Tutors

10 Things I Have Learned From My Tumour (And Life in General).

Commissioned by my dear Counsellor


1. Being afraid does not mean that I am weak.

I tend to be afraid of things. As a kid, I had some random fears: wasps, tornadoes, bleeding to death from a cut tongue, Sunday nights (yeah… go figure), etc. The fears of this past year, though, were not based on some far-fetched phobia, but rather a potential reality.

I felt that people would only think I was a “good Christian” if I wasn’t afraid. In my mind, having faith equated to being fearless. My flawed thinking said that if I was afraid, my faith was not strong enough.

I am learning though, that being afraid does not make me weak: It makes me human. God knows that we will be fearful at times. He doesn’t expect us not to be afraid, but he does desire to comfort us in our fear and give us peace amidst the uncertainty.

I am realizing that I am not the only person who feels afraid. We are all just incredibly good at hiding our fears. That fact in itself brings me comfort. I am not afraid because I am weak; I am afraid because I am human.


2. People are kind.

Humanity has a bad rep for being selfish. And, I mean, yes. Everyone is somewhat selfish. But through my year of struggle and fear and uncertainty, I found that people genuinely cared. I wasn’t often honest about how I was really feeling, but if I would have been, I don’t think people would’ve judged me for being scared. My surgeon always comments on how difficult I am to read. “She’s so cheery,” he says. That’s how I cope.

People were especially thoughtful in the days leading up to my surgery. Like, unbelievably so. Their words made me feel like things would turn out alright in the end.

“The whole church prayed for you on Sunday… and will continue to.”

“Prayin’ for ya girl! Also, just wanted to remind you that you are a daughter of The King!”

“I will be praying for the amazing hands of the doctors.. that they may be guided by God, I will be praying for the anesthesiologist that he/she would be alert and precise, I will be praying for the nurses – that they would know exactly how to be helping hands.”

“Any favorite verse you have that we can pray on your behalf?”

I had people I didn’t even know pray for me. People are kind. People care when others are hurting. The world can make us blind to the kindness around us, but I am so blessed to have seen that people have loving hearts.


3. Some days simply suck. 

Not every day is a good day. Some days I felt as though everything would be fine. My life would go on. I wouldn’t be stuck in the same season forever. Things felt do-able.

Others days, it felt like the world was just going to collapse.

On these days, I would feel panic in my chest. Tight and restricting. What if? What if? What if? What if things didn’t turn out? What if my future didn’t look the way I wanted it to? If I become paralyzed, I wondered, will anyone love me? Will I be able to live a fulfilling life? 

I felt (and still feel) claustrophobic when I thought of being paralyzed. To soothe this fear, I would complete my obsessive compulsive ritual: I would take a pen or a needle or anything pointy and I would poke my flesh. I would poke my legs and my arms and my stomach, just to be certain I could feel them. And then I would attempt to gauge if it was getting better, worse or staying the same.

Sometimes, I would leave bruises and red marks on my skin from poking myself. It was no good.

So, yeah. Not everyday was positive and faith-filled. But I think that is more common than anyone likes to admit.


4. I like my false sense of control.

Oh baby, do I love to feel like I have control over a situation. I especially love schedules, lists and routines. They make me feel like I can dictate exactly what is going to happen and when it is going to happen. But truthfully, I know I don’t have control over very much, not even the things that I think I have control over. This makes me feel vulnerable and I don’t like it, not one bit.

So, I plan more. To feel secure. It’s a vicious cycle that is actually very controlling. My desire for control, ironically, controls me.

Yet, I like the idea of feeling like I am in charge, somehow.


5. It is easiest to trust God when I have zero control over the situation.

The beautiful thing about a medical condition is that there is absolutely nothing you can do but trust God.

I quickly came to the realization that poking my skin would not prevent me from becoming paralyzed. I realized that working out excessively would not force the sensation to come back to my legs. I learned that worrying about what the future might hold would not actually change the future.

And although I was afraid, I found this beautiful trust in God, believing whole-heartedly that His Will would be done and my performance did not determine the outcome. I still didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew that God was in control.

It is much harder for me to trust God in other situations. I feel like it is my responsibility to take care of school, relationships and work. Somehow I find it really difficult to trust God with day to day things. Like, when I have an exam. I study and study and study, hoping that my efforts are enough. I don’t know how to hand situations like these over to God in the same way that I can hand a medical situation over to Him.

And sometimes, I even long to go back to that place of medical uncertainty because, as tough as it was, it was hands down the closest I have ever felt to God.


6. It’s alright to ask for help.

In the months leading up to surgery, I needed help with a lot of things. Mostly staying upright and keeping my feet firmly planted under me.

I had to hold on to people as I walked.

I had to ask for help carrying things.

In the hospital, I needed help with everything. I needed help eating. I needed help drinking. I needed help rolling over. I needed help using the washroom. I needed help getting things. The list is a mile long.

And people are more than willing to help. That is pretty cool.


7. Allowing people to help you may be the most difficult thing in the world.

But, and that’s a big but, I hate(d) asking for help with anything. It felt like I was giving in to the tumour. I have always had a fierce sense of independence which is crippling at times.

In the hospital, I had no choice but to accept help. After all, I had a 14 inch incision on my back and needles and tubes in nearly every orifice of my body.

It makes me cringe to picture people standing beside my bed looking down at me. All kind, all well-intentioned, but all standing there because in that moment I was an invalid.

It is even harder for me to ask for help post-surgery. It feels like I am reverting back to that place of vulnerability and I want to avoid that feeling at all costs.

I hate asking questions in class because I feel like it makes me look incompetent. I am nervous to try new things because there is a possibility I might need help, and that makes me appear as imperfect.

And I crave to appear perfect. Because I feel like I have so many flaws and scars that I can’t hide. But I want to hide them so incredibly much.

Asking for help is hard. It shows I can’t do everything myself. And that’s a hard thing for me to admit to.


8. God keeps His promises (But not necessarily how you envisioned that He would).

Though I had surgery in May, I was told in October of 2013 that my tumour was growing.

From that gut-wrenching October day in the tiny doctor’s office with clowns strewn on the wall, Jesus whispered healing over me.

When I would pray to Him, He would gently take my chin in His hands and He would say, “I am healing you.” So I took hold of that promise and clung to it through every step of the journey. The thing is, I thought this promise would mean no surgery. I thought one day I would wake up and have full sensation in my legs and run and leap.

I promised God that if this happened I would proclaim His Name forever. But, clearly, God had different plans.

Somewhere along the way I remember hearing, “There are not two options for your life, one good and one bad. Ultimately, whatever happens is a part of God’s perfect plan.”

I envisioned my tumour to be burned away. I imagined having an MRI and the results showing burn marks but no tumour – I imagined confused doctors.

When I finally ended up needing surgery, I sort of felt as though God had not followed through on his promise.

This scenario reminds me so much of Israel, who waited for centuries for a King who would save them. They expected a rich man. Someone who was powerful and strong and who would rule their Nation. But instead, they got a tiny baby, poor and weak and unassuming.

And even on the cross, Jesus’ death would make everyone question God’s promise – The cross appeared to be a defeat.

But every time God did, indeed, follow through with His Promise. He kept every single promise. He simply carried them out in ways contrary to human expectation.

And the same holds true for me: God healed me. Not in the way I expected or in the timeline I desired, but He healed me nevertheless and He continues to heal my heart.


9. The body is such a mysterious and intriguing creation.

It’s crazy because nerve impulses travel at over 400 km/hr (249 mi/hr).

And a full bladder is roughly the size of a soft ball.

Plus, your nose can remember 50,000 different scents.

The human body is the coolest thing. The psalmist knew what he was talking about when he said that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

This year has truly made me appreciate the nuances of my body. There are so many little things that are easily taken for granted.

You would’ve thought I won Gold for Team Canada the way the nurses celebrated the first time I peed after surgery. Something as simple as rolling over is amazing. Or the phenomenon of wiggling toes and first steps and how your body can heal.

It is stunning.


10. I am brave. 

Lastly, I can handle a lot more than I give myself credit for.

And isn’t it true for anyone?

It’s amazing what the human spirit can endure. Things are not necessarily easy, but things are possible.

And things always, always, always, get better… One way or another.


A final lesson learned: People love a good anaesthetic video.

“I am basically the healthiest chica on the planet!” … Chica? Why?

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=637192813023793&l=6513429757966812130

How is my Heart?

Dr. McDonald is my hero.

He is the one who, through God’s hands, used his own fragile hands to operate on my fragile frame.

And he won. If you could win surgeries, Dr.McDonald and I would be getting a gold.

Since my surgery, nearly six months ago, my life has changed.

A little bit for the good, and a little bit for the bad. Welcome. Welcome to this crazy life, I suppose.

My legs move with ease most days. By no means does this mean that they move gracefully. There’s a lot of flailing involved in a given day, lifting my left leg with my arms to put a pair of pants on. Catching the bus is an adventure, too. I can walk a good pace, but, though it breaks my heart, I can’t run. And I have learnt the hard way, that the bus doesn’t wait as you try to jog, but fail in doing so. People are so considerate, don’t get me wrong, but, the truth is, the world misunderstands and a lot of people.

I am one of those people.

It is remarkable how many times I have been asked, “How’s your back?”

“Good,” I reply.

What else do you want me to say? Would you be comfortable if I answered with utter honesty? I am walking. I am not in the hospital. And I am so incredibly thankful because I have lived in a reality where the opposite of both statements could be true. Whenever people ask about how “my back” is, so many thoughts run through my head.

Usually, the first is a biology lesson:

1. Yes, the surgery was on my back, but it was not back surgery. It was spinal cord surgery.

2. A spinal cord is like a rope that chills out within the vertebrae of your back. It contains spinal fluid and nerves.

3. If these nerves are damaged, by say, a tumor, they will affect the function of the rest of the body. In my case, my waist down was affected by the tumor.

So, admittedly, I am tempted to be sassy when asked this question. But I know that all who ask it have good intentions and it would be unfair of me to be rude to someone who genuinely wants to know. I question often how much these well-meaning people really want to know.

Or do they simply want me to say “good,” so that they do not feel uncomfortable and can confidently say that God too is good?

Perhaps.

But if I really told you how my heart was, you would see how broken I am. I may appear strong, but this experience has truly shattered me. I grieve the loss of my teenage years. When I should have run, and jumped, and skated, and worried about school and not my legs failing me. My heart is broken. I am so thankful for everything, but I question so much of it.

Why did God heal me?

… He definitely doesn’t heal everyone. This doesn’t mean I am special or better than anyone, but I have felt incredible guilt for my healing. The world isn’t fair, but that fact doesn’t make it easier to cope with.

Why didn’t God heal me fully?

… Though admittedly selfish, I wish I was healed more. I can easily focus on all that I cannot do and may never do. And it cuts deep.

If I really told you how my heart was, you would see the deep-seated anxiety I carry around with me; you would see my destructive desire for perfection because there is so much I cannot control. All I want is some control. But it’s nasty, it destroys my peace. Perfection really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Physically, yes. I am doing so good. Surgery really could not have gone any better. This doesn’t mean that I won’t ever have to have radiation or chemo or another surgery one day: For now, I am happy to be this far. If I imagine too far ahead, I just get scared.

Today I saw my hero, Dr. McDonald.

Stepping foot in the hospital brought instantaneous anxiety, a deep gnawing in the pit of my stomach.

This whole trek has been trying and treacherous. I have learnt much and hurt much. But I am slowly figuring things out, I think. And I still cling to the hope that God will work something good out of this whole mess.

It’s a crazy life. But I kinda like it, most of the time.

Enough.

I am Enough.

I remind myself again and again, day after day. I whisper it. I write it. I yell it. I recite it.

I am Enough. I am Enough. I am Enough… Just as I am, here and now, without changing a single thing.

This is possibly the hardest thing that I have ever had to grasp. I spend all too much time contemplating how I can be better and attempt to come up with strategies to do so. Strategies to be smarter. Strategies to make close friends. Strategies to make more friends. Strategies to be prettier, thinner, taller. Strategies to be funnier. Strategies to be more outgoing. Strategies to be a better daughter, cousin, girlfriend, granddaughter, friend.

And, honestly, it is exhausting. I am tired of trying to achieve perfection while at the same time, I want it really badly. I don’t really know exactly when I began striving for this illusion (because perfection truly is an illusion), but I do know, that I want to learn to become comfortable with exactly who I am. Me, with my stupidly straight hair, my wavy back, and my need for copious amounts of sleep.

I remember, oh so clearly, walking on the playground with my friends that recess. Yes, walking. Walking because my entire grade 5 year was spent in pain. My back ached and spasmed and prevented me from sleeping well, running, jumping; essentially all things inherent to a ten-year-old. At ten, I learned what it was like to be on the outside. And it sucked.

“I am tired of waiting for Katrina,” she said, “I want to run.”

And I thought then, and I still think it now: I want to run, too. How could I not want to?

It was not fair.

It was not fair. (It still isn’t fair.)

Since then, mostly unconsciously, I have vowed to never feel on the outside again. So I strive to be better, because deep down inside, I do not believe that I am enough just as I am. I fear incredibly not being liked. I also fear compromising who I am. And these two feelings cause tension that I can feel deep in the pit of my stomach.

People who do not feel this sense of shame, who are wholehearted, share four key things in common, according to Brene Brown.

Courage.

Compassion.

Connection.

Vulnerability.

Courage, in its original meaning, is defined as “telling the story of who you are with your whole heart.” This is stunning. Courage is not simply being brave, courage is accepting your flaws and acknowledging that they make you, you.

Compassion refers to being compassionate to oneself. To be a truly compassionate person, I must first allow my self to make mistakes, so that I can allow for the same in others. I deserve compassion from myself.

Connection is a paradoxical thing. I often think I must act a certain way to attain connections so as not to feel like an outsider. Interestingly enough, my attempt to act in a certain way prevents me from making real connections. Wholehearted people are willing to bear who they are, in turn, making connections that are deep and full. These are the types of connections that everyone truly wants, but is searched for in all the wrong ways.

Lastly, vulnerability. It sucks. It’s messy and it defies all my desires to ooze perfection. Vulnerability is the undercarriage for the three C’s: Courage, Compassion and Connection. Vulnerability, though painful, leads to thankfulness and joy. And I want that. We all do.

The question is how do I pursue vulnerability when I so badly want to be liked, accepted and wanted? My gut instinct is that perfection will bring me those things. But who I do I want to accept me? Everyone? Well, sort of. It sounds nice. But if I look deeper I find that that isn’t the kind of acceptance I want. I want to be accepted for me, just as I am, not in my supposedly perfect state.

I am Enough and I want to be with people who see that in me.

So until I have it engrained on my heart that it’s not perfection that I need but rather vulnerability, I will continue to remind myself daily.

I will whisper it. I will write it. I will yell it. I will recite it.

I will let people see who I am, imperfections and all, no matter how difficult it is.

Because, I am Enough.