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A Swift Kick in the...PART 4

Hello again FOED Family! I am sorry that it has been so long since I posted last. For some reason, I have really struggled with how I wanted to wrap up this series on perspective. For as much as I have had to say on this topic, and how important this is to me personally...I just haven't been able to land on the perfect way to wrap this up. I have been juggling like 5 different ideas in my head for the last month and have not been able to find the right one that truly expresses everything that I have been trying to say and building up to throughout this series. I have been diligently praying for God to give me the right words to say, yet I have still been navigating through murky waters in my head and have only come up with some random thoughts and a few broken sentences. A lot of bits and pieces that still didn't make a whole, or make a ton of sense if I tried to string them together. Needless to say, it has been frustrating. My plan was to have completed this series for the FOED Family over a month ago....but how does the saying go? If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plan. I feel like He has been looking down and probably got a good ab workout from all of the laughing.

I was at lunch yesterday with my friend Cristin. She and her husband Joey are two of our closest and dearest friends from church. They have been tracking along with me during this series and I was telling her about my frustrations in not finding the right way to bring this to a conclusion. I shared a few stories about where I had found perspective lately and as the words were coming out of my mouth, I noticed a story that has surfaced over and over in similar conversations lately. A story that is my new benchmark for perspective, especially on the days when the darkness is so dark that it engulfs every fiber of my being...mentally, physically and emotionally. The days when the light is so dim in the darkness that I wonder if it is really still there....the good news is that, it is. It is ALWAYS there. Sometimes I just have to look harder to find it, but it is always there.

It was from that conversation with Cristin that I knew with all certainty exactly how to bring this all to a close. I thought that the best way to convey my trigger process for finding perspective would be for me to tell a story. A true story that shook me....hard.

Before my lunch yesterday, one of my ideas in how to conclude this series was to list all of my journal entires since I started this series. The really vulnerable ones of my bad days, the days when I found myself struggling to find perspective at all. Then I would follow each of them up with the perspective (situation, memory, etc.) that I found that shined brighter in my mind than the dark of the darkness I was battling. Great thought, right? Well, let me just say that it wasn't pretty. In my mind, I have only used this perspective trigger technique once or twice, but in actuality, it happened really, really often. So often, in fact, that this would end up easily being a 10 part series. For as strong and indestructible as I think that I am, I am not. I am weak, I am imperfect, I am human, I am broken...just like everyone else. And that's ok.

The BACKSTORY... I have probably mentioned it before, but I am very, very close with my family. Because our schedules are hectic, we tend to group the close birthdays together for family get togethers/birthday celebrations. Back in June, June 17th to be exact, (the day before I made the first post in this series), Mom, Dad, Monica and her family all came into town to our house for a family cookout. We laughed (a lot), cooked together and just enjoyed the time that we had to spend together. Mom and Dad and I were talking and they mentioned that Dad had recently been to the doctor for his yearly physical. The doctor recommended that he see a cardiologist because things with his heart were just a little atypical. He recently turned 66, so this cardiologist visit was a bit overdue. The cardiologist ran a myriad of tests and determined that he needed to have a cardiac catheterization procedure (heart cath) to check for any blockages. The cath results showed that he had a 50% blockage in one of his arteries, so he needed surgery a minimally invasive surgery to insert a stent into the artery to clear the blockage and keep it from collapsing. None of this was a HUGE surprise because we had been having these update conversations ever since he first went to get his physical. This was the latest update after having the heart cath.

The STORY... Fast forward to the next day. Dad had to get to the hospital super early to get admitted for his stint surgery. Bobby and I stayed in contact with Mom and she gave us periodic updates throughout the morning. He finally got taken back for surgery at 1:30, hours past his scheduled AM surgery time. The procedure was supposed to take about 30 minutes to an hour, so we went on with our days waiting for the next update. Hours went by and we hadn't heard anything. Bobby called and asked if I had gotten an update, so I started feverishly texting for an update. Mom still hadn't gotten an update from the doctor and it was approaching 4 PM. Finally at 4:18, I got a text from Mom that simply said "Call me and add Monica". I felt adrenaline shoot through my veins as my heart sank into my stomach. I called Monica and initiated the conference call. With each ring in my ear I had to fight back tears from the sheer panic of the unknown story I was about to hear on the other end of the phone. Mom answered the phone, her voice obviously broken from crying, and she simply said "Hey Honey, I'm going to let you talk to Luann". (Luann is my Dad's sister and in the medical field). My chest tightened and I swallowed the lump in my throat to keep from crying as my mind assumed the worst. I heard Luann's calming voice on the other end of the phone and she began to tell us exactly what happened during surgery. "First off, your Dad is ok", she said. A breathed a small sigh of relief knowing that the worst case scenario hadn't happened, but still, I knew that this couldn't be good. She explained that when the doctor went in to insert the stent into his heart, the 1 artery with the 50% blockage turned out to be 80 - 95% blockages in 5 arteries. He had ended up with 5 heart stents. The doctor told he, Mom and Luann later that he was surprised that Dad hadn't had a heart attack by now. A side note, Dad has been a smoker for 52 of his 65 years. His only exercise (and most likely his saving grace) came from the 3 - 4 miles a day he walked on the car lot where he had worked for the last 13 years. For all intents and purposes, he SHOULD have had a heart attack....he SHOULD have been dead....but by God's grace, he was spared. God had heard our prayers that day and blessed our entire family with something that we all take for granted everyday....TIME. He had given us time as a family that we really didn't even realize (or choose to acknowledge) could have been taken away in the blink of an eye.

Needless to say, this shook me. Not just shook me a little bit, but shook me to my core. I have on this briefly in a prior post, but part of my process in appreciating things more, or trying to gain perspective, is to play the "What If..." Game in my head. As my mind tried to process all of the information that I heard, it went in every possible direction, none of which were positive. What if....Dad hadn't made it through surgery? What if....He had a heart attack? What would Mom do? What would our annual family vacation look like without Dad? Then it bounced to deep feelings of loss and great sadness at what could have been a our new normal. I know that this sounds really negative, but like I said, it is just how my brain processes such major life events. I have to play out all of the terrible What If's in my head to be able to find the illusive perspective that I so deeply strive for every day.

I am a firm believer that in EVERY negative situation, there is a just have to find it. It's there, I promise. It might not be apparent immediately, but I promise you that it will if you dig deep enough to find it. In this situation, all of these What If's and the emotional weight of almost losing my dad (the darkness) helped me to find perspective (the light) in my own life. I can hear it now...."How can being faced with the mortality of your parent be in any way positive?" Every day I pray that God would give us perspective and the ability see Him in all things....that is, ALL THINGS, even the negative ones. As I mentally started to dig in deeper to try and find the positive over the next few weeks, God shined a light and revealed it, or should I say, them. It wasn't just one positive, but a long list of positives. We as a family had to go through the stress of this situation in order to give us all a fresh perspective and a renewed appreciation for life, and each other.

Ever since Dad's surgery, God has continued to reveal the reasons why this all happened. Not only do we all have a better appreciation for life, but Mom and Dad have made huge, life-altering changes. Being faced with mortality, Dad absolutely could not continue the lifestyle as had for so many decades. The positive...he quit smoking, and cold-turkey, I might add. This lead Mom to quit smoking as well. As if that weren't major enough, they have completely changed their day to day lifestyles. They cook healthy meals and exercise regularly. They have both lost some much-needed extra weight and have departed from their long-ingrained sedentary lifestyles. The best part in my eyes is, well, the most difficult part to articulate. They are both "different" now. Different better. Our phone calls feel deeper and more appreciate. We never hang up the phone without saying I Love You. Seeing them in person is, different. Different better. We all got together a few weeks ago and instead of plopping down on the sofa and watching tv, we took a family trip to the store to Costco to buy meat and veggies to put on the grill. We swapped healthy recipes as we all cooked together. Our conversations were different. Different better. They were deeper. We didn't hear each other, we listened to each other. We didn't just exist together for an obligatory belated birthday celebration, we actually WANTED to be there. We WANTED to talk to each other. We WANTED to spend time together, real quality time. As we were getting ready to leave that day, it was different. Different better. The hugs were just a little bit tighter and a little bit longer. The I Love You's seemed to carry just a little more weight than they ever had in the past. Life is just different now. We are different now. Different better.

I have to be honest, this has all been really challenging, but a good challenge. This family situation forced me to find a new perspective, and now when I put my clothes on in the morning and I feel the inevitable tightness as I button my pants, this is the go-to perspective that triggers in my head. Yes, my pants are tight, dad is still here, and my family is stronger, closer and better than it ever has been.

This has only happened to me a few times in my life, but it is amazing to me when I come through a difficult or tragic situation and God gives me the clarity to see His hand guiding every step with great purpose and intent. Especially the moments when I felt so lost and couldn't get over the question of "Why?" it was happening. I look back over this situation with my family and yes, it was a was scary and made us all face the thought of mortality (darkness), BUT the changes that it forced us to make as a family have been life changing (light). We are different. Different better. See a familiar pattern? Light vs Darkness? "John 1:5 "There is Light in the Darkness and the Darkness has not overcome it". I guess there is a reason that this is my favorite verse.

I can look back now and thank God for every minute of this because there was purpose to the pain/stress/fear. The difficult parts, the scary parts, the stressful parts were all God's stepping stones to get us to where we are now. I might even say that the heart issues were the Swift Kick In The... from God that Dad needed to change his life, not just for him, but for us as a family. Being faced with possible mortality has given us the one thing that we all take for granted....TIME.

Whew. That was a lot, but that has been my reality over the last few months. I don't believe in coincidences, but I do believe that this was the reason that God convicted me to start this blog series on #perspective. So the next time the feelings of darkness start to creep in, my sincere hope is that this trigger process will help to give some #perspective and a much needed Swift Kick in The...

Much Love- Michael

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