Before and After

I forgot to turn the sound off of my phone last night, which is important information for you, because I woke up to a bright light and chiming noise beside me this morning. I reached over to the bedside table and tried to hit it to make it stop (this does not work, ps, because this is not 1987 and you do not hit a blaring alarm on the top to make the sound go away these days). Anyway, I had to pick it up and hold it up closer to my face than I’ll admit (because oldish eyes) so that I could see what was causing the pestering beep. It was a notification from Facebook…about my memories from this day over the past several years. This is sort of my nemesis these days because the memories are hard and distant, but still oh so near. Reluctantly, I tapped the little bar and began to scroll through my existence before.

So, I’ve sort of divided my life into “before” and “after” brain cancer. That probably sounds strange, but it’s my normal. I’m a systems person (just ask anyone who’s opened a cabinet in my house. Labels. are. everywhere.), but I don’t mind surface clutter. Everything external can be in disrepair as long as I can reach into a cabinet or closet and grab something from the place where it belongs. I think that’s probably how I’ve survived all of the chaos of our “after” life. My inside structures are ordered and ready. It’s the external stuff that’s gone mad. We call it the “provision of personality” in our household. The good Lord knew what He was doing when He fashioned me with this way. As further proof of this, I have copy and pasted below something Jesse wrote three years ago. Two years before our “after” began. We had no idea what was coming (though, in hindsight, the symptoms he describes below are signs of the active tumor). No idea what we were being prepared to endure. But God, friends. God knew. He knows still. Do read on and soak in the words of Jesse before brain cancer limited his ability to articulate so clearly where his heart rested “before”, and where it rests even more firmly in the “after”.

Ministry and Migraines:

Those of you who know me well will attest to the fact that I can be a fairly driven individual. I love to move things forward and push the envelope to see how far I can go. This being the case, I wanted to let you know that I have been successful in learning “how far I can go” and I’m pleased to tell you about one of the new graces of God in my life.

Migraines.

Yes, you heard me right. Migraines.

Now by migraines, I don’t mean the occasional tylenol quality headache. I’m talking about the throwing up, crawling into dark closets, lying facedown on the cold tile floor with your wife standing over you wondering if she should take you to the ER type of headache.
To my knowledge, I have never experienced headaches such as these before, but in the last few months they have become a new meter on my dashboard. (In fact, I can feel one coming on as I type.)

My migraines are directly related to my stress level.
Though I often don’t feel “stressed”, my migraines communicate when I am on overload.
The funny thing is that this new physiological warning light is the first successful stress management tool that I have ever had. I can’t push through it, I can’t overcome it, I just have to lay there and endure it. Which means I can’t move anything forward (including my own body at times).
I’m not writing this post for you to pity me, or for you to give me advice on migraine avoidance. I’m writing it because there are several things that I am convinced of and that I believe may be helpful to you.

1. God loves me enough to allow me to suffer through my migraines.

God has presented me with a new opportunity to express my trust in Him, and I fully endorse His good shepherding of my life. In the same way that I, at times, allow my children to experience the consequences of their actions, my loving Father chooses to allow me to experience the result of my choices as well.

2. God loves me enough to remind me that I am not Him.

I wish that I had unwearying strength and that I never needed a break, but the fact of the matter is that I have to stop. And I am commanded to Sabbath. When I disobey God in this area, I am quickly reminded that I am weak, broken, and insufficient. This is a loving act of a kind and gracious God who allows me to be reminded that only He is able.

3. God loves me, and the congregation that I have a part in leading, enough to slow me down and keep me dependent on Him.

Serving a church as a Lead Pastor is the most difficult role that I have ever been called to. At the same time, it is the most God-exalting, joy-giving, life-changing, perfect-fitting, blessing that I have ever experienced in my ministry life. And if the Lord sees that it is best to temper me in this role through migraines, I say, “Thank you Jesus” with all sincerity and determination. He loves me so well, so deeply, and so fully that I have no doubt that He is leading me in His path for His glory and my good.

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I have no idea what you may be facing in your life. Many of you who are reading this may have daily experiences with pain and suffering that I cannot even begin to fathom. But no matter where you are, you can either trust God and listen or you can choose to despair and become angry. It’s your call, but I encourage you to trust your Shepherd, repent from your sin, believe the Gospel, and thank Him for the measures that He has orchestrated for you to be where you are. You are loved and He is good!
Thank you Jesus for my migraines.
-As an aside, I want to assure you that I am working to better regulate my life and stress levels to avoid as many migraines as possible. I want to be sanctified, but not all at one time. 😉

Jesse McMillan, November 23, 2013

***We could use your prayers. We are in the middle of making some important decisions in regards to our health insurance. Last year, we were forced into the Marketplace and lost our coverage for Jesse at MD Anderson. This makes future surgeries, should he need them, a risk at best (because he really needs use of a specific piece of surgical equipment located only at MDA) and an impossibility at worst. We have had a rough year of trying to get him the care that he needs. We believe we will be able to shift back into insurance coverage that will allow us to reclaim access to MDA this year, and we are so grateful! Our insurance will double in monthly cost; and, because of Jesse’s ongoing care, we will need to cover the cost of our deductible very quickly. This is true no matter what policy we choose and whether or not we have access to MDA. Your prayers over us as we sort out one policy from the next and seek the Lord’s direction for us in terms of what direction to go in this are greatly appreciated! We’re excited to tell you all more of the story of the Lord’s guidance and provision for us when we come to the other side of this. We know He is right in the midst. Thank you all for walking this path with us for so long! You have no idea the many ways you have breathed life into our sometimes heaving lungs as we go. We love you all so!***