Pulling out of my garage and heading to Utah I headed out for my first vacation in years. I had zero expectation for the trip to fix my health issues - besides I was only going to be away for a 12 days. But sometimes listening to God in new places lead to new revelations - and that was my hope.
So - we left - and by we - I mean - I brought my dog along. I pray about trips and such anyway quite a bit - about where to go and when to go - but this trip was especially prayed about - and every time I prayed about it - I'd envision my dog coming along. Okay.
Something about leaving home while feeling so sick was unsettlingly. Go figure. But there comes a point when you just have to go. It's like a leap of faith. We left just before 2pm (read: I nervously dilly-dallied) on Friday, May 16th 2014 and drove and drove - heading for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument - a gorgeous federal park with dog-friendly regulations.
By Sunday night we were camped out at Half-Creek park. The drive there was loaded with 14% gravely hair-pin turned grades down roads with sheer drop offs on either side. It dawned on me why God encouraged me to bring my dog along - she has a strange super-power ... she can with merely her presence encourage grown men to get up from their camp-sites - wander over with paper-plates laden with goodies from their grill and ask "may I please feed your dog?" I met so many people on that trip because of my (at that time) 11 year old collie-mix.
We hiked - but not far - and we drove far out into the desert on two-tracks into areas so silent - it just seemed impossible that there could be so little noise in an expanse so huge. Knowing I wasn't really up for actual hiking - we'd meet rangers who'd kindly direct us to a couple of good trails. We'd go for a walk after breakfast - and before dinner - and spend the heat of the day - which because it was only May wasn't all that hot yet - parked on a camp-chair in the shade - my dog wooing grill-masters out of hunks of meat and me reading my through a pile of books.
By the way - if you've never been to Utah - I seriously recommend it. The majority of the state is state park, national park, and federally protected wild-lands. Frequently it's one park across the road from another. The whole place is a shocking variety of natural beauty.
After days of gorgeous scenery we were headed back to the stunning condo in Colorado and I heard a Dr. being interviewed who specialized in precisely the very breathing problem I had. The slim chance of just happening to catching that exact interview was extraordinary. Back then I'd lose focus, fall asleep, or forget all the details of what I'd just heard - or where I'd heard it. The minute we were settled back in the condo - I started reading the book. It was a double whammy - because it was easier to breathe in this very dry air - and now I was reading a book that laid out not only what was wrong with my lungs but how to fix it! Eureka!!
Seems that back when I was first sick with pneumonia + H1N1 - somewhere along the way a third infection came into play caused by a bacteria called c. pneumoni notorious for stubbornly carrying on - eventually spreading from the lungs - to wherever it pleased. Within hours of arriving back home I hand-delivered the book to my doctor - and started calling this researcher's office for more info. They were happy to provide it: white-papers, JAMA articles, newspaper articles, and web-sites run at their own cost by former patients who'd had the lung infection. That community of people was incredibly encouraging. Treatment could last up to 18 months - but I did not want it to last one day longer than necessary - so I contorted my diet again - and drank hundreds of spinach and kale smoothies, and wheat-grass shots galore, and other immune boosting, inflamation fighting ill-tasting goops. One day a former patient recommended that I see a respiratory therapist and learn specific breathing exercises that could speed up healing - I got on the phone and made an appointment that afternoon.
The thing about breathing exercises is that they're awkward. Something you literally can do with zero thought and yet these exercises were so complex that there's actually a risk of blacking out. But as soon as the breathing exercises stopped being such an adventure they very rapidly became so boring. So I began imagining that I was doing them in my favorite place in the world: Isle Royale National Park.
That was better – but it seemed like I could improve it even more – so I started imagining that I was doing the breathing exercises sitting in front of a cozy campfire on Isle Royale. While this was an improvement – I still wanted more. So soon I was doing the breathing exercises imagining myself sitting on Isle Royale, at my favorite campground, in front of a campfire next to Jesus. And now the heat from the fire became the heat of His love. And still I wanted more – so any negative thing – a worry about my health, grief, whatever – it all went into the fire. And what does adding fuel to the fire do? That’s right! It makes the fire burn bigger – brighter – hotter. So the worse I felt – the warmer and brighter I felt Jesus’ love for me.
I think I could live to be 500 – and if you came along and reminded me of the moment that I really first started settling into this practice – you could immediately bring me to tears. Jesus flooded my soul with His love and in short order I was engaging in this practice for longer and longer periods of time. My respiratory therapist said she’d never seen anyone work so dutifully at their breathing exercises. I tried to explain what I’d stumbled upon. She just stared – and finally said: “Well, I’m an atheist. But that sounds nice.”
That was 3 years ago. It took longer than I'd hoped to finish treatment - but much less than it could have. Treatment was just one part of healing - it took nearly two years after treatment for my health to return to normal - or at least what I think is normal - it's hard to really know after such a long time. As amazing as it is to feel well-rested, well-breathed (if I can make up a term) and totally free of all the besetting health issues - the work that God did in me - on my walk with Him during that whole season is even more amazing. My sense of God’s love has exploded beyond what I thought was possible.
I'm aware that many people are far sicker for far longer periods of time with far worse circumstances and less hope of recovery. I'm aware that my situation could've been so much worse. I'm also aware - as I look back on things today - that there were some things I could've done to have made that season much easier. I didn't know about those things back then though.
If the result of that whole season was that on this side I would walk even closer with God and stumble upon the grace habit - then I'm okay with how things played out. God was worth it.
I kept the info on my health vague-ish because this isn't a blog about health and I do not dispense health advise. My goal was to communicate just enough info to paint a picture - the point of this post and the part one post is just to say that I was in a desperate place - and God mercifully rescued me on more levels than just my health. I can't help but think that if the Grace Habit could help me in that season - who could it not help?