Miss You

James Brian Rowe. He was known as Brian most of my life. My family had a weird tradition of reversing first and middle names. Up until our final childhood move I was known as Lisa. I wanted a new, more mature name when we settled in Vermont, so Laura it was. Brian recreated himself too, he became James when he left his teenage years.

J.B. baby we’d call him. My youngest brother, Jesse, and I would tell stories of his abandonment on our front porch, by Indians. Dark hair and olive skin contrasted with our blondness and fair, freckled faces. Of course we were teasing, just like when we took photos of him wearing our older sisters’ leotard and tutu from ballet class. We liked to joke. Beyond the chiding, I hope my love was clear.

Tell the people you love that you love them, while you still can. Such a cliché, I saw this on Facebook  somewhere, but it’s true. I wish I could tell him again. When he called that summer evening, just after dinner, I was watching my kids play outside through the kitchen window. It was time for dinner and I was thinking through options. He was both happy and sad, laughing and crying, he described the weekend conference he was attending, for self growth, he told me it was the answer I was looking for and should go, he said he’d never be the same. I was worried.

This was the last time I told James I loved him and the last time I heard his voice… for now, at least.

Ten years have passed since my brother’s disappearance. My intention was to write this post on his birthday or the anniversary, his missing date. Both days prove difficult to revisit these feelings: loss despite hope, grief minus closure, love plus confusion.

We didn’t realize he was gone until his friends from Colorado called my mom, still living in Vermont. James abandoned his vehicle and dog many miles outside of town. He went to a friend’s house requesting a ride to a trailhead. His thoughts were confused, he didn’t know what was real anymore. He hiked into the forest, barefoot and no equipment. He didn’t come back. The dogs and helicopters called in days later couldn’t find him.

I would have a lot of news to share should we be reunited. A move, divorce, new child, remarriage, would he recognize me? I like to think I, or anyone who has seen his photo on a poster, would recognize him. There are a lot of uncertainties.

Jesse, my next youngest brother, said he had an experience of giving James to something much bigger than us, to God. A similar surrender has happened for me. What choice do we have? I pray, my friends and family pray. Newspaper articles have been written, a website created, detectives communicated with, more prayers said.

Even in this, I believe God has a plan. In my sorrow, He has comforted me. James’ return will be of God’s doing. When the time is right, in this lifetime or the next, I believe I will see his smiling eyes again.

James and me

I have faith. I have peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
~ John 14.27

I love you, brother. See you soon.

- Laura Lisa

The One Solution to Self-Sabotage

Maybe you can relate. When things go well, I mean really amazing, sometimes I stop myself from receiving. It’s like someone ready to hand me a beautiful, juicy pear I can almost taste. My mouth waters, my eyes open wide, I’m tingling with excitement. It’s dangling.

I shut my hand.

Am I overwhelmed, afraid of success, or just crazy?

Self-sabotage is like a undiagnosed virus that keeps you from feeling your best, from truly living. It thrives on the down-low. It’s fed on whispered secret messages, “you don’t deserve this”, “you’re not worthy”, “you’ll mess it up”, “stop before it goes to far”.

Just like our memory latches onto all the hurt and pain from the past, and conveniently forgets all the wonderful moments, we choose to bypass the good in favor of the not so great. We choose the familiar above the unknown. Success takes some getting used to. Failure is much easier.

My husband is my biggest supporter and will also call me out when necessary (thanks honey). As soon as I got paid for my writing, I stopped. Stopped brainstorming ideas, stopped submitting articles, stopped my thousand words a day.

Yet, I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. When I think of introducing myself, “Hi, I’m Laura. I’m a writer.” I get goosebumps.

Why am I keeping myself from doing what I love? Can you relate?

Whether it’s expressing a talent, achieving and maintaining great health, or an awesome relationship, what are you keeping from yourself?

Will you grab it?

The only thing that’s help me is this belief: I’m not the creator or owner of my talent, it is God-given. If I am blessed with something from above, I am meant to use it, for his glory. To help another, to share what I’ve learned, to comfort someone in pain. This makes me feel alive.

I pray today to be a conduit for the light shining into me. I want to clearly pass this on, with love. Less of me, God. More of you.

Someone told me today, “You are a beautiful writer, who has overcome difficulties that would test most people.” It’s hard to own the first part, the rest I can fully agree too. I have been tested by life circumstances. I’m thankful because I’ve learned and grown. It’s cliché, but I’m stronger.

Now to embrace the title “beautiful writer”.

Share with me what you are going to own. What fruit is meant for you in this life? What is waiting to drop into your hand, today, like a sweet, shining pear?

“Yes, that is mine. Thank you.”

In faith,

Laura Lisa

 

When Memory Fails and Hope Reigns

Photo by Kim Peters

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven… A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. -Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

A good friend asked about the time I lost my hair. I know when it started, when it ended, and not much in between. “You were in survival mode”, Lisa commented. Yes, I was.

At fifteen my mitral valve relapse was discovered during an EKG and echocardiogram. Every month brought endless tests during our Boston visits. Luckily my lungs, kidneys, and brain were unaffected. That’s the thing with lupus, the body attacks its own organs, it’s completely unpredictable.

Puffy, chipmunk cheeks were my nemesis, weight gain soon followed. My disease was under fire from high dose prednisone. My once slender, athletic body put on multiple pounds. But, it wasn’t enough.

Chemotherapy became an easy choice. It wasn’t until mom was left alone with my chart did we discover my aortic valve was similarly troubled. They weren’t pumping blood the way they should, a good amount was left behind, I learned this was less than ideal.

One Friday a month I traded school for the hospital. Mom and I had fun shopping before checking in. I never ate much during our restaurant lunches, knowing what was to come. The I.V. was the part I feared most, I tried to remain tough, but tears often flowed. I’m embarrassed to admit, they make me cry.

Mom had a tough time that first night. She looked at me on my bed, eyes drooping from the sedative, and shed her own tears. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I started to consider how she felt during this time. Her heart was broken too.

The sleepless night led to being wheeled out to our car the next morning and we’d begin the long journey home. Mom often wanted to stop at cute little shops on the way, I always too groggy. Monday, I’d return to school, having had the weekend to recover.

Chemo continued for a year and a half, though it was supposed to last for five, my heart began to heal itself. I remember bits and pieces from this time. I have diaries stashed away, little floral padded books with locks, I’ve been hesitant to revisit them. Reading the entries I feel might bring healing, I think it’s time.

What I do remember is the trust I had that things would get better. I held on to what I  knew during that time, my studies, sports and a few close friends. I was patient, believing my health would return, and thank God, it did.

We all have dark seasons in our lives. Times we wish time would pass in an instant instead of the sometimes years they last. Pleading for our burdens to be lifted, we can easily miss the lessons buried within them. It can help to know that you are being made stronger, wiser, and yes, even happier, because of what you’re going through.

I wouldn’t wish this frightening disease on anyone. I want you to know I’ve found peace in spite of it. I’ve learned to live with uncertainty knowing that no matter what, I will be okay. God is bigger than lupus and more powerful than any circumstance I may experience.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

Sure, my memory may fail me, but hope never does.

Not Making Cheerleading Wasn’t the Worst

lupus butterfly

Stuck is a very real emotion. The small white office within the Pediatric Rheumatology wing at the New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts will be forever etched in my mind. There were no posters to cheer its young visitors, that sterile rubbing alcohol smell of a place. The Doctor’s desk barely fit, let alone my mom, dad and me, upon chairs huddled close. I held my breath at that moment, waiting for the words.

“We have the results and it’s as we expected, Laura has lupus,” Dr. Cher looked from my mom to my dad. I looked at her for a sign, of what I don’t know. My mom’s head was in her hands, and my dad turned to look at me. I didn’t cry, that wasn’t my first impulse, neither was breathing. She looked straight at me and mustered a smile, “We’re going to get aggressive with your meds and monitor you closely. The good news is your arthritis should be alleviated soon.”

My first alarm was not being able to catch a thrown basketball in P.E. No matter how hard I willed them, my hands would not open. I was embarrassed and tried to fake my way through the early morning class. When the rash appeared over my nose and cheeks, I started using foundation, figuring at 14 it was okay to wear makeup. The thing just turned purple and classmates started asking if I had a bad sunburn.

The pediatrician assumed my mom was placating her hypochondriac daughter during my first visit. “There’s nothing wrong with her,” he whispered to her, out of earshot. Sitting on the papered table, both my hands and face looked fine, normal. After some pestering on her part, mom’s suspicions were confirmed, something was awry. Positive ANA blood test = overactive immune system. It was time to take things seriously.

Vermont couldn’t discern the mystery ailment, so we travelled. I never really minded the 3 1/2 hour drive south. I got a day off school and a shopping spree before the appointments. I had my mom (and sometimes dad) to myself, sans two little brothers. It was my job to be my mom’s eyes when it was her turn behind the wheel, rural Michigan did not prepare this woman for city driving. It wasn’t until years later she improved.

When the news came, I couldn’t possibly predict what lupus would mean to me long-term. Right before that moment, I was more upset that I didn’t make high school cheerleading. I explained to my doctors- my hands didn’t work probably because of the fists I had to make while shouting and jumping up and down during tryouts. I had no idea what lupus was, only that I would always have it.

I was stuck, with a disease of which I had no idea the plans in store. There would always be a memory of the “pre-diseased” Laura, the “normal” person I had once been. For a long time, I longed for that girl. I felt she was a part of me, but was radically different, changed.

Someone once said that our greatest challenges become our greatest gifts, or maybe that’s my quote. It was the uncertainty that scared me most at that tender age, the feeling of being helpless in the face of circumstance. What I’ve learned since is that we are never trapped. There is always something you can do, right now, to improve your life.

For me, that was embracing the health I had left, and building upon it. This was a turning point, not downward, as I had first imagined, quite the opposite.