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On the Day I Died…

March.3.2016

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One year ago today, I died.

Not a spiritual, metaphorical death, nor the death of a dream, but a true, physical death.

During a major surgery, I bled out and my heart stopped.

I know this because (spoiler alert) I woke up in the ICU the next day. There were more tubes in my body than I thought possible, not just in my nose and mouth, but also in my neck, chest, and arms. Waking up was startling, but Allison was there, a familiar, albeit abnormally concerned face. As Allison tried to calm me down and keep me from grabbing at my tubes, some nurses entered through the ICU curtain. These weren’t the ICU nurses that had been coming in every 15 minutes to check vitals, these were my surgical nurses – the ones who had been with me through four previous surgeries. I was startled to see them because I’d never had a post-op nurse check in visit, and more, because they were sobbing. They wanted to come visit me and to see if I was alive. I listened as they explained to Allison what had happened during the 7 hour surgery.

They explained that one of my tumors, the grapefruit sized one, had fused to my aorta, and when they attempted to cut it out, my aorta shredded and I bled out. They told us about my heart stopping, about the emergency blood transfusion, and about trying to put my body back together. They told us about my main surgeon losing it on everyone in the room, and how he refused to let me stay dead. I wish I remembered more and I’m simultaneously grateful for the grace that allows me to only recall vague details.

I remember freaking out with the energy of someone who is heavily sedated and I remember Allison holding my hand. I remember snippets of the next several weeks; of losing a kidney, of having to use a walker to move, of one of my surgeons showing up every day just to sit with me, even on his days off. I remember a lot of pain and discomfort, I remember a lot of setbacks, and I remember the day we got to come home. But I don’t remember death.

And I know the stories; I know what’s supposed to happen when you die and come back to life. I’m supposed to see a glimpse of heaven and then I get to write a book and speak about it and retire to Asheville with a hot tub that overlooks the mountains. I know I am supposed to return with this renewed purpose, of all of life coming into complete and perfect perspective. It’s supposed to be heroic and inspirational because if it’s a sin to “waste your cancer,” then I can’t begin to imagine the consequences of wasting death. I’m supposed to be overwhelmed with gratitude for my second chance at life like some sort of Ebenezer Scrooge who gets to run into his redemptive Christmas morning.

I didn’t have a “Christmas morning”, and even a year later I barely have running. I have renewed battles with everyday life, with treadmills and yoga mats, with acceptance of limitations, with waiting for the next chapter of post-cancer life to begin. The dilemma with battles is that they sound more victorious than they feel. In truth, what I really have is healing and scars and rhythms of scans and ultrasounds and blood work forever. I have quiet joy and I have lament.

It’s in lament that I have found the clarity of death. It’s in the depth of the overwhelming odds and weeks in the hospital and the painful recovery. It’s in a body that, even one year later, still hurts and functions differently than it was intended. It’s in scars that share stories of survival and it’s in quiet, small victories.

Psalm 77 is (currently) my favorite lament. Read the whole thing, but in verse 19 Asop writes, “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” A lot of this journey has felt less like journeying and more like drowning. Like the clouds pouring with water, the depths convulsing and overwhelming us. This day a year ago was full of sentences like, “we were just so afraid you wouldn’t come back” and “I’ve been in a lot of surgeries, but I haven’t been more scared then when we lost you.” Today of all days those words echo in my head. There is such a unique grace in dying and staying dead. There is such ample mercy in dying and getting to live.

But there was and is a path through these tumultuous waters. It’s an unseen path but at some point your head breaks through the waves and you gulp in air. And when you look back you don’t see a path. You don’t see a set of footprints. You see the water. You see where you were. You see where you are. Annie Dillard describes it this way: “There is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go. You do not seek, you wait. It isn’t prayer, it is grace.”

When we move through seasons/moments/years of lament, we let go of our control and we wait. It isn’t prayer, but grace that moves us before God. It is grace that we wait and it’s grace that guides our path through the sea. Sometimes we drown and sometimes we get to fill our lungs once again. There is beauty and grace in storms if we choose to see it, if we choose to be fully present in it.

And so today, especially today, I am reminded to be present, not because this is the anniversary of the day of my death, but because I’ve learned this year that it’s in being present that I am led through storms. It’s in being present that we are reminded what grace truly is. It’s in being present that we tell the stories of being led through the waters, of the battles we waged against the waves, of the scars left to remind us that battles can be won and lost. It’s in being present that we truly begin to understand incarnation. It’s in being present that our lament is heard and we get to move through the storm, though the path is unseen, and through the seemingly endless downpour. It’s in being present that we do not find meaning or significance because of our struggles, but are reminded through them of the holy significance that we have always had.

Death is not the end of the story. It wasn’t a year ago,  it isn’t today, and it won’t ever be. So take deep breaths of quiet joy, and tell stories of lament. Though the way is unseen, there is grace in every storm.

An Update on all the Updates

April.7.2015

Hey friends,

We haven’t been using the blog much at all as we been moving forward with treatment. We would love to keep you all updated on everything that is happening and for those medical updates, we use our Post Hope website. We have been posting all our updates there so if you want to stay up on all that’s going on, that would be the best way to do it. The latest post can be found here.

For previous entries or if you need to get caught up through March and the latest through surgery in the order it happened, here you go:

4 Surgeons & 7 Hours Later

So Long ICU

Baby Steps

Fluid & Jello Shots

Home Sweet Home

A Guest Post & A Fundraiser

Canes and Grace

That should bring you up to speed. Thanks so much for following along on this cancer journey. We are greatly in need of your support and prayers and are so very grateful for our community. Thank you for being a part of it.

Cabin Fever? More like Cancer Fever AMIRIGHT, guys? Anyone? Is This Thing On?

February.20.2015

ice day walk

It’s been a cold, icy week for those of us who call Nashville home. Due to something called the “SnowDome” we didn’t get the 3 – 10 inches of called-for-snow, but instead got gifted with a bunch of thick ice that shut our fair city down for 3 days (sidenote: SnowDome would make an excellent sequel to the cinematic sensation that was Bio-Dome, and would introduce a whole new generation to Pauly Shore).

My favorite part of this week’s icy forecast has been social media posts. Ok, that’s a lie. No one’s favorite part of any week should be social media reading. But it has been interesting to read people’s responses to not being able to leave the house for three whole days. Cries and laments of “cabin fever” echoed from my digital friends. At first I tended to agree, but then I got super self-righteous and wanted to yell, “ITS ONLY BEEN THREE DAYS. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT CABIN FEVER IS.”

Since this cancer journey started last fall, I have spent the majority of my time in our house. With my weakened immune system a veritable playground for potential diseases, we took the stern medical advice of avoiding the outside world as much as possible seriously, and tucked me away. Occasionally during chemo breaks, when I had a tinge of energy, I would allow myself the luxury of grocery shopping, but only at random times when stores were sure to be unpopulated. I have quite literally made my mark on my favorite spot on our couch and have worn paths through our house where I walk, usually by myself, because Allison was going to work and contributing to the common good of our society like an actual person while I just sat at home like a tired, weak bump on a log.

Cabin fever – ahem – cancer fever – set in fast and furious. The last 5 months have been nothing but feeling stuck inside by myself. How have I lasted? A few ways I tried to survive:

*  I made routines for myself, almost like fake appointments that I had to keep. Ex: “Oh gosh, I have to get off twitter because I have a book meeting at 11 am”. But then I couldn’t even read said book because chemo fried my ability to concentrate – a dark side effect that no one fully explains until you experience it. 

*  I have watched all of HGTV. Literally all of it. There is not an episode I haven’t seen or a show I haven’t critiqued. And mostly I have determined that I would be a hell of a host on any one of their programs. ESPECIALLY since I don’t know how to do anything around the house (which I maintain would make an even more entertaining show).

*  I have tidied our house. Each day is an adventure of hoping something isn’t in it’s spot so I will have the chance to put it away and kill a few minutes of time. I put off washing dishes until later in the day to be sure I have something productive to do.

*  I have become adamant that Brooklyn 99 is the best comedy on TV, besting New Girl and Parks & Rec and all the rest.

*  I have become familiar with the rhythms of my neighbors, but in a non creepy way. Oh it’s 11:15 on a Tuesday? Ms Janice is bringing in her trash cans right on cue.

But mostly, I spent a lot of time wishing and dreaming that I could fast forward to a time in my life where I wasn’t trapped on the inside watching everyone else live amazing stories on the outside. I’ve been impatient as I have waited for my body heal. And I almost missed out on what it means to wait – to be still – and to learn from the silence. I claimed my discontent was merely cabin fever. When I finally stopped being restless and started engaging this season, I began to see God’s hand at work. It’s not a hand that is holding me back, but a hand that is comforting me and healing me.

I am starting to learn that these days are a time to learn rest, to become familiar with the still small voice that has been trying to speak to me for so long, to let myself feel some deep and tough emotions that I have hidden from by staying busy and productive. These “stuck-at-home” days are forcing me to face myself, which would make most of us antsy and ready to get back out there. And it’s been hard, but it’s good. It’s no coincidence that Scripture is full of stories of people pulling away from the noise of the world to experience God in powerful ways. It’s no coincidence that stories through Scripture speak of God at work come from hospital beds and prison cells. 

We have just entered the season of Lent – a season that leads us to a shared meal, to a betrayal, to the cross, and to a triumphant, grace-filled morning. It’s a time set aside for us to be intentional about quiet and going without so our hearts are prepared for the significance of Easter. I love that these ice days have forced us to slow down significantly and my prayer is that we can take full advantage of not just forced stillness, but that we can use these moments to create rhythms for ourselves – rhythms to actually stop, to listen, to hear, to pause. Whether it’s a couple of winter weather days when we’re cut off from the “rest of the world” or an intentional time that you set for yourself, these “off” days can be something of value. Don’t rush or wish away the hours like I’ve tried. Fortunately (and some days unfortunately) I am still stuck learning how to heal. Inside. By myself. One of my prayers for this season is that we can become people who are able to take advantage of these moments rather than run from them, that our cabin fever would become an invaluable opportunity to engage in the quiet rhythms of grace.

Unrelated, if anyone wants to share their Netflix password, that would greatly help with my avoidance of all things deep all the time. Thanks and amen.

When Finish Lines Feel Like Half Time – A Guest Post

December.20.2014

We’ve been posting our medical updates through this site: http://posthope.org/buzfeed and this week Allison shared where we are at and what is next. I’m putting the post here because I am grateful for this community of people on the blog and wanted you to hear what was next. Without further ado:

On Friday, December 12th, Adam crossed the chemo finish line!  It was an emotional and unforgettable day that you can read more about here.

When people ask Adam, “Does it feel so amazing to be done with chemo?” The answer typically evokes a wrinkling of the eyebrows followed by an oddly hesitant “yes”. In theory, Adam feels incredibly glad to be done with chemo. Chemo is crazy hard on a person’s body, mind, and spirit. So yes, he’s totally glad to be done, but he hesitates and responds with some ambivalence for a few reasons:

1. Adam still feels really bad. The chemo will stay in his system for months, but right now there’s still a lot of chemo in his blood so he’s still feeling very nauseous, achey, and cognizant of chemo.

2. Cancer is a terrible and unpredictable disease. The hope and prayer is that Adam’s done with chemo forever, but the reality is that the next few years will tell that story. It’s hard to not forebode joy at this juncture on the cancer journey.

3.  The chemo finish line is really half-time. We’re up at the half, which is amazing. Adam’s blood levels indicate that there is no active cancer! So we pause and celebrate. But we feel like we can’t celebrate too long or hard, because…

…There’s still a whole second half to go.  Adam will have 3-4 surgeries over the next few months to remove the tumors that remain in his body, and some of the surgeries are precarious. So, we remain in the tension of good news in the known and anxiety in the unknown.

And we’re back to waiting. We’re waiting for Adam’s body to recover so he can start surgeries. We’re waiting to see if all of the tumors can be safely removed. And we’re waiting to see if the tumors are, indeed, cancer free (which will be determined post-surgery).

So the truthiest truth in this moment is that we’re still scared. We’re not done yet. Please keep trekking with us, praying with us, and encouraging us.

We’re so grateful for our army of people!

Much Love,

Allison

An Advent Update

December.7.2014

A lot has happened since my last post – I’ve done close to 50 more hours of chemo, but have also gotten to take this past whole week off from getting treatment. It’s been a good week with a glimpse into the future of life post chemo. We are currently mentally preparing for this next 40 hour week that starts tomorrow (December 8th). According to the doctor it should be my last week of chemo ever, which is very exciting. It means that we are to the half-way point of treatment and that hopefully, the worst is behind us. Being at the half-way point means that next is several surgeries, and while they can be pretty invasive, they shouldn’t have the long-term, cumulative effects that we’ve experienced with chemo. So Friday afternoon will be a big moment when we should be able to walk out of the chemo room for good. There’s always the chance that in the future I will have more chemo, but for now, Friday is a day to look forward to with some hope.

We have also experienced the beginning of Advent, a season I love. In a season where we are in need of some hope, joy, and peace, Advent couldn’t have come clattering into our lives at a better moment. Advent reminds us that there is something on the horizon, that the days are building to something, and it’s a season where we remember and focus on the hope, joy, peace, and love of the coming of Jesus. It’s a season of expectation that lines up with our deepest longings.

These past several months have been really hard. It seems like we have been caught in months of Advent rather than a few weeks – months of waiting, of expectations, of longing, of delay. And not just in our personal lives, but we see it with the state of our world – the injustice that is seemingly spilling over each day.  This year has deeply stirred in me the need for things to be made right – for all things to be made new. Shadows are growing and we need the light to push back on the darkness that feels so present.

In our Advent readings, Allison and I recently read Psalm 13 which starts:

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

It feels like our world is groaning with the question of “how long?” How long must injustice be normal? How long until healing happens? How long must we wait for _______? How long until the cries of hearts are heard?

Advent is our reminder that love comes down to rescue and that it doesn’t at all look like our expectations but that healing and love are made complete through wisdom and grace. And so we find ourselves in a season of expectation, trusting that our cries of “how long” are being heard, and that our hope is not misplaced. And that’s needed good news of great joy for this season.

100 Hours [+ All the Other Waking Moments]

November.12.2014

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Yesterday I crossed the 100th hour of chemo treatments. I have received chemo treatments for literally 100 hours at this point in my life, and just think, I only recently started this journey. 100 hours is daunting. If we allow ourselves to go all Gladwell-ian for a minute, it means I am still 9,900 hours away from being an expert at chemo. So the good news is that I am nowhere close to becoming a chemo expert. Whew.

 

And while I’m no expert, I have spent 100 hours of my life having healing poison drip into my body. I have sat in the chair. I have talked to the nurses. I have felt sick. For 100 hours, in the same place, in the name of this cancer.

Things I have learned in 100 hours:

  • Allison is a champion. She is the best wife, chemo-buddy, social worker, and care-taker; and there is no way to fully express my gratitude for how hard she is working during this season.
  • I like our nurses. I am the youngest patient in our chemo ward by decades. I don’t see a lot of the same patients consistently, but our nurses are there everyday and so we are getting to know each other. I think its because I am kinda around their ages that they treat me so well, but its probably because they like Allison and have to hang out with us so much. Or they hate us and just are really good at their jobs.
  • The chemo room is not fun. It’s a big room, broken into 6 sections, with lots of chemo chairs. The patients don’t talk much to each other because it’s so draining, so instead we sit and watch each other go through some of the deepest struggles we will face in this lifetime. It’s a surreal spot to spend a lot of time. The only highlight that everyone talks about is the snack stash for anyone interested (I am not).
  • My head is fairly normally shaped. I was real worried going into this whole chemo/hair-loss thing that I would have a lumpy head, but it turns out my head is fairly proportional so at least I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. I’m grateful for the hats I have been given to keep my head warm, they are invaluable some days, so thank you.
  • I can’t read during chemo. You would think it would be an ideal time to catch up on all my reading but the medicine does not lend itself to mental focus. I read the same page in the same book like 4 times before I finally just put the book down. I can’t remember things either. Chemo-brain is real and it would be amusing if it weren’t a hassle. I wish I could regale you with stories of the funny things I have forgotten, but alas, the memories have lapsed.
  • Your words mean a lot to me. I know I can’t respond quickly and I can’t really hang out, but the fact that you remember us and reach out means the world. So even if I am slow to respond and don’t have the energy to hang out in person, please keep saying hi, reminding me that you’re praying, and sharing funny jokes.

As it turns out, it’s not the 100 hours of chemo that are the hardest; it’s every other hour of my days when healing is fighting to take place outside the hospital. Healing is a slow process and the in-between chemo moments are just as valuable as every minute spent in the chair. But the in-between healing feels really slow.

Right now, I can’t do much of anything. My doctor has set pretty strict boundaries about what I am capable of doing (physically and emotionally). My full-time job is to focus on healing. Because of the intensity of my treatment, I have been semi-quarantined. We have been highly cautioned against being in groups of people because of the risk of germs, especially during sick/flu season –  which means most social events and most public places (including church) are not an option for me. The isolation makes me feel a little withdrawn.

Things I’m learning in the in-between hours:

  • I’m learning to be grateful for the process of healing; even for the moments of being home and feeling sick, of feeling tired, of feeling nauseous, of feeling restless and and of feeling defeated. This is all part of real healing.
  • It’s hard to be present when I don’t feel good, but I want to be. And I’m learning how to celebrate small victories; for moments of feeling okay, for short visits from friends, for messages and texts that keep me going.
  • The in-between time is teaching me about sabbath. Rest is hard – real hard. But even in the midst of cancer my doctors have built in moments of rest for my body even though it feels more like a reprieve. Reprieve is a probably a good word for Sabbath anyway.
  • In the midst of this, in the midst of feeling like I can’t do anything, I’m learning more and more of what it means to be dependent on the process of healing.
  • And more than anything, I am learning to just be. I can’t accomplish anything right now. I can’t do much for other people right now. I can’t feel proud of doing. So I am just learning to be.  That’s harder than it sounds.

And so, I will keep being and I will keep healing. For 100 more hours.

You can keep up on Allison’s beautiful perspective through this process at allisonbuzard.com and for more medical updates and needs, stay up to date here: posthope.org/BUZfeed

Fortnights and Haircuts

October.16.2014

A lot can happen in a fortnight.

Two weeks ago today we found out my diagnosis of cancer, and to be honest, I am not sure we have fully wrapped our heads around the significance of it all. Everything had to happen so quickly with starting the intense chemo treatment almost immediately, that now it seems crazy that it was only 14 days ago that all of this began.

The two weeks have been filled with anxiety, discomfort, sickness, the chemo room, and an overwhelming sense of community and love that I will spend the rest of my days retelling. Stories of love, grace and compassion that have come from people near and far have blown us away. Allison and I knew that we were going to need people to be beside us if we were going to make it through this and the way people responded has been extremely humbling and borderline overwhelming in the best way possible.

Thank you for your support, for your encouragement, for your prayers, for your messages, for your stories of conquering, for your cards, for your meals, for your gifts, for your texts and visits. Thank you for your understanding when responses have been slow or we’ve indicated that we need a quiet day of no visitors. Thank you for the graciousness with which you have walked beside us as we deal with the physical and emotional effects of treating cancer.

One of the side effects no one prepared me for was hiccups. And not just hiccups, but “remember that girl who was on the Today Show because of her hiccups” hiccups. Hours of annoying “chemo” hiccups. Turns out it’s an uncommon side effect. So glad that we are keeping the uncommon going. Ever see a grown man hiccup for hours? It’s uncomfortable for everyone. I sound like a disney character that swallowed a bunch of bubbles. Who knew.

One of the other side effects has been my hair. The anxiety and waiting for it fall out in clumps this week has been one of the harder aspects emotionally for me, so instead of just waiting, we went ahead and buzzed it. My glorious locks hit the ground rendering me to the look of a naked sheep, freshly shorn from his wool coat – cold, confused, and slightly exposed. We tried to make a video of it but it didn’t turn out that great, but even still, you can see it here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the seasons changing as October has finally relented into autumn in Nashville, with the temperatures dropping and the leaves falling, cascading in their wayward manner to the hardening ground. If I had to pick a season to be diagnosed and begin treatment, I think it would be the start of fall. Fall has always been a symbol of change, and while the beauty of the season is not lost, we know that fall leads to winter and in the season of winter is where deep roots are entrenched, where trees and plants regroup, where healing can take place so that when the time comes they can grow stronger and more vibrant than before.

Winter is a necessary season, and we don’t want to hibernate through this. So that has been one of my prayers – that during this time that deep roots would go further, that healing would take place in every aspect of life and that when the time has come at the first hint of spring and new life that there will be such an overwhelming joy and expectation and understanding as we look back on what could be seen as a barren season, we will see the depth of life that is fully life.

(For more updated and tangible ways that you can help out or stay connected, feel free to check up consistently here. Thanks!)

The Next Thing… (And There is Always A Next Thing)

October.3.2014

In the past week through numerous conversations I have discovered that there is no real quality way to deliver bad news, so here goes:

I have cancer.

We got the first call early Thursday morning last week. I had been through multiple biopsies, so many blood tests, CT scans and ultrasounds and finally they were able to tell me what all the nurses and doctors had been hinting around at: the tumor that had shown up on my neck was malignant. Then yesterday we found out more details – It had spread through my body and is fairly aggressive.

Allison and I had discussed this as a possibility but we had also held out hope that God would heal and that it would just be a weird lump and we would all shrug and laugh and be all, “that was crazy, right? Oh well, enjoy your completely healthy life” and we would go on our merry way. But alas, it’s cancer and it’s aggressive. And there are few things that can prepare you for what’s next. I barely remember that first phone call over a week ago other than the words “malignant” and “chemo” and I don’t remember a lot about yesterday’s appointment but “aggressive” and “chemo starts Monday.”

Here is a quick run down of how this all happened (complete with pictures!):

Day one: get home from church and unbutton my shirt and have Allison ask “what’s wrong with your neck” to which I scoffed at because nothing is wrong with my neck, but then I touched my neck and was thought “hmmm. Something is definitely wrong with my neck.” Literally out of nowhere, this had appeared:

Is it noticeable?

Is it noticeable?

So we called the doctor and he was out of town. So I got to see a different guy on Tuesday. From there we went through the aforementioned blood tests, ultrasounds, and multiple biopsies. The first biopsy they let me stay awake for when they shoved a big needle in my neck and took some tissue out. That was a great day and no cuss words were said at all. The second biopsy they put me under and gave me a badass scar.

cool scar (4)

Told you it was badass.

That brings us to where we are today. Scared. Anxious. Ready to beat this. This place is going to be an important part of lives going forward.

sc center light flare

I start chemo on Monday. And we go from there. We know very little and we still have a lot of questions. But here is what I do know:

Allison is strong and loving and there aren’t enough words to express how incredible she has been through this. She has juggled her dynamic career and huge opportunities at work with being with me for appointments and hospital visits and she has thrived at loving me so very well. I’m so very grateful for her. There aren’t enough words for her. She and I process differently and we both will do our best to keep you updated on our blogs. You can find her’s here

We know that we have some incredible people in our lives both near and far who surround us and have loved us well. Whether it’s been wine showing up on our porch or a care package for surgery or people who let us come over and not make us talk about anything deep, or drop everything because we need a distraction so we aren’t stuck at home in our own thoughts, random texts or a self-appointed chair of our fun committee – we have amazing people who love us well. And chances are you are a part of that. So thank you.

We know that God is faithful. We know that His Word is true and it’s deep and it resonates and we believe fully in the words of Isaiah that God is my healer. And he will heal. He may use chemo and some surgery but healing is healing.

We know we are going to need your encouragement as we go forward. We need stories of hope and healing. We need verses to cling to in dark moments. We need game nights and and funny movies when we don’t even mention cancer. We need distractions and we need people to engage in the hard times as well – people who sit with us when we are grieving or in pain. We need people to help mow the lawn and sit with me in the hospital or who take my wife out for a girls night. We need books and netflix recommendations and things to keep our minds distracted and going.

We know that you can treat us like we are still Adam & Allison. We still have personalities and the world didn’t shift it’s rotation to swirl around us during this time. Please tell us what’s going on with you – what are you finding joy in right now, what you are frustrated with at work, what you find funny, what you are reading, listening to, all that stuff. This isn’t our defining story, it’s merely a part of our story so please let us know how we can be praying for you, how we can be encouraging and serving and loving on you. We need our own outlets in the midst of this. We are still the same people and we don’t need pity, we need community. And Sour Patch Kids. 

I know that I don’t want you to shave your head. Several people have already offered to join me, but the truth is, that’s silly. We will all discover just how lumpy and ugly my head is, so if you have hair, flaunt the hell out of your glorious mane and we will compare conditioners when mine returns.

We know this is a season. We know we are praying a lot and we are finding so much to be thankful for so please please please let us know what we can be praying for you for as well.

We know we don’t want you making assumptions. If you have ideas or want to ask, go ahead. But be graceful with us in how fast we respond. We don’t want people to think “oh, someone already thought of that for them” or “I don’t know what to even do so I’ll just let someone else.” We want this to be like every other aspect of our lives – full of the people and community who mean so much to us so please engage with us. Some friends have asked us to create lists – amazon wish lists and other ways to help out and if you are interested in seeing those lists, be sure to ask and we will get them to you.

We know we don’t need to hear stories of those you have lost to cancer. We are emotionally on edge and no matter how well-meaning the stories, we are looking to be surrounded by stories of hope and joy. We are not blinding ourselves to the reality of cancer and to the toll it has effected on almost every one of us. We refuse to bury our heads ostrich style to the realities of this world, but we also know what we need during this time. Cancer has won a lot of battles, but this will not be one of them.

We know this is a hard way to find out for a lot of you. We are sorry we couldn’t have conversations with each of you, but we found out the details yesterday and while I wish we could all sit on our back deck under the lights with a glass of wine, we aren’t afforded the time. Monday is coming quick. But I know I am grateful for whatever role you have played in our story so far.

We know that we have no idea what we are getting ready to engage in, but we know that we have a faithful God and a dynamic community so we will walk faithfully forward. This has been an incredibly hard month and a half and it feels like we are facing a steep, uphill climb. But we know that a lot of you love us and love us well. So thank you.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being our friends. Thank you.

4 Resolutions for All of Us in 2014

December.31.2013
Sparkler photo by Kerry Sutton

Sparkler photo by Kerry Sutton

It’s that time of year where everyone begins to reevaluate and consider what would make this new year so much better, and being the generous person that I am, I took the liberty of writing some group resolutions we should all strive for in 2014.  Without further ado, my 4 community resolutions for everyone in 2014:

1) We resolve to no longer use the phrase “Killing It”

2013 was the year when everyone was killing it. I can’t think of a single concert, friend, entrepreneur, album, artist, creative group, chef, restaurant, event, barista who wasn’t “killing it”. So and So killed it tonight at this. Place of business is killing the coffee game right now. They are killing it on stage. A couple thoughts on this: A) if everyone is killing it, then by default, no one is actually killing it. We are like the boy who cried wolf, only the people who cried “killing it”. Because we said everyone was killing it, we have no idea who truly seized and transcended the moment.  B) To say something/one “killed it” isn’t quite the compliment it was intended to be. It’s lazy – grammatically, emotionally, and personally.

The Point: We (as a culture) struggle to say anything significant about each other and because of doing this, our compliments mean less. It’s okay that not every thing we do (or our friends do) “kills it’. It’s okay that sometimes it’s a process and that we are learning but because we feel some social obligation to lump everything into the premise of amazing, we actually miss out on those rare moments that transcend the experience, that connect us to something bigger. And those moments are important, so in 2014, let’s be very intentional about complimenting each other. Don’t summarize an SNL performance the same way you would seeing your friend achieve their dream. Give true, actual, meaningful compliments rather than using the same phrase we do for a well made burrito. Words matter, especially in a world saturated by social media, and our words to our friends carry more weight than we can know. So provide real, genuine compliments in 2014 and use your words to give power and meaning to your friends who are realizing their dreams.

2) We resolve to stop classifying anything and everything as “Hipster”

Maybe this is more of a Nashville problem, but there tends to be the inclination to call everything new or cool or something that you don’t understand as hipster. It’s a lame categorization and really doesn’t mean anything, especially to actual hipsters (who hate that label more than anything). Because “hipster” means different things to different people, it is now devoid of any true meaning. Some people, the moment they hear that word, think it provides immediate street creed while others think that it’s the label of doom.

The Point: A lot like resolution number 1, it’s lazy and these kind of labels contribute nothing to the greater good. So let’s all agree to stop calling anyone or anything “hipster”. Like the original hipsters, I’m over it.

3) This is probably the biggest one for 2014: WE RESOLVE TO STOP STEALING CONTENT

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have gone on the big 3 of social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) and seen people passing off jokes/images/quotes/comments as if they are the original creator. Look, there is NO HARM in sharing something you find funny, interesting, profound, etc, but there is a huge deep, underlying issue when you claim it as your own. It’s completely okay to post something on instagram that you saw on Reddit/Imgur/Tumblr, but GIVE CREDIT.

You know what happens when you don’t? You lie, and the world takes notice. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you the story of Sammy Rhodes, who started on twitter under the name @ProdigalSam.

ProdigalSam was hilarious (he still is, he didn’t die or anything), and always putting out new and funnier jokes, all within 140 characters or less. He wasn’t a writer for a comedy show, he wasn’t a stand up, he was just a college pastor who had a great sense of humor. And his fame blew up (well, in the twitter world anyway) and more and more people (even genuinely famous people) began to take notice of his jokes and the amount of content he created took everyone by surprise. And then the accusations started pouring in – he was stealing jokes. In his words he wasn’t stealing them, he was reworking jokes (which to a comedian is stealing). It got so bad, and the response so visceral that he had to take a hiatus from twitter. The accusations were personal, violent, mean, crude, and some of them true. And the reality behind the “scandal” wasn’t that his comedy took a hit, but his faith took a hit. Whether intentional or not, people think less of Jesus because of him. That’s tough to deal with, and honestly, the worst possible outcome for other Christians, funny or not. After his twitter hiatus, he recently returned with this summation and apology. It’s long but worth the read.  Read it here.

But it wasn’t just a twitter comedian who was accused this year. Pastor Mark Driscoll keeps coming under extreme pressure due to plagiarism (stealing this tweet yesterday). He was stealing content and not giving credit and again the world noticed, and it ended up costing people their jobs in very shady and very controversial circumstances , but it brought up a bigger issue that resulted in this amazing article being written on the issue of Idolatry. Take a few minutes and read this, it is far more articulate than I am, but when we claim credit for work that we don’t actually create, we worship the alter of fame and recognition of self.

The Point: Not only are you being dishonest, you are hurting the credibility and the name of our Holy God, whether that’s what you mean to do or not. So in 2014, let’s give credit where credit is due. No one is going to think less of you because you become a champion of sharing great work. No one is going to think of less of you because every great insight didn’t start with you, but they will think significantly less of you and significantly less of our God when they find out you aren’t who you pretend to be. This year, let’s all find our identity in the Resurrected and Grace-filled God who loves us unconditionally and who calls us to do the same.

4) We resolve to do a better job flossing. 

This one makes my list every year, so I thought I might as well include it once again (surely I can’t be the only one) so you are invited to show your dentist that we actually hear them.

Cheers to 2014. It’s going to be a great year.

Why the Church Needs Kanye West

May.28.2013

kanye-west

I am one of the biggest Kanye apologists that exists. I love his music and could list track after track of why I love Kanye and how he creates. If you don’t like him, I generally know why you don’t, from his general personality to those media moments that are constantly brought up (justifiably so) when Kanye is mentioned, so let’s just get those reasons out of the way:

The “George Bush hates black people” statement.

The whole Taylor Swift incident.

The rumor that he was going to name his child North (which I really wanted). Or that he was going to name his kid God. Or the fact that he is dating Kim K, and they are copywriting their soon-to-be-born child’s name.

The way he clings to Jay-Z like a little brother desperately needing approval. “Look Hov, I copywrited (copywrote?) my kid’s name too! Look! Look!”

That his new album is apparently going to be called Yeezus.

The arrogant cocky swagger that he takes everywhere.

I’m not saying we should all be best friends with Kanye West. But I am saying we need him. We need his creativity, the kind of creativity that was put on display with a flourish at this season’s SNL finale.

Watch his performances here & here.

Are you kidding me? On New Slaves he just stands there, doing his best to be emotionless while his shirtless silhouetted DJ jumps around, losing his mind. Kanye doesn’t move, letting the music and words just hang in the air almost uncomfortably ensuring that everyone has to deal with the lyrics. The screen behind him is a uncomfortable close up of his eyes and nose, making me relieved he trimmed his nose hairs. On Black Skinhead he uses the same one spotlight and adds black hooded imagery in the background. I asked one friend about it and she said “I didn’t get it. It made me feel uncomfortable.” And I think this is exactly the idea.

Kanye’s SNL performances are always the best. Do you remember Power and Runaway? Holy crap, they were perfect. Seriously watch them now. I remember talking about those performances for weeks. I still talk about them. And the reason? Kanye is the master of juxtaposition. He is cripplingly self-aware, from recognizing his own arrogance and the tension that it causes within him, to race issues being the heart of everything he thinks he deals with, Kanye always looks like he is uncomfortable, and that’s why music is his outlet, because it allows him to express this pressure. Kanye keeps pushing his craft forward. He is gritty and misunderstood and arrogant and talented. He lives in a culture that celebrates safe and comfortable songs like Thrift Shop. And if Kanye is anything, he is not safe or predictable.

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This screenshot is juxtaposition at it’s finest. The hip hop community is offended. The ballet community is offended. And that is the tension that Kanye creates, the tension that I choose to believe that he lives in everyday. From making beats and no one caring to a 15 year career that has made him more money than he even dreamed of. I honestly think he doesn’t know how to handle it, so he talks about a new form of slavery while driving a maybach. He talks about being worried about buying conflict diamonds but also that even if they are, he still has to wear them.

And this is why the Church needs Kanye.

Every Saturday Night Live musical performance is exactly the same. There are good performances to be sure, but they are few and far between. SNL is a ridiculously tough venue. “Hey, everyone is here to laugh, so go play with no momentum and if you suck, at least it’s live and there are millions watching, and you only get one shot.” So bands play it safe. Some are memorable. Most are stale. Just another band playing on the same stage as everyone else. Kanye comes in and makes it his own. He brings new and creative set designs. He takes what everyone expects and creates tension in it.

At this point in Church culture, we know what to expect on Sunday mornings. Walk in, a high energy song, 2-3 other songs, some sort of welcome/greeting/video combo, teaching, a special song, and then leaving. Sundays are the same. The content is different each week, sure, and you can plug in new songs and new videos but just like the SNL music stage, everyone knows what’s coming.

We need to take notes from Kanye. We need to be willing to not only live within the tension, but be willing to create tension. We need to be willing to call people away from “safe” and “comfortable” and into this life of following Jesus. Jesus wasn’t predictable. Jesus wasn’t safe. Jesus constantly created tension, and he created more questions than he did answers.

A lot of us walking through church doors today are being modeled safety, being modeled predictable, being modeled comfortable, being modeled stale. There is a time for protection, for safety, and the church should be a safe place for people to engage, but we can also wisely create these moments of tension, of giving people an opportunity to wrestle and struggle. We can create moments of unanswered questions.

The Church shouldn’t need Kanye West to remind us of the tension we all live in on a daily basis, that living within grey areas can define who we are and what we believe, but we can be reminded that in these moments of uncertainty, we serve a God who is true and faithful and loving and graceful and present even in the tension.

Let’s create. Let’s call each other deeper. Let’s engage culture and tension. Let’s call each other away from stale and comfortable and toward a Savior who is calling us to follow, regardless of the cost.