The medical journey I just experienced is so wonderfully bizarre that I want to record it for posterity.  And give God the glory.

Even though I turn 60 this summer and have a genetic condition that causes my liver to make WAY too much bad cholesterol–I now have the heart and arteries of an 18 year old!


I never gave my heart health much thought until I had some bloodwork done in January.  I went to see a new doctor who supposedly specialized in sleep disorders.  I wanted to have my cortisol levels tested and try to figure out a way to get off sleep meds.  The doc told me about a research project they were partnering with, sponsored by the Boston Heart Lab.

“You’d get over $5,000 dollars worth of tests run for free,” she offered.  “It will show what’s going on with your heart and lipid levels.”

Not one to turn down free stuff, I accepted and gave six vials of blood.  Didn’t think much about it until I was out snow shoeing with friends a week later and started having chest pains.

“I think I’m having a heart attack!” I told my husband, as I slumped forward. on the steep incline, trying to get my breath.  Intense pain gripped my chest, radiated up into my neck and jaw and down my left arm.

Before Greg could even devise a plan to drag me off the slope, the pain vanished as quickly as it had come.  It was a beautiful day and the mountain beckoned so we finished our Trek without further incident.  I just figured it was indigestion or something . . .

But a few days later, I got the results of the lab work.  Everything looked great . . . except for my insanely high cholesterol, imflamation (which indicated the possible blockage of arteries), and a gene (APOE4) that predisposes to heart disease and Alzheimers.  The chest pain from our recent trek came back into sharp focus, as did similar incidents over the years that I’d ignored.  

Honestly, I was way more concerned about the gene’s link to Alzheimers than heart disease.  My uncle Pat died of ALZ at the very young age of 68.  The doc, however, brushed my worries aside with the statement:  “I’m much more concerned about you having a stroke or heart attack.  If you don’t get those bad cholesterol numbers down, you won’t have to worry about Alzheimers.  Unfortunately, the APOE4 gene causes your liver to overproduce cholesterol.  Diet and lifestyle changes don’t have much effect–even statins can’t always lower LDL to see levels.”

Since this doc wasn’t a heart specialist, she referred me to a naturopathic cardiologist.  I wanted to go a more “natural” route, since I’d read that statins had been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.  I really liked the guy, but after reading over my test results, he looked me in the eye and said, “You have to take statins.  You have Familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition that makes you 22 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.”

After that sobering pronouncement, he referred me to another cardiologist for further testing (since we found out on the way to his office that our insurance didn’t cover him or any natural medicine practitioner). He also told me to limit my physical exertion, since I’d been experiencing increasing chest pain associated with exercise.  

“Only 40-60% of what you normally do,” he advised.  “And stop if you have any pain or discomfort.”

I made an appointment  to see Dr. Banitt this past Thursday.   I felt so crappy that morning, experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath while raking leaves, that I actually packed a small bag in case I failed heart tests and was admitted.  Extreme anxiety gripped my chest as we drove to his office.

He asked me the usual questions and expressed deep concern at my lipid levels and increasing bouts of angina.  At first he scheduled me for a heart stress test, to look for blockages, but then changed his mind.

“I have no doubt we’ll find blockages, based on your genetics, cholesterol levels and chest pain,” he stated.  “I think you should skip the tests and do an angiogram as soon as possible.  It will show us where the blockages are, and I can put in stents to open them up during the procedure.”

Greg, who’d been more concerned over the condition of my heart and arteries than I was, jumped at that option.  In shock and outnumbered, I meekly agreed and scheduled the procedure for Monday morning.

“And NO strenuous activities!”  The doc warned.  “Take it easy until Monday.  I’m calling in some nitroglycerin to your pharmacy.  Take it whenever you feel chest pain.”

I decided not to mention I was taking care of my grandkids all weekend . . .

We scheduled the procedure and headed home, getting caught in rush hour traffic.  The mild chest discomfort and anxiety I’d experienced most of the afternoon increased exponentially as we crept along the freeway.  I took half a Xanax, assuming the pain was stress-related.  The pain level kept increasing, so I told Greg just to head for the pharmacy.  Hopefully the nitro would help.

Poor Greg.  He prayed for me as he navigated traffic and tried to decide if he should just pull over and call 911 or get me to the nearest hospital.    In the end, we made it to my pharmacy and I popped the little white pill under my tongue as Greg drove home.  No relief.

“The pharmacist said you should take another after five minutes if you don’t feel better,” Greg told me.  “You can take up to three, then call 911 if that doesn’t help.”

We got home and I took another pill as I settled on my couch.   I let out a deep sigh of relief as the pain let up this time.   In fact, I felt so much better, we decided to head to food carts for dinner, to take advantage of this glorious spring day.

But the chest pain returned with a vengeance just as we pulled onto the freeway.   I popped a third nitro, but the pain and my panic increased.

“OK, we are going to the hospital,” Greg decided.   Adventist was just five minutes away, so he parked in front of ER and Walked me in

“This is probably just indigestion,” I protested.  “I can just wait until Monday.”

Ignoring my protests, Greg walked me to the registration desk and explained my symptoms.  Fifteen minutes later, I was hooked up to a heart monitor.  Even though the EKG and bloodwork came back normal, the cardiologist on call decided to admit me and move the angiogram up to the next day.   My chest pains continued, but settled down after a fourth nitro pill and baby aspirin.

As soon as I got to my room, I put out a prayer request on Facebook and emailed a few of my prayer warrior peeps.  My chest pain vanished and I felt a deep peace I hadn’t known for days.  I felt fine physically, too, and tried to talk Greg into springing me from the hospital.  But he insisted I listen to the professionals and go through with the procedure.

Surrounded by the love and prayers of family and friends, I actually grabbed a bit of sleep during the night.  I was wheeled into a room for the angiogram at 9:30, had a brief visit with my doctor, nodded off and woke to the words, “Everything looked great!  You have the heart and arteries of an eighteen year old!”

I was released later that day, but not until my cholesterol levels were checked again.  To everyone’s surprise, the numbers of the bad lipids had dropped significantly.

“You weren’t even fasting,” my nurse explained.  “The actual numbers are probably quite a bit lower.”

So, what’s the deal, then? I asked every medical person who would listen.  Why is there not the slightest build up of plaque in my heart or arteries when I have this deadly genetic condition?  What caused my chest pain and other alarming symptoms?  Why the heck have my cholesterol numbers improved so much without me ever taking cholesterol-lowering medication?

The lack of answers convinced me of what I already knew–Jesus healed me!  I am not sure why I had to go through that whole traumatic episode, except for the fact that my faith in the One who heals has gone from my head to my heart.





Midnight rider

I wish y’all had met my son.  Sweet, silly Jonah.  It’s hard to describe him–the photos, all at least 31 years old now–are faded and worn.  I have no video that captures his vibrant spirit, no recording of his lilting voice.  But I have memories, as strong and true as anything.

Just shy of three years old, Jonah was diagnosed with autism, a condition both mysterious and rare in those days.  We read the brochures, enrolled him in the special classes (although at that time, there were no real services for autistic children.  His first classroom experience was with Down’s syndrome kids) and prayed for healing.  Of all the great gifts Jonah gave me, he taught me how to pray.




As we studied our son, Greg and I observed that Jonah did not feel comfortable in his own skin.  Clothes hurt, sounds irritated and hugs felt like death.  His tongue didn’t take well to language, but Jonah’s sharp mind found ways to communicate.  Screaming was his favorite (cue the prayers), but I never ceased to be amazed at the creative ways my boy adapted to a world that did not accomodate him.

Jonah loved music.  By the time he was four, he could identify at least a dozen musical instruments when listening to a song.  He especially loved flutes.  One day I walked into our living room and found him dismantling our (relatively) expensive speakers.  The Color Song by Petra had been playing (very flute-driven) and Jonah was determined to find the source of such exquisite beauty.

“Jonah find flutes!  Jonah find flutes!” he chirped with delight, inviting me to join his adventure.


the hero


But what brought great pleasure sometimes caused pain.  When he was four, Jonah became obsessed with Bugs Bunny.  That summer, we took him and his sisters to an amusement park that featured the Looney Tunes characters and Jonah had his picture take with his hero.  He couldn’t even look Bugs in the eye, but hunkered down, his face a mixture of terror and rapture.  To make the trip home more bearable, we bought him a Bugs Bunny toy, the sort that when you pull the string, it utters familiar sayings.

“Ehhhh, what’s up Doc?” the toy chattered as we drove home, elicitng wild giggles from Jonah.  But when we got to our house, Bugs disappeared, never to be seen again.  At least not until several months later when I found him on the top shelf of Jonah’s closet.  (Don’t even ask how it got there).  I brought Bugs out and triumphantly handed him to Jonah, thinking I’d find favor with my son.

Instead, he shrieked with rage and grabbed the toy from me and rushed back to his room.  In shock, I watched Jonah toss Bugs back up onto the dusty shelf.  And there Bugs stayed–until Jonah’s funeral, where he was buried with his best friend.  It wasn’t until many years later, reading a book by Temple Grandin, that I realized that sometimes you could love something so much that it hurt.


turn your eyes upon Jesus

The photo above was taken just a few months before Jonah died.  I love how his gaze is already heavenward.  He knew this world was not his home.  He knew he didn’t fit down here, that there were better worlds to come.

If Jonah could speak to us today, on the 36th anniversary of his birth, I think he would encourage us with this truth.  He’d tell us about a place where it doesn’t hurt to love, where tears are turned to champagne and we are always understood.

Happy birthday, son.  See you soon!

What were you thinking, Lord, when this child you made?

You know it’s hard at times, but I wouldn’t ever trade him

for a million other children.  And though sometimes I cry,

I know that he’ll be perfect bye and bye.”

God bless Jonah . . . and keep him in Your care.

The world can be a cruel place when you hear a different drum,

But Jonah, there are better worlds to come.

If I could ask You, Lord, to grant one wish for me,

I’d ask to look through Jonah’s eyes and know just what he sees,

To understand the thoughts that must go through his little  mind.

Oh Lord, can You whisper what I’d find

God bless Jonah . . . and keep him in Your care.

The world can be a cruel place when you hear a different drum.

Dear Jonah, there are better worlds to come.”

June, 1984

 One of the Bible verses that terrifies me the most is Matthew 24:12.  “Because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many with grow cold.”

The word Matthew uses for “love” in this passage is agape, indicating that believers will possess chilly, unresponsive hearts.  (Agape refers to the unconditional, other-centered love of God).  And I’ve seen this cool-down happen with increasing frequency as the days grow darker and terror abounds.  I’ve felt the icy grip myself.

Fear seems to be the greatest culprit.  Here in the West, we especially fear our privileged way of life being shaken, our freedoms being taken.  So we shrink back and batten down the hatches of our hearts.  We call for air strikes and more border patrols and we no longer welcome the stranger into our homes.  The spirit of fear convinces us that we need to protect ourselves above all else, love of God be damned.

But friends, I need to tell you–those who wish to do us harm are already here.  While we’ve been distracted by all the things, the Enemy has been gathering his army.  There is only one weapon this Enemy fears–the love of God–and it has been conspicuously absent in recent days.  If we truly believed in the power of this love, and waged it as a weapon at the first sign of terror, would we be in this pickle today?

I’ve worked with a refugee resettlement agency in Portland for many years now.  About six years ago, I went to a volunteer training where we were all puzzled by the influx of young men from the middle east.  Families were being more carefully screen and denied entrance, but the young men had no such trouble.  Some of the volunteers complained about these refugees, saying they came from privilege and were not happy with their quality of life in the states.  (By the way, the US government decides who gets in, the resettlement agencies just provide resources).

One day, the head of the resettlement program sent out an email asking if one of the volunteers could take food to a young Iraqi man who was recovering from knee surgery and unable to care for himself.  No one jumped at the opportunity, so I volunteered, thinking I’d just drop off a pizza.  But the Lord had other ideas and clearly suggested I look up a few recipes for Iraqi fare, so I ended up preparing quite the feast for the dude.  Turned out he lived with three other young men, all from different places in the Middle East, and they were thrilled with my offering.  I prayed for the sick guy, chatted up his friends for a bit and took my leave.  I heard later from the volunteer coordinator how much they’d appreciated this act of kindness.

I never thought I’d see them again, but my daughter and her family just moved into the same apartment complex.  Like almost directly across from where the guys lived!   I’m praying for a chance to reconnect with them again, fully armed, of course, with the love of God.  Who knows what kind of ambush He wants to set?

(It’s not just refugee resettledment programs that have screening issues.  A few years back, I worked for a mission agency that recruited believers to work in Canada, Alaska and Russia.  I was contacted by a couple from Egypt who felt the Lord was calling them to ministry in Alaska.  As I began to process their paperwork (all done electronically), I noticed that some of their “references” gave responses that appeared to be cut and pasted.  The only contact info for the references were hotmail accounts (no phone numbers or addresses).  When I tried to contact their pastor reference, I couldn’t even find the town they said their church was in.  With all my spidey senses tingling, I told them they weren’t a good fit for our organization.

TThe very next day, a group of “missionaries” were arrested as suspected terrorists.  They’d been lliving in Mexico and then applied to (and were accepted by) a mission agency operating in the US.   Pretty sure that wasn’t the first–or the last time–this tactic was used.  All to say, every time we think we’ve secured our borders, the Enemy will figure out another way to worm his way in.)**

I think his sneakiest maneuver of all  is using fear to neutralize the love of God in our hearts.

Today,  I challenge you to invite the Holy Spirit to search your hearts and reveal any strongholds of cold love.  Repent of any bitterness or unforgiveness or fear that holds you hostage.  Then ask the Lord to show you the incredible heighth and depth, length and breadth of His love for you–and your enemies.

The Lord of Hosts is gathering His army as surely as the Enemy of our souls is positioning his.  We are not helpless, for greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.  We are not defenseless; we have the sword of the Spirit.  We don’t have to cower in fear. In Christ, we have His love, His power and  wisdom from above.   We can receive  our marching  orders through prayer.

I love this quote by Rees Howell, a man called by God to war against Hitler with prayer.  “God is preparing His instrument; a company to fight world battles on their knees.

Lord, make us such a company of love.  Teach us to fight on our knees.

**I am NOT saying we shouldn’t be wise about who we welcome into our country.  Naivete is not our friend.  But God’s mercy triumphs  over judgement  (James 2:13)

finishing well

  I am a bit of a late bloomer.  Some of the things I’m proudest/fondest of happened after I turned 50.

I taught myself to garden and then how to preserve and can the fruits (and veggies) of my labor.

I climbed my first mountain (Mount St. Helens would have been a lot tougher pre-eruption).

I took up snow-shoeing.

I started running (in those really funny looking toe-shoes).

Today, at the ripe old age of 59, I ran my first race!

It was only a 5K, and I have to admit I was a tad nervous.  So nervous, in fact, that I decided not to eat before the race.  My daughter and race buddy, Danielle, told me this wasn’t a good idea.  But I paid no attention to her sage advice.

  We lined up with the 10 minute miler group and I kept pace with Danielle for maybe five minutes.  I felt pretty good about my steady-eddy pace for the first two miles, but then it hit me.  My fuel tank was on empty.  The half grilled cheese sandwich I’d eaten twelve hours earlier was long gone.

My pace slowed to a shuffle and I began to tell myself it didn’t matter if I walked across the finish line.  At least I tried, right?

My un-pep talk was quickly interrupted by faint cheers and applause for all who finished the race.  I can’t explain what happened next, but I was transported as this verse came to mind:

  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . . Hebrews 12:1

My weariness mysteriously vanished and I sprinted toward the finish line, energized by the applause of heaven.  I was no longer just a participant in a 5K, I was part of the Great Race, run by all who follow the Lamb.  I knew that my son and those who’ve finished the race before me were part of that great cloud of heavenly witnesses, cheering me on.     

The vision faded as I crossed the finish line, but I finished strong.  (I ran a 10.40 mile if you must know).

Today, I earned a medal (OK, just a wooden medalion saying I’d participated) but my real prize was a foretaste of the day when I’ll hear “Well done, my faithful one!”

I wept my way through another memorial service last week, even though I’d never met the young man we mourned.  My tears flowed in solidarity with the parents who’d just buried their only son.  My heart ached for the uncharted journey ahead of them.  

It’s a long one.

As the service moved from celebrating Steve’s life to focusing on heaven, my mourning turned to anticipation.  Tear of grief and gladness mingled on my cheeks as I remembered yet again that this world is not my home, I’m only passing through . . .

On August 30, thirty-one years will have passed since we held our son.  Thirty-one long years since we heard his silly giggle, felt the sun-kissed warmth of his skin.  If you do the math (and you can’t because I’m not telling how old I am), it’s probable that we won’t have to wait another thirty-one years to see Jonah again.  We’re on the home stretch toward heaven.  

My heart doesn’t ache so much now for what was--it longs for what will be.  But on this earth, there’s no way to really separate those two realities, so we embrace the sorrow and the joy and set our faces toward eternity.

Come, Lord Jesus, come . . .

thin skinned

I used to blog prolifically about my mission trips. I’d post stories, sometimes daily, about what was happening during our outreach. Lots of pictures, along with detailed descriptions of the desperate conditions of those we went to serve.

Of course, I’d tell the stories of what God was doing as well, but it was almost like I needed to set the scene (poverty, disease, injustice) to really show off His work. And maybe justify my journey?

The stories I shared were true–but honestly, I am not sure they were honoring to the people we served. I don’t think they’d be thrilled to read about themselves in the somber hues I painted them. And that really bothers me . . .

I do have one story to tell about our recent trip to Cambodia, however.
The purpose was mostly missionary care–we went to love on our friends who serve in Phnom Penh. But part of caring is witnessing what they do. So we spent quite a bit of time following our friends around to get a feel for their daily lives of ministry.

One day, we got to visit a small village not far from Phnom Penh. Every Sunday, a dozen or so young people from our friends’ church head to this community after worship service. Most go by “moto”–(motorcycle or moped)–to share the love of Jesus with the Buddhist villagers. The Cambodian pastor takes a small group of youth to go with him to evangelize, while others stay behind to play with the local children or pass out food and hygiene items.

Temps were approaching 100 when we got to the village, with the kind of humidity that makes it hard to breathe–let alone move. I decided to tag along with the pastor and followed him and a small group of students as he visited with villagers who were taking a siesta in the heat of the day.
There were no doors to knock on, as most folks were taking refuge in the shaded open areas underneath the houses. Men swung in hammocks, women scolded children playing in the dust, dogs hunkered, panting, in any bit of shade they could find–everyone conserving energy on this sweltering day. We were a welcome diversion.

The pastor shared the gospel in every home, eliciting lively discussion with the Buddhist occupants. It was all in Khmer (language of Cambodia), but the students kindly translated for me, delighted to practice their newly acquired English speaking skills on this eager foreigner. (most of the students came to know Jesus through an Engish class taught by our missionary friends).

As we took our leave of the first home, I asked (through my translator) if I could pray for the family. The pastor–and the women he’d been talking to–thought it was a capital ideal. One woman needed healing, another needed work, a third asked for peace for herself and her family. After a short prayer, I sat next to the woman who wanted peace, swinging my white legs as we sat side by side on the bamboo platform below her house. She’d seen Westerners before but was still fascinated by me–or at least my skin–and picked at a few moles and freckles on my arms as if she was trying to erase them.

As if she knew we were sisters underneath our skin.

Through my translator, I learned we were the same age, although I just celebrated my fifth grandchild while she already had six great-grandchildren. I asked if I could take her picture and she laughed and said yes–but only if I put it on Facebook! We chatted a bit longer as I played peek-a-boo with one of her grandchildren, leaning into her like we were old friends. Finally, we hugged goodbye and our little group set off in the hot sun to the next house.


The young woman who’d been translating for me fell in beside me as we picked our way through the dust and debree.
“Have you been to this village before?” she asked, overcoming her shyness to make eye contact.
“I haven’t,” I told her. “But I’ve been to many villages like this one in other countries. It feels like I’ve been here before.”

Even as the words left my mouth, I realized I wasn’t referring to tangible similarities between this place and villages I’ve visited in India, Africa, Indonesia, Mexico and Alaska (although similarities do exist). It was the connection I felt with the women, the shared humanity, that made the village feel familiar.

I used to be struck by our differences as I traveled to other countries. But now I’m more aware of how we’re all kin, broken and beautiful, full of hopes and dreams and prayers for peace. All in need of a Saviour, hearts beating in unity under our skin.

I hope this story honors my new friend. And maybe she’ll even see her picture on Facebook someday :). I will continue to pray for peace for her and her family . . . the Peace that passes all understanding and longs for every heart to rest in Him.


I don’t know how many times I’ve had the dream. The details vary, but I’m always in search of the perfect trail, a path deeply etched in my memory. I know the general whereabouts of this road, but the trailhead is lost to me. When I inquire, no one seems to know–or care–about this ancient path that, in my recollection, offers indescribable pleasure.

Even as I search, I feel the familiar road beneath my feet; worn stones and soft moss carpet the narrow trail that undulates lazily over the countryside. I recall crossing singing mountain brooks and ducking through natural arches carved in stone. My heart beats faster as I envision the stretch where the path steepens and leads to dizzying heights, tempting me to cling to the rocks for dear life. I can almost feel the warmth of the sun, the caress of the breeze and the awe of the panoramic view–oh, the view!–that coaxed me to put one shaky foot in front of the other and keep pressing on.

So real and clear are the memories, grief grips my heart. How could I have forgotten? When did I lose the way? Even when I awake, I lie in the darkness, tracing the details in my mind. I ache–for a road I’ve never traveled. I long for a place I’ve never been . . .

This week I learned that my father is dying, on hospice. I dreamed of the lost trail again last night. And awoke with the familiar longing, a wistfulness I can’t define. In my random scanning of posts on facebook this morning, however, the ache was suddenly–and providentially–defined. It is captured by the celtic word hiraeth–“the grief for the lost places of your past, the places that never were.”

I’ve always assumed the dream was about heaven. Heavily influenced by books such as Pilgrim’s Progress, I concluded that the symbolism alluded to my final journey home.

But the shadow of my father’s fading cast the dream in a different light. Could the beautiful trail represent the childhood I never had–the experiences I longed for but never realized? Did I ache for the “lost places” of my past–the pleasant places that never existed?


This revelation brought some closure to me. I have not known what to make of my father’s passing. I don’t really know his story–my story–that traces back to strong celtic roots.

I don’t know if he loves Jesus.

I don’t know why he left us.

But I will embrace the ache and say goodbye to my father and my childhood lost.

For the way that was lost will surely be found. And it will lead me home.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11



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