When Everything Changed

When everything changed

Hello! This is Esther again! (If you don’t remember me, that’s okay! You can read my last post on Sammy’s blog here or check out my blog here.) I’m so happy I have the chance to sit down with you again. So grab a mug full of coffee or tea and let me tell you a story…

Six years ago, I got a Master’s degree in piano performance, I was a music professor at a college, and I was performing. I felt like my career as a pianist was beginning to take off. On top of that, my husband and I have felt a call to move to Japan to be church planters, and everything was happening right on schedule.

But then everything changed.

I first realized something was wrong when I was preparing for a recital and noticed my hands were stiff. “Maybe I’m practicing too much. Maybe I’m stressed,” I thought.

The stiffness turned into pain and spread all over my body to the point that I couldn’t move on my own. My husband, Daniel, had to lift my body out of bed and walk me one step at a time through my morning routine. I couldn’t even squeeze my toothpaste onto my toothbrush.

It took every ounce of my strength to make it through each day.

I went to numerous doctors, and they did test after test and had no answers. Weeks of waiting turned into months, and the pain was too much for me. My hair started falling out until half of it was gone. And I began to wonder, “Am I dying?”

There was one time when I was laying in bed, and I asked Daniel to come to my side so I could tell him my dying wish: “Promise me that if something happens to me, you’ll still go to Japan.”

This was a scary time. I was scared of what the doctors would say. I was scared for my future. I was scared that I might be dying. The beautiful thing is that when you’re not able to move, you have a lot of time to pray. So I spent a lot of time lying in bed and praying to God.

On October 3, 2012, I wrote these words in my journal:

“I have lost almost 20 pounds since the end of July. I am exhausted. I saw 2 doctors today. They are close to having a diagnosis. Right now I’m waiting for test results…I don’t like some of the words the doctors are saying. But I’m too tired to be stubborn. GOD IS BIGGER THAN ANY DIAGNOSIS.”

I wasn’t afraid anymore of death or bad news. I had hope because I had God.

Several days later, on October 8, I wrote:

“Still in pain. But God has given me a tremendous peace. I feel His presence and the support of His people. When I look around, I can still see God’s goodness in my life. In the midst of extraordinary pain, He has given me extraordinary strength.”

The very next day, the doctor called to tell me that I have lupus. That phone call changed my life. The months of waiting were so hard, but I’m so grateful that instead of allowing me to have the diagnosis the very moment I wanted it, God waited until the very moment I was ready to hear it. And as soon as I got off the phone with the doctor, I cried happy tears and said, “Thank You, God!” I was so relieved that I finally had answers, and I could finally move forward.

In my journal that day, I wrote down a verse from Scripture:

“Because the Lord is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.”

(Psalm 16:8)

That same day, my husband came home with a couple of trays of food from a friend with a card. On the card was written the same verse.

The past 6 years have been hard. Too often, if something is hard, we equate that with it being bad. Hard doesn’t always mean bad. Sometimes hard is bad, but sometimes hard is just hard.

The reality is my life is hard, but my life isn’t bad. Even with lupus, my life is good and God continues to be good. And with all of the struggles and obstacles I’ve faced the past six years, I can confidently say, “Because the Lord is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

More Than A Friend, A Brother

Sammy and Brycen

We have a tendency to take relationships for granted. Sometimes, God places someone in our life that unbeknownst to us, will leave an indelible mark on our lives. Such is the case with my good friend, Brycen Adams.

Brycen is a rare breed for sure. Born in late 1999, he loves 80’s music and all the power ballads. When I first met Brycen, he was an inconspicuous 5th grader. He wasn’t the type of person who’s presence had to be known. But, he did attach to our kids area pretty quickly. He wanted to know how everything worked. At the time, we were meeting in a cafeteria at a school and he would stick around to help teardown as long as he could after service. That following summer our church moved to it’s permanent place. We started a kids camp that summer, but Brycen wasn’t able to go. His best friend, Ethan, went and helped me put on our first kids camp.

Ethan served as an actor in our production in the elementary room. As soon as I would let him, Brycen wanted to serve too. He may have tried out as an actor and then I put him on the role that only made sense, AV team. It’s not that he was terrible, he just couldn’t act…at all. He did, however, pick up the understanding of how to run the computer and the switch light board pretty quickly. I may have thrown in some fluff about how he gets to create the environment to entice him to stick with this role. I quickly learned that when Brycen commits to something, he is all in.

The previous six years are a blur. But, one of my constants has been Brycen. For summer break, Brycen would come up on Wednesday’s just to serve with me and learn about ministry and all that goes into making Sundays happen. He also give up his time to help me plan and execute five kids camps, three VBS’s, two FC Kids discipleship programs, and one lock-in (It only took one to realize, I’m not cut out for lock-ins). Brycen is not a usual type of person, giving up his free time just to come hangout at the church. We had so much fun, sometimes at his expense. If I had a dollar for every time I blamed Brycen for something going wrong, I’d be one of the wealthiest men in the world. It was always in good fun, but Brycen always took it as a serious allegation.

There are people in your life that you start helping them navigate the waters of family life and growing up, only to look back and see how they have made a greater impact on your life than you could have ever imagined. For me that person is Brycen. I feel like he is my little brother that I got to help raise. Sure we’ve had disagreements, but we can almost fix anything together.

Sometimes you have the privilege of getting so close to someone in ministry that they know what you are thinking before you even say anything. It took a while, because confidence had to be built, but Brycen has gotten to that point with me. It’s one of the reasons it is so hard to say goodbye.

The thought never crossed my mind that eventually this 5th grader would grow up, and become a close friend. Mostly, I thought he’d leave because I had no idea what I was doing and no one wants to follow someone aimlessly. Brycen is loyal.

What I’ve learned is that our lives will be forever changed if we will open ourselves up to the possibilities. I’ve learned we can impact a life while having our lives changed all the more. Teenagers aren’t miss understood and misguided people that have no hope. They are just like you and me wanting to be noticed and cared about to the point of validating what they are going through. You don’t have to have all the answers to their questions. You just have to have their back and be willing to help them see all the perspectives, including their parents’.

Over the past seven years, Brycen has become as close to me as a brother and that is why the tearing away of him going into the army is so difficult. I’m proud of him, because he is keeping his servant’s heart by serving our country. I just don’t want him to go because he is family and has been a constant in my life. I began to look forward to our hangouts over coffee or lunch or the light board in our AV room. Summers were something to look forward to because I knew we’d get to plan camp and talk about what’s going on in life.

Brycen, if you are reading this, know that I cherish deeply the time we have had. I’ve told you so many times I am proud of you and the man you have become. I didn’t realize how hard this was going to be for me, but know that I am with you wherever you go. Bro, I am a phone call away and I’m there in a heartbeat if you need me. You are already a hero, so you don’t need to prove to anyone that you are. Please, in the words of Chris Bergeron, “Keep your head down and don’t be a hero. Watch your six and be the very best at everything you are taught (you’ve been working on that for six years now. If I’ve (Sammy) taught you anything, I hope that’s one thing), it might very well save your love or someone else’s.”

Thank you for the memories, the laughs, and the brotherhood. I love you, man. Hooah!!!

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