Living With A Complex Man

I wrote the following to a friend on our ministry forum.

Yeah, Lucia is like [your husband]; she’s simple, but not in a Proverbs way. She is not wound around the axle like me. I’m way too complicated, though I’ve come to terms with it at this point, and I don’t fight being so screwed up.

There is a simplicity on the other side of complexity that does not remove the complexity, but you can live with yourself. Thus, I’m genuinely at peace with myself, though my complexity rears its ugly head from time to time.

Lucia, on the other hand, will never die; she will just fade away, wander off into the sunset, and kinda disappear. Those people live more simple lives. It’s like the end of Forest Gump with the feather wafting back and forth through the atmosphere until it finally moves toward the camera and fades to black.

She’ll just disappear one day, and that will be that.

Dear God, I love that woman. Keep her safe.

I long to be like Lucia, like that, but that is not who I am, and because of the horrible shaping influences in my life, I will always be a complex soul. I’ve realized, as Monk says, “It’s a blessing and a curse.”

The blessing part is that I can think deeply and intricately about soul problems. The curse part is that I can think deeply and intricately about soul problems.

Lucia lives simply. She will never be a formalize counselor. She will never teach anywhere in public. But she is the most amazing, competent person that I’ve ever met. I long to be like her, which is a thought I often have after I free fall into the black hole of my complexity.

After I take my thoughts captive, I’m back to resting in the simplicity that is on the other side of my complexity.

I hope that was not too complex. 😉

Here is how Lucia would say it: “People are different.”

Can you see how we’re different?

Of course, after Lucia sums it up by saying “people are different,” she has finished six more tasks.

I’m still thinking about this one thing.

Dear God, who shall deliver me from this body of death?

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Lucia’s Third and Last Surgery. Done!

Wednesday, December 15, Lucia had her final surgery for her cancer. This procedure was for reconstruction. She is doing well today (Saturday). Her first shower and a little “walkabout” is the perfect medicine.

Add coffee.

Since Wednesday, she was loopy, as well as sleeping nearly all of that time. It is amazing at what sleep can do post-surgery.

It will take her another two weeks to get through the main part of the “surgery woods,” and a couple of months of stretching, light lifting, and somewhat regular duties to heal.

One, Two, Three

Her first surgery was the mastectomy, which happened in April. This past summer was the “expander” to stretch the skin for the future implant, which was Wednesday’s surgery. The past few months she met with the doc to inflate the expander incrementally.

This surgery was not as “bad” as the first one as far as the “fear factor,” not knowing the outcome, and the physical loss. This time around it was about “surgery weariness.” Three operations in nine months wear on you. Lucia did not expect that kind of anxiety, but it was real. Her hope is to put all this behind her, and we’re all on the same page with her.

This One

To reconstruct the breast, the doctor had to cut her in five places: inside each thigh, outside each thigh, and on the belly. Lucia was pleased about the doc’s perplexity because he could not find enough fat. I volunteered my fat because I’m a servant, but he said her body would reject my fat. (His words hurt my feelings, but I don’t want to make this all about me.)

The doctor had to insert fluid to break up the fat so he could suck it out. Lucia said the liposuction was the most painful part, post-surgery. She wondered, out loud, why any Hollywood star would subject themselves to that kind of pain if they did not have to do it.

The physician used the fat for the reconstruction. It’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea. A lot of marking of the body, many cuts, a whole bunch of reconstruction, tubes inserted for drainage, wraps around her thighs, and loopiness.

Let’s just say that it was rough on her. We hope there is healing, and cancer will not return.

Moving Forward

Lucia will recuperate for the next two months, and then we’ll start our travel schedule, speaking in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Mexico, and Canada. We both are looking forward to getting away, serving others, rather than spending our weeks in bed.

It has been an unusual year with four surgeries (my back surgery), but the perfect thing for us, in that we have experienced the Lord in refreshing ways.

His mercy is humbling. His grace is life-giving. And His presence is assuring.

We are encouraged. As Paul said, “the old person is wasting away, but the new person experiences renewal day by day.”

Paul was correct.

Let’s “Dance”

Tonight, we’ll trot her out to a Christmas party, but she’ll lay low; don’t worry. She wants to get out, and I don’t blame her. Low and slow is how we’ll go.

P.S. The reason we have not shared about this upcoming (now past) surgery is because it’s too much of a distraction.

Lucia is weary from this year, and the more flutter we can reduce, the better it is on her soul. We do have a handful of family and other friends who know.

Thank you for understanding.

Klondike Bill, Meet Lucia

Klondike Bill

One of the best dates Lucia ever had with me was the night I took her to wrestling, and she got to meet Klondike Bill. It was a night to remember, and one of the most compelling reasons she wanted to marry me.

(Okay, probably not so compelling but weirdly, it was romantical.)

It all began by the many trips I made with Lucia to my hometown in North Carolina. We had to drive through Charlotte, and each time we came upon the old Charlotte Coliseum, I always let Lucia know that the old auditorium is where my grandpa would take me to watch wrestling, and after the matches we would sit in his truck, eat Vanilla Wafers and drink Coke-Colas.

Not realizing I said this each time I passed the Coliseum, as we were passing it again, Lucia interrupted me, saying, “Hey, that’s where you used to watch wrestling with your grandpa and eat Vanilla Wafers and drink Coke-Colas afterward.” I asked her how she knew that.

We laughed.

Index Forward

During our dating season, I happened to see an advertisement on the television about a wrestling show coming to Anderson, SC, about 30 minutes away.

I bought two tickets.

Not paying attention to the date and day, I was a bit nervous after realizing it was on a Wednesday night. Her family were a “three times a week to church” family.

Ricky had some “plain’in” to do with Lucy’s parents when I picked her up on that Wednesday. (I did not tell them where she was going. She did not know either; it was a surprise.)

After navigating around the problem with her dad, I swept Lucia away for a night to remember. She was nervous slightly, not knowing me that well at that time, and I was taking her down the interstate, toward Georgia.

While sitting at a light in Anderson, Lucia saw a sign that said, “Anderson Civic Center,” and asked if I was taking her to a wrestling show. She just happened to see the same TV ad a few weeks eariler.

SNAP!

DISCERNMENT.

I said, “Yes.”

SIGH.

We went into the auditorium to find our seats. Before the wrestling, the announcer and cameraman came out to do some filming. He asked all of us to yell “boo” as loud as we could. The cameraman panned the audience.

Then the announcer asked us to yell “yay” as loud as we could. It was sad to know they were mixing our whooping and hollering into the footage that the folks in TV Land saw.

Why would they rig that? It took away from the realism.

But the wrestling was fantastic. At one point, I leaned over to Lucia to get her opinion. She said it was well choreographed. I was chagrined, and quickly appealed to her to keep that on the down-low because we might get into a fight if we let others know about the fakery.

And then it occurred to me that the folks around us probably would not know what the word choreographed means.

Problem averted.

We maintained kayfabe.

Lucia was alarmed at the little kids behind her, with painted faces, yelling, “Kill him. Take his head off.”

They looked to be about eight-years-old.

The Main Event

After the show, we hung around to savor the moment. I was doing the savoring. I decided to take Lucia down to the ring where two guys were tearing it down. As I was standing there, I noticed one of the old ring-hands was none other than Klondike Bill. I used to watch him wrestle in Charlotte.

I hollered at him, asking if I could take his picture. He said, “NO” in an abrupt, “you’re bothering me” kind of way. I appealed again, letting him know that this was my girlfriend’s first wrestling show.

He doubled-down, letting me know there would be no photo-ops tonight.

One final appeal.

I said, “Hey, Klondike, I used to watch you wrestle at the Park Center in Charlotte, NC.”

At that, he turned to the other ring-hand and said, “See. I told you I used to wrestle. This guy used to watch me wrestle.”

And with that, he jumped from the ring, yanked his hat from his head, gave Lucia a big Klondike bear (side) hug and I got my picture.

A glorious night.

There’s only one other thing that would make it better and seal completely the chance of me marrying this girl.

You guessed it.

After we got back to my car, I had some Vanilla Wafers and Coke-Colas hidden in the backseat. I pulled them out. We partook and talked about the night.

Heaven.

As we were leaving, one of us suggested that we go behind the auditorium where the crowd was standing, waiting on the wrestlers to come from their dressing room, and let those folks know it ain’t real.

Wisdom prevailed.

We went home instead.

The Morning After

The next day, Lucia went to work, and all her workmates could not wait to hear about this mysterious date night that her boyfriend planned for her.

With joy, Lucia explained it all.

They didn’t get it, as they stammered and struggled to enter into Lucia’s joy.

How sad is that?

It was magical. It was romantical. It was a date-night for the ages.

I think those ladies were jealous.

Hayden Palm Is a Miracle

I don’t know what it is about this girl, but I can hardly talk about her without crying. I told her mother today that I cry at personal suffering easily, but what the good Lord is doing in my heart about this young lady is different.

Maybe it’s because we have followed her blog for over a year now. Maybe it’s because her parents gave us an InstaPot for Christmas. Maybe it’s because my son’s name is Haydn.

Haydn reads her blog posts to us. He practices his reading by reading her updates. In that way, Hayden has helped Haydn to become a better reader.

We watched her hope and fight, as the cancer seemed to go away. Then it came back. After a while we noticed her heart turn toward heaven. She began to realize that there may be another narrative. We’ve been way up with her as we laughed at her spunky humor, and we’ve been way down with her as she wrote about those nasty tumors, the awful treatments, and the persistent cancer.

We prayed.

We cried.

We cheered from a distance.

We “met” Hayden through our ministry. Somehow our content made it to Oregon. Her parents, later, became students in our Mastermind course. Then they had to stop as Hayden’s cancer began to consume all of them.

We stayed in touch.

By mid-summer, we planned a conference for their church at the end of October. Then the pain in my back kicked me in the rear, and I went down for the count.

Twice.

  • Surgery on July 11
  • Herniated disc in early September

My number one reason for taking this conference was to see Hayden. I wanted to hug her on this side of heaven. I wanted to pray with her. I wanted to cry with her and the family.

Today, this pic came across my computer screen, so I sat in my zero-gravity chair and cried here instead.

My heart is breaking, which is a minuscule fracture compared to what is happening to her and with her family. Her mom said to pray for Hayden’s sister. It’s hard for Chandler to cope. (Read “understatement” at this point.)

Hayden (Crebbin) Palm is one of the most miraculous people that I know. Her blog is called the Merkel Miracle, a prophetic title that connotes hope for a cure of the Merkel cancer.

The irony is that Hayden is the miracle, just not the way we all anticipated. God is doing miracle work in hundreds (maybe thousands) of lives. I love this girl.

She is a miracle. And I will be forever changed by her life.

Ricky and Lucy Went to Church Today

Now, what’s the big deal about attending your church meeting? Glad you asked. First of all, you have to get out of bed. That’s a good start. We’ve spent the last month in bed, which is not a bad thing (unless you have an injury).

Mobility Is Coming Back

Lucia can use her left arm to do most things, though she can’t “put off, put on” the lid to her Tervis, for example. There are a few other things she can’t do, but her arm usage is much better now.

My mobility is good as well. My issue is standing and sitting too long. My restrictions are the three “P’s.” I can’t Pick up anything, Push anything, or Pull anything. Thankfully, I can do my job.

Last Friday night I tried the zero-gravity chair. It worked okay, so now I can work away from my bed.

On Friday, I also made my first “Panera run” in three weeks. I didn’t do any of the work but was a “tag-a-long” rider. We got there forty-five minutes early, which gave us time to play a few card games.

(For the past five or so years, we have been going to Panera Bread each Friday night to pick up their leftovers. They typically have five to eight bins of bread that we bring home, sort, and giveaway to folks who are unemployed or underemployed. We giveaway just over $30K (retail) of food each year.)

The Church Meeting

The children have been attending our church meeting by themselves for the past three weeks. Today, we went as a family.

The chairs weren’t comfortable, but they have a few “old people seats” in the back that are cushiony. I sat in one of those during the teaching time. I sat in the regular chairs during the singing time.

I didn’t attempt to stand up. It was too painful and too much of a risk. Lucia’s endurance was not that great either. She sat during half the singing time.

We need to get our “church reps” in. If you miss a few, you get out of church shape. We’re out of shape, for sure. But it’s good to get back into the swing of things.

Long-Term Plan

We’ve decided we are not going to do much of anything for the next six months. With winter coming, it won’t be hard. We’ll do the “minimalistic thing,” by not adding much to our schedule that could jeopardize our health.

We’re both encouraged, but realistic.

IABC Was Fun

The International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) conference was fun. Attending these meetings was one of the reasons we went to Colorado. Of course, doing the Hillrose Church conference was the other.

  • I spoke six times at Hillrose Church.
  • And I taught four times at the IABC Conference.

IABC asked me to open the conference by speaking at the leader’s luncheon on Thursday afternoon before the “official” conference began that night. I taught the ministry leaders on how to have an online ministry in an ever-changing culture. The responses from the folks were good.

I spent the next three days talking to different individuals about aspects of what I shared during the luncheon. One pastor asked me to review his personal ministry blog, which I did. It was a pleasure to walk through his website, making suggestions about how he could make it more efficient and usable to his audience.

He was grateful.

I’m glad they asked me to do that specific training. Though Christians are doing better at the “redemptive use of technology,” we’re still a decade (or so) behind our culture in making the most of this “means of (common) grace.” We can do better than that, especially in light of our message. There is not a more important one out there.

IABC also asked me to lead an interview for The Mission House team during the main general session on Thursday night. That was a great experience. I got to meet Oliver Haywood, Matt Perkins, and Jim Tracy, all leaders of that ministry.

We had been emailing back and forth prior to the interview so they would not be surprised by my questions. Typically, when I interview someone, I give them the questions ahead of time so they will know what’s coming and not be surprised during the interview.

The next day I interviewed Oliver for our Life Over Coffee podcast. He’s a cool dude. I also interviewed Julie Ganschow, who leads a counseling ministry in Kansas City. I wish I had more time so I could have interviewed more folks. Perhaps next year.

The two workshops that I did were on “How to Make a Decision About Anything” and “How Do You Preach the Gospel to Yourself Practically.” Both of those were well-attended.

And we laughed a lot.

The children were great at managing our ministry booth. We had the green screen up and running so the people could stand in front of it to have their picture made. We dropped different backgrounds behind them, i.e., Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, Pikes Peak, New River Gorge bridge, and New York City. We took some of our best travel photos to use as backdrops.

We also had a “spin the wheel” game where folks could spin to win one of our 20+ books. Most folks enjoyed that, though some of the “spinners” were a bit tentative about what it all meant. The kids were great at walking a few of the older folks through this newfangled technology thing.

Can’t wait until next year. I hope that some of our students–grads and current–will be able to attend. That would make it even more special.

Glen Eyrie

Contiguous to the Garden of the Gods public park is Glen Eyrie, which is part of the Navigators organization. The Navigators headquarters is on the other end of the property. There is so much property that you have to drive to see the offices, which we did.

I wanted to see where Jerry Bridges hung out and pay my respects to a wonderful human being. He is on my list of top ten favorite writers. Jerry went to see Jesus a few years back. I’m glad to have met him over lunch with a few friends. It was memorable, and one of my life highlights.

We spent nearly all our time on the Glen Eyrie side of things. The name comes from the idea of eagles in a glen. There is an old eagle’s nest near the front, though I was not clear if it’s inhabited currently. But there are eagles, elk, bobcats, bears, and other wildlife that roam the property. A bobcat walks through the compound on most afternoons, typically right down the main drive. He’s all full of himself, apparently.

Respect.

They found a bear in the kitchen a while back. He was lifting a large salad bowl up to his hungry head.

Got to respect that too.

The Navigators

Years ago, the owners of the property asked Billy Graham if he wanted it. He declined. Then Dawson Trotman–who led the Navigators–stepped in, and they sold it to him dirt cheap. The Navigators worked with Billy, which is how Dawson found out about it. It’s a gorgeous property, though not anywhere as popular as the Garden of the Gods.

The original owner did a lot of good work in Colorado Springs and built the property for his family. The centerpiece is a small castle. (Small when compared to the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.) It is wonderful to see, though.

You can also rent a room, even the honeymoon suite on the top floor. All glass. Score! During the winter months, the rooms run about $100 per night. Not bad.

Glen Eyrie is also an exceptional place for group retreats, conferences, getaways, and personal retreats. If I were closer, I would be there often. It’s a great place to walk, pray, refresh, (or do training).

Providential Tour Guide

To get a tour, you need to call ahead. We did not do that, so we were at the mercy of whatever would happen after we drove on the site.

We did walk around, and while sitting in a video room, a fellow walked in asking us questions. I told him where we were from, and he asked me to read his name tag. Underneath his name, it said he was from Landrum, SC, which is next door to our town.

One thing led to another, and he said, “I’m not doing anything right now, so what if I give you all a tour?” (He was a tour guide, FYI, not some random stranger like us.)

And thus he did.

That guy was quite talkative (informative). He took us to the castle, gave a lot of backstories, and let us go wherever we wanted to go.

He lived in SC all his life, but while visiting his daughter in Colorado Springs, he went to Glen Eyrie. They said he could work there if he wanted to, and through a series of providential circumstances, he and his wife quit their jobs in SC, moved to Colorado Springs in an RV, with no promise of work.

The Navigators did hire him eventually, and that’s that. He is a wonderful man, generous, kind, happy with Jesus, and glad to be doing what he’s doing. And he did it well.

Glen Eyrie is a must see if you’re in Colorado Springs.