Dec, 2017: After nearly five years of a heart arrhythmia that came on suddenly during my last pregnancy, and years of attempting to treat the problem with a variety of medications, this year our family finally realized that all non-surgical options have been exhausted as symptoms continue to worsen. Thus began the year-long process of finding a physician to perform the necessary heart ablation.
You would think this would be easy, but I learned quickly that the type of ablation I needed was highly technical, rarely performed for my type of arrhythmia, requiring an advanced approach that has only been done in major heart centers for the past five years or less. After travels to Iowa, Illinois, New York, and two trips to Texas, I finally found a cardiac specialist who will ablate my over-zealous sinus node and essentially get rid of the tachycardia that has hampered me every day for four and a half years in Houston! It is so exciting to know that I will soon be able to work out, play with my kids, clean the house, garden all day, and take care of the landscaping, go to the park, do fun things outside in summer, be able to talk when demoing exercises and performing manual therapy techniques with patients, and the list goes on and on.
The journey to get to this point certainly has not been easy. It has taken thousands of hours of research, lots of airline miles, and has been drama filled at every turn (who knew?). Finding a specialist who performs the procedure, who knows what they are doing, and who agrees to help you is not as easy as you might think at a time when your diagnosis and treatment is controversial in the medical field.
In the midst of this journey, I had the privilege to visit the great state of Texas in August to consult with yet another EP cardiologist. After travelling for 2 days, I was rewarded with a two-minute conversation with the doctor in which I felt I had entered the lion’s den (turns out I probably had- my guess is that this doctor who happened to have trained with my old cardiologist in Iowa (I didn't know it at the time!), who was angry when I even asked for an ablation, had been communicating in some way in the days prior to my appointment).
Feeling emotionally exhausted and fully discouraged, I believed it was time to seriously consider, what if my heart would never be fixed? What would I do with my business? How would we keep our house, our kids in their school, and who would take care of the kids if things continued to worsen and I was essentially bedridden? Very sad thoughts indeed, drowning my eyes with tears, making it difficult to drive the over one hour trip from Austin to Waco, Texas.
But, for those of you familiar with HGTV and the show Fixer Upper with hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines, y’all know where this story is going. I was resolved not to let this story have an unhappy ending, to not let evil rule the day. Recalling the Bible verse written on a poster hanging in my bedroom growing up, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:6, my last string of hope was that I knew that God was not done with me yet.
I dried my tears and resolved to make something good come of this terribly depressing trip to Texas by stopping at Magnolia Market. Never having been to Waco, Texas, I located the iconic silos from the freeway and exited just a few miles from downtown and the silos. After figuring out a place to park in the one-hundred-degree heat, I made my way to the vaguely familiar marketplace from seeing very early versions of it on TV. The entire city block was fenced off so there was only one entrance staffed by a Waco police officer and Magnolia employees saying hello, offering directions and a white umbrella to block the sun. I made my way to the main Magnolia Marketplace building and took a long look around. Probably like many others, I didn’t really come to buy, but just to browse and check out what was there- the products, the displays, and so on, knowing my kids and my nanny would be asking all about it when I got home.
As I looked around more and more in the Marketplace building, instead of seeing products and displays, I saw the entrepreneurs Chip and Joanna (in my mind), and imagined what it must have been like to be in their shoes for the past four years. How amazing must it be to see hundreds to thousands of people in their multi-building establishment at one time, but how overwhelming! If you read their book, ten years ago Joanna relates how she felt God leading her to make the difficult decision to close her original boutique shop to stay home when her children were very young. Years later, Chip and Joanna just barely got the HGTV show (it’s a hilarious story- you have to read their book!), and now to this- a property that extended for a full city block, a tourist destination for 40,000 people each year. I’m quite sure even in their wildest dreams they never imagined this. As any business owner knows, exponential growth is as hard if not harder to manage and still be true to your brand than a small business failing and eventually going bankrupt. Quite frankly, the difference between the two scenarios is just one bad financial decision.
As I wandered around from display to display, across the artificial grass replica football field outside meant for kids to play and guys to hang out while moms are shopping, the iconic bakery, the feed and seed shop, spied the security guy on top of the Marketplace building (they really have thought of everything!), and eyed all of the city of Waco food trucks- about a dozen of them, just to feed all the visitors on-site, it made me think about my business situation. In the car an hour earlier, I had just been thinking that maybe it was time to accept that my business needed a Plan B. Maybe this heart thing was never going to get better, and no one would ever be willing to help me get the treatment that was clearly available and successful, but somehow for me was still a completely elusive and unworthy endeavor to these MD specialists.
As I looked around Magnolia Market, I realized I was thinking all wrong about my plans, my future, and my business. It hit me right about then, that I was guilty of being human. My thoughts were entirely surrounded by the tall, rigid walls of the box I had put them in about my future as a mom and a physical therapist and my business, forgetting that God has a way better plan than I could ever anticipate or imagine. I thought God had given me the abilities and talent to help others as a physical therapist- I had reached my destination. But I was reminded that I cannot even fathom the future, but God not only does, He knows the future, and He is actively preparing me for it. As I thought about the end of my tiny boutique physical therapy practice with tears in my eyes, like that was it, that was all to the story; God was telling me, you think too small. I have so many greater plans for you. Your journey has just begun. This years long, most difficult road of your life was just the start to the plans that I have for you.
The Gainses never anticipated what God had in store for them, but as they relate in their book, their dreams for their life were not even close to the reality that is theirs today. Are we thinking too small? We have to be, because we can only think in the here and now, not from the grand panoramic view of creation to eternity, whether for our life or the world around us. God has some amazing plans we cannot even comprehend; that’s why, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” Romans 6:26. So, for every time you think that this is it, I’ve tried everything, this is the end, thankfully we have a God that says vehemently I’M NOT DONE WITH YOU YET! Your story has just begun! How encouraging is that! Why do we get discouraged at all, when we have the omnipotent Creator of the Universe on our side?
When we recognize the smallness of our human understanding, we begin to appreciate the awesomeness of a God full of wisdom and the caring love that a Father has for His Children. Be encouraged today and every day that whatever your current situation, God has bigger plans in store for you! He will change your life this day, this month, this year, and the next ten years. When you have a personal relationship with Christ, He asks us to let go of our plans and trust in God’s out of our box plan the same way we came to that personal relationship- by faith! Maybe you just need to grow like I did and still am to get there. Long, painful, winding process of growth for sure, but necessary to bring me to the place God has planned for me to be. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” Jeremiah 29:11.