Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Measure of Your Heart

This will be an atypical post for me. It may have been a long time coming but it finally took this journey to get here. Sometimes God works in mysterious ways and all the reasons aren't readily apparent but what I have learned is to see as God sees..not by outward appearance but what is in the heart.

To be sure seeing the glass half full is by and large a good thing…but the fact that is it is half empty too.:-) That really shouldn't matter much except when you find yourself at a very fragile point in your life, and you turn to the people closest to you that you believe are in a capacity to help. Praying only helps when people actually step up to help and to be sure in the end they do…but when the the majority of the initial people fail you…it really makes one wonder what really is.

At least it made me wonder. And it sobered me up like nothing else. So before I get into the crazy details of what happened, let me preface by saying that I do believe all evil allowed is to give us a choice to be more compassionate or less among other things. And that I am grateful I survived the experience, and that the Lord has blessed me and will continue to bless me in what His unique call for me is

It is easy when one is strong and grounded to detach from the toxicity and respond appropriately..it is when one is fragile..at your weakest moment that one has to detach for a long time before knowing how to respond.

As many of you know, I do stand up for the weak or any injustice I feel that is done. It is very odd to find myself in the position to be advocating for myself when supposedly faith filled friends of means abandon you in your absolute weakest moment and over $100, it seems too ludicrous to even write about.

But truth is stranger than fiction to use another cliche.

So what I am about to share is disturbing and really exposes my vulnerability and weakness but I know that this too will be redemptive to those who read. 

On this latest incredible journey that in hindsight I would not  trade for the world, I found myself in a position that me and God could simply not handle everything…God works thru people and we need people.

So as some of you know I was diagnosed with a rare and slow growing form of cancer in April of this year. I had kept an inner circle of friends abreast of me trying to ascertain what was and what was not since the fall of last year. I informed them wanting spiritual..prayer support and emotional. I was torn because I also did not want them worried or alarmed. But I made the choice to let them know.

As a caveat, I have to disclose that I have been on my own without the support of parents, siblings or any family really since I was 17. To be sure it is a rough predicament but it also has led to many wonderful experiences..none the least of which is that there is a big caring world out there and it is not necessarily in the faith communities.

So this inner circle by and large knows this about me and knows too I am a very capable and resilient person. But given my health, my familial situation and the circumstances which I am about to divulge..one would think they would know even Angela has her breaking point. Especially when she shares that she is at this point with you.

So lets circle back to April of this year when after 6 months or so of monitoring, I find out definitively I had this rare form of slow growing cancer. It was a lot for me to digest, and I did not want to relay this news to the my inner circle via mass email as I had been doing. So I called everyone up and eventually spoke to everyone that wanted to and was capable of hearing the news. I wanted to minimize the alarm and wanted them to hear that I was handling this ok.

To be sure up until this point I was supported in a big way..in ways I had not expected.

Then came the research, the tests and the opinions and the emotional fall out of the diagnosis. I got really scared and muscled through and came back to lean on God and all was as well with the world as could be.

I kept my inner circle abreast of the trajectory staying positive and asking for prayers and thanking them for there emotional support, even by name. A person whom I thought was a friend offered, no insisted, I have the surgery in LA and that I could stay at her place but could not be there to help me..I assured her I had someone to do that and it would only be a week after surgery that I needed to stay. A generous offer to be sure filled with some unknown but by and large a known quantity.

I wanted to have it done here at home in the bay but my option was a very limited skilled thoracic surgeon and so the only real option was the best in LA. I let the friend in LA know and the dates I would be there. It would be one week prior for pre-op tests and then one week post surgery.So July 9 thru the 23rd.  I stayed at her place a couple of times prior for auditions and for a medical consult and she seemed warm and caring.

I then took a trip to Mexico with a friend in late May for many reasons and two of the main ones were to just relax and take my mind off the stress of all of this and to bring joy to my inner circle by seeing that I could still enjoy myself despite the diagnosis and impending surgery.

Shortly, after I came back in early June the inexplicable happened. My friend in LA informed via text that she was quitting her job. I remember sharing this with a Christian faith group as it happened at the dinner meeting..they offered solutions..very kind but to be expected in the end those solutions would not materialize. I still had faith things would work out.

I then went to see my friend in LA, and she now informed me she was ill. I was now very stressed for her and for me. Aside from a place to stay, I too had anchored emotional support with her. To see that this may not work out was shattering to me. I tired to help her problem solve and she still was planning on hosting me and blocked out the more specific dates again on her calendar. I tried helping her by buying groceries when I was down there and I came back very stressed. 

I simultaneously tried to support her predicament and also tried to look for alternate lodging remedies. I came up with a modest budget of $500 that I could help out with if someone else could host. I asked my ex-fiancé ( part of the inner circle for months) if he could help if push came to shove and he very diplomatically told me his current living situation would not allow it but would let me know if anything changed. Given the urgency of my emails, I read between the lines that he no longer wanted to be involved other than prayer. I confirmed this in a response that was gracious, and I never heard from him again.

This was the beginning of the shocks. Later that same day, I received a call from my friend in LA's cell phone..but it was not my friend..it was her mother. I had met her mother a couple of times in a Catholic prayer group. I was very alarmed and asked if my friend was ok. Her mother said yes the doctors can't find anything wrong other than pre-morbid appendicitis but she still feels pain. So she can't work and is going on disability. I got excited and said..so you saw my text earlier. I had suggested this as a financial solution earlier that day. 

Her mother ignored what I said and proceeded to get to the point. She said she understands I have "a situation". She said she was going to move in with her daughter now and that I can't stay there.

I said in shock yes I was looking around. She said "oh you figured that out." In more shock I said yes it is not exactly rocket science and I proceeded to let her know my thought process and if I could not secure other lodging I would cancel the surgery. She said "well you are just going to have to figure that out for yourself" and said her daughter would call me later..to make a long story short she never did.

Angela the strong can do anything with God became Angela the weak. I started crying uncontrollably and a friend who had been their earlier that day consoling me about my ex's abandonment was now consoling me via text and trying to get me too look for alternates. I cried for a day and half..I was crushed. For some moments I saw no hope..even if a solution presented itself what was my lot in life.

Another man who would be so infatuated with me that would proclaim undying love and was born to love me etc. yes I can find that..but that is not real love..and my friends as wonderful as they are have their own lives and so here I am alone with aloneness as a future and what would be the point of battling this illness anyway..what is the point of trying to preserve my life. In those brief moments I was losing hope on love. To be sure a life without love holds little meaning for me. My friend battled thru with me on all of this.

So thru the tears I reached out to every one I knew in LA asking if anyone knew anyone near  the hospital that could host..given my fragile predicament. I reached out to the Beverly Hills Catholic Church and calmly explained my predicament and if perhaps a parishioner could help..I was cut off and told they could not help me and to contact the city of Beverly Hills. I did and they suggested airbnb or a hotel. 

It was then that I was reminded of an angel I had lost contact with many months prior. I asked him if he knew someone near the hospital..he said no but to please let him know how he could help. I asked something else and he suggested a hotel and I said that was prohibitively expensive..he kept asking how he could help.

The following morning, I reached an epiphany, let me give airbnb a try and explain my needs and see. Lo and behold they accepted me but the price tag was $1568. A thousand over my budget. I went back to the angel and said ok I have a solution and its $1000 over my budget, I will ask other friends but how much can you help with. He said whatever your friends don't cover. A huge sigh of relief..then came another brainstorm..I know at least 13 friends with means who have been with me on this journey offering prayer and other support. If I divide $1000 by 13..I did not want an odd number so I picked the top 10 I thought would have the least problem helping and/or cared the most and sent out a desperate plea for a pledge of $100 and explained the hell I had just been thru and needed a quick solution and if I could not come up with it..well I may have to postpone the surgery..all with faith filled language. It was a pledge just in case later I could not come up with that money. I just needed a back up, an assurance.

The responses were shocking. Only 3 offered a pledge right away, one called trying to not part with money but finally did.  One texted me about my phone being stolen which was true but I had mentioned that to her a week prior in a separate email. One emailed a couple of days later and said why are not you having the surgery in the bay and to call her up and maybe she can loan me $100. And the rest did not respond. Only one followed up to see what was up ONE month later and that email was insane. She explained that she could not offer me the pledge because the bank wanted more money than the $140,000 down they had put on building their new home and vacations etc. and to take my time and let her know if I had postponed my surgery for a more convenient time.

Wow! I won't bore you with how that finally ended except that once she new sugary was a go she made herculean prayer efforts for me and tried to convince me that I should want to continue the friendship because prayer is important. ?????????????

The rest skirted past my surgery and did not communicate.

On the bright side I went to outside my top ten to 2 more people and they without hesitation helped. So I came up with the $1000 and my angel ponied up $400. 

I am so grateful to them..words can not explain. They not only pledged but sent the money. 

Despite still recovering from surgery and recovering from the emotional wounds, I am definitely stronger and wiser now and more compassionate to those in need. To be honest I always have been but it is deeper now. 

My wrath to the self-righteous hypocrites was very strong and it was understandable but I too have to take some responsibility of not really seeing those people as they really are. They actually told me all along with how they spoke about money, some miserliness and gain and status. I just wanted to believe in their better angels because they were by and large people of faith and cared about me. 

I guess that care had its limit given my health and emotional crisis and lack of familial support.. $100 was just too much.

It reminds me of the scripture Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. It also reminds me of another  Matthew 15:8 "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

To be sure these same verses cast a light on me, and my own walk and showcase my limitations. One just hopes we have more generous boundaries and that one learns. 

I hope this too helps you look inside and out. The one thing I have regretfully learned that speaks to Matthew15:8 is that whether you pray or go to church or not is not necessarily a measure of your heart.


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