The Spiritual Side of an AVM

Hey all,

This post is a gigantic comment in response to a post run last week. I would put a link in, but it’s too late at night and it’s not working, so I’m hoping that one of our wonderful moderators can put the link in…
Spiritual recovery? - Support / Prayer & Healing Energy Requests - AVM Survivors Network
(I’m hoping that’s the correct link TJ - Merl from Modsupport)
Depending on how long this gets, I might post it as a separate post or leave it as a comment:

@jack_k , (and anyone who wants to read it - I’m an open book……)

When I first read Jack’s post, I had to step away from my iPad. Whoa…… I haven’t ever seen anyone else ask the hard questions so bluntly and yet so considerately. It was a very moving and touching post that has had me thinking a lot since he wrote it.

Jack, even if nothing else, thank you for that. That’s one of the things that amazes me about us (it always sounds awkward to say it that way but I firmly believe that there are many of us who either wouldn’t be here or who would be “here” but curled up in a corner of their closet and hiding away from as many of our fears, concerns and realities as possible. It wouldn’t be pretty and many people would be in a much darker place - and I’m not even talking about “us.” I’m convinced that the support that we all give each other spreads out beyond us to our friends, family, co-workers etc.

An example of that - prior to my surgery, I had done substitute teaching at a very hard but very rewarding school - It’s called Potter’s House and it’s a private school that is funded predominantly by donations. Consequently many of the students are international, immigrant, foster kids, brown and black kids. Their goal is to have typically around ⅓ white, ⅓ brown or black and ⅓ other. I was quoted in their parent news letter where I said, “A bad day substitute teaching at Potter’s House is better than a good day at most schools.” About 9 months after my surgery (that seems to simple of a term), I was at school bringing something that my son forgot (we don’t do that very often) and I ran into Mr. C. He’s the principal and has his hands and brain wrapped around everything that’s going on. He came over, gave me a big hug and asked me how I was doing. I gave him a very brief story and then told him I would send him more by e-mail. Over the course of the next few days, I combined what I had written before and essentially told him the story…

A few weeks later I was back at school. Mr. C was talking to someone in the Lobby, saw me, excused himself from that conversation and came over and gave me a big hug and said, “Here you stand. Because of the Word of our God, here you stand.”
This was pre-covid times and he gave me another hug and we both went our ways with tears in our eyes but smiles on our faces.

That was part of my spiritual journey through this. I was able to inspire a leader who inspires 250+ high school students every day. That’s something that God used my journey for and it blessed more than just me and Mr. C.

Another thing that I learned from this AVM journey is the power of family. We’ve talked about that some, but I want to say again that traveling this is much easier with family who cares. Do they understand? If I had to estimate, I would say that in three generations (parents) (siblings and their spouses) and the children that we’ve been blessed with, there are, at last count 21 people. Three of them are medical people, so they understand. The remaining 18? I’m sure some of them do, but a lot of them just know I’ve got a problem with the nerves and blood vessels in my neck and shoulder. And you know what, I’ve come to be content with that. They don’t need to know exactly how it works, as long as they know and care about me as family, that’s the important part.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I want people to know me and know how they can make a difference. Not necessarily for me, but for others. A couple of instances that showed up in the last couple of years - I could talk about this much longer, but I won’t:
Thanksgiving memory - our church does Thanksgiving service on Wednesday night, rather than Thursday morning. In November of 2019, so 10 months after my surgery, the thanksgiving sermon was about being thankful in spite of what‘s happening. Not because of, in spite of. As part of the service we were all given the opportunity to get a rock to write what makes it a “in spite” service not a because of Thanksgiving. Near the end of the service we could go up and place our stones underneath the cross of Christ. We could leave it there or if you want to bring it home, feel free to. So I went up with approximately my stone, set it there, said a prayer and then picked it up to bring it home. This was the first Thanksgiving since my Dad died and the first one since my surgery. I was walking down to the piled collection of stones, like the Israelites did. As I was walking back to my seat, one of my friends (not real close but good friends) got up ouf of his seat and walked “over” probably 6 other people sitting there and got to the aisle just as I walked past. He grabbed my arm and gave me a big bear hug. He never said a word and yet that is a testimony I will never forget.
The following January, I was at church picking my teenagers from youth group on a Sunday night. Pulled into the parking lot and was walking into the youth building and a friend from church came running across the snow covered parking lot. It had been shoveled but it was snowing. “Hey Tom, how are you doing?” So we talked a bit about it and then he said, “can I pray for you?” “Sure, that would be great.” He puts one hand on my shoulder and proceeds to pray for me in the middle of the somewhat dark parking lot while cars were coming and going. God is everywhere, in operating rooms, in recovery rooms, in snowy parking lots, and he is in the arms and words of family and friends.

Has it all been easy? Not on your life. These last three years rank up there on the list as one of the hardest periods in my and my family’s lives. But it has also given me many opportunities……
Opportunities to see God at work. People like Bianca the nurse at U of M. Nate at Madison Church with the unspoken prayer in the aisle during church.
Doctors who answer more and lengthy e-mails from me with the utmost sincerity and honest answers even if they were completely jammed full of work.
People who know the difference between empathy and sympathy and the difference it makes.
Job’s friends are worth their wait in gold. The book of Job in the Bible -Job’s friends listening to Job for a long time. They stood there quietly, and were a source of strength, even though “all” they did was stand there. They stood by and that said to Job and everyone who came by that sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend who is struggling is to just be there.
But then it’s Job 2.0. The friends essentially say, “Job, enough’s enough. Stop the complaining, just curse God and die. Get it over with.” Yikes, that’s some seriously bad advice. Taught me to learn to not take all advice from all people the same way.

Well, I better wrap this up. I could talk much longer about all of this and much more. If I could wrap up with a couple of “take aways” I would say:
Having the right people on your team is so important. If you find someone who makes things harder, either talk to them about it, build a wall to keep what they are saying out of your hearing.
It’s okay to be not okay. It’s okay to be angry at what’s happening to you, to those you love, to (pick whatever you want). Don’t hesitate to get angry at God, He can handle it. But you also need to know when it’s time to say, “okay, enough’s enough, I need to get some help and get over this and figure out how to move beyond it.”
I’m in the process of putting the anger behind me. It’s a process - but maybe more about that later.

A few thoughts about the “Why question.” You know the one - “Why did God allow this to happen? How can i believe in a gracious and merciful God when these things happen “under his watch?”

If you ask me, that falls under the “do you want the long answer or the short answer?” Given the length of this and the time of day when I’m trying to get this done, I’m going to give you the short answer:
I believe that God is in control of “things,” That doesn’t mean God controlled every single thing that ever happened or happens. There’s this thing called “free will.”
I believe that we we are, essentially in a time period that is similar to the time between June 6, 1944 and the end of WWII. Shortly after June 6, the experts knew that it was only a matter of time before Satan and his devils would lose, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be a lot of pain between now and the end, the time when God calls us all home.

How does that factor into having an AVM? Well, the way I see it, something bad happened, I got this AVM thing. God is and is going to continue to use it, potentially in big ways, potentially in small ways to have an impact. On who? I’m not sure. How? I’m not totally sure either. But I know he’s in control and it will all work out, at some time and some how.

He’s got this - and I know that more now than I did 5 years ago



TJ that was a powerful post! I was never religious before this rupture and still have a long way to go in that aspect, but I am definitely starting to see the positives of this situation! Hard to explain all the ways that this has changed the way I think. But maybe the path I was on wasn’t for me and this is a chance to adjust my focus!
Thank you TJ!