by Kathye Hamm
My internship supervising pastor, Pr. Iver Haugen, told me that he woke each of his four girls up every morning by proclaiming loudly, “opportunity time!” and turning the light on in their room each morning! He also would say those two words in a church meeting whenever someone would bring up a challenging issue that the church needed to face:
I’m taking our youngest son, Nikolas, to Pacific Lutheran University this week. After I get Nikolas all settled, and dry my tears from saying good-bye to our “baby” – I’m going to drive over to Iver and Ginny’s home in Tacoma to have breakfast with them before heading home. I’ll remind Iver of his words, and how much they have encouraged me in the past month of my life.
In the early part of August, after suffering with severe headaches for a fortnight (I love that word!), I wound up in the hospital. After many tests, I was diagnosed with a very pretty sounding rare blood disorder: polycythemia vera. My bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. If not treated, the headaches will continue and I run the risk of a heart attack, stroke or blood clots. The good news is that the treatment is simple and straightforward: I need to give blood every week for six weeks, and then most likely, once a month – for the rest of my life. Sounds a bit medieval, but there you have it!
While I was sitting in the hospital, wondering who was going to come in next to take my blood or wheel me down for some x-ray or sonogram, I had plenty of time to think about my life and to pray. I could hear Iver’s voice booming out “Opportunity Time”! Here are a few of the things I had the opportunity to think about:
1) We don’t have as much control in our life as we think we do.
2) The doctors and nurses were competent and compassionate
3) People who love me and are praying for me surround me with support —
• One local pastor visited me, besides my wonderful husband!
• Cards came into our house almost as fast as Harry Potter’s invitations from Hogwarts flew into his house!
• The Bishop staff sent me many texts and e-mails of their thoughts and prayers for me.
Even though I didn’t want to have a blood disorder (who would?), and even though I’ve spent a good bit of time worrying about it (because I’m a good worrier!), this has still given me the opportunity to realize how blessed I am. It’s been an opportunity for me to make sure my life is a bit more balanced between my ministry and my time with family and friends as well as for self-care. It’s been an opportunity for me to recognize how wonderful and precious life is. It’s been an opportunity for me to lean a bit more on our loving God rather than assuming that “it’s all up to me”!
Soren Kierkegaard wrote: “Prayer does not change God, but it changes the one who prays.” I’ve been praying a lot lately, and I believe that God has given me the gift of seeing this as “opportunity time”! God didn’t cause this disorder, but I do believe that when a crisis, a health problem, a relationship difficulty or just a really bad day comes upon us that God gives us eyes and a heart to see it as an opportunity for embracing life in all its complexity and wonder and mystery and joy!
May you be given the gift of seeing that out of every struggle you experience, maybe not right at first, of course, an opportunity arises of one kind or another to recognize God’s presence and gifts in your life.
Thank you for your prayers for me, and please know that I continue to pray for each of you and your congregations.
In Christ’s Love,
March 13, 2018
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February 27, 2018