Most Blessed Day of Healing: Oct 20, 2015

I get my pathology results back tomorrow, and it does feel a bit strange to write this post before all that, but ultimately it doesn’t change the miracle of the day: Jesus used the surgeons to remove whatever growth was in my thyroid. And for that, I will write and celebrate and point to His goodness. No matter what answers comes tomorrow. Thank you for walking alongside me in this!

After my mountaintop October 19, I went home from Young Life at 10pm simply floating. I had just told 200 people about my Lord’s goodness through the trial….and now my chance to live it out was here!

By the time I read all of the text messages that were pouring into my phone (thank you for every single one by the way), showered and packed for the hospital, and prayed along with some friends who had called and left prayer messages on my voicemail, it was 1am before I just spent some time on my knees with Jesus. He used my soul-filling lake weekend with friends, my soul-filling Young Life, and just so many Scriptures and songs to bring my heart to the place I could have never imagined it would be: completely at peace and ready for my surgery. Completely. At. Peace.

It had to be all of your prayers. So thank you. It was the peace and courage I’d been praying for…but oh when it comes!! It is a tangible reminder of the goodness of God! He gives us grace for those scary moments. And I thought of a quote from my journal about a month ago: “The scary things are just not as scary with Jesus.” They are still scary, like we all know – right?? But they are just not that NEXT level of scary. They are a lower level – the kind that is “I-really-wish-I-wasn’t-facing-this-but-oh-I-am-so-glad-I-have-my-hope-in-Jesus” type of scary.

Tuesday, October 20

I had imagined the morning of October 20 so many times – usually with some fear. But when it came, it was far sweeter and calmer and more quiet than I had ever pictured it. I woke up in the stillness of the morning, knowing that there were hundreds of dear friends who had prayed for me for that very moment. Overwhelming. I am crying now. Mark and Morgan texted me that they were praying in Florence, Italy. I love that city and I love those friends. From 4:30am – 6:30am, 20 of you texted me that you were praying for me. Just wow. And thank you. And that is early!! Ya’ll are rockstars!!

I woke up with joy. I had asked Jesus to meet with me that morning – and He was there. He was there all day long. I soaked in Psalm 139 that morning.

Car ride to the hospital with my sweet mom was a mixture of: Good Good Father, Favor – fast song to keep my mom from crying- (thank you, Emmanuel for the rec!!), and some Snapchatting, of course. 🙂

I think hospital timelines are so boring, so I’ll fast forward here and just say: it truly was a blessed day of healing! Besides the nurse bruising my left wrist and saying “Dangit!” as she kept trying to get my IV in (OW!), every single thing went so smoothly.

PRAISES!!!

  • The surgery went “perfectly” according to the doctors and only took 1.5 hours (far less than usual)
  • They were able to track my vocal nerves the whole time and all should be fine there. I am letting everything heal before I try to sing, but my talking voice is completely normal and great.
  • My parathyroid glands are great (they can usually get hurt during surgery) – they are rightttt by thyroid and they control calcium levels. All good there.
  • The surgeon was able to keep my scar smaller than he usually is able to. It is about 3 inches and healing well right now.
  • I had courage and was never anxious – even for 3:30am blood draw.
  • No side effects to any medicine the whole hospital stay. I truly felt great the whole time.
  • And I am still feeling great now!! Huge praise.

Thank you for praying for me. I know that every single praise listed above is a direct result of yours and my prayers and Jesus’ grace and kindness.

The story behind the post’s title: When I found out the date of my surgery, like all other appointments, I started to write it in my planner, but I wanted to make it something to look FORWARD to, not to dread. After all, it was a GOOD thing to get this thyroid taken out, I just needed to trick my brain into wanting the day to come. So I named it. I named it the Most Blessed Day of Healing. And who doesn’t want a day with that name to come? 🙂 So it came. And I didn’t dread it. And it was blessed! And now my Facebook album is named the Most Blessed Month of Healing.

Love you all so very, very much. If God is calling you to something scary and/or unknown, my encouragement to you today is to remember that your brain and your fear CANNOT calculate God’s intervention in the moment when you need it. I can plan all day for the way I think a surgery day will go, but I am calculating without adding my Jesus to the equation – and HE changes everything. So for that frightening, unknown thing in the distance in your life, remember that when you ask Him, He will meet you there. In it, before it, beside it, with it, through it. He is there. He was with me on October 20 & 21 in what would be considered a “nightmare” for this “faints-at-blood-and-needles” girl. HE is good.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

xoxo,

Mary Grace

The Night I Will Remember Forever: Oct 19, 2015

Hi sweet friends!! Your prayers were heard by Jesus and felt by me. Thank you thank you thank you. I am home, happy, rested, and feeling so good. I have so many God stories of the past week to share. The surgery went “perfectly” according to the doctors – I will update here very, very soon. Thank you for the overwhelming love and support through the past few weeks!! I felt His peace that surpassed all understanding. 

For now though, I have to share with you the amazing night before my surgery, Monday, October 19 at Lamar Young Life’s Club. I get to sing at club each week which I absolutely love – but with my surgery upcoming I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to sing much more/ever again. So the night before my surgery, we sang some of the best: Hey Ya, Blank Space, Mirrors, I Won’t Give Up, and then for the first time, we sang my anthem, Good Good Father. But before we sang it, I got to intro it and tell 170 of my high school friends just what was happening to me the next morning. I got to tell them that no matter what mountain they are facing, God is their Good, Good Father who is with them every minute and loves them dearly. And that my mountain just happened to be the next morning at 7:30am. The videos are here if you want to watch 🙂 The lapses in my singing are me getting choked up….it was just that special. I will remember this night forever.

The night was also incredibly special because one of my precious senior girls made me a thyroid cancer awareness ribbon boa that I wore the whole night. Then, as the hundreds of students poured in to the club room, they were all wearing matching ribbons!! Even students I had never seen before. Oh the sweet love of that whole room! Jesus was there.

And to completely top the night off, my 86 and 85-year-old grandparents surprised me at club by driving the 10 hours from Arkansas to be at my surgery, and sat next to my sweet mom, Aunt DeeDee, and friends Jan, Laura, and Meredith to hear my testimony and hear me sing.

Mimi and Grandpa

The night was the most amazing combination of butterflies and fears about the next morning’s unknown, a calm and bravery and peace that I’d never known before, so many tears seeing so many dear people in my life and realizing the circumstances that brought them all to Houston but overall just seeing LOVE straight from Jesus lavished down on me from every.person.in.that.club.room. All 170 students + 20 leaders + my 10 visitors = 200 people cheering for me, praying for me, and hugging me (nearly all of them!!!!) before I left for the night. Not to mention the 200+ of you who texted me on Monday and Tuesday. I have just never ever felt so loved in my entire life. Thank you thank you.

I hugged my precious senior girl Zayra who I’ve gotten to know and hang out with these past four years and thanked her for my boa and for crafting all the ribbons to make me feel so incredibly loved. And I told her, “I will remember this night forever.” And I will. It was the night I shared about the scariest upcoming day of my life, the night I sang my heart out about my Jesus, the night I felt more loved than ever before, and the night I fell asleep with more peace than I could have ever even imagined.

I slept soundly and woke up with that same peace at 4:30am to leave my house at 5:00am to get to the hospital at 5:30am. More to come on all of that.

Love you all!!

Mary Grace

Dear Prayer Warriors:

Today is a crazy full day at work, then a full night of Young Life, but I had to take time to THANK each of you for being so incredibly faithful to pray for me and over me. I can FEEL your prayers. It is a peace like I have never known. 🙂

My surgery is the first one of the day tomorrow at 7:30am!

As you pray, could you join me in praying that:

  • MIRACLE prayer but my God is this BIG to do this if He wanted to: that my 3.5cm nodule would be benign and that the doctors would know instantly when they see it and decide to only remove left half of my thyroid – saving my right half
  • the Lord would miraculously protect my vocal chords throughout the surgery
  • God would guide the doctors and nurses with wisdom and precision for a smooth surgery
  • the Lord joins me all day tomorrow – every minute – and that I feel His presence. I have invited Him to come and He has told me He will be there. 🙂
  • my body would absolutely love my medicine Synthroid and I would feel like myself – and maybe even better than before!
  • if it is cancer like they think, that every single cell would be removed, and I would not need the radioactive iodine treatment
  • Jesus would give me courage and joy and peace and that I would glorify Jesus in all of this
Saying goodbye to this nodule tomorrow! You can only see it if I strain my neck.
Saying goodbye to this nodule tomorrow! You can only see it if I strain my neck.

I have been tearing up about five times a day lately. Out of just happiness and love for all of you and for Jesus. The texts and calls and cards and most of all prayer have been filling my soul up.

I have dear friends in India, East Asia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, California, Colorado, Alaska, my sweet Arkansas and Texas praying for me (I mean WHAT!!?!). My favorite two pastors of life have both texted me that they are praying for me. On Saturday night at Bekah’s lake house under the stars, ten of my closest Houston friends laid hands on me and prayed mighty prayers to Jesus on my behalf.

Here’s some Psalm 27 if you need it like I need it today. These verses, especially the ones in bold, have been giving me courage lately:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?
2 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
3 Though an army deploys against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though a war breaks out against me,
still I am confident.

4 I have asked one thing from the Lord;
it is what I desire:
to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
gazing on the beauty of the Lord
and seeking Him in His temple.
5 For He will conceal me in His shelter
in the day of adversity;
He will hide me under the cover of His tent;
He will set me high on a rock.
6 Then my head will be high
above my enemies around me;
I will offer sacrifices in His tent with shouts of joy.
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

7 Lord, hear my voice when I call;
be gracious to me and answer me.
8 My heart says this about You,
“You are to seek My face.”
Lord, I will seek Your face.
9 Do not hide Your face from me;
do not turn Your servant away in anger.
You have been my helper;
do not leave me or abandon me,
God of my salvation.
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord cares for me.

11 Because of my adversaries,
show me Your way, Lord,
and lead me on a level path.
12 Do not give me over to the will of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing violence.

13 I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and courageous.
Wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27

I will post on Facebook tomorrow after the surgery. Thank you ALL!!!!

so much love from me to you,

Mary Grace

The Full Story

Since I started this blog mostly for myself, I realized it sort of starts in the middle of the story, and I have left a lot of questions out there!!

Here’s a little timeline recap for those of you who have been wondering how I discovered all this:

  • July 1-27: My voice is super hoarse and mostly gone…I could not figure out why! I go to Young Life camp and make it wayyy more hoarse! haha.
  • July 28: My voice comes back! So I dismiss any thoughts about damage to my voice.
  • July 30: I happen to mention to my speech therapist co-worker that my voice had been gone for four weeks and she tells me that is not good and I need to have an ENT look at it. I freaked out (thinking about damage to my singing voice) and booked the first ENT I could find.
  • August 4: I go to the ENT and he says my voice will be fine. Then, after feeling my neck, he tells me to have a thyroid ultrasound. This was the first day I discovered where my thyroid was! (I guess I did not pay attention in high school anatomy??!)
  • August 7: Thyroid ultrasound. I am so convinced that it is nothing.
  • August 26: Back to ENT for follow-up. He walks in the room, puts his hands on his hips, and says “Let’stakeyourthryoidoutitdoesntlookgoodoutofworkfortwoweeksokaybye.” In one breath pretty much just like that. No kindness, no explanation, nothing. He tells me we should biopsy it. I leave his office and determine to never walk back in it. Off to find a new doctor.
  • August 27: I contact an amazing Pediatric ENT on the Board of the Center that I work for, and he refers me to his partner, who is an adult thyroid specialist surgeon. (Like– a text straight from heaven!)
  • August 28: I start doing research on the thyroid and self-diagnose myself as iodine-deficient to explain the growth in my thyroid. My dear family fasts for me as we pray for the upcoming biopsy. I have not really told anyone else yet.
  • September 3: My first appointment with my AMAZING surgeon. He immediately does not like the looks of my nodule and uses the words “funny-looking” and “suspicious.” My best friend Bekah comes with me and keeps me laughing in between some crying. Amazing Surgeon does three fine needle biopsies and then sends away for pathology. God reminds me He is a Good, Good Father. Then, Amazing Surgeon walks me through the entire thyroid cancer process (still speaking hypothetically at this point) with so much compassion, kindness, and grace. He tells me I need my entire thyroid taken out, followed by iodine treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells. He tells me I don’t need chemo or radiation, and I can have kids in a year (woo!!! but still waiting on husband!) 🙂 He tells me he has done FIVE of these surgeries this week. He points to the screen and shows me why the nodule looks very much like cancer. And he CONCANtells me I have probably had it 2-4 years. I leave pretty sure that I have cancer.
  • September 4: Labor Day trip to the Frio River with the best friends a girl could ask for! Jesus and I talk a lot this weekend while I stare at the stars. I keep my little secret from my friends and enjoy one last weekend of no one really knowing.
  • September 8: Full Neck Ultrasound. Blood Tests. Thanks for coming again, Beks. 🙂
  • September 9: Taylor Swift Concert. Just too fun to not include!!! #loveyoutaylorrrrr #icried
  • TAYLOR SWIFTSeptember 10: Amazing Surgeon calls me and tells me the pathology report is “highly suspicious papillary thyroid cancer.” Still a 10% chance they are wrong, but he feels very confident they are right.
  • September 15: Endocrinologist appointment. Learning about my new best friend medicine for the rest of life: Synthroid!!
  • September 16 – Oct 14: Just a lot of processing, praying, waiting, researching, crying, sweet texts, calls and amazing notes from soooo many of you, and getting connected with sweet people who have walked this road before me. Thank you Mary Catherine, Laura, Mandy and Martha Kate for all of your wisdom and encouragement!!
  • October 20: Total Thyroidectomy Surgery — or what I have named, Most Blessed Day of Healing 🙂 // I am a little nervous and just overall don’t like needles or anything scary really…..but I am trying to take the going-to-BATTLE approach to give myself courage. Let’s get this enemy, cancer, OUT OF ME!

Courage, dear heart.” – C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

RECAP:

  • GOD IS GOOD. And He is taking care of me. 🙂
  • I have felt GREAT this whole time. Zero symptoms. Which makes walking into a surgery harder….but I am thankful.
  • I don’t have to have radiation or chemo. Just a surgery and possible radioactive iodine treatment.
  • All of ya’ll – feel your neck every now and then!! Your thyroid is below your Adam’s Apple…so just give it a little rub every once and while and make sure you don’t feel any bumps. 95% of nodules are benign but it doesn’t hurt to CHECK!!
  • WOW you are a dear friend if you read all of this.

Prayer requests coming in a post very soon. Thankful for all of you. I am SO feeling every single one of your prayers. Jesus has been carrying me with them.

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:5

much love,

Mary Grace

MEND by Jourdan Burks Johnson

Jourdan Burks EPA dear sorority sister bought me Jourdan Burks’ EP in college….and then just two years later, Jourdan Burks married my college Breakaway worship leader, Jeff Johnson. At the very end of college, I got to know both of them just a little bit and love them dearly. They are real-deal-love-Jesus-with-their-whole-heart worship leaders.

Just yesterday this song that I’d sung so many times my sophomore year of college came back to mind. And WOW what a blessing. It is the prayer of my heart today. That through my weakness and pain, I would give glory to Jesus, and like the last line says – that I’d give away the generous and gentle love I have come to know deeply this past month.

It’s gonna hurt —

It’s gonna take some time.

But when it heals,

I’ll have a strength that’s not mine.

Because Your love through me,

Is made perfect when I am weak.

There is heartache and there is pain;

Still a life I would not trade.

Gentle ways Your love’s conveyed,

And now it’s mine to give away.

-“Mend” by Jourdan Johnson

May this bless you as much as it has blessed me! {Listen to “Mend” below}

xoxo, mgj

The Abundant Life

Young Life Seniors!
Young Life Seniors!

It hit me the other day and I texted some of you – I truly feel like I am living the abundant life! Yes, this is what Jesus has promised for all of us, but I had never sat back and recognized it. I am such a planner, that I have been just planning my life away and not sitting back and recognizing that the abundant life is this moment, these days, this life.

In the midst of some fear and sadness about what life looks like on the other side of thyroid surgery, I have experienced so much peace from God and love from all of you and hope and joy in our Lord. I have been discouraged, encouraged and everything in between. “Life to the full” right now for me has been fully discontent with what I’ve just found out about my thyroid, fully content with Jesus being my Good Father and Great Physician, fully amazed at His love and care and provision and blessing, fully purpose-driven as He daily moves mountains in the hearts of the senior Young Life girls I get to hang out with, and fully grateful each day that I am His. That is a lot of “fully”!!

May He be your abundant hope today as you life life to the full!

The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. John 10:10