First of all, I have to say that your response to my last post has been nothing short of... I can't come up with a word. And that's saying something for me. In one day, Full Disclosure became my second most viewed post since I started. Second only to Introducing The Kochs, which is a special case. I'm honestly speechless. But it just confirms what I have to tell you.
I feel completely different from when I wrote my last post. The last 24 hours has been indescribable. But I'll try.
So let me tell you about my last day and a half. Previously, on Mark's Melodrama, he thought the sky was falling. He forgot everything he knew about God. Then God said, "Oh yeah? Watch this."
One positive development that I mentioned in my last post is that a new friend stopped by to give me a gift, and as part of our conversation, offered to help me in a very tangible way. This friend is Sandi Labo, who I talked about in my post from last December, Becoming. She and I connected in an unusual way at a Christmas party, and she helped me a great deal that night. She is a professional therapist. Our talk at the party led to a significant spiritual breakthrough for me the next morning in church, which I talk about in the post.
Three days later, her dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, and my heart went out to her, naturally. Since then, we've tried to be an encouragement to one another in our time of need.
When Sandi stopped by yesterday, we talked about the trouble I was having getting motivated to do music work that I want and need to do. She, in her professional jargon, called that "blockage." I eat oatmeal for that. But this is more psychological blockage. I need some mental oatmeal. Sandi offered to find a therapist in my area who takes Medicaid, which we are on. I had been thinking that I need to talk to a professional, and I knew that it's covered, but I didn't know where to start.
With her help, I can get someone really good, and not have to accept the luck of the draw. She asked if I had any criteria of the type of person I'd like to talk to. I said I'd prefer a female Christian therapist. She found me someone today. This is a blessing that is hard for me to quantify. And it's only the beginning of what God has done the last 24 hours.
Sandi and her husband Todd Labo are amazing people that we are very happy to be getting to know better at this time in our lives.
But I'm not gonna lie, this past weekend was pretty rough. It took a few days to process the news.
Actually, I think the turnaround really began when I read a devotional from my friend Kim Bryan's book, Hope For The Hormonal earlier Sunday. Don't snicker. She's a good friend of mine, and I'm reading her book. Leave me alone. Besides, I am hormonal, remember? One of the devotional readings from her book hit me right between the eyes yesterday. I think that was the first domino to fall. Thanks, Kim. Another friend back in my life at the exact right time. How did I forget how good God is?
That book is riveting, folks. A must read for Christian women who deal with hormonal issues or depression. When I'm done reading it, I'm gonna totally blow it up on social media, Kim. You can't stop me.
So after Sandi left on Sunday afternoon, I was overwhelmed by the way God had used a woman whom we've really just met, and whose spiritual beliefs are totally different from ours to help us. I was in tears. Tears of gratitude. I was starting to see a pattern.
The next morning, I woke up in a great mood. It was a beautiful day. It's the first real week of spring here in Denver, Colorado. We're gonna set up our patio and plant our potatoes. My dog looks completely healed from her knee surgery. She's supposed to go in for an x-ray to see if she can go on walks this week, but she's been getting daily laser treatment, and I really believe that the vet is gonna say she's fully recovered, three weeks early. She looks fine to me.
All of these are reasons to feel good, and I did this morning. I had come to terms with what we were going to do. And as the day wore on, it started to make more sense. But first, the water got muddied by some very well intentioned people who love me very much. I am grateful to all of them for their concern. I value their advice. And I know that the tone of my last post worried many of you.
My first mistake was looking at Facebook. How many of us could begin a paragraph with that sentence? When I saw the comments for my Facebook share of Full Disclosure, the message I basically got was, "Hey, Idiot, you'd better appeal!" Go look at them if you don't believe me. So since all of these people were telling me this, it seemed like I should look into it. I did. I talked to a legal professional whom I'd consulted before, and whose team I intended to hire, should I appeal. I also talked to an attorney friend who has had lots of experience with disability cases as a workman's comp attorney. Both of them urged me to appeal.
But the more I learned about it, the less right it seemed to me. Let me try to explain why.
If I appeal, we'll have to live on much less than we can afford to live on for up to two years. We'd need even more than the substantial help we're already getting. Strike one. (Baseball season just started.)
If I appeal, I have to stick with traditional Western medicine. If I refuse chemo in favor of naturopathic treatment, Social Security takes a dim view of that. Strike Two.
If I appeal, I have to tell my ministry clients to wait for me for two years, and who knows if I'd be able to do anything then? I wouldn't be able to protect my legacy the way I want to, and some very good people would be hurt. Strike three, you're out.
If I appeal, I can't take advantage of the counseling opportunity that Sandi just provided me. If I were trying to prove depression, it'd work great for an appeal. But not if I'm trying to remove "blockage" so I can get work done. That won't go over well. Strike four, you're still out.
Worst of all, if I appeal, I have to shut down this blog. See, the problem is, I applied for disability under a few different occupations; Singer, Producer, Music Director, and Writer. Writer. If I'm writing a blog, it proves I can still write. Duh. It would kill me to do that. I'm just getting started, and I'm convinced this is the direction God wants me to go. Going underground with it in order to get a government benefit just doesn't feel right to me. Strike five. Why are you still swinging?
If, on the other hand, I don't appeal, I can make money right now with work that's waiting to be done. I just have to get my head right, and I'm already well on my way there. With the help of a professional, I see no problem finishing well for them. That's what I want to do. Finish strong. Get the work done to my standards, and then help my friends find whoever it is who will take over the franchise. That would make me happy.
If I don't appeal, I can seek whatever medical treatment I want, or refuse treatment if I so choose. That's huge for me.
But most of all, if I don't appeal, I can keep doing what I feel God's called me to do. Write about how God has used prostate cancer to transform my life, and tell other guys that God can do the same for them. There are many, many men walking this road with me. I think my story and perspective can help some of them. I've already experienced this in the prostate cancer support group I've talked about. It's just the tip of the iceberg.
For years, I have called churches in my area to ask them if I can come and sing. I've done many church concerts, locally and across the country. So there's a built-in network of churches where I'm already known who might be interested in having me speak for a men's event, or retreat, or a Sunday service. This is a message many can relate to. This is a prospect that excites me.
So unlike my last post, I no longer see a future where my wife and I struggle to survive. Instead, I see a future where, in one year, I finish one career and God gets another one started for me. The year that Deanna Griffiths told me only last Saturday night that I'd look back on and be blown away by what God had done, by the way. Right again, Deanna.
I haven't forgotten that I'll be getting cancer treatment this whole time, which will mean I'll have to pace myself. I can pick and choose gigs, and only do the ones I feel I can do. But I can write at home. I can write in bed. And I'm sure I will, when the time comes.
You may remember in my last post a reference to a back paycheck that we were expecting when I was approved. Ha! It turns out we had it wrong. They hold back the first five months' pay. I would have only gotten one month's pay instead of seven. Big difference.
But today, I picked up our taxes, and we're getting a much bigger refund than we were expecting. Almost twice what we would have gotten from Social Security. We took that as more confirmation. God saying, "See, I'll take care of you."
Here's the clincher. As the day has worn on, I understood that, when I think about appealing my ruling, I feel a sick sensation in the pit of my stomach. I know that feeling. I've had it before, many times. I've learned to trust it. As I was driving home after picking up our taxes, I started telling God that I didn't even think I needed to pray about this. It was clear to me. That sick feeling is what evangelical Christians call a "check." I'm being checked. That means God is saying no. If I keep going in that direction, I won't be able to sleep, and there will be a dark cloud over me until I do a 180.
But when I think about abandoning my claim and trusting God, when I think about finishing one ministry well and starting a new one, that sick feeling is gone. I get excited. I now see what I couldn't see on Friday and Saturday. I see a fulfilling, meaningful career path, however short or part-time it may be. A way to make a difference in people's lives in a way I was never able to do with music.
I think they call it following your heart. That's what I have to do.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)