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Walk Like Chrissy

This is the day the Lord has made . . .

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24, ESV

What happens when a teacher, a young wife and mother of three - two in college, one in middle school at the time - gets a kidney stone? Well, usually, she'll hurt like the dickens, maybe visit the ER, perhaps spend a night in the hospital, and then finally pass the cursed thing. Or, if it's too big, she'll have a procedure to blast it to smithereens and then she'll have the joy of passing several smaller pieces. And, I'm sure, there are several other tricks doctors have up their sleeves to get a kidney stone out.

So, typically it's a routine, albeit seriously painful, ordeal. Not that I'm an expert; thankfully, I've so far never had one, nor has my wife, so I'm admittedly speaking second-hand here. But everyone I've known - and through the years kidney stones have been a pretty common malady to strike the members of the churches I've served - everyone has come through it all relatively unscathed, but definitely wanting to avoid a repeat performance. Everyone, that is, until this year, a few weeks before the whole coronavirus epidemic kicked off in high gear.

Chrissy O'Neal is a member of the church I serve, Providence United Methodist Church, in Fayetteville, Georgia. She's married to Matt and they have three children - Jackson and Gracen, students at Georgia State College and University, and Eden, a young lady ready to start her Freshman year at Starr's Mill High School in Peachtree City. Those who know Chrissy would assume that if anyone would have a "normal" bout with a kidney stone, it would be Chrissy. She's very active, takes care of herself, and is in excellent health. Always on the go, she exudes a can-do spirit and a positive attitude.

Long story short here. Things didn't go at all as planned. (Forgive me, please, if my medical terminology is neither precise nor perfect here). A stone got stuck, and that led to infection, which brought about a sudden and dramatic downturn in her condition. She wound up on a ventilator in the ICU and doctors were forced to give her lifesaving medication as her vital signs plummeted. Those drugs have big, long names that I've forgotten, and couldn't pronounce or spell properly, but they are designed to somehow shunt blood flow from the extremities, thus pushing it to the body's core, and allowing the primary organs to be continually nourished by an ample supply of blood.

It worked, thankfully, and Chrissy is alive today to prove it. There's a risk, however, in that a person's extremities - the hands and fingers, the feet and toes and legs - need blood just as much as does their heart or lungs or liver or gall bladder. Without blood, those parts suffer, and without it long enough, tissue can die, but at least the person lives.

How heartbreaking it was to see the saga play out. Chrissy, along with her family and friends, was thrilled to be alive, but her feet had been terribly damaged. I can tell you that in my 34 years in and out of hospital rooms as a pastor, I've never seen anyone face anything with a more positive spirit than I saw displayed by Chrissy. She faced multiple surgeries that ultimately led to surgeons amputating her left leg below the knee and also removing roughly half of her right foot. All because of a kidney stone gone bad.

Did she smile and laugh over it all? No. She had tears and sadness and everything one would expect, but she clung to Psalm 118:24, a verse she often quotes - "This is the day the Lord has made . . ." And with that, she found a way to smile through her grief and loss and the uncertainty of medical trauma.

The day she came home, hundreds of cars and golf carts formed a "Welcome Home" parade to drive past her house as people expressed their love and support, and their admiration, for Chrissy. In classic Chrissy style, she named her legs Mavis and Moe and then she hopped in a wheelchair and continued to live life to the fullest, working diligently toward the day when she would receive her prosthesis.

That day came on July 23, 2020. She named her new leg "Paulette," after Paula, a friend, and after a character in Legally Blonde, and the short video below is one of her maiden voyages with Paulette. My favorite part is not the first steps, as awesome as they are, but of the smile that builds with each step. I tear up every time I watch it as Chrissy reminds me of a kid on Christmas morning, walking toward the tree and realizing that the gift she's dreamed of is waiting there for her. Or, like a kid who has ridden a bike with no training wheels for the first time, who grins and looks back to marvel at the journey she's just taken. The lady is absolutely ecstatic to be walking!

Oh, I want that attitude! I want to get knocked down - which we all will - and then get back up with the full confidence that Jesus Christ is the One lifting me to my feet and that He's walking beside me and in front of me, no matter what, no matter where. I want to see the bright and the beautiful in every day, to truly believe each day is fashioned and created by God and that every day has blessings aplenty within it, even if I have to do a little searching and seeking to find them. I want to face hardship and then walk with a smile, and I want to do it all with childlike faith and joy.

I want to walk like Chrissy O'Neal. No matter what, no matter where . . .

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