Here come the confessions…
I thought and prayed long and hard about admitting the depth of my compromise on the financial and romantic fronts and have confidently decided against it. As much as this confession is to keep myself accountable, I am aware that I have a following, not a massive one (yet), but enough to watch me, read my posts, message me, come up to me in real-life and hug me, thank me, give me advice. You celebrate and mourn with me on this journey. And I love it!
For some of you, the expression of my struggles is the catalyst you needed to get into the gym, tell that guy you’re not sleeping with him, do that thing you’ve been putting off, let go of those items that crowd your life and cramp your freedom. It is for you that I do not give specifics on how great my debt is and where my physical/sexual boundaries are. The Bible says: “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you treat him with contempt? For we all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” (Romans 14:10-14)
For those who know Christ these are personal issues between us and Him. The truth is, the Bible repeatedly states to owe no man anything (except the debt of love). Over and over it says debt is bad, and yet most of the developed world is in debt. The Bible states to have no part with fornication, adultery and sexual immorality, and yet, you can’t even turn on the TV or listen to the radio without seeing or hearing the very things we’re to have no part of. How do we navigate this kind of world… a world similar in spirit to that of the cities of Corinth or Rome when a large portion of the Bible was being written?
For those who don’t share my faith; debt, finances, physical, sexual and emotional intimacy are still some of the biggest issues faced. These are not light and airy topics where I want to throw my own opinion around in such a way as to influence anyone to make their debt ceiling or physical boundary based on mine. Each of us must make that right in our own hearts and minds. I will share my compromises in vague terms and implore you to be open and honest with yourself about where you are and where the “right” place is. Take it to God, listen to wise teachers, research, analyze the data, learn what is right and good and walk in that direction.
As for me...
I entered single life with debt on a car loan and about the same amount in savings. My net worth went from respectable as part of a couple to nothing. I floundered through the adjustment into single parenting and two moves and tried to hold on to as much of that savings as I could. Slowly, a rental deposit here, a school expense there, and more than a few self-soothing purchases, it dwindled. Then a dental bill wiped it out and left outstanding debt. After trying so hard to “be good,” the savings was gone. With that cluster of grapes consumed… I stood back and watched as the foxes ate up the whole row. I justified a new wardrobe because, well… why not? It’s not like I’m the only woman to ever put a few hundred dollars of clothing on a card. I rationalized mini-vacations around the state because, well, I didn’t need a man to guide me and keep me safe in the woods. I wanted to go camping and explore exciting places and hike natural trails to gorgeous waterfalls. Besides, it’s not like a few hundred dollars in summertime adventures was that bad. I absentmindedly charged foot races and associated expenses. But the kicker, the big mama, the most reckless thing I’ve ever done financially came last 4th of July. Ironically, the day we celebrate independence, I indebted myself more than ever before. I bought my big, beautiful, shiny, gray, quad-cab, short bed, nice rimmed, four wheel drive… my lady in waiting, sweet Guinevere herself!
With the exception of home ownership, I have never been in this much debt. I am chained, bound... owned. I do love my Guinevere oh so much but absolutely HATE feeling indebted. It is a stench in my nostrils. I am bound, owned, by a thing and an entity that demands my payment. Worst part is… I did it to myself! I have no one to blame. I knew debt was dumb, I listen to Dave Ramsey! I knew the terms of the loan and still, I signed. Now here I am, in my pit, with my shiny rig that I love.
I have a plan. I’m done with debt. I’m digging my way out. I found another roommate to share living expenses and my excess is going to pay off my debt. I’ve stopped adding debt. I’ve restricted my “fun and leisure” activities at the expense of my social life to get out of bondage. It’s not going to be easy or quick but I’ve repented (again) and I’m digging my way out (again) and this time may I never jump into these shackles again. May I be debt free and set free and may I never forget the hard work it takes to get that key to freedom!
It’s time to come clean, to confess the compromises to my principals and beliefs over the last couple years and admit to the consequences of my choices. It’s like the song “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns: “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day...” I didn’t set out to be in consumer debt again after working so hard with my ex-husband to get out of it. I didn’t set out to have an ex-husband. I didn’t plan to be dating in my late thirties proclaiming my boundaries publicly because our culture falsely dictates that hook-ups and friends-with-benefits are supposed to be normal not scandalous.
There’s a little known saying: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” It’s a warning of sorts; the “little foxes” as they’re called in this Biblical passage are the little things that, over time, ruin us. The little foxes invade our thoughts, our relationships, our sensibilities and slowly eat away at the rich, ripe fruit we’ve tended to and watched grow. With stealth and cunning they sneak in and take and weaken and reduce our harvest. Little by little, day by day, without vigilance and accountability a luscious vineyard becomes a picked over field of lackluster fruit. Today, I look over a windy and battered vineyard that is my life and wonder... who have I become? I’m nothing like she who once was.
I know that life circumstances like mine lend themselves to a change in lifestyle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now; I’m blessed to have gone through this in the day and place we live. Had I been abandoned in a different time or country, I wouldn’t have fared so well. I have a job and community that supports struggling single women and doesn’t prey on them. I live a happy, comfortable, independent life that keeps me safe. It’s a good life I’ve been dropped into, but it’s different. I am alone; free and unfettered to taste and see and hear and feel all that that I can... but also unaccountable. I don’t answer to anyone and, no one cares what I do with my time, talent or money... for me, this is the biggest little fox in the skulk.
Some people are loners and can effectively live and manage their vineyard on their own. While I am fiercely ambitious and motivated, I know that I am a companionable soul and work my vineyard best in fellowship. It’s not that I need someone to tell me what to do… no, no... I appreciate knowledgeable guidance but I’ll learn how to grow, water and nourish my fruit myself; that part I’ve got covered. It’s near the borders, where the creeping vermin sneak in, and in the bounty I have to share, where a companion, accountability partner, or teammate works best for me.
Let me explain…
If I am left to myself, yes, I want a vineyard capable of sustaining me, but so what if some of the fruit is consumed by pests? There’s still enough for me to live off of. Sure it’s not the best, it’s not the most, it’s not the smartest way to tend a vineyard but… who cares? As long as it’s enough for me, it’s good enough. But, add a partner to the mix, someone I know will also enjoy my fruit, suddenly I’m motivated to shoo those foxes away and build fences and borders to keep them out. Why? So I have more bounty to share with them of course! I have external motivation, someone else to give to, to share with. I have a greater reason to care.
It’s not the same as being desperate for a companion. I don’t need someone for my vineyard to grow. God has blessed me with a wonderful body, mind, soul and spirit. He has given me opportunity to grow good fruit. I do that, but there’s something about me that manages myself better when I know there’s someone else directly affected.
I lost my someone… my someones actually…
In the same amount of time that my ex-husband left, my kids transitioned from childhood into young adults, capable of making their own choices, quite independently of me. He didn’t want me. They didn’t need me. I, alone, was left to tend my vineyard, and the little foxes started creeping.
The biggest compromises came in the areas of finance and romance and it is in these two areas I must make my confession, but this is enough for now, confession is inevitable but it will wait a bit longer, just a bit...
Everything seemed normal then, overnight, twenty-three year old Erik Rodriguez found himself in a fight for his life. The day his world changed he felt a little off; he was tired, his heart was beating fast but he couldn’t quite put his finger on exactly what was wrong. Like any fit, hard-working young man would, he tried to shake it off with a nap, with work, with a bite to eat and of course, with a work-out. Nothing helped but after the work-out his heart was racing uncontrollably and he was beyond exhausted. He decided to go home to his five dogs and sleep it off and hope he would feel better in the morning...
Morning came two weeks later. Erik woke up to nearly twenty tubes coming out of his chest and torso and a loud, cumbersome artificial heart keeping him alive.
What Erik didn’t know was that his heart had inexplicably enlarged to nearly twice the normal size and he would have likely died had his mother, Alejandra, not known something was severely wrong. She insisted on taking him to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee instead of sleeping it off. He was put into a medically induced coma and after a short overnight stay was taken, by helicopter, to Harbor View in Seattle, Washington for specialized care.
On Thursday, November 17th 2016, Erik underwent his first surgery to receive an artificial heart that would keep him alive until a suitable heart could be found for him. One of the scariest things in his life was waking up, without a heart, without recollection of the passing of days, and without a clue what would happen next. Though the artificial heart kept him alive, it wasn’t even close to an ideal situation. Erik was exhausted and couldn’t walk or stand without assistance. The first time medical staff had him on his feet, he fainted. The pain was unbelievable and the young man who once fished on commercial boats, and ran up fourteen foot warped walls could do nothing but lay down and languish and pray for a new heart.
The wait would take months and in that time Erik went from a fit, thin framed one hundred sixty-five pounds to a shell of himself at one hundred twenty-five pounds. He couldn’t eat or drink; any attempt on his part was met with an inability to process the food. His medical staff told him, had he not been in such good shape, because of his size and the severity of his situation he likely wouldn’t have survived.
While Erik fought for his life, with his mother faithfully by his side, his community fought for him the only way they knew how. His home gym, CrosSport, hosted a silent auction in December to raise funds to help with his medical expenses. The effort, spearheaded by Erik’s friends, Missy Scott, Denise Ferguson and David Parades, was able to raise over $4,000. Gym and community members like Jim Heinlein and Chris Mann reached out and were able to bring in some high ticket items like a signed Seahawks football. Later, in January, Erik’s brother, Ivan Rodriguez, organized a fundraiser through Dutch Bros. Owners Jimmy and Danielle Crocker donated a portion of the day’s proceeds and in one incredible day, the community came out in droves to buy their coffee and support Erik’s surgery and raised over $15,000. The estimated costs of his heart transplant are well over what’s already come in and the family still has an online donation site opened for friends and supporters to donate to Erik’s medical expenses. https://www.youcaring.com/alejandrarodriguez-691136
Despite the support the odds were stacked against Erik. Only one in three hearts donated are eligible for transplant. In 2015 alone, ninety-four people in Washington died while waiting for a heart. But no one gave up. Prayers ascended to God from family (Erik says his mom prayed every day), friends and even the medical staff. He decided to be part of a clinical trial to receive a donated “heart in a box” which keeps the heart warm and beating during transport instead of iced in a cooler. Without the four hour restriction associated with hearts in coolers, the chances of getting a heart from further away were better.
The prayers were finally answered and on January 27th Erik got word there was a heart available. He was once again prepped for surgery but this time when he woke up a week later everything was different. With the new heart came a new energy level, Erik was up and walking, under medical supervision right away. Because the heart was slightly large for him he had to have his chest open for about eight days and have his ribs cracked to fit it in but he says there’s no comparison to the artificial heart. A real heart offered freedom and restoration; the loud noise and burden of carrying the artificial heart around is gone, the tubes that had been protruding from his chest and abdomen came out, one by one, and the breathing and feeding tubes were removed. He only has one drain tube leftover from the artificial heart and that should come out in due time as well.
Now Erik appreciates the life and heart he was given more than ever and is working on a new normal. He is staying in a “transplant house” near the hospital since his discharge on February 17th but hopes to be home in four more months. He’s really looking forward to coming back to the valley and most of all to his dogs who he Facetimes with regularly. Though a full recovery is anticipated within a year, at this time Erik is working on gaining back the weight he lost and appreciating the little things in life, like taking showers and getting outside in the fresh air. The regimen of forty-nine pills he currently takes will taper with time but Erik will always have to be on the anti-rejection drugs and avoid certain foods that can counter them. Despite the changes, doctors have told Erik he’ll be able to do all of the activities he once enjoyed including hiking, fishing and working out. After a year he can decide if he wants to make contact with the family of the person who donated the heart through a registry system. He isn’t sure about that yet, but the new, gifted heart has given Erik a sense of responsibility to the person who donated it and to himself to be more conscious of how he takes care of his body.
Every day is a gift and everyone, especially his mom, who has supported and stood by him has been a blessing in his life. Erik want’s to extend his utmost gratefulness to God above and to everyone who has prayed, visited and supported him through this. Luckily for Erik, life will go on and he won’t take it for granted but with gratitude for the second chance he’s been given.
There are a couple ways you can help with Erik’s medical expenses:
Donate directly at Erik's You Caring Site
Purchase Catching Tatum and a portion of all proceeds will be donated to Erik’s medical expenses.