Notes from the Wayside - September 2023

Wayside Shrine in Los Angeles, California
Our family has just returned from a week-long road trip to California. It was a whirlwind of new sights and experiences spanning hundreds of miles, a true Ludwig-style holiday. Among our many stops were the Mission Solano in Sonoma (my husband’s choice), Glass Beach in Fort Bragg (my choice), and, of course, the Jelly Belly Jellybean Factory in Fairfield (the kids’ choice, though I admit we all appreciated the enormous bag of free samples given to us at the end of the tour).

However, it was not the promise of adventure that brought us to California, but a consultation with a surgeon at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento who specializes in a rare condition I have called “Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” (I have written more about my struggles with this debilitating disorder in the February 2023 and August 2023 editions of Notes from the Wayside). The doctor described the surgery to me in detail: it is a six-hour procedure, with multiple incisions made along the collarbone to allow removal of bones and muscles that may be impinging upon the nerve roots, followed by a complete surgical neurolysis to strip scar tissue off the nerves of my neck and chest. After the hospital stay, I would face a painful and intense 3+ month recovery involving rigorous physical therapy, round-the-clock medications, and severe limitations to my activity and mobility which would require me to have another adult present at all times.

None of this sounds like fun to me.

But the real kicker is that the surgery is not guaranteed to work; Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is notoriously difficult to treat, and even the top specialists in the country cannot promise that surgery will be effective. My doctor estimated that about 70% of surgical patients will experience “some degree” of improvement, and I did not find this statistic to be especially reassuring, considering how much is at stake. “Take some time to think about it” my surgeon said, as she handed me a box of tissues. “I know it’s a real leap of faith.”

In the days since my consultation I’ve thought a lot about other decisions I’ve made that required me to take a “leap of faith”, usually when I would have preferred to tiptoe. It is just not given to us to know what the future will hold, and all of us have had to move forward with decisions, major decisions—who to marry, where to live, where to work, whether or not to have a barbaric surgery—without knowing what the exact outcome of our choices will be. This is nothing new; Mary took a leap of faith when she told an angel she was willing to be the Mother of God, and each of the disciples took a leap of faith when they left their lives behind to follow an enigmatic man named Jesus. They acted on faith, not assurances, having no idea how the rest of their story would unfold. And as they faced opposition, persecution, and sorrow, I feel sure that the friends of Jesus must have sometimes wondered, “did I make the right decision?”
The "right decision” is quite a loaded term but one that we use habitually, as if our decision-making process was a giant Rubik’s Cube, and if we could just get every twist and turn of the cube “right” the reds and greens of our lives would all line up in perfect order. But in practice life doesn’t follow such neat and linear algorithms; there are occasions when what initially seemed like the “right” decision may not end up feeling so right after all, or when a “wrong” decision leads to a blessing so amazing and unexpected that we would actually say, “thank goodness I got it wrong!” Time has a wonderful way of revealing the art that God can make of our mistakes.

And so when we are faced with a major decision, I think it can be detrimental to get too fixated on trying to make the “right” choice (“right” being a concept which is subjective and evolves over time anyway), and more useful to focus on making a good choice, one that is well-discerned and responsibly made with all the knowledge and resources we have available to us at the time. We then present our choice to God and ask him to bless it, knowing that he, the master of our lives, is busy behind the scenes turning the Rubik’s Cube in ways we can’t fully see or comprehend: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). It doesn’t mean that we’ll always get the outcome we desire, and often not the one we expect, but it means we love a God that is always at work to create something worthy and beautiful out of the choices we make.

And so I have made the difficult decision to move forward with surgery this fall, even though I know that my recovery is not assured. (As my husband said, “a 70% chance of improving is better than a 0% chance.”) My leap of faith may not result in the complete cure I am hoping for, but I trust that, whatever the outcome, God will be with me holding my hand as I make the leap.


Ann - September 14th, 2023 at 12:40pm

Dear Tara,

OH MY! But we know God Is the great physician! Jerry and I are praying for a miracle! And great wisdom for your Dr!

Bless you!


Ann and Jerry

Pat - September 14th, 2023 at 1:14pm


Thank you for sharing your life with us and showing us how you allow God to work within your life. God bless you as you make this decision.

Vona Da Silva - September 14th, 2023 at 3:32pm

Tara - Thank you for sharing your pain with us. I will keep you in my prayers as you get ready for this “great leap of faith” knowing that Jesus will be with you and th Spirit will be guiding the surgeon. All will be well - in God’s hands. Blessings on you….- Vona

Tyler Burns - September 14th, 2023 at 4:05pm

"If you don't have health, you don't have anything." We all have to wake up to that reality at some point.

I'm in agreement with Ann for a miracle...bless you!

Fred Isaacs - September 14th, 2023 at 10:23pm

Dear Tara --

What a beautiful example of where reason, based on logic and research and experience, must leave off, leaving one with the decision whether to jump or not. Leaving the outcome in God's hands ("Let go and let God" as we so often hear) is just that: leaping into His arms. Take care.

Amy - September 14th, 2023 at 11:30pm

Thanks for sharing, Tara. What a journey! I enjoyed your thoughts, and your processing, and will join in prayer for healing, and perseverance in the recovery.

Jennifer - September 14th, 2023 at 11:49pm


Peter. lax - September 15th, 2023 at 8:22am

Tara, indeed breathing we take for granted….a RN friend, Kristine Hilfiker takes care of the worse pulmonary conditions. She resides at 144th and Burnside. Perhaps your husband may consider looking her up, if she is still practicing. Blessings.

Judy Litchfield - September 15th, 2023 at 10:42pm

Tara, You have delt a rotten blow. I know your strength, the depth of your love. Your struggle for relief is costing you much pain. I will be with you from afar, praying for you, your doctors and your family. May God hold you tightly until you return. Judy

Carol - September 16th, 2023 at 9:33pm

All blessings to you, Tara. May God be close and tender in this time to you and your family.

Anna - October 4th, 2023 at 9:32am


Thank you for sharing your vulnerability in processing this leap of faith through pen and paper to share with your community. I will be praying that you receive the long awaited healing through this procedure.