New Abnormal Normal

There is a new normal…and that’s abnormal. When my brother-in-law needed a place to stay “for a month” while his other brother got things straightened out in another state, we looked at each other and said, “It will be two months, wait and see.” That was before Thanksgiving 2014. Since then there have been multiple hospital visits, extended stays, surgeries, visiting nurses, amputations, set backs, infections, oozing, bleeding misery. It’s enough to almost make me forget that Steve was attacked in November, had his own surgery and was unemployed for months. Almost enough to make me forget the car accident that totaled are car and has Steve out of work again.

It feels like weakness that the stress of all of this has done traumatic injury to my body, causing me incredible difficulty with eating, caused vomiting, extreme nausea (is that a new sport?) I am beyond weary and am making choices of where to expend my energy.  I had three nights in a row with something to do. Wednesday – Choir practice, Thursday – Prayer Meeting, Friday – Coffee/Dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in ages. I selected Wednesday and Friday. I wanted to do Thursday, but my body simply won’t allow all of that.  I hate the tautology “it is what it is” but there you have it. Accepting the things you cannot change. Understanding that this is reality…at least for this time in my life I cannot do all three. I long to do all of them, but I cannot.

My BIL exploded at me last night when I asked him how he was feeling. I didn’t take it personally, I’m surprised he hasn’t lost it before now. He has been extremely brave through all of this, with very little whining or complaining. I would have been an emotional puddle on the floor long before this.  He has been stoic, kind of “let’s get on with it” attitude. His frustration now is more than understandable. I wonder “how long?” How much more must he wonder the same thing?

Someone I know is dealing with a “new normal” that involves hospital timetables, feeding tubes, tests, specialists, and near constant worry. For her, the normal world of the grocery store is almost an affront, as she sees so many people completely unaffected by the stresses, worries and difficulties of her life. I am feeling a little bit the same way. How is it possible that our lives are so encapsulated that we don’t know, don’t step into, don’t share the worries and difficulties of our neighbors? How is it that we live so far from families and close friends who can share in these things?  I’ve begun to wonder about the people who live across from me, next to me, diagonally from me.  Part of me wants to be the social chairperson who organizes a cookout for the building.  Part of me wants to sit on my patio and simply watch the world go by.  Lord have mercy.


The Ugly Truth

A friend persists in telling me that I’m heroic, brave, selfless, giving…all things that are nice to hear, except they aren’t true which makes me feel misunderstood, unknown, or worse, a fraud. I am none of those things. I give reluctantly, am horribly selfish, cowardly…I could go on, but this is the point. I have moments where I feel brave, until the price has to be paid. I WANT to be selfless, but I’m not.

It’s painful hearing those praises, knowing how horribly untrue they are. Only I know how very much I want to just sit and read or crochet or lie on the beach and how I resent giving up even a few minutes of these things. It’s shamefully true. And as for brave, is it brave when you have no choice? I’m not running into a burning building to save someone, I’m running through a burning building because I was in it when it was set on fire and I can’t find a way out. That’s not brave, that’s just circumstances. If you want to think I ran into this fire on purpose to save someone…well…you don’t know me very well.

Doing the right thing because you know you should do it is not the same thing as wanting to do the right thing. I absolutely want to do anything but the right thing, but I don’t want to face myself knowing that I gave in to that. The resentment that goes along with doing the right thing is not pretty. I’m warning you, this person is not pretty on the inside. I’m no Mother Theresa, wandering the slums of a third world country for the love of the poor and the sick, I’m the person who has the poor and the sick thrust upon them and deals with it because, let’s be real here, I don’t want to be the person who wouldn’t, I don’t want to be seen as the person who would walk away from that, and I don’t want God to walk away from me because I have not done it “for the least of these”. But really, to my shame, I want the sick to clean themselves up a bit, to smell better, not to ooze, and to (dammit) get well faster! It’s not fair of me, and it’s not right, but there you have it. I much prefer an upper middle class person ill or dying in a genteel way, cared for by discreet nurses and caregivers, with no smells, no inconvenient oozing, no horrors but the ultimate horror of illness and death. I much prefer that. I like to visit the genteel infirm, to have a conversation that doesn’t require bandage changes or calls to the paramedics, where blood and spittle are discreetly removed.

And maybe, just maybe, that is why this is thrust upon me, because my heart is so in need of a resurrection, a healing, a change. I need the kind of change that turns water into wine. I need a heart of stone turned to a heart of flesh, of love, of kindness, of gentleness, of mercy, and of selflessness. I need to be recreated. I need to be made HUMAN.

The River Called Sacrifice

There is a river called Sacrifice,
and my Savior bids me jump in.
But the current is swift and the waters are dark,
I look back at the place where I’ve been.
I can return to the meadow called Safety and Peace,
but He calls me on, “Jump in.”
“The river’s awash in the blood I shed
as a sacrifice for sin.”

I’ll just dip a toe in, I think to myself,
and see if the water is warm.
I’ll test the flow to see if it’s safe.
But I can’t find a gently steeped shore.
The choices are two, stay put or jump in.
There’s no choice for half-out and half-in.
So I must now decide to stay or to jump
in the river called Sacrifice.

God has sometimes parted the river,
but many are swept off their feet.
It is not a safe, lazy river.
but turbulent, wild and deep.
Stephen was stoned in the river,
Victorious when they thought he was beat.
O, many have died in the river;
Is this somewhere that I want to be?

I look at the current so swift and so dark,
and the end I do not know.
But I leap from the bank at the love on His face
and find peace in the midst of the flow.
I’m surprised when I land to find shallows,
and it gently tugs at my feet,
but as I keep going I know that each step
could carry me down to the deep.

When I jump in there is no going back,
the bank behind me too steep.
But there is a joy in the river,
that mingles with sorrows so deep.
The pain is so strong in the current,
but He whispers, “Be still,” and “Have Peace.”
And my heart is calmed in the midst of the flood
that may soon sweep me off my feet.

I see in the river the martyrs
the saints who have gone on before.
From the prophets of old to disciples bold
they cheer from the far distant shore.
There are faces among them I know not,
but I know now for whom they died.
And they show no regret for the lives that they gave
in the river of Sacrifice.

The river shows me many faces.
It shows scorn and ridicule, too.
It shows gunshots, stabbings, beheadings,
and beds filled with sickness and woe.
It shows me the face of rejection,
the bankruptcies, scandal and strife.
It shows me the wrong accusations;
it’s all in the Sacrifice.

I find Him in the midst of the river,
in a way that I never have known.
I see his love and compassion
and I see wounds–scars for me he bore.
Such mercy, and tenderness found there;
such grace and forgiveness untold.
His love has a depth with no start and no end
in the river called Sacrifice.

Should the current grow strong and o’erwhelm me,
don’t cry and plead from the shore,
don’t pray for my safety, or for my release,
for I’m here in the river by choice.
For my Jesus is in the river
and I share in his sufferings here.
But where he suffered abandoned, alone
I have him with me, e’er so near.

So if you are standing in safety
by the pastures of pleasure and rest,
and you hear his voice calling “Come join me.”
oh, come in, for the water is blessed.
Of pain I can promise you plenty,
of purpose I promise you more.
But the sweetest gift here in the river
is Jesus, the one I adore.

Oh, there is a river that flows here.
It’s name is called Sacrifice.
And it flows with the blood of my Savior;
the one who for me has died.
He bids me join Him in the river
and makes me no promise of life.
But he gives His comfort, and joy and peace,
in the river called Sacrifice.

(revised 6/3/15)

Turn back time: April 16, 2011

Bad Dreams?
April 16, 2011 at 10:57pm
I had a disturbing dream. We were in Colorado Springs and the new owners of our house were away, so we crashed. The house kept changing, and was overrun with people. I kept screaming at people to go away and leave me alone. At one point, I was on the floor, face on those beautiful hardwood floors sobbing, “I just want my house back.”
All around me walls were changing, dropping, moving, and suddenly the bathroom opened onto a basketball court with a game in full session, with fans lining the stands screaming, clapping, stomping and whistling as the play moved from one end of the court to the other.

“Close the door!” I was yelling. Over and over, “Close the door! I just want my house back!”

I just want my house back. But do I really? Is my dream about wanting my house back? Or is it, more likely, about the stress of a constantly changing life and about the longing for what feels like home, wherever that might be. I am torn by a longing for my friends and the need to move on and to grab the life I have now. How? I find it is so difficult to make friends here. Is it me? Is there something different about this place?

I waited at Starbucks last night for someone who did not show up. I guess I got my wires crossed. As I sat there, I started a conversation with an older gentleman, an immigrant from somewhere like Turkey or Syria. We discussed the relative friendliness of the area. He said , his hands more expressive than his English, that there is a line on the map, and in this area people are busy and nice, but very hard to make friends with. He indicated that it is much easier in the northeast and not to take it personally. I told him that right now I am treating this as an extended vacation. I’m trying to see all the sights and enjoy it, for who knows how long we’ll be here.

After all, my job is temporary. My badge lets everyone know I am the “Temp”, and after 10 months, my phone still informs others in the office that “Larry” is calling. If sometimes it makes me feel like an outsider, in other ways it is a gift. I know that my job is temporary. I am constantly reminded that there is no permanence. As it turns out, every job I’ve ever had, in the end, has been temporary, and so is everyone else’s job, though most don’t know it. For that reason, they don’t save nearly enough money. We know our jobs are temporary, so we make choices now that we did not when we were younger. We rethink our expenses to see where to cut, and we limit our extravagances to make sure enough money is being put away for the coming time of joblessness.

This feeling of the temporary nature of life is unsettling. We long for permanence and stability, as I think is normal. I find it unnerving that we have no land we can call our own. That is a fairly universal thing, I would think. The stability of a society is often rated based upon levels of home ownership. We are tied to the soil in some way. Some escape this feeling of being tied to the land, but I have not. As I sit here this morning, I am reminded that we only really own the dirt in death. In that final repose, our bones are laid to rest in the ground, never to be removed.

There is a land where I belong, and where I shall have a home that shall never be taken away. It is where I shall know and be known. Many I know have gone there, but to go, you must leave this world behind, a passing that is not to be longed for until the time is upon us. So until that time, I remain a wanderer, lying on the floor crying for home. I need to accept that change is the state to accept. I need to make change my home state.

The Apostle Paul was a traveler. He went wherever God sent him, wherever there was a need for the gospel, where the church needed him. His heart longed for Rome, and when he got there it was to be a prisoner. He went wherever God wanted him to go. Was he ever lonely? Discouraged? Downhearted? I imagine so, but he had made a choice to follow after this Jesus the Christ and to serve him all his days.

I have made the same choice. I do not know where the future leads, I do not know what it holds. I may cry for home, but I long to be brave and courageous, to be where I am supposed to be and to find the work I am supposed to do, the lives that I am to build into. I so often feel as if I’m making no impact at all.

I was at the pond recently. Spring is evident everywhere, and on a warm sunny day, the turtles were warming themselves on the platform set in the middle of the pond for the benefit of terrapins and passing waterfowl. I walked around, noting how the wind occasionally stirred the water. One by one, the turtles left their platform with a splash, disappearing beneath the surface of the water. Ripples spread across the pond. The last little guy slipped into the now still water. Only his little head peaked above the water as he swam for his home under the viewing platform. Ripples from that tiny little creature spread in ever-widening circles. He was just going about his daily business, but the effects were spread from one end of the pond to the other. Lily pads shifted and water grasses moved.

When I feel insignificant and purposeless and wonder whether there is any impact from my life, it helps me to think on that turtle and the ripples spreading from his daily inconsequential journey. We do not know where our words or deeds will find themselves. We do not know the impact of the smallest of things we do. Perhaps it should also give me pause to think of how even the smallest of things that I do or say might find their way far beyond my view.

Perhaps I am both more and less significant than I think I am. It’s something to think on, at least. Perhaps the times when we think no one is paying attention are the times that will be remembered forever. More than forty years later, my memories of my first grade teacher are likely moments that she would prefer no one remember. For over forty years I have remembered her picking her nose with her long painted fingernails and flicking it on the floor. My first recollection of anyone with long painted nails is forever tied to nose-picking and flicking. Surely that is not what she would want.
It may not be any fine speeches, any good deeds or charitable acts that will be remembered. Instead it may be the unkind word I say to my husband in a fit of anger, or the rude retort to a slow waitress. Isn’t that a sobering thought!

Still, I do not need to worry about those things. I need to trust in my Creator, rest in his forgiveness, appealing to his mercy for I am a flawed, weak, sinful person who has been saved by a gracious God. I need to rely on the promptings of the Spirit in convicting me of sin, in reminding me when I must ask forgiveness. I need to leave the results and the impact to God.

In my own mind, all of this adds up to a coherent statement. The dream and the longing and wondering about my own significance, about belonging and longing for home. And, truth be told, in some ways, I truly am longing for our home. That home is gone, forever changed by the new owners, but we still miss that home. Part of me is laying on the floor, face to the hardwood, crying, “Let me go home.”

However, that is not the end. I do not stay on the floor. I will not allow myself to wallow in grief and loss. We need to move forward. Through my head run the promises that God will restore the years that the locust has stolen. I don’t know what that will look like. Perhaps that restoration isn’t for this life, but is for the life hereafter. What do I know of these things? I was not there when the earth was laid on its foundations; I was not there when the heavens were surveyed, when the morning stars were taught to sing. I was not there to see the storehouses filled with snow. I can’t even count the hairs on my own head. I am abiding in the shadow of the Almighty. It is a very safe place to be.