Sunday, January 31, 2010

So I'm at home from church again. I'm going to be honest here, and not hide the fact that I am having menstrual cramps from the hot place. Which is kind of ironic, since I have been taking this wonderful supplement (or something) called Appleboost and either because of it or by sheer coincidence my bladder is doing remarkably well. Remarkably. So, I could be bummed that while I should be experiencing the wonder of feeling better IC-wise, I am instead curled up on the couch with a bottle of Midol and my heating pad, or I could be grateful that my uterus isn't bouncing up and down on a flaming bladder. I chose gratitude. I know this is all very indelicate, but it's life. Sometimes things don't go well, body parts rebel and cause all sorts of misery. And sometimes something as simple as ground up concentrated apple peel (the contents of Appleboost) have enough anti-inflammatory properties to potentially give relief to some of the misery. At least, I hope that's what's doing it. :)

I don't know if I have a high pain threshold. I tend to think I do, because I experience almost constant pain and handle it relatively well. But it is possible that after years of IC bladder pain, my body has become uber-sensitive to it and my pain threshold is actually quite low. It doesn't really matter. All that matters is how I handle it emotionally and mentally. 'Cause it can make one nuts. Like, seriously. Irritable, cranky, self-pitying, helpless, hopeless nuts.

If I could pinpoint one thing that keeps me from going bonkers, there would be no contest. It is gratitude. I decided a long time ago to be grateful and it is a decision I make everyday. There is always something to be grateful for. Always. Grateful to who? God. Grateful for what? The list is endless. Through heart-breaking loss of everything that was dear to me, through physical illness and debility, through disappointment and disillusionment, and cutting, searing emotional pain, there has been grace and love and therefore much call for gratitude. It almost sounds too simple and too difficult at the same time.

Gratitude keeps the trouble from becoming all-encompassing in my mind. There is more to my life than the pain. There is more to me than pain. In fact, by following Jesus through, there is more to me because of the pain. Compassion. Empathy. Kindness. Gentleness. Patience. Even joy. These are God's gifts to those who allow Him to nurture them through difficult times. There is no need to grit my teeth and clench my fists, pushing, forcing, coping, so at the end I can thump my chest and crow that I made it through on my own. Instead I am invited to relax into the care of One who loves me, to move forward with purpose and hope, to follow, to trust, to hope, and to expect great things. So at the end, I have not only survived, or triumphed, or vanquished my foes. I have been loved. Wildly, extravagantly loved. By God.


Now, where did I put the Midol?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

But, it's fun!

So, there was an email that arrived in the in-boxes of Facebook women all over the world, inviting them to post the color of their bras in their Facebook statuses in a lighthearted effort to raise awareness of breast cancer and the need for regular mammograms. Part of the fun was that the men in our lives wouldn't know what the one word color status updates meant, which could lead to a bit of confusion, questions, and just simple silliness. I noticed the colors in the inboxes of my friends, and once some kind soul clued me in, I happily entered into the fun.

Then came the voices of reason. I love voices of reason. The voices of reason in my life make sure that I make it to doctor's appointments, pay my bills, and deal judiciously with the important things of life. The voices of reason wanted to know what good it would do to update my status with my bra color. They suggested that donating financially to cancer research might be more helpful. They discussed issues of privacy and decorum, and wondered at the wisdom of going along with the crowd. There was talk of conformity, usefulness and something about lemmings and cliffs.

I appreciate voices of reason, and I do see their points. So I nod thoughtfully and feel a little silly for falling into the bra color thing so easily. But I have to admit...I'd do it again. Because it was fun. I like to think that I am as socially conscious as the next person, and it is my greatest wish that as I live my life I would be able to make a positive impact on the world around me. My social consciousness is rooted in my faith, and my love of people. I enjoy people. I have known people who have suffered and died from cancer, and have had a few scares myself (during which I discovered the loveliness of the word "benign"). And I still think the bra thing is funny. I like funny. The voices of reason in my life remind me that some things are important and needful and serious. But not everything.

Last summer, my daughter came home from a school trip to N.Y city wearing large, black-framed, Buddy Holly glasses. She has 20/20 vision. She found the glasses at a kiosk in N.Y.C and couldn't resist. She has wanted to wear funky glasses since she was little and pitched a fit at the optometrist's office because I was getting new glasses and it was the height of injustice that she couldn't have a pair. She wore them to school, to parties, to the grocery store. So very silly. I was thrilled. Her close friend has a red pair, and together they are an absolute picture of adorableness. Children don't have to learn to enjoy the funny and silly and pointless aspects of life. It is sad that as they grow up and begin to discover that life carries pain as well as joy, they are tempted to give up their love of the ridiculous.

I am glad that when my daughter has to look out onto a world that sometimes hurts and overwhelms her, she'll be doing it from behind a pair of completely useless and foolish Buddy Holly glasses. And her momma will be doing it wearing a...wait..let me bra.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A friend loves at all times...

"A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17

Tomorrow is my best friend's birthday. She's going to be 50. She won't mind my posting her age. That's one of the reasons I love her. She's been my friend for over 20 years, which is hard to believe because I know for a fact that one of the things that we share is an over-whelming sense of being children in a world that is way too big for us, and a undeniable need and desire for our Heavenly Father. We're actually kind of funny, sitting together drinking coffee, talking about how much we need our Father, how much we need to learn, how grateful we are for God's care for us and how dependent and needy we are. Then, when we get up off the couch, we make those "ooouff" noises that our parents used to make when they got up off the couch. And it takes a few steps before we're completely upright. But, children, we remain.

There are many things I love about my best friend. She's brave, although she would deny it. She learned to ride a horse this year. And when she fell off, she got back on. With her husband, she has raised 5 children into adulthood. Watching her parent the kids has always left me in awe. She is a passionate, dedicated, giving, hopeful, wise and faith-full wife and mother. She is a prayer warrior for her family, and to my ever-lasting gratitude, for her friends.

I don't know that I have always been an easy friend. I have always loved her, but my life has been a veritable rollercoaster of emotions and craziness and she has been dedicated to the ride. She has been my truth-teller, my cheer-leader, a voice of reason, wisdom and common sense, which I am sometimes woefully lacking in. She has rejoiced with me when I have rejoiced, and has mourned with me when I have mourned. When I growl, she reminds me to growl at circumstances, and not people. When I sing she ignores the missed notes and sings loudly so I can follow her. No matter how broken or wounded I am, she points me towards God and encourages me to trust in Him alone. And when I do, and He turns my mourning into gladness, she dances with me.

The awesome thing is that she does all of these things even though she has struggles of her own. I feel as if I have received so much more out of this relationship than she has, and I think she feels the same. We both look at each other and go, "Wow." I pray that we will be looking at each other and going "Wow," for many years to come. Actually, I know we will, and our relationship is as eternal as we are, in God's kingdom. Which is why I am pretty sure she won't mind my posting that she's going to be 50. What's 50 in view of forever?

Happy birthday, Sandy. May this coming year be an amazing one, full of joy, peace, love and fun, fun, fun! I love you, and thank God for you. Like, seriously.


Unity in practice as well as purpose

As Christians, we can have the tendency to compartmentalize our faith-lives, placing worship, Bible study, prayer, loving God and even loving others into slots that we attend to separately. I have never gotten a sense, from reading the gospels, that Jesus did this. He just seemed to live His life and His faith as one fluid movement. Certainly, he took time apart to pray and spend time with God, but it seems to me that these were a continuation of His constant connection to God, not a beginning of something that He had stopped. In other words, He moved apart from the crowds to continue His on-going communion with God in a more focused, private way. This is much in the same way as a married couple will slip away from the children to discuss an issue privately.

It is important that we be aware of this , because ultimately our Christianity is who we are, not what we do. A Christian is one who follows Jesus, but following Jesus is not simply a series of actions. It involves a complete transformation of our hearts and minds, creating Christ-followers where once there were none. When I became a Christian, I knew that I needed much more than a set of rules to govern my behavior. Of course, I understood that if I could behave differently, my life would be better. But I was absolutely incapable of behaving differently on a sustained basis. I knew this about myself. I needed a spiritual transformation, a new heart, a new mind, not a do-over but something new that had never been before. This newness was rooted in love, the love of God for me, and my love for Him. I found that I was not only willing but also able to do things for the love of Jesus that I would never have done otherwise. I was able to see truths that had always escaped me, truths about God, the world both temporal and eternal, and the truth about myself and who I was.

When we put worship and prayer in little slots, with times and places appointed, and never take them out, we run the risk of making loving God a task rather than a passion. Worship is loving God and acknowledging Him as Lord. It is to be a constant in the Christian life. God has been graciously clear on the ways that He experiences our worship, and not all of them happen within a temple or church building, or at an altar. When we listen patiently to a difficult child because we know it pleases God, when we offer to meet the physical needs of another because we trust in God's care for us, when we submit to earthly authority because we believe that in doing so we are submitting to God, when we fully enjoy the wonder of God's creation in a family pet or a natural wonder because we know that God's creative and powerful nature is revealed in the work of His hands...we worship God through the passion of a daily relationship with Him.

Of course, there are times when we need to come apart to be alone with God. In our media-soaked, hyper-busy world, we get less and less time to spend alone in our own heads. Some of us don't even have room for our own thoughts up there, and instead fill our minds with sound-bites from Twitter and Facebook. We adopt these thoughts without even stopping to see if we actually believe them, let alone if they are true in the Light of God's Word. We need to make sure that we don't allow our minds to become so cluttered because, after all, we spent our time with God earlier in the day. Meeting with God should not be a returning to a place that we left yesterday morning after our devotions. It should be a continuation of a journey that we never want to leave again. Devotion time is God taking our hand and pulling us off to a side room to be alone with us, after which we walk back into the world with Him enriched, strengthened, and maybe occasionally grinning shyly at Him in memory of the sweet words, wondrous truths and gentle directions He shared with us.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

So it's a new year, a new decade, 2010. To be honest, as far as resolutions go, if I manage to be able to write 2010 on my checks and notes to the school, I'll be doing well. I could make a resolution not to make anymore stupid mistakes with my meds, but mistakes are pretty resolute-proof. At least for me they are.

So, most likely I will continue to do things like forgetting to take one of my heart meds (yes, I do use one of those daily pill thingies...sad, huh?) and end up having angina during the holidays. I could make a resolution to write more, but resolutions to write tend to freeze my brain, and contrary to a Twitter post I just re-tweeted, eating ice cream does nothing for writer's block.

I could make a resolution to love God more, but that's like making decision to breathe. I love God, and my love for Him is a growing thing. Of course there are things I can do to build and encourage my love for Him, just like married people have date nights and time alone together to build on their relationships. Resolving to doing these things is essentially resolving to continue being me, because my life is wrapped up and engulfed in my Lord, and this awesome walk with Him.

Actually, making a resolution to keep on being me is not a bad idea. Sometimes I feel trapped in a world that wants not only to design a mold for me, but also to shove me into it no matter how badly it fits. Once again my salvation comes from a God that designed and built my original mold, and has spent my entire life encouraging me to live in it freely.

I don't know, I think I am rambling...but that's what's going through my mind right now. Rambling, silly, confused stuff.

Huh. This may be one resolution I can actually keep.
My Zimbio