Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good-bye, 2011. Hello, 2012.

At this very moment, bloggers all over the world are busy crafting wise and interesting blog entries to tie up and toss out 2011, welcoming in 2012 with all its mysterious and unknown glory.

Who am I, to buck the trend?

I have to admit, this time of year doesn't call me to look forward much. I don't do resolutions. The last time I did, I resolved to be more authentic, less of a people pleaser, and to write with courage and honesty, expressing the thoughts and feelings that I really had, as opposed to what I thought I was supposed to have. For the most part, I've been able to keep that resolution. I must have. I've gotten in enough trouble for it. Turns out, the real me isn't eveyone's cup of tea. Oh well.

What I do do at this time of year is look back. To be honest, 2011 was rough. Frikken miserable at times. Awesomely wonderful at other times. Just like life.

I cannot say that I have no regrets. I always feel an irrepressible urge to roll my eyes at the whole, "No regrets" thing. Seriously? I've made mistakes. I have sinned. I have hurt others. I'm not supposed to regret that? Of course I have regrets. Confession of our wrongs is the first step towards repentance, which leads down the glorious path of forgiveness when I bring my messes to Jesus. The fact that Jesus forgives my sins makes it possible to own them, to see the consequences, and to regret them. Then, to let them go. And if I can, make amends. If I can't, I can still leave that with God.

One thing I never regret are relationships. Even ones that go horribly wrong. I have made the choice in my life to never regret loving someone. Really loving someone. I don't mean wanting someone in my life because they make me feel good, and freaking out on them when real life hits and they prove to be as human as I am, and they are not serving their purpose of making me feel good anymore. That's not love. People are not tools designed to make us feel good. If that's what you want, get a dog.

I mean seeing people the way they truly are, and allowing them to see me the way I really am, and choosing to love anyway, even if they reject me because who I am is not what they wanted me to be. I never regret loving others, even when it hurts, because I believe that the hurt of not loving is worse than the hurt of loving and being rejected. Besides, because my Jesus loved me when I was rejecting Him, and I want to be just like Him when I grow up, with His help, I choose love.

In 2011, I learned to set healthy boundaries, to say no and mean it, and to accept the awfulness that some people carry around with them without letting that awfulness ruin my life. I got better at being hated without hating. I also saw that the ones who spur others on to hate and bitterness are not usually terribly supportive when the hatred and bitterness begin to bear ugly fruit. Sad.

I am wildly grateful for those in my life who have called me to a higher place of love and grace. I am grateful for God's forgiveness, and His love for me, which I still don't understand but am thrilled to live in daily. I am grateful to be free, especially from the heaviness of criticism and anger. I am grateful for my home, for the peaceful refuge that it is. There is freedom here, for everyone, to learn and grow with acceptance and love. No one is dominated, no one is diminished. It is safe. When I look at my home and those in it, all the lies and accusations that I have been living with over the past few years lie, filthy and broken, on my doorstep. They don't belong in here.

So, maybe I do have a few resolutions for 2012. I resolve to keep loving, in Jesus' power, even when it makes no sense. I resolve to care more about what Jesus thinks of me, and less about what people think of me. I resolve to let Jesus make me braver, stronger, more compassionate, more patient, more loving, more like Him. I resolve to reject lies, either from my own heart or from the hearts of others. There is a reason why God hates lies. Lies strangle the life out of God's people, bringing confusion and weakening us until we are useless for Him. Mostly, I resolve to follow Jesus wherever He goes in my life, even if it looks messy, even if others don't understand or approve, even if it hurts, even if I am scared and lonely and tired and even if the road that He is taking is the road I have always wanted to be on, and it all seems too good to be true.

Oh, I probably should tease my cat less. And exercise more.

Nah...just kidding.

Happy New Year, friends! Thank you for sticking with me, for reading my ramblings and for keeping me in your prayers and thoughts. I am grateful, grateful, grateful for my people. You rock. Like, seriously.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Almost done...

The semester is almost done. I am one concluding paragraph away from finishing my history research paper, and hence this semester. And I am stuck.

A friend asked me earlier to day if I was ready for Christmas. He knows about some of the things that have been going on in my life, so when I stumbled over my answer, he understood. I realized that it is entirely possible that when I do finish this research paper, and the pressures of the semester is done, the reality of the season may just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Christmas is in four days. I am separated from my husband and my mother won't be with us. Am I ready? Does that mean, do I have everything bought, wrapped and under the tree? Have I completed all the food-making plans? Is the tree up, and the house adequately decorated? Almost.

But am I ready? No. And I don't think I will ever be ready. What is ready, anyway?

Then I think about the first Christmas. Were Mary & Joseph ready for the birth of Jesus? Apparently they were, because when He came, they were there for him. He had everything that He needed. He was protected, loved, cared for.

For me, this year, there is no "ready" other than the way that Joseph and Mary were ready. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing.

This means, that as hard as the next few days are going to be, there is no reason for me to be hiding behind an unfinished research paper. Christmas isn't about me, after all, and the One who it is about is in my heart and mind and soul. This is His thing. I'm going to let Him do His thing, and just hold on for the ride.

Now...back to the paper...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grief & Mourning - Back to Job's friends

Remember Job's friends? Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar? It's been a while since the first entry on these guys, so here's a reminder of an unspeakably cool moment in their lives.

"When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." Job 2:12 - 13

I think that one of the reasons many of us struggle with being genuinely helpful to those who are in mourning is that the whole mourning thing makes us so uncomfortable. It presents us with an impossible dilemma. Someone we care about is in pain. We may also be in pain. We want, more than anything, to bring some relief to the pain of our loved one. And the unfortunate truth is that there is nothing that we can do to ease such deep, profound suffering. We feel helpless, useless, sad, inadequate. It is excruciating, to want so badly to help and to be so unable to do anything. We do what we can, but it's not, and never will be, enough.

This is the amazing thing about Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Of course they wanted to make Job feel better. His pain was breaking their hearts, too. They understood something that we, in modern times, have a tendency to forget. Maybe the goal isn't neccesarily to feel better. Maybe the pain, as horrid and crippling as it is, is supposed to be there. Maybe it's not something to relieve, or stop, but rather something to live through. Maybe mourning is a part of life, another path to be travelled. If this is true, if sorrow is something to be embraced because it honors the memory and value of the one lost, then what people who are sorrowing need is fellow travellers who will walk the path with them.

Job's friends get this. In fact, the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva addresses the deep need that mourners have for community. When a Jewish person loses someone very close to them, the time between the death and burial is a time of intensely personal shock and grief. It is a private time for mourners, when they are often left alone while the body of the deceased is taken care of and funeral arrangements are being made. This period of time lasts for three days.

When it is over, though, the tradition of "sitting shiva" begins. A house is chosen, either the home of the deceased or the home of a close mourner. For seven days, the house is filled with people, and the mourner is rarely if ever left alone. It is understood that at this point, with the funeral services over, mourners are beginning to realize the fullness of their loss. The shock has worn off, but the ramifications of the loss are sinking in, to devastating effect. It is a wildly painful place to be, but the tradition of sitting shiva means that they do not have to be there alone. Like Job's friends, people who have comfortable places to be, productive lives to live and happy things to do, put it all aside and for as long as they can, chose to walk the paths of sorrow and pain with someone they care about. It's not easy, not for anyone.

Inherent in this tradition is the idea that sorrow is not a problem to be fixed. It is to be lived. So many things in life are uncomfortable. Giving birth. Puberty. Menopause. Bungee jumping. Watching one's parents boogie to the Beatles. Sometimes life hurts. There is something profoundly loving in the willingness to enter into someone else's pain. It is also powerful. It brings hope in acceptance, and leaves mourners feeling understood and supported. Ultimately, it becomes part of the healing.

Job's friends would go on to prove that one doesn't have to be a theological super hero in order to carry the burden of another. When Job and his friends begin to discuss the theology behind what had happened to Job, things get a little weird. Job's friends didn't "get it". Still, in a way, they had earned the right to speak, even if they were off-track. God dealt with it all in the end, anyway. The important thing, the thing that too often gets missed by preachers and teachers of the Word, is that Job's friends came, and wept, and stayed.

Isn't it amazing, how often the simplest things are the most important?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grief and Mourning - A Story

The trip to Cornwall went much better than I thought it would. My niece was brilliant in her role as Jasmine in the play, Aladin, and while I did feel weepy at the end, I really enjoyed the energy, skill and sheer fun of the show. Afterwards, I went to my sister's and spent some quality time chatting with her. We had a lot to talk about, and it felt good to talk with someone who was literally walking the same path of mourning as I was.

I am anxious to revisit our friends from the biblical book of Job. I'll share this one story and then we'll talk some more about it, probably tomorrow.

A few years ago, it was early morning and Grace was getting ready to head out to catch the school bus. We lived in a very small house, and our first floor was just one room. The television was on, set to a news channel. I was in our little kitchen making Grace's lunch while she packed her school bag. We both were half-heartedly paying attention to the television when a story from the Middle East came on. The screen showed a funeral procession, with hundreds of mourners following the upraised casket in a weeping, wailing crowd. The casket was moved awkwardly through the crowd as broken-hearted men grasped at it, pulling at their hair and face and weeping loudly.

We watched for a few moments, and then Grace made a comment, expressing outwardly exactly what I had been thinking.

"I wish we could mourn like that here."

This is something I have often thought about. There are people in my life who, if I lost them through death, would no doubt result in someone having to scrape me off of the ceiling. There are circumstances where screaming into a pillow just doesn't cut it.

The thing that really interested me about this incident is that Grace is not an overly emotionally expressive person. She has a calm nature, and is a deeply private person. Her observation wasn't a matter of personality or personal preference. She does, though, have a profound awareness of the value of people, and an understanding of the depth of pain that comes when we lose someone we love.

Her comment encouraged me to keep thinking and questioning our cultural approach to mourning.

More next time.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Going to Cornwall

I'm going to Cornwall today, for the first time since my Mum's memorial in October. My niece is in a community theater production of Aladin, in which she will no doubt be brilliant. Grace and I are heading in to see the 1:00pm show.

I woke up this morning filled with anxiety. I thought it was because I had had a rough night, physically, and was concerned about having to deal with a busy day while carrying a sleep debt. Then I realized that it was the first time I am heading down the 401 to Cornwall since October. Somehow, my body seems to catch on to these things more quickly than my brain does.

Of course, my brain always clues in...eventually. So now I know why my stomach is churning. Still, I am planning on having one of those days that has become more and more common lately. Bittersweet. I will keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. The day will most likely bring sorrow, but laughter as well. I will be so proud of my niece, and will cry because of it. I will also cry because Mum won't be there beside me to fuss about the seating and tell people that Meagan is her granddaughter.

I don't dread it. One thing I have learned, in dealing with adversity, is that everything becomes much easier to handle if we give up the foolish notion that these kinds of things shouldn't happen to us. It is what it is. If I accept that, my eyes are open to all the many sweet and wonderful things that are also going on, while life is river-dancing on my heart.

Let the show begin....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grief and Mourning, a couple of guys who really tried...

Today I am going to go all Biblical on you. Now, if you aren't the kind of person who reacts to that with "Woot! High-5!!", I'm going to ask you to bear with me. There are a few people in the Bible who have something to teach us about reaching out to people who are mourning. The funny thing is, these guys usually don't get good press in the average sermon or devotional.

The Bible is full of people who don't come off very heroic on paper, and it is one of my pet peeves that we tend to like to sit in our comfy little lives and shake our heads at them. Let's be honest. Most of us can barely handle a 20 minute wait at our local fast food joint. But we all think we'd be the epitome of sainted patience and trust while stuck hundreds of miles in the desert like the Israelites were, with no visible source of food or water and a multitude of hungry babies and animals depending on us. Really, now.

But I digress. These three guys are Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Good Biblical names. Given their selfless foray into the annals of Biblical loser history, one would think that they would be better known. But alas, they are not. In fact, they are best known by the company that they keep. That company would be a fellow named Job. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are Job's three friends, the ones that spent the majority of the book of Job trying to comfort him. In the beginning of the book, they rock. Later on, not so much.

Check it out - "When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads." Job 2:11-12

So, what was happening with Job? The book of Job is a book about sorrow, and suffering. And it begins with a challenge. God knows Job well. Job is a faithful man, a committed servant of God, and God has blessed him for his faith. One day, God points Job out to Satan, and praises Job for his faithfulness. Satan makes an observation. He wonders if maybe Job is so faithful because God has been so good to him. After all, who wouldn't love a God who had given him so much? God gives Satan permission to start hacking at some of Job's blessings. God is confident that Job's love is real, and that it is for God Himself, and not for the gifts from His hands. Satan does his best, and before the dust clears, Job has lost his livelihood, his wealth, and most horrifically, his many children. Later, God allows Satan to take another stab at the still faithful Job, with one stipulation - he is not allowed to take Job's life. So, Job loses his health, as well.

It is at this point that Job's friends show up.

They have heard about Job's losses, and immediately come together and commit to going to Job to offer what comfort they can. When they see him, even from far off, their hearts are broken for their friend and they begin to weep. Aloud. Because real men weep out loud.

But they don't stop with the tears. They continue on, tearing at their robes in pain, throwing dust on their heads as a public symbol of their mourning hearts. They are broken, because their friend is broken.

So, what comes next? This is the amazing part. Just listen to verse 13 - "Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was."

They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. They stayed. They took Job seriously. The took as much of his pain as they could, onto themselves. They committed to not leaving him alone. And they took their cue from Job. His pain was too big. There were no words. What do you say, when there's nothing to say? These guys said nothing. They wept and wailed, and probably prayed, but they understood. Job's pain was beyond words, and they loved him enough to be comfortable saying nothing.

Of course, when we read on in the book of Job, we see that when they did begin to speak, they weren't terribly helpful. Yeah, like we haven't all been there. But they stayed. They entered into Job's pain and stayed there, even when they didn't need to. It wasn't their pain. They had livelihoods, healthy families and livestock to go back to. Job couldn't get away from the pain that he was in, but his friends could have. They chose not to.

This impressed me. I have to ask myself, how willing am I to enter into the pain of others? Who cares if I have all the right things to say? There is a lot here about how to comfort and support those among us who mourn.

In fact, I think this may be worth two posts.

Until next time....

Monday, November 28, 2011

Call me crazy, but...

So, I knew that at some point in this series, I would begin to regret having started it. Who knew it would be less than a week into it? On Friday, I had a majorly difficult day, which led to thoughts somewhere along the line of, "What the frik have I done? Why on earth did this blog series ever make sense? Am I crazy? Of course I'm crazy. The real question is, WHY THE HECK DO I WANT TO BROADCAST TO THE ENTIRE WORLD THE EXTENT OF MY CRAZY??!!"

Alas, I have committed to this project, and it's too late to change my mind now. So here we are.

Friday was a rough day. I had an appointment with my cardiologist. I had been having a lot of angina over the summer, and he wanted to see me in November when the stress of starting school had settled down, and we could see if the angina was settling down as well. The question is always whether the angina is being caused by stress induced cardiac artery spasms or a blockage. Unfortunately, life never settled down after school started, and so rather than wait any longer, he is setting me up for a nuclear stress test to see if there are any blockages.

Most of us have experienced the physical consequences of stress and sorrow. Our bodies, spirits and emotions are interconnected, which is where nervous butterflies in our stomachs come from. Also the urge to pee when we are afraid. And stress headaches. And broken hearts that actually feel like broken hearts. People who are chronically ill learn to anticipate the effects of stress on their bodies. Sometimes, I think, when things are really tough, we go to the doctor for help with the physical symptoms when what we really want is just to feel better. We hope that this time, somehow, Dr. Miracle Worker will have the treatment that will make it all better. All of it.

So, when he instead focuses on the physical and sets up tests that just seem to add to the stress, we leave his office feeling discouraged. Or in my case, teetering on the edge of weeping and wailing. Stupid doctor. Stupid tests. A stress test? Does that really sound like something I need right now? Seriously?

Long story short, after the appointment, I went out for lunch and shopping with friends. The weeping and wailing started in the restaurant. Then I felt better. Then there was a little bit of weeping in the grocery store. Stupid poinsettias. Then I felt better. Got a 16 pound turkey for eight dollars. Yay for me.

A few years ago, my New Year's resolution was to be more honest and authentic in my writing, especially on my blog. The only censor that I want to allow is the censorship of love, respect and honor with respect to the people in my life. It's a fine line. I've tripped over it a few times. Of course, when I am talking about myself and my own feelings, I have much more freedom. The point behind this blog series on mourning is that people don't talk about their experiences with mourning, and many feel alone. We wonder if we are normal. We wonder what normal is. We are filled with things to say, and are often afraid of saying them. Or maybe it's just me.

In any case, the truth is that as scary as it is to live out loud these days, it's much scarier not to.

Call me crazy....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Grief & Mourning - Feeling Better

This morning, I woke up to the sound of a large vehicle outside my bedroom window. My first thought was, "Man alive, I hope that's a confused garbage truck." Turns out, it was a snowplow. Yeah, that was behind door #2.

So the world is covered with snow. And today, or more specifically, this morning, I am feeling better. Actually, after my post last night, I felt better. Then Madison, who is sporting a broken jaw and 3 broken ribs from an accident a week and a half ago, came down from her room and asked for custard. The last of which I had just eaten. So I made some more while she sat at the table and chatted with me. And I felt better. Then I asked Grace about a paper due in Strategies class today, and she told me about what she had written. And I felt better. Then I took the rat cage to the couch, with momma Feivel and her 9 six week old babies in it. I sat with the bottom of the cage on my lap while the ratties ran all over the cage bottom, munching on popcorn I had made for them and fighting for space in my hands. And you guessed it. I felt better.

Right after Mum died, I remember being disturbed by how easily the world just kept moving on without her. I had this odd sense, as I lived my life each day, that everything seemed so oddly normal. I probably even seemed normal. But I was walking around with a huge, gaping hole in my heart. Not knowing how to be, I just tried to be normal. It was confusing and hard. As time goes by, though, the world's determination to keep moving forward has become a kindness. Activities remind me that I am and always will be more than a broken heart. Relationships offer support and care, and opportunities to support and care for others. The ratties and Jean-Luc provide humor and "awwwww...'moments.

And the snow? The snow means it's now officially time to start playing Christmas music. And that's a very good thing.

I know that there are no guarantees for tomorrow, or even this afternoon. But for now, I'm feeling better.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Grief and Mourning

Well, I have to admit, I am not doing well. Yeah, I don't know what "doing well" would be at this point, but whatever it is, I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it.

I am overwhelmed. And exhausted. And in too much pain to even try to distract myself from it. I just want to sit and cry. And then lie down and cry.

There are a lot of things going on in my life, and I am glad for it all. I love the people in my life who live with me and need me. I love being in school, learning and being challenged. I am enjoying writing the papers and doing the work, although I have to admit sometimes the pressure of getting them done makes me want to crawl under my bed, as I recently expressed in a note to my history teacher, pleading for an extension on a paper due date. I know that if it wasn't for my people and school, I probably would be spending my life in bed. So it's all good.

But I'm not. I feel a constant sense of pressure in my chest. Sometimes my heart begins to race for no reason, often at night. I have times where no matter how hard I try, I cannot concentrate on what I am doing. I can't handle anyone else's anger. I am anxious all the time. It's a nameless anxiety, just a feeling really, but it is wildly uncomfortable.

I feel really, really alone, too. The one person who should be at my side has called me twice since my Mum died to "confront me about my issues" and tell me what a screw-up I am. One phone call was just days after Mum's death. So I know that I am better off dealing with this alone. But that just makes me feel sadder.

I think the hardest part of this is that even just saying all of this, I feel like I am whining. Knowing what I know about mourning, knowing that I would be honored to be available to listen to someone else's pain, knowing even that this is what this project is all about, and if I don't do this honestly and bravely, I shouldn't be doing it at all, still I feel like I shouldn't be doing it.

I'm doing it anyway because I am going by what I know, not only by what I feel.

On Friday I am going to see my cardiologist. We made the appointment in August. He wanted to see, once the stress of starting school passed, if the angina would settle down. Now September feels like ages ago. In any case, the appointment is coming at a good time.

I miss my mom. I don't know what Christmas will be like without her. A huge part of the Christmas traditions that I have upheld in my home, with my family, come from her. No matter how rough things were financially, she always managed somehow to keep Christmas. I have ornaments from my childhood trees that she gave me when I left home.

The cool thing about living my life following God is that I don't need to know how I am going to make it through something. I just need to keep moving forward. God will lead me through.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blog series - Grief & Mourning

And it begins.

There are a few things that I am hoping will happen with this series. I hope that others will share their experiences with grief and mourning, either in comments on this blog or as guest bloggers. I do not want my voice to be the only one ringing in this space. I have already asked one person to do a guest post. Be warned, you may be next. Don't want to suffer the anxieties of waiting to be asked? I'm accepting offers.

Out of respect for the subject and how vulnerable we are when we are mourning, I am changing my comment setting for the blog so that comments will have to be approved by me before they are posted. I know how fragile I feel about all this, and I want to create an environment of safety and respect for everyone. I can't control how others react to what we write, and I'm pretty sure I am over-reacting on this point, but I still think it's a good idea. Censorship? Maybe. Just think of me as the benevolent dictator of my own little blog-world. And pray the power doesn't go to my head. :)

So, what am I hoping to hear from you? Your experiences, good and bad. What kinds of things did people say or do that helped you to cope? What kind of things did people say or do that made you want to crumple into a wailing ball? When did you feel most sorrowful? How long did it take before you started to feel better? What were some of the other emotions that you may have felt, other than sadness? For example, guilt, anger, fear, frustration, relief, shock. You could share stories and memories of your loved ones, or tell us about possessions that you have that remind you of the person that you lost. How has going through a time of grief changed you? How are you still the same? Is there anything you would like to say to your loved one that you didn't get a chance to?

Please understand, this blog series is about support, healing, and encouraging one another in one of the most difficult circumstances that we as human beings will ever go through. My ultimate hope is that by sharing our experiences and feelings and by being heard and supported, we would find this path of mourning a little less bumpy, and a little easier to travel.

For the next three weeks, I will be posting four to six posts a week. Some will be from me. Others will hopefully be from you. If you have any questions, private comments or suggestions, please email me at

Before I sign I was in the IGA and I saw that they were selling those Christmas book packs of LifeSaver candies, the ones that hit the shelves every year at this time. My Mum used to get those for us and put them into our stockings. I barely made it out of the store before I started crying. It made me miss my mother so much, I could barely stand it. It also made me realize that this Christmas is going to be harder than I thought it would be. I cried all the way home.

And it begins.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grief and Mourning, A Blog Series

Hello, everyone. It has already been three weeks since Mum's passing, and still it all feels a bit surreal. One thing that continually surprises me is the frequent questions I have about whether or not I am "normal". Am I doing it right? Should I be reacting like this, in this way, at this time? I have to admit, the questions irritate me, mostly because they are all in relation to what other people will think of the way I am grieving the loss of my mom. And I hate, hate, hate feeling controlled by what other people think.

For me, grieving as a natural, individual process. I know that there are countless self-help books available, the "How to grieve successful in 3 easy steps" kind of books, but somehow, they feel efforts like to harness a tornado. We have a tendency to want to rein in and control experiences, feelings and thoughts that frighten us and cause us pain. Of course, this makes sense. If we could stop our loved ones from dying, we would. But we can't. It happens. Do we then settle for the next best thing? If we can't control the experiences, do we work on controlling our reactions to the experiences? Do we then extend those expectations to others when they have cause to mourn? And if we do, is that truly the healthiest way to deal with things?

One of my Cegep classes is called Strategies for Successful College Studies. Our teacher has given us a final assignment that involves using some gift or ability that we have to improve the life of at least one person. Initially my plan to was to do a blog series on the topic of suicide prevention. A dear friend of my husband's had tragically committed suicide in September, and I wanted to create an place, within the walls of this blog, where others could share their experiences and thoughts about suicide. I may still do this at some point.

Then Mum got sick. And passed away. My strong desire to create something that might possible help those who have been touched by suicide is still alive. The thing is, at this point in my life, I don't have the emotional strength to go there. At least not until I go somewhere else first. And that somewhere else is the valley of the shadow of death. I want to do my assignment on grief and mourning.

In the coming days, I will write about the shape that this assignment will take, what I am hoping for and what I need from you. Yes, you. Because this is not just my thing. Even today, I have a beautiful young friend who is mourning the loss of her father, who passed away seven years ago. I will be asking for your help. Your voice. Your thoughts.

The plan for the coming blog series on grief and mourning is a bit foggy right now, but that's okay. The idea is to begin talking about it. To get used to talking about it. To learn to listen, really listen, to others who are talking about it.

My next post will talk in more detail about what I need from you. In the meantime, please be thinking and praying about what you might be able to share with us. Be assured, this blog is a safe place, and I plan to keep it that way. Anything you share can easily be anonymous if you like.

Until next time, much love to you all.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Paths of Sorrow

There is a fatigue that exists beyond the physical, when the mind and heart begin to realize that the pain will not be going away with any speed, that things will not be better tomorrow, or the next day, and maybe not even the day after that.

We begin to settle onto the path that is mourning and we walk more slowly because we now understand that there is no rushing off of this road. We may not be walking alone, but we begin to see that in some deep way, even with God, our families and communities beside us, we are utterly alone with our pain.

We keep walking, because we must, because as far away as it seems, there is a place on this path where the pain melts into compassion, where emptiness invites unity, where tears becomes less for our pain and more for the pain of others.

Those who submit to the path of sorrow and enter freely into the deep places of pain become people who are acquainted with the deep. It is in the deep that God's face is most clearly seen, in the deep where joy resides, in the deep where life is found.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Mother, Myself, Part 2

In my last post, My Mother, Myself , I wrote about sharing my birthday with my mom, who was in the hospital with cancer. Mum passed away 10 days later. It was quiet and peaceful, a slowing down and stopping. She had been in the hospital for a month.

Mum died on Monday, October 17th, we held a memorial get-together for her on Friday, October 21st, at the senior's home where she had volunteered for the last 18 years of her life, my sisters and I and our families got together on Saturday, October 22nd to sprinkle Mum's ashes in Longue Sault, at a pretty spot on the bank of the St. Lawrence river, and then I went home.

I confess to having spent a few days trying not to think about Mum. Sunday was a hard day, and somewhere inside of me I decided that come Monday, I was going to be the Kelly that goes to school, that makes food for her family and cleans and needs to study for a history test this week. Not, the Kelly who's mum just died. Just for a few days. Still, I bought frames for Mum's pictures and put them up in prominent places where I tried, mostly unsuccessfully, not to look too hard at them. And I talked about Mum incessantly because as much as my brain may want to shut itself off, my tongue seems to be attached to my heart.

The problem is, this is uncharted territory. It's uncharted, not just because I have never had to deal with a loss this significant before, but also because each one of us is a unique being, with our own thoughts and feelings, our individual inner workings. When my sisters and I talk about what we are going through, we do share some similar experiences, but at the same our relationships with Mum were different and so our experiences in dealing with her death will be different.

So, how am I doing? I don't know. I think about Mum a lot. Every night I wrap myself up in a quilt that Mum gave me, and fall asleep holding on to a piece of black corral hanging on a chain around my neck. I feel anxious frequently, because I sense that my ability to deal with conflict is greatly (and hopefully temporarily) diminished. I am tired. A lot. It's the kind of tired that sleep doesn't relieve. I cry at unexpected and odd times, like in the post office or in history class. I find myself feeling irritated easily, which is probably connected to the fatigue and the anxiety. I have a hard time concentrating. Last week's history notes are a jumble of half finished sentences that I would start but not remember how to finish. And I want to take care of people. It seems that mourning my Mum has kicked my maternal instincts into over-drive.

On Saturday night, I found myself laughing hysterically at the antics of a comedian on the television. Then I was sobbing like a heart-broken child.

I guess that's how I am doing.

I want to take this time time express my deepest gratitude for all the kind words and thoughts that have been sent my way, and also for the prayers from my brothers and sisters in the faith. I pray that some day, you will know how much of a blessing and gift you truly are. I am a grateful woman. Thank you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Mother, Myself

Years ago someone gave me a book called, My Mother, Myself. As the title suggests, the book focused on the relationship between mothers and daughters, and how our mothers influence the women we grow up to be. I started reading it, but I don't think I finished it. Thanks to a faith in God, I had already gotten to the point in my life when I was uncomfortable assigning blame for my weaknesses and oddities on my Mom. I knew that both my parents were human beings, and as such, prone to frailties that had helped make me the person I was, weirdnesses and all. I had come to understand that no matter what ball my parents had tossed to me in the parental game of life, I was the one who had chosen to take the ball and run with it, and therefore I was ultimately responsible for the things I carried with me from childhood.

I've been thinking about the title of that book today, though, because today is my 45th birthday. I have been feeling melancholy all day, and on the way home from the grocery store this afternoon, I realized why. Today is not just the anniversary of the day I was born. It is also the anniversary of the day my mom gave birth to me. This realization was poignant for me. My mom is in the Ottawa Cancer Research Centre, after having received a diagnosis of stage-4 lung cancer, which has spread throughout her body. The body that carried me for nine months, that sheltered and protected me and then worked so hard to introduce me to the world, is suffering, breaking down, expiring. The woman that nurtured and cared for me is now being nurtured and cared for as she faces what is most likely the end of her life.

Most of my birthdays are about becoming a year older, eating cake, good wishes on Facebook, being with friends and family. This year it is about preparing to say good-bye to the woman who made sure I would see this day.

As a mother, on my daughter's birthday, I always go back in time to the day that she was born. I remember that day with joy. Grace's birth day is a celebration for me as well as for her. She celebrates being born, and I celebrate giving birth to her. Yet I have never seen my birthday as a day that might include thoughts of my mother. This is new to me. This is also wonderful. And sad.

Forty-five years ago today, I opened my eyes and looked into my mother's eyes for the first time. In the near future, it is entirely possible that I will look into my mother's eyes for the last time on this earth. The years in between have been full of many things; hard things, sweet things, the things that make life, life. They have been full of love, which I was only able to fully appreciate when I stopped demanding that my mother's love be presented to me in a manner of my approval, and started accepting her as a woman who loved me the way she loved me and I could receive it or reject it but I had no right to judge that it was not there, that it was not real.

On our birthdays, we say thank you a lot. For gifts, for good wishes, for another year. Today I am grateful for the woman who shared this day with me, 45 years ago. I thank God for her, and ask Him to make me a blessing to her. I pray that the God who loves her with a passion that she cannot even imagine will draw her to Him, and carry her through these days. Of course I pray that these would not be her last days, but should they be, I pray that they will not be an end, but be a beginning - of eternity, of life, of hope, of dancing and singing and joy and laughter and boundless love.

Today is a day that she and I share. Happy Birth Day, Mum. I love you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Because it's true...

I was asked today, for the umpteenth time, this question. Now it is time for an answer.

The question? Why would a woman assert out loud that only a pathetic, small, weak little man would hit a disabled woman, even though she had been threatened with physical violence if she said it?

Because it is true.

Refusing to speak the truth, even in the face of threats of physical violence, may guard the body, but it kills the soul. Speak the truth. The body heals quicker than the soul.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

So, maybe I won't be failing history after all!

There is a lot going on in my life. I am still estranged from my husband. I have just taken over the apartment, and my mother is critically ill with cancer. If you have spent any time reading my blog, you know that it is usually at times like these that I get very quiet here. I'm kind of in that place now. So I'm posting about something almost meaningless compared to what is going on, but still important. The history test we had this morning.

The History of Western Civilization. Big stuff, lots of info, oodles of odd names like Octavius and Eurathothenes, and an abundance of people, places and things.

I have studied for this test. Seriously. Gone are the days when I, oblivious in my youth, waited until the last minute to study. 50 pages of notes over 4 lectures and 5 chapters of 2 books - procrastination was just not an option.

So much info, so little brain.

I just finished the dreaded test, and am happy to report that it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. In fact, I am going to be daring here and predict that I might have done quite well on it.

I am relieved. Because when there are lots of big, hard things going on, it is really nice to have some of the small things work out.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

An IC Moment

Recently I had an experience that typically signified what it is like to be an IC patient in my world. In an effort to try to elimiate some of the pain associated with my IC, I had agreed to a series of treatments that involved instilling medication directly into my bladder. I wrote about it here and here.

After the second treatment, I developed a lot of pain, more than the usual amount associated with the instillation. It was brutal. I had constant burning, and was urinating every 20 minutes with no relief, and every hour at night. Life became a blur of pain, burning, meds and drinking copious amounts of water in an effort to sooth the fire.

I assumed that I was suffering a reaction to the treatment, but had a difficult time contacting my doctor. After two weeks of trying to cope with it, I finally went in to my local medical centre to see a resident. Knowing that I would most likely be required to produce a urine sample, I drank several glasses of water before I went in to the appointment.

Halfway through my appointment with the doctor, a lovely, compassionate young woman named Dr. Nikkel, I had to go to the bathroom. Badly. By the end of the appointment, I was desperate. Knowing that I needed to hold it in at least until I got to the lab to do the urine test, I still really badly wanted to throw the whole thing to the wind and hit the can on the way out of the medical centre. At this point I was no longer able to stand upright, because of the pain.

Leaving the medical centre with Grace, who had graciously agreed to come with me, I debated driving the short distance from the medical centre door to the front door of the hospital. Unfortunately, that would have involved sitting down in the car, which I knew I would not be able to do, so I walked. Actually, shuffled would be a better word. Bent over. Wincing.

Once we got inside, we went to the front desk where the receptionist was going over a stack of files with one of the lab technicians. I limped into her office, where she looked up at me doubled over her desk and told me to take a number. Sigh. There was one other person in the waiting room, an older man sitting across from the office. I took a number and waited near her door, unable to sit down. I leaned, hunched over, against the wall. I was obviously in a lot of pain. I watched the secretary as she worked with the techician and silently willed her to move faster.

After what felt like an eternity but was probably no more that a minute or two, she finished what she was doing and called me into her office. I handed her my form and explained to her that I was there for a urine test, and was in a lot of pain. She handed me a cup and I shuffled off to the washroom.

Once the urine sample was collected, I felt 100% better. One good thing about being in such extreme pain is the almost giddy sense of relief that comes when the pain is lessened or gone. I came out of the bathroom walking upright and smiling. I dropped off the sample at the lab window and marched out into the sunshine, awash with relief.

It was only later, when Grace mentioned it, that I thought about the man sitting in the waiting room. Grace thought it was funny, that I had been in so much pain when I went into the bathroom and came out looking ready to take on the world. It occurred to me, though, to wonder if perhaps he thought I was faking the pain, maybe to get in to do my test sooner.

One of the consequences of having an invisible chronic illness is the tendency to expect people to think that I am faking. After all, it happens. Whether it is said to my face, or communicated in more covert ways, it always unnerves me. I know that I sometimes don't look sick. When I am in pain, I often just look tired or cranky.

It is entirely possible that the gentleman in the waiting room thought that I was faking. After all, who goes into a bathroom in agony and leaves looking perfectly healthy? Still, I have to allow for the possiblity that it's not even an issue. There's nothing I can do about it, either way. Except to accept the experience as a reminder to be open-minded and open-hearted when it comes to others. I am just as likely to have pre-conceived notions about others as others are to have pre-conceived notions about me. It's a lesson I need as much as anyone.

I mentioned this in my previous post about September being IC awareness month, but it bears repeating. The real challenge in our world is to allow ourselves to be others-aware.

Still, it's a challenge worth taking on, for all of us.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September is IC awareness month!

What? You didn't know that September is IC (interstitial cystitis) awareness month? Of course you didn't. Let's face it, for most of you, I am the only person you know who has IC, and some of you haven't even met me yet. How self-involved is it of me to even write a post about this? I might just have well entitled this blog post, "September is ME awareness month." Egad.

But still, IC awareness month it is, and so I have painted my toenails blue because blue is the official color of IC'ness. Yeah, I thought yellow would be a better fit too. Go figure.

For the curious, there are websites with lots of information about IC. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have some idea of what it is like to live with this chronic, painful bladder disease. Really, though, asking you to become more aware feels uncomfortably narcissistic. This really isn't about me.

I am fairly open about my experiences with IC. I know that the descriptions of the treatments, procedures and pain leave some of you squirming in your seats. Still, you listen and care. Seriously, you people rock.

Honoring something like IC awareness month, though, can also be about other-people awareness. This month, like all the other months that have illnesses, conditions and difficulties attached to them, is about being aware that other people are dealing with stuff. Hard stuff. Stuff like cancer, depression, suicide, heart disease, and intellectual handicaps. We live busy lives, and so much of the suffering that people go through is invisible to those around them. It is too easy to shrug it off, to hold up ignorance as a justification and to plow our way through life without paying attention to the people on our path.

If anything, awareness campaigns encourage us to be others-focused, no matter what issue they are dealing with. To be grateful if we are among the ones who don't need an awareness month. To be informed, for those around us who might be struggling.

One of the difficult aspects of many of these illnesses and and conditions is that patients are weakened emotionally, physically and often mentally at a time when they most need the ability to understand, ask questions, seek answers, assert themselves with health care professionals, and cope with an endless schedule of tests, appointments, medication and treatments.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't think that it is necessary to suffer illness in order to be able to understand, to relate and to help. My best friend is proof of this. Gloriously healthy herself, she is unfailingly understanding and compassionate. She "gets it". Love has a wonderful way of doing that for us. That's something we all can do for others.

So, for those of you who have asked questions, cringed in sympathy when I am flaring and taken the time to understand a bit about IC, I thank you. You bring me comfort and make this journey immeasurably easier. Your prayers, support, encouraging words and sensitivity mean so much to me. You walk this road with me patiently and compassionately, even if we do have to stop at every washroom in every rest-stop along the way. I love you.

We all know the old adage about not judging others until we have walked in their shoes. Let's allow awareness months to be a continuous reminder that there are a lot of people wearing some heavy, ill-fitting and painful shoes on some really, long, difficult journeys. We can't always tell, but we can care. And caring means everything.'s potty time...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Saying Good-bye

Grace and I went to a wake tonight. We said good-bye to a friend, the best man at my wedding, a father, son, brother, friend, soldier and a wonderful young man. His name was Olivier, and he was one of the sweetest people I know. I haven't written about his death, not because I haven't been thinking about him. On the contrary, I have thought about little else over the past few days. I haven't written about him because I don't know that I can do him justice, and I don't know how to write about the way he died. Olivier committed suicide.

Two weeks ago, I could have easily written posts, even a series of posts on suicide and suicide prevention.

Now, I am left without words.

Two weeks ago, I would have felt confident enough in my understanding about the issue of suicide to freely share my thoughts.

Now, I don't understand anything. I haven't a clue. I don't know why. I am humbled by the magnitude of pain; Olivier's, his family's, his friends', his fellow soldiers'. I hugged his mother, wept with the mother of his children, and all I could say is, "I can't imagine it, I can't imagine how hard this is for you." I held my daughter and cried with her as we looked at him in the casket, and all I could say is, "How can this be?"

I don't know.

All I do know is that Olivier had a brilliant smile. Grace says that he twinkled, and he did. It was like there was always the possibility that he had some bit of fun or mischief planned. He was a devoted father, and a brave soldier, a faithful son. He loved his family, and wore the title of "big brother" with pride and strength. He stood by my husband at our wedding in his uniform, and was a dashing, gentle, powerful, honorable tribute to his family and his country.

There will a time later for posts about issues and solutions.

Today is a time to remember Olivier Pilote.

He was a light, and the world is a little darker for his loss.

Spiders, anyone?

This was written as a Facebook note on Friday,August 26th.

Okay, I am going to admit it. I am feeling quite proud of myself. I posted last night on my Facebook profile that our porch was covered with spiders. The fat, hanging-around-the-porch-light-w/the-bugs type of spiders. At one point, I counted over 25 of them. Grace and I were heading out to put the recycling bin to the curb. We decided that it could wait another week. Several of the spiders had gotten inside (How?!) and with a fair bit of squealing and waving of rolled up newspapers, we managed to squish them all. But the outside ones...

I resolved to go out today to buy some heavy-duty spider killing spray. Forget organic. We've got no time for organic. I came home with the meanest can of bug spray I could find. Grace is heading to Vermont for the week-end with her dad, so I waited until they left and headed out to the porch with the spray, a broom and a series of deep breathing exercises designed to keep me from having a coronary collapse in the midst of my arachnacidic duties. And yes, I made up the word arachnacidic. Because I can. :)

Apparently, after a night of gorging on the bugs attracted to my yellow, bug-free porch light, spiders crawl into the nooks and crannies of my porch roof for a long day of slumber. Not surprisingly, when I began spraying the uber-lethal spider spray into every nook and cranny I could find, the little darlings woke up. And came out. In droves. Drunken, wobbly, fat, leggy droves. I shrieked and jumped backwards off of the porch. Stood in front of the porch, peering carefully up at the ceiling. Did a little shake-the spiders-off dance. I think I may even have moaned a bit. Wondered out loud how long it would take them to die. Then, I decided that I didn't have the time. With a broom, I started sweeping the swaying, dying spiders off of the ceiling, squishing them on the floor with the mop and stomping on the ones that managed, somehow, to stumble away.

I sprayed again. More came out. I squealed and jumped again. Muttered, mumbled, moaned, prayed, swatted countless imaginary spiders out of my hair, swept, squished and stomped.

Repeat as necessary.

This went on for three more sprays. I won't lie to you. As I write this, my skin is literally crawling. I brushed my hair into a sleek ponytail, so I know that there are no spiders in there. I have checked under my shirt repeatedly. I'm going by faith now.

And, dear reader, if you are the sort of person who likes to remind people like me that a fear of spiders is irrational, rest easy. I know that the fear of one spider is not rational. The fear of 25 fat, furry spiders falling from the porch roof onto my head, on the other hand, is completely rational. Spock-rational. Seriously. Don't ask me why. It just is.

My point is, despite my considerable fear, I managed to do what needed to be done. When I last peered outside, there were a few more spiders that had wandered out of their hiding spots, presumably to die. I don't hate spiders. In fact, I find them fascinating. Last night I spent several moments watching a spider navigate the miracle of his web to get to the small flying insects that he had managed to snare. I see the genius of creation, the intricate design, the wonder of nature. All this drama was taking place just outside my door window. One spider, building a web, catching bugs, living life, is interesting. Bringing 24 of his buddies along, and it becomes a nightmare. A nightmare that I, with a lot of prayer and faith, was able to walk through and deal with. I am grateful. And proud.

Not that it's over. To tell the truth, I have a feeling I just managed to kill the stupid ones. Or the impulsive ones, at least. I'm pretty sure that there are more tucked away, waiting for nightfall. If there is, I'm ready for them. I am armed to the teeth, locked and loaded.

If you live in Huntingdon,and you hear a commotion going on, it'll probably be me. Shrieking, jumping and mumbling my way through another spider battle. Don't grumble, though. Remember, every spider I kill here is a spider that won't show up on your doorstep looking for dessert!

You're welcome. :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Living Out-Loud, or TMI?

I was lying in bed last night trying to keep the cat off my face and thinking about the instillation treatment I had yesterday, when I started to wonder if I am coming too close to the TMI line. (For those of you not familiar with web speak, TMI means too much information.) To be honest, that line has always been a bit blurry for me. I mean, I didn't really get into the details (oh man, the details!), and I make every effort to be respectful to the people in my life when they make appearances in my writing, but I also write about some pretty personal stuff.

At one point while prepping for the procedure yesterday, the CLSC nurse, Rachel, commented that she would be using a size 12 catheter rather than the size 16 that the doctor had prescribed. This prompted a conversation about how oblivious doctors can be to pain. Logically, for a patient w/IC pain, the smaller the catheter the better. Many patients even ask for pediatric catheters to be used. Doctors don't seem to take this kind of thing into consideration. This is when Rachel told me about her studies in pain. I commented that doctors don't equip patients for the effect that chronic pain will have on them, emotionally, mentally and physically. Rachel agreed, "That's because they don't know."

Her comment sums up a good part of why I write so openly about this stuff. I am not the kind of person that believes that knowledge is the solution to all problems. Selfishness, arrogance and hate can whip knowledge's behind if we let them. Yes, people do better when they know better, but only if they want to do better. I do believe that knowledge is a beginning, an opportunity, and I also believe that once we share knowledge with others, ignorance is no longer an excuse.

I have people tell me that they had bladder infections, and it wasn't a big deal. So what was I making such a big fuss about? Once I share that IC pain is more like the pain of bladder cancer than a bladder infection, if they still chose to see themselves as tougher than I am because they were able to handle a five day bout of an UTI better than I handle over ten years of IC, then they no longer have ignorance as an excuse. There is something darker, more insidious there. Something that tells me to back away.

That doesn't happen very often, though. I made a commitment a long time ago to live out-loud, to be open and honest about my life. I am too capable of wearing masks. If you ask me how I am in the grocery store, I will instinctively smile and say "Fine!" even if I can barely stand up straight in pain. Sometimes this is appropriate. Not everyone needs to hear everything.

Still, not only is there true strength that comes from the support of others when I am brave enough to be honest about what I am going through, but there is an understanding that not only am I not alone, but neither are my readers. You go through things, too. Big things. Scary things. Painful things. You need not be alone.

Another reason that I share about my life so openly is because I have given my life to God, and I believe that He wants to bring meaning and purpose to my pain. I don't believe that this life is all there is. I don't believe that this body is all there is to me. And I don't believe that my struggles are for nothing. Over and over and over God lifts me up and strengthens me in ways that are wildly wonderful and supernatural. I am not capable of working up even a semblance of the joy that He gives me. I spent most of my life before Christ in debilitating depressions. Now, when I really have something to be depressed about, I experience joy and wonderful moments of happiness on a daily basis. Yes, I feel sad. Yes, I mourn my losses and have moments of deep sorrow. But joy comes in the morning. When I joke about things, I am legitimately having fun with the silliness of life. I see the humor in many things. I mean really, aren't chickens the funniest creatures ever? I used to use humor to hide from pain. Now, I just find so many aspects of life ridiculously funny. That's a God thing.

So, TMI? I don't know...I'll keep an eye on the line, and try not to cross it. Especially where my loved ones are concerned. As for my own story, I have a feeling that when I finally write my book, it'll be an open book. Just like me.

Oh, btw, as an instillation update, one of the side effects of the treatment is a garlic smell coming from the patient. It's a result of the medicine seeping into the bloodstream and creating a chemical reaction. According to Grace, that kicked in last night and is still going strong. She greeted me this morning with, "So, how'd you sleep, garlic clove?" Apparently, it's not the cool, garlic butter kind of garlic smell, either. I don't smell it at all.

At least I'll be safe from vampires....

Monday, August 8, 2011

I finally bit the bullet....yowie!

I went this morning to pick up the medication for my bladder instillation, and then took them to the CLSC to have the treatment done. I have two things to say.

Firstly, wow.

Secondly, OUCH!

Wow, because the CLSC nurse, Rachel, who did the treatment was awesome. She never mentioned teaching me to do it myself, and I certainly wasn't going to bring it up. She says there is another patient who has IC, and is having the treatment as well. Rachel seemed pretty knowledgeable about IC, and was tremendously sympathetic and compassionate. We had a great talk about dealing with chronic pain. She said she spent some time studying chronic pain at University, and it shows in her attitude and the way she dealt with me. I asked if she would be the one to do my next treatment, and she said that if I wanted her to do all my treatments, she would be glad to do it. I felt so taken care of, which is important. The fragile feeling that chronic pain sufferers feel makes it difficult to deal with these kinds of things, and feeling that they will be understood and cared for is so important.

Ouch, because it hurt. Seriously. Thankfully, it was over quickly, but now I have to hold this stuff in my bladder for up to an hour. Unfortunately, I wanted to pee seconds after the treatment was over. It's going to be a long hour. I am actually writing this now to keep my mind off of my screaming bladder. The treatment, while quick, was painful enough that I had to stop talking (now that's pain!), broke out into a cold sweat and felt a bit nauseous. At this point, even the bottom of my feet are twinging. Yikes.

Gracie came with me and sat in the waiting room, praying. What a gift she is. You know, people can tolerate a lot more pain and suffering when there are loving, supportive people around. Even though I can barely sit still here, I am so grateful to God for being there, for strengthening me, for provided a health care worker who was caring, supportive and efficient, and for providing Grace, who is now busy making me lunch because I can't decide whether it hurts more to stand up, walk around or sit here.

So...I've got 15 minutes to go. That's not too long...right? Right?


Oh look...6 minutes to go. Yay!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Crunching Numbers and Feathered Friends

Last night I was doing some number crunching. Right before bed. Not a good idea. No matter how much I frowned and fussed over my scribbled calculations, one plus one would not equal what I needed it to equal. Darn math.

Later that night I lay in bed, in the dark, listening to my rhythmic breathing through the Cpap machine and the frantic chaos in my head. What if, what if, what if. Thinking thoughts that were exhausting me and keeping me awake at the same time.

I was also praying, but not in the official, our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name way. From the very beginning of my life with God, the only time I don't just assume that God is present in the midst of my inner dialogue is when I am thinking about something I'm pretty sure He won't approve of. Then I just pretend He's not there, because of course, He knows everything. Which I know is true because when I am in repentance mode after the stupidities that I allowed myself to think begin to bear yucky fruit in my life, He always wants to return to the scene of the crime, which He is eerily familiar with even though I had convinced myself that He wasn't even there.

So, I was lying in bed, fretting and trying to work out the exact nature of the miracle that I was going to need God to perform for me in order to make the debit and credit columns of my checkbook add up. I asked Him, again, to show me that He is taking care of me. He's made it pretty obvious over the years, and especially over the past few months, that He is serious about meeting my needs. Still...

I believe, Lord, help my unbelief. I am beginning to think that I use this verse as a cop out. I understand that God is so humongous and amazing and wonderful that I will spend all eternity learning about Him and still only tap the surface of who He is. So there will always be some level of stunned disbelief when faced with a new level of His character and power. Still, I can get lazy about my disbelief, make excuses for it, ask for signs just because it's too much trouble to choose to believe based on God's past faithfulness.

In any case, I asked God to, once again, show me that He was taking care of me.

This morning, I took Grace to the teen day camp that she as been attending all week at St. Andrew's in Huntingdon. On the way back, I pulled into my parking space, got out of the car and noticed two mourning doves on the road together, a robin on the lawn next door and a sparrow taking a bath in a puddle at the end of my driveway. I leaned up against the car to watch them. They were going about the business of their day, utterly care-free. Bathing, finding food, hanging out together. Living life, one day at a a time, one moment at a time. It was beautiful.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:25- 34

Do not worry. Do not fret. Once again, message received. The ironic thing is that as I was turning onto my street, I was thinking that I needed to stop whining at God about signs, that I needed to grow up and believe. God knows me better than I know myself. I am entering entire new territories of trusting God here. I willingly follow God into the deep waters of circumstances and relationships that test my faith and invite me to love others in radical, powerful ways through the work of God's Spirit in my life. I stumble and fall...a lot. God keeps inviting me to get back up, and I do. There are times when God is tougher on us than we ever imagined He would be. Then, there are times when, even though we know we don't deserve it, God meets us where we are, with gentleness, kindness and divine understanding.

Yes, I asked for a sign. If God had said, no sign, I would have been okay with that. Instead, He gave me a glimpse of His care in a diverse group of fine feathered friends, living life as it is meant to be lived, with freedom and trust and in community. As far as signs go, it was a good one.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thank you for being a friend...

When Jean-Luc met Clarence, it was love at first sight. Never mind that Clarence belonged to Grace. Never mind that he was bought at FAO Shwartz in New York City, that he was the most expensive stuffed toy that she owned, and that he was named after Clarence Clemmons, the legendary saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Jean-Luc didn't even care that Clarence Clemmons had recently passed away after suffering a massive stroke, leaving Grace and I mournfully listening to Clemmon's sax solos on Youtube and waxing nostalgic about the Springsteen concert in T.O that we attended several years ago.

None of that mattered. Love is love. So Grace gave Clarence to Jean-Luc.

Besides, we're both pretty sure that Clarence Clemmons would have approved.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hearts of Stone, Hearts of Flesh

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." Ezekiel 11:19-20

There are few things more difficult than loving someone who is filled with hate. Hatred is such a cold, hard thing. Like a stone. Often, we can tell when people are trapped in hate just by spending a few moments with them. They are like granite, harsh, even sharp. Graceless, angry, bitter, sour, frigid. There is the feeling that if we bumped up against them, it would hurt. Even a mistake would earn us retaliation. Cold words. A heartless rebuke. Sarcasm. Ridicule. Disdain. God help us if we ever sin against a person filled with hate. Forgiveness does not seem like an option.

I think the most distressing thing about loving someone like this is the fear that nothing could every break through the steely armor that has been built around them. It feels as if we will never be able to touch their hearts, to move them to softness, compassion. The fact is, it is entirely possible that we will never be able to penetrate the fortress of their hatred. Hearts of stone are notoriously difficult to move.

Thankfully, God is in the habit of changing hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Gentleness, kindness, compassion and love can be restored. Yes, it is a choice, but there is a price to be paid for choosing a heart of stone. God graciously sees to it that the pain of a cold heart is deeply felt. Hateful people are not happy people. Behind the clenched teeth and steely eyes lies a deep well of pain and torment, loneliness and longing. God gives every incentive and every opportunity to seek change. We can trust Him, and rest in His willingness and ability to work in the hearts of those we love.

There are few things more difficult than loving someone who is filled with hate. Still, with God's Spirit within us, with His love, wisdom and patience, difficult things become possibilities.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"You want me to do WHAT, myself?"

I'm holding the papers again. Reading them again. As if in the re-reading, they might say something different. Something less painful.

They are prescriptions. One is for two medications, Rimso-50 & Heparin. The second prescription is for the CLSC nurse, and it instructs her to instill the Rimso-50 and Heparin into my bladder as a treatment for interstitial cystitis, using a #16 catheter.

It has occurred to me that being able to read what is written on these papers is remarkable, given it was written by a doctor. Of course it is doctor-scratch, but readable doctor-scratch. Which, I guess if one was groping for positives, is a positive. It enables me to repeatedly read what is written on the papers, which encourages the ridiculous hope that at some point I will read something, anything, other than the fact that these meds have to be put directly into my bladder using a catheter.

I have also been told by a nurse at the medical centre that I will be taught how to do these treatments myself. Oh, joy. Oh, bliss. Oh, excuse me while I vomit.

The date on the papers is July 12th. Yes, I have been stalling. At first, I was at camp and so stalling came naturally. Then I was recovering from camp. That took a whole week. Then, I just didn't want to do it. I promised myself and my poor beleaguered bladder that this week would be IT. My bladder has reacted by flaring. I feel as if the lower half of my body is filled w/razors, and not the dull, dollar store ones, either.

And so, I hold the papers and re-read them and hope in vain that they don't say what I know they do say. I am afraid of having the treatments. I don't want any more pain. When I looked up the details of these medications that are supposed to decrease my pain level, it always disturbs me to find that increased pain is a side effect. I can handle my face puffing up like a birthday balloon, or hands going numb, or my knees turning purple, but more pain? Seriously?

Pain like this makes me feel weak, panicky and fragile. I am usually careful about who I talk to about how I feel in times like this. Inevitably, there will be a perfectly healthy person who wants to tell me how tough they are with pain, how they have dental procedures without anesthetic, how they give birth without happy drugs, how their last kidney stone was passed while squatting beside a hayfield, after which they hopped right back onto the wagon and kept on baling hay.

I have to admit, it takes all the power of God working in me to keep my mouth shut when one of these dear, brave ones comes down with the sniffles and spends 19 minutes of a 20 minute conversation whining about sore throats and red noses.

"Didn't they have any of those tissues with the lotion in them? *cough cough*"


It has been my prayer all along that being chronically ill would make me more compassionate, and that I would be able to see that those who don't understand, who judge harshly in ignorance or arrogance are much worse off that I am. Everyone suffers physically at some point, and compassion prepares us for our own suffering as well as for that of others. Those who have admonished me to "will the pain away", or to trust God more are left discouraged, lost and subject to their own judgment when they are unable to will their own pain away.

Being in pain, especially when it is as intense and sharp as it is now, automatically creates a fear reaction. The body is convinced it is in danger, especially when the pain is visceral. Facing a medical procedure that may increase the pain is a daunting task, at the best of times. I think, by writing this blog post and re-reading the prescriptions sheets, I am giving myself permission to be daunted.

I am, officially, daunted. Which is not to say that I am not going to show up at the front desk of my local CLSC, clutching my well-read prescription sheet, pale, shaky and ready to act a complete fool if only it will cause some compassionate soul to take pity on me and not leave me to do these treatments myself.

The thing is, God and I have been talking about this, and I think He's right. Trusting Him means acknowledging the pain, admitting my fear, and asking Him for courage that is beyond myself. It means choosing to believe that His love is real and active in me, even when my hands are shaking and the very word "catheter" makes me cringe. It means that this entire situation is about more than white lab coats, doctor-scratches, and medicines that may or may not burn. Even if at this very moment, I am not sure what it is all about, God knows. Which is not such a bum deal. Seriously.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Are you up now?"

Jean-Luc woke me up this morning. That's not unusual, though. He wakes me up every morning. Repeatedly. Usually starting somewhere around 5:00 am. He spends the night on my pillow, or on the pillow beside mine, trilling expectantly every time I move around in bed. When the sun is starting to think about rising, Jean-Luc is starting to feel the effects of not having been pet or fussed over for 6 hours. It is at this point that the trilling becomes more insistent. The pacing starts. From my pillow to his, down to the end of the bed, up over my chest with usually a bit of a bounce on my full bladder for good measure and then several moments of staring into my cpap-masked face, waiting for my eyelids to flicker. All the while, the trilling has graduated into full-fledged meowing, always a question, always the same question - "Are you up yet?"

I try to ignore him. The meows escalate into mild desperation. He offers ankle rubs, only on my head because my ankles are covered with blankets and besides, that much distance from my ears would seriously interfere with the annoy factor of the meowing. I stretch my arm out onto his pillow, and for a few moments he makes due by rubbing his face into my hand. A compromise. No, I'm not going to pet you because I am SLEEPING, but feel free to pet yourself using my hand. My limp, asleep hand. He makes do, for a while. Curls up next to my arm and buries his face in my hand. Pathetic. I send guilt scurrying with a low hiss. He's a cat, fercryingoutloud!

As the sun continues to rise, Jean-Luc gets more and more restless. He starts roaming the room, pulling books off of the bottom shelf of the book case. I'll fix it later. I can hear him playing with a gift bag. That should keep him busy for a few minutes. It does, until he shows up on the bed, meowing, and through one open, bleary eye I see that he has both string handles of the bags wrapped around his neck and is dragging it behind him. Sigh. I release him, and he rejoices. I am awake! Afraid that it will occur to him that self-strangulation is the new morning alarm, I roll over and mumble, "Oh no, I'm not."

He's not out of ideas yet, though. Swinging on my cpap machine hose is always good for a swat and a frantic dash out of the room. The old bum-in-the-face trick usually results in my trying to push him away, which, if handled well, can turn into a few moments of petting. He's persistent, if nothing else.

And the meowing. Questioning. Insistent. Inviting. Vulnerable. Lonely. And really, really hard to ignore.

Once I am up, even if he has wandered out of the room in desolation or for a trip to the litter box, he instantly arrives back for his good morning loving. I sit, blurry and dysfunctional, on the edge of the bed while he rubs my ankles in joy, leaping up onto the bed for a pet, since I am up anyway. Walking out of the room and down the stairs is a challenge, as he trips ahead, right in front of me. He looks back, to see if his good fortune is real and I am still upright and following. He doubles back and figures eights around my ankles, purring with pleasure. I just focus on trying to remain on my feet.

We arrive downstairs, I put the water on for tea, he finds a toy mouse and chases it around the living room. All is well with his world.

So, why do I put up with it? Maybe it's the memory of the fear and anxiety in his kitten blue eyes when we rescued him from a long, cold, hungry, lonely week of abandonment. Maybe it's the knowledge that his devotion is rooted in gratitude. One of my favorite Bible verses is in Psalms 18:19, "He brought me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because He delighted in me." I know that we rescued Jean-Luc because we delighted in him. It just makes sense that, having been rescued, he delights in us as well.

I think the biggest reason I "put up" with Jean-Luc's insistent devotion is because he is a constant reminder of the overwhelming love and passion that comes from knowing that God has rescued me. Oh, to be so devoted, so needy, so hungry for the Presence of God that I would risk irritating Him by standing over His face in the middle of the night, grinning sheepishly, "Are you up yet?"

"How 'bout now?"

"How 'bout now?"

"Now? Are You up now?"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Love or Hate - The Choice is Ours.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. He told me that he had been in a situation where he had overheard someone talking very rudely about me, saying terrible things that weren't true. My friend seemed really upset by what he had witnessed. He shared that he had been so angry at what he was hearing, he couldn't trust himself to respond. Just talking about it to me seemed to inflame his anger again.

Then he asked me something interesting. He asked me if it encouraged me, that he was so angry at the fact that someone was slandering me in public. I think the interesting part is that it didn't encouraged me. It saddened me, for my friend. I searched my heart, more than once, because to be honest, I was surprised that my friend's outrage didn't make me feel more vindicated, protected, or cared for.

Like any victim of abuse or bullying, I have day dreamed about being rescued by a superhero, someone who swoops in to save the day.

One thing I have learned, though, is that hatred and bitterness are infectious. My friend had been infected, and my immediate concern was that the anger would begin to destroy him as well. I shared with him that there is no power in hatred, that it does not protect us. In fact, when we allow anger and hatred into our hearts, we are locking ourselves up with the enemy.

I can do my part to create a peaceful, loving, safe home for my daughter, my room-mate Cathy and I, only as long as I do not bring anger and hatred into this home. It is my choice. I wanted my friend to know that as much as I appreciate his protective heart for me, I did not want anger and hatred to steal his joy or peace.

God does not allow us to hate for a reason. We think that hate will protect us, help us avoid being hurt again, keep us from foolishly trusting others, equip us to defend ourselves. But hate is itself destructive. It is kind of like getting a serious infection on our hand, and deciding that to avoid further infections, we will cut off the hand. No hand, no pain. We permanently cripple ourselves to avoid painful injuries that would eventually heal. Hatred does this to us.

I have seen it. In fact, the voices that my friend heard were the distorted, crippled voices of hatred. I remember when that voice could only speak loving words about me. I remember when that heart was soft. Hatred was seeded by childhood wounds, watered and fertilized by undisciplined thoughts, sinful behaviour, unforgiveness, denial and other hate-filled voices, until it has blossomed into full-grown, destructive rage, bitterness and hate.

It is a heart-breaking reality that the one violence we cannot protect others from is the one they willfully inflict on themselves. I encouraged my friend to choose love, and to recognize that love is tough, and truth-telling, and honest, but it is also a shield against hate. Love limits the immediate effects of hatred on us and protects us from any long term effects. It is true power.

I have to go to God's Spirit within me continually for the love that I want to flow out of my life. I do not have what it takes to love those who hate me. I daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute, ask God to love others through me. When God commands that we love, He is also gracious enough to understand that He is asking the impossible and so He offers the means of obeying Him along with the commandment. Our difficult moment comes in making the choice to love rather than to hate. For me, this choice is made easier when I see the fruit of hatred in the lives of those I love. I don't want that in my life. And as I told my dear friend yesterday, I don't want it for him, either.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My gratitude list

I usually don't ascribe to lists. At least, not to legislated ones like daily gratitude lists. I tend to be a pretty grateful person anyway, but there are times when I find it useful to take the time to write down some of the things that I am grateful for. I think the usefulness of gratitude lists comes in their ability to round out reality, to help us see that beyond all the difficult, painful things that may be going on, there is also joy. Just as Christians are called by God to examine our hearts with honesty and faith, to make sure that we do not miss any attitude or belief within us that is unpleasing to God, gratitude lists provide us with an opportunity to examine the happenings around us so that we do not miss the good things that are taking place in the midst of the struggles. It's a reality check. And today, I needed a reality check.

So, first on my gratitude list is my amazing daughter, who is wildly passionate about Jesus, eagerly wanting to do His will and deeply devoted to His work and presence in her life. Connected to this particular object of my gratitude are her experiences at Burke Camp and the teachings, ministry and stellar example of her youth worker, Nathan Johnson, at the camp. He highlighted for her the one thing that she needed to hear - that Jesus is everything. Everything.

Actually, in his duties as preacher, Nathan was able to highlight that message for me as well. Grace and I have often spoken of our devotion to this truth, that Jesus is everything to us. Where once we were content to ask Jesus to help us in the difficult parts of our lives, now we are convinced that we need to just step aside and ask Jesus to personally deal with our difficulties, leaving us with the joyous task of praising Him for His faithfulness as we see Him work in our lives. Gratitude is a weak word to describe my feelings about Grace, and the wonders of watching my daughter not just fall deeper in love with Jesus, but determine to make Him her Lord and Master, the Forgiver of her past, the Constant Companion of her present and the Architect of her future.

I am also grateful for wise, devoted pastors and friends who swoop into my life at hard times with wisdom, encouragement, tea, hugs, truth, Kleenex, prayer and love. These days, I am never quite sure when the next heart-wound is coming, but I do know that within moments of its infliction the phone calls, Facebook/email messages and prayers are let loose in a flurry of encouragement and love. No boo-boo goes unkissed, no tear is left unwiped and no fear is left untended. All of it is God ordained. So often, calls come at just the right time, without my having to ask for help. Gifts arrive unexpectedly. Kindnesses abound without warning. It is all so gloriously God. The thing is that while the initial kindnesses minister to my initial feelings, the knowledge that it all originates in God gives me hope for the future, and in the reality that if a miracle doesn't happen, there are much worse wounds on the way. My friends cannot stop it, nor can they heal a ravaged heart. But God can. Therein lies my hope.

I am grateful, too, for many small things that make my days pleasant. A silly kitten. A kind cardiologist. My fan. My herb garden that is doing incredibly well. My room. My books. A safe and comfortable place to call home. Tea. The Huntingdon library. A car to use until my car gets fixed. Did I mention my fan?

So many things! So many people! So much gratitude!

Friday, July 8, 2011

These are the ones I love...

I was given Steve Bell's Kindness CD by a close friend, and the lyrics of this song touched me. Steve wrote this about his trip to Ethiopia, "One evening I was asked to play a few songs for the villagers and in return the youth, adorned in mesmerizing colour, danced for us; their feet and fierce pride pounding the sands into billowing plumes as the sun set behind. It would be hard to overstate the deep-down beauty of that moment. We were on sovereign soil and we knew it."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I'm feeling grateful today

Recently my daughter, Grace, told me that since we moved into this apartment with my close friend, Cathy, she has felt spiritually free. I know what she means. In the little over a month since I have been here, I am amazed at how peaceful and loved I feel here. I am taking half the amount of medication to reduce anxiety than I was taking at home, my bladder has been feeling better save for the odd flare, and I feel a noticeable freedom from fear, anger and confusion.

Of course, I am in pain. I cry more easily, I am often distracted and when I think about the future I have to hand it quickly over to God, before I sink under the weight of it. I am also still having angina issues, and have made an appointment with my cardiologist and urologist.

The heat and humidity will cause problems for most heart patients, but I cannot overlook the fact that these years of anger, aggression and fear may have left me under so much stress, I may have damaged arteries. The theory is that I have coronary artery spasms which is hard to diagnose unless the arteries are compliant enough to spasm during a test, which apparently mine aren't. Given my symptoms and the circumstances of my heart attack, it's still the most likely choice. Every angina attack, especially when they come repeatedly for days or even weeks, carry the threat of arterial damage, heart attack and even...gulp...sudden death. So, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to have it all checked out.

But still, over all, I am enjoying the peace. I have had anxiety problems since before Marc & I married. Because of our marital issues and my health, I have been praying about my anxiety and working on lessening the unnecessary fear in my life. God knows, there was enough to be necessarily fearful of! Now, I find that over the years, I have been released from much of my unnecessary fear. How utterly cool is that?

Instead, I find myself blissfully free of fear, anger, peace. Which is odd. Those of you who know Cathy and are her Facebook friends know that she is in a huge amount of relational pain herself right now. Add to that a 16 year old teen-aged girl who is also hurting. Mix in the fact that we have all been dubbed "100% the problem". Logically, this apartment should be comparable to a looney bin, what with all the broken-hearted, maniacally-hormonal, mouthy, overly emotional, out-of-control women in here. Really, it's a wonder we're not all foaming at the mouth! But we're not.

What we are doing is listening to each other. Giving each other space. Hugging each other. Taking care of each other. Feeding each other. Establishing and respecting each others' boundaries. Giving to each other. Nurturing each other. Being honest with each other, and trusting each other.

No, we are not perfect. There may be issues, but everything gets solved (or will be solved), with *gasp* words, respect and love. And occasionally, Grandma Betty's peanut butter fudge, as made by Grace who has memorized the recipe. Wonderful child.

I am a grateful woman. There are so many struggles that lie ahead. I love my husband and pray daily for him. I, better than anyone, know who he is under all that anger. I refuse to lose hope, to disrespect him by believing that he is not able to make the right choices. I know what is possible. I am living what is possible. I also know that it starts a long look in the mirror.

Taking responsibility for ourselves, our own emotions, thoughts, words and actions, may feel like a burden, but it is the burden that Christ would have us carry. Jesus said "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:30

Having refused at times to carry the burden of responsibility for myself, and having carrying the burden of sin that wasn't mine, I can attest to the fact that the responsibility that belongs to us is the lightest burden to carry. God's forgiveness, through Christ, awaits every honest and repentant confession, every heart that turns to God and seeks a new life. It is not the acknowledging our own sin that will kill us, but the denial of it. Through acknowledgment, we begin to walk the road to freedom. When we are confronted about our sin, our confronter is not putting us down. We are putting ourselves down by committing the sin!

In any case, as I have said and will say again and again, I am a grateful woman. I love my family, and my friends. I love, love, love having Jean-Luc here. What a God-send he turned out to be! I wrote about saving Jean-Luc in the Chicken Diaries, but now I am seriously wondering if he came to save me! Most of all, I love God, who is my strength and my hope. I read a quote today by Graham Shaw that said, "And all this pain can’t stop my believing and all this joy can’t stop my grieving" . Wow.

Kitten Courage in my Human Heart

This is the story that was accepted by AllWorship, and was sent out in their weekly devotional email.


It is hard to know how old little Jean-Luc was when he and his mother were dropped off at the end of our lane this past spring. His mother, just a kitten herself, was sleek and black. She was gorgeous. She was also hit and killed by a car on the road soon after she and her baby were left. I found her, lying across the mouth of my kilometer-long lane one morning.

Later that day, my husband said that he had seen a grey kitten near where I had placed her body in the grass. He tried to catch him, but the little guy was so frightened, he actually jumped into the cold dark water of the ditch to avoid capture. I placed food in a dish near the ditch and looked for him, but he was well hidden.

For a week, every night when my husband and I went on our evening walks down the lane, I looked for the kitten. It had been a cold, rainy week, and I assumed that either he had traveled to a farm nearby or had also been killed on the road. The food I had left for him had been eaten up within the first few days, but I knew that anything could have eaten it. I thought about him often, and wondered how and where he was.

Then one evening, as my husband and I passed the front field on our walk, we noticed that our two dogs had dug up all the grass and mud under a baler that had been parked by the field. Both dogs were covered in mud and had obviously spent the day gleefully trying to get at whatever was hiding in the machinery. We assumed it was a chipmunk, or maybe a raccoon. We proceeded with our walk, the dogs taking a break form digging duties to accompany us. When we returned home, it was almost dark. We walked past the baler, chatting and laughing once again at the huge patch of dirt the dogs had managed to dig up.

As we approached the house, we heard it. Meowing. The loud, frantic cry of a terrified kitten. He was the poor creature in the baler. I put the dogs in the house, grabbed some food and within minutes he was in my hand, scarfing down the food so quickly he accidently bit my hand twice. He was beautiful, grey and soft. He was also painfully thin.

Once inside, we allowed him to eat until he was satisfied. The dogs were curious, and from the safety of my lap, the kitten narrowed his eyes and growled manfully at them. Clearly, forgiveness would take time. I named the kitten Jean-Luc, for my favorite Star Trek captain, Jean-Luc Picard. He quickly became a part of our family, a sweet, very affectionate little friend.

Part of the reason I named the kitten after a Star Trek captain was because of his incredible courage. He had survived a week in the cold, wet wild. He'd had little to no food, was alone and defenseless, and had spent the day of his rescue being tormented by two well-meaning but very scary dogs. It
just may be, though, that his most impressive act of courage was making the decision to ask for help. He had, effectively, hit rock bottom. He was too hungry, too cold, too tired and too frightened to keep trying to make it on his own. Where at one time he had run from help, a week's worth of misery had gotten him to the place where he was willing to cry out for it.

He heard our voices as we walked by the baler. He knew we were there, and he had only a small window of opportunity before we got to the house and went inside, where we would not have heard him crying. He took a deep breath, put away his fear, and called out to us. As loudly as he could.

And we heard him. We came running. We wanted to save him. We already cared.

"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe." Psalm

It takes courage to admit that we need help, that we cannot walk this road alone. Shortly after Jean-Luc came into my life, I was hit with family troubles that left me blindsided, in pain and afraid. I have something in common with Jean-Luc, though.

When I feel alone, I am not.

Just as my thoughts were always on Jean-Luc, even as he was lost, so am I always on my Heavenly Father's mind and heart. God is eagerly waiting for me to reach out to Him, to admit that I cannot do this alone, to cry out to Him for help and sustenance.

When we are in pain, wounded and broken, it can be hard to trust ourselves into the hands of another, even one as faithful as God. We feel fragile, as if one more disappointment might break us into pieces.

God is loving and true, and is worthy of our trust.

If someone like me, a mere human, can reach out and scoop up a kitten into the safety and comfort of my arms, how much more does our holy and righteous God want to scoop us up and hold us close to Him?

I am crying out to God today. If there is one thing I have learned from little Jean-Luc, it is that I don't have to wait for the dogs to try to dig me out of my hiding place before I call on God to help me.

His ear is turned to me now. His heart belongs to me now. His love and care are mine now. And so now, I cry out to Him, giving Him my life and my trust. Now, I can relax and rest in the love and peace of God's care for me.

by Kelly Dyck
My Zimbio