With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Friday, March 22, 2013

Thanksgiving before Easter

"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O most High."
 - Psalm 9:1 - 2

A week ago I decided to write down the miraculous events that have occurred in the past year of illness, surgery, and overall struggle. The list is long - over three handwritten pages. Many friends / guardian angels stepped in to help for the day(s) or week(s) that they could spare, and when they had to leave others quickly stepped in to take their place, often from unlikely sources. Over four months' worth of Monday, Wednesday and Friday meals were delivered, carefully meeting strict dietary guidelines and providing food not only for us, but for relatives who were staying to care for us. Speaking of relatives, many came on short notice to keep the house running and to care for me, providing the blessing of their presence, hard work, and deeper relationships with each.

I was still very ill at the beginning of January, when we learned that Rob would need micro-fracture surgery on his knee and would need six weeks recovery with no weight on the right leg. I was doubtful that this surgery could occur when scheduled, given my precarious state and the fact that relatives had their own health and work issues at this time. Miraculously, I was well enough  - on the very day of his surgery and not before - to drive him there and care for him as he recovered.

Yesterday we received the hard news that our insurance company, Cigna, had denied our appeal on the hospital bill that I incurred last fall.  It was a hard blow, as the amount is large, and we had hoped that they would cover at least part. This morning we had a plumbing disaster and had to call a plumber for $500 worth of services and repair. In the midst of writing my name for the receipt on the credit card, I received a text from Rob that our vested stock sold. He had put in a sell order two months ago, to act if the stock equaled its six-month high. It has been low for two months, three dollars under that price. And yet today, the day after the letter, in the middle of plumbing repairs, I received the news that it sold.

Miracles abound, and we are so grateful. SO grateful. Thank you to all of our friends and families who have constituted the miracles, and who have brought the promise of hope. And to God, the great indwelling spirit, we give thanks with full hearts for wonderful deeds.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Flesh and Blood

"The gospel is about Jesus in the flesh and blood, teaching and healing his brothers and sisters. You cannot deal with a human being as an issue. Until your "issue" is clothed in flesh and blood, you should just sit down."- Paraphrased from sermon by Pastor Rob Bell, St. Andrew United Methodist Church, March 19, 2013

I heard Rob Bell (https://www.robbell.com)/speak last night at our church and it was a transcendent experience. Pastor Bell spoke for over an hour and covered many topics, and it was one of the few occasions in my life when I completely lost track of time. Though I would like to share and discuss many of the points he covered, I only have the time and space to cover one or two. The paraphrased quote above was part of an answer that Bell gave to a questioner in the audience. The man said that he assumed Bell had been misquoted on the subject of gay marriage. Bell said, "what did I supposedly say?" The man replied "the reporter must have misquoted you because he said you were in favor of gay marriage." Bell's quick rejoinder: "That's because I AM in favor of gay marriage."

We could not hear much of the conversation that followed due to the thunderous applause from the audience (which filled our 650+ person church sanctuary). I did hear Pastor Bell say that when he talked with folks who are against gay marriage he always asks how they represent their views with cherished gay friends, and the reply is almost always "We don't have any gay friends." At this point he discussed the fact that people, rather than "issues," are the subject matter of the gospel. He pointed out that until we are looking at the people involved, we don't really understand the issues of gay marriage, illegal immigration, human trafficking - and the list goes on.

I felt this subject poignantly again this morning when I visited the GEO / ICE detention center in Aurora, CO. My friend Heidi and I went to visit two men who are in the detention center for their crime of being undocumented and re-entering the United States after deportation. They both recognize that re-entering the country without papers was wrong and foolish, but what broke my heart was that the man in front of me continually referred to himself as "illegal."  A human being cannot be illegal. A human being can be undocumented, but s/he is not illegal, not inherently bad, not less than. Who among us chose the country of our birth? Our family of origin? Who among us is inherently superior and above wrongdoing? The men in the detention center are not "issues". They are people, children of God, husbands and fathers, sisters and mothers. They are just like us, clothed in flesh and blood.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Metta

Metta

Thought follows thought,
Scythe through consciousness,
Two hawks spiraling on
Edgewing.

What fills center?
Heartspace lifted, open,
Chambers unfolding downward,
Deepen.

Pernicious prickles attempt
To steal peace's purse.
Look inward now with metta,
Escape.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Self Portrait

What adjectives would you use to describe yourself? "Tall, dark and handsome" aside, who do you think you are? I've always answered that question with the words, sharp, strong, smart, athletic, determined, and forceful, and those adjectives came to play in my need to define myself through achievements in school and in sports.  Words that I never used include vulnerable, weak, scared, confused, or lovable. The last eight months have proven that I am certainly the first four, which was a big shock to the system, let me tell you. But as to the last word, "lovable," I am a bit stuck.

My friends and family have certainly demonstrated through their meals, hugs, cards, CD's, emails and notes that their love is beyond the pale. I don't doubt their integrity or the strength of their emotions, but I've come to find out that I doubt my own lovability. It was never in the catalog I used to describe myself.. I knew I could count on my grades, my times, my job title, even my earnings (for a short while back in the mid-90s). I didn't need the word Lovable in my handbook.

But now I do. Athletic achievements are done, and grades don't matter any more. I don't have a job at present, and so there is a deep doubt at my center that I am worthy of love. Can a person formed mostly of sharp angles and wide emotional swings be considered "cute and cuddly"? Those "c" words I associate with lovable and they are not me. Even when I think of myself as a baby I think of someone screaming away with colic, or dragging her big wheel away from mom and dad saying "I do it." I am going to have to go back to the beginning and re-frame my self concept to see a vulnerable baby and young child who needed - and received - comfort. As a young woman who enjoyed sleeping in her parents' closet because of their nearness. As a mother of three who was gravely ill and cared for by legions of angels. I'm going to have to love myself first before I can truly believe anyone else. If you have a checklist or a training plan for this, please let me know. I might need a little (more) help.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Six Strings

Funny story. When I decided to bring my father's guitar home from Montana in October, he sat me down to go over a few basics. Dad began by apologizing for the way the guitar was strung, half with metal-fiber and half with nylon. He assumed this was incorrect and explained that he had been too muddled to ask the guitar repair-person what he was doing. at this long-ago stringing. So I entered my first guitar lesson yesterday late and apologizing for the way the guitar was strung. Turns out, the guitar is strung perfectly.

How's that for an obvious metaphor? We enter new endeavors bowing and scraping a bit, prepared to apologize at a moment's notice when, lo and behold, we are "strung" exactly right for the opportunity. Sometimes too tight, sometimes too loose and out of tune, but fitting for the job nonetheless. Time flew by in my lesson yesterday, with my focus on the tuning, posture, picking and chord positions firmly in place I had no time to think about illness or discomfort or concerns related to these. When something calls to our hearts our focus can leave our heads.

My teacher is young (very), and an accomplished musician. He picked out a simple tune to show me the difference between using a pick and using your fingers and I was instantly awestruck. Of course he has been playing since he was six years old, and if I stop to think about the wealth of learning I need to accomplish on this instrument I could be overwhelmed. Patience and compassion towards myself will be as essential to the process as the guitar tuner and picks and sheet music, just as they are in the journey to health, and in the path of mishaps that I call my path.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Borrowed Quotation

I'm getting off easy today by passing along a poem instead of writing one, but I know you will love this piece by Hafez. I came across "With That Moon Language" in Fr. Gregory Boyle's book, Tattoos on the Heart: Tales of Boundless Compassion.(Amazon Link). It eloquently expresses every human's desire to be seen, heard, and loved. Consider these lines as hugs and kisses from me to you.

With That Moon Language

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud;
    Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying
With that sweet moon
     Language
What every other eye in the world
Is dying to
     Hear.

-Hafez


Friday, March 1, 2013

Beyond Belief

"Hold on to what you believe, in the night, when the darkness has robbed you of all your sight."
- Mumford & Sons, "Hold on to What You Believe"

Middle school lore states that to obtain a snow day one must flush an ice cube down the toilet, place a spoon under the pillow, wear pajamas inside out, drink a cup of hot chocolate before bed and place a map of Colorado in the freezer. I know religions  that have fewer basic tenets, but my sixth grader's belief in the ritual is strong, and her machinations even procured a delayed start last week after our eight inches of snow. The kids would have preferred a full day off but enjoyed their sleep-in.

In the dark nights when I was most ill, I believed in two ideas: 1. God, the life force in all the universe, is good, and 2. My family and friends loved me. Many times friends had sight when I had none, when my recovery seemed hopeless to me. Now I believe something else: that I will be totally well. I am back to my normal weight with no stomach issues. The Paleo diet is working well and clicks with my body. Best of all, my autoimmune function, as measured in my blood, is down 400 points from September and I am back in the normal range. My endocrine system and my scalp are not quite normal but moving that direction.
I am beyond grateful to all that believed in me and carried me through my unbelief.

I need to nurture my beliefs and my faith now, especially when things are getting better and going well.  I find myself forgetting at times, in the normal hubbub of daily life with three kids. I forget to stop and offer gratitude to the good, loving universal spirit, and to fill myself with the love of friends and family so that I can reflect that love back to them. Beliefs are urgent when the darkness falls, but must be cultivated in the light. Thankfully I can almost shut the door on the past, and move on to live in the bright spaces.