Thursday, November 26, 2009

True Confessions: Part 1

This is the first in what may become a regular series for me.  Me, how I am doing this minute.  I was contemplating my honesty or rather my lack of being completely open since beginning this blog.  I was looking backwards and thinking about how I always have to have everything perfectly worded, exposing only that which I want you to see, guarding what's close to my heart, not letting you see all the dirt, the grime.  I wrap each writing up in a pretty little package,  hopeful that I can just stare at that package and not have to open it up and painfully learn that nugget all over again... I have never considered myself to be a teacher- type but when I stumbled across Sara Groves describing her new album she summed up what I have been wrestling with these past few days. 

"I tried not to teach on this album," she (Sara Groves) explains. "And I'm a natural-born teacher.  I turn everything into a lesson--for myself, for the people around me. That's how I process my life, that's how I learn... I'm trying to be more confessional..."

Here I am itchy, rashed, and puffed all over, exposing my heart, my face.  I am seeking not to process and come to the fairy tale ending, but to share today what pains me, what is breaking me down- how it is to struggle with only one shoe on not knowing when your prince will come and save you out of your misery.  

Last month I went and had some allergy testing done.  Found out I am allergic to dust mites.  Not sure if that's what is causing the flare ups that I keep having.  Seeing the layers of dust around here it may very well be...  This last one began Sat. evening.  First came the itch, then the swelling.  Now I have a rash.  I am on some medications but they are not helping.  I repeat: THEY ARE NOT HELPING.  I want to claw off my skin.  It burns.  This time around it's blistering.  I am becoming frustrated dealing with the same things.  Not knowing how it's all going to end.  Test after test, prick after prick.

How ironic that when I am struggling with anger I pick up a book and start reading where I left off over a year ago only to find that the chapter deals with anger.  How is it that when I finally sit down to process changes taking place all around me with neighbors moving and old comforts slipping away that just days afterwards I find myself working through a deeper process of change that I never saw coming?  Familiar, well-worn friends no longer a major part of my story.  Feelings of abandonment, mourning the loss of individuals who have listened to me as I shared my joys and offered me tissues when the sorrows swelled my eyes.  

Looking for a friend:  Someone who is easy on the eyes, laughs at what I find amusing and will be quiet and listen without interrupting or passing judgment whenever I need to talk.  I will be terribly jealous if your house is bigger than mine but I still wouldn't mind being invited over once in awhile.  I don't make conversation easily and depending on what mood I am in I may or may not want to answer your questions.  I find that I am very manipulative and critical as well as controlling.  I would appreciate you calling or emailing me just to see if I'm ok.  I probably won't pick up the phone but just knowing that you thought enough of me to call would mean the world to me.  For my part I will wear your hardships in my soul and rejoice when good finds a home with you.         

Since this is "true confessions" I don't have an agenda for this writing, nor an ending point at which I will wrap it all up.  I just have my mind and my fingers working overtime trying to keep up with my thoughts.  When I can't sleep I write letters to people in my mind.  Letters that never get written, but it sure feels good finally putting into words what I really want to tell others.  Most of them are letters of encouragement telling individuals how they have blessed my life.  After the letters are written in air I fall asleep, peacefully.  Which reminds me, I still have half my thank you notes to write from my wedding gifts.  Not sure if the grace period extends past 13 years.

Today I am weary.  I am vain.  I don't want to puff anymore.  Today I am pained for a friend who is watching her father slip away.  Today I am wondering how it is that I am so full while others are going to bed hungry.

"From This One Place"

I was about to give up and that's no lie
cardinal landed outside my window
threw his head back and sang a song
so beautiful it made me cry
took me back to a childhood tree
full of birds and dreams

from this one place I can't see very far
in this one moment I'm square in the dark
these are the things I will trust in my heart
You can see something else
something else

I don't know what's making me so afraid
tiny cloud over my head
heavy and grey with a hint of dread
I don't like to feel this way
take me back to a window seat
with clouds beneath my feet...

~ Sara Groves

Friday, September 25, 2009

Living in a fishbowl


~ excerpt from My Sister's Keeper (page 79)

Two years ago I was in the church parking lot waiting for my son, my oldest, my firstborn. Earlier in the day he had been whisked away with a carload of other kids to the church camp about 40 minutes away. I look up to spot my Pastor and his family. They came to relay a message to a non-cell phone carrying person (myself) that my son had been involved in an accident, "A bottle shattered and a piece of glass hit his head, there was a lot of bleeding, he's ok but they think he needs stitched up." His Aunt (who had been up at the camp for the day) was transporting him to a local hospital to get checked out. I tried to remain calm and outwardly act this way for my sanity and for the sake of not looking like an overprotective nervous mom in the presence of others.

I casually called the girls to come to the car from where they were playing on the lawn. From there on it was full speed ahead. Quick stop at home for an insurance card and then wait- stuck in traffic! NO!!!! The thoughts running through my head at that time were numerous and then some. I thought about me, my child, wondered how deep the wound was, was he scared, would my husband make it to the hospital in time to not only be a comfort to Caleb but to me as well? Fainting is more my body's response to blood than being present. The cars were moving but as if in slow motion. I wondered if they knew where I needed to be, if anyone cared that it wasn't a super sale that I was anxious about missing, that it was my son that needed me to be with him! I needed to be with him. My heart was beating out of my chest, willing the cars to move faster.

What seemed like an eternity later I did end up at the hospital- ahead of my son even. Finally, in he comes, head bandaged up with dried blood caked on. He looked like a survivor. He had been crying and I could see the fear in his eyes. But, there was also a calmness about him as well. I knew at that point that life would continue on as normal after this little blip of 7 staples and having to endure wearing a swimming cap for swimming lessons the next week. It could have had a different ending, the glass could have cut deeper, or in his eye. The story would have played out differently than just an afternoon of inconvenience with another scenario.

Since that day I look at people driving along the road differently. I imagine where they are going, what awaits them at their destinations. I think twice when I hear an ambulance and try to put out of my mind the reason for the lights, the sirens. My heart skips a beat when I see the parking lot filled at the funeral home a couple streets over from where we live. It's so easy to get stuck in your own little fishbowl where you deal with only that which affects your personal space. Most of those days are spent dealing with basic survival tactics, taking in what each day brings and learning how to function in that realm. Most of my days are pretty ordinary, basic, transporting my children to their various activities while at the same time there are others living out a not so ordinary day. My normal is not the same as your normal.

I recently watched the movie Lorenzo's Oil for the first time. I was struck by one scene in particular. Children were flooding the streets with uncontained excitement after being bottled up in school all day. Then the scene abruptly shifts to Lorenzo, unable to move, gagging on his own saliva. Right outside his house children were laughing and playing. The irony in it. All day, every day, there are hurts in the world, around us, maybe right next door to us. People living out "abnormal" days, weeks, months, years even while the world goes on as usual. The mail doesn't stop coming just because your life is in crisis mode. I learned this 2 years ago as I raced to the hospital to deal with my not so ordinary day.

Through what happened with my son I learned that I can endure more than I thought I could. My mind went into preservation mode as I was able to take some pictures of him as he waited in the emergency room, blood and all. I also learned that my son will go through some hard things that will strengthen him and open his eyes to the world beyond our fishbowl, which might include pain, to teach him empathy. This was one of those times.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Read the fine print

I did it, well almost. I went back to a place where I had previously left with my head held down in shame. I had been working up the courage for weeks now, practicing avoidance the best I knew how. Then yesterday I told them, my children, we would be stopping by... the library. We, meaning all of us. The girls asked me if they could finally get some books, again. It had been quite a few weeks since I stepped inside. Fear, that my face would be remembered, the incident that I caused would come quickly to the mind of the nice librarian who had just been doing her job.

Let me back up a bit. My husband thought it was time to get away, take a trip, and off he went someplace with a hotel because he had work to do away from home. He was gone for 4 days. During this time period I had to return some library books. Not too hard seeing as the library is right in town, a 5 minute walk away. It could have been right out my front door and I still wouldn't have been able to return the books on time during this particular week. I told my husband my predicament, that I would not be able to get to the library before the books were due. He said to wait until Thursday when you could return books for "free" and not have to pay a fine. Ok, being the most dutiful, husband honoring wife that I am I obeyed, and waited until Thursday.

We ended up getting to the library around 3 that Thursday. Caleb went to return/check out his books. The very respectable librarian said that he had incurred a fine. I said "What? My husband told me to wait until today to return the books because it was a forgiveness day of sorts." The answer I was given is that you need to come in during happy hour times- which occur after 5 on Thursdays. At this point it was around 3:30. I politely pointed out the time to her and asked if there was any way that she could wave the late fees because it was almost 5. Her response, "No, I already checked in the books." Could I get the books back out and wait here til 5 to return them? No, they were already checked back into the system. There was no budging on this.

Ok, to be fair to myself I need to back up even further in the story. The day before Andy left town we discovered a note on our door. This note said that our water would be turned off the next day if we didn't pay up! My caring husband then proceeded to print out copies of bills to show they were paid on time and in full so I would be armed with "evidence". I had to be up and out the door early the next day, unable to call about the notice before I left. On the way home I stopped at the post office to pick up the mail. I discovered a letter about insufficient funds in our bank account and bills not being paid??!! What??! My pot was full and about to boil over. Thankfully, after making a few phone calls it was cleared up for me that the notice was put on the wrong door and the bank didn't need to send out the letter that it did. It was a mix up, a blooper! It did set the tone for the rest of the week as far as being uncertain what else would turn up that would cause me to stress more than usual without my husband there to help me...

Back to finish the library story which I'm sure you are quite anxious to see how it resolved itself. The librarian pointed out the sign to me that was at this point right in front of me on the counter. Funny, I didn't remember it being in such a prominent place before. It had the happy hour times listed. I tried again, this time my voice picking up strength, begging to no avail, telling her about having to care for my children for a week by myself, the bank and water issues that put strain on my worried mind and how I was just following my husband's orders about returning the books on Thursday and everything would be ok. It wasn't. At this point I was getting no sympathy and I was about to lose it. I excused myself to the bathroom before I could cause myself anymore embarrassment.

When I got back from the bathroom Caleb told me that the lady behind us in line had paid our fines. That's when I really lost it. I was really crying at this point, not just show tears meant to bring about sympathy anymore but actual tears of remorse for my actions. Me, supposedly a warrior in God's army, breaking at the thought of having to spend Panera Bread money for overdue library books and fighting as hard as I could because I thought I deserved a break. I didn't. I should have learned to read the fine print and put into practice a spirit of humility when I learned that I was incorrect. Instead, a stranger took on that role as she saw a confused person who shouldn't have been left alone to care for 3 children, needing a helping hand. She won the brownie points that day.

Yesterday, my first day back in there to face my fears. Kids in tow, books ready to hand over and I stopped mid- stride. There she was. I couldn't do it. I feigned interest in what books the kids had picked out, trying to time it so another librarian would be free to help me. "Go now," I said as I was practically racing to the counter! We reached the counter just as another librarian stepped up to help. This is what happens when you have too much time to think about yourself and what you have done in your past, good or bad. You start believing that you are important to everyone else, that they actually remember you and what you have done and said. I need to get over it. The librarian has probably long since moved on from the memory of a hysterical lady in front of her throwing a tantrum because she didn't want to play by the rules. Yet, I can dream, right- that I am slightly important enough that I will be remembered?

Someday I may have to tell you all about the Eagle's Nest incident. That also involved a stressed mom without her husband for the week, needing to dump her kids somewhere, anywhere that wouldn't involve getting arrested. The Nest was full, had to wait, was told I could put my name on the list. The condensed version involves more people coming and putting their names on the list and me, still waiting, because I did not put my name on the list. Didn't know you couldn't just wait by the wall, I mean I was there, the list people weren't. Had to wait and keep waiting. Poor girl was just following the rules as she called the people on the list ahead of me. I finally broke down and put my name on the list as I was realizing that just holding up the wall with my 3 kids and my tears would not get me in...

Realizing that sometimes you just can't manipulate to get your way. Oh, that sounds so very grown-up. I sure have a lot to learn, which includes reading the fine print. It may be worth reading if it can save me the embarrassment from having future public tantrums.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Prepared for such a time

In the Lord of the Rings Frodo states his displeasure over having to be responsible for the ring, for having to play his part in destroying evil.  The path was hard and conflicting for him to travel on.  Frodo was afraid and wishes he'd never been chosen to destroy the ring...

"So do I", said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us."

Such simplicity in Gandalf's reply yet the the repercussions are numerous.  We don't have a choice at times what falls into our lap, whether hardships or blessings will enter our days.  We do have a choice though as to how to view our hardships and what our response will be.

I am currently struggling with a heavy burden upon my shoulders.  I am trying to figure out "community" and what that means to me, our church, and how I see myself fitting in to it all.  The whole realm of worship, encouraging, rebuking and uplifting other believers in the faith.  There is so much turmoil swirling about my church congregation.  In the midst of it is a broken Pastor who is filled with such anguish as to how to lead his sheep.  Through the chaos and confusion I find myself searching.  Searching my soul to see what church should mean to me.  Am I to give up a community that has been my home for 11 years because the unknowns are too hard to bear?  Should I move on because my eyes are tempted by all that glitters?

I have found myself longing, more than usual, wanting something more.  I weep for those who have left our small congregation.  I too have had those same thoughts over the years.  For many years now I have fought my own battles of the flesh, my desires, wanting to be worshipping in a place that offers me something different.  I am trying desperately to separate out what I believe are my worldly ambitions so that I can recognize them as being false gods.  There are days when I don't want to bend down and serve, to wash another's feet.  My flesh desires to be in a place where am I served, where my needs are met.  

Many questions have risen in my mind over the weeks.  Just because your weaknesses and faults are finally found out by others does that discredit you from serving?  How long before being given up on and others begin to call you unfit?  One of my many fears over the years is that it will be found out that I have a great, great many faults and I sin, over and over again.  Each time wanting it to be the last.  Praying that I will overcome my sinful nature.  At what number does a fellow believer come to me and say, "please don't sing again, your faults are too numerous."  My heart would be shattered to pieces.  Grateful, yes, that I could finally be open about the great sinner that I am but broken that I could no longer serve the God that I know with the voice that I know can only be from Him.

"Now therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served... and serve the Lord.

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

For the Lord our God is He who brought us up out of the land of Egypt... and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went..."

Joshua 24: 14-17

I find that with each new trial that comes my way I can see how the Lord prepared me ahead of time.  When the trial has passed I can look back and see how I was carried through by His strong hand.  Even knowing that, I still don't like trials or seek them out if I can help it.  My initial response is to fight my reality by lashing out at others or running away and hiding.  When Andy's brother died I did not want Andy and I to be prepared to walk that path, yet we were and it happened.  As are the current struggles that fill my days, I don't want to come to grips with them, but I need to.  The Lord has been preparing me for such a time as this.  I have choices to make.  I could choose to act on my hurt and anger.  I could choose to run away to that which beckons my senses or I could stay and work to love my community.  I am working through what it is that I serve, whom I serve.  Is He worthy of my service?  Of forsaking my desires for His?  Yes, and He beckons me to come...


Let me be in love with what You love
Let me be most satisfied in You
Forsaking all the world has offered me
I choose to be in love with You
I will choose to be in love with You

Let me know the peace that's mine in You
Let me know the joy my heart can sing
For I have nothing Lord apart from You
I choose to call on Christ in me
I will choose to call on Christ in me

For in the fullness of who You are
I can rest in this place
And giving over this, my journey Lord
I see nothing but Your face

Let me know that You have loved me first
Let me know the weight of my response
For you have long pursued my wandering heart
I choose to glory in Your cross
I will choose to glory in Your cross

And I bow down...
Humbly I bow down...
My beloved- here I am
I bow down to you...

~Christy Nockels

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Embracing the fire

I survived another day celebrating my birth.  It went more or less how I expected.  Moriah had her melt-down before I had mine.  Literally, the candle I placed on her part of the cake melted into a stream.  Then the sobbing began.  Andy tried to console her as I took pictures of the melted little smiley guy.    

All day the kids were asking when they could sing to me and eat the cake they had so lovingly made by themselves, from start to finish.  I finally partially consented.  I let them put the candles in the cake, early.  All 34 of them.  Well, only 30 to start with because Moriah didn't want anymore on the part of the cake that she had decorated.  She screamed as her siblings tried to poke them into her corner.  Caleb insisted through his restrained tears that the rest of the cake would crumble if the remaining few had to be put elsewhere.  I finally did manage to get permission for 2 more to be put in her corner.  I found spots for the other 2.  The cake did not crumble.

I have to wonder if part of Moriah knew what would happen.  The wax from the candles would melt, clinging to the icing.  Removal of the wax would then mean that part of the sweet goodness of icing attached to it would be removed as well.  Therefore, resulting in slightly less sweet topping for her to enjoy.  In the case of the melting smiley face it was quite a bit of icing that had to removed.  Maybe Moriah was trying to avoid the pain of losing something she viewed as good.  She had a perfectly frosted section of cake, untarnished by many holes and melted wax. 

How easy it is for me to resist giving over my stuff, myself, to be molded for a greater purpose.  How easy it is for me to want to hold on and naively pretend that this is as good as it gets.  To not see that I have become lukewarm in my faith...

Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

Revelation 3:17-19

I want to know that I am loved, as painful as it is.  I have learned that my Master and keeper of my days is shaping me with His fire.  If I knew how these last few years would have played out in my life ahead of time I would have said "no thank you".  No thank you to the lessons learned by trial.  No thank you to being burned.  No thank you to the hot wax being poured onto my soul, stripping away what I thought was good in my life.  It hurts.  

My youngest did a smart thing by requesting the least amount of candles to be placed into her part of the cake.  She did a brave thing by consenting to have more. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Passage of time

Another year, another candle to blow out.  As is always the case around my birthday I start thinking about time.  This week I took the kids with me to sing happy birthday to a friend turning 71.  She was never married, has no children, though she still has many siblings left.  She started with 11, down a few now.  We got to talking about farms and tractors.  She remembers a time when horses were used to work the fields.  Change. 

This summer has been filled with many changes.  Most frustrating would be having our favorite restaurant changing owners.  It was a place that Andy and I started going to years ago, to celebrate our marriage.  Many memories in our almost yearly visits.  I remember going there when I was days away from giving birth to our first-born.  Special place.  Only once did we take the kids there, to celebrate Andy's parents anniversary.  Not fancy, yet special because of the many extra touches.  You could get a bottle of birch beer, read the menu off a chalkboard, wonder if the chairs at the next table over in the checkered pattern were more comfortable than yours, then proceed to tug on the flowers to check their authenticity.  Picked from a garden they were!  Change will be taking place with the new owners, I'm sure of it.


Just a few days ago I discovered another familiar comfort gone.  A favored entree taken off a menu.  Then I went in to pick up some broccoli salad at the neighborhood grocery store.  That too was gone, not being made anymore.  When my brother was visiting he commented on his changing skin.  What next?  I am still getting used to my digital camera.  The passage of time will ultimately affect change.  Not sure if it's good or bad, perhaps only decided by our perception of it.  With digital I can now take more, more, and more pictures.  I don't have to dread reaching the number 36 and realizing that I am out of film.  Now it's the batteries that I worry about... 

Recently I heard my sister-in-law joke about how before she was married she spent more time with her husband to be than after they got married!  Change.  There are a few benefits of passing time.  Diapers are no longer a part of my daily routine, nor trying to keep tiny hands away from every potential harm.  I never imagined how I could love my children as much past the "cute" toddler stage.  I'm finding that my love for them is growing even more as time lengthens their limbs. 
Ecclesiastes 11:5

Time also has a healing factor to it.  The pain doesn't sear as deep anymore when my memories of Jeff come up for air.  I knew my life would change dramatically because of that accident.  Almost 2 years have passed since that day.  The day that I almost let bitterness take over my life.  I knew at that moment that my husband would have to do more than his part to help keep the farm running.  Time, giving me a different perspective.  Time, allowing me to see the strength of my husband's character.  Time, slowing eroding away all traces of bitterness.

I'm not sure if I will be able to go to a space that held many a memory of times gone by with the walls painted a different color, chairs that match and a menu that doesn't carry anything that resembles the last sandwich that I ordered (which was ham, turkey and cheese with bacon and apple slices that came with a caramel dipping sauce).  Perhaps, just perhaps if I let myself, I may discover it to be just as special a place.  Perhaps I will also learn something about myself in the process.  A way to grow, to adapt- to not hold on so tightly to that which is no more.  Maybe I'll even better learn how to embrace all that the passage of time has to offer.  That which makes my heart laugh along with that which causes my arms to tremble.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Pictures.  I take so many.  I'm not really sure why.  The ones taken with 35mm film sit silently in boxes, rarely opened to see daylight.  The digital forms that I have are waiting patiently on memory cards to be rediscovered, placed on our computer for viewing pleasure.  A couple of times I have gone through the process to get tangible prints, not often though.  That's alright.  It's not really the end result that I so crave.  It's the actual moment itself.  I once read somewhere that to create a lasting imprint in your mind of a moment you need to focus on that moment for a specified matter of seconds.  I must not have focused too long on what I was reading because I forget how many seconds were needed for the moment to become lasting in your mind...  Hummm.  I love the above moment captured on camera.  We had just picked up Caleb from his week at camp and Riah was showing him the new space in her mouth.  I remember being so incredibly full of joy to all be together again.  So thankful for taking the time to imprint it in my mind.  It brings back how misty eyed my 10 year old son was when I held him under my arm after being out of touch for 5 days.       

Once I thought my camera was lost along with pictures that I would never have a chance to relive.  For the days that I thought it was lost I retraced in my mind all the pictures that I had taken recently.  I jotted them all down.  After finding what I thought was lost I quickly viewed all of the pictures.  Amazingly all of them were what I thought they would be.  I hadn't missed a one.  It was then that I realized that my memories were made and stored only by the time that I had taken to treasure them.  I learned this lesson well by watching my father.  He has spent his lifetime behind many a lens.  He is fascinated by the wonders of this world and has chosen to capture it through a viewfinder.  He may be the last one to exit a trail in the woods and you may even think yet once again you have lost him for good in a crowd- but it's OK.  His family that knows and loves him wouldn't have it any other way.  He continues to delight himself in the here and now so that we can all share in his memories.  And perhaps if we are lucky we too can catch a glimpse of his awe for the wonders of God's creative genius.  

I may leave my house without my lip gloss or even my wallet, but you will never find me without my camera.  I need all the help I can get to remind me to slow down, to savor time, to create a memory.  Life is so very fleeting.  But then again, I didn't need to remind you of that.  

I am choosing to get both feet wet

by jumping in and FEELING every moment 

and seeing how they shape me

and where they may take me.

Lyrics from a song that Michael Card wrote for his children that echoes my heartbeat:

Reject the worldly lie that says,
That life lies always up ahead,
Let power go before control becomes a crust around your soul,
Escape the hunger to possess,
And soul-diminishing success,
This world is full of narrow lives,
I pray by grace your smile survives.

For I would wander weary miles,
Would welcome ridicule my child,
To simply see the the sunrise of your smile,
To see the light behind your eyes,
The happy thought that makes you fly,
Yes, I would wander weary miles,
To simply see the sunrise of your smile.

Now close your eyes so you can see,
Your own unfinished memories,
Now open them, for time is brief,
Andy you'll be blest beyond belief,
Now glance above you at the sky,
There's beauty there to blind the eye,
I ask all this then wait awhile,
To see the dawning of your smile...