Monday, October 24, 2011

Time in the Tunnel, Dr. Nice, and Being the One

My day starts with ten leprous men. Those hideous outcasts join my children and me at the breakfast table for Cheerios and conversation. As I read aloud this accounting of Luke's, I am pierced again by Jesus and his ways. He does not hesitate to answer those ten desperate cries for help. This is why He came. To do the will of his Father. Do not all ten feel the joy of realizing they are clean, every sore and pain gone without a trace? Yes, of course they do. But only one knows what to do with the gift. Only one lets the joy come bursting loudly from his lungs, falling down and thanking at the feet of the One who did the giving.

The Cheerios are almost gone now, and we are saying out loud the things we are thankful for today. The autumn light is gold coming in the window, and it is good, but I move them on, push them to finish their school work. This is MRI day for me, and I don't want to go, but I don't want to be late. We have other things to do, but in the middle, Sara comes to me with her Bible. She has searched and found the story of the one who thanked Jesus. She is proud of finding it, and she wants to read it to us. We need to keep moving, but I smile and nod her on. Sam wonders aloud why we need to read this again, and I am thinking we need to hear this as many times as it takes. I want to be The One Who Thanks.

Later, alone on my forty minute drive to the hospital, I am anything but thankful. Sam is doing well, but the situation with his growth hormone drug is frustrating. I spend my forty minutes on hold and talking to the pharmacist, and my stomach feels twisted when she tells me we will need to pay twice what we were told at the first. This feels like an impossibly difficult situation, and I find myself stomping and muttering my way into the hospital.

It is forever November 8, 2007 inside this place for me. My dad is here, coming out of surgery. The cancer is mean, and it is invading his brain, stealing land it has no right to claim. His mouth is dry and his head hurts so badly, I need to look away. I want to leave this place now and walk away from the memory, but I walk down the hall to MRI. They know me here. I've done this before. I take off my earrings, put on my gown, and go into that tunnel where nothing exists but closeness, heat, and blaring beeps, thumps, and tappings. This machine is seeing into my brain, and it saw my dad's brain, and our stories have turned out so differently. 

I close my eyes and try to relax. My face feels hot. But words come with the tapping of the machine. Do not be not be anxious. About anything...about anything. But in everything...but in everything. By prayer and prayer and petition. With thanksgiving...with thanksgiving...with thanksgiving...with thanksgiving. Present your requests to God. Okay. Okay. Breathe. Thank You, God. Thanks that You are taking care of this situation.

I drive across the street to the neurology office. I sign in, put an x by Dr. Nice's name, and notice also the name of Dad's doctor. He is the one who said those words to my dad that we are all afraid of--You have only a few months to live. My dad sat here in this waiting room, and I sit here now, reading a book, and our stories turned out so differently.
The book I have in my purse is Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. She is telling the story of the ten lepers, and I think this is no coincidence. Three times in just six hours the Lord has given me this story, and I think I should pay attention. Be the one, He whispers. Be the thankful one. In a world full of stomping and muttering, be the one who falls at my feet to thank me.

Yes, Lord, I will! I am! You have healed me, and I am so thankful. You have Sam's best in mind, and I am thankful. You provide all we need, and I am thankful. You've given my dad a home in heaven, and I am thankful.

The nurse calls me back. "What drugs are you taking for your MS?" she asks. I startle slightly at this, and tell her I don't have MS. She looks confused, checks my chart again. "I'm sorry. I was just going by what your chart says." She reads something else. "Oh, I see. Okay." She looks at me again, and I don't know what she is thinking. After she leaves, I open my book again. My eyes glance up and catch the words on the drug ad poster on the wall: "Which One Are You?" I am the one who is thankful, I answer.  

When Dr. Nice comes in, I smile. I like this guy. "What are you reading?" he asks. He sits next to me, takes the book into his hands and looks at the pretty cover, two hands extended full of potential, a bird's nest with two eggs. "It's a book about being thankful," I say, a very simple synopsis.

 "That's good," he says, and with more expression and emotion than I have ever seen from him, " and you have much to be thankful for, because your brain looks ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! Really beautiful. I mean, I am just so surprised. I really thought you would have MS. I really did. This just doesn't happen. You are the rare case. You are a lucky girl."

I think my face might crack. I can't smile any bigger. My eyes fill partially with tears, but my smile never wavers. He looks at me, really looks, then looks down, but comes back. He's looking straight into my eyes, now, and he's lingering, and I think I know why. I think I know what he sees there. It's what I hope he sees there. It's the Jesus Joy. The Light. I know it's there. I can feel it beaming right out of my eyes.

His words, You are a lucky girl, have vibrated the air around us, and now have fallen silent, and I want to counter them with a higher truth. I speak gently into that silence, "This is God. I am blessed," my simple synopsis. Dr. Nice nods, and becomes excited once again as he recalls a study he once read about the power prayer has on one's immune system. He's recounting the details and looking at me, and I think he's deciding it just might be true, and I smile. "Yes," I say, "absolutely."

With joy, now, after the exam, he tells me it is a pleasure to see a case turn out this way. He shakes my hand goodbye, and tells me to inform the check-out girl that I have graduated. I tell her and the tears come. I don't have to come here again. Our stories did not turn out so differently after all, mine and my dad's. He graduated from this place, too. He won't come here again. To live is Christ, to die is gain. I am living. Living for Christ. He has gained eternal life. Both are good. We both have good stories.

My drive home is so much different than the drive there had been. I marvel inwardly, as I have oftentimes, that joy makes my chest hurt. My heart is so full, it brings me a physical sensation of pain. I say Thank You. And I say it again. Thank You. And again. Thank You. And this is breaking something in me I didn't know was there. Now I say it over and over. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Over and over. And the tears are pouring out, and the laughter comes out, too. And I can't say anything else right now, because this is all I need to say. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

Jesus is talking me through this somewhat odd experience. This is why you get that full feeling inside you sometimes. It is the thanks trying to get out. You need to let it out. This is a new level of thankfulness for you, and it blesses me so much. This what the woman who poured her perfume out did for me. She blessed me. You are pouring out the sweet fragrance of thanksgiving from your heart and it is blessing me.

I weep and say Thank You some more. I say it until the last Thank You is out. How do you feel now? Jesus asks me. I check my heart. It isn't painful anymore. It is gooooooooooooood. It feels groovy. It feels peaceful. Yes, of course, after the prayer and petition with thanksgiving, comes the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. It guards my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. And I have a knowing that as often as I pour out my perfume, He will fill it up again. This could never get old. Yes, I will be the one, Lord.   



Friday, October 21, 2011

A New Old Friend

Hi, my sweet friends. Just wanted to share my new blog friend with you today. Her name is Beth, and she is actually an acquaintance from college. I have recently discovered that she is a kindred spirit in my quest to find the God kind of beauty every day and to live a life full of thanksgiving. She is hosting something called New Friend Friday, and I am her featured friend for the day! Click on over there to read my short interview. And while you're there, take a look around. She has some great tips and thoughtful ways to inspire us to start paying attention to the beauty around us. I recommend this post for starters.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I Will

Happy Birthday, Dad.

If you were here
I would kiss your face off
and touch your beard
with trembling hand.

I would sing you a song,
and though I am unpracticed
and probably faltering,
I would play you a tune on my piano,
because I know how you love to listen.

I would show you how the kids have grown,
that the boys love their slingshots
and my girl has a tender, quirky heart.

I would go for a walk with you,
so we could talk
and marvel at how the maples
have turned scarlet.

I would be tempted to shower you
with a thousand birthday gifts,
but none of that would matter,
so I would shower you with all my love instead.

But today, in your absence,
your very great absence, 
I choose to make I would, I will.

I will kiss my children's faces off
and touch their golden heads
with trembling hand.

I will sing them a song
and play a tune on my piano,
because I know how they love to listen.

I will show them your picture
and remind them of the things
that made you unforgettable.

I will take them on a walk,
and we will talk
and marvel at how the maples
have turned scarlet.

I will be tempted to shower them
with a thousand store-bought gifts,
but none of that really matters,
so I will shower them with all my love instead.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In Which the Splendor of a Mountain Vista Inspires a Lofty Query

(based on the true adventures of Bob and Rachelle in the Rockies)
The sun warmed our faces as we rose above the tree line. Here, the cold air stung, and our lungs needed more with each step. Our boots crunched rock. A marmot popped his brown head above a boulder, spotted two hikers, and disappeared again. The silence on this mountain was not the same as any silence below. It was hushed, reverent, as if every created thing was holding its breath. Not one wished to disturb the near perfect vision they were revealing to us.

Jagged peaks proudly stood above, draped here and there with smooth glacier snow. Alpine flowers in shades of glory dotted the tundra. Their bobbing heads told us we could reach our destination. Their tender strength filled us with hope. The sky was our sapphire backdrop, its one white cloud within arm's reach. A great eagle soared through this bejeweled atmosphere, daring us to defy gravity along with him.

"We are almost there," we said to each other. We said this often, not because we knew it, but because we wanted to believe. Our vision now became narrow out of necessity. We were fixed on feet and hands, finding our way safely across changeable terrain. The weight of our backpacks taunted us, testing our resolve. The muscles of our legs cried out for rest. One more step. And another.

Just one more now.


We made it. A dark emerald pool lay still and cold, hidden from all in the world but the two who had dared to find it. The small lake nestled between parental peaks that faithfully guarded such a treasure. Stepping to the edge of the silent water revealed a depth of color. Darkest emerald lightened and blurred at its edges, becoming cerulean. Here was a ribbon of amethyst. And there, a streak of iridescent orange sapphire.

Turning around to face the way we had come broke our vision open wide. We were suddenly two specks on top of a world that lay completely below us. Tiny green pines dotted the slopes back down to earth. But here we were in heaven. Neighboring mountains sent silent greeting from far off lands, so it seemed. I smiled at my partner in this spectacular adventure. He had been my faithful leader toward this lofty height, and I valued what he might say. He looked at me with an intensity I recognized. His eyes searched the depths of my soul for an answer to the question he had in that moment.

"Are your ears popping?"

 "No," I answered softly, "but I sure need to pee."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

To the Summit! (bloody stubs and all)

Wake before sunrise. Eat a hearty breakfast. Dress in layers. Lace your boots. Fill your camelbak with cold water. Strap on your backpack loaded with supplies. Check the map. Hit the trail.

I miss this. Bob and I had six fairly carefree years of marriage before the three little blessings came along. We sometimes ask each other what in the world we used to do back then. Our lives are so full of family activity now. But if I squeeze my eyes shut and concentrate, I can remember what we did:


This included hiking up several of the Rocky Mountains.

We had a dream of reaching the top of all the 14ers of the Rockies--those mountains 14,000 feet and higher.

As of this writing, 48 out of 53 of those 14ers are still untouched by our boots.

But the ones we did climb are pretty cool notches in our belts. Each one gave us different stories to tell and unique learning experiences to put toward the next climb.

And of course each one had that final victorious moment: reaching the peak. It's a thrilling, singular experience to realize you are almost as high on the earth as your feet can take you.
But really, the mountain climbing hasn't ended for us. We're just climbing a different kind of mountain now. It's called Mount Parenthood, and from here, it looks much higher than 14,000 feet. We have a long way to go, but I have hopes and dreams about the summit. I want us to reach the top with children who have grown into confident, happy adults. I want them to know that they are fully loved and to be able to give that love away. I want their hearts to beat in rhythm with their Heavenly Father's heart. I want them to "shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the Word of Life" (from Philippians 2).

We've already completed several legs of this journey: the newborn leg, the two-in-diapers leg, the pre-school leg, the adding-a-third-isn't-that-bad leg, and the deciding-to-homeschool-and-actually-doing-it leg. I figure we're up about 10,000 feet. Making it through the teen years must get you at least 30 or 40,000 feet higher, right? I shudder.

We recently had the joy of taking the three to our old hiking area and showing them them ropes.

Look. Ben praises the Lord we finally made it.

Mountain hiking is good for body, soul, and spirit.
Sometimes it's tough. Sometimes a duck tries to eat your granola bar.

Sometimes you can't believe how many miles you have left to walk.

Sometimes you cut your finger on a pine tree. Blasted pine trees!

And sometimes you just hafta sit down 'cause your feet feel like bloody stubs.

If you are paying attention on your journey, though, you will notice the gifts: like smooth sticks that were made just for your hand, to help you with the walking,

ferns that fill your thirsty soul with heavenly green,

smaller accomplishments along the way that give confidence for what lies ahead,

chipmunks who stand tall and give speeches to tell you how well you are doing,

little girls who offer to carry your backpack for a spell,

bridges safely crossed without incident,

the perfect shade of lavender,

birds to remind you that you can soar, if only you will jump off the edge of your fear,

and then...then, you can see it. You are almost there.

And then you know... for you have lived it,

that beauty is worth the struggle.

Joy is worth fighting for.

What kind of mountain are you facing?

Whatever it is, you can climb it. Be encouraged! Take heart! You are not climbing alone.

God goes with you. He will lead you beside still waters.

He will let you lie down in a green meadow and rest.

His rod and staff will comfort you.

He will anoint your head with the oil of joy.

Your cup will overflow!

His goodness and love will follow you...right up to the summit.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Little Autumn on my Arm

Loving Autumn as I do, I am happy to join Rachel and many others over at Stitched in Color in creating handmade goodness with the colors of the season.

Inspired by the whimsical trees on my son's curtains,

and a favorite book of ours,

I gathered bits of fabric and had some fun.

I can feel the change coming.

God speaks to my heart in this time of goodbyes.

There is a beauty in the dying and the hope that life will come again.

Gray days will come, but not without the brilliant ones that splash us with sunlight and color. And inside is the warmth of the fire that burns, welcoming and comforting.

Gather seeds, little bird, and line your nest with warmth.

And you, little cutie, fly away to a place where you will thrive and remember to come back again.

Happy Autumn!

avandia recall