Tuesday, May 21, 2013

On Any Given Day

"We're not keeping quiet, not on your life!  Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.  There's far more here than meets the eye.  The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.  But the things we can't see now will last forever."  - Scripture remix, The Message, 2Cor4


My earliest memory of "different" is of playing down the road at my friend Michael's house.  His house had a 6-car garage, each filled with a shiny Corvette.  His house had many rooms.  His basement had a temperature regulated air-hockey room, as well as a pool table and mini-bar.  His dad was rarely home and his mom seemed sad and lonely.

My house was pretty and happy and normal.  I had my own room, a football shaped soap-on-a-rope and a Barbie record player with a microphone.  My sister and I used to make forts in the woods behind our house, pick strawberries, and explore for hours before our much-needed nightly baths, in which I used my soap-on-a-rope, courtesy of the door-to-door Avon lady.  My parents kissed a lot and laughed, we ate dinner as a family, and they took us to the park and to get ice cream cones once in a while.

And yet, America thinks the bigger house in scenario one with the 6-car garage is the goal.

We have some serious First World Problems.

Because, on any given day, what matters is that I grew up loved and by growing up in a loving home, I, in turn, learned how to love, or at least was shown love is what matters.  Sure, there have been times where a granite topped mini-bar in the basement sounded like a good idea, but then, well, then I put it into perspective.  Life does that to you when something real happens.  When something happens over which you have no control...when you did everything you knew to do, yet the outcome wasn't what you wanted or dreamed of.

On any given day, 25,000 children under the age of 5 pass away.  On any given day, somewhere in the world, a husband or a wife live out the words, "Til death do us part."  Accidents, natural disasters, sickness, and natural aging all lead to death, on any given day.  And the tragic thing is, as humans we contribute to this heartache by creating scenarios where more sadness is fostered, through wars and abuse and murder and hatred, comparison, bullying, whatever...because there isn't enough devastation in the world?!

Over the course of the last few months, on any given day, these are just a few of the things about which I talk to God, not understanding, not being able to control or manipulate it, but just going before Him, trusting He sees "The Other 90%" and that He is good and has a plan, despite my limited perspective:
  • A friend who has suffered years of emotional abuse in her marriage
  • A friend who is a single mom, working so hard to support herself and her kid
  • A friend who had to take her mom off life-support
  • A friend who lost her husband and is now raising their kids on her own
  • A friend who has cancer
  • A friend who has gone through a divorce and is starting life new after 20 years
  • A friend whose husband lost his job
  • A friend whose husband is unfaithful
  • Friends who have kids with special needs
  • Friends trying not to grieve while their sick baby is still with them
  • Friends who have lost children
  • All the single mom's I know whose ex's are slackers
  • The people I know who are totally jaded by American Christianity, asking God to somehow use messed-up me to show them His love
  • The friend with the terminal illness
  • The one who is struggling with addiction but is afraid to share
  • Friends who are missionaries, living far away from loved ones
  • Friends recovering from bankruptcy
  • Friends struggling with depression
  • My mom who's going through chemo, again, because the cancer has returned
And these are just a few.  Add to it all the things on your heart and the people in your life and then add to that things that take place in our communities, our countries, and all around the world, and I'd say there is a lot of stuff with which we could feel overwhelmed.

I'm grateful I can take actions to encourage others, though I know I can't fix it all.  At the same time, I'm also very grateful I don't run the Universe, but I trust in the One who does, and even though I hate pain and suffering, on any given day He promises to be near to those whose hearts are wrecked...and from experience, He's not a liar.

*What's on your prayer list?  Are you overwhelmed by it or is it something you are able to trust God with, on any given day?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Whole Lotta Tongue in Cheek

Recently someone I know posted a picture of himself being baptized as an infant.  His caption had some sort of smart ass sentiment about "water boarding" and "for shame...I was just a baby." 

It got me thinking.  I started attending church at the same age he was in the picture.  That was about 41 years ago.  And church has looked like many different things over that time, including the last two years where I haven't gone to church really at all...

Why did my parents do it?  Why was I given a head bath at a mass in 1972 in Ohio, one winter day?  Why did they choose Catholic over Lutheran over Episcopalian over Baptist over some other brand name denomination?  Why did I go to CCD, First Confession, First Communion, Confirmation?  Why did we give thanks before meals, pray before bed, talk about our problems and apologize, talk to God and about Him with one another?  Was it just so I could wear pretty dresses once a week?  Was it strictly out of social obligation?  Was it because our grandparents expected it or to escape the gates of hell?  Why did we "leave" the local catholic church, anyway, and how is it we wound up in the different kinds of churches since then?  How come some people danced and clapped their hands while others were solemn? 

One attribute I wholeheartedly embrace as a middle-child is that of peace maker.  I will believe the best in you to a fault, and so, I imagine that next to historical conviction, my parents raised me with faith not to cram their own beliefs down my throat or so us girls would fit a mold and be perfect, but so we would always hear from them and know from God that God is good, God made us, He loves us without condition and wants us to love others the same way because life is complicated, messy, and painful, and that He will come back for us one day, which is a good thing, not scary.

I've heard there are worse things parents can do to a child...I'm grateful my parents chose this form of "abuse" as some would see it. 

How tragic...a child was raised with loving parents who made mistakes and were learning it as they went along seeking Wisdom smarter than themselves, but deep down, at the end of each day, knew God was real even though she couldn't see Him, and that He loved her.  For shame...

The peacemaker middle-child in me isn't a score keeper.  On our family faith journey we haven't always done everything right.  On my personal journey with the Lord, I couldn't even begin to tell you all the mistakes I have made...you can do the math:  I dedicated my life to serving the Lord on May 10, 1987...if on average I screwed up 3 dozen times a day, to be conservative, that adds up to a whole lotta thankfulness for Grace and Forgiveness, that's all I know.

Last night Emily and I snuggled on the couch and watched, "Parental Guidance."  All parents and kids should see this film together.  There are some fabulous lessons all around.  In one scene Billy Crystal and Marisa Tomei, father and daughter in the film, are in the kitchen late at night after the culmination of a weeks worth of fighting and disagreements and misunderstandings and major underlying passive aggressive anger from the past.  The film is a comedy, but I was bawling.  Tomei's character had set up her life in such a way to do everything opposite from the way her parents raised her, a clear statement to them that they pretty much sucked/aka she could do it better, without their help, and quite perfectly, thankyouverymuch.

There are things I have done differently as a young woman, mom, wife, and follower of Christ than my parents, and their parents, and their parents before them.  And I've done many things the same.  Good and bad, because I am a human.

I know I will make many more mistakes in parenting as long as I'm on this earth.  I've already screwed my kids up a little, I'll admit.  But if when they are older the worst thing they can say about me is that I prayed and asked God's help in how to show them how much I loved them, well, then, I'm willing to take that risk.  We cannot force our children to believe what we believe, and it very well may break our hearts if they don't, but we can love them...yep, that part is up to us.

Just make sure you love them with all of your guts...because holding some of your love back just because it may rip out your heart will only leave you never really knowing what it's like to fully live.

Friday, May 03, 2013

SAHM Ships Her Pants in the Big City

Yesterday I woke up sure I was dying of colon cancer.

I actually had all the signs according to the NIH.
The last month has proved to be a loose operation around here...and by "around here" specifically I mean me, my toilet, and I.  Almost a month ago I decided to do a Daniel Fast to pray about some specific things in my life and a lot of people in my life, and also to clean up my body a bit.  God put certain people on my heart and my times of study were really rich.  It's always easier for me to fast while Jason is out of town and since he was headed to India for a week and a half I chose that time frame.  In true anal (huh) fashion, I typed up a schedule of my Daniel Fast, what foods were allowed, pretty much just veggies, and also wanted to be smart and take certain supplements to be sure I was cleaning out impurities as they released over the course of the week and a half.  All I know is, after a few days and some research and re-calculating, I "discovered" (since the evidence wasn't enough?) that I was ingesting enough fiber for me and my family of 4...and probably your family of 4, as well.

photo courtesy of 4unews.com

Those are times I'm grateful my husband is out of town...I kid you not, I could barely breathe in bed every night.  And I'm not talking about sinus congestion.

Jason got home from India bringing some sort of foreign guest along in his colon.  Poor guy was way more worse off than I was, speaking of "loose operations" and all.  He finally got some meds and he was back in regular business after a couple of days.

Anyway, with him home, once he was able to eat again, I re-introduced fish and a little more lean protein to my "fast".  And, since he got home prior to the weekend and we had a birthday party and I had been solo with the kids for 10 1/2 straight days and I'd eaten clean all that time and lifted, did Yoga, and hit the treadmill each day, I had a glass of wine on date night.  And some popcorn.  And split a gluten free dessert after dinner, but I was writing a "Trip Advisor" review, so that was important because, of course, no one cares and I'm not getting paid for it...but I was going to go back to clean the next morning.

And I got back to pretty clean/balanced eating but none of my "deposits" had gone back to "normal."  In fact, at night my liver was hurting so I'd wake up and flip onto my left side to get back to sleep.  This, of course, put Jason in a trapped state, but since he sleeps through most things, I mean, what can you do? 

And then there are a few details I'll leave out...

Finally I decided to back off my protein powder supplement laden with fiber, as well as my other fibrous supplements, and just let the regular fiber in my veggies do the trick to get me back to a regular pooping kind of girl...not to mention, I was headed to New York City for the upcoming weekend and didn't want to become familiar, like some old person, with all the restrooms in the City.

This plan worked well.  Over the course of the weekend, walking miles and miles, hanging out with friends, hitting gluten-free foodie restaurants and strolling the tulip lined streets all over the City, I realized my bowels and I were, again, at one with the Universe.  Except for on Sunday evening when I looked and felt 7 months pregnant, without exaggeration, and could not for the life of me figure out what the culprit was because even though I had indulged a little in the City, I still didn't eat my allergens.  I went to bed that night, sleeping on my left side, holding my baby belly, hoping all would be well in the morning.

The next morning was our day to leave.  We hit a local diner for breakfast and shared blueberries and an omelet.  I don't eat eggs.  I haven't had eggs in probably a year and a half because my blood work shows it to be my most extreme allergen.  But I thought, "Eh, it won't be that big of a deal...it's cleaner than me eating something like a straight up donut or piece of cheesecake or something..."

We got to the airport, seated on the plane, I fell fast asleep after take off with one of those horrifying open-mouthed plane deep sleeps we've all experienced.  All was well with my little world.  About a half an hour prior to landing I woke up because I was 7 months pregnant again.  My baby was raging mad...kicking...wanting out.

I wasn't quite ready to "deliver" on the plane.

We de-planed and headed to the ladies room, but I guess it was just premature labor.

After a 45 minute drive home, I walked in the door and, let's just say, it wasn't pretty...at all...for four days straight.  The first night, in what is shy only a month of 20 years, Jason had to hit the couch for the first time because I was in and out of bed every 4 minutes.  "Hi, I'm home!  I'm sure you are so happy to have me home from NYC, huh?!"

Anyway, thankfully my sister was here during this time and was so very helpful with the kiddos while Jason was at work and I was "in my office."  He said, "I bet you got food poisoning or something."  I kept thinking, "I split meals with my friends and none of them are sick so it must just be some hidden allergen." 

When things slowed a bit I started doing a little research about bowels and guts.  I researched the Mayo's site, several natural health and infectious disease sites, read a few books on Crohn's and colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.  I researched the causes, the symptoms, the underlying factors.

Jason said I probably got what he had when he got home from India.

I reminded him of my already tender digestive tract prior to my trip and told him it was more likely a sudden onset of Crohn's...but deep down, I knew it was colon cancer and I was sad because I had heard two stories of people finding out they had cancer only two weeks prior and they left their families prematurely and my grandma had several inches of her colon removed and my parents have gut stuff and so do my sisters and with all my "fasting and cleansing" and eating clean and chocolate and wine binges, I'd probably jacked up my whole system and I was weeping because I wanted to watch Emily and Ryan grow up to love God and live boldly for Him and I had so much I needed to write down so they would know how much I love them and what kind of people they should marry and that they could be whatever they wanted to be if God was at the center of their lives being honored in it, and I wanted to renew my vows with Jason on our 20th, but now we weren't going to Spain until August and would I make it until then and had I really left the world a better place than I found it or had I just wasted space and time and talents and there was so much to do if I was going to die, even though I wasn't afraid of it...

Jason said, "Sweetheart, please just make an appointment with Dr. Snook and Dr. Julie and they can do some tests.  You probably just have a virus or something, but you won't ever know until you go.  And you need to stop doing research on the Internet for a while.  Like, take a 5 day break or something...I mean it."  He prayed for me in the kitchen and headed out the door for an overnight to Florida for work.

I got the kids in the car, did carpool, and headed up during rush hour traffic to a last minute appointment my friend had available.  The back pain was worse.  The cancer has spread.  And now nausea.  Last stages.  I was no longer seven months pregnant but rather, skinny from my week of steady trips to the loo.  My doctor friend (who I have known for 10 years and we are very, very close and she knows me all too well) said, "Hey, you look great!  What are you doing?"  I said, "I've been shitting in my pants all week non-stop...I'm not sure there's a secret to it...you just loose weight?!*&%$#"  

She said, "What's going on?"

I said, "I'm a mess! (*Insert BAWLING...)  I think I have colon cancer or Crohn's or something..."

She checked me out, did a couple tests and said, "You have a virus..."

And then she said, "You need to take this because this will help, but I'm pulling out the Big Guns..."

And then she prayed for me.  Not just for my guts but for my mind and my train of thought and my heart and some of the details I can't share here yet and God gave me His peace.

Life is short and I do need to write a few things down for both Emily and Ryan.  But I also need to live right here.  Right now, with INTENTION.

And I don't know when my life here on Earth is meant to come to an end because I'm not in charge of that but I trust the One who has my days numbered in His grand plan.  I'm taking a break from digestive research even though it's fascinating and I know from self-experimentation and documented research the benefits of clean eating on disease and health.

But for now, I will live with INTENTION.

My thoughts had become cancerous, not my bowels

I will not allow my head and heart to run on rabbit trails, but when and if I do, I know the One, my loving, steadfast Savior, who remains faithful even when I go darting off.

I guess I just needed the reminder:  It's the slow and steady tortoise who wins in the end.

*Ever had a crazy "end of the world" kind of day?  You can leave it in the comment section so I don't feel like the only one, or you can NOT and that's okay, too...either way, it felt good to write it out...

Have a good weekend!