Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I had Fancy put to sleep this morning.

Monday, June 29, 2009

This is has been a most strange evening for me: It has been filled with the study of Lutheran Liturgy and tears for Fancy.

To begin with the latter, she has gained no ground. Her morning weight is between 60-74 grams. Her evening weight is between 80-84 grams. Whatever she gains by eating during the day (really once I get home and start holding her), she loses overnight. This evening, she started having spasms in her left leg and her breathing has become rather labored. If she exerts herself, such as moving about, her entire body heaves with every breath. She no longer wants to perch, but prefers this spot on the corner of the couch cushion, pressed against the arm. If she is alive in the morning, I shall be stunned. If she is, I am wondering if the time might have come for me to give up my vigil, to let go of this battle....

As I mentioned before, I had planned on, counted on, her being my solace when Kashi dies. I have had him since just after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He has been with me in all my moves, in walking away from my educational career. I know. I know that this year or the next will be his last. Fancy was supposed to have many, many more years. Being such a nuzzler, she was to help me focus on what I still have, rather than what I will have lost. Miracles do happen. This evening, however, my hope in that has all but disappeared.

In the midst of this sorrow, I have also experienced pure joy; I have spent the past four hours studying liturgy, with many a light bulb turning on!

As I mentioned yesterday, Pastor D is kind enough to answer my emails, even when he is busy and even when, perhaps, there are too many of them. Being the consummate teacher, Pastor also goes a step beyond this technology-aided teaching and sometimes sends a helpful one of his own. Today's gift was a link to this presentation on The Benefits of Liturgy.

I have Googled the topic. I have studied (rather confusedly) the Lutheran Service Book. I have read about it in the Book of Concord. I have sat in services trying to follow where to read and when, honestly not really understanding what was happening. And now I have watched the presentation three times with much thankfulness for the link. [My only negative comment is that the pastor speaks too quickly to take quality notes without rewinding repeatedly. For a conference presentation, I believe he should have taken more time in his teaching. However, truly, such a topic cannot really fit in a mere hour!]

I think what I have reveled in most from yesterday's study was Luther's comment that the Living Word is the sanctuary of all sanctuaries. The bible is that perfect refuge, that place of absolute safety and lasting salvation from our enemies. The ultimate message of that Word is the Gospel. Tonight, I heard that the point of Lutheran Liturgy is to preserve the Gospel in the Church so that we might receive its benefits again and again and again.

In one of his emails, Pastor wrote: I read your blog about the Third Commandment - it's not about the day, its about us! It's about God's Word. It's about giving us forgiveness and making us holy. That's what God desires. The Lord's Supper does that.

Obviously, he was talking about communion, but the point in both is that both the Lord's Day and the Lord's Supper is about what God desires for us: to receive His gift of salvation. So, too, is the Lutheran Liturgy.

In the presentation, one part I found particularly interesting what that one goal of Liturgy was to maintain the right relationship between God and man: Between Creator and created. Between Saviour and saved. Between Giver and receiver.

When I first wrote about liturgy, oh so long ago, it was that I had never met anyone who worshiped through liturgy the way Pastor does. It was something strange and wonderful to behold, to witness. And this was just in bible study!

Now, I understand the breadth and depth of each piece of the Liturgy and honestly wonder why such a tradition would be abandoned by so much of the Church in America today. Just a couple of weeks ago, one of the women in the evening bible study commented that she couldn't understand how anyone could get along without [Lutheran] liturgy. My mental thought was that I had done so for 31 years; it wasn't all that hard...not like my struggles to follow the service for the past couple of months. Boy, am I glad I kept my mouth shut! Even so, I also know that there are things that are not present in a Lutheran Confessional church that I miss. I need more time to reflect on that, but I also know that it is good and right to have ceremonies that, as the presenter quoted another pastor as saying, give all Glory to Christ and all comfort to poor sinners.

This is such a different approach to Sunday services than I have encountered. So often I have heard that you go to church to give, not to receive. That if all you desire is to be fed, then you should re-examine your motives for being there.

Yes, God is a giver, but what are you giving back? seems to be the common thread that has been woven so closely with the justification-by-faith-but-judgment-by-works position that is so prevalent. That leads to such a desperate, futile life, when God desires so much more for us!

I want to write more, such as about the ordinaries, but I am not sure I am spelling that right, nor could I begin to spell all 5 of them. Perhaps it would be best if you were to invest a mere hour of your time to listen for yourself. Even if attending a Lutheran church is the furthest thing from your mind, the message on how services should be--preserving the Gospel--is one that fits in all Christian denominations.

And while you are at it, you might want to read Pastor's blog entry "A Plea to Pastors." A soapbox of mine for years has been to bemoan the insanity of how often pastors/preachers/ministers/priests end up apologizing for reading aloud Scripture..."I know it's a bit long, but bear with me." My goodness, I want to stand up and shout. You are apologizing for reading the Word of God in His own house! Pastor's entry mirrors the hollowness that I feel in those moments.

As long as I am quoting Pastor's emails (and hoping fervently that he does not mind), I would like to add a snippet from another one, also on communion. While the topic is the Lord's Supper, what he is saying really points to the that which I keep repeating to myself over and over and over again. Grace is objective. It is a gift I am given rather than something I have to earn by "good enough" works!

And so to receive the Lord’s Supper worthily is to believe: I am a sinner, I need forgiveness, and my Lord has promised that in His body and blood, given to me here, I receive that forgiveness. Worthiness has nothing to do with being good, being holy, having a strong enough faith, etc. True worthiness is the recognition that I am UNworthy, and the my Lord is coming to me here in His grace and mercy to give me what I am not.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
~Exodus 20:8 NASB

Today, while I did not attend church, I have worked to keep this Lord's Day holy. For such a night owl, I awoke at 8:00 and was unable to go back to sleep. So, from 8:30 until now, save for two other things, I have done nothing but study the Bible and the Book of Concord.

In the latter, Luther writes:

This commandment, therefore, in its literal sense, does not apply to us Christians. It is entirely an outward matter, like other ordinances of the Old Testament. The ordinances were attached to particular customs, persons, times, and places, but now they have been made matters of freedom through Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). (LC, Part 1, 82).

He goes on to explain, however, that God created a day of rest for a very good reason: that we not work ourselves to death! And what better rest have we than in Him? So, our days of rest are good days to gather together to worship and to be taught.

He goes on to write:

So when someone asks you, "What is meant by the commandment: you shall sanctify the holy day?" Answer like this: To sanctify the holy day is the same as to keep it holy." "But what is meant by keeping it holy?" "Nothing else than to be occupied with holy words, works, and life." For the day needs no sanctification for itself. (LC, Part 1, 87)

[It is not the day that needs to be holy, but ourselves!]

Then, a bit later,

God's Word is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries....God's Word is the treasure that sanctifies everything (1 Timothy 4:5)....Whenever God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or meditated upon, then the person, day, and work are sanctified. This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. (LC, Part 1, 91-92)

So, after thinking about his earlier observation: "And what, indeed, is the entire Book of Psalms but thoughts and exercises upon the First Commandment?" (LC, Longer Preface, 18), I decided to read aloud the Psalms while thinking about the fact that I should not have any other gods but God.

Needless to say, I am a bit horse, but what a magnificent perspective!

Kashi paced back and forth at first, hearing me read, but then decided to go back to sleep. Fancy spent the day tucked beneath my chin. She is no better, but thankfully still alive.

Because my puppydog has been unbelievably patience with his arch enemy in her time of illness, I gathered my energy to walk him to the park and back, once I hit half-way through the Psalms. This is day three without my cane, so I shuffled more than walked and was huffing and puffing the last two blocks.

I also spent some time emailing Pastor D. I have been struggling with how our last meeting went and how I feel about a few things.

Now, for a long while, I have heard people disparage email, claiming it is the absolute worst way to communicate. But I, a lover of the written word, disagree. The craft of letter writing has been all but lost. Yet some of the greatest writing ever produced has been letters. Granted, there is a pervasive problem with employees tossing off angry emails with things that never should be written, much less said. People also use personal email in the same way: a mechanism by which to lash out when upset. However, I believe it is more an attitude against email or against the author that condemns the mode as a failure in communication.

Pastor has a tendency to say that his greatest skill is listening. This is true; he is a most patience and kind listener. But he is also a great writer. [Remember those apt metaphors in his sermons!] I think, perhaps, part of that greatness is actually his willingness to write, willingness to answer long emails with long responses, and willingness to keep trying to communicate, even when doing so is not easy or is laced with obstacles.

With letters/emails, it is possible, should you dare, to bare your heart and speak honestly, without having to worry about how the other person might look or respond before your message is finished. I know I am explaining this rather clumsily, but the point is that there is a certain freedom that can come in letter writing, that can actually push communication farther, deeper than can a verbal conversation.

Then, too, with letters you have something to savor after the conversation is done as well. You can refer back to what is said, studying it from different angles, see where you were wrong or right or agree or disagree. You have an opportunity for clarity. You have an opportunity for encouragement. You have an opportunity to teach, to learn. You have an opportunity to truly communicate.

So, I am thankful this day for technology and for a Pastor willing to use it in order to teach.

Most of all, I am thankful for the greatest letter on earth, the Living Word of God, through which He sustains, chastises, instructs, loves, encourages, upholds, loves, and saves us!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

J (from the nooner bible study) had her baby yesterday; after three boys, she had a baby girl!

I was touched that she called me with the news. When she told me that she would be spending Saturday alone in the hospital, I offered to come visit. I knew she would have visitors, but after her husband and sons came in the morning, she would be on her own for the rest of the day/night. She replied that she would like for me to come if I truly wanted to do so, given the long drive I would face.

Today, I got to hold a newborn for hours on end!

Most generously, J let me hold her when I am sure she wanted to just revel in having a daughter to hold. She had so wanted a girl, even though she would be most satisfied with any baby God chose to bless her with this time. Even though pink is NOT her favorite color, she was willing to suffer the burden with alacrity!

I had come prepared for the duration, laden with a packed bag of many options for passing the afternoon. However, I should admit that the contents were more for me than for her. I brought the two versions of the bible, in case she wanted to read it together. I brought the Lutheran Service Book, in case she was willing to explain some things to me. I even brought my heavy copy of the Book of Concord, in case I could finally get some questions answered. I brought a deck of cards, in case she wanted to play a game or two. And I brought Mary Kay's Satin Hands, in case she wanted to be pampered.

J admitted to me that she had just started getting back into reading the Book of Concord because of our long phone call last Sunday, so I abandoned the idea of plying her with questions. She did try to go over the Lutheran Service Book with me, but I think that the failure of that act stemmed in part because she had just given birth yesterday and in part that she approached it as if she was having to explain the dictionary to someone. It is what it is and has what it has because of what it is. No help there!

The end result was that before I left, I spent about 45 minutes giving her the Satin Hands treatment.

What is that you ask? Well, it is a three-step process of rejuvenating the skin of your hands: a cleanser, a scrubbing mask, and a lotion.

When she was in the bathroom, I stepped out to ask a nurse if she could bring me a basin and some washcloths and towels. I am so utterly stupid that I didn't even think about the fact that I was leaving her little baby alone in the room. The look on her face when I returned was enough to make me want to go hide in a cave for the rest of my life. However, I shoved that rather strong inclination down inside and had her settle herself in a chair. Filling the basin with warm water, I sat down before her and began to work.

She had not gotten much sleep the night before, understandably because she was on such a high from giving birth and having her first daughter. While washing and scrubbing and massaging her hands, I saw her eyes begin to glaze a bit. I think, I hope, I helped her to relax.

Even though I was enjoying not being alone myself, when her next set of visitors arrived, I left. While she was open to me continuing to keep her company, she had admitted that she might just take a nap after they left.

Save for the time when I stepped out of the room because Pastor was there and the time I spent working on her hands, J was generous enough to let me hold her daughter. Even another visitor, who had her own new baby at home, did not ask me to give her up.

Holding a baby, especially a newborn, is a completely peaceful act. I am genuinely grateful for the sacrifice J made on my behalf, giving up those precious hours with her new daughter so that I could have that comfort.

I do not even really know her, but this she did for me!

NOTE: I had thought to bring a bandage to the hospital to ask J to change the one on my back for me. I know, how terribly selfish of me, eh? In the end, I talked myself out of it, even though I would give most anything to have someone change it, just once, for me.

Because the wound is still weeping, I have to change the bandage at least twice a day. I am not, in any way, shape, or form, skilled at doing so. Craning my neck to look in the mirror actually hurts and makes me a bit dizzy. Trying to line the bandage up with the wound is near impossible. Four times now I have actually put the sticky part on the open wound and not realized it until some time later. I am hoping that the fact that it is itching so much I want to claw my nails across it is a good sign; however, I fear the fact that it also burns and stings and feels as if it is tearing more at times is not so much a good sign.

Now, I could pay $20 per visit and have a nurse at the doctor's office change it for me, but that makes me feel even more lonely. Plus, I have spent quite a bit on unbudgeted office visit co-pays, that, coupled with the rather unexpected two gargantuan tax bills and my heretofore discussed less-than-altruistic spending, has left me worried about the rest of the year.

Oh, how I want this wound to be healed enough for the surgery on Thursday!

Since J said that she was not a fan of pink last night, I chose my favorite newborn gift of onesies and matching caps with her preference in mind--only three of the onesies had some pink and only one of the caps was completely pink. However, when she saw me cooing over her daughter and lamenting that she was in plain ivory, J hauled herself out of bed, picked up the gift bag I had brought, chose the pink cap out of the bunch of five, and tossed it to me to place upon her daughter's head. Is that not an act of lovingkindess!

Friday, June 26, 2009

I had a friend for 22 years, until she got engaged and then married. I was not at her wedding. I had been unemployed for a long while before it came up and travel is difficult for me. I am not sure if my absence was unforgivable, or if it was because she finally found a husband that ended our friendship. She was the only person in my life, aside from my family, who I had known as a youth.

I miss her.

After reading the The Spirituality of the Cross, I got the bright idea of sending the book to her as a way of reaching out to her. I called first, just to see if it was okay to send the book. She said, "Yes." She even emailed me her new address (I have not known how to reach her since she was married).

Today, I received an email from Amazon.com. The package was never received. She never signed for it. The email was to let me know that my account had been credited back for the book.

Am I such an awful person?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alas, the brochure was not done.
Fancy is still alive, but gaining no ground.
The surgery has to wait until next Thursday so the gaping wound can heal more, a day and a time when I have no hope of help save for taxi-cabs.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Trying to sleep on a gaping wound in your back does not make for a peaceful night's rest. Neither does having nightmares about the even larger wound that will come after the surgery. All night long, I kept trying to pick up the stitches that kept popping off of the new incision and trying to stick them back in place. In the end, my entire back was a raw, oozing wound.

Would you say that I am worried about this? SIGH.

However, waking up to a living bird is worth a night of tossing and turning and all the burning, stinging, itching, oozing holes you could possibly have on your back. Fancy is still alive! Dr. M is plumb astonished!

Now, I am trying to be so utterly realistic and remember in just a few short hours, when I awake once more, that could no longer be the case. She is still dangerously underweight and her poop tells the tale of a distressed liver and intestinal system if nothing else. Yet, I hardly think of those things because I have had three more days with her and at least have more time to cherish her company and process having to say goodbye. I know, I have already set that goodbye another 5-10 years in the future. I know, I am foolish.

This evening, I hope, I have finished the brochure for Pastor's church. I started it two years ago, at my suggestion, I think. If you have not already figured this out, Pastor is quite busy. Nothing ever came of my draft. But now they are out of supplies and need to do a new print run. Shake off the dust and start again, eh?

Well, weeks have passed and it has not been completed. [Note: Pastor schlepping me to my doctor appointments might have something to do with that.] Yet, it is now due at the printer in order to have more copies in time for the church's next outreach endeavor. Cousin D kindly ripped my draft to shreds so that I could start catching the 1,001 errors I had. [Note: Wednesday has two letter "d's" in it.] B took another look-through for me. Many eyes are way better than one when it comes to writing and design work.

Cousin D rightly pointed out the brief bio on Athanasius was sorely lacking in cohesion and coherence. Being the lazy person I am, I had let that slide since it was used in their prior brochure. However, his comments smote my conscience, so I buzzed Pastor on his phone enough times to get him to take time out of his conference/family vacation to talk over the other changes and that small matter. He pointed me to source material on Athanasius, and I re-worked the bio. The final draft is in his hands (email account) now!

The design work was simple, partly because they are not a snazzy congregation, but primarily because I am a hack at the craft. That which I have done, thus far, at several jobs as a communications manager has come about because I worked for nonprofits that could not afford to hire a true designer. Some of my work has actually been really good. Other has been merely passable. I have absolutely no hubris about the matter. Still, I truly enjoy when I can help someone out with my skills, be they as they are.

It makes me feel much less useless, from my perennial perch on the corner of the couch.

Monday, June 22, 2009

When I weighed Fancy this morning, she was 69 grams.

I had crept down the stairs, fearful of what I might find. That she was still alive gave me hope, until I weighed her. She was also not interested in eating anything I put near her.

Me, the consummate night owl, got up at seven o'clock just so I could have some time with her, if she were still alive, before I had to go to work. We sat on the couch together, her tucked beneath my chin as I whispered sweet nothings in her ear.

I was allowed to leave work early and finish my tasks at home. I claimed that I wanted to sit without clothing touching my back, which was true. I also wanted to keep Fancy company. Standing on the porch, I ended up vomiting before opening the door. When I finally gathered my courage to do so, I found that Fancy had flown down from the playpen and was standing right before me. After I put her back in place, she ate and drank. Not as much as I would like, but she did try. The rest of the night she has spent napping on my foot or tucked beneath my chin.

Right now, I am struggling to read the Philip Melanchthon's Apology to the emperor's reply to the Augsburg Confession. It is the most dense piece in the Book of Concord, in my humble opinion, and the one that makes me feel the dullest oaf, certainly not worthy of claiming my Ph.D. anymore.

This is my third evening of study, and I have barely begun the piece. I am reading and reading and reading again. I am also building a list of questions for Pastor should he venture to help with this section of the Book of Concord. The present Article before me is V, "Love and Fulfilling the Law," comprised of many sections that are as confusing as the one fore and the one aft to them. While I have some interesting pieces highlighted, it is the whole, the sum of the matter that eludes me. I cannot follow his point and feel stupid for this failing.

However, those highlighted pieces have been quite illuminating (pardon the pun). The one from this evening that has given me pause is the following:

"In order to retain the Gospel among people, He openly sets the confession of saints against the kingdom of the devil and, in our weakness, declares His power." (68)

Either last week or the one before, Pastor asked a question in bible study to which I actually knew the answer. Mine was long-winded, his re-phrasal was more apt. In the Old Testament, how did God train His people for battle? He trains them by showing them that it is He who is the one fighting.

One of my favorite images that proves this point is how God used Gideon to free the people of Israel. Oh, there were all these men, surely brave warriors ready to fight. God winnowed the thousands down to 300. Wouldn't you, being one of the chosen few, feel pride that you were going out to fight for your freedom, for the freedom of all whom you loved? I imagine they armored themselves as best as they could and swaggered off to war, confident in their own strength. But, oh, were they in for a surprise! What mighty strength did God need of man? Well, He needed them to sound trumpets and smash the jars of clay hiding their torches. Blow hard and thrust your arm up high. What might is that? The might of the Lord. What might has man? The faith He gives us.

He needs us not. Yet, He desires to be with us. The God who can pit our weakness against the entire kingdom of the devil and win wants us as His children. What a beautiful thought to give us pause!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another entry on this day...

Well, in many ways, I think I would say that my day, my weekend got worse. This afternoon, the biopsy incision ripped open.

Now, I mentioned to the surgeon I saw on Monday that I felt as if it was tearing beneath the surface each time I bent over. She offered to take the stitches out this week while my doctor was out of town should she agree to leave them in for a while longer. I tried to explain how I felt to the doctor on Thursday. Perhaps the news I received about the results hindered my attempt to explain. Still, I tried to trust that she knew more than I did. I believe, that in this case, I knew better.

When I pulled off the bandage to try and see what was there, it was a mess. Taking a deep breath, I stuck my camera behind my back and took a snapshot. Looking at the gaping hole there, I actually threw up and then fainted, hitting my head rather sharply on the table on the way down. I would never have thought I would be so squeamish!

When I came to, with Kashi licking my face, I picked myself up and crawled up the stairs for a shower. Since the doctor had put steri strips over the wound when she pulled out the stitches, I had not showered in hopes of helping the thing remained closed. Having hot, soapy water running over an open wound is not pleasant.

When I finished, I sat on the edge of the tub trying to decide what to do. Do I go to the ER, spend $100, only to learn that since someone soon will be cutting out more of my back that stitching it up is not necessary? Or will I not be able to have those remaining awful cells removed until this heals?

I decided to stuff the thing with gauze, tape it down, and wait until tomorrow, to see if I could reach that surgeon by phone. I had left a message on Thursday to see if she could do the additional tissue removal, but did not hear back. If she cannot, I thought perhaps she could tell me what to do.

Casting about for something to do, I went ahead and called J (the pregnant lady from the Wednesday nooner bible study) to ask what she would prefer I do about missing the fill-the-freezer today (bring something later or send a gift certificate so they could have pizza or something). I had asked Pastor his thoughts in an email, but I think he had already gone to his conference.

I am glad I called for she received many, many pizzas today and would be grateful for more variety. Since my writing student K is actually going to be cooking by proxy for me, I suggested K's AMAZING chicken cordon bleu. Let me tell you, J's interest in that particular option was nearly palpable over the phone!

I am glad I called for I learned that Pastor is at least partly correct about his flock: he believes that should I ask anyone of them for help, he/she would if it were at all possible.

J and I ended up talking for over 3 hours. Yes, I know, I am the woman of long phone calls. However, I only know her from bible study! It was strange and wonderful and sobering and joyful. I know that sounds confusing, but I know no other way to describe it.

We talked of babies, mothers, teaching, and, of course, Lutheranism. What took me by surprise, is that during the conversation, when I mentioned the incision and trying to figure out what to do and having something else looming and wondering how it will be trying to recover in my house with my bedroom and the bathroom on one floor and Kashi needing to go out from another floor, she promptly, very, very promptly, suggested that I just pack up the birds and Kashi and come stay in this room that has a bathroom attached. I about near fell off the couch. I don't even know her!

I stumbled and bumbled my way through the conversation that followed for a while, struggling not to cry.

One of the things we discussed was one of the same topics of that disastrous meeting with Pastor yesterday: honoring your father and mother. J had one thing to say that I thought was so obvious I am even more colossally stupid than I think. I also thought that Christ was standing in the room with me as she spoke.

What was it? Well..."You know, Patricia, you are forgiven for struggling to honor your parents." Oh, my, was that a balm after yesterday! I needed to hear that. It was interesting to hear her struggles with that same commandment. They are different from mine. Yet the struggle is the same. It is that Lutheran absolute of standing under objective grace that shone through the moment. Yes, I am forgiven! It didn't change the struggle, didn't change my desire to somehow fulfill this commandment as best I can. It did remove the great burden my failings at doing so had become to me. Grace.

She also said something else I particularly savored.

We were talking about the difference I see between saying you are justified by faith and saying that God's grace and faith are objective. The former, while seemingly the same, opens the door to how great your faith is or how much you are doing with it, bring in the subjective. The latter leaves absolutely no room for subjectivity.

I had told her that I wondered if the reason why there were so many churches, so many Christians out there preaching justification by faith, but judging on justification by works was because so many people struggled with the notion that their own works were not great enough, i.e., there faith was not great enough, and tore others down so as to lessen their own unworthiness, to lessen the desperation they felt in their faith but could not voice for what that failings would represent to them. Supposition, I know.

J's response was couched in several repeats of the caveat that I might have heard what she was going to say and that she was sorry for repeating. I stopped her then to tell her that since I have such a cheese-hole brain, we could have discussed what she said just last Wednesday at the nooner and it could still be "new" to me.

Here is basically what she said: People often get trapped into believing that their good works is what makes them sanctified; they are essentially working harder and harder to be better. We cannot be better. Period. Else why did Christ need to die such a horrible death if it were within our capacity to mitigate our sin? When in reality, the more we understand our wretchedness and our absolute need for a Saviour, the more we are sanctified.

So, here I sit, on my third bandage and wondering at that earlier decision, yet thinking more about the Word and Grace I received this day than how I feel holding Fancy and my worries about the next steps for dealing with all that is on my plate.
After a disastrous meeting with Pastor yesterday in which I said and did all the wrong things and there was lots of talking sideways, I sobbed for over an hour. Then, with Kashi licking my leg in comfort, I thought I would fetch Fancy because I had not had some sweet-nothing-talks with her lately. Shuffling to and from work, letting Kashi out, and feeding all three birds is about all I have done. When I picked her up, I was horrified to see that she was skinny. After putting her on the scale and seeing that she had lost 1/3 of her weight, I burst into tears again and called the vet. I told her it would take me a while to get there because the electricity had been off since 5:00 in the morning and I was getting weaker and weaker from the heat. She said she would have her two male vet techs meet me at the car. I brought in all three birds so Fancy wouldn't be alone and so they all could have their nails clipped. Walking to the exam room from the parking lot took 20 minutes. I think Dr. M would have given me a fierce lecture for driving except for Fancy.

In short, Fancy is dying.

Hearing that news, I just sad huddled in the exam room, wailing for quite a while, Fancy tucked beneath my chin where she seems to prefer to be. Dr. M gave her an antibiotic shot and gave me some some more antibiotics and some high caloric food to force down her, but stressed that she was just too thin, that something was going on and we most likely would not be able to stop it. At 10, she is not old, but neither is she young.

This morning I weighed her and she has lost another 12% of her weight from where she was yesterday. I cannot believe she is still alive.

Dr. M said leaving her there would not be in Fancy's best interest because I am her flock. If there was any hope it would be in trying to get her to eat as much as possible and hope the antibiotics worked. Her poop is this yellow foam now (it should be a tight green coil).

Dr. M also said that birds' metabolisms are so very fast that she could have been going down for just a day or so...that I did not do this to her...that something could have been in her system a long time that has now come to the forefront, that it could be intestinal cancer, that Fancy has been a very much well loved bird for 10 years and I should remember that.

She has not been to visit me for a couple of days, but she does that from time to time. She is still preening herself and never showed the signs of a distressed bird (fluffed up and shaking). Yet I wonder if I had noticed her weight drop on Thursday if I could have saved her.

Seeing her so painfully thin hurts so much. Knowing that most likely tomorrow morning, when I awake (last night I slept on the couch with her because I could not make it up the stairs--it was after 10:00 PM before the electricity came back on), I will find her gone is overwhelming to me. And, right now, I will not even be able to bury her in the back yard next to Madison because I am too weak to use a shovel. Who can I ask to come do that for me? I cannot just throw her out in the trash.

I know she is just a bird. I know that. It is just that I have had bad news again and again and again of late, this week being the worst one yet. And for 10 years she has been such a great companion, preening my eyebrows for me and taking naps with me and putting up with me each time I startled her by leaping up off the couch and cheering wildly when the Cowboys were doing well in a game.

As strange as it sounds, I think Kashi knows she is gravely ill, too. He has not protested once her continued presense with me and spent much of yesterday curled up beside the couch instead of on his bed, just as he is now.

Oh, my heart hurts so very much right now. I know that God is bigger than all the bad news, than being trapped in a wet-noodle body, than Fancy's illness. I just wish my heart would listen to my head....

Friday, June 19, 2009

While a part of me wanted to tell my writing student K last night that we needed to rain check--not because I didn't want to spend the evening with her but because I was such bad company--I nevertheless insisted she still come despite the news I had to swallow earlier in the day. Gracious young woman that she is, K brought dinner from Whole Foods (and prepared it), changed out the light bulbs in my front porch light (I've been in the dark for 5 days), and hauled the laundry that has been sitting in the basement since last Tuesday up to my bedroom.

I asked K to give me a writing assignment, turning the tables so to speak. Her response was to instruct me to take a familiar story and write it from a different perspective. I didn't have to write much...just try. Below is the bit I did:

Ella, In Truth

Ella! That very name causes my blood to boil! Ah, but not with anger. Not anger.

Watching her twine her arms around her father’s neck, tugging on his beard, leaning her head into his shoulder…. How does he not see she is wrapping him around her little finger? Why does he scoop her up in his arms even when she has done wrong?

Wrong! She can do no wrong! She dances in the rain, ruining her dress and all he can say is that her feet were as light as air. She sets fire to the bed hangings in her chambers after falling asleep with her book and candle and his response is how much he appreciates her find mind. Why does he love her so?

She is not beautiful. At least, she is no more comely than I. Yes, her hair is fair and her skin porcelain, but am I not as pale? Do not peaches bloom on my creamy cheeks? My hair is dark, but it is a shining river of curls that cascades to my knees, whereas her straight locks barely fall below her shoulders. What glory is there in that?

Am I not equally intelligent? Can I not pronounce the Latin names of each and every plant in this forsaken keep? Have I not worked diligently in the still room since the time I could walk? My herbs and poultices heal far more effectively and much more quickly than those of any healer known for leagues. I have read every book in her father’s library and the seasons have not yet made a full turn since Mother brought us to live here.

Blodwen, you must make this work for us. Your father’s pension is all but gone. Befriend his daughter so that he will befriend us all!” Mother had implored to me shortly after she met him at the Duke’s manor.

My sister Halyna cares more for the trim on her skirts than she does for anything else. She is perfectly willing to dance attendance on the Marquis’s daughter, praising her every move. As for me, I cannot see as to why Ella is the enchanted one and I mere dust.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The biopsy was positive. The edges were not clean.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Today was another up and down one, but certainly one filled with the Grace of God.

The Wednesday nooner bible study is so very different from the Wednesday evening one that I have been attending off and on for a few years. Yes, there is a marked age difference, but the feeling around the nooner table is just plain different.

Today, poor Pastor D was trying to make a particular point, while we were busy making our own observations. For a man who has no problem teaching, he was hard pressed to get a word in edgewise for a bit. So, just as he was ready to launch into some great instructive comment, J pipped up with her own insight. Oh, my goodness! The look he shot her was enough to stop an elephant in its tracks! I thought she was going to go into labor then and there from the shock. Of course, we all had a great guffaw over the matter, twitting Pastor a bit mercilessly. You see, his wife had arrived late, but happily just as I had arrived so I missed nary a moment. She was noted as late by him. I was not. Truly, at that moment, he had no defense; he couldn't have been right if his life depended on it. Much commentary was had on his looks and his observations of tardiness or lack thereof. I sat there, reveling in the moment, thinking that it was strange to have laughter during bible study. But does not God laugh with us in our joy as He does weep in our sorrows? It was strange to me. When Pastor commented in the evening study that he had never seen me laugh so hard, I proffered my concern for J was the source of why I protested his glare. He rightly observed that she would have been most grateful to him had he triggered the arrival of her fourth child. It seems quite content to remain where it is.

I, then, noticed this little book Pastor had on the table and picked it up. I think the title was something like Pastoral Companion Book, maybe Pastoral Care. After setting it down, I asked what it was. Ever the teacher, Pastor flipped it open and showed me that it had different prayers and such for people in different circumstances. Running his fingertip down the table of contents, he pointed out a few examples. Thinking about the past couple of months, I asked him where I would be. His quick retort: Where are you not! Sad. But still I had to laugh again!

The strange part of the day was that I began and ended it with the same bit of Scripture, the same topic, but that will have to wait a bit.

In 2001, when my friend gave me this blog as a present, she told me that I should use it to write about having Multiple Sclerosis, that I was such a good writer that perhaps someone might take heart. I found the idea compelling and yet off putting. Who would want to read about my life? Yet, I loved the name she helped me choose for the blog and the domain was purchased, so away I wrote.

I personally believe that some of my worst writing has been that about MS. Take the 1,001 times I have written about pain, none of them touch the heart of my experience. To me, they all sound like mighty complaints instead true insights to the disease.


The days of the last week have been long and frightening for me. Granted, I would be the first one to point out that stress affects MS and so the heat of that night could not be the only factor, not since I am still wobbling so much now. I take slow and careful and tiny steps because my legs feel as if they are made of Jello. Were I to stand in one place, I wobble and sway. Shuffling from place to place makes me winded. And all I want to do is crawl back into bed.

In the past, I have written about my struggle with blurred vision and the abortive attempt to see a neurological ophthalmologist. Well, this morning I had a new first for me when it comes to my eyes. I am used to aching pain when I move them. I am used to stabbing pain when the light is too bright. I am used to having to wait for my eyes to adjust when I look from one place to another that is a different depth of field. I am used to the blurriness that waxes and wanes. I am used to the constant headaches from my eyes trying to focus and never quite being able to do so. And I am almost getting used to the need for reading glasses (old age, not MS). What I am NOT used to is that my left eye was completely blurry. I thought, perhaps, when I first put on my glasses that I somehow left my contact in that eye the night before. After rubbing it with my fingertips and then checking my contacts case, I realized that my left eye was just not going to be working today. At least not this morning.

Now, having a blurry eye is not painful. Nor is it terribly difficult since the right one was working as well as ever. But it is quite frightening. Not something I wish to reflect upon for very long. [Pardon the pun.]

So, my day did not begin in the manner in which I would have wished.

However, I spent the early morning (yes, you read that right) talking with Bettina about 1 Corinthians 11 and (yes, you guessed it) some of what I have been learning about Lutheran doctrine. The main topic was head covering, but to me it was another chance to turn over this idea of Grace being objective.

While I have enjoyed the fellowship of the Augsburg Confession, there are a few bits that strike such a chord within me that I feel as if I am a harp vibrating with music. Strong words, I know.

With reference to the crucifixion (Article III): "He did this to reconcile the Father to us and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins by mankind (John 1:29)." Sometimes it is easy to think about how Christ died on the cross for us that one moment in time, but in Truth that crucifixion is still happening this moment, a sacrifice for my sins of this day. Just as with baptism, we can say I am washed with the blood of Christ. Granted, I am probably the worst person to hold as an example of that blessing, but that does not make it any less true!

With reference to the Sacraments and Scripture (Article VII): "Both the Sacraments and Word are effective because of Christ's institution and command, even if they are administered by evil men." I personally believe this to be a very bold, yet quite simple example of the pervasive stance we are justified by faith and not by works that is woven throughout Lutheranism. The Lord's Supper, Baptism, and Scripture are all of Christ, His actions, His words. They are not created by man, nor are they affected by our great triumphs or severe defeats. Our purest altruism cannot enhance them. Our basest nature cannot defile them. They are independent of us and their power and blessing depend not on the strength of man, but on Christ. What an absolute relief it is that God's Grace depends not on my own works! Article XIII further explores this understanding: "Our churches teach that the Sacraments were ordained not only to be marks of confession among men, but even more to be sings and testimonies of God's will toward us." That will? To save us!

With reference to that which should be taught in church (Article XXVI): "The Gospel should stand out as the most prominent teaching in the Church, in order that Christ's merit may be well known and faith, which believes that sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, be exalted far about works." Couple that with (Article VI): "The faith given by the Holy Spirit is a living and active power in our lives, bearing the fruit of good works." Add in (Article XXVII): "Paul teaches everywhere that righteousness is not to be sought in the self-chosen practices and acts of worship, devised by people. Righteousness comes by faith to those who believe that they are received by God into grace for Christ's sake." Luther oft talks of being misunderstood about works, as if he taught they were not necessary. Instead, he most often discusses the fruits that will come, should come, from faith. The key is that that faith is from God. Frankly, were the Gospel, the message of mercy and grace, more prevalent in church's, I would surmise that there would be more Christians walking around with the peace that is the wonder of that which was given for us, shed for us on the cross. Instead, I have experienced and seen so much emphasis on all the things we should do/can do to make ourselves worthy by living holier lives. How futile! What can possibly be more holy that the Son of God dying on a cross?

Which comes back to the texts that began and ended the day. I Corinthians 11 and I Timothy 2.

After a very long mid-day with more discouraging news that my heart could bear, I found myself outside the house where we meet for evening bible study, struggling to work up the resolve to shuffle inside.

So, now I am back at the table, still smiling over Pastor D's quip about my fitting most of those circumstances needing special care listed in his little book, when someone began reading the opening passage, a passage next up in cue in the study. It was essentially on just was Bettina and I were discussing that morning! Tears sprang to my eyes because I felt as if God was guarding me fore and aft in that moment. I had wanted more teaching on that very topic. God's timing is perfect.

In short, the issue Bettina brought up with head covering is a perfect example of what I am studying. If a woman wishes to cover her head as a symbol of the right relationship between her and Christ, as an acknowledgment of headship, then I am fully behind that act. Should she do so because it is a part of a list of dos and don'ts plucked out of Scripture and she believes she will make herself more worthy of Christ's mercy and salvation, then I am saddened and wish that she could know the freedom that is in the Work of God, not man.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From time to time I have used my soapbox to point out the egregious treatment of Native Americans. Every time I hear America called the "Land of the Free," my heart contracts and I stop and pray for those who have never really reaped the benefits of that freedom.

This article covers the sad state of medical care on reservations, beginning of a story of a little girl with a stomach ache. Though she was only 5 years old, her parents were told she was depressed. Again and again, they were advised nothing was really wrong. She died of cancer within the year.

Now, I know that many Americans do not have health care, but the Federal Government entered into an agreement to pay medical care for those whom it displaced again again in the name of progress. Like most of our agreements with the original inhabitants of our Land of the Free, it was only partially fulfilled. I have written about the payments due from land rights several times. Those are caught up in "accounting." Over 30 years now, edging toward 40.

Yes, a few Native American nations have taken advantage of the rights that allow them to reap revenue from gambling. Good for them. For shame that it is more lucrative for them to encourage gambling and drinking than anything else. We have come full circle in this country. How much land was gambled away, was traded for a few trinkets because taking advantage of other people is our heritage?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Warning: This entry is under the influence of a powerful, and in my opinion, most wonderful drug. I have been given a dose twice as high as I have had before, and I will say that I wouldn't mind it doubled again. But with my sensitivities to drugs, even the doctor who has stepped while mine is out of the country wanted to be conservative (I have learned a common dose is eight times greater than my sliver of tablet). It is a drug that is best described as providing distance. So, I am rather drugged right now and care not a whit that I am.

First, I will say I feel as if I have stepped back to Wednesday. I know that stress can cause MS symptoms to rear their ugly heads and today was most certainly stressful, but I was discouraged that it seemed to take me an hour to walk into and then out of Target, even with Pastor bearing more of my weight than he should. But I have jumped ahead.

I went into work early so that I could be extra productive before I left for my appointment with the surgeon. My boss was less than pleased I caused myself to become ill last week and I was trying to show that while I am under the weather, I can still produce. I was able to get the final grant question drafted. My goal was a complete draft by the 19th, so I am ahead of schedule. They are these really complex, deep questions that you only have 2,000 characters, including spaces and punctuation, in which to answer. The grant is $200,000, and I genuinely believe that we can win it in the next few years (generally with grants you have to go through a few cycles before you get accepted), since last year we were short-listed and vetted before falling out of contention. That was the first year we had applied.

So, I drafted the final question, drafted talking points for a letter of support from one of our County Supervisors, made revisions to the cover letter for another grant application we have pending, created a Google Analytics account for another one of our websites, and started adding code to it. That was a good day's work if you ask me.

But as the appointment drew near, I was trembling and nauseous and quite nervous. I also did not sleep much last night and have not eaten much in more days that I care to admit. Sometimes, my heart does not follow my head very well.

Pastor helped me to get through my appointment, where I did not get the answer I wanted, but I did have a bit more hope held out to me. Essentially, I have to start over with a new specialist and the thought of doing so weighs on me. I cannot really explain why I accepted Pastor's offer to accompanying me on this journey. Really, in my world, it makes no sense. But I will say that without his support, I should not have found the courage to continue. I do wonder, though, if I am starting all over how much longer he cares to hang out in waiting rooms.

I had some complicated questions for him to answer for a much needed distraction, but ended up trying to talk about something else that I thought might affect his answers. He missed dinner with his family again. That bothers me.

So, on the way home, we stopped to pick up the miracle drug. Originally, the primary doctor had thought it would help me with the appointment, but I was uncomfortable being out of control during that time. I was not opposed, however, to drugging myself into oblivion so that I might forget this day.

This day, I have been more teetering and tottering than really walking. I had to keep fighting dizziness and my hands and feet were tingling much of the day. I could check with Pastor, but I am fairly sure that it took longer to walk in and out of Target than it did for them to actually prepare the prescription. And, though I am sure he would not be surprised to know this, I had to work very, very hard to keep from just collapsing to the floor a few times. Not falling. Collapsing. Wet noodle time. Frankly, by the time I was settled in to the car with the air-conditioning on blast (Target was warm for me and I was working to hard to walk), I was wondering if, yet again, I had been consummately selfish in asking to stop for the prescription. Then, as we pulled up to the house, I faced a wave of pain as my muscles began contracting again. Truly, that was discouraging. After all, I have to return to work tomorrow with smile on my face and exuding productivity. How do you do that when you are in pain and feeling the wet noodle?

Getting into the house was a chore. Getting from the couch to the kitchen for water took a near Herculean effort. However, I am currently sending warmest thoughts to the makers of Zanax and hoping that Pastor's mighty big heart extends to the sacrifice he made in making that extra stop.

I snoozed and then actually ate a small meal, all the while not really thinking about anything. Not work. Not MS. Not my lingering guilt over last Wednesday. Not doctor's appointments. Not the future. Not the past. Nothing, really. I was still.

In that stillness, I was able to return to the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII, that I was reading on Saturday.

"Our churches teach that the Sacraments were ordained, not only to be marks of profession among men, but even more, to be signs and testimonies of God's will toward us. They were instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who use them. Therefore, we must use the Sacraments in such a way that faith, which believes the promise offered and set forth through the Sacraments in increased (2 Thessalonians 1:3)."

One of the things that I have been confronted with of late are the realities of the Sacraments, specifically Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The former, for now, is what I want to mention.

I have always been taught from the camp who views Baptism as something you do for God, a public confession of belief. Lutherans, being of the objective camp, believe the polar opposite: Baptism is something that God does for you.

Water. Word. His Name. These three wend together in the act, be it sprinkling, dipping, or dunking. It is an act that happens one moment in time, when we are washed anew and given the gifts of faith and salvation. It is an act that happens each and every moment hence. The Lutheran says not I was baptized, but that I am baptized. I am, so I am saved. I am, so I am forgiven. I am, so I am loved. I am these things because God did this work for me, not I. With the work dependent on God, it is sure. It is perfect. It is complete. It is enduring.

What a blessed Truth! To be washed anew for the rest of your life! What a blessing to have, from that first moment in time, assurance of faith in Christ through out all that life brings. Our doubts, our trials, our darkness does not matter. An unwavering assurance because baptism is not an act of man, but of God.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Late last night, my very-much-not-a-night-owl Cousin D sent me a draft of a writing project asking for help. While I was surprised he was still awake, I very much welcomed the opportunity to actually do something for someone. I read it, noted my observations, and then shot him an email asking if he would like to talk about it. Since it was a first draft that needed a bit of a tune-up, I didn't want to just send him my edits.

[I was still up because I was working my way through the Augsberg Confession. There is an ineffable fellowship in finding that you agree in faith with those who lived nearly 400 years ago, knowing their confession of faith aligned with the first Christians and the Living Word penned so very long ago. Truth does not change even as the world does.]

A few minutes later, Skype was ringing! Even though I already had the curlers in my hair, I went ahead and answered with video. I was longing for company. Besides, it is not as if Cousin D cares what I look like. Toss on my fleece jacket over my PJs and I am good to go.

I have shared Cousin D's photography prowess, but I have yet to mention (I think) that he is a talented writer/communicator. That he does not write much, do much with that talent other than giving speeches, is a broken record between us. You should write more. Oh, I'm not that good. Seriously, Cousin D. I never say someone is good if he/she is not. I can be very creative in talking about writing without telling someone he/she is talented if that is truly not the case. But Cousin D is blessed/cursed with many, many talents and has such a wide range of interests that writing falls to the wayside time and time again.

His piece had potential, but he also had not truly answered some of the questions on this profile designed to help potential college students.

What I love about Cousin D is that he accepted my notes and gentle chastisement for what it was: a commentary on the written text, not him. Often I have to work really hard to get those who seek my help with writing to separate out themselves from the process. I look at what is in the piece...or what is not. Yes, I do take into consideration the author, but more so in evaluating if he met his potential or if she utilized her knowledge and experience as fully as she could. If you write a rotten piece, I do not think you are rotten. If it is almost embarrassingly immature, I do not think you are immature. I revel in any opportunity to delve into literary craftsmanship and welcome most those times when the author can remove the self and dive in with me. Cousin D is one of those folk.

Yesterday, with spoiled milk in my refrigerator, I ventured out for some more and for some token of thanks for Pastor D and his wife. L likes flowers, so I found a bunch of miniature roses for her. Pastor likes whipped cream. A while ago, I took a poll at work on if there was anything other than Cool Whip that I could get him, a gourment option or something like that. The consensus was that I should get the real whipped cream at Whole Foods. So, I did. I also threw in a large container of Driscoll strawberries to go with them. By the time I shuffled back to the car, I was tuckered out. However, I knew that if I popped by right then, I had a good chance of missing Pastor and just seeing L.

I tried to carry the treats to their door, but they have a set of steps without a railing that was basically impossible to navigate. I ended up perched on the top step while we visited. Yes, it was hot. Yes, I should have stayed in the car and had her fetch everything, but is that really the way to deliver a thank you?

L made an interesting observation. She said, to her, it seemed as if what happened really started earlier in the day. At least it seemed something was going on at Bible study. I started to mention the effect the nebulizer drugs have on me, but she interrupted me and said it seemed like more than just that. So, perhaps the next time I am confronted by heat, it will not be that bad....

Busy with this rather large project at work, Cousin D was a bit behind in my blog. He didn't know about Wednesday. I asked him to read it. So, there we were on Skype. Me finishing up the Confession and Cousin D reading of my disasterous evening. It was a bad day. I really wanted to talk about it, without talking about it.

Cousin D, ever the astute man, commented on the fact that it seemed as if I was frightened by Pastor in how I wrote the entry. I had little to say but how much it bothers me that I was. I am. The man JD at least--hopefully not the shepherd.

He also asked if I was planning on going to church, evoking a deep sigh on my part. Given how much I over did it yesterday, I was thinking I should just lie in bed all day again. However, I have to go to work tomorrow. Perhaps, if I got up, dressed, and went out, it would be a practice run of sorts. Cousin D advised me to stay home and rest. I couldn't decided if I would be resting or hiding.

I went.

For the first time, I actually managed to arrive before the service started. At least, I arrived in the parking lot before that time. Getting to the pew is a different story. I had wanted to go to the adult Sunday School since Pastor was planning on going through the new liturgy that they started today. I thought that I would have a better chance of following the service if I heard him teach about it. However, the meeting place is downstairs. That means, I would have to go up a set of rather steep stairs to the foyer, down a set of stairs to the classroom, back up the stairs for the service, and then back down the front steps to leave. I finally decided that it was probably best to stick with just the service.

When I arrived, this one family was making its way inside. I had started my journey before them, but they quickly caught up with me. The three little boys race around me, as did the father, until he paused on the steps and watched me shuffle along. He asked if I needed help.

I didn't answer immediately, weighing how I would feel with a strange man's arm around me verses the probability of making it up the front steps without assistance. I do not know him. I am not even sure if I have ever even spoken to him. I do know he has three children and another whose arrival is quite imminent. His wife is in the Wesnesday nooner bible study and is so gregariously open that you cannot help but like her. Still, I do not know him. My, what I would give to know what he thought about my hesitation. Clearly I needed his help and there I was trying to decide whether or not I would accept his offer! How silly, eh?

After shoving down how I really felt, I agreed. Boy, was that a good decision. Four steps from the top, I would have welcomed him throwing me over his shoulder, hauling me the rest of the way, and then tossing me in a pew. We eventually made it inside. Seeing my trembling limbs, he paused to flip oven the Luthern Service Book to the proper page for me and then set it in my lap before joining his family.

After the service, I waited until I saw the man who hosts the Wednesday nooner. As is his wife, J is a very kind and gentle man. Whenever I come to the bible study, he starts clearing space on the table for all my bibles and often pours me a cup of water, remembering that I don't do coffee. [He is also quick to spin the lazy susan if he sees me eyeing the delicious desserts they always have out for us.] A few Sundays ago when my hands were too painful to finish dressing, I asked him to button my cuffs when I arrived at church. He did so immediately (I figured he had plenty experience with his wife's buttons) and offered to help again if I ever needed it. Having his assistance would not be stressful for me. When I asked him for help, his answer was a ready arm. When we got to the steps, he asked what he should do. When I told him that if he went first it would be easier, he responded that that made so much sense. Mostly, he chatted away while I huffed and puffed.

When we got to my car, he told me that he wanted to give me his cell phone number so that if I arrived at church and there was no one to help me, I could call him. He said he would start leaving his phone on vibrate instead of turning it off so that he could be of service. I was so startled by the offer, I found myself pulling out my phone without thinking about it. Upon seeing my green Centro, he grew very excited, whipped out his Treo, and very excitedly beamed me his information! A techie geek as well as a kind man! [Oh, he and his wife also own what very well may be the tastiest pizza joint in the area.]

So, what about the sermon? It most certainly was another time of Christ practically yelling at me from the pulpit. Is that irrevent? I do not mean it to be. I found the sermon disturbing and comforting and challenging. [In one bit, I was distracted for a moment because I thought Pastor's smallest seed metaphor for Christ was simply beautiful from a literary standpoint. He is a most talented writer apart from being a true shephard.] But the rest was as if Christ was reading my heart and telling me its secrets, all the while pouring His Grace and Mercy upon me. Wednesday night was such a dark one for me. Today was a welcome balm for my heart.

I am glad I went.

Again, I am including the sermon below, hoping that it will serve you as it has me:

Jesu Juva

“Rest in His Promise”
Text: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:1-17; Mark 4:26-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

St. Paul wanted to leave this world. Life wasn’t easy for him, and the thought of leaving all this pain and trouble behind sure sounded good. He was tired of the opposition, the persecution, of being in prison. Yes, even the man most people call the greatest missionary of all time, was at times frustrated and disappointed. And like many of the patriarchs and prophets who came before him, he looked to God and to heaven and thought that looked pretty good, compared to what he was going through here.

You know what he meant. You have probably felt the same way, at some point, maybe even now. You look around at all that is going on in the world, you look around at all that is going on in your life, you look around at all that is going on in the church - all the fighting, all the problems, all the pain and trouble - and the thought of leaving all this behind sure sounds good. Its tempting, isn’t it?

Yes, tempting is exactly what it is. A temptation from the devil, dressed in pious white wishes. For while you may think that wanting to leave this world and go to heaven shows your faith, in reality it doesn’t so much show your faith as much as it reveals your doubt - your doubt about what God is doing now, even in the midst of frustration and disappointment. Uncertainty about His promises and care. Questions about what He is doing in you and through you. We must be careful what we wish for. Our wishes are not always good. But God and His promises are.

That’s why St. Paul, after talking about his groaning and longing then says: we are of good courage. Courage born of faith in the promises of God. That though we are tired, though we are weak, though we are frustrated and disappointed, none of those things nullify the promises of God. And so not to what we see, but to those promises, we cling. Those promises which give us the courage and strength to go on. Or as someone once said: “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.””

One of those promises is contained in the parables told by Jesus today. Jesus didn’t use the word “promise” in those verses, but the promise is there. And the promise is this: that the Word of God, scattered as seed on the ground, will grow. Though we may not see it, or know how, and it may take longer than we want, it will grow. And even the smallest seed of God’s Word can grow into the largest and strongest of trees. The seed that has been sown into your heart, and the seed that is scattered through your mouths, carries with it this promise.

And if you need an example of this, look no farther than Jesus Himself. Was there ever a smaller seed planted in this world than He? Planted in a young virgin who nobody knew or cared about, who lived in a backwater town, who lived and grew up as a carpenter’s son, and who even when He began His public ministry didn’t seem to be very successful. His twelve closest followers were not very educated or steadfast, the religious establishment was against Him, and for all His efforts He just wound up on the wrong side of the Roman government and so hung up on a cross. And yet from such a small beginning, the Church has grown to survive threat and persecution and our own sinful stupidity, and envelope the world! Just as Jesus said, the tree of the cross has become the largest of trees, and people from every nation, race, and language have made their home in its shade.

Now, I know what you’re thinking . . . that’s Jesus! Of course He grew and what He did grew! But, O Christian, do you not know that it is the same Jesus working now? The Word of God made flesh and planted in Bethlehem is the same Word of God which now comes and is planted in you in Holy Baptism. The same Spirit that descended on Jesus at His baptism descended on you at your baptism. And so the Word of God is growing in you. It may be small, it may be slow, you may not even feel it or realize it - but it is growing. Growing and producing the fruits of faith in your life. Yes, it’s Jesus! And just as sure and inevitable as His death and resurrection for you, is now His death and resurrection in you. Or as St. Paul put it: “We regard no one according to the flesh” - that is, according to outward appearance; which includes how you regard yourself. For “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away [death]; behold, the new has come [resurrection].” So, perhaps we could say, that as much as you may want to leave this life and go to heaven, you have something even better: for in Jesus, heaven has come down to you!

Now, the devil does not want you to know that, of course, and so is constantly seeking to blind you to the work of God in the world and in you; to blind you to His Word and promises; to blind you so that he can lead you into despair. To think that you are useless and no good, and that there is nothing you can do. You are too weak and doubt-filled and sorry.

But you know what? He’s been whispering that same lie into the ears of Christians for thousands of years. To Moses and Abraham, to Elijah and Jeremiah, to Paul and Luther. And in a sense, he’s right. The kernel of truth to his lie is that yes, on our own, we can do nothing. Quite right. But we are not on our own. The Word of God which has been given to you and is working in you and through you is powerful and active and living and growing. And it is not dependent upon you and your eloquence and abilities - but on the One whose Word it is. On the One who inhabits that Word and promised to be in that Word. Our Saviour, who is working that all may come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.

We heard that assurance and promise from God through the prophet Ezekiel this morning as well. He, too, spoke of the great tree that God would plant and grow - which we have already said is Christ and His cross and His Church. And then these words of promise at the end: “I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”

Armed with that promise: “I will do it”, we have the courage to face each day. To rest in the shadow of the cross. Rest, which does not mean doing nothing! But living the lives and callings our gracious Father has given to us in the confidence and trust that He is working through us. In ways seen and unseen. In ways both big and small. You need not worry or despair when you have His promise.

And armed with that promise, the love of Christ [then] controls us. Which is good news! For with those words, Paul is not burdening you, telling you: Make sure the love of Christ controls you! No, he is telling you a reality - a reality anchored in the death and resurrection of Jesus. For what is the love of Christ? It is the love that caused Him to come down from heaven and to live and die for you, and the love that causes Him still to come down from heaven and to feed you here with His body and blood, to forgive your sins, and to strengthen your faith. That love given to you is the love that now controls you; the love that causes you to get up and go out each day to live and die for others. To serve them in your callings. To scatter the seed of the Word with your mouth. And to rest under the cross all through the day, knowing that our Lord has promised to work through you and through His Word. We need not know how, or when. We simply cling to His promise, and rest in it.

Until the day when Jesus keeps His promise to come one last time for you, to harvest you and take you to heaven. We don’t know when that day will come for any of us - maybe for you, not soon enough! But until He does, we simply cling to His promise, and rest in it. For while its not wrong to want to be in heaven, know, as St. Paul said, that you are already a new creation. You don’t have to wait! Christ is with you even now. His Word is sure and true. His I forgive you means you are forgiven. His I am with you means you are never alone. And His you are mine, well, means just that. Even in the midst of this world of sorrow and tears.

You may be only a small seed in this great big world, but what great things God is doing in you and through you. So do not despair, but rest in His promise: “I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

How is it, if you will, that having only one option in utilities does not a monopoly make?

I am having a problem with Washington Gas that has escalated from mere nuisance to critical mass. In three weeks, the company is planning to shut off my service.

I have not missed a single bill. I have never had a late payment. No, this termination of service is due to the fact that I have not scheduled an appointment for the company to have access to my meter.

In February, I started getting these letters requesting that I call a number and schedule an appointment. However, the number is only an answering service. I leave a message, giving them my cell number and telling them to call after 10:00 AM so that I can hear the phone. One, two, three or more days go by and then I find a message on my home phone left during the day. I call back and leave another message. They return the call when I am not home. Then after a few weeks, I get another letter and engage in another round of phone messages.

I figured since not one single time could the company manage to call me when or leave a number with a live human being on the other end, that the appointment didn't really matter. I was wrong.

So, since Monday, I have three conversations with three different supervisors. I still do not have confirmation that I will not lose my service. I still do not have an appointment. The whole heat debacle has made working the problem more difficult. But...honestly...remember what I practically screamed at Pastor when we were rear-ended last week?


SIGH. I fear that shortly I shall be taking cold showers and eating cold food.

Friday, June 12, 2009

From time to time I receive email comments on my blog. Yesterday's novella sparked a few, so I thought I would answer them:

Are you okay?
Yes, I believe so. I am better today than yesterday...better yesterday than Wednesday. Yesterday, the repair shop called at 11:00 to let me know my car was ready (they had a hole open up in their schedule). While that was good news (driving a truck is harder than I thought), There was no way that I was going to be able to pick it up. The agent said that he could extend the rental one day since I was ill, but if I did not bring it back today, they would have to start charging me and that would mean the whole weekend since their shop would not be open again until Monday.

So, after lying in bed all day yesterday, I got myself up, dressed, and scooted down the stairs with Kashi on my lap (he did not enjoy the experience). When the agent saw me shuffling my way into the service center, he came and brought me a chair at a nearby table and told me he would take care of everything. I took a half-hour nap while the paperwork was done.

Then, when I tried to shuffle out to the car, one of the other men muttered something about how ridiculous it was and scooped me up to carry me back to the car. Now, mind you, I am not slight in the least, but he seemed to have had a past in football or something. The third man had already started my car and turned the air-conditioning to full blast. After ensconcing me in the driver's seat, all three of them moved my things from the rental truck back to my car, including plugging in the connectors for my phone and GPS and putting my CD holder back on the visor and wrapping my little frog from Bettina around the strap. While watching them work, I noticed that the carpets had been cleaned and the windows and the mirrors and the dash and.... They had detailed my car inside and out! Boy, did I feel the princess!

We have a rather large grant application due soon, so I thought I would try to work a while since the repair shop is literally just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I work. Shuffling up to my office was harder than I thought it would be and left me quite wobbly and tuckered out. I worked 2.5 hours and then came home to finish adding code (Google Analytics tags) to our website. On the way back to my car, a woman from the floor above us and her daughter helped me outside.

So, I am tired and weak and sore. And I am still very upset about what happened. However, I am also surrounded by God's Grace in so many ways that I cannot help but be thankful for how much care He has given me...even to the point of using strangers!

If you know you are sensitive to heat, why didn't you leave?
I wish I had, if only for the trouble my illness has caused for Pastor and his family and for K in her care of Kashi for me. I don't know. I did say I had to leave as soon as Pastor walked in and I would like to proffer I stayed because I felt encouraged to see if the air might be turned on soon enough for me. But, to be honest, I am not really sure if anyone actually encouraged me to stay or if I just was hoping I wouldn't have to miss the service since Pastor said he talked to the staff about the problem.

I have also written before about how I feel as if others treat me as if am complaining or exaggerating the danger when I say it is too hot for me. Oh, my goodness, I believe I will be 90 before my family stops criticizing me for not going on their vacation to Jamaica. When I am at my father's house or at those of my friends and ask for the air-conditioning to be turned down, I am either met with doubtful questioning as to the veracity of my need or the thermostat is changed just one or two degrees. So, I struggle with feeling as if I am being selfish. Wednesday night, since I would have had to ask for someone to walk back to the rental car with me, I wanted to avoid the disruption, the focus on my problem. Is that prideful? I don't know.

Frankly, I think it stinks that I have to avoid things because of long walking distances, smoke, and heat. That sure does fetter life. And I wish that the people in my life helped me with identifying those things so it was not always me that had to do so since my brain is full of those MS cheese holes. After the fact, B told me that nursing homes are usually warmer due to a common lack of circulation amongst their residents and going to a prayer service in one probably would not be the best idea for me. I know that this is my problem and my vigilance to own. I just wish she had mentioned that fact during one of the several times I've talked about wanting to go to the prayer service. Can I be absolved of my blame, at least in part, because I did not know this all important fact?

Yes, I should have left. To my defense, I have only had the wet noodle effect before, not the wet noodle and all the other symptoms exploding at once effect. I didn't think the consequences would be so great. However, the bottom line here, the answer to the question, is quite simple: I was stupid.

If your pastor is doing that pastoral care stuff you keep writing about why did he just leave you on your bathroom floor? That doesn't sound very caring to me.
Maybe I should let him answer that! No, that would be ducking what I have been trying to share here about pastoral care.

Let's see... He prevented the security staff from calling an ambulance because he knew I did not want that. He drove me home, essentially putting my need ahead of that of his family. He helped me inside. He didn't blink when I asked him to unzip my skirt. And when he was not sure if I was lucid enough, he did what he had to do to get answers from me. [He emailed that he was worried the whole diabetes thing that I am ignoring might have been a problem. He's never seen such extreme fatigue and pain before, so he didn't know. Given that I am ignoring that issue (other than I now avoid sugar unless I have eaten something else as well), that was mighty caring of him to remember, to consider, to worry about for me. And at any point in time, he could have just put me off as someone else's problem, taken the easy path, and called an ambulance. With his wife being a nurse, I am confident that if I had at least not been convincing in my own belief that I could ride it out safely, I would have had no choice about the hospital. He cared enough about my desire to stay in my own home where I would at least have my birdies and puppy-dog for company and not have to deal with all the things I dislike about hospitals to try and make that happen for me.

One of the ways God has show His Grace to me is that last evening my ex-graduate-school-professor-staunch-Christian-man J called. Every year or two, we talk. They are marathon phone calls that are steeped in theology, literacy, some very, very blunt ex-Tennessee-mountains talk, and usually end with our mutual lament that Robert Jordan died before he finished his Wheel of Time series...thousands of pages and no ending! [Neither one of us has high hopes for the writer hired to finish the job.]

He doesn't mind the fact that my updates to him are always filled with more trials than triumphs. He doesn't mind my larger-than-life questions. He doesn't mind that I ask him to repeat things because I am taking notes! [There was this very interesting metaphor about just because someone is taught brass was gold and then learns that it is actually brass doesn't mean that brass is the standard. The gold is.] He laughs with me, aches with me, and then tells me that I deserve better. He is a champion of the likes that I have never experienced apart from him. When we spoke about my mind slipping away and feeling as if I have not honored all that he taught me, he actually told me to shut up! And he meant it! There is no failure on my part in his eyes. I needed to hear that, especially after such a stupid decision Wednesday night.

One of the things I like best is that he is fully aware that there is evil in this world and calls that ugly spade a spade.

It does not bother me that he is not the greatest fan of some of the theology that I have been studying. Nor does it bother him. What is more important to him is that I have this very strange pastor in my life. With great conviction, J said that, although he has never met the man, he loves him. He loves him for the care he has shown me. He loves him for the godly example he surely is. For a moment, J reveled in the thought of how different the church in America would be if pastors and ministers and priests would spend more time as shepherds and less time being political and judgemental and divisive. I agree with him on that. Surely there would be more love and more peace if more people had the opportunity to have Christ's care of them channeled through the men-of-the-cloth in their lives!

J said he would have probably left me on the floor as well, though he probably would have stayed the night or gotten someone else to do so. J said it took a great act of courage for Pastor to trust me enough to allow me to stay at home when he had never seen me that way. I agree on that one, too.

The bottom line is that unless a pair of muscle men magically appeared, I was not getting into my bed. Even if Pastor and his wife could have managed it, there probably was not enough room in my 5x7" bathroom for them to haul me to my feet and carry me out of there. I survived the night. I survived the assault that blasted hot room dealt me. I am very, very grateful he got me home and allowed me to stay there.

Call me biased, but I think that leaving me was certainly in keeping with the idea of pastoral care, not against it.

What was the worst part?
While it would seem natural to say the pain or perhaps having others see me so bad, I think the true answer is losing my bible and my notes. It is just a copy of the Living Word. It can be replaced. I know that, but I miss not having it to read, not having it beside me in the bed. That notebook has several years of lessons. Lessons I am not capable of remembering and was still able to savor and dwell upon because of my notebook.

Pastor emailed he was going by the nursing home to look for them and the hymnal and my brand new pocket version of the Book of Concord that he had just given me. Since there was no follow-up email, I am certain that, in this case, no news is actually bad news.

Once when I was a youth leader in college and again when a missionary in Africa, I gave away my bible because someone else needed it. Perhaps that is the case here.

Still, losing them, I believe, was the worst part. Well, that and how horrible I feel every time I think of Pastor's children stuck in the car while their parents tried to help me. Much guilt there...

Where do you keep your thermostat?
Depends. Normally, between 68 to 70 degrees. Unless I am having one of those strange chills. Then, I crank it up to 70-80 degrees.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I believe I have written before about how I feel that others treat me as being nearly paranoid about the heat. Apparently, I am not paranoid enough!

I shall start from the beginning...

I awoke early yesterday because I thought my new plan would be go into work an hour early on Wednesdays and then I could get some significant work accomplished before ducking out to bible study during the lunch hour. The best laid plans. While I did accomplish two important tasks, I also had to spend time with my nebulizer because of one of the smokers at our building. By the time I was ready to go to bible study, I was trembling like a leaf from the drugs.

When I arrived there, I was dropping things right and left and felt as if my shaking was distracting. I did nearly knock over the water pitcher, but one of my fellow studiers caught it and filled my cup. I had left my phone out (on vibrate) so that I could take any calls from my boss and nearly fell over when I hopped up from the table to answer it privately. Frankly, I was ready to go once 1:00 rolled around because I just wanted the haven of my small office where I could be shaky and unsteady in private.

Bible study is not about me. I know that. And...probably...no one gave a second thought about my shaking. I just do not like being a distraction from things that are important, such as studying God's Word.

1:00 rolled around and Pastor was not done. I waited another 5:00 minutes and then decided I should go. I hate leaving early because of the distraction it is, no matter how many times they have all made it clear that I am welcome for any amount of time I can come. I started packing up my things, but it was as if God was standing behind Pastor and waving His arms back and forth. Wait Myrtle. Something you need to hear is coming!

Pastor had emailed me about an experience he had when teaching about baptism at his Spanish bible study where his fill-in interpreters were those of the camp who believe baptism is something you do for God (a public confession of belief) rather than something He does for you (a gift of faith, a gift of salvation, water made powerful/holy by the Spirit and the Word). He wrote:

I realized once again that these folks and I were coming from two entirely different points of view. That objective/subjective difference seems like such a chasm that we're shouting across! But as you know, once you realize the objective nature of grace and God's gifts, it makes all the difference in the world.

That chasm popped up today again.

We tackled verses 25-28 of Psalm 18 and it was the last that sparked the presence of Christ so clearly for me: For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness. This was why I needed to be there at the bible study.

Pastor referred us back to Matthew 5:14-15

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

"What have you heard about these verses?" Pastor asked. Someone quipped "This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine...." I smiled at that. I should have known what was coming with all the discussion of objective/subjective discussions we've had, with his rather resolute believe that the correct interpretation of the bible is that God does for us--we do not do for Him.

The word he used to drive his point home? Bludgeon! Yep, he said that people have been absolutely bludgeoned with those verses as a way to implore them to go out and light their lamps for God, go out and do great things for Him, for if you do not do so then your faith is somehow weak or missing or you failed in being the proper witness for Him. And yet.

And yet.

Pastor pointed out that the passage does not say go out and light your lamp, go out and make it shine brightly. Christ actually said we are the light of the world. We already are. We already are because He has made us so by our faith in Him. Not effort on our part. Something we already are.

I was glad I had come even though it had been a rough morning.

Well, because my boss had a meeting and I would not be working late, I decided to go to the once-a-month prayer service he holds at the nursing home of one of the charter members of the church. I had been curious about it for a while, thinking that I could more likely pop by after work than get myself going on Sunday morning. And it was another opportunity for me to learn what I need to know so that I can partake of the Lord's Supper.

Well, remember the disaster at that church last summer? You know, the neighborhood one B and her family and I checked out? The moment I walked in, I knew it was too hot but didn't want to tell my friend and her husband I had to leave. I didn't want to be the distraction, for the church visit to be all about me. I thought I could endure it. The service was 1.5 hours instead of 1. I didn't make it.

The room at the nursing home did not have the air-conditioning turned on.

Again, because I had had trouble walking all the way from my car across the building to the room and knew I would need help to turn around and leave, I allowed myself to be encouraged to stay and see if the fact the folks in charge were working on getting it turned on would be okay.

It was not.

Pastor and his children worked around me as they set up for the service. People started arriving. I started receding. That is the first indication I have that I am in trouble. Instead of having cotton in my ears, I have cotton all around me. Everything becomes distant as I struggle to hang on. I moved to the floor, knowing what was coming, in a panic because with the service starting, I did not feel free to ask the Pastor to stop everything and haul me out to the rental truck where I could at least try to cool myself down. Spotting me on the floor, he suggested that I try the hallway where it was cooler. Again, I felt horrible about being a distraction and was valiantly trying to hang on to consciousness, so I did not ask then that he get me to the rental truck.

The service got into full swing and I heard nothing, though I tried to follow along. With a mighty wind rushing in my ears, I gave up and lay down, which, of course, was a concern to the seniors who were walking up and down the hall.

One stopped to ask if I needed help and I grabbed at the lifeline, telling her I needed to get to my car and asking if she could just fetch my purse that was sitting on the floor. She was confused about what I was asking her to do. Pastor ended up bringing it out, I think, and I think I insisted he go finish the service.

I do not remember much after that with regard to getting to the truck. Somehow a security person was involved (Pastor's wife told me that). I remember the woman kept plying me with questions. I remember concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow I ended up in the back seat with the air-conditioning going full blast.

Heat exacerbates MS symptoms. The only real treatment is to cool the person down and wait. Perhaps, though, I should have found the courage to ask to be carted off to the ER because what followed was horrify and something I had not yet experienced.

Usually, I get weak and disorientated. If I have not gotten to cooled down quickly enough--like last summer--I become a wet noodle, unable to do much of anything.

Lying in the back of the rental car, I managed to call K's mom G to ask if she and her daughter (two drivers) could come and fetch me. She could not. That is about all I remember about being in there until Pastor had me near the house. Because all of my muscles were weak, I couldn't hold my need to go to the bathroom. The pain of trying to do so was excruciating and I tried several times to speak up loud enough for him to hear me. When he finally did, I learned he had taken the beltway and there was no place he could stop. I was trying not to vomit as well from being rolled around on the back seat, unable to gather enough energy to keep myself still.

At the house, he frankly did not seem to understand my wet noodle status and appeared quite impatient with me. In fact, it seemed to me as if he was angry for the rest of the time he was at my house. He struck me across the face a few times when I didn't answer his questions. The slaps, which felt like blows probably felt harder than they were because I hurt so much. I know in my head that was probably the right thing to do, but I cannot understand why people do not get that I have no energy to answer questions, to do anything. I figured if I let go and fainted, both he and his wife would be even more upset with me so hanging on was where I chose to put the little umph I had.

Anyway, I tried to ask him to haul me up out of the back seat, but he didn't understand me. He did manage to get me to the door and up the stairs. That was probably enough of a work out for him to last a week.

His wife was not there yet, so I found the courage to ask him to unzip my skirt, having already decided that some cosmic force was telling me that I should not be trying to go to church anymore. I was so grateful he did. I am so embarrassed he did.

I didn't quite make it all the way on the toilet and ended up falling off, hitting my head on the back of the door and then the tub, and lying on the floor with my underwear around my ankles. I remember being grateful he didn't appear to hear me fall. I do not know how long it was until his wife arrived.

Only. Only because she is a nurse that I found the courage to ask for help. But, even now, even knowing she was willing to come back over this morning to help me further, I feel horrible about how much I asked her to do. Especially since I fear it was a long while before I even focused enough to remember her children were sitting out in their car.

Much of the time she was packed into my microscopic bathroom is a blur. I know at one point I felt my right hip begin to move within the socket (when I am really tired it can pop out). I wanted to scream. I think I managed to mute my cry to just begging her to reposition my leg. The problem was that I started to spasm over much of my body. It was as if all the spasticity I have experienced to date was crammed into one moment. My fingers seemed to be trying to curl the other direction in stiffness. My hands and feet were tingling. I had fire running up and down beneath the skin of my legs. My body kept arching up. The muscles in the front and back of my thighs cramped mercilessly. My vision was blurry. I struggled to speak. I wanted to die. I wanted them both to go home. I was terrified to be left alone. I wanted to go to the hospital. I was frightened to ask because I knew I was be even more alone there.

His wife somehow, rather heroically, got me cleaned up, dressed in my pajamas, positioned safely on the floor, ensconced with pillows, and surrounded by all the things I would need: Epipen, nebulizer (she stared it for me), water, phone, and the bible. Thankfully, I do not remember much of how she managed to do this. I know Pastor was there some of the time. I hope it was after I was dressed.

Everything I have ever written about pain is moot. None of it compares. I have never, ever been in such agony. Already, I fear it happening again. And I am certain the panic that rises within me when I know a place is too warm will be magnified a thousand fold after this.

The spasms stopped sometime around 4:00 AM. For another three hours, I waited and debated calling his wife back for help as she asked me to do if I needed it. I didn't know where my cane was. And even if I could get to the bed, I certainly couldn't make the multiple trips it would require to transfer all the pillows and my asthma medicine.

She came, helped me to the bed, and set me up with all I would need to sleep this off: inhalers, nebulizer, grapes, water, a glass of milk, my computer, a bible, the Book of Concord, the hymnal, and Kashi's medicine (he missed his dose last night--poor dog; he was so frightened he kept trying to squeeze by Pastor's wife to get to me). She also let Kashi out, fed and watered the birds, and set the alarm for me before she left.

Now, only time will make a difference. I am still a wet noodle. The agony of the spasms is gone, but their aftermath is left. I feel as if I ran a marathon last night and if I added 1,001 hip exercises on top of that. My vision is still blurred. The tingling is gone, though. I am hungry, but do not know what do to about eating. I guess that will wait until tomorrow.

I asked his wife if Pastor was mad at me. She said he was only worried. Not that she would lie, but I cannot see how he acted as if one concerned. It felt more like why-don't-you-get-up-off-your-duff-and-stop-this-because-I-don't-need-to-be-saddled-with-your-disaster. I am sure it was necessary, but I cannot believe he hit my face and raised his voice. I think I remember that happening several times. It sure felt like and sounded like anger. I also think there was some argument about my keys. Could I have actually fought with him about them?

She also said that had I not found enough lucidity to tell her where my medications were I would have found myself at the hospital. When I think about how bad off I was, I am actually stunned neither one of them called for an ambulance. If they had, I am certain I would be stuffed full of steriods at this point--something I have been working for a couple of years to avoid because I believe their side-effects are worse than their benefit. They are not a cure, just a balm. I can endure the extended aftermath if I means avoiding having to have take steriods. It makes all her labors to get me in a safe position so she felt comfortable leaving all the greater act of caring knowing they were uncomfortable enough to ignore my preference. Of course, had I been in their shoes, even knowing how I felt, I probably would have made the call.

Ultimately, I should have managed to leave as soon as I walked in the door. I feel as if I brought this whole disaster upon myself. B would probably slug me just for even typing those words, chastising me that it is not I, but the disease. That since I had never experienced this before, I could not have known it would happen. Still, I fear that this might somehow be what happens from now on I get too hot instead of just the confusion and weakness. How can I face such agony again? [Pastor's wife said I looked like I was in labor; really, if labor is like that then all mothers ought to get some sort of medal each time they bring a child into this world.]

I fear that getting so bad will have more permanent consequences rather than just being trapped in my bed battling pain and fatigue and hunger until I am recovered.

And I fear that now I was such a bother, such an effort of work, that the whole welcoming at church and bible study and teaching of doctrine will come to an end.

The worst part of it all? I think I did not come back with the materials I had with me out in the hallway unless they are in the rental truck:
  • My NASB bible that I have had for years and is all marked up so that I can understand what I am reading. It makes my heart sick to think I might have lost this.
  • My notebook that has all my notes from the first bible study (Lutheran--Pastor's) I attended on up until yesterday. All the things I have learned and need written down so I can remember them despite my cheese-hole brain.
  • The small Book of Concord Pastor just gave me so that I could have one ready at hand since it is hard for me to lug around the great study version he gave me that is a bit too heavy for my hands.
  • One of the church's new hymnals/order of worship books.
I know it is not safe for me to try and check the truck, so I just have to wait. Have you noticed yet that I am not good at waiting?

I hate multiple sclerosis.

I hate heat.

I hate that I spent such a horrible night on the floor of my bathroom. Alone.

I hate how lonely I feel in this bed.

I hate that I fear my future instead of trusting that, as He did last night, God will walk before me and behind me and beside me...