Monday, January 31, 2011

Would that I were better at this...

I had to ask for help today. 

Over the past year and a half, I have certainly asked for more help than I have in my entire life.  Surely an accurate accounting would prove such a claim true.  I will say that today was the second most embarrassing request for help that I have ever made.  I shall spare the details.

Last Friday, I truly needed help.  I was hoping that someone would have called to check in, but such was not the case.  I needed to get to an appointment but didn't feel free to ask someone from the parish here for help.  If you call me and offer, I have learned to be better at asking, but cold turkey requests still bother me.  Some of those folk have been overwhelmingly helpful, yet it is not in my skill set to ask for help.  At least, not unless I feel safe about it.  And, mostly, since I have been here, I have felt like a burden.

The whole assumed food poisoning fell me low just days after getting here.  And then this...battle...with my innards.  Long, long days of being ill.  Crap.

Well, today I absolutely had to have help.  I could not venture out.  I could not wait until someone called to check in on me. I had to ask all on my own.  But not only did I have to have help, but the help was of a personal nature.  Double crap.  Sometimes, I really, really, really miss the South. 

The more time I spend up north of the Mason Dixon line, the more I miss the South.  The heat would prevent me from ever moving back, but the longer I am away, the more I realize just how much of a Southerner I actually am.  Asking for what I needed there would have been far, far easier.  Maybe it is just because what there is part of life here seems to be inappropriate...even crass. is because I am just fundamentally incapable of interacting with human beings other than a short, short, short list.

I will say that the more time I spend here, the more I wish I had gotten out of Dodge sooner.  Indiana is worlds entire universe it seems...from the DC area.  I was humbled by how gracious the one who helped me was, how she made it seem like I had done her some sort of a favor, how the whole time she has fetched and carried, called and stopped by, she has been looking foward to when I am better and we can venture out together.

My goodness, she has seen me literally moan in pain, weep like a baby, and be so listless I barely noticed her presense and she still is looking foward to galavanting about with me...not that I galavant these days.  We have had a few great big guffaws during my extended convelescence.  What a utter joy that has been!  How loving and merciful my Good Shepherd has been.

Even in my confusion.
Even in my hurt.
Even in my despair.
Even in my fatigue.
Even in my nausea.
Even in my fever.
Even in my pain.

Jesus Christ, Son of God, has been merciful in such a way as I can understand.  Even in my unbelief.

The other day, I had this glimpse of what it means for Christ's faith to be that upon which we depend, not our own. I was too tired to write about it.  The thought, the is gone.  I have been thinking deeply about Baptism and about the Living Word, though.

I have wanted, really since before I arrived, a house blessing.  If I had my way, it would have been done the moment I stepped foot in the house.  I have also very much wanted my adoptive family here, which makes waiting a necessity.  Yet now I have thought, with the amount of time passed and the things that have happened, that my reasons for wanting it are moot.

Someone asked me why and so I told her.  Her reply back was both helpful and confusing.  Of course, lest you misunderstand, it was beautifully written and clear as a bell for probably the entire rest of at least the Christian world.  For me?  Mud.  My reasons for mootness still seem clear.  Yet part of what she was saying sounded just like Luther's explanation of the Sacraments.

Water is just water.  Out of a river. Out of the facet.  Out of a Dasani bottle.  It simply doesn't matter.  What makes it holy is the Word attached to it, specifically the Word spoken in the name of our Triune God. 

I cannot really say why it is that that has stuck in my head or what it has to do with asking for help but somewhere, in my silly mind, it is all connected.

Late last fall, I asked someone how she moved past something.  She told me that she learned to say to herself.  Today I am better than yesterday.  How much doesn't matter.  Today I am better.  I am better than I was last month.  Last year.  I am better.

I am better than I was yesterday.  Still a fever and still unloving innards.  However, the eating plan seems to be helping.  I am better. 

Would that I were better at asking for help. Would that I were better at trusting. Would that I were better at understanding. Would that I were better at believing. Would that I were better at grasping the sweet, sweet Gospel.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding peace...

Who could have known how much peace I would find in a fire?

We had fires when I was younger, but I do not remember taking such joy and finding such peace in one.  Is it because this is my home?  My fireplace?

I have become rather adept at having woodless fires or ones that use just a few pieces.  Perhaps it is a new skill?  This paper is being delivered that I have not ordered.  Most days, it is a skinny tube.  One day a week it is a larger edition.  I take the larger papers and roll up pieces in toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes cut in half to make kindling.  To make logs, I take my Dr Pepper cartons (torn in half) and smaller boxes and fill them with rolled-up newspaper and junk mail.  It has been surprising how much of a fire I can have this way. 

When I want a longer fire, I will judiciously add pieces of the scrap wood that the previous owner left behind in the attic, basement, and garage.  I have cut it down to "log" size.  It does burn far more quickly than I would like, but I still have fires. 

The popping and crackling is so amazingly soothing.  I wish I had some sort of comfortable way of lying in front of the fire since I can only sit on the floor for a short while.  Still, lying across the room and having the fire going has been utterly peaceful.  

You know what makes it even more so?  When the wind is blowing!

At her old home, Bettina had these most wonderful wind chimes on her porch.  Resting upon her couch was joyous for being in the bosom of her family, but it was also wonderful hearing the music playing outside.  After the first visit or so, I bought some similar chimes, but I never heard them unless I was standing before them in the back yard and banging them about. 

One of the very first things I did was hang my chimes on a rather convenient hook in the porch ceiling.  Now, when I am on the couch and the wind is blowing, I have my own lovely music.  Couple lovely music with soothing poping and crackling and you have a little slice of heaven come down to earth.

This home.  I cannot really put into words how I feel about it.  I do not have a job yet.  Truth be told, I am fervently hoping that my Father in heaven is a tad slow about providing such.  I want to rest. I want to have the time to think through some things.  I want to untangle more of the Gospel.  I want to savor this amazing gift.  I do not have a job, but I have had such peace arising from my move here.

Did you know that I recently discovered that it has a humidifier?  Between the utter lack of dust compared to my old home and the dearth of dry air, I can and have breathed easier.  I am surrouded by beauty.  I have these wonderful historic features that just tickle my old-fashioned soul pink.  I have as much space as my cramped heart could crave.  I have a front porch that oozes restfulness and affords the opportunity to have music filling my ears when the good Lord causes the wind to blow.  I have a fireplace that soothes me.  My lions have a place of honor.  The birds are happy.  I even have a can crusher for all those Dr Peppers I drink.  All for a price that is simply unbelievable to me.

And in a location where I have had such kindness and mercy heaped upon me.  Surely I am a sheep of the Good Shepherd! do I get some wood for real fires?

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A  friend today asked me how I was doing. That is, after all, the question almost anyone will ask when you start talking with them. Of course, I hesitated and wondered what to say. From the outside, this week has looked horrible. And yet I have hope that I do not care if no one sees but me. God provide hope for an answer I've searched for seemingly my whole life. Today was a day when the promise of that hope bloomed anew. So, I could have spoken of that. Only who could understand?

I cannot remember exactly what I said, but it was something about not knowing how to answer. As she started agreeing that, for me, it was a bit of a tricky question to answer. Most days, physically, I just don't feel well. I haven't since 1993. Mentally, I am oft better than I seem and oft worse. Spiritually, I am rich beyond measure, beyond even my own understanding, but I am also confused and conflicted and sometimes even despairing. How do I answer?

I told her that if she could teach me how to answer that question, it would be the greatest gift she could give. She tossed off an answer that has given me great pause: I am saved.

Isn't that great! I mean, think of the variations! "I am baptized." "I am forgiven." "I am marked as Christ's own." Right this very moment, I am just hankering for someone to call and ask me the question I have dreaded for so long. Of course, how long do you think it will take me learn to give that answer?

The fever persists, as does the nausea. And the cramps and roiling when I do eat. I have worked hard for three days to eat several times a day. Today, when I had to venture out, I nearly fainted twice and wobbled like a Weeble much of the time. Afterward, I took a long nap, which was more continuous sleep than I have had in a while because I have near constant leg cramps. Again, I have been thinking how much is too much? Venturing out, though needful and necessary, might have set me back, wiped out the small gains I have made.

Am I better than two weeks ago when nausea shifted from a constant nuisance to taking over my life? I actually believe the nausea is better. Not the fever, but the nausea. The past three nights I have awoken with asthma, but did not have to nebulize. I am stronger. I am walking about the house more and sitting up more. But oh so still tired.

Today, while lying in the green chair thinking about my many mistakes, I turned my mind away from them and pondered my innards. I think the best way to describe how I feel is as if there foam in my stomach. Do you think that will make sense to anyone in the medical field should my eat more-continue to rest-try Activia plan not gain ground?

Truly, the hardest part of the past two weeks has been missing having the Living Word poured over me, hearing the Gospel, and receiving the Lord's Supper. Since I have struggled to concentrate, I have barely read and have studied little, though more today than any other. Mostly, I am a cognitive slob.

Someone made a remark about my baptism earlier this week. I have been thinking about that ever since. You know what would be a good idea? A little book like Bonhoeffer's treatise on the Psalms that plumbs the depths of our baptism. Of course, lacking such a book, we can always turn to Pastor Weedon's annual reports to learn who we are as a baptized child of God.

I am baptized.

I have been snatched from the evil one.
I am washed in the Triune name.
I am marked as Christ’s own.
I am covered in the holy blood.
I am united to my Savior’s death and resurrection.
I am anointed by the Spirit.
I am aglow with the light of Christ.
I am claimed by Christ, His own little sister.
I am taken beneath His wings.
I am an heir of all His own inheritance.
I have been filled with His divine life.

I am baptized.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The things we leave behind...

I am not good a leaving things behind.  The things I should leave behind, I keep.  The things I should not leave behind, I let go.  Tangible things.  The intangible.  It doesn't matter which.

I am a tad bit stronger for eating, but nothing else has really changed.  I spent some time in the basement going through papers and stuff.  I napped on the floor down there.  I read.  I cried.  I thought very, very deep thoughts.  Mostly...though...those thoughts were just confused ones.

Last summer, I wrote about getting rid of my journals.  Tossing those things in the recycling dumpster was unexpectedly freeing in many respects.  It was a strange day, one that I have tucked away in my mind and, from time to time, take out and ponder.

As I read and sorted, I found things that made me feel like my journals did.  They were only reminders of painful, harmful times...a few reminders of failures that the very memory of threatens to overset me.  So, I threw them away.  Everything but one letter.  The letter probably should have been first in the pile, but I would like for someone to read it and talk with me about it.  It is a letter of love and all sorts of things I long to hear...but it is from someone who has harmed me greatly.  I think it is a good example of some of what confuses me that someone could use to teach me what I am missing, what I cannot seem to grasp.

In any case, it was exhausting, even with napping, plowing through those things.  Much of the time, I was lying on the floor reading, because sitting up for long periods is still tiring.  I did not get through as much as there is waiting for me.  I moved papers and records and such that I did not have time to review, knowing that it would mean paying to move things that would ultimately wind up in the trash.

Since this summer, I have working at stripping away things that are not true, that are harmful, that I should have left behind.  Mostly, I have done this unaided and I think, perhaps, I should not be alone in this.  Mostly, it has been helpful.  Sometimes, though, looking at these bits and pieces of my life crushes me and I lose sight of what I gained in my baptism.

Even though I am still fairly ill, I managed to lug the two garbage bags I filled out to the trash.  It took over an hour to get that accomplished.  But in a few hours least by the time I awake...they will be gone.

I think that is a good thing.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why I love the Psalter (first attempt)...

I have been thinking a lot lately about why I love the Psalter so very much.  I shall bungle this and will probably need to try many times to speak clearly what is in my heart.  But I wanted to try:

For me, there is no condemnation in the Psalter.  There is Law.  Do not hear me wrong.  There is Law, but there is no condemnation. 

I know that Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but I do not "feel" that is true.  I was plenty condemned as a Protestant for my struggle with sin as a sign I was not trusting Jesus enough, I did not have a right relationship.  Specifically, with words.  As  Lutheran, I have felt condemned again.  I do not understand things I wish to understand.  I know I am hearing Gospel because I am told it is Gospel but it sounds like Law to me.  It was taught as Law.  Just because I know it was taught wrongly and that it is, in fact Gospel, I do not understand how it is not Law, especially because what I am hearing or reading condemns me.

But the Protestants do not, at least in the many churches I have been to, teach the Psalter as the prayer book of the bible.  They do not teach them as prayers Christ prays for us, as prayers we can pray because we pray them in Christ.  Other than the "Jesus ones," the Psalter isn't really taught.  And what is taught is not the same. 

For example, Psalm 23 is probably the only Psalm I have been been taught in its entirety--the rest are really only verses plucked out...mostly plucked out and stuck in praise songs that emphasize how great a job I am doing worshiping God.  But I never once heard Baptism and the Lord's Supper taught in Psalm 23.  Once you know the Sacraments are there (that they actually are Sacraments and not ordinances is another discussion), you cannot help but see them and rejoice in the beautiful song/prayer/reminder of these good gifts and how they strengthen and sustain us.

So, for me, since it has not been taught wrongly, there is no condemnation in the Psalter.  There are far, far, far many things I do not understand, I do not even see in the Psalter.  But I, as I have told others, this does not matter to me.  Yes, I want to learn the full meaning of what I am praying, but I can pray in confidence because they have been given to me to pray and it has been promised that the Holy Spirit, who does know their full meaning, will carry my groanings to Christ, who takes those words of my heart to the Father.

When I talk about the Psalter, I usually talk about how I am awed, over and over again, that the very words of my heart were set down for me to pray thousands of years ago.  How could that possibly be?  When I ponder such, I think that my Father in heaven must love me to give me, a struggling wretched sinner, such a powerful gift that contains blessings and riches beyond measure.

The most perfect example of this (today, for I change my most perfect examples all the time because there is not a psalm I do not love for one reason or another) is Psalm 77.  In it, the psalmist is despairing.  At one point, he says that it is his grief that the right hand of God has changed.  For the longest time, I puzzled that God would have me pray that Christ changed when He is immutable.  I prayed it anyway.  I also kept coming back to it in times of hurt and confusion.  Then, as I wrote earlier, one day I realized that I was reading it wrong.  The psalmist was not grieving that the right hand of God had changed, but that it was his own grief clouding his mind and making him think that the right hand of God had changed.  Because he realized this, he turned to confessing that which he knows is true.  The very lesson I needed...still need!  Even when I am struggling and I pray this psalm, when I get to that part, my heart will leap a bit at the wonder and awe I still feel over the discovery of the gift of those Words.

In the Psalter are prayers for every occasion.  In the Psalter is the Gospel.  In the Psalter is the holy history of what God has done.  In the Psalter is the Law.  In the Psalter is the nature of God.  In the Psalter are the doubts and fears and struggles and longings and joys and triumphs of the human heart.  In the Psalter are the Sacraments.  In the Psalter is our Triune God.  In the Psalter is the wonder of creation.  In the Psalter are the promises of God, including the Promised One.  In the Psalter are our enemies and how to rightly pray for and against them.  In the Psalter is the cross.  In the Psalter is the life God has for us.

And, for me, in the Psalter there is comfort beyond my ability to explain or convey, for in the Psalter there is no condemnation.  There is no doubt or confusion or unbelief.  There is simply utter trust in this good gift from God that I have received by faith in Christ through the Holy Spirit.  In the Psalter, I taste and hear and see Jesus the way I suspect I should be able to do elsewhere in the bible. 

If I am overset with grief or fear or confusion or hurt, all you really have to do is read the Psalter to me long enough and I will find a measure of peace, sometimes almost against my will.  I believe this is so because there is no condemnation there.  I am not hearing wrongly as I oft do elsewhere.  The fact that it does this, even though I experienced its power several times now in such a circumstance, still amazes me and humbles me.

Please do not get me wrong.  I love the Living Word.  I cherish all of is message.  I still count as one of my most precious and desirous gifts in the world for someone to read it to me.  One of my longings is for someone to read me John in one sitting, to pour that into my ears and heart.  I know full well that the condemnation I find and struggle with and despair over is of the devil, the world, and my flesh.  I know that.  So, even those parts that trouble me so I still welcome.

But I also relish and rejoice in the Psalter each and every day.  I have been thinking deeply about why.  And so I realized in this process that it is because I find no condemnation in the Psalter.  In the Psalter, I can truly see that I am whole and pure, without spot or blemish.  That I am one in whom God delights.  That I am clean.  That I have no shame.  In the Psalter, I find love and grace and mercy.  I find forgiveness.  I find peace. 

I know these are throughout the whole of Holy Scripture.  I know that it is my sin that I often cannot see them, find them, in the same places as do others.  I pray each day that God will somehow teach me to see and hear correctly that I might be free of the condemnation I wrongly find elsewhere.  Be this.  Do that.  I want to be and do.  I cannot. I fail.  I despair.  I fear for my salvation.  And I drown in shame because I know God does not mean for me to despair and fear but I am too stupid or too dense or too blind or too sinful to see what is true.

I long for all of the Living Word to be for me as is the Psalter.  But I am also exceedingly thankful that at least one part of it is as it should be.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How much is too much...

I have been nauseous for nearly two weeks.  I have been running a fever for at least 9 days.  I have not eaten nearly enough because it is hard for me to prepare things.  But also nearly everything but lentils (with chicken), cheese, and fried eggs makes my stomach cramp and my innards roil.  Three different kinds of protein, really.  My realtor brought over my beloved Panera salad, which tasted good and whose huge dose of sodium gave me a boost, but has still caused inner turmoil.  I am at my wits end.

How much is too much?

The trip to the ER will be 40% my cost; those in VA usually ran $3,500.  It was disheartening hearing the doc ask "So, why are you here?" because by that time the coughing was better and the trembling was better and even my heart rate and blood pressure were better.  Time is mostly what I need.  He did dose me with steroids, which probably did help the after-shock attacks.  I only had two and one was barely bothersome. 

If I go to a doctor with non-specific nausea and low fever, what could she do...especially without running tests?  Being out of net-work, all the things that were free are no longer free.  It is not just 40% of her fee, but any blood work or scan or whatever other measuring tool will be on my tab. 

With my whole heart, I wish not to begin drowning in debt without some dire, obvious thing going on.  I am terrified she could run 1,001 tests and then say...Uhm...well...maybe it is stress. You did lose your job and you are unemployed and you did move to a strange city.

My realtor, who is a nurse, thinks I need antibiotics.  I sort of wonder since I am running that fever, which Tylenol doesn't seem ot help, if she might be right.  If I thought a new doctor would be game enough to say, okay, lets try antiobiotics first and if that doesn't help we'll judicuously start checking things, I would swallow the fee and go.  But wouldn't that be rude of me to say:  I have MS, dysautonomia, hypothyroidism, asthma, and arthritis, with a history of TB and Malaria (the latter two are enough to spook most docs).  I have non-specific nausea and fever, but I just want you to make your best guess and prescribe something because at least my prescription co-pays are the same.

How much is too much?  How much illness is too much?  How much expense is too much?

I am weary and weak and ill and frustrated and confused and not thinking clearly or logically or really any thinking worth much at all.  Those who know me well will understand the depths of my misery when I say that I have had whole days pass by when the TV, my beloved companion, has not even been turned on at all.

I have been trying to wait and rest and figure out by process of elimiation if there is anything that I can eat.  I was so defeated last night when acorn squash proved unacceptable to my innards. 

I think a lot about the fact that I have been off in my innards ever since the alleged food poisoning. I keep thinking that if I can give my innards a rest while still consuming something to keep body and soul together and finally get ahead of the fatigue (especially since protesting innards keep me up which then makes MS stuff worse), then I can get better on my own. does the fever factor in???

How much is too much?

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting warm enough to stay cool...

One of the blessings of moving to this new home has been my Good Shepherd providing a solution to one of the problems plaguing me.

The dysautonomia has been wreaking havoc with my thermoregulation; the cold spells have been an absolute misery.  Especially at night, I would lie in bed shivering for hours, unable to get warm enough to fall asleep.  I would wear layers upon layers of clothing and try to tuck the comforter around my body, but the tiniest bit of air would send chills up and down and deep within my body.  When I finally fell asleep, I would then grow too warm and would awake weak and ill because of how being overheated makes MS symptoms flare.  At that point, I would start stripping off the layers of clothing and lie atop the covers, hoping to cool down.  Only, most times I would get too cold again and falling back asleep was difficult at best.  I simply could not escape the misery.

While being so frustrated with this continued illness and having to struggle alone, I have been trying to count all of the blessings my Good Shepherd has brought me.  A chief one is the solution--surprisingly simple--to that problem.

When unpacking, I came across the collection of thin white cotton blankets that had been in the downstairs linen closet in my old home.  They are very much like the ones hospitals use, the ones they actually warm up for you.  A short while ago, while shivering in misery, I got up and fetched one of the blankets and wrapped it around my body beneath the sheet.  To my amazement, in short order, I became warm. I suppose it trapped the little body heat I had.  I grew warm and fell asleep.

The nature of my nights, full of night terrors and night mares, leaves me tossing and turning.  So, when I awoke, I discovered that I had kicked away the blanket toward the bottom of the bed and was left with just the comforter.  Voila!  I grew warm enough to fall asleep, but kept cool enough to remain asleep.  That is, I did not awake ill, strip off all the layers of clothing still on, only to become too cold again.  The rather vicious cycle has been broken!

This, to me, is as wondrous as being able to take showers without fear of falling when Sunshine was cleaning my tub for me.

Even though the past week or so has made it very, very, very difficult to remember, I am a beloved sheep of the Good Shepherd, miserable wretch though I may be.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lord, have mercy...

I fainted 4 times today. 

I am tired and frustrated beyond belief.  Sitting up long enough to do this is probably more than I should, but I wanted to capture this day here, for later.

Lord, have mercy.

I have been ill for over a week, nausea filling my every waking moment.  Exactly one week ago, it became overwhelming in the evening. 

Sunday, I left church by ambulance.  I did not want to go.  An entire month's living expenses were on that little trip.  I didn't even get an IV, though the solumedrol push did help stifle the lingering cough.  I had only two secondary attacks, the first harsh, the second a mere annoyance.  I only went because those at the church I am attending wanted me to go, most likely because they have never seen the violent reaction I have to the drugs and do not understand that it will pass.  I went because I thought I would not be welcome if I refused.  Sometimes I wish that just once...just once...I was able to choose something for myself and not be afraid. 

I was released unable to stand or walk on my own, which I found curious, but a relief.  Only I became trapped on the couch.  I haven't had a chance to get a larger, more comfortable one.  I managed to get to the bathroom and am thankful for one on the main floor.  However, I could not eat, could not fetch anything to drink or eat. 

My realtor came by once to make eggs and twice to bring me a drink. I couldn't manage to ask her to cook for me again.  The fever that set in and the continued nausea would have made eating a battle, but it was hard being trapped on the couch...and alone.

Christ, have mercy.

My arthritis has taken exception to all this lying about and last night I had that terrible wrenching in my back, the searing agony that drives all else from my mind.  I have but a few pain pills left and I took one.  I have been icing the muscle off and on round the clock and got the spasm stopped finally.  In a few days, it will be better.  I can endure the pain better now knowing it will end.

I couldn't stand myself, though, and took a shower tonight.  I cannot stand, though.  Not for long.  Getting to the bathroom is easier, so I think I am better, until I try and sit or stand for any length of time.  Even holding the iPod is exhausting, so I have done little else but remain on the couch. 

I tried to help Bettina cope with snow days in the cabin, but only managed to Skype once for hardly any time at all.  Afterward, I felt like a horrible friend for not helping more, even though I was trembling being plumb exhausted.

Manna called and talked with me today.  Thankful for both my headset and her cheery wonderful self, I had a bit of a respite.  I am sure, though, that I rambled far more than usual.

I fainted 4 times today. I am exhausted.  I am hungry.  I am weak. I am weary.  And my heart hurts for I think this week has also shown me exactly where I stand in this world.

Lord, have mercy.

I have not Facebooked or written the Snippets or done anything but long for the time to pass.  I have spent more time asleep than awake.  And, shocking even to me, I have barely watched any television.  I cannot read. I cannot concentrate.  I can only wait.

I fainted 4 times today.  Three times trying to take the shower.  My fever is somewhat better.  My nausea is somewhat better.  This, too, will pass.  Eventually.

I wanted to record this day, when there have been far too many days amongst the past few months lost already.  I wanted to record this day, because this day, as I have never before done, I have cried out for mercy...with my whole being...unreserved...knowing...that while I may very well be a sheep of a Good Shepherd who loves me I mostly likely will remain alone in this new place in need of help, still hoping for mercy in the now rather than the life that is to come.

It is good to know where I stand, though probably, unarguably in my view, the most painful moment in a year of extraordinarily painful moments.  It is good to know this.

Someone said recently that God will always keep me safe even if it is not the manner in which I would term "safe."  Does that mean I should be rejoicing that He kept me safe as I fainted, that I did not hurt myself further?  For I would rather that I not faint.  I would rather that I not be so weak and ill.  I would rather that I not be alone. 

Oh, how I want to see this week as such.  As filled with His mercy.  I do not.  And so I cry out for mercy.  More so, I cry out for help in understanding and embracing the glory of the cross.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me. 
I believe.  Help my unbelief!
Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

my reluctant enemy...

Food has become my enemy.

I have been trying to say this for a while.  I have asked for prayer.  I have begged for someone to help.  After several months, Christ, in His infinite mercy, has sent me two women in my new parish.  Today, help for my spirits, if nothing else, came my way, for which I am exceedingly thankful.  Still, as I sit here enduring nausea, I admit that I am embattled and discouraged.

Go back 20 months, I think, to when the nausea first began.  Seven months of little food until the medication conflict was found.  The hair loss, from which I have not recovered. The weight loss, from which my pancreas has not recovered.  And the discouragement, from which my heart has not recovered.

The dramatic weight loss spawned the insulin resistance and the devastating cycles of eating and then low blood sugar that was not low enough on the charts but low enough to greatly impact my quality of life.  Honestly, the only thing that I have eaten since I did start eating again that has made me feel good afterward is that Panera salad:  chopped chicken cobb.

Of course, that is because you have to factor in the low blood pressure that was creeping up on me.  I was injecting myself with sodium and really saving myself from a cardiac perspective.  The salad has a whopping 1320 milligrams of sodium and 38 grams of protein, or at least it did. The sodium is now showing at 1120.

But this bloody disease, dysautnomia, coupled with insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, and my blood pressure, has absolutely ruined food for me.  Me, Myrtle, the champion trencherwoman.  SIGH.

I eat things and they make me ill.  I take a medication that I have to have but which has essentially removed my appetite.  I eat things and they taste horrible to me, perhaps factor in MS wonkiness there.  I eat things and see no gain. 

So, it is easier not to eat.  But then I will have a day where I find myslf eating all day, trying to find something that is tasty or will make me feel better.  My weight drops and goes back up and drops more.  Bad.  Really bad.

Somehow, I am supposed to salt up my diet after spending my entire adult life avoiding salt since my family has a significant history of heart disease.  In my mind, if it is not "supposed to taste salty" (fries, bacon, ham), then "salty" is gross.  [Bettina and I greatly disagree on how peanuts should taste.  Hers are disgusting to me and mine to her.]

Things I use to love hold little interest, and some things I still enjoy make me ill.  Sometimes nausea.  Sometimes cramps.  Sometimes lower plumbing issues.  Sometimes this nebulous, general malaise that takes a while to pass.

A few days ago, I went out to eat with my new friend and was very excited to have a pile of chicken lo mein.  Before the meal was half-way done, I was battling to keep a smile pasted on my face. I kept eating, even though I was growing ill. I did not want to feel bad, but I wanted to weep in frustration.  She, however, is the one who is committed to finding a nutrition plan that will bring both benefit and enjoyment back to my diet, so I fooled no one.

Today, a woman told me that she spent five years ill due to a similar if differ confluence of medical events, including autoimmune disease.  I wanted to fall upon her neck and weep.  I restrained myself.  I did rather eagerly ask if I could take her to Panera's one day to pick her brain about what she learned.  And I inwardly died a bit at the thought of a five-year battle with food.  Mine is not quite two years yet.  How can I possibly endure another three?  Or even one?  Or a mere month, week, day?

She understood, though, my frustration with people who say, "Just eat something."  She understood the reluctant and sometimes sheer inability to consume food when you know you will feel ill afterwards.  She understood that I could be concerned about this and yet still avoid food.  She understood my fears about the dangers of not eating.  She understood.  She understood.  She understood.

For me, it was as if Jesus Christ was standing right before me telling me that He understood.

Sometimes I think MS has taught me to be hyper aware of my body.  Sometimes I think it is because I have not felt well since 1994.  I have not had a good day, no pain, no dizziness, no fatigue, no blurred vision, no nausea, no weakness, no shakiness, no...since then.  I can feel my heart rate drop. I know when my blood pressure is low.  I start to feel my blood sugar dropping once it falls below 90 or so.  Right now, typing this, I I know my heartrate is probably around 50 because the distance that comes over me has reared its head.  The pressure in my neck tells me I should get up and drink some Gatorade and much on some peanuts.  Of course, getting up would most like mean fainting until I remember--between the time I finish typing and actually arise--to move slowly.  Remember.  Sometimes the problem is simply remembering to eat.

Well, part of the new plan is 6-8 meals a day.  I already knew about that part, but didn't see how since I am not good at doing one meal a day.  Seriously, you know there is a problem when Taco Bell does not send me to chowing down on at least three items from the menu, if not four!  How am I going to eat this often if every meal is a battlefield?

Oh, how I am weary of this war.  I am heartsick over the loss of the joy of eating.  I do have good meals, lest I paint a completely bleak picture.  But good generally means no sick afterward.  Good rarely means actually tasty.  Good almost never means feeling well afterward.  My honest goal:  better tolerance.

From what I understand, it could be worse. It will most likely get worse eventually.  I hope and pray that my new friend can help stave off that day, can actually help restore some joy to the good gift of food our Creator has given to His creation.

I know that He desires good things for me and will provide all my needs.  I know this.  I just struggle to believe so these days when it comes to food.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

some things remain the same...

I had my first asthma attack at my new home.  Thanks to the theophylline for the dysautonomia, these have become uncommon to me.  However, something about forgetting to take your medication means you cannot depend on distress-free days.  And, well, spray painting primer in an enclosed space probably did not help matters much.

Bettina showed me how to set an alarm on my new iPod to ensure the door is locked at night.  Given how often I have forgotten my evening medication (including my most potent ammunition against nighttime asthma attacks), I should have already set an alarm to take the medication.  That has been

I risked using a second epipen instead of searching out the nearest ER.  So, two epipens and three rounds of nebulizer got this one stopped.  Being up all night meant that I missed Divine Service this morning, which is far more distressing that the struggle to that I can again. In the moment, I am a feeble wimp about it.

I have nebulized twice thus far this day and probably will need to do so ever few hours for the next few days.  When I walked outside to fetch spare batteries from the car (I had tucked them beneath the front seat for the long drive here forgotten to bring them inside), the bitter cold set me off again.  That is not something I considered in moving here.  I suppose that means I shall be one of those funny looking people with a scarf wrapped over their mouths.

Sitting on the couch in the middle of the night, I was comforted when the birds flew down to hang out with me as I nebulized.  They have been rather silent since being banished to the bathroom while the truck was being loaded with my furniture and boxes.  Two days ago, Madeleine started singing again, though not very much.  Sam has remained silent.  Perhaps my sitting on the corner of the couch inhaling the medication was familiar enough for them to feel as if they are finally home. 

Sam, my intrepid friend, flew across the living room through the dining room into the kitchen on Thursday. The long flight shook one of his blood feathers loose.  I managed to get the bleeding stopped quickly, but the feather is lodged half in/half out.  I was advised he would take care of it in a day or so and not to worry as long as he was eating and drinking.  He was doing that, but he also wiggled his wing over and over again, fretting and moving about the top of the cage.  He scolded me something fierce about it, but I managed to trim it down to just shy of the rest of his feathers on Saturday.  Since then, he has appeared more comfortable. The silly bird does not understand that he needs to preen it out.  Maybe once he takes care of the matter and is feeling better, he will start talking again.

I suppose we are all getting used to a new home.  I am sure they enjoy the larger space at least as much as I do, for when they take off in flight they are no longer running into furniture or walls or windows.  My first real and true fire was an interest to them.  The crackling and popping had them dancing atop the cage, coming to the edge to stare at the fire and them returning to the highest perch.

I, of course, can hardly believe that I am here.  Someone told me Friday that only God knows why He brought me here, but that it was clear He did.  She told me that if He could provide such a home as this, one that is a beautiful haven and refuge of peace for me, surely He will provide a means by which I can earn a living.  A part of me thinks I should be far more worried about that.  Yet, somehow, I am not...yet.

Today, I have been thinking about forgiveness.  Oh, how I wish I could understand this better.  Someone yesterday truly troubled my waters over this.

Mana, though, gave me a bit of peace to go along with the distressing thoughts chasing themselves about my head.  She wrote that in German, the word "to believe" is not far from the word "to praise."  What she was reading made the connection between these two verbs, talking about how to have faith is to praise.  In her words, "So faith is not a work, but the praise for having received.  If I can say, 'thank you,' I have faith."

Thank you, dear Lord, for pouring out Your mercy upon this wretched sinner in such heaping measure of late. 

I  believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What is meant by this Article?

I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he hath given and still preserves to me my body and soul with all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with my raiment, food, home, and family, and all my property; that he daily provides me abundantly with all the nessessaries of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me and guards me from all evil; all of which he does out of pure, paternal, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me, for all which I am in duty bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him.  This is most certainly true.  [Luther's Small Catechism, The Evangelical Synod of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States, 1863]

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

the things in my head...

I wrote in a Snippet intro a while ago about the wine at my first parish.  I do not care for red wine.  Actually, I find the stuff almost always wretched in taste.  But the wine at that parish is this amazing stuff.  Not taste.  Not by far.  But the fragrance.  Oh, the fragrance!

When I would sit in the pew awaiting my turn, that heady aroma would waft my way and I would grow distracted.  When my godmother would come back and I could smell it on her breath, I wanted to climb over the pews and demand the blood of Christ.  When Pastor would come to my house and serve me, from the moment he decanted the wine into the chalice, I could barely think of anything else.  To my dismay, his habit was to decant and prepare the Lord's Table before beginning the Divine Service. 

You know how much I love the Agnus Dei on page 198.  And I believe it is well-known, now, how much I cherish the Words of Institution...Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night He was betrayed took bread...oh, it is hard for me to think of anything else when those Words come to mind or the tune pops into my head.  There He was, about to be betrayed, ridiculed, beaten, humiliated, and murdered--all of which He knew was coming--and He took the time to give to the Church, give to me, His body and blood that we/I might have forgiveness and healing.  Staggers the mind.

But when Pastor served me at home and that wondrous miasma filled my nostrils, all bets were off.  I was focused like an arrow flying toward the target.  However, I missed so much.  That's what typing out the Snippets has taught me of late.  There are many means of grace, and I was skipping right past the blessings of absolution and the Living Word with the thoughts in my head over that wine when he came to my house.  In the Lord's House, I still missed more than I should, for the riches that abound in Lutheran hymnody oft went in one ear and out the other.

When I came to my second parish, the missing fragrance was a sorrow to me.  The strong taste that I could follow from my lips to my stomach was still there.  That sensation, one which I would not accept apart from the Eucharist, was itself this great comfort, for it was a physical reminder that I had just taken in Christ's very body and blood.

So, here I am at a third parish. 

Imagine my shock when I discovered they use white wine!  [I would love to know the why of that.]  When I saw it in the decanter (I am sure there is a proper Lutheran term for that), I couldn't believe it was to be Christ's blood.  But it isn't red, I protested mentally.

Oh, was I in for a shock at the Lord's Table!  That wine is sweet!  Sweet!  I savor the taste on my tongue long after I have taken His blood into my body.  How perfect!, I thought after getting over the shock.

How sweet are Thy words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
                                                ~Psalm 119:103

Tonight, we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany at another church.  I had trouble finding my way to the sanctuary and actually ended up coming in the front of the church just as the service was started.  Embarrassment rolled over me until I spotted the stairs to the altar.  Since I was just under the wire, I had not a chance to ask the pastor if he would serve me in the pew.  It was walking those steps for me.

Now, I do have stairs at home.  Of course, recorded here are just a few of my unexpected descents of those stairs.  However, sitting in the pews at this and my last parish have been a misery to me.  At my first parish, those folk were so accepting that I could lay down in the pew and they wouldn't blink an eyelash.  Plus, there were these helpful cushions.  However, while I savor the "high church" of my last two parishes, I just think it would be too disturbing for me to lie down.  So, I sit, grow stiffer by the moment, and swallow a great deal of pain standing for the Lord's Supper.  Adding steps to the mix strikes fear in my heart and going to the altar is more about not wanting to fall than meditating on what I am to receive.  It was a great mercy to me that my last pastor began serving me in the pew.

Anyway, I did spend far too much of the service staring at those steps since I have been exhausting myself with packing and unpacking and have rendered my right knee useless.  Even in the brace sometimes I move wrong and cry out in agony (thankfully not in public yet).  The sermon was fascinating, so at least I took in the Living Word.  But I fretted about those steps.  [Having yet another unknown liturgy did not help matters.]

Funny, it wasn't the steps that were the problem.  It was the wine!

They have a red wine.  To me, it was so bitter I nearly spat it out.  I was aghast and worked hard to keep down Christ's blood.  Though, I should say that my first pastor greatly comforted me, when I was vomiting all the time and could not keep down the Lord's body and blood, by giving assurance the efficacy if the Eucharist was intact no matter if were only in my body mere moments.  Still, this was not nausea. 

Today, something happened.  In that moment, the thing that raced through my mind was fear that the bitterness was because I was taking the Lord's Supper in judgment. 

I know such a thing is possible.  Though...I do not understand the ins and outs of it.  Abject fear passed through me and still bothers me greatly.  How can I know?

In thinking on the matter, I have wondered if the wine is a bit bitter to everyone.  It seems to me that the bitterness is as apt as sweetness for the cross was a bittersweet experience.

Still, the things in my head this night bother me.  Did I take in judgment over my part in what happened?  Am I sinning against God because I notice things like fragrance and sweetness and bitterness? 

Yesterday, in the Eucharist, I was served a portion of the large wafer that the pastor uses in the rite, raises above his head in the peace announcement (I am sure there is a proper Lutheran term for that, too).  It is all the same body of Christ, but I was taken aback as he placed it on my tongue.  I pondered over the sharp edges and slightly different taste.  As I bit down, one of those edges cut my gum and I tasted blood.  I thought of the blood He shed and immediately felt completely unworthy that He would do such a thing for me. 

Once, when my first pastor was at my house, he discovered he had no more host with him.  We searched through my larder and only found an old, leftover bun, not worth saving but somehow had been overlooked.  It was stale and unfit for consumption, especially after sitting out during the Divine Service. Only it was fit because it became the body of Christ.  At the time, I thought about how appropriate the stale taste was since Christ was deemed not worth saving by the people, who chose, instead, to save a nefarious despot instead of the pure and righteous Son of God. 

Why do I notice these things? 
Why do I think of them? 
Who does such a thing during the wonder of the Eucharist?

I searched the Confessions for answers and found the following, which only served to raise more questions,though I am fascinated by the term "visible Word":

When we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our heart must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. At the same time, by the Word and by the rite, God moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and the rite are the same. It has been well said by Augustine that a Sacrament is a visible Word, because the rite is received by the eyes and is, as it were, a picture of the Word, illustrating the same thing as the Word. The result of both is the same. [BOC, AP, XII (VII), 4-6]

Did I...this night...was the bitterness more than the wine?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


I find it interesting the things I can and cannot do.  After all, I unpacked for 10 hours, taking rests and sitting often, but 10 hours nonetheless.  The pain in my legs was sheer agony, but that starts after standing still for more than a few minutes anyway.  My hands were a misery and remain stiff and sore two days later, but they will recover.  And my fatigue factor has rendered my right knee inoperable. 

However, I did unpack all day.

Today, I tried to clean the floors.  I have beautiful wood floors in the house that, while swept clean, are quite filthy.  I walk around in white socks and every single pair now has dark great soles despite heavy doses of bleach.  Since the move is essentially completed, I thought that I would try and clean the floors.  A mere ten minutes of scrubbing, perhaps even just 5 left me so weak I could do little else than collapse on the couch. I could not even sit up to read a book to Bettina's cherubs via Skype.

A couple of years ago, when I was at their cabin, I tried to chop some wood.  My feeble attempt did not even last five minutes.  However, I was so weak I barely made it back inside and was completely fatigued for hours, as if I had sweltered in summer's sun mid-day.  Today was just as bad.

I cannot dig holes.
I cannot scrub floors.
I cannot remember other things that bring on wet noodle status, but there are ones just as puzzling.

I didn't know scrubbing floors would be one of them.

My floors are still dirty.
And I am still horribly weak.
This terrifies me so.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

a new beginning...

12 days of packing.  2 days of driving.  4 days of camping out in an empty house.  6 days of unpacking.  A new life in a new town.  Priceless.

However, somehow I didn't manage to leave me behind with everything else.

Today, I made yet another mistake with my banking/bills.  It was a grievous one that will cost me more than the already high fees assessed this day since I cannot put money back into the account until Thursday due to the restrictions of an Internet savings account.  The advantage of that higher interest rate was wiped out in one fell swoop.

For well over a year, maybe two...the irony is that I cannot remember...I have been making mistakes with my bills.  I have paid bills twice. I have not paid bills.  I have online bill pay and a reminder system.  I work very hard to hold the bill in my hand and check and recheck as I enter it.  Yet I keep making mistakes.  Inexorably bigger ones.  Costlier ones.  I try to ask for help and mostly I get back that surely I do not need it.

Recently, I have been trying to explain to someone about not understanding and not being able to memorize.  To be sure I am misinterpretating, but the response seems a bit like you could if you wanted to or perhaps maybe it cannot be that bad.

It is.  That bad.  It is that bad.

This afternoon, before learning about the gross banking error, I was awash in despair over another type of error I have made.  I spoke with my ex-boss, childishly I guess, just wanting to talk with someone who actually likes me.  Not yet knowing about the problem I had created for myself, I asked her if, in good conscience, I should even apply for a job. 

I have, much to my immense pleasure, been able to volunteer with a mission in Africa, helping out with communications.  I know that I have made a contribution, though perhaps not as great as I could wish.  I know that I have multiple gifts and skills that would be of benefit to an organization or to a company.  I know that if I were teaching again, I could do a good job and would have very little of the problems I have due to its more flexible schedule.  But I need help.  I need someone to help me work out those helps.  And I need someone to help make sure those helps are still helping.

Sometimes--even though I have said this many, many times here--I feel as if I am screaming at the world and no one is listening.  And with each passing day I grow more terrified at what I see inside my head.  At what I spend most of my energy masking, hiding.

All that testing and I couldn't even get a timely appointment to discuss it.  I have to gather the data and take it to a new doctor.  To start all over.  To try asking for help yet another time.

I suppose, after two weeks of good things, I should not be surprised to have such a hard day, one that went from bad to worse to horrendous.  I suppose I should not grow upset that the new beginning I had wanted is not exactly the new beginning God is giving me.  I suppose I should give thanks for the glory of this cross. 

I need help with that.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!