Monday, February 28, 2011

Old and new...

Here you see the old laundry area.  If you use your eagle eye (click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see that the washing machine is plugged in with an extension cord.  My plumber had the most brilliant idea of moving the washing machine (you can see the new one I had to purchase) next to the dryer so that it is plugged in properly.

The sink faucet was broken, so this is the unit I donated through Freecycle.  The "new" metal cabinet with a formica countertop was sitting in another corner of the basement.  I relocated here so I would still have storage and work space. 

Finally, the plumber added a laundry sink, created a proper drainage system for the washing machine, and replaced the fixtures in the shower, restoring function to it.  The laundry sink has an adapter for a hose, but I cannot imagine needing a hose on the inside of the house!

I still am not a great fan of that gargantuan table, though thousands of people have told me how great it would be to fold laundry upon...not that I could stand long enough to do so.  However, Bettina pointed out it is large enough that I could sit on top of it and still have room for piles of freshly laundered and folded clothing.

All in all, though, the area is now properly wired and plumbed and much more serviceable.  I am quite pleased with the result.

On the other end of this half of the basement is the new and improved "bath."  In the original photo, you might just recognize the cabinet that is now part of the new laundry area.  The toilet was not functional, but the seller did not include it on the house listing so I could not ask her to repair it.  However, I very much wanted to be able to go to the bathroom should I find myself in the basement and needing to do so.  Plus, if Sunshine is to live in the second half of the basement, she needed a "bathroom."

In the new and improved "bath," you will now see a functional toilet and a new sink.  The toilet is actually the one that was in the parlor, since it is cream and the sink up there is white.  The plumber ordered a white toilet, so I sweet-talked him into putting the new toilet in the parlor and move the parlor toilet to the basement.  Thoughtful man that he is, the plumber ordered another handicapped toilet for the main floor.

Peaking in the corner of the photo is a curtain.  I have not yet figured out how to make this more private.  Ideally, if I had a wall built in the parlor, the folding screen could be utilized here.  I am wont to simply use a couple of the six curtains I have that would make an effective screen, but I suspect that might be a bit tacky.  I need to get a mirror to hang above the sink.  I have thought about getting a medicine cabinet, but I am not sure how to mount one in concrete block.  Much advice would need to be given for that endeavor.  Of course, I also need a toilet paper holder, a towel holder, Kleenex, and soap. 

So, as a result of the plumber's mighty labors, this house now has a total of three toilets, five sinks (including kitchen and laundry), one tub, and one shower properly plumbed and installed.  Oh, yeah, the uncapped gas line that had been dangling above the giant white table is now reduced in size and capped.  No more danger there!

As a result of the electrician's labors, I have properly grounded plugs in the living room and basement, a new light above the vanity, GFIC plugs in the front and back porch so that I can mow the lawn come spring, and no longer have any place where extension cords are being used as permanent wiring.  I am still working on getting the seller to make the electrical repairs that were part of the purchase agreement.  But, for now, all is complete.

Thanks be to my Good Shepherd who led me to two trustworthy, Lutheran contractors who were able to render safe and solve problems to my plumbing and electrical needs and speak sweet, sweet Gospel to me in the process!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's the little things that mean the most...

So often I hear people lament, when talking about someone who had great needs, that they do not know what to do to help, that there is so much needing done it is too hard to do anything at all, anything that would matter.  Yet they do not understand that it is often the little things that matter the most.

Something that I love about Bettina, something I see as pure mercy from my Good Shepherd, is that she will listen to the myriad things with which I struggle and find solutions to little things that make a genuine difference to me.

When she was here, Bettina asked about the upper lock on the back door. It is a first generation dead bolt with a knob.  I told her I could never figure out which way to turn it, never remember, so I didn't bother using it.  But it would be better if I could because that way I could leave the door locked all day, but still get out easier than using the modern deadbolt that uses a key.

Bettina, wondrous woman that she is, studied the lock, opening and closing it several times, thought about what I would need to remember it, and then firmly announced, "Left to lock."

You see, I know righty-tighty/lefty-loosy from using screw drivers and my drill.  The trouble with the lock is that it is backwards.  But I no longer have to remember that.  All I have to do is remember her words, "Left to lock."

Those little helps that Bettina regularly provides to me has made my life better, easier...and it humbles me how she cares for me so lovingly, so freely.  She taught me how to set an alarm so that the front door is locked all night and now I can keep the back door locked all day without needing to fumble with the key!

Right now, there is a lightening storm raging outside.  One little drawback of having all these beautiful beveled glass windows is that they magnify the lightening flickering against the wall.  Magnify the fear I have of storms...ever since living threw those wild tropical storms in Africa.  It does not help that the windows are rattling something fierce, as if bombs are going off around me.  There is no small amount of fear brewing inside me at the moment.

Yet, I just took Amos outside for the last time.  And I twisted the lock to the left.  I did so, because my Good Shepherd is loving me mightily through someone who cares enough to simply try and does not think her help is too small, meaningless.  He loves me even in my weakness.  Even in my fear.   Even so, He provides for me.  Even so.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, February 25, 2011

When old is new...

Once again, I have been humbled by how very thankful people have been for things I only wished to discard, to be free of, to have out of my beautiful home.  I see them as trash, really, ugly things, and yet those who have received them have humbled me with their gratitude.  They see them as treasures, utterly beautiful.  I feel the absolute wretch!

The two air conditioning units and the fan now have new homes.  Tomorrow, someone is coming to fetch the old laundry cabinet/sink combination.  The faucet is broken and would be an expensive repair unless you know how to rebuild it.  Unless you happen to be able to track down a used one, it cannot be replaced by modern faucets since it is on a beveled surface.  The plumber is coming on Monday to move the washing machine so it is no longer plugged in with an extension cord and repair the broken drain line and I want it gone so he has the space to do his work.

The folk who took the refrigerator had been keeping their stuff in the snow.  The ones who retrieved the large  AC today actually cried in gratitude, thankful they would no longer swelter through the summer.  The couple who are coming for the sink are elderly and are looking forward to having storage and a sink next to their washing machine.

The chandelier, the moving boxes, the porcelain figurines, the office supplies, the books, the DVDs, the CDs, the refrigerator, the pipes, the roofing tiles, the air conditioners, the sink...I am forgetting still more...all have new homes with people who were truly thankful to receive my cast-offs.  It's all about perspective, eh?

So much, these days, has been about perspective. many quite skewed.  There are some things I understand better than most, ways God has given me discernment beyond...or because...of my experience.  But in many more ways I simply do not see clearly, do not understand.

The sweet, sweet Gospel, in many ways, is the simplest message on earth.  Yet how I see it, how I hear it, how I receive it, is oft clouded, skewed, by perspective.

I look at those things and think they are rubbish, not worth saving, not even worth the effort to sell them.  Better to just see if someone else wants them.

I look at myself and oft think I am rubbish, not worth saving.  I hear the words of others and believe them to be true rather than the Word I have been given.  I read the Word and yet see those words of failure.  So, how in the world, could Christ endure such humiliation, such agony, such loneliness, such heartache for me?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not quite finished...

What color do I paint the walls?  Seriously...what color??

While there is still a ways to go, I wanted to share photos of the parlor I am working on returning to a parlor instead of a giant half bath!  One day, there will be a wall up with a pocket door and transom windows across the top to preserve the light from the window.  And, hopefully sooner than the wall, I shall figure out what to put over the windows instead of those fabric panels.  Even sooner than that, I shall repair and paint the wall where the old monstrosity of a vanity was.  But...progress!

Here you can see the space prior to my mucking about with it.  I understand that they were just trying to put a bathroom on the main floor for an old woman who had become handicapped, but could not the smallest bit of thought been put into this?  This room is a pass-through parlor with one door at the end of the deacon's bench in the entry way and one end at the base of the servants' stairs just before the kitchen.  The path is not exactly straight because it is tucked around the corner of the back side of the fireplace and laundry chute.

In this shot, you can primarily see the most beautiful vanity that I found to better fit the character and historic nature of the home.  While there would not have been a vanity in 1920, it still looks far more appropriate.  When the wall will go up, the vanity and toilet will each be centered in the small space.

This view shows the solution for making the toilet as private as possible given there is also a French door on the entrance to the parlor.  Do not look to carefully at the wall, though, for it is a mess of layers of paint over wall paper that peeled away when the vanity was removed. 

Because I think the lights are beautiful, I tried to take a shot with both of them, but I think it needs to be done during the day.  Still, the gargantuan eye-sore is gone!  Gone!  Gone!  A tad bit of work on the walls.  A small repair to the baseboard.  An idea for what color to put on the walls.  And this will be a nice room even before a permanent wall is built! 

My realtor is a bit wicked, saying I had turned the parlor into a true reading room...double entendre intended!

Amos is a bit sad that the mirror is now up on the wall.  He had rather enjoyed sitting before it when it was resting on the ground and giving himself kisses.

Speaking of the mirror being on the wall, I really, really, really stink at measuring and all things mathematical.  I very carefully measured the two hooks on the back of the mirror.  The vanity is centered on 40 inches, the space that the pocket half-bath will be.  That means the lighting is centered at 20 inches.  The hooks on the vanity are 18 inches apart.  So, I very, very carefully placed two hangers 8 inches on either side of the mid-line.  The electrician helped me lift it to the wall and then burst into laughter when he realized that 18 divided by 2 in my mind is 8, when in reality it is 9!  Since the mirror will cover up my mistakes, I simply very, very carefully re-set the hooks 9 inches to either side of the mid-line.


Still, beautiful, eh?  What a gift this house is to me!  What an unbelievable gift!

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~ James 1:17

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

And they continue to be poured out...

In case you had any doubts about how much my Good Shepherd loves me in providing this house for me, I had another discovery today.

A contractor came to let me know what is what on the heater system and pointed out that I have a hepa filter system that will help with my asthma!  Wow! He went ahead and switched out the filter for me and he switched out the filter on the humidifier, as well as cleaned the insides out since that filter had been long neglected.

A hepa filter!  I had been advised to add that to the system on my other home, but hesitated on the cost, on putting anything more into the home.  I had no idea, when I purchased this home, that it already had one!  Oh, my!

The electrical work and plumbing work that I have needed to do here has been a bit frustrating, but this good news, this care of me, helped brighten my day!

Expect to receive from God all good things and understand that He knows and understands my needs even more so than I! 

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Slip sliding away...

Even though there was a blinding snow storm that followed an ice storm, Bettina's flight out of Fort Wayne was not canceled.  Driving to the airport was nerve-wracking, but driving home alone was a tad worse.  I called someone and had her chat with me as I crawled home.  I am fairly certain nearly every other driver out on the roads yesterday was certifiable, for they were speeding around me as if there were not inches of ice and snow and slush on the roads.

My time with Bettina was simply blissful.  My, does she make a good bum!  We did not go anywhere but church and hardly played games compared to our usual cramming in of all things competitive.  She did have the gall to beat me at Skipbo. That is my game!  We watched TV and a movie and cleaned up after Amos (he is not all that intelligent about where to do his business).  My beloved Bettina also carted upstairs all my laundry and let me watch NASCAR on Sunday (as well as a few naps during all those laps around the track).  Bettina trimmed my hair, not snickering when I told her only 1/32 of an inch, and she helped me trim Amos' around his eyes so that he could see better.  She built truly spectacular fires and did not chide me for being absolutely ridiculous about eating what I definitely should not be consuming.

I simply couldn't resist.

I am still regretting that choice...though the memory of tasty food...despite the agony of my still tempting.  Someone should put a lock on my refrigerator!  Though...I was good today and had only Activia and eggs.

Amos has started attempting the stairs.  On the main staircase, he gets to the landing and then whines for a rescue.  On the servants' staircase, he makes it to the fourth step before panic sets in and he grows distressed.  If...and I stress if...his momma remembers to take him outside regularly, all is well.  If his momma forgets, he has no problem taking care of business either right by the front door or on the other side of the dining room table.

Oh, my, and when he is ready for a nap, he becomes a very, very disobedient puppy who believes he should bite everything, including any pants legs that might be hanging down in his view and any reading glasses that might be lying about on the coffee table (antique trunk).  What kind of dog wants to chew on reading glasses?  Ah...but, when he is not overly tired, he is such a lovely lump of snuggly puppydog.

I will say that, having broken the cardinal rule of puppydom, I have not had a single nightmare since Amos started sleeping with me.  The strange thing is that he does not wake me up.  The first few nights, he slept on a pile of pillows near my head, but now he curls up at my back.  A tiny lump of warmth that is remarkably comforting.

Kashi, my beloved buttercup, took to the crate immediately and stayed in it for nearly three years.  Even before I had Amos sleep with me, he has objected to his puppy cave and most assuredly does not find it safe.  When he is stressed, accidents happen.  So, it is good that the new washing machine was delivered.

Amos' new favorite pastime is staring at himself in the vanity mirror that is resting on the floor awaiting a proper hanging.  He even gives himself kisses!

So, all things Amos and Bettina are still on my mind.  That...and a new book a pastor sent me:  Just Words.  It is on the sweet, sweet Gospel.  He is hoping it might help me better understand that which is elusive to me, so twisted is my understanding between errant teaching and my past.

I asked him to pray for a situation I am facing, pray for God's will, but to hope with me that what I long for might be the path He has for me.  The pastor responded that he has learned to pray specifically for the things we believe we need, but to not only pray for God's will, but also the strength to accept His will and the ability to follow where He leads.  "Indeed it is a faith question again and here we can see it is definitely not a faith that we create but we really need Him to give us the faith to trust Him."

Here I am supposed to be helping him with his mission and he's the one who ends up doing the helping!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What I know about Amos thus far...

  • He likes to carry about frozen leaves.
  • He is brilliant in all things save for potty training, taking just two demonstrations to learn how to tackle the stairs to the back door and already knowing what "inside" means.
  • When he is tired, he goes berserk trying to find the most perfect place to fall asleep.
  • He loves to drape himself all over the place.
  • He loves to squeeze himself in small spaces.
  • He is absolutely bereft when I am out of his sight.
  • He likes to snuggle.
  • He likes to give kisses.
  • He prefers to chew on paper, the corner of my laptop, and my hair.
  • He sees me as a fellow puppy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And then there was light...

I spent the entire day with the electrician...well, except for my two very wobbly trips to Lowe's...and a nap on the couch...and one out back on the sidewalk while waiting for Amos to get down to business.

Here is a photo of the utilitarian fan that was hung in the parlor (remember this had the half bath in it that was just plopped in the room).  It does not fit this house!  Plus, it was hung directly in the lathe board, so any regular use at all and down would have come the ceiling.  Truly, a disaster all around.

Here you see the rather beautiful chandelier that was actually hanging on the back porch!  Who would stick this outside???

Well, I bought a plain porcelain fixture and a simple rose medallion and moved the chandelier to the parlor.  My, I will say that I happen to believe it looks rather beautiful in there, much more fitting to the space.

I will note that the second trip to Lowe's came about after discovering that the fan was not set properly and needed a new box to hang the light.  The electrician also suggested getting a medallion to cover the marks on the ceiling left by the fan.  Truly, it adds to the overall fixture quite nicely.  When it was up and turned on, the electrician was rather pleased with his contribution to my home decor!  I had to restrain myself in the flicking of the fixture on and off, on and off, on and off!

Here you will see the new vanity light that was installed for the whenever-Myrtle-gets-a-job-and-can-afford-to-put-up-a-wall half-bath.  The rather ugly modern vanity is being removed, the pipes moved across from the toilet, a new vanity set in below the light, and a screen set up to block the view of the toilet.  While people can use the toilet now, the french door makes doing so a bit revealing.  I hung a lace curtain on the back of the door, which does mask quite a bit, but not really enough for anyone to feel truly comfortable in there.  Once the wall is set up, I can move the screen to the basement toilet.  Right now, I have one of the old curtains hanging down in front of that space.  With all the things going on in the ceiling, it would make no sense to add walls around the toilet and sink there, unless they were some sort of stall feature or built up short of the ceiling with a funky cap or something like that. 

I had to choose the space for the half-bath and set the light half-way between the outside wall and the wall-to-come.  Making an equal distance to that between the toilet and the outside wall, that would mean a 40-inch bath.  In the attic are four doors original to the house. I plan to have one used as a pocket door so as to maximize space.  Ideally, the wall would also have transom windows so that the light from the current two-set windows would still shine into then reduce-in-size parlor.  All that, though, will be a later day.

The electrician is an absolute master at cutting into plaster walls.  I was really amazed at his work.  Part of today's labor included putting in grounded plugs in the living room.  After the second one, he rocked back on his heels and openly admired his work.  "Just beautiful," he exclaimed.  I agree.

Cutting into the inside wall afforded the opportunity to cut through to the porch on the other side as well.  That means that I can have my fountain running again!  [When it is not freezing outside.]  Just think, between the beautiful chimes and mesmerizing fountain, I shall be gaining equanimity by the bucket loads when the weather turns into Spring!

This house is rather unbelievable to me.  I simply cannot wrap my mind around the fact that I am actually living here. 

I already have a fantasy project for him:  the light switch to the kitchen is all the way across the room next to the back door.  I would like to add a light switch by the entrance from the dining room, since I tend to leave lights off unless I am in the room.  That way, I will stop stubbing my toe on the cabinet or banging into the stove at night.  And it would be nice to have a plug in the attic.  And a light in the servant's quarters' closet.  Yep...I need that job!

Amos was grand company this day.  Oh, how I have needed a bit of comfort in my life!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What are the odds....

...that I will end up the one being the alpha dog in this new relationship?

There we were having a nice nap together, Amos a warm lump on my shoulder, head tucked beneath my chin.  Imagine my surprise when I awoke to him chewing rather happily on my ear.

Thinking those odds are pretty slim to none!

It's over...

For a while, a last minute problem threatened to torpedo the closing, but all the paperwork has been executed.  Tomorrow it will be recorded, and I officially will be a one-house homeowner.  The life I left back in Virginia will be completely over.

The stress of a near back-out completely overwhelmed me, but I did call for someone to pray with me and tried to get through storm of uncertainty and fear of what my part of the sale not going through would mean.  The storm passed.  The closing happened.  All this really means is that my stomach began turning flip-flops and has not yet ceased.  Who needs food?

Tell me, have I become a shrinking violet?

I could be wrong, but I do believe having Amos helped.  He is the most mellow puppydog on the planet!  Well, as long as he can see me.  If I try to pop upstairs where he can not follow me, whimpers grow into whines which turn into agonized howls.  Poor little guy.  Ten weeks old is a bit young to face having your world turned upside down.

While he does romp about, he simply acts as if he has taken a chill pill the size of his little body.  What is good about this is that when I started crying and worrying up a storm, he merely shifted about and went back to sleep, his head tucked beneath my arm.

The funniest part of the day was when he dragged the hand towel I left out over to his bed and tucked it about him.  Such hard work since it is bigger than he is!  Amos reminds me of Bettina's youngest cherub who loves to stuff his blankie in his mouth for a good chewing when he goes down to bed.

It was helpful to hear the Lord's Prayer this day.  Never have I understood Thy will be done more.  Truly.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Introducing Amos...

Nothing makes sense like getting a new puppy dog when you are unemployed and ill.  But this warm lump of love cares only to snuggle as close as possible for as long as possible.

Today has been a big day for him.  Born December 2, 2010, he was away from his siblings, walked outside, rode in a car, met his new mom, saw birds, did his business outside, discovered snow, visited a pet store, and investigated his new crate--all for the very first time! 

Interspersed amongst those adventures were various naps, though it is evident I need some sort of squishing and draping mechanism is in dire need.  He is used to having five other small bodies tucked around him, a tangle of heads and tails and bodies and paws.  Thus far, if not on my chest, his favorite two spots are with his head tucked behind my back or squeezed between the pillow and the back of the couch. 

It has been 15 years since I had a puppy dog who was actually a puppy.  I truly do not remember all those sage lessons in potty training, discipline, and being the alpha dog.  I did, thankfully, remember how to trim nails as I am fairly sure his had never been clipped.  Flipped on his back, held close against my chest, Amos gave nary a protest while I trimmed his paws.  Since he has a tendacy to put a paw out against my chest as he tucks his head beneath my chin, it was immediately evident our relationship would begin better if his nails were not getting tangled in my hair and ripping it out.

So why Amos?  My writing student, Bettina, my sister, and my nephews all gave suggestions last night, once I knew Amos was coming to join me. I had a really odd name, which no one liked, and each offered an interesting choice, but in the end, I chose Amos because one of my favorite passages is from the ninth chapter of the book of Amos, verses 11-15:

"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,

And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins
And rebuild it as in the days of old;

That they may possess the remnant of Edom
And all the nations who are called by My name,"
Declares the LORD who does this.

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD,
"When the plowman will overtake the reaper
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
When the mountains will drip sweet wine
And all the hills will be dissolved.

"Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,
And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them;
They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine,
And make gardens and eat their fruit.

"I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,"
Says the LORD your God.

God has finished telling Israel about her captivity, the trials and tribulations to come, but then makes this promise...that one day...the riches of blessings will be so great that the mountains will drip sweet wine.  Can you imagine such a time?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

This day...

I could not fall asleep last night until 5:00...this morning.  I was so nauseous and so frustrated.  I have the hospital bill sitting next to the amublance bill. I look at both and think why go back for a stomach that is acting like my heart.  April 5th.  That's when I can see a doctor for less.  Surely, the nausea, fever, and roiling guts will be gone by then.  Surely.

It isn't just the nausea.  My now wonky heart sometimes keeps me up, throbbing and whoosing and filling my ears so loudly I cannot fall asleep.  For whatever reason (I shall surely ask the next time I see a cardiologist), it is louder if I am lying on my left side than if my right.  Only, perhaps it is not so much my heart but my ears or not my ears but how my brain is telling my ears to work.  In any case, it is too loud for me to fall asleep.  Or my legs are cramping. Or my guts are roiling.  Or I have fiery pain beneath my skin.  Or I have a muscle spasm that jerks much of my body.  Or...SIGH.

I fell asleep around 5:00 and gave up trying to stay asleep at 10:00, after seven different nightmares.  Sometimes.  Sometimes I just wish.

I decided if I was not going to be able to sleep when I need sleep then I was going to eat since I need to eat.  You know, just because you decide that your innards are going to behave does not mean that they will.  Seriously, I am firing them. 

My realtor, who simply has to be an angel mascarading as a human being, has come by the house every few days to bring groceries or take care of things for me.  She is a like a spring breeze blowing the hair back from my face as the sun warms my cold bones from a long winter.  She mentioned struggling to get a mailing out and I volunteered to help from the couch.  So, in between a few naps, though I am trying to stay awake that I might have a better chance of sleeping, I have been labeling and folding and stuffing and sealing. 

Not all that long ago, I would have breezed through this.  I am bothered that I am not yet done.  However, the mailing cannot go out until Monday, so the fact that I am still working on it, a 500 piece, two-label, four-page mailing should not distress me. 

Tomorrow is the Lord's Day.  A few blocks down the street, my Lutheran brothers and sisters will be having the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ placed in their mouths (or hands), given for them, shed for them.  They will be having the sweet, sweet Gospel poured over them.  They will have hymnody filling their mouths and swirling around them.  Oh, how I wish to be joyful for them.  And I truly am.  I just long to be there receiving the good gifts of Christ myself.

Six days from now my beloved Bettina will be here.  Surely, if I am not well enough to venture by myself, she will take me.  Mostly, I just need to lie down some or maybe lean.  Since I have lost more weight, I shall not squish her when I do so.  Even if I did, though, she wouldn't mind.  No, she would probably just shove me back upright.  Gotta love a friend who sends you a link to the proper sort of axe to buy for her so she can split and stack wood for you.  That kind of friend won't mind a little squishing, eh?

I am better, but I am weary.  I am better, but I am not.  I am better, but I am bowed beneath the weight of another loss.  I am better.  And my adoptive brother chided me that I need to look not at the loss but how my Good Shepherd provided for me in the first place and trust that He will do so again.  He is right.  I have had a great blessing.  That is it ending does not change that I have had a great blessing.  But even if I look more to the loss I am forgiven.

I have had more food this week than last.  I have had less nausea than last.  My fever is but slight.  I am sitting in the most beautiful home with a steady wind sending lovely music from my chimeshanging on an amazing porch through the rather gorgeous beveled glass window.  And just two days ago I was served the true body and blood of my Good Shepherd who cares for me even when I struggle to believe by an undershepherd who remembered how much having the cross traced on my forehead means to me. 

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Be careful what you post...

I said to remind me when I struggle next yesterday.........

Another life punch to the gut today.  Truly, I simply cannot envision facing the loss and starting over.  Many tears shed again. stomach is now directly connected to my heart.  The news made me so ill I have not yet managed to eat and I am still so nauseous that concentrating on anything is difficult.  Personally, at this point, I am quite offended at my body.  Frankly, I believe it should be far more supportive than it is being.

However, a dear, dear, dear woman talked with me after I emailed her my news.  She is not a phone person, so her calls have been especially sweet.  The bestest part, the most merciful, is not only that she pours the Psalter over me, but that she does so with such understanding of what it means to me and such appreciation for the wonder of how God gives us the very words of our hearts to pray.  Plus, frankly, she channels the Holy Spirit quite well straight to my wounded soul, choosing the most perfect psalm for the moment...although...there simply are no not-good psalms.  Period.  They are all lovely, amazing, and absolutely perfect.  They are also like baptism.  Luther teaches us in the Large Catechism that you can spend a life time studying Baptism.  I have spent prayed through the Psalter so many times I have lost count.  I have prayed many of them many of dozens of times. Yet I barely have scratched the surface of what this treasure trove has for us.  For me.  Myrtle.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him, there is no want.
The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will tech you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life,

And loves length of days that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
Seek peace, and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous;
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked;
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants;
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.
~Psalm 34  (NASB 1977)

I emailed her afterward that what I like best is how utterly compassionate she is and refreshingly honest.  I do need honesty and frank and blunt speech, but I most definitely need it to be couched in compassionate words.  She also emailed a post from Susan's Pendulum, a blog I added to my list written by a dear friend of hers.

"God Will See You Through It"


When things go wrong, upbeat Christians will sometimes cheerily assure you that God will see you through the troubles. When things go wrong, people point out how God has brought you through trials in the past, and He will be faithful and bring you through these current trials too.

But some of those past trials left scars -- death of a loved one, divorce, irreversible health problems, etc. There is no assurance that these current trials will not also have their ramifications and leave their own scars.

It is true that the Lord will work for our benefits even when harm comes to us. It is true that He will preserve us in the faith and see us through these trials to bring us to our heavenly home. But sometimes the prospect of new scars is daunting.

It made me think of some admonition/insight I was given by an undershepherd:

Quit trying to walk when you can't.  Let Him carry you.  Don't be offended.  That happens when you look at yourself, but not when you look at Him and what He wants to do for you.  I know it is hard because you look at what others close to you have done.  It is hard to believe that someone would not hurt you the same way.  But look at His scars and see.  He doesn't make scars on others.  He takes them and He wants to take yours.  Cry to Him.  It is ok.  He will listen.

Two people talking to me about scars.

Something important she said is that nothing changed today.  She is right.  It will change in two weeks.  So, for two more weeks, I have this gift of my Good Shepherd.  All I have to do is see what He will do with its loss. 

Boundaries.  I wrote about them recently commenting on a blog.  I do want them.  I struggle to understand them. It is a mess of my own making.  Yet I need them even more than I understand.  I need them. I need them.

The Psalter is a boundary for me.  It contains my emotions, holds them, renders them safe.  It contains my faith, frees it from the fetters of the false instruction I have had, the terrible burden of Jesus being the new Moses instead of Christ crucified. It contains the near unbearable weight of "How in the world can I do this?" 

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When Thou didst say, "Seek My face," my heart said to Thee,
"Your face, O LORD, I shall seek."
Do not hide Thy face from me,
Do not turn Thy servant away in anger;
Thou hast been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,

O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the LORD will take me up.

Teach me Your way, O LORD,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.
~Psalm 27 (NASB 1977)

One psalm at a time. 

Two weeks.
Four opportunities.
Three alternatives.
One thing.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.

One thing.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I received the body and blood of Christ and more...

Today was the day and I was not only given the Body and Blood of Christ, but was given the Word of Forgiveness, the cross on my forehead, some really great Gospel, and enough time to be more comfortable before things started.

I am a wretched louse for the doubts and fears I have.  Please remind me of this day whenever I struggle again...which I know will be soon.

I did learn, though, from someone who thinks I have been immensely hurtful, again. I feel like an onion being peeled, and each layer is worse than the one before it.  For someone who struggles with shedding the teaching that I need to be worthy, this is a crucible.

I am heartily sorry but how do I stop doing that which I do not understand?  How do I address something that is not in my heart or mind and so puzzles me that can be in my words or my actions?  This is doubly hard for someone who struggles with understanding forgiveness apart from the Eucharist and the Word of Absolution.

I was despairing and then remembered one of my favorite online sermons from Pastor Esget.  I thought I would plunk it down here, as a reminder, hopefully, that this day is the day God gave me with both sides of the cross.

The God who hides Himself in times of trouble: Meditation on Psalm 10
September 3, 2008

We are working through the Psalms at our midweek services of Evening Prayer. Tonight was Psalm 10. Some of the material below is from the Heidelberg Disputation (AE vol. 31). I have long been indebted to Dr. Richard Stuckwisch for a lecture he gave on Deus absconditus in 1994, as well as Kantor Resch for teaching me that God comforts suffering sinners by means of the Psalms.
“Why, O LORD, do You stand afar off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” 
The LORD does stand far off, hiding Himself precisely when we feel we need His help most. The Scriptures are full of examples. The Canaanite woman implored Jesus to free her demon-possessed daughter, and Jesus seemingly insults her, trying to drive her away. Job endured the loss of his family, property, and friends, and from the dust shrieks to God, “I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me…. I know that You will bring me to death” [30.20-23]. Abraham and Sarah endured years of sadness on account of their childlessness. Elijah crawled through the desert, eating nothing for forty days and forty nights, then hiding in a cave from those who pursued him. Why?

That is the perpetual question the children of God are led to ask. “Why, O LORD, do You stand afar off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” God has hidden Himself. Why?

In his theses for the Heidelberg Disputation (1518), Luther presents an answer to this ancient question about the hidden God. In the 19th thesis, he writes, “That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened.” In other words, you can’t tell what the invisible things of God are by the things that are visible to you. The things that are happening in your life don’t show you the hidden things of God.

In Romans 1, St. Paul shows us what we can know on our own about God: “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” From creation, from the things that are made, we can see that there is a God and that He is all-powerful. However, what we cannot see and cannot know from nature is how God regards us.

So the natural assumption is that if things are going well, God loves us, and if things are going poorly, God must hate us. That’s why some false preachers see the punishment of God in a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, and why others will say that it is God’s will that you live in prosperity, with a luxury car parked in a garage attached to your luxury home.

It’s easy to condemn that kind of thinking – but we often fall into the same trap. When we are healthy, we say we are “blessed,” but when we are sick, we wonder if God is punishing us. Denominations say large churches with big donations are “successful,” and churches that are suffering and struggling are told they are doing something wrong, and so God is not “blessing” them. We are all, by nature, theologians of glory instead of theologians of the cross.

But this Psalm teaches us to be theologians of the cross. The psalmist complains that the ways of the wicked man prosper, even though he hates God, while the poor and helpless, who pray to God, get attacked by the wicked who ambush, enslave, and murder the godly. We cannot look to earthly success, to our health or a happiness quotient to determine whether or not we are blessed, to see whether or not God loves us, what His disposition toward us is.

The prophet Isaiah says, “Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” Why then does God hide Himself? So that He can show Himself – but not where you expect. God hides Himself in order to reveal Himself in weakness and suffering, in sacrifice and the cross. There on the cross, precisely where our natural eyes see a weak, pathetic, miserable dying man, there we see God truly revealed. Where God is most hidden, on the cross, there is God revealed for who He truly is: the One who suffers with us, who suffers for us, who has endured our suffering and even taken it on Himself.

When it seems as though the LORD is standing far off from you, hiding Himself in your time of trouble, He is hiding Himself precisely so that you will cry out to Him for rescue, confess your sins, and then see God not in an earthly triumph but in the lowly forms of words, water, bread, wine. There God has hidden Himself, but you find Him there coming to you, lowly, riding on a donkey, yet righteous and having salvation.

God is a God who hides Himself to the patterns and expectations of this world. But He is not hidden from you. He is revealed to you in the means of grace, and there-and only there-you know God’s disposition toward you, namely, that He loves you, forgives you, and is not far off when you are suffering.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Is today the day...

In a little over nine hours, I might have the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ placed in my mouth after weeks and weeks of being ill and missing church and making things more difficult because I struggle with unbelief.  Try as I might, I cannot sleep for hoping God has mercy on me and gives me the forgiveness I do understand and crave more than words can say...especially now.

But if today is not the day, I truly hope that God's grace will carry me to the day that is the day.

Monday was a hard day.  Tuesday was worse than any other in the past year, save one, perhaps.  Wednesday I sat on the floor of the post office because there is no place to sit while you wait.  [Why is that?]  Wednesday I messed up, once again, in communicating all the wrong things and conveying precisely the opposite, in many ways, that which I intended.

But Wednesday my amazing realtor ferried me to the bank for a notary signature and then to the post office to send it off to Virginia so my old home might be sold, Lord willing, next Tuesday.  She did this out of mercy and, out of joy, purposely chose a post office that just happen to then make it so we passed by my beloved Taco Bell on the way home.  I nearly fainted at one point of our outing, but she just watched over me and then let me order more than a few of those wonderful bean burritos that just happen to have tons of sodium and surely have great curative properties.  I shall be well before you know it!

Certainly the fillip of good food was a portent of the Food I truly need and actually does heal that might come this day, eh?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

An answer I knew but didn't want to hear...

I finally got an answer to a question I already knew the answer but had hoped would be different...several people told me it would be different and I let myself believe them.  But it was my fault. Everything was my fault.

One person I admire and respect tells me I should just go to church and hide in the back pew.  Let the Living Word work in me.  Let the body and blood of Christ heal me.  Another person who is greatedly admired and respected by so many I have lost count tells me that I cannot just hide in church, that I have to be a part of a community.  One person I know tells me just to sit and heal, let the Living Word wash over me and the Eucharist be brought to me.  Slip in.  Slip out.  Give it time. Another person tells me that I need to greet folk, talk to folk, and go up front to the altar because a large part of my problem is receiving the Lord's Supper in the pew.  Of course, this is after hearing what a beautiful witness it is for a pastor to bring the Lord's Supper to somone, to make the time.

When I sit in a pew, it hurts, physically.  The longer I sit more it hurts and the harder it is to concentrate.  When I go to stand, I have to fight dizziness from the orthostatic hypotention.  Plus, I have to the battle the wave of strong pain that washes over me from my arthritis stiffening up.  I cannot kneel at the railing because the pain of kneeling is overwhelming and if I do actually get down, then I most definitely need people to help haul me back up.  If I stand there and it takes any amount of time to work down the row of folk receiving the Eucharist, I start worrying if I will fall.  My arms holding me up on the railing begin to tremble and they hurt. 

But my problem is, so I have been told, that I need to just go up and receive it normally with everyone else.  I hung up the phone.  Sat there with hot tears streaming down my face.  I do not know what is up or down, right or left.  And, apparantly, it doesn't matter anymore what I do.  I wll be wrong.  I took more pills to make me sleep last night. 

However, right now, I have to get to a bank and sign a paper and then get to a post office and sent it off to be free of my other house. Only I cannot put two feet in front of each other. I cannot lie down even without the room spinning something fierce.

I need to be clear headed so I can get to the bank tomorrow. was all my fault.  How do I face that?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Longing that which I do not understand...

I am so tired of being ill and of missing the Lord's Supper.  I am stupid and made that worse, so I thought I would just make Sunday pass without my noticing.  I can do that.  My metabolism is so blooming slow that medication that might make you sleepy completely knocks me out.  So, here is it 24 hours later and I can barely walk or anythng and am off to be again.  No football, no nothing.  Honestly, why anyone takes drugs voluntarily is beyond me, but then again, that is exactly what I did, isn't it.

I told someone I just do not understand why I crave the Lord's Supper so very much, why missing it hurts more than anything I have ever experienced.  She said something along the lines that it is the very body and blood of Christ and that since I have been so deeply wounded in body having healing that is in body is probably why it means so much, why I crave it without really understanding why.

I hate how I feel right now, so fuzzy headed and barely able to walk and seeming as if I am not really here in the moment.  Yet a very large part of me is wondering if I have enough pills that make you groggy to keep me groggy, even if it is merely Benedryl or something like that, until I am well enough to return to church.

Somewhere along the line, the frustration of my innards has been surpassed by the frustration of longing for what I cannot have.  I have acted stupidly and fear more stupidity on the horizon.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, February 03, 2011


I spent all of yesterday thinking it was Tuesday, that I had more time for the snow to melt before I needed to somehow get to an appointment on the morrow.  I talked with several people and I know that with at least two of them I mentioned that I had Wednesday and Thursday for roads to clear.

So, I was taken aback when I went to send out an eBlast for Lutherans in Africa to discover that I was scheduling it for Thursday and not Wednesday.

Where did Tuesday go?  Or was it Monday that I lost?  I remember Sunday because I become rather morose about missing the Lord's Supper and the Service of the Word.  When is now?

My fever is definitely trending down.  The nausea is muted.  The cramps and roilling when I eat reduced.  I am still exhausted just doing small things.  When will I be better?

I have made many mistakes following my frustrations and emotions.  Recently, I made the biggest, most painful one I have ever made and find the cost quite bitter.  No matter that I am forgiven.  The price is too high.  When will I stop being the fool?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Sorrow abounds...

My grandfather died.

I asked last night, how I could leave myself with Jesus.  I can't!  But my Good Shepherd can and will...even for someone who is as confused about church as am I.

He knew how much I longed for comfort, for the Gospel in a way I could understand.  He loves me so much that He gave me not one, or even two, but three to give comfort.  A deaconess talked with me and read to me from my beloved Psalter, not minding that I rang her in tears.  Two she chose, guided by the Holy Spirit: Psalms 90 and 77.  And then, in true generosity after spending time talking with me and encouraging me and explaining things to me, she asked me to chose one more.  I chose Psalm 104, in part because of the psalmist's charge in 77 to remember what God has done instead of allowing grief to be your truth.  The God who set the stars in the heavens, who wraps Himself with light as a garment, who set boundaries for the seas and feeds all of creation calls me by name from the remotes parts of the earth, claims me as His, is beside me in flood and fire, and even delights in me.  Those promises are magnified by the wonder and majesty of Psalm 104.

Then an undershepherd sent an email filled with such earnest words and clear speak that I could understand both the sweet, sweet Gospel and the truly gentle rebuke he had for me.  In fact, he wrote something I do not understand but suspect is a great big missing piece to the puzzle of faith that has been a source of despair to me.  I had hope even not understanding that I might, one day, understand.

And when my tears were overflowing once more, as I sat in the dark before bed, Bettina rang, her beloved husband and children fast asleep, so that I not be alone at the end of this hard, hard day after weeks of being ill and hurting and weary and confused and longing for the gifts of Christ I have been missing.  I marvel that she loves me.  It makes no bloody sense to me.  Even when I confound her she loves me.

Even when I struggled to believe Christ crucified for me, for Myrtle and not just for others, He loves me still.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

When does it end...

I hate the mail these days.  For a few weeks now, barely a day goes by without bad news or some problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

Today, I got a bill for $1,406 for an ambulance ride I did not want, I tried hard to refuse, and only relented because I felt so pressured that I didn't think I would be welcome again if I didn't go.  I knew I was going to be okay, even if I still looked bad, and that was confirmed when the ER doc asked me why I was there.

I know. I know with my whole being the call for an ambulance was made in care and concern.  But I felt I had no choice, no freedom.


That's a whole month's living expenses here. 

I am absolutely overwhelmed.  I knew the hospital bill was going to be hard to stomach, but I have never been charged for an ambulance ride.

Not only did I get this bill, but the company is going to be charging interest each month I don't pay. 

What am I to do?

I Skyped with Bettina's cherubs to read to them.  Two books wiped me out.  I was exhausted.  I want to do it again tomorrow if she has them at home again all day because it helps her. be honest...I like that they like me reading to them.  My fever is trending down, but still here.  It is getting easier to endure eating. I can stand and move about, even if I get exhausted afterwards.  I am getting better.  But there is no way, no bloody way even if I wanted desparately to do so I would go to the doctor right now.  Already, I am approximately four months living expenses in debt.  My hope at some rest and peace before I found another job seems to have been shattered. do I interview if I cannot even sit long?

What am I to do?

My Good Shepherd knows all this.  Why cannot I find solace in this cross?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


To me, it seems as if the past twelve months have been marked more by loss than anything else.  Another one is coming.  My grandfather has entered his gloaming.  I moved away so hastily, for good reason, but if I were still there, I could be by his side.  I cannot.

I cannot for the blizzard.  I cannot for my health.  I cannot for my financial status.  I cannot be by his side.  And when he moves beyond this vale of tears I will not, most likely, be there to mark his passing.  Another loss.  More grief.

I am weary of loss.  Loss of livelihood.  Loss of a home with others.  Loss of well-being.  Loss of my beloved puppydog.  Loss of my father's memory.  Loss of mine.  Loss of a life not yet begun.  Loss of hair.  Loss of weight.  Loss of reputation.  Loss of understanding.  Loss of freedom.  Loss of safety.  Loss of trust.  Loss.

What did Paul mean when he wrote in Philippians that he lost all things but count them as rubbish but for the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

I have certainly gained knowledge of Christ crucified.  Although, sometimes, I feel as the knowledge I gained is slipping between my fingers.  I have gained Truth.  I have gained "It is finished."  I have gained mercy.  And I have gained a modicum of peace.

But I am weary of loss. 

I want to be there, to sit beside him in his final struggle.  He is not recovering from pnemonia and is struggling to breathe.  I know that agony. I know that fear.  I know that battle. 

In the past twelve months, his daughter has suffered the loss of my father--though his body lives, the life they had together is gone.  She is now facing the loss of her father, the one to whom she looked to for support and advice and comfort for her entire life.  That is something I cannot fathom.

It isn't just the loss.  It is grief.  Grief who is a companion who never leaves.  Grief who blinds and deafens you.  Grief who sometimes flings you into an obscene, bottomless pit of overwhelming hurt. You can befriend him.  You can learn to live with him.  But, oh...when you least expect it, he will most definitely not be your fact...I think he's really great at driving your friends away.

My editor told me that when I am writing the Snippet intros, I should always leave 'em with Jesus (no, he didn't use improper English).  I wish I could do that for myself.  How do I leave myself with Jesus?  Now?  This night?

I wept for L.  I wept for his daughter C.  I wept for me.

I don't want him to be alone when he dies.  His wife was.  His wife was because I didn't speak up.  That silence still haunts me.  I knew.  All my time with hospice told me to insist we didn't leave.  But I was scared to speak up.  I knew that no one would listen.  No one would believe that I could possibly know such a thing.  So, his beloved wife was alone when she died.

I don't want him to be.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!