Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reveling in the Book of Concord...

In setting up the BOC Snippet for Friday, I thought about one of the comforts I take from our Confessions:  the phrase "we believe, teach, and confess."

This is a litany of sorts for me, as comforting as hearing the words of the Creeds spoken by my brothers and sisters in Christ.  When their confession fills my ears, I am reminded that it is not my faith that matters, but the faith we all share, the faith given to us, the faith of our Redeemer.

Each and every time I read "we believe, teach, and confess" the cadence strikes a chord within me reverberating strongly enough to repel the doubts and fears that assail me.  For that to which I cling is not of something of my own fancy or scholarship, my own strength or will, but the pure doctrine normed solely by the Living Word and set down by God through the pens of His sheep hundreds of years ago, truth given to the Church from its start.

For what we believe, teach, and confess has its beginning, middle, and end in the One who is the Alpha and the Omega and all things in between.  All things.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome  it.  ~ John 1:1-5

We believe.
We teach.
We confess.

We, the sheep of the Good Shepherd.  Not just me.  Not just one person, but the millions upon millions who have read or been taught and then clung to our Confessions.  And the millions upon millions more whom God made His own through the waters of Holy Baptism and the giving of faith through the Living Word via the Holy Spirit who teaches them we are saved through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.

Father. Son. Holy Spirit.
Grace. Faith. Christ.
Believe. Teach. Confess.

Not the pattern of threes, but the pattern of a cadence that is never just one thing.  Never isolated.  Never alone.  

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fearfully and wonderfully made...

I hate my body.  There is no denying, no obfuscating around this fact.  I hate my body.  For many reasons.

This night, this early morn, it is not for what was done to it so much as what it is doing to me.  Only, the truth of the matter is that this, too, is because of something that was done to it.  The same something.  Sin.

I mean not the sins committed against my body by evil, vile men.  No, I mean the sin committed against my body merely by existing in a fallen world.  God did, indeed, create me in fearful and wonderful fashion. But sin permeates ever cell, every atom, of this world, constantly destroying what it touches.  Sin brings death. Period.

Someone once put to me that I am sinning greatly against God in hating my body.  I was crushed and weighted by that assignation and condemnation for a long while.  Only, every breath I take is in sin.  And, frankly, I disagree.

For I do not hate the body God created, the perfect, whole, spotless body.  I hate the body it has become twisted and marred and weighted by sin.  Besides, God created all of my body, including emotions, and it is normal and natural and reasonable to feel as I do.

I am not angry at God.
I do not resent Him for where I am in this life.
I do not blame Him for what I suffer.

I blame satan. I blame the sin that has corrupted so fully, so deeply the fearful and wonderful works of our Creator. I blame our foe and the world and my own flesh.

Friday night I did not fall asleep until 9:00 Saturday morning.  I slept off and on until the afternoon.  My neighbor, facing a mighty battle of her own, was coming for a meal and a NASCAR race.  I slept nearly until it was time to start cooking for her.

Because of that the only food I had on Saturday was a small spinach salad, a chicken breast, a single helping of roasted red potatoes, and two oatmeal craison white chocolate cookies.  My body reacted as if I had feasted for days.  From 7:00 PM until about midnight, I was in such agony I thought my innards would burst.  Then, when I was starting to feel the ease, my blood sugar started dropping.  Around 2:00 AM, I decided to correct with a smoothie.  Milk, yogurt, strawberries, and a banana.  I used the other type of whole milk I found (one for toddlers), so perhaps that is the source of my agony.

I suspect, however, it is not.
I suspect the source is sin.
I suspect it is simply the random dysfunction of my digestive system caused by dysautonomia.

I hate my body.  More specifically, I hate my nerves.  Truly.

Since the food poisoning that felled me December 26, 2010, my innards have been my greatest foe.  More specifically, the nerves controlling the autonomic function of my digestive system.  Just when I think I have gained ground, it is proved not one step forward have I taken.

Last night, once again, I was writing for hours and finally found rest around 5:00 AM.  While I needed food, my body was not about to process any more food.

Today, I had a glass of milk for breakfast, a Dr Pepper, a third of a chicken breast and about a dozen pieces of roasted red potatoes for lunch, and Gatorade, two eggs, a slice of cheese, and one and a half slices of bacon for dinner.  The last meal was difficult to eat because I battled a migraine all day, from noon until about 2:00 AM.

That is, admittedly, a small amount of food for the day.  Yet I feel, again, as if I am ready to burst.  Two doses of Zofran have helped with the wild bouts of nausea and vomiting.  I have had diarrhea off and on all day.  My guts have roiled so much you could hear them even if you were in the next room.  And the even the modest weight of a t-shirt has left my abdomen in agony from just below my breasts to just below my hips.  If I pull the fabric away from my body, there is a palpable relief.  Only I simply  am unable, mentally, to lie about naked.

I managed to sleep from about 12:00 AM until 2:30 AM, which was a great relief.  But I am awake still because the nausea and pain is too much to ignore.  At 3:00 AM, I realized my blood sugar was falling again, so I nibbled on saltines and drank a Gingerale.  I am hoping, rather fervently, that the lack of protein will not leave me plummeting again.  For I am not sure I can force myself to swallow another bite, another sip any time soon.

Lying in bed, I am miserable with nausea and pain and the fear of the strangeness of a low heart rate.  Standing to fetch food or another ice pack, I am miserable with nausea and pain and dizziness and the fear of the weakness of a rapid heart rate and falling blood pressure.

I hate my body.
I hate my nerves.
I hate my digestive system.

I hate the pain, the nausea, the vomiting, the gas, the bloating, the diarrhea, the constipation, the torn skin. I hate trembling and shaking. I hate the sweats and clamminess. I hate fainting as passing stool passed by a particular spot on my vagal nerve.  I hate the exhaustion brought on by nights of little sleep and days of fitful napping as I battle all of that. I hate that there is no rhyme or reason to all of this other than the fact that my body simply does not work as it should.

I hate the nausea from low blood pressure.
I hate the nausea from low blood sugar.
I hate the nausea from migraines.
I hate the nausea from stalled digestion.

I hate the stiffness and agony of arthritis.  I had the chills and agony of plunging body temperature.  I hate the weakness and trembling limbs.  I hate being felled by warmth.  I hate the dizziness and confusion and anxiety and disorientation and aphasia and memory loss. I hate the tingling and numbness.  I hate the temporary loss of movement.  I hate the fear and terror all of this brings to mind.  I hate the exhaustion.  I hate the doubt and despair.  I hate being merely a passenger for this wretched carousel ride.  Up and down, round and round, without end.

I hate my body.

In trying to talk about this, it was also put to me that I should forgive my body.  That, too, does not seem right and feels an awful lot like Law.  Besides, the truth of the matter this is happening to me because of sin, because of our foe, the world, and perhaps my own flesh.  Perhaps the cookies were foolish.  I do not know. Perhaps I should not have tried the other whole milk yogurt.  Perhaps.

I suspect, though, this is not the sin of my flesh at play, but rather that of satan and the effects of living in a world marked by sin and decay and death.

I struggle to pray Psalm 139 for myriad reasons...just as I hate my body for myriad ways in which it has been touched by sin.  I struggle to hold in my mind that I was knit together in my mother's womb, that God created me fearful and wonderful in His craftsmanship.  I.  I struggle.

Thanks be to God, then, that it is not my belief that matters, but Christ's.  Christ be praised that He gave me the Holy Spirit to take the groanings of my heart and my body and speak them to Christ as the prayers needful and whole and true.  Praise to the Father who receives those prayers from Christ and deals with me bountifully for His sake, rather than for mine.

For my sake is filled with doubt and despair and hopelessness.  My sake is bound by suffering and anguish and an utter unwillingness to face another day, another night, another hour, another moment battling my own body.

Yet I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The things we leave behind...

For the past six months now, I have systematically been organizing, reducing, donating, and recycling what I could.  The few who really know me, who have been in my life for the long haul, such as Bettina, I think, would be shocked at how much less stuff I have now.  Repeatedly, here, I have said how much I savor everything having a place and everything being in its place, savor knowing where everything is.

Perhaps this is because I have been letting go of things I have kept for far too long.
Perhaps this is because so much should have been left behind long ago.
Perhaps this is because there is so little of what I once knew that I still know.


I have been ruthless, at times, in what I have shed from my life.  Once I discovered The Mustard Seed, the non-profit that outfits homeless folk moving back into homes, I re-visited the first, second, and even third rounds of culling to see just what else I could pass onto others.  I have no children.  I have no one who will want the things I hold dear when I am gone.  At least the practical things that I am not currently using could be used now by those who would want them, those who need them.

I have also kept things that no one else would.

Of late, some of those decisions have been vindicated.  When I moved into my first home after graduating with my doctorate, I found a rather old lamp shade holder with a finial that is made to slip over a bulb left behind in a drawer. I kept it.  In Lowes the other week, I found an old-fashioned glass shade, more of a flat, square saucer, and was able to use the holder to add a shade to the bare bulb on the back porch.  The result pleases me and truly adds a wee bit of value to the home.

I have been holding on to a roll of stitch witchery for at least two decades.  It is in something else that I have kept: my grandmother's sewing kit.  The kit is filled with old notions no one would ever use and a collection of odd assortments.  The lid had broken off years ago, a satin covered piece of pasteboard, and I sewed it back on for my grandmother when I was just a little girl.  Long, crooked, bright blue stitches against the crimson satin.  My contribution to the box was three things--the first two I am sure are from the home economics class I took in the eighth grade: the box of pins we were required to purchase and the stitch removal pick.  Also in there is a roll of stitch witchery that is either from the same class or my freshman year in college.   

I used the pins to attach the curtains in the basement to the rods, because I do not know how to sew pockets for the rods.  Saturday, I used the stitch witchery to shorten the shower curtain liners. The woman who had the house for just 9 months, the one I call the Flipper, made several poor choices, cheap choices.  She replaced the plumbing fixture and curtain holder for the antique skirted tub with one that has a ring too small for the tub with an odd sized horrible shower head, then hung it improperly.  All this time, I had been battling the curtains in the showers.  I had to be careful not to step on them.  I had to fight water filling up the tub because they would block the drain.  And I had to wash them all the time because the bottom would be sitting in dirty water.  I cut off a swath of material, cut open the pouch holding the plastic weight in the hem, wrapped the edge of the liner around the weight, and then re-hemmed them with the stitch witchery.  My last two showers have been rather gloriously free of trouble.

I have also kept the left overs from construction and home improvement projects.  Always when I do installations, there seems to be left over bits and pieces.  I will also take apart that which is being replaced and harvest useful pieces if I cannot donate the item. While the electrician was working on wiring for the living space in the basement, I took the time to organize those left over bits that had been accumulating for a while.  These are the five organizers I use for my bits.  Looking at them is really looking at the story of my life, my adult life, the life I have lived since I was eighteen.  I could sit here and write stories about the things in there.  But really you would not wish to know them.  And the archive this is for me is not really about those stories.  That the photo is here is enough.  And, I think, I shall always remember the GREEN screws.  While Ben was working, four separate times he needed something and I had a bit that worked out.  So, while most would not have kept these things, I did.  And it was good for me to do so.

One last category I will mention is clothing.  Reducing my wardrobe has been the most difficult of tasks.  Recently, I finally brought myself to do a first culling.  The results were not all that impressive.  I doubt anyone would notice.  Though, I did include 3 suits, 5 jackets, 8 blouses, and a dress. I want the dress.  I suppose that is why I have yet to manage to get to the donation center.  It is a linen replica of a vintage dress that I wore to my Master's graduation.

Since I lost 92 pounds that I will most likely never be able to gain again, thanks to dysautonomia and my wretched innards issues, I cannot wear the majority of my clothing.  That which I do is mostly sweats.  The regular clothing I wear, other than the skirts I bought last fall to go with my sweater zippered, hooded tops, is all ridiculously large, but will not fall off my body.  Only, I have never been one to just go out and buy clothing.  Mine is a very non-economical wardrobe built up over my professional career.  Silk is a favorite fabric of mine.  I will never be able to replace this wardrobe with like items or variety.  Not having been unemployed now for 17 months.  Not with disability being my likely future.  SIGH.

A few things I kept have come back into season for me, things from before the prednizone weight gain.  One of them is straight out of the prairie days...a blue jean overall jumper dress that is ankle length.  In my culling, I discovered that not only can I wear it again, but it is even a tad too big.  The dress, near as I can remember, is a minimum of 15 years old.  I suspect 20.  I believe it was a post-missionary-in-Africa purchase, since most of my clothing burned in a fire there (a story for another day).  I also have bike shorts that I wear most days that I started wearing when I was 16.  In another year, they will be 30 years old.

I am not one to leave things behind.

I would like to think that is because they all mean something to me.  Truly, Kashi's first collar does.  I have it hanging on my bedroom door, along with Amos'.  Seriously, if you visit me, you would look at the collar and my fluffy white beast and disbelieve it was ever his.  But it was.  I remember not his beginning days with me, sadly, even though they were just 14 months ago.  But at least I have the collar.

I am beginning to suspect, however, the things I have that others would have left behind are a silent act of defiance...or desperate cry...against the...disposableness...of my life.

My dresser was my grandmother's. On it are two things she always had there: a glass jar that was her mother's and a pin cushion I "bought" her in Colorado, back when I was but a little, little girl.  She put her hat pins in it.  I used to have her hat boxes.  I used to have her hats.  I do not know when or how I lost them, but I have the pins and that ugly ceramic teapot pin cushion.  In a way, I should leave it behind.  My grandparents were drunks.  They were violent drunks.  Even though this was known in our family, it was a time when children are left with the grandparents.  So, the few memories I do hold of her are not pleasant.  At all.  Though I could tell you glorious things about her.  For one, hands down, no one could cook like her.  But she was a drunk.  A violent drunk.  And the alcohol and violence is something that has had a profound impact on my I am only just beginning to realize.

Maybe the pin cushion should go.  Perhaps it is merely a tangible reminder of all the pretending we did in our family.  All the ignoring.  All the covering up.  Surely I should let go of such a thing.  But I have not.  I am not sure I could.  At least, not at this time.

Truly, I have begun to leave behind the things I should have done so long ago.
Truly, I have begun to gather up the things I never should have left behind.
Truly, there is much still to leave.
Much still to gather.

In all the heartache, in all the chaos, in all the uncertainty, there is a part of me that is stilled when something I have chosen to keep finds a place in the new life that I am building, even as my life seems to be fading away.  I do not know if that is good or not. I do not know if it is healthy or not.  My other grandmother was a class 5 hoarder.  This is something I only recently have begin to process, to understand the impact on her life, on my mother, on all of us.  The mental illness behind it that went untreated her entire life.  The chaos my mother lived in, lived with, ignored, and then ultimately had to face because no one else would.

From her house, I have a few pieces, in particular a set of antique wooden boxes that each have tops intricately decorated with inlaid wood...birds.  She liked birds, animals.  She would have loved Amos.  She did not like me.  I am not sure why.  The boxes are beautiful, achingly so for someone who loves antiques and appreciates true artisan craftsmanship.  But they were not given to me in love by her.  They were rescued from the horrendous filth of her home, representative more of what was lost, what was wasted, in her life.

And they are from a woman who treated her own children, at times, as if they were disposable.
A lesson I learned well.
A lesson I wish I knew not.
A lesson I am only now beginning to understand.

Part of the wounds I bear now are from those who treated my life as if it were disposable.  Part of the wounds I battle are from those who treat faith as if it is least parts of it.  Those who pick and choose what they wish to believe of the bible.  Even those who pick and choose what they wish to believe of the Lutheran Confession, though I know they would deny such a claim.  [Funny, though, that the most oft seem to choose from the Law rather than from the Gospel.  Oh, the depths of the corruption of sin in our human nature!]  Part of the wounds that fell me still are from those who treat parts of the body of Christ as disposable, who pick and choose who worthy of fellowship and who is not.

For far too long I have let not the blood of Christ define me.  For far too long I have listened to those who said who I was.  Some of them would speak Gospel bits, but then destroy them, make them moot, with the Law.  In so many evangelical songs about God, the pronouns believers use to talk of praise and worship are first person (I, me, we).  In the Lutheran world, so many of the pronouns believers use to talk of faith are second person (you, your).  Really, the pronouns I need in my life are third-person, specifically third person, singular, masculine.

Not me, but He. Not mine, but His.
Not you, but He.  Not yours, but His.
Therein lies the truth I need to hear, the healing I crave.

God. He. His.
Jesus. He. His.
Holy Spirit. He. His.

I am a sinner.  He saved me.
I am full of doubt.  He gives me faith.
I steer my life with a selfish rudder.  He moves me to care and help others.

In all the organizing, reducing, and all the keeping and the letting go...I want to organize the thoughts, to keep the things that help me see, to know, what is important:

God. He. His.
Jesus. He. His.
Holy Spirit. He. His.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Matters of the heart...

I have six blog entries sitting there waiting for me to hit "publish." I am simply afraid of them. So, here I sit instead writing of something that I wish to capture but believe just reveals more of my weakness.  It is another silly Myrtle fear:  My heart

I hate that I am so aware of my heartbeat. I can feel it when it slows.  I can feel the force of each single beat when it is trying to compensate for the orthostatic hypotension. Sometimes, I cannot sleep for it hammering in my chest, even when my heart rate is not high, per se. Other times, sleep is barred by the deafening whooshing of my heart filling my ears.  Weirdly enough, it is worse when I lie on my left side than when I lie on my right.  However, I sleep best whilst lying on my left side.  Therein lies the rub.

I can also feel it when it is irregular, when the pace is quickened slightly or a lull happens for but a moment.  I know that hearts can be a tad irregular here and there and I know that I can feel it because it of the neurological dysfunction within my body. I just wish I did not. Feel it. 

Right now, my heartrate is about 48. It is this slow thud. At such times, the world seems less...present. Or perhaps I am less here. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

And it terrifies me.

Funny that the tachycardia scared me so when I ended up at the hospital because of that blasted drug tomapax. Maybe 48 is not technically bradycardia, but, oh, how does it ever feel so very wrong to me.  I believe I would much rather race along in the 130s or 140s, as I am wont to do in compensating for standing than to lie here feeling as if I or the world is slipping away.

I need to slip off the pulse oximeter and somehow focus on something else.  I do.  Very much so.  Only I do not know how to ignore the physicality of what is happening when there is a part of me that knows I should not even be aware of this autonomic function of my body.  It is altogether harrowing and rather horrid.

I am afraid.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!