Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who I am is gone...

I read an article on 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's for family members to watch for in their loved ones. The cognitive dysfunction I have matches 9 of them. As much as I have blogged about the changes in my brain, I was still stunned. So, I did it. I ripped off the proverbial band-aid. Gone are the last of the educational research articles and such and all of my lesson plans from elementary, junior high, and college. I will never teach again, nor will I be able to study the way I thought might could keep me occupied in my dotage. 

I kept a single box of teaching aids that would be useful still (flashcards, literacy aids, and such) in case I can find a home for them better than the trash/recycling can. I kept a handful of student work that made me smile, such as a letter to Wendy from Peter Pan than included her shadow. And I kept some fairly cool vintage photos from NASA that some space geek would be thrilled to have. 

Two shelves were emptied, and the trash bins and recycle bins are rather full. I still have examples of my communications, knowledge management, and strategic planning work in case someone or some non-profit would like my help while I can still give it. I kept samples of all my published work. I kept the data from my dissertation work and from the multi-year mother/daughter book club in case the Lord sent someone to help me write about work that is still fairly ground-breaking.

But who I was is gone. What I could do is gone. And there is no use hanging on to things that either I no longer remember or could ever understand again.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, July 27, 2012

What is hope...

"You will never be completely free of pain."  What comfort I those words to be!  So often, of late, I hear folk tell me that they do not know what to say.  Here, I have written many a time that all they have to do is speak the sweet, sweet Gospel.  Read me a psalm or two or twelve.  That is, of course, a salutary idea.  Only, now I would like to add another option:  "That's crappy."  or any derivation thereof would me music to my ears, my heart, my soul.  Because what is happening to my body is crappy...and all derivations thereof.

At the doctor today--a final visit since insurance is ending--I was very specific with the words I used.  I told her that I had a plan for the wretched migraines.  I had a plan, of sorts, for the freezing cold spells.  But I did not have a plan for my innards...other than trying to survive the agony without falling into lasting despair.

After hours and days and weeks of online reading, I have become quite educated on what exactly happens when dysautonomia interrupts your digestive processes.  The two things most troublesome for me are gastroparesis and small bowel bacterial overgrowth (SBBO).  The former is about food not emptying from my stomach in a timely manner; the latter is about the same.  These explain the writhing, bloating, foam, gas, difficulty breathing, and diarrhea.  In a word, the problem I have is motility.  But because this is a neurological problem, not a digestive system one, motility medications most often just make things worse.  For me, much, much, much worse.

I had given up a while ago.  I had given up any hope on this part getting better.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason with what I eat, when I eat, how I eat.  Of course, I absolutely need to stick to the small meals--something I had gotten away from with all the tasty cooking the seminary bride staying in the basement living space was setting before me.  But even small meals do not always help.  They, too, can add up and get stuck in bits where they should be moving along.

I read, however, that a common treatment for SBBO with dysautonomia patients was a 7-day course of erythomycin when things are really bad.  It knocks back the build up of bacteria that happens when food hangs around too long in the small intestine.  This is why the two times I have had antibiotics in the past year I have had better digestion times...less nights of writhing for hours on the bathroom floor.

"You will never be completely free of pain," my doctor said when I talked about needing help with a better plan.  "But we can keep trying to have less pain, to bring your pain to a more manageable level.  Perhaps where you can sleep even though you are aware of it."

Much to my surprise, my doctor, who holds a stance of antibiotics as a last resort, is quite open to using the most common motility drug treatment in this specific sort of SBBO, only she is not all that supportive of the zap-it-once in a while theory.  She believe motility treatment is better in small doses of erythromycin daily in suspension.  So, I will start that medication, worried about the additional money every month, but hopeful that things could be better.

Even a little bit.
Even if just for a while.

I do not hope for a miracle.  I do hope for more grace in the suffering.  And I hope for less suffering.  If not whole nights without out, long, lovely stretches of that, perhaps whole nights where I am only aware of the pain and not drowning in the despair it brings.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The beginning of the end...

That what it feels like to me.

I had several goals for the month of July.  One of which was to find a bank where I could have a checking account that was free.  My first attempt was a bit of a bait and switch sort of experience.  Bettina's husband chimed in on the matter and suggested that I chose a local bank.  After researching local banks, I settled on one that had free checking, free online bill pay, and a $2 reimbursement for any ATM that charged a fee.  Part of my reluctance, though, for closing the account is that I have had it for 13 years.  Only when Wells Fargo bought out Wachovia, they targeted my free checking account for transition to a $15 per month checking account.

When I went into the bank and said that I wanted to open an account, the teller hollered over to a financial manager that she had another college grad needing to open an account.  I am tired of being treated like a young woman...honey, sweetie, little lady.  I am 45. I am middle aged.  For me, I am probably old age.  As irritated as I felt, when I sat down with the manager, I specifically asked for no product sells, just a plain Jane account.  He was kind, courteous, and took care of the matter.  So, I got to check that goal off my list (pun intended).

But the hardest goal for the month was to apply for disability.  I do not wish to do this.  For me...to me...it makes me feel as if my life is over, as if I have nothing to contribute, as if I am nothing.  Only the truth is that I need to take this step.

The SSA case worker with whom I met was kind and compassionate and extraordinarily patient.  Utterly patient.  I did find it interesting that she noted my parent names are not correct on my social security card information, so she corrected them and reissued the card.  It will be coming soon.  A first step.

After working through everything but the disability report, she gave me a week to finish it online.  I had started it, but each time I set down to work on it, I become overwhelmed.  Very.  And afraid.  Of what, I cannot quite pinpoint.  However, the medical history part is quite involved and had to do with the things I cannot remember, the years that is.  So, it was not finished by our meeting and I have grave doubts about finishing it by next week.  Only it must be in order to complete the application.

I wonder all the time about disability. I wonder what is means, truly means, to be disabled.  I wonder if, as some have accused, I just try harder I will be better.  I wonder what life will be like, dependent on government programs that are running out of funds.  Once I qualify, I wonder what it will be like on medicare.  I wonder how much more I shall have to fight for help with a disease no one local seems to understand.  I wonder what the days will be like even though they would be no different than those I am living now.  Less worrisome, financially, at least as long as social security remains solvent.  But I wonder what I will be like...I wonder who I will be then.

There is no more hiding from the fact that stress is a trigger for my migraines.  I had a spate of them around the anniversary of the pit bull attack.  And I had a terrible one yesterday.

The stress of today.
The strain of today.
The shame of today.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Odds and ends...

All this organizing...make-shift and not...has had the effect of bringing together odds and ends.  Just when I think that I have those bits and pieces matched up, I find another stray.  For me, there is an odd sort of joy to putting my latest discovery in its proper place.  Of course, there is also the chagrin.  Should I mention how many pairs of scissors I still have?  SIGH.

The two drawers in the kitchen that are, for all intents and purposes, utility drawers are now rather impressively organized.  I put a small bin in the one beneath the microwave to hold the scissors, screwdrivers, and paint can opener that I keep in there.  Amazing what a difference a small holder can make.  I call this my tool drawer, since it also has the tack hammer I use to tap down the stray nails in the old wood floors and the three prong converter for the two prong plugs.  And it is where is I keep my toothpicks and matches.  I also put an old leatherette cardboard box in the top cabinet drawer where I keep a pad of paper, writing implements, a measuring tape, a flashlight, and my new (and beloved) utility knife.  I put the pens, pencils, highlighter, and sharpies in the box.  Again, a big difference!

For a while now, I had been collecting all the scissors in the tool drawer.  I decided to keep one pair there, one pair in the other drawer, and one pair in my bathroom.  The rest are now with the office supplies in the basement...however I ought to put at least six of them in my latest donation box.

Another change I made was in the drawer in the antique wall table that holds my antique typewriter in my room.  It is actually a card table, with a top that opens up and rotates to change it from a wall table.  In the drawer, for two decades now, has sat the linen paper I had for job searches and some parchment paper.  You know, back in the days when resumes were printed on fine linen paper and mailed in equally fine linen envelopes.  I do not know why it has sat in there for so long, other than perhaps it was a way to keep it safe. [I had also kept the wire mesh teddy bear tray with odds and ends that I donated last year.]

Being an ex-communications manager, I have a few other partial reams of special paper, though none nearly as fine as this stock.  All of those are in a box in the basement.  So, now, the linen stock is there, too.  One box of all the special stock paper I own, from glossy brochure paper to velum to the linen paper.  From a paper standpoint, my house is now completely organized.

I would use the linen paper for letters.  Only, I am not all that good at shouting at the wind in letters anymore.  Long ago, I was an avid, profuse letter writer.  I enjoy writing them and savor receiving them.  For me, the written word is far, far more effective in speaking the words of my heart.  Only I do not really know anyone, anymore, who savors the same.  Although I send letters, I rarely get responses.  So, now, I seldom send letters (though I am still an avid thank-you note writer). For that reason alone, I sort of feel like I should donate the good stock I have, the linen stock and all the decorated paper stock.  Only...I will find myself thinking that if I did find some letter writers, then I would want the paper.  Hence, the box.

One gathering of odds and ends that I am thankful for are the ID cards from schools I have attended and jobs that I have held.  I knew I had them in this drawer or that one, but going through everything again, for the zillionth time, now that I have places for such, I was able to put these few with those two and so on and so forth.  I am still missing a few that I thought I had, but although I cannot remember a single day from any of the IDs, I have them.

I did have another revelation...again filled with chagrin:  I have enough lip balm to last me even if I live until 100.  I have enough unopened lip balm for every person who attends the Monday evening services with me.  I have enough lip balm.  More than enough.  How did that happen?

Perhaps the best find of the day...or rather re-find...was the button to my flowered pajamas!  I have found it many a time over the years, only to lose it again.  Feeling as if I should not tempt fate another moment, I took the time to sew it on forthwith.  

Sometimes I wonder if I have crossed a line with all my organizing, reducing, and recycling, but deep down inside I think that this is not driven so much by the need to work through the upsettedness with which I struggle, as it is the reality of the cognitive function I am losing.  I need, truly need, for everything to have a place and for everything to be in its place.  I also need for others in my life to know where things are.  I am not sure when it will be that I can get my best friend to come, but when she does, my goal is a tour of drawers and such so that she will know where things are.  She finds me when I am lost whilst out driving.  The days are coming when I will need her help finding the things about my house as well.  That is why, for example, my blood sugar meter is in the basket on the kitchen counter, a place where Bettina and several others know.  That is also why the trust papers and power of attorney paperwork is in the deacon's bench...an easy place for those who know (which is now all my blog readers) to find in case of an emergency.

I suppose...the more I am fading away, the more I organize, the more I re-visit the drawers and closets and boxes and shelves and such to ensure that there is not still more room for improvement, more room for organizing and grouping things in a way that makes the most possible sense.

And the more I organize the more I re-evalutate just what are the things that I need, what I merely want, and what I can now do without so that others less fortunate might find them of better use than lying about my house.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Whys and wherefores...

I have been organizing, reducing, and recycling again. Given how organized my house is, what I have been doing is almost make-work. Almost.

I have been going through drawers and such.  There are whole drawers that have been moved intact for over two decades now.  The antique secretary is a good example of this.  [That is one of my stashes of office supplies.]  Though I have not bought any office supplies in, I believe, over three years now and have given away eight banker's boxes of supplies, I still have an embarrassing amount of supplies.  The secretary is a place I have sort of avoided for what is in there.  I have reduced from there several times, most recently last fall.  Still, there is much room for improvement.  And, well, I could supply pens to an entire grade at a school, if not the school, despite how many I have given away.  I just found another stash of fairly good ones.

Tonight, I pulled out all the checks from the account I will be closing on Monday. I have had it 13 years, so that saddens me.  But Wells Fargo, the bank that bought out Wachovia, has changed it to a fee account.  I have no room in my non-existent budget for bank fees.  I tried to find a free account on my own, and got hood-winked by PNC.  Bettina's husband wisely admonished me that I should have tried a local bank.  He is wise; I found one and set up my free account.  All that is left is to close this account...and burn all the checks and deposits slips I have.  

I also grouped all the envelopes of various sizes into one drawer and the notepads and index cards into another drawer.  While all my paper is now boxed in the basement storage shelves, I left the colored construction paper in one of the drawers.  I figured that that is really an art project sort of stash and would only need it if I find a school child who wants it or if someone with children comes to visit me and they want to muck about with it.  I also have in the top drawer of the secretary all my stamps.  It is a varied collection since I used to have students write stories with them.

Some of the supplies are from my grandfather's desk and from my father's.  Two examples of this stash are old flag pins for wall maps from my grandfather's civil engineering work and these funky paper marks that my father used in his books.  They are green, translucent plastic with a metal bit underneath the plastic at the top.  They slip on an edge of a page with one side of the clip slightly longer than the other.

The secretary used to be so crammed with supplies I would have been rather horrified if anyone dared open a drawer.  Now, it is more of a resource than a hoard.  I could, though, rather easily, give it all away and never find myself in need of any of the contents, save for the nine different types of envelopes that are in there.

The seminary wife who was staying here mentioned to me one day that she has a memory box.  It is a large box to which she adds stuff each year.  As she does so, she re-evaluates what is in it to weed out the things that she did not really and truly need to keep.  While she was talking about this, I thought about little things I have kept despite my wholesale ditching of things.  I mean, my multi-layered wholesale ditching.  After all, it took several rounds of reducing for me to let go of some things I have been carting around since I was a teenager for no other reason than that I had them still.

Yet I have somethings that no one else would keep but me.  Things that are from my life, even though I can no longer remember either the days they represent or the whys and wherefores of them:  a decorated ping pong ball from summer camp; a lanyard from welcome week at college; my first name badge; mints from El Fenix; a prism; the badge from my first bike race; Kashi's foot print; a "witnessing" bracelet; my PDAP knot...the list goes on and on.  When she was talking, I thought about this antique box I have that is a replica of a ceder trunk.  The company must have made them for little girls to play with since they are miniatures of the ceder chests women would keep for dowries and such.  I finally found a use for the box I have kept since I found it at a flea market in college.  If you came to visit, I could pull it out and show you all the little bits and pieces of my life I have inside of it, even if I cannot tell you about them.

I think, perhaps, I could now say that the STUFF I have, since I started this process two years ago next month, has been reduced by at least two-thirds, if not more. I still have STUFF. I have things no one but me really cares about, such as a jar filled with buttons from my grandmother and now from my life as an adult. I have things that are useful but could take me at least a couple of decades or so to use up if I keep them all to myself, such as the lingering office supplies.  I have things that I could give away now, but would make fair gifts, especially since I wonder if I will ever be in a position to buy gifts again. I have things that I want to sell, but do not know how to do so without getting at least a decent fraction of what they are worth (a few coins, antique jewelry, and the silver service set). And I have things I think could sell but have absolutely no clue if they are actually worth something, such as a 1912 copy of Schirmer's The Messiah: an oratorio for four-part chorus of mixed voices, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soli, and piano.

The past two weeks, fear and worry have been clinging to me, filling me, obscuring the good things in my life.  I cannot fathom life past July 31st.  I cannot fathom trying to pay for my medications.  And I cannot fathom enduring the battle I know trying to get disability will be.

So, I have been looking about for something else to organize, to reduce, to recycle.  I still have a few drawers that while look fairly impressive, still have room for improvement.  I still have STUFF in the basement that truly could be lessened.  And there is the luggage in the attic I need find someone to help me decide which set to keep and which to donate or sell.

I shall probably turn my attention to the basement storage now that the seminary couple has gone.  The utility closet.  The storage shelves. Surely that would be enough to keep my mind otherwise occupied for a short while.

Of course, I could finally sand and touch-up paint all the window frames where I pulled down the atrocious, miss-matching, over-sized curtains from all the windows with painted woodwork.  It is not the painting, but the light sanding of the holes and indentations from the rod hardware.  Doing so will make a mess...beneath each window, on each side of each window.  It is not even the mess.  It is the work of cleaning up the mess on top of the work of the sanding and the touch-up painting.  The thought of that is exhausting.  However, well, the sight of those holes sure is bothersome.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, July 20, 2012


I gave Amos a bath today.  A bath, nail trim, de-tangling session, and ear de-hairing.  He was very, very, very happy when I was finished.  He prefers that those things do not happen on the same day.  However, I had been a bit remiss in my care of him.  The fatigue of late has been more troublesome than normal.  Sometimes, the thought of doing anything is more than I can take.

So, I had an evening of holding a swaddled, sweet-smelling, soft, fluffified puppy dog.  Yes, the ex-literacy professor is twisting a word into a no-word.  Fluffified: the past tense of fluffify, which means to make fluffy.  I know that there is nothing in the world softer than a baby's skin, but I am thinking that Amos freshly bathed would make a very strong showing in a softness competition.

Oh, my, when I am working on him, Amos is simply the most pitiful creature on the planet.  In fact, tonight I took breaks because Amos was trembling so very violently.  I could feel the rapid thud of his heart against my leg, my stomach, my arm, my body.  He needed the care I was giving him, but I was worried at how upset he was.  The rest of the evening, Amos lay in my arms, a lump of exhausted puppy dog.

I have been thinking that it is amazing to me that after all that puppy horror, Amos still finds his surest refuge in his puppy momma's arms.  He still follows me wherever I go, preferring most to be at my side...even if I am merely washing dishes.  When his guilt over an indiscretion fills him, Amos will sit or stand a bit off, but he longs to be with me even then, returning as soon as he feels it is safe.  

My friend Celia, during her brief visit, mentioned my loving Amos.  Love is a word that I have found most particularly difficult of late.  It bothers me, deeply, how people toss it about...even Christians.  I have had people say it to me, but I do not believe them.  Primarily, because to me love is not words, but actions.  Love is not something that you say, but what you do.  I struggle with using the word love with Amos because he is a puppy, not a person.  Although...to be honest...I do tell Amos that I love him.

And I feel stupid and foolish and silly for doing so.

I think about the pit bull attack, about the words I heard then.  The men trying to help me kept urging me to let go of Amos, to give the pit bull what he wanted.  But I couldn't.  Not just because that would be cruel.  I could not because Amos already meant too much to me.  Already I couldn't imagine life without him.

And that was a year ago.  Not yet had I experienced the devotion that is Amos.  Not yet had I experienced the vulnerability that is Amos.  

There is a fellowship in suffering.  It struck me tonight how there is one creature on the planet who understands my physical and mental and emotional battles from the pit bull attack, even though we do not share them.  His are different from mine.  And yet we suffered together.

Thinking of that made me wonder if perhaps something of that is behind James saying that we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials. Not that we should want trial.  Not that we should desire suffering.  But in suffering lies a fellowship with Jesus that is not found outside of the cross.  There is joy with Jesus...always.

Well, in my mind, all muddled together, are thoughts of Amos and suffering and fellowship...and of love.  I have been thinking that perhaps the reason that Amos longs to be with me even when he is afraid of how I will respond to an improper location of his deposits because he knows that I love him.  And he trusts me because of love. So, because he trusts me, even though I do things that frighten him, his place of safety is in my arms.

He's just a puppy.  Not a person.  Can puppies know love or trust?  Can I?

When I am caught in a maelstrom of emotions, I will oft flee to a place where I can hide to help me feel safe. Again, with so much of my life of late, I need the external to help me do what I cannot, by my own strength and will do. The external I crave the most is the Psalter, is to have someone fill my ears with it.  Of course, any Living Word is a blessing, but the words of the Psalter are the words of my heart, they are the words of fellowship and love and trust.

Holding Amos tightly calms him.  His physical being changes in my arms. His mental and emotional being changes.  He is calmed, soothed.  He finds peace.  Does that mean that because the Psalter does the same for me, that is it as if God is holding me in His arms?

How in the world does one meander from fluffified to peace?  So muddled is my mind.  Only, well, Amos gets fluffified from being bathed, being washed clean in water.  


Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Puppy love...

I really like Amos' expression here.  It is as if he is saying, "Do you have a problem with my loving and guarding Baby Lady Bug?  Real dogs keep babies near them.  Get over it!"

Too long has passed since I posted on the magnificence of the gift of this persnickety, wicked little fluff ball.  What's the latest news?  My, does my puppy believe that he is a goat!

Amos, to date, has tried to commit suicide by grapes, Celebrex, Theophylline, Singular, Albuterol inhaler, dry highlighter, chocolate, bottle cap, toothpaste, toilet paper, battery, and lip balm.  Although not suicidal, Amos somehow noted the molded cherries in the trash bag that was waiting for me to carry it out to the bin tonight.  While I was changing the position of the hose, he chewed through the plastic bag and polished off about a cup of squishy, moldy cherries (and pits).  Lest you worry my beloved puppy dog is underfed, I would remind you that for the past seven weeks, Amos has had THREE sets of dishes to lick clean at every meal and a new aunt and uncle who have no problem sharing tasty bits...especially when Amos engages in his silent begging, that involves a close presence and very, very pathetic looks.

Aside from giving me regular panic attacks over the state of his impending demise, Amos has developed a new phobia: the sprinkler.  My shadow prefers to be at my side no matter where I am or what I am doing.  Even knowing the terror of the spraying water looms, if I try to leave him inside when I go out to set or move the sprinkler, he will whine or howl at the back door.  However, the moment he spots me heading toward the faucet in the back yard, Amos comes bounding over and demands that I pick him up.

Yes, you read that right: DEMANDS.

So much like a little toddler, Amos prefers to be carried, especially when he is overcome with fear.  On your shoulders is best, but in your arms will work.  Sometimes, he will not give you (or rather me) any choice in the matter.  The funniest manner in which he will let you know he wishes to be held is that he will leap up in the air to get you to try and catch him.  If you miss and you bend over to pick him up, he scampers out of reach, only to return to the wild, frenetic leaping in an attempt to gain your arms once more.

You can see that Amos has no problem making himself comfortable in the bed.  You can also see that he brings his babies with him.  Flower Baby primarily stays up in bed, because were she not here at night he would go all to pieces.  I try to limit him to a total of three babies, but right now, for example, there are eight of them in here with us. When I first get in bed and read, Amos will drape himself across my abdomen and snooze. Or he will perch on my hip if I am lying on my side.  But once the light goes out, Amos either curls up at my side, pressing his back firmly against me, or he curls himself up in my arm and rests his head upon my shoulder...eventually to send his snores directly to my ears.

I can live with all his babies because Amos has learned a fundamental Myrtle lesson:  Getting up out of bed and even eating breakfast does not mean one has awoken for the day.  Amos has become quite skilled at going back to sleep in the mornings.  In a small act of utter trust, he no longer follows me to the bathroom each time I get up or even downstairs to fetch the final dose of medication I have missed (were I to keep it upstairs I would still somehow miss a dose).  Most often, Amos will deign to lift an eyelid to check and make sure that I do not look as if I am ready to venture down for the "day."

He is such a comforting companion, so attentive and ever present, I am still astounded at this gift from my Good Shepherd.  His uncanny ability to follow long instructions and his willingness to sit and listen before going to do what I ask makes it like I have a room mate as well as a puppy.  His devotion to sharing every bit of my life...including all moments of misery...is humbling and a salve to some of the deepest wounds I bear.  His wicked, sneaky attempts at gaining contraband are a constant source of laughter for me.  For example, if he wants something, he will inch closer and closer to his target, all the while feigning disinterest and acting as if he he merely stretching, finding a more comfortable position, or coming to keep you company.  With the seminary husband currently staying here, Amos has become an expert in stealth when it comes to stealing his napkin.  However, Amos' tendency to celebrate his victories right in front of you sort of negates his impressive stealthiness.  Still, you have to smile at him.

Amos is part accordion, apparently.  He can stretch himself far longer than he actually is, if properly motivated.  Things on the edges of counters and tables...tasty things that is...or paper things...are no longer safe from him.  Recently, Amos, while visiting at his aunt Leslie's house, figured out that he could get himself from the floor to the top of the table in a single leap.  Hopefully, I have disabused him of the notion that leaping to the table top might garner him more food.

With his hard won free access to the main stair case and the dining room, it is now hard to trap him if he wants to play catch-me-if-you-can.  It cracks me up that he prefers to go up the main staircase but down the servant's stairs.  He also approaches them differently.  He bounds up the servant's stairs two paws together.  However, he scrambles up the main stairs one paw at a time, looking strangely reminiscent of a rock climber.

Although he sometimes still has a fluid understanding of the proper disposition of his solid bodily waste, Amos could not be a more perfect puppy for me.  The love and affection have done wonders for me.  This ability to learn quickly helps when others are willing to teach him something.We practically hold conversations. I am adored as much as a person could want.  He is the ultimate snuggler. And I am never alone.

Only the One who knows the desires of my heart and every wound on my body would have provided me exactly the puppy that I needed so that not a single day goes by--no matter how miserable I may be otherwise--I am effused with puppy joy for at least a moment or two...if not hours on end.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The challenge of privilege...

I oft think of Corrie Ten Boom's story of her sister Betsy giving thanks for the fleas in the barracks of the concentration camp where they were being held.  The fleas, you see, kept out the guards.  With the guards outside, they were able to speak of, share, and practice their faith.  When it comes to the idea of perspective, I am fairly sure that her story is the single, most profound object lesson of all time.  I mean, who would ever, ever, ever think of being thankful for fleas.

Eons ago, back when I was in high school, I baby sat at a house that was infested with fleas.  Completely.  Utterly.  There I was, sitting on the couch reading to my young charge and a bit of movement caught my eye.  When I realized it was a flea, I smashed it as quickly as possible.  I had not a single moment of relief for another and then another hopped on the book, on the couch, on our bodies. In mere seconds, I realized trying to kill them all was a futile endeavor.  Being acutely sensitive to insect bites, in short order I was miserable.  It took all my resolve to not flee the house and leave the child behind.  Strange thing was, his parents didn't seem to notice when they got home, even though my exposed skin was riddled with bites. I was weeks recovering from all the bites I suffered.

So, the idea of being thankful for fleas is literally unfathomable for me.  And yet she was.  Perspective.

Betsy counted the opportunity to serve others a privilege.  Only her privilege was wrapped in an near unimaginable cross.  I have been thinking of late that the heart of true privilege might always be so wrapped, in some fashion or another.

Lately, I have spent time with someone battling obsessive compulsive disorder as a part of her struggle with Asperger's.  Doing so has been difficult at times.  In order to be around her, I have to change my own habits, disregard my own preferences.  Sometimes, this is rather easy to do.  Sometimes, honestly, it is not.  I suppose you could say the old Adam moves strongly within me and I long to just set down the burden of being vigilant to guard against her triggers.  They make no sense. Why must my phone and iPod always be turned faced down?  Why can I not say the word "shark"?  Why must the microwave timer never reach zero?  These things are harmless.  Why all the fuss? I sometimes long to retort. Only they are not...to her.  They harm her...her mind, her body, her spirit.

What I admire about her is that she is so direct.  She is bold to speak her needs.  She is quick to protect herself. Being with her has been a blessing.  And it has been a privilege.

Because of the memory loss and cognitive dysfunction I face, I have far, far more patterns in my life now than even a year ago.  When I walk in the door, I immediately hang my keys on the coat rack. If I do not, I can spends hours...even days...looking for them.  I now hold my bills in my hand until I have set them up on bill pay.  If I set them down between mailbox and computer, even if it is right next to the computer, I will forget about them. I have alarms set on both my phone and my iPod telling me things to do all day.  So much of my life is instructions, routines, or alarms.  I need for people to not only help me in the remembering department, but I also need for people to not interrupt the coping mechanisms I utilize, whether or not they make sense to them.  More so, I really need for them to understand.  I need to not be alone in the battles I face. It is rather exhausting keeping track of the things in your life that most people get to ignore.

That's where she excels.  This young woman is quite skilled at communicating the whys and wherefores of her needs.  Confidently.  Matter-of-factly.  Without shame.  Would that it were I had her strength, her courage, her peace.

Living with her has been lesson upon lesson, blessing upon blessing...with the right perspective.  It is hard for me to remember things.  When I am exhausted or when my blood sugar is low, I am less capable of remembering, less capable of being rational even.  I have struggled so much with the past and remaining in the present.  I truly do not need more work in my life.  Yet that work has been a privilege.

Perspective is most certainly a good gift from our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why does it matter...

Lying on the bathroom floor, many thoughts go through my head.  Most of them are rather dismal and laced with some degree of self-pity.  Mostly, I just try and endure.  Only doing so is difficult when some sort of war is going on between your innards and the rest of your body. A violent war.  A raging war.  Physical war breeds mental and emotional war thoughts.  SIGH.  Only some of those thoughts just make me wander about in mental circles hours later, when the war is over.

One has to do with the painting and such I have done about the house.  The person helping me all last year said that I was creating visual rest, something that is often helpful for people facing crisis, trials and illness.  In a way, I understand that.  Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost my tolerance for a messy home about me.  The last thing I do before heading upstairs is to pick up the living room and put away any dishes that were left in the drainer.  The last thing I do before heading downstairs in the morning, mostly, is make my bed.  That way, I awake to a space neat and straight and head up to a bedroom that is the same.  Mess wearies me.  

But white walls is not mess.  So, why does it soothe me so much to finally have them painted?

To paint or strip-and-then-paint has been my dilema for eons...or at least since last a year ago March.  The servant's stairwell and the upper hallway were white.  White walls.  White trim.  All the same paint, too, rather than a gloss on the wood trim.  I found it to be ugly and barren.  

When I ordered the paint for the house, I had not purchased paint in about 10 years.  So, I honestly did not know how expensive it has become.  I did not think at all.  Stupid, I know.  That way, I ended up at the register in Lowe's in utter shock, staring at the read out on the register that flashed a total over $600.  SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR PAINT!


So, when it came to this last section of my house, all I could think about was the cost of those two gallons and would it be wasting them to paint over the wall paper that is rather poorly applied.  Of course, the thought of scraping all the wall paper off was daunting, even though the parlor job was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  The prime stopping factor was that the ceiling is papered as well.  With it being lathe and plaster, I keep worrying about the ceiling coming loose.  I mean, who wallpapers a ceiling?  The parlor had three layers of paper and two of paint beneath the final layer of grey paint.  What in the world would I find?  And how could I possibly keep the carpet clean?  

Most of what I have done of late has been in direct response to some stressor...financial blows, medical blows, memory blows.  Surely, the hallway and stairwell are painted because I wanted closure.  I cannot seem to find it with the pit bull attack, but I sure could find it with the painting, using up those final two gallons of paint, covering those final bits of bothersome walls.  I decided that the possible wasting of paint was far, far, far less than the visual rest I would find with the white covered. Of course, it was not just that they would be painted, but that they would match all the rest of the house to which they are connected...the foyer, main staircase, and parlor.

I switched out the sink in the bathroom, because the original sink was just 26 inches high.  Bending over it was often excruciating with the arthritis.  However, all the rest of the bathroom work was about covering the two garish shades of green, with making the space more peaceful to me.  Now, it is clean and simple and rather beautiful.  Why is it that writhing in a beautiful space is more bearable than writhing in an ugly one?  The pain, the battle, is the same.  Just thinking about it make me think that I am just plain crazy.

Another label the person gave was self care.  If making my home more beautiful to me makes me feel more peaceful, more balanced, then the labor and even the cost is worth it.  I am worth it.  That just sounds so...well, selfish...to me.

However, before I came here, I never realized how having space about me would be helpful.  I did not realize the main floor had high ceilings.  I did not realize, actually, just how large the space would seem to me.  To others, I suppose, my house might to average.  To me, it is positively palatial! 

But it is not merely the space. It is also the beauty of it.  I savor the rich wood.  I chuckle at the thought of my own stained glass window.  I relish the beveled glass, too.  And all the older-house touches tickle my fancy:  the laundry chute, the detail on the back of the fireplace, the servant's stairs/quarters/closet, the walk-up attic, the dining room built-in display case, the wide porch.  Now, the home is even more beautiful: the paint, the parlor-bath, the master bathroom, the laundry space, the living space in the basement, the improvements in the yard, and the incredible change my mother wrought on that porch all add up to a home that is a dream home to me. 

How many people ever get the chance to live in their dream home?

Dream home and dream puppy.  A puppy who curls himself against my head whenever I am writhing on the bathroom home.  Writhing in a simple, beautiful bathroom.  Why does this matter so much to me?

Should it?

To me, I wonder if this is just about control.  So much of my life...my own body, for goodness sake, is out of my control.  Only what am I really controlling?  I could see control being a factor in all the organizing and reducing and such, but in painting?  In gardening?

What does it mean to be content in all circumstances?  Ought I to have been content with a garishly painted bathroom?  Ought I to have been content without the planting, edging, and stepping stones in the yard?

I am convinced, without a single doubt, that this house is a gift from my Good Shepherd.  Bought without seeing it, I have really only had trouble with the repairs the seller essentially deceived me about.  It is nearly a quarter of my previous mortgage.  Current record temperatures aside, it is a home in a local that has weather not harmful to me.  And I am living next door to a woman who constantly amazes me, humbles me, in her efforts to teach me what a neighbor really is.  Inside, outside, in part, and as a whole, the house is an utter blessing to me...for me.

But should it matter so much to me?

Yesterday, I finally hemmed the curtains in my bedroom that my mother gave me in January.  I cannot sew, so I actually stitch witchery-ed them, after much fear and indecision about applying a hot iron to lace curtains.  The first one took nearly four hours just to cut and pin it.  I am so, so poor at measuring.  SIGH.  The second one took just over an hour to complete in full.  After much gnashing of teeth, I figured out that if I folded the curtain in quarters, I would be making a shorter cut and thus have a greater possibility of having a straight line.  After that, the four inch hem went fairly smoothly.  Every time I set eyes upon them now, I relax a bit.  Having curtains that were nearly three feet too long bothered me.

Why does it matter?

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Misery loves company...

For me, this really is true.  When I am writhing on the bathroom floor from innards misery or collapsed on the kitchen floor from blood sugar, I long not to be alone with my whole being.  Even as I want absolutely no one to see me in such a state, I want someone to be there.  To be with me.  Misery really does love company.

I ate something that I think has upset the fragile balance in my digestive system again, almost as bad as when I got food poisoning.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps I am merely panicking.  Only, if I eat, then I launch myself on this terrible roller coaster ride of writhing, nausea, bloating, and then diarrhea.  At the wildest part of the ride, I truly long for death.  When it is over, I acquire enough perspective to cling to a sliver of hope I might find an innards balance again...eventually.

Only I am on the third ride at the moment.  I am a bear to be around.  I am a terrified child.  I am exhausted beyond measure.  Even Amos is a tad weary of being with me.  

I don't blame him.
He is also continually startled by the noises coming from my mid-section.
I don't blame him for that either.

When I longed for...prayed for...something to help me turn away from the memories and the struggles that remain from the pit bull attack.  This is not what I had in mind.  SIGH.

This is a small thing...but since Amos basically shares everything that I eat, I am truly thankful that whatever set me off has not done so to him.  Apparently, the only thing that has ever bothered his innards was the roll of toilet paper he consumed.  

Yep, that's me...a woman jealous of the constitution of her puppy dog.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Is one the other...

I was thinking today about shame and embarrassment and wondering how they are associated or if they are separate things.  I mean, I was thinking that embarrassment is a feeling whereas shame can be either a feeling or a state of being or both.  For me, it is primarily both if not solely the former.

I forget things.  I hate that I do.  I forget things all the time.

That I forget terrifies me.
That I forget triggers my temper.
That I forget makes all thoughts of being gentle with myself flee.
That I forget shames me.

The seminary wife staying in the basement asked if she could use my tub.  Up until that moment, I never thought about being a woman and having only a shower stall in which to bathe.  I knew immediately what she needed.  Small shower stalls are not conducive to certain types of personal grooming.  Not at all.  I promptly agreed and did not give it another thought.  Late last night, when I walked into my bathroom to get ready for bed, I spotted one of my "forgettings" and literally sank to my knees in shame.

The woman had bathed in a bathroom with a toilet that had not been flushed.

I forget where I am.  I forget who I am. I forget what I am doing. I forget what I have done.  I forget what I am supposed to do.  Life has become very transient, very fleeting.  And no matter who I try to talk with about this, no matter how many doctors I mention it to, I find no help and no support in dealing with this.

I burn food. I lose things. I leave doors open.  I miss bills. I miss appointments.  I miss medications. I get stuck on elevators because I cannot remember to push a button.  I leave things behind.  I leave things undone.

When it comes to using the toilet, all too often I forget to flush it because I have already moved on to washing my hands and whatever comes next.  When I walk into a bathroom and spot a full toilet, my spirit sinks and shame washes over me.  When I walked into my bathroom and realized that another person now knows of my inability to even flush a toilet, the public nature of my failure was too much for the moment.

Truth be told, I did not want to see her today, to talk with her, to be around her, so great is my shame.  I could wish never to see her again.  But she is living in my basement and sharing my first floor.  Such is not possible.

As the strain of battling my shame wore on this day, I started to wonder about it.  I mean, I cannot tell you why I feel such shame.  In part, it has to be because I was raised that leaving toilets unflushed was gross and tacky and something the worst sort of person would do.  It might also be that doing so is public evidence that  I am struggling to take care of myself.  Or something else which I cannot pinpoint or voice or even understand.

But part of what I have been learning is that my emotions are limited.  By that I mean I have avoided feeling so much that I honestly cannot identify many emotions.  So, I wondered if what I am feeling or should feel is more embarrassment than shame.  I cannot really explain what I mean, just that I have been wondering if shame is embarrassment or embarrassment is shame.  Is one the other?  For others?  Or perhaps they are so just for me?

In any case, wondering about the difference between embarrassment and shame at least took my mind off the forgetting...for a while.


I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Then and now...

I feel as terrified and alone today as I did this day last year.  I shouted for help then and primarily was greeted with silence.  I shouted for help two days ago and was primarily greeted with silence.  This day.  This wretched, horrid day.

As I said in my post here and on the Sweet Pea Society blog, my body has been dealing with this day for a while now.  Surely there is no coincidence to the spate of migraines that have come my way of late.  I am not sure I would add the innards turmoil to the toll, but the fatigue, surely.  For it has taken much of energy to hold a positive perspective on this day, on July 12, 2011, and on the wounds Amos and I still bear.

I think about that day.
I think about the pit bull.
I think about all the pain and terror of then that lingers still now.
And I think about how alone I have been through this long battle.

During the five day power outage, Amos and I camped out in my realtor's basement, soaking up the air-conditioning.  Since her yard is open, actually right smack up against her woods, each time we had to go outside for Amos' needs, he had to go on a leash.  I struggled more with watching Amos disappear into his misery than I did with the actual heat and lack of sleep since I was on a couch the whole time.

Amos hates the leash.  All I have to do is pick it up and he will scamper away from me.  He looks for a place of safety and then tucks his front legs beneath his body.  Each time I put it on him, he then goes limp.  Only once have I been able to get him to voluntarily walk out the front door whilst in the leash.  As the days wore on, Amos became more and more passive, more and more miserable, and more and more withdrawn.  You can see here that he was not his usual self.  I start weeping whenever I see this photo.

Once home again, it took several days for my puppy to shed the gloom that had come over him having to face his terror repeatedly throughout the day.  I missed my puppy dog and was so thankful when his usual rambunctious, mischievous self returned.

So much was taken from us both that day.  We are changed in many and myriad ways.  I would hope that eventually we both might be stronger in mind and in body.  I do not see that happening, though.  Perhaps better at enduring.

But, in any case, we were both alone in our fear and in our memories this day.  Bettina did finally call in the early evening.  I suppose it is rather churlish of me to admit that by then I could barely contain my disappointment.  I posted about the stress and strain of this day on Facebook on Tuesday, in the hope I would not be alone.  I shamed myself in being so vulnerable publicly...only to have this day really matter to just Amos and I.

The truth is, I long for a support system.  I long for a passel of people to rally around me when my innards are writhing, when my shame is overwhleming, when my fears are rising,  But there is no Team Myrtle...just a friend who carries such a heavy burden for me...and who also longs for a team to share the load of being my friend, my family really.  People keep telling me I should have folk to take me to appointments and such, to help me out with groceries and errands, to support the healing process I have embarked upon.  But I do not.  I am not the sort of person that engenders such.  I am, given how hard it is to shop now, thankful that I can sometimes ask my neighbor to push me about in a wheelchair and sometimes ask my new friend to bring the groceries in from the car.  But just as I have had to live with the whole of the pit bull attack, day in and day out primarily by myself, just as I had to sit, week after week, in the courtroom all by myself, I have to go to procedures and tests and appointments all by myself.

I know...I know that my emotions are coloring my spirit at the moment, but I also know that that day, I screamed for help before the pit bull even made it to the start of the block of the corner where we were standing.  I screamed and screamed and screamed before anyone responded.  I fought with my entire being to keep Amos alive, stumbling and staggering to my feet, lurching as if I were unbelievably drunk, feeling as if I were drowning.  I fought alone.  Right now, this day...and all the ones fore and aft...I fight alone.

I fight alone because no matter how much I ask for help, no matter how much I shame myself in revealing my weakness, the pit bull attack is over for everyone else in my life save for my puppy dog.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reveling in the Book of Concord: The Three Rs...

I have go-to Psalms.  I have Psalms that I know, if I go to them, I will find exactly the comfort I need for the distress of the moment, no matter the moment.  I have Psalms that I know, if I go to them, I will find exactly the comfort I need for the distress of a particular moment.  I am sure that you are not surprised, if you know me at all, that I have go-to BOC snippets.

I have places in the Christian Book of Concord that I know, if I go to them, I will find exactly the comfort I need for the distress of  the moment, no matter the moment.  I have places in the Christian Book of Concord that I know, if I go to them, I will find exactly the comfort I need for the distress of a particular moment.  Below is one of them:

Then nature and reason begin to add up our unworthiness in comparison with the great and precious good.  Then our good looks like a dark lantern in contrast with the bright sun or like filth in comparison with precious stones.  Because nature and reason see this, they refuse to approach [the Lord's Supper] and wait until they are prepared.  They wait so long that one week trails into another, and half the year into the other.  If you consider how good and pure you are and labor to have no hesitations, you would never approach.
~BOC, LC, V, 56-57

I have not used this one in the BOC Snippets blog yet.  In part, I have hesitated because I wonder if it would be of comfort to another person.  In part, I have wondered, with all the riches of our pure doctrine, if this is a bit that could wait for a while.  After all, where is the Gospel here?

However, I have not been able to stop thinking about this bit and a thought recently popped into my head.  Being an ex-educator, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the Christian Book of Concord has its own set of Three Rs:  Reason, Reception, and Rest.

For me, I cannot think of a single instance where reason is noted as positive.  Instead, as in the passage quoted above, reason only leads us away from God, away from Christ.  We humans sure like to go our own way.  Reason started that.  Our foe's reason that entered through the mouth and stained our very soul.  Interesting, isn't it, that the cleansing of that stain comes also through our mouths?  We take in the the very being of Christ.  We become one with Him, in part now and in full later, leaving reason behind in the dust.

Luther and our Church fathers had no love for reason.  Not man's intellectual machinations, nor man's path to righteousness. Reason leads us astray.  Reason leads others astray.  Reason leaves us without certitude, without consolation, without comfort.

For me, I cannot think of a single instance where faith is spoken of as an action on our part apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.  I am surprised, sometimes, when it seems as if so many of my Lutheran brothers and sisters have skipped past the second article of the Augsburg Confession.  We  simply cannot, by ourselves, fear, love, and trust God.  We must receive the gift of faith first.

Further, it is that gift of faith, Christ's faith, that works righteousness within us. A while ago, I posted the graphic I created that showed there are no end runs around the cross, that the only way to the Father is through Jesus and the God deals with us through Jesus.  I have no simple graphic for this, but my first Lutheran lesson about the Holy Spirit (the evangelical world has an utter dearth when it comes to teaching about the Holy Spirit) was a simply litany:  The Father gave us Jesus and Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit takes us to Jesus and Jesus takes us to the Father.  No action on our part there.  It is all about the work that was done by and with and through the cross.  The work the Holy Spirit does now in our lives.  Simply put, everything about faith is about receiving.

Recently, I started noting how often the comfort and/or consolation of the Gospel is mentioned in the pure doctrine.  I noticed this because I also started noting how often our Church fathers wrote about the anxious and/or terrified soul.  Perhaps it is because I am one of them that such mentions leapt off the page at me.  When delving into those passages, what I learned from this is that the comfort of the Gospel is not an adjective or a noun, but a verb.

The sweet, sweet Gospel is a living, active Word of God.  The Gospel causes anxious souls to calm, soothes the terrified heart.  The Gospel brings consolation to anguish and despair.  The Gospel clarifies confusion.  The Gospel speaks certitude to doubt.  All action.  

With all of that work, what we are given to do is rest.  Rest in the certitude of the cross.  Rest in the comfort of the cross.  Rest in the consolation of the cross.  We are forgiven.  We are judged and found innocent.  We are washed clean.  We are loved.  We are the children of God.  We are heirs of Christ.  And our sin is covered.  All of it.  Daily and richly forgiven.

As I said, the ex-teacher in me spotted the three Rs.  That is because, I believe, the ex-literacy professor in me often savors and ponders the patterns and construction, the craftsmanship, that I find as I read the Christian Book of Concord.

As to the Gospel in the passage above?  God knows me.  God knows that I will doubt and despair. God knows that I will long to "do something" for my salvation or at least for my sanctification.  Gods knows I will try and fail.  God knows I will not try and still fail.  God knows.  He knows that my own reason will cause me to stumble and fall, to walk away, to stand against Him.  He knows.  He knows and He sent His son to save me anyway.  He knows and He gave me the Living Word and the pure doctrine to cut a swath through the folly and deception of my reason and provide wisdom.  He knows and He sent me the Holy Spirit to kindle and sustain faith, to bring me forgiveness and healing, to sanctify me.  He knows and He lets me know that He knows so that there ultimately is nothing to doubt and nothing to fear.  He knows and gives me peace.  The peace of Christ.  A cessation of the hostility my sin commits against God.  True peace.  Lasting peace.  Not as the world gives.  A veritable mystery so full of riches and wonder that the whole world cannot contain it.

Reason.  Reception.  Rest.

As for copious quotes demonstrating this pattern of the three Rs of the pure doctrine?  Well, I had been working at collecting them and then I had a wicked thought:  Someone who likes to woo others to the Christian Book of Concord, to show them that this is not merely a tool for pastors, but a resource and refuge for them, ought not to just post a slew of quotes for each of the Rs.  Nope, really, what someone like that should do is double-dog-dare others to look for them themselves.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just another day...

We mark our lives by milestones:  First word.  First step.  First lost tooth.  First day of school.  Driver's license.  High school diploma.  Going off to college.  Marriage.  First child.  We mark our days by celebrations:  Mother's Day.  Christmas.  Birthday.  Graduation.  Wedding.  As people who live a chronological life, significant events in the timeline of our lives have special meaning, shaping and changing us as they come around.

But not all the significant events in our lives are positive.  Our lives also include accidents, illness, death.  We experience loss, divorce, betrayal.  We suffer assaults, wrecks, murders.  After all, we live in a fallen world.  

These events, though not ones noted for celebration, shape us, change us, as do the milestones and holidays.  In our time lines, for many of them, there is a distinct before and after in the person we are and the life that we live.  Noting them, marking these days in our lives, is not, therefore, something we should eschew...no matter how much the world tells us otherwise.

First, we are thinking, feeling creatures.  This is the way that our Creator crafted us.  He imbued us with emotions, responses, with thoughts and reactions.  To have them, to allow them to happen, is as normal and natural as breathing.  To avoid them, to ask others to do so, is to go against the wisdom of our Creator, to deny our own creation.

For the mother who lost her son, the day of the accident and the day of his burial are ones that will always be with her.  As those dates roll around on the calender for her each year, they are most decidedly not just another day.

It is a rather unloving act, therefore, to shame her in her grief, to say to her in word or in action, that her grief over those days--be they three or thirty years in the past--is something that is wrong.  For those are the days that have shaped her, they are the ones that have changed her.  She had a son she could hold in her arms, walk beside, talk with, laugh with, weep with...and now she does not.  

Those who have such events on our time lines sometimes handle them with grace and sometimes with despair.  Of course, we long for grace more than despair.  Of course, we who have loved ones with such events on their time lines, wish for more grace than despair.  But in our wishing for grace, we must still allow for the despair...and everything in between.

Second, we must do so not merely because we are created with thoughts and feelings but also because it is in such events that Jesus comes to us, shapes us, changes us.  By and with and through the cross the Holy Spirit gives and builds faith, teaches us the magnitude of His forgiveness and mercy, and strengthens us in our weakness.  For our faith is a faith of reception and our theology is a theology of the cross.

For this very reason, we ought not run from despair, from anguish, from doubt...in ourselves and in others.  We ought not to turn away from the hard things, from the darkness of this life.

"For in Him we live and move and have our being..." begins the 28th verse of the 17th chapter of Act.  In a way, perhaps this is how each verse of our lives should begin.  In Christ, we live. In Christ, we move.  In Christ, we have our being.

"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." we learn in the first five verses of the first chapter of John.

Jesus shines in our darkness.  Our being is in Him.

Two days from now is the first anniversary of the most violent event in my life.  It is a day my body has already felt coming.  A day that is written upon myself and my puppy.  Neither of us are "over" the pit bull attack.  Both of us are still felled by it in many and myriad ways.  We stumble and fall beneath the memory of that violence.  We struggle in our responses to others and to inanimate reminders.  Already several people have told me that it is "just another day" and that I should do my best to ignore it.

Only it is not.  I cannot.  And, if I could, I would not.  There are no words rich enough, full enough, to describe what I have learned of faith because of that day.  No, I would never choose such an event.  I wish with my entire body that it had never happened.  I fear and tremble still over the memory.  July 12th is forever changed for me.  I have forever changed.  And yet I am truly thankful and genuinely humbled at the gifts of that my Good Shepherd has given me by and with and through this cross.

In my utter brokenness, when my world was little else but pain and terror, the Holy Spirit nonetheless worked mercy, grace, forgiveness, and healing in me.  When I saw nothing but despair, no end to the misery of my mind and body, He sent others to patiently read aloud the Living Word to me, to fill my ears with that which He could and did use to bring the gifts of Christ to me.  When I could not leave my home, He sent pastors to bring the body and blood of Christ to me and he sent people to help take me to the body and blood of Christ.  I sought these not because I had hope.  In fact, I had nothing, was nothing, could see nothing.  I sought them because the faith given to me through the hearing of the Word and in my baptism called for such, reached out for that which I needed.  The Gospel came to me, filled me, and sustained me, even in my blindness, even in my weakness.  The Gospel clung to me until I learned hope.  The Gospel clings to me now.

I fear Thursday.
I rejoice over Thursday.
I feel terrified and peaceful, discouraged and hopeful.
I am angry.
I am awed.

In all of this, though, I am...in Christ.

Jesus shines in our darkness.  Our being is in Him.  Surely, therefore, in our lives there is no day that is just another day.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!