Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Let there be rest...

I did not technically get out of bed yesterday until after 10 PM. I was that tired. I still am, though I do not regret digging up bushes and such. I am mildly interested to note that the constant tendinitis in my elbows did not flare as much as I feared, but the spasticity in the back of my legs became most fierce.

I am supposed to be stretching them every day. However, the pain is so unbearable just to sit with my legs straight in front of me that I do not. I try from time to time, but when I really try, I faint from the agony. And when I do not faint, I hate my body so much that I simply avoid doing that which would help marginally.

Mostly, right now, I wish not to move my legs at all. Mostly, right now, I wish for a heavily muscled Gunther to be pommeling on the back of my legs to help with the misery. What I have, though, is an Amos, whose soft, fluffy, lavender-smelling warm body gives me comfort as I endure.

Still, I would do it again. In fact, my friend has more bushes she wants gone, but I think...hopefully...they will not be too difficult to do. Eventually.

I did have this primary thought about the yard work: Truth be told, I think the reason I dug up bushes on Sunday was that I was forced to use a motorized wheelchair shopping cart on Friday. I don't want to be that person. So, I was not so much serving my neighbor as I was a little girl having a petulant fit of temper over something she did not like.

Now that I have maneuvered one of those carts, I believe I will continue to use them.  I really have no choice in the matter some days.  Perhaps...sooner than I would like...most days.

I do not know, do not remember, if I have blogged yet about John the Baptist.  Nevertheless, I thought I would do so now, for in the past two months, I have been thinking deeply about him, about his life.  By this, I mean, I have been thinking deeply about him, about his life, whenever someone tells me that God will take care of me.

Sometimes I wonder at the things I never noticed, never pondered before I had to face such pain.  While I have blogged about the innards writhing, truly I have not yet found the words to paint an adequate picture, to truly give the reader real understanding.  More than the nausea and diarrhea and bloating and gas, to me, is the agony of the weight of anything--even the lightest material--on my abdomen.  Because I do not regulate my body temperature properly anymore, I cannot simply lie there naked.  Because of my past, mentally that would not be possible either.  In either case, it is not possible.  So, I try to prop my clothing and the bedding (I have covers on the bathroom floor as well) away from my body, but still try to stave off the agony of a cold spell.  It is a lose/lose situation.  The proverbial catch-22.  Yet the entire time, the entire battle of writhing from the disruption of my digestive processes, my mind is screaming that it is simply not possible that even the weight of sheer fabric can cause so much pain.  It is absolutely, positively not possible.  Yet it is.

All that is to say that whether it is my innards, the migraines, the chills, the arthritis, or the spasticity, I have become intimately acquainted with myriad types of oft near-unbearable pain.  That pain has given me food for thought. 

Because of my weakness and the wrong theology heaped upon me in the past, much of that pain-filled time is spent trying to figure out what I have done wrong, how I can be better.  Or I spend the time beating myself up for being so bothered by pain that is small in comparison to those suffering from, say, bone cancer.  But, of late, in between those two lines of thought, a third has emerged:

Jesus did not save John the Baptist from his pain, from his death. The one greater than any other man born of woman had his head cut off and served on a platter while Jesus walked the earth.  The one who heralded God' son to the world had his head cut off and served on a platter while Jesus walked the earth.  The one who baptized Jesus had his head cut off and served on a platter while Jesus walked the earth.

John had his head cut off and served on a platter because we live in a fallen world.  John had his head cut off and served on a platter because we cannot escape the fruit of the sin of others born in our own lives.  John had his head cut off and served on a platter because Jesus walked this earth.

Wait?  What?  I'm blaming Jesus?  No. I blame sin.  Sin stands against God, against the Living Word, against Emmanuel.  John happened to be alive when Jesus was walking about.  John happened to speak the truth of sin and of God.  So John happened to have this head cut off and served on a platter.

Jesus surely loved John.  John surely was very, very important to Him.  Yet Jesus did not prevent his humiliation.  Jesus did not spare him pain.  Jesus did not save his physical life.

Perhaps I am reaching a bit here. I am not, after all, a theologian, but I do not believe it is a coincidence that in the same address where Jesus tells how great John was, how much greater the least of those in the Kingdom of God is than John, He finishes by saying, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heaven-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).  

Stewards of the mysteries of God.  My ways are not your Ways.  The yoke of the cross is easy and light.

I do not have the words for why I think about John being beheaded while Jesus was there to save him.  Nor, really, do I have the words for how that changes the moments of my pain.  And what I am trying to say here might seem to go against the theology of the cross when that is not my intention at all.  However, I shall still pen the words chasing themselves about my head at the moment:

Faith is not about suffering.
Faith is not about not suffering.

Faith is rest.  Rest that is having your head cut off and served on a platter.  Rest that is living your entire life without ever knowing great pain or suffering.  Rest that is struggling with barrenness.  Rest that is being showered with ten children. Rest that is riches.  Rest that is poverty.  

For is not the rest of Christ peace with God?  Is not the rest of Christ knowing that the hostilities between you and God have ceased in receiving faith?  Is not the rest of Christ being freed from the Law?

The faith of Jesus, His obedience to the Law in our place, meant that He suffered and died.  But the faith given to us--given in baptism, given in the hearing of the Living Word, given taking in the body and blood of Christ, given by the Holy Spirit--is not suffering.  It is peace.  It is rest.  

I mentioned Betsie Ten Boom a while ago, in thinking about the importance of perspective.  In thinking about faith, I am reminded of her again.  There, in Ravensbruck concentration camp, Betsie was surrounded by the hostilities between man and God, surrounded by the ravages of sin on our fallen world.  Yet, even as her body was sub-coming to those ravages, she was at rest.  Point of fact, though, Betsie was also at rest before Hitler ever took power in Germany.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

No admonition, no condemnation...

I slept until 4:00 this afternoon.  This afternoon!  SIGH.  That I do so frustrates me.

Around 6:00, I dragged myself upstairs and put on my puttering-about-the-yard clothes and headed over to Sandra's house.  A while ago, she told me that I could have the day lilies in her yard.  My own lily bed has been long neglected, since I forgot to mulch it last summer, waiting for the lilies to all die back.  Now is the time to do so, especially since the bags of mulch have been waiting in the garage for several months now.  But I have a plan.

Since things started cropping up a year ago last Spring, I have been moving all the stray lilies I have found in the yard to that bed.  When she was here last, my mother suggested that I move them about in the bed so that there is a bit less randomness before I toss down the mulch.  You see, I have day lilies and Easter lilies in the bed, with the Easter lilies mainly in the furthermost third of the bed.  Well, a friend gave me a bird bath, so I came up with the idea to dig up all the lilies in the bed (the soil is ridiculously easy to dig about it) and then arrange the lilies in five sections, with the Easter lilies in the second and fourth sections and the bird bath in the center of the bed.  Since Sandra's lilies are smaller than mine (I never saw them in bloom), I thought I would put them in the center section so as to not over-power the bird bath.

Digging up Sandra's lilies did not take all that long...but giving her a bit of visual rest, in a way that would have meaning to Sandra, took about three hours really hard labor.  First I pruned, because she really, really did not like most of the bushes in her back yard and they were wildly overgrown.  While I inherited a yard with surprising bits of plant joy in it when I purchased the phone, Sandra inherited a mess.  A real mess.

After removing the lilies and pruning and weeding, Sandra realized that I was out in her yard working and came out to visit.  I asked her if I could only dig up two bushes (thinking about how much strength I had left), I asked her if she wanted me to do the bushes I hacked down to about a foot above the ground that she would still see coming and going to her car in the garage or the two bushes along the side of the garage that had died.  She chose the dead bushes.  I dug them up.  Then I dug up the bushes I had hacked on (thinking someone else would dig them up for her).

As a final bit of work, I asked her if she wanted me to trim two of the smaller bushes she hated that were along the side of the garage so they were more like the ones I had pruned for her.  She said yes, but she also said, again, how much she hated them.  I looked at them, thought about the price I would pay for continuing to work, and set about digging them up.  They were, by the way, ridiculously east to do so because whoever planted them never broke the root ball.  Both of them had roots that still looked like they came fresh out of a pot.

So, I turned my attention to the two rather large hated bushes, thinking perhaps....  They were, as you may have guessed, much, much harder to dig up.  My strength was waning and I knew that point of no return would be coming soon.  Only, I wanted to do something. I wanted to give her something that would mean a lot to her, even if no one else understands. I wanted her to have the visual rest that has been a blessing to me.  I started on one and then switched to the other, thinking it looked more promising and its removal might be the galvanizing force I would need to tackle the other one.  With her help, the hated bushes are gone.

That left this monstrosity of a yucca.  If you are a yucca fan, well, you will just have to forgive me.  I happen to think that they belong in the desert and in homes landscaped in a desert...NOT in the mid-east.  We both started chopping, hacking, and pulling at the thing, which was so large it was more like three bushes.  And then I started digging.  She really did more work than I, but I am proud to say all that remains is the center tap root--the GIGANTIC center tap root.  [I suggested finding some fellow male seminary student to come vent some upsettedness upon the root.]

Before leaving, I also hastily transplant to things for her to give a bit of balance to what was left.  [I hope they survive the moving.]  

A few times, Sandra said she did not want me to do anything that would be too much for me.  I rather bluntly told her that I had already passed that point.  But I knew the cost of what I was doing and I wanted to do this for her.  After all, I spend so much time in the GREEN chair as it is, what would it matter if I am in more agony for a while when I am there?  Really, the only cost I am reluctant to pay, the only cost I will dread, is the agony of the tendinitis in both elbows that now flares if I use my forearms for any length of time at all.  But even that is a price I am willing to pay, knowing that as my friend comes home each day and walks from the garage to her house, she will no longer be laying eyes upon such a messy yard and nine bushes she hated.

Sandra gave me a gift today that was far greater than the lilies and the bricks I took from her yard (to make a flat base for the bird bath in the lily bed).  She let me work.  She did not lecture me or berate me or tell me what to do.  She let me know I did not have to do all that I was doing.  She listened to me as I explained it is better for me to do a spurt of work and lounge about than try to tiny bits over a long period of time.  And she let me exhaust myself in her yard.  You might think that between the weed and bush removal, she got the better end of the bargain, but you would be wrong.  Utterly.

I needed the physical labor, even though I have grown so much weaker.  I needed to be able to give to someone else.  And I needed to not be forced into someone else's idea of  how I am or what I should  or should not be doing.

Yes, I am sore.  Yes, I shall also have to wait longer until I can embark upon the plan for my lily bed.  But I shall endure the pain in the coming days with a bit of joy, knowing that Sandra is enjoying visual rest brought about bushes that she hated--and the thought of the work it would take to remove them--being a thing of the past.

No admonition.  No condemnation.  Just freedom.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, August 03, 2012

One of those scary things...

Sometimes I wish for days simply not to have happened.  This was one of them.

You see, I sort of have this deal with my body.  The writhing and such ends come morning.  Sometimes not until 7:00, but it ends.  That's the deal.  Only sometimes my body renigs on the deal.  Sometimes come morning the pain, the nausea, the misery does not end.  Today was one of those days.

Being a rather poor puppy momma, I ran out of Amos' food.  Of course, I have had it on my shopping app for a few weeks.  I have chanted that I needed it as I drove over to Jefferson Pointe.  I have "remembered" that I needed it while shopping in Target and in Wal-mart, both oh so terribly close to Petsmart.  Yet I forgot on the way to the car. I forgot while driving through the parking lot.  I forgot while passing by Petsmart.

So, even though I had been up all night and could not find any clothing that did not heighten my agony further with its weight against my abdomen, out I went to fetch some puppy dog food...and accomplish two other errands.  Sometimes, when I am most miserable, I am desperate to have something positive to which I can point, something, anything, to make me feel less useless.

While going through the organizing, reducing, and recycling, I have set out a few things that I did not want to just donate.  Some are things I would sort of  rather keep.  And some were presents I have had on hand for a while hoping for the recipient to visit me.  So, I have been wrapping up "gifts" for people to let them know that I was thinking of them.  Even if they would rather pass the gifts to someone else, even if I missed the mark on thinking that they would like what I chose, I wanted to send them out.  A pile of packages have been collecting upon the deacon's bench--all wrapped, of course, with recycled mailing materials.

So, I went to the post office, utilizing the lower cost of media mail for most of the packages. Then I drove to Petsmart to fetch Amos' food.  And then I stopped at the grocery store because I needed cheese and sour cream for the bowls of Santa Fe soup I have been eating nearly every day.  Only when I got there, I knew that there was simply no way that I could walk around inside...especially since the dairy section is always the furthest from the door.  My legs were too weak.  The point of no return was swiftly approaching.

Well, I did it.  I got on one of those infernal power wheelchair shopping carts.  I have avoided them like the plague, certain I would run down little old ladies and knock over displays.  Trembling the entire time, I drove myself to the diary section, through the check out, and back to the door to leave.  I did nearly run over two shoppers whilst backing up trying to go around a corner, but no blood was spilt, nor were cans rolling about an aisle.

I still hated it.

I feel as if I should be used to this. I feel as if I should be more resigned.  I feel as if I should not rage against what is happening to me.

On days like these, I feel useless.
On days like these, I feel hopeless.
On days like these, I feel faithless.

When I was having a migraine the other day, I posted the following on Facebook, the first bit as a post and the second as a comment:

Trapped within the throes of a migraine, I become irascible, insensible, and utterly hopeless. I ache in sympathy and empathy for anyone who has ever had or ever will have to endure the violence of pain and sensory assault. And I wonder how in the world Jesus endured the passion of the cross...endured the physicality of a body that exists in a fallen world and all the ramifications thereof during such a wretched experience. 

I am counting the minutes until the second round of medicine and had been shutting out all sight and sound, but I wanted to capture the moment because I really do wonder...actually become awed at the fact..about a GOD willing to endure our existence in this fallen world.

I do think about Jesus living in a human body quite often of late.  I mean, no wonder the Jews did not believe He was God.  What kind of a god would willingly allow himself to be held hostage to a body in a fallen world?  It makes no sense.  It makes no sense to anyone who has to live in this world with illness, pain, heartache, and all the myriad miseries unending that sin has ravaged on the perfect creation of the human body.

For a long, long while...even before I found the true doctrine, I have savored the 14th verse of the first chapter of John.  I savor it not merely because it tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  I savor it because, along the way, some pastor explained that the Greek word used for "dwelt" actually means  "tabernacled."  

To me, tabernacle brings to mind the holiness of God and the refuge one can find in Him.  So, there among us, come to us, is a living breathing tabernacle.  I still savor that understanding.  In fact, any time I hear someone read the verse, I automatically correct the reader, if only in my head.  That Jesus tabernacled among us brings me peace.

That Jesus did so in a human body is astounding.  I should not have overlooked the wonder of the bit about the Word becoming flesh.  

We do not know much of His life, but He could not have had a perfect body.  Were that the case, He would have felt pain and been injured and died during the passion of the cross.  Which means, along the way, Jesus most likely suffered the agony of a scraped knee, of sore muscles, of writhing guts.  When talking to Fred about this, he pointed out that if Jesus had not suffered in body, then the Word would be a lie when it stated that He faced every temptation common to man.

Jesus faced the misery, the doubt, the despair of a body broken by existing in this fallen world.  For me.  He did this for me.  In a way, that He did so willingly, knowingly, confirms He was/is a god.  For only a god could choose such a thing.

There were no motorized wheelchair shopping carts when Jesus lived.  But surely there were things, new things, unknown things, things that represented weakness and hopelessness, things that were a reminder of death, things that held fear and dread in the life He lived, things He had to face in a fallen body.

For me, the Garden of Gethsemane, has become unfathomable, ineffable.  How could this be for me?  For one felled time and time and time again by misery that is a mere fraction of what Jesus chose to endure so that one day mine would end?

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Who will remember for me...

I realized that I forgot my baptism.  In doing so, I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach, much as I did reading the article about the warning signs of Alzheimer's.  My baptism.  Just the third anniversary.  How...how could it be that I forgot the day?

I mean, for the past few weeks, really back into June, I was anticipating the date.  The external that I could point to, cling to, hold on to like a mast while a storm rages all around, tossing my small craft to and fro, swamping the deck with relentless waves threatening to sweep me overboard.  Two weeks ago, I even got out the candle that I have forgotten to light the past two years and set it on top of the cabinet where I keep it.  This year, I was going to remember the candle.

I forgot the day.
I forgot the candle.
I forgot the baptism.

How could I forget the latter?  Because I struggle...often...with remembering that I am absolutely, fully, daily forgiven.  Sometimes, I think the dyautonomia is my foe's most effective weapon against me.  I mean, when you are most miserable with the stomach flu, when you entire body is aching and nausea rules your every waking moment, when vomiting only heightens the agony rather than provides relief because you continue to do so even when nothing remains in your stomach, when diarrhea makes the misery seem utterly unbearable...even then there is an end.  In a few hours, in a few days...there will be and end.  There is no end for me, until I die or until a miracle occurs.

Just when I think that I can bear it, I cannot.  Just when I think that I will not be felled again, I am.

I know that with the migraines...at least now I know...there will be an end.  I take the pills, turn off the lights and any sound, hold Amos against me, and wait until I can take the second dose.  I have this card I created to help me remember that the agony, the misery, will end.  It tells me that each and every time I think the medication will not work because it seems to take much longer than it should to start working.  Pain slows down time.  Pain magnifies every fear.  Pain obscures the light.  Pain twists the truth.

External.  I have come to believe that there are no words sufficient enough to fully explain just how crucial the external is...for me, at least.  The external word.  Words outside my pain and fear and confusion and doubts.  Words outside my own senses, outside my own mind. The Living Word.  His body and blood given to me.  The holy Scriptures spoken to me.  Water poured over me.  But also the words in the book The Courage to Heal.  Also the words from friends.  Also the words from brothers and sisters in Christ.  And also the words written on a card.

A card that I can hold. A card that I can read.  A card with words that tell me I cannot trust the pain, I cannot trust the misery, I cannot trust the despair.  The migraine will end.  There is a plan.  The plan works for me.

Isn't that what remembering your baptism is?  It is a wrinkled napkin you can see was once wet.  It is a piece of paper you can hold documenting what took place.  It is a candle you can burn reminding you that there is a Light that breaks through all darkness.  It is the external that gives you certitude that renders moots the darkness, the despair, the doubt, and the confusion.  It is the external that heralds your absolutely, complete, daily forgiveness.

Oh how I long for July 19th not to be just another day.  When I do not, when I cannot, who will remember my baptism for me?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!