Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What is real...

This morning, I awoke screaming, shaking, and vomiting.  I promptly fled to the closet, tucking myself into the furthest corner and clutching Amos as if the pit bull were still trying to rip him from my grasp.  

Both sleeping and awake, it is sometimes extraordinarily difficult to tell what is real.

I mean, I know that what happened in my night terror did not actually happen.  Only a tiny version did and it was enough to make real what I just experienced.  The unthinkable becomes plausible and then the plausible seems certainty.

In my dream, I slowly became aware that I was living in a stranger's house.  Not even a room to myself, my space was a couch allocated to my use.  Amos was not in the house, nor was a single object from my own home.  No pictures, books, or linens.  Nothing around me even hinted at my presence in the house.  

As I struggled to figure out where I was, a woman appeared to tell me it was time to eat and asked what I wanted to drink.  Automatically, I replied, "Dr Pepper," still struggling to figure out where I was and why I was there.  She curtly informed me that I could not have Dr Pepper and I knew what the proper answer was.  When I failed to come up with it, she said, "Water.  Water is what you drink now."

With each passing moment, I was more and more frightened.  I tried to get up and leave the house, but she blocked my path without actually laying hands on me.  Another person came up from behind me and told me that I should sit back down.  I knew her.  A new friend.  Someone who has helped me out. A part of me wanted to trust her, but I could not understand why it felt as if both of them were not really speaking to me.  The first chance I got, I dialed 911 and then dropped the phone down behind a cushion.  As confused and scared as I was, I thought help would come.

When the police arrived, the first woman produced a letter from a neurologist stating that it was determined a brain tumor was causing all the neurological problems I had been experiencing, so he had to remove a portion of my brain.  As a result, I would not be able to remember anything of what occurred prior to the surgery and would not be able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.  Since it was not safe for me to live alone, I had been placed in the care of the woman.  

As the police officers read the letter aloud, I kept trying to interrupt, trying to say that I did not have a brain tumor, that what they were reading was not true.  But the new friend assured the police officers that she had known me before the surgery and that this was want I wanted.  So, the police left and I was left trapped there. Conscious and in control of my faculties but powerless, moneyless, without transportation or any avenue of escape. 

But I knew who I was and where I lived and that I had Amos and that I had a POA to whom I have given complete legal, financial, and physical custody of my person. By that I mean, I know that there will be times when either I am too ill or too insensible or both to make good decisions and so I made arrangements for my best friend to serve as my durable power of attorney. 

No one had talked to any of my current doctors,
No one talked with her or had asked her permission.
All this had happened by and with and through the hands and minds of others ... others' interests.

When the police left, the woman turned to me and asked, "How many more times are you going to call before you understand this is your life now?"

No compassion filled her eyes or softened her words.  In fact, behind them was a glimmer of victory I knew full well.  The certitude that I would, eventually, shut up, be still, and wait until it was over.  Only this time there would be no over, no ending.

I have vistors right now.  I had suggested they go to the museum as a way for them to have time together and for me to get more sleep than I have been getting since their arrival.  Sitting in the closet, all I could think was that I had to calm down ... somehow ... before they came back for a late lunch and then an airport run. 

How do you make unreal the unreal? 

What is real?  I ask because one of the things I have learned is that what one person experiences is not always the same as what someone else experiences in the same situation.  

I ask for help. To do so is extraordinarily difficult.  I ask specifically.  And yet the other person does not experience my difficultly, does not bear the weight of that which burdens me, does not understand the magnitude of the request.

Yes, we can do that.
Yes, I will talk with you.
Yes, that is something I will do.

I asked.  You answered.  So, I wait.  I crossed the Himalayans on bare and bloody feet to get to my request. All I ask is that you make this small effort to do one specific thing to help me continue on my journey.

You forget.
You set it aside.
You prioritize other things.
You have no clear understanding of what that waiting is doing to me.

Someone I know has asked for help.  Others said they will.  She is waiting for them to make a specific offer, so as not to bother them.  They are waiting for her to make a specific request, so as not to bother her.  To her, they do not care.  To them, she does not care.  

I have stood in her shoes and so I tried to explain that she has asked for help and has not heard their offer of help.  They insist that she has not asked for help and is ignoring their many offers to help.  Words catch in my throat and tears spring to my eyes.  I cannot make them understand what I understand and so all remain a chasm apart.

I ask what is real because the dream, though not real, is real to me.  The feelings I have are real.  The physical reaction of my body is real.  The thoughts in my mind regarding what happened in the dream are real.  They are real to me.  And as such I must face them.

I post my dreams.  
I am asking for help.  
No one hears me. 

I posted the crux of the dream and announced that such would not happen.  I wanted someone to read to me.  I called my POA and announced that such would not happen.  I wanted her to read to me.

Christ crucified for me is real, though I admit I doubt and waiver under the assaults of my foe upon my body and my mind.  That is why hearing the Living Word is important to me.  It is external to me, external to my thoughts and feelings and physical reactions.  The Living Word is also stronger than I and does not doubt or waiver under the assaults of my foe.  

With the PTSD flashbacks, something that I learned was to engage my other senses.  Smells. Sounds.  Touch.  So, I have pinecones scattered about my home.  And there is one in the cup holder of my console in the car in the hopes I do not have another accident caused by a flashback and my ingrained reaction of disassociating from the assault of unreal smells, sounds, touches.

Today, the presence of the pinecone was ridiculed and dismissed.  To the other person, it was a totally useless and senseless thing to have in the car.

In a way, I feel as if those whom I have dared to ask to be one I could call to hear the Living Word when I am overwhelmed and struggling with what is real to me view the desire, the longing, to have the Bible read to me as useless and senseless as the pinecone.  

In the past, I have tried to call, but the response I most often get is not a simple reading of Scripture but rather the other person on the other end of the phone wanting to understand and then wanting to help me understand what they believe to be real.  They want to help.  They want to assess the moment and apply a solution to the problem.  I get that.  I get that they want to help.  But it is not about their understanding or what they believe is real.  It is about the power and the efficacy of the Living Word and the fact that God already understands and knows what is real and unreal ... and when the unreal is real.

As those times, I feel as I am a broken and bloody body lying in the road, longing for someone to scoop me up and run to the nearest doctor.  Yet instead of calling an ambulance and wadding up the nearest cloth to staunch the flow of blood until the doctor can save me, the passer by wants to study the wound and determine just what caused the bleeding and try to figure out how much bleeding has occurred and then tell me how a doctor might be of help.

Would that it were Amos could have read the Psalter to me as I clung to the reality of his presence, hidden in the closet.  As I struggled to concentrate on the still present scent of lavender from his bath Friday night.  As I twisted his curls between my fingers.  As I tried to soak up the warmth of his body to thaw the ice around my heart and mind and soul, trapping me back in the dream.

I am afraid to sleep.
I am afraid of dreaming.
I am afraid of waking.

Would that it were Amos could read to me ... a psalm or two ... or ten....

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, July 22, 2013


There are things that distress me.  Many things.  Chief amongst them are when I read things about faith that are filled with specious Gospel.  To put it another way, Gospel that is laced with Law, if not downright founded upon it.  Gospel is not Law.  Law is not Gospel.  They are the Word of God.  They are the Living Word.  They are not two halves of a whole.  They are the whole.  But they are not interchangeable.  What I simply do not get is, after having found the pure doctrine, why folks gravitate towards or down-right insist on making one the other.

A good example is the following response to a post I found on Facebook:

an attentive parishioner will notice the small casual lapses of reverence that indicate the slip into routine or the loss of awe that what is held and distributed is God Himself incarnate in the bread and wine. You hold in your hands the very blood shed on calvary that removes the sins of the world, which makes everything holy It touches. You hold something more precious than the Holy Grail; you hold its contents! Your heart should never cease to tremble in humility and love before It.

I am not arguing against the very good gift of routine or the blessed gift of Liturgy and its practice.  What concerns me—what actually distresses me to the point of genuine spiritual terror—are words such as never, shouldalways, etc.

We are fallen creatures.  We are full to the brim with sin. We will take the gifts of Christ for granted.  We will be irreverent.  We will fail.

In this comment, the notice of the parishioner is positioned upon the pastor, not Jesus.  Weighing, measuring, judging whether or not the celebrant is reverent enough.  Enough.  That is another very troubling word.

Pastors will be tired.  Pastors will be grumpy.  Pastors will be distracted.  Pastors will be distraught.  Pastors will be filled with anxious thoughts.  It is in those times, routine is a gift, a help to get them through their struggles so that they might be the hands and voice of Christ for us.

On thinking about words such as always, never, should, must—absolutes and commands focused on the receiver of faith rather than the Author and Perfector of faith—I began to wonder about those seemingly absolutes and commands found in Scripture.

For example, what does this mean?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4-7

There are absolutes and commands in that passage that man cannot possibly achieve.  We simply cannot always rejoice.  We are sinful, fallen creatures who cannot possibly manage to always rejoice in the Lord ... rejoice in suffering, sorrow, and loss.  To use the extreme, I would proffer that no Christian who endured the Holocaust rejoiced always.

So, I got to thinking about the absolutes in the Bible and the absolutes in the pure doctrine.  They lie with our Triune God.  Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end, the Author and Perfector of our faith.  Our faith comes from Him and looks back to Him.

One absolute that comes to mind was Hebrews 7:25:

Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Really, I'd rather type up all of Hebrews 7-12 at the very least, but just this one thought:  Jesus is the one who is always praying and making supplication for us.  Then, I think about the doctrine of the Large Catechism, Part III:

God does not consider prayer because of the person, but because of His Word and obedience to it. (BOC, LC, III, 16) 


In the second place, we should be more encouraged and moved to pray because God has always added a promise and declared that it shall surely be done for us as we pray.  He says in Psalm 50:15, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you." And Christ says in the Gospel of St. Matthew, "Ask, and it will be given to you; . . . or everyone who asks receives.  (7:7-8). (BOC, LC, III, 19)

Add to these to bits of doctrine II Corinthians 1: 20:

For a many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

So, I have been wondering if, when Paul tells us to rejoice always, it is not this impossible command but a promise.  Though we might not always be able to do so, in all circumstances we can rejoice because of our Triune God.  And, when Paul tells us to never be anxious and to pray in everything, what he is telling us that, in Christ we can not be anxious and in Christ we can pray in everything, without ceasing.  Because it is Christ who is both our Redeemer and our Mediator.  We are saved and thus life by His faith and His obedience to the Word.  In His flesh and His divinity, we are always faithful and holy and righteous and sanctified and reverent and pious and all such things.

How does it serve our neighbor if we are putting the burden of absolutes and commands on his faith, if we are confusing the Law that is there to crush and destroy the old Adam with the Gospel that is here to  make us perfect in salvation and in sanctification?

The original post to which the comment was made was a quote:

It is a law of intellectual life which applies also in the church, that only that doctrine can be passed on and planted in hearts which the teacher is absolutely convinced is true. A doctrine such as that of the Lutheran Church regarding the Sacrament of the Altar has to be borne witness to. If it is no longer attested but only presented as an historical antiquity, even though it be presented with great care and correctness, it dies.

Hermann Sasse, Union & Confession.

Actually, I am struggling to follow the whole of this quote, even though I actually diagrammed the sentences on paper—old habits die hard for ex-literacy professors.  However, it reads to me as if the point is not about talking about the Sacrament, but actually practicing the Sacrament.  Of course, such is done with churchly order and reverence.  However, the point of the Sacrament is not the celebrants actions or attitudes, but Jesus come for us to forgive, save, heal, and sustain.  Doctrine is not passed on and planted in hearts because of the teacher, but rather because of the Holy Spirit and His work through Word and Sacrament.  

All the absolutes of the Lord's Supper lie with Jesus.  All of the absolutes with Baptism lie with Jesus.  All of the promises of God lie with God.  

So, to me, a better comment might be:

Thanks be to God that the efficacy of the Sacraments lie with God and not man.  So, if the pastor stumbles in his preparations or speaks the Words of Institution with something less than reverence and humility, the salvation and forgiveness and healing and sustenance remain.  In fact, those good gifts of Christ are given even to the one whose hands and voice might reveal a bit of the man in the office whilst serving in the office, whilst standing in the authority and stead of Christ.  Equally so, thanks be to God that if the parishioner receiving those gifts comes with fear and trembling, with doubts and confusion, with wounds and the weight of burdened consciousness, the gifts are still given in full measure and without hesitation by our Lord Jesus Christ.  But this is a great reminder, too, of the rich legacy of rite and liturgy handed down to us so that no matter what man is in the office of under shepherd the gifts of Christ remain.

Please do not tell me what I should or should not be doing.  Please do not tell me never to be this or always to be that.  Tell me about Jesus.  Tell me about Jesus who loves me and forgives me and who gives His faith and His obedience to me that I might be saved.  Tell me about Jesus and the Commandments He keeps for me.  Tell me that the burden of the Law is there to help us more fully grasp that only in Jesus can it be fulfilled ... here, now, with our family, friends, and neighbors.  Tell me about the works that God can do by and with and through the cross. Tell me about the works that God can do by and with and through the Holy Spirit, despite the fact that even in our salvation we remain in fallen world, burdened with sinful flesh and the wiliest of foes who has great resources at his disposal as he ever prowls around us, waiting to tear us away from Jesus.  Tell me about Jesus and His absolutes.  

I guess I am saying that when you start talking to me as if I need to be a modern day Carthusian monk to be counted as faithful, I will despair.  Been there.  Done that.  Works righteousness in any form–even pious living—will only lead to despair and death.

I am not monkish in the slightest.

When it comes to the service of the Sacrament, I am filled with awe and I am filled with fear. I know my sin.  It shames me and tells me to turn away.  When it comes to the service of the Sacrament, I am oft so hungry for what I know I will be receiving that I care less for what my neighbor is receiving and far more for when it will be my turn.  When it comes to the service of the Sacrament, I am oft thinking of the pain in my body from being in the pew and how much more pain I will have after the Service of the Sacrament because I will have to stand and start walking in order to make my way home.  When it comes to the service of the Sacrament, I sometimes hear the chant tune more than the Words because the tune is oft my comfort when the frailties of my body become overwhelming, and thus, I am thinking more of the Promise to come than the Promise present.

I have yet to gather the courage to make the sign of the cross. I do not kneel. I barely bow (being seated in the pew).  I do not speak "Amen" as I hear others do.  I oft struggle if, being in the pew, the pastor does not speak the words of the departing blessing (or whatever it is properly called) to me the way the ones who can go forward get to have poured over them.  And I sometimes am downright jealous of the children who have the cross traced on their forehead and receive a blessing speaking of their Baptism.  And I rarelyif ever—am attentive to the actions and attitude of the pastor.  

Truth be told, I really only notice/think about two things:

1) I think it is cool that the celebrants at my church stand at a bit of an angle so that I can see what they are doing, instead of having their backs completely to the pews.

2) I count the moments until the celebrant raises the body and blood of Christ and declares His peace for me.

I do not always rejoice in the crosses I bear in this life.  Do I stand in condemnation by Philippians 4 or do I consider that my Triune God always rejoices in His daughter, as does the host surrounding me?   I am oft anxious.  Do I despair of my weakness or do I rest in the safety that Jesus is not anxious about me?  I do not always know the words to pray.  Do I focus on my failure or do I rest on the promise that I have One who can interpret even the wordless groans of my heart and mind and spirit and take them to the One who is always praying for me and who is my constant and certain Yes and Amen to all the promises of God?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Learning to brush my teeth...

That is one of the things that I am trying to do right now.  Were I brave and honest and bold, I would beg for prayer about a slate of battles I am facing with my mind and my body.  But clearly I have shown that I am neither brave nor bold and that I hide or mask the struggles of my life far, far, far more than I am honest about them.

I was the girl who went to the dentist every six months of her life up until about a fifteen years ago.  I was the girl who brushed her teeth morning, noon, and night.  I was the girl who used icky tasting baking soda toothpaste and who always had good dental reports despite a deplorable lack of flossing activity in her life.

When I was an elementary school teacher, after dental hygiene week was over, I was the only teacher in the school who continued to have her students brush their teeth after lunch with the supplies provided during the theme week ... and the supplies I continued to provide for the rest of the year.

Yet here I am, now, struggling to learn to brush my teeth again.

Multiple Sclerosis is devastating in the idiosyncrasy of the disease, the condition.  Across the vast pool of those struggling with MS are a common set of symptoms.  But stick a dozen MS folk in a room and you might end up with a dozen or more symptoms that are not shared by all.  Much of the problems are not identifiable by clear and clean and easy test results.  Most doctors still know little about the disease, even neurologists.  And, sadly, many people with MS are treated more as if they are crazy than as if they are ill.  The community of folk struggling with MS is the most powerful resource for those seeking understanding and help with the vagaries of their disease.

One such thing is tooth pain.

Sometimes I like to try and pin-point the first symptom of MS and the first symptom of Dysautonomia.  On any given day, I might nail down this one or that one.  For a long while I was convinced that fainting was the first symptom of Dysautonomia, but I now believe, rather strongly, it was anxiety and cognitive changes hidden by the cognitive struggles from MS.

For MS, I long believed that it was heat sensitivity, but then I learned that motion sickness is a common symptom and that definitely rose to the top.  I used to be a read-in-the-car at ANY time girl.  Now, if I am not driving, I seriously struggle to remain vomit free.  Back when I returned from Africa, I was beset by severe motion sickness on a deep sea fishing trip.  So much so, I had to be towed behind the boat because being in the water was the only relief from massive, overwhelming, utterly debilitating motion sickness.  Me, the girl who used to race sailboats with her step-father (translate that lose sail boat races with her step-father).

However, another contender could be tooth pain.  I have one tooth that simply and absolutely cannot be cleaned by that whirling dentist tool.  Not. At. All.  I have to be very, very, very careful brushing my own teeth to avoid the pain of it.  But finding a dentist who would listen to me and NOT clean that tooth was impossible.  Not a single one respected my request.  Not even the expensive specialty dentist who had many MS patients and said he understood about teeth pain.  It is as if cleaning every single tooth is an irresistible activity for those in the dental field.

So, my twice yearly visits transitioned to annual visits.
Then bi-annual visits.
Then none.

I seriously went 12 years without visiting a dentist.

However, I was very assiduous about cleaning my own teeth. I worked very hard at it, trying to make up for the terrible secret I kept from others.  I, Myrtle, stopped going to the dentist.  I worked and worked at cleaning my teeth, sometimes brushing morning, after every time I ate, and at night.  When my dental insurance was ending, I broke down and figured I should see the dentist and find out just how bad my teeth were.

Both the dental hygienist and the dentist did not believe I had gone so long without a professional cleaning. My teeth were perfect! I wept in thankfulness on the way out.  And, yes, the dentist couldn't resist cleaning that tooth, even though I literally dislodged the instrument tray in my reaction to the pain.

But then my life became harder.  The whole constant nausea and vomiting problem and the tremendous weight loss.  The reactive hypoglycemia as a result of the rapid weight loss.  The fainting.  The cognitive decline.  The weakness in my hands.  The orthostatic hypotension.  The memory loss.  The fatigue.  The fatigue.  The fatigue.

I couldn't brush every time I ate.
I was often to exhausted to brush before I slept.
I forgot to brush my teeth.

Yes, I forgot to brush my teeth.

So, pretty much my only teeth cleaning, often for long spates of time, is using the shower as a water pick or using a washcloth or wet napkin when I remember that I need to brush my teeth but am not near my sink.

That I have come to this place, after being the one who always got compliments on the whiteness her teeth in the decades before the whole teeth-whitenting industry exploded, is shameful to me. I hear others' chastisement and condemnation.  You're neglecting your own health.  You're neglecting the temple of God.  You are being stupid.  JUST BRUSH YOUR TEETH, MYRTLE!

I cannot actually brush my teeth manually anymore.  I have to use an electric tooth brush.  I also have this other problem, be it MS or Dysautonomia I know not.  I cannot have my mouth open very wide without pain, and I cannot have things in my mouth without gagging.

[Incidentally, I believe this is why the McDonald's plastic forks are the easiest ones for me to use.  They are small.]

Ever hold a pencil in your mouth?  I would puke if I tried.  It is weird.  It is disconcerting.  And it is VERY problematic.  Really, it is another whole encyclopedia of reasons why I have stopped brushing my teeth.

However, for a month now, I have been working very hard to try and brush my teeth at least once a day and to use the occasion of leaving the house to get a second brushing accomplished.  I wish I could say that I have made great strides.  I have not.  That I have not is yet another failure weighing down upon me and yet another secret shame.

I wish I were brave enough to post on Facebook that I need help remembering to brush my teeth and being brave enough to do so when puking is a possibility, when I am so exhausted I cannot put words to it, and when the pain of the innards misery is so great that I, literally, want to die so that it might end.

I am not, of course, brave enough to ask for such prayer help.  After all, I asked for help remembering by baptism and not a single Facebook friend remembered something that most of them would consider far, far more important than the brushing of one's teeth.

I am four years old in my baptism now.
I am trying to learn to brush my teeth.
And, honestly, I need help remembering both.  Daily.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

the bald truth...

Back when I was leaving my job, I sought a meeting with a social worker, because I was trying to grasp what eventually being disabled would mean and to see what resources I might have to help me.  I had no idea, at the time, that just a couple of months later, I would have such a dramatic downturn as my innards misery began.  I thought I was planning for a far off future.

We were talking about the changes I was seeing in my brain and how it was affecting my job.  I cannot remember how we got there, but suddenly the social worker interrupted me and very simply said, "You're afraid of your boss."

Her works shocked me into silence.  And then the proverbial damn burst.

I started shaking and then burst into tears.  I just sat there trembling and weeping and gasping for breath.  The social worker waited for me to calm down and then asked me why.

My boss has a serious anger problem, and all at work knew that I was her whipping boy.  I had seen a young woman come, be beaten up for months on end, and then leave.  A young woman who then tried  to kill herself.  And I had heard stories of others who had come and gone.  But it was more than that.  My boss knew I was ill and reminded me of the need to keep my job so that I could keep my insurance all the time.  Small reminders.  Vague reminders.  Blunt reminders.  Reminders as I painted the walls of her house.  Reminders as I helped her clean out her storage space.  Reminders as I fetched her lunch and dinner.  Reminders as I drove her to the speciality grocery store.  Reminders as I did her work.  A job given her was passed off to me and then presented back as her work.

Reminders as she directed what I should wear and eat and to whom I should and should not talk at work.  Reminders as she told me what to write and say to others, setting me up to buffer herself from their ire by using me as a shield.  Reminders as she called and texted all hours of the day.  Reminders as she made me start recording what I did every ten minutes, all the while berating my work and telling me how useless I was.

Her anger would burst forth as if I were standing on the streets of Pompeii in 79 AD.  Dead and frozen in the pyroclastic cloud of fear that enveloped me with her eruptions.  Again, my response was to shut up, be still, and wait until it was over.  But in between those frozen moments—moment I now understood from which I disassociated—I lived in constant fear.

I asked for help from the CEO twice.  The second time, my boss found out and literally threatened me.   I did not sleep for days.  What would I do without a job?  What would I do without health insurance?  As horrid was my working environment, I saw no way out.

When I learned that I was losing my job, I threw my house on the market and went looking for a smaller life, a life where no matter what job I had, I would be free.  Not enslaved to a mortgage.  Not enslaved to a boss.  I found a place.  I just didn't know that I would get so ill so quickly after moving.  I could never have guessed how much my life would change.

But that moment of the social worker speaking my secret has remained, despite all that I have lost.

I will admit that even a year after moving here, I was still afraid of my ex-boss.  I was afraid of her power, though she had none anymore.  And I was afraid of who I had become living in her world of anger and fear and blame and shame.

After much agonizing, I chose to use unexpected funds to add a dishwasher to the kitchen, to spend the funds all at once to make my life easier physically long-term, rather than to dole them out to make my life easier financially short-term.  To add a dishwasher meant updating the kitchen.  The plan was to make it so that nearly everything I needed was in the upper cabinets or drawers, to minimize bending.  Even the oven is meant to minimize bending because I will mostly only use the upper ones.

My mother was immensely helpful in the decision-making process, since those are so difficult for me.  I was surprised to discover that there were few choices to be made in the cabinets—really only one—because of the kitchen layout:  did I want a 3 drawer stack or 4, which I thought was really no decision at all since I would only have a single drawer stack.  Of course it would be 4.  The cabinet style matches the original built-ins in the dining room and the cabinet color effectively matches the wood in the house.  I wanted to do the work as economically as possible and so most of the changes are merely switching out things.  Old for new.

Having greatly missed the hummingbird wall paper from my old house, I was glad to have it on the walls again, with the help of my mother.  She also generously upgraded my counters.  When the afternoon light breaks through the windows, they are GREEN!  She insisted on increasing the under cabinet lighting from 2 lights to 5, another gift, knowing that once I saw them on I would understand how much I needed them.  And she was convinced that there would be enough space for a bistro set so that I could stay in the kitchen whilst cooking, resting, and thus dramatically reducing the amount of meals I burned beyond edibility. She also paid to replace the large black chandelier, allowing me to choose a light from a reclamation store and have it re-wired so that the fixture fit the house. My mother made the kitchen update more beautiful and more useful than I could have afforded and was planning.  Such a blessing.

But then there is the part that I did.  All on my own.  The mess.  The disaster.  The shame.

I am afraid of the contractor.  Each and every time Amos barks because someone is in front of the house, I find myself cowering in fear, trembling, tears welling in my eyes, looking for a place to hide.  Even my mother has noticed, since she has called a few times whilst Amos was barking.  Having heard me speak a bit of fear before, she could at least hear me, if not understand.

The contract is not complete.  I do not know if it will be.  The work included four parts:  an automatic garage door, a wall to close off the parlor from the half bath, the kitchen update, and the kitchen floor.  The contractor completed the garage door first and then started on the wall.  The wall that was to be done in three days.  The wall that dragged on for nearly two weeks.  Day after day of not-showing up.  Day after day of ignoring me, costing additional money, and leaving my house in chaos.

I was not prepared for the chaos.
Not at all.
It felled me from the start.

I knew I should not make the deposit for the kitchen and the kitchen floor.  I knew it.  I talked with the contractor about the delays and how hard it was on me.  He assured me that what happened was unusual and the kitchen would be completed quickly.  He assured me it would be his priority.  He assured me there would be no other jobs save for the period between the counter measuring and the counter installation.  I believe him.

He talked a lot about Jesus.
He interrupted my concerns with talk about Jesus.
He dismissed me with talk about Jesus.

Talk about Jesus and I believe you.
I trust you.
I lose all perspective and reason and judgment.

I never should have made the deposit.  But I did. I did, once again, by giving him my credit card.

The work began and then the delays and the no-shows and the chaos and the stress of wondering if I would have a kitchen.  I learned that the men working were not licensed in plumbing or electricity.  For the electrical work, I researched all the codes to ensure it would be safe.  As for the plumbing, my main water valve was damaged.  SIGH.

The gaps between the tiles the contractor and his wife and his grandson—yes, I had a youth working in my house—were so large that grout wouldn't hold them down.  A large part of the problem was that the contractor's wife started working in the opposite direction, planning to meet up at the edge that was already laid.  All of their third of the floor should have been pulled up and re-set, but the contractor's wife was so ugly about doing the area that was the worst, I gave up.  I did also eventually have to have a large section re-grouted because the contractor did not fill the grout to the edge of the tiles.

I had to order wallpaper in the middle of the hanging because the contractor did not know how to estimate wallpaper, but also because there was so much waste.  Rather than the single additional double roll, the hanging required four!  No matter how often I tried to point out the pattern repeat, the contractor's wife just insisted the repeat did not matter.  Plus, the grandson kept dropping the rolls, tearing the sides of the paper in the process.  The best matches are the ones I kept insisting be adjusted, but I was not welcome in my own kitchen.  I would try to stay and then would cave and leave.  So, all of the paper is mis-matched, some seams worse than others.  And there is a large gap beneath one window that has a patch behind it, the patterned doubled for about 1.5 inches.

The plaster on the sink run wall was heavily damaged with the cabinet removal and it was not leveled when patched.  So, there is a great concave area.  Right above the dishwasher.  More than a quarter inch in the center of the gap.  Making the silent dishwasher rather noisy with the sound coming up the wall.  And, of course, the counter backsplash is not flush against the wall.

The contractor put a 30 amp plug and a 30 amp outlet in for the stove.  The 50 amp stove.  Had I not caught that error, I could have lost my house to fire. I most certainly would have lost my new stove.  One of the workmen started to join 12.2 wire to 14.2 wire, leading back to a 15 amp circuit breaker.  Another fire hazard before I had it changed.  The work in the kitchen is all to code, in what was done, but I missed two mistakes in the garage.  My regular electrician is coming to render safe the garage.  He already had to restore power to the shower because the workmen removed the power source to that junction box.  I learned that the half-bath requires an outlet and the light switch to be moved inside. I also learned that there must be an outlet for every 2 feet of counter run.  So, I will be adding an outlet in the kitchen and the switch and outlet in the bath.

The contractor, advertising and claiming that he is licensed, bonded, and insured, will provide no proof of his bond, no insurance certificate (his son told me that the workmen were not insured), and appears to have no license in my county.  He also failed to pull permits for the work he was doing.  Instead of providing the documentation and the release of lien, as per the contract, he instead sent a bill for almost the same amount as the original contract and said he was going to put a lien on my house unless I paid it.

The "extras" do not follow the contract.  Any additions or alterations requiring additional costs are to be in writing, are to be written change orders, co-signed by both the contractor and myself.  No such change orders exist.  So, in court, I will will.  That is no comfort.  None.

When desperation set it, I let go of some of the work, such as the glass tile backsplash, and started doing work myself to keep the project moving along.  I would ask at the beginning of the day anyone showed up what the plan for the day was and at the end of the day the plan for the next day.  Mostly, whatever was said would be changed or ignored, but I pushed and pushed and pushed for things to be done.

I found out that the contractor charged my credit card for the balance of the wall payment, before it was finished.  Without my permission.  Without telling me.  When his son started telling me rather horrifying stories of things that were done at other jobs—such as repairing a roof by re-using tiles, but charging the customer for new materials and painting over mold, but presenting it as removed—and telling me how his father would request final payment before a job was finished and then not really finish it, I realized I should cancel my credit cards.  All I could think about was all the automated payments I have set up since I struggle so much with bills.  But ultimately I took the plunge.  While hearsay, I was told that the contractor tried to charge my cards the day after I canceled them.

Suddenly, work progressed.  A sort of conclusion was reached.  And then the bombshells ... the new bill, the confirmation of no permits, the inability to find a license number for him, the lack of insurance....

When sent the bill, I repeated my request for his license number, insurance certificate, bond information, and release of lien.  Because I realized there were no permits, I asked for them.  I have heard nothing from the contractor in 9 days.  But I hear him all day long.

I did ask the workmen for my keys back and for the extra remote for the garage back.  So, I am fairly sure the contractor cannot come into my home.  But for weeks I had folk in my home I did not want, especially his wife and grandson doing work that was to be done by ... well ... experts.  For weeks I wondered if I would end up with a functional kitchen.  And for weeks, since the son started speaking about "additional costs," I feared what bills might come, even though I was doing work myself and buying materials myself just to get to a finishing point I could swallow given the money the contractor had taken in down payment.

So, why am I afraid?
If I answered it, you would not understand.
If I could answer that in a way I can understand, I would not be.

The plan for the parlor wall was to create three glass transom windows, since I would be shutting off the parlor from the outside windows.  A friend suggested I go to this reclamation store to find trim to match my house.  I did.  And there I found two French doors from a book case.  Joined together and framed with reclaimed trim, they make a transom nearly the full length of the wall that looks as if it has been in the house from the beginning.  But when I asked him to help me figure out how much trim I needed, the contractor wouldn't do it.  He just said I would know what I needed.  I explained how much I struggled cognitively and he ignored me.  The owners of the shop tried to help and together we made a best guess.  We were short because of how the contractor used the wood.  I put a sticky note on each piece, specifying where it would go to maximize the available trim.  He pulled them off and ignored them.  And wasted wood.

I really didn't matter to him.  My costs didn't matter to him.  The project did not matter to him.  I tried to pretend it did, but all you have to do is look closely at the mitered edges and you will know just how little he thought of his work, of my work.

From afar, the wall is beautiful.  Since most folk do not look up, hardly anyone will notice all the stained wood filler and the uneven joints.  Since most folk do not look down, hardly anyone will notice the height difference base piece of trim on both sides of the door.  I, however, am not most folk.  The dismissal and disregard bother me, though, more than the poor work.

Part of the shame is that I waxed poetically about the transom because I could not physically see the work, with my vision problems.  Ashamed of the waste and of the crumpled sticky notes, I neglected to mention them.  It was not until I started working on putting orange oil on all the old wood, standing on a ladder, could I see the gaps and the crookedness and the lack of care.

One day, the work team came back and saw the tiled floor and one of the men asked me why I would even accept such shoddy work.  They had laid the first 2/3rds and had done a beautiful job.  I didn't answer him.  I used his scorn for my acceptance to at least get the worst bit redone.  But he wouldn't understand how bullied I felt and how much fear I had of both the contractor and his wife.  I couldn't explain how I was mostly just being quiet and still and waiting for it to all be over.

I did not know, then, that I had un-insured and un-licensed workers doing un-permited work.  I would learn that later.  But I did start listening to the stories the men told about other jobs.  And I was really horrified and even more fearful.

My victory is that I know that all the wiring is safe.  I suppose you could say that another victory is that I am back to a working kitchen, but I am not so sure about that.  I look about the kitchen and see my failure.  I look about the kitchen and turn my face from the reminder of the felling my mind and body took during the seven weeks the contractor was in my house.  I look about the kitchen and I feel the fear rising within me.

What will he do next?
Will he show up at my door?
When will this be over?

So, Amos barks and I jump and tremble and weep and look for a place to hide.
All day.
Every day.

That is the truth about the kitchen.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Have you care...

I have been watching a prodigious amount of British television of late.  Two shows of note are "London Hospital" and "Call the Midwife."  Both are set in London's East End and are based on historical records, news articles, and personal diaries/memoirs.  "London Hospital" is set in the first decade of the 1900s and "Call the Midwife" is set in the 1950s.  

I admit that a large part of the appeal of both shows is the historical study of medicine.  I have been constantly surprised at some of the earliest treatments, some for their daring and some for their futility—if not utter nonsense.  It is fascinating that some of the greatest advancements of medicine came from serving some of the poorest and most socially despised folk of London.

One surprise was a treatment for joint pain stemming from someone suffering from the bends, or nitrous oxide poisoning.  His hands and feet were placed in basins of water through which electricity was run.  Thus, the history of the use of electrical current in pain treatment goes back over 100 years!  

I was also surprised and saddened to see the bodily sacrifices of those who worked in early x-ray research before the dangers of exposure were known.  And there was one doctor of the mind who was convinced that one's psychological condition was often connected to one's physiological condition.  He believed that if only those suffering from melancholy and other mental conditions could accurately describe their physical condition, then they could be treated better.  He ended up studying the effects of pain on the mind by having a surgeon sever nerves in his arm and documenting both his physical and mental condition as a result of the pain and loss of function.

I found it interesting that nurses at The London Hospital and elsewhere were not allowed to marry until the 1960s. They were viewed to be married to their vocation of nursing in a sense, with a belief that one could not effectively be both nurse and wife/mother. I never knew that.

And I found it rather interesting that one of the largest donor bases for The London Hospital, in its beginnings, was the Jewish community of London, even though Jews were despised on many fronts. There was a Jew-only ward, because Jews desired to be separate, but their support was for the hospital and the community as a whole, the poorest, most filth and sin-filled community of London. The humble serving of fellow man by the Jewish community without regard to race, color, or creed, struck me as particularly Christ-like.

A final line of interest was the difference between a suffragist and a suffragette. I never really understood which was which even after watching the episode, but one set believed in bringing about the right for women to vote by any means necessary, including violence, and the other by reasoned debate and educational outreach.

This brought to mind how, in both the women's ordination and contemporary worship movements, there does seem to be a bit of division between those who are not against violence —at least the violence of words, the bullying of others, and the public condemnation of others—and those who believe in reasoned debate and educational outreach.

In one episode, a woman threw acid on ballots, injuring both herself and others. She cared not for the harm she caused in pursuit of her cause. I wonder if those who fling acidic words about care for the harm they cause in pursuit of their cause.

This came to mind both for the things I have seen written about the issues referenced above and for the words someone spewed out about Trayvon Martin in a Facebook forum on women's ordination.  Clearly a fan of Mr. Zimmerman, the one who posted judged and condemned the life of Martin, a seventeen-year-old boy, with harsh words and callous disregard for his life.  I was disturbed by the words and by the fact that they were coming from someone whose was at/connected to Lutheran seminary, and therefore presumably of the Lutheran faith utterly and completely disregarding what Luther has taught about the 8th Commandment and speaking about others.

I find little love for our neighbors anymore online, especially by Christians (Lutherans) on Facebook and in the blogosphere. A 17-year-old lost his life simply by walking home from a store. There should be sorrow and mourning for him, even if he was a troubled young man.

I sorrow, too, for the rioters, because they are caught up in something larger than themselves, but mostly likely are voicing fears and frustrations and struggles that have no other outlet.

And I sorrow for Mr. Zimmerman. To have blood on your hands has to be difficult.

Lord, have mercy upon us all.  Christ, have mercy upon us all.  Lord, have mercy upon us all.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Only to me...

I wanted someone to remember.  Funny that.  I cannot come up with a single good reason why.  I just did not want to be alone with the day.  No one did.

Amos and I were so utterly changed the day that pit bull attacked us.  In some ways, we are both better.  In other ways, we are not.

At his appointment in May for his annual shots, the vet spent some time just studying Amos, in his fear and trembling.  She always has the same tech work with him and Amos does seem to remember them both.  She also gave us the final appointment of the day (7:00 PM) because she remembered how traumatized he was the last time we were there and other dogs filled the waiting room.  Amos literally had to be dragged from my shoulders.

That day, the moment I spotted the pit bull, I picked up Amos and put his very small, seven-month-old body on my shoulders, hoping it would save him from being attacked.  Time slowed between spotting the pit bull and looking about for any place of safety I might get the two of us to before the dog noticed us.  Even though I was still walking about then, there was nowhere I could get us to before the dog would reach us.  So, I put Amos on my shoulders and stood my ground.  I hoped the dog would not notice us, but the moment he spotted us, he broke into a run.

That was the first time Amos was on my shoulders.  They remain his place of safety, even though he was not protected by them.  When he is afraid, he can manage to scramble up my body to my shoulders almost before I am aware of his intension.  The last visit, it took the two of them to drag my puppy off of my shoulders—or rather the three of us. Amos was so scared.

His vet asked about his behavior and his gains and losses.  What strikes me the most is that his startle response is even greater than last year.  The slightest noise will send him running from the back sidewalk or flowerbed to my shoulders.  The slightest noise indoors will send him racing to the couch to defend the homestead.  He jerks and leaps and ducks and trembles from nose to tail.  Even when it is I who made the noise.

It was ... odd ... watching the vet study Amos.  She would touch him briefly.  She would stroke his body.  She would keep her hand still.  When she set him back down on the floor, Amos darted for my shoulders and settled down.  The vet watched us.  She watched us in silence until Amos relaxed his body against mine as he is wont to do.  It was then that his vet told me that she no longer believed that he might outgrow his fears.  She believes the combination of his age at the time of the attack and his nature is not something he will ever really overcome.

I weep, sometimes, when I see Amos so frightened.  I want a better life for him.  And I wonder if I had been stronger if I could have gotten us from the street corner to my back yard, if I could have darted down the street and into my alley before the pit bill ran the two blocks between us and him.  I weep, sometimes, when I cut his hair, because then I can see the scars his longer curls hide from view.  I weep, sometimes, when I watch Amos fight this immense battle with his fears to remain outdoors long enough to do his business when there are others about.  I weep, sometimes, in the dead of night and I watch how at peace Amos is outdoors then.

My startle response is better than his now.  Or is it?  I have created a firm boundary around me, to stop the involuntary responses I hate so very much.  No hugs or handshakes.  No touching.  Stand off from me, unless I am the one who draws near.  I used to feel rather guilty about drawing this line of safety about me.  I fell victim to those who told me I was selfish and unhealthy to not engage with social conventions such as handshakes and hugs.  Not anymore.  The peace I have achieved by not having to face the instant fear, the wild reaction, the shame, the failings of how I react with others touch me in any fashion means more to me than what anyone thinks of me anymore.

My own scars have faded somewhat.  I still have trouble with my knee, if I move it in a certain fashion or have weight on it at a circle angle.  Now that I have Medicare insurance, I have thought about trying to have the problem addressed, but I am not sure I am strong enough.  By this I mean, I have constant tendonitis in my right elbow.  My doctor told me that my muscles are too weak for the physical therapy that would help.  So, when I clean or do anything of a repetitive motion of any level of effort, the pain flares and lasts days and even weeks.  Giving Amos a bath is an example of an activity I cannot escape that causes a flair.  That is why I am doubtful that my knee would get better if I had surgery to repair the torn ligament.  Plus, waking up from anesthesia was increasingly difficult the last several times I as put to sleep for a procedure.  I admit I am rather fearful that would be even worse now.

Something that is very difficult for me is the memory of that day.

I never recaptured my memory of how we were recused.  The last memory I had was the final time I struggled back to my feet, playing tug-of-war with Amos' body, knowing that once the pit bull pulled us down to the ground again I would not be getting up.  I believe that if I could remember the end of the attack, I could know that it is over.  But my mind left my body during that last terrifying battle to regain my footing.  So, in my mind, there was no ending.  There was no rescue. There was no peace.

Now, I cannot remember most of the attack.  I cannot remember most of that summer. I cannot remember even most of last month.  So very much of my life is slipping from my conscious memory.  Would that it were the feelings of those moments would slip away as well.  They have not.

The truth is that I cannot bear to be near a large dog.  To do so, even with a new friend's dog, is a constant battle not to run and scream and weep and tremble.  So much of me is concentrating on not breaking down that it is hard to focus on anything else.  If there is a large dog walking by when I have pulled up in my car somewhere, I will remain behind a locked door until the dog is far, far away.  And the sight of a pit bull strikes terror within me, triggering trembling, nausea, and a certain level of insensibility.

I wonder if I would have been better had I had any help or any justice that day and following it.  The court found the owner guilty and required her to pay fines and recompense for treatment for Amos and I, but she refused to pay a single penny.  When I stopped showing up in court week after week, her case was dropped.  She faced no consequence for what her dog did or for hiding the dog from Animal Control so that he could be tested and examined for evidence of other attacks.

Both in the ambulance and in the hospital, I could not stop shaking or weeping.  I was terrified of every moment and everything around me just heightened that terror.  Having since studied the brain's physiological response to trauma, I now understand what was happening to my mind and my body.  How I was makes perfect sense.  And how I was was out of my control.  But the medical staff treated me as a bother and someone who just needed to get ahold of herself and calm down.  It was a horrible time for me.  Both for how I was treated and for wondering if Amos were still alive.

So, July 12th remains a difficult day for me.  It is an ending and a beginning I would rather not have in my life or that of my puppy's.  It represents one more long-term battle I have to endure.  And it is the epitome of just how alone I am in those battles.

In the days and weeks and months that followed, as I struggled to heal, few thought of the absolute violence of that day or its impact on us.  On me.

If you have ever been in a car accident, you might understand what I am saying.  There is this ... thud ... that happens.  The moment of impact.  That impact can reverberate in your life.  But it is a sound and a feeling that is unique.  I know. I have been in several car accidents.

The violence of a pit bull attack is unique amongst all the violence I have experienced in my life.  The moments that stretch out into eternity.  The futility and certitude of impending death.  The pain.  The terror.  The loneliness.  An ineffable maelstrom that still rages deep within.

Afterwards, there was no comfort for me.  There was a crowd of people and the owner's boyfriend inches from my face, threatening me to keep silent when the police arrived.  There was a bloody puppy who dragged himself into my lap but tried to bite me each time I tried to touch him.  A cacophony of chaos and pain and blood.  But no comfort.  No solace.  No place of safety.

Hiding in the Psalter as much as I do, I have found the words to cry out to God when the maelstrom threatens to overwhelm me.  I know. I know that the Holy Spirit takes my pleas to God and He hears them.  I know that ... eventually ... all will be quiet within me and all scars will be healed to the point of not a single blemish remaining.  But until then I am alone in remembering, in reliving though I remember not, in battling the lingering violence, terror, loss, and grief of that day.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Crashing waves...

I am the beach.
I am the whale.
I am the waves crashing against both.

Twenty-six hours this time.  Twenty-six hours of agony in my mid-section that I struggle to endure, during which I oft fall into despair here and there.  Usually, this is a much shorter period.  Usually it is at night.

At night, I long for the battle to be during the day.  During the day, I am convinced it would be easier at night.  Neither is.  Easier.

I oft hurt so much that I cannot read or watch television. I cannot really think. I just exist in the sea of pain.

Yet sometimes I do think. I think about the whys and wherefores of the pain.  If the writhing has begun because food has not left my stomach for far too long, I can at least take activated charcoal.  A heating pad helps the tiniest bit, but I have to be careful not to allow the heat to build up too much beneath the covers, lest the heat make me ill.  Mostly, there is little to be done and yet I try to think of something.  And that oft leads to trying to imagine what exactly is happening to cause the pain.

The swelling in my abdomen has increased at its highest amount, and yet the pain is not always worst when I am that beached whale. When my abdomen is so swollen I am left breathless even whilst lying still, I rarely find a position of even the slightest relief, though I try.  Oh, how I try.  At best, curling my knees up toward my chest, if I am lying on my side, or sticking them up in the air, if I am on my back, seems to be ... better ... somehow.  Or perhaps the willing for it to be so masks the pain for a while.  A part of me, in those dark moments, wonders why it is the pain is deepest, most intense, if I am lying on my back with my legs out straight.  Try keeping your knees toward your chest whilst not bending any part of a swollen abdomen and you will know some of the futility that washes over me at such times.  Why bother?  Why keep trying?

When I was a little girl, we would visit the beaches of Galveston.  I cannot, in my mind's eyes, see those beaches now.  I cannot remember a single moment of being upon them or in the waters, but there are things I know about them.  And there is this one feeling I have, throughout the years, tried to recapture.  Never more so than when the innards writhing had me in its cruel grasp.

Standing on the beach, you can see the waves come crashing in.  Building from a small swell into a great curl of water that spills forth upon the sand.  The interesting part is that the wave creates change upon the sand both coming and going.  Its forces are inexorable and unceasing.  For when one wave had drawn back into the ocean, another is already taking its place.

Far, far too young to be alone in the water, I would nevertheless swim out past the waves and swells into the ocean's deeps.  I would swim to where my feet would no longer touch the ocean floor even if I thrust my body downward until almost my last breath.  For it was in that place I found peace.  Lying on my back, I would revel in the stillness and float on a sea of nothingness.  For as long as I dared, I allowed the currents to carry my body down the beach.  Further.  Further.  And still further.  Eventually, the knowledge of being so far from my family would smite me and I would swim toward the shore, until finally the waves would spill my body upon the sand.  Often, I would walk down the beach back to where we had staked our claim, only to swim out to the stillness once again.

The pain in my abdomen builds like the waves crashing toward the beach.  And when the fullness of its force is spent upon the sand, the pain recedes, almost mocking me as it goes.  I will come again.

My abdomen is now mottled and rather ugly.  It is grotesque.  That it is so has to do with the heating pad and with the failure of my autonomic nervous system when it comes to vascularization processes.  This one area I understand not, but it has to do also with my cold spells, with my skin becoming icy to the touch and my body wracked with chills.  Chills that are their own waves of a most peculiar agony.

There are also the waves of that come when the weather changes and my arthritic joins scream in protest.  A pain that builds in intensity until it spills out in every part of my being and I am awash in a sea of agony, tumbling about in waves that leave no room for a respite.

And then there are the waves of migraine pain.  Those I cannot even adequately describe, save for there are the same moments. The moments of growing agony.  The moments of receding mockery.  And the same longing to return to that time and place of stillness and nothingness.

When I look—or rather feel since the sight is so disturbing—the swelling that extends from above my sternum to below my hips, I am the beached whale struggling to survive.  When the waves crash down upon the beach that is my body, I am the grains of sand, struggling to remain a part of the whole rather than be torn from my place.

Perhaps that makes no sense.  But I am the whale that knows it is dying for lack of breath, its immense size hindering hope for respite.  I am the beach under assault from a cruel and relentless foe.  When really all I want to be is that small girl cradled in the water, utterly peaceful.

I written that in such times, I have no words to speak to God.  My prayers or pleas or whatever word you would assign that which I cry out in silence are the groanings of both body and spirit, of heart and mind and soul.

It came to me tonight if, perhaps, my baptism was ... is ... God taking back to that stillness and nothingness, where no harm or even battle reaches.  If I can return to the ocean in my mind where I only to grasp the peace of my baptism.

I have been watching this show, "London Hospital," set in the first decade of the 1900s, a time when the average life expectancy was 45 and 1 in 7 children died before the age of 10.  A time when pain and suffering was oft without balm or remedy.

During one episode, a character state that love was really the only thing that heals.  No matter what the writers meant. I found myself struck by that Truth.  Love is the only thing that heals both body and spirit, heals heart and mind and soul.  The love of Christ.  Love that is Christ crucified for me.

I have been silent for far, far too long here in the place where I try to capture that which is slipping away from me.  I have been silent because my heart hurts.  My body is ravaged.  My mind is distressed.  And my spirit is overwhelmed.  In many and sundry ways, all of this boils down to my body in one way or another.  What is happening to it.  What has happened to it.  What I find grotesque far beyond what another's eye could see.

The Gospel has a physicality to it that is both comfort and distress to me.  While I could find any number of folk to talk with me about its comfort, I have no one with whom to talk about its distress. About spiritual distress.

I found it odd, tonight, to realize that in the end it all comes down to water and to the body. The water of peace and rest that was for me then and that I wish were for me now.  My body.  The body of Christ.  And the odd and utter juxtaposition between them, even as both are joined.  Or they could be were it not for the constant, wily, and effective assaults of my foe, dragging me further and further away from the altar.

And I found it odd that I hear someone speak of love and immediately Christ crucified is first in my mind.  My heart quickens with longing, weeps with despair, at the thought of His water and of His body.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!