Thursday, December 18, 2014

I met New York in March of 1977. I was on a high school trip to participate in the Model UN. It was during the Beame administration and the city was rough, dirty, harsh, and amazing. 
The cabs looked like this then. The best cab look ever. 

I had been through a lot in the recent years , particularly for a high-school kid. All of the conflict, the sadness, the anger, the fear- it was all absorbed by this city that was bigger than my life and my problems. It was the first place I had ever been that made me forget what I had come from. And what I had come through. I hated to leave but I knew I would come back. Somehow. 

After three years of marriage I finally managed to talk JW into going. It had been almost 10 years since I had been and I was in need of sharing my love for NY with him. I couldn't wait! I had shopped for some new clothes for the trip just so that I wouldn't look like I stood out as a tourist. 


Allow me to stop here for a moment to clarify something. I only consider myself a tourist in places that I visit infrequently and that I do not love. I am a visitor in places like New York, the Blue Ridge, and Williamsburg. In Cooperstown I am a future resident. I will walk confidently with a camera in hand and still be able to offer directions to poor, confused tourists who don't know uptown from downtown. 


So off we went on our first trip together to New York City. I wanted to share all the joy of the city with JW and he was certain we were about to be mugged. We stayed at the Edison, which, in its prime it had been home to both George Burns and Gracie Allen and Jack Benny and Mary Livingston. Neil Simon sat in the cafe and wrote plays. The Edison is now a historic hotel, but when we stayed there it hadn't yet achieved its proud status. It was old, run-down, and a little creepy. 
But I didn't care- I was back with my old friend NY and enjoying every bit of the reunion. JW and I were young and so much in love-- little did we know we weren't alone! I was actually expecting our first child. 

It was many years until we returned. This time, though, we returned with our two children and my sister. Seeing the magic of the city through the eyes of my children was such a blessing- the Radio City show, crowding around a table for a slice of pizza, the amazement of FAO Schwarz, and Central Park-- oh, memories that are with me every time we visit now.  

Many trips have followed- too many to count. Thankfully JW is as fascinated with NY as I am. He loves the walking, the museums, the history. We have been to NYC in every season, and practically in every month. 

Except December. Until now. 



Every season there is beautiful in its own way, but this time, this visit, held its own magic. Never before having been in the city when The Tree was lit. (We have been there in November, just before Thanksgiving. The Tree was up, but in scaffolding while the lights were being attached.) Never seeing it in full-on Christmas mode. Never being in Macy's when Santa was actually in the store. My heart filled the moment we circled Manhattan and aimed at Queens for landing and it stayed full even after we returned home.  

I've seen New York handle financial challenges. I've seen it deal with visits from multiple heads of state at the same time. I've seen it in mourning. Our family raced there as soon as we could after 9/11 just to...be there. To put a few dollars back in the economy and to show it our love. We respected the losses too much to go to the World Trade site; that was for those who had suffered personal, family loss. We waited until after the families had said their goodbyes and went down on our next trip. That's how we love this city. We've celebrated wins and ignored losses in the old ballparks and the new ones. Mayors have come and gone and some can't go quickly enough. Decade after decade I have remained loyal to this city, this entity. Going back at a time that had all the beauty of the most beautiful season and all the ugliness of racial unrest was...so New York. For if any city can handle millions of tourists and a handful of protestors, NY can. If any city can rise from the ashes time and time again, a little unrest isn't going to slow it down. 

So going back to New York at Christmastime was like going home for the holidays for me. It was like visiting that old friend that you have been through so much with- the one who you may not always agree with but who you always love. The one who you want the best for and are thrilled when you get to witness those "bests." 

I mentioned in my last blog that there were three main things I wanted to experience on this trip:
1. Snow
2. Bell Ringers
3. Santa

Well, it snowed. It did. The first night and into the next day. I am not kidding. The kind of snow that sticks to your clothes but not the streets. The beautiful flakes that whirl and dance and tickle. Yep. Check #1 off the list. 

There were bell-ringers. A lot of them. And they were great! The Salvation Army's bell-ringers do not dress up as Santa, but they team up and choreograph dance moves that are fantastic! Fun, entertaining, happy. Check bell-ringers off the list. 

As for Santa, that's a story that will only be told in person. Kids get on computers and I, like my friends at Macy's, want to preserve the magic. But if you find yourself in New York at any time between the day after Thanksgiving and December 24, go to see him at Macy's. 8th floor (he has to be near the roof for quick access to the sleigh) 

So "Merry Christmas," New York. It was great to be back. 
Thanks for the wonderful welcome and we'll see you next time. 
And by the way, nice job on the tree.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ok, here’s the thing: later today JW and I will be flying to NY. Those of you who know me know that this is a Really Big Deal for me. I am going to be able to see The Tree. THE tree. We will be in the city DURING Christmastime. The latest we have ever been has been right before Thanksgiving. Yes, it was beautiful, exciting, amazing, and all the things you expect it to be at that time. The tree was up but it was always in scaffolding. Most of the windows were decorated but many were covered and would only open after the Macy's Parade. So here it is-- the day I have been waiting for -- how many years?? We are going to drop the bags and then (and yes, I have seen the weather forecast) head straight for the tree. Right then. I will stare, gaze in awe, take cheesy pictures, and most likely cry. And for the next several days my route in and around Rockefeller Center will ALWAYS require passing the tree. 

I want to do it all and then think of more things to do. We already have lined up a taping of a show, a classic stage production, and a play. Here are some of the other things I want to see:

1. Snow. Yes, I want it to snow. I know: I never make requests about weather. Even after trying to see the colored leaves in October in the Blue Ridge. But I want snow in New York in December and yes, even just a flake will count. 

2. Bell-ringers. Somehow they will seem appropriate and I want to hear the bells echo through the canyons of Manhattan.

3. Santa. I want to see Santa. Not just any Santa-- Macy's Santa. It may come as no surprise, but...

I have a plan.

I have been researching this and I have found out that actually many adults request an audience with Santa each year. Mind you- I want no part of the sitting on the lap or the telling of wishes. But I DO want to be able to get a nice photo of the Man in the Red Suit and to be able to live out the rest of my life knowing that I have seen...Santa. 

I am so excited and grateful and blessed to be able to take this trip. I will be posting pictures and fun stuff on fb. If you get tired of it, please just ignore my obnoxiousness. I don't mean any of it to boast- only to share the joy of the season in the City that I love so much. 





Thursday, November 20, 2014

Celebrating the Brilliance of Him

I LOVE this time of year. I love it so much that I want to give it a great big hug. You know the kind- where you squeeze and squeeze and don't want to be the first one to let go because that means a little bit of it has already ended? That kind of love-hug. The feeling of Fall Romance actually starts for me in about late August. Why then, you ask? Because I begin thinking about September (which hosts the Autumnal Equinox) and so I consider August "Fall Eve." I look forward to all of it. I am the one who loves it when the Christmas decorations are in the stores before Halloween. Yep, I'm that person. I am humming Christmas carols- ok, not humming, full-on SINGING - them in my car in September. Why not? Who says we have to wait until after Thanksgiving? Are Jamestown settlers with muskets going to invade my Honda CRV and claim "Thou musteth not singeth hymns until after yon turkey meal?" 
I am celebrating the birth of my Savior! I will sing about that anytime I please, thankyouverymuch. 

(Besides, um, Who are we giving thanks to? Yeah. Case closed.) 



I end September by celebrating a dear friend's birthday, and then comes October. For our area we actually begin to feel a little of the effects of our planet moving further away from the sun in October. By that I mean that it finally doesn't feel like the outside is going to explode from the heat/humidity/haze of summer. Hurricane season has officially ended and the main threat is from the eventual nor'Easter that is going to blow through at some point this season. There's a hint- just a hint- of color to the leaves in October. Mornings are foggy and dewy and the sky is clear and bright. The humidity that both plagues and defines our climate abates, not altogether and forever for the season, but enough to allow our lungs to fill with crisp, clean air and, if you are blessed, just a hint of burning leaves. Halloween in Coastal Virginia is as unpredictable as it should be. Sometimes it's warm, sometimes it's chilly, but I do remember this from my childhood: it's always hot under a plastic mask! 

Finally November arrives. I actually enjoy going to the grocery store this time of year. No, really. I look forward to it in all its tacky, crowded, commercial mess. It is equipped with such an abundance of food/gifts/sundries that you would think we lived in an area that actually was going to see snow before Christmas! It's stocked so full you can barely get a cart through without knocking into a display of mixed nuts, fruitcake, aluminum pans or crated tangerines. There is a rack of calendars ranging from "I {heart} Bacon," to "Atlantic Coast Lighthouses," to "White Tailed Deer." (apparently they stock these racks regionally) And be sure to back up behind it carefully for there is an array of wrapping paper, bows, twinkle lights and gel window clings that are supposed to look like snowflakes. They don't.  Big, towering displays of cookies and cocoa. So cozy.

Beautiful, glorious, November. The leaves in my hometown reach their brilliant peak. The weather is almost always perfectly pleasant and the sky- oh the sky! The sunrises are quiet and soft, whispering "Good Morning" to the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The midday sun lights up the leaves like a million amber torches. I don't care how many times you see certain trees, they are still a fiery surprise on a November day in Virginia. And just when you think it couldn't get any prettier, the sun says "Good night" with brilliance and glory and no doubt at all about Who created it. Driving conditions are challenging in November. Deer are running and hunters are chasing. (mostly chasing down their prized hounds!) Leaves are falling across the road, billowing up as you drive over them and showering down all around you like a rust-colored snowstorm. 

       Big hugs. Big, squeezy, rocking back and forth hugs for November. 






Funny thing is, I used to ignore fall. I did. I plodded through life oblivious to the color, the miracle of God's portrait all around me. My mother never liked the late summer and early fall. It held painful memories for her and so she was always sort-of negative at this time of year. She loved Christmas, no mistake, and I think she liked Thanksgiving but, since she was so busy cooking, it was hard to tell. I guess I picked up on her lack of enthusiasm.  I always loved the mountains, but not living in them and never seeing them in their autumn glory, I never celebrated the color or the season or the beauty. I'm not sure when I did  begin to appreciate the splendor of it all. But I'm sure glad I did and I now see that it has everything to do with knowing Who created it. Amazing how our perspective changes as we grow closer to God and we begin to allow Him to change us.

It always depends on our point of view. 

I was finally able to see the Blue Ridge in what is known as "Peak Week" this year. My husband fulfilled a dream of mine (which he has had a habit of doing for thirty years, by the way) and he booked a stay in a cabin!  A precious little cabin! A dream for years and years- y'all just don't know! In the fall.  On a windy country road in the North Carolina Blue Ridge. One of my favorite places on earth. There is so much that goes along with all of this story and it deserves it's own "chapter," so I will not elaborate yet. The lessons I learned over a week in the oldest mountains on the continent could fill all the blogs. But there is one lesson that is just for today. For I was thrilled at the thought of seeing the leaves in all His glory! I was so excited that I wouldn't let myself even think about it. Seven year-old Christmas Eve kind of excited. That was me. 

The afternoon that we arrived in mountains was rainy and foggy. Really foggy. Foggy Mountain Breakdown stuff. The colors were there, shrouded and hidden like a beautiful bride behind a wispy veil. The next few days were rainy. I would not allow myself to be disappointed; I never really do allow that about the weather. I am sure that God has His reasons for the fog and rain and I'm sure one of them could have been that we would have been so distracted we may very well have driven off the side of Grandfather Mountain. Instead I just slid down it. But again, that's meant for another blog, another time. 



Through the course of the week the sun did peek out here and there. I kept waiting for the "aha moment" when I could see the majesty of the mountains, the fall color that I had dreamed of. It just wasn't really happening. 

Until we got in the middle of a range driving from Mountain City, TN to Damascus, VA. That's when it hit me. Up until now, I had been IN IT. We were so far back in the mountains that we were actually a part of it all. I was in the midst of the beauty of Autumn in Virginia. It wasn't until we came out and looked upon it from a different place that we could actually see the color, the beauty, the creation. 


was so overwhelmed I couldn't speak. 









I have a sister who is an artist. Oh, some people would says she is a critical care nurse at a major hospital in Florida. But make no mistake, she is an artist. She can sketch, paint, write, design, and she has a green thumb as well. Don't ask what happened to me. Still trying to figure that out. Oh, yeah, she can sing too. 

One of my earliest memories of seeing her work was when she was in high school. She had her sketchbook, a very large one, and she was using a straightedge and a protractor. I was curious because I had only ever seen her use her clay, pastels, and watercolors before. I watched her carefully align the straightedge on the paper, and make clean, simple lines angled so that they almost touched each other at the top of the page. Then she began to fill it in with images of bushes, trees, grass, and dirt. Suddenly the lines had become a road.

She told me she was currently studying perspective. 

Taking my hand, she took me outside and down to the end of the court where we lived. She knelt down beside me as we looked down the street. See? Perspective. 






(yes, I have been blessed with TWO amazing sisters who always took time with me and who always invested in me- I know how rare that is and I thank God for them in so many ways)

As I have traveled this life's journey, I have often recalled that lesson. I learned so much more than an artist's technique that day-- I learned to look at the big picture. 


Of course I was young and unable to know that at the time, but I remembered my sister's simple way of showing me that there is more than one way to look at something. That sometimes when we are in the midst of something we have to take a step back in order to see how everything...works. I credit that lesson, and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life by opening my eyes to its application, with my ability to use sound discernment in the middle of a crisis, to sort out complicated details, and to sometimes find humor in an otherwise bleak situation. I also enjoy playing around with photography and looking at normal objects from an not-so-predictable angle. (That latter one may just be attributed to my weirdness though.)

Like when I look at trees glowing with the brilliance of fall. And when I look at...us. Christians. Are we glowing with the brilliance of the One Who created us? The One Who sustains us and gives us every good and perfect gift? 
The One Who lives inside us - are we shining and attracting the attention of others so that we can show them...Him?

Where is our perspective focused? Are we looking outward toward others in a caring and compassionate way, while still looking inwardly at how we can evaluate and eliminate anything that reflects Him badly? 

And are we so immersed in the midst of Him and His work that we cannot even tell where one ends and One begins? Are we so in awe that we are unable to speak or even draw a breath because of His overwhelming presence? I want to be. So desperately. 

As the season moves on toward that beautiful, holy night, I beg the Lord to allow my leaves to be on fire for Him. May the buds that form and bloom in the spring bring with them the promise of new life in Him. And may the Son shine through it all. 



 



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My husband and I love to travel. It thrills us to see places we have never seen before. To see how people live in different areas and circumstances is always eye-opening. But we also have our favorite places that we return to year after year. The kind of places where we no longer feel like tourists, but more like a visitor. We know these places and, to some extent, they know us. I tend to feel a sense of ownership in these towns and cities. I know certain roads and buildings and when they change I am sometimes shocked! I think to myself "I didn't know they were putting up that stoplight," or "I had no idea that store was going out of business." When it's a place I care about, I want to know what's going on and what is planned. I'm invested in the place, the people. 

Sometimes when I am on one of my long drives around my hometown area I try to look at my surroundings as though I am one of the many tourists who come here year after year. We locals tend to forget that this is a resort area (for those of us who live far away from the beach it's easy to do). This is a Favorite Place for many people. I recently helped coordinate a wedding in Virginia Beach. One of my tasks was to deliver gift bags to the hotels where the out-of-town guests were staying. As I entered one of the hotels, so did a bus load of tourists. Over 40 people stood in front of me in various kinds of beachwear ready for Fun in the Sun! Inflatable sea dragons, huge beach hats, and lawn chairs now decorated the Hilton lobby. Oh yeah- I'm at the Beach. It's so easy to forget that! They had traveled from Pennsylvania to make memories here. What kind would they make? Would we, the native Virginians, be good hosts? While driving home I tried to look at the interstate signs through their eyes and I wondered if the tourists had difficulty getting about? Some of our signs don't make a lot of sense unless you already know the area. (East and West don't always mean East and West)



I also look at our areas off the main highways. You know, the places we gaze at that are near the off-ramps: they have the obligatory Target, a grocery store of some kind, a Chinese restaurant. There now seems to be a Starbucks at every exit much like there is one on every block in NYC. Do these places look inviting and welcoming to our visitors? Are they easy to get to and when we are there are they warm and inviting?

This thought came to me one night at church. I was looking around during our Wednesday fellowship meal and I switched into What if I Came In as a Visitor mode...What would I think as I entered and saw people greeting each other? I am happy to say that I liked what I saw! There were seniors arriving and doors being held for them by children who didn't even know them--they just knew it was the right thing to do. That, my friends, is good home training. There were people greeting each other as though they had been on an extended trip- it had only been since Sunday - but Oh! sometimes the weeks are so long and we need to gather again as family and just...exhale. There was laughter, there was fellowship, and there was joy.

And then, and then- there was prayer. It is not unusual to see small groups of people off to the side huddled, leaning in, arms around each other-praying. To be a newcomer arriving for the first time to that environment! It is church at its finest because IT is US. And for that moment we were living out what we should be doing all the time.

So what about when we aren't there? What are we like then, when no one we know is watching (except the One Who knows us best)? Are we greeting people with a smile? Do we hold doors for each other? 


Do we care?

Are we living the "greatest commandment" daily and publicly? Would the waiter, the store clerk, the driver in front of you say that you loved him as yourself? What about the customer service rep after you've held on long enough to go through the loop of bad hold music...twice? 



My husband and I have recently discovered the joy of hiking. Before you become concerned, know that we're not going nuts here with climbing mountains and such. We go nowhere that requires any sort of "equipment." Our interest mainly revolves around seeing God's creation while wearing super comfy shoes. I'm talking very gentle terrain and clearly marked trails. (Except that time in West Va but we'll chalk that up to the thin mountain air.) One of the things hikers are instructed to do is to leave the trail better than how you found it. (Pick up trash, don't disturb foliage, etc.) It's amazing how messy and careless so-called Nature Lovers can be. There are hikers who are paid by the park service just to go into the hills and clean up after other hikers. Really? You're going to strap on a back pack and grab a bottle of water and then go high up into some of the most beautiful places on God's planet, take pictures and blog and be left breathless not from the altitude but from the beauty and then leave your granola wrappers on a log? So then it hits me: Are we leaving our trail better than we found it? Are we leaving that customer service rep with the feeling that there was something special about us? Was the driver in front of you blessed by not being tailgated? 

Was the waiter's day actually better because he had your table? 

As we all go through this journey, in the temple or outside the city gates, let's try to remember that we are always responsible for the way we leave our trail. 








Friday, September 26, 2014

The past two weeks have been a wild ride. Over the course of 13 days our ministry hosted our first Beth Moore simulcast, I helped coordinate the wedding of the daughter of my dear friend, endured personal drama (and I am not a fan of drama), and watched with watery eyes (by watery eyes I mean I sobbed like a baby) as Derek Jeter said goodbye to Yankee Stadium. In classic Jeter style, his exit was triumphant, poignant, and inspiring. 

Derek Jeter had no idea what the outcome of that game would be. I am sure there were several exit strategies that could have taken place as the game drew to a close. Manager Joe Girardi had his own plan, and it always involved Jeter staying in for the whole game. At 40 years old he is still as vital a member of the team in many ways as in his first season. (if you doubt that you must not have seen the 9th inning last night) If the Yankees had remained in the lead, he may have been met on the field by the other members of the Core Four, as in the beautiful exit of Mariano Rivera just last year when Jeter and Pettitte went to the mound.  They were there last night, his former teammates: Rivera, Pettitte, and his best friend Jorge Posada. So were many others who were close to him over the years. One plan was to have them exit into the tunnel to the clubhouse together, symbolizing Jeter's imminent retirement. 

But the lead did not last and so play continued in the last home game this season at Yankee Stadium. Jeter, clearly touched by the moment, managed to steel his emotions and do what he has done better than most for 20 seasons: play baseball. 

In his final game at The Stadium, he taught us all again to just keep going. Through his grand Farewell Tour, where at every stop he was showered with gifts, donations to his beloved Turn 2 Foundation, and the accolades of a career that only and always traveled the high road, he grew more and more aware of the day when he would say goodbye. But the focus was always on winning. He just kept going and never stopped to be anything but a man of integrity. 



So as I have had this week (or 13 days) where I have been on the mountaintop and somewhere near the valley, where I have had things go as planned and where I have been totally blindsided, where I have been both an observer and the observed, I will take a lesson from Derek Jeter: I will continue to just be myself. 

In his post-game interview Jeter said that the only thing he wanted to take with him from Yankee Stadium was the memory of the view from his position as shortstop. That when he went out there after the game, he said a prayer of gratitude and took a last look. He said he always prayed before every game as well. It struck me then that we never heard anything about him praying before. I'm not surprised to know that he relies on God- just look at how he has lived his life. He has tried to be no more than a good ball player and a person who remained above the fray. He has done just that. I knew that he had served as best man in Posada's wedding, Posada being a man of deep faith, as are of course, Rivera and Pettitte. I was pleased to know that he prayed and I can only hope that he shares a faith that will carry him through the next phase of his life on earth as well as carry him into the arms of our Savior one day.  As he remembers his view from the position where he out-played and out-lasted so many, he will do so from a leader's perspective, a captain's perspective. He will look back and know that he remained a person of character. Respect. 

None of us knows what will transpire between our beginning and our end. But it's how we conduct ourselves, how we act and react, how we treat each other - and ourselves-  that will determine how we look back on our lives and how others view us. We can all learn from Jeter's example in some way- work hard, stay focused, give back, and pray at the beginning and at the end. And always treat each other and yourself, with respect. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Whatever Happened to Telling the Truth?

Whatever happened to telling the truth?
Really. Why do more and more people think it's ok to lie? Ok, I am even going to go that extra step and say that, by lying I mean the following:




lie: to tell or say something that is not true

deceive: to say or do something that will lead someone to a conclusion that is not true



lie of omission: purposely leaving out one or more important details that would change the outcome of your opinion (which was expecting the truth)



(these are my own definitions based on what annoys and infuriates me and I can do that because it's my blog)


I know, I know. There have been lies for as long as there have been people. Good old Adam and Eve were guilty of leaving out some very important information when God was asking about the forbidden fruit. They didn't drive the point home too well, either, since Cain got a little defensive and thought he could dodge the question by getting sarcastic with...GOD!!  (Don't you love how God asks questions that He already knows the answers to?) Well, I love it when He does it to other people. Frankly it can be a little irritating when He does it to me. 





So admitting that I totally get that it has been happening since forever, I tend to lay the blame of the modern epidemic of the acceptance of lying at the feet of a certain president who said something didn't happen with a certain person and it did and he later admitted it and tried to re-define certain activities in order to weasel out of the TRUTH. And now he has some "global initiatives" and writes books and makes millions and all the while hasn't really owned up to the lies. THE LIES. Hear me. People who cheat, who lie, who manipulate, who deceive, who purposely omit are somehow held in esteem and granted positions of celebrity or power, and those of us who call them out are deemed - here we go--


intolerant.

unkind.

mean-spirited.


We need to understand, we are told, that we don't know the pressures these great people are under. We don't know what it's like to walk in their shoes. We aren't living their life so we mustn't judge. 


WHAT?? 


If you have ever been lied to, then you know. Right? YOU GET IT. You have been led to believe a thing only to find that everything was based upon a lie. So many emotions and feelings follow this; AND THAT'S OK! It's just fine to have righteous anger turned toward lies and deceit and all the other evil activity of someone who is caught up in sin. Because it is sin


and (oh, yeah.)  we are all guilty of it.




Not necessarily the same exact sin. No, we all don't have to be guilty of every sin all the time forever and for all the days in order to have sinned. But we do sin and so it is important to separate the sin from the sinner.


Ok, say we've done that. Now what?



Call it out. See it for what it is. Let it be known that it is unacceptable and that

IT ENDS HERE.



It is time to accept responsibility for our actions and it is time to stop being so understanding and sympathetic to the liars and the cheats and the deceivers.Yes, we must forgive. But we must also ADDRESS THE SIN.
Recently I had on a TV show that showed someone saying something about another person. (yes, reality; don't you dare judge--it was when I was sofabound) On the show, the person denied saying it. Mind you now, they were on camera. ON CAMERA. Do you know, they still demanded an apology from the victim. Said they were "wounded, hurt." Said they were misunderstood and under a great deal of stress.
OH, PLEASE.


If by a great deal of stress you mean that you are a pathological liar, then I'll buy it.


THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS. Exodus 20:16


A FALSE WITNESS WILL NOT GO UNPUNISHED, AND WHOEVER POURS OUT LIES WILL NOT GO FREE. Proverbs 19:5



It doesn't get much clearer that that. 
So yeah, I'm a little fired up. A little annoyed. Ok, a lot annoyed. After all, I have to be truthful...I must tell the truth. After all, I am my brother's keeper. 




Monday, August 18, 2014

I wondered how long it would take. Now I know. I am already annoyed with people and I have only been released to drive for 3 days.

Anytime you start your day three miles from the North Carolina/Virginia border, head all the way to the oceanfront, then all the way to western Chesapeake, then back to the border you are bound to encounter a little traffic. Mix in the fact that it is still tourist season and there you have it. Fun times. This area had traffic challenges already. A hot, humid day in Coastal Virginia means thunderstorms by afternoon. That means fender-benders at the very least. Which mean five-mile backups. Welcome to driving again, Frankenfoot. Sorry, buddy.

The first part of the day went so well-- I knew it would because it involved one of my dearest friends who thinks and acts and prays and sees things through a beautiful outlook on life and is always, always, a blessing to be around. So thankful I have this happy memory to draw from!

Even the second and third parts of the day were great. So many sweet people in my life-- I am so blessed. Drawing closer to another sister in the faith is always a comforting experience. I am happy to drive miles and miles to bond with daughters of the King.

But the getting there. Oh, friends, the getting there. When did I become the woman who has no patience for those who never learned their "right of way" laws? Who is this woman who sees the young mother dash across Pacific Ave with her daughter in a stroller and actually contemplates turning around and telling her how precious that life is that she just risked? Who am I now? I know- I am the same person who was always that way-- I just hadn't experienced that side of me since May!

Today was my first official trip to the grocery store. Granted it happened after a very full day-- a very good day-- but still it was my first trip to pick up a few things for dinner. My foot/leg/back all combined to create one giant ache. Swelling like never before. I'm done and just have this one last stop; I can make it. Yes, I am limping, but with the help of the cart I can disguise it as a glide. I've got this all under control. As long as it isn't too crowded.

It was crowded. Since some schools have already started and some will begin in just a few days, many were shopping for lunch box fillers and the rest were just off of work and strolling, zombie-like, in search of having the easiest thing magically jump into their cart with the following requirements: easy to fix, with limited cleanup, yet provide all the nutrition their family will require for the rest of their lives. I remember those days. I feel you, sisters. Be sure to pick up some more Nutella. You're welcome.

The lines were long, my friend. Long and slow. AND BY THE WAY THEY NEED TO DEDICATE ENTIRE LINES FOR THE EXTREME COUPON PEOPLE BECAUSE I CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH. JUST STOP IT.

Happiness and concern fought it out as I was finally at the check out. I was glad to be there but I realized that I was going to have to let go of the cart that had been holding me up for the past FOURTEEN minutes. But I was home free-- at last I was 'in the process of leaving." That's it, Miss Cashier Lady, ring those things up and yes, plastic will be fine. I know, the environment will turn on my grandchildren for my selfishness, but right now, it's fast and I don't care. I will own that burden and apologize for it later. Right now, keep bagging.

Except not. Because Miss Cashier Lady wants to carefully examine my bottle of fizzy water to see  if contains Aspertame. Honestly. The line is seven people deep and she wants to know if it has artificial sweetener so she can know whether to give it to her son. AND SHE IS LOOKING AT THE INGREDIENTS AND NOT RINGING ME UP! And this is ok with her. No one on this grocery bag-polluted planet has time for this right now or ever. Smiling and nodding I am just about to blow. And my foot is about to bust right out of the Easy Spirit mule I have it stuffed into.

Then she comes across the Benadryl I am buying, which must have had "Let's discuss your allergies" printed somewhere on the box, because now I know what she is and is not allergic to. Which leads her to wonder if the fizzy water contains food coloring because she's not sure but her son may be allergic to food coloring so she is very careful about that. (which all the time is implying that I don't give a hoot about my own health or the health of my family because I am buying a cart full of chemicals to go home and cook so they can wash it down with fake fizzy water.)

I couldn't bring myself to tell her that I was buying the Benadryl because I may very well be allergic to the internal stitches that are still trying to dissolve in my foot which is why it feels like about a million fire ants are crawling on it. Know why I didn't go off?? Because just a few days ago I had to go and write a post on Facebook about how we need to be good encouragers and spread the love of Jesus as much as possible. Well, my smiling and nodding were as much Jesus as I was able to spread right then and He knows it so typing it doesn't make any better or worse it just keeps it real for you people who read my musings. I did manage a very genuine smile and a "thank you and have a nice evening" that I know were delivered with as much compassion as possible, given the fact that I could not longer even feel my foot.

So you will all be pleased to know that tomorrow I intend to stay home all day. I will not attempt any venture to the store or the oceanfront or the mall or anything. I may be physically ready for it but emotionally I am not.

And in case there was any question, I'm back.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hallelujah: I am now mobile! I can get around on my own- for the most part- with no assistance from any kind of...contraption. Being able to carry my own bowl of oatmeal in my own hands to my own chair was such a joy- I missed the independence so badly. The comfort of being able to be a little more self-sufficient was like meeting an old friend after a long separation. I still can't drive, but I can go up and down stairs by myself. The ability to go into rooms that I hadn't entered in over two months was weird, I have to say.

Negotiating the stairs is a little tricky. In order to master them on two feet I, once again, consulted my PT friend. I was worried that she would get annoyed by my questions; I felt like I needed to somehow "work in" the need for her professional opinion and instruction. (in reality, nothing is further from the truth- she totally answered all questions with joy) 
The conversation, texted I think, went sort-of like this.
Me: How are you?
Her: Fine, you?
Me: Fine. Sold two more tickets for the Simulcast.
Her: Great!
Me: So I may be able to go up the stairs! (I am so subtle!)
Her: Awesome. Up with the good, down with the bad.
Me: Thanks!

Well, it wasn't exactly like that, but almost. "Up with the good, down with the bad." Because I am a klutz and a visual learner, I also relied on YouTube. And while I am in the mood to type, let me say this about YouTube PT instructions: Hey, why don't you use people who are actually INJURED on there?? How about putting a person on there whose foot is wrapped up like a football and has four incisions and a rod and they are on mind-altering drugs to dull the pain and cause blurred vision? How about that? Let's see that instead of the clear-headed semi-professional athlete assisted by the calm voice of authority in pink scrubs. The therapists all look like they just did another marathon last week and they are clearly full weight-bearing and not struggling with any kind of impairment. On a good day, I could pop up and down the steps on one foot. Even with the obvious healthy person giving the instructions, the mantra from both, it seems, is in agreement: begin the ascent of the stairs with the good foot, and the descent with the bad one. 

Sounds simple enough. I begin my trek upstairs with my Good Foot. You know, the non-surgically altered, beat up, swollen, tender, red and pathetic one. Since so much of the pain has subsided, I have to remind myself to do this. It's pretty easy to remember if I look down: it's the one with the post op shoe on it that is about a size and a half too big now that I no longer look like I have a cartoon foot. I have to be careful of it because it is such a big shoe (they wanted it to extend over the rod and I thank them so much for that).  So, gathering up my bravery, I whisper my mantra to myself: Up with the good. Up with the good.

Up with the good.
 
 
Reminds me of Scripture, you know? I think of Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. His brothers and sisters whom he loved so much were in conflict. They were hurting, angry, and in need of kind guidance. In Philippians 4:8, Paul writes, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." He may have just said "Up with the good," except Paul was a lot more eloquent. So as I climb my stairs one at a time, I let my good foot lead the way. And I offer my bad foot that same kind guidance. I know there are still things that I cannot do. But I am careful not to dwell on those things. I think of the good, the right, the "honorable and true." I make sure that my footing is sound and sure before I move forward. I don't want to place myself in a precarious position, for I can't afford to waiver or fall. A few days ago I forgot and almost took a step up with the "bad foot." It scared me! I wasn't sure what would happen and I sure didn't want to go against my doctor's orders.

Don't you want to be like that in your walk with Christ? So afraid to go against the Father's wishes and commands that you shudder in your step when you get off the path?


When I get to the top of the stairs I am so relieved. I did it. I followed the directions and I am able to continue on my way effectively. Had I not "done the right thing" I would be unable to function properly; I may suffer a setback and end up worse off than before. Up with the good.

Now to go downstairs. Why is going down something so much more difficult? If going up is like multiplication, going down is long division. (and now you know how much I dislike math) Standing at the top of the stairs and looking down is ominous. Gravity seems to want to pull me down faster than I want to come. Oh, sure, back when I was doing this by sliding on my bottom it was a piece of cake. (it's cake actually that gave me the extra padding that made me able to do it so well on my bottom!) But now, standing there with the Big Shoe and all, Mr. Gravity wants to mess with my head a little. He phoned his friends, Doubt and Confusion and they are here for the party. Then I remember: Down with the bad. Down with the bad.

Just as God's Word manifested itself to me going up the stairs, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I need to "put down the bad." Again Paul's writing speaks to me from the book of Colossians this time. Chapter 3, beginning with Verse 5 reads:  "So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.  Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world.
But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.  Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.  In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us."

Down with the bad.
 
I plant the foot that has been through so much firmly on the step below me. As I hold on to the rail, I bring the strong, sure foot alongside it. One step at a time. I make sure to pace myself and not to go too fast or to get ahead of myself. Or worse, to get ahead of God. I rely on Him to set my path and I would never want to stray from it, even though I sometimes do. But every time I ask Him to, He guides me back to the right direction and I can continue to try my best to do His will. Before I know it I am at the bottom of the stairs on solid, even ground. Praises go up!
 
I know that in time I will be able to walk up and down stairs normally. I will, Lord willing, continue to heal and to become stronger and more confident. But I hope I will remember "up with the good, down with the bad" as I continue to grow in Christ. I want to be reminded to put aside the things that do not honor my Savior and I want to ponder the things that bring Him glory. I want to be the woman He created me to be, and I want to hear that kind, gentle voice guiding me to "set my sights on the realities of heaven and to think about the things of heaven and not of the earth." I want to remember all of these things, even when I can finally wear matching shoes!
 
 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Extremely Random Thoughts



  • I do not fully understand Pinterest.
  • I am glad that, because of my foot surgery, I can no longer wear heels. Never liked wearing them anyway.
  • I don't waste time regretting anything. It is not productive. Just get busy.
  • Here in Virginia, they are Lightning bugs.
  • I do not like the new style of flat-billed baseball caps.
  • I am ready for a major change.
  • I am losing patience and gaining patience at the same time.
  • I have no more time to waste on mean people.
  • I fear having to choose between Nutella and ___________.
  • Just tell the truth.
  • I am totally addicted to Zillow.
  • I wish someone in my family had a British accent so I could just listen to them talk.
  • If I remember something that should have been on a list, I write it down so I can scratch it off.
  • I have never had a pedicure. Never will.
  • I still hold on to hope that I have not ridden a horse for the last time.
  • Not all old people are wise.
  • All my life I have tried to like eggnog. I have tried it for the last time. It had its chance.
  • I have grown tired of the internet.
  • Biggest pet peeve: being interrupted.
  • There are some things that I am so passionate about that I cannot even talk about it.
  • Now, on a bad day, I can say, "Well at least I don't have a rod in my foot."
  • I am a history nerd.
  • It's not just what you say, it's how you say it. (whole blog on this coming soon)
  • Puppies are the best.
  • Also horses.
  • The threat of having to be on the ground being handcuffed is enough of a deterrent to me. Have you actually looked in a gutter? Oh so gross.
  • Stop trying to please people and just please God.
  • Think--THINK-- before you speak.
  • Everyone has issues. You are not alone and they are not perfect.
  • I am a loyal friend.
  • I am so patriotic it can cause me physical pain.
  • I am a Virginian.
  • I am always speechless at the first glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
And with that vision in mind I will end for now. Whoever you are, wherever you are, may God bless you by meeting your every need and may He show you His love right now. He is waiting for you to draw near.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reflections after seven weeks on a sofa...




Part 1- Blessings
  • I have so much to be thankful for. My life, here and later. My constant companion, Jesus. My husband. My family. My friends. My foot's progress.
  • Air-conditioning. Oh my gracious- I cannot imagine this without it. In the early days/weeks, my body temp would go from cold to hot in a second. Freeze, burn up. Repeat. Thank you Lord for a cool home. And limited power outages. Summertime in Coastal Virginia. You never know.
  • Friends who cook. No kidding, the first weeks when I couldn't really be thinking about how to organize food for three men, my friends showed up. With MEALS. Not just easy stuff- I'm talking The Real Deal. New definition of Comfort Food.
  • Modern. Day. Medicine. Nerve blocks, pain medication, alternatives to medications that do not work, Benadryl (for when you become allergic to the fancy paper gown they make you wear for the surgery). Anesthesia. Oxygen. Antibiotic that you are NOT allergic to. All of it. Every bit. Good stuff, the stuff we have these days.
  • Netflix. Pain meds tend to blur your vision. Big TVs compensate for that and offer you endless British dramas and series. Steady on.


Part 2- Things to have on hand if you ever have foot surgery
  • The walker bag ( if you use a walker) This invention was already sweet because it was a gift from a dear friend, and sweeter because it was made by her aunt who is now with the Lord, but y'all I cannot possibly say all the words needed to tell you how much easier this made my life! Things in there right now: tissues, lip gloss, jewelry (b/c I want it on to make me feel normal but then it gets on my nerves), hair brush, crackers, hand sanitizer. More stuff that I am too embarrassed to tell you about. I stuff my phone into its pocket when I go from room to room just in case I fall and have to call for help. I am nothing if not realistic. In the morning it holds magazines or books; by lunchtime it becomes a picnic basket. I slide my cup into it when I go to the kitchen. While there I load it with the yogurt or the cookies or the apple. Yes, I slid cookies in there. Don't judge until you've hobbled a mile on my walker. See what I did there? 
 But honestly this thing is a must-have item.

  • The shower chair. Didn't know if/when I would need it but Divine Intervention led me to it at Bed Bath and Beyond. It was the best $35 investment I made in a long time. I use it to get in and out of the house because crutches=instant death. I use it at the top of the stairs to initiate descent and landing. Oh, yeah, and I use it for what it is actually intended for. I'm thinking of keeping it around because it's just been so helpful. I am not graceful; I cannot be too prepared.
  • The Bible. Print, apps, online. Have them all. You will reach for them often. Amen.
  • Soft pillows. Lots of them.
  • Freshening wipes. Preferably cold.
  • Hand sanitizer. Not only for your hands but for the walker grips. Ew.
  • A good cross-body bag. I am using one from Blue Avocado. It's made from recycled t-shirts by previously impoverished and exploited women. I may be down, but I can still do my part. Here's the link: http://www.blueavocado.org/
  • And if your little girl ever shows an interest in gymnastics or dance-- feed that! Sign her up! And while you are sitting and waiting for her to finish yet another practice/performance/recital, know that one day if she has foot surgery she will whisper thanks while washing her hands, brushing her teeth, and getting dressed. The skill of balancing on one leg for an inordinate length of time will become invaluable. Friends, flamingoes have nothing on me at this point.

I got this.
Part 3- Lessons Learned
  • Rely on God. He is your strength. Philippians 4:13 has never been more true in my life. He is my "Walker." I lean on Him when I rise and when I rest. He is my Firm Foundation. He is my Rock. He is my source of peace and discernment. Draw near, friend.
  • Do not underestimate yourself. Refer to above. Literally and figuratively.
  • You will become stronger. Not just spiritually, I mean. Being non-weight bearing means that something is going to be bearing the weight, just not that foot. So, it's a choice between your good foot and your arms. Basically, you need to be prepared to lift yourself every time you take a step. Yeah. Good for the carpal tunnel issue. Ha! Not really.
  • This changed me. This hiatus, I mean. People had said to me "Well, maybe this will help you slow down a little." Are you kidding me?? I didn't SLOW DOWN, I flat-out STOPPED. In my Sketchers at 5:30 AM and on the sofa by 1:30 PM. For the next month and a half. That does weird things to you, when you are used to going ANYWHERE YOU WANT ALL THE TIME. Now I understand how the monks feel when they are silent. No, I'm not alone all the time or silent all the time, but there is an element of solitude to life when you are limited. I thought I would become stir-crazy. I thought I would be anxious and edgy and impatient. And there are times when I have felt that way. But there is a greater sense of...calm. A peace. I see all the things happening around me and I...observe. The recent series of Big Storms that we have had greatly affected me. Dark skies, gusty winds, hail and sharp lightning are reasons for caution. Now greet them in a room alone with your walker as your only means of immediate escape. Tends to make a person become more introspective.
        James tells us to be "slow to speak" and I know I will. But I will also be
       less reluctant. I am more concerned with things like truth. Kindness. Joy.
Part 4- Things to Do
  • Follow instructions. Not only from your doctor, but from those you love and who love you.
  • Take your pain medication. Don't worry about becoming addicted. You won't need it that long and it will help you rest and not drive everyone around you insane.
  • Ask for help. I am so bad at this. At least I was. Not now.
  • Be honest. If it hurts, say so. If you want to have quiet, ask for it. No one minds. If they do, they are able to get up and go to another place; you can't, therefore you win for now.
  • Gather all the comfy clothes and prepare to wear them for a long time. It's not a fashion show--it's time to be relaxed.
  • Blog.
  • Pray. Pray for your own healing. Pray for those who are caring for you. Just spend time with the Father because you need to and He wants it. Take prayer requests; nothing helps you heal more than focusing on the needs of others.
Part 5- Things Not to Do
  • Don't use lotion on your hands before you need to use the walker.  
  • Don't use the walker on a wet floor.
Some of these things I know first-hand; others I just think are logical conclusions. You can decide which is which.

  • Don't try to rush things.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously. You will be reduced to needing help with almost everything. Hear me again, ALMOST EVERYTHING. Remember, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18 (KJV) The last thing you need is destruction or a fall.
So as my week comes to a close and I anticipate my next doctor's appointment, I am hopeful that I will get the green light on Partial Weight Bearing. That term concerns me a bit, since I am not really a "partial" kind of person.
As one friend put it when I voiced my concerns to her: "Ya don't say."
I mean, tell me to sit and I'll sit. Tell me to get up and I'm up. But partial?? 
YouTube isn't a whole lot of help either. Seems everyone understands the application of this but me. I know, I just KNOW, that I am going to put all the weight on this thing. But if I do I'll remember that there is One Who wants, even desires all of my burdens. All of the things that weigh me down.
Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When I lean on Jesus, He always holds me up.


Reunion

Last week I did something I have wanted to do for years: I reunited with some of my dearest high school friends. Women I have known for o...