Are you a Lily Pad or a Frog?

IMG_0504Going through a personal trial reveals certain things.

Certainly, at the very least, it will reveal your own flaws, foibles, fears, and frustrations.  Your soft spots (and rust spots!) will be revealed, and there will be people in your life who will either support you (the lily pads), or jump away and make noise because they can’t handle what you are going through (the frogs).

One of the most painful things that I have come to realize, is that your own journey will reveal those who can handle your situation, and those who can’t “hang.”

So, you have decisions to make: will you be angry and lash out at those who are frogs, or will you instead take a deep breath and forgive, and let them continue to be self-centered and selfish people who took the easy route, instead of walking through pain with you?

I say decision(s) because you have to continue to breathe, forgive, and move on with your day when people disappoint you; when their selfishness and immaturity exempt them from being a support to you.  Because, you see, I love both: I love both lily pads AND frogs.  I’m not going to dump a person because they don’t want to hear about my fears for my children, my anxiety about medical tests or treatment, or how my faith in people has been shaken – and my faith in God strengthened! – by my experience.

Certain – unexpected – people have reached out to me with phone calls, cards or conversations, just to check in and see how I am doing, or if I need anything.  Those lily pads are a comfort, because they are a Soft Place to Land.  They are being Christ’s hands and feet to me in a time of personal discomfort and future uncertainty.  I am incredibly grateful for the time, energy, and vulnerability that lily pads show, because it takes a certain amount of effort and availability to extend yourself in an uncomfortable situation.  I pray for those people to receive the same support and love from me, and others, if they ever go through a big trial, challenge, or hiccup in their life journey.  May they be blessed, as they have blessed me!

And despite their warts, their jumpiness, their avoidance, or their denial, I love my frogs too.  Because I understand that not everyone can help me to carry my fear, my burden, my anxiety, and my future uncertainty.  I consider it a blessing that Jesus continues to show me examples of frogs in the Bible: Jonah, David, doubting Thomas, and the others.  Even Peter denied Christ three times, and he was (besides Mary) probably the closest person to Jesus!  So I love despite.

Maybe, sometime when I emotionally evolve a little more, I will learn to love because of, not despite, their frogginess.

May your day be blessed, no matter how choppy your water is!

 

Roots

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       I feel that I don’t know enough about my family background. There are huge gaps in relational information, and that bothers me. If I ask my aunt, I’m sure she’d be happy to fill in the gaps with names, dates, etc. But that’s not the kind of background I mean: I am missing the conversations about family dynamics, secrets, emotional information, memories, family holidays, and personalities. I am a relational, experiential learner and so have a deep yearning to know my ancestors through the stories that my parents are reluctant to share with me.

     I am not really sure why that is, but I feel that I need to respect their desire to have good boundaries, to have the right not to share old or painful memories if that is what they so choose. So, so – I am at a loss. Do I ask my extended family (second cousins, aunts and uncles who have first-hand experiences and memories to offer), or do I leave it alone? What do I have to gain through by knowing? What do I have to lose?

     There is a Southern saying that is something like, “leave themselves to themselves.” It means leave the past in the past. Let the ghosts take care of their own.

     But I also believe in the juxtaposition of nature vs. nurture. When I see mannerisms in my children, is that inborn behavior? Or taught? Or a mixture of the two? Does it even matter? Should every mannerism or beneficial (or detrimental) attribute of myself, my husband, my children, be seen as a unique commentary of life experience and so be dealt with on a case-by-case basis?

     I really doubt that our family history is as scandalous (or as interesting) as that of the characters in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” But if I never ask, how will I know? And if I never ask, will this itch to know my ancestors’ histories, backgrounds and stories just go away? And if it is that interesting – or that scandalous – do I really WANT to know?

     Not knowing – and not pushing for the information – makes it feel as if our family just – BEGAN – the minute my parents got married. And with all four grandparents gone, maybe the secondhand stories of second cousins and aunts and uncles are better than nothing. My history has a centuries-long blank space where the stories should be. I’m pretty sure I’m not really okay with that. But not sure what I should do about it.

     What do YOU think?

Let Your Flag Fly High! (or, Much Ado About Everything)

flags NYC  Recently, a family friend, a Christian, came out. As a fellow Christian, I could have seen this as a complicated sequences of events that were mine to judge or to make commentary on; to closely examine and then to discard.  Much ado is made nowadays about the state of a person’s sexual identity, and as Christians, we are told by Pat Robertson that gay people are “terrorists” (well, if I watched Pat Robertson…).

If I allowed Pat Robertson to speak for me, I would look like the craziest person in the world.

I allow scripture to speak for me instead: 1 Corinthians 12:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

What is MY truth?

What is written on MY flag, what am I putting out into the world as my message?

John 3:16  “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Not: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, but only for straight people.”

Not: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, but only for people who could hide themselves and their sin adequately.”

Not: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son for those who don’t make anyone uncomfortable, for those who are the same as you.”

Romans 3: 23-24 says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

I am a sinner.

YOU are a sinner.

WE are all sinners!  And that is why we need to lift each other up, closer to grace, closer to the light of God, closer to our goal of heaven.

If I compare my sin to yours, and say, “Yes, I may be a liar, but YOU, you are a shoplifter!”, I am missing the point entirely.

If I compare my sin to yours, and say, “I may be a gossip and a divisive person, but YOU, you are a homosexual!”, I am missing the point entirely.

Because NOT A ONE OF US DESERVES THE GIFT OF HEAVEN AT THE END OF THIS LIFE.

There is no way to get to it but through the help of Jesus, and through His love and compassion for us, through the Cross and Resurrection.

There is no way to see heaven but to fall helpless at his feet and admit, “I am a sinner.  I do not deserve Heaven.  I do not deserve your Love.  Help me, Jesus, to love you and everyone here, and to need you more!”

This is how I must operate, out of love, compassion, and an admission that I am a sinner, too! :  John 13:34-35  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

If the flag of my heart were to fly high, for all to see, what would be on it?  The cross, a heart, a smile, a hug?  As a Christian, what is my burden, what do I place at the feet of Jesus?

If we wrap our arms around one another, it is ever so much easier to get to heaven.

When we lie to ourselves about our own sin and its consequences, we shorten and corrupt the grace that has already been offered us by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

When we ignore the log in our own eye, and point out the splinter in someone else’s eye, we fly the flag of hypocrisy under the name of Christianity, and we shorten and corrupt the grace that could flow through us, to all who are around us.

Love conquers all:

1 John 4:8:  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.…”

What is on YOUR flag? What are you projecting to the world?

Whom have you “decided” to love?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a Small Bite from the Big Apple

IMG_0697I just spent three full days in New York City, visiting my sister who lives in Manhattan and wandering around with her and my friend Lisa, who is a photographer. Something Lisa once told me was that you have to take hundreds of photos and then winnow them down, dumping all the ones that are junk and editing the ones that look great in order to make them better. It is a completely different approach from what I am used to personally, which is taking very few, perfectly centered, classic photos. So after getting used to my new iPhone, and junking my old digital camera, I set out on this trip to take a million photos and then pick through them to find ones that catch the eye.

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This is a banner in the main building at Ellis Island.  The gentleman in the middle photo reminded me of Charles Manson.  I also have noticed how many men have recently  chosen large or long beards as facial accents.

IMG_0831The skylight in the main building at Ellis Island.  The wispy clouds caught my eye, as did the reflection in the windows below.

The shadow of this viewfinder looked lonely.

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Angie and Lisa indulged me by ticking off many of my NYC “bucket list” items: Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial Museum, Chinatown, Rockefeller Center. We even perused at Tiffany’s.  I’m pretty sure we covered about 120 city blocks.  That’s a lot of walking. IMG_0888But the great company made all the work, well worth it.  IMG_0899IMG_0855IMG_1046

Valerie

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Yesterday was pretty funky.  I got almost everything done that I had planned, arranged for a neighbor to pick up the girls at the bus stop, and was at my son’s cross country meet, fully intending to attend the senior rec party afterwards.  A storm was rolling in, and I suddenly got a wicked bad, tumory headache that came on so fast that my eyes were watering.  I had to leave as soon as he passed me, near the very end of the course.  I felt like I was in a Stephen King short story – you know, one of those ones that starts out so optimistically and then becomes ominous.  I went home, picked up the girls, curled up on our old armchair and just cried for awhile.

Yes, I am grateful.  I am grateful that I don’t have a cancerous tumor.  I am grateful that my husband and all four of my kids are very healthy.  I am so, so grateful that as hard as parenting multiple children can be, and as hard as marriage can be sometimes, that I still have them all.

But I am still pretty ticked off that I have plans that can get ruined last minute by something that is so completely out of my control at this point.

I am tired of waiting for the “next” MRI.  I am tired of grieving my (previously) healthy life.  I am tired of looking positive on days when my head feels like it could roll off of my shoulders.  I am frightened of scheduling radiation if my MRI at the beginning of December comes back with the same accelerated, unexpected tumor growth.  I am sick of seeing doctors.  I am annoyed that I can’t just have a saintly, “ah well” approach to my suffering.  I am upset that I can’t really multi-task anymore, and lose the ends of sentences while I am talking to my kids.  I am embarrassed when I mix up the names of objects – or for goodness’ sake, the names of my kids! – when I am looking at the thing that I am asking for or describing.  I am pretty pissed off that this Space Invader is in the very part of my brain that controls language comprehension.  Of course!  of course it is.

I am not normally an anxious person, but I have claustrophobic feelings about this tumor.  I have named her Valerie.  She is intrusive, obnoxious, nebby and often ruins my good times and my plans.  She makes me impatient (when I mix up words), and snippy (when I go to a room to do something, someone talks to me or a song comes on and distracts me, and BOOM!  I’ve lost what I was going to do).  She makes me frustrated (when I am writing and I mix up words – like just now, when I wrote “miss” instead of “mix”, when I thought “mix” the whole time).

I try not to let this situation control my life, ruin my good time, distract me from my real obligations, tasks, responsibilities, but it has become very difficult to separate my tumor moments from my Mommy moments.  My two youngest children haven’t been told (and we won’t tell them until I have to schedule radiation, so that they can be ignorant of everything until then and not be upset or think that I am going to die because of this, some kids always leap to the worse case scenario), and so I plug on, only talking about Valerie once a week to my husband, while in private.  I don’t identify myself as a tumor “victim,” but with how my writing and cognitive abilities have become moderately impaired, I can’t just ignore this.

This. is. happening.

So, I steal little opportunities to squeeze all the worry and poison from me before the kids get home from school, so that I can concentrate on Them and not Valerie.

I pray.  I meditate.  I write.  I listen to music that reminds me of positivity, like Matisyahu and Dave Matthews and Feist and Bjork and She & Him and Matt & Kim.  I blast music while I’m in the shower and sing at the top of my voice.  When I feel restless, I go out on the back porch or go walking.

I have learned how to say “no” to things that I can’t handle, and to say “yes” to new experiences.

I have learned to let go of unrealistic expectations for myself.

I enjoy the things and moments that might get clouded once I do radiation treatments, and the recovery afterwards.

I thank the Lord that I have health insurance, a patient husband, and kids that are willing to help out around the house when I feel overwhelmed.

I try to be grateful.

 

Revamping your food list means revamping your body!

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In the last fifteen years, I became more and more aware of the current scientific and nutritional information as it applies to health and wellness.  I’m not sure what year the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen list was originally released, but it is one of the guidelines that I have used for the last five years.  You may ask, why did I wait ten years to apply the guidelines to my life, if I found them so compelling?

I had myself convinced that healthy eating was much more expensive than a family of six could handle.  We have been a one-salary household (besides occasional babysitting gigs) since I left my job in residential mental health services in early 2003; I am incredibly money-conscious and am in charge of our household budget.

Okay, I am cheap.  But all for a good cause.  I think?

When you factor in the added healthcare cost of higher blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and other issues associated with eating “on the cheap” (which could mean eating healthy foods, but not in the right amounts; eating too much boxed or drive-through foods; not being organized and so buying impulse items at the store; or not having a balanced diet), you are actually not saving any money.

It’s best to think longer-term: make sure you KNOW what a serving size is, plan your shopping to fit prepared menus, and resolve to eliminate one unhealthy food from your shopping list every month.  You can start from the list above, which notates which foods are healthy to eat from other countries or that travel long distances (keep in mind, that only Canada and specific E.U. countries have anything equivalent to an FDA or USDA-type guidelines), and which are best avoided unless you know that they are local, or are labeled non-GMO or organic.  Add to that some additional rules, if you’d like: avoid fake sugars, anything that has as its first or second ingredient high-fructose corn syrup, and find lists of companies online that employ GMO corn or soy in their products.  The first few times you will have to spend more time, especially in the dairy and produce aisles, but the effort will be well worth it.

It’s a lot to take in and think about, but your body, your health and – eventually! – your wallet will thank you.  Mine did: I only spend about $30 more per month for our whole family, which is an average of $5 per person, per month.  I’ve lost 23 pounds, my blood pressure and cholesterol have both gone down, and I have avoided medications for both conditions. Totally worth it!  Happy eating!