Shining through…

Archive for December, 2010

Thankful…

I learned a couple of things about myself yesterday, namely that 1) I would not make a good medical professional and 2)  that when faced with a situation over which I have no control, my initial reaction is to start praying.  I had suspicions about the first one; the second one, I’m glad to find out.

M had been under the weather for a few days; I suspected a cold.  Yesterday, his cough had gotten bad, so we went to the store to pick up some medicine.  He was fine, eating normally, interacting with me, maybe a little tired.  We were standing in the checkout line when he leaned against me and said, “I don’t know what’s going on with me.”  I asked him what he meant, and he seemed to be having a hard time putting a sentence together.  His face was grey, and he was very warm all of a sudden.  I asked him if he felt sick to his stomach and he said yes, he thought he was going to throw up.  Now, any of you who know me know that that is the one thing in this world that I really don’t handle well.  But what was I going to do?  We set our stuff down and walked to the bathroom.  He seemed really out of it, and as I got him in front of the toilet and got his jacket off, he just crumpled to the floor.  His eyes were open, and he was breathing, but I had no idea what was going on.  I heard myself praying, and in the space of about one second, I thought,  Should I call 911 and have them come to the Walmart bathroom?  Should I call J?  I need J.  What do I do??? I said, rather idiotically, “M, you can’t just lie on the floor,” and I picked him up.  He tried to sit up but was unable to and said, “I’ll just lean against the toilet.”  I patently refused to consider the grossness of that, and as a woman walked in the bathroom, I barked at her, “Go get me some help!  My son just collapsed and I don’t know what to do.”  She ran out, and I called J and told him I needed him there RIGHT NOW.  He reacted the way he normally reacts to crisis, by getting irritated with me.  I decided to deal with that later.

An employee came in and began speaking to M.  I asked her if she had medical training, and she said her mother was a nurse and she had had much experience with children.  I figured that would have to do, and to be honest, I was glad to have someone else in control.  She checked him very proficiently for signs of concussion (of which there were none, thank God), and she asked him about his head and his stomach and had him walk a few steps.  He was coherent but cold and clammy and said he was thirsty.  We found a bench near Customer Service, and she brought him some water and brought me the items I had abandoned.

When J got there, I filled him in on what had happened, and we decided to take M to Urgent Care.  The nurse-practitioner said yes, he had a viral cold, but that she could find no reason for his “vagal response.”  And that was that.  We went home.

[I did some research on vagal response and learned that it is the main cause of fainting, or “syncope.”  It can be triggered by many different things, including locking your knees, the sight of blood…and intense coughing.  And all the symptoms M was experiencing – the nausea, feeling hot, not being able to form a sentence – are premonitory symptoms of vagal response.  It happens to people who are standing or sitting, but once they fall down (which they will), they immediately regain consciousness, if they lost it at all, because efficient bloodflow is restored to the brain.  M could have been a textbook case.]

M was fine the rest of the evening, if a little tired.  He was a bit clingy for awhile, but then he began hugging me and saying, “I just want to love on you, Mama,” and patting me on the shoulder.  I think he could see that I was emotionally blasted.  I needed to sort things out, and I could feel the aftereffects of the adrenaline rush that had surged through me, so I decided to go for a drive.  But first I dealt with J’s reaction.  He’s used to me being able to handle all sorts of stuff, and I told him I realized that it was probably weird and unsettling for him when I am less than my normally-competent self.  But when I tell him I need him, it’s because I need him.  I need him to think clearly where I cannot, to be strong when I am floundering.  There’s something about the sight of your child fluttering to the ground like a piece of paper caught on a breeze that is beyond nerve-wracking, and I knew I wasn’t thinking clearly.  I think he got it.

So I went for a drive to clear my head – I had so many thoughts and emotions flying around.  I kept seeing M’s grey little face, and each time, it triggered a feeling of absolute helplessness.  (Even as I write this, the same thing is happening.)  I remembered that I stood in that bathroom praying over my son because there was nothing else I knew to do.  There in the car, I had this conversation with God:

Me:  God, I felt so helpless.  Do you even know how horrible I felt, that I couldn’t help my child?

God:  Yes, I do.

Me:  Yeah, but you had an advantage – You knew how it was all going to turn out with Your son.  I had no way of knowing with mine.

God:  But you know Me.  And the first thing you did was to begin talking to Me.  You did help your son.

(Big exhale)  All I can say is thank God for that affirmation.  Thank God that when it comes down to the wire, He’s the One I turn to.  (You just don’t know these things about yourself until they’re put to the test.)  Thank God for the peace that passes all understanding – sometimes it’s literally the only thing that salves a hurt.  And thank God for a much-improved son who was bouncing off the walls today because I made him stay in bed.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day, and even though yes, the birthdate is probably inaccurate and yes, some traditions have pagan roots, it’s still the day the followers of Christ set aside to acknowledge His birth.  So thank God for His Son, whom we celebrate.  Celebrate freely, friends,  this Child who gave us access to the Father through one Spirit.  And take the time to thank Him for your own children, too.

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Doodlebug and Tweety Bird: A Love Story

In 2003, a young woman with many scars moved to Austin, TX.  She did this at the behest of God, whom she always obeyed…when she was listening.  She met a man she never intended to meet, and she fell in love, which was definitely not in her plans.  But God told her she was going to marry this man, and she was fine with it.  There were a few issues to resolve, not the least of which was that the man didn’t have a relationship with the Lord,  but the young woman was not concerned.  She had heard clearly and knew it would all work out.

One Saturday evening, the man asked the young woman if he could meet her at church the next morning.  Of course, she said yes.  He showed up, and an amazing thing happened.  The man had an encounter with God that changed his life.  The young woman thought, Great!  Now we can move forward with this relationship…and they began making wedding plans.  But she let down her guard a little too far.

A few months later, when they found out they were pregnant, the young woman had to sort through many turbulent emotions.  There was the knowledge that she had acted out of the loneliness and hurt of the past, contrary to what she knew was right.  There was concern – but only for a second – that the man would leave and she’d be on her own yet again (he did not).  But most of all, there was fear, fear that she would be a horrible mother to this new life.  She didn’t know how to let a kid be a kid – because she was never allowed to be one.  She had a hard time being demonstrative with affection, and she was definitely lacking in the area of patience.

After a very difficult pregnancy, the birth day came, a month early.  The young woman drove herself to the birthing center, sank down in the water, and accompanied by the man and a midwife, brought forth a son.  On his second day of life, she noticed that something wasn’t right – he was sleeping far too much and was turning a bright shade of orange.  He was hospitalized, and the doctor told her it was good that she “just knew” something was wrong.  What was wrong was an ABO incompatibility between baby and mother, and it could have killed him.  It was during the eight days he spent in the hospital that the young woman began to recognize the inherent bond between mother and child and was comforted that it wasn’t something she would have to try to manufacture.

The baby came home, and they settled into getting to know each other.  He had severe reflux and required medication twice a day for the first fifteen months of his life, but he was a happy baby otherwise, and easygoing.  The young woman loved him with a love unlike any she had ever experienced, and he loved her unreservedly.  The man prayed every night over them that the baby would always be a “mama’s boy” in the best sense of the word.

As the boy grew, the young woman refused to speak “baby talk” to him.  She didn’t want to insult his intelligence, which was formidable, so she made a point of speaking without condescension.  At the same time, she felt like one of the things that had been missing in her own childhood years was respect toward her as a child; it was replaced with it being taken for granted that because she was intelligent and articulate, she could and should function in adult roles, and she did not want to expect too much from him too soon.  So she made games out of learning opportunities.  They had great fun wheeling through the grocery store and saying the names of fruits and vegetables in both English and Spanish.  They read tons of books, and they giggled together whenever “Kissy Monster” came out to kiss him all over his cheeks and belly and toes.  The man smilingly told the young woman that watching her with his son was a blessing to him.

The young woman gave her son many nicknames, including Little Man, Papadop, and Little Dude.  Eventually, Little Dude morphed into Doodlebug, and the name stuck.  One day, at about age three, the boy asked why she called him that.  She explained that people gave special nicknames to those they really loved.  He pondered this for a moment and then said that he would always be her doodlebug.  And, he said, she would always be his only mama.  He threw his arms around her, which he did often, and she found it easy to reciprocate.

Fast forward three years.  The boy was now six and in school.  He and his mother had shared many moments together – as he “helped” her in the kitchen, as they read to each other, as they shot imaginary bad guys in the park, as they prayed together at night.  The man was always there and always welcome to be a part of it all, but the young woman and her son had a special relationship that was all their own.  The boy believed she could do everything, could do no wrong, and the young woman’s heart ached thinking about the day that this would no longer be the case.  But he continued to tell her that she was his “cool ninja mama,” that they were “sillier than anyone” together, and that he would always love her.  One day, when she was tickling him (at his request), he called her Tweety Bird and laughed raucously.  From that day on, that was his name for her.

The young woman was given to introspection, and she realized that this relationship with her son, in its joy and in its trying moments, had shown her much about the way God loves His children.  She was so very grateful for this small teacher who came into her life on Thankgsiving Day, 2004.  This wiggly, giggly, affectionate, intelligent boy was teaching her, even now, what it meant to be childlike with her Father, and one day, when he was grown and had his own children, she would tell him exactly how much he had taught her.

To be continued for years and years and years…

Unclaimed Baggage Leaves You Naked (and This is a Good Thing!)

Every airport in the world has an unclaimed baggage area (“left luggage counter,” if you happen to be at Heathrow), where people’s misplaced, misrouted, or abandoned bags languish for upwards of 90 days.  After this, they are either donated to charity or they end up in Scottsboro, AL at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, which is a thrift store whose wares are comprised solely of whatever was in the lost bags.  If yours was one of the 7.34 bags lost out of every 1000 checked, this information probably doesn’t thrill your cold and potentially naked self.  Quick!  Borrow a caftan from Aunt Beryl and get thee to a mall!

But!  What if I shift gears here for a second and go all spiritual on you?

*

Imagine for a moment that you are at the airport, about to check in for your flight.  And you have seventeen bags, not counting your carry-on.  Somehow, by yourself, you have to get all those bags out of your car and up to the counter.  It’s a major inconvenience, but you are pretty certain you can do it.  After all, you carry the bags with you wherever you go, so you’ve about got it down to a science.  You spy a couple of those “Smarty Carty” things and think, Aha! THAT will help me cope with all this luggage! As you heft all your bags onto the carts, you notice how tough and strong your muscles have gotten, and you smile.  “Look how much I can do all by myself!” you say.  “I don’t need anyone’s help, and I manage just fine!”  You get inside the door, and the line to the check-in counter is loooooooooong.  As long as you’re standing in one place, it’s okay, but every few minutes, when you inch forward, your bags slide and shift, knocking into the people around you.  Finally, you make it up to the counter, and the attendant stares at your luggage with a surly expression.  So much for flying the friendly skies, you think, and begin piling your bags on the counter.  “Hold on a minute,” the attendant snaps.  “You need to label each one of these bags, clearly showing ownership of them.”  Fifteen minutes later, as the crowd behind you threatens mutiny, you hand her the pen and set your bags on the scale.  It’s been awhile since you flew, and you are dismayed by the cost for checking all these bags – it’s a high price.

*

How many of us carry our baggage around wherever we go?  How many of us are worn out from the effort of dragging it with us, frustrated from trying to keep it from tumbling off the cart every few minutes, and broke from its exorbitant cost?

What if we chose to UNclaim our baggage?  What if we LEFT it behind?  All these things that we’ve been calling our own for all these years – if we just set them down and boarded the plane unencumbered by “stuff,” I think the skies might actually be pretty friendly.  There’s a really helpful guy manning the Left Luggage Counter, too – he winks and turns a blind eye when you drop stuff off.  Then he surreptitiously disposes of it, and no one is the wiser.

You were made to soar, not to be burdened by untruths.  Take some time today and UNclaim your baggage.  Perhaps you need to unclaim the “I’m not good enough” bag, or the “God will do it for others, but not for me” bag.  Maybe you don’t even know how some of those bags got on your cart, nor what’s in them.  Take a peek – it’s good to be intentional about getting rid of stuff.  If you need help, ask the Left Luggage Counter Guy.  Trust me, he loves his job.

(Oh, and about the naked part?  In this case, it’s a great thing.  You can be naked and unashamed because in getting rid of all the baggage of untruths, you have stripped down to who you were made to be.  Besides, you have the best personal stylist around – he has clothed [you] with [tailor-made] garments of salvation and arrayed [you] in a [customized] robe of righteousness (see Isaiah 61:10).  That beats ready-to-wear ALL to pieces!)

Dilemma, Thy Name is Steve

Okay, y’all.  I need feedback for sure on this one…

I have a neighbor who shall be known as “Steve” for the purposes of this blog.  He’s opinionated and loudmouthed but basically harmless, and even though he has a Confederate flag hanging by his garage door, he has never seemed to have a problem with my husband, who is of the African-American persuasion (well, half).  He’s actually quite friendly to the hubby; his issue seems to be with me.  And frankly, I am not sure what to do about it…

About two months ago, Steve, his girlfriend, “Glenda,” and a friend of theirs were sitting on the driveway, blasting classic rock and drinking beer.  This is pretty much a daily occurrence when the weather is warm, so we always say hello when we get home, and we had gotten in the habit of walking over and chatting for a few minutes.  On this particular day, the hubby was on call for work and had to go inside to answer a call.  My son elected to go with him, so that left me with Steve, Glenda, and the friend.  Steve was fairly into his cups, or more accurately, his cans, and he was slightly belligerent.  Now, he had been known to make disparaging remarks in the guise of jokes about me to my husband, and I had shrugged them off and joked back, remembering that he doesn’t live his life from the same place we do.  But on this day, he said something that changed the game.

Glenda’s friend, who had just met me, was listening to Steve and me banter back and forth.  She looked at Glenda and said, “I like this girl.  She doesn’t take his crap!”  Glenda said something like, “Yeah, she gives it right back to him,” and Steve interrupted and said, “No, she’s just a (b word).”  Silence.  Then the friend said, “Are you gonna let him talk about you like that?”  To be honest, I was a little taken aback.  I am NOT one of those women who find that term to be even remotely complimentary.  All I could say was, “Well, actually, I’m really not, Steve.”  Inside, I was thinking, “You just aren’t used to strong women who don’t put up with your chauvinism ,” but I didn’t want to argue.  And, to clarify, even in joking around with Steve before, I had never been insulting nor let him see that I thought he was a little boorish.  I didn’t want to start that now.  I stayed for a few more minutes and then took my leave.

Like I said, that was two months ago, and I haven’t gone over to chat since then.  It’s even been difficult to wave at Glenda.  It’s not a matter of unforgiveness (I don’t think); I feel like it’s more a question of “do I have to take that in the name of loving my neighbor?”  Which I asked God.  It went something like this:

Me:  God, when you said all that stuff about loving your neighbor, did you mean Steve, too?

God:  Uh, yeah.

Me:  Okay, how do I do that?

God: ……

Me:  There are some issues here.  Number one, Glenda should realize what a jerk her live-in boyfriend was to me.  If the hubby had said something like that to her, you can bet I would have apologized to her!  But she hasn’t said a word to me about ANYTHING since that day. 

God:  But she didn’t see it as an issue because in her life, it’s normal…she thinks you’re overreacting.

Me:  Number two, what Steve said was very, very insulting and inappropriate. 

God:  Steve is not familiar with a culture of honor because he doesn’t know Me.

Me: I know he doesn’t know you, and I can and do choose to forgive him for being a lout.  But I don’t want to be around behavior like that, especially directed at me.  How is sitting there taking insults showing Your love?

God:  ……

So there we are.  I don’t have the slightest idea what to do, and I can’t seem to hear God about it.  Going over there and saying, “Hey, two months ago, you insulted me bigtime and I’ve felt awkward around you ever since” seems pointless, as does, “Steve, I forgive you for saying such a horrible thing about me.”  Like he would care or probably even remember saying it.  But not talking to him and wanting to avoid him is certainly not living out the life I profess to believe in.  I wouldn’t hesitate to tell a friend if I found a comment offensive, so why am I so weirded out about confronting this issue?  Help…

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