Monday, February 27, 2012

Stopping to Think - Wrinkled Brows

Note:  Wrinkled Brows Mondays is a series of posts on a word or a quote of interest (perhaps only to me).

When you stop to think, don't forget to start again.
(~ Unknown)                                                

When I popped into the bank today, I looked up on the wall, and there was a little plaque with the saying above on it.  I can only hope they had not put it up in anticipation of my visit.

Surely my reputation for absent-mindedness has not preceded me to this extent.  One can only hope.

In truth, while occasionally forgetful, I don't know that I have ever gotten to the place where I could actually stop thinking - except when asleep.  It can be a problem, because I would just as soon stop thinking, quite often actually; but the old noggin just keeps on joggin' along.  Sometimes I truly wish I could stop thinking.  Don't you?

Of course, for those who have  a diagnosis of mental illness, the "voices in their heads" are a more serious issue, so I should not complain too much about nuisance thoughts.

From family members who have experience in support groups of various types, I have learned that too much thinking, especially if it is of the negative variety is called having "the committee in session." 

When the committee is in session, in a person's mind, it means there are just too many thoughts, options, opinions, and opportunities, all vying for attention at the same time.  Additionally, the cacophony is distracting from whatever the regular duties of life might be at the moment, and can become quite incapacitating.  Or so I have been told.

I have never been incapacitated by my own thoughts, but I have been  momentarily stunned from time to time.  Kind of like being "mentally tasered." You know what I mean.  You are meandering along through the day, and some kind of wacky thought just hits you like a bolt out of the blue, and you stumble to your nearest chair, plop down, and think to yourself, "Now where in the world did that come from?"

It is disconcerting to be sure, when one's own thoughts temporarily derail one's activities.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to struggle with that kind of challenge on a daily basis.

I am reminded, however, of one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther, who reportedly said in reference to negative thinking such as doubts, fears, etc. ,  "While I cannot keep the birds from flying over my head, I can prevent them from building a nest in my hair."

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I always got a smile out of an old line I heard many years ago, about a guy who was basically too dim to be allowed to walk around unattended.  His caretaker kept encouraging him to take responsibility for himself.  To step up.  To resist negative thoughts.

Thus, one day the guy suddenly approached his caretaker and proudly reported, "Guess what?  I was tempted to think, but I fought it off!"

Uh, huh!  I've known a few folks like that.

So if you do stop to think, please don't forget to start again.  :)  Until next time, your thinking friend ...Marsha

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spots of Joy and Irritation

deer5.jpg - 58.5 KTwo, four, no ... wait... four more ... eight - no, there's two more ... ten!  We have ten deer in our backyard! 

The LOC* and I look at each other with wonder reflected in our eyes.  How is it that we could be so fortunate as to live here, where we can look out our own back windows (or the front ones, for that matter) and watch deer wandering about? (*Lovable Old Coot)

"Thank you", said the LOC to me the other day as we scampered from window to window for the best views.

"For what", I asked?

"For getting us to move here."

Ahhhh, now there was a satisfying moment.  This move did not come about easily.  It took two years, looking at more than twenty houses, and then occurred in the middle of a family illness which meant the logistics were daunting.

But we are here.  Right where we want to be.  It isn't elaborate.  It isn't large.  But it is just right for us.  How thankful we are.

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And while peace and joy reign, I pull my favorite lavender sweater out of the dryer and ..... oh, rats!  The grease spot did not come out.  And I pre-treated it, scrubbing it a little by hand so as not to ruin the finish (the thing is 78% pure silk, the label informs me) and what do I get for my effort? 

A grease spot, right in the front.  I knew I should not have tried to cook anything while wearing it.  But I was at K.'s, trying to fix his breakfast while also trying to get to church on time and ... well, there you have it.  My best knit top with a blotch on it.

Click to show "Scarves" result 15Sighhhhh.  Oh, well, what else are scarves for?  How often people have remarked upon my scarf collection, and the seeming "flair" I have for tying, draping and flipping them.  Little do they know that the position of the scarf is likely determined by just where the spot is that I am trying to cover.
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So it is off to church with a combination of joy and irritation in my day.  Isn't that just the way it goes?  Still, thank goodness for deer, and for peace and hope, and yes, for scarves, too.

Hope your day is full of joy and hope, and that your irritation spots are very small ones.  Until next time ... Marsha

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All Things Great and Small

If you have never given yourself the pleasure of reading the James Herriot novels (the first in the series was All Things Bright and Beautiful) about a country vet in Ireland, I would encourage you to do so.  They are warm, funny, and lyrical; moreover they are down-to-earth and yet at the same time reflect a more idealisitic view of life than we generally see portrayed these days.

The author very cleverly, in my opinion, used an old poem from which to draw four of his titles, and thus it made the reader more apt to recall and select the next volume in the series.

The poem is All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil F. Alexander.  It was written in 1848 as part of a children's set of hymns.

Many of you may already be familiar with this poem, however the following is a quick excerpt that has long been a favorite of mine.

All thing bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Today as I was driving back from the clinic, the day was so clear and full of the first burst of spring that I found myself reciting the verse above as I drove past almond trees laden with their spring blossoms.  Daffodils are also up nearly everywhere you look, and yesterday I saw two or three redbud bushes blooming.  It just makes me smile.

"All things bright and beautiful" ... this reminded me of something I read once (I cannot recall the author) who advised that in order to have harmony in one's surroundings, we should have nothing in our homes that we do not consider to be either useful or beautiful.  I believe that this whole "hoarding" issue that we hear of on TV could be solved handily if we applied that criteria to our surroundings.  I am just saying ....

I have actually used this principle during our recent move to a home we hope to live in for the "rest of our days."   It was a particularly difficult move becaused we had lived in that house for over twenty years, and because I had to be a hundred miles away when others packed up our belongings.  Thus, I did not have the opportunity to sort, donate and discard before the move.

Instead, when I faced our new garage full of boxes and crates, I went through each one and refused to carry anything into the new place that did not meet at least one of the two criteria of being either useful or beautiful.  I am truly enjoying the results of that pruning process.  I have cupboards that are only half-full.  What a treat!
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Here's hoping you are feeling wise and wonderful yourself.  Until next time ...Marsha

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Giving and Receiving: An Adventure in Living - Chapter 20

This is Chapter 20 in a series entitled Telling My Story.

Someone once said about the later season of life, that by then most of your life is "in the rear view mirror".  I had never thought of it like that before; because I am a future-oriented person. 

I am one of those "what's done is done, let's move on" kind of people.  But that rear view mirror business, that got me thinking.

I used to teach "What Matters Most" business classes, about prioritizing, making informed choices, assuring that your talents and skills were aligned with your actions.

Part of that class was to draw a timeline and then ask people to place an X where they thought they currently were on their life's timeline.  That always seemed to get everyone's attention.  Now it has mine.


By this estimate it can be clearly seen that, in fact, much of my life is in the rear view mirror as it were.  What does that image look like?  Who am I now and how did I get to be here?

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I always loved to learn - not about any one thing in particular, but just about everything in general.

However, given the limited financial circumstances in which I grew up, it just did not seem to me that I could attend college after high school.  No one in our family had done so, and if I even talked about the possibility I was accused of "putting on airs."

In mid-life, after a series of losses and a painful divorce, I decided that I could, and would, finally obtain an education.  I was relentless in going after that goal, and although it would take me the next ten-plus years taking a class or two whenever I could; I graduated magna cum laude, with two of my children and my mother in the audience when I received my diploma.
                                                                                                        Intertwined Graduation Honor Cord
During this time, I also worked full time in a series of increasingly responsible positions.  My company had a tuition-reimbursement program, and I maximized its benefits each and every year.  However, when I applied for benefits to obtain a master's degree, I was initially turned down.  My boss, and my boss's boss, both told me that:

a) I worked too hard already, and
b) my current responsibilities needed my full, and undivided attention.

True, I was managing a staff in a fairly large organization, and running a budget of several million dollars; but I believed I could also pursue the masters.  Thus, I was more disappointed than I can tell you at their decision.  However, I accepted their decision with as much good grace as I could muster...and started praying about it.

About that same time, our church was in the middle of a building program because the congregation had outgrown the current facility.  They were holding up to seven services each weekend, and still there was no room for parking, or seating in the auditorium.

By now I was making good money, and began to pray about what God might be leading me to donate to the building effort.  I did not just "pick a number" out of the air, or out of my imagination.  I truly prayed and tried to listen to that still small voice in my heart to see what God might have in mind.

I had long since experienced that anytime I gave with care and prayer, all my other needs would be met.  As they used to say in the churches where I grew up, "You can't out give God."

After prayerful, consideration over a period of a couple of weeks, I turned in my pledge-card stating the amount that I planned to contribute over the next three years of the building program.  I knew I was blessed to have the resources to contribute to this effort, and I remembered that everything we have really belongs to God.

Still, I gulped a little when I turned in the card, because it was an amount that represented a stretch of faith for me.  However, over those next three years, as I watched that new church building take shape, it was also a constant reminder to me of God's faithfulness in my life.

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A funny thing happened about a month after I submitted my building fund pledge.  Without any preliminary discussion or warning, I was called one day to my vice president's office.  She was my boss's immediate superior, and thus I did not generally meet with her unless my manager was also present.

That day, however, she asked me to meet with me alone and I arrived curious to find out the reason for the meeting.  B. quickly got to the point (as she generally did).  She informed me that she had given further thought to my request to obtain a master's degree through the company's education reimbursement program and asked if I was still interested.

I said that I was.  She then informed me that the company would pay for the entire program - all of it.  Tuition, books, fees, everything.  Generally the program was a 75%- 25% split, with the employee paying the 25%.  I always thought it a generous program, since I believe people value something more if they have some "skin in the game."

But for whatever reason, an executive decision had been made to pay for 100% of my program.  It represented between $15,000 and $20,000 dollars and was a gift that was so generous I was overwhelmed.  I thanked her and assured her that my job responsibilities would not suffer any neglect whatever as I worked my way through the program.

Then I went to my car, and sat there and cried, thanking God for his tender watch care.  While I did not need the advanced degree for my current position, God had further plans for me. 

The next two and a half years did not "fly by."  It was hard work, and I often flew out of the company parking lot, racing through the drive-thru at Burger King, eating a sandwich as I drove the twenty-two miles to my campus.  Classes were from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. two nights a week.  I did homework, wrote papers and participated in group projects the other three or four nights a week.  It was exhausting.  But it was also rewarding.

Little did I know that shortly after I finished the master's course, God would open a series of promotions for me that would eventually result in my becoming a vice-president, only the second woman in the company's history to hold that position.

Once again, I learned through experience that if I will trust Him, he will lead me into green pastures.

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Hope your pastures are green, or are "greening up" this weekend.  God bless you - Marsha

Monday, February 13, 2012

God Is Not Disgusted With Us - Wrinkled Brows

Wrinkled Brows is an occasional Monday series on a word or a quote of interest (perhaps only to me).
stock photo : dove stained glass window
The sun back lit the stained glass window showing the beautiful dove of peace in its rays.  The musicians were lively and still reverent.  And there was a special celebration in the morning service yesterday, as twelve new believers followed the example of Jesus in water baptism.

That was all beautiful enough that I would have left the sanctuary uplifted in my spirit.  But then, during his message, the pastor tossed off a line that made me sit straight up.

"God is not disgusted with you.  He delights in you."

Wow!  When did I forget this? 

How long had it been since I was reminded that God likes me?  He enjoys my company!  What an amazing reality.

As C.S. Lewis once wrote in the Screwtape Letters, through the character of Screwtape to his younger trainee, "God loves the hairy little bipeds.  He really does."  It was amazing to the evil Screwtape and his master.  They kept looking for "the catch" - some other explanation.  But there was none.

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Has it been awhile since you remembered that God enjoys your company?  If so, spend a little time with Him today, and be reminded of how valuable you are to Him.

Until next time ...Marsha

Thursday, February 9, 2012

S.G. or Bust - Chapter 19

This is Chapter 19 in a series entitled Telling My Story.  

Courted.  Such an old-fashioned word.  But that is what was happening to me, for the first time.  While it was nice, it was also awkward.  After all, I was past forty and did not expect anything like this to happen to me.

He called, he sent flowers, he took me places. And he always did exactly what he said he would do - I just could not get over that.

Unfortunately, it made me nervous.  Even irritable, which made no sense, but since when do emotions make sense?  When you grow up with an unreliable father, and then you marry young to an unreliable partner, you have not had the opportunity to form the basic ability to trust.  I did not trust much of anyone at this point in my life.  I did not trust what I was told, nor what my own eyes and ears told me, because I had been deceived one too many times.

Poor D. had no idea what he was getting into, when he decided to "get into" my life.  Moreover, I had begun to taste what it was like to be my own person.  Remember, I dated the same boy all through high school, and then married him right after graduation.  So I went directly from being someone's daughter to being someone's wife.  Then I quickly became someone's mother.

Like many women of my generation, I knew little to nothing about just being Marsha.  But I was discovering what it meant, and had decided no one was ever again going to tell me what to do or how to do it . 

Yes, I know, this sounds really mature, doesn't it?  The forty-year-old equivalent of "you're not the boss of me".  Charming, I wasn't.

I had also discovered, after cooking dinner seven nights a week for a family of five for over twenty years, (after working all day in a busy office) that I liked to eat out, or get take out, or order pizza, or just about anything else except cooking.  I didn't want to cook anymore, and did not plan to do much of it going forward. 

Fortunately, D. was a pretty good cook and actually enjoyed it.  He had already been a single parent for over eight years when we met, and he was not looking for a cook or a housekeeper.  Good thing, too; because I was not looking to become one again.  Period.

He thought we were a match made in heaven.  I wasn't sure we could even work out a match here on terra firma.

But despite all my fears and reservations, despite feeling silly about "dating" and doing romantic things at a time when I thought I would be settling into a staid middle-age; we were having some fun.

He took me dancing on my forty-second birthday.  After one dance that had been a cha-cha, one of the other guys at our table said to us, "Boy, you guys are really good at that.  I'll bet you have been doing this together for twenty years."  He did not believe us when we said we had never been dancing together before.  Then D. surprised me by, arranging in advance, to have the band to play "Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby", while we were dancing.

One day while at work, I looked out my office window toward the street, when I heard a horn honking.  There sat a green pickup truck, with a huge hand-lettered sign on the side of it, reading "S.G. or Bust."  D. sat behind the wheel grinning.

S.G. stood for Stony Gorge, otherwise known locally as "the lake", a large swimming and fishing reservoir about twenty miles up in the foothills from town.  We had driven up there one evening and  spent some time strolling along the lake side, arm in arm, looking at the stars.  While enjoying the summer breeze, we even saw a lot of shooting stars - no, really we did.

D. wanted to go back to the lake.  Thus, the sign, "S.G. or Bust."  I laughed so hard I cried.  I thought he was nuts.  Turned out he was ... about me.  Who would have guessed?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Air Supply and Two Dumpees - Chapter 18

This is Chapter 18 in a series entitled Telling My Story.
new valentine clipart image: clip art illustration of a planter with a red heart shaped flower on a stem with a green leafIn my life where everything went wrong,                  
Something finally went right.
Now there's two less lonely people
In the world tonight."  ~ a song by Air Supply

I guess I will have to call him David, for now, as he was years away from becoming the *LOC, as I now refer to him. (*Lovable Old Coot)

The song above was one of our favorites.  D. said it just fit us.  Well, maybe.  While it was not exactly love at first sight, D. says it came darned close.  I refrained from telling him that "close" only counts in hand grenades and horse shoes.  I am ever the practical, pragmatic one, and he is the incurable romantic.  Talk about opposites attract!

The fact was that were were both the "dumpees" - that is, we had each experienced the pain and humiliation of being the one who got dumped by our former spouses.  But there were also big differences between us.  The last eight years of my twenty-two year marriage had been an endurance marathon, and by the time I got a call at work telling me he had filed for divorce that day, I was ready for it to be over.  Yes, I was grieved; but to be honest, I was also relieved.

D., on the other hand, had fought to save his marriage with everything he knew how to do.  He did not believe in divorce, and was determined to fix it if he could.  He went to counseling, even when his wife refused to go.  He bought her new furniture and a new car, anything she asked for.  None of it helped, of course, because the marriage was over.  He just did not know that, until she left.
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Baggage does not begin to touch it - to ask whether we had issues is like  asking if Dalmatians have spots.  We didn't just have baggage, we had giant (emotional) storage units full of "stuff" that we had to sort through before we could come to a safe haven.  It was a funny, and sometimes precarious voyage.

And it all began with a missed connection....
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A few weeks after our chance meeting at the department store on New Year's Eve, I received a call at my office from my niece whose picture I had seen displayed at D.'s register.

"Aunt Marsha, would you be interested in chaperoning our "spring fling" dance next month? "

I said I might be and asked about the date in question.  C. told me the date, I checked my calendar and came back on the line, "Sorry, honey, I have a board meeting that evening. Otherwise I would be glad to help out."  (I had changed jobs and was now working at the health department, and served the country board of directors in various capacities related to county health issues.)

"Oh, okay.  You're sure you can't make it?"  She sounded oddly disappointed and I could not figure out why, since there were surely plenty of other adults who could serve as chaperons.

"I'm sure.  But thanks for asking.  Maybe next time."

What I did not know until long after this,  was that my niece, C.,  and D.'s daughter, J., who were close high school friends, were trying to arrange for their aunt and dad to "meet by accident" at this dance.  D. had been asked by his daughter to chaperon, too, and he had been told that C.'s Aunt Marsha would be there.  They were doing a little match-making (which was how he knew who I was); but they neglected tell me.

He agreed, with high hopes for the evening, and when I didn't show up, he thought that I had been told that he would be there, and chose not to go in order to "send him a message" that I was not interested.  It was a comedy of errors.  The girls did not tell him that I had no knowledge of their plan, and had to work that evening, so his feelings were hurt unnecessarily.

Meanwhile, I was a little puzzled that this guy who had seemed so friendly and interested never called ... for months, and months and months.

More than six months later, I got a call one late summer afternoon, just as I was huffing and  puffing, while pulling weeds in the front yard.  I dashed to catch the phone and was a bit out of breath, when the caller said, "Hello.  This is Dave, we met a few months ago at the department store.  Do you remember me?" He sounded nervous, and told me later it had taken him a long time to work up the nerve to call me after I was a "no show" at the dance.

I said I remembered, we chatted awhile getting acquainted; then he asked me to dinner and a movie the next night.  When we hung up, I thought to myself, "Well, it took you long enough."  I thought he was a little slow off the mark.  Was I ever wrong!

And so it began ...

D. always called when he said he would and he was always on time to pick me up.  For someone who was used to not having any idea where my partner was, or when he might be home, and then having him show up about two hours later than whatever time he had said he would be there, this was a complete departure from my usual life experience.

On our third date, we went to a nicer restaurant, different from the more casual little places we had gone earlier.  Lovely damask table cloths, soft lighting, etc.  I left our table to visit the ladies room, and when I came back, there next to my plate lay a single red rose.
                                                                                                               new valentine clipart image: clip art illustration of a red long stemmed rose on a white background
Oh, dear - this was moving faster than a freight train and I was not prepared to deal with it.  So much for "slow off the mark." Stepping back into dating mode in mid-life is about as awkward as it gets, and I had no intention of ever marrying again.   I was clear with him about this.  D. chose to ignore that.

Still, we talked by phone nearly every day, we went for long drives and talked some more.  One evening he said to me, "Marsha, you take care of your kids, you take care of your home, your job, you serve on committees and take on projects ... but who takes care of you?"

No one had ever asked me this in my entire life.  No one.  Not a parent, not a spouse, not a teacher - no one.  It caught me so off guard that I had to think a moment before I could answer.

I looked at him, somewhat puzzled at the question, and said, "I  take care of myself."

He quietly shook his head and said softly, "Not anymore.  I will always take care of you.  If you will let me."  And he has been good to his word.  That was almost twenty five years ago, and I can honestly say he has never broken his word to me - has never lied to me, not once in a nearly a quarter of a century.

But infuriated me ? Oh, yes.  Someone once asked Ruth Bell Graham whether she had ever considered divorce from her famous evangelist husband, Billy Graham.  She replied quickly, "No.  Never.  But I have considered murder from time to time."  I loved that line.  And I have lived that line. 

But more about that next time ...  Marsha

The Eve of Something New - Chapter 17

This is Chapter 17 in a series entitled Telling My Story.Big Day

It was New Year's Eve - 1987 - and I had no where to go and nothing to do.  Statistically, I have read that most married couples, who lose a child in death, divorce within two years.  While our son survived, his future was now radically different from the one we had anticipated.

His disability was severe, and permanent, and his father could not accept what God had allowed to occur.  Author Larry Crabbe has written an excellent book entitled, Shattered Dreams, which explains far better than I could do, how hard it is for parents when the dream they had for a child is shattered beyond repair.

K.'s dad had, by this time, left the ministry, left me and our daughter (both our sons were in college at the time) and had begun a new life with someone else.  He remarried the week after the divorce was final.
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So here it was, New Year's Eve, the beginning of the rest of my life, and I was depressed and pretty much clueless as to what to do next.  But life does not stop while we "brew and stew" and the fact of the matter was that New Year's Day would be my younger son's birthday.  Yes, he was a New Year's baby, although by the time he was born that day, he was number three at that hospital, and thus I missed all the free merchandise and goodies that come with having the first baby of the New Year.

I had been so overwhelmed and sad for so long that year, that I had neglected to get him a birthday present.  Now it was nearly 7:00 p.m. and the only department store in our little town was about to close when I rushed in looking for a gift.

A tall, silver-haired, handsome gentleman asked if he could help me, as I wandered up and down the aisles looking for a last minute present.  He was one of the managers and was trying to close up the store in preparation for the holiday the next day.

I made my selection and followed him over to the register.  As he was ringing up my purchase, I glanced at the cork board to the side of his register and opened my eyes wide in surprise.

"Why that's my niece in that picture!" I exclaimed, as I looked more closely at a "prom shot" of a pretty blonde girl in a formal dress, standing next to a handsome young boy in a tux.

He smiled, as he completed my sale and replied, "Well, that's my son she is standing next to.  You must be C.'s Aunt Marsha."

You must remember that it was a very small town, where everyone knew practically everyone else.  But I had never met this man, and did not know who he was.  He explained that he knew my sister and her family, and thus his son had taken my niece to the prom that spring.  He continued to smile as we chatted.  But I was still puzzled as to how he knew I was "Aunt Marsha" since I had not told him my name.

Nevertheless, as we talked, and he kept smiling, I felt the stirrings of interest in this guy who seemed to know quite a bit about me, although I had never heard of him.  This was very odd.

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Later, I learned that as I walked away from him to leave the store, he turned and said to a co-worker, "I am going to marry that lady someday."  The co-worker verified that he had, indeed, said that to her the night we met.

So I trudged home with my little gift, still sad and lonely, still confused and hurt, still ticked-off that my life was a mess.  But I was on the eve of something new; I just didn't know it yet.

Until next time ... Marsha

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grace Among the Ruins - Chapter 16

This is Chapter 16 in a series entitled Telling My Story.
When K. emerged from the operating room, he was comatose.   The doctors told us to be prepared for the worst.  He might never wake up.  If he did awaken, we should not expect any cognition or awareness for at least three or four days, and even then, he likely would not recognize us.  They said he might be in a vegetative state - permanently.  They talked to us about being prepared to "pull the plug" if it came to that.

K. awoke barely two hours later, recognized me immediately, and tried to smile, although he could not due to the fact that he was "tracched" and on a ventilator.  Our first small miracle had arrived.  The doctors were amazed.

By day three, post surgery, they had performed enough tests to verify what they suspected right after the operations.  An infarction of the spinal cord occurred due to oxygen loss during the surgery.  They called a family conference and informed us that our nineteen year old son would never walk again. 

The boy who always ran everywhere, who would rather hike in the woods than almost anything else, the red-headed guy who loved to fish and hunt and ride his bike like the wind - would never walk again.  The depths of our sorrow could not be described.

After nearly three months, first in the ICU (for seven weeks) then neuro for another six or seven weeks, K. was finally stable enough to send to rehab to begin the arduous journey of learning to be self-sufficient while living in a wheelchair.

Although I felt more pain and sympathy for my son than I could say, I tried  very hard not to waste time feeling sorry for myself as his mother.  After all, I thought, I at least had had nineteen years raising a happy, healthy boy whose energy and enthusiasm knew no bounds.

I thought about those parents whose child is born with a serious medical condition, and the fact that they deal with that from day one.  I could not imagine how they found the faith and strength; but I knew it must come from the same Source as my own.

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For those of you who believe that, if one is a Christian, there should always be a "happy ending" of some sort, I am afraid that my story will disappoint you deeply.  There was, and is, no happy ending for K. or for me as his mother.  But that does not mean that there has not been joy from time to time.  And laughter, too.

They originally told us he would be in rehab, once out of immediate danger, for at least six months.  He completed rehab and was able to come home in just six weeks!

He went back to college one month after discharge from rehab.  He was elected treasurer of his student body the following year.

There were dark years that followed his graduation from college, as jobs are difficult for the disabled to obtain.  Even when the national unemployment rate is near 5% or 6%, for the disabled it is always closer to 75%; people are "afraid" to hire someone in a wheelchair.

Still he kept trying, and eventually his sister suggested he try teaching.  He went back to college to obtain further certifications and has been teaching for over ten years now.

Oh, and he also became a certified scuba diver, he has done a 150 foot bungee cord jump, went skydiving (piggy-back) and white-water rafting. Two summers ago he landed a 34 pound salmon in his second deep-sea fishing trip. A replica of that fish is now mounted on his living room wall.

He lives his life to the fullest of his capabilities.  We should all be so adventurous and engaged. 

Yes, there were times when he despaired.  One day, about a year after his accident, I found him alone and deeply despondent.  The future looked very bleak and he was not sure he could face it.

We talked, truly heart to heart, for a long time.  At last, I said, "Son, let's look at this situation.  You still have two good eyes, two good ears, you can talk (when they were not sure he would be able to with one paralyzed vocal chord), and UC Davis tested your IQ at way above average, after the accident.

I'm thinking you have more left, than a lot of people started with."

He looked at me for a few moments, then a slow grin began to spread across his face.  "Yeah, I do, don't I?" 

Years later he told me (after yet another surgery from various complications) "You know, mom, every morning when I wake up, I have a choice.  I can lay there and feel sorry for myself, or I can get up and do the best I can with what I have left to work with.  So far, I have been able to get up and do my best, every day."

Of course, it helps that he is also crazy.  One day he came wheeling wildly into the kitchen, popping a wheelie and skidding to a stop right in front of where I was cooking.

"Guess what, mom?  I've decided what I want to be when I grow up."

Given that he was still only about twenty one and in college, I sighed and said, "Oh, great.  It's about time, what is it?"  (Giving him guff is better for our relationship than standing around wringing my hands.)

He grinned like a lunatic and said, " A stand up comedian."  And he rolled off chortling with glee!
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There is an old cliche', "I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet."

My older son needs no shoes, because he has no feet, no legs (after becoming a double amputee several years after his accident.)  But he has such heart, and great courage, and he commands the respect of all who know him.

And although his story is a tragic one in some respects, it has also been God's instrument of grace to me for over twenty seven years now.  God loves K. even more than I do, and I can trust that some day I will see His plan in all of this.  So for now ... "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Him..." (Psalm 56:3)

Until next time ... Marsha

Friday, February 3, 2012

God Among the Ruins - Chapter 15

This is Chapter 15 in a series entitled Telling My Story.

"Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plan, but God is not helpless among the ruins."  ~ Eric Liddell, Olympian

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You may recognize Eric Liddell's name if you ever watched the movie Chariots of Fire.  He was the son of Scottish missionaries to China, who became a world renowned Olympian, and later died in a Chinese internment camp.  When I read the quote above a few days ago, I knew I had finally found the basis for telling the most difficult part of my story.

For those of you who have read the preceding chapters, you already know that my early life was a hard one, and that my early marriage at eighteen to a young man who entered the ministry (apparently very ill-advisedly) was also very difficult.  Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.

When I had been  working at the dental office just over three years, we seemed to be finally pulling out of the black hole into which we had landed when all our worldly goods were stolen and we had to start over from nothing.

Our oldest son, K., had just finished his freshman year of college, at this time, and had joined the military as a reservist in order to qualify for military tuition benefits, as we were unable to pay for more than a portion of his college expenses.  He enjoyed boot camp and excelled to such an extent that out of his class of one hundred and fifty young recruits, he graduated first in his class.  He tied records that had stood at Ft. Leonard Wood for over fifteen years. It still makes me sad that we were unable to attend his graduation ceremony, which was twenty-five hundred miles away.

He had always been "a good son" - certainly not perfect, but one of those children of whom we could honestly say we had never lost a nights sleep.  He was obedient and helpful, a national merit scholar, and such a hard worker that he developed the largest paper route in town and bought his first gold Krugerrand with his own money at fifteen.  He was something of a math whiz and planned to become a millionaire before he was thirty years old.  Left unhindered I have little doubt he would have done just that.

Because of both his physical and mental prowess, he was heavily recruited near the end of boot camp for an elite special forces unit, although we only learned of this long afterward.  When he landed at S.F. International, the whole family was there to meet him, and we were mystified when a "full bird" colonel was there to greet him as he came down the hallway into the terminal.  Before we could hug and greet him, the officer drew K. aside, they spoke quietly for a moment or two, and I saw K. smile and quietly shake his head "no" before he walked over to where we were waiting.  We learned later the colonel had been sent to make another attempt to convince K. to join this elite group.  K. declined.  He had other plans.

I tell you all this to let you know that he was truly an exceptional young man, not only by his parent's estimation.  Mentally tough, smart (not brilliant in the academic sense, but quickly intuitive and savvy about strategy), six feet /one inch tall, with only four percent body fat due to the rigorous training he had just undergone.  He could leg-press four hundred pounds, although he was slim and only weighed one fifty-five.  He was, as they say, quite a specimen.

Less than forty-eight hours later he lay in the intensive care unit of a hospital fighting for his life. 

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I awoke at 3:00 a.m. from a sound sleep praying for my son.  I did not know what had happened, but I felt a deep sense of danger and literally was already praying when I woke up.  Fifteen minutes later we heard an ambulance siren and minutes later our bedside phone rang advising us to meet the ambulance at the hospital which was only blocks from our house.

We rushed to the hospital where, after they stabilized him,  we followed the ambulance thirty-six miles to the nearest regional trauma center where they would begin the months long effort to save his life.  As we drove, his father said to me, "I will accept it.  Whether God leaves him with us, or takes him home.  I will accept it either way."

I felt cold dread wash over my heart, as I sat there and prayed.  I had no premonition.  I had no special knowledge.  I do not know why I said what I did.  But quietly I replied, "There is a third possibility.  God may leave him with us, but he could be permanently injured."

His father did not even glance at me, as with a stony expression on his face, he drove relentlessly behind the ambulance.  "That," he said fiercely, "I will never accept."

From that very moment, I felt a chasm begin to open between us that I sensed would never again be bridged. 

We met with the heart surgeon who told us that the impact of the collision had created an aortic aneurysm of K.'s heart, and that if this was not repaired immediately he would die.  Dr. M. further told us that if the "bubble" ruptured during the surgery, K. would die.  Finally, he told us that there was a small chance, statistically speaking, that K. could become paralyzed as a result of the surgery. 

"How small?", we asked softly.

"It only happens in about two percent of such cases.  So it is rare.  But we must let you know of the possibility."

We asked whether there were any other options.  Could we wait awhile?  No. There was no time to lose.  Every minute counted. Could we get a second opinion?  One was obtained and he concurred that the surgery was our son's only chance for survival.

So we asked the surgeon if we could pray for and with him, that God would give him steady hands and great skill as he raced the clock to save K.'s life.  The three of us joined hands and bowed our heads.

Two teams operated for almost twelve hours.  In the end, K. emerged with his head swollen to almost twice it's normal size.  He was comatose and they could not say when, or if, he would ever awaken.  His heart had stopped twice during the procedure, for between four and five minutes both times, for a total oxygen loss of eight to ten minutes.  They said he might be in a vegetative state - permanently.

They had done all they could.  It was all in God's hands now.  But then, that was where it had been all along, even though we could not see it.
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In chapter 16 I will share with you the grace and mercy that were bestowed upon us in the coming months as K. struggled to regain his life.  How he survived, and how some of us did not, at least not as we once were.

For now, I must simply let you know that last night (Feb. 2, 2012) K. was allowed to attend the first "outing" since his surgery last July.  He has been bed fast for seven months, and still has at least two more months of recovery before he can resume teaching his special education high school students.

Nevertheless, last night was the local City Planning Commission's first meeting of the new year, and with his doctor's permission, K. was bound and determined he was not going to miss this one. 

He teaches full time, he serves on the city planing board, he volunteers at various events, he has friends far and wide, and he does it all from his wheelchair.  It is not what I wanted for him.  It is not all that he wanted for himself.

But God is not helpless among the ruins.  Of this I am certain.

Until next time ... Marsha