I get up

When 2015 closed out, I cheered the end of a long chapter of grief, illness, and injury. I was well on my way to walking pain-free and “getting my life back.” 2016 was going to be the year!

Months after my hip fracture and repair, I was able to enjoy doggie beach with Lily. I was able to make the trip postponed from November to visit my son and family on the other side of the state,

and visited my brother and his wife in their “new” house in Lakeland. (I’d spent Thanksgiving in the rehab unit, while family celebrated Thanksgiving at his house.)

Part of the time when MD and her family were here from Switzerland, I actually stayed a few days at the beach with them. 2016-05-03-20-57-08

2016-05-03-17-36-14

Once again I hosted Easter Sunday, dyeing eggs with the younger ones and feeding everyone a barbecue dinner. When school was out I enjoyed several weeks of Grammi Camp with my youngest grandkids.

I even did a little gardening.

Then pain came roaring back. After months of tests and no answers, I saw a hip specialist. He said it never healed. The ball is collapsing. Bipolar hip replacement surgery is scheduled for November. I’m back to managing pain and walking with a cane.

And fighting infections.

And wondering what I need to do to “get on track.”

After all, I have people to love, Bible studies to teach, books to finish, new ones to write, and weeds to pull.

And time is running out.

As a child, Alice in Wonderland terrified me, start to finish. (It was too much like my nightmares. And too much like my dysfunctional life.) Remember the scene where she needs a key to get through the door, but something keeps her from getting it at the right time, the right size? Sometimes I feel a bit like Alice.

According to my prayer list, I’m not alone. This last year or two has been especially challenging for many. And I’m sure that for every person who has asked for prayer, there are five more who keep their pain close to the chest.

Here we are, on another lap around Mount Sinai.

(God freed the Israelite nation from slavery in Egypt, complete with miraculously parting the Red Sea as they fled from the pursuing Egyptian army. Days later, as soon as they lacked something, they began to complain – about the water, then the food, then the leadership. Instead of a short journey to the land God had promised, they spent forty years taking laps around Mount Sinai, wearing out their hard hearts.)

After seeing me with a cane again and hearing about the new surgery, a friend at church remarked, “You’re just Calamity Jane, aren’t you?” That stung. I wondered if I am doing something to attract the hard stuff.

Is something I’m doing, thinking, or feeling keeping me in limbo?

Is there a lesson for me to learn, growth?

Or is it simply bad luck?

It really is okay to ask any kind of question. What makes the difference is where we go for the answers.

I ask others for prayers, or to open a door, or help to pick up the paper I dropped and stare at helplessly, calculating how much pain it is worth.

But the solid answers, the ones with life and wisdom, the answers with hope and a future only come from one place.

From the one who made me, just as I am. Inherent genetic weaknesses. Placed in a dysfunctional family. God saw all my days while I was still in my mother’s womb.

You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

Psalm 139:20-21

I don’t need to read palms or tea leaves, search the stars or wander aimlessly. God has spoken, and his words are recorded.

I simply need to remember to read them!

The last couple of years I’ve enjoyed The Message, a brilliant paraphrase which gives fresh, contemporary meaning to words I might gloss over with too much familiarity. * (Note: The Message, by Eugene Peterson, is not authoritative. Use a real translation for study or theology.)

I go to the Book, and once again, I am re-focused.

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:27‭-‬31 MSG

I’m reminded that it’s not about the circumstances. It’s about where I am looking, how I spend my energies and thoughts.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Philippians 4:8‭-‬9 MSG

More than health or freedom from pain, the desire of my heart is to be worked “into his most excellent harmonies.” (Maybe that’s why I love to sing alto and make up harmonies with contemporary music.)

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

1 Peter 1:3‭-‬5 MSG

That gives me hope. So, every time I get knocked down, I reach for the hand that holds the world, and fashioned me, and I get up. Again. (Even if that is sometimes only figuratively. When you’re flat in a hospital bed, that’s a big getting-back-up challenge.)

If you’re anything close to as old as I am, you likely remember the ice skater Scott Hamilton. He won four consecutive World Championships, then a gold in the 1984 Olympics. He’s fallen down plenty. Listen to his story.
Olympic Skater Scott Hamilton Facing Third Brain Tumor Diagnosis: ‘I Choose to Celebrate Life’

Have you felt knocked down this year?
What are you facing now?


Photo lovers: Sorry, this time all the shots are from my phone.

Can you sit alone, with an idle mind?

Researchers say we cannot relax when we’re alone with our thoughts. When I first read the article by Michelle F Cortez from Bloomberg News, I thought the University of Virginia in Charlottesville researchers must be studying “typical” twenty-first century people who have not developed their spiritual life. Reading on, I discovered that though they began with college students, afterward they recruited participants from a farmer’s market and a church, and the results were the same. For some of the group tested, even negative experiences (a mild shock) were preferred to sitting idle and alone.

Even worse, “Department of Labor data show 83% of Americans do not spend any part of their day just thinking.” (I’m curious about how they came up with their data, and why our tax dollars are being spent there, but that’s another issue.)

I’ve pondered this for a couple of days, privately feeling a little superior to those tested. After all, I love time to myself and don’t need entertainment or constant contact through electronics.

Re-reading, I noticed the lead researcher, Timothy Wilson, stated, “The mind evolved to solve problems in the world, to look for dangers and opportunities to engage.”

Rather than blind evolution, I believe our minds were created, and that we were made to live in relationship with our Creator.

Light bulb moment!

Of course we don’t want to sit with an idle mind! We were created to communicate with the Word, all the time. Our minds are designed to engage, even when our bodies are still.

So, it’s not about whether or not we can sit alone in a room. It’s all about our focus.

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

It’s not by accident that Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts has transformed so many lives. We were designed to be thankful, to look around us and see His hand, to be grateful, and to say so, either in our thoughts, spoken or written words.

Everyone I know who is rising above “impossible” circumstances seeks blessings in the ordinary of each day. And gives thanks.

When we look anywhere else, we are settling for far less than we were created for.

Phil 4 19 w Kyle on beach
Phil 4 19
Philippians 4:5 The Message

When the branches are bare

Spring is in full bloom here in southwest Florida. I’ve waited a few weeks to say so, in consideration of those who still shovel snow or stare at dirt-encrusted snow piles, instead of deep pink azaleas or an apricot colored Amaryllis.

 

azalea
azalea
amaryllis
amaryllis

Only three weeks ago, the deciduous trees (yes, we do have a few that stand bare for several months) sported nothing more than buds. Now, bright green leaves wave in the breeze. The Easter lilies have sent up fresh stalks and I’m hoping for blooms in two weeks. My Crepe myrtles unfurled new leaves just a day ago, and I’ve put in a few tomato, dill and basil plants.

Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it?

None of us live in Eden.

Here, we don’t have a true fall. (Our seasons are actually rainy season and dry season.) When the days grow longer and the sap starts pushing, like permanent teeth taking their place in the mouth, the oaks shed brown leaves as the new ones push into place. However, before the oaks are painted bright green, thousands of leaves have to be raked and bagged.

Along with the amaryllis comes new growth of a wretched, invasive vine with vicious thorns.

thorny vine
thorny vine

And every bare spot in the yard is filled with ugly weeds that boast hundreds of seeds. (Interesting, they grow best in the poorest soil.) Even if I spray weed killer, they go to seed before they die. Pulling by hand is the only way to get rid of them.

weed
weed

Much as I yearn for beauty, peace, and an uncomplicated life, escape from disease, cruelty and death, as long as I live in this world, it will always be a mixed bag.

What I do with that bag is what makes the difference. Many circumstances I have no control over, but I get to choose my focus.

Will I look at the flower, or the thorn?

The old injury, or the sculpted tree?

© Jack H Thompson
opening in trunk
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape

When nothing else lines up, can I see the morning light in a spider web and take delight in small graces?

spider web in morning dew
spider web in morning dew

When the branches look bare, will I search for the bud or recall last spring, and trust that it will leaf again?

spring leaves
spring leaves

Are there bare branches in your life?

Does it seem like forever since leaves danced over you?

What do you see?