Why…?

For quite a while, I’ve felt like I really don’t have a group of people that I can really call a core  ‘community’.   Yes, I’m a Christian, but I am tolerant of others’ choices for their own lives, even if I don’t understand them, or in some situations have any interest in hearing about them ( I don’t want to hear about anybody’s sexual interests… not. my. business.).  I refuse to shun the person.   Why do I have to believe the same as some other human?  Just because they’re a pastor or Bible teacher doesn’t mean they got it right (just watch late night TV preachers… they cast a shadow of doubt on a LOT of Bible teachers, no matter what level.)   I do believe that many are good pastors… but I won’t support any preacher who cherry picks which people are worth their compassion and attempts to understand.  I won’t support any preacher who promotes intolerance.  God made us all.  Period.  And we’re all flawed. Period.  Not one of us is better than the other.  Why do Christians tolerate intolerance?  I don’t have to agree with someone to understand that the choices based on the free will GOD gave them is their prerogative- and it doesn’t have to be mine.  I don’t have to shun them.   I feel like  an outcast most of the time.  I feel shunned by the ‘shunners’.    Add to that that the country is going down the tubes, and I really don’t like most people.     Why do people insist on continuing to prove that they are best avoided?   Or simply say they’re  one thing, and then never back it up?

I haven’t been a regular church goer for a long time (work hours when I was working, then  medical issues that make being away from home for more than a brief time logistically difficult).   Now the folks who went to the church I grew up in will take THAT statement as the reason for all of my frustrations… but my personal faith in God/Jesus is  stronger than ever.  God is the only constant and hope I have, and HE is more than enough.    I KNOW what it was like growing up in a  subculture of evangelicalism- and as a kid I loved going to church.  It was a great experience in the youth groups, choirs, teaching Vacation Bible School, working at the summer camp, and babysitting in the church nursery.  I truly loved it.  Since it was essentially my only source of social contact, there were no conflicts.  I was still ‘one of them’.  We all believed the same. For the most part.  My folks enjoyed a glass of wine now and then, and dad might have a beer (one) once in a while, where as many were convinced that even one drink was a sin (drunkeness is a sin… a social drink is not, imho).  But the ‘big stuff’ was all part of the church teaching.  Without any personal thought involved. Back then, it was just how things were.   I’m very thankful for a solid church upbringing (and the vast majority of my core beliefs are the same);  it was a consistent environment.  It just didn’t allow for exposure to the actual world as a whole. I had no idea that things could even BE all that different among other people.

As a kid, it really didn’t matter to me what or who was ‘in the real world’, since school and (figure) skating were my pretty much my only exposure to people who didn’t go to that church (there was the trip to Europe in the summer of 1977, where I first saw men openly holding hands while walking down the streets of Amsterdam, and hookers had storefront windows with literal red lights that glowed if they were ‘busy’).  It was a time period where society wasn’t as cruel as it is now, and the anonymity of the internet wasn’t even on the radar- so any criticizing, mocking, and name-calling was done in person, and ONLY among  very close friends- unless it was overt cruelty towards strangers.  Thankfully, I didn’t get subjected to that sort of “Christian”.  I was a kid, so not really expected to know any different.  People were simply more decent, in my opinion.  The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ philosophy had little to do with anything related to sexual orientation in my world,  but included politics, money,  and religion when being amongst folks whose views weren’t already known.   Why did people find it OK to reject others as ‘the enemy’ when they don’t even know them, most of the time based on assumptions from one comment?

Well, then I grew up.  After nursing school, I moved 1200 miles away on my own to start out my life out from under the shadow of being “the principal’s kid”.  I was not only in a different state and overall culture, but was in a city that had  a huge variety of people whose demographic groups I’d never encountered.  The first cross-dresser I ever saw was at a Walgreen’s checkout.  He was buying the make-up for himself, which I hadn’t even thought happened , until he turned around and smiled politely at me with full face make-up (foundation, mascara, eyeliner, blush, lipstick).  I was gobsmacked !  Where in the world had I landed? Why does the church exclude simply informing the high school kids (who are about to go out into the world, either in college, trade schools, or straight into the workforce? What about the various types of people in the world, and how best to show kindness?  Why don’t they teach about using one’s brain to determine if a situation is safe- and not just a blanket “help your neighbor”? (That omission almost got me killed in January 1987).  Though now, I guess evangelical churches have some exclusion clause to avoid anybody gay, who’s had an abortion, or is on food stamps.  Those issues seem to earn rejection without regard to the person who is struggling because of them. Why is avoidance the way to deal with the world when we’re commanded to go INTO the world and preach the Gospel- or at least show the love of Jesus.

https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-loving-others/

I was also a young nurse during the early years of the AIDS crisis.  I’d never known anybody who was gay.   Church hadn’t really mentioned homosexuality much, if at all.  It was a ‘given’ that men loved women, and women loved men.   Women wore makeup, men shaved their faces, and things were supposed to be all “Leave It To Beaver”.  I knew the terms- polite and otherwise – for homosexuality and what it meant- but that was it.   I had no clue that even in my own family, that there were those who were ‘different’ (neither of the two I knew back then were ‘out’ at that time, then two more became known when I was much older).   I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  All four (known) are/were (one is no longer alive) stand-up folks, and simply a joy to be around.  Why shun an entire demographic group?  Were they not also created by God? Why is it so hard to believe that there are gay Christians?  The Bible shouldn’t be used as a weapon to inflict pain? (I’m not talking about instruction and correction, but context and approach are everything…).

I have no idea how many gay men I took care of who had full-blown AIDS (“HIV positive” really didn’t happen without already being very ill… the disease wasn’t identified until various symptoms of full-blown AIDS had already developed; now, better testing and antiretroviral meds enable those with HIV to live much longer, and with a decent quality of life).  In the early years, HIV was an automatic death sentence.  There was no hope at all, like there is today.  Most of their families back then, and even their partners, had kicked them to the curb.  Families were ashamed, and partners were terrified to be associated with someone who had “it”.  But what I learned was that these human beings were going through horrific, long deaths, that left them just alive enough to realize they were never going to be OK, and that they’d been abandoned.  Why  shun those who need compassion?  Would Jesus do that?   I also learned about the dangers of stereotyping when an entire heterosexual and monogamous  family died from AIDS after the wife gave birth to the son, but needed a blood transfusion- with blood that wasn’t tested for the virus back then- then breastfed her son, and had normal sex with her husband.  All three died.  Nothing they did had them ‘in the closet’, or on anybody’s ‘judgement’ list.   I was beginning to understand that things weren’t always ‘this or that’, ‘black or white’, or even ‘because of’ assumptions.   All of these people had names and stories, and there simply wasn’t time or desire to judge or hate.  They needed compassion.  Why not just reach out to anybody who is hurting, without judging?

Why are LGBTQ and abortion the only issues that fire up evangelicals ?  Of course, life is precious. Yes, the Bible talks about homosexuality. But what about those babies who need healthcare throughout their life? Then it’s more like evangelicals are pro-birth. Not the church’s problem after that.  Why doesn’t everyone deserve healthcare?  Would Jesus turn away someone who was sick?  Who are we to ‘declare’ that some deserve healthcare, and some don’t?  What about equality among races? What about the issues with guns, prison reform, education reform, cleaning up the history books, etc?  What about OTHER issues and sins?  We all sin. We all will sin again. No sin is worse than others, except for one. We need to clean our own side of the street. We all need to confess our sins, and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us. And it might take several times before we get some things under control- but we distract ourselves by looking at the faults of others when we have enough faults to sink our own ship.

https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Jesus-Healing

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205-7&version=NIV

Why the contempt for those who need help?   There is an assumption that the majority of those on welfare or food stamps are just bums who don’t want to work- which is cruel. Why  choose to believe the worst?   It takes a LOT of hassles to get help !  And even then, it’s a sub-poverty existence.  I’ve been on disability since 2004, and until I was eligible for Medicare 2 YEARS after getting Social Security Disability (not the same as the private employer-based disability insurance I paid for when I was working), I  would have had to spend $2000 per MONTH before I was eligible for Medicaid benefits. Each month.  That would have meant no apartment, utilities, medications, food, etc…  AND, you have to have an address, so if you live in the car, there’s no address, so no benefits.  So the government sets the income cut-offs for getting help  to exclude the majority of people who need help.    How does it make sense for someone who is medically disabled to not have access to medical care, including medications?    Why are only some people worth taking care of?   Would Christ look at someone who  is sick, hungry, naked, and/or homeless and kick them to the curb?   Not the Lord I learned about !  Remember the sheep and the goats?    There is some belief that people in this country are taken care of no matter what.  That is false !   People die here daily because they can’t afford medications or treatments.   And it’s not just cancer.   Why is that OK?  This was from 11 years ago- can you imagine what it is now during unemployment during the pandemic?

New study finds 45,000 deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage

Why can’t we just disagree, and not be told “Oh, it’s no big deal” (well, to me it might be !), or “get over it” (why should I, when the person who told me this is still complaining about Obama, and called Mrs. Obama the ‘n’ word repeatedly- from her evangelical tower?).   Why can’t we just understand that everybody views things in different ways EVEN when we all believe in God (for those who do) ?   There isn’t just one ‘flavor’ of Christian !!  It’s a little like the four gospels- each author had a different viewpoint, but that doesn’t make any of them wrong !    Matthew was a tax collector.  Mark never actually heard Jesus, but followed Peter, and interpreted for him when needed.  Luke was a doctor.  There is no consensus as to who specifically  wrote the Gospel of John- as well as 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelations.   But all four loved the Lord.  Why is it so hard for Christians to understand – and tolerate- that the belief in Christ is so much more important than the specific  issues that are argued about?

Why not believe in science?  Who do Christians think created EVERYTHING that scientists study?  What is wrong with using intelligence (God-given) to study things that God created, and then act on those discoveries?  If not, we’d still think leprosy was only good for a trip to a colony, a woman on her monthly cycle should be booted out of the common bed and any furniture for 7 days, be making our own candles for light, riding horses, and shrimp on the barbie would be taboo, among a bazillion other things. Those rules were given by God for the time period when there were no treatments for leprosy, no sanitary products, and no cure for hepatitis A, and the rest. Same with the kosher dietary laws- they are all health related.  You can ignore a tornado warning, and still get flattened. You can ignore science, and still have stuff happen.  The Bible didn’t say exactly HOW some of the things during End Times would happen… but I bet there will be some that are now able to be figured out through science- those who wrote the Bible only had their frame of reference.

Why has it all ended up like this?   And why does it seem like people would rather be nasty or “right”, or not understand that it’s OK not to agree on everything, even if we believe in the same God?   That one baffles me.  We are all PARTS of the same body.   I’m just glad that God knows my heart- and those who judge me are really judging themselves.   I might not tow the evangelical rope any longer (I prefer ‘non-denominational’)  but I still believe in the same God of my childhood… and miss those who were part of it. It saddens me that the toxicity definitely doesn’t seem to be even close to coming from God (my opinion- I get that, just as others get theirs)    Why is that so ‘bad’?   Why has it become so much more preferable to simply avoid humans who don’t agree, or not bother to get to know some of them?  The Great Commission would be a short assignment if all we do is preach to the choir.

Why do I never hear from folks who claimed to ask my dad about me, after I became disabled?  I tried calling a few, and reached out to the church when I was still able to leave home (this stay at home stuff has been my normal for 16 years). But out of sight, out of mind- and I’ve gotten used to it.  It’s OK now. I got tired of initiating everything… it was obvious I didn’t fit in anymore because I wasn’t just like them…those who had been church ‘family’.  Even something as non-threatening as being disabled is blown off. Fortunately, I grew up without siblings, so the dog and I get through the days just fine.  I thank God that He made me the way He did. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter what the excluders say.  God knows my heart, and feels my pain. And that  brings a lot of comfort.

I pray for all of the people I used to know. They were my frame of reference as a kid.   I wish them all the best in everything they do, and that God blesses them more than I can even begin to understand.  He is the author of love. He is the One who answers the ‘why’… though I may not get the answers as quickly as I’d like.  But I know He’s got all of it under control in His timing.

Updated for 2020.

Sharing Christianity With Love and Warmth

Sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously as a Christian, as so many Christians come across as painfully judgmental in their tone and overall intolerance- towards those who don’t believe exactly in what they do. We can be our own worst enemies when trying to encourage non-Christians see how Christianity really is an amazing way to get through this life, and that it just gets better!   This age of so much communication being done between strangers with no interpersonal connection doesn’t help much. Reading comments about online articles, stories, etc. are horribly mean and hateful- and the Christians are among the worst at times.  It makes me sad.   I try SO hard not to be one of ‘those’ Christians (and also not to judge them– they have their reasons for their beliefs, even if I disagree with how they come across, at least with how I’ve perceived them in specific online conversations or about specific topics… and I’m not good at that).  I want to be used by God, not drive people away from Him.  That can be a lonely place.  The ‘holier-than-thous’ have no tolerance for ME, and I don’t fit in anywhere because I see approaching people out of love and respect being more important than being ‘right’.

I’m very limited physically in how much I can interact with people (Christians and non-Christians), and so much of what I am exposed to is lacking the ‘in-person’ body language and non-verbal subtleties needed for complete communication. I base my fairly open and ‘cleaning my own side of the street’ approach to a lot of topics based on my belief that Jesus spoke much more about love than He did about judgement.  Jesus loves everybody, and took the ragtag bunch of people around Him to be the ones He kept the closest to Him.  He didn’t look for the legalistic Pharisees. He didn’t take the ones who could recite ‘rules’ twenty-five ways to Sunday.   He chose the hookers, thieves, the poor, and later, even those who used to persecute Christians to help spread His message. Paul was a huge factor in the spreading of the message of Christianity in those early years, and he was horrible to Christians prior to his conversion !   Who am I to only seek out the superficially ‘acceptable’ people to care about?  Appearances mean nothing, both good and bad. (I LOOK very unfeminine, and pretty ratty a lot of the time. Because of some medical issues that make having hair actually a safety issue, as it gets me overheated very fast, and that triggers a lot of unpleasantness, up to losing consciousness… so I look stereotypically ‘butch’, because my head is shaved, and I don’t wear a lot of girly clothes… a t-shirt with flowers is about as ‘foo-foo’ as I get… that’s just me.  I’ve gotten a lot of nasty ‘looks’  and comments over the years about that).  God can use anybody who is willing!  Even if they don’t ‘seem’ like they’re capable of a meaningful relationship with Christ, or ‘look’ like a bonafide Christian 😉

It’s kind of a lonely place at times to not ‘tow the line’ in some very rigid manner. God meets us where we are, and I think we, as Christians, need to show the love of God in ways that fit the person we’re interacting with.   I don’t ‘fit in’ with how I view some very controversial topics in the conservative Christian community.  I believe in the Bible, and that it’s the inspired Word of God.  I also look at the social, scientific,  and cultural norms at the time the Bible was written, and look at ways to learn more about how that translates into today’s society. I am very aware that I don’t know everything.  But no matter how I view something or someone, I feel an obligation to love the person as someone God created in the womb first, and do all things in a way that doesn’t make them run from any message I may have about how God can have a real place in their lives, no matter what any person’s beliefs, strengths, or weaknesses may be.  What good does it do to judge someone, and push them away?  That isn’t the goal !  Jesus told Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel… not judge those who will benefit from hearing it (as in everybody !).   God didn’t appoint me, or any other human, to be judgmental.  Matthew 7 is very clear on that.  The Bible is also very clear on doing all things in love.  Focusing on the good, and showing everyone the definition of love in I Corinthians 13, and the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians.  Those are our standards.

God has been a huge refuge for me during some really hard times.   When I was raped, He was Who I called out to (silently, in prayer) to give me the strength and wisdom to get through it, and escape.  With the chronic medical disorders I’ve got, God is Who gives me the strength to just deal with another day, even when I just want to curl up and sleep until things get better (problem with that is that the disorders are chronic, progressive, and not going to get better).  When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, my comfort came in knowing that no matter what happened, I’d go on in eternity if I died.  I’d be able to reunite with fellow believers who have died, such as family, friends, and people I’ve read about over the years.  I’d like to share that comfort with others.  I’d like others to know that no matter how alone they feel, God is always around.  When I was in the middle of the last eating disorder relapse, I’d ask God every night literally to just let me wake up in the morning.  He answered all of my prayers during all of those times.  I’m still here.

I don’t run around with my religion on my sleeve (though I do have a few cool t-shirts with messages on them ),  but I will be specific about my beliefs when asked, or when I decide to write about it.  I strive to live my beliefs (and I can always improve !).  I believe that salvation is  a choice.  It is not possible to be ‘good enough’ or ‘earn’ a place in Heaven.  Believing in Jesus, His death on the cross, and resurrection as a payment for our sinful nature -by simply being human- is how I believe people get in to Heaven.  The Bible is very clear on that.  But, there are no pre-existing criteria to ‘qualify’ as a Christian. It’s simply telling God that I know I’ve sinned (we all have, and anybody who is at the age of accountability- which varies with individuals and developmental stages and capabilities needs to make the choice for themselves to seek forgiveness), I ask for forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus died to pay the price for my very human nature and choices that have grieved God, and separated me from Him.  I believe that  Christ physically rose from the dead. I believe that He’s going to return one day to gather Christians still alive here on earth, as well as those who have already left this earth. A lot of really ‘good’ people will be left behind.  I believe that when my earthly life is over, my eternal life begins. And I know that no matter how other people, including  Pharisee Christians, see me, God knows my heart.  That is more important than human acceptance.  I don’t ‘do’ legalism…  I cherish my relationship with the Lord, and other Christians.

I also believe that people have the right to decline God’s offer, and by not making a choice, they actually do make a choice.   They have the right to their beliefs as  I have the right to mine.  My beliefs mean that I only see one way for someone to be ‘saved’, and eligible for eternal life.  But it’s not my place to ‘judge’ someone for not wanting or believing that (I can be sad they don’t choose the same beliefs, but it is NOT OK for me to judge that person).  Those who don’t believe as I do will say I’m being judgmental for saying that there is only one way to Heaven… my answer is this: what is in the Bible didn’t come from me.  God made it a choice, whether to believe or not.  He didn’t create us to be robotic followers.  He gave us all free will. But He wants everybody… He won’t push anybody away for any reason…. so how could I possibly think it’s OK for me to judge anybody for making their own decisions?  🙂

Humans (often Christians) screw up the Bible, and how Christianity is perceived, more than any other factor on earth.  The Bible itself is fairly straightforward, and with religious and historical scholars having written volumes on the various cultural, social, and scientific things, it’s easy to see that God’s plan for our salvation is timeless.  It was seen as heresy when Jesus died and rose again- a conspiracy of major proportions.  Some people still see it as such. Some just think it’s bogus.  That’s their right.  It saddens me, but I still accept that they have the choice to believe what they will.  Faith comes with continued belief, and it’s different for everyone.  God didn’t make us all identical cookie-cutter people (pretty great, eh?), so we all ‘do’ this journey in our own way.   And, we can pray for those who don’t believe, and continue to be kind and compassionate towards them.  How will they ever find Christ if Christians are the first to bail out on them?

To me, the requirements for salvation are absolute; there is only one way to become a Christian-  BUT there are as many ways to BE a Christian as there are people… . It’s a choice.  It’s an active belief, not a passive assumption.   God can use ALL of us 🙂 

I believe that God can use anyone who makes him/herself available to Him.  He doesn’t demand perfection. He doesn’t demand we ‘speaketh’ in a completely unnatural way when we talk to Him.  I am not a fan of religion at all (mindless rituals and rules)… God wants a relationship with every single person on this planet. 🙂  He waits until we seek Him, but then we are His forever.  He won’t force Himself on anybody.  He gave us free will.  And, He has a single requirement for being with Him forever…. belief.  Faith grows over time, but belief is a choice.

I can’t imagine NOT believing what I do.  I can’t imagine NOT believing in Jesus, or His death and resurrection.  I can’t imagine NOT believing that He is coming back.  I can’t imagine NOT having the absolute assurance of Heaven when I die. To me, it takes a lot more faith in “nothing” than it does in a loving God whose Son walked the earth in human form over 2,000 years ago.  I also don’t see humans as a lot who are higher up on the reliability scale.  I couldn’t believe in a mere mortal.  Just wouldn’t work for me.   I’m glad for my upbringing in an evangelical church.  I’m thankful that I had good experiences with how God was taught to me, and that I had several outlets that were wonderful experiences to reinforce what I’d learned (youth groups, summer camp, working at the same camp during 2 1/2 summers, choir, etc).  I’m also very glad I read through the BIble cover-to-cover on my own a few times, so I saw what is in there for myself…. not JUST how a pastor saw it. I’m thankful for study Bibles with amazing notes from reputable Bible scholars to enhance my understanding.

I wish that for everyone. 🙂

Feeling Deformed… and Being Needed

I just got back from the endocrinologist’s appointment… they always weigh me there. I already know the number will be horrible before I walk in the door. I know it every time I look in the mirror, or remember the rings I can’t wear anymore, or wonder why I look like an orangutan (my chin has more than doubled).  I detest what I see when I look at myself, so I avoid it whenever I can.  But, bless the doc’s heart- she didn’t rag me about it.  My diabetes numbers are very good, my blood pressure was 98/60, and my blood sugar records were more likely to be on the low side than too high- so it’s not about too many carbohydrates.  And, I’ve stayed within 3-4 pounds for a  year.  But I’m not happy.  Not by a long shot. I look horrible.

I know that as a Child of God, I’m supposed to look at that to determine my self-worth.  I know that He has everything under control, and that He has some reason for this.  I’ve tried so many ways to lose weight, and it just won’t move. I’m afraid to get too radical, since I have a history of some pretty significant starvation and eating disorders. I don’t want to go back there.  SO, how am I supposed to learn to accept myself like this?   I’m unacceptable !  I don’t know what He can do with me like this to be of use to Him.  But I have to trust that He’s got it figured out.

My oncologist told me to just be thankful that I’m alive; many people with acute promyelocytic leukemia don’t make it… I know of two people by name who didn’t even know they were sick  until a day or two before they died from brain bleeds. One was 29 years old, the other was an 11 year old kid.  They both shook me up more than a little.  I was pretty sick in the hospital for six weeks… and initially I lost weight on the induction chemo. Then came the consolidation (arsenic), and maintenance (M6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate, and tretinoin)… 19 months total.  I blew up by 50 pounds from the lowest post-induction chemo weight (30 pounds from before the cancer diagnosis). It’s humiliating.  YES, I’m very thankful to be alive, but I feel like I’ve failed at getting my body into better condition.

My mobility is limited because of degenerative disc and joint disease, bone spurs, and fibromyalgia. My activity tolerance is limited by dysautonomia.  I’ve tried sitting exercising, and my heart rate gets to the point of making me dizzy and pre-syncopal.  I can’t get in a heated pool, or the heat will trigger my blood pressure to nosedive.  I’d slink under the surface of the water, and drown. Not helpful.  I can do some isometric stuff- but that hardly melts off the fat.

But I am thankful for a lot. I love my new puppy, and she needs me to be here for her.  She’s someone who notices if I’m around or not, and wants me close to her. I need that. I don’t get any sort of personal satisfaction from being a nurse anymore… I miss that a lot. I loved working, and am thankful that I had the years I did.  I am very thankful for the stuff I’ve survived.  I want to be here.  I’d rather hate my body than have it parked in a marble orchard somewhere (that’s what my dad calls cemeteries).  I enjoy many things (mostly on TV, or online).  I’m thankful that one day, I’m promised to have a new body in heaven.   I’ve requested a size six. 🙂  It’s just hard for now.

My puppy doesn’t care if I’m a size &^%&# or a size zero.  She just wants me here. When I call her name, she wags her tail as if I’d just given her the best prize in the world.  To her, I’m enough.  I’m hers.  I guess maybe I’ll just have to start there, and have that be enough ❤

Limitations Don’t Define Who I Am

My disabilities don’t make me who I am.  I don’t want someone else’s life, because that wouldn’t be me either.  I wish many things weren’t the way they are, but I don’t want to be someone else.  I’m getting very close to being 50 years old, and I’m OK being plain old disjointed, imperfect me.  I can’t be anybody else.  Trying to be someone else wastes the time I have.

I’m not able to do many of the things that I used to think defined me. I’m not able to work as an RN, and I miss that more than I can describe.  I miss taking care of other people in the way that gave me so much satisfaction.  I treated them as I’d want to be treated.  I learned how to empathize with their pain, and in turn be a better human being.  I miss those moments with someone who was going through something life-changing, and being able to offer some level of comfort.  But being a nurse doesn’t really define me. I used to think it did.  It’s a huge part of me, but it’s not all of me.

I’m diabetic, epileptic (temporal lobe nocturnal seizures), a cancer survivor (acute promyelocytic leukemia), I’ve got fibromyalgia, lung scars from multiple pulmonary emboli, bone spurs in my neck, chronic headaches, severe muscle spasms with any lifting or repetitive motion (groceries, trash, laundry), and dysautonomia, which causes severe heat intolerance, blood pressure and pulse changes, and very limited activity tolerance.  And none of that defines me.  It’s stuff that I have to deal with on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis…but it’s not who I am.

I had eating disorders for years (decades), but anorexia and bulimia don’t define who I am. I thought they did, and when I was in early recovery, I didn’t know who I would be if I wasn’t ‘the one who won’t eat’.  But all eating disorders did was mask who I really am.  They took away my ability to live normally and interact with people in a way that really put me into any sort of relationship. My main relationship was with the eating disorders. Nothing happened in my life unless I thought about how it would affect my ability to avoid calories.  That was my primary motivation in everything; any sort of real friendship was put way down on my list of priorities- though I didn’t see that at the time. It was a very selfish time in my life that I’m not proud of.  Eating disorders only steal time- they do nothing else.

Being a rape survivor doesn’t define who I am. It has had a huge impact on my life to have survived six hours of continuous sexual torture.  It changed how I interacted with people, and my ability to allow anybody to get very close.  But it’s still a relatively small part of my life… six hours changed a lot, but they didn’t change who I am at my core.

So, who (and what) am I?  I’m an average human being who wants to be accepted and have people in my life who accept me, warts and all.  I loved (and miss) all of my dogs, and am looking forward to getting a new puppy (and am waiting for her to be conceived at this time; I know where she’s coming from).  I care about people, and my heart goes out to those I see on the news, and hear about on FaceBook.  I miss my ‘old’ life before disability, but am learning to accept what my reality has become.  Most of all, I love God.  Without Him, I wouldn’t be here.  The consistency I feel when I read through the Bible (especially Psalms and Proverbs when I’m feeling badly) is what I can depend on much more than I can with human beings, who are fallible just as I am.  Every day is a chance to just ‘be’. I’ve had times when I thought that I would die, so life is precious.  I realize that in spite of things that have happened, I’m very fortunate in so many ways.  Some days, I don’t remember that as much as other days.  But I do understand that I’m here for a reason, and I’m thankful for that.

 

 

Do I Really Belong Anywhere?

When I look at the vast number of ways people can be divisive, I feel even more like I don’t belong anywhere.  Whether it’s political, religious, or anything else, I don’t tow the party line anywhere.  I don’t believe in any extremes.  I hate labels.  I sometimes don’t know exactly where I stand on things, but if it in some way makes people more distant from each other, there’s a really good chance I don’t want any part of it.  The only thing I’m definite about is my relationship with God- not how others view their own Christianity, but MY relationship with God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit… and those don’t need to be flashy and highly viewable.  I shouldn’t have to advertise it; and I shouldn’t have to hide it.

Because of my ‘religious’ beliefs (I detest the word ‘religious’- it screams of empty rituals and mindless devotion), I don’t like when people are labelled and judged by humans. I don’t believe we have the right to do that to other people. We’re human, a.k.a. fallible, and need to focus on our own shortcomings instead of being hateful  (Yes !  Christians are some of the most hateful people on the planet for those Christians who haven’t figured that out!). Check out Matthew 5 & 6… great chapters in the Bible.  Do I have specific feelings about specific issues? Yep.  But I don’t think many of those things need to be put up for public approval. Some things are between the person and God.  And, most really aren’t worth making illegal to clog up an already stagnant legal system even more. We need to keep the violent people contained…not someone who had an abortion after being raped, or something else that is seen as a violation against life and God.  When Christians use God to back up their own beliefs, it makes me sad. God can speak for Himself- and He has.  He told US to love each other, and to leave the judgement to Him.  

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own beliefs and views on things. I do. But I just can’t stand the fighting about issues that are really very personal.   How does any Christian think that people who don’t have a relationship with God are ever going to see the benefit of knowing Him if Christians spend so much time belittling those they disagree with?  Is it not possible to have a personal (and deeply valued) belief system and relationship with God, and still reach out with an open hand to someone who thinks and believes differently?  Does being a Christian mean avoiding everybody who doesn’t show up at church 3-5 times a week?  That old ‘go ye into ALL the world….’ ?  I guess that was only for the olden days, eh? Seems that folks only want to be with like-minded folks, which is fine, until it becomes exclusive.

When I hear the far right talk about the ‘free’ entitlements such as Medicare, it makes me so sad.  Because of things outside of my control, I’m disabled, and on Medicare (and have been since I was 44 years old).  I worked as an RN for 20 years, and paid into Medicare and Social Security.  That ‘free’ Medicare costs me about $500+ per MONTH, to pay for premiums/co-pays so that I do have full coverage and the medications/supplies I need. Medicare is very deficient in many areas.  Medicaid is extremely difficult to qualify for; it’s not something that a person just goes and gets in line to receive.  It’s portrayed as the medical care that anybody can get if they don’t have something else, and that is absolutely not true.  For me to qualify for Medicaid help (during the times when I had a different Medicare supplement policy that left me with thousands of dollars in copays), I had a $2200/MONTH ‘deductible’ (called a spend-down).  That didn’t even leave enough for rent, let alone premiums, food, utilities, medications, etc.  I agree that there have to be requirements to be met in order to qualify…but I also know that those who find Medicare and Medicaid to be such ‘freebies’ just don’t understand.  It costs me $6000/year for the privilege of having ‘free’ medical care.  I don’t belong on that part of the  ‘right’.

When I hear the far left speak of ‘conservatives’ as people who generally hate most of the planet, it saddens me.  Many of my beliefs are conservative (stiflingly so to some), and yet I have met so many people from so many backgrounds and belief systems that I want to be inclusive.  Excluding people (who are not dangerous to themselves or others) from any part of society damages the whole of society.  When I look at the general decline of behavior as a whole since the ‘Leave It To Beaver’ days, I see that a dose of conservativeness isn’t a bad thing !  There is room for so much more than the black and white thinking that predominates every ‘side’ of any issue.  I don’t belong with the ‘left’ either.

I’ve been rethinking a lot of my personal views on a lot of things.  For the most part, that means that the people I grew up with probably see me as being wayward at best, and a heretic at worst.  I don’t fit anywhere.  I just don’t think that I know enough as a human to judge many of the ‘hot topic’ issues.  And I’m not afraid to admit it.  Yes, I believe the Bible.  But I also know that there are things that are known now that weren’t known in Biblical times, and changes in social and scientific ‘norms’ that cause me to step back from judgement and wait until the day I can ask God for myself, instead of categorizing  groups of humans, or specific activities- and in the meantime, try not to cause more divisiveness.  In the end, the nitpicking isn’t going to help anyone.  What is in my heart is what matters- and I’m OK knowing that God sees that better than anyone.

I’ve discussed my views on homosexuality with people who know me from the church I grew up in, and  with those who have no specific religious views, and it’s not surprising which group verbally beat me up for my beliefs.   I believe that being gay is biological. There. I said it. I don’t think it’s a choice. Or a ‘lifestyle’, like being a jet-setter or redneck, or something.  I’ve also talked before about the kids I saw when I was working as a pediatric RN, who had ‘ambiguous genitalia’ (that is a diagnosis based on biology)… those kids literally had either both male and female sex organs (internal and/or external) , or the only way to determine their gender was by sending their blood for genetic mapping.  Gender is determined by the X-Y chromosomes from the sperm, and are affected by the mom’s hormones while she is pregnant. If the mom is carrying a genetically determined baby girl, and for some reason has some surge of testosterone during the pregnancy at just the right time, why is it so hard to understand that the baby is affected?  If the baby can end up with externally visible gender ambiguity , why is it so hard to think that there can be biological changes in the brain that determine sexual orientation?  Regardless, I don’t know enough to judge someone. I’ve had many gay and lesbian co-workers, one transgender co-worker who was in the process of reassignment, and assorted friends and relatives who are gay or lesbian.  God loves them.  I love them.  SO, I don’t fit in anywhere.

Criticizing the President… Oy.  I shared some very anti-Obama things on FaceBook during the campaign, and I regret it.  I don’t trust Chicago politicians. Period. But he was/is our POTUS.  The office deserves respect, and once again, judgement isn’t my role. The entire political atmosphere scares me, but instead of being so negative, I need to wake up and do more praying than criticizing.  It’s never just about the man in the Office… no one person is responsible for the mess (or success) of a country. It’s not fair to bash our country’s leader, especially in the worldwide social media society we live in.  I also cringe when such stupid things are criticized, such as the sleeve length of Mrs. Obama’s dresses…. seriously?  Does it matter?  When every last thing is torn apart (instead of trying to see the positive), what good comes of it?  Constant criticism just becomes background noise, and nothing said by those who continue to tear things down is heard.  From then on, their credibility is going to be questioned by me (I tend to verify most of what I read online anyway 😀 ).   I don’t trust anyone in Washington, D.C., and the media is always suspect… I want the source, and their interest in the topic.

Another hot topic issue that I do have some personal opinions about is abortion. Specifically, post-rape abortion was  in the press this last year, and some really ignorant politicians made some incredibly stupid remarks. The body doesn’t ‘shut down’ and prevent pregnancy after ‘legitimate’  rape (is there an ilegimate rape?).  If a woman is ovulating when she is raped, she can very easily become pregnant.  I’ve been there.  I had an agonizing decision to make, and I found out very painfully why women consider abortion. I get it.  I couldn’t do it.  And I couldn’t talk to anybody about it.  I was told I was just stressed out because of the rape, and few people would even talk to me about the pregnancy.  I was blessed to have miscarried, though I feel horrible for those who miscarry that are wanting a baby. For me, it was the best outcome for a traumatized 23-year old brain. I’ll never forget that morning- both the horror…and the relief.

Adoption isn’t always the ‘perfect’ answer, either. I was adopted, and I have had positive experiences with my adoptive and biological families.  But I couldn’t give a baby away- and how could I raise a child of rape without prejudice?  How could I tell a baby it was conceived in violence with someone who terrorized me, and have that child ever believe his/her existence was a good thing?  Even if I truly did the best I could to be loving (and with my love for babies and kids, I probably would have done OK, but the whole thing was terrifying).  As an adopted child- who was always told that my being placed for adoption was a wonderful thing for my adoptive parents- I understand that underlying feeling of being a ‘mistake’, even in the best of circumstances.  I later found out that I was conceived with an abundance of love, which meant a lot to me. But growing up, especially as I entered and went through adolescence, I did feel like a fluke.  Being the product of a rape can never be something that can be smoothed over with later information should I have met the child (if I’d carried it to term and relinquished it), or managed to raise it with some degree of actual love and affection.  I don’t ever think abortion is an acceptable form of birth control; there are responsible ways to address pregnancy prevention.  But I ‘get it’ when someone is raped and just can’t emotionally deal with a pregnancy.  I don’t like it. I don’t support it. But I get it.  Once again, I don’t fit with so many that I grew up with.

The ‘morning after pill’… it does NOT terminate a pregnancy. It prevents implantation. Without implantation, even a fertilized egg will not result in a pregnancy. It’s simple biology.  The ‘morning after pill’ is not the same as abortion.  There are pills that do terminate pregnancies.  It is good to know the difference.

The more things there are to divide people, the more I don’t fit anywhere.  I can see many sides of an issue, and I don’t understand why others can’t do the same. Am I just stupid?  I’ve  generally graduated with honors, and done very well when I worked as an RN. Am I naive? Maybe.  Do I just want to feel like it’s OK to not hate one side or the other in order to ‘belong’? Absolutely.  That’s really all I want.  And to not be belittled for wanting that.   I’m glad that humans aren’t my Ultimate Judge.

Women’s Bible Study Starting Soon !

It’s been a long time since I’ve been around groups of people for anything except medical appointments and tests.  I’ve wanted to get involved in a women’s Bible study at the church I grew up at for a long time, and for whatever reasons, it just hasn’t panned out.  I recently checked the church’s website for Bible studies and found one starting in early January, and left a message with the person who I was directed to in order to register. Understandably, she’s been out for the holidays and the answering machine said she’d be returning calls later this next week.  No problem.  I had been a bit skeptical of getting registered as I’ve had some issues in the past with getting through to anybody.  BUT, someone I knew from my ‘old days’ at the church let me know via FaceBook that I was welcome to come- I could register that night.  I’m so happy !!  🙂

I had attended some services and singles’ groups when I first moved back here in late 2002 and early 2003, after 17 years in Texas, and it all felt so foreign.  It wasn’t the same place I remembered. All ages post-high school were in the singles’ group, and I felt really out of place.  One of the people I’d known before (who is a couple of years older than I am, but we still remembered each other) made an effort to contact me several times for various things involving the singles’ group, which I still greatly appreciate.  At the time, I was working evening hours, and also beginning to have some increased health problems that involve a severe heat intolerance, so I wasn’t able to join in and get to know the new routine.  Things got worse from a health standpoint, and I was pretty much out of luck.  I have been really bummed out, as my childhood through college years at that church left me with wonderful memories and a strong desire to fit in somewhere again.  I’m so glad that I got the ‘OK’ to join this Bible study on Ephesians. I already ordered the book from Amazon so I could check things out, and I’m really looking forward to the group study.  The book looks good !

I’m not a super ‘religious’ person, but my belief in God is strong and has gotten me through some really crazy (and scary) times, whether with chronic health issues, being attacked, or the more recent leukemia.  I consider my relationship with Christ to be the most important one in my life.  I don’t attend regular church services because of the heat intolerance, but still make decisions based on my Christian roots.  With the ice vest I have now, I’m looking forward to being able to at least be involved in some sort of fellowship and study group. I’ve missed that.  I’ve missed having some connection to other people since I’ve been on disability, and am looking forward to meeting new people there as well as seeing any of the people I knew growing up at that church.

I’m a bit nervous about ‘sticking out’.  The ice vest I wear is something that allows me to leave home for a couple of hours at a time (unless I bring the ‘refill’ inserts- but I only do that if I’m leaving town or going to be gone for many hours).  It does look a bit like a white bullet-proof vest- but it’s opened up so many things; without it, the Bible study would be out of the question.  I’ve had to cut my hair almost completely off  (though it’s grown; need another trim) because I literally can’t tolerate the heat of having hair. I already keep my thermostat at home set at about 64 in the winter, and no higher than 72 in the summer.  Outside of those parameters, and I’m in trouble.  When I get ‘in trouble’,  I pass out.  I don’t want to risk that around other people.  It’s a distraction for them, and I get sent to the ER, which I absolutely loathe.  So, I worry about being a pain in the butt for other people if something gets funky.  Because of that, I tend to avoid being around anybody but a very few people who know that I may have to leave in the middle of something.  With the ice vest, I’m anticipating things going well from the heat standpoint.

So, venturing out to join a Bible study means things on many levels.  The spiritual connection (and desire for growth) is obvious.  The social connection is something that I’ve missed so much since I have been on disability (since April 2004); no work has meant no ‘in person’ interaction with anybody on a regular basis.  I do talk to my dad daily, and see him… otherwise, doctors are the people I see the most, and I’m tired of them!  The emotional connection has many components, and includes testing my own anxieties about being away from my temperature-controlled environment, as well as looking kind of ‘off’ (hair, ice vest, my eyebrows never really grew back after the 19 months of chemo- and the weight gain after the whole chemo thing; I got the ‘fat’ chemo- the ‘skinny’ chemo was only the first week).  There’s even a physical aspect to going to a regularly scheduled activity.  I’ll have to get out of my pajamas, and walk around a very large church (it’s not a mega-church like has become popular in many places, but it’s plenty big!!). Walking will be painful, but it will be worth it.  I’ve really missed being involved in something ‘positive’.  I won’t ever be able to work again (and I miss nursing a lot), but if I can get out for a couple of hours each week to see other live human beings for the purpose of spiritual growth and human contact, it will be great !

So, the new year brings with it something specific to look forward to that is new, but also familiar as it’s a church I spent a LOT of time in.  It’s a good beginning.  I don’t believe that God is only found in buildings- but the connection with other people who believe the same things is a strong way to feel more grounded in my faith.  We’re not meant to fly through this life completely on auto-pilot (I tend to be a loner in general, so this is outside of my comfort zone, even though I’m looking forward to it).  With some adaptive equipment and finding a form of fellowship that works for me, I am thankful to be able to join in with the other women at my ‘old’ church.

 

 

I’m Grumpy Today

I’m not sure what my malfunction is, but I’m sorta grumpy.  I got up way earlier than usual (I’m one of those who is usually up half of the night and then sleeps until noon).  I’ve got a vague headache, but that’s nothing all that new. I have chronic headaches.  Christmas was really good- I got to see (and meet) family, and talked to my biological mom and half-brother on the phone, which is always good.  I got to spend time with family at the Swedish Christmas party since I’ve got the ice vest to wear when I leave home and don’t have as much chance of being overheated because of the dysautonomia. And yet, I’m a major dud this morning.

My 11.75 year old schnauzer with heart failure was so eager to eat some ‘meatloaf’ I made for her yesterday (with controlled sodium), and this morning she won’t touch it. I’m running out of options.  She started refusing the prescription dog food weeks ago, and prior to that had been eating a minimal amount (which wasn’t all that unusual for her- but she managed to keep her weight up). So now I’m trying to figure out other ideas… have been through ground beef/turkey/chicken, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, brown rice, white rice, baby food veggies, cooked carrots (gag), baby food applesauce and oatmeal,  and various combinations of the above.  She normally likes all of those things. Now, I’m lucky if she eats some of her Charlee Bear dog treats- they have minimal sodium, so she can still have them.  If she weren’t still alert and very interested in what is going on, as well as physically mobile and showing no signs of pain, I’d have her put to sleep…but I don’t want to ‘kill’ my best friend if she’s still getting some enjoyment out of life.  It’s a fine line right now, so as long as it’s not blatantly obvious, I’m holding out… but that time is coming.  There’s only so much I can do, and I think I’ve pretty much hit my limits. 😦

I’ve been extremely irritated at comments to news stories on various online sites and publications. So many people are so heartless and cruel.  Or pathologically immature and even psychopathic.  Responding that they’re ‘happy’ about an article where five people were made homeless by a fire that destroyed their home? How do people get that way?  Who dropped them on their head?  Or burned them?  And then there are the other ‘less’ disturbing posts that are just plain nasty and/or cruel.  Or ignorant.  I’m actually very thankful I don’t know those people or have to spend any IRL time with them.  A click of the back button takes them out of my life.

The onslaught of horrible stories that are on the news constantly is also a major bummer. I feel really badly for those folks and what they’re going through, but what good does it do anybody to have it dissected in the media for days to weeks on end?  I’ve been a crime survivor of a high profile case (before the 24/7 media, back in 1987).  It wasn’t helpful to see it on TV for days or see the newspaper coverage over and over.  The people who knew about it, and were my actual friends/family already knew what happened, and face it: most people really don’t want to know about real life horrors that happen to other people.  Or they don’t know what to do with the information, at least to the persons’ face. Behind their back, the chatter won’t stop. If people would have just asked me straight out what happened, or even if I wanted to talk about it would have been much  more helpful than days of media coverage  (without any input from me- I was an object).  I had one ‘different’ neighbor that responded to meeting me with “I never thought I’d meet you ! ”  Really?  Meeting someone who has been raped and beaten was a life goal?  Step away from the strange one !

I’m extremely disgusted with my weight, and have my food diary set up to start on January first. I don’t want to look like this on my 50th birthday next November.  I don’t want to be grotesque and repulsive going into the last third to half of my life. I have to restrict food. I’ve tried the ‘normal’ calorie amounts I’ve been given from the doctor and diabetic dietician, and that doesn’t work…so I’ve got to go lower. I can’t do much exercise because of the issue with passing out when my heart rate goes up or I get overheated, and my knees and spine issues.  So the calories have to go.  A slippery slope for me, so I’ve got to be careful- but I have to DO something beyond what I’ve been doing.  I didn’t look like this before chemo… and I want to lose any remnants of those days.

Losing weight will also save me some time before having to have my left knee replaced (I had the right one done in late 2006, and it was a very unpleasant experience with some complications and ‘dull’ response time by the doc and nurses to a bladder infection). I had to go to a rehab place for the medically defective. It was a good rehab facility- great care, but set up where people stayed in their rooms like a hospital between therapies (no common area), and since I was infective, I was in a private room- not a horrible thing, but friggin’ isolated. It’s not like there was a big risk of someone coming into contact with my pee.   My left knee has unrepaired, and questionably healed ACL and medial meniscus tears, done when I turned over in bed back in 2009- about a week before my closest friend from here in this town died suddenly (following several complications from a KNEE replacement). She’d moved to a different state to be closer to one of her daughters, but we were in contact by phone daily, even when she was in the hospital or rehab.  I was supposed to have the left knee replacement done, but then got leukemia and everything was put on hold to survive that.  Been a weird few years.

I’m frustrated that I don’t feel that people understand why I’m like I am.  I’ve got diagnoses that people haven’t heard of.  I ‘look’ like I’m capable of working, and I miss being a nurse SO much- but too much standing or walking, and the whole heat/heart rate thing = one unconscious middle-aged RN.  I’ve been an RN for nearly 28 years.  I’ve been on disability for 8 years.  But I still keep my license, because I still AM an RN.  I worked hard for that thing.  And I loved working with it…  And those days are done.  When people ask me what I’m doing to get back to work, it hurts- there isn’t anything that can be done by me or anyone else. Some things CAN’T BE FIXED !  SO those perky, blessed-to-be-clueless people need to shut up and go target someone who has some stuff going on that is treatable. I’ve been dealing with much of this since 1996- and worked until 2004- I held out as long as I could.  I fought to keep working.  QUIT asking me if I’m going back to work. NO, I can’t !

I was raised in an evangelical church, and am a born again Christian, without some of the judgmental drama that can go with those two things.  I hate the passive ‘I’ll pray for you’ stuff- prayer is wonderful, and I do it often, but if someone wants to help, some action would be really amazing ! Prayer is about as passive as a person can get and rationalize to themselves that they’re ‘doing’ something– and while I do believe in prayer and that it is a very positive and powerful thing (and pray for people on the news all of the time since I can’t do anything else), it’s not the be-all end-all answer to really being of use to someone.  It’s definitely better than nothing, but it really doesn’t show much in terms of actively supporting and helping someone. Sometimes it’s all people CAN do- and that’s appreciated.  But remember the ‘faith without works is dead’?  I’ve sensed a lot of dead.  I wish I could do more for others, and feel guilty about that.  Not like I know many people around here to be available for… back in the home where my heart is, I could be more useful, even if I’m not that physically ‘able’… I could drive someone to the store, or appointments.  I could water plants when they were gone, or change out cat litter. I couldn’t walk dogs or watch kids… but I’d do what I could.

I’ve contacted my ‘old’ church (from when I grew up and it was an amazingly positive experience) to find out about women’s Bible studies and other things in the past, and have been essentially blown off. I guess I’m not good enough for the ‘elite’ evangelicals anymore. My checkbook may not be deep enough or something.  I’ve tried again, and will hear back after the 31st when the contact person returns. I had really looked forward to going back there when I moved back from Texas.  I found it to be cold and a bit pretentious.  If someone can’t go back to the church they grew up in, where should they go?  Where is the ‘real’ message in that?   It hurt.  There were some really nice ladies (who I’ve known since I was a kid) who invited me to a type of ‘grief’ group, but I don’t want to sit and talk about dead family.  If that works for them, I’m really glad they have somewhere that feels right for their grieving process.  My mom is dead. Sitting in a room with folks who need that type of support doesn’t work for me.  I guess if I want to connect with anybody there, I have to be bummed out.  Not something I’m interested in.  I’m hoping the Bible study that starts on January 9th will work out- otherwise, I’m done trying to get back in to the church I grew up in. It shouldn’t be a ‘project’ just to find somewhere to fit in there.  The singles group wasn’t my bag – I want some ‘study’ group type thing.  🙂

Anyway, that’s a bit of what’s rattling through my head today.  I’m a little less grumpy now.

Everlasting Moments

When I was 15 or 16 years old, I was into writing poetry.  One of the short ones was titled

“A Minute”

What is a minute in the course of eternity?

Every minute a life begins.

Every minute a life ends.

A minute is forever.

In going to the celebration service for Mary Kay Meeker, who died one month ago, I’ve realized that her lasting influence on me came in momentary interactions.  I first met her as a 8 year old 4th grade camper (I was always young for my grade).  For 7 summers, I looked forward to seeing Mary Kay. She was a constant, and someone who held attention by being attentive.  Then I spent 2 1/2 summers on summer staff at the same camp, and had longer (though still brief) periods of contact- and she never ‘wasted’ time she spent with anyone.  She made people feel as if they were the only one on the planet when she was talking with them.  When I saw her in July of this year, it was the same thing. We had probably 20-30 minutes together, along with her husband Greg, and it was like we had been in regular contact over the years and were simply catching up.  It was a very comfortable conversation that again made me feel like I mattered. And she is the reason I even made the effort to get there; my medical situation makes leaving home precarious- but she reassured me, and basically “told” me I’d get there and be just fine.  🙂

That was one of her gifts that I gravitated to the most over the years.  I didn’t feel much consistency at home, but at camp I could depend on Mary Kay to be her usual  (awesome) self.  She was incredibly talented in various performance arts- music/piano, ventriloquism, drama, skit-writing, etc…. and as much as those talents caught the attention of the campers (and the staff), her ability to interact with people on a 1:1 basis was beyond what I knew from all but a very few people.  During that time of my life, it made a huge difference in my relationship with God.  She was the consistency I needed in order to understand a consistent and loving God- even if I didn’t see her all the time, she was the same each year at camp. Very few people in my life have shown me that so steadily.

She was a solid frame of reference for living as a Christian in a way that started when I was a little kid- in a way that a little kid could understand.  She was able to apply Christ to various developmental stages, and that made the difference between telling a kid a story, and teaching a kid how to apply a life-lesson. The consecutive years at camp built on each layer of teaching from the year before, making a stronger foundation for my spiritual life and beliefs. It wasn’t lip service- it was walking the walk.  I’m still working on being better at that- she is one of a handful of people that I consider my spiritual base and role model.

Her death has been really hard, and I somehow don’t feel the ‘right’ to feel her loss as deeply as I have. I didn’t have a lot of contact with Mary Kay, though we had been in touch on FaceBook over the last few months of her life. And seeing her again in July of this year was like I had been at camp just days before. We had ‘moments’ of a relationship.  But she made moments count.  Her interactions had impact.  She didn’t waste her breath on pointless or unproductive speech.  She could be as goofy as they come, but there was a consistent message that God comes first, and He’s got it all under control. She was incredibly silly at times, but not at the expense of her commitment to God. She could be intensely deep in her dramatic skits- and yet it wasn’t some plastic display.  She was the real deal.

She is an example of how I want to live my life.  I don’t want to waste time on stuff that essentially useless, or possibly hurtful.  I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ Christians, who pushes people away from the faith we have in Jesus, and the promise of seeing each other again after death on earth.  I want to be able to incorporate the silly things into a joyful way of living that lets others know that God has me in His arms. (I do believe God has a sense of humor…. ever look at an emu up close?).  Even in her death, Mary Kay Meeker is showing me how to live.  Each moment counts.  Each moment can impact the rest of someone’s life.  I need to be responsible, and make those moments time that can be used by God for His good.  In the ‘end’, nothing else matters.

Driving Ms. Hazy

Very bad memories of nearly passing out in the drivers seat. While the car was moving. Limitations with sitting upright (and not moving around) for any length of time. Abnormal heart rates as a result of being in one position. Being confined to a sitting position with no chance to take ‘vertical’ breaks. Many, many episodes of actually losing consciousness because of the dysautonomia (dysfunction of the part of my brain that regulates involuntary bodily responses- blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, temperature control, etc.). While I’ve never passed out in the car, the times I’ve bitten the floor on solid ground are literally too many to count. (I don’t count well when I’m not conscious).  Having driven myself more than 5 miles one-way only one time in over 6 years.  Not exactly great associations with driving my car.

But I want to go to a celebration of a friend’s life at the end of this month. I want to be there. She died one week ago today, and the celebration is going to be about all of the good she contributed to the lives of thousands of kids and adults during her ministry at several places. For me, it’s mostly about a wonderful camp I attended as a kid, and then worked at during the summers of 1980, 1981, and half of 1982.  She was a major part of the camp being my spiritual home, then and now.  I want to be with others who are going to celebrate her life. It’s going to be a wonderfully positive gathering.

Yet I’m  quite nervous about driving the 50 miles, give or take, one-way, in order to be there.  I know that I have enough ‘warning’ when my body starts to act in weird ways that signal I’m in trouble and need to pull over. I know that the worst thing that can happen is that I’ll need to put the car seat back, so I can get the blood moving into  my head. I know that I’ve got my cell phone if I should get into major trouble. I know I’ve got my ‘as needed’ medications for many possible problems,  and assorted equipment to prevent getting overheated.  I know that I generally pack enough stuff to prevent or take care of  just about any medical condition known to exist, for the entire population of a small third world country.  I know that I’ve survived up to this point, and that the vast majority of things people worry about never happen.  In my head I know these things…my heart hasn’t caught up.

I know that God won’t abandon me, and that there is comfort in His presence. I know that this celebration is mostly gratitude about how He used this wonderful woman to extend His love for more than 40 years to so many kids. I know that I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).  I do believe that, and so I will go.  And I will still  be prepared for anything that could come up. That’s not a lack of faith, that’s common sense and being responsible. And I will ask God to knock a knot in my head when I get panicky, and bring me back to reality.

Sometimes I need to remember that I drove a 17 foot U-Haul  (total of 23 feet of truck including the cab) from deep in the heart of Texas back to my childhood home near Chicago, with only my dog- so no relief driver.  I had been diagnosed with the dysautonomia prior to that trip, and while I was much more stable then, there were still  risks, but I  made it in two days with no disasters.  Well, I did wipe out part of a McDonald’s drive-thru sign somewhere in Oklahoma, but the insurance took care of that- at least on the truck. 🙂  I need to remember all of the ‘day trips’ around central Texas that I used to take, with my camera and a ‘let’s go’ attitude.  Granted, I was healthier, but my driving skills are solid, and actually a little bit of ‘old fart’ in their adventurousness. Even my 80 year old dad will pull out on the road before I will if making a left turn onto a street without traffic lights.  I’m not a risky driver.  I’m a wuss.  So, I should be just fine.

Between now and then, I’ll get my stuff ready- ice vest, ice vest inserts, ice bandana ice packs, diabetic supply kit with insulin, any ‘as needed’ medicines for a variety of potential issues, a couple of bottles of water, a bottle of Coca Cola for any potential low blood sugar problems, insulated bag and ice packs for all of the cold stuff, wheeled walker with the seat, ad nauseum… I figure the car can serve as a tent if I get stuck somewhere, but I’ve also got a gizmo that will jump my battery if it dies out, so I’ve got that covered, too.   I have to get home in time for  my dog’s heart failure medicine; motivation to make this all go smoothly.

I’ll be so glad I decided to go to the celebration of her life.  She continues to be a role model for reaching out and grabbing opportunities to ‘be able’, and not live in a disabled world.  She continues to encourage me with my memories of her life.  The least I can do is show up to celebrate her. ❤

 

When Forever Breaks

In my nearly 49 year old nursey brain, I know that nobody stays on this earth forever. I’ve seen so many people die, I can’t count them all and I feel badly about that. I do remember some individuals that I’d gotten particularly close to, who had been at the places I’d worked for quite a while,  or who died from something uncommon. But for the most part, they were ‘just’ really sweet people whose bodies had given out.  I do remember feeling that their absence would be incredibly sad for their families and friends.  I spoke to many of them, and sometimes I was the one to give them the news. I always hated those phone calls.  Nothing good comes from a phone call in the middle of the night from a hospital or nursing home.

As I was growing up, I had the incredible fortune to be sent to summer camp for one week each summer to Timber-lee Christian Center in East Troy, WI.  Starting when I was 8 years old, and getting ready to start 4th grade (I was young for my class), I went every summer until I was 15, and getting ready to start my junior year of high school. I met some really neat people, and a few of them left lifelong impressions. When I got to work there in the summers on the ‘summer staff’, I was thrilled. The summer before my senior year in high school, freshmen year of college, and between the spring and fall semesters in college (1/2 of that summer), I spent up to three months working at camp- loving every minute of it. It was my spiritual home, and I learned more  about the love of God through Christians there than anywhere else. I still consider it the place where God became real to me.

I grew up in a solid church. The people there were very nice people, and there were several who were living examples of God’s love- but camp was different. I grew up with a mom who didn’t show much affection. She loved me (it took decades to really understand that), but I didn’t ‘feel’ it. As a kid, I didn’t know if she even liked me. It was all about her own ‘stuff’, and had nothing to do with me, but as a child, I had no frame of reference for what her life had been like- just what I saw in how she related to me.  She had lost two babies a couple of years apart, from the same newborn disorder, and she never even got to see them after they’d been born. That all happened a few years before I was adopted by her and my dad.   The death of a child who was never allowed to bond with a mom  does something to a mom. The bonding isn’t only for the baby. I get that now. But as a kid, I just wanted to feel that I mattered to someone, somewhere. I know my dad loved me- never questioned that. But I needed something different, that I didn’t get from a distant, aloof mother.  I got that for entire weeks at a time at camp.  On summer staff, it was 24/7 for up to three months.  Right or wrong, camp was extremely important to me feeling like my existence mattered.

I guess that’s why the death of a core member of Timber-lee has hit hard. I never really imagined camp without her. She was the constant person year after year- and she made kids feel like they mattered.  On summer staff, I met other people who made me feel like my existence was a good thing, but when I was really young, and into my adolescence, camp is where I really felt like I wasn’t ‘irrelevant’ (not sure what a better word would be), and this one woman was there each year. Camp didn’t exist in my mind without her.  With her death, my frame of reference has been broken.  I know I’m kind of old to still be hanging on to camp memories, but this place had that much of an impact.  It formed a big part of who I am because of the acceptance and understanding I felt there. It’s hard to explain.

So many people have come forward to talk about how Mary Kay impacted their lives. Many spent much more time with her than I did, but there are others who were ‘just’ campers or summer staff members who got the same genuine care and concern from Mary Kay- it’s just how she was.  There wasn’t anything phony about her, and kids can figure that out in a heartbeat. Kids crave adult acceptance. They need that adult to look up to and emulate. They need someone who thinks they are good enough just being a kid.  Those are crucial things to help them along developmentally, as they become their own persons.  And Mary Kay was there every year since 1972, loving every kid (and summer staffer) in a way that most people don’t have the skills and gifts to do; Mary Kay was special.

I don’t mean that I grew up in a vacuum at home. My mom (now deceased) was a ‘good’ person, and had a successful teaching career. Her students felt she was a great teacher, and many loved her. My dad worked hard, and provided for us; I never lacked a good place to live, clothes, etc.  He always had my best interests in mind, even when I didn’t realize it. He’s the person I’m closest to now. There were some key adults when I was a kid that sort of ‘took me in’ emotionally.  But camp was a block of time where I was immersed in love and true Christian living. I thrived on that.  I couldn’t wait to get back to those week long camps where I’d be in a cabin with 5-6 other girls, and a college age summer staff counselor; it was like a week long family based on the love of Jesus. It doesn’t get better than that.

On summer staff, I was surrounded by all sorts of Christians who were also  there for the kids. It was a chance to give back, but I often got so much more than I felt I gave (I worked in the nature center for most of my time on staff- I got worms for the fish and fed rats to snakes, along with doing various nature-related activities, often with a 6 foot boa constrictor wrapped around my waist). Those interactions went on to help me survive some really dark times. Camp formed the core of my beliefs (as did my home church, but it wasn’t the same). It’s something I pictured in my mind as unchanging- however irrational that may sound from someone who will be 50 years old in just over a year.  The core of my beliefs won’t change, no matter whose physically present on earth, and yet there’s a shift with Mary Kay gone.  I’m not sure I can explain it well.

Summers at Timber-lee Christian Center

I’m so glad I was able to reconnect on FaceBook earlier this year, and see Mary Kay and her husband, Greg, at a gathering at the camp this past July. It was the first time I’d been back to Timber-lee in 27 years.  There were changes, but that welcoming, feel-good feeling is still there. I believe it’s a supernatural blessing that presides over the people and property associated with that amazing place. I have never found any other place that immediately brings back the good memories like Timber-lee does. It’s mightily  used by God for so many things, and it touches people’s lives in ways that are for forever.

I’ve been so happy to reconnect with other Timber-lee summer staffers. It’s impossible to explain those summers to people who weren’t there.  I will miss Mary Kay deeply.  But I’m so thankful that I’ve got the memories of her TO miss. She and Timber-lee will be connected in my mind forever.  But now there’s a new frame of reference for Timber-lee moving forward. The ‘old forever’ broke. But I know that in the ultimate forever, it’s all good.