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.

Hold On To Hope, Or Face Possibilities

I’m waiting, along with many others, for news about a dear woman who went into cardiac arrest last week, and is in a coma as a result.  The day they warmed her back up from the induced hypothermia (used to minimize oxygen demands on the brain while healing from CPR), her reflexes were present. The next day, she was following commands to squeeze her husband’s hand, and raise her elbow off of the bed.  That sounded good.  Daily reports were coming in, and while nothing else major was happening, there was a hopeful tone to the reports. Then Sunday, there was no word on her condition. Monday, there was information that she was struggling, and last night, the neurologist had done a test and met with the family early this morning.  When the time is right, information will be shared about what that was about.  As an RN, I can’t think of a lot of ‘good’ since there had been little  positive news for a few days.  I remember working on a neuro floor, and when the docs met with the families, there were major, and permanent decisions to be made. Occasionally, there would be some other treatment option, but not usually.

As I’ve been mulling all of this over for the past week, I’ve had so many emotions. Anybody who was a camper or on staff at Timber-lee Christian Center in East Troy, WI would have been directly or indirectly impacted by this woman. That’s tens of thousands of kids and staff members over the decades she has worked there.  Her talent for developing fun programs to get through entire summers, each one different, is indescribable.  She also has a great sense of humor, and is one of those people who just makes people feel good. Her piano playing ability is remarkable, and even more so, since her left arm is weak- but nobody would ever know that from what she can get a piano to do.  She has been an example of what Christian woman can aspire to. There isn’t an ounce of phoniness in her. She’s the real deal.

As an 8 year old, I first met her. She was in charge of the programming for that first year as a camper. Her talents brought stories from the Bible, and how to live as a Christian to life and made them applicable. I remembered her every year I was there as a camper (7 summers), and then when I was on summer staff, she was someone familiar when I was meeting MANY new people.  I wasn’t always the easiest to have around, but she was always kind and compassionate.

This last July, I got to sit down with her and her husband at a reunion at the camp. I hadn’t been back there for decades, and while it had always been my ‘safe haven’, I hadn’t seen anybody from there since the mid-80s. I’m so glad I had the chance to talk with her, and also to have reconnected on FaceBook several months earlier. She is someone who exudes life.  And now she’s in a coma, and is struggling.  That’s not her.  Oh, she’s had struggles- but she made them work for good.

And yet, I believe in a God who is omniscient.  He knows everything- and His will is perfect for His plan.  Not my plan, or her plan- but His plan.  I don’t know what that is, or why this all has happened.  Physiologically, I understand why her heart stopped and she needed CPR.  That isn’t hard to comprehend. But what is hard to understand is how her being in a coma, and so critically ill, is helpful to God’s plan.  I have to have faith.  I know that one day, I’ll be able to ask God directly, and know His reasoning. I do believe that.  And I have to have faith in the meantime. Sometimes that faith uses a lot of kleenex.  Sometimes that faith can’t see through the tears.  But it’s still faith.  It doesn’t waver, but it also rests inside a very real person with very real feelings.

So, now the battle is this (at least for me- and I don’t believe I’m alone in this)… do I hold out for hope and God performing a miracle? Or do I get myself ready to face the real possibility that she will end her work here on earth, and join those who have gone before her in Heaven?  I have to rely on my nursing knowledge to look at where she is- and ‘she’ isn’t lying in a bed on life support. That’s the logical angle.  That isn’t how she lives. She is a very vibrant and amazing woman. I believe God can use anybody in any state to speak to others, and yet being in a bed isn’t how she has lived.  When I saw her in July of this year- just 2 1/2 months ago- she was racing around the camp in a golf cart, tending to the visitors on the grounds. Smiling. Serving, encouraging, and active.

I can’t imagine what her husband is going through today after the meeting with the doctor.  He is also a ‘lifer’ on staff at Timber-lee.  He forges iron into custom ironworks and horseshoes. Yes, there are still blacksmiths!  Now, he’s faced with an incomprehensible set of circumstances and potential outcomes to sort through. But he seeks God’s will as well.  He seeks the glory of God, regardless of the loss or changes he may also face.

In the end, those of us who believe the doctrines and Biblical principles that are an integral part of Timber-lee know that we will all see each other again, no matter what happens here in this earthly life. We have that promise and confidence in what Jesus did on the cross. That makes no sense to someone who choses not to believe in Christianity as described in the Bible- and God gives everyone the free will to decide that. He doesn’t force eternity- or Himself- down anybody’s throat. For me, it’s a comfort -though I still feel the loss of people I care about in a very human way; those concepts are not mutually exclusive.  Christianity really isn’t about either/or… it’s about more and more.  I’ll get more time with my friend. I’ll get eternity with her. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t miss her until then.

I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know the private matters being discussed. I do know that the woman I know is vibrant, and unstoppable. Yet, now she’s suspended in time, in a very passive state. That’s not her.  I will still pray for healing. I will still pray for God’s will to be done (which might mean He takes her). But no matter what, I will never forget her impact decades ago, or even now as she triggers deeper thought about God, and why things happen the way they do… and in the end, she has once again strengthened my faith.

And those of us ‘watching’ can celebrate her life, no matter what.

Growing Up Evangelical

The term ‘evangelical’ has become attached to so many negative meanings nowadays. It’s really sad that most things to do with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or anything ‘religious’ (I don’t like that term) are met with such hostility.  Though I do understand some of why that ‘is’.   Sometimes Christians can be their own worst representatives.  I also learned later (in my 30s) that a person’s ‘assumption’ of God often reflects how they view their earthly father. If that relationship was damaged or weak, it’s hard to comprehend a loving, consistent God.  When I read the Bible for myself, I found a very compassionate and constant God.  I also found so much more love than judgement.

I grew up in an evangelical church from the time I was a newborn.  It just ‘was’ in my house.  I had a great experience in that church when I was a kid. It was my primary social contact, and the youth groups were a lot of fun.  I was in various choirs, and most weeks, I was at church functions at least four different times.  Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evenings, and some sort of weekend youth activity.  In the summers we had Vacation Bible School as little kids, and I worked as a VBS volunteer when I was in high school.  I spent eleven years working in the church nursery.   We also had an amazing summer camp that I attended for week long sessions as a young kid. For  2 1/2 summers I was on summer staff as a nature counselor between my senior year of high school and early college ages.  My memories of that camp are amazing; I still love that place.

When I was growing up in that church, I never felt that there was an exclusivity about it.  Back when I was younger, there weren’t that many controversial issues that were discussed openly.  That made for a fairly sedate experience.  The things I was taught were directly from the Bible.  Were there some ‘taboo’ topics? Yep.  But it wasn’t something that was beaten into me by some rabid preacher.  There were simply Bible verses that were discussed about various topics, and that was that.  No drama.  Nobody talked about abortion, LGBT issues, or even divorce (until well into the 80s when a Sunday School class for divorcees was started).  But I didn’t hear much about those things outside of church either.

As a teenager, there was the expectation that sex happened after marriage (and I had no issue with that).  Language reflected character, and was expected to be G-rated (I later had some issues with that, and had a lousy character for a while). Clothing was expected to be modest- but wasn’t Puritanical- shorts and t-shirts were fine, as long as they weren’t Daisy Dukes or low-cut.  There weren’t any bans on dancing, playing cards, or going to the movies. The guidelines for deciding activities were simple: Was it something that glorified God?  And God is a pretty open-minded guy on many issues !  (I have read through the Bible many times, and found that most of the ‘rules’ were imposed by humans, not the Bible).  There were instructions about the power of music and the lyrics and beat that could distract from beliefs; music is powerful.  I never got into hard rock, and even paid attention to the softer rock. It had to have a positive message.

How I decided what was right for me was also simple. It was in the Bible.  When I became a Christian (an actual event- not a progressive tally of behavior and deeds), I was very young. As I got older and realized the sacrifice of what Christ did on the cross for all of us, obedience to the Bible became something I wanted to do.  It wasn’t forced on me; I wanted to follow the Bible out of respect and gratitude. I don’t always do it ‘right’, but I’m a work in progress. Since God has my heart, He can work in me.  It’s a relationship more than a religion (which to me implies mindless rituals and Sunday behavior that isn’t the same as the rest of the week). It’s something that grows and gets more mature in time.  It doesn’t end, but that’s the beauty of it; God won’t leave me.

I had no interest in having sex before marriage. I wanted to wait until I met someone that I loved, so it was special and not something to take for granted.  My body was considered to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, and what I did with it was to reflect that.  Drinking and drugs weren’t of any interest- I did go through some stupid drinking when I moved away from home (1200+ miles away), but it wasn’t fun. I stopped.  My activities were always rather dull. I’m just not that interested in things that I couldn’t do with Jesus standing next to me (which He is).  I don’t feel I missed out on anything.  My eating disorder years were a bad example of Christian values; I didn’t respect the body God loaned me.

I do think that some issues were either glossed over or ignored.  I was always taught to help my ‘neighbor’ (basically anybody), and not think much about it beforehand.  I wasn’t taught to evaluate a situation and feel that it was OK not to help someone if my safety was at stake. It IS Biblical to be safe and not suffer from the absence of common sense.   But that’s the big ‘negative’ I experienced (and it was significant in how it affected my life). On the whole, I value my church upbringing as THE single best thing my parents ever did.

When I hear about the extremists on the news, it breaks my heart.  Most evangelicals (or conservatives in general) aren’t haters.  Many have strong convictions, and may disagree with some social issues, but that’s not the same as ‘hate’.  God wants everyone to join Him. Heaven is a choice.  Salvation is a decision- it can’t be earned by any deed or quality of life. God used social outcasts for most of His plans in the Bible.  He used people of good reputations as well- He can use anybody.  God doesn’t hate anyone (that preacher from Kansas is going to have a lot of  explaining to do one day).  I can’t view anyone who hates another person as someone who is following the Bible.  God is the only Being who has the right to judge anyone.  He gave us all free will and it’s not up to me to define that for anyone. Do I have opinions on things? Yep.  But I can’t climb on board the hate wagon.

As far as salvation and Heaven go, it’s very simple. The Bible is clear on that.  Those who believe that Jesus died on the cross to be a sacrifice for our sinful nature , He rose from the dead, and is coming back someday to take believers to live in Heaven for eternity.  For those who die before He returns, their spirit goes to Heaven when they die IF they have prayed for Christ to forgive their sins, and believe in His gift to us when He died on the cross.  It’s very simple.  It’s open to anybody.  There are no mandatory deeds to ‘earn’ salvation (earning salvation isn’t possible – which is pretty neat, nobody is excluded from eligibility).

(We’re born into sin as human beings; the age of accountability is different for everyone, and  includes developmental stage and the awareness of right from wrong; I don’t believe that babies or those who can’t understand the process of confessing sin and receiving Christ will go to hell).

Baptism is a sign of obedience, but not a requirement for salvation.  The Holy Spirit is a guidance system, and comforter.  Speaking in tongues isn’t something dramatic used to ‘show’ other people anything.  It’s a language between the believer and God, and not required for salvation, or as ‘proof’ of the Holy Spirit’s  presence.  He can be very quiet and private ! The Bible is a constant, and never changes (the versions and translations may, but the message is the same, from the same Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic sources).  There are so many verses that are ‘go-to’ verses when times are tough. Psalms and Proverbs are huge helps when I’m feeling bad, or feel I’m being ridiculed by humans.  Proverbs is also a great source of direction on how to live a prudent life. The New Testament gives me the blueprint for living as a Christian (the Old Testament is still valid, but the words of Christ are invaluable).  The books of John and Romans are great for new Christians and those who want to go to the ‘nitty gritty’ before anything else.

I mess up living as a Christian all of the time.  I ask for God to forgive my daily screw ups, and He is faithful and just to forgive me when I confess my sins.  He knows my heart like NO human ever will.  With Him, I am totally understood.  There is none of the feeling of being misunderstood that I encounter with the vast majority of people I know.  But since asking God to forgive my sins and receiving the gift that Jesus gave when He died on the cross, I can never be ‘unsaved’.  I can fall away from the type of life I want to live- but I can also return to a closer walk with God at any time.  He is still there. He is the ultimate loving Father.  The decisions of others, and my own decisions, can lead to trials and struggles in life… but that doesn’t mean God is ‘punishing’ me, or that he ‘makes’ bad things happen.  All decisions have consequences; I decide how I react to them.

I’m comforted all the time by the assurance of Heaven, especially with my health problems, but even before then.  I know that I’ll see other Christians again, which makes earthly death less painful.  I grieve for the temporary loss here, but know that in the grand scheme of eternity, the time on earth is very short.

I hope I’ll see you there. 🙂