Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Stomach: Need or Want?

The next time I say, "I need central air" or "I need a new computer", I hope I remember the shuttle driver.  

I was bouncing along in the mechanic shop shuttle, which was giving me a free ride to a place of business while the mechanics nosed out a manufacturer's error in my Fiesta.  Rain splattered the windshield of the  courtesy shuttle, and the shuttle driver with the red fleece vest activated the windshield wipers as we turned north on Ironwood.  

"I suppose you'd rather have the conventional stomach, but it's not too bad," he said.

Other than a foggy memory from nursing school, I had kind of forgotten that stomachs are disposable.  

Turns out, they are.  You can't live without your heart or brain, but you can dispense with your stomach.  You need at least one lung and at least one kidney, but if push comes to shove, you don't need a stomach.  

The guy in the driver's seat of my shuttle had lost his in the process of a battle with stomach cancer. 

Being grateful when our blessings evaporate is a challenge.  Being positive about pain is hard.  Being okay with the loss of what we thought we difficult!  But we never know whose life we might touch. 

I'm pretty sure if someone told the shuttle driver, "I think you blessed that Mennonite girl the other day," he would say, "Don't be ridiculous, I'm sure not."

But he would be wrong. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Depending how you define "Day of Solitude"....

Does it count as a day of solitude, if you're alone in a crowd of strangers?

I take my seat in the rows of human beings and start the audiobook I've bought for this purpose.  I'm burdened about life. I feel like I'm struggling to be what God wants me to be, and my mind replays my weaknesses, my fears for the future.  Oh God, you need to speak!  This is why I need a day with you!

The brown fields of northern Indiana morph into the brown buildings of south Chicago, as I listen to Ravi Zacharias read his book, Jesus Among Other Gods.  

He talks about the hunger of our hearts, and how various religions try to deal with these hungers, and then how Jesus deals with them.   Like the woman at the well, when transformed by Jesus Christ, our hearts become part of the solution for hunger rather than part of the problem.  No other religion dares to suggest that the answer to our hunger is a person.  Jesus didn't say he would show us the way.  He just said, "I am the way."
I arrive in Chicago at Orchestra Hall, my favorite haunt for hearing The Messiah by the Apollo Chorus.

I hear the ancient words, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive..." and right there, as Ravi Zacharias pointed out in the train, the story of Jesus Christ steps out of the realm of the natural. 

On the way back, I begin to feel alone, and my mind re-hashes my weaknesses.  The train is hurtling back the way we came, flashing past Subway and Taco Bell and the United States Steel Yard and a florescent sign for Miller Lite and acres of pole lights.

"Watch your step, next stop East Chicago," the abrasive voice blares through the train.

I'm listening to the song, "If you say go, we will go; if you say wait, we will wait", when God says to me, "You would go."  It's not a question or a command.  I begin to cry, right across the aisle from the young guy twisting a plastic Coke bottle, but I don't care who sees me, because I suddenly know that God is with me.  God, who knows my weaknesses, my failures, my lack of discipline, my desire to be a people pleaser, by tendency to let people control me, still says, "I know you're trying. Stop beating dead horses.  Get up and try again tomorrow." 

So I'm wiping my eyes.  I feel God all around me, and I realize that of all the people on the train, I am the least alone of anyone.  No matter who you went to Chicago with, there's always something you don't know about them, and something they don't understand about you.

But God knows me perfectly, knows the mess I make of things daily, and still he has just quieted my heart with one touch of his hand on my shoulder:  "Shhhhh.  Be quiet.  Just keep going and stop agonizing."    

This is why I love to take a day of solitude in a crowd every now and then.  Because it's not really solitude. People think I'm alone, when they look over at the empty seat beside me.  

But they're wrong.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Why I'm here in the ER

It's been a long day, starting at 4 am.  It's now 10:30, and the lights are dimmed in our little ER room.  The nurse dressed in blue, pushing anti-nausea medication into the IV, is the husband of a veteran nurse I work with upstairs.  He teases his patient that he'll bring her ice chips only because she's a friend of Katrina, who is a friend of his wife.

I'd rather be home in bed, if I had to choose right now.

But Mary, whose excruciating headaches have overtaken her again, is my inspiration.  She's resting her head on her arm, her elbow propped on the side rail of the ER bed.  She's okay now, with the pain medication.

Recently, I stopped at her house to decompress about work.

I babble for awhile, collapsed on her couch in her immaculate living room. 

Mary listens and changes channels. 

Sometimes I think I'm going to lose my mind, I tell her.

Mary, who knows the key parts of my story, comes up out of her recliner.  She shakes her finger at me.

"Do you think, Katrina....DO YOU THINK," she hollers at me, "that God's going to put you somewhere where you're going to lose your mind?" 

She has no mercy on my whining.  She pushes me forward and reminds me that God is bigger than my perceived problems. 

"The one word God doesn't want to hear us say is 'can't'," she tells me.

He brings the ice chips.

"Ooo, yum," she says.

I would like to say that I'm here because of my strength and compassion.

But I'm actually here because of hers. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The State Trooper Who Finished My Blog

Found at William and Reba's, my brother's house

From under the semi truck in front of me, a cloud of lumber, cardboard boxes, and foam pieces exploded across the toll road.  I drove right into it, boards clattering against the front of my car, unidentifiable debris spewing into the road behind me. 

I'm that geek that goes home for Thanksgiving and comes back loaded with favorite new quotes.  Or maybe I should blame the geekiness on my family, for providing me with the quotes.

On my drive home, I was mentally processing, "Be a servant, not a solution".  Here are a few of my philosophical thoughts:

  1. A solution can be confusing.  A servant never is. 
  2. The internet is overloaded with solutions.  But not with servants.  
  3. No one cares about your solutions if they aren't convinced of your service.
  4. A solution is telling; servant hood is doing.  
  5. There are problems without solutions, but not problems that can't be helped by a servant.  
  6. Jesus was the solution to the sin nature of man.  But in order to become that solution, he had to first become a servant, in the most amazing miracle: Emmanuel, God with us. 

About five miles from my home exit, the cloud of debris washed over me and I pulled to the shoulder. A few other vehicles pulled over as well, then shortly pulled away. 

Should I leave too, I wondered? It was dark, so I didn't know if I had damaged my car, although it drove fine. 

I decided to stay.  If I later found damage, how would I prove that I had received the damage here? 

I felt bad calling 911, but I didn't know who else to call.

"What's the nature of the emergency?" they asked, then transferred me to the state police.

"What's your location?" the state police voice asked me.  His tone was a hybrid of I just sat down to a pancake dinner and I'm really sick of talking to Indiana's idiotic citizens.  

I explained that I was on the toll road north of Mishawaka, but couldn't see a mile marker, that I had hit a cloud of debris, and pulled over, but didn't know if my vehicle was damaged.

"Get out and check," he said, setting his fork down.  (Okay, so I don't have proof that he did that.)

 "Well it's dark," I said, suddenly feeling like the biggest idiot in the state.

"Drive to the next exit.  They might have a light there," he said. 

I didn't wait to hear the maple syrup sloshing over his IHOP meal, but ended the call as quickly as possible.

My next executive decision was to burst into tears.

Shortly thereafter, as I wiped my eyes, a state trooper pulled up behind me, thank God.  I suppose the one at IHOP might have suggested he swing by, but I prefer to credit God.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

I explained.

He shone his light over my car, asking me to step out and evaluate it as well, and pronounced it merely in need of a wash. 

"Should I call my insurance company, do you think?" I asked.  "What if I find something damaged later?" 

"I'll write the CAD number down for you," he said.  "There's no obvious thousand dollars of damage, so I won't write up an accident report."

He returned with an official slip of paper, dated, timed and numbered. 

"Be careful pulling out," he said. 

 Back to the quote.  Point number 7. 

7.)  "They might have a light at the next exit" was a solution, but entirely meaningless to me.  A state trooper tapping on my window and asking me if I was okay was meaningful even without a solution.  But because he was a servant, he also provided me with a solution that Geico will respect, should a future problem develop. 

Trooper #2 was a beautiful type of what we are hearing in the Christmas songs: when suggestions and solutions and messages are insufficient, just go.  Show up.  Show up at the person's car window.  Show up in the broken world.  The world didn't need a "solution", we needed Jesus.  Maybe there would have been another way, but I guess God knew he needed to show up in person, which he miraculously did in Jesus. 

God with us, the greatest Servant the world has ever know.

(You can be a servant, even if you're not this cute.) 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When I grow up, seven traits I would like to have... work in stillness, wait in strength...

I find these lyrics surprising.
I though a person needs strength to work, and stillness to wait.  But this writer--Stopford A. Brooke-- is begging God for the ability to work in stillness, wait in strength.  
Maybe Mr. Brooke was like me...frantically flailing through the work day, and then collapsing, comatose.  Maybe he, too, needed the stillness to fight off the work-day craze, but strength to be productive on his own time.

I could use some stillness at work....some stillness of heart when two people need urgent surgery at once, some stillness of spirit when duplicity appears, some stillness of speech with an anxious patient or family member.

I could use some strength when I'm waiting, to recover, to pick up the pieces, to be productive rather than pass out.  

I blabbered to my aunt just tonight about all the traits I wish I had....

When I grow up, I want to eat whole grains and eggs for breakfast and fish and stir-fry for lunch and a salad for dinner and judiciously choose a dessert once every quarter.  

When I grow up, I want to casually run three miles every morning and not even think about it because it's so routine. 

When I grow up, I want to wash my dishes in a timely fashion and always have my laundry neatly folded and never run out of towels because it's been too long since I last did laundry. 

When I grow up, I want to never forget someone's birthday or special occasion, and always have heartfelt things to send to people. 

When I grow up, I want to neatly skim the ice off my November steps and sprinkle them with a hospitable layer of salt, and not leave my frozen geraniums out until Thanksgiving.  

When I grow up, I want to be able to graciously smile despite every offense, every duplicity, every hurt, and curl up under God's shield of protection when the arrows flying at me are just too much for me to handle.

Yes, that's what I want most of all. 

When I grow up, I want to work in stillness, and wait in strength. 

To see the rest of the lyrics, or buy the song from Oasis Chorale

Saturday, November 15, 2014

August 12, 2017, and seven of the beauties I didn't deserve

Lately, I've been getting behind.  I see the book lying there and grab it, hastily scanning my kitchen table for a red pen to jot with.  Sixteen hour days don't motivate you to go home and write deathless prose, to paraphrase Frank McCourt in Teacher Man.

But I still have an entry for almost every day of the last more than two years.  I hope to continue to the end of my five year journal. 

I was looking through it tonight, thinking of the days represented by the sentences I left.  Someone's house fire.  A tragic death.  Moments of turmoil in my life.  Moments of wonder.  Me bemoaning the fact that I eat too much, two years in a row on the same day.  It's good I've conquered that
problem so completely!  (If you think I'm serious, see my last blog.)

Sometime this last year I switched to focus on the best part of the day, the part that I'm most grateful for.  That's when  I started writing in red.  Now, instead of a few sentences about what happened, I try to capture the beautiful moments of the day.

1.)"Breakfast at the Cock-a-Doodle with Lily, Brian, and Byron."
2.) "Swinging on the bench by the river talking to Grandma H.  My life is so crammed with beauty!"

3.) "The Somalian's brother saying he would never forget me and complimenting my modesty." 

4.) "Chris and Christine teasing me about being high on marijuana."  

5.) "Walking to the river with DaRion and the Laurel girls, then popping in at the guys." 

6.) "Dr. Halloran's final text...'you helped me immensely'"....."Dr. Dickson thanking me for helping him Sunday night with the info..."

7.) "Crying over God's love and the church bells by the river."

The book will be finished on August 12, 2017, if I live that long and don't forget about it.  But already I think it must reflect more beauty, more "saved by the grace of God", than anyone deserves in one lifetime.  More good, more blessings than I should have ever known.

So, while my sad comments about over-eating haven't disappeared, I know that God is with me, that he will be faithful in teaching me, whether quickly or slowly, how to fight each battle that comes my way.  Sometimes he delivers, and sometimes he gives the power to fight.

But enough to know He is with us! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

7 possible excuses for why I forgot to blog last Saturday night....

1.) Being at work for about 80 hours? 

2.)  Going to the visitation of a friend's grandpa, and reflecting on the day when I was standing in the casket line myself?

3.)  Losing my grip on my dieting plans and poisoning myself with an untoward mass of carbs? (See #1.)

4.)  Decompressing at my aunt and uncle's house until late Saturday night? 

5.)  Realizing that I have no food to take to the meal on Sunday and running to Meijer for a layered almond cake?  

6.)  Eating most of the cake myself because there was too much food at the meal and it didn't get eaten?  (See #3.) 

7.)  Kicking myself because I've just missed two birthdays and my house payment and it's almost Christmas and I have 15 pounds I'm not losing? (See #1.) 

There's always an excuse available for anything.  I now lift my mug of cooling coffee to say, I hope your week was better than mine, and here's to a better week! 

Til next Saturday night...