A Broken Hallelujah…

Happy New Year! … and a belated Merry Christmas, too. I had the best of intentions to log in and provide some kind of grand blog on ending 2016 and beginning 2017. But, time, energy and “too many other things” got the better of me. That’s OK…it’s only January 2nd. Plenty more time to provide wit, wisdom and great depths of knowledge.

I had a really fun Christmas. We live in South Texas and my husband and I just completed building a pool. It was done in time for Christmas. (We thought it was going to be done back in October. If you’ve had to do any work with contractors you understand that there is no schedule that can’t be broken and no timeline that can’t be extended…frustratingly so. I digress) As I was mentioning we have a beautiful, new, blue pool.

Having lived up north for pretty much all my life, it’s a new experience to have weather warm enough in which to swim. We had lots of nights in the hot tub. My kid, I’ve learned, is part fish. He would live in the pool if he could. This unfortunately means that we experienced our first bout of swimmer’s ear. Not cool.

One thing about getting a pool that no one ever tells you about is the increased amount of laundry that comes with getting in and out of water repeatedly throughout the day. Wet beach towels are heavy and start to stink if not properly aired out. Ergo…I did close to twenty loads of laundry during the 3 or 4 days surrounding Christmas.

In this frenetic effort to keep Christmas traditions, enjoy the pool, enjoy my family and, Christmas baking done (because no perfect Christmas isn’t without gingerbread cookies) and try not to miss out on the true meaning of Christmas…I started to get a little panicky. You know when you get that feeling of frustration because you feel like you are doing ALL the work and “why in the world am I doing all this work!” and “if I have to fold another towel I swear I’ll…!” and “I’m doing all this work and missing out on Christmas and this is my one chance to enjoy it because it only comes around once a year!”…you smelling me?

At this stage of frustration the sweet, cheerful, perfect-Christmas attitude exits and the ticked-off, “Get away from me; don’t touch me” attitude joins the Christmas party. She’s a joy. Killjoy is more like it. She’s also a  tough nut to crack because she just won’t leave.

Groan.

All I want to do is celebrate the birth of my Lord. Love my husband. Enjoy my son’s delight. Instead I’m bent out of shape because things aren’t picture perfect and what the frick am I folding all these towels, for?!?

Then comes my favorite part…guilt. On top of the towels and grumpy attitude let’s spread a little guilt on this craptastic parfait. Guilt you ask? Yes. That sick, guilty feeling of , “I know it’s Christmas and I’m really trying to have that Mary not Martha attitude. But I can’t help it…I’m grumping-out big time and I know I’m missing out on this fun season because of my own crabby attitude and now I feel really guilty about it.” That guilt.

At the end of this schizophrenic tale it finally occurred to me. I celebrate Christmas everyday. The saving of Christ’s birth. The closeness of his presence. The newness of a new year. The stillness of His breath. I guess I don’t have to cram Christmas cookies, decorations, family time into one season because each day of my life is a rhythm of re-birth…a rhythm of Christmas and  New Year.

I’m sure next Christmas season I’ll try harder to slow down and soak up the joy of Christmas…but, I might fail…actually, I will fail. A broken hallelujah. That’s OK. I’m just one woman and I can only fold one towel at a time. But one thing is for sure…I’m not going to feel guilty. My Jesus has given me Christmas and New Years rolled up into one and I get to enjoy it everyday. He’s given me grace to screw up and the hope of knowing He’ll make things new. That’s a relief.

I’ve got to run…towels need to be loaded into the dryer.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

– Revelation 21:5 NIV

Rhythm

I love the word ‘rhythm’. It’s got that awkward letter ‘y’ right in the middle and preceded by a silent ‘h’…it’s a phonetic pronunciation nightmare. All the same…it’s a great word. Good rhythm is what we all hope to have when our favorite beat drops in the grocery store, or the car, shopping at Costco and most especially when we ‘re dancing in front of our family at our cousin’s wedding. Some of us don’t have very good rhythm. I tease my husband all the time that he has terrible rhythm. He taught me how to dance the ‘water-sprinkler’ when we were in college. That’s the sum total of his rhythm. Likewise…i’m not sure that my rhythm is very good either. I firmly believe I know how to drop my beat when my favorite tune comes on…but the looks on everyone’s faces is not one of being impressed at my moves …more like they’re embarrassed for me. My son, on the other hand, he’s got it….and thank goodness for that. That kid can drop his groove anywhere, anytime; no matter what song. He even dances to Neil Diamond! It is truly impressive.

Rhythm is a wonderful thing. It’s the steady drumbeat to not only our favorite music but also to life. Our lives move and sway to a rhythm. Sometimes the movement is fast…frenetic almost. Other times, the rhythm is slow, methodical. Our life can go through a rhythm of positive and negative. Of ups and downs….side-to-side. The rhythm can abruptly change or it can go on seemingly forever. When my son was a toddler my husband traveled extensively and I found myself alone in a town where I didn’t know many people. (We had moved shortly after my son was born) That was a tough rhythm; seemed like it would never end. Countless hours of diapers, picking up, wiping tears, making meals, etc. When life’s rhythm is difficult it’s easy to be lost in the frustration and not see the joys because in addition to the diapers, meals, cleaning up, etc…there was also story time, laughter, singing together, cuddle time, etc.

It’s important not to fight the life-rhythm in which we find ourselves. If we are in a rhythm of mourning…we have to mourn. In high school my best friend was killed in a bicycle accident just before starting senior year. I continued to tell myself that we weren’t very close and that her death shouldn’t affect me. I would dream about her. In my dreams I was so angry with her. It took years to bring myself to go to her grave…i couldn’t accept the finality of the situation. It’s scary to show yourself grace when you are heartbroken. Ignoring the rhythm of mourning meant ignoring my heart-break. Instead of showing myself grace, I withheld it. Not cool.

Rhythm is very much a God-thing and He has woven it all over the place.The heart He made you with beats in a rhythm. The lives He has given us moves from the rhythm of childhood to adult to senior. Parenting is a rhythm that changes as our children get older and become more independent. There is a rhythm to learning…it’s called a learning curve. Students begin in kindergarten barely knowing their ABC’s. By 12th grade they read, write and can, hopefully, reason. This earth moves in the rhythm of spring, summer, fall and winter. There is a steady drum-beat everywhere not only in what we do but in what is going on around us.

Most importantly rhythm cannot be rushed. We can’t “push” through life rhythms. We need to walk, move. sway to the beat. Sometimes my life’s rhythm is somber and discouraging. In those moments,  the presence of my Lord gently reminds me that it won’t always be this way…it’ll change. Other times, my rhythm is exciting…pure joy. I soak it up and relish every moment.

The rhythms of our life are a gift. They are periods of time that form our character and shape our opinions. They are journeys that reveal God’s grace; moments where we have to be carried or pulled through life followed by moments where we dance to the beat.

Through it all, good or bad, rhythms bring us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. We experience rhythms of sadness and find His comfort, rhythms of hunger and He fills us, rhythms of anger and we are given His wisdom, rhythms of joy … and we are reminded of His grace.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

The “Jumperoos”

There are two types of people…

Type 1: Athletic

Type 2: Not Really

The first category requires little explanation. These are the folks whom, upon picking up a ball, bat, racket, etc., show they possess an athletic aptitude. They are not necessarily paid athletes. In some cases they are our kids, spouses, friends, etc. Then there’s the latter category. A group of people whom, when they pick up a ball, bat, racket, skis, helmet, ice skates, baton, grapple hooks, frisbee…etc., it becomes quickly apparent to those watching that they do not possess an athletic bone in their body. These are the ‘not really’ athletic group.

I belong to the latter. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent all of my life in this group in just about every sporting category save for the second grade jump rope team, the Andover Jumperoos…

So there I was in the second grade and my PE teacher announced that try outs for the school’s jump rope team were open and she would be screening us to see who could join. Her plan was to video tape us jump roping and select kids for the team. I knew I was meant for this team…if there was anything I was good at, it was jumping rope.

I was confident I was going to make the team and went home and told my mom. She supported me and smiled…didn’t really say much. I suspect she was worried about potentially dealing with the aftermath and the emotions of her 7 year old. Either way, I knew I had this.

The day for tryouts came and I was ready. The gym teacher had a VHS recorder set up on a tripod. (The thing was the size of a small laptop and took a big stick-like handle to operate…I digress.) At any rate, she started recording and I pulled out all my moves. First started out with just regular skipping rope. Then I did speed jumping…wanted to show her I was fast. Then I did double jumps…where you jump high enough you can get two rotations with the jump rope. Lastly, I finished up with criss-cross-applesauce…crossing your arms and jumping…that was my best trick. At the end of the “try outs” I was beat and my heart was pounding, but even I was impressed with my skill.

A couple of weeks later the list came out for who made the team…I was on it. I got a team shirt, my very own red, white and blue jump rope, and I got to travel to jump meets. I honestly don’t remember the meets, but I loved the idea of being part of the team. I was the smallest person on the team, but I was scrappy. Being on the team made me feel big. I knew I could hold my own.

I was cleaning out my mom’s basement a couple of weeks ago and came across my old Jumperoos T-shirt. It remains, to this day, the only athletic team for which I’ve ever successfully tried out…granted it’s only jump roping, but still…that’s nothing to sneeze about.

It’s scary to try something new…something that you don’t know will work. Personally, my biggest fear is others seeing me fail. Not sure why that really gets to me… since the truth of the matter is that people will think what they want of you regardless of failure.

I firmly believe the Lord allows for these challenges to come to our doorstep. At some point we have to step out on faith because it is the journey that changes us. The feeling of accomplishment only comes with a job well done…one where you’ve given it everything you have, left it all on the field. Of course I want the gratification of winning or ‘making the team.’ But at the end of the day, when I came across that Tshirt, it was a reminder that I tried something I’d never done before. I was confident in my ability and gave it everything I had.

Our Lord delights in life and I believe He gives abundantly when we step out in faith and try something we’ve never done. So try something new. Find a new friend. Heck, make a new recipe…so what if it ends up tasting like crap…at least you tried. Remember, the journey is the rhythm for which we get to experience the blessing. In that moment we become sojourners in His kingdom, traveling into uncharted territories. The grace is in the journey.

My Jumperoos team shirt (circa...a really long time ago)

My Jumperoos team shirt

Some Good News…

There is something  unnerving about a stranger taking pictures of your brain and then sitting down methodically, without emotion, disseminating what they find. It reminds me of when I was in labor with my son. I, as  pretty much every other mother who has been in the birthing room, am in a most unfavorable position on the birthing table. I’ve been in labor for 11 hours and due to my sons heartbeat dropping and my MS complications, my doctor is beginning to get worried. So she calls in reinforcements. Neonatologist and his nurse, surgeon (I think there were two) and his nurses for a possible emergency c-section, an additional OB/GYN and her nurse….oh, and a medical student who happens to be doing his OB/GYN rotation. I am on the table in an unmodest fashion while a whole football team of physicians along with their nurses are looking at me, assessing the situation and trying to determine a medically sound way to deliver this baby. I cannot hide. Everything is on display.

I sat in my neurologists office today at a six month checkup to review new MRIs. A gentleman sitting next to me is having someone help him complete the pre office paperwork. The paperwork has  lots of questions regarding current symptoms…for example: Blurry vision? Dizzy? Headaches? Sleep problems? Mobility issues? Etc, etc. Confession: anytime I fill out that paperwork, I lie. I do, it’s true. Do I have headaches? Yep. Dizziness/vertigo….yeppers. Mobility/coordination…let’s not even go there. The problem is that my lies get me only so far because when my neurologist pulls up my MRI…it doesn’t lie and I can no longer feign ignorance. 

I received really good news today. My new scans don’t show any new lesions. My neurologist took the time to show me my existing lesions as well as the area of the brain they affect. I’ve developed two new lesions over the last year…giving me a grand total of 5…possibly six according to my neuro. We reviewed things like: slow down, don’t exercise to the point  that you’ll throw up, mindful of the heat, work both sides of the body, find ways to engage your brain (ergo blogging 😉)…& so on.

As much as I loathe getting an MRI or feel violated when 100  images of my brain are put on a computer screen to be  scientifically analyzed by a stranger…I am most grateful the MRI blows through my lies. At that point I’m completely incapable to pull the “I’ll be fine. I’ll just drink some cranberry juice” card. I’m forced to be honest. Forced to respect slowing down. Forced to breath in a different rhythm. I find myself in a rare moment of peace amidst a storm…knowing that despite the diagnosis, despite the fear of the unknown; I’m going to be OK. 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭27‬ NASB)