June 6, 2014
when a baby is born, there are rapid and complex physiologic changes that occur. i know because for the past nine weeks my head has been stuck in a rather massive obstetrics textbook and i have spent my thursday evenings watching women give birth to babies [and performing assessments on those small humans]. the transition from intrauterine to extrauterine life is natural, startling, intended, and changes everything. of all the physiologic adjustments that occur, the most critical is the establishment of respirations. once respirations are established, at first they are shallow and irregular – with short pauses at times. in time, the periodic breathing pattern diminishes, respirations become deeper, and more regular.
i woke up much later than usual this morning. undoubtedly due to the fact that i stayed up late into the night yesterday talking with new/old friends. my old(er) body doesn’t recover from those sort of late nights the way it used to, but this morning i felt refreshed and rejuvenated, despite what my fatigued body was trying to do to me. i eventually rolled out of bed in response to a text with news that a friend from the previous night, and her son, would be heading my way soon. sporting a spring skirt and sunglasses, i met my company at the front door. with iced coffees in adult hands and a donut [with sprinkles] in a small child’s hand, we were on our way. as if time did not exist we made our way towards the famous seattle market. conversation included such topics as birthdays, weddings, hippo backpacks, real pugs, recent dates, police officers, and cooking classes. the sunshine lit everything up as we hopped, walked, skipped, and jumped our way. finally, we arrived and indulged in delicious, cold, ginger beverages. after which we got lost in the market crowd for a while.
a bit later, back in my home, i traded the skirt for a pair of shorts, filled a bottle with ice water and found a lovely spot to recline on the rooftop terrace. lathered up with coconut scented sunscreen, i fell asleep in the decadent warmth of the sunshine. i stayed on that rooftop for nearly four hours. occasionally i would sip water. every hour or so i would flip to my back or stomach. i basked in that warmth. i chose not to care who might catch a glimpse of me from their balcony. i was quiet; and i relaxed.
when the sun finally slipped completely behind the building, i pried myself from the deck chair, rinsed quickly in the shower, and threw that skirt back on. i grabbed a book of short stories i have been savoring slowly the past few weeks, and took to the streets again. i found an empty little table on the patio of a nearby restaurant. i ordered sparkly water and sashimi, opened my book, and [once it arrived] ate my meal. as i did, the sun light glowed intensely, turning all the buildings around me golden, as it sunk further down in the sky.
i watched the sunset with lyle, treated myself to small bite of chocolate, and tonight – i write.
tonight, as i watched the sun sink down below the mountains, i thought about the very first baby i watched be born earlier this quarter. to say it was an extraordinary thing to witness would be nothing short of an incredible understatement. i had read about it in books, i had seen videos, and i had heard stories – but to watch a strong, mindful woman labor and give birth to a tiny human and to hear that small infant make his first sound was miraculous. with his first cry was his first breath…and the establishment of respirations. i counted them often in those first minutes of his life…fast, shallow, irregular, and periodic. i remembered feeling anxious, nervous that i was going to miss something and inadvertently do harm to the tiny, vulnerable life in my care. but he was okay, he was learning how to fill his lungs with air, and how to let that air go. he was learning how to breathe, outside of the womb.
i have a large to-do list written in black ink on my bedroom mirror. i have steadily been checking items off as i have completed them, and tonight as i look at that list – that for so many weeks has been lengthy and daunting – i am glad to see only three items left to be crossed off. in the past week i have hung out with three friends, gone on a date, and worked out four times. i have made delicious, healthy, time-consuming dinners for myself more nights than normal. i have not missed watching the sun set in the last five consecutive nights. it feels a little strange. i think with each periodic choice i have been able to make to do the things that make me me, i am learning how to fill myself again, and i’m learning how to share that with my new world. i’m learning how to breathe, outside of school. establishing these respirations of sorts seems to be the most critical adjustment right now. i know it is natural, startling, intended, and i have a feeling it will change everything. it has to.
April 5, 2012
i have experienced moments of unsettled discomfort in the recent months. i have felt sad when things have not gone my way. there has been frustration when the plans i write out have been thwarted or derailed. i have been, most certainly, impatient with life and have [many times] wanted to give in to quick, rash decisions. and none of this, none of these feelings or reactions to my present space in life, really surprises me. i am a fairly self-aware woman. i know when i am feeling things and i know when my actions are healthy or unhealthy responses to those feelings. i know my tendency in these particular seasons is to either shoot up with proverbial novocain: default to numbness and an insincere exhibition of carefree delight, or to retreat and wallow alone in the sadness. and i am well aware that these tendencies are not my best options. neither grant me comfort and neither are life-giving [for myself or my community].
recently i heard a pastor speak on psalm 90, a psalm written by moses and referencing the israelites in the wilderness. throughout his beautiful message the pastor spoke boldly of being people who live into the purpose for which we were made. he spoke of mindfulness. he addressed ideas of how our faith informs our identity. he asked questions about how our daily choices reflect our salvation. it was a beautiful message throughout which God spoke to me in very personal ways. finally, he discussed the people of israel and their perpetual dissatisfaction with their context. they didn’t like the dessert. they didn’t like the leadership. they didn’t like the food. they didn’t like the timing of God. they were always wishing their context was different. this is when the sermon went from being very personal, to downright piercing. i sat there, a guest in that community, and as i listened to the words being spoken i felt my body physically melt, and tears began their journey down my cheek. i don’t like my desert. i’m not a fan of this particular spot. i am irritated with the process. i am deeply hurt by friends who have given up on me. i am insecure about what’s next. fighting self-pity has exhausted me. unfortunately, i have allowed the setbacks too great a voice in my life, resulting in destructive doubt. today my unrealized dreams have lost their luster, color, and possibility. the perpetually dissatisfied israelites were me.
when i feel stuck, i fixate on my context. but my context is not the problem. as i was reminded that sunday morning, despite the context, i am surrounded by matchless beauty and cause for joy and gratitude. in the midst of speaking, somewhere along the way, the pastor spoke these words:
THE BIRDS ARE STILL SINGING, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE STUCK IN TRAFFIC.
that is what i took away. right now my context may feel [or actually even BE] similar to the grossness of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. but the birds are still singing. the past two weeks have been an exercise of listening for the proverbial birds in my life. i have been writing them down as i’ve noticed them, because, for me, writing them down makes them real. and tangible. and as i have felt gratefulness grow, my context has become less visible and his kingdom has become brighter.
so these are my birds, at least the one’s i have noticed…
the gift of two hours every morning to read, write, and find space. the fighting sunshine that wants to warm everything. the smell of fresh cut grass recently invading my neighborhood. the voices of friends who have not given up on me and desire to love me well. the conversations i get to have with people more than twice my age. fluffy snow to play in with my father. a group of women who gather to share pains, perspectives, & joys. honest hugs from amelia. the opportunity to work for a dear friend and learn. books filled with stories that generate emotion. the promise of irish adventures. slumber parties. a healthy family. a so-ugly-he’s-cute pug that snuggles with me every time i sit on the couch. a porch swing saturated with afternoon sun. conversations in broken swahili with friends in another hemisphere. hot coffee every morning. walks through pike place market with the freedom to dream and ask “what if?” the sound of neighborhood children playing a game of kickball. answered prayers for health and life for a dear ministry. hot bubble baths. new life springing up in the garden outside my front window. boys who strike up conversations in new coffee shops. a kiss on my forehead given by an incredible 95 year old woman. the clouds that come and go continually changing the face of the sky. a clove cigarette shared with ty on the front porch. memories of the way God spoke to me in that dusty land. the dad who, every morning, kneels down in front of the register counter of the coffee shop to allow his two-year-old son to stand on his knee so that he might use his own voice to order his breakfast bagel [with strawberry jam]. moments when i am honored to provide a comforting touch to an uncomfortable patient. surprising new friendships. ben crawling into my lap because, “it just looks like a good spot.” snuggling into my bed each week with three lovely ladies to study, discuss, share, struggle, and grow in faith together. celebratory dancing at weddings. falling asleep to the sound of heavy rain on the roof.
March 14, 2012
it’s hard to know, when you start out, just how people are going to wiggle into the depths of your heart. all my life i have been meeting people and entering into relationships of all different forms. from the time i was a small girl i have always been highly relational. rather than collecting baseball cards, coins, or beach glass i have spent countless life hours finding treasure in the collection of people i have been blessed enough to call my friends. it really is no surprise that for a decade i worked in a highly relational profession where 90% of my job description was to literally be in relationship with people. they were beautiful years. and as i look forward in life i know that whatever i do, and wherever i am it will be my relationships and connections with people that will undoubtedly bring the most joy, comfort, sweetness, pain, and color to my life.
i met kelly first. we sat side-by-side on a hard, wooden pew of first presbyterian church chatting for the first time. it was such a normal conversation i didn’t even think to look for the extraordinary seed of friendship planting itself between us. but it did. and what it has grown into is rare and beautiful.
and as my friendship with kelly grew it flowed over, sharing it’s seed, and a friendship with todd took life. and it was different than what so many friendships with your friend’s spouse often are. todd’s friendship is not filled with simple niceties but it’s one of substance and meaning.
and then came the little fishers. first it was ben. at 18 months or so he stole my heart with his mischievous grin and perfectly adorable pronunciation of my name, “yeesa.” we literally became pals overnight.
avery took a bit longer. unlike with her brother, our connection took time and some intentionality. it grew out of shared time together, listening and giving her the space she needed to be sure of me.
these are the things i love: ben has a framed picture of us in his room. avery comes over for slumber parties and we laugh. i talk to kelly almost every other day and we never run out of things to say. i can go flyfishing with todd and feel completely comfortable. i got to be with avery the day she turned 8 and got her ears pierced. even though i’m not related – by blood or marriage – i get invited to ben’s birthday parties. i can stop by at the drop of hat and i’m always welcome. when their sweet pup sampson died, my home was a place of comfort. when i’m at their house at bedtime, the kids always “want me to come in and say good-night.” when i borrow todd’s sander and forget to return it, he gives me the kind of crap a brother gives a sister. we celebrate together. these are the things i love, but they really are just a small sliver of all the things i love about knowing the fishers.
the thing i love most is they have become my family. i don’t mean at all that they have replaced my biological family…but as life continues on in the odd way that it does, my family has grown to include these four. and doing life with them has been nothing less than a blessing.
about a month ago my telephone lit up and began vibrating with an incoming call. the name on my screen told me it was kelly calling. i answered, “what up, kel?” only to be surprised to discover it wasn’t kelly at all. her small, sweet, assertive voice corrected me, “it’s avery, actually.” i smiled, though she couldn’t see me. “i heard you were coming over tonight to hang out with my mom after we go to sleep,” she continued, “but i was wondering if you might want to come over a little bit earlier for family game night tonight, we’re going to play uno attack, it’s really, really fun.”
i obviously went over early to play uno attack for family game night.
in 49 days we will fly 4,527 miles together for an irish adventure. and as we have been planning and scheming and dreaming and preparing i have been struck by just how precious and rare this sort of adventure is.
because i’m not just going with friends. i’m going with my [fisher] family.
it’s hard to know, when you start out, just how people are going to wiggle into the depths of your heart.
January 28, 2012
we walked into her room. she was lying there, in her bed. her breathing was heavy and labored, the sound of it rising above the classical music coming from the small cd player in the corner. her eyes were open, unmoving, seemingly fixated on the wall opposite her. i sat beside her, as the others talked about practical matters such as morphine doses, death certificates, and autopsies. i sat beside her and placed my hand on her head. gently rubbing her aged forehead with my thumb i silently spoke. i’m not entirely sure to whom or what i was speaking, but i suppose it was both to her and my God.
you’re not alone.
may you find peace.
bring your peace.
not uttering them aloud these short phrases cycled through my mind and heart. i watched her chest rise and fall quickly with each gasping breath. i closed my eyes and words kept speaking themselves from somewhere inside me.
hospice refers to this phase as “actively dying.” it is during this phase that families prepare for actual death. affairs are put into order. loved ones say their farewells in their own ways. comfort measures are followed for the individual “actively dying.” and many of the hours are spent waiting. waiting for something to change. waiting for a life to end.
hours later, she passed from this world. where she journeyed on to from that moment i cannot know, and frankly, i’m not concerned with today. her body was collected. the death certificate arrived at our office, cause of death listed as “failure to thrive.”
as an intelligent woman i am aware that the career i’m hopefully heading into will include it’s fair [or not so fair] share of physical death. my heart aches at that truth and i wish it weren’t the case, but i know it will be. i know i will sit next to beds and do my best to honor someone as they “actively die.” i will probably see too many death certificates reading “failure to thrive.” my prayer is that i will also see healing. that i will also be a part of health and wellness restored. that i will be a woman who chooses to honor life in all it’s phases.
it’s been a few days now since i sat next to her bed. a few days since she passed from this world.
today i am sitting in a coffee shop grateful for the ways in which God is choosing to use this place i am in, these new experiences i am having, to teach me and speak to me and reveal more of his heart and his story in this world.
actively dying and failure to thrive do not only exist in the physical realm. there are people all around me, all around you, who are spiritually gasping to breathe. people, so many people, are spiritually wounded and in need of healing. lives are defined by chronic spiritual depression and anxiety. people find themselves outside the system, spiritually longing for care and unable to access it. this world is filled with people who don’t even know about the tumors growing in our spirits spreading sickness throughout the rest of our being. we have learned how to function within our spiritual diseases. often overwhelmed, confused, exhausted, or angry we accept a spiritual failure to thrive. people give up. people stop fighting. active death is all around me…and within me at times too.
i keep thinking of the well-known words of Jesus: “i have come that they may have life.” and i keep thinking that i am called and compelled to share that particular part of his story with the world. in every way.
as a child of God, my prayer is that my life, within whatever vocational context i find myself, will be a part of spiritual health and wellness restored. that i will see God’s healing in people’s lives. that i will choose to be a woman who honors spiritual life in all it’s phases. i pray the ways i use my hands and feet and mind and body are ways God will use to share his story with the broken and wounded spirits in this world. i find it hard to imagine anything more holy.
January 5, 2012
i took this photo as lyle and i walked home from the grocery store the other night. it was one of those rare, especially these days, afternoons in which i came home from work and decided to feed two birds with one crumb: walk lyle and get a few groceries for myself. as we walked toward home the day began to fade and the night approached eagerly. it was chilly and as we approached the corner of cornwall & sunset i was struck by the light and colors provided by this street lamp, tree, and sky. pulling out my trusty iphone i snapped a photo and obviously began browsing filters in order to post it on instagram, providing the caption: “i love this time of day. when the sun fades & the street lamps slowly begin to glow.” i continued walking, obviously making it home to finish out my evening of cooking dinner, doing dishes, browsing the internet, maybe reading a bit, and finally crawling into bed.
i do like that time of day. to me it is a calming time. an aesthetically pleasing time. a quiet moment in a long string of busyness. and there is the comfort of knowing that it won’t be too long before the night fades and the street lamps go dark. things will go back to the way they were before.
this scene i took notice of on an ordinary walk home from the grocery store seems to be a rather striking image of where i feel myself to be in the greater journey of my life. certain things that once were are fading and other ideas & hopes that have not been are beginning to glow. there is a certain beauty to it, yes. but unlike the photo, unlike the moment on the street corner, i must confess it does not always feel very calming. i would say that rather than calm i feel stirred. shaken. maybe both.
i was reading the other night out of a book written by Richard Dahlstrom. i came across, in a chapter titled “journey” these words: “Every encounter with God in the Bible was an invitation to leave the present behind and move into a different future… …Every case included a transformation. But just as importantly, every journey was disruptive to the sojourner’s comfort zone and status quo… …Another reason we cling to the present is that we fear the unknown chasm that any change will bring to our future. We know that God is calling us to a vocational move, or to speak truth or forgiveness into a relationship, or to live more generously, or to get involved in crossing the social and racial barriers that are all around us. But to do any of these things requires a letting go of status quo. The paradigm of the change-resistant personality is, ‘I may not like the present, but it’s all I’ve got,’ which is a way of saying that I’ll choose a mediocre life that’s a known entity over the risk of an unknown future. After all, to let go of the present might lead to a future that is worse than my predictable yet seemingly boring present.”
the words that stuck out to me: disruptive. fear. worse. unknown. and…God is calling.
in the spring of 2009 i knew i had one year left at the inn. in the summer of 2010 my time there ended. what followed was a year-long process of grieving and a re-entrance into the world of school…as a thirty-something. this year has been a lot of waiting. and through it all friendships have changed – many in sad and strange ways, a few in healthy and hopeful ways, ideas of identity have shifted, questions of purpose have surfaced, ideas regarding faith have been born [or reborn], and transformations have occurred within me that i have yet to share. in short, it seems i have been in transition for, literally, years. and quite frankly, i’m exhausted. what makes it even more exhausting is that i don’t yet see an end. i feel stuck in the moment captured by the photo i took. the day hasn’t fully vanished and the street lamp is not all the way on.
it seems all that is fading is bellingham, professional ministry, understood purpose, known identity, the feeling of being settled, and familial community.
it seems all that is beginning to glow is seattle, nursing school, solitude, the notion of being unsettled, and unknown community.
and unlike the 24-hour day cycle…if i choose to move, if i choose to let one fade and other burn bright, there is no promise that things will go back to the way they were before.
as i read on in Dahlstrom’s book i was confronted with these words: “No growth, no transformation, no fulfillment of the destiny for which we were created is possible without movement.”
well, i suppose this is better than a promise of things going back to the way they were.
so…i’’ll keep filling out those applications, and i’ll keep taking the tiny steps i know how to take. and someday…maybe without even noticing that it has happened…i’ll be unstuck. and i’ll look back and this moment, and in hindsight, it will be as beautiful as the moment i captured with my iphone on the corner of cornwall and sunset.
“it is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing.”
April 18, 2011
it seems i may be starting to forget things. not meaningless things like where i put my keys or what page i was on when i fell asleep last night. but important things. like when we first became friends, and why. or the sound of his laugh and the shape made by the creases on his face. really important things like what their small, dusty, hands felt like in mine. i can’t quite remember what to talk about today, or what it’s like to not be sorry all the time. it’s difficult to recall what it used to feel like to huddle together under a blanket ceiling and make believe. remember when making believe was as familiar as breathing? i barely can. i am starting to forget the rhymes he repeated. i can remember every word to a mediocre mid-‘90’s rap song, but i can’t remember the way the kitchen smelled when she burned the green beans…every time. it seems i may be starting to forget things. like feeling certain about something, anything. like what it felt like to be really be seen. or what it means to look and actually see. i can’t remember a world-view not tainted with cynicism. i forget the hope i knew while surrounded by poverty. it seems i may be starting to forget things. i wish it were the meaningless things like who the bachelor chose last season or what film won best picture at the oscars. but it is the important stuff that i’m forgetting. like what it’s like to want to dance. or the freedom that came from letting go. i seem to have forgotten the conversations we had that changed me. and who, again, was i before?
because, i think, when we became friends my world brightened. i wanted to be your friend because you were beautiful. you still are, and i want so badly to remember that. and his laugh, well it is contagious and you really should hear it sometime. if i close my eyes, and try real hard i can remember their shape…like waves crashing the shore with each exhale. and i am fairly certain that no hands have ever felt as perfect in mine as theirs did. like God was saying he had made us for each other. and i faintly remember speaking a story worth hearing and not needing to be sorry – but, it also seems i may just want to remember that. i look at him now and it’s difficult to believe we ever fit under those blankets, but man our dreams filled those small tents. i’ll have to ask him, while i still can, about his rhymes. i bet he remembers, his mind far more finely tuned than mine. she burned them, i do remember, because her mother always had and she only wanted to share in the family tradition. it’s difficult to remember, so difficult. i think perhaps the last time was the day i said i was through. i think that may have been the last time i felt certain. could it have been that long ago? honestly, my memory is failing me. it is true, i can’t remember a world-view not tainted by cynicism…but i do remember that it felt exhilarating. to trust the world was redeemable, and in the hands of a lovely God. tonight, sitting here in my comfortable home i want to hope, and my inability to do so makes me sick. maybe if i heard the music, it would trigger my memory and the desire to dance would return. and maybe, just maybe, if i tried to loosen my grip. if i allowed the ball inside of me to unravel. if i just practiced a little deep breathing, i would remember what it felt like to be free. tonight, as i sleep, i pray i hear the conversations we had, the ones that changed me, because if i do, i promise i will write them down.
i want to be a person who remembers. it seems, at least to me, that the only way to move forward, is to remember the things that came before. as much as i can. because in the remembering i find us…redeemable and in the hands of a lovely God.
February 15, 2011
i got a little perspective this week. and it came in the form of scripture reading at church sunday morning. it isn’t surprising to hear scripture read on a sunday morning, and it shouldn’t be surprising that it offers perspective – but this past sunday the perspective i got sort of, how do they say, knocked the wind out of me. in a good way. i think my perspective has been off lately. not intentionally, but i think i have been focusing on other things. i was thankful to be re-directed, i left church so thankful to be reminded of this better world view, this better idea of how to see others, this more beautiful way of living – the way of life.
and then again, just today, i found myself needing this perspective again. needing to be reminded again. needing the wind knocked out of me again. i think i may need to post this somewhere – in a place my eyes fall each day… because i want this to be my perspective:
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
Isaiah 58:6-10, NRSV
June 1, 2010
up until tonight, i haven’t really cried. i took photos off the wall and placed them into a box. i emptied the personal contents of my desk drawers and [whatever i didn’t throw away] placed them in a different box. i took every note, card, or letter that had been left, sent, or delivered and placed them in a small box. my desk area in the office is barren and void of my personality. well, i did leave one sticker on the wall which reads, “be a smart ass” – so i suppose my personality is not entirely gone. and through it all, i shed not one tear. i started to wonder if it would really hit me at all. or maybe i’d enter the grieving period after it was all over. i have been expecting these weeks to be difficult and filled with tears…salty, warm, unstoppable tears. i know tears. i cry well. but, yet, i have not experienced this familiar release. at least, not until tonight.
for the most part, it was a rather usual tuesday night – complete with technical difficulties. but i was met with tears tonight. first at pre-prayer, when [suddenly] i was struck by the reality that i would not be returning. i have been aware of this reality, but tonight at pre-prayer i was struck by it. second, when the staff for next year excitedly ran onto stage, leaving me in the fifth pew back, sandwiched by two dimmitts. i don’t suppose i would have rather been sandwiched by any other two. and then i did fairly well, until the fourth song in the reflection set: ‘this road.’ i stood singing with the people around me, my voice joining with theirs. we sang through two verses, and started in on the chorus:
This road that we travel may it be the straight and narrow God, give us peace and grace from You, all the day Shelter with fire, our voices we raise still higher God, give us peace and grace from You, all the day through
i was struck again. this time into the pew. i sat down, placed my face in my hands, and cried. not a gentle, easy, refined sort of cry. but a convulsive, snotty, graceless cry. i heard the voices of students singing out to the God that made them. the God that breathed life into them. the God that loved them more than i could ever understand. more than they could ever understand. and suddenly i was praying: “this road that they travel…may it, please God, be the straight and narrow. God, will you please grant them peace and grace – everyday. may you shelter them, Lord…and may their voices continue to raise higher and higher. please, Jesus, give them peace and grace that only comes from you.” i wept not because God wouldn’t. i cried not because God hadn’t. i cried because all these years that’s what it’s been about. sometimes i’ve done well remembering it. sometimes i’ve even done alright living it out. most times i’m sure i’ve been awful at remembering, and done less than mediocre at living it out. but all these years, it’s been about praying and hoping that students would follow God’s road. that they might know, that he might grant them, his peace and grace. and that they, as they grow and leave, would choose to continue on that road, lifting their voices and following him. i cried because i want that for them. i want it for me. i want it for all of us. and so i sat there, in the middle of a crowd of students, and i cried. and i prayed.
because that’s what i’m leaving. and that’s what i’m taking with me.
March 2, 2010
friday i woke up to a pain in my stomach. it was not a pain i was used to and certainly not one i liked. i went to work, but as the day progressed, so did the pain in my abdomen. finally, after much grumbling on my part [because, quite frankly, i just don’t like to do it] i called my doctor’s office. her earliest appointment was one week away. that wasn’t going to work for me. the nice woman on the other end of the line asks, “well, what are you wanting to come in for?” i think the words “severe abdominal pain” must be some sort of magic because as soon as they left my lips, i was transferred to a nurse. and after saying them to a nurse there was magically an appointment available in one hour’s time. of course it wouldn’t be with my primary physician – but who cared, i was having severe abdominal pain. seriously, i might start using that line every time i need a doctor’s appointment.
anyway, at 4pm i entered the doctor’s office and shortly found myself in a room with a nurse, describing my pain and all the delightful side effects that came along with it. and, shortly after that i find myself lying on the examination table receiving an abdominal check from the doctor. eventually the possible appendicitis scare is calmed, and i’m having a conversation with the doctor – during which he is trying to figure out what’s wrong with me. he orders up some labs [which include multiple vials i get to take home and fill up – oh joy], gives me eating instructions, and sends me on my way.
once home i settle into a recliner chair to watch some mindless television with sarah. things just get worse. the pain in my stomach gets more intense, my entire body begins to ache [that stupid all-over-the-body flu-ish sort of ache] and i become so cold my teeth literally begin to chatter. i can’t, for the life of me [what little, pathetic life it may be at this point], get comfortable. so, i make my way upstairs, draw a bubble bath, and soak until i can finally feel myself again and the pain is relieved – at least temporarily. soon ty arrives with fruit floes [a delicious, frozen trader joe’s treat] and star wars [ty obviously thought he could trick me, in my weak state, into finally watching it]. we didn’t end up watching star wars [or anything else for that matter], but instead we sat on the couch – eating fruit floes – and talking. which, in my opinion, is way better than a movie, even on a good day.
i was convinced that the next morning i would feel better. boy, was i wrong. the pain, rather than coming in waves, decided it would simply move into my abdomen and not leave. i could hardly leave my bed [or, i guess, the horizontal position] without buckling over in pain. i was comfortable in one of two ways: lying down with a heating pad on my stomach or completely immersed in a hot bubble bath. anything else wasn’t worth the pain. so, in bed i remained for most of the day.
now, there’s something many people may not know about me. i can’t relax in a messy room. if i’m watching a movie or reading a book or trying to study or writing a letter in a messy room, i go crazy. i’m guessing it’s my mother’s genes coming out in me [which was bound to happen, sooner or later], but it’s true. that’s not to say my room doesn’t get messy, but the moment i need to do something or want to do something in that room – i have to straighten it up first. trouble is, when you are writhing in “severe abdominal pain,” it’s difficult to clean your room. so, here i was, in my messy room and stuck in bed. it was killing me. it was driving me mad. and there was nothing i could do about it. i tried to close my eyes, i tried to watch internet television, but i knew – i knew that my room was messy and there was no way i was going to be able to relax.
that’s when sarah walked in. being one of the few that knows my insane OCD nature, she begins to pick up. she begins to sort through the heap of laundry on the floor. separating the clearly dirty clothes from the clean [or mostly clean] ones. i object – “sarah, stop it, you do not have to clean my room.” “okay,” she calmly responds as she continues to sort. “no, seriously, sarah, stop.” and again, she continues folding clothes. she doesn’t stop. she keeps going. and i keep objecting [pathetically from my bed – i mean, i could hardly move]. each time i object, sarah gets a little more frustrated until finally she snaps a pair of sweats at me, raises her voice, and says, “lisa! be quiet. just let me serve you. i want to be kind. you can’t relax in here, i know it, and so just let me do this. if you tell me to stop one more time i’m going to get really angry at you. just let me do this.” i backed down, i tried to stop her a couple more times, but eventually i gave up the fight. and sarah cleaned my room. she folded my laundry. she dusted my furniture. she organized the crap on my nightstand. she swept and mopped my floors. she brought me gingerale. she brought me tylenol. she re-heated my flaxseed bag. you know what, she even took vials of my personal shit [literally] to the lab for me. and she served me. kindly and graciously.
and i saw Jesus in a friend.
March 1, 2010
my first summer in tanzania i encountered God in the most ordinary of tasks. i had been in tanzania for three weeks, volunteering at an orphanage [KiChiJo] when i left. i had only planned to be in tanzania for three weeks, and then i was off to experience south africa – first for a week long safari and then for four weeks of volunteering. however, upon arriving in south africa i discovered a relentless ache in my heart to return to tanzania…so, after an incredible week of safari, i flew back to tanzania. i couldn’t wait to walk back through town to KiChiJo, as i winded my way through corn fields, nearing the orphanage, i could hear the voices of the children i had left just one week earlier. the anticipation was almost too much to bear. i turned the final corner and saw familiar children playing soccer in front of the orphanages main entrance. other kids were running around here and there, playing whatever game had momentarily grabbed their attention. and, in the square section of the lot devoted to laundry, i saw two boys bent over a silver bucket, scrubbing clothes. for a moment none of them noticed me. for a split second i was completely invisible, blessed with a moment to just stop and watch them. tears in my eyes, i knew. i knew that what i was looking at was the loveliest of scenes playing out before my eyes. and then gifti saw me. his little four-year-old body came flying at me, huge grin on his face. it was over, my moment of invisibility had passed, and suddenly there were 15 or so kids swarming me. they left their soccer game, they jumped out of the tree nearby, they came running from whatever it was they were doing to welcome me back. except those two boys, bent over the silver bucket. daniel and charlie stayed close to their laundry pile. they looked on, they grinned, but being the older boys that they were [14 & 16, respectively] they kept their cool. after a few minutes, i made my way over to them. we greeted one another and i asked if i could help with the laundry. laughing, they told me “no.” but, i’m persistent, and eventually, all three of us were bent over, sleeves rolled up, and scrubbing those clothes. the boys laughing and chatting in swahili – conversing, i’m sure, about how silly i was or how awful i was at washing clothes [especially for a woman]. i started to sing. a silly song i’d heard on the radio countless times since i’d been there. i don’t know if it was my singing voice, my ridiculous pronunciation of the swahili words, or my whiteness – but something about me starting to sing that song sent these boys into uncontrollable laughter. i said, “alright, you sing it then.” and they did. these boys who played shy began to sing. and i started dancing. and together we sang and danced – all the while doing the laundry. every day i came back, for the rest of my three weeks there, i spent time doing laundry with those boys…dancing, laughing, singing, and [of course] hanging those clothes out to dry. laundry had never been such a holy thing.