Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perhaps another time

Today I was a really cheerful person, talking and laughing with the Starbucks baristas even after they confused my drink order and lost my debit card. I was chatty and friendly for meetings, jolly and interesting. I was at my out-going best.  Even my hair looked better than usual, bouncy and voluminous.

By the way, today marked Vincent's 11 month "angel" anniversary. He died exactly 11 months ago. But I didn't want to think about it, didn't want to face the darkness, so instead practiced avoidance techniques like crazy. All day I exuded graciousness, read smart intellectual books, (as opposed to my usual detective novels) pinned like crazy to my pinterest account, e-mailed my mom, hung out on Facebook, organized the refrigerator, moderately worked on a message for Sunday, and played with Theo.  Oh, and I made dinner.

You should have seen me. I was beautiful and bubbly.

Oh, it wasn't all fake. I really felt all of those emotions. But really, I was hiding. Avoiding. Keeping away from a door I didn't want to open. A door I pretend doesn't exist. I kept it closed all day for fear of drowning.

But late tonight, right before bed, I just had to look at one video of Vincent, to see his face clearly in my mind. I selected it carefully, one that wasn't too long, where he didn't look too sick, when we weren't in the hospital. In the end I watched him wave a flag around on the 4th of July.  All 30 seconds of it were perfect, beautiful, exactly what I could handle.

Now as I go to bed I'm going to attempt to shut out the other videos playing in my head, ones involving labored breathing, devastating developments, failed chemo treatments, cracked lips, line infections, somber doctors, feeding tube malfunctions and bleats of pain. I can't deal with them right now.  Maybe another day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bed Bugs

Wednesday I purchased a beautiful wooden four poster twin bed from craigslist. I picked it up late in the afternoon, thrilled with the price and quality of workmanship, excited to spend the weekend transforming Theo's toddler bedroom into more of a big-boy hangout zone.

Yesterday morning I was bringing a friend to the store and excitedly telling her of my amazing find when she commented about being wary of buying used furniture.  Because of bed bugs.

Bed bugs?  I didn't think we had a bed bug problem in Hawaii.

*note*:  this picture is not of a "real" bed bug!

When I arrived back home, I double-checked the solid wood bed frame lying in our living room (there's no mattress as of yet) just to be sure.  That's when I saw some funky-looking patina that may (or may not) be bed-bug-doo, as well as some dubious looking shriveled insect shells.

Unfortunately, this triggered my PTSDish-I'm-not-safe-anymore-this-is-a-crisis, and I promptly spent the next 3 straight hours googling pictures of bed bugs, (don't do this, ever!) reading articles on ridding your house of a bed bug infestation, calling Terminix for a free consultation, and hanging out in chat rooms dedicated to bed bug removal.  In other words, I totally freaked out.  (As a measure of how disturbed I was, I absentmindedly placed my treasured cast iron pan in the sink and filled it with rust-inducing water, a big no-no in our house.)  The bed was carted outside in pieces, and the carpet was sprayed with alcohol and a "green" bug killer.  Theo, left to his own devices, emptied out all his puzzles on the floor of the kitchen, scattering hundreds of little pieces around the house.

Then Mike from terminix arrived with his trusty flashlight, thoroughly examined the bed, pronounced it clean from bed bugs (as far as he could tell) and told me that the insect shells were baby cockroaches left there from storage.  What I thought were eggs was really old glue that had seeped outside the seams.  The wood was solid and clean.  So I hope.

Unfortunately, the rest of the day I felt shaky, uncertain, foreign.  The house didn't look safe.  We've purchased all our furniture from craigslist and never worried about bed bugs before - now, that's all I could think about.  After retiring to bed yesterday evening it got so bad that I began to feel light-headed and had to practice calming breathing exercises.  (And this in a bug-free bed!)

This past week I've been working on a sermon from Psalm 16, a beautiful golden jewel of a psalm.  Some commentaries argue that the crux of the psalm is in verse 8, where it says, "I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."  I've been pondering what it means to mindfully keep the Lord day by day in the very center of our lives, indeed, of our very souls.  What it might look like for me.  

Well, yesterday I saw what it might look like to keep my eyes on Fear.  All afternoon bed bugs consumed me, for hours I felt them crawling up my back and causing my head, legs, and arms to itch uncontrollably.  I thought I saw their droppings in the carpet, on our walls. They were always before me, in the center of my mind, at the forefront of my thoughts.  I let them run rampant in my head, growing and reproducing, becoming more and more of a threat to my safety and security.  I was badly shaken.

How can I let Jesus run rampant, as it were, in my mind?  How can I let his anchoring reality sink into me so deeply that I feel his palpable presence around me, holding me, guiding me?  How can I open my eyes to see his work in our home, lives, and surroundings?  How can I keep him at the center of my mind, growing in strength and power, his life in me becoming a threat to injustice, inequality and evil?

Today, that's what I will choose to think about.  I will keep my fingers from keying bed bug searches into google, I will sing silly songs while vacuuming behind the bed and take better care of my cast-iron pan.  I will play puzzles with Theo.  And all the while I will choose to think of Jesus, letting his reality and that of his kingdom sink into my head and heart.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Having Enough

For those of you who have been following our family's story, you know that this past year has contained a lot of crappiness.  It has also has included meaningful moments of great joy, beauty, and discovery.  But mostly it's been pretty bad.  (Of course, I guess it could be worse!)

Earlier this year I attended a lecture given by a noted author and spiritual director.  At the end of her presentation she guided us through a prayer based on the 23rd Psalm.  The beginning of the prayer was paraphrased to say, "The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need."  I could barely choke out the words and in the ensuing minutes of meditation felt increasingly disturbed.  How could I say I have everything I need when my precious child was painfully snatched from me?  How could I say I have everything I need when our house was broken into after the funeral and I lost most of our videos of him?  How could I say I have everything I need when months have passed since our last paycheck and bills are looming?  Believe me, the last thing I felt I had was everything I need.

Since we lost Vincent, I have felt crushed, abandoned, disappointed, angry.  It has not been easy.  But somehow I have been able to wake up and get out of bed each morning, (even if I get back in later on) take care of my 4 year old, read, write, and worship.  Some days I feel my sanity stretched to the limits, having chimerical conversations with people I believe have wronged me, disappointed me.  I'm often scared, furious, apathetic. Yet somehow in the midst of confusion, disappointment, frustration,  I have come to believe that God's grace is simply enough.  That it's sufficient for what I need to survive, even when it doesn't feel like it.

To keep the Apostle Paul from being needlessly conceited over his supernatural experiences and revelations he was given "a thorn in the flesh" - an unidentified something so troublesome, so unlivable, that three times Paul pleaded with God to remove it.  Three times.  And God simply replied that His grace was "sufficient."  The word for "sufficient" in the Greek literally means "to suffice" or to "be enough" or "be content".  In other words, God's grace is exactly what you need.  Not what you need to be live a blissfully happy life, with ne'er a care in the world.  Instead, God's grace gives us exactly what we need to carry on, to make it through the day.  Paul himself may not have always felt that way, (hence the repeated requests for change) but that's what he got.  Sufficient grace, plus the added reassurance that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Before my life fell apart I used to have many misconceptions of grace.  I used to think that God's grace was overabundantly more than enough for any difficult circumstance.  I used to think that God would somehow empower people who go through unthinkable situations to get through them gloriously, or at least with strength to spare.  Not anymore.  

Instead, I've found the grace God gives us when we go through difficult circumstances to be a grace that's just enough.  It's not effluent, spilling over the top.  It doesn't make difficult, horrible circumstances uncomplicated, smooth, easy-peasy.  God's grace doesn't give you a magical life that can make you feel triumphant and joyful in the worst of times.  Instead, I've found that living in terrible situations with God's grace is living with just enough.  Over this past year of grief and loss I've found that God's grace has made the unbearable somehow bearable. I wouldn't have thought I could survive the death of my child, and yet I have.

...The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.