Thursday, May 30, 2013

The hunt for Joy

Joy is elusive... but it's there.

You have to actively seek it.

I am discovering that in the midst of grief over losing Caleb and a never-ending deluge of hardships (like living without hot water for example).

Every day I fight. Fight against the despair - that dark-creeping sadness squeezing every last gut and gizzard.

Every day I chose to find Joy.

I love gardening. This year due to all the hardships, I am not able to have much of a garden of my own. However, this does not mean I must go without a dirt fix. What I decided to do was seek out someone with means to buy all the plants and stuff but unable to physically make it happen. Currently I am doing an entire yard makeover for a senior couple from my church. The yard laid fallow for over a decade. I have a blank slate to go flower-design crazy! I am getting my dirt fix in spite of my circumstances and Joy is there knowing I will wow this couple when they return from vacation in a few weeks.

My poor Nikon D50 wimpered as I ambled by. Heeding its call, I took it out of the case and decided to go shooting. The nuances of taking great pictures gets lost in the age of iPads with build in cameras. Joy comes when I upload pictures to my computer screen, sit back and think... wow! I took that?

Today I will take Kyle to the zoo. I am tired and somewhat grumpy, but I expect to find Joy amid the animals and time with my son.

Life is hard. Joy may be elusive. But it is there.

You just have to put effort into looking for it.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Waiting for him to die

A few weeks ago the vet called. The lump I found on Caleb's leg while grooming him was a very aggressive soft-tissue sarcoma. Given that he is 13  years old, she told us we had a few weeks to a few months left with our beloved fur baby.

John and I brought home the wriggly pup the day after we moved into our house. He fit into the palm of my hand.

Esau, our eldest cat, was amused by this new squeak toy. He swatted it. It squeaked. Hours of entertainment.

Chewed up shoes, carpet (there is still duct tape over that spot), chair legs, underwear, plants...were a regular part of our lives.

Caleb went everywhere with us. Camping. Hiking - he summited several 14ers - cross-country trips to PA, even on an airplane... once.

For a dog, this one sure had more lives than the average cat! When he was a year and a half, he almost did himself in by eating a pair of leather work gloves. Our vet performed emergency surgery in which the dog had less than a 50% chance of surviving. In addition to the gloves, the doctor found a few random cat toys. Caleb recovered to his full self.

One thing Caleb was famous for was his "eating disorder". There was nothing under the sun, he wouldn't try to eat. When he had sleepovers at friend's houses (we went on mission trips or were gone for a few weeks and could not take him) he ate packages of hot chocolate, Dove Dark chocolates, pancake batter and a 5lb bag of dried apricots!

When my parents knew Caleb was coming, they would make sure the lid to the garbage can in the kitchen was secure.

Caleb's desire to eat can be summed up this way: that dog loved cat poop more than I love pizza. Baby gates, booby traps... that dog would find a way to snack on the forbidden.

It's been a few months since he tried.

When Kyle was born, it was a Boy and His Dog all around. Shelties are herders and protective of their sheep. No matter how hard Kyle pulled his tail or poked him in the eye with a wormy finger, the dog didn't react. Oh, I prayed the dog would bite the boy at least once! Just so Kyle'd learn not to hurt the dog. But the dog exercised great patience.

Every day the limping gets worse. He doesn't like to go up and down stairs.

Yesterday our food obsessed beastie turned away from the food bowl. I came home from church to find the cats in the dog food.

Again, today, he is refusing to eat. Laying on his side by the front door where he's been for the past year and a half.

I brought the bowl to him. He lifted his head, his liquid brown eyes gazing deep into mine. He dipped his snoot into the bowl and brought out one kernel, rolled it over his tongue and let if fall to the floor. "For you Mommy, I try to eat for you." He rested his head on his paws and closed his eyes.

When a dog stops eating, it's their way of telling you they are done. That's what the vet told us as well as other dog-parents who have gone down this painful path before us.

John choked back a sob. "I think if he doesn't eat tomorrow, we need to... to... you know... take him."

How do you do it? We prayed we would find Caleb had passed in his sleep. I pray now more than ever that that be the case.

But how do you take your baby in, hand him over and drive home with an empty collar. An empty car?

The vet said we can be with him.

Can I watch the life drain from my baby? Can I bear to look him in the eye, knowing it would be our last look? Our last unspoken exchange of love and trust?

Do I have the strength? It seems odd to run in, hand him over and run out.

I tried and failed miserably at ignoring the reality of Caleb's impending death. I know mortality is 100%. We all die.

I don't want him to suffer. I could not bear that either.

We won't be bringing him home in any fashion. "Hey, see that jar on the coffee table? That's my dog!"

Photos and memories will suffice.

And tears.

Knowing the end is so near is hard.

Now we wait.

Wait for him to die.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Disappointment with or without God.

I've been sitting on this one for a few days. Ever since I read Philip Yancey's Disappointment with God. 

You know. The vulnerability thing. Do I really want to put it out there that I have been disappointed with God?

Like, what will people think? Will I get kicked out of choir?  Or will I get Those Stares. Where people with unblinking gazes bore laser beam holes of judgement into my soul?

This morning I read a blog post by an Anglican rector from British Columbia that took a LOT of guts. He has more at stake than I do. I am still the unknown nobody. He is a published author and pastor! At the beginning of his post he shares how he struggled with publishing his conclusions on some extensive research on yoga.

So. I have no excuse.

From the title and my admission of recent reading you can guess where I've been for the past... oh let's just say looooong time.

Life today is radically different than I imagined it would be when I grabbed that diploma holding tube from the president of Houghton College back in 1994. During those short four years, I had the biggest dream of my life crash and burn by sophomore year. Then there was plan B!

I wrapped my arms around that new dream and with the support of my new department full of amazing profs, I worked my butt off to complete a whole new degree and minor in two years! I zoomed from the bottom of the GPA food chain to the very top! Ah! Success! Goals! Dreams! Hope!

All to crash in a burning heap a few weeks before graduation.

I left Houghton disillusioned. Confused. Angry. I thought God shut one door to open another? How else could I explain that kind of miraculous success? The profs had never seen such a case like me... from flailing failing to soaring and scoring.

Plan C...D...E...F...G... when you run out of the 26 letters there is AA... BB... and so on.

God was coming off more and more like an enemy rather than the Good God of the Bible.

For years I felt betrayed by Him. Heck, I prayed that I would only go down paths paved by His Will. I assumed His Will = Darcie's Amazing Stories of Success.

Thanks to Yancey's book and my first ever episode of Dr. Who, I have a new perspective.

Being human, I wanted... no... demanded an explanation for the mess called my life.

 From God Himself.

I wanted Him to answer to me so I could accept the way things turned out and get on with it.

Or be over it.

Like Job.

Yancey highlights The Wager between God and Satan at the beginning of the book of Job. How Satan bet God that Job's faith would crack under adversity. Satan believed God bribed Job into faith. God and Satan shook hands and the bet was on. We all know how it turns out. Read Job if you are not familiar with it. It is so honest and real.

Anyway, Yancey's point is that we get so focused on our reality. The reality of planet Earth, that we fail to remember there is another reality. The spiritual realm. There's a whole bunch of stuff going on that we can't see. Understand. Or know. But both dimensions are interconnected.

Like in Dr. Who.

Okay, so I put off watching it for fear I would get hooked. Sunday night it was on. And yeah, I was hooked. Aside from the clever writing and fun plot I was struck by the parallel between what I saw on the screen and Job. Job's faith put Satan in his place. Was a nail in his eternal coffin.

In Dr. Who, there was this entity, the Witch of the Well, who had been seen for centuries in the same spot. A ghost hunter and his companion assumed she was murdered there long, long ago and sought to rest in peace.

The Doctor, however, had a totally different theory. He discovered she was in a pocket dimension and was actually a time traveler from the future. but her circumstances affected the dimension of the present and the present affected her predicament as well. Although unseen to most, the dimensions were interconnected. Who had to travel to the pocket dimension to understand the plight, then rescue the young woman.

Our lives here affect the spiritual. The spiritual realm affects our reality - check out Daniel who's prayer went unanswered b/c a battle broke out preventing the answer to come in a timely manner. (I think it's chapter 9 if you wanna check it out).

Yancey concludes that there are no concrete answers to  feeling disappointed with God. We suffer and suffer and may never know why this side of Heaven. In fact, our situations may not get better this side of Heaven.


That's what it's all about. Our time here is short relative to eternity.

Earth is not our home. Disappointments and hurts make us long for our true place.

So what did I learn?

I can be all mad and miffed at life with God or without God. Whether I choose to turn on my heels and stomp away from Him or press into him I will suffer. Life sucks. The bombings in Boston by Islamic terrorists? The explosion in Texas? The economy? Our political climate? North Korea? Iran?

And you know what?

It's not gonna get any better.

I'm gonna face all the disappointment in life WITH God.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

The "V" word that makes me squeamish

Okay, okay, it's not what you think.

And I wonder if it has the same effect on anyone else... or am I alone?

The "V" word that makes me tremble and choke down this morning's eggs and spinach is vulnerability.

Free Dictionary defines it as being susceptible to physical or emotional injury. Susceptible to attack. Open to Censure or criticism; assailable.

I was vulnerable once. Until all of the above happened. And for the most part that is why I stopped blogging for three years. The pain from the emotional injury was way worse than any physical pain I ever felt. Here's some perspective - I had knee surgery two years ago where they had to saw my femur in half, crank it open, then screw and plate it back together.

Emotional pain is worse than physical.

For three years I've been piecing my life back together. Keeping to myself. Trusting fewer people than I have fingers. Not writing anything that could be used against me. Struggling to find my purpose and place. Feeling quite alone.

Last time I blogged I got myself into a whole heap of trouble. In fact, some people thought me and my ideas were a little too unsafe for the general churchy populace.


Not doing it.

Blogging for reals requires vulnerability.

I can write silly posts and tell funny stories all day long. Even post the cutest cat pictures you've ever seen. But for what? Who would bother with this blog? How could that build relationships with potential readers?

It wouldn't.


The only option left is to face the "V" Monster head on.

And blog.

So please, if anyone at all is even reading JITLB anymore, be patient as I poke my head out from underneath my rock. And indulge in cute cat pictures once in a while.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Will this beet the end of me?

Part of my three year absence was due to a complex array of health related issues including the creation of Frankenknee. But I won't bore you with details.

When life is unkind, being healthy is critical for dealing with the stressors that lurk behind every bush, hide under every rock and assault you each time you answer the phone or open an email. How can you fight off the boogeyman if you are curled up under a blanket in bed?

A few days ago I had a biomerdian test done to see where I'm at in the battle against Yeast Overgrowth Syndrome. My chiropractor noticed sluggishness in both my liver and gall bladder. The last thing I need is another surgery.

After Frankenknee and the nightmare with my mom last year, I don't ever want to see the inside of a hospital again.

Dr. Kristen prescribed me some "medicine". Food medicine. She told me Hippocrates himself said to use food as medicine.

After two days of taking said prescriptions, I am not sure how either of the following qualify as food.

Let's start with apple cider vinegar. I am taking that to detox my liver. I also get to wash it down with the juice of a whole lemon with a dash of cayenne pepper!

Have you ever tried to drink straight apple cider vinegar?

It is one of the most vile substances on the planet. I rank it with poop and vomit. At least I don't have to drink those.

Then there are the beets (for gall bladder). No, I do NOT get to cook my beet. I must put it in my Vitamix and drink the pretty purple liquid from a RAW beet. Tastes like dirt. Makes me relate well iwth earthworms.

But I tell ya, beets should come with a warning label!

Fortunately I was able to make 1+1 = 2 and knew I was not dying. But a person not in the know might die of a myocardial infarction in the bathroom. Pink and purple are not natural colors to be seen. Let's leave it at that.

I called the chiro's office this morning to ask if taking my "medicine" ever gets any easier. The response was, "Honestly... no. It's a matter of pure discipline."

Well then.

I must admit I slept all the way through the night last night for the first time in many months. Thanks to the nasty tasting concoction Dr. Kristen prescribed.

And after all, isn't medicine supposed to taste awful?