Friday, April 25, 2014

Thursday's thoughts - patience, action & bearing fruit

I was raised in a particular way that may seem peculiar to some. From the time I was in high school, I have had it drilled into my conscience to not - under any circumstances - pray for patience.
(ok, maybe it was college - either way, I've lived this truth for about 15 years)

Why? After all, isn't patience a fruit of the spirit - and shouldn't we want to cultivate the fruits of the spirit?

Well, you see the root of the word 'patience' - is Greek for "long suffering." Do you actually want to suffer a long time? Probably not.

When I said that this was drilled into me - even last week, in the midst of my suffering (which seemed long; I know, I have no patience!), in a text message my mom said, "If you are praying for patience, STOP!" Does she know me so little? Does she think the Catholics have so thoroughly brainwashed me that I'd forgotten this?

I bring this up because of a conversation with one of my students yesterday.

She came in with questions - and, I think she feels a little insecure about having her questions. She said something like, "I'm sorry that I come in with questions so much; you're probably really tired of me." (I'm not at all; she's a great student.) I laughed and said something like, "No! I get to practice being compassionate and merciful - those are good things." I pray to be merciful and compassionate toward my students. Believe me, I get plenty of opportunities in a day to exercise this.

She said, "Oh, is that like praying for patience?" [Then, of course, I told her about how we shouldn't pray for patience - but in situations where I need to exercise patience, I ask for perspective, insight, wisdom, understanding, mercy, grace, or compassion - the spiritual elements necessary in order to persevere and endure suffering.]

...this got me thinking.

Patience - mercy - understanding - love - kindness - joy...the fruits of the spirit - are actions not feelings. I think often people feel that they need to be more patient with others, and they don't feel patient, and so they pray for patience. Well, praying for patience simply means that you are going to be given opportunities to exercise patience.

It's not reciprocal - if you feel patient, then you will act patient - which means that then you are patient. Praying for patience is asking for the opportunity to exercise patience. You cannot becoming patient by feeling patient; you become patient by exercising patience.

So, dear friends, remember that when we pray for the fruits of the Spirit to be evident in our lives: we are asking for opportunities to exercise this. In order to exercise this, remember to also ask for the gifts of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3) to empower you to act, and therefore, exhibit the fruits.

Which reminds me...when I feel that I am not loving enough, or respectful enough toward Dan...I need to let go of the need to feel that I am loved - and just act as though it were true (because it is) - and act lovingly.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

To Worship in Spirit and Truth


The first time I had chicken pox, I was in third grade – and I was excited. In mid-December, an outbreak occurred on our bus – and my best friend, Jina Lilly, got the pox. I was excited; I hadn’t yet had the pox – and I wanted it. You know, because then I wouldn’t ever get them again. (Insert irony)

I got my wish. I got the pox right before Christmas break. At first, I was glad – you know, because I got what I wanted. …and then, the reality of illness set in. I had to miss my Christmas concert at school, the Christmas party…and, as the days wore on, I realized that I was going to have to miss Christmas Eve service. As my mom recalls, I was heartbroken.

Fast-forward twenty-five years (crazy, right?) and my second bout with the pox. During the week, I didn’t really think it was going to be this long. I figured that by the weekend, the pox would be dried up and be on the mend. I was feeling more energetic by Friday. And, it’s Holy Week, right? So, if God is healing my body, He’ll have me healed so I can take part in Holy Week, right?

…and, then, yesterday, a tiny new outbreak, just a few bumps. …but enough to indicate that I am still contagious. I might feel better, but who knows who has come to worship this weekend alongside me with an immune system at-risk?

The reality of having to “sit out” the most sorrowful,, solemn, and joyous services – well, they have left me heartbroken, again.

You see, friends, since September, I have been walking alongside a young lady, who desires to be Catholic. It has been such a blessing. I can’t even begin to recount to you the pure joy that I have had in becoming friends with Michaela, and the ways that God has made us similar, and the lessons that He has taught me this year. I have been so blessed.

And, the pinnacle was last night: Michaela received her first Communion and Confirmation at Easter Vigil, with two others, who have become dear to me.

When I saw those little pox, my heart sunk. When my aunt confirmed that I should stay home, I cried. …for like twenty minutes.

This morning, when those little pox were bigger, I realized that I would need to stay home this morning, too. As my husband and parents-in-law got ready to leave, I started crying. I sent my mom a text saying, “You raised me right; I have to stay home from church – and I’m crying about it.”

She wrote me back saying how much she wished that I could be at church, too. …and then I realized that if I am heartbroken about not worshipping with my brothers and sisters – about not being able to share in this Easter joy with my community…how much more does God want this for me? For you? For US? He made US for community – and He wants US to celebrate together; to worship in Spirit and in Truth – together. As one Body. Isn’t this what he prayed for, with tears, and loud cries, and anguished soul – right before He offered Himself up for US on that cross?

I pray not only for them (his disciples), but also for those who will believe in me through their word (US), so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.

John 17: 20 – 26

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, let us sing. Let us sing, Alleluia, together – for our King has come, and He has risen…. And, we have a Living Hope.

Enjoy a little “throwback” – I Can Only Imagine, by MercyMe. This brought me to tears today. Smile

The Body of Christ…broken for me


When I went to the doctor last week, I really had no intention of sharing what I was going through with anyone beyond my parents, in-laws, and co-workers. I didn’t really think it was necessary to share that my body had broken out in welts and pox.

And, then, my dad posted a call for prayer on facebook for my healing.

And, then, I saw the number of “likes” (I’d call them “agreements” to pray), and comments, and personal messages to me…and I realized that I needed that reassurance – that I needed the Body of Christ.

And, through the Body of Christ: my friends, my family, my students, my parents’ friends – people I’ve never met, praying for me – you all showed me Christ. In caring for me, you showed me the care of Jesus. By desiring my healing, you remind me that Jesus desires my healing…and more than that, He desires me. He cares for me, and loves me – and has provided for me in sickness and in health. And, He often does that through us – His body.

My lesson from this experience is this: do not underestimate the power that a little kindness has. Do not underestimate the power of prayer – of the effect that it has upon another to know that you have taken the time to lift them up to the Father. I think that I had, honestly, grown a little callous. I have been challenged to cry out more to God and for others – and to notice. To stop, when I see the request for prayer, to stop the scrolling, and lift this friend to the Lord. To stop, and turn toward my Jesus.

There’s nothing like a sickness to make one stop, and rest, and listen. There’s nothing like a sickness to make one realize just how precious life – and all the little moments – and all the little things taken for granted – is. This Lent, I had recognized that the one thing that I needed to let go of, to give up – was my self. I can’t really rid myself of myself…but, I can put others above me. Thank you, friends, for showing me the way…the way of Christ; the way to Christ.

Easter blessings to all of you.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What a long, strange week it's been...

If you're friends with me on Facebook (which most of you are, I imagine), then you have already been made aware of the 'drama' within my life this past week.

Last Thursday evening, I noticed a couple of "bug bites" on my left leg. One, near my knee, was rather swollen. I think I only noticed it because I had bumped it, and it hurt. On Friday, my mother-in-law and I went and had manicures and pedicures. During the pedicure, I noticed another 'bug bite' - because the girl kept bumping it. It was right above my right ankle. After that, I noticed several other bites.

The one by left knee kept swelling. By the end of the day, it was rather painful - and hot. I tried icing it. I sent a text to my ever-wise, aunt Barbara (a nurse practitioner) for some advice. She advised that I take some Benadryl - and if it got worse, to contact her in the morning.

Saturday morning, it wasn't any better. In fact, there were more and many others started swelling. ...and then, I noticed some bumps on my arms. Yes, a trip to see my aunt Barbara was in order. Thankfully, she only lives a couple miles away.

She hooked me up with non-expired Benadryl, and instructed me to take some ibuprofen to help the swelling. She believed that I had 'erythema nodosum' - and possibly Valley Fever. She said that if they got worse, I should see my doctor on Monday as soon as possible.

Well, it got worse. I was taking ibuprofen and benadryl every 4 hours. On Monday morning, I wanted to rip my arms off. The bumps that were on my arms seemed to merge into little mega cells. The small red welts on my legs seemed to merge into large, hot, red masses. I knew I was going to see my doctor; I had to. Although, I planned that I would go to work. Dan instructed me to stay home. (So thankful for him; most of the time, I need to be told what to do.)

At 8am, I started calling my doctor every 15 minutes. I didn't realize the office didn't open until 9.... At 8:43, I said, "God, please, let them call me." At 8:45, the receptionist tell me that there weren't any open appointments, but I could be seen at 9 on Tuesday. I told her that I had to be seen that day; everything was getting worse. She said that she would consult my doctor to see if she'd be willing to be double-booked. At that point, I began pleading with God for her to be willing to see me. At 9:05 I called back to see if she would be; she was.

About 10:20, I went back to see her. Immediately, she looked at my arms and said, "You have the chicken pox!" I said, "How? I had the chicken pox. I don't have the chicken pox...." She said, "Those, baby girl, are chicken pox."

Then, she looked at my legs. Rather than see what my aunt saw, she felt my hot legs and said, "This looks like lupus." I tried explaining that I thought it was Valley Fever, not lupus. She called in the other doctor who confirmed her suspicions about it being related to an auto-immune disorder. And, then, I went back to have blood drawn.

My left leg on Monday morning.

My right leg on Monday; if you zoom in, you can see the red areas on my knee and shin.

At this point, my doctor went into the waiting room and asked if anyone there had not had chicken pox. The one person who hadn't? My mother-in-law.... I think she must have some type of natural immunity, though, as all 4 of her kids had chicken pox, and she never got it from them.

I was informed that I would not be going into work for the week.

Which was good, because I didn't feel like doing much of anything until Thursday. ...and even then, I took at least one nap that day.

For the first couple of days, I would feel like ripping my arms off at least twice a day. I was taking Benadryl & ibuprofen like clockwork. Tuesday evening, I finally started taking the anti-viral med (another ridiculous story for another time).

On Thursday, the red welts on my legs and faded to to bruises, which is typical of erythema nodosum.
Left leg on Thursday

Right leg on Thursday
Right arm - Thursday

Left arm Thursday

On Thursday night, I received a message from my cousin, Valerie, a physician assistant, who said, "I do not think what you have Lupus." She and I have been in contact discussing my symptoms - and then my blood work when it came back yesterday (I don't meet with my doctor until Monday).

I cannot tell you all how THANKFUL I am for my aunt Barbara and cousin Valerie; they have helped explain my test results and provide feedback and direction. I do not have an auto-immune disorder; my labs indicate a rather healthy individual. As for the next steps to discover what might have caused this...well, we shall see on Monday.

I thought I was completely on the mend until this morning. I woke up with tiny little bumps circling a drying bump on my thumb, and little guys on my ring finger. Oy. Come on, body! Don't you understand that it's been a week? It's time to get healthy! :)

Legs - Saturday, 4/19

Damn you, baby spots!

Left arm - 4/19

Right arm - 4/19