Sunday, January 31, 2016

Different Kinds of Questions

Life has changed a lot since my last post. I spent most of Wednesday in the ER, most of Friday at another hospital for testing, and will go back to the hospital for surgery on Tuesday. I am currently feeling rather like an invalid, living with a catheter at home and still struggling with pain and stiffness on my right side, which is making everything more challenging. The biggest challenge right now, beyond sheer physical tiredness, is living under the weight of "what if." Surgery on Tuesday should hopefully show me a little more of what I might be facing.

At the moment, everything feels different than it did just a few short days ago when my body, though not without its aches and pains, still felt like it worked as it should.

I find myself waking up with entirely different questions than I did before facing serious illness. I think my daily (perhaps sometimes unconscious) questions used to be "what" and "how much" -- as in "what do I need to do today?" and "how much can I get done?" Right now the question is more "how" -- as in "how can I get through this day one step at a time?" and "how can I live today in such a way that I am not giving into stress and fear?" and "how can I bring God glory and myself and my family peace through the way I respond to what is happening right now?" I keep reminding myself this is not a bad way to live, though I surely hope to soon be functioning better physically.

My dad reminded me a couple of days ago, when he called to check on me, that it had been 40 days since Mama passed away. Such a biblical number. Surely this has been one of the biggest wilderness periods I've ever known.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ten Minute Tuesday (#4)

Sometimes natural beauty is the most beautiful of all. I thought of posting a snow picture today (given all the snow we've had recently!) but this lovely piece of malachite called out instead. Not sure what it might prompt creatively, but the design and the color are both stunning.





Malachite mined from Congo, displayed at Transvaal Museum - South Africa. Photo credit: Amazing Geologist (https://www.facebook.com/AmazingGeologist/?fref=ts)




Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Possible Ninth Planet

In October, I wrote about our family's read-through of Tom Standage's book The Neptune File, which detailed the search for the planet that eventually was named Neptune. Neptune was the first planet that astronomers ever discovered, not by observing it in the heavens, but by making mathematical calculations. These days ever more involved mathematical calculations have made possible the discovery of not-yet-observed planets outside of our own solar system.

How exciting to read this in the news this week, that another planet may be near the outer edges of our solar system! One we didn't know was there, but which might well be there, based on our observations of the orbits of various objects in the Kuiper Belt. If it is there, it is likely three times larger than earth, but smaller than Uranus and Neptune, and probably a gaseous planet. If it's where they think it is, it's so far from the sun that it could take 20,000 years to revolve around it!

It's so marvelous to contemplate the mysteries of the universe and to realize how much we don't know. And so fascinating to think of another planet having been there, perhaps all this time, and we just weren't aware. It makes you wonder how many other things are real and true and solid and beautiful and simply beyond our awareness and field of vision.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My View, God's View

My involvement in social media, especially Facebook, has both widened my world and made it feel smaller. It's widened my world in that I am able to more readily connect with many more people as well as learn things about them and about the world that I never knew before. It's made my world feel smaller in that I begin to realize how deeply connected we all are, how much we share in common, even those of us who don't really know each other.

I've been thinking about that this week as I'm a little bit on overload with life. Still grieving my mom's loss at the same time I am celebrating her homecoming to glory -- an unexpected month ago today. Time marching relentlessly on and there's so much to do: homeschooling, ministry, household tasks, writing work. Still hurting and aching and dealing with broken sleep patterns. Deadlines that were graciously extended for me in early January are upon me now, and I am writing, writing, writing to get things done, still not sure I can possibly make them. Our difficult fourth quarter financially has pushed us into a hard one again in this first quarter of the new year, and I am needing to pick up extra web content writing at a time when I don't have the mental space or the physical stamina to do it, but I'm doing it anyway because the bills have to be paid. Hours at the computer, even with stretching and moving breaks, are exacerbating my back and hip issues. I am worn out on almost every level, but I am being very careful to keep taking one small step at a time and to keep holding onto Jesus.

In the midst of all this, I am checking in daily at FB, as I usually do, and finding my news feed so full of things to celebrate and mourn that it can almost be overwhelming. I'm not sure there's really any difference in what I'm seeing in my feed right now and what's usually there -- I'm just noticing more, feeling extra sensitive to what I'm reading. My rejoicing feels deeper and my sadness more intense. It's not a bad thing really, and it's not something that I feel I need to stop doing (I'm trying to be careful not to spend too much time on the trivial stuff, but I do love the ways the things I read there can inform my prayers). But it strikes me, not for the first time, how deeply glad I am that God is God and I am not. I cannot even keep straight the interconnections of my own one life, and yet God, in his vastness and majesty and wisdom is able to keep ALL the web of connections straight, not just in my life but in every life. He not only sees them and knows them and loves us through them, he helps us to untangle the threads and see the pattern. He hears the cries and rejoices with the rejoicing and nudges the reluctant and encourages the weary and gently corrects the ones who are wandering and calls out to those who don't yet know him. It is an amazing thing to contemplate from my own tired and sometimes overwhelmed vantage point. He does not grow weary. He does not faint. He does not stop loving us no matter how gorgeously or sadly tangled and complex our lives grow -- and sometimes the beauty and the sadness are so interwoven we can't see where one stops and another starts.

Just this week I have marveled over the first flower grown in space, contemplated incredible art, looked at auroras viewed from the International Space Station, and watched video footage of waves washing up on the shores of Galilee (taken by friends on sabbatical). I have mourned with a family whose baby died, rejoiced with a friend for whom God miraculously provided all the funds they needed to bring home their fifth adopted child, rejoiced with that same friend in the news that she is ten years cancer free, and marveled over the fact that she is not resting on the joys of being able to bring home her little girl, but beginning to raise funds for wheelchairs for other children in the same orphanage. I have smiled over  the stories told my an acquaintance who remembers praying for a certain country when she was a little girl: a country she is currently visiting so she can get to know her newly adopted teenage daughter, a country where it has been difficult for the gospel to gain a hearing and yet where she saw fifteen baptisms of new Christians this week. I have smiled over the excitement felt by some families, children, and yes, teachers, over approaching snowstorms.

This is just a tiny slice of some of the connections that happen to be passing before my eyes over the past few days. It's amazing to ponder the wonders, moments, and stories that God contemplates each and every day from the vantage point of his almighty view. That he doesn't just contemplate them but act within them and through them for our good and his glory is incredibly beautiful and humbling. I am so thankful to be his daughter.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ten Minute Tuesday (#3)

Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Milk Jug and Fruit, c. 1900. 
Photo accessed at http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/19/cezanne-a-life-alex-danchev-review. Their photo credit from the National Gallery of Art.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

More Thoughts on Grief

Every time I go through a new feeling or sensation or moment of grief over my mother's passing, I find myself thinking, "no one ever told me that it would feel that way." Then I stop and consider the truth of the thing that I've heard said more than almost anything else in the past almost month since Mama died -- that grief is an individual road, unique for every person who walks it.

I know this is true, and I find both comfort and sadness in it. Comfort because it helps to know there is no "right way" to grieve or mourn, no set time when I am supposed to realize that it's easier now, or when I am "done" with grieving. Sadness because part of me would like the universality of grief to somehow translate more into an ability to understand not just my own process but someone else's process a little more thoroughly. But this side of eternity, we tend to see through a glass darkly, and the best we can do sometimes is just hold out our hands to each other or offer a quiet, strengthening prayer.

It has been eye opening for me to remember my mother in her own season of deep grieving over her father's passing. That was in 1981. I was 13, just like the sweet girl is now, and I remember feeling bewildered when I saw my strong and usually competent mother become weepy and somehow vague and tentative (in that sleep walking way the first days and weeks of grief make you). I didn't understand the fog she was in over her father's sudden and very unexpected passing. I remember feeling surprised when I heard that my uncle actually fainted at the hospital upon hearing the news that their dad was gone. I wouldn't have been surprised if my mother had done the same. I recall that she felt less "mine" during that time -- as though she'd walked into some country I couldn't entirely enter into yet, though I was deeply saddened over my grandfather's death. The depth of her grief was startling to me, and I suspect the depth of mine has been startling for my daughter too. Just the other day, in the midst of a difficult time, I found myself saying something about "not feeling like myself," and she said, "I know what you mean. I miss you."

So part of my grieving has been learning how to stay attentive and focused in a time when my brain and heart want to do anything else but that. There are times and places when it's appropriate that I wander off mentally, and times when it's not appropriate it all and I have to swallow it down with a gentle promise to my heart that I will find a time soon when I can deal with that particular wave. Of course, by the time I get around to tending to myself, that wave has often receded, only to be replaced by something new. It's as though every day I take a step into new territory and I have to look around and gauge what this new country is like.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ten Minute Tuesday (#2)

Today's image is from www.public-domain-image.com, found on the Creative Commons site.

In this season of grief, I find myself drawn to pictures like this, but there is more to this picture of an eagle on a glacier than just grief or loneliness. There is beauty too.

If the prompt inspires you to write, please share! I am sharing any writings from these prompt Tuesdays in the comment section.