Saturday, June 29, 2013

Have Scrabble Tiles, will.... ?


      The tiles were just sitting in my wooden Scrabble holder, begging to be played.  A "bingo" that would earn me an extra 50 points - I could see the word right in front of me and was practically salivating over this opportunity.  However, no matter how hard I tried, I finally... remorsefully... had to admit to the Rat Terriers at my feet  that the board was so "closed off" that I couldn't bingo even if I were allowed to enter words in several different languages including Pig Latin.   Bummer!
      Earlier, when the board was wide open, I think I got every u, i, o, b, and c from the Face Book Scrabble Tile Dispenser Wizard whom I've never seen and whom, at that point, I was sure hated me. The Rat Terriers heard comments from me like:  Come on!  Give me every useless vowel in the game when I can make words right and left and then give me obvious word combos when there is no place to play???  What kind of game is this???
      Needless to say, even with several potential bingo words, I lost...
      But it really doesn't matter because I'm addicted... :)
      The thing about Scrabble is this: when I score well and win, I am secretly pleased with my word knowledge.  When I lose, I'm secretly unhappy with the quirky luck inherent in the game.  (And by the way, there is really, really something wrong in the logic of what I've just written...)
     For example, in a recent game, I decided to enter the word "que" and even pressed the button to do so.  I thought I had tried that word in the dictionary dialogue box on FB Scrabble and it had been approved but obviously I hadn't.  The game wizard rejected my entry. What to do??
     I knew the word "quire" wasn't going to work either  but it was all I could make with the letters I had so I tried it in the dictionary box and, lo and behold,  it popped up as valid.  Amazing!  Even now I honestly  don't know what the word  means and frankly I really don't care.    Simply because of an electronic reject and a wild shot with the FB dictionary, I got something like a 40 point play instead of a 20 point play.
     I once heard  Corrie ten Boom talk about prayer.  She said that a mother was trying to teach her little child to pray.  When it was the child's turn to pray out loud, the little fellow said, "A, B, C, D..."  The mother asked the child what he was doing and he replied, "I am giving the letters to God because He will know what to do with them."
    Sometimes down here, I fret and fret, trying to figure out how to "spend" the "tiles" of my life throughout the day, even going so far as to figure out the wording of my prayers in advance, as if it all depended on me, on my  intellect, my goals, my words, and my plans.
    Maybe I should just start off the day by recognizing that many of my "brilliant" ideas are partly luck and many of my, well, unprofitable ideas are partly... if not mostly ... me.
    Maybe like that little boy, I should start off each  day by bringing all the scattered tiles - thoughts and agendas that I have  - to God and offering them up so that He can arrange them in the way that He knows is best, discarding some of my pleas, changing others, and adding ones I've  never considered.
   I mean, it's okay to plot and plan and clutch Scrabble Net tiles in one's greedy little hand so to speak because it's just a game with no cash prizes... Right?
   But what about life? What about conversing with the God of the Universe?  Do I really want to clutch my little tiles of life  to myself, plotting, planning, dispensing them as I see fit throughout the day?    Or do I want to give them to God first and let Him do the planning while I sit still, mouth closed, and start my day off, novelty of novelties, by trying to listen?
  For once?
  Just sayin'

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemon Slices...

      I learned something this week.
      I learned that things can change, literally in a heartbeat, and that some people excel in a crisis.   I had a good day Monday, a bit hurried but my to-do list contained only pleasant things - a morning swim, a quick trip to the grocery store, a relaxing meal  with a friend.    By 5:15, I was rushing to get perishable grocery items in the house before going to meet my  friend for dinner at a nice restaurant but even in the rush of things, I was happy, anticipating a pleasant ending to a nice day.
     I met my friend at the restaurant, we were seated and the server brought us glasses of  water with two lemon slices wedged on the rim of the glasses.  I took one sip and my tongue began to tingle in an irritating way.  Within thirty minutes, I was scratching at both hands, running to the bathroom, and wondering what was going on.  I found it especially hard to process the fact that my hands were itching more and more with each passing minute.  I remember being dumbfounded by that to the point that I was slow to take in what was happening.
      Thanks to a FB post just a week or so ago, it slowly began to dawn on me that I might be  having an allergic reaction to something  and that  I might need Benadryl.  When I voiced my suspicion, my friend remained calm and asked just a few pointed questions:
      Could I drive home?  Did I need her to do anything?  Was my throat swelling and could I breathe okay?
      At that point, my tongue had started to swell but, although she detected a difference in my voice, I wasn't aware of it. My one thought was to get in my car, call my husband, and make the ten minute drive to my home as fast as possible to get something to stop the itching.
     Frankly, when she asked me the last question about my throat swelling, I wondered why she was asking. I literally did not know that allergies can cause the throat and tongue to swell.  I knew people with peanut allergies could die quickly from exposure to nuts but I had never considered the whys or the hows of it all.
    Because of her calm but pointed questions, I realized as soon as my tongue started feeling thicker to me than normal that I didn't need to fool around and that a trip to the ER might be advisable.  So, as I was pulling off the parking lot and onto the main road leading home, I was also giving my husband a very succinct message by cell phone:
    I need you to come home immediately. I'm having an allergic reaction. I may need to go to the ER.
    He was also calm and simply asked me where I was at that moment. I told him and he said he'd be home as soon as possible. I knew ASAP meant at least a 20 minute wait on my part before he could get to me and so I prayed, asking God if I should be making the 10 min. drive to home or if I should be making the 20 min. drive to the nearest hospital.  I kept talking out loud as well, trying to gauge how much swelling was going on in my mouth and also trying to verbally calm myself as I drove, sort of talking my way through everything by saying things like, "Alright. My speech sounds funny but I'm getting plenty of air so I'm okay right now.  Another 8 minutes and I'll be home."
    By the time I got home, my hands and feet were both itching but my hands were the worst - red and a bit swollen, and itching so badly that I sprayed Benadryl on them and then immediately washed it off because it did absolutely no good. Ditto for the Benadryl gel.  This in spite of the fact that I took two Benadryl caplets as soon as I got home.
    In the meantime, as I had while in the restaurant, I continued to make runs to the bathroom but hadn't considered  the possibility of dehydration at that point.  When Phil got home, he found me wringing my hands together like a caricature of Lady Macbeth.  IN reality, I was  actually clawing each hand with the other.  He immediately asked me why I was acting like that and  I explained to him as if he were a simpleton that I couldn't stand the itching. He did a double- take and  told me to get in the car because we were going to the ER.  Only I couldn't because I had to make another run to the bathroom.
    Once we were on the freeway, I knew I was headed towards another bathroom run so he pulled off the freeway onto a Wendy's parking lot and dropped me at the door. We probably looked like a smash and grab couple as I ran inside. Thankfully I made it in time but again, I  wondered how I would ever make it to the ER if I was going to have to stop at every potty between there and  the Baptist Medical Center.  It was a quandary and just one more thing that wasn't on my original agenda for Monday night.
    Thankfully, I had grabbed our bottle of Benadryl as I went out of the house thinking I would need to show the ER doctor what I had taken.  When I came out of the loo, Phil was sitting at a table with some fries and a large glass of water for me, thinking that the salt in the fries might help me retain some liquids.  He suggested we wait at Wendy's for a bit to see if I was truly over the urge to run to the potty.  I asked him if he thought it would be okay to take a third Benadryl and he told me he thought it would be.  So I did that and began to eat a few fries, sip a little water, while testing my speech every so often to see if I still sounded like a toddler trying (and failing)  to make consonant sounds correctly.
    Within thirty minutes, my itching had stopped and my tongue was shrinking back towards normal.
    At that point, I noticed my husband's face for the first time.  Up until that time, I'm sorry to say that I had thoughts only for myself. I was vaguely aware  that at least twice while we sat at the table and I sipped water, that he had taken hold of my hands and moved his lips silently and each time I knew he was praying for me, for which I was very grateful. I also knew that my friend whom I had left in such a hurry back at the restaurant was sending up prayers for me as well. These two things meant a lot but mostly in retrospect, when I could really begin to process what had happened.
    Since that time I've got a whole new list of things to be thankful for.
    1.  I'm grateful for people who remain calm in a crisis. My friend and my husband are both a case in point.
    2.   I'm grateful for people who know when to ask questions and how to pray.
    3.   I'm grateful that I just had a mild allergic reaction.  I can't imagine how people cope with a severe reaction.  Talk about scary.
    4.   I'm grateful that someone else had shared their allergic experience on FB a week or so earlier; otherwise I wouldn't have had a clue what was happening to me or what to do about it.  As it was, it took me about 20 minutes before I realized it was possible that I was having an allergic reaction.  I'd just never had one before and had no personal frame of reference for dealing with such a thing.
    5.  I'm grateful for the worker at Wendy's who asked Phil if I was alright and who made it a point to tell me that she hoped I felt better as we were leaving. She sounded like she meant it and from the sweet look on her face, I suspect she may have said a prayer for me as well. In a bit of a crisis, every prayer counts. And God has His servants strategically placed, for real.
    6.  I'm grateful for another friend who told me that it's a good idea to carry Benadryl capsules with you so
that if you have an attack, you can break open the capsule and empty the powder into water and it will get into your system 15 minutes faster than normal. From now on, I will always have some Benadryl capsules in my purse. Always.
   7.  I'm grateful :) that I eventually had enough Benadryl in me to cause me to sleep soundly for the next 14 hours or so while my husband and my son dealt with a water heater leak in the laundry room. They  actually had it almost completely taken care of when I came to the next day about mid-morning.  There are some things that are worth sleeping through - water spraying all over the laundry room floor is one of them.  Trust me on this!
  8.  I'm grateful for the look of concern and compassion on my husband's face while we were at Wendy's.  It wasn't until the episode was waning that I really took in how worried he was.   In retrospect, I realize he had a really tough evening. First me, then the breached water heater, then switching out tanks the next morning and then trying to cram a whole day of work into one afternoon after installing the new heater. I got all the attention while  he definitely got the short end of the straw.
  9. I'm grateful that I remembered that look of compassion  when he told me the next evening how much the new water heater cost - I can get really testy over large, unexpected expenditures of money and I realized last night how unfair I can be when stressed over money;  I'm afraid  I usually vent my anxiety on Phil. Not this time.  Maybe our wild almost trip to the ER, helped me get my act together and gave me a better sense of what I owed to Phil.  Maybe for the first time I saw how unfair I can be to let him take care of something that literally took him hours to remedy, saving us tons of money for labor, only to lose it over a 400.00 bill for the tank, as if he were somehow at fault. I can really be a not nice spouse.  Trust me on this as well.
  10.  I'm grateful that I know not to order lemon in my water... ever again.  (I have no allergies to lemons. I had lemonade today and was fine.  I have no allergies to water and I have no allergies to ice:)  I've had people tell me that now I know not to eat lemons or drink lemonade, that  now I know not to drink from a glass without using  a straw, etc.   But the truth is I know little more than I did Monday night when I got sick.  All I can guess is that the lemon slices stuck on the edge of my glass were somehow contaminated.)
  The bottom line is: I'm grateful.  More so now after the attack than I was before. I mean going to the restaurant, eating out, visiting with a friend - these are all everyday things, aren't they?
  Not any more.
  Simple pleasures - at least for now while  I am still  acutely aware of what happened Monday and maybe even more to the point, very much aware  of what could have happened Monday - simple pleasures are no longer so simple. Right now, to me, they are special.
   And so is my husband, my friend, and everyone else who helped me as my day suddenly warped into the Twilight Zone and I learned just how quickly things can change.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sisters from the 'Hood

Where thieves break in and steal, that is where I exist.
Where thievery is unknown, that is where I am headed.
Where moth and rust do not corrupt, that is where my treasure lies.

In this other place, the one I’m trying to reach, there is energy  full of grace, angel feet going to and fro, wings outstretched – serious business being transacted while the chords of Love vibrate in, through, and around every being, everything.  That is where I’m going.

Sometimes I hear anguished cries in the  night and at those times,  I scurry through the darkness down here, heart aching,  head down, feet hurting, eyes dim, just trying to make it to my Father’s door step where I know I’ll be safe.   At those times, I just want to shake off the cloying rot of this place and  warm my chilled heart before my  Abba’s Holy fire and feel life, real life, spreading  through my veins.

In the middle of the night, I sometimes dream of  Home, imagining  myself busting through my Father’s door, yelling, “I’m here!!!”,  dropping my backpack of worries, and  feeling the mud of this world miraculously falling away from me.

In my mind’s eye, I walk boldly into the Holy of Holies and my Savior is there.  In fact, I know  He’s there now, praying, listening, interceding, loving.  And right now, my heart longs to be with Him, more than I’ve ever been before.    I want to go Home and I know it will be glorious when I get there.

But I don’t want to go alone.  When I burst through that huge door, Hobbit like, and feel the warmth  before my feet even cross the threshold,  I want others to be with me. 

Abba, I want to bring my sisters in the ‘hood  Home with me for the biggest, most joyous  liveover that’s ever been seen.  I want to cross Your threshold linked arm in arm with  Jessica, Amanda, Kerri, Michelle, and others.  I can just see us laughing, innocent school girls once more, lovely young women anticipating Life.  

 I long for the day when the weight of abuse, heartache, abandonment, and physical pain just starts to slough away from   our shoulders with each other-earthly step.  I can’t wait to see the dingy, yellow dust of this world just dissipate before Your glorious presence.   Abba, I know that we’ll ooh and ahhh over the dazzling radiance of our dresses and when we look in Your face, we’ll see ourselves all beautiful, the way You have been seeing us for a long, long time.

I can’t wait.

But for now…  where thieves break in and steal, that is where we exist.
And although I often long for Home, I’m willing to slow my pace just a bit
So that I can link arms with my sisters and whisper long into the night
with them about the amazing place
 that You have prepared especially for us
 sisters from the ‘hood.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pink Balloons in a Sepia-tone World

     There are watershed moments.
     I'm still processing the homicide that happened three weeks or so ago at the house on the corner, across from us.
     I think it's not affecting me.. .but then I realize it is.
     This morning I realized that it's taken away my desire to blog. Left me feeling like I have little or nothing worthwhile to say. Or maybe feeling like I have nothing worthwhile that I want to say.
      It's almost as if something inside of me died when a virtual stranger - someone I only knew by sight - was beaten to death while I watched but didn't see.  Wondering if it was serious this time.  Wondering if I should call the police.  The answer was... yes.
      Even now - now that I've let the nasty genie out of the bottle this morning - I'm shedding tears.  I don't even know how that can be.
     Three weeks later and I can still burst into tears???  Without warning?? For someone I didn't even know???
     I bawl and ask myself hard questions like: how do people in war zones cope with violent deaths?  As in "plural", "many", sometimes "daily".   I don't know.  I can't comprehend it.  Syria.  Iraq.  Darfur.
    So I sit and sob for one person and shut global stuff off for a bit because it's more than I can handle.
     Last week I had an unannounced melt down accompanied by a temper tantrum.  Uncharacteristic of me and definitely not pretty.  Geriatric women should not have temper tantrums...
    But I did.
    Some things didn't go the way I wanted, some relatively inoffensive words were said that I took offense at, and before I knew it, I was yelling. Things like, "God is not working in this neighborhood! He never has been!!! "
    I went on to yell about how I've been wearing rose-colored glasses all these years, how nothing good is ever going to happen in this place. If I remember correctly, I think I also yelled words to the effect that we'd all be murdered in our beds someday while I threw the book I was reading at the wall as a way of punctuating my atheistic rant.
   To say David and Phil were walking on egg shells for a bit there and talking to me in honeyed tones as if I were a candidate for a psychiatric ward - that would be understatement.
    The next day I sobbed off and on into the dish towel or hand towel that was nearest me and apologized. To God. To Phil. To David.  But I wasn't even sure I could be forgiven.  I wasn't even sure why I had come unglued.  Finally I asked God why I had lost it and He showed me it was Sammy's death.  Still there. Still waiting to surface at odd moments.
    This past Tuesday we had Bible study here and three ladies came. One is a dear friend from many years back who used to live down the street from me. The other two women were not friends. When I'd see them in their yards, we'd exchange friendly words. But they had had scary issues in their past - domestic violence, possibly drugs - and I had carefully built a wall between myself and them.  Sometimes I spied on them, when I thought things might be getting out of hand, things that might spill over into my life. Sometimes I called 911 on their spouses.   But that was about the extent of our relationship.
   Now we're in a weekly neighborhood Bible study together.
   Our symbol is becoming pink balloons.
   We stand on level ground at the foot of the cross, shed the same tears, have the same fears, and are journeying together. I no longer spy on them or avoid them. I love them. That's God.
    I no longer see myself as the leader, the one who has the answers that they need - because I simply don't have a lot of answers right now.   I just have some of  the same questions they do. The only difference is that I know where to take them.  But basically we all have more questions than answers right now and I think  that's okay because we're in it together.
   Today I'll take the handout for next week, some pink balloons, some chocolate, and a brightly colored box of Kleenex tissue to leave on each woman's doorstep. It beats the heck out of spying on them, fearing their situations, and calling the cops occasionally to their homes.
   Three weeks ago we all had  a watershed event courtesy of these mean streets and life is still a bit sepia toned for me as it is for my sisters in the 'hood. We're all still blindsided by tears occasionally.    But as long as we can cry together, pray together, eat chocolate together, open the Word together, and leave pink balloons  on each other's doorsteps, there is hope.
    And yes, God is working in our neighborhood.
    But mostly, He's working on me.
    And He'still got a lot of work to do.
    Trust me on this.