Man Alive

In 1961 when I was 11 years old my father died from rampant heart disease . He had suffered many heart attacks already when the last one claimed him. A year or so later an art teacher gave our class an assignment, Illustrate the idea “Man Alive.” This is what I drew.

The most important man in my life had died because his heart failed. Those were the dark ages before most effective heart procedures, transplants, etc. In 1974 to preserve my art, I decoupaged it to the end of our magazine rack. When we got rid of the rack I saved the end board. Now what does this have to do with 2019?

On August 27, when my Grandgirls were 14 and 17 almost 18, their dad underwent a procedure for Mitral Valve Regurgitation. The doctor reported it was a success, but the valve was more deterioriated than he had first thought. Doctor also found a hole in the top of his heart that may have been there since birth. Undetected and unrepaired, my Son-in-law could have developed a clot and died suddenly. The doctor was able to do the repairs and Dave was home by August 30th. Whew! We are grateful to God, the Doctors and relieved he will be just fine.

Surgery was on a Tuesday and the first day of school for the girls as a senior and a freshman in high school was Wednesday. My husband and I were the support team for our daughter, sin-in-law and the Grandgirls. Transportation, prayers, comfort, taking them to lunch, touring the school with their new class schedules, helping pack lunches and organize for school doing whatever our hands could find that needing doing from garbage to dishes to laundry we tried to be there without being obtrusive, only supportive. We also took each child to see their Dad once he was moved out of ICU. Tennis matches and volleyball games were on our list of activities , too.

So this has been rolling through my brain all morning.

I’ve also been reminded of this verse:

 Keep your heart with all vigilance,

for from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23 NRSV

My son-in-law’s heart trouble was found on a routine check up. PLEASE keep your medical check ups and whatever struggle you might be facing don’t lose heart!

Annie and Me

Christians who write poetry always interest me as that is my bent also. Christians who have chronic illness and write poetry interest me even more! Recently on a radio program I heard Ravi Zacharias quote a poem by Annie Johnson Flint and was moved to look up her biography. One story is told that “She had been brought up with a sturdy independence. She still struggled to make ends meet. She still sought to cut down expenses in order that she might be able to pay as she went. The thought of charity was obnoxious to her. She loved to give to others and help those who were in need, but to receive from others—that was quite another matter. The breaking down of her prejudice in this sphere came about in a very simple way. One of the boarders staying at the house where she lived, when saying good-bye, tactfully slipped into her hand a gift of money. This was the first time such a thing had ever happened, and Annie’s pride was up in arms at once. The woman evidently noticed a difference in her manner and explained that she wished to leave some remembrance with her, but not knowing what her special need might be, thought it better to let her choose. Then she added something which went home. Annie never forgot it. She said, “You know Jesus Christ said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive,’ but how can there be any givers to whom the blessing can come unless there are those who are willing to receive? It takes two halves to make a whole” Then she appealed to Annie and asked if their positions were reversed and she had the means, would she not be glad to give? This turned things around so completely that she had to admit that she had no right to withhold from others the blessing of giving. She took the gift so kindly meant, and tried to be a willing receiver if that would help some giver to obtain a blessing. Her life was lived, as someone has said, from hand to mouth, but as she liked to have it expressed, the mouth was hers, and the hand was God’s and His hand was never empty.” https://www.preceptaustin.org/annie_johnson_flints_biography

When I was very a very young Christian with a very young child I suffered a back injury. The women of the church decided to come and help me. It was difficult for me to receive from them. They mopped my floors, changed my daughter’s diapers, brought in food, tried to encourage and comfort me. My mother had drummed into me about “more blessed to give than to receive.” I had to learn how to receive thankfully and humbly. It was a very difficult lesson for me. I stumbled again and again over my pride.”The thought of charity was obnoxious to her.” In this Annie had to learn the same lessons God asked me to learn.

Pride © Molly Lin Dutina Pride – oh that hateful force which comes from the heart of man and defiles him (MK 7:22). The pride of life is not of the Father, but it is of the world (1JN2:16). When a man is lifted up with pride he falls into the condemnation of the devil (1 TIM 3:6).

                Jesus gave himself fully and willingly for our sakes. He didn’t die to wash away just part of our sins. He was God’s complete and thorough sacrifice. Are we fully committed to Jesus for the sacrifice He made for us?              

                God has given us gifts to use and jobs to do to further His Kingdom. We are to try, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to do our best in all things as unto the Lord (EPH 6:5-6). However, it is difficult to render service when the service is unwanted or denied. It is equally difficult for our Father to give to us if we refuse to receive.

                 “You will never wash my feet—ever!” Peter said. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” (JN 13:8 HCSB)  From this we know that if we do not let Jesus help us, wash us, and enter every part of our lives, then we are keeping apart from Him.

                “I assure you with all truth, a slave is not superior to his master, nor one who is sent to the one who sent him. If you know these teachings, blessed are you if you practice them.” (JN 13:16-17) God has a plan for each of us to follow in serving Him. That plan includes other people. In His service, we can learn the Lord’s consternation as He stands at the door and knocks. It is impossible to help or serve other people if their pride refuses to let us enter.

                Our pride, (which is of the world) has taken Scripture, (which is God’s Holy Word) and twisted it to the point where many of us fail to recognize and receive gifts from our heavenly Father. Acts 20:35 states, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Oh, how many of us have been brainwashed with the abuse of this Scripture, heading worldly doctrines of pride, to the point where we can’t receive from others? Jesus also said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (MT 10:8) We aren’t taught very much about the Lord’s attitude in this age. In fact, we are skeptical of anything given without cost.

                Do we receive freely from our Heavenly Father? Have we taken Him up on all that is offered to us? Do we receive freely from our brothers and sisters in Christ? Or do they and the Father have to stop just short of our pride, knocking humbly at the door, wanting to freely give to us and provide that which will help further the kingdom of God? Are we slowing His progress by being too proud to receive?

                “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (PROV 16:18)

“Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. May the foot of the proud not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.” (PS 36:10-11 NIV)

Is the thought of receiving obnoxious to you? “How can there be any givers to whom the blessing can come unless there are those who are willing to receive ? It takes two halves to make a whole.” If you remain unwilling, how then will you ever receive the good your heavenly Father has in store for you? Open your hands, your heart and your life to His giving. He most often does that from one person to another!

Collected Quotes and a Short Joyful Video

For years I have kept quotes that inspire, encourage and challenge me. As we try to downsize I have been coming across some from quite a while back. For many I do not have the author’s name. I hope they inspire you, too.

“Surrendering is a personal and spiritual experience. Trust in the timing and in the freedom at the other end.”

Ardis Whitman: Hope for the moment. “There are times when it is hard to believe in the future, when we are temporarily just not brave enough. When this happens, concentrate on the present. Cultivate le petit bonheur (the little happiness) until courage returns. Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine and tomorrow the sun will shine. Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow. “

I just LOVE how this woman expressed it! She says with a giggle, “You just never know what may happen!” She does not say it in a doom and gloom sort of way. She looks forward with expectation of joy with much gratitude! Spend about 6 minutes with Peggy. You will be blessed!

Oh Lord help us to adopt her wonderful attitude and smile in every aspect of our lives! Once I had a librarian tell me, “You know you are reading a really great novel when you find yourself during the day wondering what the characters are doing now!” God of the universe is writing your story. What is happening now? Give praise and thanks for that thing.

Pescadero and Streams in the Desert

In 2016 we visited my husband’s family in California. His brother and sister-in-law told us about a place called Pebble Beach. Not the place in southern California where they play golf. This is a special attraction like no other beach in California. They warned us that collecting was prohibited there.

My husband found the location with no trouble. As we approached the walkway down we noticed two women coming up from the beach. One had a large 5 gallon bucket with a lid from the hardware store. She immediately put it down and sat on it. Her friend continued on to their vehicle with a small shovel. We wondered to ourselves if they had been collecting pebbles?

Was I ever surprised at the sight!

Yes! A close up of the same rock because it is so amazing! Those are tiny ocean formed pebbles in the openings the ocean carved into the larger rocks!

“When My glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I’ve passed by.” Exodus 33:22

I have been reading the devotional Streams in the Desert for many, many years. Originally published in 1928, it has been reproduced in many forms including an online format. I was astounded this morning when I read this entry from July 7th and realized I knew exactly where they were writing about! They record the experience this way: “There is a very famous “Pebble Beach” at Pescadero, on the California coast. The long line of white surf comes up with its everlasting roars, and rattles and thunders among the stones on the shore.

“They are caught in the arms of the pitiless waves, and tossed and rolled, and rubbed together, and ground against the sharp-grained cliffs. Day and night forever the ceaseless attrition goes on – never any rest. And the result?

“Tourists from all the world flock thither to gather the round and beautiful stones. They are laid up in cabinets; they ornament the parlor mantels. But go yonder, around the point of the cliff that breaks off the face of the seas; and up that quiet cove, sheltered from the storms, and lying ever in the sun, you shall find abundance of peebles that have never been chosen by the traveler.

MIND YOU in 1928 and before, there was not a prohibition against collecting. For more information about this beach, actually called Bean Hollow State Beach, see https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/pebble-beach-at-bean-hollow-state-beach/

It explains in some detail the tree like formation in the tafoni rocks in first photos published here.

Have you ever heard a Bobwhite?

As I child I remember lying in bed on summer mornings and hearing this lovely bird call me to come outside. It was a glorious way to wake up! And then I rarely heard it again, even though as an adult we lived close to the Cincinnati Nature Center for 30 years.

When we moved to our current neighborhood on the edge of the “Green Space” I heard it once. Oh what joy transported me back to Woodford Road 1957, 58, 59, etc.! I was literally running to each window to try to discover the location of the elusive singer.

The Audubon Society says: “This is the only native quail in the east. Its whistled bob-white! call is a familiar sound in spring in farmland and brushy pastures. The birds are heard more often than seen; although not especially shy, they often keep within dense low cover. During fall and winter, bobwhites live in coveys, averaging about a dozen birds. At night they roost on the ground in circles, tails pointed inward, heads pointed out.”

And then they report the bad news: “The Northern Bobwhite has disappeared from much of the northern part of its range, and has declined seriously even in more southern areas. The causes for these declines are not well understood. At northern edge of range, many may be killed by unusually harsh winters, but this does not explain its widespread vanishing act. “

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/northern-bobwhite

I enjoy seeing the Gambel’s Quail when we visit New Mexico. As entertaining as they are, they cannot replace the nostalgia brought by that Bobwhite call from my childhood.

Once during my prayer time I heard: “You are just as loved as when that bird sang during your childhood. You are still a kept child who can rest in Jesus, trust Him, glorify Him, invite Him in and know His love – always.”

The Word says in Zephaniah 3:16-17 (NIV2011)  On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.  The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

God will rejoice over you with singing! Relax and listen for His song each day.

Me, GE, Whirlpool and Maytag

As a nanny, helping with infant twins and a four year old I learned to do laundry by rote. Then moved on to help with a family with infant triplets. Three loads a day seemed to be the minimum amount. I called it bringing order out of chaos. Doing laundry for our family of four was relatively simple after that.

Then our family dwindled to three and eventually just the two of us.

I found when my adult kids were behind in their household affairs or in crisis, I could always do laundry for them.

When my son faced a recent health crisis, on many levels there was little I could do to resolve the situation. But I could always do laundry. Load after load, seemingly endless amounts of underwear then britches, a few shirts, and bed linens. I can always do laundry.

The rhythm of sorting, loading, changing machines to dry the fabrics, then the meditative process of folding and sorting into piles. Yes, I can always do laundry.

Stain treatment is likely to involve the pent-up energy of other unresolved situations, but the stains eventually yield, if not totally, then enough to reflect my efforts.

Yes, I can always do laundry… and when I am too old or frail to do laundry, hopefully my children will do the laundry for me. May I not prove to be a burden to them or crisis for them to resolve.

Finding My Way #2

February 21st I posted about finding my way through Fibro with God’s help. Especially the leading of the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” Before I went to the hospital for diagnosis I occasionally heard things such as, “When you go to the hospital …” What? Who said anything about the hospital? (Later I realized this was reassurance so I would not go into utter panic at the idea.) I also heard “You will know an answer to what is causing this before the chicory blooms.”

One of the delights of early summer are when the chicory blooms blue flowers and the Queen Anne’s Lace starts to put forth white flowers in contrast to the blue. They often grow together along the roadside.

Chicory, Queen Anne’s Lace and Red Clover

How like the Lord to comfort my heart with something that He knew I would recognize and delight in! He was true to His word and we did have a diagnosis before the full bloom of those flowers. The flowers were lovely. The understanding of what it meant to have fibro, not so much.

In Acts 10:34 and Romans 2:11 Peter and then Paul assure us that God is no respecter of persons. He shows no favoritism or special treatment. Since the Lord was able to lead me through that time of fear and not knowing what was happening, I am certain you can be lead by His Spirit also. Still your heart and mind. Try every day to listen for that still small voice of comfort and guidance. Whether you have a chronic illness or not, God wants to speak with you. He desires your attention and presence.

When unexpected things such as hospitalization come your way, try to remember you are never alone and God wants us to do as Mary Englebreit illustrated:

#5 Fibro and Finding my Way

As I mentioned earlier, when first diagnosed I lost many of my friends who thought I should be able to pray for healing and get it. The Lord on the other hand kept telling me, “I will be with you in this.” So I chose to follow Him. They say the best way out of something is through. This hymn often comforted me. They skip verse 2 , and that is fine.

The lyrics are below:


Written by George Matheson and Albert Peace

1. O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths
its flow may richer, fuller be.
 
2. O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze
its day may brighter, fairer be.
 
3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow thru the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.
 
4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Years later a heard a similar melody at a conference. I called my husband to try to find it. I had to get home and find out what that original one was! And I eventually did. There are times when the Holy Spirit “haunts” me with music. He comforts me in ways no one else can by dropping the line or melody of a hymn into my soul. Then I seek until I find and there is God ready to hold me close again!

I wish someone would update the language on this hymn, set it to guitar music, and bring it back again. Would love to sing it in church!!

In terms of fibromyalgia, verse 1, O Love that will not let me go. Ever. I rest in You and give You back the life I owe. In Your ocean depths the flow of my life will richer, purer be. Verse 3, O Joy that seeks me through pain, I cannot close my heart to You. Ever.

Where has your comfort been in times of deep distress? Can you lean upon that source eternally?

Tasting Misery and Joy #2

In 1990 I began a medical journey that continues to this day. After the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia came the challenge of learning about it and learning to live with it. I also dug around in my history. Interesting! Grandma Snapp had something they called rheumatism. She often applied vaseline with camphor and menthol to her aches and pains.

Something similar to this lovely can. And guess what!? They evidently still sell it at WalMart and other locations.

My mother called hers arthritis and used a combination of BenGay and alcohol to treat the symptoms.

I tried the BenGay, too. Alcohol does not heal anything.

I am most likely to use China Gel which my good friend Betty made me aware of. China Gel is a mixture of: Menthol, Camphor, Ginseng Extract, Angelica Extract, Lavender Oil, Aloe Vera, and Witch Hazel. Betty’s massage therapist uses it.

I teased Betty once when I found it at Amazon writing , “Look! We can order it in the handy gallon size!”

So this condition seems to be moving through the generations. Most likely to be in women, though men are known to suffer from it. The chronic pain brings the bread of adversity and water of affliction. The Lord has kept His promise though and never left me!

Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21 (NRSV)

He led me to a group that informed me about the condition. I read up on as many medical journal articles and new publications as I could. The #1 treatment is exercise, and sadly, the hardest people to motivate to exercise are people with Fibro. Exercise does NOT make us feel better. It does help us cope in the long run.

For example, in 1991 I went to an aerobics class with my sister and could keep up with most of what they were doing. I did not feel bad at the time. The next day I could hardly get out of bed, walk or function. Such unrelenting pain and stiffness.

Do not tell a Fibro person “You are only as old as you feel.” Oh goodness, then I must be pushing 90!

Tasting Misery and Joy Fibro #1

How can it be that we can taste these things simultaneously? Don’t they seem mutually exclusive?

Yet in Isaiah 30:18-21 (NRSV) we read,  Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.  Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you.  Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

The bread of adversity, water of affliction accompanied by clear direction, instruction from the Lord Almighty. When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1990 I experienced this misery and joy in combination. It was a weird time to say the least!

The doctors had difficulty diagnosing me and finally admitted me to a hospital for tests to rule out the other “big nasties.” For example, it was strange to have results come back from a brain scan that showed there was no brain tumor, and instead of being relieved my husband and I were frustrated and angry. After each test, with no definitive results, we kept thinking if this illness is not that, then what is it?

Fibro is a strange disorder. The diagnosis is basically process of elimination and a few factors that should be present for 3 months prior to diagnosis. I have now lived with Fibro for 29 years. At the time I had never heard of it. Today the Arthritis Foundation says:

“To diagnose fibromyalgia, your doctor will ask you about your health history and give you a physical examination. A physical exam can rule out other conditions that may cause chronic pain and fatigue.

A diagnosis is largely based on your input on the following criteria:

  • Widespread pain index (WPI) score: The WPI lists 19 areas of the body where it’s common for people with fibromyalgia to have pain. You get a point for each area selected.
  • Symptom Severity (SS) score, in which you rank the following symptoms on a scale of 0-3:
    • Fatigue
    • Waking unrefreshed
    • Cognitive symptoms
    • Physical symptoms such as headache, weakness, bowel problems, dizziness, numbness/tingling, hair loss
  • Symptoms present for at least three months
  • No other health problems that would explain the pain and other symptoms.” https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/fibromyalgia/diagnosing.php

So while my charismatic friends were telling me if I only prayed hard enough, or had enough faith I would be healed, the Lord was saying “I will be with you in this.” Should I try to pray this away when the Lord is speaking otherwise? Yikes. This is a long story and I hope to tell it well. Probably in several sections. Hope it brings enlightenment and encouragement to many. Not every person gets every symptom. Not all symptoms stay permanently. Sort of like living on a nightmare-go-round with symptoms instead of horses and carnival music.

There are a lot of artwork, posters and diagrams about Fibro online. Many of them sound sarcastic. That is likely caused by the fact that people with fibro do not LOOK ill and are often not believed when they talk about their symptoms. Below is one that is not too offensive, but descriptive.

They spelled stiffness wrong! Must be due to Fibro Fog.

Prompts to Prayer

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NIV2011)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV2011)

While running errands, I saw a woman who looked like someone at church. It was not the woman I know, but looked so much like her! I knew who she looked like but could not remember her name. Then I saw another woman, same impression, and knew it was a call to prayer. Saw another woman, same response.

When I realized Sunday morning that I was sitting two rows behind her and to the right, I could see during worship that she was weepy. Still no idea what might be happening. Asked one of the Pastor’s her name. Ah, yes! He knew it first try.

After the service I happened to see her looking a little lost and forlorn all by herself. I told her about the call to prayer for her and asked if she was okay. She teared up immediately. I told her I was sorry and did not mean to make her cry! When she regained her composure, she told me there had been a sudden death in the family that week. A younger man and it came as quite a shock and loss. I told her I would continue to lift her in prayer.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:10 (NIV2011)

Saw another man at the start of service who recently had shoulder surgery. He no longer had to wear his brace and sling but was rolling his shoulder in obvious discomfort. He greeted me as I was leaving to go volunteer in another part of the building. I asked him how he was feeling and told him I saw him rolling his shoulder. Stiff and uncomfortable was his answer. I asked if he had gone forward for prayer and he gave an answer that always disturbs me, “No. I leave that for people who really need it.” I told him, “Nonsense. We all need prayer.” I asked another prayer team member who was walking by to please pray for his comfort.

What if I had not listened to the clue to pray for the woman, even though I did not know details of her need? Yes, certainly, the Lord could have used someone else. What if I had not greeted her and told her I had been praying? She might not have understood how much the Lord loved her, to place a pray burden for her upon another. Sometimes I see familiar faces. Other times I pass cars on the road that resemble the cars of others. They can each be a call to prayer. What if I had not noticed the man in discomfort? He is so shy that at times I wonder if I am the only person he speaks to at church! Perhaps connecting with the other man in prayer will help him grow into another relationship.

I am no one special. The Holy Spirit moves through those who have given their lives to Christ and ask for His infilling. And then we need to listen and continually look to God for guidance. There are so many need and ways to bless people. Some are as simple as praying for them when they come to mind. If there is an opportunity, letting the person know you were lifting them can be a great encouragement and might even inspire them to pray for others. I tell others, “When you think of me, please pray.” That is based upon my experience over the years of the Lord bringing others to my mind and finding out later how much they needed prayer that day.

Try this out with God. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised at how often He uses you if you yield to the holy promptings.

“Thanksgiving, where it is genuine, does not primarily look at the gift and express appreciation; it looks at the giver and expresses trust.”


A Listening Heart by Brother David Steindl-Rast

Lotions and Potions

Many times my health seems like a house of cards!House Of Cards

I live in a  rather precarious balance. I actually think we all do! We act and think as if we are invulnerable to illness and misfortune. Then “WHAM!!” a virus hits and knocks us on our keester, as happened to me last week. I was going along fine, doing my chosen duties and chores, visiting with church members, crocheting and then suddenly ill. Sneezing that would not stop. Aches, pains, and

return of the dreaded vertigo!

house of cards falling

As I tried to recover and then was hit AGAIN by same virus six days later I remembered this verse I have been working on for several months. Might make you smile!

Lotions and Potions© 2018 Molly Lin Dutina
Lotions and potions
Creams, salves and plasters
Ointments and eye drops
Nose sprays and gases

Capsules and pills
Over counter and script
So many helpful
And such side effects!

?Whatever did grandma do
Without all this help?

We moan and complain
Living longer and longer
Avoiding suffering
the world takes as common

Forgive us and grant us grace,
Compassion for those
Whose suffering
we simply cannot suppose

Flu shots and shingles
Skyrocket in prices
Lidocaine patches in hundreds of dollars

Oh, dear Doctor,
Protect our wallets!!
Prescribe generics
For these geriatrics
We are going to be here much longer ..
Hope you saved up for
The Golden years that
Take all your gold!

 

#12 Recovery Came

Slowly. His kidneys began to heal and urine output increased. Dialysis changed from 3 times a week to two to once and none. Home physical therapist released Bob to his own workouts. Home health nurse had one more round with him. She discovered that his breathing was not as it should be. Pulmonologist saw him next day and admitted him for a couple of days to his favored Clermont Mercy hospital. When he was released he immediately wanted to drive his new car to the Amish country store to get a new wind chime. We did.

His improvements have continued. Bob works himself more than the therapist would have. Silver Sneakers class at the YMCA. Weight room and treadmill included. He began riding his bike again this summer.

He has come so very far!

From frail with Jeff getting a little fresh air at the hospital, To standing on his own during our Easter celebration to the Reds game with Emily and the Grandgirl!

P1070496

We are relieved and delighted to have him back. He sees a cardiologist soon about possible need for pacemaker. Seems the illness likely damaged one of the nodes that control heartbeat. His runs very low. Too low, if you ask me. Everyone says he will feel so much better once he gets one. I can barely keep up with him now!

I pray these many health/illness entries might have encouraged you if you have had a similar experience. Or if you know someone who has experienced this, perhaps you have gained a better appreciation of what they might have endured. I hope their outcome was as positive as ours.

We attended a funeral a few days ago. The man who died was in the hospital the same time that Bob was in ICU. That man has now gone home to be with the Lord. I was reminded all over again how very close we came to planning a funeral. His family remains in my prayers.

#11 Life with Recovery

FEB 10 The days are running into each other. I cannot remember if I did loosen the lid on the yogurt drink or I just meant to do it. I sometimes forget to set the timer on the morning coffee. I often forget to set up the coffee pot period.

Quiet time is interrupted by bathroom usage. My jaw aches. Is it sinus/fibro or just the long-term tension of living in this new situation? Do I care which one? No, I just want the aching throb to stop.

Prayer? I often forget to ask the Lord Jesus for anything. I just go do the next thing. Get the underwear, fetch the emesis basin, retrieve the forgotten straw. Plan the meal, stay upbeat, don’t take it personally. This is hard. SO hard. The shattering and rearranging of our 47 years of marriage. The recalibration of what matters and what to let go, ignore.

I do not eat right. Sometimes I cannot eat. Sometimes I worry what is happening to my own health. Carry this grief; let it go; have a good cry; carry on. Rhythm of recovery that is not to my pleasure. Will this happen? Will that happen? Stay in the moment. Celebrate? The events of success.

The reading yesterday was dance and sing to the Lord and I had difficulty even contemplating such a thing. Yes, I rejoice that Bob is alive. No, I cannot fathom where all this is going. Someone sneezes and I cringe. I try to wear a mask every place I go. Then I forget and am frantic if there is not one in my pocket. The weather gets mild and most people give a sigh of relief. I worry that they are deluding themselves. The flu is not over. What about norovirus and other infectious things that could take our household down?

mask

Some see me wearing a mask and comment that I am so smart. Others laugh at how absurd the mask looks. They have no concept of what we have endured so far in 2018. Simply do not get it. Good thing I have rarely cared what others think of me!

In December I made stacks of sweet potato portions that I froze. The package keeps coming open in the deep freeze. I need to open that up

mopand decide whether to take it to Help Center or send it along with Jeff to a Community meal at Grace. Make room in the freezer. Oh geesh, really? With all there is to attend to? This was going to be the year I instigated deep cleaning and pruning belongings in every room. I can barely get the floor mopped.

FEB 21 There is a stranger living in my house with a warm familiarity. I am not certain that I know this man, though I very much want him to be my husband. He has a tremor in his left hand that was never there before. He is grasping at the reality of weeks unavailable to him due to the medically induced coma and catastrophic illness. He almost died yet has not totally resurrected.

There are times when he frets and repeats himself. There are flashes of anger and impatience. His hair has thinned drastically. He smiles more than he used to. I think he has become his father in many ways.

I can tell he is making an effort to be caring and tender, but then the struggle to recover overtakes him and he hits a slump, withdrawing into his shell of coping.

bottle 2Urine output seems to have hit a plateau and I know this worries him with the question “Will my kidneys recover fully? Or enough to stop dialysis?” The access was clotting on Monday. His hemoglobin was not reported in his lab results and he thinks that is due to the clotting in the access. He does not want the access redone. He would rather stop dialysis for a week and see what happens. They pull fluid off of him. He then feels he must spend the next 24 hours just trying to rehydrate so he can produce urine. He is very frustrated. Yesterday Jeff and I walked to the corner with Bob using his walker. He was feeling victorious. Then sat in the garage in the sun talking with Jeff for a while.

Help me know how to touch this stranger with compassion and grace. Upon awaking from the medically induced coma he whispered that I need to be more gracious. Was that You, Lord?

 

# 10 Necrotic Kidney Tissue

Journal from FEB 1

“You are My servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.” ISA 41:9-10

The day Bob went to the ER, he had a sudden pain in his back. He thought he had pulled a muscle coughing. I thought at the time that was strange because he had not coughed for almost an hour. Later the doctors discovered the damage to his kidneys. The pain was right where you would experience pain if you had kidney infection. As long as he was suffering from the “acute tubular necrotic kidney tissue” he could not produce urine. Defined as : “Acute tubular necrosis is a kidney disorder involving damage to the tubule cells of the kidneys, which can lead to acute kidney failure.” Therefore, he could not remove the toxins in his blood. Necrosis is defined as the death of most or all of the cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury, or failure of the blood supply. Yikes..

A little kidney education here.”Dialysis is a process by which the excess toxins and fluid in the body can be removed. Hemodialysis is a form of dialysis where dialysis is performed intermittently. The blood in the body is continuously removed during the hemodialysis process and passed through an artificial kidney which cleans it.”

The treatment is an intermittent treatment and was performed in Bob’s case three times a week, each session lasting four hours. Sitting in a chair and getting progressively colder for four hours. Not moving around at all.  In evening he would have headache, fatigue, irritability, overall malaise. Feeling colder and colder and no matter how many blankets there was no warmth. Of course, if you take out all of someone’s blood, separate toxins and fluid, put it back so they are basically dehydrated: pretty awful feeling. Over a 48 hour period, he would get to feeling just a bit better and it was time to go do it again.

He mentioned that he could feel the prayers of all the people lifting him up. It felt to him like soft, rain falling. Not a chilling rain, but soft, encouraging rain. His best friend suggested his experience might be like this song:

Journal entry: “Oh Lord, without Your strength and help, without You holding us up, there is no way we would have made it through the month of January 2018. Today is February 1 and the Home Health Care nurse will come evaluate Bob and direct us in next steps. His O2 this morning is only in the 80’s. Not good. Bob says, “without enough red blood cells, you do not have enough oxygen carried throughout your body.” Some of this stuff scares me silly.

And yet, You tell me to not be afraid. “Do not be afraid. Do not rest there, Molly.”  So once again, I choose to trust You, Lord. I will make his egg and help him bathe and choose to trust and not be afraid. I would rather he bathe with the nurse today, but he wants to do that soon. You know, Lord, what I need to do to assist him in all ways. Equip me Lord.

I have had some deep episodes of grief over the sudden, abrupt changes in our married life. Such unforeseen developments that no one ever plans for.  Sometimes, when Bob is not around I just weep. Trying to process all this is very difficult. I continue to ask for prayers for us.

Gradually he began to urinate a little and measured and measured to determine if there was any increase occurring. Dialysis was populated with people who had been coming for a long time. Some had been there for years! Three times a week, four hours per session. We had no guarantee that Bob would not be one of those long term people.

Journaling again: I did make myself come straight home after I took him to dialysis. Made myself eat chicken noodle soup. Made myself watch a tv show and sleep. It felt as if I took a day off. Then went to AT & T to get estimate on upping our data plan before picking him up from dialysis.

I had made him hot tea for the ride home. ON the way home, he coughed and coughed; was unable to drink it at all. I knew that might happen but was still disappointing.

He was more accepting of his post dialysis fatigue, therefore less disturbed by it. We had a better evening. Watched news after dinner. Then “The Shack” in bed. I fell asleep twice. He slept until 2 AM. Got up to pee.  Took rest of his muscle relaxer, then he slept in recliner.

He was all hot to plan to send me away for a rest. I finally asked him to stop as I was crying. It is still too raw for this talk. I do not want to go to the Convent across town – too far. He was eager to hire a nurse or figure out when the kids could cover shifts and leave him alone at night. I think if I just take better care of myself during dialysis, I will be okay. This is what comes of my murmuring and complaining about someone’s indecisiveness about coming  to help us. I am so sorry I ever mentioned it to him. I should have known better.

#8 Coping with Health Crisis

Before the health crisis, at the after Christmas sale, I  bought a glittering tree ornament, a three-dimensional Fleur-de-lis and hung it from our bedroom curtain rod. The Fleur-de-lis is often associated with royalty. The three petals may also signify the Trinity.  Each time I opened and closed the bedroom curtains I was reminded that I am a daughter of the King of kings.

Fleur de Leis

1 Peter 2:9 declares “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

The King does not forget His sons and daughters. He watches over us in every hour of the day and night.

Grief   Changes  Vortex  Alive  Stunned   Lonely

One night I wrote in my journal: It seems so futile to rehearse it again. I did not call a friend for prayer because I am tired of going over the details, grief and changes. Our lives, our marriage have changed drastically. We have been thrown into the vortex of a nightmare that we cannot awaken from. We will have to adapt and become resilient to the changes that are required of us. And there will be many changes.

They are telling us that Bob will come home with a walker. We need to hire a plumber to raise the toilet seats. He will likely continue to require dialysis 3 times a week. No one can tell us for how long. However long it takes for his tubular necrotic kidney tissue to heal. If it heals. Doctor said he would give Bob a 50% chance of recovery.

He is constantly short of breath. The white count is going down, yet he is still on oxygen and breathing treatments that are a nebulizer with his inhaler medication in it.

They continue to give him heart medication though the arrhythmia has subsided. Is that due to the medication?

Diarrhea plagues him and he is too weak to get to the toilet in time. Or coughing hard makes him soil himself. Or he cannot get up during dialysis. The embarrassments of serious illness.

I am concerned about his mental state. He has had a major life change. At what point does someone talk with him and offer him counseling?

I rejoice that he is alive. I ache that he is suffering. He is stunned by his weakness. He is stunned by how close he came to dying. His eyes bulged when the nephrologist talked about his 50% chance of recovery. Yes, he accepts the fact that people can live a long, long time on dialysis. Someone is hounding me about kidney donor lists. I am ready to ignore those emails.

I am feeling the loneliness of being here for 20 days without him.” So ended that entry.

Waiting to be moved to an acute rehab unit,  Bob was sitting up every day now and I noticed a distinct change in his posture. More often than not he was hanging his head, almost like looking in his lap. It is hard to describe how this upbeat jokester went from usually looking around for his next tease topic to this posture of defeat, discouragement, exhaustion, probable depression. He had to work really hard to get his strength back.

When they moved him to the rehab unit, he was walking at first thirty-six steps with a therapist holding his middle with a belt and another aide walking behind him with a wheelchair, then gradually 236 steps, and eventually more with only a rolling walker and no aides or belt. His appetite took longer to recover than his legs and walking ability. He was determined to get better, but discouragement was available all the time.

The church people stepped up in a huge way! The women came to clean our house, top-to-bottom. I had been home alone for almost a month and did not worry about the house. Two guys came to build a larger step in the garage, one that would accommodate his walker. A neighbor put the license plates on Bob’s new car for me. Bob had barely driven that car when he got sick.

Another journal entry, JAN 29  5:14 AM   “And the time is close for bringing him home. I am more than a little frightened? Intimidated is more accurate. He has had constant nursing care since January 4 when he almost died. Now there will be home health care, and 24/7 nurse on call, but I have so many questions.

“His O2 level still seems low to me. There are times he is basically gasping for air? Do we need O2 in the house? How will I know when his cough needs attention? He is taking “tesa pearls” and Mucinex, but is that enough?

“I have a sinus thing starting again. I do not want to get him sicker.

“God, there are so many variables and moving parts here. I am clueless.

“I need You more than ever for wisdom, guidance, comfort.

“I have been awake since 2:10AM. Guess I will lie down again and try to sleep.

“Maybe Lidocaine patches on my back will help the pain?

“He is weak.

“He, too, is intimidated. What if he hits a depressive episode just coming home and realizing just how much he has changed?

“Help. I have been warned to take care of myself. Having him home moves the responsibility onto me instead of the hospital support staff.”

We eventually got him home. I pray this is encouraging you in your own journey. I am well aware that I am not the only wife who has recently had a critically ill husband. I personally know of three others right this minute. It is a difficult journey. We each tend to withdraw at the time. Perhaps reading this can encourage you or someone you know that their struggle is shared by others?

 

Illness and ICU #7

On the occasions when I was able to surface from being numb, the thanksgivings I did record included: apple turnovers at the hospital coffee shop (yum!); crushed ice in the atrium waiting room; finding Diet Coke in the vending machine whereas the cafeteria only served Pepsi products; brilliant sun in the bitter cold; making it downstairs for good coffee without missing a doctor on early morning rounds; finding a way to create rhythm with hospital visits; spinach soufflé to nourish me. I was living on ice cream, frozen Stouffer’s spinach soufflé, homemade vegetable soups, yogurt and sometimes Rapid Fire Pizza. Eventually I could add thanksgiving that Bob’s thoughts were returning without ICU psychosis clouding his brain as much.

“My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises You with joyful lips when I think of You on my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night; for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” PS 63:5-8

People I barely knew at church were sending me encouragement. Bob’s friends were also. I met one woman in the grocery parking lot. She confided that her husband had been undergoing chemo and it was a long, long recovery process. She listened with compassion and then asked me, “Isn’t it strange when you gauge what kind of day you are having by how many times you cry?” She succinctly nailed that wisdom. Her comfort stays with me even now.

Along with thanksgiving I had recently studied a book about brokenness. About eleven days into the nightmare I was crocheting in Bob’s room one evening while he dozed. He had a clear realization that day of just how weak and frail he had become. The physical therapists had helped him stand and try to take one step. He was shocked over all the strength he had lost in those eleven days. I sensed this message of comfort from the Lord:

“I see you. I see you sitting there crocheting.”

“I’ve got this in My mighty, holy way.
I know it is hard to do, but I want you to try to relax and remember each time panic tries to grab you, I’ve got this. I’ve got this. Trust the outcome to Me, even when you do not understand where it is going or what the next step is. Trust and know that I am holding you and Bob. I’ve got this.
My dear, sweet Molly, trust Me.
Just like that knot in your yarn just now, if you tug on it things only get harder. Let me untangle the health mess for you. Yes, it has been a very hard day as Bob comes to terms with the reality of what January 2018 has brought to him. I’ve got him.”

 

I was stunned into thanksgiving by His comfort and love. Rarely do I hear this sort of comfort and assurance from my Lord. He was present to me in that room, with monitors beeping and all the rest of the hospital trappings. 

All glory be to You, Lord Christ! My learning about Brokenness came most recently from Ann Voskamp’s book  The Broken Way. I had taken notes from the book and was able to review them in the hospital room. She wrote:

broken way

“You know – everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right? … The seed breaks to give us wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory. Never be afraid of a broken thing.”

“Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of deeper growth. My dad told me this once. For a seed to come fully into its own, it must become wholly undone. The shell must break open, its insides must come out, and everything must change. If you didn’t understand what life looks like, you might mistake it for complete destruction.

“Brokenness can make abundance.”

“Why are we afraid of broken things? Why are we afraid of suffering? What if the abundance of communion is only found there in the brokenness of suffering – because suffering is where God lives. Suffering is where God gives the most healing intimacy.”

Brokenness, stillness, trust. I was learning.

Critical Illness #6

This section has a few ways that I tried to cope with this life changing and challenging event. My spiritual discipline for years has been to read the Word, study and pray. Repeat. When our lives hit this huge crisis and Bob almost died, it was difficult and practically impossible for me to hold to any discipline. I was upheld by the prayers of the church, but my study time failed completely. And then the Lord would drop a line here or there into my mind and spirit to encourage me. “Show us Your mercy, O Lord,” from the morning prayer suffrages, Book of Common Prayer. And I would go forward with whatever the day held for us. Often I prayed the full armor of God from Ephesians six as I drove to the hospital or dressed in the hospital bathroom after spending the night with Bob.

I began to approach the situation with stillness but no presumption that I in any way knew the ultimate result. Though I was often unconsciously holding my breath, there was a stillness in me. The stillness came with a peace that I recognized as coming from God. Reporting the day’s events and blood work results to prayer partners via email, without forecasting the next step or event or outcome, was about my only “productive” output.

The stillness was related to Habakkuk 2:20 NRSV “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him!” Another prayer that surfaced from the BCP “We do not presume to come to this Thy table trusting in our own righteousness but in Thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table. But Thou are the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.” (Holy Eucharist 1 P. 337)

Part of my struggle was yielding to the facts and in stillness letting my wishes die, placing my hope in the plans of the Almighty. The “ISness” of the many illnesses he was suffering including the ICU psychosis. The nurses and doctors assured me he would come out of that, but no one knew when or in what condition afterwards. I could not see the outcome at all, but I trusted God’s goodness and His love for both myself and my family.

I learned that crucified, you must hold perfectly still.

Ephesians 3:16 helped me to trust more. “I pray that, according to the riches of His glory, He may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” I prayed for Bob and our children to be strengthened. I prayed for myself to be strengthened by His Spirit with power penetrating to my innermost being. Yes, crucified you must hold perfectly still. I was not “going” anywhere.

Brother Lawrence taught “Useless thoughts spoil everything and much mischief begins there.” I needed to still my thoughts and dwell in the present moment. “What if” thoughts brought needless anxiety. I just had no extra energy to waste on that.

The power of thanksgiving had been my study several years prior to this. Now it was difficult to even remember to give thanks.  I saw in 2 Corinthians 4:15b “So that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may INCREASE THANKSGIVING, to the glory of God”  but I was unable to do much of that. I became numb with fatigue and stress. His grace carried me and turned to thanksgiving in the signature of my every email with lyrics from “Good, good Father” written by Brown and Barrett, recorded by Chris Tomlin.

Eventually that signature changed to “Acceptance becomes the sacrament of the present moment, the point at which your struggle becomes useless and the unknown becomes the next step in life.” Joan Chittister

 

Critical Illness #5

And oh the kindness of others! People prayed almost around the clock for us. Different cities,  counties, states and even countries.

Awake, but still so ill!

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Bob looked terrible after being in bed for over a week. The nurses used some dry shampoo on his head, but the shave they gave him was not like he would have given himself had he been well enough. Our neighbor is a barber and came to the hospital, even with all the illness Bob was suffering. Chris gave him a razor shave right in his bed! He looked and felt somewhat better after that! This photo is a few days later and after his shave.

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You may have noticed in the photos there are fewer and fewer lines and tubes connected to Bob. As he slowly regained some functions the medical staff removed as many iv lines, etc. as possible. The more lines, they explained, the better the chances of infections.

Did you notice the blue prayer square pinned to his gown? The nurses were very conscious of it and careful to replace it whenever they had to change his gown. Many of my friends make these instead of prayer shawls, which can be large and somewhat cumbersome, especially in ICU. Once during the shift change a new nurse came in to meet us and go over his treatment plan with the nurse going off shift. The lights were dim in the early evening. She asked, “What is that Brillo pad pinned to his gown?” We told her it was a “Prayer Square.”  I have often been amused by her comment since then while crocheting a square for others.

 

 

#2 Illness January 2018

When we got inside the Emergency room, Emily and the nurse took Bob to a triage room while I checked him in. When I got to the back they were all ready to move him to larger treatment room. It was a very large room and they needed it. For 2-1/2 hours four to six nurses, the ER doc and respiratory techs worked on him to try to help him breathe with various treatments. His eyes were huge with terror as he tried to tell me through the blood in his oxygen mask that he COULD NOT BREATHE. I assured him they were doing all they could to help him. Finally, I turned to the nurse and said “This is obviously not working. What is next?” She told me the only thing left to do was sedate him and intubate him. I said to do it. She also said intubation required admission to ICU. The doctor had been working the ER every night that week. He said the ICU was full. They would try to get him moved to Anderson, or Fairfield, or UC. I kissed Bob as they asked us to wait in the waiting room. He asked, “Are you going home now?” I assured him I was going to stay. My children and I waited in the waiting room with two Elders from our church who came to support us and pray for us.

Kidney failure is not a term you ever want to hear in relation to your loved one. Intubation was scary enough. In fact, seeing him after the doctor had inserted that tube in the ER was one of the scariest things I had ever seen in my life! He was unconscious due to the drugs they gave him and kept him on for many days.

As they made plans to transfer him (as, yes, the ICU was totally full) I held his hand and prayed. I was forbidden to go with him as I too had tested positive for the flu. Jeff took me home as the kids had decided not to allow me to drive myself even though our house was about one mile away. Crushed and afraid I waited at home for our adult children to keep me updated on his progress and what the doctors had to say. They both did a great job! They met Bob at the hospital. Decided Jeff would spend the night with Bob. I made Jeff promise to send me a photo of Bob. Emily reported to work the next morning and let her boss know what was going on so she could take shifts staying with Bob at the hospital.

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Jeff’s photo only showed him holding Bob’s hand as the medication kept Bob’s eyes open all night.

 

Next morning, I got busy on the telephone and the computer letting people know how seriously ill he was and asking for fervent prayers on his behalf. I tried not to be alarmed over all the unknown factors.

When I was eleven years old my father died after progressively serious heart attacks. I watched my mother grieve for years, at times inconsolably, after his death. I hoped that if I got married I would never give myself to someone to such a degree that I had difficulty living without him. Not that I said that consciously, but that inner hope had made it hard for me to love my husband freely. During our marriage as I became aware of that restriction in my heart, I had been trying to love him more and more each year. Here I was, facing the possible prospect of my husband dying before I did. Prayer and the support of prayer friends helped me not to panic. One of my deepest fears seemed to be unfolding.

I give thanks this year that indeed, my husband is very much alive and well now. I will continue the saga as strength and time allow. I am posting this so readers will know how we coped and hopefully watch out for serious illness during the flu season. It really is not anything to mess around with. We both had our shots last year and this year. Praying you do, too!

Change, Water and Soil

Like it or not we are creatures of habit. And some of our habits are lousy ones. I first heard this saying when I attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings many years ago.

“Until the pain of remaining the same becomes too great,                            there will be no change.”

Truly believed that when my mother died the problems I grew up with stopped. AcoA  (Adult Children of Alcoholics) helped me recognize the problems were ingrained in me during my upbringing.  We can choose change. We can choose to move out of our habits. We will need help to do that. There might even be relapses. But we need to continue to choose to change. Even after I have lived forty-three years without my mother, I still continue to need to choose change. I cannot tell all the ways God has helped me and shown me paths o choose and ways to change through the years.

I grew up in an alcoholic family. When I was at home I decided when I got out of there I would do things differently with my children in my family. I did not want to pass on to my children and husband the co-dependent family of origin behaviors that I experienced.  Fairly certain I did not succeed in shielding the children completely, but I did the best I could with what I learned.

I chose to change because the pain was a strong motivator. I chose a different path.

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When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia (a chronic pain condition) I read a book with this quote. I do not remember author or title, but it is powerful truth:

“The crap and the tears can be transformed                                                         into water and soil for the soul.”

Chronic pain is crappy. There is just no way around that fact. It colors your day-to-day existence, usually like yucky mud. Hard to rise above the pain and keep your wits about you. Sometimes I do not even realize I am struggling with pain until I snap at my husband. There is very little I can do to control pain, but I am learning to take the crap from it and compost it for soil and use the tears as water to grow good things for the soul.

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That is part of how this blog was birthed. We can grow things from this soil. Things that may nourish and help others. Things that can bring encouragement and cheer.  Insights about the human condition. Having cried often, I have a much greater sensitivity to others who suffer from chronic conditions. I can relate in ways I never would have imagined from this lousy situation. Fibromyalgia is not progressive and will not kill me, but it can truly make me miserable and sometimes grinds me down to a powder instead of tissues and bones.

Sayings can help us. I post the ones I need for encouragement. Eventually I memorize  the best ones. I am thankful for others who have gone before me and written their experience. Share your life with others and you cannot help but grow!

 

 

Ink and Blood

A friend and I were sharing our struggles the other day. She was being afflicted with the typical attacks of darkness. “I spend too much time at work and I still don’t accomplish as much as I should!” “I can’t do anything well.” “I am spread too thin.” “I am not giving enough time to my marriage and family.” And the negative flood poured all over the parking lot and ran around our feet.

I asked how much time she was giving to self- care. That too was non-existent. I told her I would pray for her. I also added that many of us are tempted with these negative thoughts. Asked if she had applied the cross to these thoughts she asked, “How do you do that?” Sharing my experience I told her once I recognize a negative thought, I try apply the cross of Jesus to it. The first challenge is to actually RECOGNIZE it is a negative thought! When we bring the cross to situations it changes a negative dash to a positive plus. The word says we are to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5NIV

Entertaining those arguments, pretensions and negative thoughts is like dipping your toe in a pool of black ink. When you withdraw your foot the droplets tend to color everything around you, much like ink in a water glass. The doubts and fears tend to overwhelm and color everything. The black colors can eventually obliterate clear vision.

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The word says the Blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. No, having the thoughts is not sin. Entertaining and embracing the thoughts is sin. We are to walk in the light as He is in the light. 1 John 1:7 I do not presume to understand how, but the Blood of Jesus and our abiding fellowship with Him can cleanse us from all unrighteousness, even the defeating, discouraging negative thoughts about our self-worth and performance.

Laird
Reading Martin Laird’s A Sunlit Absence he comments on the value of maintaining connection with the Lord through a prayer word and your breath, inhaling and exhaling each moment just as it comes. One woman in his book had to come to terms with the fact that depression and panic attacks can even happen to people of deep spiritual realization. He comments that the path of prayer “knows only how to move through struggle; and the only way through is through – not around, over, under, or alongside, but through.” The idea of maintaining contact with the Lord each moment must start with a daily time of practice. No one maintains consciously abiding with Him all day without a beginning practice. Not Brother Lawrence, not Frank Laubach, not Martin Laird.
Choose to spend some time daily in contemplative, centering silence and see how it can affect your life for the good. Deepen your dependence upon the Almighty and He will meet with you.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8 (NIV2011)

Healthy Treatment

Marie was my spiritual director for several years.  She gave me a statement that has never worn out.

BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF.

By this she did not mean that there should be no goals for self-discipline and growth. Rather, be gentle as I aim towards those goals. Having grown up in an alcoholic family, the unspoken rules were, “Don’t think. Don’t talk. Don’t feel.” The main method of control in the family was criticism. Constant, unrelenting criticism. For someone from that background the idea of being gentle with yourself was like a foreign language. Arabic has never come easily to me, nor French or even Spanish for that matter. كن لطيفًا مع نفسك,  Soyez doux avec vous-même, Ser amable contigo mismo.  Telling me to be gentle with myself was just as difficult to comprehend. We tend to repeat the attitudes and statements from our upbringing in our self-talk. We can also reprogram those statements when we find ones that are unconstructive or discouraging.

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I have repeated this statement to many women over the years since Marie first said it to me. They, too, are usually amazed by the concept. We are not taught much in American society about healthy self-care or self treatment. Psychological research shows that we do grow and change better in response to praise than criticism.  Wow! Wish my family of origin had known that fact!!

Working to undo those negative and often harsh messages I have found that being gentle with myself requires compassion for myself as a faulty human being. None of us is perfect. Some of us just hide that fact better than others. We are all broken and need care and encouragement. We will find our way best with gentle encouragement.

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So next time you get a negative ear worm that is beating you to pieces of discouragement remember that you can stop that ear worm and replace it with a challenging but comforting statement. A gentle reminder that we all need help to get along!

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Miss Muffett © 1982 Molly Lin Dutina

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.   2 Timothy 1:7 KJV

I saw the devil as a decrepit, weasand, impotent old man, stooped over, no strength in his backbone, but malice in his eyes. He worked his way up an open-staired metal ladder to the catwalks along the lights above a stage.

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I sat on the stage in finger curls and white eyelet ruffles looking much like the storybook picture of Miss Muffett. I was happy, contented and apathetic (having or showing little or no emotion).

Using seemingly his last ounce of strength, this old impotent being reached the spot on the catwalk above me which he had chosen as his point of power. From inside his trench coat he pulled a marionette – it was a hideous, hairy spider with spindly octopus-like legs and invisible strings. The catwalk was edged with a railing made of steel tubular pipes. He rested his weight upon the cold steel, too weak to stand on his own. He dropped the marionette half-way down and adjusted his hands in the wooden frames that controlled the strings for moving the spider’s body. hand holding marionette control barThen he dropped the spider all the way down, near my face.

As I caught sight of the hideous hairy spider from the corner of my eye, apathy fled, and emotions stormed over me. The spineless, weak being up in the catwalk had little strength to hurt me, but he chose to use my own power against me. I flailed out in fear and anger and my actions made that spider jump and fly through the air with more energy than the old fart could ever have put into it.

At that juncture, the loving voice of my Lord broke into the scene and said, “Molly Lin, the spider is fear. It has very little power on it own. But you give it your energy by flailing and struggling and assuming it is more powerful than it is. Think through this same scene and SEE that had you chosen to sit still and watch that spider, it would have dangled from strings and been as impotent to harm you as the one holding its frames. He has no power over you unless you give it to him. Fear is a choice!”

My life has never been the same. I am not always fearless, but I do know that when fear comes I can choose to have it go. Seeing things a new way … choosing another perspective or point of view … RESPONDING instead of reacting are all keys to maintaining my peace and experiencing the comfort and presence of my Lord Jesus.

 

 

“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.“                   Psalm 34:4 HCSB

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a NRSV

Buddha in Chelsea

Several years ago I read a book by Paul F. Knitter entitled “Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian.” I have learned many things from contemporary writers who have a Buddhist slant. Paul teaches how to use a Buddhist bucket in a Christian well to deepen one’s prayer life.

We took our daughter and Grandgirls to New York one year. Bob and I both spotted this photo opportunity almost simultaneously!  Imagine the noise of New York, complete with racing taxi (in the background of photo) and the unending construction and repairs to the streets and buildings. There on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant is a statue of Buddha reminding us to breathe … stop … enjoy the present moment. One teacher at a Christian conference pointed out that listen and silent both have the same letters! So take this moment to rest in the photo and your own present moment. And Smile!

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The Throne

The other day my friend was lamenting how awful her bathroom smelled with four males in the house using the same toilet. I remember thinking when my son was potty trained, “Oh great! Now we have urine everywhere instead of just in the diaper!” My friends in Nepal have had to train the boys who visit their home in how to use a flushing toilet. The boys are accustomed to a urinal being simply a hole in the ground. Enough of that…

I remember once when I was scrubbing the bathroom and having conversation with God to the effect that I was so grateful that I could bow at His throne in prayer instead of having to bow at the toilet throne for eternity!

 

Imagine my surprise when I saw this toilet recently! Pray without ceasing!

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The Club

If you had walked in, you would have thought I was standing at the kitchen sink, seemingly doing the dishes, but actually I was having a conversation of self-castigation. Crying and praying, internally I was crouched on the floor in the corner where the cabinets met. My tears mixed with the dishwater as I poured out my agenda to the Lord.

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Crying and praying, internally I was crouched on the floor in the corner where the cabinets met.

Becoming tired and spent I knew the Lord was standing near me and listening. As my sobs turned to sniffling He had only two words for me; “Stand up.” I whimpered another prayer. Patiently waiting for my obedience again He said, “Stand up.” I whined again to the mercy-filled Lamb of God. He refused to dialogue with me until I heeded His first instruction. Again He said, “Stand up.”
I cowered and said, “But, Lord, I am unworthy.”
“Stand up.”
I spoke another prayer, “Lord, I am weak and tired.”
“Stand up.”
I offered excuse after excuse about why I could not obey. Finally I asked, “Why must I stand up when I am so weak and upset?” And then I realized, I could either obey or He would withdraw His presence from my awareness.
Standing there, I was angry and unforgiving of myself. I was beating myself over the back with a club that I had designed. It fit perfectly into my hand. It wasn’t an ordinary club like in the comic strip “B.C.” My club had spikes on it, too.

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So there I was, praying, crying out to God, and telling Him how sorry I was about the sin I had committed. I prepared to use the club upon myself one more time when He broke into my noisy, tearful, self-punishment saying,

“IF I, GOD ALMIGHTY, HAVE FORGIVEN YOU,
WHO ARE YOU NOT TO FORGIVE YOURSELF?”

With a long, empty pause He let His truth sink into my being. His words about a past situation, the cause of my turmoil, were radically different than my reaction. As His light dawned upon my dark interpretation of what was needful, He disarmed me with His love and forgiveness. I laid down my club at the foot of His cross. I prayed He would cover it with His blood and enable me to receive and believe His love for me, praying that I might eventually feel His forgiveness.

Moving forward, I learned to accept His forgiveness and learned how to forgive myself. We are flawed. We are all broken in some way. We have all sinned. In order for our intimacy with Him to flourish, we must adopt His attitudes and point of view in each area of our lives. This is not an easy or instantaneous task. Gradually the Lord will lead us in His will and His ways. He is able to complete the good work He has begun in us. We must let Him.

2 PET 1:3 His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
PHIL 1:6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
PHIL 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
1 COR 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 COR 9:15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

What self-destructive weapons are you clinging to?
What would happen if you laid them down at Jesus’ feet?
Could you dare to let Him take over now as King and Judge of your Universe?

Suffering in the Dark Vignette

Suffering in the Dark © Molly Lin Dutina 1-17-17

JN 3: 19-21 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth, comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

I have a friend who is suffering. She has been trying to walk with Christ under a load of guilt and shame. Her religious background is always telling her she is doing her journey wrong. Reluctant to ask others for guidance and help, she has begun to close down and withdraw into herself. Her journey has become a dark, dismal, depressing place to be. She has not understood how to bring her deeds to the Light of Christ and walk in His Presence with joy and thanksgiving. I do not know for certain if I can help her with this task, but we began to try to unfold the struggle somewhat last week.

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Hiding in the dark constricts us to the voices from our past, those voices that dwell in our head, and the condemnation of the enemy who comes to steal and kill and destroy (JN 10:10). In the NRSV that verse ends with Jesus saying “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Do you see the flip side of being transparent with Christ? Also, in JN 1: 5 we are told “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” No matter the dark voices, Christ can break through that darkness and show us His way out and through our struggles. No, we cannot save ourselves from judgment or sin, but becoming transparent with Jesus does set us in a place where it is possible to receive abundant life in exchange for our bungled attempts at successful living.

JN 3: 21 states “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Asking Christ to shine His light upon our deeds helps us see the next step out of the darkness and muck.

Psalm 119:105 reads “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. “ In John 8:12 we read, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ”

One way He shines His light upon our deeds is to give us the courage to confess to another person what we are going through. We must choose someone we trust not to judge us, but only to listen. And listening, that person must take the needs and brokenness and deeds told them and lift them to Christ our Lord. Answering with wisdom requires listening, deep listening, on the part of the listener. We can so easily crush the heart and soul of another person, but Jesus is not like that! His character is described in ISA 42:3 and MT 12:20 as “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He has brought justice through to victory.” We are to be as tender towards the hurting and confused as He was while He walked the earth. Listening to the struggles of another often gives us the privilege of speaking into their life. As long as we are listening for the guidance of the Risen Savior, we can then speak what we hear Him saying to address those in need.

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So she poured out her heart and the place was flooded with her pain, but the Light of Christ was like a servant with a mop. He came and helped clean up what was shared. Encouragement to stand against helplessness and hopelessness was given. Similar to rice cereal in an infant’s spoon, words of challenge and stamina were suggested. I hoped she would try to use the coping skills she already knew. Walking with the Participating Presence of Christ at her side, I expect the next time we meet there will be some stories of conquest over darkness and surrender to the Risen Lord and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s guidance to be shared. No doubt, challenges will continue as she tries to undo and re-write years of condemnation and misunderstandings. Yet Christ dwells in her, the Hope of Glory. He will have the final victory!

Keep on with Him, dear sister in Christ. He will have the final word in your life. Give thanks for His abundant blessings for He pours out without measure upon those who are thankful and aware of His hand at work in their life.