Archive | June 2012

A Most Precious Gift

Today is the birthday of my first-born child. I cannot help smiling as I think back to the days I was carrying her.  From the time I was a young girl, dragging around a baby doll, my greatest desire in life was to grow up, get married, and have babies.  I still loved and slept with my dollies when my friends began chasing boys.  When kids talked about what we were going to be when we grew up, I was too cowardly to admit what I really wanted, but I knew—being a wife and a mom were what I wanted most.

I was just 18 when I married my High School sweetheart. A week later, we headed across the country to Tampa, Florida in an old Plymouth. He was in the Air Force and would be for another seven months.  Did we want a child? Absolutely!  We waited just long enough that people wouldn’t have to count to see how many months we’d been married.

Did we have any sense? Not an ounce! Did we stop to consider that he would soon be unemployed and that we would also be uninsured? No, that was never a consideration. Either the common sense gene had not kicked in or we were so full of faith we just knew God would take care of us.  Maybe it was a little of both.  I don’t think it ever occurred to us that God wouldn’t take care of our needs.

The pregnancy was planned and I got pregnant the first month we stopped trying to prevent it. Infertility was not one of our problems.  There were no pregnancy tests in the drug stores in those days, but missed periods are definitely a strong clue. When I went to the doctor he confirmed that I was indeed pregnant and probably about three months along. I giggled and he commented on the fact that I obviously was happy about it. He was right—I was very pleased to be carrying our child.

I had a happy, healthy, and easy pregnancy with very little morning sickness and no other significant issues. We had no ultra sounds to let us know whether I was carrying a girl or a boy. I know we would have loved either, but for some reason we both wanted a girl. Robert had come from a family of three boys and his mother definitely wanted a granddaughter.

As we got close to my due date, the doctor commented that the baby was not turned in the head-down position, but expressed confidence he could turn it before birth. He also told me that first births always take a long time and suggested we had no need to hurry. “Wait until the pains are five minutes apart and then stop to see a Drive-In movie on the way. “

On June 25 early in the morning and with pains five minutes apart, we drove from Seattle to Renton to pick up my mother and then drove back to the hospital in Seattle. We checked in shortly after 5 a.m. As I was getting changed into the hospital gown, my water burst like a bucket of water being thrown on the floor.  I was immediately in intense hard labor.  Having heard stories of my mother’s 36 hour labors I knew I wasn’t capable of enduring that. I was surprised when the labor nurse told me the baby would be born soon.

I had the distinct feeling that a tiny foot was kicking its way out of my womb and into the world. I was so ignorant that I didn’t even call the nurse when I felt that little foot pushing through. When the nurse came to check me, she was alarmed. Not only had a foot emerged, but along with it was the umbilical cord which had collapsed against the birth canal. What I didn’t know is that I was in imminent danger of losing our baby at that moment. I was rushed to the delivery room where they cut me and literally pushed and pulled my baby out of the womb.  She was born at 6:23 a.m., less than an hour and a half after our arrival at the hospital.

As they pulled her out, she was ghastly white and I thought that my baby was dead. There were no congratulations, no happy cheers, and most ominous, there was no cry from the baby. Even as ignorant as I was, I knew there should be. She was immediately whisked out of the very somber delivery room. In panic I kept asking, “Is my baby OK? Is my baby OK?” I could not bring myself to say what I feared most—was my baby dead?

They could only respond, “We’ll know in a few minutes.”  That few minutes seemed such a long time for this panic-stricken young mom. Finally, I heard a weak little cry and someone said, “That’s your baby.”  Words cannot describe the incredible amount of relief I felt with hearing that tiny little cry.

A few minutes later they brought her to me, and even though she was a bit on the purple side, I was certain she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  It was definitely love at first sight, and again at second sight, and again at third sight. She had totally captured my heart.

As I look back on this the anniversary of her birth, I’m glad the common sense gene hadn’t yet kicked in because God did provide. We paid for her on the installment plan, but we gained a precious daughter.  I am incredibly thankful that she survived and grateful that the lack of oxygen at birth did not leave her brain damaged. With intense gratitude to God I think back, exceedingly glad we didn’t lose her, and so thankful for the wonderful woman she has become.

Lessons from Boot Camp

I’ve been in Boot Camp for months and I’m exceptionally eager to be done. I’ve never heard anyone describe his or her Boot Camp experience as pleasurable. The military uses Boot Camp to break the will, to teach unquestioning obedience to authority, and to make young men and women into capable and ready defenders of our nation. It is definitely a learning experience, but usually not a pleasant one.

My Boot Camp has been of a different variety. I’m not in the military and am way beyond the age for them to want me. My experience has been with an orthopedic boot which I’ve been wearing for too many months. The surgery I had in December was supposed to be healed in mid-March. It’s now mid-June and I’m still in the boot most of the time, wondering if my foot will ever heal. Since I love to hike, walk, and garden, this literally frightens me to tears and sometimes robs me of sleep. Will I ever be able to hike again, take the dogs for a long walk, or mow my own lawn? I honestly don’t know. I hope so, but not knowing is way too scary.

I have asked God “Is there something you want me to learn from this experience?” I’ve learned enough lessons for a long blog and enough spiritual truths for a retreat workshop. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

If you don’t use a body part, it becomes very weak. After surgery the doctor ordered six weeks of total non-weight bearing on that foot. This meant two weeks of using crutches, followed by four weeks on a knee-scooter, and then wearing the boot for what was supposed to be another six weeks. At the end of twelve weeks, the X-rays showed that the foot had healed enough to transition out of the boot. With great joy, I went home, took off that boot and started to walk. Whoa! Hold on Nellie! My first step revealed a big problem. My leg was so weak I thought I might fall. The months of inactivity had left the ankle and calf muscles extremely weak and with a tendency to jiggle. I could barely stand. I became an immediate “wall-surfer’ to give a bit of stability as I took those first steps.

A couple of weeks passed and although I was temporarily out of the boot, I was certainly not out of pain. Why did the foot still hurt so much? The doctor ordered a CT scan to try to identify the cause of the pain. The CT scan showed what the X-ray could not detect. Deep inside my foot, the bones had not fused. I had been walking around on a broken foot. I agonized as the doctor indicated “six more weeks in the boot,” but I learned another profound lesson. Even when something appears to be healthy on the surface, if it is broken deep inside, it will continue to hurt.  Many who look healthy and even happy on the surface are broken deep inside. The emotional pain will never go away until what’s broken deep inside is dealt with and allowed to heal. That usually takes far more time than we would like.

One of the problems with wearing the boot is that it elevates just one foot, creating an effect similar to having one leg an inch shorter than the other. Walking on this boot may protect my left foot which I hope is healing, but it causes a lot of pain in my right hip. The life lesson is obvious: whether in a family, a church, or a business, when one part of the body is out of alignment, it creates pain in the other parts.

 What else have I learned in my particular Boot Camp? I’ve learned that a lack of physical exercise will increase the probability of depression. Unfortunately, chocolate doesn’t help as much as I’d hoped. Physical exercise releases feel-good endorphins. Digging in the dirt is good for the soul and an hour’s walk clears the mind and gives a brighter perspective.

I’ve learned if you don’t get exercise, you will gain weight and muscle takes less space than flab. Both truths were pretty obvious when I had to move the button the wrong direction on the waistband of my jeans. I’m guessing the extra chocolate didn’t help the waistline either.

Another painful lesson for me is that being unable to exercise can negatively affect your social life if your connection time is built around physical activity. My absolute favorite way to connect with a friend or family member is to walk and talk. I miss the daily walks with my friends at work—what a great time to connect and share our lives. I miss the Thursday evening walks with my daughter and the long walk-and-talk sessions with my sister. I miss connecting with my neighbors while walking the dogs. At times it feels terribly lonely. Yes, Boot Camp can be lonely, but I’m learning more compassion for the handicapped and a new appreciation of handicapped parking spots. After months in this boot, I understand more of what they go through. As I wait and hope this foot will heal, I’m connecting more with friends over a cup of tea or a meal together.

I’ve learned that hours spent in pity parties are wasted time and don’t make you feel better. I can use those hours of forced inactivity to learn something new and to do something productive. While I would love to be out walking and gardening during these long hours of June daylight, that’s not possible right now. Focusing on what I cannot do blinds me to what is possible and robs me of joy.

Here are a few of the ways I’ve used my “sitting hours” in the past few months.

I’ve learned to put together a web site. It’s not exactly the quality that web-site professionals build, but I was about 100% certain I couldn’t do it at all. Given enough time and a few hints from Dennis Brooke at NCWA, I did it! If you’re reading my blog, you’re on it!

I’ve had hours and hours to write. I’ve completed the editing of Experiencing Lavish Grace, an eight-chapter study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I believe it’s the best study I’ve ever written. Will it ever be published with my half-inch platform? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s in God capable hands if He chooses to open that door. If He doesn’t, I am certain He will find a way to use it. His Word never returns to Him void; it will accomplish His purposes.

I’ve taken hours to write some of my life stories—stories of times when I knew God was working on my behalf. I’ve submitted a story to the Chicken Soup editors, not knowing if it will ever find its way into a book, but there was time to write it. I am sharing my stories to encourage others who need to be reminded that God is still active in the lives of people today.

I’ve had more time for Bible Study, teaching twice a month and completing Beth Moore’s study of The Beloved Disciple. There was a ton of homework, and I had ample time to complete every lesson.

As I am now three months past my predicted healing time, I don’t know if my foot will ever heal properly. The surgery was meant to correct a situation that was causing pain in my big toe when I walked. Unfortunately, the pain is not better, but worse. It was an elective surgery that I chose because I love to walk and wanted to be able to continue. As I face the possibility that my choice may leave me with worse pain than what I had before, I deeply regret the decision to have the surgery. I certainly hope time will prove me wrong, but here is another Boot Camp lesson. You cannot undo the decisions from your past. Sometimes you have to live with the consequences of your choices. Focusing on regrets is discouraging and unproductive. That doesn’t mean God can’t redeem the situation and turn it for your good, but some choices you will live with the rest of your life. Choose wisely—too much depends upon it.

A Girl Needs Hair

Today I was blessed to take a precious friend to buy a wig, with funds graciously supplied by her Life Group. Her chemo treatments will cause her hair to fall out soon. I understand how important it is for a girl to have hair.

My first grade photo

My most dreadful hair experience began when I was just in First Grade. My hair began to break off and left patches of baldness. I was diagnosed with a form of scalp ringworm which proved to be very stubborn. The treatment involved shaving my head and applying medications daily. I was left with just enough hair to have bangs. A purple light was used to track the progress of the ringworm. Places where the disease was active would show up as green under this purple light.

Even a 6 year old girl doesn’t want to be bald. My mother sewed little bonnets that matched my home-made dresses to cover my bald head. My first and second grade pictures look like I was dressed for a Little House on the Prairie episode. Other kids asked questions about why I always wore those funny hats and some even suggested maybe I didn’t have hair. I didn’t want them to notice; I wanted to be like the other kids—those who had hair.

Unfortunately the medications only slowed it down and for the major portion of two years I wore little bonnets to cover my lack of hair. I recall leaving the house one morning while it was still dark. My parents were driving me to the city three hours away to see a specialist who they hoped could provide a cure. It’s my first memory of seeing a sunrise and many times I asked, “Are we almost there?” Kids haven’t changed all that much, have they?

The specialist gave us a new medication which caused painful blisters all over my head, but did not bring the wished-for cure. When summer came, I was placed outside in the sun with my scalp exposed in the hope that Eastern Washington’s hot sunshine would cure this nasty fungal infection. It did not.

I was well into the second year battling this stubborn ringworm, when I went to church with my aunt. It was a Pentecostal church, and they had a team of evangelists visiting. They gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to be healed to come forward, to be anointed with oil, and prayed over for healing. I was one who definitely wanted to be healed, so I marched my little seven-year-old body to the front, fully expecting God to heal me.

After the service was over, I very confidently announced to my parents that I had been healed—not even an ounce of doubt. I knew I had been touched by God and I had been healed, but that blasted purple light told a different story. I begged my mother to not use the medication as I was so confident that I had been healed. Surprisingly, my mother stopped putting the medication on my head. I’m sure that would be considered child-abuse today, but she honored the pure faith of a little girl.

The purple light was not encouraging. Instead of shrinking, the ringworm began to spread until my father angrily asked her, “Are you going to let that ringworm eat her whole head?” It had been two weeks since I had announced my healing. My mother’s faith was being tested too. At that point Mom replied, “I guess if God can’t heal it, I will.”

The very next day, the purple light showed no active ringworm—none. It was totally gone, healed completely. As I look back on that experience, I realize it gave me compassion for any woman who loses her hair. I know what it’s like to be bald. More important than that, it gave me my first real experience with a powerful God who can heal what the specialists and the medications can’t touch.