Friday, May 17, 2013

Gifts Wrapped in a Sling


It's been six weeks since I careened over the mountain edge, spent a whole day lying in the hospital, waiting to be put back together. 

And in that wait they gave me oxygen, so I wouldn't hyperventilate; laughing gas, to relieve my brain in the throbbing onslaught; then morphine to dull everything except its own set of reaction pains. And finally, a sedative, clawing up my wrist till it blackened my cognizance—all these inhaled, injected, dripped into my circulating body. And they are gifts. 

Joint re-hinged, they put swollen limb in a fabric sling, just for a day or so. Elbow turns into water balloon, and sleep comes light as I try to hold still. My landlady, who doubles as spiritual grandmother, pins my hair back in the morning (bobby pins do NOT work with one hand). And it is a gift.
 Beau stays with me all day in hospital, then takes the next day off to help me buy groceries and fill anti-inflammatory prescription. Not a coincidence that we're shopping the first Tuesday of the month, and save 15%. 
 
My office landlord extends grace, and chooses gratitude for the timing of it all. It's no coincidence that the secretary goes on holidays and he needs a fill-in right when I'm unable to work my job. And I'm humbled, and fairly cry when he tells me he won't charge me rent this month. And he'll pay me more than we bargained on. And telling the happy news helps me share the gift, and the joy. 
And the . . . pain of healing, the humiliating time it takes. Is this too, a gift? Sharp knife telling me when I've pushed too far; protective spasm and scar tissue needing released; the exercises and grimaces and tears. The wondering if I will ever regain movement, or if I will always have a gimped wing; looking with longing at people who can tuck hair behind ear, brush teeth, carry babies with their arm . . . do they have any idea of the GIFT they carry in a functional limb? And the thought that mine could heal, is designed to heal, that I have this hope of recovery. Some people don’t. 


The perpetually truant ambulance bill, making me wonder if I would receive one at all. And it’s no coincidence that I’m back to work for three weeks and finish a massive contract job before the invoice arrives in my mailbox. And it is a gift. 


Clients who wait for me to return, welcome me back, cheer me on, even when they wince under my renewing strength: these are presents from my loving God. Longstanding projects scratched forever off my to-do list in the few days I have completely off leave me feeling light. 


And this wait of hope, this is a gift. I think of the tastes of resurrection power I can feast on, in these appetizers of God’s grace, these morsels of tender love, these party favour GIFTS of mercy. And I wonder how the giving of thanks, instead of the begrudging of obvious, humiliating need, is in itself, a gift.

And I thank the Giver, Who wraps treasures in elbow slings. 

Some photos from Google images

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grace in the snowfence

The day begins perfect, a last ski trip for the season. And we are excited.The lift beckons us up into glory, and the sun's warm caress promises a good day. The icy crust increases our speed, but I am too novice to be very concerned. I will just keep it where I can handle it. Nerves will quiet once the snow softens and I find my groove. This is just the beginning of the day. And that's when it falls apart. Too novice to know how to manage the crusty speed, I can't catch an edge turning on the traverse, and barrel over the mountain's side.
In the time it takes to say "Oh no!" I careen over the edge into the snowfence, where my skis tangle, and the rest of me hangs upside down on the steep decline. My right forearm flung in a bionic angle, and my first thought pierces through the pain, "Oh God! I can't work!"
Minutes float weightless, yet time seems to stall; and I'm caught in this sphere of spasmed sensation. I cry, and call for help, but know I will not be heard. Crusty snow is too loud and the hill too empty. And shock arrives and takes control. I have to climb up to find help. I coach myself aloud, and whimper in my pathetic state. Flop injured arm across body. Cry out pain. Pull foot out of boot. Insert stocking foot into crusted snow. Crawl under mangled snowfence. Pinch bindings to free other foot from the ski. Climb up to the ledge.
A thousand thoughts swirl into my mind, but find no resting place. Pain glazes every landing surface like a shellac, and locks my mind's attention on the throbbing issue at hand. And shock is a gift. 


I hear boarders whiz by, reverberating loud on the icy surface. I call for help and keep climbing up. One boarder stops, and comes back to help me. I crawl to the traverse edge, and sit crumpled in the snow, amazed at how pain can be so numbing, worried for all the borrowed equipment still down the precipice. He gathers the items, and I see my boyfriend skiing up the traverse towards me. My delayed arrival at the lift told him something was wrong, so he came back to find me. And I will be okay.

Ski patrol arrives, and I wish to pass out and be relieved from the pain. The toboggan ride down, the wait for the ambulance to arrive, while waves of embarrassment, shock, and gratitude wash over me. My mind reels ahead, to all the work calls I will have to make, to all the questions about how long before I can work again. But I am here, and can only deal with what happens here and now. And grace is enough for NOW.

So I ride in ambulance and inhale laughing gas. And I wait as throbbing turns to locked spasm. And I gasp pain to rotate my arm for X-rays. And the diagnosis "dislocation" sets my mind happy. It could have been so much worse.

And there's nothing to do but wait: for morphine to kick in, then to run its course out of my system, for the doctor to set the elbow, for the sedative to wear off, for me to stop shaking, for our friends to pick us up.

And I'm never alone. In this weakness and truncated state, I'm surrounded with love and mercy. And there's nothing to do but rest in it. 

And the gifts begin to flow: more than I can number. People stationed perfectly, who go out of their way to care for me, clients understanding and wishing me well while they wait for me to recover, filling in for the secretary at the office. Ah yes, and work is a gift, and time off is a gift. Several days to finally cross off lingering projects on the backburner list, and happiness to know life now has room for change.
It's a forced Sabbath; the best gift I could have asked for. I didn't know how much I needed it till it was given to me, wrapped in pain and a snowfence.

And I'm still counting the endless gits of this grace . . . .




Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Little Big Deal



The breathing fence stands basic and simple across our path. So we must jump it to walk on. No big deal. Except that in sailing over, signals fire confused, the mind unsure how to navigate, and I land tumbled. No big deal. Except that a horrible crunching pop murmurs from ankle which bore full impact of my falling body.


Immediate stiffness, numbing pain, and the mortifying embarrassment of the reality I now limp in: I just sprained my ankle. But it’s no big deal. I can still walk . . . hobble. I lean on his arm, and we shift home. My mind starts spinning . . . all the clients scheduled for the next days, and how I’ve nowhere to rebook them, and how I can’t run in the mornings now, and how awkward this oozing bulge feels.

And a new lens slides into place ahead of my eyes, and all the world looks different through this awkward healing. I awake to thoughts yet un-contemplated, and gifts yet unrealized . . . . the little big deals. 


I watch graceful pedestrians stride across intersection! I didn’t think there was glory in walking un-gimped, until I lilted. How amazing the coordination of a skateboarder, swinging leg wild as he propels headlong down the sidewalk. Does he know the glory he’s breathing?  

How fabulous the body’s capacity to heal! And what wonder to think I will be made well again. I drive past old men hobbling behind walkers. What humiliation to age and sink decrepit from prowess and physical usefulness. And I think . . . we must be so much more than just a body, because giving does not stop when the body stops, and living does not cease when a part loses function. 


And how do we grapple with life when we fall, and bodies fall apart, and our world crumbles into helpless bits before our eyes?  What of these little deals that loom impossibly large? And the big deals we lose in periphery when we focus on stuff that doesn’t really matter?

I see the middle-aged homeless man taking swinging, syncopated steps. How long has he limped so severe? What does he hope for life now?  What will he make with what he has been given?

And me? What have I been given? Grace. The hand to hold me, the shoulder to cry safe on, the shared tools for healing, the extra assistance and labours of love . . .  for me! And who am I to receive this? I could not earn these mercies, could not deserve this tenderness in light of my foolishness. 


Grace cannot be earned. The greatest gift, and deepest mystery. That I, who don’t deserve, HAVE been graced with this life, this pain, this poignancy to feel and see and love and live deeper. And it is a gift.

 
And I open hand and say Thank You. And I too, even I, can give this grace gift back to the Giver, and spill it out on an aching world, even in the simple gift of laughing at myself.

Because Grace brings it all into perspective. And grace IS the big deal.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Beta Redemption


It began with routine, the normal cleaning of his tank. And all miracles and tragedies begin this way—in the ordinary grime and rhythm of pedantic life. 


But today, the status quo shifted. The smallest nudge rivets vase and sends it shattered across counter and floor.  His little world crashes, but he is safe, roaming the neighbourhood of a kitchen bowl. Does he know that all has fallen to pieces, that shards of his small realm slit Owner’s hand and draw liquid pain—a clean laceration leaking life? Does he care that his realm cannot be restored, that a new world must be purchased for him to keep living? No, he floats oblivious to the reality outside his three-cups-of-water existence. 


And don’t we insulate ourselves, so we are not touched by the crashes, the cuttings, the cataclysmic upsets of our world? Don’t we cushion and distance and Styrofoam-peanut ourselves into a protected living coffin . . . . safe from the dangers of life? All the while, we ignore the pathetic un-life of our existence.

Sometimes, whether on purpose or “accident”, our perfectly sufficient, boringly normal lives require deep shaking, so we realize that it is not circumstances that define our reality, but Redemption.  

And so it happens, that in the transfer to the newly purchased world, he falls. Falls utterly. Out of water and hand and bowl and all that’s remotely familiar. Falls through suffocating air into a mausoleum—sink drain encloses him on every side, Owner unable to grasp his wriggling mass, he flails onto sieve, suspended, trapped, sentenced to die in the void. 


Owner scrambles for tools, to wrest free the drain nuts. He runs water, washing the victim with life. Finally loosened, the opened drain reveals a terrible problem: two sieves separated by an impenetrable distance, and the dying pet stranded on the further rack.

And what else can be done for the helpless one? Water now spills into bucket under the sink, defacing the immaculate scene. The carnage waits hopeless and still. He will die. He will rot. His corpse eased through the sieve holes by eventual decomposition. And all seems lost. Owner says goodbye and walks away.

 
 
But in the minutes where life ebbs out, LIFE reawakens. And he stirs, perhaps shuddering at inevitable fate looming. But it is enough. Owner sees the struggle, and ignites into furious rescue. Running upstairs to find different tools, rushing back, heedless of the mess and danger; bending low to bring freedom.


And he is found! Owner reaches him, grabs him, and it hurts utterly, but brush with LIFE can hurt more than brush with DEATH.

And he is SAFE . . . though he cannot know it yet. Owner places him in new tank, and he lays dazed and weak in the sweet embrace of water. Paralyzed by terror, ache, and hope realized, he remains immobile. But his gills begin fluttering, and vitality courses miniature in his frame.

Owner puts the world back together, and waits. And Owner sleeps sound, and rescued one rests to life again. And in the morning, he devours offered food, and flourishes his plume in this new world.

And all returns to normal . . . but all has completely changed. And life cannot look the same, because the vase is different, because blood was lost, because tragedy struck and redemption rescued, and life was meant to be lived in this wonder. 


Thomas is a Beta fish, but his life teaches. And him simply living and eating and swimming happy shows off his owner’s goodness. The difference between us and him isn’t so much circumstance or genus . . . it’s choice.

We have CHOICE to sing for our Maker. And Redemption ignites our forever song. 

Photos courtesy of Owner

Thursday, January 24, 2013

To recall a pen . . .


I complete another list to one thousand of the never-ending gifts, and start in again at number one. I begin a new journal, an inch of perfectly blank pages waiting, aching, to be filled. No time to watercolour these days; it’s all I can do to scrawl words, most of them not my own. 

Thoughts come as impression, with colour and taste and dimension, but all in cloud and light haze . . . just beyond the reach of logic and deduction. So while I wait for words, the Words of my God comfort my soul, even when I trust feeble and doubt the power of the words I copy.

Does writing the Word make us believe it? Seldom do the flashing epiphanies release and burn and heal all in a moment. Rare that light bursts through and dispels all known darkness.  Writing does not transform; copying does not equate consciously living the Daily Bread. But it initiates absorption.

Light comes most often through the pin-prick holes, the gaping chasms, the “all that’s wrong and unfixed and embarrassing and wordless” vents of my soul, where wind sweeps through and stirs cobwebs, and brushes clean, and casts up dirt, and lets me know I need, that at my best, I am a beggar. 



So I write Word, because this is what I know to be True, even when I doubt it, even when I don’t live it, even when I can’t see or feel change as a result of its recitation. At the end of the day, this is what God has given, God Who spoke the world into being with Words, Who came as WORD made flesh, Who lives Word through my flesh, because all lives to fulfill His Word.

And I write prayer, the echoed impressions of soul, barely audible. Sometimes confident and soaring, sometimes whimpering in terrible pain, always quiet as a pen stroke. And does writing prayer, responding to the Words of God make me believe what I pray, make me confident and happy and at ease with all in life? Infrequent my recollections of morning requests for glory and grace. My concentration span wanders down other corridors instead. 


Writing Word, writing prayer . . . I do not notice the instant change, but it alters memory. I write, because I forget, because I want to remember something good. And when I look back, I remember what I felt. The soul impressions linger, but the words are what I recall.

And memory alters belief. When I look back over scribble and struggle, I see the Words He spoke in my wordless groanings. And in His Words, I trace His way, and find my path.

We have a choice in what we remember. How else could we block painful memories? Why else do we reminisce past occasions, over and over, till they are perfect and golden and untainted? 


We write, so we can remember . . .  and for all coming behind, what better gift to leave than the WORD, interlaced in life’s pain and flummox, the stabilizing thread holding us together?

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever.”

 


Friday, January 18, 2013

African Grace



Five years ago, I woke to African winter, the Moroccan chill persisting heavy in the tile-floored, plaster-walled apartment building. That sour smell, tannery leather, permeating the air by the closets and doors, where pointed slippers waited for children’s feet.

 
 
The sing-song, harsh Arabic, spoken rapid and forthright. The broken English of flirting men (and aren’t we all broken, not knowing what we want, aware only of our hunger, and our pulsating wish to be happy?).

 
 
Rounded woman walk with rounded steps in flour-sack jelabas, traditional garb meant to preserve modesty and prevent lust. (And don’t we all cover up our warped-ness? The inexplicable mix of good and bad wrapped in our souls, aching to be sorted and set right . . . and we cover and compensate to protect ourselves and others from our brokenness.)

 
 
Bagged garbage plopped on corners and edges of wide cobbled sidewalks waits removal . . . sometime. This cultural mindset does not make room for proactive stewardship and preventative measures—it’s fatalism all over, and life does not stand much chance of getting better. (And don’t we pile soul garbage along the edge of our heart pathways, just so long as we have room to squeeze by and still function, we consider ourselves okay? And all the trash we don’t know what to do with, and the stuff that clutters, we hope Someone can clear away or recycle . . . before summer heat makes it stink). 


Black eyes stare wide behind ebony lashes, gawking at the fairer-skinned, blue and green and brown-eyed children walking with me. (And don’t we find the unknown, un-possessed, un-assumed beauty entrancing? How often we look so far out of our league to compare, that we miss the humbling, ordinary beauty of grace, the whisper of mercy, spoken over us every moment? And don’t we cheapen our potential for happiness by always looking at someone else, instead of looking into the eyes of the SOMEONE Who made us, and freely offers us life in His hands? And what grief we inflict when we refuse His gifts, His outstretched hand, because His hands were torn with nails and scratched deep with thorns, and to receive from Him means receiving pain AND joy as gifts. Receiving means to Trust Him more than trust the gift. And we’d rather not take the risk). 


The street bustle: not because people move fast, but because people walk everywhere. My casual gait propels me faster than the local pace . . . and I wonder if these people have purpose outside of their daily tasks and errands. And two sides of the revolving coin show themselves: how often do I spin my tires in an effort to look productive and feel like I’m going somewhere meaningful? And, how often do I sink into a routine’s confinement, letting a circumstance, instead of the Reality of a loving God, define my life?

And these pictures, cured and understood over time, continue teaching and speaking, and saying clearer that soul-film is thin, and life crust is fragile, and under each blinking eye waits a heart in pain, longing to be found, to be heard; a heart waiting to wake to beauty and joy.

 
 
And in the ordinary, the hum-drum, this is where Grace beats her rhythm . . . for the song of glory.

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