Tuesday, June 14, 2016

From Frightened to Thankful

I have not been able to blog for a long time.  I find typing for even a short period of time often means real discomfort.  However, if I end up in pain for writing this, it is nothing compared to what those grieving in Florida over lost ones are feeling.  So, I could not keep quiet.

While this post is in the form of a prayer, I don't think it need be.  I think this can be read as a plea for decency.

June 14, 2016

Father God,
It seems You are taking me from frightened to thankful this morning.  You know how really alarmed I was when I awakened and my entire left side felt tingling and somewhat numb.  I don’t like it that my right thumb is taking longer to stop shaking.  For the first time I am really scared, God.

But You are redirecting my thoughts away from myself.  And while I know that is good and right, and what You would have me do, I don’t want this heaviness in my heart, either.  I want to stay more detached from the people in Florida who are right now grieving.  I don’t want to think about how, at times, they will have trouble getting their next breath.  I don’t want to think about how a wave of physical sickness will periodically wash over them.  I don’t want to think about parents having to plan their sons’ and daughters’ funerals.  I worry about the condition of the body that a parent or loved one who has to identify.  I can’t imagine the frustration and anger there must be and the need to know why.  Please, God, don’t ask me to think too much about all of those poor loved ones left behind.  Emotional pain can be so much more intense than the physical.  I don’t want to, in any small way, experience their pain!  
And yet, maybe this is a gift; the fact that I will have to be careful today and take it easy.  Maybe what is most probably out in the world today would be equally painful to me, or more so.  Do you want me to pray, Lord?  Is that what you want me to do?  How can I possibly know what to pray or how to pray over a situation like this?  The only thing I can think is to focus on the families.  Please do not expect me to consider anything else.

Maybe that is the prayer right there:

Please let the hurting families be what is important now.  Help all of us to be able, to some extent, imagine what condition we would be in if it were happening to us, to our families.

I know the inevitable will happen, Lord.  It has most likely already begun.  People will begin to debate what caused the massacre.  Each will put forth his/her side and defend it vehemently.  I am asking that You give us the sensitivity to wait, Father God.  Let all of us, on whatever side of the gun, mental illness and / or terrorist issues, or any others, wait until after the families have at least buried the ones lost to them.  Please, please fill us with that much compassion.  Let us remember that Jesus hung on a cross and said nothing about His rights.  Rather He prayed for all of us.  Instill in us just a little of what He was in that moment.

I know that is naive; that it will not happen, particularly with all of the different social media outlets we have now.  I don’t understand all of the differences between them.  And all I want to understand is that they could be used for good right now.  They could be used to reach out and extend our sympathies to people we don’t even know.  Sadly, our family has learned that people can’t really help when tragedy strikes.  But somehow, knowing people care and that they would change the situation if they could is immensely comforting.  I have yet to understand why.  I just know it is true.

Well, actually I should know more, shouldn’t I?  And shame on me for not realizing it before now.   We were designed that way, weren’t we?  That is why during Jesus’ time on earth He reached out to the hurting.  How could I have forgotten that He wept with Lazarus’ sisters?  So, let me ask again, Father God, that You help us to weep with the families.  Make us the strength and comfort they need. Let that be our reaction.

The last thing I can think to pray, Lord, is for You to give a lot more people a Muslim friend.  Thank You for mine.  Thank You that she has taught me much about living a life that would be pleasing to You.  Allow others to have a friend who will live out compassion by doing something such as to stop wearing earrings because her friend had cancer on an ear and can no longer wear them.  And allow them to have one who draws no attention to that kindness.  Allow them to have one like mine, who was embarrassed when her kindness was pointed out.  Please, Father, allow others the privilege of knowing those who live out the true Islam religion.

So, I am ending up thankful; not of my own doing, of course.  Thank You, God, that my view today will be limited to our bedroom window.  If You are sparing me the discouragement of seeing a different response to this heartbreak than what I am praying for here, thank You.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis - We Should Take Lessons

I like history.  So, although I do not regularly listen to or read any news, I did, to a certain degree, keep track of Pope Francis’ visit to the US.  And I’m so glad I did.  I got a powerful  view of what Christianity should look like.  I’m not Catholic, but I can certainly say that, from my perspective, Pope Francis’ behavior and words reflect so much more closely the God we believe in than the actions and speeches of far too many of our U.S. protestant leaders.

I’m sure many would disagree with me.  But I challenge anyone to carefully review the assertions of our Christian leaders.  Don’t just look at the issues they speak about; opinions with which you agree.  Look at the entire context of their speech, ignoring the issue or person about whom they are speaking. 

They talk about themselves; what they have done.  They make sure to emphasize how they are badmouthed; how they are mistreated and discriminated against because they are Christian.  With disappointing regularity it’s all about them.  They talk about others or to them in disrespectful terms.  They make statements about others that are glaring examples of a judgmental nature. 

I also encourage anyone to go one step further.  Try and find documentation of how frequently these leaders humble themselves and actually go to those in need.  I’m not talking about at the time/s of some natural disaster or war contrived by a few.  I’m referring to places like those the Pope has taken time to visit. He met with abuse victims.  He went into a prison.

I found that particularly touching and especially illuminating.  Pope Francis  reassured the inmates that “all of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from.”  Wow!  Here is the religious leader of an estimated 1.2 billion (with a “B”) people.  He isn’t just a national figure.  He is a world figure.  AND, he is a head of state.  Nonetheless, in addition to the White House and the United Nations, he included a prison in his itinerary.  I remind myself that this is the same man who imitated his Lord once by washing  the feet of both the elderly and the young.  So, this visit is another demonstration of a man trying to live out his faith .

One of the huge number of people at the Mass in Philadelphia concisely expressed my point of view, saying, “It’s a(n) historic moment...This is a guy who has caught the attention of everyone.  He’s everyone’s pope.  Non-Catholics, even atheists.” 

And another verified my contention that the Pope’s speech and activities do not lift himself up; they mirror the savior he believes in, “We are having a blessed time.  The weather is beautiful, the people are beautiful.  All these Christians who want to celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ.”  

Leaving Church Frustrated and Angry - Over Healthcare

So, the 65 year old mother of one of the guys in my small group at church has breast cancer.  Last week she was admitted to the ICU of the hospital in the Florida community where she lives. 

It has been difficult for her son who lives here, a good 10 hours away.  This is especially true since his father is disabled and in a wheelchair.   When he first learned his mother had cancer he had hoped to get there for a good visit and see what he could do for both parents.  He now has no idea how he can possibly go unless the worst happens.  Why?  Because of medical expenses for his 12 year old daughter.

Several times she was sent home from school due to an acute headache and resulting illness.  At one point in time she had to be taken to the emergency room.  Her speech had become slightly slurred, her vision was somewhat affected and she had some numbness down one arm.  An MRI showed no brain tumor.  However, in due course, she was diagnosed as having severe migraines. 

But surely, medical insurance would pay for most of the emergency room visit and an MRI on a child, right?  Absolutely.  Just as soon as an annual deductible of $3,000 is met.  To those who have always had excellent medical insurance coverage and/or have $3,000 that doesn’t sound horrible, does it?  BUT, some, even with both husband and wife working, simply cannot afford $3,000 per year in medical bills.  And this young family is in this category. 

Later, when I had an opportunity to talk with the couple privately, I asked if they minded sharing with me how a family handles medical expenses that cannot be paid all at once.  Here’s what I was told. 

Previously you received a bill and you paid the hospital whatever amount you were able to each month.  Now, unfortunately, the hospital does not do its own billing.  A third party administrator does that.  AND, you must pay 8% interest on any unpaid balance.  I repeated that in order to be sure I heard correctly.   Sadly, and what I think should be to our extreme shame, I had. 

They went on to say that because the interest on their credit card is less than 8% they had paid the bill in full and now had to work to pay off that credit card balance of $2,800.  Of course, come January 1st the deductible for their medical insurance would start over at $3,000.  So, should there be any other medical bills in 2016 that are beyond their ability to pay immediately, that amount would have to be added to this balance of $2,800.

Now you know why I left church totally irritated.  Not good, I know.  But truthful.  At issue for me is the fact that, all too frequently, I hear it proudly asserted that we are a “Christian” nation.  We Christians believe we have received grace, although we do not, in any way, deserve it.  We believe in loving others as ourselves. 
I left church wondering just how many of the Christians I know would want to:
·       Have several frightening incidences concerning their child’s health?
·       Worry about not only paying medical bills, but paying interest on any balance?
·       Have that worry while also having a very ill parent?
·       Wonder if they could afford to go visit that sick parent and be unsure, only because of debt incurred while trying to get help for their child?
I dare say none. 

So what has our Christian stance been with respect to healthcare?  We have bought into the very non-Christian idea, promoted by Christian leaders, that some people don’t pay taxes, but want healthcare; that they should have to pay something into the system in order to get something.  (These Christian leaders are referring to income taxes, but fail to make that clear.  They don’t mention that these people pay sales tax; that would weaken their argument and some Christians might not get as indignant as needed.)  We have bought into the idea that we don’t want to pay for these; they really don’t deserve it. 

We have NOT given thought about those who are just like how many of us would describe ourselves:  people who work hard, who are raising (or have raised) good kids, who attend church regularly, who pay income taxes.  The difference is that they have less than we do.  We assume it is their fault.  The unspoken assumption is that others are guilty until proven innocent

We do such a pathetic job of using the intellect we believe God Himself gave us.  We don’t stop to consider that maybe some are gifted for jobs that, although critical to all of us, simply do not pay well.  We don’t stop to consider maybe they are helping (or have been helping) parents who are sick and/or disabled.  We don’t stop to consider that in addition to worrying about medical expenses, these families have no idea how they will help their child(ren) go to college. 

And it’s all because we are so afraid someone will get something s/he does not deserve.  And we don’t want any of what we’ve worked for to be taken from us.  Now, although we believe in always giving thanks, we don’t believe it applies to being thankful that we were given the intellect, the right parents, the educational opportunities AND ongoing health to accomplish what we think we have. 

So, if I do a school exercise of comparing and contrasting, just how might we Christians compare to Jesus Himself; the One for whom we say we live; the One who gave up everything for us, although we say we were and are undeserving? 

To get an honest, straightforward answer I think I would like to talk to non-Christians or atheists; you know, the ones we Christians say just don’t understand because they don’t believe in the God we do.  Were I one to bet, I would bet they would see no real similarities between us and Jesus.  But I sincerely imagine they would see our behavior as completely contrasting that of Jesus.   And you know something, I feel very sure I would win that bet. 

But I do know one thing for sure.  I know that no one of any other faith, no one who is agnostic, and no one who is atheist could be more disgusted with Christians than I.  And I include myself.  I do so because I have not been assertively adamant with Christian friends at church or anywhere else about just how selfish we are and about just how NON-Christian we really are.  Shame, shame on me!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Brother's Suggestion

Okay, my brother is like super, super smart.  You know, the off the chart kind of smart.  Just keep that in mind.

So, a while back, I was asking his opinion about programs that type what I am saying, exactly as my Android phone does for texting or sending emails.  I was looking for ways to continue my writing "therapy" as my neck problems now frequently make sitting at the computer really troublesome.  My intent is to do my best to "journal" my journey towards eventual neck surgery, as opposed to the alternative.

So, he explains these programs to me, but says he wants to make another suggestion.  "What's that?', I ask.

"A verbal journal", replies he and proceeds to tell me how to record my voice and send it as an email, post it on Allan's Facebook and/or post it on my blog.  Who knew?

I'm intrigued, of course, being the very techy person I am.   But accepting that I am not the most succinct person, I want to know about editing.  "How would I go about editing?", I innocently inquire.

"Well, that would be difficult."

"So, what does that mean exactly?" I persist.

Knowing it is I to whom he is speaking, he still responds with "I guess you'd really just want to get it right the first time."

I did mention just how smart he is right?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Commentary About Healthcare

 ~  I wrote this on August 31st but am just now able to get it posted.
~  This post is reflective of my frustration and disgust with not only our healthcare system, but also the point of view of so many of my fellow Christians.  
~  If you are not a Christian, nor hold any religious beliefs, this post should still not offend you.  In fact, if you are as baffled by and as sick of us Christians as I am, read on!

Sunday morning and I’m ironing a blouse for church.  I recall that just a few years ago Trista spent one summer cleaning houses and for one extremely wealthy family, doing the ironing.  I think back on the various types of work she has done and a recent experience when she was ill that I found especially frustrating. 

Her first job was during her senior year of high school, working at a local pharmacy.  Since that start, before getting more permanent jobs and in between, she did tutoring, taught part-time  at 3 different colleges around the Cincinnati area, provided all day childcare, worked as a waitress, and taught summer classes.  I feel like I am forgetting some job that should be part of that list, but my point is made, I think. 

She worked hard enough during her college years to be offered a fellowship.  So she spent two years completing her master’s degree while teaching classes, and working weekends at Pedro’s Restaurant.  

She spent years teaching at Cape Fear Community College.  Currently, in addition to teaching her own Zumba classes, she is also a Zumba Jammer, meaning she trains Zumba instructors.  She teaches a number of different types of fitness classes at the YMCA and the Hospital Employees’ Fitness Center, has personal training clients, and if necessary, fills in at the desk of the Health Center.

Even if she were not my daughter I would call the person who has been willing to do all this as a hard worker.  So the fact that not long ago she was turned away from an Urgent Care center because her type of medical insurance was not accepted and had to go searching for a facility that would accept her insurance I had found particularly exasperating. 

But not wanting to begin my day on a frustrating note and having finished ironing my blouse, I let it go and discipline myself to stop thinking about what I see as the unfairness of it all.

My small group at church are all younger than I.  We begin “class” with prayer, asking if anyone has a particular prayer request.  Oddly enough, medical benefits are mentioned.  One group member has been offered a new job she would like to take.  But, she is concerned about medical benefits.  Her husband is currently the victim of downsizing and is looking for a new position.  Both she and he are most worried about having medical insurance; the income being secondary. 

Yet another young woman went through a fairly recent employment change.  For her also, the source of anxiety had been medical benefits.  Although literally a “small” group, at least five in the group have been in the same dilemma at some point in time. 

The Small Group ends and I go to the sanctuary to attend service.  While waiting, I once again, like I have so frequently in the past, question the current assertion that we are a Christian nation, built on Christian principles.  I deliberately set aside the instances of hard working people I personally know who have been apprehensive about being without medical coverage.  Likewise, I refuse to consider the man I know, still working after 45+ years, whose contractually provided medical insurance was simply taken away.  He had to withdraw $26,000 from retirement savings for medical expenses. 

I focus instead on just what “Christian” is.  I look around at the symbols of the Christian faith: the cross, the stained glass windows depicting Jesus interacting with others, the Bible alongside the hymnal on the back of the pew in front of me.  I contemplate the words associated with the Christian belief and concentrate on the one most often used to define this religion, “grace”.    When speaking of “grace” we emphasize that it is “undeserved”.  Grace absolutely excludes “merit”. 

On their own, my thoughts drift back to fears of some in Small Group and to Trista’s experience.  I think on the fact that I hear universal healthcare is unfair because some do not pay taxes.  So, if I understand correctly, we, the Christian nation, determine a basic human need on merit, on what a person contributes.  I look back at the cross in front of the sanctuary.  Thinking of our society outside the church, I see, superimposed on that cross, the faces of America’s founding fathers; and the U.S. Constitution.  My thoughts shift quickly to another principle of Christianity; that of our sinfulness.  I get confused. 

We, as a “Christian” nation, rather than use the person of Jesus and the foundational principle of grace to define Christianity, we use the persons who founded our country and the document they conceived, to determine our actions.  And in wanting to punish those we judge and perceive to be undeserving, we also mistreat those we probably would count as worthy and eligible were we not so busy pridefully touting our Christianity and using as proof our heritage born from men; men who Jesus, when looking down from that cross, saw them just as He sees us, as flawed and sinful people totally undeserving of anything.  

I’m still confused.  But I am glad to be in church where I can glimpse what true Christianity looks like; every human equally loved and appreciated, everyone being of equal status and our realization of the truth that God does not categorize any of us as deserving.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Conversation with Natalia

NOTE:  I wrote this on June 2nd and am just now getting around to posting it.  The governor of Texas has since signed into law the right of gun license holders to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses. Some of the state's top universities opposed the bill.  So the law does allow for college presidents to designate "gun-free zones".  Our own state of North Carolina had already passed a law allowing guns to be taken into bars and public parks. 

If you are a gun rights advocate, please do not bother to leave a comment should you stumble upon this post.  I ask that because if you read what I have written you should see that I am sharing another way to look at an issue.  If that does not work for you, just remember I have the right to express my point of view.  

If you are not at all religious, just skip the last two paragraphs.  I left my opinion about some Christians and their view of gun rights last because it doesn't have to be part of the post.  I just wanted to express my views about that issue as well and thought it worked out okay by adding it at the end.    

I awoke this morning thinking of the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary. I assume that is because today is the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day.  I began to think about conversations between grandparents and grandchildren over the growing up years, conversations the grandparents of the little victims will never get to have.  The following is one I would like to have had with Natalia once she was able to understand abstract concepts.

Grandma, did you know today is the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day?

As a matter of fact, Sweetheart, I did.  But how do you know that?

I saw it on the internet when I was going to Facebook to see if Grandpa had posted anything new.  It made me remember how hard you cried when those little kids were shot at Sandy Hook Elementary.  That really upset you, didn’t it?

Oh my goodness, yes.  And it still does, Natalia honey. 

I had dinner at my friend Erica’s house the other day.  Her dad was complaining about people who want more laws for gun control.  He said that guns don’t kill, people do and that if gun control is increased it won’t prevent criminals from having guns.  That’s actually true, isn’t it, Grandma?

It is absolutely true.  However, from my perspective that is not how we view other laws.

What do you mean?

Well, I can give you a couple of examples.  Let’s start with background checks.  Before I could volunteer at the hospital they had to do a criminal background check on me, right?  The hospital needed to know that they were not putting anyone at risk of harm by allowing me to help work with very sick babies. They have that responsibility.  So I had to go through an application process that included checking on my background.  That provided valuable information about whether or not it was appropriate for me to be given the opportunity to volunteer. 

I have to say that I just do not see any difference when it comes to waiting periods and background checks for gun ownership.  Shouldn’t we expect that, as a society, we have the responsibility to attempt to prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who simply should not have them?  Perhaps I’m wrong, but honestly, sweetheart, I cannot think of another area in which we throw up our hands and say laws should not be in place because either those who do not obey the law anyway will just find a way around it or that it is taking away the rights of those who do obey the law.

Like what kinds of other laws?

We can’t get a driver’s license without proof of a certain level of competence to drive a vehicle and knowledge of road safety.  We have speed limits, road signs and lines on the road in order to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians.  We have reduced speed limits in school areas.  We have laws against driving under the influence.  It is my understanding that all states have what is called a “dram shop law”.  That law says that a lawsuit can be brought against an establishment that serves alcoholic drinks if a patron of that restaurant or bar gets drunk and is in an accident.  Depending on the evidence, the establishment can be held accountable.  The danger to others of a driver impaired by alcohol is understood and there is an attempt to prevent harm and or loss.  

Another example is found in the pharmacy.  We realize that some medications can be addictive so we have laws that restrict their use.  The Drug Enforcement Administration regulations put responsibility on doctors for the proper prescribing and dispensing of controlled drugs.  But regulations also address the responsibilities of the pharmacist who fills the prescription.  The pharmacist is to be vigilant to verify that the medication is for a “legal medical purpose”.  Since it was discovered how to use decongestants like Sudafed to make hard core drugs, I am required to show ID and sign a form in order to purchase a bottle of Sudafed.  Law compels a pharmacist to ensure this process is followed.

Let’s use just these two examples and apply the logic that is the basis for argument against gun regulation.  Given the very true assertion that a person, not a gun, actually kills, then isn’t it also true that neither a car involved in an accident, nor a decongestant used other than according to directions are not at fault for killing or injuring?  Isn’t it true that the person driving a car or the one who is making hard core drugs must accept responsibility?  How often, in reality, honey, is a person NOT going to be involved?  Perhaps in very infrequent occurrences like being hit by lightning.  So, how is it that stating such a very obvious, widespread truth is considered a valid defense against some gun regulation?  Why is it not the basis on which decisions are made regarding legislation for or against just about everything else? 

Of course, the response to that question, Natalia honey, is going to be that cars and Sudafed are not protected by the Second Amendment.  Like we’ve said, true.  However, the fact that we have had additional amendments to our Constitution over time certainly indicates how dynamic society is.   We’ve had to address very major issues such as slavery, the right to vote, succession to the Presidency, etc.  We have had to view our Constitution as a dynamic document, one to assure freedoms and protect rights as society changes and injustices and unaddressed issues have been identified.  Why do we not see that accepting the changes in “arms” since the addition of the Second Amendment and responding accordingly does not have to mean the right is taken away?  Why shouldn’t we recognize the peril to everyone when a gun is sold to anyone without an attempt to determine how suitable that person is to possess a firearm?  If we expected that, how would we be treating the person selling the gun any differently than we treat the bartender, the doctor and the pharmacist?   How would that be taking anyone’s Second Amendment right away?

So laws would treat different dangers to all of us the same way, right?  That seems fair.  That wouldn’t take away the right of people like Erica’s dad to have his gun, would it?   Well, guns.  He has a couple. 

No, I don’t think it would. 

So, Grandma, why aren’t people like Erica’s dad okay with having background checks required for anyone who wants to buy a gun, no matter where the gun is being sold?  Wouldn’t that be good for them, all the people who would have no problem getting a gun even after they are investigated?  Wouldn’t that be something they should want too, to at least not make it easier for criminals to get guns?

That makes sense to me. 

And Grandma, what about guns that can shoot a lot of bullets really fast? 

What about them? 

I understand all about the Second Amendment and all that.  But when the Constitution was written they didn’t know how powerful guns would get.  Just like you, I’m not saying that people have to give up their right to their guns.  I’m just wondering why they insist on having the kind of gun that was used to shoot all those little kids at school?  If there hadn’t been that type of gun for sale in the stores or at shows, maybe not so many kids would have been killed. Isn’t that something else that would be good for all of us, especially if they don’t make people go through background checks?  The criminals or the poor people that are sick and need help at least wouldn’t be able to harm or kill as many people at one time.  Wouldn’t that be another way we could compromise?  So Erica’s dad could still have every right to guns, he just wouldn’t be able to have one like armies use.  But our army would have them, so really I don’t think he would be able to say he needs that kind.  And if they aren’t sold he would be on an equal ground with everybody else who has a gun. 

Natalia, sweetheart, some people really believe that they have to protect themselves against the army and the government.  So for them, your solution would be the last thing they would agree to. 

But Grandma!  Really?!  Do they think they could right now win a fight with the army?  They don’t have drones, rocket missiles and tanks.  No way could they protect themselves against that stuff.

What you say makes a lot of sense.  I don’t know if they would consider your thoughts, though.  But tell me what would be done with all the high powered guns on the market now? 

Well, I can think of something. 
Like what?

No one who already has any of those kinds of guns would have to give them up.  That’s too complicated and everyone would just argue and not agree anyway.  They could keep them.  But no one could buy anymore.  Instead, the army would buy them.  The army could also buy those that are in warehouses or are just now being manufactured.   No one would lose money that way.  That’s a solution.

Well, any change has to start somewhere.  That sounds like a good beginning and a fair one.  Can you think of any reason why that wouldn’t go over?

Maybe the gun manufacturers make more money on those guns?  I don’t know, but wouldn’t they cost more than regular guns?  So, if they do, companies who make the guns wouldn’t like that idea, would they?

I certainly doubt it, sweetheart.

I’m only one person.  And I’m just a kid.  Maybe if a lot of people tried to think of ideas together we could come up with something. 

But, there is one other thing that I REALLY, REALLY don’t understand, Grandma.  You know how we Christians talk about Jesus on the Cross?  I’ve been thinking about it.  Didn’t Jesus have every right to get down and not die?  If He chose not to; if He was willing to give up His life, why do so many grown-ups who are Christians talk so much about their rights to have guns, whatever kind they want and as many as they want?  We’re supposed to be like Him and love others more than we love ourselves.  So why won’t they give up even just a little?   Wouldn’t they want to see people be willing to do at least something to try and make little kids safer at school if it were their kids or grandchildren who died?  Wouldn’t that be a loving, unselfish thing to do?  I just don’t understand.

I’m afraid, Natalia honey, that I don’t understand either.  Not at all.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Facing A New Stage In Life

Somewhere along life’s path of the last few years I found I have a number of cervical spine issues.  I was initially told I would be a very poor candidate for neck surgery; that the result would be limited mobility afterwards. A recent check up with the doctor found I now also have a number of problems in my lower spine.  I was told I am slowly, over time, becoming paralyzed.  I asked about a time frame, but was told there is no way to tell.  So, it is now suggested that I meet with a surgeon in order to make an informed decision regarding surgery; that perhaps limited mobility might be preferable to a loss of strength and stamina.  Of course, I am hoping the surgeon will see things differently.  In the meantime, I have to decide what to do about continuing to work, how to spend my time and energy, etc. I am doing just fine.  However, about two weeks ago I could not go the hospital for my volunteering shift.  And I wanted to go see my babies!  That’s when discouragement set in.  So, I had to give myself a pep talk, which was very helpful and just what I needed.  The following somewhat summarizes my thoughts and is an attempt to see where I am and how life might change for me.

Allan and I were once at the beach late in the afternoon, during the off season, just enjoying a walk.  We lost track of time and failed to pay attention to how quickly the sun was setting.  It seemed that all of a sudden it was difficult to see where the beach ended and the ocean began.  The access path appeared hidden to us; the entire beach and ocean seamless to our eyes.  Given that it was the Fall of the year, there weren’t any property owners in residence who were turning on house lights.  Scary!

I awoke this morning thinking of that experience.  Within a few minutes I got a mental picture of the ocean and beach as reflective of exactly where I am in life.  I see myself caught in a rip current, one that was unpredictable to me.  I saw none of the signs.  There didn’t appear to be any foam on the waves.  I didn’t see a strip of the ocean water that was different in color from the surrounding waters; nothing.  I just didn’t see it coming.    

So, I am currently swimming parallel to the shore, as I should; all the while assessing the situation in order to know when I might begin to swim towards shore.  The rip current all of a sudden seems too wide and I am getting tired.

The sounds of the ocean, the surf, the birds overhead, the swaying of the beach grass on the various mounds; all of them seem to be a chorus singing to me to stop struggling, to accept the tide; to let it take me where it will.  As if that harmony were not enough, I see that twilight is on the horizon.  This foreshadowing is frustrating and I am trying to figure out how to change the story; how to get back to the coast. The powerful wave of discouragement washes over me.  That’s when I realize my physical struggle is not as dangerous as the mental and emotional battle I might be facing.  

So, I fight the urge to abandon hope.  I need and want to see clearly what I must do when I reach the shoreline.  I must first of all accept that my life won’t be like getting to walk the firm ground near water’s edge, at least not very often.  It will more often probably be more comparable to plodding my way through the deepest part of the sand.  That walk is so much more tiring and so much slower, but it is walking nonetheless. 

As I trudge my way I will have to search the sand underneath my feet for shells that I would previously have passed over as I was walking with energy and stamina.  I will have to be looking for shells that are broken, but are still beautiful and special; shells that can make a handful of gathered shells more lovely and interesting.  I will need to think about how I can make my handful as lovely and pleasing as possible.   

I will have to accept that I am walking the beach at dusk; not sunrise.  And sometimes I might find myself feeling lost and unsettled just as Allan and I did that late afternoon.  I will have to wait until someone reaches out and helps me find my way.  Or I will have to wait until a light appears to show me the way.  I will have to stay focused on the fact that I can still walk somewhere on the beach.  There is still something of beauty to appreciate and enjoy.  And maybe most importantly of all, I will have to remember that those of us who are higher up on the beach can wave and encourage loved ones who are still totally immersed in the water or running with strength along its edge.   Come to think of it, further up on the beach is where the lifeguard sits, isn’t it?