Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How Old Is Your Soul?

"Weren't you supposed to be dead seven years ago?"
An awkward question to be posed in a busy restaurant, but not uncommon for me. I am often asked about my life expectancy and what my future prospects look like. A few evenings ago, my husband and I were having dinner with some friends of ours. My birthday is coming up and I am working toward another pancreas transplant so to be discussing my age and how much longer I have didn't come out of nowhere.
As we discussed the topic of life and death, we also talked about age, and at what age each of us struggled. The appropriate age to have a baby and the death of that dream via hysterectomy for my friend at age 36. The depression that accompanied leaving our twenties to embark on "middle age" for my friend's husband. The grief and unimaginable horror of burying a child that has touched friends and family in our little desert town. Sounds like great dinner conversation, right?
Well actually, it was. I realized during our heart-to-heart with our friends that we have assigned the moments of our lives completely arbitrary numbers to indicate happiness or tragedy.
My Father was 43 years old when he died. That is only a few years older than I am now. At seventeen, I felt his life was cut tragically short because he was gone from mine. Now at the same age he was, the tragedy was that I didn't take advantage of every moment of the seventeen years I had with him. For him, he was only required to live in this 'veil of tears' for a few decades.
There was a young man who recently passed away at the age of 25. His parents would tell you he was far too young. As a parent, I would agree. What about the 16 year old who drowned, or the 12 year old girl who was in too much pain to think it worth living. What about the 13 year old girl who finds herself in the "twilight" of her life because of cancer?
What is the significance of all these numbers? What really is middle age, or mid-life? We think its a number where we are closer to death than we are to youth, but that isn't true. For my father mid-life was 22, for some others its 12, or 8, or 15. What is the importance of these random digits except to count the time in our lives up on the earth.
My Daddy taught me the concept of eternity when I was a little girl. He was a brilliant mathematician, who when I asked him how to count to forever showed me.
He said: "You are the number 0. How long you will exist, love, dream, and be my little girl is the highest number you can count to."
I, of course, tried to think of the biggest number my immature brain could fathom. "How about a million, zillion, google Daddy?"
"How about a million, zillion, google plus one." he would say.
When I asked him How he knew I had lived before I lived with him he used the same analogy: "If you are the number 0, then what is the lowest number to show you when you started to exist."
I thought of the million, zillion, google only as a negative number. I knew better than to guess it though. He would simply subtract one from the end.
While premature death or death at all feels like a tragedy to us, the mother of the 16 year old who drowned taught me the truth about our little counting system.
"If we have no beginning and no end, then our miniscule travels on earth are simply a moment in forever. A moment we stretch out and try to turn into an eternity. Our time apart is painful because of all the moments we've spent together. They are only numbers because of all the eternity we will never have to be apart."
As I age one more year and look back to when Erik and I got married, I feel blessed to have seven more years with him than was predicted. My sweet, visionary husband knew we would have only a handful of years together, but he saw our eternity as a far greater number. When I asked him all those years ago if he was sure he wanted to go through death with me, he responded.
"I would rather love you for whatever time I can get right now, than give up loving you at all because there isn't  enough time left."
So as I turn over another year in my life, I'm not going to count it. I'm just going to love that I am here for this moment. I'm just going to bask in the moments that make up eternity both before I started counting and long after I will quit.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lower Than The Dust

Before I began this blog, I was having one of those days when I wondered if any of the things I do or say really matter. Like most mother's of teenagers, I'd had a conversation with one of my sons where he'd refused to do more than grunt in my general direction. Another one of them actually rolled his eyes at me. I know this because his Dad caught him and told him to knock it off. This particular day I also went and participated in a book report for my friend Lindy. (sorry if I spelled your name wrong, honey). When I left the school that day i felt, for the first time in a few weeks, like maybe I did have something to offer...
The kids at the school were interested in how I do things as a blind person and how I write my novels. I realized that one of the things that gives my treacherous little life meaning is the ability to tell other people that there isn't anything they can't do.
My good friend Becky convinced me that my stories about my life are lessons. Not just lessons for me, but for other people as well. I don't mind wandering a bit, getting lost, or falling down if I can learn from it. More importantly, if I can help someone else learn without the painful experience.
Today, though, I realized that painful experiences are God's way of bringing us home to be with him. I shouldn't be trying to keep other's from their own pain, it is what brings them to their knees. It is what helps them let go of their own strength and knowledge to rely on a loving Father for support.
Often I have my worst falls when I find myself feeling confident that I know where I am, I can maneuver any obstacle and I have my feet planted firmly on solid ground. It is only after I am on my hands and knees in the dirt, my palms torn and my shins bloody that I remember...
Where I am is far from my true home.Lost in a dark world full of treachery, thorns, and deceivers. I am trying to maneuver around a dark being with over six thousand years of experience and a million minions. Where I stand is knee deep in a world that has forgotten the God who loves them because there are too many voices asking for proof.
When I forget that I am truly less than the dust of the earth, I feel like dirt. Like what I do and say doesn't matter. However, when I remember that I am less than the dust of the earth, and yet my Heavenly Father loves me enough to give me beautiful kids who roll their eyes at me, then I feel like I matter.
Maybe not to the world, or to anyone besides my family and friends. But, who matters more than the people I have built my world around?
I look at it like this: When the world crashes down around us. When it feels like its too heavy for my thin shoulders to bear. When evil is bound and The Savior comes the dust will settle.  And if I stand with my loved ones to feel of his love, then I mattered

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There's A Snake Loose In My House!

When I share some of the crazy stories that come along with my blindness, my apparent lack of fear, and my seeming oblivion to things that can be dangerous, the snake is a great symbol for the things that plague my life. However...
In this case, the snake is not a symbol at all. There is a foot and a half long corn snake, named Copper, somewhere loose in my house. My 13 year old son, Zackery has had a pet snake for over a year now. Last night we discovered the snake is no longer in his habitat. Evidently my habitat is now his as well.
I have never been someone who is afraid of or doesn't like snakes. When I was a teenager I had a three foot King snake. When I was a senior in High School my science fair project involved milking rattle snakes. This little harmless corn snake shouldn't bother me.
Something about having to grope around my life in the dark with a reptile lurking silently nearby has seriously discombobulated me though. I choose not to live my life with fear because a little fear is like a little snake. The longer it stays, the bigger it gets until it finally takes over. Trying to deal with this tiny insipid being in my house has been a real struggle for me, though.
I learned a few things about snakes that are interesting and remind me why the symbol for Satan in The Garden of Eden was a serpent.
1-Snakes are cold blooded and therefore don't expend more energy than they have to. They are not proactive. They don't try to contribute to their surroundings. They aren't interested in anything that isn't nearby and annoying them.
2-Snakes will seek out only two things: a source of instant power for heat, and a source of food and or water. They will protect themselves against other predators but their motivations for seeking shelter, an environment, even a resting place are centered around their two immediate needs.
3- They are silent, patient, innocuous creatures unless you cross into their territory. Once there they only have to believe that you are a barrier to their needs and they will not hesitate to strike.
Notice how many Good things in the world share these tiny, snakelike characteristics:Books, movies,music,  the internet, the media, and even seemingly harmless groups of people who will suddenly participate in a mob mentality.
Most things are full of knowledge, goodness, light, and love. But one insipid, silent, mostly harmless serpent lurking in the language, the message, the motivations, or the intentions of good people turns to a nest of writhing, rattling, killers when evil waits, seemingly docile, benign, and unseen at the edge of the light.
As we allow doubt, anger, fear, and blame to take hold in our minds and hearts we step out of the light. Once we let the thinking of men trump the wisdom of God we are in the dark groping for something, hoping not to come up with a fistful of scales and a set of fangs in our flesh.
I've decided that I'm not afraid of the snake crawling around my  house. I want to find him and put him back in his terrarium, but I don't fear his presence. In fact he will be caught in the snare of his own insidious nature if I turn down the heat upstairs and leave a light on for him. Pray for me that I can catch him, mostly for Zack's benefit. He loves Copper. More importantly though, pray for the serpents of evil in this world that they will crawl under a rock for protection, because the light will eventually be they're undoing.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Inside My Telephone Booth

So many times when I hear about so-and-so, the actor/movie-star/celebrity who has fallen from public grace, I feel a little pang of sorrow. How many of us regular people have to worry about if everyone is watching to see if we fall? Perhaps we think the world is watching. Perhaps they are, but most of us don't have to think twice about getting caught outside of our house wearing sweats and a baseball hat, or the damage it may do.
I often refer to this concept as 'living in a fishbowl'. Everyone stares in,  as if your little life is going to send the world off tilt.
For me, and maybe other blind people as well, I live in a telephone booth.
Everything that happens in my world is only present about 18 inches from my face. If I'm outside in fat pants and a polka dot Sari, as far as I'm concerned, no one knows but me. When I hear about it from my friends a couple of days later, I remember I do not live on the acreage of Little House on The Prairie, and people are watching.
Sometimes my own private darkness is a barrier to things I would like to experience again. Driving, Art, Scenery, my children's faces. But there are times when my phone booth is safety
A few years before my kidney transplant my husband Erik, and I played on a co-ed softball team. I was originally allowed to play because in co-ed you need a certain number of women players or your team forfeits. My brother -in-law, who sponsored the team was in a pinch for female players and I guess he figured a blind player was better than a forfeit. I love softball. I played when I was a teenager, the chance to play with my husband, and the camaraderie with the team was wonderful. It is still one of my favorite times, and my favorite people are friends from softball.
As great as it was for me, you can probably imagine that I wasn't much of an asset to the team. I practiced with the team, my husband, and my family and I eventually got to the point where I wasn't the worst player on the team.
-I actually might have been the worst player on the team, but I set a goal for myself at the start of the game and if I met the goal...then I wasn't the worst player. Fantasy world at its finest, but those are the blessings of being blind. No one can tell you your fantasy world isn't as real as their reality.
Some of my goals were: to make it all the way around the bases, to hit the ball past the dirt, to field a ball.
Most of the teams we played against were very patient and helpful with the blind woman. I had pitchers that would tell me when they were about to throw the ball. I had umpires who let Erik stand behind the plate and tell me to swing or not. I didn't always take his advice, but he got to give it. I also had other players who laughed, played and had a great time with the game just because I was playing for fun.
Every once in a while I would end up in dangerous situations because the darkness made it impossible to prepare myself to defend my body against the ball. I had a short stop throw the ball at my head as I rounded first base and headed for second. He missed, thank heavens for both him and I. I would probably have suffered a broken skull, and he would have ended up with his teeth knocked in by my husband. Usually Erik was nearby and could warn me but there were times when I stood alone behind second base and counted on my Telephone Booth for protection.
One particular evening we were playing and I was listening to the game. Listening for the sound of the ball striking either a glove or a bat. Listening to the rustle of grass compared to the scratch of leather against gravel for a foul, or the poofing sound the ball made when it hit the dirt of the infield.
I was so intent on sorting the sounds because my goal for that game was to get in front of the ball If it came my way. I knew catching it was probably beyond my skill set but if I could stop it from going into the outfield at least I could slow down the other team.
I listened as the pitcher let the ball go, I heard the crack of the bat, and I heard a throng of voices calling my name. I did not comprehend the warning though. A few seconds before the ball dropped toward my head I heard it buzz through the air. I didn't have time to assess its position, trajectory, or rate of descent. All I could do was stand in my telephone booth and wait for the ball to drop.
I heard three things: Shouts and screams of horror, my pony tail whispering against my collar, and the thud of the ball directly behind me. And then...dead silence as the field held its breath.
I turned around, groped for the ball and threw it back to the pitcher.The crowd went wild.
No, I hadn't made some miraculous play. I'm pretty sure the guy who hit the ball made at least a double. I don't even think we won that game. But when that line drive headed right for my head, it was obvious to everyone except me that disaster was imminent.
I think if I had known I would have covered my head, thrown myself to the ground, or at least side-stepped to try to get out of the way. The wrong move in that situation could have been extremely painful. when the ball plummeted past my head, pushed my ponytail aside, and dropped behind me I was safe in my phone booth. If I'd tried to fix the problem myself I'd have ended up with a very bad headache at the least.
I have never forgotten this experience because it taught me a great lesson. "Darkness is rampant in the world. The kind a lot of people don't even realize is swirling all around them. Health, financial,dietary, and emotional problems that come flying at us from all around.
My darkness, my phone booth of protection, can be a barrier against this more insipid kind. When trials seem to thunder overhead like a gathering storm making the darkness more prevalent than the light, remember this lesson and one of my favorite scriptures that goes with it.
"Be still, and KNOW that I am God."
The troubles and trials of life are often bigger and scarier than we know how to handle. Sometimes the solution is to stand in your phone booth,hold hands with God,  and be still until the ball has dropped. .