Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Thicker Skin

I have a series of scars that dent my forehead and are mostly hidden by my eyebrows. For some reason the first thing I hit when I bump into something is my eyebrows or head. When I began losing my sight, it was because I was trying to get around using my flawed eyesight. Of course I didn't see things like a branch sticking out from a tree. My lack of depth perception meant I hit the edge of more tables than I cleared.However, once I was trained and learned to use my cane to travel I crashed and burned less often. I did still hit into things, now its just my own stupidity to blame.
A good friend of mine and I were taking a class together. We were late the first day of class and so I was rushing down the hall.  Relying on my cane to guide me, I looked for the stone pillar that would mark the correct spot in the wide hall that would show me the way. Just as I located it with my cane, I turned for the class room.  My rush to get into the class before I made a scene entering interfered with my caution. I turned the corner a half second too late, crashing into  the grouted edge of the gigantic pillar. I creased my face from my forehead, across the bridge of my nose and split my upper lip. Now I was really late, disoriented and had blood running down my face. Talk about making a scene. My friend ran to the restroom to get me a clutch of paper towels. I tried to find my way across the classroom, into my seat and appear unaffected.
You can imagine how that went.
A guy in the back of the room said he was a doctor and would examine it to see if I needed stitches. The teacher tried not to let it interrupt her lesson but she kept asking if I was Okay.
With the wad of paper towels I was able to stem the tide of blood and even found a band-aid in my bag to close the wound. By the time class was over, my lower lip was twice the size it started out and my eyebrow was beginning to droop a little. I'm sure I looked like I'd been hit by a truck.
My girlfriend and I just laughed.
"New scars," she told me.
"A thicker skin," I agreed.
If I were ever to show you my scars you'd probably have to brace your self not to wince openly. I have a lot. Scars from surgeries, Kidney dialysis, stupid things I do and just plain life in general. They start on my left foot back when I was in the eight grade and my latest was 3 months ago when they cut me open from rib cage to pelvis for my transplant. I'm not proud of them and I don't show them everywhere I go, but I also recognize the story of my life in them.
I am the woman I am today because of what I learned from those scars. God teaches us to be stronger, smarter, and have a thicker skin when he allows us to earn our scars. A perfect unmarred body, life, or heart is one that has no stories to tell or lessons to learn. They seem tragic or cruel and sometimes we question how a loving God lets bad things happen to the children he loves. He wants us to grow closer to letting him guide our lives and the scars can either remind us of his love or become bitter wounds that drive us away. Its not Him that decides though. Its us.
I will never walk too fast into the classroom again. The crease in my eyebrow will always remind me why I don't want to. It doesn't mean God doesn't love, watch over, or protect his children. It just means he trusts us to thicken our skin so we'll learn to trust him. I will acquire more scars. I will make more mistakes. I will live, love and learn while I'm doing it though. Hopefully my thicker skin will make the lessons a bit more fun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Every Step Matters

My teenagers tell me almost everyday that I make things too serious. "I don't get why it's a big deal, Mom."
Doing homework or not, finishing their chores or not, watching a particular movie or not, listening to certain music or not, Hanging out with friends or not. These choices they can sometimes see the importance of but every choice doesn't have serious consequences according to teenage wisdom. YOLO is a common defense when I ask them if they've considered where today's choice will leave them tomorrow.
The argument that you only live once makes even little decisions bigger in my mind. Clicking your seat belt could change whether or not you live, spend your life in a wheel chair, or walk away. Making the right decision on that one could literally save your life. You Only Live Once.
On the other hand,doing something crazy, unwise, or just plain rebellious because you only live once appears to be just a small step without importance.
I make a trip from my house to the lab to have my blood drawn twice a week. After my kidney transplant a few years ago I was only making these trips on Monday. On one such day, I dropped my kindergartner off at school,  got my blood work done and then proceeded to walk home, six blocks. I followed what I thought was my regular route home...with one exception. A street crew left a "Street Closed" sign in the middle of an intersection I needed to cross. I didn't want to walk into traffic so I made the decision to turn the corner, get behind the sign and cross the street. Not a problem. The mistake I made was to put one of my ear-buds in to listen to a book I was reading. No big deal.
Unfortunately, when the cement truck working on the road was the only sound I heard, I got confused and lost my place on the sidewalk.
Anyone who knows me, also knows that I get turned around and off track all the time. This day though I managed to get too far west. I however felt assured that I was on the correct corner, replaced my ear-bud, and went happily on my way. After covering the requisite number of blocks, I turned left, did not smell the body shop near my house, and I yanked out my ear-buds, pausing. Something was wrong. I could hear the shop, but not in the spot where it should have been. I could still hear construction so I thought maybe I'd accidentally gone around the block instead of in a straight line. My cane still tapped against the side walk and I could hear where I wanted to be, so I took a step forward.
The world fell out from under me...literally. I slid down a steep dirt incline into a hole about four feet deep. My elbow was scraped, I was covered in red dirt, and I was completely lost. My first instinct was to scramble out of the hole as fast as I could. But then what?
I didn't know which direction I was facing. I obviously didn't know which street I was on, there are no holes on my street. I didn't even know which part of town I'd wandered into. I sat in the hole for a few minutes and called my husband. He didn't answer.
It wouldn't have mattered anyway, I thought. What would I tell him. "I'm in a hole. Somewhere in Ivins. near construction."
How would he find me? How would anyone find me?
At that moment I made a decision. I called my good friend Laura and asked her to pick up my son from kindergarten. I would find my way out and back home again, but I didn't know how long it would take or what I'd have to do to get there.
My friend, of course,freaked out and got in her car to drive around and look for me. I did what I knew would work. I asked God for help.
See, here's the thing, I don't hope for miracles, or believe in them. I expect them. My Father-in-Heaven loves me. When I do stupid things like get lost, arrogant, and fall in holes. When I think I know what I'm doing. When every choice mattered, and I didn't think it did. He still came to my rescue.
In this case he came in the form of a guy with a GPS on his cell phone.
Once I'd managed to get back to the edge of the trench I was in, a very nice guy walked up to me. "Are you alright? You just fell into the trench we're digging for the sewer line."
"Where am I," I asked.
Well, he didn't know. He wasn't familiar with Ivins at all. He worked the construction crew but didn't know anything about our little city. I asked him where the auto-body shop was. He didn't know there was one. I asked him where State street was. He didn't know. I asked him what street I was on. "Its a construction area, there aren't any street signs."
My husband still gives me a hard time about how I handled this. It scared him worse than it did me. The guy offered to give me a ride home, but I didn't want to give this stranger my address. Meanwhile...my friend is still driving around looking for me and neither I, nor my knight in shining armor know where I am.
We asked his phone for directions to State Street but he was directionally challenged and didn't know where the GPS was telling him to go. It was now close to noon, so the sun's position in the sky didn't help with navigation.
The thought then came to my mind"Listen for the heaviest traffic."
The single choice that changed everything for me was the choice to listen for entertainment instead of for my markers to get home. I still wasn't listening to the right helps.
Tuning my ears into what I needed set me back on track. I had to walk an extra six blocks, I scared my friend to death, and I came home wounded and dirty, but I made it back. All based on one little decision.
"Its not that big of a deal mom." I hear my kids say all the time. It is a big deal. Every choice big or small is a big deal. Maybe you won't end up in a hole, literally, like I did. Maybe you'll end up in a dark abyss of the mind and soul. Maybe you're current wander through darkness and despair started with one little choice like who or what to listen to. If you tell yourself that something doesn't matter, it probably does. If you spend too much time doing nothing because you can't decide what the right thing to do is, you're stuck in the bottom of that hole.
Choosing something, even nothing, is still a choice. Don't fool yourself into thinking it doesn't matter. You matter. treat your life as the precious opportunity it is. Stay close to the people who love you, listen to the voices that have crawled out of a few holes and do something to find your way back home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Are You Listening To Me?

If you ever want a good laugh, come to my house and listen to me argue with all of my talking equipment. My computer speaks each key as I type it. My watch tells the time...out loud. My digital recorder reads me books, and my phone not only talks to me but talks back as well.
Can you imagine the sheer chaos of having to have sound to navigate my own house sometimes. I must admit I'm not very patient when it comes to sorting out all of the noises. My kids, the doorbell, the speaking technology and the radio at times too.
However, silence in my world is worse.
I will ask my husband questions and while he ponders the answer, I'm asking more questions. "Are you listening to me?"
"Are you on your phone?"
"Did you hear me?"
His response is always "Hang on a second. My brain doesn't work as fast as yours does."
That's not true. His brain is actually far more capable than mine. He just filters his thoughts from his speech. I, on the other hand, don't need time to kick my filter in. Its either on or its off.
When its on, I can sit back, listen and learn. But when its off...I hunger for interaction.
Last night the kids and Erik and I laid out in the backyard to listen to "nature". My fourteen year old asked if he could get his i-pod to listen to music instead. "No," I told him. "Listen to the night."
"Its too quiet mom."
Why are we so afraid of the silence? What awaits our thoughts and emotions if the world isn't clamoring for our attention? Can we hear the voice of God if the world remains quiet for a while?
The voice of My Father In Heaven finds me in the silence of my heart and mind. In the words of scripture or his Holy spirit. Why am I always drowning Him out?
A world of darkness is never quiet. My ears seek out the sounds of life around me to keep me from feeling alone. Its the silence where I find my greatest friend though., Its the peace of His distant voice that makes the darkness liveable.
The next time you put in your ear buds or flip on the t.v. The next time you need to fill the quiet with the radio just to have background noise, stop. Instead, Sink into a comfortable chair, onto your knees, or onto the floor and listen. You will hear his creations, his blessings, and most of all his voice calling you home.
Its not the most exciting experience I'll have. Laughing with my kids. Fighting with Siri on the phone, or loosing myself in a good novel keep me sane sometimes. I can't however, enjoy any of those things unless I spend some quiet time just listening first.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Pile Of Manure

"Can I hold your baby?"
When I ask people that question I can hear the doubt flit across their features while they consider whether or not I am safe. I'd like to tell you their fears are unfounded, and for the most part, they are. I have after all raised three children of my own, been a nanny in New York, and babysat for any number of nieces, nephews, and neighbor kids.
However, there was one day, when Zack was a toddler, my sister won't forgive me for. Even now that its been 11 years.
The day of Zack's third birthday, my sister was working and trying to take care of travel for her older two kids when she asked me to take care of her 8 month old daughter. I happily agreed. My niece McKenna was adorable, easy going and I thought it would be fun. That evening my family, along with all the in-laws were due to arrive for a birthday party to celebrate Zack's big day. A traditional cake wouldn't feed all of these people. I needed more food. I started to make a sheet cake for the occasion when disaster struck.
Lots of people have told me this didn't happen because I'm blind, but my sister still holds my poor eyesight, at least partially, responsible.
I carried baby McKenna on one hip, a dozen eggs in the other hand, As I crossed the kitchen to the cake batter. crouched in front of the refrigerator was my toddler. I caught my foot on his leg, knocking him over backward and upsetting the precarious balance I had going on.
Falling over Zack caused him to burst into tears. The carton of eggs flew onto the hard wood floors. The baby and I began our nose dive for the floor beside Zack. I couldn't fall on the baby or on my son so I extended my left leg in front of my body in a stiff kickstand move, arching above zack's head. McKenna remained on my hip, with out a single tear streaming down her cheeks as I ended up with my left leg hyper-extended.
Notice here, all of the children were unharmed. I soothed Zack's fright, bounced McKenna to calm her agitation with Zack's crying and tried not to scream with the electric pain shooting through my leg.
Unfortunately it was not over. The eggs had to be scrubbed from the kitchen. The cake had to be put in the oven and I had to drag my leg, now swollen to twice its normal size around as I readied the party.
When everyone arrived, I was so frazzled I undercooked the cake and ended up spending 40$ on store bought confections instead. I forgot to call my brother and sister in law to invite them and they were offended. my sister was traumatized by the whole story.
By this time I was in so much pain I was stretched out on a chair, crying and apologizing for the mess.
After Zack went to spend the night with his previously forgotten cousins, my husband took me to the Emergency Room for a brace and crutches. Now the blind lady had not only a busy toddler, but no way to hold my cane and an awkward set of crutches to move around on. I can laugh at myself now. Picturing the flying eggs, crying kids and cake disasters reminds me of old "I Love Lucy" episodes. My mom would have been proud.
The point is--Bad things happen to all of us. It's why God tells us about our heavenly home. We need the reminder so we'll laugh at our mishaps and believe there is a better world waiting for us. It could've been worse, but it wasn't. What ever hands held me up that day looked out for the kids, knowing I couldn't have handled it if they'd been collateral damage. I sacrificed my knee, but it was worth it in the long run. Every trial is a pile of manure when it happens. Its up to  us whether it just stinks or if something beautiful grows out of it.