Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Forever Family Parties

Yesterday would have been my Dad's 70 th birthday. I picture him with his grand children gathered around him. Eating birthday cake, giving him Birthday hugs and wishes while teasing him about getting old. We'd find a crazy birthday card that makes fun of how old he is and how he is the best Dad and Grandpa EVER! Then we'd all go home until our next family get together.
My cousin Julie mentioned on facebook today that when her mother passed to God's presence this past year, she was met on the other side by people like my Dad, our grandmother, who we all adored, my Grandfather, two uncles and a whole host of family. I picture it much like the a fore mentioned party, but without the wrinkles and the funny cards.
I believe that God intended families to be together, forever. Not just for birthday parties and holidays her on earth, but for every warm, happy, fun occasion we can think of. These times I picture the party my deceased family is having and the one each of us wishes we could have as well. A little piece of me crumbles and dies when I realize what an enormous blockade death makes to all of us being together.
Truthfully, though, Death is only a blockade for the living. Those of us who cling to this life with fervor and faith live avoiding or denying death. On the other side though, they wait with bated breath for us to come to the forever family party.
I've spent my entire life fighting the inevitability of death only to realize it comes for each of us until we are all together again. Those who die before us celebrate the day when they are joined with those who were left behind. Those left behind mourn our loneliness until we can join our loved ones. The time between is painful, lonely and dark without those we love.
The good news is...its but a moment in a dark tunnel until we join the party as well. I live my life in complete darkness except for the light I find in my children, my husband, my family, friends and my Savior. When the party lights come on I hope to see my father's face. Feel the embrace of my Grandmother's arms and see the lovely smile of my Aunt Caroline. to kiss Colby Bird and thank him for sharing his organs and his beautiful family with me. I can't wait to meet my Savior and wash his feet with my tears. I'll wait to become strong enough and smart enough to have finished my course, but I look forward to the Forever Family Party. Just imagine what a party it will be.Save me some cake, Daddy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tiny, Tender Treasures

My ten-year-old promised me this weekend, he'd never be a 'snotty teenager'. I know its just because he's only ten, but a part of me wishes he was right. My mind drifts back to when my 15-year-old was less than five pounds and barely breathing.
When my son was born it was after 12 weeks of bed rest and 72 hours of labor. As difficult as those weeks leading up to his birth were, it was nothing compared to what would come next. His tiny little body was black and blue from the delivery and the forceps they used to deliver him. His body was so fragile , I was terrified I'd hurt him if I touched him. The nurses warned me rubbing his little arms and legs felt to him like I rubbed his sunburn. The nerves were so sensitive. He had tubes leading from his feet, his belly, where his umbilical cord had been, his nose and his chest. Every breath he took was an effort and he didn't make a sound. I was in pain from the delivery and the bed rest but I sat for hours beside his bed and listened to the sound of his monitors recording his heart beat as he slept.
By the time my youngest was born, I was prepared for the long hours and slow progress of a newborn, premature baby. Little did I know. It was torture not being able to hold him, touch him, or rock him to sleep at night. He couldn't nurse, he was too small, he couldn't breathe, he'd popped his lung the night he was born. My only solace came from the nurses who told me his heart rate and breathing were labored and too fast until I'd come into NICU. As soon as he heard my voice, he'd settle down and rest. His respiratory and heart rate slowing to a normal pace. I sat on a stool beside his bed for hours to keep his little body working. I cried, missed him terribly and wanted nothing more than to bring him home.
In the years between his birth and now, the hard times at the beginning of his life are distant memories with the ache of past pain and a smile for how precious a blessing he's been in my life.
In those moments with my tiny, tender treasures, I knew how blessed and fortunate I was to have moments to treasure my child. When he talks back to me, argues to hear his own brilliance and wants nothing to do with me, I remember why I loved him enough to go through those difficult hours where he was all that mattered. When his tiny hand wrapped around my finger and it brought tears to my eyes. When his blue eyes opened to look at me. When his laughter filled our home and when he kisses me goodbye before he leaves for work.
The moments that are painful make the moments of triumph more precious and valuable. Moments that seem eternal in their darkness, but are brilliant in their treasures. I wish I'd known to enjoy the long, precious moments I had with my premature babies. I'd have lived a little more in those moments. I'd have soaked up their love, warmth and need for nothing more than food and a caring hand. The time drags in the hospital where progress doesn't happen in hours or days, but in weeks or months. Treasure the time. Fill it with words of love, tender touches and laughter. The moments will melt away until the memories are all that remain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Finding Freedom

Shackles and chains come in all shapes and sizes. My body has represented many of the confines I've learned to work around throughout my life. Many people believe my blindness shackles me to my home, my neighborhood, or my friends and family to get me around. While I am grateful for the kindness, patience and support of my sighted friends...these are not the confines from which I must break free.
When I was on dialysis as a kidney patient, I was literally chained to a machine by needles and tubes. For three and a half hours, three times a week, I sat in a chair with my blood running from my arm, into a machine and then back into my arm. This process is hard on your body, your heart, your nerves, your muscles and bones. It is also necessary to keep you alive. One of the side effects of dialysis is a sleep disorder.
Disorder makes it sound rather innocuous. You just plain don't sleep. The blood cleaning is exhausting enough, but the not sleeping will drain what's left of your strength.
I was given a prescription for Adovan, an anti-anxiety medication to relieve this problem. I started on .5 mg.'s the first few days. After 2-3 nights of sleeping, my body caught up and I couldn't sleep again. The prescription was bumped up another .5 Mg's every time my body adjusted and the disorder came back. It took me about a month before I couldn't sleep at all and the dosage was up to 5 mg.'s every night.
I went to dialysis one morning at 7 a.m. feeling as if my skin would crawl off of my body. While I was trapped in my chair with my blood being cleaned by a machine, I started shaking, my heart palpitating and my skin crawling. I fought the sensations of my body attacking for the next few hours until the nurses at dialysis sent me to the hospital to get some help.
On the examination table in the E.R., I was told I was detoxing from the adovan and they'd give me some more to stop the reaction and I'd need to increase my dosage again.
My body had trapped me again. Maybe it was 'medically necessary' because I had an issue that could only be dealt with medically. It didn't matter. I was shackled to a drug, a drug that relieved other problems but that now was in complete control of my sanity and well-being.
I refused the adovan and stopped the prescription.
I wish I could tell you the drug wore off and I went back to my life. It didn't. I was awake for five days straight. My skin crawled. I cried, thrashed, soaked in hot and cold showers and prayed round the clock. All these years later, I still have sleeping problems. For different reasons, but the result is the same...sometimes I don't sleep for more than a few hours at night. The chains are broken, and I'll never go back to those confines. I could sleep more and better if I took the medicine. I could find a different prescription that was less addictive, but I won't.
Actual physical wounds aren't healed with the prescriptions, the pain is just deadened. Deadened pain is a blessing for those of us who live with it constantly. The problem is...everything else ends up deadened too. Thoughts, emotions, the influence of The Holy Spirit, the voice of The Savior and the quiet love and peace The Lord offers.
Healing deeper wounds of shame, self-hatred, feelings of failure and the fear of being too broken to love can't be fixed with drugs. To heal the wounds of the heart and the scars of the soul, one must fall at The Savior's feet. Fight the forces tearing at your body and break the shackles of numbing temporary balms.
Yes, it will be painful, healing hurts. Finding freedom, in any part of life comes when we surrender to God and let Him heal us.
Healing will not free you from your problems, injuries and diseases. It will bring you peace and strength to fight, thrive and succeed in your life. No one knows the extent of your pain and so no one can understand what is necessary for you to function. If you find yourself depending more and more on the medication and withdrawing from your relationship with God, turn to Him  and those who love you, during your pain and frustration and ask for help to hang on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Practice makes...Purified

Last week my teenaged sons went to the DMV to take the written test for their driving permits. One of them got his the first time he took the exam, with exactly enough correct answers. The other studied, took it twice and missed by only a few. Neither one of them can drive without their Dad having heart palpitations and contemplating reverting to horse drawn buggies.For the next year or so they'll get the chance to practice. And by the time their permits expire, they'll be perfect drivers and everyone on the roads will be safe.Right? I don't know about you, but from my blind side of the car, it's not safe out there.I was a horrible driver when I could see and super lucky when I drove with impaired vision.Yes...I drove half blind. The good news is I don't drive at all anymore. I learned something.I think that's the purpose of practice. Not so we become perfect drivers before we turn ourselves or our kids loose on the roads and highways, but so that we become smarter driver's by practicing. The tragic truth is that we crash, total vehicles, hurt ourselves...and others sometimes, and we become purified, not perfected.When I took my driver's test. I passed the written with flying colors. It took me three tries to pass the driving portion. I've been in a half dozen accidents, driven in New York City, California, and my little hometown with the same results. I learned, wrecked cars, got injured and eventually lost my drivers license. I've hit other cars, been hit by other drivers, been run down as a pedestrian, got lost in The Bronx...at night and ended up with a road sign on top of my truck.I'm a much better driver now, because I don't drive. My driving skills have significantly improved. I don't crash. I don't hurt myself or others and I don't make mistakes with a 2 ton chunk of deadly metal.The saying goes that life is a highway, so lets put our driving skills to work in our road back to Heavenly Father. We're so busy trying to be perfect drivers that we forget to be purified people. Perfection isn't the goal. Safety, happiness, travel and reaching our destination is what matters. Does it matter how you get there? You bet it does. Its the trip you take that makes the memories. Maybe you started out just hoping you'd get across town and ended up in a ditch somewhere instead. You haven't failed. You're never going to cross town again, or you're just going to do a better job next time?The desire for perfection is an empty pursuit and only ends in heartache. Instead work towards purification. The ability to react calmly when the road gets rough. The ability to pull off the side of the road when the weather is too dangerous. The work faith and humility to wreck, put things back together, heal and try again. You may not be the greatest driver in the end. You may end up like me, just satisfied not to be causing accidents. Either way, you're better and so is the road around you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Run Faster Than You Are Able

With a 34 year history of health problems ranging from my eyes throughout my major organs and ending all the way at a toe on my left foot that stopped growing when I was 14 years old. running has never been on my bucket list. My husband is a runner. He's competed in the St. George Marathon. He runs to relax, work-out, and treat his asthma.  If someone tells me "we should run together" I look over my shoulder to see what's chasing me. Even then, It'll take me a minute to decide if running away is worth it.
Walking? Climbing? Hiking? Activities I sincerely enjoy, but most people I go with do not enjoy having me along. Until I received a borrowed pancreas last year, it was too much for me to do more than walk. Over the last year I've enjoyed hiking again. I went all over West Yellow Stone with my family only two months after surgery. Okay, I wasn't the poster child for the National Forest or anything...but I did it. We finally took our kids to Disneyland and I did two back-toback days all over the park with only sore feet and an extreme dislike for standing in line. Hiking and Zip-lining in Mexico a few months ago was the most fun I've had in years. My body is supporting me for the first time in over three decades and I forget it still has limits.
Last Saturday, I got the crazy idea to go on a hike with Erik and my boys. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. The temperature here in our corner of the desert was nearly 100 degrees and Erik was hesitant. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes and I should've listened...I didn't of course.
The hike was only three miles round trip. It was a well cared for trail. I could do it!
Well, the second we stepped into the driveway and I felt the heat I tried to back out. It was too late. I'd promised the kids, we were all ready to go and Erik knows when I start to doubt, what I need is a swift kick in my butt.
Off we went.
It was just as I should've known. The heat was so intense, my poor borrowed organs mutinied and i barely could walk. I tripped over every stone and crack in the lava. My missing kneecap took a sabbatical and my one remaining leg turned to Jalapeno Jam. Burning hot and mushy. I made it about 3/4 of the way before I had Erik prop me in the shade of a rock and take the kids the rest of the way.
As I prayed for the strength to get back to the car, I wondered why this seemingly short romp across a lava ridge about did me in? Yeah, there were obstacles, but 'come-on' that's just life. Why did I feel my strength had failed me?
That little voice, my conscious or my Savior, whispered the answers. "Do not run faster than you have strength."
It wasn't my body which failed me. It was me who failed my body.
Between the two weeks I've been fighting a monster head cold, and my foray into my own Mt. Everest, I hadn't slept through the night in a week. My blood count was low and I was waiting to recieve IV Iron.  I was only sleeping about 4 hours, coughing the rest of the  night and I was eating only enough to take my medicine and stay alive.
Life does not take from us anything we don't willingly surrender. It throws problems, obstacles and trials in our path. It is only when we give up on the vessel we've been given, that it gives up on us.
Your body will fail you, tell you no more, and refuse to do what you want. Have you ever wondered what it is that you want that is more important than taking care of you?
Yes, your fllor being dirty may drive you crazy...today.  It'll drive you crazy even longer if you break down before you take care of yourself and eventually the floor.
One of the things I've learned over...well, my life, is that there is more to us than what physical capacity. When your body starts to tell you it can't or won't do what you want, find out what's inside you. Find out what you can offer the worl outside of what your body can do.
I'll hike again. In cooler temperatures, with more strength, and better prepared. I still won't be any one's inspiration of strength. I'll do it to remind myself that I'm more than borrowed organs, broken and missing body parts and a stubborn blind lady. I hope people see more of the real me.  I hope the physical  part of me is not who I really am. I guess I'll never know unless I polish  more than my body.