Monday, May 7, 2018

Hotel Lobby

Why did I agree to come along on this business trip?

The question I force out of my mind as I sit alone at a Holiday Inn in rural Pennsylvania. Ken has left for the day to work at a nearby facility. Although the hotel has everything needed for me to pass the time, I still eagerly await his return. I think about all the possibilities of entertaining myself: Shall I swim?  Shall I read some magazines? Or binge on Netflix? Regardless of which option I choose, I vow to live in the moment, accepting whatever is offered. 

I make my way to the lobby which has a nostalgic vibe, retro in design and worn from the many travelers who have already passed through. The majority of people speaking add “y’all and mam’s” to their sentences.  After a few minutes I am both charmed and annoyed listening to the southern drawl.  With its faded d├ęcor and southern hospitality, this hotel in a quiet Pennsylvania town is surprisingly buzzing with activity.  On today’s agenda I see countless signs posted announcing, The Annual Meeting of Grand Knights.

Situated in the lobby I witness a large crowd of men dressed in black tuxedos move around the halls. They proudly parade about wearing ornately decorated robes signifying levels of authority within the assembly.   As if on cue a booming voice yells, “Meeting of the Knights is called to order” which begins a procession into the banquet hall.  I find the fraternal bond endearing and admire their commitment to what at first glance appears ridiculous.

As the large doors of the banquet hall close, I remain in the lobby with a few wives.  They begin their wait, respectful of their position outside the closed wooden doors. Chatter makes way to conversations about knitting, grandchildren and recipes.  Even among the chatter, a couple women just sit there quietly listening. 

As hard as I try, my mind continues to wonder about the happenings behind the closed doors. Am I the only one upset that these wives have been left here to wait? I begin to scan their faces, looking for a shred of discontent. I lower my eyes to stop from staring, suppressing my anger.  In prayer I ask, “Lord, forgive me for judging the simplicity of these women. Empty me of self so that I may gain a new perspective.”

Upon lifting my gaze – the unmistakable kindness and peace of these ladies has replaced my narrow opinions. And just like that I am in awe of the grace these women possess and the quality found in their waiting.  For it is not about being left behind those mighty wooden doors. It has nothing to do with feeling less important and unworthy. What I am witnessing is the simple act of hearts united in friendship – fully present to one another in and through the waiting.  

I examine my own capacity to wait and see nothing but impatience.  I take note of how difficult it is for me to pause.  To not move forward in thought and deed.  I wait with little grace for time to pass, prayers to be answered and plans to be fulfilled.

I started my day, vowing to live in the moment.  To embrace whatever comes my way.   But I really have no idea how to achieve that state of being.  How to peacefully remain conscious of what is before me without anticipating what is coming next.

Schooled again! I chuckle, this time by a few grandmas’ sitting around passing time.  In a hotel lobby I have clarity to see that living in the moment sometimes means just peacefully waiting. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The White Blouse

I have everything covered – prayers ✔, music ✔, handouts ✔.  All I can think is, what an honor to be leading a group of my peers for a “Day of Reflection”. I am almost ready to ✔ off the wardrobe box as I reach for the classic button-down oxford shirt. This shirt would most certainly lend me the confidence needed to stand before the gathering of women.

It is a simple white blouse.  A timeless classic, that had not been worn in years.  Only a special occasion will get me out of comfy yoga pants and oversized sweatshirts.  This morning, I am reunited with a hidden gem hanging in the far corner of my closet.  I welcome the forgotten blouse with the “prodigal son returning to me” sort of excitement.

Although I have no concern about the agenda or reflection itself, I am troubled by my own appearance. Most people attending the retreat know nothing about me and are unaware of my illness.  My not-so-hidden vulnerabilities are exposed due to the imposing symptoms of my condition.

As I slip the shirt over my arms, I say a little prayer,
“Lord – let my legs carry me there, let me mouth speak words of wisdom, let my heart be light and let my hands….” I stop mid prayer!

Out of my mouth flies a few explicit swearwords because of my real struggle getting dressed.  My hands and fingers have lost the fine motor skills necessary to grasp the tiny buttons on my blouse. I lack the dexterity to fasten them through the buttonhole.  I stand there half clothed – looking down at my hands in utter disbelief.

A somewhat new weakness with my Multiple Sclerosis is happening to my hands.  I have been quietly adjusting by eating left-handed, using only cross body bags, picking up objects with both hands and writing with easy flowing markers. But, the inability to dress myself this morning – was a crushing blow to the resilient woman reflecting back at me in the mirror.

With nothing else to do, I yell out for Ken.  He enters the bathroom a little confused at my cry for help and quickly assesses the current situation.  I feel ashamed as I hold out my now trembling hands.  He moves close and begins buttoning the front of my blouse.  His strength and lack of concern warms my heart.  He continues to talk about anything other then what is before him.  I actually laugh a little watching his big fingers handling the delicate buttons.  In that moment we are taken to another level of intimacy.  Ken moves even closer to kiss my tear stained cheek and gently whispers in my ear, “Hey, remember young Ken – who couldn’t wait to unbutton your blouse?”   

Now smiling,  I give thanks to God,
for the gift of laughter,
for His grace to endure todays struggle,
and oh yeah,
for yoga pants and oversized sweatshirts!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Morning Brew

I shuffle barefoot across the chilled tile floor, as in a performance of a series of rehearsed, choreographed dance moves. Upon my completion of these four simple steps, the aroma of Maxwell House Coffee is filling the air. 

Honestly, I don’t really like coffee. But, I like my routine. It’s the dance and the anticipation of filling my cup that fuels my mornings.  And when I have to rush and miss those steps, I find myself a little off balance.

On mornings when I get those timely steps in, I lift the steaming hot mug to my lips and go for a sip of the brewed goodness. But, upon my initial tasting, I become keenly aware of my indifference to this substance.  Whatever I am thirsting for, whatever needs quenching within me, is left unsatisfied. The morning brewing of coffee is but a poor substitute. 


There is something therapeutic about a routine.  It is the heartbeat of life moving us from one moment to the next.  Living with Multiple Sclerosis gives me the vantage point of appreciating the routine of everyday life.  On any given day I am unsure of how I will be feeling and if my body will cooperate with what I’m hoping to do.  The regular, monotonous, often calculated and predictable daily activities have become the backbone of my existence.

We favor routines for their predictability, but I have found that sprinkled in my everyday routine are surprises. Surprises that are meant to bring me joy, appearing in the form of a blessing. And then there are those Surprises that break through with unwilled and unwelcomed heartbreak.

The act of brewing my morning coffee does little to satisfy my taste buds.  But I approach each mug in the hope that it will.  And I wake each day excited about my morning brew, fully enjoying the routine of the dance.  Maybe those steps of plugging in the machine, filling the water line, adding 4 scoops of ground coffee and hitting the on button are really all I need.

A need to give my, not so stable life – a little routine.  And with a warm cup of Joe in hand – I am ready to be surprised by the Joy & Heartbreak headed my way. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Before Every After

There are Before and After instances in everyone’s lives. It is the universal shift, altering our direction and leading to paths unknown.  The Just Like That moment in life, when Before turns upside down to become the After.  I can identify so many big and small After instants (like falling in love, giving birth…), which changed the course of my future.  I can clearly see the Before my Mom’s death and defining shift in my world After her passing.  Further reflection brings into focus the Before MS diagnosis and the After effect on my life. 

The moment After this one, very often has to be lived as never Before.

I listen carefully to the sound floating through the air as I leave the funeral mass for my friends son … what exactly am I hearing?  I cannot immediately pinpoint the origin of the sound.  I stop; lift my head, giving full attention to its whereabouts.  I have heard this certain something Before.   It is STILLNESS - a QUIET that cuts through the sorrow piercing my soul.  The sound is like the gentle rhythm of a heartbeat …and I know that what I am hearing is the sound of Life Moving Forward.   

Without skipping a beat, Before is gone making room for every After.


"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  
Revelation 21:4

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bittersweet Symphony

This is a "repost" from September 2016.  It tells the story about how I have become like a conductor - orchestrating my way around Multiple Sclerosis.   

Bittersweet YES - but beautiful just the same.   These words give voice to what that feels like.  

(Thank you to my sister Pat, for the beautiful illustration) 


With my hands clutching a small imaginary baton, I feel a sense of power. At my command a symphony lies waiting to be composed with a melody waiting to be heard. The players are all assembled eager to please. I am perched high on the podium, self conscious and wary of my ability to bring this song to life.

I am ready to let go and give in, releasing myself from any feelings of despair. In return for this release, I gain confidence in my capacity to create a masterpiece. I am the conductor and responsible for all that follows from the movement of my baton.

Every morning when I arise I am faced with the reality of my circumstances; but I understand that my job is not for the light-hearted. And I understand that the show must always go on, no matter how I feel. I channel my longing to pickup and play these instruments before me. They are within my grasp but better suited for those treasured “players” in my life who gladly, lovingly and joyfully carry the weight of each note. I am but the catalyst to bring this symphony to a swelling crescendo.

And so, I begin to direct - unifying the performers, setting the tempo, listening attentively, correcting critically and shaping the sound of the ensemble. I make adjustments, work out interpretations and relay my vision for the score.

Each guiding stroke moves us wondrously closer to a newly constructed rendition of a timeless classic.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Time to Behold

A butterfly circles and glides past me with sovereignty reserved for God’s holiest of beings.  Its magnificent design embodies the spirit of heavenly angels with delicate wings emulating the autumn sky. There is a gentle aura of grace as it floats through the air. Peacefully drifting, awaiting only the invitation to be noticed. 

How blessed I am to behold this divine creature.

I could have easily missed it, as in days past.  Walked absentmindedly out the door, down the porch steps and into my car.  Gone about my day, missing this gift sent from heaven above.  

But today, that was not to be…

For this is the story of my current life and it’s unhurried pace. It is living in the present tense with gratitude for the breath filling my lungs. Standing faithful and determined not to let trials cloud what is gloriously unfolding around me.

Through the movement of the butterfly – I am beholding the angels and saints who have come to let me know that I am not alone. This encounter with the butterfly grants me the fortune to - not  just see, but also witness - not just observe, but also receive.  Belief dwelling within me is given flight and what was once unseen has been made known.

And in this time of beholding  - it is well with my soul.
* For Ann - who also received a gift from the butterfly *

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Smile

She sat in the front seat looking straight ahead, as the car came to a stop in the unloading zone. Cautiously opening the door, she swung her legs around to touch the waiting pavement.  With great effort she moved to a standing position and reached for the arms of her helpful driver.  I knew by the tenderness of his touch that this gentleman was her husband.  Before taking her first step, she turned and looked in my direction.   I saw great sadness in her eyes and an agonizing weight on her shoulders, which she struggled to carry.  Our eyes did not meet, because of the tinted glass window separating us. 

All this witnessed from my seat inside the building as I looked out onto the parking lot.  I had arrived early in full anticipation of receiving the newest miracle drug.  The FDA had taken months and finally “fast tracked” it through the system to the anxiously awaiting MS community.   I had a bounce in my step, smile on my face and joy in my heart waiting for my 8-hour cocktail infusion to begin.

She came into the room very quietly with her head down, staring only at the floor.  Her husband made her comfortable in the chair opposite me, and quickly went to check in.  She fumbled through her handbag, searching for something.  Never a smile, never a word spoken, never a glance upward – only great sadness.

Yet, I felt drawn to her, a deep connection with this total stranger. 

Our journey to this waiting room was very similar.  The progression of her illness mirrored my own.  We looked to be the same age.  The swag of her gait and unsteady manner of balance made for a carbon copy of myself.  I knew nothing of her story other then what showed on the outside.  But there was a magnetic pull drawing me toward this kindred spirit.   I wanted to get closer, wanted to offer a light in her darkness.

Her name was called before mine and she left in the same quiet manner with which she had first entered.  The wait seemed forever but finally my name was called.  Upon entering the tiny infusion room – I noticed 10 chairs and only one remained unoccupied.  I made my way through the maze of medical equipment, gadgets and gizmos in the middle of the room, and stood before the empty chair.  I said a payer of thanks when I notice that my new friend would be sitting next to me.  

Turning toward her I said with a tone of authority, “Hey, I believe there’s been a mix-up – you are sitting in my seat – I called ahead and reserved the one with a view”.  For the first time, she looked up and into my eyes with a somewhat confused/startled expression on her face.  Ever so slowly her lips curved upward to form a smile.  Brightness radiated, warming my heart.        

** story dedicated to my MS swim friends - who share their smiles with me

Hotel Lobby

Why did I agree to come along on this business trip? The question I force out of my mind as I sit alone at a Holiday Inn in rural P...