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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pushing Through

Wait for it…. Wait… It’s coming… Four little words strung together forming an innocent question, “How are you doing?”.  I really don’t mind being asked – I’m just sometimes at a loss for the best answer.  So I gauge my response by the individual inquiring. Was it asked to illicit the rhetorical, “Fine, and you?”  Or can I answer honestly; “I’m f** exhausted”!

How I am doing often depends on my level of fatigue when the question is asked.  Truth be told, sometimes it is the worse symptom I face with this illness.  Can’t plan for it, or predict its coming.  Can’t determine the reason for when it will strike.  Can’t do a blessed thing when it arrives.  Fatigue relentlessly comes knocking, trying its best to break down my front door. And so, I push back with a mighty force I didn’t know I had.

The professionals say, “use it or lose it”, as if a worn out clique is really going to help.  The one thing I have to do is also the one thing I cannot do easily – move.   Many days I want only to sit on my couch, feet up in a fully reclined position.   Resting my limbs in a corpse like fashion.   But I am overwhelmed with the thought that someday I may not have the privilege to “use it”.  I’m left to push through with every ounce of energy from my weary soul.

My body’s weakened muscles are due to the signals in my brain being interrupted.  It is like that,  “Can you hear me now?” problem we’ve all experienced. Static and intermittent sounds come through the line – making communication impossible.   This is what I deal with every moment of every day – but I push against the frustration and try to make sense of my bodies muffled messages. 

Fatigue, a word I once reserved for an athletes’ exhaustion after finishing an event.  It was the reward for their efforts and showed strength & fortitude. Now, fatigue means I’m competing in life at the highest level of endurance.  Every moment lived pushing means I’m in the game.  And on the sidelines cheering me on is humor and faith – giving me a new set of rules to play by.  With every exhausted push, I get to trust in something greater than myself.

 I’m now ready for the question when it comes… 

  “How are you doing?”
 I respond in truth saying, 

“I’m pushing back, pushing through & pushing against losing it”.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Shish Kebob

I am not a person who easily gives away a moments sleep.  I need (truly need) 8 hours a night without interruption.  But that devilish invitation to run wild in the playground of terror was unavoidable the past few nights.  Just like that – I am alert and giving life to imagined scenarios.     

         Writing about it in the light – makes those feelings of dread I experienced (during those ungodly hours of night) seem crazy.  But there I was, tossing and turning, going over every detail (actual or imagined) about my failed attempt to host a party.  With all the possible anxieties to hold me captive, the food I chose to prepare & serve became my tormentor! 

I woke reliving how everything prepared tasted terrible.
(Oh Lord, Shish Kebob)
I felt embarrassed and ashamed of the presentation to my guests.
(Good God, Shish Kebob)
I feared the possibility I might have poisoned everyone.
(Have Mercy, Shish Kebob)

Could chicken and beef skewers really have that much power over me?

         On the third night of waking up panicked about Shish Kebob, I stopped the demon in its tracks!   I realized that I was my own worst enemy – listening to a wicked tune.  The get-together, love and laughter shared should have been the lullaby soothing me to sleep.   I had taken my eye off of what was good and allowed Shish Kebob to fill me with foolish worries.

Next time your mind is occupied and fears lead you on a path
of sleeplessness, ask yourself …    Is it something real?  
Or quite possibly, is it just Shish Kebob?


Friday, September 15, 2017

A Storm is Brewing



I knew it in my bones, felt the atmospheric pressure change.  It was a long way in the distance but nonetheless the warning signs were there.  The day before me held clear skies and bright sunshine with the promise of warm temperatures. All seemed as it should for this September day.

Oh, but a storm was brewing...

Leaving my house for work today meant slow and steady steps.  The amount of energy it took to dress, drive the car, unlock the office door and sit at my desk was nothing short of a marathon.  I took a moment to celebrate the victory of completing these events by lifting my arms and raising my eyes upward - as any triumphant marathon runner would do!  The routine of my job allowed for a slower pace.  The kindness displayed by my boss confirmed her admiration and respect.  The day's work was before me and I chipped away at each task.

Oh, but a storm was brewing and could now be seen...

I pushed back my chair and took a deep breath.  With that cleansing and refreshing intake of air - I gained a new perspective.  Today was to be another day of acceptance.  These moments come slowly to me, gently and usually with clarity.  Over the course of my illness, I have experienced many of these moments.  I love the saying, "God meets you wherever you are..."  and I believe in these moments of grace - God gives me a stronger sense of purpose.

Now the storm is raging but I have my umbrella and rainboots...

I am suddenly aware that my quest to continue working as before simply cannot be.  I feel a sense of freedom recognizing this truth and gain a deeper acceptance of my limitations - not with heaviness of heart or any feelings of failure.  As the rain pours down - I am protected by having the faith to know and trust that I can withstand this storm.


"God meets you wherever you are (in the storm) - 
but refuses to leave you there."



~ Praying for all those struggling after the devastating hurricanes~ 



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Whisperer



Ken wakes early with the excitement of a man who clearly has a purpose.  He slips out of bed to begin a morning routine worthy of applause.  With his four-legged companion by his side, Ken responds to a calling. Like the previous mornings,  he can be found outside attending to his new loves.  The geraniums, impatiens, begonias and petunias lining our property wait patiently for him.  They thrive with the outpouring of love by their protector and flourish in the arms of his care.  He is a natural in this role and I crown him the title “Plant Whisperer”.  I believe he may have bestowed names on a few plants and favors the ones who have cultivated from the smallest of seedlings.

Ken moves about meticulously – watering & repositioning planters to maximize the sunlight – and shade to those needing a cool, dry space.  He carries them around our property as if challenging each in their new surroundings. His plants respond by standing tall and vibrantly lush in full bloom. No pot, planter or hanging basket is left behind or forgotten in his care.   With the strength of a defender, armed only with a watering pail – Ken seems to whisper the confidences needed for these plants roots to grow strong.  Roots, which are the life source for the beautiful bouquets we behold.   Flowers, which are the outward sign of the plants response to the “whisperer”.

Heed the whisperer of your soul.




Can I be changed - transplanted to the unfamiliar?  
Trusting there will be light and living water?   
 Are my roots deep & faith strong enough to go where I am being lead?   

Heed the whisperer.

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...