Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Tin Man, a Potato, and Hope

This is me today! Pinterest has some of the most 
hilariously funny chronic illness memes!
Now this is ironic…

The fork slips out of my hand again onto the counter. I will my stiff fingers to move, to somehow pick it back up again and then shuffle back to my desk carrying my lunch with unbending knees and elbows. Chronic Lyme disease as well as the side-affects from its treatment causes joints to ache and stiffen painfully, and today the flare-up is worse than it has ever been before.

Of course, on the day when I get to eat a potato… Today is my 12-hour window to try the food after 9 weeks of deprivation to see how my body reacts, and I can’t stop giggling hysterically as I can’t seem to even hold the knife to cut off a glorious tasty piece. Finally, I just stab the whole thing and gnaw off a bite.

Heavenly! And as I chew the blissful food, I stare at my computer screen, pondering how I’m going to stiff-finger type out a blog post to introduce my most recent newsletter and health update. Maybe the topic of “Thanksgiving,” would be appropriate…after all, I’m trying out potato!
Maybe, as we just celebrated the first Sunday of Advent, I should focus on Hope.

Or maybe both—because for me, it is in the confident presence of hope that I can give thanks…and it’s the expression of thanksgiving that allows me to live in that hope.

I have recently been reading an encouraging and challenging book called Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering edited by Nancy Guthrie. In her introduction, Nancy writes, “Holding on to hope, for us, has not been a vague, sentimental experience. It has been an ongoing choice to believe God’s Word…. I am not holding onto hope in terms of a positive perspective about the future or an innate sense of optimism, but rather holding on to the living person of Jesus Christ” (11).

Six months ago I wandered back to the US from a third world country and found to my surprise, that I had not left turmoil behind. Instead, the world’s eternal ache was groaning here too, shouting and flailing for something, anything, that might allow them to stand in confidence, to look toward the future in hope.

A hope that’s already here—and is more than just a platitude on a greeting card or a carved Christmas sign, but living and breathing and flowing through the moments of our lives until all we need to do is choose.

And so I reach out with two weak and aching hands that can barely grasp a fork and cling to this Man, to rest in the confidence of His promises and bask in their light that makes whether or not I’ll be able to eat a potato again (probably not for a while) fade into the background
Because on those days that my hands stiffen like Tin Man and I can’t hold on anymore, it doesn’t matter. Because He’s hanging onto me.

And so I give thanks.

Check out my most recent newsletter by clicking on this link. If you’d like to receive my newsletters by email (or read archived ones), head over to my Newsletter page and submit your email address there.

Guthrie, Nancy, ed. Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering: 25 Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Problem of Pain. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Autumn Cathedral

I wrote the following blog post back in early October, when I was still processing through what it might mean to remain in the US to deal with my health issues. Unfortunately, I was too sick at the time I wrote it to actually post it on here. So here it is now :)

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25

Image courtesy of Wetcanvas
The sun dips lower until the oak and maple trunks spiderweb like lead came across a forest of stained glass. I sit beneath this everlasting cathedral, until my hands and face are covered in golds, oranges, greens, reds, and I try to hold the moment, like a piece of chocolate on my tongue.

Time passes quickly here in Minnesota. After five years in a country without definite seasons, I find spring, summer, and now autumn slipping past my skin like silk and I can barely catch my breath.
Hurry, hurry, hurry, the breeze whispers through the wind chimes. Winter is coming. This will soon be over. Hurry.

Didn’t I just touch down on this continent—it can’t be time to leave yet, is it?

Originally, I was supposed to head back to Papua New Guinea at beginning of November, but my bags remain unpacked and tickets unpurchased. As a result of my chronic Lyme disease and other co-infections, I will be remaining in the United States for some months until my team of medical professionals has diagnosed, treated, and is confident in my recovery.

And so, I wait. And I wonder, as I watch the breeze peel off the birch leaves, the summer-green dreams dying in a blaze of orange fire—does it hurt when they fall to the earth?

Undefined stretches out before me. After years of ferocious solo life and travel, I can no longer live independently, and I attempt, grateful, to slide back into the rhythm of living at my parents’ house. Fatigue dictates new, limited rules for driving. Old hobbies take too much energy. My job, languages, calling waits 8,000 miles across an ocean while I sit, with a tremor, in a country that I don’t quite recognize as mine. After five years, old friends have drifted and coursed new paths like a river delta. And I remember what it is to live in the United States: people tucked into their houses and scheduled out 3 weeks, rather than a 20m walk between hanging ropes of bananas to borrow a cup of sugar. The five stages of grief, of loss, ripple through me, and I take a deep breath through my nose of winter-coming death, of loam and wood rot and wet leaves.

Golden bits of aspen rain to the ground like confetti, as the glint of a fox’s tail disappears into the weeds. On the equator, time passes from green to green. But here, a vibrant glory before death, and the leaves flutter through my fingers, ready to be trampled underfoot, ripped from the tree’s hands.


image courtesy of Wetcanvas
There is the one oak tree behind our veranda who always tries to skip autumn, tries to hang onto his leaves, until they shrivel brown, shattering at the slightest touch. And when winter bears down and the hoar frost weights the sleeping trees, the waiting trees, they bend and sigh with the knowledge of a coming and better spring…but he


And so I kneel on this gilded cathedral mosaic pooling across the ground, gold fit for a King clutched tightly in my fists and

open my hands.