When stuff got real {and in health, part 2}

(part one is here)

IMG_1122The human condition (I assume. Maybe it’s an American condition? A Christian condition?) means we can make ourselves feel guilty for everything. Sure, my husband is in the hospital and we don’t know what is wrong, but it could be worse. I thought of the wife from a popular southern gospel group, who has spent more than a month at her husband’s side after a stroke and complications. I thought of my friend Kelli, who spent weeks by her son’s bedside in a different state, with her teenage daughter, new home, and fairly new husband left behind. It can always be crazier, more complicated, more serious.

But to me, Rod being on major IV nutrients for 36 hours, and then being told one of his levels had gone back down, felt serious. In fact, I think of that moment as when, er, “Shtuff got real.” Because moments before, in the quiet, early-morning moments before visitors and phones, Rod pledged he was coming home that day, Friday. And even though we both played it brave, it wouldn’t make sense for him to come home if things weren’t doing what they were supposed to do.

And meanwhile, life had to go on. I had no sitter for KK on Friday. There were some floors that desperately needed sweeping and clothes that were piling up.  There was a very special project at work that also involved “the human condition” (a formerly homeless lady we’d ‘adopted’ was moving into her apartment, and I was already a day late with linens and dishes and things…) that had to be cared for. A friend of mine had received disturbing news, and for that, the world needed to stop for a moment. A single mama at church had a scary situation with her baby in the ER of the same hospital, and no one cries alone in my presence. Another friend had a miracle take place on an operating table, and that needed to be celebrated. And on. As much as I wanted the whole world to stop because mine felt like it was imploding a little bit, I couldn’t. Couldn’t cry. Couldn’t really hug my husband. Couldn’t stop being a grown-up.

That turned out to be the best thing.

The details of Friday, of the whole experience, still unfurl slowly in my head. The summary is that I left Rod at 11am for a full day of Life Stuff, and the more I wanted to head back to him, the more delayed I was. The more I wanted my head to be quiet, the more people reached out (which my heart longs for… and here it was, happening. People in 10 states praying for him. I became a one-woman Rod Burton PR Firm… again! :) The more I longed for things to be resolved, the more out of control they felt (’tis why, inexplicably, in the middle of that crazy day, I swept all my floors and did a load of laundry. That, I could control).

Meanwhile, Rod wasn’t alone. Paige visited…our elder pastors..our friend and his son. The nurses were excellent. The phone calls and texts were abundant (even though he was still being covert about his stay). And then, by the time I drove through Taco Bell with the girls and headed back to the hospital, he had a diagnosis.

It happened without me there to listen, without me there to Google, without me there to hold his hand. We had an answer: Celiac disease. One quick read answered a dozen questions from the last few years, and a weekend of reading has answered countlesss more. The more we know, the more empowered we feel, the his history makes sense to us.

room 204Friday night, when all else was said and done, I sat next to my husband, my best friend, my love, in that teeny and kind of awful hospital bed, and after two pretty sleepless nights, he leaned against my shoulder and fell almost immediately to sleep. That is who we are and that is how we do things, and I know it makes me sound like a high school girl to be all “I just want to be with him,” but I just want to be with him, especially when he is vulnerable. That’s our love story. We do this crazy life together, and we are both better for it.

Rod left the hospital Saturday afternoon, not quite 72 hours after entering. I had left him to shower while I went to buy gluten-free bread and Bisquick (thank you, Kroger), and pick up the girls (thank you, Somalia!). By the time I returned, he was dressed in his Kentucky blue, holding his bags, and waiting in the sunshine for us. We made a few calls, put our phones away, and spent most of the remainder of the weekend resting, reading, snacking on gluten-free food (exotic stuff, like fruit!), and generally being thankful for home and health.

There are a hundred themes that this experience has touched in my life. Fear… control… responsibility… marital love… parental love… the fact that I am my parents’ daughter no matter how old or far away I am… the fact that I married a man 13 years older than me… the fact that some friends are friends who call themselves friends and some friends are there in the trenches…faith, trust, reliance on God – not just for my own peace, but for my husband’s life and my family’s wholeness.

I don’t know that there is any one place where I was supposed to “arrive” through this experience. I do know that some things that seemed challenging before, now seem just fine; in particular, eating healthier and weaning myself from my Internet/iPhone addiction. I know that when the chips are down, it is not just a handful of other people who hold us together: it is God, working through me, The Wife, The Mama, of this beautiful family that was made by His grace! And this family is what God gave me to”do.” It is what I will focus my thoughts on. It is what I am so incredibly thankful for.

GF-welcomeThank you to everyone who called, prayed, cared, visited, and also, to those who have already begun sharing your stories!


and in health {part one}

and in healthWritten late night on Wednesday, March 6, 2013

There are certain occurrences that make me want to run home… to Chicago… even after nearly 2 years and an internal voice that often whispers, This is home. But sometimes, things happen there… momentous things… like a baby is born to a sister, or best friend breaks her foot and needs help for 6 weeks, or a gramma goes into the hospital, or there’s a retirement party, or someone is moving away to a place I may not ever get to visit, or any other of a dozen (a hundred?) things.

And sometimes, things happen here, and I find myself caught off guard because it is still new, because even though this is home, the natural, instinctive reactions I might have had to a circumstance 2 years ago do not yet exist in this version of our life.

It happened this week. It was a simple phone call… well, two really. One came in the late morning, when Rod said, “I have to go have my blood work done again.” He’d finally gone for the check-up we’ve all been nagging him about for three years, as his weight, energy, and strength have dropped. His doctor identified a level that was so low she thought it must have been a lab error. So he went back to the lab, and I went to Google. As soon as I started reading symptoms, I knew it was not a misread. I just knew. (“I knew like you know about a good melon.” {When Harry Met Sally}) But Rod went about his day, taking care of business and even pausing to buy me an anniversary present, two weeks early. So after a hectic work day, I got home, prepared food for the girls and snacks for our Wednesday night church classes, and forged ahead.

Then another call came, the one I’d talked myself out of expecting. Rod confirmed: he had to check into the hospital to be dosed with calcium and tested for causes of his dangerous shortage.

And I was gripped with panic. And tears. And, “Oh my Lord, how do I manage all these pieces?” Because I wanted to be with my husband, but I have little girls, and big kids with jobs, and friends with jobs and kids of their own, and another friend who’d had surgery earlier that day, and my MOM AND DAD ARE A THOUSAND MILES AWAY!

Cue the goodness… knowing who to tell was key. Rod did not want grand announcements and fussiness.(No church phone tree, no Facebook). I texted my co-workers. How awesome for me that they are pastors and friends as well? The prayers were immediate, as was the support. A few key people in town were contacted, ones who had the right words (‘Pack a phone charger!’ among them). A few others were contacted with the no-holds-barred I am panicking. Please help! I had a good cry while I ‘got stuff ready’ and then got over it. Because we have to.

Paige, the Glue, Paige, our daughter, who is always there for us, was there for us, was there for her sisters. And a steady stream of people offered their presence. And some others offered scriptures (Hi, Psalm 139). And Rod’s boss… who lives 4 hours away… offered delivered meals and lawn service (I have yet to meet this man, but I love him).

We are blessed. In good times and bad, lean times and plentiful, sickness and health. There is honestly nothing that derails me more than my husband being unwell. Even in this case, when he feels fine, having him away from me physically, and in the emotional sense that automatically seems to accompany it, is sucky to the core. I hate when *I* can’t take care of everything he needs. I hate when he is in a place I can’t reach. And quite honestly, even though I am all Woman… Hear Me Roar, when it comes to our marriage and our family, I don’t like being the strong one. It is his place, and he is really, really good at it.

When he is away for work, I have learned to embrace the quiet of nights after the girls are asleep. Music or videos play on my little tablet, lights are dimmer, and I enjoy the silence. With him in the hospital, i want brightness and noise and distractions. I want not to be lulled asleep by soft glows or mellow tunes, but pounded into unconsciousness by sensory-overload. I want him back where he belongs.

To be continued.

Wordless Wednesday: blue sky thinking

I saw this little T-shirt ad last night. It read, “I wasn’t made for winter! I want my flip flops!”










And with that, I will ignore the chill in our air and focus on the, no…our… signs of spring.

Impromptu trips to the store, in which we stop to look at the lobsters and get to drive the (hated) race cart.
We moved to our new street in the summer. I’m thinking spring is going to be off-the-chart gorgeous there.

Randa feels like rockin’ the shades. All the time…
KK feels like rockin’ all the accessories. And she so can.

Yes. Sometimes we just have to buy overpriced flower pots from the grocery store… because they are yellow and pretty and seem to yell SPRIIIING!

Just like this screams BEACH!!!! and soon will be warm and even more blessedly inviting.


fact vs. truth (a summary)

God and I had some moments this weekend.

rainyI helped organized and attended a women’s conference at church, with author & speaker Rhonda Holland, a woman I’d only met briefly, online, but I knew, just KNEW, she was going to have something to say – for me.

I am still digesting what I heard and what I learned, and little things during Friday aligned to let me know that those messages were for me.

Not unlike God, the perspective I was grasping, most excitedly, on Friday night was one I was challenged to apply first thing on Saturday morning.

Because I am still working through, praying through that part, I will share this part:

The truth always trumps the facts.

Hmm. WHAT?

That’s right. Ms. Rhonda said, “The TRUTH always trumps the FACTS.”

And in this, she about summed up the battlefield that is my mind. I will argue to breathlessness with others, myself, and God, that something is true because it is logical, evident, and tested.

But does that make it the ultimate truth?

And lest this become too paradoxal, let me share some of the list I have been making since jotting down that quote:

{this is the easiest one}
Fact is, I was infertile.
Truth is, He gave me 4 children – 2 from my womb, and 2 from my heart.

{this is a constant one}
Fact is, I was left out.

Truth is, I am loved.

{this is, in some ways, the hardest one}
Fact is, I’ve watched several of my dreams shatter and ventures fail.
Truth is, God’s promises are yes and amen…He who began a good work in me is faithful to complete it…No good thing will He withhold from those who do right. “The Bible tells me so.”

Fact is, this is the most it has rained since we moved to Myrtle Beach, and the atmosphere is depressing, and we’ve half-joked about needing to move some place sunnier and warmer… Florida. Arizona. South America…
Truth is: there was a bit of sun today, and there will be again, even when it feels like it’s going to rain forever.


if I were southern, I’d say: It ain’t about you

It is so easy to think “it” is about us.

– when we’ve been left out
– when we’ve been overlooked
– when we’ve been avoided
– when we’ve been forgotten
– when we’ve been replaced

Look at those words, even. Most of them imply intent. They imply someone or some ones purposely excluded us, decided we were not good enough, swerved to avoid us, or decided we were not important.

And it is easy, so easy, to think that is what has happened. Because when we are suffering – be it from physical sickness or emotional desolation, be it from loneliness, confusion, or lack of provision, be it from insecurity or heartache – it seems to us that everyone knows how badly we feel, and they just don’t understand or care.

Many of us also assume that because we occasionally post our bidness on a social networking site or tell it to some people who know some of other people, everyone knows. And on the flip side, we think because someone only posts happy, upbeat, attractive updates, photos, Tweets, that they are obviously living a prosperous and joyful existence… with no problems.

Seriously. “We” need to get a grip.

Most of the time, and I do speak to myself here as well as some serious drama queens out there, it isn’t about us. People don’t know. They don’t know about your skills, talents, wants, needs, shortages, gaps, abilities, or dreams. They don’t know, most likely, because you haven’t told them.. and part of the reason is because so many of us spend time speaking in ambiguity on the Internets and so little time making efforts to deepen relationships.

(Buffy always boils it down better than I do…)

Buffy, EarshotOh, let me give you a real life example. Our neighbor. I don’t know her… don’t know her name. Don’t know if she has kids, good or bad health, potions brewing in her kitchen, a plot to kill our puppy, etc. I know nothing about her, other than she Never Ever says “hi” or makes eye contact, and she enjoys leaving notes for us, our kids, and our guests rather than making an attempt to talk to us. Her notes have typically come at a “bad time,” like on Christmas Eve or when we’re having a birthday party, or when I have 20 minutes to grab dinner for everyone before we have to leave the house again and she’s decided that our dog’s ability to bark is “inconsiderate and unbearable.”

My instinct is to take her scrawled-on-paper-towels-or-sticky-notes less-than-neighborly messages personally. But I won’t. Because I know it’s not *my* dog keeping her up all night, and I know that the 12 inches of exposed mud on her parkway accidentally left by my guest is an accident, not a crime. And I know that she is probably much more miserable about something else than she is about where on the public street my daughter parks her car on a single random night.

She very well might think that all these little incidents mean that our family is personally conspiring against her. Not so much. Because the only time I think of her is when she ignores me in the front yard or leaves me a snotty note.

So am I a better neighbor than she is?
(well, of course not, though maybe more polite. I’m working on it…)

I know a lot of people give something up for this Lenten season. This year, I am giving up ASSUMPTIONS. I am giving up thinking anyone has it better than I do. I am giving up focusing on the crap. And I am giving up waiting for help or friendship instead of just asking for it.

God has given me a new friendship in this past year that is so unlike any other I have had. If you are my friend, you know I am all jump-up-and-down, share the little moments, arms-and-refrigerator-always-open, welcoming, loyal, and enthusiastic. But I am also sosososo insecure, in a “I had no friends for most of 4th grade and the 5th graders always made fun of my clothes” kind of way, so when I get a less-than-warm vibe (doesn’t have to be chilly, just less than warm) or even a lack of returned effort, my mind immediately goes, “She’s just not that into you.” Even though we have honestly shared our insecurities, at length, through tears, several times. Even though every single time I get this way with her, we are always able to talk through it and arrive at a good place. Even though I know, quite frankly, that I am being stupid.

Sometimes we take comfort in self-pity because it is more comfortable that awareness. Self pity means we don’t have to be aware of anyone’s feelings but our own. And where does that get us?

Rod and I have a little sound-bite from a show we gave up on before it was over. I adored Luka & Abby on ER, and I was so sad the first time they broke up (I have no idea how it all went for them in the longrun). Anyway, Luka’s words to Abby during that argument were so blunt and mean that they made us laugh, and when we need a moment of levity during self-pity, they are revived:

Luka: you're not that pretty...

I know in these modern times we are encouraged to know ourselves, and I am all for that. But let’s not be so bogged down in awareness of our own selves that we assume everyone else is in touch with us, too. If you need a friend, be a friend. And if that doesn’t work, grab someone’s arm, look her in the eye, and say, “Hey! I need a friend!” And if that doesn’t work… a) Keep trying for awhile (‘toxic’ friendships are another topic entirely) and b) Find someone who is capable of giving you the care you need right then. I know not every friend is going to fit into my “Come curl up on my couch and watch Friends with me” comfort spot, but I have plenty who do – and plenty of available space for the text-friends, restaurant-friends, office-friends, church-hallway-friends, etc., etc.

When we look beyond ourselves, there are a whole lot of good people to behold.