Sneaky Flu

Ruby’s got the flu. I’m home with her at least today and maybe tomorrow, as Jonathon’s out of town.

She came downstairs Sunday morning, flushed and shaking.

“Mom, I don’t feel good,” she said, breathless. She’d gotten home the day before from a two-day long youth convention in Portland. The combination of too little sleep and junk food meals did her in.

I quickly wrapped her up on the couch. She already suspected she had a temperature, because she held the thermometer in one hot hand. The thermometer beeped almost immediately: 100.6 degrees.

“Okay,” I said. “You’re staying home with me.” I didn’t have any church obligations, and even if I did, most likely whatever instrument Jonathon was scheduled to play would trump my back-up vocals.

I grabbed some Dayquil from upstairs, thinking it might give her relief from the fever and sore throat. But she threw it up. And threw up again later. I asked her if she wanted to go back to bed. I’d be here to take care of her.

“Can I just sleep on the couch?”

Sure. Pick a couch. We have six.

She parked herself, a huddled, barely sentient lump, on the purple couch in front of the TV. I left her alone. I had vacuumed that room early in the morning. I’m glad I did now. I checked in on her, added a blanket. After a few hours, we tried some water. She kept it down. Then, tea. She groaned now and then. Her stomach still roiled. She fell asleep at one point. I think that helped immensely. Her temp peaked at over 102 degrees.

She never ate any solid food. I ran a hot bath for her and got her into bed, this time with Nyquil. She woke up a bit better today. She drank tea, even put milk in it herself. She ate a bit of toast and cut up mango.

I don’t like it when one of the kids is sick. I imagine most parents don’t. We wish we could take it on ourselves instead. We know we’ll recover; we only have to wait it out. But maybe that’s something we should let our kids learn on their own. It’s part of growing up. We’ve already rooked them out of experiencing chicken pox, measles and mumps. I had all of those as a child. They helped me to learn that I can get really, really sick and still recover. Healing is possible. God designed our bodies to function in amazing ways. We have immune systems that we can enhance for greater, faster recovery. We can play a part in our healing, but ultimately, God does the work.

So, in a way, I get a front row seat to a small miracle with my girl. She’s already laughing a little and voicing her preferences again. We’ll keep her and ourselves quarantined until the ick passes. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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The Miracle

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”- Albert Einstein

We watched a movie the other night – “Miracles from Heaven”. Despite the semi-cheesy title, it turned out to be a good flick. It’s based on a true story. Some of you have seen it, but for those who haven’t, here’s a plot summary complete with spoilers:

A little girl, 10 years old, from a good, God-fearing family suddenly takes ill. After months of what gets misdiagnosed as acid reflux and lactose intolerance, a specialist discovers her digestive system lacks the ability to process food. And there’s no cure for the disease.

Jennifer Garner plays the mom, Christy, in this movie. Say what you will about her, she does mom roles well. The girl, Anna, doesn’t get better. In fact, time becomes precious as they realize she won’t live long. The family’s church and community rally around the family. Hundreds of prayers go up for Anna’s healing. Anna and her mom spend time jetting back and forth from Boston back to their small Texas town, getting doses of an experimental drug to prolong her life and give her some relief.

One day, Anna and her older sister climb a tree. Anna loves to climb. At her sister’s urging, they go up about 30 feet. Then the tree branch cracks. Her older sister urges Anna to get into the tree hollow to save herself. Strangely, the tree hollow collapses but the damaged branch stays intact. Anna falls 30 feet inside the tree, all the way to the base.

Firefighters rescue Anna out of the tree. She’s sustained only minor injuries, the first miracle. The doctors are amazed that she only has a slight concussion and no broken bones.

It gets better. Her digestive condition is gone. She’s gotten healed. Somehow, some way, she is back to normal. It can only be called a miracle. Anna’s specialist has no other word for it.

I don’t know why God heals some people and not others. This movie left me with more questions than answers. Early in the movie, women from Christy’s church told her Anna’s illness might be due to sin in Christy or her husband’s life, or possibly even Anna’s. Christy’s faith tanked after that.

Christy quotes Albert Einstein in the movie, the one at the top of this blog. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. How do I live? How should I live? This life, the air we breathe, our senses, it’s all beyond wonderful. Even more than that, what if Anna hadn’t gotten healed? Could she still see her life, limited though it was, as a miracle? I think I need to.

 

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Friday Feeling

Happy Friday!

I decree a dance party today.  Enjoy.

I’m realizing more and more how much I need the Lord’s presence.  Heck, how much *we* need His presence.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

I’m seeing God’s grace in situations where it simply shouldn’t be there. Without Him, well, it’d be a lost cause.  People coming back from aneurisms.  Others getting up from sickbeds. Friendships restored and hearts healed.

I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and kindness.

Go forth today, and be excellent to each other.  That is all.

National Chocolate Day

Photo from eofdreams.com

Photo from eofdreams.com

I hit a real low this weekend, getting a wee cold and a touch of flu.  When your sleep deficit stretches into weeks, you get worn down. It accumulates, like fallen leaves in a gutter. Your immune system can’t function at optimal levels.  You catch whatever is lying in wait to ambush unsuspecting human hosts. I say “a touch”, because by yesterday, I felt better. As in, do-all-the-laundry-and-fold-it  feeling better. Nothing like the flu of 2010-11 where I was down for a month.  Nyquil came to my rescue, facilitating peaceful sleep and amazingly vivid dreams.   Today I even managed a little workout besides taking the stairs.

This illness made me push the reset button.  My thoughts and attitudes have been stinky. I need more Jesus. Again. When you’re down with the ick, you have time to think. I reached the end of my  “goodness”.  I saw some – not all – of what’s wrong with me. Folks, it wasn’t pretty.   I’m digging into the Bible.  I’m not following any set plan, but I find I need the Word like a drowning man needs a lifeboat. I want to gain something tangible this time.  I’ve written before about how I’ve never felt like the Bible was for me.  It’s always seemed like it belonged to other people, namely my parents and other spiritual leaders in my life. Most times, I felt like it spoke at me but not to me.

Serendipitously, this is also National Chocolate Day.  Though if you’re anything like me, you eat chocolate regularly, dare I say religiously.  You don’t need a special day to commemorate this hallowed food. Nay, I say! I would eat it in the rain, and I would eat it on a plane…Yeah.  It’s that good. I plan on eating some today, in fact.

Yet even more than that, I want to taste the sweetness of God’s Word. I’ve functioned for a long time at low levels, picking up whatever bad attitude came into my thoughts or activities. My spiritual immune system has suffered for lack of spending time digesting the Bible and in the presence of Jesus.  It satisfies me more than a hunk of dark chocolate on a wet and wild day. I need its truth to go down into my innermost places and heal what’s broken.

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8

Yellow Season

The air is warm, but the light slants a bit now.  The trees bordering the driveway sport yellow leaves as of this week.  Something about the breeze makes today feel like the first day of fall.

Jonathon’s finishing up the paint on our house this weekend.  The back side, away from regular viewing, didn’t get finished last month.  We ran out of paint and time.  He’s been working on it, little by little, yanking off old siding and putting on new.  The rotted spots had to be replaced with fragrant cedar shingles. Then priming those new shingles. And now, painting the whole smash.

“How’s it going?” I asked.  I peeked around the back side of the house. Glistening yellow shingles greeted me.

“It’s going well. I gotta get up under the dormer,” a yellow-speckled Jonathon informed me.

It’s turned out to be a labor-intensive project.  Our house, last painted in the 80s, sorely needed the TLC of a new paint job.  Consequently, the siding soaked up the fresh paint like an enormous wooden sponge.

Rex, freaked out by the drone of the sprayer, skulked off into the woods.  Do they make cat Xanax?

We’re like this old house.  We’re constantly under renovation. Yellow traffic lights mean slow down. Sometimes we might even be surrounded by yellow police tape:  authorized personnel only.  Life beats on us, causing external and internal damage.  We patch at the visible damage with facelifts, weight loss, and updated wardrobes. We dab at scars with makeup.  We smile at the world through our pain.

Even now, I hear Jonathon hammering away at some wayward shingle.  They must be stuck down tight, staggered just so, to keep out the elements. The whole house shakes and the windows rattle in protest.

What do we do about the inside work?  We take it to God.  He can gently rip off the rotting slats we’ve held onto to keep the damaged parts safe. He can use insight and wisdom of others to help us work through the tattered finery of our painful experiences. His word cuts through the excuses we hide behind to protect ourselves from new injuries. Our old ways of thinking about ourselves and others get stripped away.  In return, he hands us the glowing, variegated coverings of His love, peace and joy.  He whispers, “I will never leave your nor forsake you. You are my bride, my beloved.”

Will we let Him in? He’s knocking even now. Do you feel your house shaking? He longs to restore and repair.  We may be vulnerable and broken for a little while.  That’s okay. It will pass. It takes time to heal. Take this season to soak in His love. Rest assured, He will put you back together again.

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

You Go Girl Half Marathon Recap

you go girlYesterday, I ran the You Go Girl Half Marathon in Tacoma. And I finished.  Let me sum up.

I signed up for this race back in the late spring.  I figured I’d have enough time to train for it, adding in Saturday long runs to increase distance.  I did 8 miles, 9 miles and so on, adding another mile each week.  My training runs, as you know, met with mixed results.  I hurt, and a lot.  Pain during and after these runs rated about a 6-8.  The last long run I did, which ended up being just shy of 12 miles, was on September 1.  Then I got a cold, which kicked my butt for most of the week.  I had to taper much earlier than I planned.

My last run Thursday before the race ended up being around 2 miles.  Due to jackhammer-like pain, I had to piecemeal it.  Enormously frustrated, I walked inside, head down.  That night, I’d had it.  How could I possibly run 13 miles in 3 days?!  I could barely run 2 back to back.

Mercifully, Jonathon suggested we pray.  At this point, I was angry.  I didn’t want to pray.  Perhaps you’ve felt this way.  Where was God during all this time?  I prayed on my own and with others several times during the past nearly 2 years on this very subject.

As we prayed, something came to mind:  the 2012 Portland Marathon.  That, friends, was my last long race.  If you recall, I made it to 18 miles before I bonked and had to drop out.  I made light of it and tried to move on, but the failure, after working so hard and trying and pushing, crippled me.  Literally.  The pain in my back that radiated down my right leg caused me to be able to only walk for a season. You’ll never know how many odd stretches and strengthening exercises I tried to relieve the pain. I improved over time but never reached full strength.  I didn’t even like running most of the time because of it. I internalized the failure and as I trained for yet another endurance run, my old inner vows haunted me. I hadn’t forgiven myself.  It appears I jammed the disappointment and self-hatred at scoring a DNF into my right rear pocket.  Nobody could see it, but boy, did I feel it!

I had to repent of believing I was a loser.  I had to confess I thought of myself as a failure, at least in this regard.  My body could only react to what my spirit told it. Believe me:  I know this sounds weird.  All I know is after I prayed and told God I was sorry for believing those lies, the healing began.  I felt the pain moving like a tingling down my back and out my leg.

The healing continued that night as I slept.  I could lie on my back again, where for nearly 2 years I’d had a golf ball-sized knot preventing me from any position but on my left side.  My right shoulder got healed, too, something I’d been seeing the chiropractor for for at least 4 years.  I was, and am, so very thankful to God.

Grateful and overwhelmed, I hit the start line on Sunday morning with only 2 thoughts:  be ferociously optimistic and go slow, taking it mile by mile.  Honestly, to be pain-free felt like a huge victory in itself.  I almost didn’t care about the race.  Almost.

The day dawned beautiful and cold at 36 degrees.  Mom, Jonathon and I made our way to Tacoma as the sun topped the tallest trees. Tacoma, situated on the Puget sound, reminds me of Portland.   We arrived at the start line and saw several hundred women – and a couple dozen men – waiting and chatting.  Most men wore pink, part of the deal allowing them to race.  Some took it a step further and wore tutus and pink compression socks.  Several non-running dads pushed little boys and girls in strollers as their wives pinned on bibs.

I spotted the 2:00, 2:10 and 2:20 pacers right off.  Ideally, I wanted to finish in 2 hours.  But since I hadn’t raced this distance in 2 years, I figured I better just aim to finish.

The race had several downhill parts, the tall buildings providing welcome shade. We did a mile loop on a gravel path in a darling local park.  Jonathon and Mom waved to me from there.The first six miles went by pretty quickly.  I kept around my normal pace and focused on relaxing and looking at the scenery along the way. I thanked God for cool breezes and getting to be outside. This in itself felt miraculous.

Since the race was supposed to be all women, I’d hoped to find camaraderie on the course.  I did.  As I crested the first overpass down by the waterfront, I chatted with two gals in purple tank tops on my left.

“Why can’t it end here?” I asked, looking out at the peaceful Pacific, dreamy blue in the morning light.  Boats large and small pushed through the inviting water.  The panoramic view encouraged my decision to walk a minute and breathe it all in.

“Oh, don’t worry, ” said the redhead, her hair back in a French braid under her visor.  “It’s pretty flat from here.”

And it was.  Flat and long.  The stretch to the turnaround proved to be endless.  The trouble with turnarounds is that someone is always already on their way back while you continue to soldier on in pursuit of the end of the loop. I kept looking, and looking.  Orange safety cones stretched on an endless asphalt horizon.  Where *was* the blasted thing?!  Wait a minute.  What if I turned around now?  I could just skip over to the other side of the cones and turn towards the finish.  Who would know?  Bad Susan! I had to hold myself by the scruff of the neck to stay on the straight and narrow.  Sigh.

At last I reached the turnaround.  The final 3 miles stretched on and on, sun-drenched and dazzling.  I had to walk more here as my stamina gave out.  I chose to stay encouraged and enjoy the day anyway.

The two gals in purple passed me at mile 11.

“Let’s go, Shelton!” the brunette cheered. It lifted my heart.

After running for a while by my lonesome, I caught up with a tall gal in blue, dark hair back in a ponytail.

“Hey, good job!” she said to me.  Truly, we ladies encouraged each other all along the course.  Shouts of, “You can do it!” and “Way to go, ladies!” chorused out across the miles. We were all in this together, win or lose, anyway. No multitasking here.

“And to you! Hey, I’m getting hungry,” I said.  My stomach growled its assent.

“Me, too,” she said, a small grimace creasing her face.  “But we’re almost there.”

Soon after, she took off.  We caught up again later.  By that time, we needed to crest one more overpass, run over the top and then down to the finish.

As I spiraled down the ramp, I saw the finish line, inflatable and unmistakable.

“It’s mine!” I said and sped up.  Grinning like an idiot, I made it in just under 2:20.  Not bad for an old broad.  I ran into both the purple-clad ladies, thanking them for their friendliness, and the blue gal.

“I haven’t run a half marathon in 13 years,” the pony-tailed Amazon told me between sips of water.  Wow.  Impressed,I congratulated her.

I had no idea when I signed up for this race all that would occur. Why didn’t God heal me sooner?  I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t ready to admit my own powerlessness and sinful thinking until earlier last week. I’m just glad He healed me. I have a comeback story of my own. Today, I’m a little stiff but nothing too serious.This pain, birthed out of extra exertion, will subside. Thanks be to God! His love endures forever.

But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. – Psalm 18:6

Axolotl

axolotl

Over lunch today, Zac told us about a funky freshwater creature. Axolotls, members of the salamander family, live exclusively in Lake Xochimilco in Mexico. How very posh.  The one above looks like the model for Toothless, the dragon of “How to Train Your Dragon”, no?

“Axolotls keep on living, even if you cut off their arms and legs.  As long as the core remains intact, the limbs will grow back”, Zac informed us.

I got excited.  I know starfish can regrow limbs, but I didn’t know of any other creature with that capability. After we finished our meal, he pulled up information about axolotl on the interwebs.

Random Wikipedia quote:  The axolotl is carnivorous, consuming small prey such as worms, insects, and small fish in the wild. Axolotls locate food by smell, and will “snap” at any potential meal, sucking the food into their stomachs with vacuum force. Translation:  They, uh, suck on a regular basis.

The fact that axolotls never go through an awkward puberty intrigues me.  Suddenly, poof!  They’re adults.  No swelling of the hips, increased muscle mass or facial hair.  They achieve instant adulthood, no painful transition necessary.

Wikipedia also says:  The feature of the salamander that attracts most attention is its healing ability: the axolotl does not heal by scarring and is capable of the regeneration of entire lost appendages in a period of months, and, in certain cases, more vital structures. Some have indeed been found restoring the less vital parts of their brains. They can also readily accept transplants from other individuals, including eyes and parts of the brain—restoring these alien organs to full functionality. In some cases, axolotls have been known to repair a damaged limb, as well as regenerating an additional one, ending up with an extra appendage that makes them attractive to pet owners as a novelty. In metamorphosed (chemically altered) individuals, however, the ability to regenerate is greatly diminished. The axolotl is therefore used as a model for the development of limbs in vertebrates.

This, to me, is the most interesting feature of the axolotl. Sever their limbs, perhaps by accident or deadly predator intent, and they continue to live. The will to survive is strong with this one. Restoring “alien organs” to total health.  Wow.  Brains whole again. Generating *extra* appendages?  Bring it.  It’s almost like the axolotl has the elixir of life running through its amphibious veins.

As Christians, we possess new life within us.  We can regenerate.  Oh, our arms and legs don’t grow back.  And, unfortunately, we have a gangly “teenage maturity” phase that can last for years as we’re changed from glory to glory.  But our hearts mend, even after catastrophic damage.  Our minds can be renewed through spending time with God and His word. We have eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If you’ve ever felt like anything good and worthwhile in your life has been decimated, hang on. Remember for us Homo sapiens, there is only one Re-generator, only one who can make us whole again:  Jesus.