Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Things that make you go hmmm…

I have a dear friend who makes “10 Things…” lists. I always enjoy reading them. Here’s one from the last few weeks of my life.

  1. Sometimes you get an invitation to a new adventure, which only serves to help you know you prefer this current adventure.
  2. Sometimes it takes a serious fall that could have been serious-er to help you know how much you really like being alive. And “there’s a million things I haven’t done. Just you wait. Just you wait.”
  3. Sometimes it takes a severe allergic reaction affecting your arms, legs, and neck to help you have a dose of real empathy for those who have uncomfortable and embarrassing skin conditions all the time. Seriously, Friends, some of your friends/family/clients/students/teachers with psoriasis and eczema and such are wearing long sleeves in the heart of the summer because they feel like lepers. I have found myself wanting to wear a shirt at the grocery store that reads: It’s an allergic reaction. It’s not contagious. It even affected my work, as I had planned to visit some homebound folk today, but didn’t want them to worry – since many of them have compromised health and cannot afford any type of exposure to illness. I will simply go in a few days when my rash has cleared up, but those with chronic skin conditions regularly have to offer explanations and wear those sleeves as best they can.
  4. Sometimes you agree to be the chaplain at Music Week at a summer camp of hundreds of musical children and adults, and it helps you remember how sacred are rhythm, melody, harmony, and silence – and that you worship a creative, endlessly interesting God.
  5. Sometimes you agree to be the chaplain at Music Week, and it bubbles to the surface one of the embarrassing and difficult conflicts within our congregations:
    1. we want the finest of musicians serving in our midst
    2. some of the finest musicians are gay

    This means in our holy community, we have people offering their exquisite gifts to and for us in the name of Jesus. It means that very often, when we sing our favorite hymn, and our spirits are lifted to and through the thin spaces between earth and heaven, the fingers, brain, feet, voice, and creativity that offer us that moment are possessed by a gay person. So, Christ’s Church has a choice: accept the giver and the gift in the same breath of gratitude, or tell Jesus we do not like the way he gives us his gifts. We do not get to have it both ways. We cannot say, “Thank you for the music. It has restored my soul. The musician, however, is broken.”

  6. Sometimes you rack up plenty enough emergency room, urgent care, and bloodwork bills to reach your out-of-pocket limit for the year, so you start thinking of all the things you have ignored or not got tested when advised to do so. And you feel every minute of your 48 years…and you are not sure you want to know what all those tests reveal. But, in the very next breath – maybe before the first breath is complete – you are just so grateful for health insurance and an HRA account and a job that tosses money in that account just for taking health assessments online. So, you dial the phone and make the first long-neglected appointment.
  7. Sometimes you watch your daughter just start adulting, and when you get really quiet and totally honest, you admit that you are not nervous about her moving out next month. She’s doing great. She’ll do great. She’s stronger than you will ever be, and you pray that her strength doesn’t have to be tested quite so brightly as yours has. When you imagine her as an elementary school teacher, you feel such relief that there will be a couple dozen kids every year who get her light, strength, creativity, artistry, and intellect. They are luckier.
  8. Sometimes you look at the calendar and you see it’s only 88 days until your son stands at the foot of a cross, holding his Love’s hands, promising to participate wholly in a holy relationship until death. He’s already got one year under his belt of teaching high school special ed math in the heart of Balitmore. (When you told someone about him and his job, the person said, “There are givers and takers: he’s a giver.”) He’s more than you expected in so many ways. His creativity and kindness match his spooky-smart-intellect, and his hunger for justice drives him.
  9. Sometimes you confess to your financial planner that you know loads of other adults manage all their bills and savings and such like champs. They make budgets and stick to them. They don’t always underestimate how much money or time things will take. Some of them even just keep lots of details in their heads, like which bills come quarterly, and what the password to that account you only access when it’s tax season in order to download/upload some documents for your tax preparer. You know people do that (and you are pretty sure he’s nodding because he is one of those people…which is a great trait for a financial planner, after all), but you confess that it is difficult for you, so you have lists and calendars. And when the computer with that information froze and crashed one day many months ago, it completely derailed the quazi-system you had going. Sometimes you share all that mess with your finance guy, and you are getting kind of teary with all that vulnerability…and he offers some really helpful help. And it feels like you are talking to God-in-Skin, helping the helpless.
  10. Sometimes your Mom watches your life with a tumble down the stairs, concussion, and scalp-staples, followed closely by a freak allergic reaction, all wound up in two weeks at camp: a week with your middle schoolers and a week with the musicians. She asks which day this week she can come and help you catch up on laundry and cleaning bathrooms and such. She asks this because she knows you. She knows how you get behind in things. And how it makes you feel ashamed – because, ya know, lots of adults just manage all those things. So, when she calls to ask when she can come, you don’t say, “Oh, no. You don’t have to do that. I’ll get it done.” You say, “Is Friday good?” And you look to heaven and whisper, “Thanks.”
Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Frightened and Grateful

Sunday evening, I came home, tossed my keys in the bowl, put my purse in my purse-place, had my phone in one hand and a drink in the other as I went downstairs to let the dogs out. After taking 2 stairs, I tripped/slipped somehow and tumbled the rest of the way down 4 or 5 stairs to the tile floor, where I proceeded to split my scalp open.

I knew right away that I had hurt myself quite badly, so I dialed 911.

Actually, I dialed the 9, but I couldn’t remember the rest of it. I thought, “It’s like the terrorist attack in New York with the planes and the buildings.” And somewhere from a quiet corner of my frightened and panicking brain, I found this phrase: nine-eleven. So, I dialed two ones and hit the phone icon to connect me with some help.

Matt answered.

I didn’t know his name was Matt at first. First, we established that I was, indeed, hurt and needed help right away. As I spoke with him, I got a towel from the linen closet and held it to the back of my head to try to stop the bleeding. I told him I was starting to feel pretty woozy. He calmly asked me to go unlock the front door, then lie down if I thought I might pass out…so the emergency team could get to me, and I wouldn’t fall again.

I told him I thought maybe I’d go wait for my heroes out in a chair on the front porch and just hold this towel to my head. That way, if I did pass out, they would find me right away. He asked if I would like him to stay on the phone until they arrived. I told him that would be really helpful, and I asked his name. He said, “Miss Jennifer, my name is Matt.” I said, “Hi Matt. I’m glad to meet you, and I’m really grateful for your help.” He said, “I’m glad to meet you, too, and we are going to get you the help you need.” Sitting there, bleeding profusely, feeling not at all sure I would stay conscious, I felt safe with Matt’s reassurance. This is the work of the gospel, to sit with those who are suffering, offering them hope. Matt preached a quiet, calm, and gentle sermon from his seat in some Guilford County Emergency Dispatch office somewhere miles away from my front porch. I told him how concerned I was about getting a hold of my daughter who was at work. He asked for her number and dialed it. He connected me to it, so I could talk with her, but she didn’t answer while she was still on her shift. I told him I’d try to text her, but my vision was pretty blurry to be able to see to text.

Then I heard the music of sirens. I told Matt, “I hear them!” And he said, “I’ll stay with you until they are standing in front of you.”

I said, “They are turning onto my street!” I was flooded with relief that they would find me while I was still conscious.

Five or six people hopped out of that fire engine and ambulance. Each one had a job. I was pretty distracted by the man with the blood pressure cuff and finger monitor, not to mention the man who was taking the towel off my head, but the man standing in front of me wanted my attention. He was so kind and kept asking me to look at him and answer his questions. He was wondering if I knew what time it was, had I lost consciousness? I answered his questions, and he discerned that I had not. He said I had done a great job of putting pressure on my wound, but I had a goose egg on the back of my head about the size of his fist. He made the decision that I would go to the hospital – and likely get some stitches.

And here’s the part that makes me cry when I remember it: It was 10:20, and my angel daughter would be home from work by about 10:40. My house looked like a crime scene, and I could not have her walk in there and find all that blood and me gone. I just kept saying over and over that I had to get a hold of my daughter. By then, I had a massive bandage wrapped all the way around my head, so my glasses didn’t fit on my face. An EMT held them to my face, so I could peck out a text to my girl telling her that I promised I was okay, that there was a lot of blood, but I was okay. That I would be at the hospital getting some stitches.

The man who had been interviewing me earlier asked if he could go in my house and get my keys and purse, then lock it up. He asked if my dogs were okay. I said they were and that my daughter would be home shortly to tend to them. He brought me my purse and keys, told me how beautiful my dogs are, and made sure my house was locked.

The only other time I have ever ridden in an ambulance was when I was 20 years old, dating an EMT, and he drove me home from work in it one day. I’m quite sure he was not supposed to do that, though.

This time was very different. Riding backward in any car at any time ever would make me carsick. So, riding backward after having sustained a head injury…well, it was not a great trip to the hospital, but we made it there quickly.

Maybe someday I’ll want to write about my experience in the hospital. It was horrible and beautiful, with many small sermons preached to me by the quick and assured decisions and actions of kind and capable nurses and orderlies and technicians and such. And one sustained sermon preached by my faithful daughter who sat by my side and has more strength than I will ever be able to muster. But, tonight, it’s important to me to write down what it felt like to be rescued. I have been rescued (by my parents) from lousy circumstances, but I don’t ever remember needing literally to be rescued by medical personnel.

Something has shifted within me.

Language is not liquid enough to move in and through all the ways I am grateful. As a matter of fact, in order to write them down, I have to acknowledge what could have been had I not been so lucky. And I’m not ready to go there, yet.

For now, I have deep oceans of gratitude for Matt and his team of superheroes and my daughter…none of whom were wearing capes.