I was READY….to quit.

As a little girl I was allergic to EVERYTHING!!!  I mean everything made me sick.  Sugar, milk, citrus, and most spices sent my stomach into fits of pain and bloat.  While all of my classmates celebrated birthdays with great cakes laden with tons of multi colored frosting, I looked longingly at huge slices of cake and tall glasses of ice-cold milk.  Both items would have sent me over the edge and seen me visiting the bathroom each hour.

I snuck it when I was a kid, even retreating to the basement to drink a shot of pure syrup out of the bottle.  I got in major trouble when I was a kid and my parent’s found out, it is a little funnier now that I am older and can picture my sons doing something similar.  I think that most of the time I was not sneaking goods out of some evil plot to undermine my parents, I think I wanted to know what it was like to eat and taste like everyone else.  I got so sick of diet candy, many of which contained some dye or sweetener that I could not stomach either.  The sight of diet pop==TAB cola made me want to yak a good yak.  I had uncles (my uncle walt) especially, who would throw me a treat at special holidays once in a while–usually my mother saw what it was…hours later as I was sick in the toilet.  To say that I was stubborn and unwilling to listen was an understatement.

All through school I watched what I ate, what time I ate, and how much.  I got so sick of peanut butter sandwiches that I cannot stand the sight of them to this day.  Remember they would be only peanut butter no jelly.  My fruit and veggie intake also had to be monitored because too much citrus or too much ruffage caused even more problem. Dry cereal took the place of dry toast, and hot dogs and hamburgers were eaten with no ketchup.  I grew used to this, and sometimes my parents would make something special.  I craved rice with raisins and cinnamon.  Today, I would rather have a meal of “real” food than a bunch of junk,  to eat a donut in the morning is almost unheard of in my world.

After years and years of battling I got pretty good at predicting what I could and could not do.  As I aged and stress levels increased I noticed some other issues arise.  With the more stress, the more intense the pain I carried.  The more worried I became, the more intense and sick I felt.  My stomach became a barometer for what was happening in the environments around me, and for many many years it has been hell.

Tension and stress gave way to acid creeping up my stomach into my throat and I choked back chunks daily.  This got worse and worse until doctors discovered that I could lean over and cause acid and reflux to rear its ugly head.  My first colonoscopy was at 25 when I ended up in the Spencer, IA hospital for a couple of days.   Procedure after procedure I endured…radioactive eggs, barium drinks, more radioactive eggs, CT scans, more endoscopes and colonoscopies than any person should endure.  I endured.

In the last 3 years I have seen almost 20 polyps some of which have been cancerous, many pre-cancerous.  I have awakened at night in pain, refrained from eating because I was in pain, and undergone a laparoscopic nissen and the removal of my gall bladder.  Whatever organ which is not necessary has been removed, except my appendix.   Up until the last month, I believed my life was sentenced to this roller coaster called my stomach.

You see, not so long ago I sat with my adopted file and it spelled out in great detail much of my early life, including how my biological parents interacted with me.  The file described a pre-mature baby who had really bad gastro problems from birth.   The implication was that there was not adequate pre natal care and improper feeding taking place.  There was also mentions of bottles of beer being fed to me as well as bottles of straight formula given to me as a newborn.  This caused so much internal damage that we believe it will take a lifetime to recover-if ever.

Knowing this information, coupled with my track record had me so depressed and downtrodden.  I felt like I would always battle to feel level.  I was ready to quit.  I dreaded every doctor appointment, had seen too many ER visits, and found most pain medicine made me sicker.  I hated get togethers where good food was on display, I ate but within 20 minutes I would be sicker than a dog and regretting that I had eaten.  I lived this way, day in day out for 38 years.

Until now.  I found  a gastroenterologist who told me that he would not stop until he had come to the bottom of the pain (no pun intended).  No one had ever treated me like that before, no one had promised to care for me until the pain was gone.  Every other doctor looked at the symptoms and treated them, making me endure procedure and haphazard guess, none of it alleviated the pain.  I cried at night, dreaded every meal.  Now that I am in a drug test where it appears I have received a drug which has cut down on the pain and other unpleasant side effects, I can think of more than where the closest bathroom is.  I can see beyond the last meal I ate to thinking about how to feel even better.

I did not care, really, until a couple of weeks ago, what my future held.  It felt like each day was more of the same and the colors were always grey and dreary.  Never did I feel like running down the hill, grabbing after the sunshine and laughing.  Today, I feel a bit differently.  I am just under halfway through the drug trial and my pain has decreased from a solid 8 to a 1 or 2 and the number of bathroom visits down from 8-9 to 1 maybe 2.  This is monumental in my world.  This is freeing in my world.

The effects of all the damage may not be gone, I will have to watch the inflammation and scar tissue for the rest of my life.  There will never be a time when I won’t have to have endoscopes and colonoscopies, I will have to watch them carefully–constantly aware.  Today, though I received my next dosages of medicine.  I am more hopeful than I have ever been.  In fact, I made a decent batch of banana bread and am looking forward to eating it.  I want to eat it.  I am thinking about a work-out regime not for 2013, but for me personally.  I want to feel better, I want to feel more physically strong, and if the insides are healing, I want the outside to match.  I want to experience what WHOLE body and soul healing looks and feels like.  For the first time I am willing to consider what tomorrow looks like…I have never lived like that.  I never wanted to think that there would be a tomorrow.  I was ready to quit…to embrace the rest of my life in a dark tunnel where everyday looked exactly like yesterday.

I don’t want to live victim to a past, a present, someone else’s reality, or a pre-conception of things being one way because they have always been that way.  Damage may have been done, but I do not have to exist victimized as a result of other’s actions or inactions.  I can live–I can live healed.  I am not sure what that looks like, but in the days and weeks to come I intend to explore that idea…I invite anyone and everyone to come along on the journey…if you have ideas or comments….please let me know.  Let’s do this together…let’s live this journey together.

Shalom,

cahl.

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BUT!!!! i HATE to FLY

“Delta flight out of Sioux Falls leaving at 12:35 pm August 7 has already been delayed.  Please refer to check in times when you arrive”

GREAT!!!!  Just what I wanted to hear, leaving for almost a week, on my own, knowing the last time I took a trip by myself I was going to North Carolina, 3 months pregnant, and my luggage was lost for 2 days.  NOOOOOO!  This is not going to happen again!  Yet, here I was, back at an airport, flying back to Asheville (yes home to filming of the Hunger Games), and this time my son is 5 and I am no longer pregnant…and I have included a change of clothes in my carry-on.  HAve I mentioned that I LOATHE flying?

So, the stage is set for what looms ahead, my last trip to the east firmly in my mind, I anticipate with massive trepidation what will occur.  While I yearn for adventure and creativity,  i tend not to do well when it comes to flying.  The take-off and the landing are the spots that get me the most, I try to hold my breath as soon as I feel the descent.  I find that this is not a wise move, since a DESCENT could last longer than the actual flight.  I am learning to re-vamp my strategy–slowly.

I sit at Joe Foss airport and wish to god that I had a pair of ruby-red slippers, maybe if I could just click my heels together…I could magically transport.  Maybe if Madeleine L’Engle is correct, I can tesseract my way to North Carolina….maybe, just maybe.  No, the plane is now 1 1/2 hours late, having a mechanical issue and the part needed did not come in FED EX…ok, then, send Harry Potter’s owl to fetch it…DO SOMETHING!

Restless passengers eye one another, I check my ticket for the umpteenth time and vow that no matter what, I have my will in place (at least verbally) so should something happen to me….my love ones know what to do with my earthly possessions.  AS IF i had any earthly possessions…I just graduated Seminary, the Federal Government owns me!

FINALLY we are to board, and I walk down the ramp, no one feeling the confusion and apprehension that I feel.  No one suspects that I am terrified to fly, or that I have left the 2 most important people in my life with their father….I KNOW they will be fine.  I also know that I HAVE to make this trip, that it has been gnawing at my guts for a number of years and months since I received finances to make the trip.  Truth is, I fell in love with NC 5 years ago and the trip I am making is to an International Biblical Storyteller’s Conference.  Storytellers?  ME?  Me.

I look for my seat, silently thanking the airline gods that I am able to find the seat (the correct one) and stow my carry-on luggage (which can hold a small pug—-not that I would know) and buckle my seatbelt.  The person next to me is ….a kid.  Well, not a small kid, but compared to my age and station, he’s a kid.  We talk

He is on his way to interview for another summer internship with Monsanto,he has been in Nebraska all summer with them and the package they give these interns is amazing…car, gas, living expenses, food, lodging, and a credit card for the summer.  HELLO!  Here I smile quietly to myself as I introduce myself as working for a grassroots community development non-profit which specializes in school teaching gardens.  The exact opposite of the agriculture hemispheres collide and I think what more odd moments could happen on this day?

More was in store as we continue to climb in altitude.  We continue to talk and realize that small ag is not a threat to big business, nor is big business the all-encompassing evil we think it is.  They can co-exist and understand one another, if we allow it to happen.  ANYWAY……we talk about what is happening and I find out that he is from a small town in southeastern mn, where lo and behold, a person that I work with daily lives.  Connection 2 established and then a couple more when we talk about people that he knows.  We really do live in a small, small world.

We laugh thinking what an incubator we live in when I start thinking about SDSU in Brookings….my alma mater.  I spent a number of good years there and fell in love with the town as much as I did the people.  There are just some places that have good energy…Brookings, SD is one of them.  We gab of campus and the changes and I giggle thinking of my dorm in Wecota…all the furniture was moveable.  I remembered my first class in BIO Stress Building and my first day at Doner! and the trek from Wecota to HPER in the dead of winter.  He is total AG-buisness….I smile.  He is all of 20 and gets to move off campus for the first time.

Fasten your belts…this gets bumpy.  He describes the house he is moving into with 5 other guys.  I ask if he has invested in Febreze and he proceeds to describe a little mint green house with cute white shutters…well, he didn’t say cute…I did.  Starts to name the address and before I know it he cites a McDonald’s right up the street and a little further up the block used to be a Zesto’s.  1448 7th Street I inquire and he nods.

NO WAY!!!!  That is my 1448 1/4 7th street.  Well, mine and my Jenn’s.  I lived there in college and sat there aghast as he talked of the sliding kitchen door one can hear from every room in the house.  I lived in the basement and wanted to live on the main floor with the hardwood floors.  I lived there as I student taught and underwent my first sinus surgery with Dr. DeSautel.  HE worked wonders.  I laughed and studied and dreamed there, now a house full of 6 boys will do the same.  Those in the basement still have the huge armoire in the large bedroom and a set of pale pink dishes with ivy on them….Compliments of an aspiring theatre major.

Day one on my trip and my first flight sees connections that I could not possibly invent on my way to Mpls.  The flight went on without incident, I forgot to hold my breath, forgot to be scared of taking off, forgot to be scared to fly.

I know that many may read this and disregard my comments as so many coincidence….it wasn’t.  There is no way I could put together that chain of connections in that time and place to reveal to me at that moment.  I could not invent that and I did not ask for those variables to be present.  Truth is, I wanted to be a bit surly, soaking in my discomforture.  i did not want to admit to anyone how excited I was to be going back to NC or to be a Storyteller….or to incorporate my love of theatre, music, writing, and faith all into one arena.  I did not want to admit that anything that perfect existed or that I would be so called to do so.  So called….me, who hates to fly–so called out of the nest.  So called, to fly.

shalom,

cahl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clamoring Crabs–or Lobsters?

I wrote not long ago about some song lyrics from RENT and swore that I would continue that stream for a bit….I lied.

I was reminded not so long ago of a story about crabs…or lobsters…or crablike lobsters.  I can’t remember.  Forgive me, I just graduated and life has been a little hectic.  YES, that’s right!!!! I graduamatated!!!!!!  An MDIV in Pastoral Care and Counseling has my name on it!  I even passed with flying colors the last history class that I had to take and enrolled in midway through the semester.  BooYAH!

Anyway.  This story on crablike lobsters….a man happened upon a whole bucketful of the clawed crustaceans.  Another man came upon the bucket and wondered at the top being left off and questioned the first man about it.  He was concerned that the crabs would climb up out of the bucket, thus all the work to catch them being undone.

You would think that they would clamor to the top and rush to escape, wouldn’t you?  The wise fisherman replied that as one may start to the top, the others would sink their claws into the one escaping and pull them back in the bucket.  The first crab would never make it out, never escape because upsetting the status quo would be too costly to the whole.

AMAZING!!!!  I thought about that story today.  I thought about its application to human nature.  Amazing.  We are not so unlike our clawed crustaceans.  That saddens me.  It angers and disappoints me to my core.  It causes me to shake my head in dismay and question what I am doing.  I have to ask myself if I do that to another…do I do that to my children?  Are there people in my life that do the same to me?  I have to answer affirmative to all the questions.

There are many times that I have coveted another’s success or tried to talk them out of something because I did not want them to “get ahead”.  Albeit it was much earlier in my adulthood.  What I have failed to recognize are the moments that others have put me in that same situation and I have let them.  Moments when because of guilt or shame or fear I have left my dreams and hopes to the side and accepted their agenda.  Moments when I have stayed in the bucket because I am too scared of what the other side looks like to venture forth.  IF the crab understood that their freedom was on the other side of the bucket, they might tackle one another to get to the top.

Then again, maybe they wouldn’t.  Maybe that is the realization that strikes in my soul this evening.  Maybe they are so content with the status quo and what they know that they would not fight for freedom…that they would not fight to live.  All they can see, all they know is the reality in  front of them.  They ask not one question, challenge not one authority…dream no bigger than the next pot of boiling water.  Water that will not give them new life (aaahhhh there is a sermon in that)

Am i guilty of that?  Yes.  I am guilty of wanting to take the easy route, of wanting a nice neat packaged solution.  I yearn for that…I think we all do.  I also yearn to fly.

With all that I am, I yearn to step to the edge, stare it down, spread my wings, and let go.  I have wanted that since I knew to dream.  I entertain many a dream in this head of mine…most of the time I feel too ineffectual to see them through.  But, oh Lord, I wanna fly.  What’s more, I want the chance to let others fly too, in their way, on their own path.  I think that is why I became a teacher so many years ago…I loved watching the dawn of dreams in my kids’ eyes.  I still do.  I love to hear the stories and where people want to go…and am so often disheartened when I hear them give up the fight before they have even started.

So, yes.  I am guilty.  Maybe this story can motivate me, or someone else to think…to dream, to fight.  Not all fight has to be destructive, not all anger is dangerous…and freedom does not have to cost everything.  I think to not experience that freedom is more dangerous and costly than never entertaining it in the first place.

I am not sure what all this means, I know that I have more to write, but my head is full of other thoughts.  I will close for tonight…I entreat your ideas, your thoughts, your dreams.  Let’s help one another fight to the top and fly!!!!

Shalom dear ones,

cahl.

Pride, it Goeth.

Pride, it Goeth..

Pride, it Goeth.

<a href="http://http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x7gab9
Pilate And Christ Jesus Christ Superstar by roniyy“>

I feel compelled to scribe more on this topic of pride and identity, especially since it may not be just me that struggles.  One of my favorite artists is U2.  The moment I hear the word pride, I instantly go to the song, inspired by the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I always smile ruefully to myself as the lyrics play in my head and I again commit to be part of making a difference in my generation.  It always serves as a moment of inspiration for me, then the smack-down of the real world sets in and I realize what an attempt that would be.  Still, there is always that flicker of a bigger flame that is fanned.  Much as I would love to shove down the passionate change advocate, she rears her ugly head and demands that I reexamine the chance to set the world on fire.

I have to admit having to examine my motives for fanning that passionate flame.  I have to ask myself if I   be part of change because there is a desperate need to see real and positive change happen, or because I have a need to be elevated?  That is a tough question, one I am convinced the great social and political change artists wrestled.  I hope they struggled, I hope they did and do as much as I feel called to tussle.

It is not an easy question.  I explored it when I first became a teacher.  Did I want to teach for the glory of standing up in front of a classroom and speaking to a new generation?  What were the real reasons that I wanted it?  The fact is, the more I did it, the more in love with “my kids” I fell.  There are many that I have as Facebook contacts, many that have emailed upon marriage, or a new baby, or when life has gotten away from them.  I consider that a holy honor.  There was always that nagging idea of my motivation at the back of my head.  If I were not teaching, what else would I do?  Without that title, who and what was I?

Fast-forward that same notion to 2012.  I entertained the idea of a lead pastor in a congregation and realized about a year and a half ago that was not my intention.  I can do the administrative work, but I would rather not.  Every stinking inventory test that I took confirmed that.  I had a battle of sorts as to what that meant as an MDIV grad if I were not in charge of a congregation…any congregation, including the big ones.  Now as I work on a non-profit and in the mix of all the nitty-gritty work it entails, I find that the question comes into focus again. 

I am forced to ask myself why I am involved, why I feel so passionate in telling the stories of those affected.  Is it the energy of starting something new?   Is it the impact and potential difference that doing the work and telling the stories provides?  What happens if it blows up and nothing happens?  Am I still ok? 

Henri Nouwen, writer and philosopher, invites me to consider a couple of understandings.  Our society relegates us to find our validation in what we own, what we do, what others say about us, and what we believe about ourselves.  Every conflict that I can think of falls into one of those 4 categories.  Either I am at odds with what I am, people say that I am, what I have/or don’t have, or what I do/don’t do.  Most of the conflict I encounter entail ones where I am at conflict with myself.    When I hear other people comment on appreciating me for who I am, I want to scream.

That is correct, I can acknowledge that there are many people in my life that I love like family–to whom I am not related, who would walk through fire for me, simply because I am me.  The concept of that makes me want to tear my hair out.  WHY??? What have I done to warrant such a connection? If that means that I have done nothing to warrant it, that also means that I can do nothing to keep it.  I think that scares me most of all.  As humans, we are conditioned to expect the worst from other people–to expect that given the opportunity, they would destroy us in a heartbeat in order to get ahead.   I spoke to a relative the other day who told me about how someone had gone off at them for no apparent reason.  This person mentioned that it would be ok and necessary to totally cut off people who intentionally hurt another.  I thought that that made sense, but at the same time was so sad.  I know there are many times when I have either intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else.  I also know how bad it makes me feel to know that I did so–regardless of the reason. 

I also know what it feels like to be cut out of someone’s life.  There is no more hollow feeling than to know that a person that once regarded you as either a friend, colleague, or family member no longer believes you worthy of their acknowledgment.  That is the main reason that I cannot stand apathy.  At least when we hate someone/something, we care enough to hate it.  Apathy is a void of caring–it feels so hollow, so empty, so alone.    I would rather someone hate my guts than to refuse to believe that I do not exist.    I have felt that, experienced the painful void of connection.  It stinks in a place that I cannot describe.  It is what makes it almost impossible for me to believe that someone would care about me simply for who I am, not what I do.  I cannot wrap my mind around this concept.

It is also the same reason that I struggle with the idea that Abba Creator would care about me unconditionally and without reserve.  I must have done something to earn it, therefore, I must keep doing in order to make it last.   I know the last statement from a  faith standpoint is wrong, yet my experience shows me different.  If, then, my reasoning and faith are in conflict, one must rise to the forefront of being more right or acceptable.  (sorry, debate training in full gear here)  If my faith is more acceptable, then my reasoning has flaw.  If that is the case, then what I have based my understanding of acceptance as is also flawed.  What do I do with that?  How do I respond?  How do I let go of personal pride long enough to embrace a more faithful understanding of acceptance?  Do I have the courage to do that? 

Someone challenged me to embrace the idea of accepting other people’s care for no other reason then that they care.  This idea scares me to the core.  I am terrified that if I do not perform or meet their standard of my existence, then I will lose their care, and ultimately, their love.  I know intimately the feeling of losing that, and am terrified to risk the gamble again.  You may call out my hypocrisy here as I type this and know full well that I would never hold my children to this standard.  That I tell them each day that no matter what they do, they are dearly loved.  That they are beautifully and wonderfully made.  They know this to their core.  I want to scream from the mountains that of all the ideas that fill them each day, they KNOW this!!!! YES!  Today, that hard work is established.    Even if they become mass murderers (which they won’t), they know that they are loved without expectation, without reserve.

So, what of my pride that will not allow me to breathe in the love from others not related to me?  What of this pride that requires that I push ahead and never let up?  My mother told me something yesterday that hurt the second that I read it.  She mentioned that I have always pushed and pushed and pushed to do it right and perfect and to have it happen NOW–and that I never change.   It was the last statement that hurt so deeply.  It felt like I had been disregarded and written off because I struggle so.  That is my struggle, and not one that she can fix for me.  I am not sure what I would have liked her to say instead, I just know how raw a chord that struck with me.

Again, I refer back to JC Superstar and this silent king that exuded such grace, such compassion.  I want to emulate that.  I want that more than I have wanted anything in the world.  I believe it is the hallmark of some of the heroes of social and faith change that I look to for inspiration.    ” An amazing thing, this silent King.”

I need to sit with that, I need to ponder what that means and what application that has for our world in 2012 as well as in my personal life.  If it was the extreme and rare concept then, it is even more baffling today.  How do I embrace that, and how do I model that for my generation and for those following?  This is a burden I feel intensely, and the flame of passion will not subside.  I pray for the courage to boldly love in compassion and mercy, and to accept it wholly.

Shalom,

cahl.

Solitude or Alone?

All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. We are each unique, and our oneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Being on our own to contemplate is not a sign of weakness.  It allows for more personal introspection that is healthy and growing. Loneliness is painful and raw; solitude is peaceful and quiet. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to understand that others are unique and we create community.  May we find the moments of quiet solitude, within and without…..

shalom,

cahl

Thank you to Henri Nouwen for his thoughts and the chance to add some of my own comments…A wondrous author of peace and compassion.

Affirming the NO.

My last couple of days have been full of writing and contacts to further the cause of the 2 non profits.  I ventured into the realm of grant writing.  It is not my favorite thing, but to be present, I must learn to do those things which call me out of my comfort zone. 

I spoke to a wonderful woman tonight that helped me articulate what I am called to do right now, she gave me a chance to further some training that I may pursue, in the future…not now.  That is huge.  To have someone willing to talk with me and help me articulate what may or may not be what i am to do.  Sometimes it hurts to hear or to even ask for the truth….I did that the last 2 years of my Seminary career and no one could tell me that I was NOT to do something…Affirmation upon  affirmation can feel like awesome pressure and left me so confused as to whether the could do is a should do.  I do not want to simply serve because I could do something…the truth is, I could do many things, but I seek knowing what I should do…to be used in such a way as to be a light and inspiration to others.  I yearn to see growth and be part of something expanding and changing…i yearn to be with others who also yearn…passionately to work and dream and vision together…to see results.  I am grateful for the courage this person had to talk the truth with me.  I hope that i am able to receive wisdom from others and that I will have the courage to come alongside others if they ask.

As i continue to seek the true path…the finances piece I pray will come to fruition.  I must remember as Henri Nouwen says, I am not what my job is, my training, my education, or what other people say that I am.  If I can wrap my head around that concept, I may understand the purity of human want and need.  I think, that will be an ever-evolving process.  So, 10 days before I graduate, the most I know is that I am called to be a Writing, Speaking, Community Chaplain/Advocate.  Any more than that remains…….not in my hands.  I must learn to be content with that.  Anyone got tips on that process?

shalom,

cahl

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