Five Minute Friday: Lost

It’s Friday. We write.  5 minutes. That is all. There’s a whole group of us that write.

Today’s prompt:

LOST

Lost and found. Forever lost. Forever found. 

Lost is a black hole in my mind. Lost love, lost homes, lost time, lost things, lost memories. They all seem to find themselves down that hole like Alice falling into the White Rabbit’s Hole. Forever falling; never arriving.

I’ve lost more things than I can count. Most of the time things lost are insignificant. However, there are some things that just disappear and no matter how much you look or how long you look or how often you look- they just can’t be found. There’s a sadness attached, a sort of undying hope that one day… perhaps. But no. 

I was like one of those lost things, forever falling, never arriving.  Until. Amazing Grace.

 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. 1 Corinthians 15:10a

 

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Monday Musings: A little laughter

 Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ Genesis 21:6

Another new life! A few months ago I wrote about the latest addition to the family in “Dear Little Man.”  I was overcome with the joy of new life, still am.

Now, I find myself wanting to write of our newest member, the gift of Isaac, who appropriately came home from the hospital on Mother’s Day.  He is indeed a gift! A quiet, calm baby from all accounts so far. He will have to insert himself into this little family with an older sister and brother to look up to and admire. They think he’s the cat’s pajamas and big sis loves to hold him- right now. Later, he will be the little brother, next to the other little brother.

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He has a wise, open face that seems to me to be that of a very old soul. He looks deeply into my face, searching for something I’m not sure that he does or does not find. We’ve not had much one on one time yet. It’s like that when there are others clamoring for attention. 8 others.

I know that spouting about 9 grandchildren may sound prideful. It is not. These children are the highest blessing I could ask for on earth.  The Lord has truly made up for the years the locusts ate out of my heart.

I was born into a family, quite by accident (if you know what I mean); a marriage ensued, I was born and then I suppose the first 6 months of “bliss” with new baby wore off along with the attraction that brought them together. I was handed off to a grandmother who, as she put it, “there was no one else to take you.”

 My birth mother had been adopted from a children’s home and her first adoptive mother died within a year or two. Her father could not take care of her so she was sent back to the children’s home and then later as a near teen was adopted out again. It must not have gone well because she was out and on her own and I was born when she was 17. My birth father was 22 and just returned from a tour of duty in post-war Japan. Neither was prepared nor able to be a parent.

I grew up in a household that was tumultuous at best, deeply dysfunctional and influenced by alcoholism at it’s worst with a generous serving of emotional manipulation thrown in for good measure. I was the pawn in my grandmother’s chess game of life.  She used me to manipulate the people around her. She didn’t often realize consciously that she was doing so, but she just had to be on top every time and if I was the pawn needed….

There were no siblings, only me. At times I felt greatly loved but there were times when I was sorely neglected. Mostly emotionally, left to my own devices. There were also times my grandmother allowed me to be in danger in situations with people I didn’t know.

She had faulty trust filters.  Either everyone in the world could be trusted or no one could be trusted. As a result, her judgment was often swayed by her most immediate previous trust experience. If it had gone well, she was off and running again in the trust everyone direction. Sometimes, I was the victim and sometimes I was the happy recipient. She would often leave me with her friends and considering that she was not a very good judge of character, some of those people felt very dangerous to me- at other times- they would be of the kindest, gentlest nature and I was drawn to them and their country way of life.

I found that my internal radar would go into overdrive and I would pretty much shut down around those that I felt were untrustworthy- I would not talk, I would make myself small, and I would read, and read, and read.  Until she picked me up again.  I look back on those times and realize that I was indeed in danger with some of those people, and that God in His providence, set His angels round about me.

I went from ‘pillar to post’ as she would say about some things- meaning never in one spot very long. That was her life she was describing though. I was subject to the frequent moves due to my grandfather being in the Air Force-never in one place very long. And, when she would find she couldn’t deal with me and whatever else was going on in her life she would send me off to my father and his new wife for months at a time.  Do we ever really know what’s going on in someone else’s head or heart?

There were occasions, as I look back on my childhood where I saw a very loving, generous woman. She would pick up any and every hitchhiker between Texas and Tennessee when we traveled back to her family’s hometown in east Tennessee. She would give her friends the very clothes she had if they had need. She would take food, and my clothes (sometimes I had actually out grown them) for their children. She would keep track of those women who she knew would be in need by the nature of their marriages, and when they found themselves forced to move again to escape the spouse or because they were evicted from a previous spot she would take cleaning items with her and clean the new place from top to bottom and she would take food from the garden and me to help. Often the children were younger than me, their mothers were marginally able to care for themselves let alone their babes. I became the entertainment coordinator and child rodeo expert. I would want to fly away to anywhere but there- I didn’t understand- then. I do now.

As I got older she began to share snippets of her life with me. My father, her son, was born less than a year into a marriage that she entered into, out of spite, in anger at her father, to get away from home. She left her husband, and left my father with her parents when he was a babe in arms. Eventually, it came out that she had been married many (at least 7 documented) times, had attended nursing school at one time, and had run cafes and restaurants along the way in the south as she traveled further and further from home. She implied she had also done what she had to do from time to time to survive- use your imagination. My response to that information was that I’d starve before I would do anything like she did; I told her we always have a choice. I still believe that.

 She went from Tennessee to North Carolina to Georgia to Alabama and then on to Texas. in Texas, she found herself in a marriage that took her 20 years to get loose from the man who was physically and emotionally abusive. She finally escaped with his mother and sister’s help and years later, took me to visit them. He was dead by then. They seemed nice. 

She then married an artist- and that lasted all of about a year and a half. Then she met my grandfather and married him at the beginning of the year that I was born in November. He was already in Korea when she was given custody of me, so they hadn’t been together very long. She had managed to save enough when she was on her own to buy some land and had had a one-room house (shack) built on it- it had a kitchen area with a sink and a hot plate, and on the back porch a tub and a toilet. TWhat was where we lived off and on until I was 4. There was a short stint in Kansas.  She would trade veggies for chickens, bread, butter, whatever we needed to live on. She bartered and begged and borrowed- we were poor, just not dirt poor.

And, during that time she became the first woman taxi driver -at least for the company she worked for in San Antonio- according to her. She sent me to nursery school at the age of 3 and there for the first time in my life I knew I was in a safe place. I was where they taught me about Jesus. God is so Good!

My life growing up and living with her, then watching her age and age and age and watch her deteriorate physically, continue to make poor decisions and refuse to give in to the very end was never calm, always stressful, and sometimes dangerous.  My children loved her very much; knew she was crazy and thought it was funny. I on the other hand….

Now my stage of life is coming close to where she was when I had my children –only she was their great grandmother. I am the grandmother. I love my grands with a fierceness that I don’t think even my own children understand.

I have a full family around me, and the never-ending joy of children close and far away. I think it very appropriate for Isaac to be Isaac and to be the youngest grandchild for us. Isaac means laughter and that is what every family needs.

A little laughter.

He has already started to bring it to us as you can see in the pictures below- only a few days old and already perfecting the meaning of his name. Thank you, Lord, for the restoration of laughter in my life!

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Five Minute Friday: Release

It’s Friday, that 5 minute writing day. I have begun to count the weeks by Fridays- the days we write, spontaneously, deeply, shallowly, eloquently, plainly. We just write what we’re given on one word.

The word this week is:

Release

That old country song is running in my head now- “Please Release Me”. Funny how words pop up memories like that. Things that were pent up and sealed can suddenly surface and take us back to that moment in time in a split second.  We can smile or a tear come to our eye before we send those things back to where they came from. Not a bad thing to walk memory lane a while.

Unless— those things are something we hold onto with iron grips. When that happens, we become slaves to what we are holding; subject to whatever whim those thoughts bring.  But when we release our grip, we open our hand, we say, “It’s always been Yours Lord” we find that we are the thing that is released.

Wherever you find yourself today, whether it’s resisting the toddler independence or the teen-adult leaving the nest, the first sign of gray hair, holding the heavy burden of desire for life to be like it once was, the sorrow when someone is no longer here- He Knows. He will take that burden when we lay it down and we will find sweet release. 

My eyes are ever on the Lord,
    for only he will release my feet from the snare. Psalm 25:15

Monday Musings: Battle Fatigue

 

 The US Army makes this statement in reference to Battle Fatigue:

“It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.”

I don’t know about you, but I have been so stressed that my body and mind reacted in the same way as a soldier experiencing battle fatigue. Chronic, prolonged, repetitive stress will do that.  The quality, quantity and timing of sleep and nourishment have an affect on our tolerance to stress.

I’ve been an insomniac for years- not the kind that can’t go to sleep but the kind that can’t stay asleep. I fall asleep easily, sleep 3 maybe 4 hours, then I wake – for various reasons. I can sometimes fall back asleep, usually not. This happens 3-5 nights a week. I can take meds but they make me groggy the next day-if I do take medication for a week or longer the symptoms do lessen for a period of time.

When I wake up in the night the brain is going ninety miles an hour and suddenly comes to a complete halt around 6 a.m. (yeah, that’s the time I’m supposed to be getting up). My eating habits over the years have been sporadic, depending mostly on work and whatever curve ball has been thrown at me.

Other symptoms of battle fatigue: irritability, headaches, back pain, digestive upsets, lack of concentration, nightmares, inertia, indecision, tiredness, depression, anxiety reactions, memory loss have all been experienced by me at one time or other.

Instead of hearing guns going off and bombs exploding I got phone calls and visits at all hours of the day and night from a very dysfunctional mother. She was predictable in her unpredictability.  Until the day she died. 

Small examples: she decided that my children needed cats because they wanted one.  Didn’t matter that we had just given away a cat and I was glad to be rid of the litter box.  So did she talk to me about it? NO. Ya know what she did? She brought three kittens and left them in a box on my front porch. That’s what she did. 

She could never let anything go that she had given us- old furniture, appliances, etc. Once she wouldn’t speak to me for a week because I gave an old chair away and she wanted to know if I could get it back for her. (there were no conditions or stipulations on the chair when she gave it to us). Then there was the gas stove she bought us that we used for six months and then when we moved and didn’t need it anymore, she said “I’ll store it, you may need it later.” So she did for almost 15 years. Then one day she got tired of having it sit there. Instead of selling it or giving it to charity, she paid someone to move it to where we were living 3 ½ hours away- and had him leave it in our driveway at 2 in the morning without notice. Just left it there.

Ok that’s a taste, and enough for you to realize that she was either really eccentric or functionally crazy. ( It’s the latter if you need help determining which).

There were times- really gaps in time- where she wouldn’t call or come over for several days to weeks in time. I just left it then- I didn’t call her. I would sometimes check her mailbox to see if she was getting her mail or maybe had gone out of town.

The answer to your question is: NO, she didn’t tell me when she was picking up and leaving. Didn’t even leave a note most times to tell me she was going somewhere.

Those times, few and far between that they were, were the respite I needed, the short period away from the front lines. To re-align, re-group, and re-coup.

The Army calls their treatment for battle fatigue: BICEPS

  • Brevity-brief respite up to three days,
  • Immediacy– identify need for intervention early and intervene quickly,
  • Centrality-treatment separate from hospital and proximal to the soldier’s unit decreases the self-identification as being sick,
  • Expectancy– expect to return to duty after several days; reinforce that this is only a normal stress reaction to exhaustion and recovery is assured,
  • Proximity-provide care as close as possible to one’s assigned area to maintain unity and support from friends,
  • Simplicity– goal of treatment to return to combat.

{As I look back on that stress, and I didn’t even touch on the every day stress of being a nurse, a school nurse to boot with a pediatric population that on any given day might or might not be able to tell me what was wrong and why they came to see me; no, I didn’t tell you about that, did I?

Or the fact that my teen age children suddenly decided to be independent and make their own decisions without letting me in on them. There were some pretty poor choices made during that time, let me tell you. They are all better now and about to embark on that experience for themselves with their own children. Smile.

I also didn’t tell you that there was a younger sibling with ADHD making enough poor choices of his own that theirs were the choices that looked like child’s play.}

The Army definitely has a good plan. I needed brief breaks to survive, to recover a bit, and to know I wasn’t losing my own mind. I needed someone to realize that I was nearing the end of the bloody rope I was clinging to with torn fingernails.  I needed that break to be at home where family was. And I needed someone to tell me I was going to make it through yet another foray and I’d be as good as new – hopefully. And to tell me it was normal to react the way I was reacting to the stress. I just needed a break; to rest up, fuel up and take a breath before going back into the thick of it.

And how in the world do I relate that to my faith? I can tell you I kept journals, I wrote long letters to God, I sat up and cried in the night, I didn’t sleep, I ate for comfort, I medicated the headaches, I did my work, I went to Bible Study and just when I thought – “no more”, my precious Savior would redeem the time, shift the circumstances, my kids would shape up for a bit, my mother would quit calling and I would wake up one morning realizing that I’d slept through for 3 nights in a row.  And the sun would be shining again.

And where was that darling husband of mine, you ask? He was dealing with his own frontline stress with a mentally distant, mentally deteriorating mother and a mentally disabled sister.

Quite a pair, aren’t we? There was no one else to share the load. No siblings, no other close family. Just us, in that boat, frantically bailing to keep from sinking altogether.

Only God.

There’s a quote by Oswald Chambers that is very timely for this subject:

“The fiery furnaces are there by God’s direct permission. It is misleading to imagine that we are developed in spite of our circumstances; we are developed because of them. It is mastery in circumstances that is needed, not mastery over them.” –Oswald Chambers, in The Love of God from the Quotable Oswald Chambers.

By giving me respite from the battle fatigue I was experiencing God also developed a mastery in circumstances in me that contributed to who I am;  the person He designed me to be.  

I told you in my little tag line at the top of my blog, we are still fighting battles even though the war is already won.  Just remember, the angels are fighting for you as well.  Chapter 10 of Daniel has a very clear picture of the reality that the angels are engaged in battle on our behalf. It’s a long chapter and better read in context and with the rest of the book. There’s only 12 chapters- if you haven’t read it, do. It’s a relatively short read and a good reminder when I feel like I’m on my own.

One last thing that the Army says:  it’s not only the soldier on the front lines who experiences battle fatigue, support personnel experience it too.

Have you gone through your own bout with battle fatigue? Care to share?

‘I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.’ At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me. Jeremiah 31:25-26

I am claiming this verse for all of us who are experiencing the fatigue of the battle. He will refresh you!

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Hands

Today’s prompt is:

Hands

I look down at my hands and wonder. These hands have held thousands of babies, taught mothers how to feed, bathe, clothe their babies for the first time. These hands have cradled, fed, clothed and dressed someone most of my life. They have wiped tears, cleaned and bandaged scrapes. They have administered medications, given injections, assisted with suturing, and written instructions. 

They have written reports, submitted budgets, written policy and procedure manuals, protocol for all kinds of things; and they have written long letters, love notes, reminders, addressed many birthday cards, invites, Christmas cards, and wedding invitations.  

They have also cooked up a mean omelet, perfect pancakes, and the best monster cookies in the world {according to several people}.

They have mopped, dusted, washed clothes and folded, washed dishes, pots and pans and cleaned up after the dog and the cats. They have put together furniture and toys, and played games with children.  

They have turned countless pages on book after book; fairytales, Bible stories, literature, scifi, prayer journals, every page in the Bible, books on accounting, med-surg nursing, pediatrics, how-to books, cook books, and devotional books.

And my hands have done countless other things, some good, some bad. These hands aren’t perfect- they are connected to my heart and mind and go where they tell them. 

But the most important thing these hands have done has been to take my children by the hand and lead them to the safe haven that is Christ alone.

My hands don’t talk but they say a lot by what they’ve done.

And so do yours.

 May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us –

 yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17