Tiny Tree

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One small tree in the heart of a forest growing by the side of the road.  It wouldn’t ever be allowed to live because it chose to grow against a guardrail.  We rescued it from the ignominy of being chopped down by the road crew.  It will never suffer the cruel fate of being shredded into wood chips.

It’s new life…for a few days is as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  You know the ones–the ones that no one would ever choose for their special tree. The ones that end up being the last to be chosen in a schoolyard pick…only they won’t even being chosen then.

As I decorated the tiny tree, I had to fill the space where the guardrail had altered its growth. I found that the more I tried to fill up the space, the more I became aware of it. I’ve never used floral wire on my Christmas tree before, but found it to be of use on our tiny tree.

That’s the way in life, isn’t it? We do what we can, with what we have in order to fill the empty spaces in our lives. We too want the emptiness to disappear. We want to be filled.

We try everything.

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The True Tunnel of Love

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I’m sitting in a boat alone watching the wind whip the rain and waves into a ferocious tempest.

Around me the air is thick despite the wind.  I desperately try to breathe, but my gasps are met with resistance. The weight of emotion constricts my chest. My airway feels collapsed…useless…

But God…

I love that phrase, “But God…”

When it appears in the Bible things change, lives change, futures change. Probably my favorite passage where it appears is in Ephesians 2:4-5.  It seems that because God loves us so much that even though we are willful, stubborn people dead in our sins, He is rich in mercy toward us.  We were DEAD…corpses that stunk of every sort of idolatry and indulgence.  Yet He loved us enough to come to earth in  human form and subject Himself to torture and death on the cross. Because of that, the same power that rose Him from the dead, resides in us. We have that power available to us.

My little boat is safe in the tempest because I am not alone in my boat. The cacophonous tunnel I find myself in is not a place of destruction but a thoroughfare to God being glorified.

Now I can breath.

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But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved! Ephesians 2:4-5

A Return to Contemplative Thought

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I’ve just publish a blog post I wrote two years ago. I wrote it while recovering from a gallbladder infection that lead to two procedures at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire…great hospital that! Great doctor too! However, in the midst of all that activity and upheaval in 2013, I stopped writing which is unfortunate because there was a formidable amount of fodder for writing about.

Today, for example, it seems was a great day to have an animated debate with a co-worker about the historicity of Christianity and Judaism…in front of a class of ninth graders who have been studying mythology. It began with a student saying that Christianity came out of mythology. I could not leave that alone. Little did I know when I went to correct this misguided statement that the other adult in the room was an atheist.

Being able to use specific facts to back up my beliefs was very frustrating to her.  She kept going back to what horrible things had been done in the name of Christianity. Those were horrible but did not happen because people wouldn’t become Christians. They happened because some people who called themselves Christians thought they were fighting evil. Their behavior can never be justified.  She was painting all Christians with a very wide brush which is why it’s important to know what you believe and know the history of the people who did evil in the name of Christ.

She went on to say that the worst mistake in history was the creation of humans and that we all should be destroyed because of all the evil we do.  No grace, no salvation, nothing. How sad! Every human.

Her thinking was all very circular…I don’t believe there’s a God, I don’t believe Jesus was who He said He was, Christians do bad things, all religions were made up by crazy people, I just can’t believe in all that stuff…I don’t believe in God, but I pray to whoever might be out there to destroy all humans.”

One of the students was obviously from a Christian background, I felt his relief at finding out he was not alone. One student kept saying, he didn’t know what he believed.  The student who brought up the topic in the first place listened very carefully.

I might get fired for the conversation, but maybe someone might come to Christ and not go to hell…and that would be worth it.

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Life as H’s Mom

So my life changed recently…not just for the day, but for the rest of my life. Returning home from a pleasant morning at a ladies brunch and packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child at my Bible believing, evangelical church, I was greeted by an innocuous looking envelope. I recognized the writing of my second child. I set down everything I was carrying and immediately opened it expecting to be blessed by a letter from H. As I read, I felt a feeling of calm and peace come over me that had nothing to do with what was on the paper. There is no other way to explain it, I was being held by the Holy Spirit.

The screaming at God, the sobbing that would leave my broken heart depleted, the crushing grief that could not be openly discussed or adequately expressed would come later after the initial shock wore off. How could I blissfully awaken one morning as the proud mother of a son and go to bed without one when there being a death? I was completely blindsided by words that could not possibly be true.

Transgender—a word the culture has embraced as an absolute—had intruded into my life. MY LIFE! Not a perfect life, not a life without deep valleys, not a life without rugged paths, but a life in which I had learned to be content. Now there was something that would change everything. I would no longer have a son. I would no longer be able to say, “I have one of each.” I would no longer look forward to the day he would become a father or that I could say I was the mother of the groom.

It made no sense. The child had never shown any proclivity toward femininity. He had never seemed like anything but a typical boy who liked sticks and swords and super heroes. He liked girls and still does. Jeans and t-shirts were his standard wardrobe…emphasis on the t-shirts which he collected by the dozens. He wore long hair but, hey, so did Jesus, right? It was only in the last year that H started wearing nail polish. Then this year H had chopped the waist length hair to h shoulders and had started wearing it in a different “style.” I had asked h about these changes saying it just seemed weird or strange—I don’t remember which word I used. It was the perfect opportunity for H to open up to me.

But H didn’t, and I wish he had. We could have spoken face to face about his struggles. I could have held him in my arms and assured him of my love. I could have looked into those brilliant green eyes and told him that Jesus loves him no matter what. Instead, we spoke awkwardly over the phone with two thousand miles between us. I couldn’t see the look in his eyes, nor he the look in mine. He couldn’t see the look of fear that threatened to incapacitate me. He couldn’t see the overwhelming concern for his well-being. He couldn’t see the confusion that consumed my soul.

The tone of my voice and the inadequate words were all he had. Hopefully, they were enough. How could they be enough though? They were not enough for me.

I have to trust that this is what God has planned. This may be why I’ve been sent to the frozen hinterlands. God is at work, I know this to be true. I am here for a reason. Is it so that HE can work on H without me meddling in what HE is doing? I imagine myself there with H, having long discussions. I imagine trying to get to the bottom of his gender identity dysphoria. I imagine myself trying to understand the change of course his life has taken. I imagine messing up and screaming at him! I imagine the disastrous results of losing my temper as I have countless times in my life. I imagine the uncontrollable monster that I could become if I let all the emotions that I am feeling right now take over.

That is why I am two thousand miles away from my transgender child. I must learn on my own. I must pray alone. I must allow God to be my guide as I transition into my new reality. I must keep busy in my life and allow Him to do His work in me…as HE also works in the life of H.

Gallbladders Gone Bad

imageI used to watch a TV series called House. I enjoyed seeing the obnoxious doctor played by Hugh Laurie diagnose difficult medical conditions. In many ways the show was formulaic because each week there was a new condition and the team of medical professionals would try to come up with a solution…usually including outrageous and life-threatening procedures. However, the unorthodox approach of the curmudgeonly Dr. House intrigued me, so I can safely say that I’ve watched every episode of the series.

The thing I’ve discovered over the last week is that when you’re the one that is being jerked around by narcissistic doctors who don’t have the time to listen, it’s not so entertaining. I can forgive the first emergency room doctor because he did the right tests, they just didn’t show the indicators that would point to a diagnosis. The second ER doctor, however, made Dr. House look like a saint. It was about four in the morning, and I had been in mind-bending pain for at least five hours. I arrived at the ER via an ambulance. Then this patronizing arrogant doctor stalked into the room, and condescendingly told me that I hadn’t given the meds prescribed two days before time to work. Not being an ignorant, uneducated woman, I immediately started asking questions to show that I brain in my head and wanted to know what was really going on. At this point Dr. Pompous jabbed his finger into the painful part of my anatomy like a sadistic dentist who takes pleasure in seeing his patients jerk while he pokes the cavity and says, “Does this hurt?” or the spiteful brother who shoves snow down your shirt and won’t let you get it out. Technically, I think I was assaulted. I mean, I almost hit the ceiling in pain! Nevertheless, in the state I was in I didn’t call him on it and continued to demurely ask questions. My goal was to get the info I needed to make the pain end.

The next day, the pain was worse, so my husband took me back to the ER…what else can one do? Reenter the first doctor who reordered the first tests to be repeated. By this time, the whites of my eyes were yellow and so was my skin. It was obvious to everyone that I’m not a hypochondriac and since I’m allergic to most pain meds, I’m not seeking drugs. (I’ve refused to take pain killers during recovery after three surgical procedures.) Suddenly, I had a surgeon!

And what a surgeon, I had! I’m not sure what it was, but from the moment I met him, I was sure I didn’t want him to cut into me. I like to believe the best in people, but this doctor’s inability to communicate well did not inspire confidence. Fortunately for me, the infection in my gallbladder was so “impressive” that Dr. Doubtful felt that it was better to consult his partner. The next day I met the ancient Dr. Welby. This man with his grandfatherly surgeon was at one time possibly the best doctor I could have met. Seriously, I would have put my gallbladder in his hands without any qualms twenty years ago. However, when I asked him about doing the surgery “sooner” rather than later and he thought I said “tumor” I started to experience internal tremors. When he nearly left the room without his coat, all confidence left.

 

From Bustles to Birdcages

When one is involved in non-professional theatre, one must learn to do a myriad of things. Everyone says I’m sooooo creative, but really I’ve just learned how to think out of the box. In fact, I’m not even sure where the box is anymore.  I love directing, acting and making costumes. Those are my strong suits. I feel comfortable doing those things.

However, during my recent theatre production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I found myself painting the flats for the street scene. I had three flats to decorate. Now I preface my comments here by saying, I am not an artist. I draw designs for my costumes and that’s about it. The need was there, no one else was available, so I took the challenge. One flat already had a small bakery scene so that’s where I started.

Since the play is based on a Dickens novel, I chose to create Miss Havisham’s Bakery. If you recall, Miss Havisham was left at the altar and never recovered. She had been in the process of dressing for her wedding when she found out her groom wasn’t coming, and she literally never changed after that moment. It was so bad that though she had only one shoe on, she never put on the other one! So why would I create a bakery for her?  If your mind works like mine, the answer is simple, her wedding cake was still in the dining hall years later! The description of it is quite delicious, so if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to read all about it in Great Expectations! On my flat of her bakery I painted a cake with a bride on the top…only the bride mind you! And of course, at Miss Havisham’s Bakery all wedding cakes are always half off.

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Next, I decided to create a dress shop. I wanted to name it Jenny Wren’s after the doll’s dressmaker in the book Our Mutual Friend, but I knew no one would ever get that association. https://i0.wp.com/charlesdickenspage.com/characters/jenny_wren-stone.gif I chose Little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop because I thought she might have become a good shopkeeper if she hadn’t died so young and…alas, tragically.

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In the window of Nell’s, I painted a beautiful gown on a dressform. Now remember I’m not an artist, so I had to find a way to draw a lifesize dress. Enter my friend Andrea! I had her lie down on the flat, so I could sketch around her! Of course I changed her figure a bit to accentuate the bust and the bustle. Image (This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but at least you get the idea! By the way, the actor whose hand is in the picture is a lot closer to the camera than the flat is.)

Lastly, I did a flower shop called Flite’s Fanciful Flowers. Now, Miss Flite is one of my favorite characters in all of Dickens, so even if no one else got the connection, I don’t care! Miss Flite is a crazy bird woman in Bleak House. I guess she’s only slightly mad, but I loved in the movie when they visited her house where she had dozens of birds. In her store window, I painted large flowers and a lovely birdcage with two sweet blue budgies. I also put faces on the sunflowers to give the actors something to discover and laugh about.

I have to say that I’m pretty proud of those sets. I’ve painted sets before but never with the details that these had. It was fun and it expanded my experience. If you’re thinking of taking up a new hobby, think about the theatre because it’s not all acting. There is a lot to be done, and you never know what you might end up doing!