Category Archives: Persistence

A Good Day

I woke this morning to the sound of air raid sirens, which slowly resolved into the high whine of a jet flying overhead. As my confusion ebbed and I started to consider going back to sleep, I heard gunshots in the distance. Someone getting ready for goose or deer season, I assumed, since there were no sirens forthcoming. This violent first few minutes of wakefulness followed a horrible night’s rest. One of my dreams involved a harrowing bus trip with impossible hills, descents and breakneck turns. The unsettling dreams were interspersed with wakeful intermissions within which I wrestled pointlessly with worries. Was my mom getting a good night’s rest before her mastectomy? Had we sisters planned well for helping her out during recovery? Would my mammogram on Tuesday be clear? Have I done what I can to get my kids ready for school? What have I forgotten, what have I missed? Nothing constructive came of this. The morning was a mess of trying to keep moving, keep doing, staying focused so I couldn’t watch the clock, staying as positive and grateful as possible.

Worry is weakness and worse, a thief of energy and clarity. Nothing is accomplished better under the cloud of fear and anxiety than it is with clear eyed thoughtfulness and rational optimism. Many of Jesus’ best quotes have to do with casting off fear, and that is one of the reasons I am such a big fan. Still, like most of what Jesus stands for, I have a long way to go before I truly live the Word. (Don’t be me. Be better.) Aside from the fact that my mom was having a surgery to remove cancer from her body and I spent a lot of time wavering between functioning human being and a waste of space, it was a good day. No cancer in lymph nodes! Satisfied surgeons! A living, breathing post-surgical mom! A lot of people were praying for her. Did prayers bring her a better outcome than worries? I can’t prove that, either way, but I know for sure that that same lot of people faced the day with strength and hope beyond what faith in modern medicine provides. It isn’t magic. It isn’t even easy to be faithful or hopeful in difficulty. But it is effective, important, and life-changing. Every moment I remembered to put aside fear and embrace faith, I turned inside out, like a pocket being emptied of old Kleenex and last week’s shopping list. Tomorrow will bring its own troubles. Hopefully, they won’t be near as dramatic as today’s were, but how much better would my life be, would I be, if I faced even the everyday tiny worries with the same intentional faith that helped me get through today?

The Unending Song

Is it possible to be solemn and joyful at the same time? Ask anyone facing a trial while holding tightly to faith, hope and love. Look into the heart of anyone who walks in the valley of the shadow, who knows regardless of what happens we are not forsaken. Walk a mile with one who has chosen their treasure well, whose spirit is secure, even when the body crumples. Lift up your hearts and know the joy of thanks in all things. Join the unending song.

I love you, Mom, and all my friends who are walking their own valleys right now. You are in my prayers!

 

 

 

 

 

The Deep End

Although nothing could keep me away from the swimming pool where my childhood friends and I splashed away hot summer days, I have never been much of a swimmer. When I was quite little, age five or six, my family and I were taking an overnight stop on a long and brutally hot driving vacation to I-don’t-know-where, and I was playing by myself in the shallow end of the hotel pool. I’d tuck myself into a ball at the bottom, then drive my feet against the pool floor and launch myself up into the air where I’d grab a quick breath before submerging again. Over and over again in the joyful obsessive-compulsiveness of youth I jumped until finally I submerged and found myself, not at the bottom of the pool, but suspended between the surface and the floor which was much farther beneath me than before. I had crossed the line into the deep end. I remember looking up toward the surface with no way to get there, watching rays of sun stream through the water at an angle above me. Bubbles from my surprised exclamation drifted up toward the blue sky. I didn’t feel panicked, but as I hung there in the sound-muffling  coolness I was thinking a six-year-old’s equivalent to the expression, “I am screwed.” At that point, my mother plucked me out of the water, happy ending, thank you very much, Mom, for paying attention!

That must have been shortly before the swimming lessons started. They were stressful. I wanted to do well, but for a long time I was convinced that holding my breath underwater for even a few seconds was equivalent to drowning. When I finally got over that and managed to pass Beginners, I discovered that most of the Advanced Beginners skills were pretty awful too, particularly treading water. I vividly recall the grey day we had to leap into the deepest section of the pool near the diving boards and tread water for two or three days, or however long it took to pass the test. My panicky movements didn’t do much to improve my buoyancy, and every swoosh of my arms and kick of my legs barely kept my chattering teeth above the water’s pursing lips as it gently tried to suck me down. Once the timed tests were over and I could keep myself afloat any way I wanted, I preferred to float on my back, the better to keep my face out of water and turned to the sky. I even got comfortable enough doing this to discover that when I inhale deeply I float better; my air-filled lungs are a kind of flotation device. It is hard to inhale deeply and remain panicked, so in addition to being more buoyant I felt a lot calmer, too.

This works out of water as well. Life regularly throws us into the deep end: someone we love gets sick or has a terrible accident, we lose a job or are betrayed by a friend. Our initial reaction is often to struggle and panic.  Sometimes, someone comes by and lifts us up, gets us straightened out and onto solid ground. But just in case no one shows up to do that for you, it is good to be able to keep yourself calm and not get pulled down into the depths. Breathing helps. Also, it is important to remember that even though the potential for peril is all around you (water,) that doesn’t mean the worst is actually happening (drowning.) What do you have to keep you afloat? A pair of lungs? Good, keep breathing. A faith that promises there is a reason to hope? An excellent life preserver, hold on tight. The presence of mind and energy needed to reach the shore or at least a boat? Keep calm and do the best you can; you are closer to salvation than you think.

[Thus says the Lord]  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; –Isaiah 43: 2a