Daily Life, Marriage, Music

In the Passenger Seat

The females in the house were slow-moving this morning, delaying our departure for Myrtle Beach until lunchtime. No matter, though. The weather was gorgeous today, sixty-five and sunny under the Carolina skies.

I made a big deal out of Sikki’s wearing heeled sandals today, because it was the first time since I’ve known her that she has shown bare toes in January, no matter what the weather. She normally dresses in accordance with the calendar date, not the weather forecast. But she got a pedicure recently with a gift card she got for Christmas and I guess she wanted to strut her stuff.

My wife’s small, soft feet were one of the first things I noticed about her when we were goofy kids working at a Christian bookstore. It’s funny what you notice about people, the little things that draw people together. Sex is strange. Attraction is not based on some lofty spiritual dynamic, at least not at first: it’s eyes or hair or shoulders or lips or other assets that make someone take pause, probably at a very specific time and for a very specific reason. Another guy probably wouldn’t have noticed or marked that about her — some other feature might have caught his attention. Sex is weird, the whole thing. I’ve always thought it was crazy beyond comprehension. For a relationship to last, attraction must move past exteriors to deeper channels of heart and spirit. But I still like to look at her feet.

She drove while we were out because I have been feeling trippy. We went to the outlets with the kids and enjoyed walking around though Ryan and Winston misbehaved at times. I stayed in the sunshine as much as I could. Perhaps lack of sun is why my sleep has been thrown off lately. I thrive on sunlight, especially January sunlight, harbinger of summer and hopefully better days coming to a sick and tired soul.

Rebekah, Catherine and I went for Chinese food after we got back. I need to find some kind of walking/light jogging program online to follow, just to have a goal for staying active. I feel sick from just sitting around.

Therefore thus says the LORD: “If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the LORD. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.” – from Jeremiah 15

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Daily Life

Waiting

The days are passing quickly though I don’t feel I am accomplishing anything, not even getting better. I am sleeping poorly and feel stupefied at almost all hours. I went to bed last night around 12 and woke up at 5. I was awake until 7, then I went back to bed with Sikki. I have been having vivid dreams. I told Jerry yesterday that my waking moments seem surreal, and my dreams are larger than life.

Yesterday he called and asked if I wanted to hang out for awhile. I said sure and I’d be over as soon as I took my medications, which takes at least a half-hour. I think he thought I was joking, but I have so many of these inhalants and nebulizer vapors that it seems like I sit for an hour twice a day breathing funny-tasting medicine, funny tasting medicine that doesn’t seem to be improving my lungs.

Anyway I parked at his place and then we went out to some land he leases from another man in the church. Jerry is talking about growing and maintaining a multi-family garden there this year, as the land is in a sunny spot and shielded from passing cars and prying eyes. Then we went up to the Green Swamp and drove some of the logging roads before it started to rain and we worried about getting stuck back there in the vast, unmarked maze. After that we stopped in Shallotte for lunch and I had a fried green tomato BLT, then we headed back. Had some good conversation about the life of faith, although it was the first day in weeks I had been up and on my feet the whole day and I felt dizzy and wished I could lie down.

Sikki and I went up to Leland last night. I wanted to buy a lamp for the desk in our room. The corner is very dark and I can’t read or write without turning the big overhead light on. I don’t like big bright lights. We ended up hanging around in Walmart for nearly two hours — her checking the clearance racks for boys’ clothes and whatnot — then we went to dinner. It was nice to feel unrushed. I guess I could learn to feel unhurried, if things keep up the way they are, physically speaking.

Today we are supposed to go to Myrtle Beach to get a few necessaries for the kids.

I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail? – from Jeremiah 15

Asthma, Christian Living, Daily Life, Marriage, Prayers

A Letter To My Local Church

Saints,

Weeks ago I became ill with an obstacle to functional existence, the culmination of long years of trouble with an unidentified pulmonary issue. My first impulse has been, at times, to pray the problem: “Oh God, heal these lungs. Get me back to work. I have a family to support. Don’t You understand that with good health and being clothed and in my right mind I’m much more useful to You, able to accomplish more for Your glory? Don’t You see how depressed and fat and angry I’m getting down here, how tired I am of the seclusion in my bedroom, how these meds are clouding my thoughts and making me useless?”

It is right and proper that we get our problems out on the table when we go to Him. We’re His after all — we belong to Him. We’re told to “cast our burdens on the Lord,” throw them onto His shoulders rather than try to solve everything with logic and reasoning and strength and fleshly fixing that further drains and damages us and gums up the works with fig leaves where there should be leather (Adam), Ishmaels where Isaacs should stand (Abraham), and brass shields in place of gold (Rehoboam). And it’s just a sad fact that much of the time we don’t seek or find God unless there’s a goad back there somewhere poking our posteriors, moving us from glory to glory onward and upward into Him. I assure you that’s true of me.

The recent exhortations of our pastor have to do with refusing to take up residence in the middle of those problems and patterns of prayer, of allowing ourselves to be blinded and halted by the great limitations and concerns of our encompassing circumstances. After we cast our burdens on Him as a starting point, we must move on to seek Him. It is in seeking God for HIMSELF that we find satisfaction, resolution and change, in seeking to know God because He is mysterious and wonderful and loves us, and not foremost because of all the great things He can do for us.

Steve’s Problem: a bodily ailment the medical community wonders over, cannot explain, cannot answer. They’re guessing diagnoses, predicting prognoses, taking expensive shots in the dark at treatments. They’re marveling. They’re excited, even. They say, “You’re just so young to be having problems like this!”

Now I haven’t been feeling too godly these past couple weeks. To tell the truth I’ve felt like a grouchy old ogre gnawing bones in his cave. I’ve felt angry and alone and far-away from my wife. I was up late recently with insomnia because of the meds and watched the old horror movie The Shining. I thought, If something doesn’t change soon I might start living out this plot. What I’m saying here is that for the last couple weeks I’ve been pretty much the frigid polar opposite of golden heaven-born spiritual ecstasy. I’ve been a sodden heap of bottom-feeding, self-pitying, wheezing flesh.

In spite of this horrible outlook, seven weeks into this obstacle — this limitation, this problem — our Father says, “Sit down, young man.” (Perhaps you understand the relevance of the number.) He doesn’t give me a lot of time and space to freak out and have a colossal tantrum. Just seven weeks. Maybe it took that long for me to grow ears. Then He says, “Come here, now, I want to show you something.” And I think, Praise God! The healing has started to flow, the solution is coming into view!

So what is Steve’s Solution? Instant healing? Quick deliverance?

No. Here’s what He says:

For years your wife has suffered in her relationship with Me because of wounding you inflicted in the earliest days of your union. She’s angry with Me and hampered in her relationship with both of us because of your callousness and impatience. You hold the key of authority to her heart, yet you have not been one with her before Me.

Excoriating, penetrating truth, cutting like a diamond scalpel. Imagine thinking for years that your spouse isn’t spiritual enough or doesn’t have the same heavenward desire or faith or ability and then finding out you — YOU! — are to blame for the whole mess, the whole sense of disconnection. Truth, a doubled-edged sword, dividing joints and marrow, soul and spirit, facts and horse hockey. It wasn’t something I could have identified through my efforts, or read in a book somewhere, or arrived at by focusing my prayer on the physical problem. The problem with praying the problem is that we don’t even know what our problem is.

Son of man, Can these bones live?

Oh Lord GOD, thou knowest.

Sikki and I talked on Monday night, the day after Pastor reminded us that we carry others with us into God’s presence. I held her and confessed my sin and asked her forgiveness. We prayed with tears as one heart before Him and marveled at the undeserved goodness of God, because He went right past my petulant attitude and put His finger on a real and devastating issue that made us vulnerable and hurt us both, of which we were totally ignorant. Her words afterwards: “I didn’t even realize that this was something that needed to be healed.”

Thanks be to God, He knew. The Lord is a God of knowledge, said Hannah. The Lord is good, and His love endures forever.

Praying the solution is seeking the One who manifests Himself in our lives in ways like this.

Yours in Him,
Steve
Daily Life, Vlog

Sunset

I read in Isaiah and Jeremiah this morning while I drank coffee and inhaled all the steroids. Did some laundry, made some phone calls. Rebekah made nice tasty eggs for lunch. After lunch the kids went with me to WalMart to pick up a few things. I felt very tired after we got home. Tried to read The Idiot, but only made it through a couple chapters before I started going cross-eyed. Yet I couldn’t sleep. It’s the Prednisone. The doses are lower now, but I still have two more days of 40mgs ahead.

The hospital called to arrange the first Xolair injection on Wednesday morning.

Sikki got home around 3:30. I got out of bed and went for a brisk walk on the east end of Holden Beach. Breathing was difficult, but I got to see the sun set:

Asthma, Daily Life, Writing

Week 7

On Thanksgiving weekend 2015, ten years to the day from my father’s sudden death on 11/28/2005, I went to the couch with several layers of blankets, congestion, and a fever which culminated in my calling out from work on 11/30/15, six Mondays ago.

The pneumonia forced exploration of an issue I’d been pressing through at work and home: the constant wheezing and coughing I’ve experienced for years. Back when I still had one foot in Delaware and one in North Carolina, I went to an allergist and pulmonologist hoping to get the issue resolved. But I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know and ended up owing a bunch of money for medical treatment that yielded neither diagnosis nor prognosis nor plan. The lack of answers from the first round of expensive medical inquiries made me angry and resistant about going back for more. So I didn’t.

But the lung infection twisted my arm. So here I am, seven weeks later, with a diagnosis of COPD and persistent asthma, waiting on the next step (in both physical and spiritual terms). To people who inquire I say I’m taking a day at a time. I know these events — indeed all the events of my life — are purposeful, are ordained in God. He knows the best ways to reveal Himself and detach us from the things that are holding us back from walking with Him.

But I’m bored. When I want to write, my mind is foggy. Words are far-away clouds. When I make a list of things I want to accomplish around the house and yard, I become listless. If I try to watch a movie I’m sick of it in twenty minutes. I try to read and my eyes drift over the lines and don’t connect the images with my mind. Nothing is exciting or gripping.

I have never felt this way before: this old, this tired.

This is a season. I know that. I just want this waiting period to be what it should be, what He has in mind. I want to be changed. I want fresh vision. Something has to die if we are to know the power of His resurrection.

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

 

Asthma, Daily Life

Truth: negative in first appeal, positive in reaction

Sikki rode with me from her workplace to the follow-up appointment with the pulmonologist this morning. The doctor said my lungs sound a little less clogged, but attributed it to the high doses of Prednisone I’m taking rather than to actual recovery. (I didn’t tell her that I took a brisk walk last night for the first time in six weeks, which may have played a part in opening them up, too.) Prednisone and inactivity are causing weight gain, which is why I’m now counting calories and defying orders by getting some light exercise.

The doctor says I have combination allergic asthma/moderate COPD. My lungs should be functioning around 80%, but they are only at 64%. This is comparable to a lifelong smoker who is 50 years of age — unusual for a 40-year-old who’s never smoked. But she says there is hope that this blockage can be reversed. Going forward she agrees with the allergist in recommending therapy with Xolair injections. I told her about the nature of my job and she suggested I might need to start looking for different work, as being in and out of cold environments is not good for me.

There is time to figure things out. It looks like a moment of transition, a turning page, a fade to black to enable new potentials in the fade to white. I don’t know whether I’m entering the purgation of the Dark Night of the Soul, or coming out of it. Either way, we walk by faith and not by sight.

Christian Living, Daily Life, Marriage, Prayers

Deep inner longings to know.

Thursday, 10 AM. We went to the church last night. The kids go to their youth function nearly every Wednesday evening. I went to the sanctuary where several adults had met to pray. Got myself prayed for while sitting in the center of a circle of faithful elders, as the recent news from the medical community has not been helpful. It was good to get out of the house last night and pray with other believers.

Sister Judy in particular prayed for Sikki and our marriage and family. She hears from God. My wife and I need prayer for our marriage because something is slipping away. I have been lying awake at night wondering if our marriage is strong enough for me to endure a long sickness. My parents’ marriage finally crumbled when my father became ill and wasn’t able to work.

My thoughts go back to childhood memories of peering into my maternal grandparents’ bedroom: I looked in and saw two single beds. My parents slept together…I assumed everyone’s parents slept together. But now I remember the musty, enclosed room in that old house and wonder how marriage can be reduced from a passionate relationship marked by bonds of ecstatic heat and wetness and deep inner longings to know, to a frigid socioeconomic contract. Their bedroom testified to the striking of what must have been a long settlement, a cold bargain to survive dashed hopes in a time when people didn’t talk about such things and stayed together for the kids.

To some degree Sikki and I deal with these feelings. Maybe all married people do at some point. Even a queen-sized bed is large enough for both parties to remain untouched and unfelt. But there is a natural ebb and flow to all relationships.

When Paul spoke about the relationship of Christ to the Church, he used marriage as the picture, the pivotal relationship God created in the beginning that would find culmination and full outworking through the work of Christ into eternity. Today marriage is held in dishonor by Western culture and many in the Church, but the plan of God will not be shaken.

The Prednisone pushes sleep out and away from my body. I dozed for three hours, then was awake from 2-6 AM. I watched videos and read the news and a couple chapters from The Idiot. Felt very dizzy and blurry eyed. Then I went back to bed, sleeping badly again until 9. I did some reading about Xolair, the drug the allergist and pulmonologist have discussed with me. If that stuff doesn’t work, I’ll be in a pickle. But if it does work, it doesn’t look like a medication I’d be able to stay on for too long because of its expense and side effects.

What if science and medicine fail? Sikki is talking about “getting me well,” referring to medical initiatives, but what if there is no getting well apart from the intervention and good hand of God? I want to be faithful to God and bring Him glory regardless of the circumstances. He knows everything the doctors don’t: He sees the past, present and finished product. The little loaves and fishes of my existence are in His care. I won’t be afraid.