Thursday, January 24, 2013

coughing up slugs

After a second round of antibiotics and a few sick days at home, I'm hoping to finally kick the sinus infection that has nested and spawned demon offspring in my "unusually small" Eustachian tubes.  Thanks dad, I'm so glad I inherited those from you.  No, really, it's the genetic gift that keeps on giving...

But the sickness of body seems to have mirrored an unusually long sickness of soul.  I just feel sinful.  Although this isn't a particularly sinful season, in that I can't put my finger on anything extraordinarily sinful, I just feel all itchy, scratchy in skin that is too small for me.  

So going through a dozen boxes of tissue trying to blow my brains out these past few weeks is strangely cathartic.  Yes, I know that's gross, but get over it.  I'm the one that has to live through it anyway.  It's like I'm getting out all the icky out of my soul.  Except the icky in my soul never ends.  Lord willing, this sinus infection and the constant mucus will soon come to an end, but I can't get all the nasty goop out of my soul.  It just stews there in all its slimy glory.



The first round of antibiotics and steroids helped me survive a trip to Puerto Rico with 24 teenagers and 3 other adults.  Not exactly how I envisioned the trip would go, but I wasn't about to let a few tons of snot get between me and warm weather and a rain forest and the beach and kayaking and....  Well, you get the idea.  

Three things happened in Puerto Rico that were desperately good for my snot-ridden soul.  First, I read the entire 100 Cupboards series by N.D. Wilson.  Second, I was reminded about the beauty and wonder of God's creation when I got to zip line through the forest, kayak through dinoflagellate filled water, hike through a tropical rainforest, and lay on the beach.  And finally, my love for my job was restored through heaps and heaps of laughter with teenagers over junk food and teen magazines and crazy life stories.  

I love a good book full of conflict and triumph and coming of age, which is just what the 100 Cupboards series was.  Sometimes I get a little jealous when stories have enemies that are so clear, objectives that are so straight forward and choices that are so obvious.  Why can't life be that way?  One big villain trying to destroy all of humanity and no one ever has to use the bathroom.  So simple, so clear.  Why does my life feel so muddled and meaningless in comparison?

I forget that underneath all my muddled up daily routines and flurry of self-inflated nonsense lies an epic story where my choices really do matter.  There really is one big villain trying to destroy all of humanity, but his triumph lies in the small choices I make every day.  Do I choose love and honor in a relationship even when I don't feel like it?  Do I choose to pour into Quinn or disengage? Do I choose to fill my mind with tools to equip me for the battle or waste idle time indulging in selfish fancies?

Sometimes following Christ feels like pulling ribbons of foul-smelling mucus out of my soul with no end in sight.  Like Ronald Weasley coughing up slugs - sometimes you just have to cough until they run out.  But at least I know why I’m coughing.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


One of the best things about this Christmas break has been falling in love with my son again.  After months of being immersed in school schedules, I can forget how much our school systems deprive us of rest.  Even if we had no life outside of our schools, Quinn and I would still both be exhausted after a five month marathon.  By the time break hit, Quinn was having daily meltdowns, and my patience was lying in a bloody, lifeless heap on the floor.  So despite the fact that I really love my job, the idea of diving back in for another five months makes me want to crawl under my bed and set up a barricade.  Add to that all the extra work I've taken on with new and revamped classes, work I need to get done for Team Emmett, and various social obligations, and I'm about one straw short of a broken back.

I spent my quiet time this morning reviewing Romans 8, Hebrews 12, and Psalm 46 in preparation for the onslaught of the next months.  Sometimes I wish my brain had an open and dump feature because the work of memorization is so hard won and so easily lost that I feel certain I must have some mental disorder.  I even got a little annoyed with God as I reviewed the passages because I  kept asking God why he didn't remind me of these when such and such happened or before I did this or that.  Seriously, what's the good of memorizing scripture, God, if I can't even call it to mind when I need it?  I'm actually pretty convinced I do have a mental disorder.

I've been trying to reflect on the worth of Christ this month, reading scriptures in Hebrews and Colossians, and yet I can't seem to focus my brain for ten consecutive seconds before anxiety comes crashing down on me.  I never really struggled with anxiety before we lost our daughter.  They had me hooked up to a bunch of IV medications for the complications I had, and I remember waking up in a panic and trying to get them out.  Oddly, the more I've walked with Christ, the more I seem to struggle with anxiety.  I have begun to realize that when I open myself up to love and trust God more, I must by necessity open more room to potentially doubt the faithfulness of God.  Based on the universally applicable study of my own heart, I'm beginning to suspect that I will never be able to walk in faith without this constant struggle with anxiety.

And yes, I know Philippians 4: 6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Small, very fun but slightly irrelevant example. Apparently this verse is sinking into my son quite well.  I lose things regularly, and I'm always stopping to pray for things like my purse, keys, phone, a stack of papers, my sanity, etc.  When I couldn't find my keys the other day, Quinn and I were looking, and when I started to feel anxious, I said to him, "I just need to stop and pray for a minute."  He looked at me very scornfully and said, "Mommy, I've already done that," with one of those seriously-mom-please-catch-up kind of looks.  It was awesome.

But the very command not to be anxious implies that there is a constant anxiety knocking at the door.  I used to think if I could just trust more, then it would all go away and I would be magically light and want to dance.  But no, if I trust Jesus more, he will guard my heart and mind, but anxiety will still be there like a poisonous gas trying to find and slip through every potential crack in my faith.  I despise (to the point of having very unholy thoughts) when people apply that verse like a bandaid to someone worrying as if it should suddenly make you light and care free.

Not being anxious is a heavy, difficult burden for those struggling in the faith.  What I have seen people walking in the Spirit do is to take up that struggle with anxiety in prayer, to pray for the guarding of the heart and mind and for the coming peace.  I live in such a beautiful, yet unfortunately rare, community where we often experience the freedom to carry each other's burdens in this manner.  It is beautiful, and yet faith is still hard.  Fighting off anxiety is still a battle.  Because honestly, it isn't my to do list that is going to kill my spirit, it is the anxiety about my to do list that steals my memory verses, buries my joy, and reduces me to a raging crazy lady having a meltdown over how long I have to stand in line at a store. I have spent many years underestimating the strength needed for this fight.  It has taken me more than a decade to realize that it isn't going to get easier this side of heaven.  And maybe I'm nuts, but I suspect I'm not.

I keep coming back to the image of Saul, who, in his anxiety over the battle before him in 1 Samuel 13, gave up waiting for Samuel and offered the sacrifice himself.  I totally identify with Saul.  I'm definitely a rusher. And anxiety not only makes me rush, it makes me feel justified and holier than other people when I'm rushing.  I have to be really careful that anxiety doesn't become a tool of my older brother  self-righteousness.  So I'm praying Psalm 130 for myself this year, praying from depths of fear and shame and loneliness and pain experienced this side of heaven, that these things would not feed my anxiety, but that I would have strength for my soul to wait on the Lord with my eyes focused on the coming redemption. no. matter. what.

Excuse me while I go barricade myself underneath my bed.  My cracks are showing.