I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Faith’

Front Row Seat

Yaya’s funeral was today.

I know. That was fast, right?

A timeline:

April 9 – discovery of tumors in lungs, pancreas, and liver after complaint of pain in sides.

April 12 – PET scan to determine if tumors are benign or cancerous.

April 15 – return to PCP who confirms she has cancer.

April 22 – meeting with oncologist who says the average life expectancy is 3 to 4 months, but he has seen as long as 1 year and as short as 2 weeks.

May 6 – last breath taken.

I have never experienced anything like this, and while there have been many nights with little sleep, I have seen God working in many beautiful ways. She was lucid the entire time. She only complained of nausea 2 days before she died and we solved that with stool softener, as opposed to the excruciating, debilitating pain that often comes with cancer. I didn’t anticipate that I would spend my birthday writing an obituary, but I wouldn’t have it any other way – it was truly a pleasure to ensure that she was recognized properly. Moreover, when I needed love the most, people in my life were already primed to give it to me because it was my birthday. God spared her by not allowing her to suffer and spared me the additional sorrow of having to share the day of her death with the day of my birth.

We spent her last weekend making sure all of her needs were met, summoning hospice nurses when needed. On Friday, Yaya had said to her regular nurse, “See you Monday – if I am still here.” She insisted that Pete not leave my brother-in-law alone because she felt she was going to die soon. I went back home and brought enough things for us to stay for the weekend. I will never forget the angel of a nurse that God sent both on Saturday and Sunday, who warned us that her death was imminent. Yaya was ready. She had spent the previous weekend giving us her things. She had told me she was tired and that we were going to be okay.

Pete and I each had one of her hands as her breathing slowed to a full stop at 4:10 AM. She was peacefully in her bed, just as she had wished. She knew we loved her and we knew she loved us. I stared in disbelief, as I had been in and out of her presence all week, checking for the rise and fall of her chest as she appeared to sleep. She still looked like she was only sleeping, but now she had achieved full healing.

I knew church today would be strange. I have had many family members die, but this is the closest I have been to the deceased – both for her death and in terms of relation. I always think of Gerard Manley Hopkins Spring and Fall to a Young Child at funerals – with each passing day, and indeed with each passing, my own is closer. In the busy-ness of life, it is easy to forget that we are mortal and one day will take our last breath. I hope not only to honor my mother-in-law’s life, but her death as well.

I will always cherish this ring she gave me.

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Can I Get Hope With That?

I come from a very large family. My Dad is #6 out of 10. My mother is #6 out of 9. I have grown up celebrating this family reunions – some more organized than others – and now that I am in my 30s, there is a lot more gray at these reunions than I remember. Have you ever seen a sign like this at a workplace –

Days_Without_Accident Lord. I feel like someone is always either going to the hospital or coming out of the hospital. Perhaps there were never really carefree days, but 20 years ago – even 10 years ago – it didn’t feel like there was always something wrong with somebody I care about.

Adonis’s Mom went to the doctor last Tuesday complaining of pain in her chest. They ran some scans. Tumors on her pancreas and lungs. We went to the doctor two days ago for confirmation after a PET scan, and sure enough, it appears her cancer is advanced. We do not go to the oncologist for further information until next week, but her doctors have recommended hospice and palliative care for her.

I have cried almost every day since getting the news. She is 90 years old, but I am still not ready to let her go. I am not going to eulogize her here because dammit she is still making jokes and seems at peace with the whole situation, but I wish I weren’t having to think about this now – for several reasons. I don’t want her to suffer, but as long as she is doing pretty well, I want her here on earth. Adonis loves her to pieces and I’m doing my best to be here for both of them.

She even made me laugh on the way home from the doctor, who had said that one of the signs that her time is limited would be that she would be losing weight from lack of appetite.  We stopped at McDonald’s to grab something quickly. She got a quarter pounder and a large fry, and when we arrived home she shared with me and added salt to hers. I don’t know if she did that for our sake, but she ate half of the fries and half of the burger. So there it is. As long as there are fries, there is hope.

Marvelous

Lady J is on her way home!

In my previous post, I was in the air headed north, and I am blessed to be headed the opposite direction, returning to my family and work. Our flight was delayed three times, only to be moved forward again (take away – if they say to be at your gate at your original time, they mean it), leaving plenty of time for questions. What is the cause of the delay? Weather? Maintenance? Is this going to be the type of flight where I will be wondering if my affairs are in order?

At take off, of course, I smell something strong. “Oh my gosh this could be it.” The flight attendant had said we could anticipate a smooth flight once we were at cruising altitude and I am here to tell you WE HAVE NOT REACHED IT YET. The most important question remains –

Should I relax and enjoy it? 

I always get window seats because I have a tendency to get claustrophobic and I love marveling at creation. Right now, I see nothing but a wing jutting out into cloudy darkness. I’ve written in this space many times that while I intellectually grasp that there is not a method of travel more statistically safe than this, I do not find myself clenching on car, bus, or subway rides. And yet, being up here is still marvelous. It is incredible that in mere hours I can be in a completely different part of the country, visiting people that I love. How wondrous that people have worked and are working continuously to make this more efficient and comfortable. In moments, I am going to be able to hit the publish button from 35,000 feet in the air. Plus, someone is going to come down the aisle shortly with some excellent snacks.

I have always looked at the term “first world problems” skeptically, because it seems like a way to dismiss the emotions of others. As a woman of faith, I’ve had no problem that cannot make me look toward the Lord for guidance. Dammit if some bumps don’t remind me to make sure my priorities are right. These bumps are nothing if not “self-inflicted,” as I wouldn’t be feeling them if I hadn’t wanted to have this amazing getaway.

Update: THIS PILOT IS A LIAR HE SAID THE BUMPS WOULD END AT CRUISING ALTITUDE AND IT WAS DEFINITELY FAKE NEWS

person in parachute gliding above mountains

I ain’t ready.

I suppose even the turbulence is marvelous in its own sneaky way, as I have no choice but to surrender to His will and the crew’s expertise. What could be healthier than remembering how little control I have?

More marvelous travel, please!

No Regrets!

Mommy has no choice but to shake her head and smile when I do something, like eat a plate of food that she has obviously set aside for herself, and she calls me out. My response is inevitably, “No regrets!” It’s not like I am going to lose her love, right? The food was calling my name.

I feel similarly about life at times. The world is my Mom’s plate for the taking. I write from about 10,000 feet, on my way to see The Mentor and run a race with her in her current home city of Washington, DC – one of my favorite places in the world.  I am insanely blessed to 1) have an amazing friend like her, 2) have the means to visit her, and 3) have a job from which I am able to take time to visit her. As I gaze out of the window and see God’s beautiful creation, I am made to smile.

Of course, since I am myself, I am unable to feel pure joy. We COULD crash any minute, you know. Also – am I working hard enough? Do I really have any discretionary income – you know, considering? Have I had all of my fun? Live update: we have made it to the gate and as long as I make it back (seriously, Lord, I’m kidding) my loan payment is still due. I will say this – my student loan debt has made me less afraid to die. But I digress, however slightly.

Am I living a life that brings the Lord glory? What am I doing? Is God happy when I am traveling and being the tax and spend Democrat that my Daddy says I am? Perhaps even more importantly, am I using my working days in a manner that pleases Him? What if I am doing everything wrong? How can I be sure that I won’t face Him some day and be greeted by a divine face palm?

At work, I seek to inspire others to tap into their capabilities. I want them to feel comfortable exploring, excited about creating, and willing to collaborate with their classmates to do so. I suppose God could find my desire to facilitate such things pleasing, though I feel I fall short often.

Sadly, my money goes to church with more frequency and predictability than I do. I was baptized in a white evangelical church where I received (and do receive, when I go) solid teaching, but it is difficult for me to cope with the fact that this demographic is the one that is MOST supportive of – well, you know. To be fair, I haven’t really been afraid in the last few years to schedule a race on a Sunday or train or just sleep in. Can I really not afford to give God a concentrated few hours a week? If what we value is reflected in our finances, how much more so with our time?

How much would it suck to be having a good ole time down here like an idiot and being doing it wrong? How can I know I am okay, so to speak? I want to nourish my relationships, professional and personal. I want to challenge myself to grow. I want to see things I’ve never seen before, but I want to do it all in a way that pleases Him. This is the only way I will surely have no regrets. I wish I knew exactly how to do it.

 

My Debt

I’m a well-educated millennial. It didn’t take two masters degrees for me to learn how to balance a budget, but now that I have them, it seems that for the foreseeable future I will have a line item reading “Student Loan Repayment.” In my first years after school, I wasn’t really thinking about the long-term consequences of having them, but I was forced to when I tried to do the most adulty of adult things last year.

Adonis and I tried to buy a modest townhome and our debt to income ratio, because of my extensive education and my chosen underpaid profession, resulted in a denial of the home loan. Man, I cried and I CRIED. I felt – and still feel, to some extent, like a failure – despite everything I’ve achieved and how hard I’ve worked, my financial profile somehow makes me unworthy of this official step. I feel like I’ve ruined my life and I had the greatest of intentions in pursuing my education. While I am quite sure I’m not the only person in this situation, it is difficult for me not to feel self-pity.

money pink coins pig

How Banks See Me.

I have had several months to reflect on my impassioned reaction. It is interesting to me that I was so profoundly disappointed to not acquire something that I have been historically quite dispassionate about. I often say that I ran out of commitment juice when I got married – no. more. long. term. THINGS. EVER. When I think of homeownership, it honestly seems like a drag – the landlady has more responsibility than the tenant. The ONLY perks are 1) a fixed cost in monthly payment (hahaha that commitment is okay I guess) and 2) building equity. So why was I so upset?

Welp. The most reasonable explanation is that no amount of education can stop the ungodly reflex of lamenting that “everyone else is doing it.” Honestly, the worst part of that is if everyone else is doing AND not everyone else is as educated as I am, maaaaan I have really made some poor (rimshot!) choices. I am half-joking when I tell people that my mind is my mortgage, but for now, that seems to be true. Truer still when the literal meaning of mortgage – DEATH PLEDGE – is examined. I suppose no one would come to foreclose upon my mind and repossess my degrees, but it most certainly feels like it is going to be with me forever.

Paul wasn’t lying to Timothy.

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 Timothy 6:10 (NASB)

I have no wish to wander. Yes, I have an obligation to pay this debt, but that is no reason for me to pierce myself and pine for something that clearly God did not want me to have in that moment. Perhaps my name may never be on a title, but the most important title I will always hold is child of God. The debt I must focus upon is the one I have to God for making a meaningful life possible.

Pray for me.

In The Beginning Was The Word.

*looks up*

Forgive me, Lord, if I end up blaspheming in this post. I’m thinking really hard about what I write here. If I’m wrong about anything, please show me. Thanks for inspiring others to invent delete and backspace.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

Beginnings are a big deal. Not that you can’t have a great ending without a great beginning, but oh man, getting the beginning right often makes things that much easier. It is my duty as a Christian to constantly keep the Life-giver at the forefront of my thoughts. As 2019 has started, I am already finding myself overwhelmed and defeated, although I shared in my last post that I have no objective reason to feel this way. The thing about life is that you can have a great day but then you go to sleep, knowing that you have to set yourself up to have another great day. If tomorrow itself is not guaranteed, surely a great tomorrow is far from certain.

So what can I do to not throw in the towel on January 14? Resist.

I’ve chosen resist as my word of the year because I have found that when I choose not to resist, it is when I get into trouble. I must resist –

  • the temptation to overeat.
  • believing that progress is always linear.
  • comparing myself to others.
  • allowing the evil one to steal my joy.
  • minimizing my accomplishments.
  • not prioritizing my time.

I can only make one good decision at a time. When I pray the Lord’s prayer, I ask for my daily bread – not weekly, not yearly. While I can plan for the future, I cannot know what it holds. I want to honor God with my body. I want to serve others with my gifts, even though I feel so much of the time that I don’t have very much to offer. He can use anyone, even lil Joanie, to accomplish His will, and I definitely don’t want to be in the way.

This week, I have 16 miles on the calendar. It has been well over a year since I have run 16 miles in one week and I am terrified. I wasn’t too pleased with how slow my long run was on Saturday, but I am choosing to remind myself that practice for the big day isn’t always going to be pleasurable. I imagine that it’s quite normal for a workout to feel like WORK. It’s not even trying to pretend to be something else.

God is my light. I must resist succumbing to the darkness that has already been conquered. The war is won.

pexels-photo-1766683.jpeg

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

Ενθρανστο.

At this moment, we are waiting in a hotel lobby for a taxi to the airport. I just got off of a video call with my parents, who were happy to see me. It seemed as though we hadn’t been video calling all along through the last two weeks that Adonis and I have been in Greece. In fact, they seemed a bit nervous, and I believe it’s for the same reason that I have butterflies in my stomach.

Ζωή είναι ένψρανστη. Life is fragile.

As terrible as my reading of Greek is, I have much more control over that than I have over much else, from whether our cab makes it on time to the safety of our 31 hours of travel time back to our blessed home. I was both taken aback and appreciative yesterday as we went on our last ferry ride to see one of the crew members do a sign of the cross as we left the port. I assume that he makes that journey several times a week, but it didn’t appear that he took his lack of control for granted. The blue waters of the Aegean offer life for many but can pose a great threat as well. The brilliant minds who have made it possible for us to travel 5,764 miles within 31 hours cannot offer us a guarantee of a safe return.

If you are reading this, I ask that you pray for a safe journey for Adonis and I, who happens to be handling his nervousness by pacing around the lobby. Yes, I understand air travel is statistically very safe, and I expect to be in my bed tomorrow evening, but life is fragile. I thank God for this amazing trip, which I will be writing about more in a days (yes, I did find a race here), and ask for His continued protection on our journey home. Also, for some self-control at duty free. Amen.

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