Monday, December 26, 2011

Only the Beginning

My favorite part of Christmas is the afterglow.

I know folks who are anxious to take down their tree and put all the decorations away as soon as the last gift is unwrapped.   I prefer to linger among the ornaments and manger scenes as long as I can.  Once the hurry and scurry of the season are gone I often find myself sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and a leftover Christmas morsel in the glow of twinkle lights on a tree, listening to the familiar and beloved hymns of adoration. 

I pick up a treasured choir child figurine that belonged to my Grandmother.  She has rhinestone eyes, a perfectly shaped ‘oh’ mouth and a head that was glued back on 50 years ago. I cherish that figurine and the memories of Christmas cookies at Neenie’s table.

My eyes fall on the various ornaments that my children, stepchildren and grandchildren made and I stop to pray for them, asking God’s blessings upon them. 

I see a stray piece of wrapping paper that has not yet made it to the trash, and I am thankful for our abundance and the many gifts we receive that are not wrapped prettily with paper and ribbon. The intangible things of our lives.

I hold cards from friends and family who are scattered far and wide and I am in awe of such a wide range of people who are part of our lives. 

All these things and many more catch my attention.  But the one thing that I come back to again and again is the manger with the Babe of Bethlehem.  Placed intentionally where the shadow of a cross falls across it.  To remind me that the joy of His birth is only the beginning.  Lent is just around the corner…and Easter is coming!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Tale of Twenty

A twenty dollar bill.

Not a lot.

Not insignificant, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t a lot of money.

That twenty dollar bill in my pocket was for my manicurist.  I have resolved several times this year to stop indulging in that particular luxury.  The money could be spent more effectively somewhere else, etc. etc. etc.  But I keep going back because over the course of the year, Lindsey has started talking to me.  For months, I could barely get her to look me in the eye.  She is painfully shy.  She is from Viet Nam and I occasionally have a difficult time understanding what she says to me.  The last time I thought I just was going to quit going back, she smiled at me and thanked me for being so nice to her. 

So I continue to go.  Really, it isn’t a huge sacrifice.  I enjoy the quiet conversation and getting to know her.  Her shy smile brightens my day and we have formed an odd friendship.  Many of the other clients are loud and boisterous when I’m in there, but Lindsey and I talk quietly and sometimes she will even stop her task and look me straight in the eye as she talks about something. 

The shop was very slow and quiet.  I asked if she’d been busy and she sighed and shook her head no.  Not busy.  She supposed that people were busy shopping for Christmas.  We carefully discussed a color choice and she said she was going to make sure my nails were extra pretty for Christmas.  She takes such care in her work.  I asked if she was ready for Christmas and she said no.  She said she was glad that Christmas was on Sunday this year, because she didn’t have to miss a day of work.  I’m sure she only gets paid for days that she is at work.  She had a worried, wistful look on her face.

She told me that she would go to Midnight Mass and how much she loved that service.  And that her family would all come to her apartment for Christmas dinner, but not a traditional American dinner.  Her eyes glowed as she told me how they celebrated ‘in my country’.  She said she misses her family back in Viet Nam during the holidays.

And so she finished the task and before I paid for the service, I slipped the  $20 from my pocket to her hand.  She burst into tears.  She hugged me and thanked me for being her friend.  She said I had no idea what that meant to her.

I paid my bill, wished her a Merry Christmas and slipped out into the parking lot that is full of evidence of the affluence that marks our side of town.  Tears ran down my cheek as I recalled a time…not so very long ago…when an unexpected $20 meant the world to me.  A time when I was a single mom, living paycheck to paycheck and not sure how I was going to afford Christmas for my children.

Oh, yes.  I remember. I don’t ever want to forget, because it is from that place that I grew empathy and learned to be mindful of those around me.  It was those days of nearly desperate need when I received such generous gifts that I learned what it truly meant to be grateful.  No,  I don’t ever want to forget those times. 

This past year has been one of uncertainty.  My Rocket Man lives and works in an industry that is quickly going out of business.  We stopped counting the number of friends who have been laid off.  I hear that 400 more jobs in our city will be cut after the first of the year.  The possibility of unemployment in today’s economy and in his line of work is like an uninvited guest in our home. My job at the Church House is  dependent upon the economy and the level at which people will continue to give.  It is always there.  Always considered in our decisions.  A fairly regular topic of conversation.

Through it all, we have been abundantly blessed.  However, I know that this Christmas may be the last that we are able to give at our current level. 

So while I’m able, I’m enjoying every minute of giving away those bills.  Mindful of the cutting back we are going to be doing in the coming year.  Staring down uncertainty.  I am not going to let that uncertainty take away the joy we have in sharing today, this month and this season.  We aren’t going to hoard what we have…just in case.  Rather we are holding our riches in open hands, sharing from our abundance and grateful for the opportunity to share.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thinking about Valentine's Day

I know, I know.  Don't skip one holiday and hurry on to the next, right?

But I'm already thinking about Valentine's Day.

Hearts and L-O-V-E and such.

It all stems from rushing The Rocket Man to the ER with chest pains recently.
And getting the very good news that while we don't know exactly what caused those chest pains, we have ruled out any heart disease.  Which is good, because his family history of heart disease is simply dismal.

I saw the film from the heart cath.
I talked at length to the doctors and nurses who all concurred that this man of mine has a pretty strong and good lookin' heart.

All of which I already knew. 
Only I was thinking of the other heart.
The one that I fell in love with.
That heart that
offers grace
gives freely
loves joyfully

The heart that risked hurt by loving again after being quite battered and wounded.

It is a heart of faith.
A champion's heart.
The heart of my hero.
And THAT heart-
the one that I fell in love with-
well, there's nothing wrong with it.

The other one, the heart that  is defined by its arteries and muscles,
that one is doing just fine, too.

It beats a lovely lullaby to me at night as I fall asleep with my head on his chest.
Drumming a rhythm that offers comfort and security and shelter.

Both hearts combine make one giant of a man.
My Rocket Man
He's my gift.
And I am thankful.

So I'm really looking forward to Valentine's Day with the emphasis on hearts.
I am going to love the stuffin' out of some hearts in my house!
Both hearts, the anatomical heart and the heart/soul of my Rocket Man.
I'm going to celebrate those hearts in February
and I can't wait!!

Think I'll go ahead and get started.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is this place even on the map? {and do you know how to get there?}

I must make a confession.  You know when you are driving and you realize that you might be off course.  Perhaps even lost?  And typically the male of the species is the one who will refuse to stop and ask for directions? 

That isn't quite how things play out in MolliWorld.  Odd as it may seem, Rocket Man {the uber-male who isn't in touch with his feminine side unless he's touching me, because I AM his feminine side} is the one who is most eager to stop and ask for directions.  I am the one who thinks she can figure it out and get where we are going with no help from anyone.  Give me a map and a landmark and by golly! I think I can get anywhere. 

I don't know why I am that way.  I will say on my behalf that I am pretty good with a map.  I have a good sense of direction and it has served me well.  I learned quickly in heavy traffic in Germany when I was a young bride and a map was thrust in my lap with the loud command to 'figure out where we are and how to get where we are going!'  And all the roadsigns were in Deutsch, which was not a language I knew well enough in which to be even considered illiterate.  What a pickle to be in while going 100 mph down the autobahn. In heavy traffic. At night. 

Anyway, I learned then and there to read a map-regardless of the traffic, light source or ability to read the roadsigns. 

Back to the requesting directions thing.   I don't even like to find a store clerk and ask which aisle the popcorn is on. I'll spend many minutes walking up and down aisles looking for a thing before I'll find a clerk to ask for help.  Muttering to myself if the popcorn isn't where it seems to me to be the logical place to put it. The Rocket Man, on the other hand, will ask before he looks.  He says it is more efficient.  Efficient-schmefficient sez me! 

That would be one of the differences in us.  He's always looking for a more efficient way and I'm often just out there for the ride. I'm pretty certain I can figure it out and find where I'm going on my own. Which sounds mighty independent for someone who for years considered herself to be fairly dependent and has to work hard occasionally not to be co-dependent. 

For the past 12 days or so, I've sort of felt like I'm without a map, a flashlight or directions. In uncharted waters.  Wandering.  There isn't a trail of breadcrumbs. And it is somewhat scary.  But I'm not scared, if that makes any sense.

You see, the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, Rocket Man looked at me and said he wasn't feeling well and he thought he might need to go to the ER to get it checked out.  He had his right hand sort of held where his heart is and we headed out to the emergency room with chest pains. 

I blathered on and on for  the entire drive, trying to be careful in traffic, but driving as fast as I could.  Do you have shooting pains down your left arm?  Are you nauseous?  On a scale of 1-10 how bad does it hurt?  Do you feel pressure?  What sort of pain? Even that unspeakable phrase, Do you think you could be having a heart attack?  All questions that I probably heard on  Marcus Welby, M.D. as a child.  Because I surely am not a medical professional and while I know a little bit about heart disease, certainly not enough to diagnose a heart attack. 

And I hadn't stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in quite some time, so that couldn't be it.

I mostly wanted to keep him talking to me.  Which was a good thing, it turns out, because when we got to the ER and they begin asking him all the same questions...he passed out.  The nurse immediatly hit him in the chest because he wasn't responding and she saw something on the EKG that was abnormal.. He opened his eyes and said {with attitude} 'What?'  Somebody called for a cardic alert and  brought a stretcher and people in scrubs were scurrying around me. 

I felt like they were moving at warp speed while I had slowed down to 33 rpm.  Someone said that his heart had stopped.  He was taken back to a room and outfitted with all sorts of wires, IVs in both hands, had blood drawn,was asked questions, monitors were read. Sort of like you see on TV, only without any commercial breaks. And with my Rocket Man as the star.  I didn't like it so much. I didn't like it at all.

I was right outside the room in the hallway, trying not to get in the way, with a clipboard full of papers they wanted filled out  I was feeling very, very alone.  And small.  Quite small.

I had already called my parents and asked them to pray.  I called my Annie to come get the Boys Fantastic who were at my house.  I texted my niece, Teri Lynne asking her to pray.  My phone rang immediately and it was Teri Lynne asking what was going on and about that time someone said to me, "he's having a heart attack" and Teri Lynne asked if I wanted her to come {she lives 85 miles away} and I said yes!  Come!  I called Rev. Boss and he said he was on the way.

All of the sudden, I was asking for directions to someplace I'd never been before.  It was like the part of my brain that thinks I'm big and I can do anything I want to do was in neutral and all that was engaged was my heart.  Let me assure you, my heart wanted directions and comfort and people who love us.

Within 40 minutes of the time he told me he wanted to go to the ER, Rocket Man was headed to the heart cath lab to find out what was going on under the capable hands of the cardiologist on-call.  And I was in the waiting room with Rev. Boss {who arrived just as they were rolling the bed out of Rocket Man's  room.  He asked if he could pray and the nurse said if he could pray and walk, because they weren't stopping!}.  Family and friends began to gather after they took him back and shortly the doctor came and got me to view the film.  The Rocket Man  had NOT had a heart attack {Thanks be to God}but they were going to keep him overnight after the procedure. 

By the time we could see the Rocket Man, the nurse commented that he must be very popular, there were so many people there.  He kept saying, 'that nurse punched me in the chest' until I told him he'd passed out.  He didn't quite remember that part.  He was perfectly willing to take my word for it.

We still don't know what happened.  We are in the process of seeing doctors and gathering information and taking it just a little bit easy.  You see, his father had his first heart attack before the age of 40 and died of heart disease at 62.  His grandfather died in his 40s of a heart attack.  So we take chest pains seriously. Thus far, we are finding out that the man is as healthy as can be.

As I sat beside his bed that night in the hospital, after everyone had left, I realized that I was in a place I always knew I could be...someplace I always knew I might have to go...I just didn't think I would be there that night.  And I looked at that face I love so dearly as he breathed in oxygen through the tube in his nostrils and was overcome with gratitude. I knew grace in that moment.  Grace so real I could almost touch it and gratitude flowed from my heart.

I am so thankful that he recognized that something was wrong and was willing to ask for directions.  Thankful that we got to the ER before he passed out.  Thankful that my heart-yearning to suround myself with people who loved and cared for us overcame my head's bent toward figuring it out myself.

Thankful that even though the circumstances were scary, I wasn't afraid.  I knew that this little lamb and my amazing Rocket Man were safe in the arms of the Good Shepard.

I've faced my own mortality and stared down some scary things in my life.  I live being 'off' and with whole systems in my body that continually stump the medical community.  I'm okay with that. That's me.

I haven't been quite so okay with the events of the past few weeks.  I'm getting there.  I understand that this is part of the journey of our lives.  This comes with being middle-aged and needing to know about heart disease and having affairs in order and asking people to make decisions for us if we are ever rendered incompetent to make them ourselves. 

All of that reeks of stopping at a gas station and asking for directions to me.  And I'm just not so good at that.  But I'm learning. 

So if you see me standing alone, looking lost and trying to figure something out...I might be getting ready to ask you for help.  And I'm getting more and more okay with that. 

Doesn't mean I'm going to give up my love of maps and figuring out which way to go.  Just means that I'm learning to have a head that matches up a little better with my heart.  Because it is just more effiecient and you might know how to get where I'm going.


Did I mention that my niece, Teri Lynne, dropped everything and drove 170 miles to be with me because I said, 'Yes! Come!' which I would NEVER have said if I'd thought about it for 2 mintues.  Becaue her husband is a pastor and they have an 11 year old daughter and it was Saturday night for-goodness-sakes and I know how crazy Sundays can be.  If you aren't already subscribed to her amazing blog you should go there RIGHT NOW and check her out.  She has a precious heart and she puts her money where her mouth is concerning her faith and love!  I may or may not be somewhat biased.

Huge thanks, as well, to my daughter...Annie-with-the-million-watt-smile.  She made a bazillion trips back and forth from the hospital to the house to get important things like comfy clothes, makeup, iPad, phone charger, etc. etc. etc.  How wonderful to have grown-up children!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Oh Yeah! I'm Tired {5 Minute Friday}

Its Friday, and while I haven't done it in awhile, I think if I don't write today I might burst at the seams and all of my insides might come out.  It wouldn't be pretty.  So, I'm going to jump on and set my timer for 5 minutes and write for the pure joy of writing along with Lisa-Jo at The Gypsy Mama.  We write with no edits, from our hearts.  The prompt today is:  Tired:


I am so tired.  Weary.  Dog tired.  To my bones. Burdened.  Tired.

I remember when my daughter was a baby and her Dad was on a remote tour of duty in the Phillipines with the Air Force and she didn't sleep.  Ever. AT ALL. I'mnotkidding.  In her baby book, I marked at 8 months when she slept 3 hours straight. That was the first time she had ever slept 3 hours straight.  It was during the day and her 2 year old brother was wide awake and a handful.  {Her brother was sleeping 8-12 hours with one feeding when he was 10 days old. She was quite a surprise. In fact, she's 31 and still doesn't sleep well.}  That year, I thought I knew what tired was.

I was wrong.

Tired is having grown up children who live on the west coast while you are in the southeast and who need you...and all you can do is listen and cry with them and pray.  Because you know they were never yours to begin with.  Those preschool boo-boos and predicaments that I thought were nearly insurmountable...HA!  Those were the easy days.

Tired is deadlines looming on reports about numbers in the church that have nothing to do with the real work of the church. (I am the Clergy Admnistrator in a large church and its time for annual reports)  But the bureaucracy of the church and its hierarchy seem to be very concerned with the number of bottoms in the pew and the dollars in the plate...not how we ministered to those people.  How do you account for sitting and singing 'Jesus Loves Me' with a drug addict, wracked with pain and needing a fix, who came in looking for help?  How do you put a number or value to helping someone plan the funeral service of the one they love most dearly in all the earth?  What place in the database form asks for the hours you have knelt in prayer for and with people in need? The tissues handed across my desk.  The joy shared in good news?  The sharing of the Gospel of Christ?  There isn't a spot for that on the form.  But I better report carefully the name of the person who did the last audit on the property.  Oh, yes.  I'm tired. {and maybe have a less than sterling attitude}

Tired is sitting up all night long in a hospital room, watching the man to whom you have pledged your heart and life as he breaths in and out...IV tubes running out of both hands, oxygen going into his nostrils and a monitor by his side charting his heart.  Watching that precious man with whom I have built a life while he sleeps, wondering if this is what life will be now?  Being a place I thought would probably happen someday, but not today. {inserted Rocket Man did NOT have a heart attack, but we were in the ER on Saturday night with chest pains and he had a heart cath run.  We aren't sure yet what happened, and I solicit your prayers as we go down this path of finding out.  He is back at work today and we have follow up appointments to try to figure out what happened and how to prevent it in the future}

Oh, yeah.  I'm tired.  But I am also resting in the arms of God that held me long before I was even aware that He was holding me.  I know that I can't do any of this in my own strength, but that I can do ALL things through Him.  And I have peace.  And the coffee is still good.  And the sun is still shining.  And the deadlines will be met.  And sometime next week, I'll take the Autumn decorations down and drag out the Christmas decorations.  But today...right now...I'm really, really tired.


That was more than 5 minutes and I didn't mean to color outside of the lines.  But writing all of that certainly made me feel a bit better and my phone rang 4 times while I was trying to write.  Guess that is what I get for writing at work.  I did come in an hour early and will be here late, if that counts for anything.  Did I mention that I'm tired?