Tuesday, May 22, 2012

a desert of praise

it would seem to me that a desert of praise is something that, horticulturally speaking, would not be able to exist.  the only praise you'd hear in a desert would come from a depleted, exhausted, dehydrated hiker when one had found water. doesn't it seem like sometimes, when you are looking and wanting something super bad, it seems the furthest away? One wouldn't set off on a voyage through the desert without water. 

A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants.

Doesn't sound very welcoming, or lively.  When i think of a desert, i think of my eyes squinting against an ever-present hot ball of sunshine.  a tumbleweed of dry, arid fog thickening the back of my throat.  sweat droplets sizzling my forehead and evaporating before i can wipe them away with the back of my hand. any hope of finding water dwindling with each step. 

sounds depressing. and unless you were a cactus in your former life, i'd say that description would sound rather depressing.  i finished watching a corny Christian-made movie right before i got up the angst to write this stinkin' thing.  and ya know what, i almost cried.  but it was still corny....
and true.  the movie was called Letters To God.  It was based on a true story about a young boy that is infected with cancer and eventually loses the battle here in the physical world.  But while he was alive, he wrote a letter a day to God, praying that all would come to know the real God.  a pretty lofty goal for a young boy...for anyone, really. the world...is HUGE. but then again, i guess God is too

When the movie neared the ending, it didn't dwell on the fact that he died.  It didn't even show a funeral scene or gobs of tears and tissues.  and i was challenged during that entire movie.  why?  because this little boy had hope.  He never waivered in his faith and belief in God. in fact...he believed FOR others!!!! what kind of strength is that???  what kind of faith is that??? i don't get it. He knew he was going to die.  And his hope didn't lie in the things on the earth he was leaving behind, his hope was cemented in the realization that he was going to be with God. but as i sat up to get off my bed, the phrase that hit me and hit me hard was, "a desert of praise." 

So i stopped at the edge of my bed and sat there thinking..."what in the world does that even mean? it doesn't even make any sense!"  a desert of praise.  and then i began to see. God doesn't make sense the way He does things sometimes.  He says you're strongest when you're weak.  Give and He gives back more. lose your life to gain it. what?!?!!  and a slew of other things.  a desert of praise.  if a desert is a place where hardly any life is able to be lived, but praise is adoration for the one that created that desert, it sounds like a lonely place.  an arid, dry, lonely place full of adoration. 

I realized i am in a desert and i have the choice to praise or keep silent.  licking my dried, chapped lips, wringing out my sweat-filled shirt.  But the Bible says...God inhabits the PRAISES of His people.  So even when i'm in the desert, He inhabits a desert of praise.  And He is the living water.  Even when I'm alone, I'm never really alone. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  When I don't understand why, He gives wisdom to those that ask.  When I'm afraid, I lift my eyes to the hills, my help comes from the Lord.  And when my heart breaks more every day, He is near to the broken-hearted. 

In my desert, i choose to praise.  when i close my eyes, i can see myself shouting praises into the thick nothingness of air. and He's there. and He's kind. and He's gentle. and He's perfect. and He's real. and He's honest. and He's faithful. and He's everything you need in your desert of praise.     

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Warm Chair

It's what I come to work to sit in. It's what I leave work giving the next person who replaces me. Sitting with people suffering. With those that are totally disconnected from the rest of the world. The guy I'm sitting with tonight is probably wondering what only I know the answer to. "How in the world is she staying awake in a dimly lit hospital room? Staring at the floor?" The answer, well there are a few. I actually got to sleep before work, coupled with a 5-hr Energy drink. That's how. But even then, that only gets me thru about half of my shift. After that, it's sheer willpower. But also, my mind is completely activated. As my eyes dart from the speck on the cold hard floor to the next, a new thought surfaces and a conversation ensues. With myself. Yes. I talk to myself. In my head. Maybe I should be the one strapped down to a bed with a steady drip of fluids draining into a vein.

I heard a preacher quote a man who has been walking with God for 45 years. And I am at the cusp of really understanding and knowing what he meant. He said, "I've known God thru the many blessings in my life. But the knowledge Ive learned from God in the blessing stage of my life in no way compares to what I've learned about Him in the breaking stages of my life." In other words, he's learned more about God and His infinite love while walking thru the stages of life that have caused him the deepest of hurts. If you've lived long enough, you've been broken. Likely, not in the same ways that others will. But nonetheless, it's gonna happen.

8 weeks. 2 months. 60 days. PANG! My heart beat with an unusual kind of rhythm. Then a gutteral hurt. Why? "oh yea," I remembered, "2 months since cancer gripped its ugly hands around my grandma's organs and around our family's heart. We get on with life and its obligations, its beckonings and responsibilities. Somehow, we do it. And sometimes, it PANGS! with anger. Frustration. Grief. Exhaustion. My car has become quite the sanctuary. I've spent hours in it driving, yes. But also staining the upholstery with my tears. Grabbing handfuls of tissue from my glove box. Feeling alone, but comforted at the same time by the warmth of my tears. it lets me know that i can still feel, even after weeks of not alowing myself such a luxury.
The man i'm sitting with  has been nursed back to health. I know this because the last time i was with him, he was too weak to even walk to the bathroom. And too out of his mind to realize that, surprisingly, i was not a super hero and therefore, did not have a superhero name. and he told me he'd had it up to here (pointing to the top of his forehead) with me telling him what to do as he plucked at his catheter. ripped off his heart monitor. and picked at his IV line in his chest. Patience is a virtue and i had just enough to get thru that night. Now, he's IV free, can eat and drink whatever he wants, talks coherently  and goes to the bathroom without assistance. He's been nursed back to health. People have cared for him and helped him with tasks that we do with ease every day.  He's getting beter. and as sucky as this next thought is, it's true. It's hard for me to come to work and sit with and care for people that don't want to live...however, defy death in the ICU and make a full recovery. They treat myself and the nurses with disdain dripping from their words and actions.  They're not grateful (at least not on the outside) for the care that's been given them. 

So i sit in my warm chair, thinking about how my family has nursed and cared for my grandma. Tirelessly. The nurses that pump her with fluids 3x a week, 2 hours each time just to keep her hydrated. But she'll not be nursed back to health. She won't be given the care that causes her to live again. because it doesn't exist this side of heaven.  And i know she wants to live. i know because she told my mom that she didn't want to leave her family.  And my heart breaks a little more each day. When reality checks in again just enough to catch me off guard, my tears are real again. I ate a bowl of soup in my car yesterday. In our driveway. I've never done that before. But my car has never been quite the sanctuary that it has been lately. I had my cry and my soup and i trudged through the rest of the day.

The stupidest things make me cry. last weekend, it was a potato chip. My mom bought a bag of chips from a health food store. when my grandma ate one and said, "yea! these are really good." I almost lost it. Why? Because it's normal. Eating a chip is normal. But not to her. Anything that crunches, she usually can't eat. even if it's a vegetable. But she ate a potato chip. and for that one moment, im sure she felt normal.
Yesterday when i went to get her from the doctor's office after her hydration appointment, i saw her gingerly walk up to the desk, pull out 2 one dollar bills and buy 2 candy bars. Maybe because she thought she'd be able to eat them. And i wanted to cry. like i am now. at work. and i didnt understand then why it made me sad. but now, i know.

Watching her buy those candy bars made me think of a little kid buying a candy bar. Small and barely able to see over the counter to hand the clerk the bills. with an innocence so pure, you couldn't help but cry. i've been thru a season of grief before and eve then, i remembered weird things that seem so totally random and im still not sure why i have them locked in a memory vault. I stood at the door, pissed off at the world that my Bible app wouldn't open up on my phone.  Then i looked up and saw her give me a half-hearted smile as she emerged from the back room. The full waiting room seemed distant, like a fog. Like when your ears are plugged underwater and everything sounds muffled. All i saw was her at the counter, innocently plucking $2 from her wallet and almost shamefully stick the 2 candy bars in her purse. And i knew she wouldn't be able to eat them. Just as much as im sure she knew it too. But honestly, i think she did it just to feel normal.
And it's hard to feel normal in an oncology waiting room.