Monday, September 23, 2013

Hold on to Your Siblings

 I got a letter from Mary today. You may know that Mary is my daughter. She is married to Sonny and her children are Chase and Tracy. They are getting along pretty well without me. Both the kids are in college: Tracy is going to TVCC in Athens and Chase is attending Austin Community College in Austin. 

Mary says they are both doing pretty well, but Chase hasn't gotten a job yet. Tracy had a job interview for a new job, but she had already had a job all summer. Mary had wanted to go to BSF(Bible Study Fellowship). She and I have gone for two years. She wanted to go this year, too, but the logistics of taking Sonny home from work and going back to Tyler make it too complicated and expensive. She's going to try to do some studying on her own.

She said she had visited Carol and James David. She thought they were doing very well. Carol was still recovering from her most recent foot surgery. She didn't get to talk to Carol as much as she wanted, but still they were getting along O.K.

It's good to have an independent source of information on the ones I left behind. I really want Carol to have the best possible situation, and I'm so pleased to hear that James David is helping her live and do well.

Am I Really Going to Teach a Sunday School Class?

Katy's visit went well. I lived over it and she did too. I joined the Church I liked yesterday. Katy got to witness it. She was a trooper. She went to Sunday school with kids she didn't know and colored a rainbow to honor Noah and his covenant with God. 

I chose this Church because it had a place I can serve. They needed a teacher for a Young Adult Class and I have done that before. I hope it is successful. I am already researching the topics and reading the material I used in the last one I taught like this. I don't know these people, but I didn't know the last class either. Maybe Young Adults everywhere are similar. At least, that's the plan I'm going with.

 The class starts in October. I've still got a couple of weeks to figure it out or run for cover.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Katy's Visit

My granddaughter Katy is spending the weekend with me at "the home." She is tolerant and deals with my pride in showing her around very well. She rarely say, "Oh GeeGee, really!" She has not been very complimentary about the food, but I didn't really expect it. She has dutifully worked on the paint-by-number project I bought. She has watched TV. I can't stand it--the kids shows are pretty bad.

We fed the fish in the ponds last night. This morning it is cool and windy with the threat of rain. We may make new memories today. The residents are expected to dress in Mexican traditional costumes today and enjoy the Folkloric Dancers at noon. We'll see how that goes.

Tomorrow she will go to church with me. At least she'll get to attend a Sunday school class of kids and go to Children's Church. She may actutally live over this experience. She is a trooper.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Memories--Part of Another World

Memories don't always follow a prescribed course. This year the anniversary of my mother's death slipped by without any notice. When that happens, it surprises me and I get very nostalgic. I remember how much her friends loved her. Beryl was a cousin and a close friend she often played bridge with. They had a habit of saying things they didn't want me to understand in a distorted voice. I called it "talking in shorthand " Some off-handed gossip or an off-color joke that little ears shouldn't hear could be disguised by this little subterfuge.

Beryl was fun. She didn't have any children, so I got all the attention. I liked it when she thought I was smart, or clever, or pretty. She was married to Hoot, and Mama and Hoot had gone to school together. I liked to look at pictures of them when they were young and it seemed like I was a part of  their lives then.

Mama and Beryl sometimes went shopping together. I thought it was great fun to be the third wheel on this kind of excursion. Of course, they didn't buy anything I was interested in, but I begged for a few items they ignored. I remember the elevators in the Sears store. If was very exciting to step in and wonder what kind of magic the operator possessed that caused the room to move to a new floor. I thought being an elevator operator must be the most exciting job ever. Mama and Beryl talked casually while we ascended and my stomach felt funny. Going down was even more fun.

These memories are a surprise coming without plan or effort, and they offer a sudden visit with my mother and her cousin. These memories are the best kind of surprise! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Fire and The Knife

English: Abraham embraces his son Isaac after ...
English: Abraham embraces his son Isaac after receiving him back from God (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We followed the doctor out of the waiting room to a quiet corner by a window.  He held an X-ray up and gazed at its murky surface.
“We’ve got problems,” he said gravely.  “The urethras are incorrectly placed.  They should be at an angle that does not allow urine to flush back into the kidneys from the bladder.  That’s why she continues to have infections, and it’s damaging the kidneys.”
 The lump in my throat continued to grow while the doctor talked.  She had had three kidney infections in the last four months, unusual for a two-year-old.  His tone was reassuring.

“Call the office to make an appointment for the surgery.”  My mind refused to hear anymore.  Becky was my sixth child.  She had already had a few problems in her short life.  We got past her allergy to milk.  She had a minor eye infection when she was a month old.  But surgery was more than I could think about.
 I already had my hands full.  My oldest child had just joined the army.  He was in Boot camp.  The next son was in trouble at school and with the law.   The three girls were busy with school.  I couldn’t seem to register this information.  “God, please don’t do this to me,” I prayed.

A nurse brought Becky to me.  She clung to me still groggy from the sedation.  They kept telling me the test was not painful.  It made me mad.  I knew it was necessary, but to her it was severe abuse:  restrained and violated.  And, worse yet, there would be more.
Today was Friday.  I called to make the surgery appointment on Monday.  I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.  Her kidneys were being damaged as long as we allowed the condition to persist.  The nurse couldn’t seem to understand my urgency.  She wanted to wait a month before scheduling it.  I pressed for a sooner appointment.  She finally set it for two weeks. 

 I asked the church to pray for Becky, but I was the one in torment.  Becky quickly returned to normal after the ordeal of the test was over.  She held her own against the older kids and demanded respect from all. 

 As soon as I had the appointment, I sought comfort in the Bible.  I wanted healing without benefit of surgery.  I prayed God to fix it.  The scripture I found was not what I wanted.  Genesis 22:1-18 tells the story of Abraham taking Isaac to Mount Mariah to sacrifice him, and Hebrews 11:19 describes Abraham’s faith as sufficient to see Isaac raised from the dead.  I didn’t want to talk about Becky in terms of death at all  I read it and cried.  For three days I tried other chapters:  Psalm 23… but nothing spoke to me.  Daily I returned to Genesis 22 and Hebrews 11:19. 

 I could not give my child to this surgery.  I could not release her to the uncertainty of anesthesia and scalpels and strangers.  I had no choice.  If she didn’t have the surgery, the damage to her body would continue and worsen.  That would be total loss.  I couldn’t deny her the chance for repair and freedom from illness.
 After I read Abraham’s story for a while, I began to see his faith.  I also saw I had no power to restrain the hand of God from taking her if He chose to.  My only recourse was to trust God.  I believed he was a loving God.  If she died in this surgery, I could want no better hope for her than to be with God.    But Abraham’s faith was rewarded with Isaac.  He was freed from plunging the knife into the breast of his son by the provision of a substitute.  I knew I was not called to sacrifice my child, but I was required to yield her in my heart.  If my submission was not complete, I could not claim God’s promise in Hebrews 11:19.           

 After about three days, I quit looking for the soothing scriptures.  I needed to understand  the story of Abraham in every detail I could. 
Becky had a swing in the back yard made from an old tire.  She lay in it and I read stories or poetry or sang to her until she went to sleep for a nap.  While she slept, I read about Abraham.  Every day I gained new truths.  Every day I came closer to Abraham’s faith.  Every day it was grindingly hard.

 I had no power to give her life beyond what I had already done.  I could commit to this surgery and pray that the doctor was wise enough and skilled enough to fix the problem.  I could release her to his scalpel and pray that God would be as gracious to us as He had been to Abraham. 

 Now came the really hard part:  Could I truly give her to this surgery?  So much in me wanted to say no.  Still I had to take this monumental step of faith.  I just wanted it to be over. 

 Sometimes I do the things I have to do, the hard things that tear at my heart and  my reason, the bitter things that grind in my mind and my soul, and God in His grace accepts that sacrifice and grants me peace.  I took her to the hospital on Sunday evening for the surgery on Monday morning. 

I  hate waiting rooms.  The conversations are demoralizing and the atmosphere is morbid, but the preacher and his wife came to sit with us.  It helped a lot.  The doctor came out afterward and said all the good things.  I had supreme relief, but I still faced her discomfort and healing.  It was all downhill now.

 On Saturday they removed all the tubes and drains and we went home.  I have had few experiences of joy, of true exaltation like the one I experienced when I walked into church on Sunday morning carrying Becky.  I was not prepared for the realization that this momentous thing had happened, and we had not missed a Sunday in worship.  My heart filled with joy and my eyes filled with tears.  God was good.

 On Wednesday we took her back to the doctor to have the stitches removed, and it happened again.  The doctor did not work on Wednesday afternoon, but we were taken in through the back door.  Becky was very reluctant to let him touch her, but after we got through the initial phase of that meeting, she drew up her courage and the stitches were no problem. 

 As we walked to the door, the doctor looked at the nurse and said, “Would you believe what I did to her a week ago?”  Again, my heart swelled and I felt her weight in my arms and the vitality of her life pulsed against my chest.  Yes, God is good.

When I read the story of Abraham going to Moriah carrying with
him his son and the fire and the knife, I knew the agony in his heart and the arguments he voiced to God.  I surely didn’t feel the 
stalwart courage I saw in Abraham.  After this, I think he may have
been as fearful and broken as I was. 

I formed a new definition of faith: Faith is acting on God's word when I have no experience or confidence that assures me everything is going to be fine. I learned to claim his promise and leave it in his hands.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writing Is What I Do

English: Boredom Italiano: Noia
English: Boredom Italiano: Noia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am taking painting lessons here at "the home." I don't think it's going to do much good. I've never had painting or drawing talent and I'm not expecting lessons to change that much. It does occupy time and get me to the next meal, which is what most of the activities do. I think I really know the answer to my boredom and lack of accomplishment. 

I write poetry, prose, articles, and fiction. That's what I know how to do. Maybe there are still things I need to improve or sharpen, but still that's the thing I want to do, and do better.  The problem I have with that is that it's hard work. I can dabble in painting or playing cards.without all the work and the sense of failure that comes with not doing a good job. Nobody expects me to paint well, but there are people who would expect me to write well. Doing it badly would be a real bummer, and I would know even if nobody else reads it.  

Maybe this insight into my own mental processes will prompt me to put in the study and effort to write well and often. It will be difficult (writing is hard work) and I need to correct bad habits and choose good topics. I need to make a schedule and stick to it. Maybe this is a time to begin a new regimen. I've piddled around and avoided commitment because I'm retired and I don't have any responsibility. I don't like this. I have written before that I need something to do. Maybe this is the thing I need: a commitment  a new focus on writing, improvement in my rhetoric. 

I guess I don't have anything to lose except boredom, aimless activity, and endless days of bad TV. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Literary Theory and Depression

I took a class in Literary Theory some years ago. I recommend it. I like philosophical studies because it provides a variety of ways to view and evaluate literature. The theories look at the literary works from various perspectives: Of course you have to study all those different approaches to be able to apply them.

Learning to view life from different perspectives is helpful too. Sometimes I can relieve my depressive attitude by a shift in my approach or by just looking at the situation from a different angle.

Today I am depressed. There are things I can do to relieve my sadness and lethargy. Mostly they relate to being active and getting up and taking action, but there are ways to look at this that would lessen the deepening of my angst. I could look for new adventures on my calendar, or maybe I should just recognize that new things will happen and they may be fun.

Oh, by the way, fun is one very good antidote for depression. I'm not sure what theory that goes with, but it's always worth a try.

Accomplishment is a good way to fight depression. Physical activity fights depression because it stimulates the production of neurotransmitters in the nervous system. The effort and energy required for accomplishment has a similar effect. Hard work and difficult mental challenges are rewarding in the activity, but success is a real high.  Tackle difficult math problems or learn a new language to insulate yourself against depression. 

So I am depressed. So I write about how not to be depressed. Sounds like a good plan. And occasionally in all that effort and mental stimulation, I do something worthwhile. Go for it!!! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Which Church? What's the Difference?

When I came to the Valley, I started going to Church at the Assembly of God Church. I was well-received and enjoyed the service, but there were elements in the schedule that left me a little empty. Today I went to a United Methodist Church. It was different. I was well-received again, but this time I felt more "at home." I'm not sure why I felt more at home in one church than the other. Maybe it's that I have been a Methodist more than I was a member of the Assemblies. Maybe it just that I do Methodist better. Actually it was different than my Methodist template. They used a modern translation of the Apostle's Creed and read the scripture from a different translation. 

I think the thing that hooked me was the Sunday school class. It gave me an open invitation to express my opinion and join in the conversation. In the Assembly Church, both the Sunday school classes I attended were lecture format with very little student participation. 

I didn't take notes on the sermons, but I think the Assembly sermons may have been more in depth and challenging.  I guess time will tell. I do want to try St. Mark's United Methodist Church again. I like the Sunday school class and I can deal with the sermons for a while. Maybe I'll do more reading and writing. This is part of my adjustment to my new life. Check back in a few weeks to see what I decide. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Samuel L. Gompers and the Rise of Labor Unions

I did a little research on Mr. Gompers and the rise of the Labor Unions once sort of as a tribute to my husband who was committed to his local and the concept of unionization.

My husband was not a raging liberal, but he was committed to the union and was involved in the annual negotiations with management. 

One year we attended the Labor Day Parade and celebration in Austin, Texas. The speeches and bar-be-que were O.K. and we enjoyed the day.

The big emphasis on Labor Day was the debt the country owed to the American Laborer. Yes, workers were paid wages, but the American workers were, and still are, the backbone of the American success in production and manufacturing. We owe a debt to the efforts and foresight of Samuel L. Gompers. Celebrate Labor Day!