Sunday, December 22, 2013


As I said in my last blog entry, sermons this Advent have centered around us (people listening to the sermons) being invited to do various things in a more conscious way (see last blog entry for a few of those).  It's a lot about noticing the world around us more consciously, with God in the middle of all of it.....

I went to Target to shop for Christmas presents recently.  My daughter had a playdate so she was gone and couldn't ask to go with me.  After the past 2 days of a few too many stores, maybe she wouldn't even want to go to Target!  That's another story.

When I arrived at Target I parked next to a guy who slowly got out of his car, glanced at me, and got out a walking stick for each arm - not as replacements to his arms (!) but as sticks that he used to help him with balance as he walked.  Maybe some would call them canes but they clearly weren't, and they weren't the crutch things you see people use sometimes.  They were like the walking sticks I  used to use because I hated the thought of a cane in my late 20s (canes are ugly), and the walking stick actually gave more stability than a cane.  The man slowly walked into Target as I sat in my car, finishing an email or something on my iPad.  I wasn't quite ready to go into Target, but I sat and wondered how he was going to navigate the store with the walking sticks.  Then I realized he was probably getting exercise to get into the store and then would use an electric cart if he needed to cover the whole store.  Sounds like something I would do (but I had already done my walking exercise for the day).

I finished whatever random thing I was doing on my iPad and got Nemo, my wheelchair, out of the car. Then I did my shopping.

I finished and came back to my car to see his car was still there.  I put Nemo away and was leaning on the edge of my van for balance to get in.  As I did this, I saw him arrive at his car using an electric cart.  He put his things in the car and then, while I wasn't looking, got rid of the electric cart and, as I happened to look back his direction, saw him leaning on his car to get in.

He looked at me and I looked at him.  That glance seemed to hold a lot, perhaps only for a certain group of people.  The glance said we are through with our shopping, we got what we wanted, and we're ready to go home.  But it said something more that is hard to describe - 2 people with seemingly similar disabilities knew the shopping was not as simple as getting what we/I needed and going home. Shopping can involve we/I simply having the energy to go to the store (this is different than the average energy someone without a disability faces when going to a store), an assessment of how much we/I needed to buy, and how much more energy we/I would have past what we needed to buy.  I suppose it's somewhat like if you have an infant, you do not get to choose many aspects of shopping - you get to shop as much as the infant allows, which will differ for each shopping trip, depending on the baby - totally out of the parent's control.  This is still a bit different - it's about having half, or less, the energy of someone without a disability before even getting to a store, and having to add into the equation things like getting a wheelchair out of a car and back in, as well as the after-shopping events of getting home and having the energy to get in the house without falling, etc.

In the brief glance, we exchanged that we got the things we planned to get in shopping, and were done.  It's then that we both probably went home and not on to another store.  With a disability, energy is carefully prioritized.

After the glance, I noticed he had his key in his mouth as he leaned against his car, working his way toward the door.  Wow - someone else does that too.


There's a wonder of God around us during this season.  If we choose to pause even if it's to spend a few minutes with the iPad; if we choose to notice those around us, we may see people so similar to us, at a time when perhaps we may feel like we're the only one.  I wasn't the only one shopping that day with a set of limits imposed on me.  Look, God would seemingly say, there is someone just like you.  Now take up your things and go home, both of you.

We've been invited into the wonder of it all, God at work in the world.  Sometimes it is in small moments like these that we find amazing wonder.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

In an instant

It is Advent.  This Advent, we've (people who have been to our church the past couple weeks) been "invited," via sermons to do a couple things.  We have been invited, during this time of Advent, to look where God is at work around us, as well as in our lives (also to find God moments, not that we necessarily feel God's presence, but we do know that God is at work).  We have also been invited to find moments/times of silence during this busy season, to think about things other than the busy season.  During these sermons, I think terrific, I will do this!  God is at work - yes, God is!  And although I'd like to say I made time for silence, the reality, this year, is that silence has been forced on me. It has been an interesting Advent.

This past week, when I was thinking I'd find these God moments and times when God is at work in my life, I was slammed with the reminded that, in an instant, life can change for anyone.  Just when everything seems to be going as expected, the unexpected occurs.

Several college Facebook friends of mine from college have a friend, who also went to Kenyon, who left this world at too young an age this past week, after too short a battle with something she shouldn't have had at her age.  She had a blog which I have read mostly, and what was evident were sudden changes.  After the initial shock of "you have this," a physician doubted she had any chance.  Pretty soon, she proved him wrong.  Ha!  Take that!  It's gone!  But then boom!  It was back, even though she felt fine.  In between times of good and bad news constantly causing her to shift the course of her life, she traveled, spent time with her kids and husband, and seemed to love life.  She showed what I would imagine we all strive to have in life - happiness, the ability to have fun, relax, and laugh, and not to take things too seriously (unless that is necessary).  She showed love of life in the face of horrific "surprises" that showed the fragility of life.  Her blog made me think that I could do a bit better in my life, where unexpected good and bad things happen, in an instant, without warning.

Back to my life, finding where God is, and silence.  I like to think I'm in charge and my overactive immune system means I will never get sick.  Everyone else gets sick.  I do not.  I fought off a small something - a little sore throat one day, something else the next, etc.  I'm in charge.  Hey God, we're good - I'm healthy, all is well.  But then...  last weekend my daughter had dance recitals so I was out in the cold a lot (REALLY COLD!), plus my daughter was sick.  I was fine.  Nothing could touch me.  Yup, all is well.  I had a conference and a final choir rehearsal for our concert...  I was coasting!  I had just walked my best 400 time since I started walking around the track.  Check that out!  Last season I ended going around a track in just under 17 minutes.  I'm now almost under 15 minutes!  I rock!  God was doing good things!  Unstoppable Beth!

And then, I coughed.  Then I coughed again.  And again.  Over the day this cough grew and grew (but just a dry cough) and in between coughs I would gasp for air.  No God, I thought we had a deal or something!  I was unstoppable, trying to break 15 minutes.  I really did not have time for some strange virus.

I went to bed.

Every morning I wonder if  I will make it out of bed.  I think many people with MS do that.  I lay in bed and ponder whether my legs will work.  Then I sit on the side of the bed and do the same thing.  Then I "launch" myself and discover that all is well.

But that next morning I lay in bed and wondered how I was even going to roll over. Everything had changed.  This was not the God moment I wanted.  It also was not the type of silence I wanted.  I mean, no, I didn't want to lie in the silence and wonder if I could roll over. 

I was sick.  I had a fever.  When I get a fever, I can't walk. I can't even get up.  And that morning, rolling was questionable.  I rolled... a bit too far...  off the bed.  Dang!  Bad miss.  It was quiet.  The God moment was me asking God how I was going to make it to the bathroom!  I scooted myself to my wheelchair which I had left close to the bed, because I had started to feel sick the previous night.  When this stuff happens, doing something as simple as making it to the bathroom gets broke into little steps...  Scoot to the wheelchair...  step 1 complete.  Step 2: get into wheelchair, with no strength.  But I did it.  Step 3: Wheel to bathroom made and attempt to pull myself up onto the sink and walk a few steps to the toilet.  Step 4 land on toilet.  I made it.  I sat there, and sat, and rested.  Silence can be scary, right God?

Now, to get up from the toilet.  Ha!  God, is this a joke?  It is silent but this God series of moments has not left finding the love of God's work.  Right.  Standing was not an option.  Nothing was working.   I scooted myself onto the floor and then over to my wheelchair.  This is the part where I am supposed to pull myself onto the wheelchair.  After about 10 attempts and 20 stern words with God on how this sucks, I realized I didn't have the strength.  So I pushed the wheelchair out of the bathroom and scooted out of the bathroom, to a white chair that is lower than the wheelchair.  Great idea!

Once I pulled myself into the white chair,  it was a great time to rest.  Boom! My leg didn't want to stay still.  So, I transferred to my wheelchair.  Done.  There is still silence and God, you got me into my wheelchair.

The rest of the day was full of more silence and stern words with God. 

Dear God: It is Advent.  I'm looking for good moments here. I don't need periods of silence where I contemplate how to get off the floor.  Everything is wrong, turned upside down.

Amazingly, after 2 days, I got over this.

Now I can search for the good.  Now I can search for moments of silence.  Now I can do what was intended.  I can follow the example of the lady mentioned near the beginning of this blog.

Tonight we had our lessons and carols service.  At the end, we sing a Peace song.  It's beautiful.  Out of nowhere I was caught in a God moment, with the good of this service spreading throughout the sanctuary and bringing tears to my eyes.  In an instant, the moment was gone.  There will be other moments.  I'll find the silent moments.

It's all there - as we live moment to moment, not knowing what to expect, and when.  We do know that God is there, even if God takes the words thrown toward God aren't nice.