Saturday, April 18, 2009

Small World

You are in an airport in a city far from home when you begin a casual conversation with a total stranger and you find out that her home in Birmingham was built by your uncle. You say, "Small world, isn't it?"

I am linked by my cell phone to satellites. My phone can twitter, tweet and find my way home. I am instantly connected to the world via the internet or tv. I can see wars, riots, rocket launches, assassinations, coups and conquests in real time (as opposed to "not-real" time? When is time not real? .... I digress.) The world grows smaller every day. I watch starving children in Africa, wars in Afghanistan, poverty in Bolivia, child labor in China. I know too much and can do too little.

I don't think the human psyche is made for it. I think we were made for smallish towns. Villages, maybe. Three or four churches, a tavern, a grocer or two, a barber. Places that you can walk to, people who recognize you, boundaries that are marked by rivers and roads and tradition.

Wendell Barry wrote a lyrical book about a small Kentucky town and its bachelor barber, the character for whom the book is named. Jayber Crow gives his car to his girlfriend and never owns another. His world which encompasses Port William and the surrounding county and even Louisville suddenly becomes much bigger. That which can only be reached by walking or hitching a ride suddenly becomes expansive, huge.

I used to feel a smuggish sort of disdain for people who had only lived in one town their whole lives. Being the child of a military father and having lived most of my married life as a Navy wife, I treasure the experiences gained from living in almost every region in our country. I used to think that those "less fortunate" people had very small worlds to contend with. Now, I think maybe it's the other way round.

My world seems much too small.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I never knew I was such a worrier. I thought I was quite composed and above common worrying. Until recently.

I got home from Alabama two weeks ago. Pouring myself a cup of coffee, I noticed a fluttering in the plum tree outside the kitchen window. I saw a bird busily stuffing a piece of plastic bag into a nest she was forming. I thought: "Silly bird! That will trap the rain and drown your babies!" I worried about that.

Over the next few days the robin constructed a beautiful piece of architecture. But I fretted over the fact that the branch on which she built her nest stretches over the concrete patio. I worried that one of her babies would fall out and be dashed on the hard surface. Tim suggested I drag that bale of hay and place it under the nest until the babies fledged and flew away.

The next morning I was disappointed to not see the mother bird at all. I've kept watch for several days now and she is indeed gone. I think about her every time I look out the window and see the nest: what a good mother she was to build such a fine nest; she wouldn't have abandoned it unless something happened to her. I'm saddened by the thoughts. And I worry.

The Bible says that God knows when a sparrow falls, so I know he knows about my mother robin. And he knows about the tiny dead, naked baby bird I saw next to the sidewalk on my walk to the studio this morning. In church this past Sunday, Pastor pointed out that Jesus' miracles were mostly demonstrations to remind people that this is not the way the earth is supposed to be: broken, hurting, deadly. And that He cares for this earth and is returning to it one day to put things right. I need to not worry about the little birds but care for them as I care for all of the broken things in my life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Stream

I'm beginning to think that we can have absolute perfect assurance of God's will ONLY concerning the universal, revealed will of God, not the particulars. God is the same yesterday, today and forever but our hearts are wicked, selfish, evil, changeable and emotional! We can want to want God's will for our life but even the best of intentions are always tainted by self. And since we can only judge by our own faulty reasoning, emotions and intellects, we can never be assured that he wants us to go this way or that. So, where does THAT leave us? Trusting and obeying the revealed will of God and leaving the rest to him. That's the faith part.

I visualize the will of God being like the Mississippi (before the locks and levees.) The mighty river has many rivulets, streams, islands and channels. Each of those is part of the river and all of it reaches the gulf. I think the absolute perfect will of God would be the deepest navigational channels that gets us downstream without obstructions, but all the little streams and channels are too. And you still get to glory in the end. That gives me confidence to go right or left, given the best prayer and revelation I can discern, knowing that God will allow me those choices and assured that I'm in his will no matter what!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let you requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phi. 4:6 (paraphrase mine)

We are commanded to prayerfully submit our requests to God. The peace we receive is God's peace. The answer is his also.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Momma said, "He's back. He's really back." I didn't understand. I thought she meant, "He's going to make it. He's making it. He's home again." She said that shortly after Dad returned home following the triple by-pass. None of us could believe they would release someone in such a fragile condition. He hadn't eaten the whole week in the hospital. He still hadn't had a bowel movement. He was having hallucinations and delusions. And Mom thought he was "back."

Mom rallied all of her strength to care for him. She's been treated for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for two years and has a congestive heart and ulcerative bowel disease. But she and I, along with my siblings, Bud and Kacy, began the incredibly daunting task of caring for this very sick old man. During the first night home, Mom was leaning over him in bed talking to him. Dad smelled food on her breath and said, "Whatcha eating?" She said, "Bugles." Dad said, "Give me some!" He smiled as he crunched and opened his mouth like a little bird for her to place the salty snacks on his tongue. So Dad's first post-op "meal" was Bugles.

Over the next couple of days, as we settled into a routine of care, Dad grew sicker with bowel impaction. We learned how to test his blood sugar and give insulin shots. He had to be assisted by two people and a walker every trip to the bathroom. And shortly after that he had to begin wearing adult diapers because he had diarrhea as well as constipation. He was eating some small bites at each meal but barely enough to sustain himself, let alone heal. And we feared how little nutrition he was actually able to receive with the impaction.

But despite all of our concerns, we were delighted to discover that he was able to hear better without his hearing aids than he did before surgery with them. He understood almost every word said to him. He accepted our ministrations to him with sweetness and good humor. He apologized to us for having to care for his every needs, but he kept telling us how much he loved us. Especially "Ole Bud."

Bud and Dad have had lots of fun over the last few years reconnecting and building a relationship that they never shared in their younger years. Like so many fathers and sons, there were expectations and disappointments that prevented them from being close. Even recently, Dad still criticized and spoke harshly to him. What none of us realized was how poorly Dad was actually feeling with the hardening of arteries growing steadily worse. No wonder he was short-tempered and cross. But they watched westerns every night and worked the farm every day. Dad learned to depend on Bud as his strength waned and their love grew.

Dad was readmitted twice for complications. Bud hardly left his side. He helped him to the bathroom, brushed his hair, helped him with meals, and sat with him while he slept. When Dad came home again, Bud was still beside him, changing him, bathing him. Dad accepted Bud's tender care with grace and dignity, saying, "Thanks, Ole Bud. I love you."

On several occasions, Momma wanted to be the patient. She was exhausted beyond endurance yet she called on deep reserves of love to care for Dad. We noticed them holding hands and talking quietly in bed. Almost whispering. And that is when it hit me: Dad WAS back. It wasn't his strength that had returned, it was himself. He wasn't withdrawn or irritable. He was sweet and smiling and communicating, something he had not been for.... could it be, years?

Mom had been trying to describe to me, before the surgery, how she "missed" him. I realize now that she was grieving the loss of relationship, almost as if Dad was "gone" already. We assumed it was because of his hearing loss that he had withdrawn inside himself, frustrated with trying to talk and not being able to. But could it be that he was hard of "comprehending" rather than hearing, due to the decreased blood flow to his brain?

Dad will have a very long recovery, extended due to complications of bowel and soon, gallbladder surgery. Mom was told by her oncologist that she's reached cruising altitude with her leukemia. For however long God blesses them with life, they've got each other to hold onto.

Dad's back. He's really back.