Dry Flat Only

I’m finally starting to feel a bit more normal. The 2 1/2 hour nap after work wasn’t exactly normal, but I am feeling more productive. It helps that other than having to drive me around, I’m back in a groove at work and my co-workers don’t seem to be afraid that I’m going to implode in front of them.

It was a good day. And I’ve got brownies in the oven.

That’s how I knew I was closer to fine; I felt like cooking, and there’s a mess in the kitchen.

I don’t want to be the same as I ever was; I can’t help but think we go through these major, traumatic life events and we ought to come out the other side a little different than when we went in. I definitely am different, but it’s internal, just a slight shift. My “normal” has to include a return to puttering around in the kitchen and washing the clothes.

Speaking of which: After chauffeuring me to work this morning, I bade my husband farewell. I was surprised to find him at home when my other driver dropped me off around 5PM. He was on his way out; he looked awful, exhausted.

I said, “You look terrible, baby….what did you do all day?”

He smiled a weak smile, through the exhausted look on his face. “I was finishing up your other Valentine’s Day gift.”

“What?”

“You’ll see.”

And he left. I wandered around the house, but nothing jumped out at me. I was clueless.

After the aforementioned 2 1/2 hour nap, I headed to the basement to get some laundry going. The aforementioned husband told me he was out of clean underwear. My recovery from eye surgery, thus far, has not included much in the line of domestic duties; but I’m getting back to normal, right?

And that’s where I discovered the source of my husband’s exhaustion – the late night hammering and sanding I’d heard after midnight. I had assumed it was a repair project for the store, but no.

When we moved into his house, we adjusted to doing the laundry in the basement. I have a clothesline outside for sheets and stuff, but the”line dry” or “dry flat” sweaters and shirts have ended up suspended from various pipes and joists all over the basement. At times, I’ve had tights and underwear and swimsuits and workout clothes draped over every solid surface down there. It was messy, and awkward and occasionally embarrassing.

Well, he took it upon himself to create something a little bit more appropriate. I know we ladies aren’t supposed to get all excited about domestic gifts – we’re supposed to turn up our noses at vacuum cleaners or brooms or things that help us maintain the household, hold out for the jewelry or clothes or fancy outings. But this guy, he’s got my number. He pays attention, and he notices what I’m doing and why it’s hard sometimes, and he does what he can to make it easier.

I am just feeling all sorts of blessed. It may not look like much to you, but he’s gone and found another way to capture my heart.

Don’t Ever Doubt It

It’s shocking, how little privacy one has in a courtroom. On Wednesdays, when they do Juvenile and Domestic Court stuff, the room is tense – very different than the mornings when you arrive with your 16-year old to receive their Virginia drivers’ license.

You stand when the judge calls your name, and you move to the front of the room. The sign says Do Not Lean On The Bench and you don’t. You shift your weight from one foot to the other and try to figure out where to put your hands, because it’s just awkward.

And all the people behind you hear the judge, as he states the charge or the complaint or whatever brought you there. Maybe your ex is standing there, on the other side of the guy from the Division of Child Support, or maybe she just didn’t show up and you’re there by yourself. When the judge asks how much you make and how often you get paid and why you are asking for a modification on your child support, you speak softly, in front of God and everyone, and the judge repeats your answers loud and clear to make sure he heard you right, and then everybody in the courtroom knows your business, even though they know nothing about you.

There’s no privacy in a courtroom like today. There’s no backstory, no explanation, no opportunity to make your case. The judge wants the facts, the W-2s, the pay stubs. He doesn’t care that she manipulated the system in Connecticut, it doesn’t matter that you think he’s got outside sources of extra money. What matters is what’s on paper.

The stress and strain and struggle of divorced parents, reduced to the facts in the file, the numbers on the paper.

I was in court today. For 45 minutes, as I waited to hear my name, I watched the  steady parade of ex’s walk up, talk to the judge, listen, and leave the courtroom.

When it was my turn, I rose. My ex held the swinging door for me to walk through. We walked together, both of us slightly nervous – it’s court, for goodness’ sake – and stood before the judge. He looked over the paperwork and looked up at my ex.

“What, exactly, do you hope to accomplish today?”

We hadn’t even discussed it, but I knew – and he knew – that he would do the talking. He shared the information with the judge, who looked over the paperwork again. He asked a few more questions, checked over the paperwork and tried – unsuccessfully – to pronounce the name of the county in which our paperwork was originally filed. G-e-a-u-g-a….

The judge looked up again and said, “I see you both nodding. You obviously have talked about this. You agree about what you want.” We both said, “Yes, sir.”

He gave a few more instructions and dismissed us. We turned to leave, and my ex held the door for me again, and we walked out together.

Earlier, when I’d walked into the courtroom, I saw my ex in the first row. Without a second thought, I walked towards him. We exchanged a quick hug; he made room for me beside him and he asked, “How’s your eye?” I gave him the update, and we talked a bit more about the upcoming weekend and plans for his mission trip to Africa with his wife’s church and how we hoped the court stuff would work out. When the judge entered, we rose with the rest of the room. We sat through the cases, one by one, and after half an hour when I leaned my head forward to rub the tension out of my neck, he whispered, “Are you okay?” and I said, “Yeah…just a headache…”

It’s been almost nine years since our divorce. It was awful and painful and terrible. Both of us have plenty of ammunition; we could have a bloody war, with all the things we’ve done wrong. He has grounds to have harbored a legitimate hatred. I have plenty of reasons of my own to fan the flame of anger towards him.

But there are no guns; the ammunition is closeted.

Today, we went to court in the interest of our kids, going through the motions required by law to make the best of our situation for our children. We went together, as parents; in spite of what we lost when we divorced, I think we both strive to see what we might gain as we move forward.

There is much that I regret. Divorce is always painful, always difficult for the children and the extended family.  But I have lived my life in a state of grace, and there is no place where it was more powerful than in a Powhatan County courtroom today, when I sat next to my ex with no fear, no anger, no tension.

Only grace, and an awareness that he was broken, and I was broken, and in our brokenness we hurt one another and made mistakes and likely will make more. There is not much room for recriminations, just a desperate desire for grace to fill in the broken places.

He is a good man, and I am doing my best to be a good woman. We have both remarried, to partners who help us be better people. But this sort of grace is a miracle, something far beyond what human beings can summon up in trying to be decent and good and kind. This is the essence of the faith that we both claim, the mysteries of forgiveness and redemption and restoration and new life. This is what it means to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”; this is the core of living in the knowledge that “all have fallen short of the glory of God” and that there is something to the notion that we should “forgive one another, as I have forgiven you.”

All that Christian stuff.

This is it, lived out in real time. I am better for it. My children are better for it. Our spouses are better for it.

All things are possible. 

Don’t ever doubt it.

Lonnie

This is my ex, who deserves more than that often pejorative term; this is Lonnie, the father of my children.

In this photo from a few months ago, he’s standing in my new kitchen, alongside my mom and dad, holding a coffee cup with a picture of my cat. We were all together celebrating Sarah’s birthday, with his wife and her son and all of the kids, a house full of family.

This is grace, and a testimony to what beauty can rise from ashes when we are willing to try. Don’t ever doubt it.

Saga Of The Eye, Part Umpteen

Getting better!

Back to work today. I like the people I work with, so it was really good to see them.

Literally.

One of my friends picked me up and drove me to work. She brought Starbucks, which is a nice touch for any chauffeur. We share an office, so we worked together, and then we got back in the car together and she drove me home. I’m a lucky girl.

I caught up on email and travel arrangements for a trip I won’t be able to take and service plans and budgets and changes and new small group members and a list of folks interested in working in creative arts and….

…just work.

It’s mundane, some of it; details and plans that we manage every week.

David. Me. 

But it’s really not mundane at all, because it’s people, who are never simple and never uncomplicated and certainly not mundane. It’s life, and it’s the beautiful, messy, kind, complicated, wonderful people who walk down the hall and stick their heads in the office and say, “hi”. And smile. Or say, “I missed you…I’m so glad you’re back.”

And then she teared up, and I knew she really meant it.

I appreciate my job, and I’m glad for it. It’s work that matters, because it’s where I am and what I’m called to do and I am using my abilities and skills to make a contribution to something larger than myself. And I’m surrounded by good, honest, kind, caring people who are committed to do the same.

I am so grateful.

It was a very good day, but I came home with a horrid headache. It was a little too much, too soon – and once again, my husband knows best. In lieu of him saying, “I told you so”, which he is too much of a gentleman to EVER do, I’ll simply admit it. He told me so.

Yep.


Small, Still, Slightly Afraid

I’m still broken.

I’ve been happily anticipating Friday – today – as emancipation day for me. Post-surgery recovery positioning prescriptives expired today. After a week on the couch, keeping my head at an angle so that the gas bubble in my eye could stay in place, I’ve been looking forward to the first day of the rest of my life.

I’m still broken.

I’m up, moving around, putting a load of clothes in the washer, practicing some music for a wedding commitment, putting on real clothes for the first time in a week, fixing my hair…

…and nothing’s really working as well as I had hoped.

My depth perception is screwed up. I poured a glass of milk and missed half the glass. I grasp things that aren’t there. I struggle to read.

My muscles are complaining. This sedentary recovery has left me weak. I feel as though I’ve gained back most of the weight that disappeared when I started eating healthier last fall.

(For the record, healthy eating went by the wayside. Have Kelley Llewellyn bring you her chocolate cake pudding thing and try to remember that you prefer kale. Just try it. And good luck with that…)

I’m broken, still, and there is a message in this somewhere. Optimism is a great motivator – I made it to Friday, but here I am and I’m still not ‘normal’ and I have to ask for help and I need so much grace for that. My eye is swollen and filled with blood and incapable of doing what it was made to do. It’s just there, taking up space, but it doesn’t look good and it’s not functional.

And there’s the metaphor.

I’m here. I’m taking up space.

But that seems to be about it. I don’t look good and I’m not so functional, at least in all the ways that have defined me in this season of life.

I scrawled in my journal last night – another arrow in my arsenal of complaints (“I can’t even WRITE correctly!!!”) these words, a quote from Ruth Haley Barton referring to the perils of leadership:

“…poisoned by the hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort.”

I don’t feel poisoned today, but I am disillusioned, and I know that I haven’t learned that lesson yet. I have been broken, and now I am laid out and restricted while the world spins on without me and I offer nothing but a word or two, an email response or an answered phone call while I tend to the thoughts in my mind.

And rest.

I must honestly confess that I do need this rest, I do appreciate it and to some degree, I savor the long minutes and hours to watch Albert Nobs and consider it, process it. I am sinking into this cushion of rest, although it feels like so much laziness, like I am letting everybody down, like I am not doing enough, like nothing good will come unless I work harder and make it happen…

I am still broken, and my eye is far from healed, and all the ways I had planned to slip right back into my old self are looking quite doubtful, and I can’t help but think that there is much more for me to extract from this time of stillness.

Some small, quiet, terrified place in my heart is crying, “Please don’t stop needing me! Please tell me I still matter! Please don’t forget! Please leave room for me to prove my worth! Please let me show you how good I am!”

I am still so broken. And grateful for it.

Oh God, be my everything
Be my delight
Be Jesus, my glory
My soul satisfied

PCC Volunteers Are AWESOME!

While I’m home recuperating and NOT working, I have had some time to THINK about what’s going on at PCC – my church home and my place of employment. Things continue to change and evolve as the church grows and our mission field expands. We’ll be rolling out some new information regarding structure and staffing at the first CORE meeting of 2013 (this Sunday, February 17, 6PM – live music and great information!) If PCC is your church home or you want to know more about what’s happening, please come!

One of the most obvious changes as we started the new year is the involvement of “The Boys” – Matt O’Rear and Matthew O’Donnell – as Worship Coordinators at our two physical campuses. Laura Krzyston is on board as well, working alongside Chauncey Starkey and prepping for the new Riverside Campus (read more about Laura’s journey on her blog). Matt and Matthew are actively coordinating worship and scheduling bands for the Powhatan and Westchester Campuses; we are still functioning as a team, but they are now the point guys for those campuses. Last week, we added another key volunteer to the mix.
Brenda singing with Mike and Matthew
You’ve likely seen Brenda Whiting leading worship with us as a vocalist. Over the past several years, Brenda and her family have become an integral part of the PCC family. Kirk is a fabulous photographer who lends his gifts and talents to various projects; their two boys are active in Children’s Ministry. They serve at Westchester and Powhatan, as needed. Brenda’s vocal gifts have been a great asset to our mission; but recently she’s expressed a desire to serve in ways that go beyond just singing on the platform. 
Brenda got a copy of Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide, which the staff and Steering Team read earlier this year. She read it, and she got it. After some conversation, prayer and a few meetings, Brenda was ready to step into a new role that we felt would serve our creative arts team well in this current time of transition. Essentially, Brenda will be channeling her desire to care for those serving in the creative arts ministry by simply keeping in touch and coordinating care for our people. She’ll make phone calls, help coordinate large group meetings every few months and essentially help Matt, Matthew and Laura stay connected and informed with the folks who are serving in the creative arts side of PCC.
I’m excited to support Brenda in this new area of service, and she’s excited to make a valuable contribution to the mission of PCC!
Matthew, Brenda and Matt
If you’d like to get connected and use your gifts to serve at PCC, maybe it’s time for you to take the next step like Brenda did! 
You’ll have that opportunity this Sunday during the morning services at Powhatan and Westchester – don’t miss it!

The Eye Update

Ahoy there, mateys!

I am currently in recovery mode, post surgery for a retinal detachment in my left eye. I’ve learned a lot through the process, so I’ll update and inform you here on the blog.

WHAT HAPPENED?
In early January, I noticed some bright flashing lights and then what looked like an oil spill in my eye. I quickly saw an ophthamologist, who treated the tear with laser surgery done right in his office. I was able to return to normal activity immediately, while I waited for the bits and pieces of blood to clear out of my eye. Everything returned to normal, and last week I went in for my regularly scheduled four-week post-laser check up. An examination revealed that the original tear had sealed, but the retina had begun to detach. This is a worst-case scenario; left untreated, it leads to blindness. Caught early, there are several treatment options and a high success rate.

HOW DID YOU KNOW THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG?
I didn’t. That’s the interesting part; when it tore, I immediately realized there was an issue. When I went in for my checkup on Wednesday, I never anticipated a problem. The doctor assured me I would have noticed the darkening within a few days, but until he looked in my eye, I had no idea.

WHAT CAUSED IT?
I am very nearsighted – a -8.0 in each eye – which means my eyeball is “longer” than the average eye. As I understand it, that creates an extra bit of tension for the retina, which makes a detachment more likely. As all of our body changes with age in terms of elasticity and tone, parts of the eyeball go through similar alterations. There are no other complicating factors – not too much reading or computer usage or anything else. It is what it is, and I’m more susceptible because I was born nearsighted.

HOW DID THEY TREAT IT?

There are three possible treatments in my case; I received a scleral buckle, which is – literally – a band around my eyeball that will stay there permanently. It tightens the tissue so that the retina can reattach. I also welcomed a gas bubble into my eye; it creates internal pressure so that the retina will be more likely to stay attached. I think the doctor did some sort of “glue” type procedure on the retina while he was in there, maybe some sort of freezing – but I’m a little unclear on that. The bubble will eventually disappear on its own.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
My recovery orders are seven days home, off work. I feel fine, my brain is engaged and the pain is relatively minimal. However, in order for the gas bubble to do its trick, I have to do my part. Depending on where the retina detaches, this requires different “positioning” for each patient. Some folks have to spend a week face down. Thank you, Jesus – not me. I have to spend 55 minutes of every hours (and all night) with my head leaning to the right. I can see the bubble, really; so it’s fairly easy to keep it in the right spot. I get five minutes to move around, stretch, etc. – but the rest of the time I’m trying to obediently lean to the right. My neck hurts, but that’s a pretty minor inconvenience. My couch and I are good friends.

WILL MY EYE BE NORMAL WHEN IT’S OVER?

Full recovery will take up to six months. Up til then, my vision will be somewhat compromised – though how I manage it is up to me. My prescription for contacts and glasses will definitely change- for the worse – but that’s better than being blind in one eye. All indicators are that my eye will work normally, just a bit more nearsighted than before.

WILL IT HAPPEN AGAIN?
Who knows? I just plan to be hypervigilant – and you should, too – regarding any change in vision. Darkening around the edges, loss of peripheral vision, an unusual amount of new “floaters” – DON’T HESITATE. See your eye doctor!

I’ll be spending the next seven days as an opportunity, a gift to be down, move slowly, sit still, think long. I’ll catch up on Mad Men, I think; do a bit of reading (thought not TOO much) and rest. I’m convinced that God will teach me something while I am “seeing through a glass, darkly”.

Plus I’m working the pirate patch.

Thanks to all who have called, texted, emailed, sent Facebook messages and sent food for the troops here. We feel very loved and well-cared for.

Special joy this weekend as all my girls made it home Friday! Sarah was in town for a wedding, and Shannon and Sydni came home briefly to see their sister. 

Also, big shout out to the folks at the Retina Institute of Virginia, where my wonderful optometrist Dr. Tonya Sylvia sent me right away. Dr. Juan Astruc has provided most of my care, including the laser surgery, but Dr. Bryan Schwent “installed” my scleral buckle and the gas bubble. I am impressed by the care I have received at every level – from the nurses and office management at the Retina Institute to the folks at the Stony Point Surgery Center. I can safely say that this experience with the medical profession has been the most positive of my life, in every regard. I strongly recommend this practice to you, and I’m grateful for their expertise.

My Retina Has Attachment Issues

First, it tore.

We tackled it with a laser, which was a unique experience.

It remained cloudy, like a thin curtain of mesh had been stretched tight over its lens.

Then it got better. Slowly, at first; then hastening and going like gangbusters, until I pronounced it 99.9% GOOD.

I went in for the one-month follow-up visit, happy for a quick, stress-free encounter with a great group of doctors and nurses at the Retina Institute.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Now, it’s detaching.

This is not good.

Funny thing: I hadn’t even noticed. Dr. Astruc assured me that I would notice, tonight for sure, and if I hadn’t come in today, I would have been calling in a panic on Monday, because my vision is slowly but surely darkening.

He said, “We will need to do surgery soon.” I’m thinking, “Next week…hmmmm…what’s on the calendar?”

But he’s saying one word, “TOMORROW” and I’m pulled up short and realizing that everything changes in a quick 24 hours.

Surgery tomorrow, in a procedure that I don’t want to even think about, but it involves bubbles and buckles and somehow I feel like I’m ordering something on HSN.

“I’d like the Bubbles and Buckles please – two of each! Thank you SO much!”

I’m not looking forward to this, but I am grateful that we caught it early, glad to be in the hands of a very capable physician and glad that the world will keep spinning while I lay on the couch for the next seven days with my head tilted at a peculiar angle.

(So the bubble stays in place.)

(Oh, joy.)