Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Wrap Up

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted -- a paved road or a washing machine?  If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.
-Rabbi Harold Kushner

In the last ten days, as I've wondered what I would write about being thankful for if I could get any kind of internet connection or signal from my phone, or as I've taken care of my mom as she was sick, or as I've laid in bed sick myself, my mind has been flooded with possibilities. 

I am not trying to sugar coat things or put on a brave face.  I'm being honest.  There was only one day when being thankful didn't come natural or easy.  I don't remember which day that was.  But as I lay in bed exhausted I thought, "I don't even know what I would write about.  I don't even feel thankful."  I had to think for several minutes to come up with something.  That day feeling thankful was a chore.  And what I came up with was those things we are always thankful for. Platitudes.  Like God and His promises.  That was about all the thankfulness I could muster that day.

I said before that I wouldn't have taken this project on if I would have known everything that would happen this month.  Not because it was hard to feel thankful, but because it was hard to find the time and clear-headedness to write about it in the midst of it all.

But in these final ten days of November, I've felt especially thankful and at peace that my grandparents are back together again. 

You should know my grandparents raised me.  My grandmother cared for me straight from the hospital where I was born until I was 16 and she went into the hospital herself unable to care for me or others any longer.  She taught me and raised me up.  She gave me advice that I follow still today.  She believed in me and pushed me and guided me and corrected me and loved me like no one else.

Losing her is still the hardest thing I have ever been through.

And since the day she died there has been a void in my life.  She passed away 13 years ago, on November 27th.  I have been able to adjust to minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years without her.  But never Thanksgiving.  She left and it became a restless holiday for me.

I loved and cherished my grandfather.  I was sad to lose him.  I miss him.  I started missing him before he even actually breathed his last breath.  I started missing him the day he couldn't talk back to me when I called him on the phone.  And I thought that losing him would feel like losing my grandmother all over again.

But it didn't.  It felt like they were finally back together again.  It felt peaceful.  It felt like a wrong in the world had been righted.  And while I couldn't sit at the feet of these precious grandparents I loved, I knew they were together.  As they should be.  I knew that when I would see them again, it would be both of them together.  As it should be.  And more than anything, I was more thankful than I can express for them to finally be with one another again.  The world knocked off kilter by her death was balanced out again.

And for the first time since I've been without granny, Thanksgiving didn't feel horrible.  I imagined their Thanksgiving reunion in paradise and I was thankful to be able to enjoy the day and enjoy the time.  I was thankful to just relax and not feel like everything was all wrong and there was nothing I could do to fix it.

In these last days of November, I've felt thankful for my mom and for my husband.  For my brother.  For family and for friends.  For sweet, sweet memories.  For grace and mercy.  For the Lord's provision.  I've been thankful for rest and relaxation.  For comfortable beds and comfortable chairs and comfortable clothes.  For medicine.  For understanding, sympathetic co-workers.  For food and for medicine.  For Coca-Cola.  For turkey.  For words and books and writing.  For snow and for rain and for sunshine.  For transportation and phones and texts.  For access to technology and no access to technology.  For air to breathe.  For cabins and vacations and seclusion.  For hot tubs.  For prayer.  For a break from responsibility and people who understand that I had to let the ball drop and will come back sometime later to pick it up again.  I'm thankful they're holding it for me until I feel ready.

I feel exposed and vulnerable without my grandfather.  I feel lost without his advice and guidance.  I've never spent more time in my life with anyone than I spent with him.  I could write a whole post about everything that frustrated me about him, but I could write even more about how smart and resourceful he was.  How he worked for my 29 years fixing all the broken things in my life.  I'm thankful for him and all that he was in my life.  And I'm thankful to know that he is finally getting to rest now. 

I'm thankful for his influence, and my granny's.  I'm thankful they gave me the strength to live life without them.  And I'm thankful for all the blessings from them and from the Lord.  I am thankful.  More thankful than words or blogs or actions. 

My mom said we should thank the Lord 800 million times.  I told her I probably wouldn't be able to do that.  She said I should ask for help then because she wasn't sure even that would be enough.  So as I feel thankful -- as we feel thankful -- I hope you can join us too.  And thanks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 20

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance...

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4

I am thankful today for time to mourn and time to rejoice.  Right now that is all I have time for.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 19

O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:55
If I knew that I'd be losing my grandfather, I probably wouldn't have tackled a thankfulness project.  But I did, and I did feel thankful today.  Though it won't be easy to talk about.
When the man you've spent more time with in your life than any one else faces his death, you can't help but be filled with thankfulness for the One who already conquered death and the grave.
So that when death gave its all to defeat my Pop, it lost miserably.  In trying to destroy him, his life just got better.
Which makes me thankful -- today especially -- for Jesus.  There is so much to be thankful for about Jesus.  You can understand why I'm focusing today on  his making a way for all of us to live eternally with no pain and no sorrow. 
Thank You, Jesus, for all your many blessings.  Thank you for saving my Pop.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 18

"Help" is a prayer that is always answered.  It doesn't matter how you pray -- with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing.  Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors.
-Anne Lamott

I'm feeling especially thankful for prayers these days.  Sometimes its easy to forget the amazing privilege of having a direct line to God. 

When I think of the weight of getting to talk to the creator of the universe I am overwhelmed.

How many kings let you call them directly?  How many kings come to you?  If you're like me, only one.  The greatest one.

And I'm thankful for answered prayers.  Those moments when God responds directly, immediately, compassionately, wonderfully.  A reflection of my impatience, I'm especially thankful for those prompt responses when they come.

But even if the answer comes slowly, or differently, or I end up missing it, I'm still thankful for prayer.  I'm still thankful for a God who cares enough to listen.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 17

The sound of laughter has always seemed to me the most civilized music in the universe.
-Peter Ustinov

As always... well, almost always, I was thankful for a lot of things today.

By the time I made it back home and to an internet connection tonight, I was drained and tired and ready for bed.  Not for writing.

I began reading about thankfulness and thinking about what I would write about when out of the corner of my eye I saw my brother come down the hall. 

I was excited for him to come home with me because he and I share -- among many things -- a love for Christmas and Christmas decorations.  He hadn't seen this year's décor yet.  Including a sprig of mistletoe.

We never hung mistletoe growing up, but it has become a fun tradition for Johnie and me.  He is always finding clever ways for us to meet under it.

I was in the kitchen the morning after we put it up this year when I heard Johnie ask, "While I'm in the shower, will you pick out a sweater for me to wear today?"

I turned to head to the bedroom but he remained standing in the hall.  I waited for him to move, but he didn't.  I stepped to the side and he did too.  I stepped to the other side and then I realized why he was acting so strange: "Oh, look.  You just happen to be standing under the mistletoe.  I guess I'll have to kiss you."

Tonight, I saw my brother slow his steps as he neared the end of the hall.  That got my full attention.  And then I watched as he turned and pressed his back against the wall, sliding against it for the last two steps.  All while looking at our mistletoe.  He was taking no chances getting caught under there with only Johnie or me as options for kissing.

And then there was laughter.  Loud and long laughter.  The kind that works better than any other kind of medicine.

I thought about all the other times I've laughed today.  With Johnie.  With church family.  With my mom and the rest of my family.  And with one of my favorite people to laugh with: Bubby. 

I love laughter.  I always have.  It is the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.  And I'm glad it was in the soundtrack of today.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 16

Why does no one speak of the cultural advantages of the country?
-Gene Logsdon

Today I'm thankful fer my raisin'

I grew up in a small town.  An hour from a Wal-Mart and years from modern society.  Where tree-covered mountains provide the backdrop to a simple life. 

Where you could call the doctor at home if you needed to and pay him with a pie the next time you were in town.  Where you could meet the vet on the side of the road to treat your pup.  Where the fan belt you need for your car will be left outside the parts store since you can't make it by before closing.  You'll settle the bill next week.

Where neighbors still share eggs and sugar and burdens and birthday presents.  They take 'love thy neighbor' to its literal extreme.

I've seen that especially in this time with my grandfather.  A steady stream of neighbors, family, friends who drop in with food and hugs and questions about what else we need.

I grew up in a place far from perfect, but it was there I received a firm foundation.  It was there that I learned about community and relationships and treating people well. 

I've moved from there and left behind much of what filled my life as a child.  I've seen big cities and little ones from one coast to the other.  No, it wasn't perfect and wouldn't be in the running for many 'best ever' awards.  But it was good for me.  And I'm thankful -- and proud -- to be from the foothills.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 15

And what's romance?  Usually, a nice little tale where you have everything as you like it, where rain never wets your jacket and gnats never bite your nose, and it's always daisy-time.
-D.H. Lawrence

I say this somewhat sheepishly: I'm thankful the gnats aren't biting my nose today.  I don't have everything just as I would like it, but at least there are no gnats.

This summer gnats descended on Frankfort.  That actually was a comfort to realize because at first I just thought they had descended on my house.  But they were at Johnie's work and at mine.  They were outside where ever we would go.  In restaurants and stores. EV-ER-Y-WHERE.

When we drove far enough to be away from the gnats, I was thankful just to have a break from them.  Seriously.  As I was packing for our D.C. trip last month, I was thinking about how glad I would be to have a few days away from them.

I've never found gnats to be much of a nuisance before.  They're tiny and despite the quote I used, I've never actually been bitten by one.  As far as bugs go, I've always thought gnats were pretty harmless.

When they came this summer I wasn't bothered at first.  I'd swat them away and go on with my day.  But they kept swarming.  They were in the kitchen, of course, but also in the living room.  Then I started seeing them in the bathroom and the bedroom. 

Little black spots would come into my vision and I would be equal parts relieved and frustrated when I realized it was just. more. GNATS.

By Working group on fruit flies of economic importance [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Did you know these things were so smart and organized,
they send out newsletters?
I felt a twinge of guilt at exerting my human dominance over such tiny little creatures, but a couple weeks in and I was fed up. 

I waged war.

I cleansed my kitchen of all open food.  The refrigerator was purged.  Refuge wasn't even allowed in the trash can.  I scrubbed down my countertops.  No free rides at the Rose-Karr house, gnats.

But they survived.

So I took to the internet and mixed up a soap and vinegar concoction to sit out for them to drink and die.

It didn't seem to phase them.

We bleached every solid surface and poured boiling water -- and more bleach -- down the drain.

Still, they survived.

We kept our drains plugged up and set out a pickle juice poison next to the vinegar one, in case these were picky gnats.

They kept swarming.

By this point I started to feel embarrassed.  Was I so filthy that gnats just followed me?  Would there be no getting rid of them?  Would we just always have gnats?

I even started to worry about our mental health.  I actually felt a hint of sick pleasure (though mostly I just felt sick) in wiping away a small group of them that had piled up in the corner of the refrigerator.  For all the torment they gave me, at least some of them froze to death.  Johnie started taking gnat-killing breaks throughout the day.  I didn't know whether to question his emotional stability or just celebrate that the gnat-to-human ratio was leveling.

We sprayed all-natural bug spray.  I set out herbs known to repel bugs.

They lingered still.

I seriously wondered if we would ever be without them.

And then gloriously!

This morning at the kitchen sink, I saw the cup of anti-gnat juice.  None of them were drinking.  None of them were in the sink.  None were around the food.  Or in the kitchen.  None of them were in the house at all.  There were no gnats.  And its been that way for a few days.

The gnat plague of 2013 is over.  And I survived.

The thankfulness that I try to capture in these daily blog posts bubbled over in my soul.  And was such a fitting parallel to my very first moments of the day:

Still in bed this morning in the dark -- before I made it to the gnat-free sink -- my thoughts turned anxious and I started to feel heavy with burden. 

What if this doesn't get better?  What if I get sicker?  What if this symptom or that symptom comes?  What if my grandfather dies?  What if work gets crazy?  What if I just can't handle everything?  What if there isn't enough time and energy to do all the things I need or want to do?  What if we miss this or that thing?  What if we have to cancel our anniversary trip?  What if everything falls apart financially?  What if everything just plain falls apart?  What if this doesn't work?  And that doesn't work? What if?  Then what?

I took some deep breaths and I prayed. 

I've learned from experience that it's best to let the what-ifs go.  They usually don't happen anyway. 

This is only a season.  And it's never as bad as I imagine it could be.  I will get through and things will get better. 

I decided then that these would be my words for the day.  This would be my antidote to anxiety.

Except for later I added: Just like the gnats.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 14

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
-Thomas Mann

Today I am thankful.  I am thankful for quiet moments in the morning.  To wake up and have energy.  For a hug from my husband.  For my husband.  For our sweet pup who is always so excited to see me.  For my car and my job and where I live.  For my friends.  For my family.  For Jesus and salvation and the hope of heaven.  For prayer. 

I am thankful for Chinese food and blue skies and absolutely brilliant red leaves.  I'm thankful for my burnt orange pea coat and my comfortable black pants.  I'm thankful for caffeine and for chocolate.  I'm thankful for cell phones and computers.  I'm thankful for comedies.  And for mistletoe

I even felt thankful for words.  I am always thankful for words.  And for getting to write them.

Today I felt thankful all day long.  Really I did.  I just never felt like telling you about it.

These last few months have been a strain for my introverted soul.  I've been around more people than normal and under more stress than normal.  I've had to share more than normal.  More than I'm comfortable with.  I'm stretched online and at work and at home and at doctors' appointments and on the phone.  It feels like I am stretched -- pushed, pulled, shoved -- everywhere.

And I committed to letting words go every single day. 

So I'm pounding out posts I'm not proud of at the end of a day when I'm tired and trying to achieve a month of daily blog posts.  I'm starting to think this wasn't the best idea.

I feel thankful but I need more time.  I need more thought.  My writing needs more work before I let people see it. 

I feel exposed.

And when I feel exposed, the doubts start to creep in.  This has been when I've ripped up pages of effort.  This has been when I've let the phone ring and ring without answering.  When I feel like I'm not good enough and worry I'll never be good enough. 

I crawled into bed last night and wanted to pull the covers over my head.  This is when I contemplate signing off of social media.  This is when I think about deleting the blog.  This is when I fantasize about being a hermit.   This is when I want to disappear.

You aren't exposed when you're invisible.  But you're not known either.  That's the trade-off.

And I know it isn't worth making.  I know this is just the vulnerability hangover.  I've written about it before.

I do feel thankful, but today writing about it is hard. 

I am thankful this feeling doesn't last forever.  And that I only committed to 16 more days of daily blog posts.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 13

I always think about what it means to wear eyeglasses.  When you get used to glasses you don't know how far you could really see.  I think about all the people before eyeglasses were invented.  It must have been weird because everyone was seeing in different ways according to how bad their eyes were.
-Andy Warhol

Saturday morning I woke up and -- like every morning -- reached for my glasses.

Later as I prepared for a day of shopping I decided to switch to contact lenses.  And I felt thankful.

I remember those rough pre-teenage years before I received my first set of contacts.  I remember the times since then that I've been restricted to glasses only.  Simply having a choice between the two is a blessing.

I also remember getting to choose between a handful of hideous frames.  They kept those hidden in a drawer -- didn't even display them -- for when the poor kids got their exams.  It's a superficial thing, I know, but getting to pick designer frames these days feels like such a blessing to me.

And I remember those days restricted to glasses only when I had to be driving or outdoors and could only squint against the sun if I hoped to see anything at all.  Some may paint it superficial, but prescription sunglasses have been a wonderful gift.

Another of the day's blessings won out on Saturday for the Day 9 blog, but I saw a link in my newsfeed this afternoon that listed 22 things only those with truly terrible vision would understand.  I chuckled through it and decided today would be dedicated to all the things I appreciate about corrected vision.

Before glasses, I didn't realize trees had individual leaves.  I thought leaves were the portions of trees that fell to the ground each fall.  I knew about stars but had never actually been able to look up into the sky and see them.  Once I couldn't find a horse my mom kept trying to point out to me.  That's when she knew things were bad.

Thankfully, all those things come into focus these days.  Corrected, my vision is perfect.  And for that I am so thankful.

Like Mr. Warhol, I think back to the days before eyeglasses.  If I was in that time, I would be considered blind and shut off from the world around me.  So many opportunities would have been lost simply because I would not be able to see to take advantage of them. 

I'm thankful to live in a time when eye health and vision correction is a thriving field of qualified, knowledgeable doctors.  I'm thankful for the wonderful ones who have treated me over the years.

And every single day I'm thankful for being able to see.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 12

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.  You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
-J.B. Priestley

Frankfort, KY. Circa 2012.  I didn't get any pictures of today's snow here.
I heard the prediction yesterday afternoon for snow.  I scrutinized the forecast.  No accumulation, really.  It is still early and temperatures haven't been cold enough.  I couldn't help but hope for snow.  I couldn't help but brace for disappointment. 

Groggy in the middle of the night I checked the time.  1:55.  I rolled over to find sleep again but then remembered the hourly forecast.  Flakes could be falling.  I grabbed my glasses and made my way to the big window in the living room.  My glance from the kitchen gave me no sight of snow but I was still hopeful.  I pulled the curtain aside and focused.  No snow.  I looked up at the street light.  No snow.  It would probably be a bust like so many weather forecasts are.

Back to bed until the alarm went off.  I asked for snooze but then remembered the hope for snow.  Out of bed twenty minutes earlier than normal I headed back down the hallway toward the big window again.  Before I could make it I saw from the kitchen: Snow!  A respectable amount for November 12th.  It covered over the ground and the leaves. 

Much to my husband's dismay, I think, giddy squeels ensued.  Snow!  Snow!  It snowed!

I love the snow.  In the barrenness of winter, it covers over all the lifeless trees and land with sparkling, perfect white.  In bone-chilling cold, it reflects the sun brightly through the windows and warms the soul. 

Today I am thankful for snow.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 11

Lord, bid war's trumpet cease; Fold the whole earth in peace.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today I am thankful for a day off.  And so much more than that. 

But the nature of this holiday doesn't equate to the carefree celebration and observance that comes with some.  Today and every day I am thankful for those men and women who offer their lives in the fight for noble and right causes.  Whether their fights are organized and official or not.

Though those who died are most certainly worthy of honor too, I am glad today is to celebrate the living.  I am especially glad because I know and love some honorees of this day.  And my heart rejoices that their day isn't in May.

And tonight I dream of a day when war will be no more.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 10

Jesus loves me -- loves me still.
Though I'm very weak and ill;
From His shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.
-Anna Bartlett Warner

In his distinct tenor those were the words my pop sang tonight. And I was just thankful to be there to hear.  There is something sweet and humbling and absolutely awe-inspiring to hear those words from an 81-year-old man who just a few months ago was still climbing up on roofs.  Today he can hardly even stand.

And yet he closes his eyes and sings praises to His Lord and you know you're a part of something special.  Wonderful, meaningful worship of the Creator by his beloved son.  In spite of his circumstances.

My pop isn't perfect, but he has been a blessing in my life.  A God-send for sure.  He was the anchor in my childhood.  He set me up on a firm foundation.  For me, he was base.  'I'm thankful' doesn't seem like enough, but I am.

And I'm thankful for music and songs and instruments that somehow communicate the things we can't.  That give us a platform to celebrate and to mourn.  To worship and to pray.  For pleasure and pain.  For triumph and trial.  To give our life a melody at the end of each day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 9

It is of the small joys and little pleasures that the greatest of our days are built.
-Mary Anne Radmacher

Today I am feeling thankful for the simple pleasures in life. 

Waking up slowly without an alarm and listening to quiet in the morning.  A mug of hot tea.  A journal.  A book and long soak in a warm bath. 

Comfortable shoes and sunny weather.  The smell of sweet cinnamon pumpkin. 

Traditions established and observed and made new. 

Smooth dark chocolate.  Hearty beef stew.  Good food.  Delicious food.  Comfort food.  Exotic food and food shared with friends.

A hug from a child.  A room full of laughter.  Beautiful, sweet music. 

Love from a pup.  Watching goldfish swim.

A phone call, a card, a note.

Memories and pictures and long-standing inside jokes.

A feather pillow and soft sheets at the end of the day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 8

But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on their journeys.  And therefore, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!
-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

After a fun dinner with dear friends we piled into vans and drove downtown to be greeted by crisp air and caroling.  As I walked the street bundled up and listened to the excitement that comes with child-like wonder, I just felt blessed. 

I breathed in the moment.

I am thankful for the holiday season.  I am thankful to live in a city that kicks it off with a four day festival.  I am thankful to stroll streets filled with history and modern society while listening to songs about Jesus.  I am thankful to have an awesome family and amazing friends and the time to spend with them during this season. 

It is officially the Christmas season here in Frankfort, and I'm thankful.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 7

Sitting in a tiny taupe office with a big red bookcase in south Lexington, herbalist Andrew Bentley gives people plant-based concoctions.  He also gives them that rarest of commodities in the medical world: time.
- Cheryl Truman, Lexington herbalist offers alternative medical care

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  That's what led me to the office of an herbalist I heard about at my local farmer's market where I bought herbs that I had just researched online. 

I had talked to several doctors.  They all seemed to agree that I most likely had a hormonal imbalance.  Yet none of them would actually measure or test my hormones.  They all said that would be too difficult.  And they all said my only treatment option would be hormonal birth control anyway. 

Because hormonal birth control would only potentially fix some of my symptoms, and would most definitely make others worse, I felt as though I had no option.

When I finally made it to Andrew's office and he asked what brought me in and I recounted this whole story I ended by saying "I was hoping you would offer me something other than hormonal birth control."

"That's not even something I can offer you," he said.  And it only got better from there.

After more than a year of paperwork and appointments, time spent in waiting rooms for five minutes with a doctor who didn't even listen or seem to care and shelling out hundreds of dollars after health insurance, I had finally found someone to listen.

There was no paperwork to fill out.  No forms to sign.  Months later, this doctor still doesn't even have my home address.  When I call his office, he answers the phone.  That's because he is also the receptionist.  When I have blood taken, it's by him.  He's also the phlebotomist.  And then he analyzes it.  No trip to the pharmacy after I leave.  He mixes the medicine at the end of the appointment and sends it with me.

I had never felt as much sympathy from a doctor as I did when I told him what I was going through.  And he has been the only person to offer me anything that makes me feel like I did before I felt sick.

Today I am thankful for my herbalist.  In his office this afternoon he asked me about each symptom I had mentioned during that first appointment.  Some I had even forgotten about myself.  And each question made it obvious that he not only listened, but that he had great insight into the things going on inside of me.  I'm not sure if he reviewed his notes before our appointment, but he wasn't looking at them as we chatted.

I told him about the two migraines I had since my last appointment.

"That's really unacceptable," he said.  "We'll make sure to treat those.  I'll give you something for that.  If you have to have migraines at all you should never have more than one or two a year."

Wow.  That is so much better to hear than "Sometimes people have migraines and you really need to find your triggers and try to control them."  Or, "Unfortunately when your migraines are related to your hormone levels, there'll just be times when you have more migraines and there's not much we can do than give you medicine to help with the pain."  Migraine treatment has only ever been pain management, not prevention methods.

And that's not the only symptom I've told him about that he has tackled with that level of conviction and intensity.  I am thankful to have found a doctor, though much different than current mainstream medicine, who is devoted to making me feel well.

I am thankful that he has spent his life learning natural, herbal medicine and practices and that he is compassionate and passionate about helping people, listening to people, healing people. 

For all his thoroughness and diligence, I am thankful for the one area he always lets slide. It comes during that awkward moment at the end of our appointment when he looks at me and asks nonverbally, "Why are you still standing there?" 

"I haven't paid you," I say.

And he sighs and rolls his eyes and thanks me for reminding him.  "I always forget that part."


To learn more about Andrew Bentley visit .

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 6

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.  We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.
-Henry David Thoreau

I am thankful for solitude.  Those quiet moments alone when I can breath deeply and let the cares of the world around me melt away.  When I can relax and recharge.

Those times that I am all alone and I can simply be.  I had the blessing of living completely by myself for a while in college.  My apartment became my safe haven in those days.  It is a time I still treasure. 

These days it's found in the mornings when Johnie leaves for work early or the evenings when he works late.  It's in the drives I take by myself sometimes.  Nights when one of us is away from the other.  Or, because my husband is an introvert who understands, when I have just simply had enough of people and am drained and empty and just need to be by myself.

As I said yesterday, I am thankful for friends and community and support and the love and conversation and fun times with others.  But I am also thankful for those sweet, sweet moments spent in solitude and silence.  That is when I find myself, my thoughts, my will to face the world.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 5's lupus...
-Dr. Lewis

There are moments in life that feel surreal. 

I remember the weekend I met Johnie.  When our eyes locked and I felt electricity in my veins and something inside me knew this was something special. That my life could be changing forever.  More than seven years later I still remember that feeling and still wonder if it actually happened or if I dreamed it.  Or at the very least have over-dramatized it.

Unfortunately not all the unbelievable moments in life are that amazing.

It was October 16th.  I think it was raining.  My grandfather -- who raised me (read: like a father) -- was in the hospital and we weren't sure when or if he'd get out alive.  I had already missed too much work and cancelled two doctor's appointments that week.  Physically, I felt okay.  Given the circumstances.  I had felt at least okay for weeks.  And I wanted to cancel the third appointment.

But I had been waiting for months.  I had already paid out my deductible this year on several other doctors and had a doubly-confirmed set of abnormal lab results.  After a year and a half of illness and frustration and confusion over what was going on I wanted this expert's opinion.  And I didn't want to wait any longer.

So I took more time from work and left my family to drive an hour and a half on winding Kentucky highways to the only rheumatologist in the world who came recommended by a friend and nurse.  (For full disclosure, I didn't realize he was that far away when I took the recommendation.  And as I told him, I was hoping my first appointment would also be my last at his office.)

Like a dog on a bone -- unwilling to stop -- I visited doctors and specialists all year who didn't listen or who dismissed what I was saying.  Who refused to do the lab work I asked them all for.  Who gave me treatments that turned out to be ineffective.  Or suggested medicines to mask certain symptoms at the price of exacerbating others.  As time wore on, my conviction only grew. I must have some sort of hormonal imbalance. Some type of thyroid issue at worst.

Finally, 14 months and five doctors in, one finally agreed to do part of the lab work I had been asking for.  He made sure to tell me that he was fairly certain that all my seemingly random health problems stemmed from depression.  And before drawing my blood, he asked me to make a game plan for when the results came back normal.  "Because they will," he said. "You just need to figure out what to do to make yourself happy."

I thought I was happy and would be especially so if I felt better physically, but he was sure it was the other way around.

I got a letter the next week saying my lab work was normal and no further testing would be needed.

Except by now I was so fed up with modern western medicine that I began seeking out alternatives.  When I got that letter I already had an appointment with an internationally-respected herbalist who I hoped would actually listen to my concerns about a potential imbalance and offer me something other than hormonal birth control.

I requested a copy of the results to take to my appointment and noticed there were some things out of range.  My super smart medical scientist friend assured me those out-of-range results were not normal and should be retested.

At my very last visit in the office of the most disrespectful doctor I have ever met, I got an apology about the letter being sent prematurely and more blood drawn.  The second round of lab work confirmed the abnormal results were still abnormal. 

In the arrogance of his premature diagnosis he at least had the forethought to test for something I hadn't requested. An autoimmune disorder I had never heard of, Sjogren's Syndrome.  That test came back fine but was part of a panel of tested antibodies.  Three others were abnormally high.

For all I love about my herbalist, he is reluctant to label diseases.  He is adamant that he treats people and not diseases.  His holistic treatment has made me feel like a normal person again both in and out of his office.  But I still wanted an answer clearer than the one he offered.

I recounted this whole 18-month-long story to Dr. Lewis through tears.  And was comforted by sarcasm, laughs, sympathy, concern and outrage at all the right junctions.

"Your symptoms and your lab work, they all indicate lupus.  I'm sure you were expecting me to say that word," he said.

All of my searching on the internet and in books and conversation linked my lab results with various autoimmune disorders.  The anti double-stranded DNA antibody -- more than ten times higher than normal for me -- was linked almost exclusively with lupus in everything I read and heard.

I knew about lupus.  I have family members with lupus.  I have friends with lupus.  I've advocated for lupus research.  I've written about lupus.  I did not have lupus.

The surest sign of my disbelief found in my now dried up tear ducts.  Fully composed, my voice was steady.

"Yes.  I know that my lab results are typical for someone who has lupus.  And I know that a lot of my symptoms are experienced by people with lupus, but I don't think I have it.  I don't have the pain people with lupus have.  My joints are okay.  I thought you could tell me what is going on."

He gently explained to me "the thing about lupus" and how I still fit the criteria for diagnosis even absent of joint involvement.

"But I was thinking maybe the lab work was just a fluke."

"We've proven it's not a fluke."

I continued to argue.  He continued to persist.  I realized I wasn't going to convince him I definitely did not have lupus and gave up.  I asked questions and he answered them.  Then he ordered more lab work and scheduled my next appointment. 

"I'm sorry, but this won't be your last time, unfortunately.  There's not a one-shot cure for lupus."

"You should really get on that before my next appointment."

Laughter and then seriously, "People are working on it."

With everything finished I walked outside and sat in my car.  I had been in there for a while.  The work day would be nearly over by the time I made it back and I knew I wouldn't get anything done at the office anyway.  I needed to make that call.  What would I say?

Wait a minute.  Did the doctor say I have lupus?  He didn't say he thought I might have it.  Or that I could develop it.  Or that we needed to run more tests to confirm it. 

Suddenly the months of waiting came to a screeching halt.  And it felt like I had been given my answer too soon.

The tests were to measure kidney functions... to see how the lupus might be affecting my kidneys.  The follow-up appointment was to monitor the activity of the lupus.  Were the doctor's exact words 'it's lupus?'

I reached for the door handle.  I needed to go back and make sure.  But I couldn't think of a graceful way to approach the receptionist and say, "Excuse me.  I was just in here ten minutes ago.  I thought the doctor said I had lupus, but that can't be right.  Can you tell me again what he said?"

I stared at my phone, work number dialed in and couldn't hit send.  I didn't know what words would come out of my mouth and I couldn't tell my co-workers this unacceptable diagnosis first.  So I called Johnie.

We chatted.  He gave me an update on my grandfather and his day.  Then, "How was the appointment?"

What should I say?  "It was good.  I really like the doctor."

"That's good."

I should say it.  "He thinks I have lupus."

I heard a word -- or maybe it was just a sound -- catch in his throat.  Then sobs.  And finally, "That's not what I wanted to hear."

I don't think I've ever felt further away from him nor have I ever wanted to close the gap between us faster. 

The drive home was twice as long as I kept trying to figure out how I had dreamed or misheard the news.  As I tried to figure out how to break the news to this person and to that one.  And in the days that followed, the struggle continued.

For all my training and obsession with communication, I felt entirely incompetent this time.  In what order should I tell people?  And in what medium?  And when?  Just the telling felt overwhelming.

I am sure that there are some of you reading this who know me and are dear to me.  There are friends and family who I haven't told yet and you may be one of them.  I'm sorry.  You don't deserve to hear this news in a blog post.  I am blessed to know and be close to such an amazing group of people who cross geographic and ethnic and economic and social and religious borders.  I don't know how I could find the energy to tell them all (you, if you are reading this) individually.

As I come to terms with this diagnosis and what it may mean for me, I just felt like it was time to go ahead and throw it out there so I can begin the process of moving forward.  I hope you understand.

Just as I did in the months before the diagnosis, in the three weeks since I've still been trying to link this or that symptom to this or that cause.  Sans lupus. 

I'm tired because I'm stressed.  It's normal for people to get headaches sometimes.  That dizzy spell was just a fluke.  Some people just have myriad skin problems that don't respond to medicine.  I don't know why I've been nauseous all day.  Or all week.  I just have bad eyes.  This is nothing. That is nothing.  No big deal.  It'll go away.  I just need to get things balanced out.

I'm starting to realize it's all probably the lupus.  Putting the pieces together has been bittersweet.  That random short swatch of hair I've worked to hide every morning these past few months.  Probably lupus.  Being unable to walk three miles one day, but up to a ten-mile jaunt on another.  Probably lupus.  Mouth sores.  Probably lupus.  Absolutely no weight loss despite weeks of dedicated effort and then sudden, unexplained weight loss.  Lupus.  Lupus.  Lupus.  Stupid lupus.

And still -- don't laugh -- I think maybe not.

I got a call on Friday with those latest lab results.  Thank God, my kidney functions were normal.  The lupus has not affected my kidneys.  The nature of the disease requires me to tack on an obligatory "yet" here.  But there's no denying this is wonderful news any way you look at it. 

The nurse added, "The rest of your labs show minimal lupus activity right now.  Unless you have a flare, we'll see you for your follow-up in January."

You mean he thinks I have lupus? 

Obviously I haven't fully come to terms with this myself.  I don't know when or if I'll ever be comfortable claiming I'm having "a flare." 

And I can't help myself.  I just can't help but wonder if some day, sooner or later, I'll have to rescind this post and tell everyone I don't actually have lupus after all, by way of misdiagnosis or misinformation or misunderstanding or miracle.

If after all these words you're still confused about what lupus is, I can tell you that I'm (obviously) confused, too.  The Lupus Foundation of America has the most reliable information if you'd like to learn more.  (I guess, ironically, I plastered their banner ad to this blog there on the right when I had lupus and just didn't know it yet.)

And because lupus is so different for every person and over the course of the disorder, I can only tell you how it has affected me so far.  It is relatively mild for me right now.  My hope is (if I do, in fact, have it, of course) that it will stay that way.  And I should live as long as I would if I didn't have it, especially with no kidney involvement.

I'm trying to build more rest and sleep into my schedule.  And against every natural tendency I possess, I'm trying to actually listen to my body and rest when the most minor of lupus symptoms arise.  Instead of pushing myself until I crash for a week.  Or a month.  Or longer.  Other than that, I'm making no lifestyle changes at the moment. 

My rheumatologist agreed that since I am responding so well to the treatment that my herbalist is providing, I don't even need any other medicine right now.  And bonus: Since beginning the herbal treatment, not only has my health improved but I have stopped all five of the medications I had been prescribed to take on a regular, ongoing basis. 

Which leaves me needing to answer one final question: How in the world is this a post about thankfulness?

The answer: Because I feel thankful. 

This has been a rough year.  A few months and a few problems ago, I felt overwhelmed just juggling a couple things.  But right now, these last few weeks, I've honestly just felt overwhelmingly blessed and thankful.

I am thankful to be as healthy as I am.  I am thankful that even though the Lord -- apparently -- did not spare me from this disease, He has blessed me in so many sweet and profound ways through it.  He has been with me and next to me and I am thankful for that.  And I am thankful that I can trust Him ultimately with my health and my life.  I don't know how to say that without it sounding like a flimsy cliché.  I just can't seem to do Him justice with words.  Or actions.  Or at all.  So I'll leave it at that.

I am also thankful for the days and the times when I feel good.  And I'm thankful that I don't take that for granted.  I am thankful to have found two wonderful doctors who are compassionate and sympathetic.  Who I feel comfortable with helping me make decisions about my health.  And with no political intentions, I am thankful to have financial access to health care and treatments.

And the reason why I have shared all of this today -- now -- is because as I continually reflect each day on what I am thankful for during this month-long project, I could no longer wait to express my deep, deep thankfulness to the family members and friends who have stood with me, in front of me, behind me, beside me, around me as I have gone through these struggles and ultimately received this diagnosis.

I have felt overwhelmed and humbled and undeserving of their love.

It has truly been a blessing and a joy to feel their love in their reaction and response to this news.  We've prayed together and cried together and laughed together and been angry together.  There have been hugs and jokes and concerned questions and reassurances.  Sometimes I think more for their own benefit than for mine, though I have surely benefited. 

And though I am sick -- and may be for the rest of my life here -- I can rest in the sweet love of an amazing group of people who rally and support and have my back no matter what tomorrow holds.  One of the sweetest blessings of God. 

For that, I am so very thankful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 4

Today I am thankful for those who are fully committed to justice and to mercy.  Not in some statutory way, but in waging war against the outrageous wrongs of our world and working to make them right. 

I am thankful for those people who devote their energy, their lives, their very well-being to love and fairness and balance in our world.  Who sacrifice their own rights and privileges to help others gain freedom from whatever chains bind them.

I am thankful that it is work that is seeing progress.  Sometimes I forget this.  I was reminded when I read Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place.  The Holocaust was sickening and tragic and horrible beyond words.  But devoted people saved persecuted lives despite it.  Sometimes at the cost of their own.  And their work, their prayers, their unwillingness to back down brought an end to a cruel and gruesome regime. 

I must be reminded: Things are better today than they have been.  I'm thankful for that.  But there is still work to be done and I am thankful for those who have suited up to do it. 

My eyes were opened earlier this year to the proliferation of modern day slavery.  There are all types of slaves of all ages all over the world (yes, even still in the United States of America).  I keep wanting to do more to help all the slaves, but my eyes, my mind, my heart, my actions are drawn back to the unspeakable horror of child sex trafficking. 

Though my words feel too weak, I am thankful for those who are committed to ending this injustice.  A friend offered the most fitting description I have heard of these brave souls: They're going right up to the very gates of hell to battle.

Since the Tread on Trafficking fundraiser this summer to benefit Love146, I've continued to follow this one agency's efforts at the gates of hell.  I'm thankful they're willing to go there and I'm thankful for the children they're saving.

--- --- ---

His Name Was David. from Love146 on Vimeo.

A year ago, we opened a feeding center in the heart of a community in the Philippines where child slavery was thriving — where pedophiles preyed on impoverished families and even some parents felt compelled to sell their children for sex.

We wanted to close the gap between desperation and exploitation, so we began to provide food, medicine and education… some of the needs that push families and their children into the bondage of sexual exploitation. And we began listening to the children.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 9.17.52 AM

Of the many children who came through our doors, it didn’t take us long to spot four girls that were in especially serious danger. We began to notice heartbreaking injuries that could only come from sexual exploitation. In their childlike ways, they disclosed that their parents were selling them to pedophiles.

Hands tied by protocol, hearts torn to intervene. We’ve faced this before:
Not knowing what happened to
the girl who wore 146 haunts us everyday.
We vowed this story would end differently.

Everything inside of us wanted to take these girls out of their community. But it’s never as simple as snatching a child up. At the time, we could only legally provide so much care and it was gut-wrenching to know that when they walked out of our feeding center, they were walking into a horror that no child should ever face.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 9.18.26 AM

Love is tenacious…
After months of partnering with local law enforcement and working with the Philippines Department of Social Welfare & Development, we gained full custody of Camila, Claudia, Sonya and Ariel. They’re safe and sound in our Round Home, and we’re looking forward to celebrating this holiday season with them in our family.

-Love146 blog post, Love is tenacious, by Ryan Day

I'm also thankful we can support such amazing work.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 3

A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.
-An Irish Proverb

Tonight's forecast: Dark.  Continued dark tonight turning to partly light in the morning.
-George Carlin

The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.
-W.C. Fields

It is only fitting at the end of Daylight Savings Time and on a day when I've just returned home exhausted after fourteen hours out that I express my deep, deep thankfulness for sleep.

I am thankful for rest.  And I am thankful for my comfortable bed in my hint-of-lavender scented room.  I am thankful for soft sheets and a feather pillow.  I am thankful for my blackout curtains and the pitch-black oasis they give me.  I'm thankful for a set of Friends DVDs to lull me quickly to sleep when my mind won't stop.  And I'm thankful for a soft island-inspired tone to wake me when I must end my rest each morning.

I am thankful for all the wonderful, peaceful hours of sleep I get each night and I'm thankful for days filled with things that are worth waking up for.

...and so to bed.
-Samuel Pepys

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 2

Today I am thankful for grace.  I need it over and over every day.  In big ways and little ones. 

I spent today somewhat leisurely. A long shower, a museum visit with my little brother, a quick nap, then some therapeutic cooking.  And looking forward to the righting of a wrong in my life: The end of Daylight Savings Time.

I thought all day about what I would write about.  Trying to decide which thing to pick in a long list of sweet blessings I found myself especially grateful for today.

And then somehow the evening hours vanish as they sometimes do.  With a clean kitchen, I nestled under the covers in my bed on the verge of sleep, and then remembered.  The second day in and I have already fumbled the thankfulness project.

So I am thankful for grace.  It covers over the miniscule mistakes like this and also the ones that would be the death of me.  But I rest in grace that covers over all my wrongs and can dream of a blissful eternity tonight.

Grace, what have you done?
Murdered for me on that cross.
Accused in absence of wrong,
My sin washed away in your blood.

Too much to make sense of it all.
I know that your love breaks my fall.
The scandal of grace, you died in my place
So my soul will live.

Oh, to be like you.
I give all I have just to know you.
Jesus, there's no one besides you. 
Forever the hope in my heart.

Death, where is your sting?
Your power is as dead as my sin.
The cross has taught me to live
In mercy, my heart now to sing.

The day and its trouble shall come.
I know that your strength is enough.
The scandal of grace, you died in my place
So my soul will live.

Matt Crocker and Joel Houston (songwriters), performed by Hillsong United, Scandal of Grace

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankfulness Project: Day 1

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

-George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)

I am thankful for this time of year.  Fall has always been my favorite season.  Having made it through the harsh heat of summer, things thankfully slow down.  Stand still and you can feel the gears of the earth grind down gradually.  People make plans for time and holidays with family and friends.  And they count the blessings of their own.  I'm glad when people are thankful.

And this year, today, I am thankful to spend fall at home in Kentucky.  The mountains, the trees, the familiar faces make me feel safe and loved.  So very much at home.  I had to leave this place to love it fully.  I'm back now and grateful for it.  Grateful to drive these narrow winding roads and to speak words to strangers with a natural drawl. 

I am thankful that the season has the slow time built in, allowing us a little extra space to enjoy the beauty that only comes in fall.  Even as a child, even before my vision was corrected with dreadfully large glasses to see the leaves clearly, I was enthralled, mesmerized by their colors in autumn.

The sense of awe has only deepened in adulthood.  And today, driving these roads of home I couldn't help but be thankful for soft blue skies, a kind, warm sun and a gentle breeze.  Perfection with a jean jacket and mug of spiced apple cider.  The perfect setting to enjoy these precious few days of the last leaves still clinging to the trees.  The vibrancy and variety of their hues making it certain they will fall soon.

I breathe in the crisp autumn air.  Eyes wide, I scan all around me to absorb every last drop of brilliant color I can.  It won't be long until everything is dusted over with the dull brown of winter's dead. 

It will have blessings and struggles of its own.  But not yet.  Today I am thankful for fall.

--- --- ---

I've decided to jump on the November Thankfulness Project bandwagon this year.  I love reading each new thing my friends post each day.  I read the first batch this morning and thought, "I need to do that too."  So I am.

This will be VERY FAR from a comprehensive list of things I am thankful for, and in no particular order.  My husband asked if he would make the list.  I had to tell him I didn't know.  I am so very thankful for him, but this is a different kind of project.  I'm reflecting each day on something that stands out at the moment as a sweet blessing in my life and who knows what that might be.