Thursday, July 26, 2012

What I Am Proudest Of

This is what I am proudest of.  Out of every thing God has given me the ability to do, everything I have accomplished, every drop of sweat and blood and every tear, nothing has meant as much to me as this. 

When I was twelve, I was just a scrawny, insecure, abused little girl with no hope and no concept of "future."  All I had was the present, and the present was nothing I wanted.  But one afternoon, my dad came home from his new job and handed me a newsletter put out by a local hospital.  He said "read the class list - see if there is anything in there that you would like to do together."  My eyes landed on "Karate for adults and children aged eight and up.  Maximum 25 students."  Dad and I made 23.  All of us white belts, with one lone black belt as the instructor.  That man became first an instructor and then a mentor and then my doctor and then my friend, as years passed.  And it turned out not to be Karate - it was Tae Kwan Do, but with some Judo and Hapkido mixed in. 

At our school, earning a black belt is no easy feat.  It takes years, and it takes everything you have to give - and then more.  At age twelve, I saw that and suddenly, I had something in my future.  Something I wanted - needed even.  Something that I could do. I knew I could.  It literally changed everything about who I was.  Not dramatically, especially at first.  But a subtle shift from hopeless to hopeful, from lost to found, from broken to healed. 

There has not been a day since, that I have questioned whether God used martial arts to save my life.  He did.  He still is. 

And that is why this is what I am proudest of.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

P.G. With No Baby

I've been told  many, many times that "whatever is wrong is self inflicted" in reference to my leg.  And I've been assured that it definitely couldn't hurt as much as I say it hurts.  I've been told I'm not sick, that there's no physical reason for the symptoms I battle daily.

But recently, that's all changed.  My doc believes in me and has fought to help me heal, and has endured the highs and lows as my leg gets better and worse unpredictably.  And finally, there's a word for what I am fighting.  Two words, actually.  Pyoderma gangrenosum.  Look it up if you want, but be warned that most articles include graphic and rather unappealing pictures.  Basically, it means my body attacks itself from the inside out (so in that regard, I suppose you could call it self-inflicted).  It favors previously damaged skin, but I have no control over when or where or how badly it will do so.  When it flares, my skin first turns red, then warm and spongy, then blisters, then peels and rapidly erodes  until I have ulcers muscle-deep and usually bigger than a silver dollar.  It is excruciatingly painful - far more so than it should be given the wounds themselves.  It has coupled with a disturbing lack of immune response to allow infection after infection to form, for which I am almost daily at the clinic receiving treatment. 

Now, that said, I'm not trying to whine.  I honestly have a beautiful life, made that way by a faithful God.  It's just that people often wonder what it is that is actually wrong with me - what keeps me so sick so much of the time.  And this is certainly not the only problem, but it is a big one.  One I'll overcome.  And when I do, God will get the glory because it will be by His grace.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lisa Snot

As kids, we learn language by listening.  We repeat what we hear - exactly as we hear it.  Trouble is, sometimes our brains will twist around what really goes in, to match what we have previously heard.  The results, I think, can be hilarious.

For example, when I was in second grade, we were asked to write about a person we would like to meet some day.  Any person in the world.  I chose José Canoosey.  You know, the guy at the beginning of the national anthem?  I wanted to find out why it mattered what he did in the morning, by the dawn's early light.

A friend of mine for years believed that things were "nuke-warm."  His logic?  When we nuke stuff, we don't always do it long enough so it comes out just kinda not warm and not cold.  We were in high school before I finally convinced him that most of the world referred to that state of being as LUKE warm.  Which made him ask, "Who's Luke?"  Good question, friend.  Good question.

Another friend recently shared that growing up in church, she found herself wondering every service who Lisa Snot was, and why Lisa Snot went into temptation. 

A child in my class has been memorizing definitions of the various forms he does.  One such definition refers back to the Silla Dynasty (Korea).  But in his head, he has always heard and therefore believed we were referring to the SillY Dynasty.  And he wanted to know who or what made that dynasty so silly, and why we were disrespectful of it by calling it that.

So.  Tell me about the things you or your friends or children you know have heard and said, only to later find out you were just a little off the mark.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Where Honor Lives

July 4th, in our nation, is a special day.

We celebrate freedom.  Families gather, we eat food that tastes yummy but probably isn't so good for us, we spend time laughing and running barefoot through the yard.  Together.  Then we gather to watch various substances that have been crammed into little vessels get flung into the air where they explode in bursts of color and light.

And it's all very nice.

But it's not what is inside me on this day.  Today I don't think about exuberant displays of freedom.  I don't think about living in a country that has so many little "perks" that we are forced to complain about the little stuff because the "big stuff" just isn't a present problem here. 

I think about honor.

In my head, I think about Independence Day when I was maybe ten or twelve.  My best friend and I were with my grandparents on their boat, watching the fireworks display surrounded by other boats as we floated in the Mississippi.  The light and sound from the fireworks was bouncing off the bluffs that surrounded us.  It was loud and bright and you could feel the energy in the air.  Excitement and exhilaration.

I looked down from my perch, with my legs dangling high above the water and my arms resting on the rail around the roof of the boat.  There was a small bass boat tied to our boat - nobody we knew.  But for the first time in the hours we'd spent so close together, I looked at them.  A young boy - maybe five years old.  His little life jacket stood out against the dark floor of the boat where he sat, leaning on the legs of an older man.  He was probably seventy, maybe more.  He wore a navy blue shirt and his gray hair was thinning.  His face had "the look" - you know, the expression that says "I love my life, I love who I am with, and this moment is beautiful" at the same time it says "I have seen and heard and lived through things most of the world can't even imagine.  I have seen the darkest parts of the world."  And I could see in his eyes, that the darkness he had seen was what let him really appreciate the light around him now.

Usually, after the pyrotechnics are completed, it is a rush to get every boat started and compete to be the first to leave that stretch of river.  But before that rush starts, there is always about two minutes of silence, where people are waiting to see if it is really over.  And that night, the silence was pierced after about thirty seconds.  Somewhere in the darkness, on a boat or perhaps standing somewhere on shore, two people had and played bagpipes.  The familiar sound of our national anthem was almost haunting as it rolled and echoed across the water.  Most people silently stayed where they were; unsure whether they should respond or not.  But the old man in the boat next to ours?  He stood tall and straight, his hand raised in a sharp solute, eyes fixed on the flag displayed on the front of our boat.  In that moment, I saw honor alive and well in him.  But it doesn't end there.  The small boy was almost asleep in the bottom of the boat.  He watched the man stand, watched him solute, and struggled to his feet.  He did his best to emulate the man he clearly admired; feet together, knobby little-boy knees straight, shoulders back, and his best attempt at a solute. 

As the anthem faded away, some people started to move.  And then slowly, softly, the first strains of Amazing Grace floated through the darkness.  The man continued staring at our flag as tears rolled down his face.  The young boy looked up at him, and then took his hand.

"Gwampah, I wuv you.  I wepect you.  Fank you for pwotecting us.  I wemembew.  And I wemembew yoah fwends too.  I won't evah fowget."

And that, my friends, is where honor lives.  In the heart of the child who saw, recognized, and embraced that which was worth honoring.

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