Monday, May 28, 2012

Where the germans are

We're in the bathroom, me and my husband of one month, brushing our teeth.  It's still so new, this experience of sharing a home and life with him, and even this menial act of cepillado los dientes is fascinating.  So I watch him in the mirror that stretches across one whole wall of our walk-in closet sized bathroom, a look of deep concentration furrowed in his brow.  And then, he says to me, "Don't forget to brush your tongue."

I smile back at him in the mirror with my mouth full of vibrating Sonicare brush.   

He persists with intense sincerity, "I'm serious," inserts a pause for effect. "That's where all the germans are."  

He says it so innocently, with a hint of the conspiratorial.  I spit toothpaste and barely contained laughter.  "Really?  All the germans, huh?"  He stares at me with a tentative smile, the growing realization that what he said didn't come out quite as he intended.  "Yes, the germans," now fixing me with a fake frown and sticking out his tongue in the mirror.   

And I love him all the more.  

One day, if we're given the opportunity to live in Mexico, I know he'll be blessed by similar experiences in reverse.  Me, spitting out Spanish with a flair of my own grammar.  These moments add such flavor to life together - this daily blending of cultures and languages and grammar - some humorous, others more serious, all full and rich and ripe for the learning.   We are each other's teacher and student, and this, I see, is one of the most precious and self-challenging aspects of marriage.  

We lay in bed and it is hot.  Literally.   The box fan we bought at a local flea market for five dollars is purring below the open window, and the bed is a tangled web of rejected comforter, sheets, and pillow for my cast to rest on.  Me, the one perpetually cold, now fluctuating between sweat and chill, while Ricardo the Perpetual Furnace wraps himself in a red fleecy blanket atop our covers in attempt to keep warm.  This cast of mine raises my body temperature at least five degrees, and each night I fight in half- wakefulness the demon covers and various sleeping positions in attempt to find rest.  

This night, in particular, I add a soundtrack to my fighting and fussing.  Grunts and groans and whimpers and moans.  An all-out- middle-of-the-night-sleep-tantrum.  Throwing off blankets, kicking off sheet, tossing foot pillow onto the floor, flipping left to right in a bouncing rage.  Unbeknownst to me, Ricardo lays still beside me, curled up in silence, biting back laughter.  When a few minutes of calm and stillness have passed on my side of the bed, he gently and bravely inches toward me, reaches a hand to my back and rubs.  The next morning, he asks, "Were you like this in your sleep as a child?" 

"No," I grimace.  "I'm pretty sure I was more mature then."

We laugh hard.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A hunger for joy

I'm laying on my stomach on the bed, staring out through open blinds at spindly tree shadows projected on the brick apartment building across the way.  The breeze blows with cool breath through the window and I pause to acknowledge it on my skin, receive its refreshing touch.  I need it.

Just today I finally pick up a book, filled with sentences already underlined in my uneven marks.  A book with words so real and fresh and true that, one year ago, came close like a dear friend and led me down a path I  didn't see before.  The path of giving thanks every day, in everything, opening up my eyes to see and filling my life more full of grace.  The book is One thousand gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  Here I thought I was doing so well, seeing through hard and ugly and unwanted things to the beauty.  Seeing God in these places.  Turns out, I merely reached a fork in the road of an unending life journey and new circumstances to test my newfound way of being.

Life is funny like that.  

The truth is, my eyes are often too blinded to see the silver lining in the clouds - at least lately.  I squint and I sweat and I strain, and some days, I just pull the covers over my head and say I'll try again tomorrow.  Feelings of depression and discouragement pound the door like some unrelenting collections officer.  Some days, I throw off the covers, climb out of bed and answer the door, telling them to get lost, that my debt's already been paid.  And other, less glorious days, I sit in the dark room, paralyzed as they continue to knock.  This is the ugly, un-edited, un-airbrushed truth.  Yes, I struggle hard.  

I need to learn to see, still.   I need it to live more fully than this.  Ann reminds me in her unique and compelling prose that the depth of my joy runs only as deep as the depth of my gratitude.  When gratitude runs on empty, so does joy.  So simple, it seems.  So attainable, it can be.  So much work it is to harness the will into practice.  At least in the beginning.  But this I know, that gratitude is a fire that must continually be fed, or it will diminish to glowing embers, and then, disappear into darkness.  

So I pick up the book and return to press on in the journey, to uncover yet another layer of this life of grace in giving thanks.  For my soul hungers for joy - and there is much joy to be had.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some better gifts

Each day that passes, there will be some invisible storm and invisible miracle 
waiting to reveal themselves. 
Some days both may appear at once, in one. 
The world lets itself in, without invitation. 
I am still learning to accept, to feed myself in every sense, 
always imperfect, but eyes open, hungry for the color everywhere.
~ Amy Grace, A Beautiful Life Photo

I've been getting a lot of the "How's married life?" question, understandably, and for a moment, it trips me up on how to respond.   Only because there are so many layers to that answer, and I mentally calculate with each questioner - based on the intimacy of our relationship, the context we're in, how the question was asked, how much time we have - how many layers I will divulge.  My blog, however, is a whole other story.  Here I am free to practice authenticity - with discretion and taste, vulnerability and transparency - regardless of the audience.  Long ago I chose to be this type of writer, figuring my readers could discern for themselves how much they'd like to read.  

Returning to the original question on married life, my hesitation has nothing to do with a desire to reveal  private details about my marriage or whether or not I'm happily married for that matter.   No, it's a larger, more spiritual struggle, and one I'm well acquainted with: What to do when my life story doesn't pan out according to my expectations.  Boiled down to it's simplest form - Do I trust God to orchestrate my life better than I could?  In theory, the answer is yes.  In practice, it's exceedingly more difficult.

Hmmm, so how's married life?  Well, for starters, I adore my husband and I enjoying learning new things about him each day.  I'm trying to relax and appreciate this unique opportunity to be doted on.  Really, waited on hand and foot.  You'd think I'd be basking in this luxury (and I'm told this especially by my mother friends with some envy in their voices), but it's quite the opposite.  I'm still a do-er.  I like to relax when it's within my control and under my own conditions; forced relaxation, however, is not so easy.  While Ricardo brings me breakfast, often lunch, and dinner, fetches my water, cleans the kitchen, does the laundry, chauffeurs me around, carries my things, and if he has any time left in the day, attempts to sort through the wreck that is our apartment, I sit restlessly in bed, trying to contain my frustration that I can't help out.  At least now I can bathe myself, quite well actually.  For the first few days after surgery, I couldn't even get out of bed on my own without crying in pain.  I can hop around on one leg for awhile, cleaning the kitchen, carrying a few items to and fro, doing laundry and such - but only until my toes turn purple.  Then it's back to elevating in bed.  

That's one level of expectation that is not what I had in mind.  And then, there's one a bit messier.  Our "honeymoon" period, loosely speaking, has not been what I bargained for.  Instead of romantic swims on the beaches of Kauai, suntanned and beachy beautiful, enjoying our cozy cottage just feet from the water, we've gotten a good taste of marriage when it's not romantic and fun.  After just two week of marriage, my husband has seen me through surgery, on major painkillers, on the floor of the bathroom vomiting, unshowered for days and unable to do my hair, crying from pain, crying from discouragement, sick in my whole body, and all the emotional and relational side effects that come with that.  

For better or for worse.  In sickness and in health.  

My emotions protest and whine, this is not fun, wrestling negative thoughts.  But below my emotions, my heart knows better.  There are some precious gifts here, if we accept them.  The gift of being known more fully in the unattractive muck of life circumstances, and still being loved and adored.  The gift of really needing my husband, practically speaking, of seeing him take care of me without complaint, without resentment.  The gift of learning, from the get-go, how to go to God together in prayer and rely on him to take care of us.  We're both realizing how much we need him just to get through each day, how we must depend on him to show us how to really love each other, not in our own strength, but out of his reserves.  Which never empty.  We're learning to trust that he knows how to take care of us financially, when much of our previous "security net"just won't cut it.  I didn't expect to start marriage off feeling financially overwhelmed - not only by the costs of a wedding, but now, the costs of an urgent care trip, specialist visits, medications, surgery, physical therapy, and being out of work for an undetermined period of time.  Two months at the least - most likely three.  Yep, not exactly what either of us had prepared for.

But God knew.  And my faith continues to return me to this point.  None of this catches God by surprise or overwhelms him, and believing that God really does have good plans for us (not harm), there's something we can't see yet that is playing out here.  And haven't I been learning, through death and through life, that so often it's hard to "see" where God is in the moment, when the rubble kicks up dust all around and my spiritual eyesight is impaired by what is swirling around me?  But if I just wait for it, wait patiently in the storm, as the skies clear and time passes, I can look back and see God.   And he is unfailingly magnificent in beauty and power.  

So I am choosing, today, to enjoy these unique gifts of starting off on a new journey with Ricardo - and continuing the adventure that is following God.  It's not always a happy one, but there is always joy to be had.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Monday morning dose of sweetness

Monday is here, just one week until this wretched cast comes off (HALLELUJAH!) and we're onto the next step of recovery.  I thought I'd pause at the beginning of this week and savor some of the good things thus far...

1.  I can now make it to the bathroom on my own on crutches, without cursing or yelling.

2.  I'm getting quite good at regulating my meds by alarms on my cell phone.

3.  Ricardo successfully made his first waffles and pot of coffee yesterday under my direction, and he was beaming so proudly.

4.  I've gotten my trips to the bathroom down to a multitasking art: brushing teeth, washing face and shaving legs with lotion, all while remaining seated.

5.  By the time this cast comes off, I'll have one heck of a toned left thigh.

6.  From my perch in bed, I have a view of the mountains and peeps of blue sky.

7.  I've got the time now to thoughtfully reply to emails and facebook messages, and finally write those notes to friends I haven't seen or spoken to in years. 

8.  Before Ricardo takes off in the morning, we can lie in bed and start the day off together in prayer - truly the sweetest thing.

What about you?  Any Monday morning doses of goodness you'd like to share?  I hope you all can savor your own dose of goodness at the start of this week, and as the week progresses, we can remind each other of the gifts in each day.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Art while lying down

It starts off today with boredom.  I'm lying in bed, all the day long, and I'm already long over it.  I feel myself growing frustrated again, as if that could somehow change my circumstances.  I know in my head that wallowing in the bedroom is not going to help me or anyone else, let alone pass the time.  So I visit the facebook page of an old childhood friend, who owns her own photography business, and I click on her blog.  My restless body relaxes.  She's a photographer of the loveliest sort, for she's a spectacular artist as well, and I'm mesmerized by her work.  I lose myself in several hours of smiles, inspired by the wonder and peace and joy that transmits through her photos.  If you have a moment - or an hour - please indulge yourself in a tour of her blog.  Her photos and her writing will lift your spirits: 

The wonderful thing about artists is that, as an artist myself, they fuel my creative engine.  Creative expression of beauty engages and feeds my soul, and so my mind starts a tickin'.  If I'm stuck here in this bed for awhile, what will I accomplish with this time?  I've got books to read, music to listen to, time to pray and think, cards to write, work to help Ricardo with online...

But why not learn more about photography here in my bed?  I found this website that gives some solid tutorials for free:

And what about picking up where I left off with my online Spanish classes, back when life got too busy?  I've been longing for those extra moments to study again, and here it is, in temporary abundance.

And then there's my writing.  I've certainly written more in the past week or two than I wrote in the four months Ricardo and I were engaged.  Nothing like a little life hang-up, in addition to the onset of a new life chapter, to press my fingers to the keyboard once more.  

What kind of art can I create while lying in bed?  An intriguing challenge, but perhaps just the challenge I need to kick aside the sadness.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A door to somewhere

It's so true, at least much of the time, that we really don't know how much we treasure something until it's taken away.  One of my life goals is to cultivate a grateful heart, thankfulness that fills my lungs almost as natural as breathing, though I even take that for granted.  Everything, absolutely everything, is on loan as a gift.  Our loved ones, our health, our jobs, our talents and skills, our possessions, our bank accounts, the beauty of the earth, our dreams for the future, even tomorrow itself.  All we have is today, this very moment: a door waiting to be opened.

I am tired after multiple nights of sleep interrupted by hopping on one leg to the bathroom, of taking pain pills and trying to get comfortable.  I wake up next to my husband and look into his deep brown eyes and feel the warmth of him, and in a moment, all that is lost is put into place behind this.  My heart swells with love beyond what I imagined, and I think, "Here is my gift today; here is the door."

God, give me your perspective.

"These are the days of miracle and wonder." 
~ Paul Simon

"We are most alive when our hearts are most conscious of our treasures."
 ~ Thornton Wilder

"Let us go out and let stories happen to us.  Let's work them, water them... till they bloom." 
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

"Each day is a little life."
 ~ Earl Schopenhauer