Manipulated

I feel manipulated. Such a strange feeling. I’m really not sure what to think of it all. Here’s the story…

A couple of years ago I distinctly remember saying that I would never wear orange. I made an exception for “burnt orange”…but no bright orange for me. Who could love that bright, happy color anyway? It was….orange.

My sister loves orange. I always thought that was crazy. And she painted her room yellow AND bright aqua-ish blue….which I also thought was crazy…until I saw it finished. She’s an artist, and has vision. She’s good.

Then in late 2011 I started to notice a lot of orange. And Pantone’s color forecast said tangerine would be THE color of 2012.

Huh? Really???? How could that be? How could they possibly interest enough people in such a garish color???

Well….guess what?

I’ve been manipulated.

I bought an orange teapot.

Orange showed up in the garden…in spite of Grandma’s preference for blue.

We watched this movie that I can’t remember the name of…but the lead actress wore these combinations of yellow, turquoise and orange. Beautiful. It became my new favorite color trio.

I bought an orange top. At first I couldn’t bring myself to wear it in public, but used it for a pajama shirt. It has become one of my most worn summer items. Along with a necklace that I bought that had orange in it. And my orange flip-flops. And orange hair bands.

I have some orange fabric that I thought was so cute I knew I’d be inspired just by owning it.

Somehow I couldn’t pass up the orange hat I saw in a shop in Guthrie.

I have been royally manipulated! I guess that’s how marketing works, no?

However it happened…I love orange. It’s all over my 365 days: fresh appreciation blog. It jumps out at me wherever I go. And now it’s almost the end of the year and all this orange will be outdated right?

But it’s okay. The color forecast for 2013 looks very promising. ūüėČ

 

Meanwhile…I need to figure out how I feel about being so manipulated!

 

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Two Weeks Ago

Two weeks ago tonight my Uncle Tom died. I went and sat beside Grandma while she got the news. I brought her a glass of water. I offered to sit up with her. I had no words.

¬†‚ÄúNo,‚ÄĚ she said, ‚ÄúI think I‚Äôll just go to bed.‚ÄĚ

My cousin Alex said at the memorial. ‚ÄúWhen he died, I thought the world should stop.‚ÄĚ

But it didn’t.

I cried that night. Hard. Maybe harder than I’ve ever cried before. I sat here alone and sobbed. Harder than I needed to, really. I think I felt pressure to get that over with…to get it out…so that I could be strong for Grandma and whatever tomorrow brought. That was my opportunity to grieve for and by myself. And I made the most of it.

I think I may have literally cried my heart out, because I feel awfully empty inside. Except for those moments when it hits that Tom is gone forever. Then my stomach flips over…just to remind me that I’m not completely empty, and I take a deep breath and close my eyes for a moment before I go on.

Grieving happens in waves. That’s merciful, really.

Tom died Friday night. Our friend and neighbor died Wednesday afternoon.  Tom was 60. She was 64. He had been diagnosed with cancer five months before. She died so suddenly that still we can’t believe she’s gone. He waited too long to go in for treatments. She was at the doctor’s office for an appointment a few hours before she died, but had no idea there was anything wrong that was life-threatening.

Her husband called to tell us that she had died. He said he’d like it if I came over. I went.

The medics were still there. She was stretched out on the living room floor, covered with a sheet. She was there…but gone.

There is a sort of routine that happens when someone dies I suppose. Certain people who come and go. Questions to ask and answer. Forms to fill out. Steps to take.

I watched…from a distance. Such a distance. How could it be so distant, yet in the same room?

It felt appropriate for me to be there. There was fellowship in our shared losses. I didn’t worry about how to act or what to say. I was too deep and too close into the death of my uncle to feel outside of this. We worked together to do what needed to be done.

All from a distance. From such a distance.

Two weeks ago tonight, I cried my heart out. Maybe when it comes back this will all sink in.

 

For now, I am especially appreciative of grace for the moment. And for your prayers.

Don’t worry. I’m okay.

Like Grandma says, “I’m okay. Just very, very sad.”

Renew My Strength

It’s 6:30 on a partly cloudy Saturday…the first day of September, 2012. I should be sleeping. This morning is the morning that I told myself that I could sleep in for as long as I’d like. The two nights before have been restless and interrupted at best…after an upside-down, inside-out sort of week I need sleep. But I’m awake. I’ve been lying in bed with a heavy pressure pushing me back into the melancholy that cradled me last night.

Reminds me so much of a morning 5 months ago – a partly cloudy, ¬†very heavy April morning…

We had company that weekend, some of J’s family traveling through had stopped to visit for a few days. My bed, and sleep, was my only “alone” refuge. I wanted to sleep…and stop smiling for a while. I wrote – for myself, alone in my room – trying to process, trying to exist…

“There is an ache – deep, deep down inside. I might be smiling, but sometimes that smile feels glued on and foreign. Sometimes I find myself hating that smile – like one of those clay masks I’ve used to “cleanse” my face. It hardens, cracks, itches. I can’t wait to wash it off and let my face return to its comfortable, normal self.”

As soon as my consciousness rebelled against me in wakefulness, repressed tears slid through my heavy eyelids, dotting the pillowcase. This crazy, now familiar, weight felt like it was paralyzing my unwilling body, but my mind would not be still.

Cancer – C.A.N.C.E.R. – CANCER!

My uncle has Stage IV cancer.

Uncle Tom has Stage IV cancer.

I think that if I repeat it often enough it might feel more real.

I think that if I repeat it more than that, this deep, deep ache will dull. If I look this enemy straight in the face, maybe it will go away.

I hate cancer.

With a deep hatred. Deeper even than The Ache is The Hatred.

No…he can’t have cancer. I want to deny it all. Surely this isn’t real. Surely he doesn’t have cancer.

My restless mind drove my paralyzed body from bed and in that horrible, achy numbness, I found myself walking down the road before anyone else was around.  I remember trying to decide which of the three roads I would take down to the lake where I could sit and watch the sun rise over the water.

The hardest one. I need to exert myself. I need to be breathless and exhausted when I come back up, gulping for air so I can breathe.

But I was driven on. Somehow, as if I had no say in the matter, I walked past all the paths down and rather turned away from the lake. The “easy walk”. Not what I wanted, but somehow this decision seemed beyond me.

When I topped a hill, I realized that the wind had dramatically increased. The trees were swaying and the leaves were shouting all around me, rather than speaking in their normal fluttering whisper. I was surrounded by swaying, swishing, storminess. The gray clouds were heavy, riding low and fast and constant.

I talked to God that morning on the hill. Not in audible voices…at least…His was not an audible voice. But I heard Him. He was there with me. Gently drawing me. Tenderly teaching me. Loving me.

Surrender. 

But I don’t WANT to surrender. I don’t want this to be real! I want Tom to be well. I want You to heal Him. I don’t want to walk this path. I want this uncle that I have adored ever since I can remember to be well and strong and healthy again. I want him to live longer than me. I don’t WANT to go through this. I don’t want HIM to go through this. I need him to live!

Do you trust me?

I do trust You. But more than anything right now I want Tom to be well. You can heal him. I know you can. Heal him! Please…

More than ANYTHING?

Yes, more than ANYTHING.

Surrender.

But I don’t want to surrender! I want this MY way! I know You know what is best. I know that your ways are perfect. I do want Your will, but…..

Let go. 

But I don’t want to let go!

The tears fell fast as I went to my knees right there on the gravelly side of the road overlooking the little valley dotted with cows.

Surrender.

So persistent…yet gentle, and¬†I unfolded my arms that had been unconsciously but vigilantly guarding my chest…from more hurt or trying to keep my heart from falling apart.

Open your hands. Surrender.

I looked down at the tightly clenched fists lying on my folded legs. I hadn’t even realized my hands were balled up and white-knuckled. Slowly, unwillingly, I released my fingers. Tremblingly, my hands opened. Tears streamed down my face as I raised my arms in surrender and appeal.

But I’m so weak. I can’t walk this road. It’s too hard.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Over and over again this verse went through my mind.

Look up.

I did, and saw an enormous bird gliding on the wind. With wings as eagles.

But that’s a buzzard, not an eagle. Can’t I have an eagle?

All this while, the trees were blowing and the low, gray clouds were scuttling across the sky. My heart was as agitated as all that was around me. I was fighting with all I had.

Look up.

And the sun broke through the clouds on the other side of the valley. Golden sunshine was streaming in tangible rays, bespeaking the glories of heaven. It was gorgeous…and literally took my breath. I knew that if I could look up through those clouds I would see angels…or maybe God Himself.

But it’s still cloudy above me. The sunshine is so distant. I want that sunshine on me. I NEED that sunshine on me.

Look up.

I did. Directly above me, through the gray clouds, there was a hole. I could see blue skies.

But I need the sunshine. I want to feel the warmth of Your light on my skin.

You don’t need that. Be still.

And know. 

The sunshine was moving toward me. I watched it, anxiously coaching it toward me, tensely waiting.

Sage, be still.

I need it. I do need it! I’m not leaving until I have it.

It was then that I realized that the rushing leaves were hushed. I could hear birdsongs again. The roaring wind was gone and there was peace. Not just around me…but also in my heart. I felt myself surrender, finally. I knew that I could leave now, and that it would be okay. There was no promise that Tom would be well, I was supposed to trust without that. What I really needed was to let go, and be at peace even though I couldn’t control the wind or the sun or the circumstances. Even though…

I stood up. But I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t give up. I waited. The clouds moved the sunshine away from me, and I knew that it would never reach me, but still I waited. I wanted to stand in God’s glory for a little longer. I knew if I waited long enough, I would.

Please, Father. I know I don’t need it. I surrender. I trust. I believe. But please…

That hole over my head moved toward the sun, and suddenly I was basking in those gloriously golden rays. Even now, I find comfort in that. Even now, 5 months later…as I alternately try to prepare myself for a phone call I don’t want or tell myself that I believe in miracles and that Tom could still make it despite all appearances.

Surrender. Let go. Look up. Be still. Know. 

Isaiah 40

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,¬†that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counseller hath taught him?

With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.

He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.

Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.

Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.

To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.