investing in a parka
so, i was raised in texas. i have lived here my entire life. born and bred and proud of it. in fact, i actually own a t-shirt that has a map of the united states on it…all of which is colored in black, except for the state of texas, which is colored red, white and blue, and has been brought out on the map, to be larger than it is, (of course) with a huge patriotic arrow pointing to it that largely says TEXAS! and a little bitty black arrow that points to the rest of the map that says “whatever”. ok, maybe that is a bit overboard. maybe. (then again, maybe not 🙂
my point is, that being from this fine state, as i have mentioned before, we basically only have a couple of seasons. from march through november, it is pretty much summer and the rest of the year can affectionately be called “about to be summer”.
i just had a dear friend travel to the new england states (which i hear are located up north somewhere and maybe over to the right a bit) and i texted her and said “hey, i hear rumors that leaves actually change colors from red to orange and yellow”…is this true!?!” she laughed and then texted me back pictures of beautiful fall colored leaves, the likes of which i have never seen. and before you east texas and hill country folks get your britches in a bunch, i know, i know..you guys have more of a fall than we do, but c’mon…it is still texas. we don’t hold a candle to the northeast and their four actual seasons.
and then there is winter. sure, we have one. sort of. for the most part our temperature gets down in the low 40’s maybe and often we have a spattering of nights below freezing…ooohh…i know, brutal isn’t it. somewhere, someone from minnesota is laughing their hiney off at us southern wimps. that sounds like a crisp day in august to them, i bet. well, not here, not for this texas gal.
last Christmas was a white one, in fact. you wouldn’t believe it if i didn’t document it better than NASA did the first man on the moon. i mean it, i have soooo many pictures from those few days because our area literally got 10 inches of gorgeous, fluffy, white snow in one day. u n h e a r d – o f for our area. the dallas/fort worth metroplex darn near shut down. people panicked and flocked to the stores (driving 3 miles an hour, mind you, cause we have no stinkin’ idea how to drive in this stuff!) for cans of beans and firestarter logs like they were planning to hunker down for weeks. it was borderline on a state of emergency here, people. again, northerners are like “ooohh geez, you guys had a bad spell for once, did ya, eh?” well, shoot fire – as a matter of fact, y’all – we did! and darnit if i didn’t have the complete wrong apparel for it. why would i invest in snow boots, or a super heavy duty long johns, or a parka for goodness sake?? talk about a fat waste of money. it would make about as much sense as one of those minnesota folks investing in sunblock in bulk. not wise. don’t get me wrong…i looove watching those movies set in new york where the fashionable girls have different fabulous winter coats for different outfits, but what in the world would i use those for here??
well, in true “me” fashion, i do actually have a point to all of this, i just took about six paragraphs to get to it. (shocking, i know!) i have a few phrases that i use often. a couple “staple” thing that sometimes make people laugh. i like to think i’m a fairly funny gal. my sweet hubby used to think so too, but now says “babe, i’ve heard all your material!” ha ha, babe. funny one, that ryan. 🙂 but, one phrase i do use often, i must say i feel like i have lived lately, friend. i’m being honest when i say, over this last year, i have been “shoveling snow in a blizzard”
ever heard that one?
well…me, being the extremely visual person that i am, when i say that phrase, i immediately picture it. me…out on the front sidewalk of a house….shoveling this loooong sidewalk. i have a nice, large heavy-duty snow plow shoveling thingy (see, i don’t even know what the things are called) and i am hunched over, diligently scooping huge, fluffy mounds of snow off of the sidewalk. swoosh! swoooosh! back and forth, in each direction…to the left of the sidewalk…swoosh, then back to the right of the sidewalk…swoosh!! over and over, all the way down this loong driveway. tiring. sweating. hard work here people. and oh ya…did i mention that it is like hard core snowing…like blizzard snowing. thick, white, quarter sized flakes blowing fiercely and furiously sideways, upways, acrossways – everyways at me this entire time. so that, obviously…after i have been shoveling and shoveling and i get to the end of this loooong sidewalk, i streeetch my back up, plant my snow plow digger upper thingy in the snow and turn to see the fruit of my labor…and sigh. i squint back and can just barely see clearly enough to see that in the time it has taken me to clear the way, the snow has re-covered the sidewalk once again. uugghh. you have got to be kidding me. in frustration, i grab my snow scooper and feverishly begin to make my way back up the sidewalk…swoosh, swoosh…left side…right side…left side…right side…back and forth and back and forth. all the way back up the walk. i can no longer feel my feet or my hands, of course, but after yet another looong trip of hard work in the freezing snow….whew, i’m done. i throw the snow shoveling thing down in the snow and quickly turn back, ready to run inside to warmth…only to see once again…uuugghh, no way!!! the sidewalk is covered again. not again?? yep, again.
well, friend. that is it. shoveling snow in a blizzard. no matter how hard you work and how far you think you get. the sidewalk doesn’t stay cleared for very long. at. all.
can you relate to this at all? obviously, if you have read any of my past blogs, you know that i am currently dealing with the most frustrating medical drama of my entire life. and by the way, drama is so not me. i was just texting with a dear lifelong friend yesterday and i told her “hey, whatever happened to the me who used to say “save the drama for your mama!”…i AM that drama-filled girl now. ugh.
i feel so often like i cannot get out from under it. the snow is not only rising beyond my not-at-all allweather boots, but it is also blowing fiercely in my face from every direction. and the weatherman says there is no end in sight. lovely.
viral meningitis. numbness in back and legs. can’t sit upright in a chair. ruptured cyst. traumatic labor resulting in emergency surgery. adrenal crisis. bronchitis. medication side effects. depression. another spinal fluid leak. occipital neuralgia. postural headaches. pneumonia. gluten intolerance. hormonal imbalance. shingles. spastic colon. yet another spinal fluid leak. another adrenal crisis. stroke-like symptoms. ribs out of place. sinus infection. severe weight gain. anxiety. intracranial pressure problems. colonoscopy for polyps. severe fatigue. vertigo. medication contradictions. oh yes, another spinal fluid leak. muscle loss and danger of atrophy. dislocated shoulder. nerve damage. migraines. all of which have come with doctor after doctor running test after test after test and doing scan after scan after scan…still no diagnosis. still no answers.
needless to say, there have been times i have felt like someone moved me from my nice warm home state of texas to the stinkin’ arctic and forgot to tell me.
maybe you can’t relate to my specific circumstances. maybe you are healthy. but, maybe you have bills from credit card debt or student loans that pile up so high each and every month that they might as well be shoveled off with a large scooper or maybe you even feel you need a zamboni at this point.
maybe you and your spouse argue so much that you feel like you are weighed down with pounds and pounds of snow in the form of disappointment, regret, anger, insecurity, shame, and probably most of all frustration as to how it all will end.
maybe you have children who are constantly needing every little fiber of energy that you could possibly have. and so you give and give and give all day, every single day and no matter how far ahead you think you get on the laundry or the dishes or the cleaning it never, ever seems to slow down and you are there at the end of each day, the ONLY one holding a stinkin’ snow shovel.
maybe your job is so demanding that no matter how many extra hours you put in, or contacts you make, or clients you attain…you never, ever, ever feel secure enough to take in a sigh of relief and enjoy the snowy view from your hard earned corner office.
i do not know if you have ever felt this way. but i know that i have. and i know Jesus has. hebrews 4:15 talks about how our Jesus as having been there. He felt what we feel. He knows what pressure is all about. and disappointment. He’s been there. yet, He went through it all with no sin.
nope, i find myself often feeling all types of things i shouldn’t. questioning God’s timing, His purpose, His plan. as if the God of the universe doesn’t know what He is doing. ya, God..hi, it’s me again… i know you like invented the whole world and stuff, but i really think my life would go better if……(fill in the blank) ugh. gee, i’m humble, eh?
thankfully, we serve a God that can handle our feelings. that’s right, all of them. and He cares. i know this because i have lived it. but Jesus also shows us this when He weeps about the death of his friend Lazarus. Mary and Martha are understandably upset about the death of their brother. they were all friends with Jesus. they believed in who He was. they knew He could have saved him. but He didn’t. Lazarus was dead. in fact, by the time Jesus got to the graveside, Lazarus was four days old stinky dead. when mary and martha had seen Jesus at first they had both said “if you had just been here, our brother would not have died”. if you had just been here. man, i don’t know about you, but i have felt that way a time or two. but, do you know what Jesus did?? john 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. it says clearly what Jesus did when he saw the pain they were feeling, the anguish these sisters were going through. “Jesus wept.” friend, Jesus knew this wasn’t the end. in fact He told them it wasn’t. He told them they’d see Lazarus again. (john 11:23) but still He met them where they were, in their grief and their disappointment and He wept. have you ever stopped to think about that? He absolutely knew that He was going to be bringing Lazarus back to life, yet still He wept. that, friend, is a God who can relate to our feelings.
and it is a God with a plan. when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick, He assured them this sickness wouldn’t end in death (john 11:4) and then what did He do? did He rush out and jump on His race donkey to get there in record time? nope. He stayed where He was for two more days. two. more. days. for any of us who have been going through something awful, we know that two days can feel like an eternity. we do not know for sure why Jesus waited like He did. why He allowed them to go through what He did. but He knew them better than anyone. in His perfect sovereignty, He knew what they needed. and He says clearly that the purpose of this ordeal is simple. (john 11:4) “it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
the same is true for you and for me.
i have no idea why in the world i have had to endure one, not to mention all of the things listed in the paragraph earlier, in the last few years. it sure doesn’t seem fair? and trust me, it sure isn’t fun. but, i believe that the purpose is simply the same as what is was for the tragedy mary and martha faced. now, clearly i am not relating what i have gone through to anyone who literally has faced the death of a loved one. that, i respectfully say, is on a whole other level. but, i do believe what the Bible says, in romans 8:28 “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” it definitely doesn’t say that all things are good. death, pain, suffering, illness….that is not good. but God can use it for good. somehow. somewhere. someway. someday.
so, friend….i am and always will be a proud texan. but, i am thinking it is about time i invest in a parka. always seemed like a waste of time and money for me before. but, i have been in this blizzard for a while now. shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. my hands are blistered. my nose is cold. and the weatherman has still not let me know that this snow is letting up anytime soon. i could just stomp around and pout about the weather. actually i have. i could fuss and complain and whine about how unfair it is that i am not on a beach right now like other people. ok, done that, too. i could even flop down in the snow and contemplate why each flake is falling and what made it fall. but, none of that stops the snow. none of it slows the blizzard. so, friend….i think it best to just invest in a parka. i will be warmer. better prepared for the rest of my time shoveling in this extreme weather.
it is a choice though. it is something i must choose to do. over and over and over. each and every day. wouldn’t it be silly for me to simply decide to dress appropriately for day one of this blizzard and then spend the next two months out in the cold complaining or bragging or reminiscing of that one day i was snuggly and warm in my parka?
the Bible talks a lot about how and with what we are to clothe ourselves.
colossians 3:12 says “therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
this could not apply more. Lord, i do not know why you are allowing this, but i trust you and i believe your way is better than mine. (humility) i know that now because i have been through this, i will be better prepared to act more like You to those around me who are genuinely struggling and in need. (compassion, kindness, gentleness) and Lord, You are above time. i cannot fathom your timetable because you know the end from the beginning (isaiah 46:10) but i will stay out here in this cold and trust you. (patience) please notice it says clothe yourselves. you gotta do it. i gotta do it.
1 peter 5:5 also reminds us “all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” i know i already mentioned humility, but for some reason, in my own thick skull, i feel the need to bring this up twice to myself. (way more than twice, actually) suffering is hard. there is no way around that. and yes, we all occasionally need to attend our own pity party every once in a while. i think that is ok, but as my sweet friend says, “ya sure, that’s fine as long as you don’t rent the room and hire the band.” true. we are all so self-sufficient and independent in today’s world, that we actually think that we can come up with a better plan for our lives that our very own Creator. lest we forget who made us from dirt, people. (gen. 2:7)
ephesians 4:22-24 “you were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
whoa. this clinches it, friend. the old you, and well, the old me wants to plop my hiney down in this snow and pitch a good ol’ fit for a while – a long while. i want to envy those around me who have it “so easy”. i want to complain about how long and hard this has been. i want to question every single thing that keeps a comin’ and a comin’ and a comin’ my way that doesn’t feel good at all. it would also be easy to get angry and bitter. and ya know what, it would also be so easy to become a martyr and become self-righteous. the pendulum swings so far both ways, friend. but…in case you haven’t noticed…look around…none of those behaviors of my old self change the weather forecast – they still…don’t…stop…the…snow. so, i choose to use the strength God offers me daily to “make new the attitude of my mind”. i have to. the other option is cold and gloomy and lonely. instead, i have the opportunity to dress warmly and choose to see each day as a blessing. ya know…snow is kinda pretty.
and by the way, in case you care to know… i think my parka will be polka-dotted.
hey, i think it is ok to be warm and cute. nothing wrong with that. 🙂 hmmm…maybe i should even get boots that match…..couldn’t hurt. 🙂
ok, crying again! i love how you put all this into words. i was thinking a while back about finding a book about suffering, for encouragement and direction. i think your blog does a terrific job – no need for a book! you should get this published! i'm so excited to see what God does with all of this, caroline, as He is working through you in MIGHTY ways!