My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
Ripcord won best in show at the Beverly Hills Dog Championship last weekend, and I don't think it was because he was the most beautiful dog. Of course, he was in fine form, his coat shiny, no ounce of fat and surely a well-behaved Doberman. I think, honestly, what caused Ripcord to stand out from the other breeds was the way he gave full attention to his owner. There is a point in the dog's presentation when after he and the trainer have loped down the red carpet before the judge, that the handler brings the animal to a full stop. Each competitor must affix its eyes on the owner. The dog is rapt--tail up, feet planted firmly on the ground with no movement, ears at attention. The dog is not distracted by anything--he only has eyes for his trainer. And even with all the hoopla of his win, Ripcord's eyes rarely veered from his handler. There was one moment after the victory when Ripcord placed his long legs on the owner's shoulders and licked her face. He was allowed this affection as they'd pulled off a feat no other duo was able to perform as well-- they'd stayed in tune.
When I walk, I often listen to Pandora. If I hear a song I like, I'll pause and look at the title. This week I happened to look down and read on the phone screen, I Am Always Right. I thought to myself, "That's not the title I'd expect from such an evocative instrumental piece." Then I looked again and I'd missed a word. The title of the song was, I Am Always Right Here. I laughed to myself and thought, "Sometimes that kind of arrogant attitude is what I project toward God--He's always right and I better keep it together to stay on His good side." No mindset could be more toxic--that simple word "here" making all the difference. He is "I AM." Here and present. Always.
After my walk, I pondered what God might be saying to me, getting my attention through that mistaken song title, surely, a bit of His kind humor. I got out my journal and penned a letter that I think He could have written to me and slipped into the mail slot. Perhaps this missive may encourage you as well. More and more, I'm convinced that our perception of God is the most important mindset we will ever develop. He is good, and He withholds nothing good from us. When I unseal the envelope this is what I read:
I never expected to be where I am. In the heart of adversity. Seventeen is the number that symbolizes victory, but for me 2017 appears to reflect a double portion of defeat--the death of my sister, the loss of health. I have struggled spiritually to fit the pieces together. These jigsaw fragments do not link up in the natural. Thank God, there is a place in Him where the pieces fit together to create a beautiful picture--even though I've lost the top of the puzzle box that could help me visualize the scene that's being created. By faith, I continue to each day go to my card table, myriad puzzle pieces strewn about. "Yes, I found an edge piece." The perimeter is coming together, but I have no idea of the outcome. I'm convinced that the end result will be gorgeous, a landscape that mirrors the very heart of my desire. My instruction is to keep going back to the table each day and believe that I will be led to find pieces that fit. And even on days when I am not able to link any pieces together, that does not mean I have failed. I keep going back. Little by little, piece by piece--the process moves me forward to eventually see the beauty that God has created for my life.
Of course, this is merely a metaphor. (You know how I love metaphors). How does working a puzzle relate to moving through adversity? I don't have a formula. I'm experimenting, just as I would if I were sitting at a card table trying out pieces to finish a puzzle. You know how it is: you're convinced the piece surely fits, but no matter how hard you try to press the pieces into place, there is no connection. Then you walk away from the table exasperated. You come back, and try a piece that appears counterintuitive, and ironically you hear that "snap" of connection. And that small victory encourages you to keep trying.
A few months ago, I had an encounter with mud. I ventured out on the banks of the tidal creek near my house at lowtide. I was unaware of my vulnerability, as in an instant, found myself sucked thigh-deep in the viscous soil. When I was pulled down, my phone fell from my hand, out of arm's reach. It was the middle of the day, not a soul around. I could hear the intermittent sounds of birds; I noted sun rays dappling the gray-green tidal waters. Seagulls flew overhead. A faint breeze ruffled my hair.
I panicked. No one knew I was there. I couldn't get to my phone. My neighbor's car was not in his driveway. I felt my legs sink deeper. "Think, Priscilla," I said under my breath. "God help me." I remembered that if a person found they were drowning, the first thing they needed to do was relax, as this would help them float and begin to breathe. I took a deep breath. I relaxed my body. I faced the tidal creek, but soon realized that if I leaned back, I could hook one elbow on a higher piece of ground. I hoped to leverage my weight with my arm strength to turn around and face the creek bank. I could then use my forearms to pull myself up and out of the mud. With slow, gradual movements, I maneuvered the turn. All the while I talked aloud to myself and prayed to God. "You can do this, Priscilla. You are strong." "God, in this hidden place, pull me up and out. Thank you that you are present with me." The company of the birds brought solace. After about twenty minutes of making slow, twisting movements with first one foot, then the other, I heard and felt the suction loosen. I placed all my weight on my elbows and began inching forward on the solid bank. Eventually, i was able to pull my mud-saturated legs out of the brown sludge. I lay face-down on the creek bank. Out.
"We'll take good care of you," she said with confidence. "This is a great hospital; we have wonderful care and your doctor is the best." Patty, the pre-op nurse, said this to me as she helped me get ready for surgery. I sensed she was not giving me a line, her touch light and cool as she took my vitals. She was dressed in quintessential nurse attire, no scrubs with dancing polar bears or cats with spectacles. She wore white hose and comfortable shoes, a triangular nurse hat perched on a pile of auburn curls. I answered her health questionnaire, and then she began to talk to me like I was an old friend. I had asked her no questions, just smiled and looked her in the eye. She went on to say she was cleaning out her house. "Simple is best," she said. "I even keep it simple with my cell phone. Can you believe I still have a flip phone?" I said, "Yes, that is most unusual these days." Patty went on as she slipped the IV in the vein of my right hand, "I know how to use that phone, and I'm just going to keep it for as long as I can." Then that cheerful nurse breezed out of the room and said, "Now you relax. The doctor will be in soon, and we'll have you off in no time. All is well." I could have kissed Patty on the cheek. Her optimistic chatter had put me at ease. And this was before the valium.
The last thing I remember before succombing to the anesthesia was hearing the banter of the team that would perform my surgery. I couldn't distinguish their words, but they sounded happy, like maybe they were off to play a baseball game. Ready to batter up. Ready to hit a few home runs. Ready to win.
For twenty-four hours post surgery, a competent crew of nurses and techs took care of me, laid their gentle, healing hands on me, brought me ice chips. My husband walked the halls with me and pushed the IV cart. He spent the night, sleeping on an uncomfortable chair, his soft snoring deep comfort in hospital room 710.