get carey-ed away

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stupid Rock

It's December 27th, two days have passed since Christmas.  There are still cookies lurking in the kitchen, a box I just noticed peeking from beneath the sofa, and of course the tree is still shining bright.  But it's rainy and gray, Reagan left early this morning and will be gone for the night, and while the to-do-list exist, it wasn't overwhelming lengthy and so I laid in bed all morning.  A simple luxury that will last only a few more weeks, considering my little bundle, that was kicking away while I snuggled in bed, will actually be in my arms in just a few weeks.

It's now 2 in the afternoon and after eating some cereal, reading a few books to my peanut and diving into a new book of my own while curled up under the new Steelers blanket, answering a few e-mails and carrying a load of laundry to the basement...I sit here in my pj's (which I rarely do, I'm usually an up and at em' let's look ready for the day kinda girl) with a blank computer screen staring at me.  The book I found myself diving into this morning wasn't one of those feel good books, a Christmas novel, or even a biography.  It was one of those that cut you open, make you think, challenge and maybe even cause a tear or two.  It got me thinking about a lot of things...thoughts I hope to be able to share through a story. But first let me share with you 2 excerpts I loved from this book.

"The beautiful thing about opting for God is that you are opting for everything He brings. Because He is infinite, you will never reach the end of all He offers of Himself. Nothing on earth is like fully engaging with God. Nothing. Once you taste it, nothing in the physical realm can touch it, yet everything in the physical realm takes on brilliant color because of it.  God's love is better than life. No one compares."

"God wants everything you've got. Uncontested priority. Every egg in one basket. All your weight on one limb. This very moment he has His fingers gripped on your chin, saying, "Right here, Child. Look right here. Don't look right or left. Stare straight into my face. I am your Deliverer. There is no one like Me." God will be your complete Deliverer or nothing at all.

-Beth Moore: Get Out of that Pit

Now before I begin the story, let me give you a frame of reference as when this happened, it was 2 years ago in January :)

I was sure someone had shoved a dagger in the right side of my back. That's what it felt like, not that I had ever been stabbed before. There was severe pain in my right side that was not subsiding no matter which way I laid or sat or bent over.  Between the violent vomiting, shaking and light headiness the stabbing pain persisted. I slowly reached for my cell phone, trying not to move, and simply texted...please come home now. He knew when I talked to him earlier that I wasn't feeling the best, but minutes after hanging up the phone the pain escalated.

Reagan, came home right away and while he wasn't exactly sure what was happening he suspected I had  a kidney that meant a trip to the ER.  He knew I was in serious pain because when he said, "Let's go", I didn't respond like I normally would with, "Ok, give me a minute I need to put on different shoes", or "let me brush my teeth quick and grab my lip gloss." Nope...I started right out the door with disheveled hair, and a bare face while wearing sweats and pink slippers.  This was serious.  I sat in the front of our little white Volvo with my head between my legs, grasping my side, never looking up once to see where were were in our travels.  We didn't talk. He just needed to get me to the ER.

Well in attempts to make a long story shorter, after a couple test it was confirmed that I was severely dehydrated, which after vomiting everything that was in the pits of me, I wasn't surprised and that yes, indeed, I had a kidney stone.  How did this happen?  My only reference to kidney stones was that drinking excessive amounts of tea could cause them. I drank sweet tea on occasion, but I wasn't a raging tea addict. Not like the kids I went to high school with that drank so much iced tea their noses would bleed. Those were the kidney stone candidates. Not me.  But for whatever reason I had developed a kidney stone, which is simply a small granule of matter that escapes your kidney and moves into your ureter, which is not a tube like you may think, but is more like a thin ribbon. That tiny "stone" becomes a major irritant, and irritant is putting it mildly.  I had never felt pain like that before, now mind you I haven't experienced child birth yet, I'll get back to you on that in a few weeks :)

While laying in the hospital bed feeling like a bloated toad because of the EIGHT IV's of fluid they pumped into me I started a conversation with the Lord.  Or maybe the Lord started the conversation with me.  Either way, when you are in the pursuit of Him, and are looking for opportunities to hear His voice and be a student of His wisdom, He will speak.  And I've found as easy as it is to listen, it's just as easy to turn the volume down too. I've done both. Anyway, I started thinking about that morning when the pain set in how I could not think about anything or anyone but myself. I wanted to go meet my friend Mary for lunch that day, I wanted to take care of business I had set aside to do...but I couldn't.  I was consumed by the physical pain. The physical pain caused by this little 1/2 millimeter rock that was in my ureter. Stupid rock.

I started to ponder over what other stupid rocks I had in my life.  Did I have any other irritants, maybe not physical ones, but what about mental or emotional irritants that whether I had realized it or not would turn me inward, becoming selfish, rather than thinking about others, would keep me searching for my own answers rather than the Lord's.  We've all probably had them.  The irritants of doubt, poor self-image, fear, jealousy, bitterness, comparison, lust, anger...the list could go on and on.  These are all  irritants, maybe they even start out small, but once they move from your head into your heart, a place where those irritants are not meant to exist they cause pain, so much pain that we find ourselves living for no one other than ourselves and that pain.

So for the next few days I had to pea in a strainer, interesting to say the least.  Every time I went to the bathroom they looked for that little stone.  Now you must know I did have a night time nurse that "accidentally" threw out a few urine samples, so who knows if I passed that little rock, if it broke up into smaller pieces that you wouldn't be able to see with the naked eye, or maybe they injected me with so much fluid it was overtaken and dissolved...who knows?  But either way the irritant was removed. No more pain. I could go on living. I could think about other things and other people. I could reschedule that lunch and get back to business, while taking it easy over the next few days.

A hospital visit may not be the answer to the passing of your little stone, your irritant if you fact, it's probably not the necessary remedy, but it may require forgiveness of yourself or someone else, a conversation with that person you've rejected, severing a tie to temptation, confessing your weakness, getting uncomfortable, facing the reality of decisions, or taking a stand rather than a seat to your irritant. It will REQUIRE ingesting God's truth and choosing faith over fear, and looking in the mirror and believing that He made you, loves you and wants all of you.

I didn't feel like myself for the next few days, my side felt bruised and let me warn you bruising and soreness may be side effects to the passing of your "irritant" too. It's not always easy, but it's necessary. It's worth it.  Sometimes you can even become so familiar with the pain of your irritant, that you choose to live with it...but it will always steal away.  "Passing" it is not easy, but when you do it allows you to really love your life and the people in it...and in turn life and those people will love you back.  Most importantly God's love that had never failed, even while your irritant was "flaring" up, has taken it's place and is bigger, bolder and brighter. And now our irritant, our sin.. is no longer just behind our backs, but its behind God's. That stupid rock is behind His back...

Isaiah 38:17
"Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.
In your LOVE you kept me from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins behind YOUR back."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Original Mrs. Bender...

I haven't had morning sickness, no food aversions, tons of energy, would barely know I'm pregnant...besides the obvious growing belly...but today I had my first pregnancy symptom..."out of the blue" overwhelming emotion with lots of tears and mascara drips.

Well maybe they weren't so "out of the blue".  Earlier this morning I pulled out my mother-in-law's recipe for her infamous Napanee School cookies. I had Christmas music radiating through the house, poured myself a piping hot cup of coffee and carefully studied the recipe to make sure I was mixing the delicious dough perfectly.  I packed up my car with the dough and other ingredients and was off to my mom's for our Christmas Cookie Bake.  I think a lot while I drive and a few miles down the road I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion as I thought about my mother-in-law, who went to heaven almost 8 years ago.  While I may be Mrs. Bender today, she truly is the Original Mrs. Bender...always will be.

A school picture from High School

Vi, Bob & Valonda

Viola Bender, better known as Vi, truly fits the description of "small but mighty".  She stood only 5 feet tall...a perfect height for being used as a "measuring stick" when putting up a volleyball net. If Vi could walk under the was set to perfect standards.  She was one of 9 children and knew domestic duties very well...because with a family that size they fully staffed the housekeeping department of the hotel her parents owned and operated in Indiana. She was the only one in her family to attend college and good thing she did... because that's where she met my father-in-law.

Vi became a teacher and later a Middle School Counselor/Administrator, whose years of service to kids made an immense impact...which was evident that night in March 2004 when hundreds of adults, but even more kids filled every single seat at Lancaster Mennonite's Fine Arst Center for her memorial.  Vi wore many hats well. While loving her career she loved her family twice as much.  Of course dating and then being married to her pride and joy...her son, Reagan, gave me a very special perspective into her love.  Here's an excerpt from a letter she wrote me while I was in college, that will give you a little glimpse into all that...
Dear Carey,
Thank you so much for your cards. It's so sweet of you to write. I know you miss Reagan like we do...and in different ways. Today I went to do laundry-it was hardly worth the bother! I never thought I'd miss folding all those "soccer" T-shirts, but 5 or 6 of them would have been most welcome.  I didn't realize how many people called for him or how may calls revolved around his soccer life. Now we're left with a salesmen, and a few business calls. I always look forward to 9:00 pm in case he calls. I don't always sleep the best...I guess I'm up waiting for the little white Escort to scoot in the driveway and for  Reagan to come in and kiss us goodnight.

Hope you have a great weekend at Pitt. Be careful at the bus station. ACT LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!

Reagan and his biggest fan the day before our wedding.'s pretty much a miracle that she let another woman into his life...haha. Not really, but I knew that she really loved me when I got the "Vi Bender" stamp of approval...because not just anyone was going to do for her "little boy".  I knew I had a lot to live up to.  How does that saying go? That men look for someone like their mom. I'm not sure that's always the case, but we definitely had a few things in common. 

She was a total clothes many clothes, particularly dresses, suits and scarves that she wore everyday to school.  I remember she loved Dress Barn and Petite Sophisticate (when that was still around). Can't say they are typically my shopping destinations...but we both can fill up a closet . And knowing she loved clothes so much my father-in-law had a tradition of buying her a new dress every Valentine's Day. As I mentioned she was a teacher, which was also the career path I chose...and I remember her being such an encouragement to me while many were telling me "you'll never find a job". Here's an excerpt from another card she sent... have one trasfer sememster behind you. Don't let people tell you the teaching market is tight. With your G.P.A. you will be very marketable. I love the field of education. It is always changing and there are always new and creative ways to help students learn. It is an awesome way to pass on faith (one generation to the next) not in only what you say but in how you live your life."

Vi was definitely a driver. While I was completing my undergrad degree she was getting her Master's in Education, both of us at Millersville.  She was never shy about comparing G.P.A's...I'll never forget humbly bowing my 3.8 to her 4.0 one semester...haha!    One thing we didn't have in common was her love for the news and current events.  She watched the OJ trial like it was her second job and could have told you every known detail about Monica Lewinsky.  60 Minutes on Sunday evening was definitely her idea of a good time.  Vi also loved games and was a fierce competitor.  She was ruthless when it came to Rook or Dutch Blitz.  Typically she was what you would consider a prim and proper lady, but once the suit came off, the slippers got put on, the popcorn was popped she would kick back and be hysterically sarcastic at times and was even known to tell a dirty joke or two.  Getting dirty in her flower beds was also a past time and Vi always managed to grow what could have been Better Homes & Gardens award winning impatients. And while she was quite domesticated in some ways...she wasn't afraid to bake Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in her own pans, add some of her own icing and pawn them off as her own homemade specialty. Makes me laugh just thinking about it.  That was surely a tip I could use. But of course her favorite past time was watching Reagan play soccer.  He was certainly her favorite player. She never thought he got enough playing time, even if he played the entire game and in her eye's David Beckham had nothing on her kid.  We traveled to and sat through hundreds of high school, college and professional soccer games. In high school we typically left happy, in college we typically left disappointed and when she saw him take the field as a Hershey Wildcat...well, in her mind all the days prior had been worth it.  She was truly his biggest fan...and we have his jersey to prove it.  When they team folded and they auctioned off all the jerseys she bought it, had him sign it and of course had it framed...something only a mother would do, right?
Proud parents, 1996

Proud parents again...Valonda graduating from college. Shannon was such a lil' guy!
There's so much more I could say or reminisce about when it comes to Vi...she was, like all of us, one of the Lord's masterpieces.  But as we come into another Christmas season and I bustle about tending to all of the traditions, I'm reminded like I was today, of Christmas 2003...our last Christmas with my dear mother-in-law.  Being diagnosed with Non-Hodgskins Lymphoma only 6 months prior all the treatments, medications and hospital stays left her laying on her white love seat, that she loved, under a red blanket... frail and weak.  We gatherered around the love seat to open gifts and did our best to carry on with Christmas as usual...and although we were all full of faith believeing that healing was her destiny we also had great peace in the fact that we've been given the promise of eternal life.  Vi kept a brave face, a fighting spirit and a joyful heart every day of her battle.  We never spoke of death and this letter that she handed to me that Christmas describes her determination to live...

Dear Carey,
As the Lord allows me time, I hope to become the kind of mother-in-law to you that:
-Supports you in prayer as you serve in your significant role as Reagan's wife.
-That does not interfere with your decisions, but is supportive gentle and kind.
-Is there for you when you have children, again to be supportive and helpful, and the kind of "nana" that they love to visit.
My prayers is that God will give me many years to do this! I love you! You are the best daughter-in-law.
Vi (Mom Bender)
Christmas, 2003

I'll never forget her saying in those last days that she knew she "won either way".  She won if the Lord healed her and she won if she went to be with Him in heaven.  What a perspective.  And that she did. She won. She won that day in early March 2004 when she went to be with Jesus.  Ironically, or maybe not,  the grandchild that she will never get to be a nana to will be born sometime in early March...the Lord truly redeems ALL things.  While we lost a great gift in her...the legacy continues as another gift, a child will be recieved into our family in March.  As I feel my baby stirring inside me, and yet don't know if the child is a boy or a girl, what they look like or who they will be...I think Vi does.  I'm sure the Lord has filled her in on all the details...Vi liked details. Who knows, while so much about life is a mystery, maybe she met our baby before him or her was ever sent from heaven.  I think she did.   And so while she won't be on this earth to love them or have them visit...she probably at this point knows this child better than any of special.
At the Harrisburg Marathon, that Bob ran the year he turned 50.

 Some of our last days with her were by her bedside in Hospice.  In those final days and hours I was convinced her spirit was already in heaven because in so many ways it wasn't Vi laying in that bed...she looked more like a prisoner of war...the cancer having destroyed her body...but her fighting spirit and strong heart just wanted to beat one more time. But death in the physical eventually set in as her heart stopped and her breathing shortened...but after one last breath... in that instant her eternal life began.  I prayed as I left there that day that the memories of her beyond that bed would be extravagantly more vivid then the memories of those last 8 months...and our good God has granted that request.  In my mind's eye I can see her cheering at soccer games, making her garlic mashed potatoes, and tanning her short little legs on the beach. 

Psalm 23 was one of her favorite let me share with you those verses from the MESSAGE translation...because while in our humanness the loss of someone you love will always sting...this Christmas as we celebrate in each of our HOMES Christ birth which made a way for His life, death and resurrection that in turn gave us each the choice of loving Him and spending eternity with heart leaps for joy because I know that she is "back HOME in the house of God."

God, my shepherd!
I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you
find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the
right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I'm not afraid, when you walk at my side.
 Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner right
in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
Your BEAUTY and LOVE chase after me EVERY day of my LIFE.
Psalm 23 msg with each Napanee School Cookie that we eat this Christmas...Vi, may your life and legacy be remembered and celebrated. I love you.