Seizing the Moment – Part 2

photo credit: Stephen Matera

Presence.  Awareness.  About 12 years ago, when my son, in utero, died at 33 1/2 weeks, I decided my life had been underwhelming.  When faced with this devastating grief, I decided I was done “just getting by” and faced into what I had around me that I hadn’t been enjoying, noticing or simply addressing.  “Facing into” included addressing problems in my marriage, embracing my longing to get into “real” nature, confronting my personal challenges of living in the LA urban sprawl when I loved country living, and integrating the inner athlete who had been put on the back burner during my doctoral studies.  More recently, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this past five years has been one of saying good-bye to several friends as cancer took over their body and something less mentioned and much less significant, was rehabbing a shoulder injury that hurt for about a year and a half and kept me from my summer rock climbing expedition in the Casades.  What all these realities have propelled me to do, is ask myself,  “What’s around me that I need to grab hold of?”

This year, as I began my 48th year on this earth, the answer to this question came easyily – A photography and canyoneering trip in Utah (a former yearly spring break destination -pre-kids) with a National Geographic photographer, Stephen Matera, whose work I’ve admired a several years now – especially since he sometimes shoots in my hometown.  Given that my shoulder was rehabbed and I had stayed in shape enough to manage canyoneering, I decided to jump in (or in canyoneering terms, down climb) into the adventure.

The 12 hour road trip was completely worth it.  Utah’s rock formations are unique, simply magnificent.  My appetite for rocks has always been insatiable.  I used to have my own rock tumbler, which polished rocks collected from hikes.  Everywhere I go, I still collect rocks (unless it’s forbidden) and have a lovely collection in a planter.  For this trip, as I drove, each area brought with it a unique geological treasure so the visual feast kept me driving, ignoring the stiffness in my joints.  (The sun went down while I was in Capital Reef, a beautiful area.)

Highlights:

Day 1 — Overview of the Area – Dirty Devil and Robber’s Roost

For our evening shoot, the clouds left us looking for wonderful contrast since we weren’t guaranteed good lighting at sunset.  Our guides didn’t disappoint…

The above picture – illustrates something I learned about my photography – I tend to crop things too much – as Steve reminded me, “give the composition some space to breathe.”  Nonetheless, in this photo, I enjoy the contrast of the two trees, each with different green, along with the rock in the background.

Photo below – my view while at base camp.As I’ve mentioned above, I love Utah for all the different rock formations – from the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce and Capital Reef – this unexplored area of Dirty Devil/ Robber’s Roost didn’t disappoint.

We developed our canyoneering expertise as we went.  Steve is executing a “chimney” move to traverse the canyon.  This, along with “stemming” were two techniques we used all day long as there was water in the canyon when we were there, making it tough (until about 1/4 of the way in when all of us but our guide were wet and then we didn’t care if we walked through the water)
 I’m executing a “bridge” move.  This is fairly upright compared to what we have waiting for us up ahead.

The next three pictures were taken by Stephen Matera — you can see the water sitting at the bottom…it ranged from ankle deep to about 5.5 feet deep (I swam through that section.)
Even though I was exhausted after a grueling canyoneering day, shooting the stars at midnight was a definite highlight.

Prior to this trip, I felt much more comfortable getting up close and personal with macro shots, like the ones below, than shooting landscape, which I never felt quite satisfied with.  I’m excited to claim landscape has become a new favorite and though I like macro shots, I feel more confident with my landscape composition, which encourages me to attempt the larger scenes.  In the past, I’d have deemed them much more uninteresting in print than in person – so the “why bother” mentality would win.

Even though I was exhausted, this last picture (below) gives testimony to my commitment to not losing a Utah sunset by driving through it.  Unfortunately, I drove into rain clouds so this is a partially sunny/ cloudy sunset.  But I wanted to at least do due diligence of applying what I’d learned with decent lighting, so I stopped to shoot Chimney rock.  (Still, a non-cloudy sunset would have made the rock light up brilliantly.)

The trip was a wonderful culmination of learning, experiencing and challenging on so many layers.  It felt good to be alive.  It felt stimulating to learn.  Conversely, it felt humbling to learn.  It felt wild to be trying something new.  It felt like home to be out in nature and quiet.  I also felt expectant for beauty in obvious and subtle places rather than having my “urban dull” on.  I loved meeting new people and hearing their story.  I felt refreshed while exhausted.

Unfortunately, my adventure didn’t end with me getting good rest to make up for all lost sleep during the workshop (and the pictures below aren’t nearly as pretty).  Instead, I was one of those rare people who picked up an infection in the canyon’s water (at least according to healthline website scrapes gotten in fresh water like what was left by the rain, can cause this type of infection).  I rushed to the ER to make sure the infection didn’t spread to my entire lymphatic system (my official diagnosis was Lymphganitis) after several hours of heating the area brought the infection to the surface.  (A longtime family friend, who is a nurse, gave me this suggestion and I took her recommendation seriously to the point that I brought a hot rice compress to my  daughter’s concert that night so I could put heat on it long enough to expose any infection within my system.)  My concern and thus action to take heating the area seriously paid off.  The first picture shows Monday, then Tuesday at 1 pm and the third picture shows what showed up at 10 pm.

You might say I was a bit freaked out when I saw this red streak going down my arm but then when you add the on-call nurse saying, “You need to get to the hospital and be seen within an hour.”  I became VERY freaked out, in which case my coping strategy is to be witty at every opportunity and not have a mental breakdown.  Needless to say, the ER doctor informed me I had medically high blood pressure and, “was I treating it?” for which I answered, “You’d have high blood pressure too if you had this red streak running down your arm.”  We each laughed but nonetheless, he didn’t fully believe me as he rechecked my blood pressure before I was discharged.

Overall, I was grateful for my mom who invited me to take a first aid class with her when I was in fifth grade.  I may have been one of two children in the adult-centered class but it taught me three things that have stuck with me 1) I don’t know what I don’t know – so ask.  2) Early intervention is ALWAYS preferred to later.  Therefore see #1.  3) Red streaks running down your arm are BAD.  Therefore see #1.  As well, my mom was the one who suggested I talk with Eunice, our family friend who is a nurse, and it was her who told me to draw any infection out and to get help immediately if it worsened.  So the lessons I learned from this experience are 1) a wipe is not the same as washing a scrape with hot soap and water  2) wash all scrapes immediately (not 24 hours later at the hotel) after coming in contact with stagnant water 3) everyone needs a nurse as a friend ;-).

In the end, this trip felt like a culmination of leaning into my love of adventure and desire to live fully as well as leaning into the frailty of life – never knowing when something serious could invade my body and change my healthy status.  All in all, the first quarter of my 48th year has started with gusto!  Grateful.

Seizing the Moment – Lessons from Nature and Cancer

Last year in California, we had a superbloom spring – where the flowers open in abundance when rain hits in winter or fall after a considerable drought.  For us in Southern California, we’d had five years of drought before we welcomed last year’s superbloom that brought millions of visitors to witness the hillsides and deserts in all their glory. With this year being a superbloom fail; instead, year one of drought, I’m grateful I trekked to the hills to witness the blooms.  It’s easy to disregard the urgency of such moments.  When I’m juggling all my aspects of doing life (self-employment, mothering two active kids, volunteer work, church, friendships, family, etc) it can be easy to tell myself, “I’ll catch it next year.” Or, “It’s not that big of a deal, it can wait.”  With my words I ignore a reality that is undoubtedly true – “seize the moment because it will pass.”   And with things of nature, this is doubly true.  The moment won’t come around in exactly the same way -ever.  And just like going to the gym and working out, I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve regretted missing sleep to catch an eclipse or sunrise or time at home over traveling all day to witness canyons and rock formations.  Adding to my sense of urgency is the reality that loss of life happens.  In the past five years, I have lost three good friends to cancer.  These were friends who spoke into my life, knew me over a decade – some two, and were significant encouragers in my personal and professional growth.  What they taught me, no matter how long they lived with cancer, is that there isn’t a guarantee for tomorrow and even if it seems tomorrow will come, there isn’t a guarantee for how much or how little pain there will be.  So if you can do it, and have the opportunity, better do it now before the window has passed.

I think this sense of urgency is one of the gifts these women left me with.  I’m trying to live now with a, “Don’t wait.  Do it now while you can.” These pictures from last year’s superbloom remind me that I didn’t wait.  We got up before the sun, drove the 1.5 hours and beat the weekend crowds in order to witness and enjoy these poppies at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.  I find mentally marking these type of remembrances, when I did something well and didn’t let the moment pass, encourages me to look for the present moments when I want to skip over something that needs to be savored, or taken in, or leaned into so the “it’s too much effort” belief doesn’t win out.  This year, I’ve created space to “take in” – a canyoneering trip, a trip to Italy, a 30 year class reunion, a writing retreat in New Mexico – twice, and our yearly camping trip with 40 other friends.  And yet, I want to make sure I’m not forgetting that each mundane, every day moment calls out to be “taken in” because if I wait until these “big events” – well, I’m missing a lot of life.  And as I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death during these past five years, I know that each day is truly a gift and I hope I can do it justice by living well.  In the name of Beth, Amy and Danielle, I want to honor the gift they weren’t given – more time.

May you also seize the day, capturing the moments of your life by paying attention and finding what there is to enjoy.  As well, may you be encouraged to shift as I’m trying to do, to live more “urgently” with time because we never know what the future holds.

 

 

Good Friday

Good Friday.  It’s a day I’d rather ignore.  Too uncomfortable and sobering, especially the Good Friday service where year after year I’m unable to leave with dry eyes.  However what feels different about this year is I’ve been sitting in a bit of a Good Friday since January 6th when my friend, Danielle, passed away leaving her three children and husband (and all of us who loved her) to move through life without her.  I’m reminded in this moment that even though I knew her body would feel better, she wouldn’t be suffering, and she would be going to be with her Heavenly Father, in those last moments, I didn’t want her to leave.  I didn’t want her breath to slow until it was no longer.  I didn’t want to lose this three dimensional self – that could be hugged, touched, kissed.  And yet, just like Jesus, she breathed her last breath surrounded by people who loved and knew her.

In past years, I’ve been wrapped up in the excruciating pain and humiliation of Jesus’ Good Friday experience.  I’ve related to his cry, “Take this cup from me, Lord,” especially sitting with so many who’ve suffered tremendously.  But this year, I find myself at the bottom of the cross – feeling abandoned and disappointed.

My thoughts go something like, “This is all you got?  Hanging from a tree, crucified? Where is your promise?  Where is your victory?  You were supposed to raise our status – take us out of oppressive Roman rules and culture.  Instead, you’re dead on a cross.  Hanging.  Lifeless.  What use were you?  Why did you even come – raising our hopes, drawing us into your compassion, your healing power, your promise that God was your Father?  We were fine without you, 32 years ago.  We were managing.  Now, deflated.  Full of despair and hurt.  You’ve abandoned me, all of us really.  Was I crazy to believe in you?  Was I crazy to believe your promises that God’s Kingdom was being made new?  That God was a kind and loving master? That you would free us from Roman oppression.   We are at their mercy, not yours.”

If I were there now, beneath Jesus, I may walk away in disgust.  I’m not sure I would have lasted to see his body wrapped and put into a tomb.  I might have missed Jesus’ own feelings of abandonment, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  I know this to be true, my sorrow would have been laced with disappointment.

With Danielle’s journey of cancer, we hoped for time, for even just one successful treatment but we were given none of it – only one brief respite with markers falling before they stormed back a month later worse than before.  During her fight against cancer with failed treatment after failed treatment, I found comfort studying the life of John the Baptist, who spent his whole life serving God only to be beheaded because a girl requested it.  Then there was Herod’s violence against the sons born within the window he’d suspected Jesus was born – thousands died because Herod was afraid for his status as King.  I’m left with questions: What kind of God brings this type of violence to innocent people and individuals who love Him and spend their whole lives serving Him?  My conclusion for today is that He is a God who isn’t as simpleminded as I am. In other words, I can’t even come close to having a mind like God.  I cannot reconcile His ways.

In truth, I don’t want to rush to Easter.  I don’t care Jesus rose from the dead in the moments of my Good Friday experiences, just like those who live in Good Friday due to the suffering of this world, helpless to know the day when they will emerge to Easter.  And for some, it will never come here on Earth.  Good Friday happens over and over as grief washes over parents who’ve lost children, husbands their wives and wives their husbands, and most disheartening, young children their mothers or fathers.  I think of the refugees who have no place to rest their head, the foster children who endure feeling unwanted in a system bound to fail them, the sexual minority persecuted by the church commanded to love their neighbor as themselves, the environment groaning from overuse, pollution, and neglect and the list of atrocities encountered in human and environmental life goes on and on.  In Good Friday moments we all feel the despair, the abandonment, the lack of response to our cries for relief.  In these moments, I don’t care that I will see my friends, family members – my son, in heaven.  I’m still living here – with my feelings of abandonment, betrayal, even disbelief over what “God has allowed?”

Where does my hope come from, here at the base of the cross?  I’ve learned it does come from Yahweh.  He showed His presence to all those people scoffing, grieving, and feeling abandoned or disappointed at the foot of the cross in earth’s momentary darkness, the ripping of the temple veil, the ground shaking and the rocks splitting open.  I believe in a God who holds complexity in mind-blowing ways.  I believe in a God who can from one perspective, abandon, yet show up.  Who can give, yet take away.  Who can heal, yet allow death and physical pain.  Who can convert, yet allow executions.  Who can adopt, yet allow neglect and abuse.

I believe I serve a God who doesn’t ask me to put away my Good Friday feelings – to pretend Easter has arrived prematurely.  Yet, I believe that God asks me to remember His promises, including He will never leave me nor forsake me, that He’s making all things new, that Palm Sunday happened as He foretold it, and that Easter, though unsatisfying to my earthly self who, had I known Jesus, would miss him tremendously and wouldn’t care about the Holy Spirit coming because I’d want Him – his person, gives me hope in the unseen.  And it is in this space – holding onto Hope, while feeling abandoned and disappointed that I sit at the foot of the cross acknowledging something much, much greater than myself.

To God be the Glory.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be Danielle Montiel: A Year of Being.  Together.

 

By way of introduction, Danielle is a good friend.  We’ve known each other for a long time, we did Thanksgiving one year at her parent’s house, primarily because she married one of my best friend’s brothers who had invited us along.  Fast forward about five years and we spent two years in a couple’s group with several others, we camped and travelled once or twice a year with our families this last decade, we had a deep appreciation for one another and I felt “goodness” in my soul when I saw her but we weren’t necessarily in weekly or even biweekly contact until this past year.

A few things you should know:

She’s amazing – seriously.  Before cancer, she could do handstands and back flips- leftovers from being a gymnast (yes, in her 40s).  She was a gourmet chef effortlessly, whipping up whatever was in the kitchen and having it taste divine.  She was profound, observant, kind, generous, intelligent and had a combination of laid back and disciplined that few people could pull off.  She was so gracious in how she approached situations and people.  She single-handedly got a new charter school, the joint vision of her brother-in-law, Steve Porter and good friend, Jason Baehr, up and running.  She was a doer and yet she appeared to flow so easily between the doing and being, recognizing that while one does, one needs to be.

This past year, she transformed me spiritually without having a clue she was doing so (I didn’t have a clue in the middle of it).  I’d committed to a year of practicing the spiritual discipline of being and she and I together were engaged in a touch therapy I’d been briefly trained in (a modality I practice with friends, not professionally.).  She showed me the beauty of dependence, of asking for one’s needs, of moving slow together and not rushing to “get somewhere.”  See what was so clear to Danielle, but what I didn’t get (at least initially) was that our time was about being. I wanted results – a better sleep, loosened muscles, coordination improvement after her brain surgery.  But for Danielle we never tried to get somewhere, she let me know she enjoyed the company, the nurturing.

What I gut-achingly miss the most is feeling her body.  I learned her arms, her legs, her back.  Over the months, we grieved, through our acknowledgement of changes, ineffective chemotherapy, which resulted in the cancer stealing her strength because breathing was compromised not to mention the chemotherapy and radiation side effects.  Much later, we grieved the arrival of the breathing machine and what it meant at the same time we rejoiced she could breathe better.  We grieved that the spiritual images given to us during our time together never promised healing.  The last image she spoke about (our last months had very little speaking in them) was a dollhouse with open rooms that she could come and go in without being trapped in one place (possibly a foreshadowing of her visiting us from “behind the veil).”

I confess, I wanted to be miraculous.  I wanted her to heal so we didn’t have to live with worry.  I wasn’t so naive that I declared it to be true – that God was going to heal her through our time together.  While my posture might leave doubters declaring, “No wonder she didn’t heal oh ye of little faith,” I don’t think either one of us felt that way.  We were united in the very core of why we were together – to seek God’s will and to trust that He was with us as we were with each other.

I doubt I’ve done something more important in my life than sit with Danielle – listening. She showed me a part of myself that has rarely shown itself – being while helpless, dependent, powerlessness, with absolutely no power or control to change the outcome, only to impact the process. I needed her to show me our time wasn’t worthless even though I couldn’t heal her.  Even when I couldn’t help her sleep through the night, she gave herself over to the process and showed me what it was like to enjoy one another while being dependent and vulnerable.  I see now, our time together was an intimate pause in our lives.  It grew me.  Facing into death with her – feeling the muscle decrease in her arms, hearing the struggled breath, and shifting movements – going from lying flat, to being propped up by pillows, to sitting in a recliner, to siting straight up in a chair – all of these things we faced together – acknowledging with words and without what this meant for God answering our prayers.  Oh we hoped – we asked for healing for the chance to once again lie on the massage table but we didn’t proclaim false hopes or optimism like, “I can’t wait until you are strong enough to walk Juneau again” or “I can’t wait for this year’s camping trip when you will have enough breath to go on some longer hikes.”  In this, we were steadfast, “God’s will be done and we invite His Presence to be with us.”  The last several months we were together, she slept while I worked though she asked to be woken up each time so she could spend more time with her family after I was done.

I learned from Danielle that my beginner’s training was sufficient for us.  Danielle taught me that I didn’t need any special tricks or powers to pull out of a bag – what I was doing was good enough.  I didn’t believe her at first.  Wasn’t there something I could do to miraculously bring more comfort to her body?  Shouldn’t I know more?  When her body had declined to a place we couldn’t use the massage table I had a perfectionist panic – What if I don’t know what I’m doing and hurt her?  So I said to her, “okay – if things get too hot (my hands combined with the energy in her body creates heat), you let me know and I’ll stop.”  She very gently looked me in the eyes and said, “You’ve never hurt me before.  I doubt it will happen now.”  I met her gaze, nodded and answered with a bit of guilt in my eye for having been trapped once again by my perfectionism and said, “True.  Let’s get you more relaxed.”  See here with Danielle I was finally bearing witness and embodying what I’ve known for decades — being is about the good enough – otherwise what takes the place of being is often an anxiety that is focused on performance and outcome.  Perfectionism or focusing on “doing it perfect” can’t digest the present moment; instead it’s there to eat up the present moment for something obtained in the future.

Danielle also spoke into me about an identity I hadn’t claimed in myself.  So casually she shared with me a story about a Christian healer she’d gone to hear speak and was greeted by a member of our congregation via a handshake.  Danielle said to her, “You have warm hands like Kimber, you must be a healer.”  The gal had laughed and said, “I’m a massage therapist.”  I haven’t experienced my hands the same since.  See I do talk therapy professionally, I only do touch therapy as a hobby, yet here she was calling something into being for me.  “I’m a healer.”  I wear this declaration now as true.

My deepest regret is I didn’t share this with her because I didn’t know it until she’d died.  See I feel as if I’ve lost a patient who was a dear friend.  But it’s my hands that miss her the most.  They long to be with her, to touch her feet and create energy shifts up her body, to feel warmth, not the inability to create warmth as I experienced as she passed from this world when my hand was on her leg and I felt only coldness.  It was then that I knew what I’d miss the very most – being.  Together.

My year of being has made its way into my bones.  I have a category, a new way of existing.  I’m grateful.

Danielle, if your reading this now — I miss our times together.  You’ve marked me, changed me for good.  I love you, friend and please visit me – with Amy.  And my son.

Yearly Reflections

What did you do in 2017 that you had never done before?

I walked 39 miles in the Avon Walk for a Cancer Cure this September.

Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I kept almost all of my New Year’s Resolutions except for my blogging goals.  I’ve had to rethink my blog because my writing time has mostly gone towards finishing my memoir, which I’m still working on.

  1. Did anyone close to you give birth? (I can’t fix these numbers without a great deal of time so please forgive them.)

Cousin Emily Joy gave birth to a baby girl, Lila Joy, in December, whom we haven’t had the joy of meeting yet.

2.  Did anyone close to you die?

No but a church family, whom we love, lost a son in April and several good friends lost a parent this year.

  1. What countries or new places did you visit?

Had a business trip to Midland ,Texas and I’d never been to West Texas as well as Grass Valley in Northern California.

  1. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

Consistent paper organization and zero email box.  At the end of 2017, I finally got my email box down to zero and have a new mail/paper system.  The challenge for me is to keep up my system and continue to remain organized.

 

What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 16th – the day Dylan Stump died.  Although I didn’t know Dylan, I love his parents, who have been a part of my church family for 20 years.  Death of a 19 year old devastates us all.

  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Eliminating the hip pain I’ve had for nine years.  I have lived with hip pain of an unknown cause since 2008.  I’ve tried more interventions than you would care to read about.  The last piece of the puzzle was a massage therapist recognizing my gait was off, which led to a discovery that my left toe had been jammed for years – creating issues all the way up to my hip.  Once I got the toe moving (which took my toe from no pain to tremendous pain), it took four months of daily stretches before I eliminated the pain – (toe and hip).  I identify this as my biggest achievement because while I was in the middle of it I had no idea whether I could live without pain and it was a exercise in grit and perseverance.  There was no glory, no prize, no internal motivation except for a determination to keep trying to live pain-free.  What kept me going: regular appointments with my skilled massage therapist for deep tissue release, stretching and exercise routine created by my chiropractor from regular assessments of which muscles were overworking or weak, taking turmeric capsules and asking for external accountability to stretch daily.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

My garage is still a mess and I didn’t finish my memoir.  I made progress – it’s three parts and I’m 100% complete with part 1, 80% done with part 2 and 5% done with part 3.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

In addition to hip pain, I had a shoulder injury from a snow weekend that turned out to be deeply inflamed and required creative modifications and finding natural anti inflammatories (turmeric, fish oil) to help reduce the swelling.

  1. What’s the best thing you bought?

I love my new car – A Chevy Bolt.  I love never going to the gas pump but most of all, I love my back-up camera which gives me a bird’s eye view so I can see the LINES.  As someone who loves parallel parking, it has taken my game to elite status.

  1. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage – I live in Southern California need I say anything else.

  1. What did you get really excited about?

I got excited about developing organizational habits in order to stay organized, efficient and eliminate avoidable stress – and so far have maintained it for about 45 days so I’m encouraged I’ll be able to maintain it.  I have also been excited about creating fun and meaningful memories with my children.  My daughter, a freshman in high school, is a concrete reminder of how little time I’ll have with everyone living at home.

 

  1. What song will always remind you of 2017?

‘Issues’ by Julia Michaels epitomizes my mental world this year.  The older I get, the more I realize I will forever fall short of the type of character I’d love to possess.  What’s different for me now, is I’ve come to accept myself within my limitations – impatience, at times intellectually arrogant, undisciplined in some areas, and critical.  I’ve developed enough self-compassion not to like these things that show themselves when I’m at my worst but at the same time, not have an overactive internal judge show up when they’ve been present.

  1. Compared to this time last year, are you:

—happier or sadder?

Neither…I’ve had ups and downs.  Up – celebrating my 20 year anniversary and we’ve never been happier.  Down – walking with a friend who has stage 4 breast cancer.  This is a difficult road to journey and we’ve had a lot of sad news to navigate as treatment after treatment has failed.

— thinner or fatter?

fatter – hormones and carbs caught up to me.  I gained more weight this year than I ever have.  Luckily, with the help of my nutritionist who I’ve used for pre-diabetes threat, we discovered how to eliminate the weight gain.  Now the job of losing the weight I gained…more positive results regarding health though is I am no longer pre-diabetic – dropped my levels .2.

— richer or poorer?

richer.  Business was good this year and we live with a budget.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Read great fiction books.  This year I didn’t read a ton of books.  Most of my reading time was spent on professional non-fiction and magazine articles.

17.  What do you wish you’d done less of?

Driving.  Last spring I spent 20 hours a week on the road.  My son’s school is about 30 minutes away, which gives he and I time to listen to non-fiction audio books together, which we both enjoy.  But this year, I may try to sneak in some juvenile fiction.  (He may not go for it -non-fiction is his favorite.)

18. How did you spend Christmas?

I spent Christmas in my hometown in the mountains of Washington. It was a splendid white Christmas with lots of family time.

19.  What was your favorite TV program?

I don’t watch much television except sports (can’t wait for the Olympics!) However, I have watched a few things on Netflix this year.  Though I’m only on season 2, I’ve enjoyed Parenthood – love the relational and family dynamics at play.  Confession: I really want to watch This is Us but I haven’t spent the time figuring out how to watch it since I’m behind and need to first watch the first season.

20.  What were your favorite books of the year?

Though an older book, I read The Martian by Andy Weir for the first time and loved it so much, I had my husband read it (edited) to my nine year old who LOVED it, too.  The tone and style of the narrator captured me and drew me in as he overcame trial after trial.  Other favorites were How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overcoming Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims (highly recommend for parents with middle school students or above) and I reread and enjoyed the newest edition of John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Healthy Marriage Work.  (great reminder of what helps cultivate intimacy and goodness in marriage.)  

21.  What was your favorite music from this year?

My favorite album was Imagine Dragons’ Evolve and Ed Sheeran’s Divide.   I’ve also been enjoying U2’s new album, Songs of Experience but haven’t listened enough to say it’s a favorite.  Songs on repeat were ‘Believer” by Imagine Dragons, “Back to the Garden” by Crowder, ‘If I Told You’ by Darius Rucker and ‘Walk on Water’ by Thirty Seconds to Mars.  I indulged in about six concerts this year – favorite large concert was U2’s Joshua Tree Tour and smaller venue was Needtobreathe’s House of Blues concert.

22.  What was your favorite film of the year?

Again…Star Wars.  Though The Last Jedi has had mixed reviews, I really enjoyed it.  I know this isn’t a deep, rich choice but when I go to the movies, I long to escape some of the realities in the really world.  So, living in this world that I’ve known since my childhood, satisfies my soul.  I will confess as I sat in the theater during the credits (one of five of us who stayed to the end), I couldn’t help shed a few tears about Carrie Fisher’s death.  I grieve we’ll miss a “good-bye” film with her like we’ve had with Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.

23.  What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I had a small gathering of friends the night of my birthday.  I worked my birthday weekend in Texas so wanted to keep it low key but meaningful.

24.  What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having a personal cook.  Making meals at the end of the day and having prepared lunch was a challenge this year.  Loved ordering Blue Apron to help me out when I was in a pinch to buy ingredients for a yummy meal.

25.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

Boho – still.  :).  I have yet to give up bright colors.  I enjoy bohemian style, one of a kind, comfortable clothing.  I love supporting LA designers and haunting sample sales occasionally where a person can find unique items that never made it to mass production.  “Comfortable feet” was a value — purchasing several styles of “non-athletic” tennis shoes – white Eccos, red Munros, gray and black Josef Seibels.

26. What kept you sane?

Keeping my calendar steady but not over committed as well as learning how to manage all the information coming at me that needs to be organized and kept track of…definitely hoping to continue to improve this type of organization.

2017 Day Timer

27.  Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

Be present in the moments you have.  Live well and full.  You never know when your life is going to be turned upside down.

28.  What new habit are you developing to decrease your environmental footprint?

We purchased metal and glass straws in order to decrease our straw use.  In the US, we use 500 million straws every day.  For the last 15 years, I have made different choices, created habits in order to help my environmental footprint.  I realize I’m only one person but I’m modeling for my children how to think outside of their own convenience, ease or financial benefit.  Some of our choices over the years have been: changing out our gas vehicles for alternative fuel, reusable bags (for the last 10 years), for a year – buying new clothing from only social and environmental justice sources but mostly buying from consignment stores, don’t buy from the $1.00 bins at Target – almost guaranteed – fair wages and/or environment impact isn’t being considered for cheap items, fair trade chocolate versus commercial chocolate, using cloth napkins and towels instead of paper napkins and paper towels and changing out chemical cleaners with environmentally “pure” cleaners.

Hope your new year is starting well!

Avon 39 – Breast Cancer Walk

Someone asked me recently, what led me to walk the Avon 39?  My answer: It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for many years, when my friend and mentor, Beth Brokaw’s cancer came out of remission and catapulted her into living with stage 4 cancer, miraculously, for 15 years.

So, I signed up this year after hearing a friend was diagnosed with stage 3 in November, which very quickly became stage 4.  In my complete helpless feelings for this friend, Danielle, and her family, immediate and extended, whom I’m very connected with (very is the descriptor that gets placed after one spends Thanksgiving together at her mom’s house so very long ago, you’ve known family members for 20 years, and we’ve moved through pre-children to growing children), I hoped to at least DO something that kept her not just on my mind mentally, prayerfully, but also reminded me of the suffering she’s enduring every day.  I wanted to join her momentarily in this suffering space with something that would take everything I had.  It feels a bit silly – after all what can my suffering do to alleviate hers?  Nothing.  However, on an emotional and spiritual level, it brought me face to face with limitations, helplessness, the need for community and cheers of encouragement as well as facing vulnerability head on.  In this way, I walked in Danielle’s shoes with new understanding of her needs through my suffering experience.  Which I recognize as very limiting because the reality is I know only of momentary life-threatening anxiety, when I got held at gunpoint in my garage in 2000, I’m not having to contain and hold it as she does on a daily basis -living with unknown in the tension of fear and hope.  My own suffering started several weeks before the race after an 18-mile practice walk.  I developed deep, deep blisters on the balls of my feet.  They hadn’t recovered by the time I walked so I spent many hours researching how to take care of them, which turned into experimenting with what works (process included shoes, socks, and blister products).  As sometimes God does with timing, Danielle’s feet also became painful, a side effect of her chemotherapy, so I trained and hurt,then trained and hurt, which gave me hours to pray for her as well as experience a glimpse of her pain, how much time and space research can take (after all there are lots of opinions on best socks, shoes, best blister practices as there are lots of cancer treatment ideas and options) – at time it felt like i was on my own with loads of information but no idea of how to decipher what information applied to me or how it applied.

Even though I had a desire to do the Avon 39 walk, what really made me follow through with actually signing up for the event were these partners in crime….I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful team of friends and former workout partners – Jansen, Kathy and Seungee (from left to right in picture).

Here’s a recap of our time…

We look nice and fresh here…all full of smiles.  Ignorant smiles.Acquainting ourselves with our event sleeping arrangements…All smiles at 5:30 am.

1600 walkers

From the start, we had people cheering for us along the way.  People coming out of their houses, others going from section to section – singing, handing out red licorice, water, wet towels, and amazing otter pops, which none of us had eaten for decades (or at least didn’t admit to eating them for decades)!  Some of our favorite “cheerleaders” were a couple of guys who held up hilarious signs at different locations around the route.  For example, at around mile 5 or 6, one sign said “You are NOT almost there.”

We made it 1/3 of the way.  Lunch time!  Group stop for me to fix my blister – mile 19.  Thank goodness for my glacier gels and Seungee’s foot corn pads which were thicker than my moleskin.  From this picture – you cannot tell the steepness.  However, this hill and then when we went back down the other side was part of a mile long route…it was so steep my GPS only calculated 1/2 mile.  This was at MILE 24!!!!!  WHAT?  WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?  We have no idea but someone must have been smiling.  Us – we just kept on keeping on, one foot after another.Yup!  We did it.  What didn’t get counted was then needing to walk down some smaller hills to hit the showers at the polo club.  We were disappointed they didn’t have horse carriages as transportation.Thank goodness, Kathy gave us wax earplugs!  Teamwork continues.Ready for round 2 — 13.1 miles.  We were grateful we’d participated in foam rolling, foot massagers and for some of us, an actual 10 minute massage.We needed these guys (and gals) to get us through!!  They stopped traffic, gave us encouragement and were full of energy!  Each had personality and brought their ‘A’ game.It wasn’t easy to get up on day two knowing we had 13 miles to go after already walked 26.2 but recognizing our pain was temporary moved us from self-pity to one foot in front of the other with hope and determination, the same character traits needed for cancer fighters.

With that said, the second day was grueling.  It was hotter.  We were sore.  Our quads were crying out for us to stop and our feet were protesting.  We were grateful for Jan’s suggestion for compression socks because they helped keep the cramping away.  There was so much discomfort it’s hard to describe.  One of our inspirational figures, who was walking about our pace was a Chicago fireman who wore his uniform (heavy!) while pushing his mother in a wheelchair for 39 miles. He walked because he’d been an absent son and had abandoned his mother during some of her breast cancer treatment.  Spending time with her walking was part of his redemption.  He’d walked 4 events when we saw him. His story can be found on Facebook, walking4ma.

We were greeted by so many people along the way.  With some, their sorrow could be felt, especially in the eyes of the children, and for others, they showed up to encourage us with their sense of humor with their comments like , “when else can I chase girls for two days and not get arrested,” and their signs like, “you think your legs are hurting, my arms are killing me” (from holding the sign), “Go total strangers go” “worst parade yet,” “where’s the floats?”

Our LB hats brought us lots of love.  We were proud to represent our city along with the other women we met from the LB.  We were supported all along the way at every turn and we met some beautiful people – one woman had raised over 4 million dollars in her lifetime of walks, another had walked in 141 events.

After the event, my feet had two blisters on them…a new one from the day that I had once again treated with foot corn pads and gel as soon as I felt it (wasn’t soon enough) and the first blister at mile 19, even though drained by the medical team at the end of day 1 (26.2 miles), decided to reappear again on day 2.  My battle wounds– This is the day one blister a week out….still healing.One thing that was reinforced from this walk is I desperately need community coming alongside and cheering when the going gets tough – gets life and death tough.  I’m not sure I can imagine finishing this event without the massive support we received.  Their were so many levels of support from the traffic people, to the rest stops, to the water stops, to the bathroom stops, etc.  Even the pink arrows and mile markers, were so helpful because we could break up our race in small chunks, telling ourselves, just get to the next marker.  One mile at a time.  I think it is the same when navigating extremely painful things – it’s about getting through ________ before worrying about what’s next.  And it’s when we can’t get through ____________(fill in the blank) then we must have people in our space so we can get through it.

What I loved about suffering together, is that I grew to enjoy the small things about each one of my team members.  Jan, she’s steady and loyal.  She’s going to get done what needs to get done and she’ll bring you with her.  She’s going to own her pain and support you through yours.  Kathy, is engaging and observant.  She keeps on keeping on, able to both receive and give in her suffering – coming up with that funny quip or observation at just the right time.  She’s up for anything.  Seungee is our social member – full of energy and encouragement.  She had no qualms about engaging the people around us, asking about the names on their shirts or the money they raised.  She knew what was up through her information gathering techniques and helped us keep up the news.  As a team, we raised our hands “woohoo” as cars beeped at us or people cheered – engaging with others – letting them know we received their encouragement and shouts.  We encouraged one another whether it was to make it to the next mile or to fix the problems flaring on our feet. It was a lovely adventure.  One I’m trying to talk them into repeating – only this time the 60 mile walk.  Just kidding, LBC Girls who may be reading this. 😉

For everyone who contributed to our walk, i want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Our LBC Girls team raised $8375 to go to breast cancer research and access to screenings and treatment to underserved populations.  The 1600 walkers who participated in the weekend raised 4.1 million by Saturday morning and more donations were expected.

Thanks for walking with me, with us, through your interest, donations, thoughts and prayers.  We received them.  If you didn’t know we were walking, lift up a family you know facing cancer.  They need you with them in their fight against cancer.  They can’t do it without you.  You’re important.  Don’t underestimate your value as family, a friend, a church member, a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone standing in the grocery store line (Jansen).  You are needed in this fight.  We all are.

Blessings,

Kimber

 

Community Camping – Big Sur

40 of us banned together to once again make our community camping trip happen.  I believe we’ve been camping together (a combination of us, at least) since 2004.  This year did not disappoint.  We booked a year ago for Big Sur and as fate (or God) would have it, three mudslides later we pretty much had the highway to ourselves.  There’s only one way in and out so cars are sparse.  A few of us took advantage – napped on the road (maybe an exaggeration though we did lie down), walked six miles, biked (7 miles until the first car was passed), and enjoyed the sound of the waves during the night rather than car and motorcycle motors.

Yes – that is the world famous highway 1 we are walking by…

We saw sea otters wrap themselves in kelp.

Otters in Kelp

Played Games.

Hiked.

Explored.

Saw whales from the road. In many ways magical.

And yet, we surround a family fighting for health as their Mama has stage 4 breast cancer.  The unspoken was, maybe is, will Danielle be able to join us next year?  I continue to hold hope with her without ignorance to the ongoing battle.  Her latest markers are down.  We pray specifically to buy time until we can find a treatment that works because thus far, her aggressive cancer marches on.

(A picture from last year because somehow adults just aren’t as cute as the kids according to my picture selection…)

In her honor, as well as in memory of my dear friend and mentor, Beth Brokaw, who I swear showed up in the form of a heron that landed about 5 yards away from me on my morning walk (it held specific meaning to the longevity in which she lived with her stage 4 cancer), I’m doing the Avon 39 walk in 17 days.  This is a 39 mile walk in 2 days.

I still need to raise about $750.  Please consider donating today.  This organization gives millions of dollars for cancer research.  All donations are tax-deductible.

Here’s my link:

http://info.avon39.org/site/TR/Walk/LosAngeles?px=8227757&pg=personal&fr_id=2515

Thank you for sharing with me in both the adventures and the pains life brings.

Warmly,

Kimber

I Matter. You Matter. We Matter.

This is an article I wrote for GrowthSkills…

Our brains are hard-wired for maximum efficiency – paying attention to the familiar as little as possible.  Our patterns get developed as we repeat behaviors, thoughts, or feelings.  For instance, we all have a cadence for talking and walking.  This isn’t to say that it never changes, because it does when relationships and emotions enter the dynamic (like being in a hurry is a different cadence than casual walking).  However, these adjustments are habitual.  For example, your body recruits the same muscles for walking or running every time and when a person is anxious their talking cadence has a pattern.  For me, I talk faster and louder than my normal cadence.  When giving speeches, I intentionally slow down my speech and talk softer, which leads to feeling less anxious.  As a result of our automatic patterns, we are usually so focused on what’s happening or not happening, we forget to bring attention to our attention — how we’re thinking, feeling, behaving, or believing.

A relational pattern to attend to is, “I matter, you matter and we matter.”  This concept, like a teeter totter, requires that the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ have similar weight in order for the “we-ness” to work properly. I believe this concept is supported scripturally in the ending phrase of God’s commandment to us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  It doesn’t say, “Love your neighbor more than yourself.”  It doesn’t say, “Love yourself before your neighbor” but it says, “Love your neighbor AS yourself” and from this place of neighbor and self the ‘we’ emerges.

For decades, I didn’t embody “I matter.”  In my adolescence, I struggled to get more than five hours of sleep a night because I was so overextended from school, athletics, volunteer work and helping friends whenever they asked.  During this time, I got mononucleosis three times before my doctor explained that I could develop lifelong chronic fatigue if I didn’t change my lifestyle.  With the help of therapy, I came to realize that “I matter” felt selfish and prideful.  I didn’t know how to prioritize self-care, which included sufficient rest, as more important than my volunteer work.   At the time, I lost the ability to see how my choices were leading me on a path where the pressure to help, to succeed, to grow got greater and greater with each success and new volunteer cause.  Eventually, I became depressed and burned out until I learned how to prioritize myself along with others.

The concept of “I matter” isn’t translated into “I matter and no one else does.”  It’s not self-absorption or even self-care to the point of neglecting responsibilities.  “I matter” in its healthiest form is a posture that values the self at the same time it pays attention to how personal decisions impact others.  “I matter” is grossly abused when it justifies a father working long hours because work is satisfying while his family feels unimportant and unvalued.  “I matter” must always be considered in relationship to the “You matter” and vice versa.

The concept of the “neighbor or other” is expansive.  It’s anyone other than yourself.  “You matter” becomes imbalanced when we’re meeting everyone else’s needs before our priorities, as I mentioned earlier.  “You matter” is imbalanced when everyone else has school lunches and you don’t pack your own.  Or when you donate to multiple causes but can’t pay your bills. We need to pay attention to prioritizing otherness and understanding how much of ourselves we can give, which all feeds back into keeping the metaphoric teeter totter in balance.  This is incredibly challenging when caring for aging, ill parents or being a caregiver of an ill spouse or child.  One question to ask yourself is, “Who are my ‘yous’ and do I need to expand or decrease who they are?

From the “I” and the “you” we create a “we.”  There are a couple of things that can go wrong in the “we.”  If the “we” is created out of duty and responsibility, then the “we” is inauthentic and the “you” becomes much more powerful and habitual than the “I.”  Going through the motions and relating out of obligation can often reinforce depression, anxiety, resentment, and burn-out.  Authenticity needs connection to the self – to know it’s loved and valued.  Another “we” that can go wrong is being in relationship with the wrong people.  These are people who don’t support the growth of “I” and end up using the relationship, which also creates an imbalanced “you matter.”  A healthy “we” is one where both individuals thrive and grow.  In assessing the “we” ask yourself, “Does this person support my dreams?  Do they value me finding what I love to do?”  These types of questions become highly important when choosing a “we,” including life team members.

A few points of application.  1.  Rate yourself on a scale of ‘1’ to ‘10’ with one being you never consider yourself to 10 being you never let yourself be inconvenienced by anyone. (This is the “I matter” scale.)  2.  Rate yourself on a scale of ‘1’ to ‘10’ with one being you never allow yourself to be inconvenienced to ‘10’ being you sacrifice something six to seven days a week for others, without thought of how it would impact you or your loved ones.  (You matter scale)  3.  How balanced are your numbers?  What needs to change to get them balanced?

  1. Practice Saying “I matter” in the mirror or to a friend. Do you believe your words?  If so, where in your body tells you that you believe it?  What do you feel saying it?  Embarrassed?  Selfish?  Empowering?  Over time does it get any easier?  Does it feel true?
  2. Pay more attention to what you pay attention to. Are you drawn to what others are doing to you?  For you?  What you’re doing for everyone else?  What conclusions are you drawing?  How does it feel to be on your metaphoric teeter totter?  Do you feel stuck in the air?  Always weighted down?  Or do you feel like you have a good flow between you and others mattering?

I matter.  You matter.  We matter.  Amen.

 

Eleven Years Ago…

Yesterday would have been Baby Long Beach’s 11th birthday.  (His name has a story…for another time.)  It’s hard to know quite how to acknowledge his day.  We did so quietly before going out to celebrate a new girlfriend with a dear friend with some of our best friends – friends who were there at the hospital when Baby Long Beach died.  Our living children walked around the block after shaved ice while the adults engaged in storytelling and “get to know you” dialogue.  I think he smiled upon us from heaven.  He too would have enjoyed walking around the block and I imagine at 11, he would have even ran.

Here is a reflective piece — 10 years ago.

Dear Baby Long Beach,

You would’ve been one today.  I wish I was writing about all of your “firsts” in your own journal – first word, first sitting up, first army crawl, real crawl, maybe steps, but Eden didn’t walk until around 13 months so who knows. Instead, I’m writing in tears, unable to see the paper, trying to recall what you felt like in my womb, not really caring if my pen positions the words on a line, I imagine if you’ve really landed in the place where age has no relevance and forever is well, forever, then it simply doesn’t matter how I write, only that I must write.   I write hoping you might somehow read these words, hear my heart, and know you aren’t forgotten.  The family continues to be (a wreck) in recovery.  We are pregnant.  I’ve announced to my work this fact.  They were with me during the tragedy, now at the tail end of my employment, they celebrate.

We made chocolate cake. Lit a candle.  Eden blew it out and declared you loved chocolate cake with Jesus.  She is still sad you’re not here to play with her.  She still imagines you emerging from birth as a playmate.  You weren’t a part of a celebration where you could smile, maybe tear up, overcome with loudness caused by the enthusiasm of the crowd singing Happy Birthday.  If I could have more courage, I would have invited friends over to celebrate your birthday with us.  As it was, we kept it small.  I didn’t want to dissolve in a puddle of grief.  I didn’t want my longings to get bigger.  See, I can picture you now, sitting in your high chair, pointed hat on your head which you keep trying to pull off.  But I keep trying to distract you with your periwinkle blue balloons, matching your light grey-blue eyes, that I imagine you with – not as deep as Eden’s, maybe more like your uncle Brian’s.  You would have your big sis right next to you saying, “Aren’t you excited? Look at that balloon! And the cake!”  She’d be our helper, trying to keep that hat on until you blew out the candles and we’ve captured the moment on camera.  I don’t want to imagine the chocolate all over your mouth, all down your shirt, on your pants and hands right alongside the goofy grin from having your first taste of sugar.  I don’t want to imagine your feeling like mine – mine in the way of a child knowing his mama is a safe base – the feeder.  I want you to feel like I can calm you when others can’t, like when you are startled and you look around for me before I gently remind you that you’re okay in the arms of another.  I want to feel the exhaustion, mainly in my back, from you holding my fingers in your hands while you tootle around.  I want to hear your knees hammer the floor with the splat of your palms hitting the wood floor – crawling.  Maybe we’d go to the park, maybe not.  But I know we wouldn’t be sitting here around this table with only one enthusiastic being – and she’s happy only for the cake – she’s feeling the sadness that rests right below the surface. She’s named it, “I wish Baby Long Beach was here.  I want him to see his cake that I made”.  I know there would be presents.  There would be joy. At least my mind thinks so.  I think there would be something else lurking.  The death of another kind.  The death of a marriage. I believe we would’ve been on the same boat headed down the same ol’ river that carries us and our bad habits along with the current.  I think I would be exhausted.  I think I would be mentally leaving – writing off Dennis again and again.  I don’t think I would be discovering how I can create change, how I can get off the boat and not get swept away.  I’m doing that now.  I’m trying to get off the boat- joining hiking groups, asking Dennis to help with Eden’s care while I finish my post-doctoral hours – all ridding myself of resentment and loneliness.  I wouldn’t be in a pregnant state again as I am now.  Yes!  You have a younger brother.  He’s due late January- the 24th.  I’m committed to this- making your life matter, making your death mean something.  Isn’t that what our children do for us- make us better?  Make us less selfish? Make us realize that life isn’t solely about our needs- but others as well?  I want that.  I want to be better, to have my character shaped by you like I have Eden.  Eden has made my tongue less sharp, more gentle.  I’ve become more nurturing, more attuned to other’s needs.  Son, I’m still in process.  I’m still learning what your death will mean, but I’m getting there.  I’m not afraid to feel.  I’m still allowing your life to mean something. Happy Birthday, Baby Long Beach.  We love you. We remember you.  Please visit when you can.  Eden swears she saw you as a butterfly- the one that landed on her hat and stayed with her as we walked to the park.

Unexpected Gifts

“Habit and self-complacency are almost always a sign of spiritual stagnation.  The complacent no longer feel in themselves any real indigence, any urgent need for God.  Their meditations are comfortable, reassuring and inconclusive.  Their mental prayer quickly degenerates into day dreaming…For this real reason trials and tribulations can prove a real blessing in the life of prayer, simply because they force us to pray.  It is when we begin to find our real need for God that we first learn to make a real meditation.”

— p. 72, Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction

In my mid-thirties, I unknowingly hit a patch of habit and self-complacency.  Married eight years, pregnant with our second child and gaining post-doctoral hours in clinical psychology for licensure, I would’ve said life was good.  I went to church every Sunday.  I believed God existed and knew He cared about me.  I was known by others; friends knew me intimately.  I thought I was living a meaningful life, even one filled with sanctification (God’s characterological growth process to holiness).

Then, June 29, 2006, my son died at 34 weeks in utero.  My world turned upside down and I leaned into God and my community for stability.  I questioned God’s love for me, my family.  I questioned whether I’d done everything I could to keep my baby alive.  I was woken up to my “go with the flow” life and realized my marriage was almost dead, my faith was based in service rather than an active prayer life and I hadn’t experienced joy in a really long time.  I grieved not only my son’s death but also my habit of being distracted by looking ahead, which kept me from thoroughly enjoying the time he lived in my womb.  I hadn’t known that was all the time we had together.

What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that it would take six years before the cloud of grief would lift.  It would take eight years before my marriage would emerge out of being an emotional desert.  The gift of being aware in the present moment has stayed.  It is the surprise that emerged out of this horrific trial.  As well, the habits of my marriage died with my son and from these deaths, a new kind of marriage emerged that required a gestational period much longer than 10 months.

This June we will celebrate 20 years of marriage, the day before my son’s death anniversary of 11 years – only God and His unfathomable ways could create a web of death and life being so closely connected.  I believe if my son wouldn’t have died, my marriage likely would have due to our self-complacency and our lack of awareness of how much we needed one another.

These days, I can’t get around the reality that we all need one another as much as we need God.  I call myself lucky to know what it means to be naked and in need in order that I may be an “other” for those whose life situation stripped them of all their proverbial clothing.

Today, tears can run freely down my cheeks with no need to wipe them off.  Today, I can come to God in protest that a college freshman should be able to break down on the freeway without getting killed by a 24 year old driving too fast as well as a mother of three young children who has lived a life serving Him should be able to find a successful breast cancer treatment without facing the news that the cancer has spread.  I can no longer go back to a life of self-complacency because God showed up in the form of community, both divinely and humanly orchestrated, when I was devastated.  Now, knitted in my bones is the reality that even if I don’t have an urgent need, I’m part of His Kingdom here on Earth, which makes another’s urgent need my own.

So I’d best get praying:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[