Friday, June 25, 2010

"Stick to to the Knitting"

Just received what can best be described as a 'spiritual kick in the pants.' It was needed, of course. I'm not silly enough to deny it. The substance is basically the title of this post, above. "Stick to the knitting" is probably an old aphorism, but I heard it for the first time only a few years ago. Like quite a few other meaty, worthwhile sayings that tend to reveal all too clearly my self-absorption and sense of entitlement, this one is not about feeling good or being convenient.

In fact, I'd say it fits into the category of that other pithy nugget quoted here before: "When you're not sure what to do, do the hard thing." I note that Elisabeth Elliot, from whose lips I heard these words, is no slouch in doing hard things...and she exhibits the character to prove it.

But, back to this morning's Kick.

Here's the context: I too often find myself faint of heart when it comes to persisting and persevering. It's not so much that I'm a child of this immediate-gratification culture; it's more that I'm lazy and too easily discouraged. I have a situation that has lain and is still laying heavily on my heart. I have prayed for literally some years now for this matter. I pray with a dear sister most Sunday mornings about this. I'm humbled to know that many friends and family members have lifted this matter in prayer for us, and even fasted.

I have grown weary and discouraged by the seeming lack of any answers or progress. I'm not expecting an explosive geyser of answers, although I know He sometimes does that. Just a little glimmer.

As has been said about Job's lament to the Lord {and certainly I do not equate myself with him}, the heavens seem to be brass...with nothing getting through.

Of course, I know that's a fallacy. He remembers our frame(s) and knows we are dust. I remind myself that 'while we wait, God works.' "We walk by faith, not by sight." It was true yesterday, and it's true today. But sometimes just knowing these true things doesn't seem enough. What is the deal here?

On Mt. Carmel, Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal that their god must not have been asnwering them because he was, to put it politely, 'indisposed'. But the God of the Bible is never indisposed. Not slow of hearing. His arm is not too short.

And, sometimes, we can figure out what we DO know, by what we DON'T know. For instance, I have absolutely no evidence, documentation, or other reason to think that God has lost interest and switched to another channel. If that were the case, it might be time to pack up the tent and move on. But, to the contrary, He is the same "yesterday, today and forever."

I am certain that what I'm asking for is in His will. So why is this taking so long? I'd be lying and wasting your time and mine if I purported to have any answers to this question of the ages. As another wise woman told me only a few years ago, "Some things God just doesn't give us to know." He's allowed to do that because of Who He is.

But the sharp kick I experienced was the reminder that my part of this communication transaction is not to faint, not to rant, not to allow myself to tumble into a vortex of doubt, and--certainly--NOT to give up. What I'm asked to do, I am made able to do.
As I've heard myself say too often, "if it's important enough, you do it." So is this matter important. Unquestionably. Have I been relieved of my assignment? That would be a 'no.' What am I to do? Keep at it. For the duration. Ask for strength and encouragement when my own supplies run low. But press on.

I think for me, it has been One Thing to hear and give intellectual assent to the myriad places in Scripture when we are exhorted to persevere. Yes! Keep at it! And, unfortunately, a Very Different Thing to connect the dots between that clear call and the virtually unbudgeable situations I often confront. "Open sesame" doesn't apply here.

How do I know I need to keep at it? Because it hasn't been accomplished yet. The answer is still in the offing. I don't even know how close it may be to looming on the near horizon. I don't need to know. I don't even know how it will be answered, or if I will even occupy my 'jar of claly' long enough to witness it here. And, thankfully, I am not responsible for the outcome. But, it's important, so praying for it is important... and when it's important enough, you do it...

Note to self: resolutely refuse to glance down at how tired I am of this, how discouraged I get or how impervious the situation appears. ESPECIALLY, refuse to gauge the attention or concern of the Answerer by focusing on the prayer object. This is an effective stratagem of the enemy.

The treasure has yet to be keep digging. As hard and as well as I can, and no more. But persist.

Stick to the knitting.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Snarky Form Letters v. Real Communication

Heigh-ho, faithful few…

It is probably symptomatic of my somewhat melancholy nature that I am moved to post about some continuing unfortunate correspondence, while still having not yet uploaded photos of Ben’s happy graduation and party…I still intend to do that.

However, since this blog often serves as cheap therapy for me, and an effective means of processing *German accent* schtuff, here I am again.

Likely I am only exercised about this particular matter because it has to do with Ben’s health, for which we have considerable spiritual and emotional concern and investment (as most parents do for their offspring). And we will never be done being thankful, not only for God’s healing of Ben, but for the overwhelming love and support we received from so many.

But, to resume my tale: Here I was, contentedly at home, washing dishes and minding my own business, when the doorbell rang, heralding the arrival of our faithful postman. No mysterious packages this time. Nope; instead a registered letter from Ben’s erstwhile endocrinologist. My heart sank.

Why, you ask? Well, the brief history is thus: some months back, Ben had an afternoon appointment with Dr. C. When I went to pick him up from school, he had forgotten the appointment, which necessitated my going in to the school office and having him paged. He’s an 18-year-old and another medical appointment was not exactly at the top of his list. Needless to say, we arrived 20 minutes late. I will not mention that we have often had to wait to see doctors, including this one. And their time is indisputably valuable. We were curtly informed that we had missed the appointment, the doctor had returned to the hospital, etc. This was clearly our fault. We made a new appointment.

However—and this is my gripe—the mindless, soul-less, automated System In Place kicked out to us an even more curt form letter (I won’t mention the various careless errors therein, including a reference to Ben as “she”) warning us that we were on the precipice of being Discharged, and that a new appointment needed to made post-haste. Hmmmm…

Being communicative by nature, I felt the urge—which I should have resisted—to reply politely that we, in fact, did appear for our appointment, albeit late; I apologized sincerely, and had—in fact—made another appointment, which I assured The System we would keep. Of course, you know what’s coming…

Since I had expended more emotional energy on this incident than was warranted, my trusty mate assured me that he would take Ben to the newly scheduled appointment…and then forgot, as did Ben. Thud. ANYthing would have been better than this. Even worse, for reasons still mysterious to me, the needed phone call to the doctor’s office to acknowledge and apologize for this lapse was not made until AFTER yours truly received a—you guessed it—snarky call from said office. I needed a stiff drink.

But, alas, we do not keep alcohol in the house, and for good reason. But, I digress…during this unpleasant phone call, I expressed our sincere apology and explained that we would happily pay for any missed appointment fees, etc. and understood that we were now discharged from Dr. C’s practice. Case closed…I sincerely hoped.

I also had it in mind to write a personal note to Dr. C., but I questioned whether he would ever actually see it, and my persistent Too-Busy, Approach-Avoidance complex set in; this remained a Good Intention, not acted upon (to end with a preposition).

Still, I was surprised to receive two copies of this letter a few minutes ago, which I had to sign for, etc. Curiously, I received the letter today, June 23, and the letter is dated “May, 13 2010” (sic). The boilerplate body of the letter again explains that “after careful consideration…I have decided to discontinue my relationship as your child endocrinologist” (sic)---funny, he looked old enough to be an adult, to me—“effective thirty-(30) days from receipt of this letter”…no clue as to whether the 30 days was counted from “May, 13” or June 23…that must be the suspense element…

Further, we are exhorted to secure “the services of another provider as soon as possible to assure the continuity of your care.” This is the only positive part of this whole saga…that I am able to write him back and explain that, due to God’s healing, Ben is no longer a diabetic patient, as confirmed by his primary care physician, on the basis of Ben’s most recent lab report.

The reason I even go on about this subject is that the Official (not to mention unprofessional) nature of this correspondence so utterly differs from the actual, face-to-face relationship we had with Dr. C. These two experiences could not be more different.

When first breaking the news to us in the hospital about Ben’s DM1 diagnosis, Dr. C was kind, focused on us as people, and patiently informative. Our subsequent office visits were even more so, as he followed up his thorough examinations with sincere interest about Ben. Were it not for his facsimile signature at the bottom of the letter, I would not believe they involved the same person.

Of course, I understand that this is an automated chain of correspondence, no doubt executed accurately according to the computerized code that issued it. I’m sure Dr. C is somehow aware of our status. And he is in the business of providing expert care to patients, not in cultivating personal relationships. But, this seems not to be a very satisfactory explanation of the jarring discrepancy between personal contact and automated communication. Or, more precisely, such automated communication too often undercuts the real communication that may have been, and should be, established between doctor and patient.

Seriously...if communication is important--and it is--it should be the result of considerably more careful, thoughtful and professional effort than has been exhibited here.

Perhaps I am na├»ve; perhaps I have too much time on my hands—well, really, that’s not the case.

The final irony was too glaring to ignore…part of the letterhead includes this health system’s motto: “Respectful Care.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Percolator Interviews John Daniel, Definitive Walking Example of Savoir Faire

Percolator Editor: Good Evening, Mr. Daniel. And what brings you here?

JD: Well, it’s been a while, and I knew you needed to boost your readership.

PE: Um, well, thanks for that. You’re so thoughtful.

JD: Thank you. I mean, you’re welcome.

PE: Well, the talk of the town has been the Benster’s Graduation Open House, on these very premises, yesterday…do you know anything about it?

JD: Well, yeah.

PE: Were you invited?

JD: Well, the party was at my house, and I kinda live there, so…

PE: Oh, yeah, silly me…well, what was it like?

JD: There was a lot of people, so I couldn’t really move throughout the house…

PE: Oh, dear…I trust no buildng capacity codes were violated...

JD: No, we don’t have a code, whatever that is. But it just seemed kind of cramped. There was a LOT of teenagers. And, I’m gonna become one, so I just have to live with it.

PE: Such a stalwart attitude!!! But, back to the party…

JD: Well, there was a lot of food, but it just rained, so we couldn’t really play outside. And that was not too good. But, on the good side, they did have a pretty tense pool tournament going on in the basement with some of Ben’s wacky friends. Don’t tell him I said they were wacky. Andrew and Shelly kept trying to win over each other, and they kept betting that whoever won, the loser would then have to make them a lot of sandwiches…like a LOT! So, you wouldn't want to be a loser...I mean, the loser.

ED: I think I would have gone for the chocolate trophy myself, but to each his/her own.

JD: Um, that man who is waving at us...and not in a good way...through the French door...he's my dad, and he want's to get on the computer now...


Friday, June 11, 2010

Being There

It's funny what comes to mind at this stage of (my) life. Being There happens to be the name of a book by Jerzy Kosinski that I was supposed to read for a Mass Media class back in college. I have no clear recollection of what it was about,really , but I think a film version--starring Peter Sellers?--was made of it later.

But, as usual, I digress.

Being There-- the concept has all sorts of possible implications.

This afternoon, I spent a bit more than an hour in the head-below-feet position of my friendly, neighborhood periodontist. When the last stitch had been tied off, I'd been fitted with my 'flipper' [middle-aged version of a Retainer], and I had pocketed the all-important prescription for narcotic drugs (!), I noticed that, indeed, over in the waiting room, someone was 'being there.'

"Hmmm, another poor sap!," I nefariously thought, as I glimpsed a figure out of the corner of my eye. Double take.

There, patiently waiting, was my partner and completer.

"Well, that was so sweet of you to come and wait for me like this!!! Thanks!," I blurted with unsuspecting delight. To the receptionist lady, I explained, "this is my husband."

"I know," she twinkled...I guess he had been there a while.

Of course, there's usually a back story, and there is here, as well: Back in the
1980s, when we first met and decided we 'fancied' each other, the unwelcome realities of grad school kept interrupting our idyll.

One particularly low point was the evening I shuffled into an evening class for a midterm exam, opened my bluebook to begin writing, and found my mind completely and utterly blank. As in, how did I spell my name? What WAS my name? Did I really register for Restoration and Jacobean Literature, and if so, WHY?

I remembered that the book had a red cover adorned with illustrations of notable dead-and-dust English authors; I had fallen asleep with this volume many times over the previous week but, alas, osmosis did not occur and the subtleties of The Duchess of Malfi, let alone The Alchemist, had not made a sufficient impression on my little grey cells to allow for any recall, whatsoever. Nada. Zilch.

It was an unhappy, virtually dissociative experience that I could barely believe was happening. As the hands of the clock moved at a glacial pace, and my classmates busily scratched away page after page in their blue books, I sank lower and lower.

When we were finally told to close and turn in our blue books, I slunk out the door in a daze. A few feet away, seated on the floor was someone I had recently met. And begun dating. Just waiting. Being There: at the moment I most needed to be propped up and validated, in spite of my immediate academic disaster.

Just There. That was (dare I count them?) almost 30 years ago now. Obviously, the delight of the discovery is with me still.

Since then, there have been many incidents when one of us has needed to be there for the other; somehow, it seems to me that more often it has been me on the table, in the chair, or in the hospital bed. What a difference it makes to have the Important Someone being there Being There, too.

I need to make it a new aim to be aware of ways I can Be There...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ben's Graduation Moment

Due to copyright restrictions, I am unable to directly post this photo...but, trust me when I say, it is worth the download (IMHO) we always say, Ben brings the party with him...

Thanks to photographer Eddy Montville of The Rockford Register Star