Friday, March 25, 2016

More Lenten Lessons as Easter Draws Near

My last Lenten tribulation, machine quilting top and batting, a job now done!
Lenten lessons keep coming! I am now learning how annoying people can be when they wish to be kind and helpful! It is true! My husband has recently been temporarily retired and I find he is often "too kind", which can be very dear but sometimes annoying!? Now God seems to have flipped the mirror to its magnified side and, once again, there I am, larger than life! Could it be that my Lenten promise to do an act of kindness each day is really an act of annoyance instead? Are my little self-sacrifices of kindnesses more about making me feel good, without considering what another person really needs? Am I sometimes feeding my own ego and perhaps getting in another's way, or giving them something that they don't want or aren't ready for?
Boiling too few eggs seems to have caused them to crack more?

I add cold water after boiling them to make them peel more easily.

Adding ice, I have heard assures that they will peel more easily!  It is true!

Batch #1 cooked & labeled. It is NOT good to mix raw eggs with cooked ones!
Sometimes kindnesses serves the doer more than the person being helped. Likely a person, in order to be really kind, needs to question "good for who and in what way"? When I took care of my mother, I learned that her increased dependency on me was not good for her self-respect and dignity.  What is most helpful isn't always doing for another but supporting them to do for themselves. This often doesn't mean "taking over", but, rather taking time to share in their journey and allowing them to share in your's.

I never will forget when I had my stroke November 2011. Being on the special protocol I was on, I was warned that permanent damage is most often done to patients by well-meaning medical staff that don't know or understand about the limits of this weird and different protocol.  With this in mind, I checked myself out of intensive care, and pushed to go directly home as soon as my vital signs were stable and my tests completed.

A good night's rest was in order, especially after being uncomfortable trying to sleep on a bed that was intentionally too hard, in case an emergency resuscitation should be necessary! It was "safer" to be at home, I figured, where no one would accidentally give me what might well be harmless for another patient and unintentionally kill me, as I had a long list of commonly used medications that would likely cause a violent and potentially deadly reaction. I went directly home though I couldn't ambulate safely as my entire left side was still mostly paralyzed, my core strength zapped and my balance almost non-existent.

Still it was good to be at home and as I went to sit on my computer desk chair to peck out a one-handed note to my friends about what had happened to me, my chair moved, and losing my balance, I missed my chair and fell to the floor. My husband soon discovered me lying on the floor. Not fully appreciating how dysfunctional I was, he inquired what I was doing there and I started laughing at the thought that he might be thinking I was purposely stretched out on the floor by choice!

I informed him that I missed my chair and fallen.  He of course was all too willing to try to pick me up but I refused his help. It wasn't that I wanted to continue to lay on the floor, but I didn't want him to injure himself with half of my body being dead weight.

I explained my dilemma, and told him that I was trying to figure out how to get up using a sturdy chair  nearby and with the use of only half of my body. With that, he did the kindest thing ever. He laid  down on the floor just on the other side of the doorway facing me and tried to figure out how to get himself up using only one side of his body.

We laughed as we tried to think of what to do. In fact I laughed so hard that I soon had another problem; I had wet my pants on top of it all, and this made us both laugh even harder!  Still my dearly beloved husband was there with me, and our laughing eroded all fear. I would get up when we both figured how I could do so without injuring him or myself. Sharing my limits was the kindest thing he could do and having him join my plight as to how I could help myself was as good as it got!

Dignity?...OK, there was none, but none was needed for I was with someone who understood and loved me enough to share my problem. I did manage to get up, though I don't remember now exactly how, but I do remember that it was enough that I had him there with me for encouragement.  I got better each day, and took my physical challenges one by one, until in time and with the help of out-patient rehab, I grew independent again. Fortunately everyday brought more and more progress and my recovery was nothing short of miraculous!  I have never forgotten that intimate moment when we were both laying on the floor laughing over my helplessness. I don't think that this is how rehab is usually done, but losing my fear was key! I felt that my recovery was then only a matter of time.

As I write this, I am reminded of reading Karen by Maria Killilea.  This is a true story of raising a child born with Cerebral Palsy in the days when such children were typically institutionalized. Written by her mother, Maria freely wrote of all the issues that she and her family faced in keeping Karen at home and raising her in the midst of their family. It is a story of great courage and ingenuity as there were no experts at that time to teach them how to do what their child needed. Supporting Karen to become as independent as possible took creativity, determination, perseverance and love. At one point Karen is so afraid of falling that her fears actually caused her muscles to become so tight, causing them to spasm.  Her mom decided that the only way forward was to help Karen get over the fear of falling by making "falling" a game. She put a mattress on the floor and had everyone fall on it, including Karen. By losing her fear of falling, Karen was then able to progress.

Once again, I see myself mirrored in my husband, who is so kind and supportive to me that he sometimes limits my ability to do for myself. I am learning that another's kindness, however well meaning, may not always consider what is best for another. Kindness of any sort does build a bridge to another's hear and along with honest and tactful communication  helps, though can initially offend someone who has gone out of their way to help. It is needed for the growth for all concerned. I see now that my acts of kindness aren't always what another needs or wants. It is my own lesson to be sure.

I have learned that doing simple acts of kindness isn't always so "simple".  They require consideration and communication as to whether or not such an act is helpful or not and I must admit, I often don't think as much as I should. Acts of kindness should be acts of love. Again lst Corinthians 13:4 on love teaches that love involves patience, mercy, forgiveness and must not be self-serving, arrogant or proud. Offense should not be taken, and often when that happens pride is perhaps the cause. Real acts of love are more difficult than meet the eye. A person must be ready to look at their self as well. "Sweetness" isn't always "sweet", just as apparent "kindness" may not be so "kind".

Lenten lessons and personal growth don't begin and end with Lent, but are year round and always humbling. "Simple, arbitrary and contrite" doesn't cut it!! Jesus's love for us as demonstrated by his passion, death and resurrection was anything but shallow. It was and remains commitment in the extreme, and so our commitments to being loving and kind with each other should reflect the same. Where there is real love there most often real sacrifice.

Clearly Lent is too short a season to properly prepare for the enormity of the messages of Good Friday and Easter. I am realizing again that God's love is unfathomable, and He has set an example for us all. Lent, I think is to remind us how human we are and how big indeed are the lessons that we need to learn to be better people. Even a lifetime is too brief to learn all that God's love teaches us. Lenten lessons are often humble reminders of how human and ungodly we are and that conversion of heart takes a lifetime! Being humbled isn't about making us feel bad, but rather, our humility fills us with the awe of God's love.  He loves us so much that He stretched out his arms as far as they would stretch and submitted to his crucifixion and death.  It is very hard for us to even imagine such a love!

A few different sorts of egg dyes to entertain the many artists dying our eggs!

A few little silly treats and a party is created!
New appreciation of His sacrifice makes me ready to celebrate my life with a renewed freshness. The celebration of Easter is coming and I prepare for our annual egg dying party and gathering of loved ones to celebrate Easter and spring. It takes only a little love, some hard-boiled eggs, some Easter egg dying kits, a few party favors (strictly optional), a pizza and a gathering of loved ones to make the season more special! I embrace various religious celebrations of this season as well.

While I write of  our Easter celebration, others celebrate Passover, and still others simply the coming of Spring. Gathering loved ones to share in your festivities, whatever they may be, adds to the joy of the seasons and it seems that these sorts of simple celebrations have become the very traditions that continue to unite our family. I wish you all a Happy Easter, Passover and Spring!!