An Old Chair and an Unanswered Prayer

The mental replay of a conversation with a struggling friend pulled me out of my bed tonight and settled me beneath the stars. I found myself with no choice but to count them, along with my greatest blessings.

I shifted my weight awkwardly; a person was only meant to kneel for so long, especially on cheap, rough carpeting. As if to compensate for the rug burn on my knees and legs, I buried my head in the worn velvet of my favorite chair and pictured its elegant curves in my mind as I spit my most precious desires into the accomodating embrace of the aging cushion.

“Father,” I pleaded, “tell me what to do. I feel as though I have tried it all, and everything I do is wrong. He won’t budge. I see the love he once had for me draining from his eyes as he wipes out the sleep before trudging to work. I feel the weight he carries on his shoulders as they cover my own, the desperation of his body pressed against mine. I know that he is trying to feel something, anything, to replace the numbness that has invaded our life together…” 

Here I paused to blow my sorrows into a tissue and wipe the hope draining from my eyes. I had been praying for hours, ever since he left for work, pouring out my angst and wishes, alternately railing and begging. “Please, Father. Soften his heart towards me. Help him to see that I’m trying my very best. I know that it’s not good enough, but it’s all I can do. Please lend me peace and help me to save my marriage.”

I could no longer continue. The sobs stormed my vocal chords: speech wouldn’t come; only keening sounds escaped my beseiged throat. My shoulders heaved under the force of this release, my heart straining to push the heartache through my bloodstream until it engulfed my entire body in anxious heaviness.

I fell asleep that night on my knees, my head buried in the forgiving cushion, my hands embracing the cool wooden curves carved so long ago. When I called my feet to action the next morning, I found them dead. My legs were as weak as my battered soul. I was emotionally and physically drained, but I had faith that my prayers would be answered.

They weren’t.

Instead, years passed and life got worse, and I felt powerless– stuck in my own stubborn web. My parents, you see, had divorced when I was young, and my eight year-old self had firmly promised never to follow that path, come what may. My terrible marriage was nonetheless mine, and I gripped it as fiercely as a football: cradled tight against my ribcage, one arm ready to strike at anyone who tried to force it away.

That someone, it turned out, was my teammate– the very subject of my pleas. To this day, I’m not sure he realizes that he was the answer to what had become my nightly ritual of desperate chair prayers. He left me when I was broken, at the lowest point in my life, and then he filed for divorce… and it was the kindest thing he could have done.

Once we had separated, when I realized that I had indeed done my best and had therefore completed my prerequisites, the peace I’d begged for finally arrived. I saw, for what felt like the first time, a life that was mine to shape. I could go anywhere, do anything, sculpt myself into anyone.

Most importantly, I could breathe by myself again. I’ve lived since that moment, instead of merely existing. I’ve made my own mistakes, instead of paying for his. I’ve fully celebrated my own triumphs, no matter how insignificant, knowing that no one would roll eyes and diminish my worth. I’ve stretched out in bed each night, grateful that I can finally take up as much space as I need: I can finally expand to my potential, even alone.

Tonight, I tried to sleep, but instead, after a trip outside to visit my starry friends, I found myself in an oddly familiar place. My faithful chair and I have trekked wearily across the country, but the aged cushion still cradles my head just right as I spill my soul into its stuffing.

“Thank you, Father, for giving me back my life. Thank you for knowing me and loving me well enough to provide just what I never knew I always needed. Thank you for not answering that prayer. Or maybe, thank you for answering instead the prayer I hadn’t yet thought to pray.”

The One in Which Einstein, Sparrows, and Blood Have Something in Common

lonely sparrow
lonely sparrow (Photo credit: manitoon)

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
–Albert Einstein

A small but amazing miracle happened in my life today: I successfully finished a plasma donation. I have donated once before, and that went off with only a minor hiccough, but today was different.

Everything started out well, and I felt sure I’d be off the bed and on the way home within forty minutes or so. I lay calmly in the bed, reading and squeezing a stress ball, occasionally breaking to check the little green light that indicated my blood was flowing quickly. All was well. After about ten minutes though, the light changed to yellow. I squeezed harder and faster, trying to force my blood quickly through my veins. This worked for awhile, but my hand quickly began to cramp from the effort. I silently said a little prayer for strength to continue rapidly.

Another 15 minutes went by, and the light started vacillating between yellow, where it had hovered, and red– indicating that there was zero blood flow. I tried to wave over a phlebotomist for help, but they all were busy, so I pumped my fist harder and faster yet, squeezing that ball within an inch of its life. Sweat dripped down my forehead, and I could feel my body temperature rising exponentially with each pump. My legs began to cramp, and I realized that I’d been tensing them anxiously… but I couldn’t get them to relax.

I prayed again, more urgently this time, calling on my Creator to strengthen my hand and thin my blood before I passed out. Just as I concluded my prayer, the draw cycle ended and the machine began to return my filtered blood back to me. That meant that I got to stop pumping for a bit, and as I watched the blood flow into my body, it was as though I was watching my strength return, drop by drop. I was renewed, and I sent up a prayer of thanks. After a short reprieve, the next draw cycle began, and I pumped vigorously… and was rewarded with the coveted green light! Huzzah!

Then, the worst happened. My hand, which had been cramping unceasingly, began to tremble and spasm in protest. I was unable to pump my fist at the same rate any longer, and my blood flow slowed and then stopped completely. By this time I had subconsciously equated the firm and rapid squeezing of the stress ball directly with the green light. Blood was rushing from my head and I found it difficult to think, and in my confused state I had to fight the urge to squeeze the ball with the other hand, having irrationally reasoned that I’d be able to squeeze the ball harder and thus regain green light status. I watched donors who had been behind me in line come and go, while still trying to politely ask for help and growing more and more frustrated and resentful as I was ignored.

Eventually, I caught the attention of another donor, who alerted a super-helpful phlebotomist to my plight. She hustled over and informed me that the filter was completely clogged, and that all the pumping I had been doing was not helping, and could have damaged my vein. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at her timely wisdom, and instead, I prayed. I felt prompted to ask for both patience and water, and as I slowly sipped, I felt strength and logic return.

I calmly asked her what could be done, and she decided to massage the filter manually, since I was almost done with my donation at this point. So I gathered my resolve and gave my hand a firm (but silent) talking-to, and off we went. Pump, massage, pump, massage, pump, massage…. it felt interminable, and it hurt like the dickens! It felt like I was trying to push cement through my veins, but eventually the machine let forth a heavenly BEEEEEEEP… and I was done. Almost.

The last phase of plasma donation is a final return of blood diluted with a saline solution to re-hydrate the body. The saline makes you feel cold, and I smiled as I started to shiver, anticipating my approaching freedom. But though I continued to get colder and colder, the blood flowed more and more slowly. This time the needle was clogged. I’d been in the bed for over an hour and a half at this point, and I wanted to cry. I asked them to just let me go without the final return, promising that I’d take things easy — but no dice. So again, I prayed.

Eventually, the three phlebotomists and one nurse who had surrounded me decided to give up on that vein and complete the return in my other arm, which apparently was a breach of protocol and required enough delay for the saline-induced cold to set my teeth chattering and extremities quaking. My toes went numb, but eventually the decision was made and approval had, and the needle went into my other arm. A mere five minutes later, the machine beeped again, and I was done. Finally, my ordeal was over, and I silently thanked my Father as I made my way home.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is infinitesimal. People die and get serious illnesses and face all kinds of challenges that make my measly blood flow problem seem completely ridiculous, and the multitude of times I prayed may seem frivolous. But I very much needed a reminder today that my Father loves me, and that even my insignificant problems matter to Him, and I got it.

A warm feeling filled my chest on the way home, chasing out the saline cold. It felt like an inside-out hug, and tears of joy filled my eyes as I remembered that His eye is on the sparrow, but it is also on me– every part of my existence… even my blood.

Statistics and Depression are Both Liars!

I’ve been gone for awhile, because I’ve been hiding under the sheets of my very uncomfortable bed, trying to forget my own existence. Depression sucks. And it also lies. I’m still working on emerging full-time from my sheet cocoon. I am, like the song, in repair.

While I’m repairing, I want to share some statistics that I find interesting.

First, this: 10 Worst Cities for Singles

Kiplinger listed Yuma, Arizona, as the worst city to be single in the U.S. This is an old article; I read it while I still lived in Ohio. And yet I, fresh from a divorce, still chose to move here. Huh.

Next: Unemployment Rates for Metropolitan Areas Monthly Rankings (Not Seasonally Adjusted) July 2013

With an unemployment rate of 34.5% in July of this year, Yuma is the worst city for job seekers in the U.S. And I chose to stay here even after leaving my job. Double huh.

I should be fleeing for my life, except for one thought: Charming. Had I not moved to the worst city for singles in the entire country, I would never have met him. I came to Yuma prayerfully. I made this journey on purpose. I don’t know if I’ll stay here forever– probably not– but I do know that I came here, to the worst city in the country for both dates and jobs, for a reason, and so far, I’m beating the odds on one side of the battleground, anyway.

Faith

It may not make sense to most people, and I certainly have my fretful moments (the most recent one just happens to have lasted about a month), but having once proved that I can opt out of my proper statistical place, I guess I’ll stay and keep pounding the pavement. Wish me luck!

Numbering the Stars: A Truly Humble Man

Numbering the Stars: A Truly Humble Man

A good friend, who was one of my favorite people in the world, recently died. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately, and the lessons he taught me in the few years we knew each other, the greatest of which was what humility looks like.

I am so thankful for my friend, the best example of true humility I have ever met, and for the irrevocable benefits he brought to my life.

Thank you, Bishop Jones. Rest well.

Numbering the Stars: Freon and Sunsets

Each night, as we walk under the starry sky, my dog Ozzie and I like to count off one blessing for every star we find. Sometimes, I share those newly named stars here.

I had a great day today, world! It started out with a still-asleep conversation with the Smile Maker (too corny?), and just stayed awesome. I finally got the AC fixed in my truck, which was MUCH less expensive than I’d feared, so driving around Yuma was no longer physically painful. Huzzah!

After running a bunch of errands and continuing on my mission to make my poor dog look utterly ridiculous by slowly hacking away at his mounds and mounds of fur, I decided we needed a trip to the lake. I picked up a great friend who I haven’t seen in ages (two first-year teachers does not a fantastically social combo make), and we drove out– in my newly air conditioned truck!!– to Mittry Lake.

We found the best spot ever, and got there just in time to watch a beautiful sunset from start to finish. The water was cool but not cold, the lake belonged to us alone, and the surroundings could probably have been more gorgeous, but they’d have had to try REALLY hard. We were even serenaded by a chorus of bullfrogs. (Or something. Are there bullfrogs in Arizona?) It was one of those evenings that reminds me of this song: 


And what could top off the night to perfection but a walk with my Woz under a sky full (for Yuma,anyway) of stars? Tonight, as I say my prayers and pour my tired body into a cozy, pillow-crowded bed, I’m feeling very loved, by family and friends both Earthside and Heavenside. I can’t think of a better way to fall asleep.

Numbering the Stars: Gaggles of Girls and the Gift of Peace

Each night, as we walk under the starry sky, my dog Ozzie and I like to count off one blessing for every star we find. Sometimes, I share those newly named stars here.

Today was a fantastic day! Church was wonderful, my first attempt at my new favorite hairstyle rocked, it wasn’t too hot, and I made a whole gaggle of friends who are truly awesome. I had a great time at dinner tonight; thanks, ladies!

The best part of today though, was the comfort I received from Father. I’ve been weighed down lately, and have had a lot on my mind. I’ve been praying for peace and comfort non-stop, and today it came over me like a wave. I’m so grateful for this proof that prayers are answered in Father’s time.

I’ll hope you had a fantastic day yourselves, dear readers, and I hope you’ll stay with me, because over the next couple of days I’ll explain the point of yesterday’s story. Stay tuned!