faith, love, the friends

Barely Breathing

Be’s ashes arrived about an hour ago.  The young man who delivered them to my front door was very kind. As soon as he left, I hugged the little wooden box to my heart and sobbed. I told Be all the things I’ve said to her many times since her diagnosis but also things I wished I had said yesterday.  I wished I had looked her in her bright little eyes and said that I was so sorry to have to say goodbye, that I didn’t want to say goodbye.

The emergency room ultrasound showed a lung had collapsed on one side and fluid was building in her chest cavity on the other side.  Eight days earlier another emergency doc had tapped 600 ml of fluid from her chest.  For six days we marveled at how well she was doing. But Monday she started showing signs that the fluid was building again.

But she never lost her appetite. Yesterday she jumped and twirled when I set down her breakfast bowl. She enthusiastically gobbled it down and then stood at the kitchen island watching me separate meat from bones to make broth.  She stood there as she did whenever I made her bone broth, confident that I would hand her a morsel or two.

I put the bones back into the crock pot, covered them with water, ground the meat and started to load the dishwasher.

That’s when she started panting. That’s when she came back into the kitchen to get me.  She often lead me into the family room to sit with her.  But this time she lead me to the door that leads to the garage. She just stood there as though she was asking to go to the hospital. I called the hub. I called emergency to let them know we were coming.  They were ready with oxygen when we arrived.

The doc said she could tap the fluid again but that it would probably fill up quicker this time – in 2 days rather than 8.  That’s typically the way it goes.

And before I could say anything, my husband said, “No, it’s time to let her go.”

And that made me cry.  And it made me a little deep down mad.

A tech brought Be into the examining room, catheter already in her arm, laid her gently on the table and plugged an oxygen tube into the wall in front of it. She said she’d give us a few minutes to say goodbye. Be’s breathing was labored, even holding oxygen to her nose, and I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable one second longer than necessary. So we had the doc come in right away.

I wish I had taken just a moment though.

I wish I had turned her gently around or slid her a little back so I was in front of her – so she could see me – instead of being behind her.   I was right there hovering over her, stroking her head. My husband was behind me stroking her back. I wish I had been where she could see me.  I wish I had scooped her up and held her after she was gone. I wish I had driven her to the crematorium myself – one last labor of love.  So many regrets. It all happened so quickly.  I wish I had prayed when she was on the table and not just in the car on the way to emergency. I wish I had blessed her one last time, asked God into the room.  I wish I had asked to hold her on my lap while she was getting the injections…

She laid her head down on the table and was asleep before the doc finished pushing the propofol into the cath. Her breathing stopped midway through the injection of the second drug – the euthanasia drug. No twitching, no nothing, just asleep and then quietly gone in less than a minute.

So I hugged the box containing her ashes and sobbed and told her all those things and it was cathartic.  I’m still sobbing and it still hurts and it is pouring rain again.

It hurts so much I can barely breathe.

The turkey bone broth is still simmering in the crock pot, its heartbreaking aroma permeating the house.

Someday, when I step into heaven, Lucybee, the beloved friend I lost three years ago, will run full speed to greet me.  But the little Be will come quietly: she’ll tiptoe up, peek her head around the gate, look up at me with her sweet little face, cock her head and then wag, wag, wag her happy little tail.

Some glorious day.

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#someday

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faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.

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The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.

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I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

#anewkindoffestive

 

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faith, family, Food

Kneading Prayers

The sweet potato rolls I make every Thanksgiving require 8 minutes of kneading, which works out perfectly. I knead 1 minute of prayers into the dough for the families of each of my six sisters, a minute for my family and a minute for my mom and her husband.

I’ve been kneading prayers into various doughs ever since Sarah gave me the idea two years ago.

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Tomorrow I’ll spend most of the day making the rolls for a support group that meets weekly at my church.

And though they are strangers, I’ll be kneading 8 minutes of prayers into the dough for them, too.

Friday I get to help serve the Thanksgiving feast.

And meet the eaters of my prayers.

If I have time, I’ll make them a pie, too.

Or maybe these apple blossoms.

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Sweet Potato Rolls

Combine 1/4 c. warm water with 1/4 oz. dry yeast. Let it get foamy.

Scald 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, remove from heat.

Stir in the following:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Let cool slightly.

Place 2 cups roasted, peeled sweet potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Combine them with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Then beat in 1 large egg, the milk mixture and the foamed yeast.

Mix in 7 cups of sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.

Switch to your dough hook and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled. (approx. an hour)

Punch dough down and knead again with your hands just until smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 20 equal pieces. I weigh each piece because I’m a spaz and they bake better if they are uniform. Shape each piece into a roll.

Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snip an X in the top of each roll with a pair of kitchen scissors. Brush each one with melted butter.

Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans half way through.

Cool on a rack.

I make two batches: a rounder, smaller dinner roll and a larger, slightly flattened roll like the ones in the front of the picture. I use the larger rolls for turkey sandwiches.

You can make the dough the day before, shape it into rolls and put the sheets in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to bake them, snip, brush, bake and serve fresh from the oven.

It’s the cardamom that makes them so good.

Bon Appetit.

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faith, Jesus

We All Need Jesus.

“Do something uplifting today,” the hub said, as he smooched me and left for work.

“I am.” I pointed to the sweet video I was watching, posted by BJ of The River Walk.

He popped his head back through the door and said, “You don’t deserve this.”

“Aww, thank you honey.”

Those were the exact words my dad said, over the phone from Florida, after my first husband left me. And the hub knew it.

Vegetal words – planted 25 years ago by my beloved dad – blooming afresh this morning thanks to my thoughtful hub.

God took a beating on Facebook yesterday.

The depth of hate revealed – for God and for me – was quite troubling.

Vegetal hate, lying deep and dormant, springing up with a vengeance.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who encountered it.

I took the beagle for an uplifting walk in the sunshine and shook it off.

It’s not like God didn’t give full disclosure when I signed on:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Now I understand why love had to be commanded in the verse just prior:

“This is my command: Love each other.”

It’s not easy to love those who have a deep-seated hate for you. It’s especially hard when they have a deep-seated hate for God.

Last night, while we were feeding the friends, the hub summed up the reason for all the ugliness on display yesterday:

“It’s all they have.”

“Father Ken is a genius!,” I replied, as it dawned on me.

“What do you mean?,” asked the hub.

I meant the genius foresight in the prayers we’ve been praying every Sunday:

“Help us renounce dependence on our culture’s false securities; let us see them as idols in which we place our highest trust when you, Christ, are our only salvation – guns, the dollar, political parties and their leaders, stock markets, human intelligence, insurance policies, the possessions and provisions we hoard, our strong bodies, our touchscreen technologies.”

“Well, yeah,” said the hub.

It just hadn’t occurred to me that a political party is all some people have. I guess because we’ve been praying this in church – where people have God, too.

I was thinking about “us” as in those of us who were praying, not “us” as in society at large.

I can be dense.

After I walked the beagle I came across a few videos of President-elect Trump being prayed over at various churches while still a candidate. Here is one of them:

I didn’t know he had been prayed over, anointed for the task. That is quite heartening.

Excellent, in fact.

I was buoyant as I headed back outside to give the hound dog his turn.

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As we walked through the woods, I looked up and was reminded that Love always breaks through.

Which had me thinking: When no one hates us it’s only because we are not currently shining the Light into any dark places.

You can quote me on that.

Or you can quote Jesus.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

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faith, Light

Human Flourishing

aleppo-syria

– gettyimages.com

“In the faces of the children of Aleppo we see your image, God, and it is bloodied. In our helplessness and anger at this evil, help us to not grow cynical but to trust that this bloodshed broke your heart long before we even started paying attention.

Come and rescue these little ones and all the Syrian people from the futility of war.

May violence no longer be heard in Syrian land, nor devastation within her borders.

In this nation where we were first called Christians, send legions of angels to lend aid and protection; shield those who bring relief amid great danger; bring justice for those who are dead, and heal those traumatized by this horrific conflict.

May those who bring this terror be visited by angels and converted to the cause of human flourishing.

Lord hear our prayer.”

– Prayers of the people at our little church this morning.

#humanflourishing #relishthethought

 

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faith, life

Tithing

This was a day’s worth of raspberries last summer – and every summer, for that matter, since I planted two raspberry bushes ten years ago.

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Every day, for weeks, I would pick a whole bowl of berries, wash them and make them into something delicious.

For three or four weeks in July and then a second yield in the Fall.

This is how many raspberries I picked today:

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And one lone strawberry, not quite ripe, but if I waited ’til then it would be gone.

In July I ate not a single berry from my garden. Not a single one. They grew and ripened, but not for me.

My grandma went to war with some birds over her raspberries one summer. Then she ripped the bushes out.

“If I can’t have them, then neither can they,” she reportedly said.

I’m not like that.

I’ll share.

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I’ve been blessed with an abundance of berries every summer and fall for 10 years.

This year, apparently, was for the birds.

Perhaps God rotates the flocks. Lets them feast in my garden this year, then sends them to your garden next year.

Perhaps that’s what’s meant by tithing our first fruits.

I don’t mind that.

I don’t mind feeding the birds and the squirrels and the chippies once every ten years.

So long as their movable feast moves on…

#fragileharvest

 

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faith

Craving Hell

I happened upon this David Foster Wallace interview today. If you know anything about him, you know that he committed suicide back in 2008.

Toward the end of the interview Charlie Rose asked David about his drug use and about a previous suicide attempt.  David said that instant fame is hard on a twenty-something year old.

He also said that fame is unsatisfying – especially when critics don’t experience your work as you intended.

On the one hand you are a shy library nerd who doesn’t really want fame and on the other hand you voraciously crave it.

It’s a craving that is never satisfied.

I wonder if hell on earth is like that – a craving that is never satisfied.

I wonder if hell in hell is like that, too.

P.S.  After borrowing “The End of the Tour” from Redbox a few months ago, I was curious about David’s wife and found this article.  Just fyi.

Karen Green: ‘David Foster Wallace’s suicide turned him into a “celebrity writer dude”, which would have made him wince’

#craving

 

 

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