Friday, June 26, 2020

You're Our Favorite

"You're my favorite."  If you were to look up the word family in the dictionary you would find a gathering of words that individually don't mean much of anything. Those words gathered together would basically says a group of people who share the same ancestry.  A collection of mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and perhaps you have a collection of these people you call family yourself.  However, if you were to ask me about a family that I think anyone would want to be a part of, one that I wish I had been lucky enough to grow up in at least their family dynamic, without question or delay I would tell you about my friends in the Hueston, Maynus, and Cruea  family.

From the moment I met them I knew they were different.  They have a bond, a connection of faith, that I could only dream about growing up. Spending any time around them makes you a better person because they set a standard of how to love God and love His people. Any one of them will jump in to help anyone.

They are so ingrained within the community that I was once a part of, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't know them. I am blessed to know them. So when tragedy struck everyone has felt it and will continue to feel it along side them because this family makes everyone feel like part of their family.  They didn't just lose one of their own, we all did. Everyone is heartbroken and wherever you turn in the community or social media sadness is evident.

Katie Jo had just graduated from high school weeks before.  They had just the weekend before her passing celebrated her graduation with family and a few friends after being in quarantine for so long. The next week she was killed in a car accident that could have been prevented by a visible stop sign.  An accident that has rocked everyone to their core.  Even a thousand miles away the shock waves have overwhelmed us.  We weep alongside them from afar.

Let me tell you about Miss Katie Jo, though admittedly I did not know her as well as her younger sister and a couple of her cousins. Here is what I know and what I have gathered.  Katie had a smile that would light up a room.  She loved rainbows because she was so filled with love and light she couldn't pick just one favorite color.  She loved helping others. She served in her church.  She worked at a sweet shop called the Hydration Station where she was well loved and served her customers with a smile. She knew and loved Jesus which I think is the most important part.

I don't know what her plans were after high school.  But I know she was and still is so very loved by everyone she crossed paths with. She is the favorite. All of her family is.  I think that is one thing I love most about them.  They tell each other that each of them are their favorites.  They love like that as though each of them is the favorite.  How can anyone question if they are loved in a family like that?  The strength, the faith, the perseverance they have shown is nothing short of miraculous and can only be explained as their unwavering trust and faith in God.

Even in their loss they continue to give.  Katie's heart beats in another chest.  Her lungs, her kidneys, her liver, her pancreas all giving new life to others whose families would likely still be praying for a miracle or going home to mourn their loss.  Katie Jo is as much of a miracle in death as she was in life.

I was thinking about how God mends our broken hearts and puts our pieces back together.  Over and over again He is faithful.  Psalm 147:3 says, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. We are all praying for that, trusting for that, because they need this and yet they are showing everyone how big our God is as he is holding them up.  Oh God how we love how you love us when we need you most. Holding us even when we can't hold ourselves upright or conceive of it.  Sending rainbows of your promises after the most horrific of storms.  Rainbows...her favorite.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Wear a Mask and Come Alone

The text read "Upon entrance a representative will ask questions & take temperature w/ a non-contact thermometer.  Please wear a mask  or one will be provided to you.  Please ask companions to remain in the vehicle or outdoors.  Thank you."  Don't get me wrong I get it.  I do, but...when I read it I read it as basically cover up your ugly face and come alone.  Come alone? Are we doing a heist?  What is happening here?  I'm going to the eye doctor not doing deals in a back alley.  I need glasses to see, I have to pick out new glasses clearly I'm going to need assistance with that process. But it's fine, I'm fine, everything is fine.  I'm going it alone.

Two days later, the day of my appointment, I made the fantastic decision that we should go stand in line in the rain under an umbrella at a food truck for hot fresh donuts before my appointment. My husband thought this was a crazy idea but because he is use to my antics, he drove us to get donuts and dutifully stood with me under an umbrella while I ordered us donuts to eat on the way to the appointment. There was a line, two actually, one for ordering and one for picking up.  For me, I loved the donuts.  My husband didn't necessarily think they were worth standing in the rain for.  He is far more practical and not necessarily at the level of foodie that I am. But I digress....

I arrive for my appointment and am met with a sign saying that I should text a number when I arrive and wait in my car until they let me know that I can come in.  Seriously?  Does no one else understand how strange this is?  Just me?  OK I'll be the weirdo, it is fine.  I dressed up in donut clothing one day and stood in the rain for a donut the next.  Clearly I'm the weirdo here and having an eye doctor appointment that seems like something that should take place in the back of a restaurant with a mob boss is perfectly normal. Any how I text the number "Heather Nestleroad has arrived" and started to walk to my car even though the entire thing seemed ridiculous when a girl opens the door and asks me if I had an appointment.  I said that I did and she let me in because the texting thing they had going on wasn't really working out that day what with the rain and all.  I go in and almost fall from my shoes being wet and having to stand on a circle to keep with social distancing.  Because clearly I'm the threat here having not had my temperature taken and I'm standing in a mask (pink no less) squeaking my shoes waiting for this adventure to turn around the next bend.  

Finally it is my turn at the desk.  I give them all the necessary things, answer questions, and get my temperature checked.  I was a cool 97.7 and because the only place I mostly go to is work they let me stay.  BUT...I had to go sit and wasn't allowed to look around at the glasses while I waited. When I was taken back it wasn't long before I realized how insane this all was. When you wear a mask it can make your glasses fog up making it hard to see.  When you get drops in your eyes and you wear a mask and have to look through their instruments they tend to fog up too.  Add fogged up instruments to dilated eyes and well.... When the gal leaves me to dilate in a dark room to wait for the doctor I started getting really sleepy.  The doctor comes in before I drift off and asks me how I'm doing.  I said, getting pretty sleepy actually.  He says the drops will do that and goes over everything, does his exam prints my prescription and sends  me on my way to pick out my new glasses.  At this point I knew that one of the two people I like and trust to help me pick my glasses was working.  What I didn't realize was that I was unrecognizable. Apparently having not been there in a couple of years as I was not able to go last year and having longer hair and a mask covering my face made me unrecognizable. It was only when he said I had to take my mask off so he could see how the glasses looked that he realized who I was.  

Listen...I do not hang out with people (I work a full time job and a part time job. I don't hang out with anyone besides my family in general) and I get that I don't have a face that is memorable or really any redeaming qualities aside from one thing.  I somehow turn into a comedian when I go to doctor's offices.  I don't know why this is. Nerves maybe?  I don't know.  But when I go to my family practitioner and when I go to the eye doctor or chiropractor they remember me as the funny one. A psychologist would probably tell you that I hide behind humor and sarcasm as a way of dealing with my undeniable lack of confidence and a feeling of unworthiness that stems back to my childhood.  All true I'm sure, but nevertheless I make an impression as a jokester and a complete dork.  These two people that I consider my friends even though we have spent zero time together outside of the eye doctor's office know who I am. We'd be the kind of pals that all hung out together with our loved ones for game night and pizza if everyone didn't have to work ALL. THE. TIME. and we knew each other maybe a bit better.  They wanted me to apply for a job there so we could work together. was hilarious when he got all embarrassed when I took off my mask. Amy will have a good time with that, I'm sure.  

In the end I did choose some spectacular new glasses that I'm so excited about.  They are movie star level glasses.  Actually they were brought out of a cabinet and not even on display yet they were so glorious. I love glasses.  I do wish sometimes I could work there.  I could use the employee discount.  I get as excited about new glasses as other women get about designer clothes. I'd rather wear my t-shirt collection and denim capris and have spectacular glasses. One of the reasons I really don't fit in here I'm sure. Who needs to fit in anyway?  Someone has to be the oddball and shake things up in this land of manufactured perfection.  May as well be me and in a couple of weeks I'll have just the glasses for the job.  

Monday, April 13, 2020

God IS

I am on a roller coaster.  The peaks are as high as the sky will permit and the lows go to the depths of the center of the earth.  I've never been one for roller coasters.  I'm scared of heights and I much prefer simulated rides because I can always look to see where I am and that I am safe.  My emotions have run the gamut that a human can endure.  It is a mind game really.  The inner ninja warrior I want to be fights with the scared shell of a human that I really might be.  

The thing is that my husband and I both work in a pharmacy.  Both.  In the middle of a pandemic where we are considered essential employees and yet we are not listed on the prayer lists because people forget that the sick people no matter what is wrong with them, if they aren't hospitalized, end up in the pharmacy. In all actuality sometimes people go to the pharmacist first to avoid going to the doctor.  All our children are home, all of their jobs closed, and sometimes I feel like I'm under water and I can't find the surface because of the fear I might catch a virus and bring it home to my family.

The mind can go off in many different directions in a time like this.  If you think about it hard enough you can almost will something to be wrong with you.  You can think that anything is a symptom of the worst possible illness.  The internet is no help.  If you work at it hard enough you can get WebMD to convince you that you are dying and all you have is a cramp from working muscles that you don't normally work.  

I take my temperature every day.  That's new. When we arrive home after working, we come in through the garage.  We wipe down/spray down everything we have with us. We strip down and put our clothes in the washer, shut the lid then wrap in a towel and scurry off to shower and put on fresh clothes before we can sit or even talk to our family.  That's new.  I analyze every emotion.  That's not new.  I feel guilty for emotions that I do have.  I am disappointed because my plans were cancelled for my 25th wedding anniversary and I feel guilty for being disappointed.  Who am I to feel such disappointment when others are going through far worse?  I talked to my friend about this and she said it is ok to be disappointed.  It is not ok to live there.

Here is the is ok to run the gamut of emotions.  It is ok to be depressed because you can't go visit friends and family.  It is ok to be missing going to work.  I miss going to my main job of working at preschool.  It is ok to miss taco Tuesday at your favorite Mexican restaurant.  It is all ok.  It is not ok to live there.  When I can think logically, which admittedly comes and goes, I know this. All of these things are inconvenient.  Imagine what this would have been like in the 90's before we could use modern technology like Zoom, or Facetime, or Skype.  Imagine schools closing for the rest of the school year without anything but dial up internet. Imagine going through this having to wait until after 9 p.m. when talking on the cell phone was free.  

It is easy to get caught up in all that is wrong.  It is easy to sit in quarantine watching the news and criticize who is doing what right and who is doing what wrong.  I can't do it.  I am aware of what is happening, but I cannot, nor will I sit and focus on these things 24 hours a day because I will lose my mind.  I tend to think there is a better lesson here.  

My husband was talking to his dad and trying to reassure him, he told him that he thought we would all be back to normal by November or December.  I thought about this and honestly, I hope not.  I don't think our normal was really working for us.  If you take a minute and look around for the good you will see families spending more time together.  You will see neighbor helping neighbor.  You will see entire communities rallying around people who are in need.  You will see that people are waking up to the fact that we are far too "self" focused in our culture. I get it.  I fall into the trap of busy and disappointment in my own things as well.  Clearly.  

But God.  If I take what I know about God and who He is and apply it to what is happening in the world instead of listening to the noise of other people's opinions, I can focus.  I can get centered on what I know instead of what I feel.  The world is in utter chaos, but God has gone before us and already knows the outcome. Someone I know is fighting COVID19, but God has heard the prayers of many, and he is making strides toward recovery.  The He IS part of God must take over in my mind.  Maybe you don't struggle like I do. I have seen so many things saying that we are all in this together, but we are not all having the same experiences or reactions to it.  I must remember God is.  Whether I take every precaution and my husband takes every precaution and something still happens to one or both of us whether it be an illness or accident or anything the enemy can put in our minds to worry about, God is.  Not God was.  Not God will be.  God is good on his promises.  God is still in the miracle business.  God is.  

Please stay home and let all of the people who are considered essential do their jobs.  Be thankful that there are people who are willing to fight on the front lines for you.  People willing to drive trucks and deliver supplies, people working in grocery stores, restaurants, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy staff, the list could go on and on, anyone you can possibly think of. Pray for them.  Do what you can do to support them. Stay home, stay healthy, pray.  There isn't much else you can do.  Take a break from the news and play a game with your kids.  Read a book for fun. Take your mind off things you have no control over, take a deep breath and remember that God is.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Mom, Do you trust me?

It is late summer of 2003  The sun is out and our pool is at just the right temperature.  My mother has her diagnosis and she is living with me mostly full time.  She hasn't felt well but she is having a good day so I suggest she get in the pool with me.  My mother doesn't like the water.  She has a fear of water that I believe may stem from the fact that she had a brother who drown in a boating accident when I was a small child. I didn't grow up going to a pool to swim because of her fear.  She likes the beach but not the ocean.  She prefers showers over baths. I share these things with her. Shortly after my marriage my husband put me in swimming lessons.  My intent is not to scare her but to help her face her fear.  I too, am afraid of this uphill battle that we are facing.  Our Goliath is daunting in the face of the unknown.

She agrees to get in the shallow end with me and I convince her to relax and lay on her back and try floating.  I assure her that I will not let her sink.  I tell her that I have her but even if I didn't she could stand at any point and be fine as the water doesn't even come to her waist in this part of our pool. "Mom, do you trust me?"  She lays back and I hold her and watch to see if she will relax.  She can feel my hands under her, supporting her, assuring her that I am there and I won't let her sink.  Eventually she floats on her own for a couple of seconds before I replace my hands and then she is done.

"Mom, do you trust me?"  It occurs to me now how symbolic that moment was for the journey we were embarking on. Essentially she was entrusting her decision making to me when it would come to the point she was unable. How well did I do?  The evaluation of this still haunts me over fifteen years later.  She should be turning sixty eight this month.  I shared with my father once how I struggle with this and he told me that "we all have our struggles." This brings me no comfort in light of the fact that I question every decision I made.  When I lie awake at night wondering if there were something I could have done to keep her here.

She should be driving around in a yellow convertible in the sunshine state taking her granddaughters shopping and warning them about boys.  She knows all about boys.  I'm fairly certain the only boys she liked are my husband and my son.  How different my children would be if she were here.  How different I would be...if only... "Mom, do you trust me?" I believe she did.  Perhaps she shouldn't have, after all, I am but a mere human who makes human mistakes. I am not a doctor.  I am not God.  What qualifications did I have other than the fact that I love her more?  I need her more. I want her to survive more.  But alas, I'm also a realist. I understood enough about medicine that I know we would not win this fight. We could only prolong the inevitable. When the doctors gave her 6-8 months we determined to defy the odds.

My mom was a dreamer.  I'm not sure I believed any dreams would come true before this journey.  I think maybe I am a dreamer too.  She was also a fighter.  She was all of maybe 110 pounds soaking wet but she was scrappy and she was preparing for a fight. When taking care of her I ballooned up to possibly my highest weight ever eating her food and my own when she couldn't or wouldn't. I was preparing to fight as well but I wouldn't know until later what battle I was really fighting.  Sometimes our battles are not external but internal.  Months of chemo and radiation, months of watching her fight a seemingly losing battle, months of seeing her already small frame diminish, months of dying inside of hopelessness, months of begging God to show his miracles.

Miracles...are miracles and dreams similar? My mother had a brief pause in her fight where she was "cancer free" for her birthday.  Her friends had a party for her.  Perhaps they had more faith, perhaps they didn't hear the doctors or see the scans. Perhaps I didn't think we should tempt fate but I thought it was a mistake.  In her brief period of relief she also went to visit her brother in another state.  It was when she returned that the decline progressed at a rapid speed.  "Mom, do you trust me?" Mom couldn't speak.  She was lost in her own mind. Mom didn't know me.  Mom couldn't walk or stand or roll over or sit up.  "Mom, do you trust me?" and yet....hospice came anyway.  There was nothing they could do and I was defeated.  At her funeral her brother would tell me I should have done more.  I should have taken her to another state to specialists.  I should have... I could have...I would have.... He wasn't there.

The battle continues and I learned too late the lesson of surrender.  Mom learned it.  She faced the giant and she, a woman afraid of the water, was baptized in Christ and when Jesus came for her and stood at the foot of her bed during a lightening storm in July she stepped into eternity.  On a July evening on the floor in her room surrounded by funeral flowers I fell into the abyss of despair and ran from God and into the pit where I deserved to be. Funny really when I think of it. She had only put her faith in Jesus a very short time ago and I had believed since I was eight years old. She hadn't even went to church with me until she got sick. She knew surrender and I knew running.

As we approach her birthday I do believe in miracles, I do believe in dreams, and I do believe she got her miracle just not how I wanted it. I can't picture her at 68. To me she is always and forever 52.  I have friends that age and it seems odd to me that we age and she doesn't.  I wonder if there is cake in heaven, I wonder if my battle will ever end.  I wonder if she sees us and laughs at us.  I wonder if she misses us too and I continue with my thoughts of what could have been and should she have trusted me?

Then this morning I realized that it wasn't me she needed to trust but God.  God had her, supported her, walked with her, supported her, and saw things that I couldn't.  Something I need to remember for myself as well.  I think maybe her hair is long and her smile is vibrant and grandma will bake her cake.  I can't see her but I think maybe she's just as beautiful as ever and I don't think she looks tired.  I think that is reserved for here.  Happy birthday mom I hope your day is as beautiful as you.  I miss you like the flowers miss the rain in a drought.