I'm not known as a graceful person. I mean, I hope some people might sometimes say that about my insides, maybe? (OK. Maybe not.) But. My outsides?
No grace there. I fall. I trip. I lose my balance. I break my knee running.
Some of my falls are legendary.
Like the time I was standing in a chair straightening curtains and lost my balance and fell off of the chair. And shattered my left radius at the wrist and broke the right radial head and scaffoid in my right hand. OH, and badly sprained one of my ankles in that fall, I forget which one. Not to mention all the tendon & ligament & nerve damage.
I'm the stuff of legends.
All in one fall.
What was also legendary, was the fact that I had 2 babies at home. 22 month old Jerica and 11 month old Cade. And it took several years and multiple surgeries to completely heal, correct the bones resistant to healing, and eliminate the pain. I have titanium in my left wrist and have had to be fed, bathed, and dressed by someone else, as a 28 year old mother. No dignity there. Not much grace either. An ankle brace, a cast on my right forearm, wrist and thumb, a fixator and pins and screws sticking out of my left arm.
My days as a cyborg.
The stuff of nightmares.
My church took care of me, of us. And my Mom, who spent 3-4 days of every week with us for about 3 months, while still helping at my Dad's office on the other days--are all part of the many reasons we say she is a saint. For several months, our house was cleaned, meals prepared and delivered, groceries bought and put away, babysitting (both me and the babies) and 1st and 2nd birthday parties even carried out. I cried on their shoulders when my physical therapy was trying to pick up a penny from one bowl and move it to another, which brought sweat and frustration, because it was so hard and I was having to retrain tendons and ligaments, beginning with my finger tips. My Mom's prayer group and small group at church helped to take care of her and my Dad the rest of the time when she was in Abilene.
We didn't know that their care of me in this time was just a dress rehearsal for the care and community that became a well-oiled machine taking care of my best friend, Lynn, her husband and 2 small girls.
Lynn was pregnant with her 2nd baby girl when I had my legendary fall. At her baby shower weeks later, she said. "These broken arms, surgeries, and your pain sucks! At least when I finish labor and delivery I will have something wonderful out of it--a beautiful baby girl."
I agreed. At that moment and in many moments, I couldn't see anything good about breaking both of my arms, surgeries, and being unable to care for my babies--my babies I'd waited so long for--my 2 miraculous gifts.
But I thought about it more later on and corrected myself to Lynn, because the truth was I did gain some wonderful things out of this process although it took some space to get there. I learned that my church family at the time was simply amazing, that they would take care of us, and even though I did not understand how I/we would get through it, I knew we were ultimately going to be ok. Our needs were being met--food, transportation, babysitting, house cleaning, party planning, etc.
That knowledge and experience has made it easier along the way because as other challenges have come up in our lives, I've known that somehow our needs would be met--even if I didn't know how! That is a hard-earned, experiential peace.
My friend I mentioned above and the dress rehearsal? Well, when my best friend Lynn was helping to care for me, she was pregnant with her 2nd daughter. She would come with her toddler in tow when my mom needed to go back to Abilene. Lynn would sit with me, play with the kids, make dinner, and give Keith some space after he got home from work before he had to take over for the evening/night. When that baby girl was 8-9 months old, Lynn was diagnosed with cancer. In her tongue. The tongue of a woman with the voice of an angel and a heart after God's.
The dress rehearsal of my broken arms prepared us all for the next year and a half as Lynn battled cancer, enduring chemo, side effects, radical surgery, debilitating pain, radiation, experimental treatments, and lots of time in Houston at MD Anderson. We also managed a girlfriend's trip to NYC with her and our little crew of young mommies 6 weeks before her death, with the help of our community. Unfortunately, my dress rehearsal prepared me to care for Lynn on her very death bed, a truly holy place, and for her her children after her death. Yet, it was an honor at the same time to do so and worth my own previous pain and struggle.
Many lessons I can share, and I may do so at some point, from having these experiences with Lynn--my time with too many broken bones and her time with too many cancer cells. My focus in my thoughts about all of this today are on community, because community is something on my mind continually these days. The community of our church was amazing and we remember these times and these people fondly, even as we think of those hard circumstances. Also, I tend to hold other communities up against this one. These people. They knew how to take care of each other. And they did it well.
Most of them probably don't know this, but Keith and I had planned to leave that church home when our kids were bitty babies--before the broken arms. We wanted a church that was more diverse racially--more like our own family, but also we were seeking a church in which the gifts of the Spirit were more encouraged and all gifts celebrated. We tried to leave, but we couldn't at that time. And it was all in God's provision--both for the Bizzell family and the Furlich family. We did eventually leave later on when we needed our black church family at Cornerstone.
My mom also has amazing testimonies about faith community. If you've read some of my other posts, you may remember my mention of Mom's prayer group. This group of women has been together for nearly 40 years. Their group has changed, too, in recent years as my mom moved away to be with us and for help with my dad. Marinell has gone home to be with the Lord after a cancer recurrence. Becky left us too soon since then in a tragic, apparent suicide.
These women are some serious prayer warriors, they bring meals, clean houses, plan showers, help with weddings, take trips together, sit in hospitals, hold each other up at funerals, and studied scripture together for many years. So many years together, they just automatically jump in to their roles addressing whatever is called for, any time there is a need in their group or around them. They are my role models, always have been, and a desire in my heart has always been to have the same.
It's hard when communities such as these change--even if it is for good reasons, acts of God, or the normal changes in a life, but especially when communities change and shift due to losses, tragedies, and hurts. The grief is real and must be addressed in either case.
While we've tried to find that same sense of community in churches since then, we haven't found it. And we've been motivated newcomers--getting involved, joining ministries and small groups, etc. And it has felt like a job. An exhausting job. A job I don't have the energy to keep up with. A job I am giving up for now.
I have been through a season of grieving this. I recognize that my experiences with community in the past have been amazing, but are not the norm. I've decided recently that I must let go of my expectations for community. And that is ok. While grieving this can be seen as a negative, it is also a positive in that it helps me move forward. Let go. Wait and see. Who knows what's next? No matter what, I remain blessed and changed by the community that loved us all my life in a prayer group and in a church that surrounded us as young couples and young families.
In the past, community was a natural, healthy function of our church family. That was how my mom's prayer group came to be. That type of community carried us through broken arms with 2 babies. Community like this fed, loved, cleaned for, cooked for, and grieved together and supported us all when Lynn was sick and after her death. We didn't use phrases or tag lines about "doing life together", as I've heard in more than one church we've attended in recent years. We didn't have time for talking about doing life. We were all busy doing it.
Now that we do not attend church as a family, not only do we not have a real sense of community, we do not have a shared community either. We all need community. We are wired that way. But who says that community is to look like we've always expected and desired or even experienced in the past. Maybe God has us in a place to begin looking to less conventional avenues of community and to affect and touch those others also standing on the fringes looking in, looking for hope, looking for their place.
I fall a lot these days.
Not so much physically, although that is always a threat with my lack of grace ;-), but I fall emotionally and spiritually.
On a regular basis.
Life has thrown us many curve balls, unforeseen potholes, and dead end trails. We may fall again and feel lost again, but we keep getting up, catching that curve ball, finding a path and using it to heal, change, touch, and grow.
The community that needs us and accepts us all--falls, curve balls, dead ends and scars will be where we hang our hats for a while.
Eyes wide open.
Expectations only for God--He will not disappoint.
So you know, I miss Lynn. Every day. It's been years since I grabbed the phone to call her, just to remember that she was no longer with us in painful realization. After the last few years in our lives and journey, there are some things I sure wish I could talk over with her...some things I need to tell her...