There is something about the ending of the old and the beginning of the new year that causes us to pause for a moment and reflect upon our lives and to ask ourselves the all important question, is my life a success? Have I made the right choices and earned the right to call my life a success?
With great in trepidation we pull out the familiar yard stick and measure our lives with those of our friends and neighbors. Fully believing that if we can check all of the right boxes, we can stand among the proud, the few, and declare that we have earned the coveted award of success.
The problem is, that no matter how many boxes we check off, the badge of success seems to elude us. We might have a beautiful home and family, have earned the love and devotion of our dearest loved ones, and for a moment we bubble over with pride, confident that we have reached the coveted mark. But then we turn and look at those around us and realize that while our house is lovely, it is not nearly as nice as so and so, that our furniture is plain and drab when compared to our neighbor, and that our income is a mere pittance when compared with that of our sister or brother.
Suddenly, as we compare ourselves with those around us, the warm glow of delight fades and a cold chill of hopelessness takes hold. As we realize that no matter how hard we strive, no matter how hard we try, we cannot grasp that elusive star called success.
Sadly, as long as our measuring tape is viewing our accomplishments against that of others, as long as we make the keeping up with the Jones our mark of success, we will never be able to look with satisfaction upon our lives. Because no matter how hard we strive, no matter how far we climb, there will always be some corner of our life where we will find that someone is standing taller and walking a few steps ahead.
Unfortunately we have come to believe that success is being the richest, the brightest, the fastest rising member of our circle. But this view is like a pile of fools gold glimmering in the noonday sun. It is full of glamour and glitz, but the pursuit of it will leave you feeling hollow, stressed, empty, and burdened down with disappointment.
Instead of taking out the chart and comparing every corner of our lives with those around us, it would be far more valuable to take out the measuring stick and take a good hard look at ourselves. To study where we have grown, and where we have come up short. To look and see how many times we have fallen hard and gotten up. How many times we have made an embarrassing mistake, and even though we wanted to run away from the discomforting glare of the crowd, stuck it out and determinedly got the job done.
Because as wonderful as it would be to taste the success of landing the dream job that will allow us to buy the life that we desire, it is far more valuable to become a success at knowing when to stand our grown, of gaining the muscles of endurance that will allow us to build a relationship with those we love that can stand the bitterest trials of life, and to fall flat on our face, and pick ourselves up and stand firm and tall.
Summer, that great time of year when warm breezes blow and sunny days beckon one and all to roam a vibrant green world as busy birds flutter through the trees singing their merry song of life. Where visions of melodic waves crashing against the shore and refreshing dips in cool ocean waters fill the imagination.
But for me summer is a time of frustration. As the thermostat rises and the humidity climbs so does the deep ache in my bones. Instead of lounging in a chair by the refreshing waters of a crystal clear pool, summer finds me curled up in a tight ball with a steam of tears threatening to run down my pain contorted cheeks. And in sorrow I watch from the sidelines as the days of summer slip away, never to return.
Frustrated I dream of long walks by the ocean, and of typing by the pool as I sip a refreshing glass of ice cold pineapple fruit shake. My hot brow desperate wishing for the chance to cool off in a shady corner of the pool, even though I know that my achy bones would never allow it.
Haunted by images of the life I long for and worn out by the increasingly debilitating ache that sores with the thermometer, disappointment threatens to engulf me. Oh how I long for a normal life, to know the joy of living with strength and purpose instead of tip toeing around my endless discomfort. As I look at my empty platter and think about how empty my life is of the active joy that I long for, a deep depression threatens to take hold.
But it is at this moment that God in His mercy steps in. With tender love He points my throbbing head upward and reminds me that trying as these days of frustration are, this need not be my unhappy end.With love he reminds me of the promise that one day soon I may rise like a mighty eagle unhampered by the chains of pain that currently hold me back.
Slowly, as I take my eyes off my current suffering and by faith behold the glorious days of promise, my frustration gives way to joy. And although pain still racks my body, my heart begins to sing songs of praise. As my imagination is carried past the fleeting dreams of an earthly summer and carried to that which shall stand the test of time. No longer concentrating upon the sorrow of having been born into a world of pain, I look ahead to that precious day when the clouds do part to reveal a vast host of angels whose song makes the world to tremble. And at last my weary burdens I shall be able to put down, as with the freedom of endless youth I bounce, and a heart filled with joy I fall before my Redeemer and pour out my soul in gratitude that my days of pain and heartache He melted away and transformed into the wonder of the dawn of endless, pain free youth!
Only three months into the new year and 2019 has proved to be a hard year of trial and change.2018 had ended with an ominous tone as the last few weeks of the year saw me lose SSI as well as Medicaid, just as an injury put me in a wheel chair and I was hit by two infections in one month. The stress and fear was intense for me and my family as for the first time in years, we started the new year with the intense worry about how we would pay our bills and the fear of my living life as a chronic invalid with no medical care.
But those fears were quickly put on the back burner as one family member after another was hit by health issues. With one member being transferred from an assisted living facility to a nursing home due to a fall only weeks after moving in, meanwhile another was going blind. Before we could even process that news we learned that another relative was in need of surgery and had been unable to work for weeks due to a major infection that had required a pick line to be inserted so he could give himself antibiotics 3 times a day. At the same time we learned that one of my young cousins, barely in her twenties, was at times having to use a wheelchair due thanks to several health issues including Lyme disease. But worse of all, even though none of us wanted to say it, it was becoming clear that my Grandmother’s health was slipping and that her days are in the process of drawing to a close.
Everywhere I turned it seemed like the health and independence of those I love was under attack. And my heart ached as I thought of how quickly life could change. And what a season of change it was as on top of everyone being hit by a sever case of bronchitis that put my Mother in the hospital for a week, we received the news that my sister was now a diabetic. Having lost both of my Grandfather’s and several relatives to that fearful disease, it was very disheartening news to know that I know must worry that my sister had been hit by this cruel ailment so young.
My one hope was that after being hit with so many trials in such a short time, the worst of the year must at last be behind us. And I was hopeful that the rest of the year would now prove a time of joy. On this note I turned my attention to my nearing birthday. While the thrill of getting a year old is not what it used to be when I was 9 or 10, I was looking forward to spending a relaxing day with my family playing games and enjoying a day of planned meals that would give me one day off from the seemingly endless misery of combing through my long allergy list to determine what I would eat.
My birthday started on a good note, as for the first time in years at least one meal had successfully been prepared in advance and I was strangely feeling good. While my Mother made my birthday cake, I dreamed of a lazy afternoon playing board games and watching some of our favorite You Tube programs. Lunch was delicious. The homemade collard green lasagna was the perfect treat. But a few bites in a strange feeling began to take hold and by the time I took my first bite of birthday cake an all to familiar feeling of nausea was taking hold. I had not even finished my cake when the feeling became so strong that my shivering form had to pace the floor.
In sorrow my family turned to me, knowing that my day was ruined. Their hearts went out to me as I paced the floor as calmly as I could manage, hoping the increasingly intense misery would soon fade. Unfortunately matters quickly became worse as a strange flushed feeling rose from my chest and the room disappeared. Suspicious of the cause I pulled out my blood pressure cuff to reveal that my pulse was racing at 159 beats per minute.
I quickly took a pill for my heart, and hoped that relief would soon come. Minutes passed and the misery continued to increase. Fearful of where the misery was heading I quietly grabbed my pocket book intending to place it on the table on the rare chance I would have to go to ER. But the moment I walked into the room with my pocket book my Mother and sister immediately reacted with concern asking me if I was going to ER. To my surprise I heard myself answering in the affirmative. Wondering at my odd response, I prepared to head to ER. Worrying all the time my foolishness in declaring that I needed to go even though I had no job or insurance to pay the bill.
The ride to ER quickly allayed my fears as I found myself desperately wishing to be at the destination. My sister from her position behind me, seemed to sense that something was fearfully wrong, as she worriedly asked me if I was still here. I did my best to downplay her fears by reassuring her that I was indeed alive, but her anxiety was still heightened and she urged that I should be taken to the nearest ER instead of the one we were heading to which was 10 miles away. I remained quiet, not wanting to increase the stress, but after another wave of that odd feeling washed over my chest I decided that she was probably right.
Arriving at the ER, it was a struggle to get my shaky legs to make their way inside. When the ER nurse finally called me, I struggled to explain my reason for coming, when I still could not explain why I had said that I wanted to come, instead of waiting to see what would happen as I originally planned. The reason was instantly clear to the triage nurse with one look at my pulse which rose and fell like an unhinged roller coaster. Immediately she called back for an EKG and was surprised when I was sent back to the waiting room a few minutes latter.
At last I was sent to a room where two nurses prepared to give me a medicine to help with my pulse. Still feeling rather ill, I would have looked forward to the relief it would provide, except I could not help why they had to send my family out of the room and loosen then unsnap my gown. My heart had raced before, and my family never had to be sent out of the room and the top of my gown prepped for a shot in my IV.
Instead of calming my fears, this move only heightened them. And instinctively I asked if something else could be done tried first. Fortunately I never had to find out why this unusually precautions were required as a recheck of my pulse revealed that it was down in the low 100’s. An hour of laying in the ER bed with an IV dripping liquids into my arm my pulse and nausea had calmed down so much that I felt rather sheepish for coming. That was until, alone in my room as my parents switched places, the doctor came in and said that the MRI of my chest reveled that I might have a blood clot.
Suddenly my world changed, as I realized how fully my life hung in the balance. Nausea and even tachycardia seemed minor to the realization that for some unknown reason my body was making clots leaving me at risk of having a heart attack or stoke. Before the doctor had finished speaking and once again before calling my Father to let him know that he needed to come back so that he would be there when I told my Mother what was wrong, my prayer for aid and comfort had risen to heaven.
As I sat alone in that strange stillness waiting for their return, quietly pondering how my world had changed, I found myself pondering the real possibility that I might never walk out of that hospital. Though I trusted in God, I had to take an honest look at the risk and recognize the possibility that even though He loved me, He might allow something to happen. In that moment I had to ask myself , how close to the threshold of heaven did I stand? But more importantly I had to ask, if the worst happened and my probation came to a crashing end, would I be ready? If my life ended that day and the next words I heard was God’s call, would I be glad to hear Him call my name, or would I squirm in fear.
Somehow as I thought o my personal fears and trials along with the intense unexpected and downward swing of those I loved, I found myself thinking less of my own worries and fears. My thoughts were drawn not to the ugly possibilities of what a stroke could do, but to the promised hope of that land faraway. In that moment oh how precious the promise of Jesus return seemed, as I asked myself how close to the threshold of heaven do I stand?
I hope that as you read this poem, that you will be inspired by this question that has become so close to my heart. And that you will pause from your hectic schedule to make certain that your heart is right with God, because we never know when in an unexpected moment our lives will be turned upside down, and our probation will forever be closed.
How close to the Threshold of Heaven do I Stand?
By Katherine B. Parilli
Where do I stand in the scope of time?
How close am I to crossing over the border?
When will the cup of earth’s iniquity be full?
And when will the door of mercy forever close?
I have grown weary of this world.
My eyes are tired of beholding sin.
My ears do throb from the shouts of vile rabble.
The cries of the widow ascend without ceasing.
And the fears of the oppressed weigh down upon my soul.
When will the trumpet sound?
When will the shout of victory ring though out eternity?
When will the power of the merciless be cut short?
Oh how long till the ugly day of sin come to its final close?
The wicked gather in the streets to mock Thy people.
They exult at the suffering poverty of their prey.
Pushing the poor from their shanty dwellings to make room for their jewel decked mansions.
Demanding an ever-increasing wealth to feed theses sharks of the land.
They hear not the father’s please of mercy for his children’s empty bellies,
Or a mother’s prayer for the protection of her sick child.
How long till the heavens be rolled back?
How long till the sign of the Son of Man appear?
How long till the kingdom of the devil is destroyed?
How long till justice one more fills the land?
Works of wickedness grow bolder each day.
They have no thought of pity for young or old.
Their ears are stopped to the painful moans of the ill or injured.
Their only thoughts are of evil and how to increase their vicious power.
Should not that day be drawing near?
Is not that hour upon us?
Is not the host of Heaven gathering the last sheaves before the harvest?
Is not this increasing of sorrows a sign of Your sure return?
Are You drawing near the door?
The earth is growing weary.
Storms are brewing at every turn.
Pounding land and sea with frightful furry.
The earth rolls and rises as if convulsing.
Like a feverish patient it reels and stumbles
Mercilessly seeking comfort.
Spewing its troubled contents,
Waiting for its day of healing.
Yes the day must be near.
The hour must be drawing close.
For Thou art a God of justice.
Only mercy and love are hidden within Thy wings.
As a loving father seeks the good of his children,
Thou has waited patiently for our return.
Yet Thy justice demands an end to sin.
Thy mercy must vanquish the cruel foe,
and bring an end to human suffering.
The army of the devil shall tremble.
For their fate they will weep.
And the righteous shall rejoice
As their deliverance draws nigh.
Then in that hour I shall be comforted.
My burden of sin licked up by the flames.
No longer my eyes to behold sorrow,
Or my ears the rude jest of a maddened throng.
Hunger, pain, poverty, all burred in the ashes.
Greed, illness, the grave wiped out in the cleansing flames.
Tired, Tired, I Feel so Tired is a poem that I wrote during one of the flare ups of my chronic anemia in an attempt to express the deep fatigue that was robbing me of the freedom to live life to the fullest.
Worn, sadly this poem is the perfect summary of the past few weeks. Tired and worn before the day even begins, all I can think of is the delight of crawling into bed and taking a very long nap. My mind full of task pushes and prods me to work, reminding me of all the things that must be done, but like a car with a drained battery, it is all that I can do to sputter to life for a few moments and crawl a few feet before limping to the side.
It has been an exhausting but amazing few days since I posted Waiting to Make Our Dream Come True. When I wrote that post late Thursday evening, my family and I were digging in for a three long weeks of hoping and praying that our land would finally be cleared. After months of dead ends, unexpected delays, and a seemingly endless round of excuses we had reached the point that we were ready to call it all quits and put our dream land for sale. Confident that by the brick wall we seemed to hit each time that we attempted to get our lot clear, the Lord was telling us to stay where we were.
After a heartfelt round of prayers we finally made the call to the realtor who had found our small slice of heaven on earth that we had been postponing for months. To our great surprise, and relief, instead of jumping at the opportunity to earn a commission, he not only personally offered to find someone to clear the land for us, but had personally met each one at our lot to show them where the markers were and get their quotes.
The first person had given a fairly decent quote and even a small discount if we accepted that day and allowed him to start Monday morning. Nearly giddy from the idea of the land being cleared so soon we were instantly ready to accept even though the price while fair was pushing our already bulging budget. But there was still one more estimate which when it came in over a thousand dollars cheaper than the first was a positive delight to our reeling budget, only we would need to wait about three weeks before the work could begin. But with a tight budget what other choice did we have but to accept the cheaper offer and settle back and hope that at the end of three seemingly endless weeks we would not hear the dreaded words, I have fallen behind so it will have to wait a little longer, and the land would finally be cleared. And that is where that Thursday evening found us, stuck once more in the rut of hoping, praying, and waiting that another delay would not come our way.
Friday morning our minds were one place as we imagined the joy that would hopefully be ours as we finally enjoyed the privilege of a clean lot devoid of a forest of trees. The work of the day moved sluggishly as our minds naturally gravitated to the topic so dear to our hearts. Yet amidst our hopes was the nagging fear that for the sake of our budget we had made the wrong choice, and that at the end of three weeks we would hear the dreaded put off that we circumstances had risen which would require us to wait longer. And that despite our real estate agents kind efforts, we would once again be sitting on the train to nowhere, and our land would have to go for sale.
With our thoughts jumbled and our emotions running every which way focusing at mundane task was nearly impossible. Every thing took a hundred fold longer than what it should as our thoughts and conversations repeatedly returned to the mixed bag of soaring hopes and heart dropping fears. Unable to focus, we decided that it was senseless to keep spinning our wheels at home, but would clear our heads by getting the necessary grocery shopping out of the way, and with a clearer mind could devote the afternoon to working around the house.
After several unexpected delays, that included me mildly injuring my ankle, we arrived home well past lunch time. Our hungry stomachs weary at its delay we were rushing to empty the car and put together a quick meal when the phone rang. My heart racing from a strange confidence as I hobbled over the table, I was already certain I knew who was calling and why. My expectations met I did my best to rush from the family room to the garage where my parents and sister were still bringing in the groceries. My confidence was so certain that I simply handed the phone to my Father and returned to fixing our meal. Certain that our unspoken prayer and that at last we would have a concrete date for when our land would at least be cleared.
But even though I sensed that our prayers had been answered, I was not prepared for the magnitude of the answer. For I had assumed that the second person who had given us the lower of the two estimates had at last settled his schedule and we would finally have a date that we could circle on our calendar and look forward to with complete confidence. With that hope firm in my heart I had not bothered to hang around and listen to the conversation that ensued. So it was with great amazement that a few moments later I listened to my Father as he revealed that we not only had a date, but that thanks to the never failing love of God and the extreme kindness of our real estate agent, a miracle had been worked that not only put us on the schedule for the very next Monday, but would decrease our cost by several hundred more dollars! So that for six hundred dollars less than what it had cost a nearby neighbor to clear one acre, we would have all three of our acres cleared!
The burst of joy and thankfulness that filled our hearts at that moment far outweighed the sorrow of the last few months. As with trembling hearts we thanked the Lord for caring for us so much that he would move upon the heart of our real estate agent to first turn down a chance at commission, then lay aside his work to personally travel to our land so he could assure that we got a fair bid, and then even after we had accepted an offer to quietly work one bid against the other so that we could get an even lower rate.
Even now as I look back at the sudden and wonderful change in circumstance and my tired muscles remember the long, daily drives to watch the trees fall, my eyes tear up with joy as I think of the love of God in bending low to help my humble little family. For there is something about human nature that we do not think it such a big deal that God would help a rich family or one with great prestige, but that the King of the Universe should take His time to help one of limited means and whose name is unknown to the masses somehow still manages to come as some sort of surprise to us. Perhaps it is because we are accustomed upon this earth mankind rush to move heaven and earth moved for the rich, the famous, and the royal, yet without a second thought push off the needs of the quiet, the poor, and the humble, that without meaning to we figure that the Heavenly King would have no time or interest to intervene on our behalf. Yet in spite of our unworthiness and lowly place upon this earth, He had listened to and answered our prayers. And only a four days after writing the article about waiting to make our dreams come true, the very first of several hundred trees fell victoriously to the ground.
Waiting, it is one of the hardest lessons in life to learn, perhaps that is why it seems that most of our life is spent in this frustrating mode. Hard as we may push to avoid this problematic state of unwanted suspension, it seems that some unexpected problem crops us causing one or more of our cherished plans to come to a halt and enter this bleak miasma where like comes to a grinding halt.
It seems that if anyone is need of learning this painful lesson it must be me, for sadly it is in this deplorable state of affairs that one of my newest dreams have fallen. Not that is such a new dream, for bits and pieces of it have been around in some form, but up until now the idea has always been in the background as a nice idea for some future date after my real hopes and goals had been met and I at last had time to relax in the warm glow of having accomplished my grand goals. But once the sad truth at last broke through, that I was not fighting some transient battle with ill health that with a little TLC would vanish into the night never again to reappear, was a lovely dream but not the stark reality, I at last came to the unwanted conclusion that it was time for me to lay down my sword and admit that I was not equipped with the necessary gear of resilient health necessary to slay the giant and claim the castle I had so long desired. But must instead find a new set of dreams that with a little fine tuning could bring the smile back to my face and hope into my frustrated heart.
The seed of this new dream had been planted years earlier as having learned different tidbits about the sad state of the food we put into our bodies, my family and I had at various times kept a small garden. It was never much more than a raised bed of peppers, a bucket of tomatoes, or a few citrus trees, but from this humble start an idea was slowly sprouting, and the dream of growing a garden capable of meeting a fair percentage of my family and my needs.
I recently read an article entitled, “No Fatties”: When Health Care Hurts by Carey Purcell which touched on the biases in care that fat people can face when seeking medical care. As I read the various stories of those whose pain had been ignored, sloughed off as the result of their weight, and sudden, unexplained weight gain being dismissed as nothing more than the result of eating to many burgers, I could not help but recall my own experiences with the medical community that have left me less than thrilled whenever it is time to visit the doctor.
The flurry of emotions raised by this article run strong and deep through my soul like a quiet river that with the slightest rain rises into a ragging torrent. Most days I quietly forget the pain, as I focus my mind upon the daily struggle to keep meaning and purpose in my life along with the battle that comes with living in chronic pain. But there are days that wound rises to the surface and the tears threaten to come rolling down. In order to silence the pin pricks of irritation at being treated as somewhat less than human, I have done the unthinkable in that I have to a great degree shut down the person I once was. I have allowed the battle to alter the course of my life and erase the dream I once cherished.
The change began with simple steps that were almost imperceptible. Little moves such as changing the channel whenever a medical clip or episode of a favorite show came to close to my own experience and threatened to touch a chord I would rather remained silent. Soon I was no longer watching once loved shows like Emergency, Mystery Diagnosis, Quincy ME, programs that had inspired me to hope that one day I might help the suffering and sick too, because to me they had become nothing more than idle tales. Ultimately it progressed to closing the books and shutting down my hopes and dreams of becoming a doctor or at a nurse practitioner.
Even though I had known for a long time that it was coming, the day it finally broke through my thick head that my dream was over, it felt as if my heart had been run over by a mile long bullet train running at full throttle. Tears filled my eyes as I looked down upon the pitiful remnants of the dream that been the driving force of my life since I was five, and finally admitted to myself that like Humpty Dumpty, all the glue in the world would not put it back together again.
I would like to say that when the truth finally knocked its way into my brain, that after a few hours of mourning, I rose from my bed of tears stronger, wiser, more resilient, and with a sweet calmness worthy of emulation. I would like to say that it was such, but sadly for days, weeks, even months I was touchy, moody, and at times only tolerable company as I grieved for the cavernous void in my heart that I had no clue how to ease.
With bitter sorrow I listened to every tidbit of the active world around me. The green eye of envy rising to the surface as I was barraged at every turn by fresh tidbits of my peers success until I dread to hear the phone ring lest it was some loved one sharing news with my Mother that they were certain would bring smiles of delight to our face. News that at other times might have only brought forth a dry smile and a momentary pang of longing that was easily smothered by the abiding hope that one day soon my Mother would triumphantly be able to declare that her daughter had finished premed or graduated from nursing school.
But now that the battle had been conceded, now that I had admitted that my life’s purpose had been defeated by the superior foe of chronic pain and misery, I was like a flimsy dot of a life raft lost at sea. Rising and falling on the storm maddened waves of uncertainty and loneliness and pounded by the beating rains of despair. Like a haunting melody the unforgiving wind declared that I was nothing but a useless blob, a worthless blood sucker sucking the life of my aging parents. With fiendish glee the flashing lightening and earth jarring thunder would announce that my future once so bright and hopeful was doomed to ignominy and failure.
During this bleak time my pain was made more acute as imaginary images of my frightful fate, terrorized my dreams and haunted the most peaceful moments of my days. Like the midnight sectors of Dickens strange Christmas tale, my eyes were tortured by the fearful realization that one day the comforting arms around me would be no more, and that I would be left pale, friendless, and jobless to face a future wandering the streets begging for the stale crumbs of human sympathy.