Mind Control, Forests and Trees


We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive…                                            2 Corinthians 10:5

And so I fight the currents
I fight the undertow
Help me swim away from
Where my weakness grows

And lay me down (lay me down)
At your feet
And sing the words (say the words)
That you know I need

I’m here, I want to hear your heartbeat
Please put your love around me
And just let me know
That you’re here, now I’m an arms reach from you
From the lover of my soul
You’re the lover of my soul
from “Heartbeat” by Bleach

In mid-to-late September, during the often bleak days leading up to the one-year anniversary of Mark’s death, I went for a long walk with Beth O. We were talking about times when life seems overwhelmingly hard, sad, and difficult; about how to rise from that kind of despair, about how what we think is the most powerful influence in our existence. She reminded me she’d had cancer, before we met; her discipline, then, was to allow herself brief periods of time for self-pity and tears, and then move-the-heck-on (as she was saying this, we looked at our feet in the gravel parking lot and found 2 dimes; it was excellent advice, and apparently Mark agreed).

And yet.

Life has not gotten easier in the past 2 1/2 months – only harder. People I love are dealing with critical, massive, scary issues that break our hearts endlessly. And my MIL, whose advancing dementia was already requiring we pay her more and more visits, fell and broke her hip the day before Thanksgiving.

If you’ve ever had a loved one in the hospital, you know that advocacy is a requirement – the patient, even when not mentally out of sorts, often needs someone to help represent their best interests. And so with my MIL, we have needed to be “there” more often than not…in the hospital, and now in the rehab unit at her senior living center. She is a danger to herself constantly because she cannot remember (!) she broke her hip (!!) and tries to get up and walk (!!!). This is a lot, a lot, a lot, when life already felt like A LOT.

I went for a walk several days ago, and I…well, I whined. I told God I was having a hard time lifting up my head; I DO want to find joy, to learn to be “content in all circumstances” like Paul, but at that moment, I couldn’t see the trees for the forest. All was dark, and whether looking at the present, or the future I imagined, I could not see my way to the sun. I knew…I know it is critical to stop that kind of train of thought, to exert some control, like Beth O did when she had cancer and was so afraid, but it was like black velvet curtains had been hung.

And yet.

And yet.

God is at work, even in this.

Humans – us included – can forget God is good, that He loves us. So, remembering that truth, we are trying really hard to find Him even in these hard things, which means keeping our eyes open and noting things like this:

• my MIL slowly, slowly forgot she liked to drive her car every day (get ready for the Family Secret to Be Revealed: she drove to go smoke a cigarette in a nearby parking lot at a convenience store…and amazingly, her body forgot its addiction to nicotine). What could have been a VERY difficult task for us (taking her car away, again), somehow became almost a non-issue, even though we were terrified she’d suddenly want to drive again. As we look back, we realize she simply stopped driving, over time. How gracious, God. After we quietly sold it (which she does not know), she’s only asked about it once, and she forgot our answer just a couple of hours later.

• as tax season approached again, we knew we would need to engage the services of a caregiver to step in and help with basic hygiene and other issues that were cropping up. We knew she would protest what would seem to her an arbitrary imposition on her “freedom” (she is fond of saying “I’ve been taking care of myself a VERY LONG TIME”). The broken hip, while painful and difficult, gives us the perfect reason – that even she cannot argue with – for pulling in additional help, or moving her into a unit in the assisted living section.

This doesn’t mean ANY of this is easy, but we feel the vibrations of tenderness.

As for the forest vs. the trees? You know the saying: “you can’t see the forest [the big picture] for the trees [stuff that’s immediately in your way].” In my case, and maybe in yours, if you are overwhelmed, it can be good to actually look at the trees that are right in front of you, because sometimes they bear in their branches the joy you seek, even if just for a moment.

Yesterday, at the preschool:

1. I forgot my lunch, so instead, I read multiple books to the kids while they ate. While reading “Mine-o-Saurus” (hilarious; about an little dinosaur who has trouble sharing), I glanced up to see deeply, DEEPLY furrowed 3 yr old brows over the Mine-o-Saurus’ behavior and his subsequent shunning (!!) by the other dinosaur children. Instructive conversations ensued, with me thinking, smugly, that I’d made an impact on their consciences, only to be followed by a free-for-all of non-sharing of the playdough.

2. The lead teacher and I getting literally plastered when the balloon – to which we and the kids were applying papier-mâché (strips of paper liberally soaked in flour, water & glue) – suddenly popped. Much hilarity ensued. Still picking dried bits of it out of my hair.

Oh, how I needed this. Thank you, God.

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