Thursday, August 16, 2012

Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon. ” ~Moses

Moses did not get to see the good land beyond the Jordan, but I did.

Last month Terry and I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Beirut, Lebanon to visit family! This was the trip of a lifetime and was full of wonderful new discoveries, adventures, friendships, food, and challenges. To be honest what stands out for me at this time are the challenges and for Terry, the adventures! That's why we belong together. Balance :-) So instead of focusing on challenges here, I am going to write two separate blogs. One about all of the amazing things we did and the other will focus on international travel tips when traveling with a wheelchair!

We arrived in Beirut and were welcomed by both hot humid air and a very aggressive eager Lebanese disabled traveler assistant. No English, but that didn't seem to matter to him. He motioned to Terry to get up and Terry just gave him one of those sheepish "I'm sorry" looks. The man finally realized he would have to transfer Terry from the plane seat to an isle chair. It was not pretty! But with the help of an airline attendant we were finally on our way!

Though we were at our final destination, the travel assistant did not seem to comprehend this. He was literally running through the airport pushing my husband leaving me to carry all the bags! I am laughing now as I imagine it but... Oh! right! No complaints in this one :-)

Anyway, praise the Lord Terry's mom and dad were there to save us from the speedy assistant. It is always wonderful to see family but after the trip over and Lebanese reception, it felt like we had been rescued!

While in Lebanon Terry and I stayed at the Union Office which is on the Campus of the Middle East University (I think). Mom and dad live in an apartment building with an elevator and though we may have been able to stay in their apartment, the elevator was not reliable. The city is only able to provide power to limited sections of the city at a time and when the city isn't providing power, residents can pay some independent and entrepreneurial businessmen who have a whole complex system of generators you can receive power from. But it seems that's not quite reliable either (or maybe mom and dad were not on that system). Either way, we didn't want to get stuck up, down, or in the elevator or have dad pull a muscle bringing Terry up and down the stairs!

We did eat some wonderful food while we were there! In addition to all the fun stuff Terry's mom always seems to find to treat us to, we went to a few different restaurants. At one restaurant we had a fruit cup dish covered in a sweet avocado sauce and another in a chocolate avocado sauce. The crepes were very good as well (Lebanon was occupied by the French at one point). We had a tomato grown by one of dad's coworkers that was something like 4 pounds! One day we ordered a vegetarian pizza and it came with corn! But the more interesting thing was that the crust was seasoned with cinnamon! That was really good. And I can't forget to mention the gelato! I wish I could remember the flavors we had but there were some very local ones.

Once we went to Mhanna, a fabulous Lebanese restaurant serving traditional dishes. We couldn't read the menu in Arabic so we took someone to interpret for us. We had hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli, some kind of bean thing, fresh vegetables, yogurt with mint (they eat a lot of mint), etc. And then after finishing that course and filling up, they took us to another table loaded with fresh fruits all piled high! It was spectacular.

 In addition to the wonderful food, we saw some awesome sites. You cannot go to Lebanon and skip out on the history. Many people only think of the recent history of the country but ruins date all the way back to the Phoenician Empire and the city of Byblos is thought to be the oldest city in the world (and is still inhabited). While there we had the opportunity to visit Byblos, Baalbek, the Cedars of Lebanon, Tyre and Sidon!

Baalbek was perhaps the most exciting site! This is the location of the temple of Bacchus, the god of wine. This temple is huge, bigger than the Parthenon in Greece. Unfortunately I was sick here so I didn't really get to see much (maybe a heat stroke! It was horrible! Not complaining though    :-))

One day we visited the Cedars of Lebanon as mentioned in the Bible. The following is when Hiram, King of Tyre sent word to Solomon the newly appointed king of Israel. Solomon told the king that he wished to build a temple to the LORD since his father David was unable to do so. Hiram offered the cedars.

      Solomon- "So give order that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians."
      Hiram- "My men will haul them down from Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, and I will float them as rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. Any you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household."
                     I Kings 5:6, 9

I can only imagine the rafts of cedars floating from Lebanon, past Beirut, and down to Jerusalem.

We really did have a wonderful time and would love to go back. If we do though, I would want to study more of the past and current history of the country and region. I learned a lot simply by observing but if I knew more background I am sure I would "see" more. The culture is rich and the language is beautiful and we just barely got a glimpse of it! I wish for more time and more money!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Who is really in the chair?

It was really nice to meet someone today who has a very clear understanding of what it is like to have a loved one who uses a chair. I even practiced "receiving empathy" though it felt really awkward. At the same time, I felt connected to someone I barely knew and that was nice. Terry's chair can be the catalyst for "barrier creation" for other people. Rather than having the obvious barriers imposed by design and structure, fear of the unknown often prevents people from getting close to us. Or maybe it's that vibe I give off! That shame thing that now has a name. I guess I can be more disabled than Terry because if you've ever spent time with him, you'll find that he truly connects with people. I quite often am too busy being in control, or busy, etc. to allow for connection. So who has it better? The wheelchair user who loves life to the fullest? Or the able-bodied person who doesn't experience life to the fullest? Who is really disabled? Terry sure isn't.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shame as a Diversion

Today I learned that shame is fed by secrecy, silence, and judgment and that the remedy for shame is empathy. Sigh... I am suppose to be good at empathy; I am a social worker. But I have the impression that empathy is not just the remedy for shame but can also be a diversion that masks shame or perhaps more honestly, allows for its continued unquestioned existence. In this case empathy would have a dual function; insincerely meeting the needs of those I come in contact with and masking my shame, neither of which is the true function of empathy.

Is it possible to have true empathy if shame pervades? I don't know. But I do know that at times shame can be a disabling and dominating "factor" affecting the ability to receive empathy. 

There is something physical that happens within me when I experience genuine connection to someone who is hurting. It is hard to describe but the best way to say it is that I feel what they feel and think what they think so much so that "I" cease to exist for that moment. This experience is charged and energizing, full of love and compassion and a desire to help. I wonder what the other person feels at that moment....

How do you breakdown the barrier of shame so that you can truly connect and accept empathy? How do you take that first risk and allow for the possibility of failure, rejection, judgment, and isolation? I think that maybe being rejected, judged, and failing might be good to experience actually because it allows one to see that these things really are not so bad. Besides, if you are stuck behind the barricade of shame then you have already self-isolated and that is not a result of how others see you but how you see yourself.

Oh for un-masked, un-barricading, not rejecting or judging love of Jesus! If He found you worthy enough to die for then you must be good enough for others! 

I am beginning to realize that shame is just a diversion to derail us from being Jesus' hands and feet. It must be the the pinnacle of self-centeredness. I want to be Jesus centered and pray that He will take away the walls that I have built so that He can use me to the full extent of his plan. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Montgomery Bell State Park, TN

Hi all,
Terry and I spent the week at Montgomery Bell State Park just west of Nashville this week. He was there for the Region 3 National Association for Interpretation and had a great time. The park is beautiful and has several accessible features.

While we were there we also visited Radnor Lake Natural Area right in Nashville. This is a beautiful man made like surrounded by woods and steeped in history (both positive and quite negative). While there we saw about 50 lesser scaup, several bufflehead and gadwalls, and other birds. The lake trail is a closed road so it is very accessible. Check it out.
Image Gallery for Radnor Lake

We also went to the Edwin Warner Park in Nashville which is a city park and also very accessible. They have several miles of paved trail that would be excellent to bike. The nature center was impressive and perhaps the coolest thing was the mud pit that kids played in!!!

Stop by next time you're in Nashville!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Unsettled to Settled

In the most recent weeks I have found myself in a kind of limbo; neither here nor somewhere else but struggling to decide which location is right for me. It seems that this unsettled state is simply a reflection of the gargantuan decisions that are coming. I am projecting- except really I'm looking into the future, predicting what is to come, and then pulling those feelings back into the present where they haunt me. Why must I make life so complex?
I am unsettled. Is there a storm coming or is the sky clearing? I just cannot tell.

I am waiting on acceptance letters (that is positive thinking)  from three universities I have applied to for a PhD in social work. In the mean time I am loving my job and learning so much everyday from the wonderful team I work with and from the students I have the pleasure of knowing. Yet at the same time I am unsettled. How can I be settled when I know that change is coming, that I will be either moving or commuting, renting out my house or something else, saying good-bye to my wonderful job and hello to a challenging few years of school, and even more unsettling, delaying life further for the next 3 to 4 years.

In the last day or so it has come to my attention that the lens through which I have been looking at my life is completely out of focus. My plan was to .... and then..... and then...... fill in the blank. As I interpret what I see transpiring I have a sense of loss, like grief over what has not happened or may not ever happen. My plans....

And then God shows up.... He does that... particularly when when shut Him out. Unintentionally sure, but all the same He must show up that way when our plans are not quite what He has in mind.

So I now know how to feel settled-

"Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3

I was out of focus asking, "what do I want to do or what do others expect of me?" Of course I would feel unsettled if I had not really asked "God what are YOUR plans for me and what actions should I take?" Now that I am starting to get in focus I still feel a little unsettled but my worry is diminishing. I am beginning to get a sense that God has better things in store than I ever could have imagined. I keep coming back to the idea that this is His story and not mine.

Because I can trust in God, I choose to make the most out of where He has me right now and trust that He will put me where He needs me in the future.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Present in Times of Pain

These last two weeks I've done so much reflecting on what was, what is, what could have been. I went to a friend's birthday party and was reminded that though it is so easy to get caught up in what is going wrong, a spirit of gratitude can change everything. Thank you Kevin for your amazing spirit in adversity.
Then, a new friend, someone who has also experienced a spinal cord injury, the same man who came up from Florida to help Terry experience adaptive SCUBA, suddenly lost his 20 year old son this week. Fed has shown such amazing courage, resilience, and trust in God this week it is humbling. We are praying for you friend and so thankful we have the same hope!
I've also been reading my father-in-law's notes from Terry's accident. I don't believe it was coincidence when I accidently stumbled across them trying to find another email. I remember very little about what was experienced during that time and these notes have really served as a reminder of how God carried me when I should have been disabled myself.
Last night I found this text from the Bible and it immediately spoke to me. I have made an attempt to parallel it to my life and where I currently find myself. I don't know if it will be helpful to anyone but following the chapter is my paraphrase.
Psalm 40
For the choir director: A psalm of David.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
3 He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols.
5 O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand[a]
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7 Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart.”
9 I have told all your people about your justice.
I have not been afraid to speak out,
as you, O Lord, well know.
10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. 
I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing
love and faithfulness.11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.
Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles surround me—
too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
I can’t see my way out.
They outnumber the hairs on my head.
I have lost all courage.
13 Please, Lord, rescue me!
Come quickly, Lord, and help me.
14 May those who try to destroy me
be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
be turned back in disgrace.
15 Let them be horrified by their shame,
for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”
16 But may all who search for you
be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”
17 As for me, since I am poor and needy,
let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.
You are my helper and my savior.
O my God, do not delay.
My Parallel Story
I sat in the hospital in a daze waiting for God to help me. Immediately He heard me as I cried drawing close, sending friends and family as well as coming Personally.
God came down and carried me through my most trying time, my husband laying in a hospital bed, “8% chance of survival,” they said.
But God held me up and kept me stable. He helped me keep focused as I went through the pain.
Out of such a painful experience, I can now sing a song of gratitude and trust in the love and protection He gave not just my husband, but also to me.
So many have seen and heard my story and have been amazed at the awesome power of God.
Because of my experience, there are people who can also put their faith in Him.
Do you know what it is like to have such confidence in God? To set aside trust in people and instead lay your life in His hands?
O God! You have performed miracle after miracle for Terry and I. I can’t even begin to imagine the plans You have for us. I can’t even begin to tell all the amazing experiences that occurred in the last 6 years because it would take a life time.
If there is one thing I have learned from this trying experience, it is that there is nothing I can do to win Your love. It’s not about me being “good”or doing “church.” I know that now. I am listening.
So as You so masterfully planned all along I can now say, “Here I am God. I want to do your will and I want Your word to be the essence of my entire being. “
I want to tell others about how fair You are and that You want what is best for all of us. That you don’t cause us pain but that You are there experiencing it with us. I don’t want to be afraid to speak out but God You know my struggles.
I don’t want to keep my testimony hidden because there is so much to say about what you have done for me.
I want to talk about how You carried me through the darkest day of my life and how You saved me from depression, anxiety, and despair. I have to tell others.
Dear God please don’t let me feel abandoned but draw near to me and hold me up. Please let me feel Your love and see Your faithfulness reminding me of how You have protected me in the last 6 years.
I am struggling dear God, in so many areas. I have so many sins and I can’t stop. There are so many and I just know I can’t overcome them. I feel so guilty.
God come now and save me from myself and from others who are trying to hurt me.
I pray that those who are searching for something in their lives, comfort in times of pain, peace in times of anxiety, and joy when all they can feel is depression, I pray that You fill them with Your love and heal their pain! I pray that they will experience You personally and KNOW that You are in control.
And as for me dear God, I’m still a mess. Please keep an eye on me. Please continue to hold me up, help me know Your will for my life in this time of choice. And above all else, help me to be ready when You return.
Please come soon dear God. Please come today.