Thursday, March 13, 2014

Earthquake-proof the Dentist Office

Where do you feel most vulnerable?

I think I have to say for me, it’s when I’m in the chair. Where dental procedures are performed. Where my personal space is invaded. Where pain is involved. Where my airways seem to be impeded. That chair. Compared to other circumstances I’ve faced, say, being in stirrups, (and I’ve given birth three times and each time was by a different method so I can honestly speak to a variety of vulnerable positions), dental procedures evoke a very extreme level of anxiety. The level that makes dentists wish they’d earthquake-proofed their office, such are the tremors that emanate from my body and encompass the chair I’m occupying. I’m not exaggerating.

A couple weeks ago a convergence of increasing pain in my mouth and available funds sent me to the chair. Since we moved last year, I had to find a new dentist. Add another level to the anxiety meter. So at the first appointment, which was for exam and x-rays only, I put it right there on the forms I filled out. About being extremely anxious in the chair and how I would be taking an anti-anxiety medication to get through whatever procedures needed to be done.

I felt hopeful with how the young lady at the counter greeted me and helped me with insurance paper work and forms. And her interest in me as a person came through very clearly.

When my new dentist entered the room, I so appreciated that he kept his distance as we first talked, and that he listened. He asked me from where I thought the anxiety stemmed. He didn’t interrupt as I listed a myriad of circumstances involving dental horrors in my childhood. Topping the list was my first visit at age twelve, a tooth that my parents refused a root canal on, insisting that I would lose all my teeth by the time I was twenty-one anyway so just go ahead and pull it, leaving me there alone because they had things to do, me sobbing with terror, the dentist pulling the tooth and dropping it down my throat, which I gagged and choked on but eventually coughed out, the dentist yelling at me and telling me it was my fault that he dropped it. Yeah, it was pretty traumatic. Other things on the list were fillings done without anesthesia, and being told what a baby I was for complaining about the pain because there are so many other things way more painful.

I’ve had a number of root canals, crowns, tooth extractions and deep cleanings since then that didn’t qualify for horror movie ratings but the initial incidents are ingrained and affect every single new encounter.

My new dentist listened to it all. And then he affirmed me. He said what I’d experienced was horrible and it shouldn’t have been done that way. The next thing he said was so unexpected I still almost can’t quite believe I heard my ears right. Basically he said, “There’s nothing I can do to go back and change what happened. But what I can do right now is apologize for the way those dentists practiced and for what they did to you. I’m saying I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Really?!? Yes, really. I’m still processing what that means. And I am working through that forgiveness.

Yesterday was my appointment for the root canal. I took my little Lorazepam to take the edge off my anxiety. My sister became my TLC giver and chauffeur. She even offered to hang out in the tiny waiting room. I couldn’t do that to her. Just knowing she was close by at The Woods Coffee Shop was enough for me.

I still felt vulnerable in the chair. I still felt that my personal space was invaded. And hey, when the dentist said, “You’ll feel a little pinch now” as the needle was inserted into my locally anesthetized gum, I felt it. A few tears leaked out. And my body felt jerky (thankfully no tremors this time). But I also felt respected and heard. I felt the kindness, the care, the concern for my welfare, and the peace and presence of Jesus that friends and family were praying for.

I like what a favorite author of mine Steve Arterburn says in his book, Toxic Faith, “The true presence of God in my life does not provide escape from reality and personal responsibility. His presence should provide a firmer grip on reality and a hope that reality can be faced with all its pain and sorrow.”

The dentist also said he’d like to get to a place where I feel I can trust him. I’d like that too. It will take time. But what a relief it would be to approach the chair without a tremble, as there are more procedures ahead.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Buy My Stuff?

The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft.
Exodus 35:31-33 (NLT)

Something said in a sermon on a recent Sunday, regarding how God shows his delight in us by giving us certain abilities, reminded me of a discussion with my friend a few months ago. We were participating in a Bible study and one of the lessons focused on contentment. April addressed a concern. She makes jewelry, lovely pieces that are more like wearable art. And she sells her jewelry with hopes of making a good income on it. Her question was, “If we’re supposed to be content with what we already have, and not be all about getting more stuff, how do we justify making products for people to buy? And is it wrong for us to want people to want our stuff?”

A paragraph in the study says:

“A study of godly contentment is not a survey of how to get along with less or how to live more simply. It has nothing to do with quelling your ambition. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of all those things. Contentment is all about how to live more abundantly in Christ. How to go deeper into the great things of God. How to press on with holy passion and to take hold with both hands of all that God has for you.” (Lord, Change My Attitude, James MacDonald, Barb Peil)

I read that to April and suggested to her that God has gifted her with the desire, skill, creativity, time, etc, to make beautiful jewelry. Using these gifts from God is pursuing with holy passion all that God has for her. Her motivation is to be all that God designed her to be. She is not responsible for what motivates people to purchase her pieces.

Someone has to make money in order to use that money for good. If we follow the instructions in James to work “as unto the Lord”, making a profit is a righteous endeavor. And another scripture tells us whatever our hands find to do, do it heartily. It’s all about what our attitude is regarding money and “stuff” and what it’s for. Raking in the money and then rolling in it is not where our happiness is produced. When a profit is made we give the glory to God for He has both created and blessed our hands to do so.

I’m delighted to wear April Shelley Jewelry myself. Here are some pieces she created just for me:

I’ll be wearing them at my daughter’s wedding in just a few weeks. Thank you, April!

Want to see more? April welcomes your browsing here:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Be Fruitful and Multiply

It’s been several months since I last played over here in the light of Aniluminary. Have you missed me? I’ve missed being here. So where have I been?

Well, I’ve been on the move. The hubby and I made a major change in our lives and took ourselves 1,300 miles from where we’ve been for almost thirty years. A 1,300 mile leap of faith. We’ve returned to the Pacific Northwest where I was born and spent my growing up years, until I ventured out into ‘new territory’ by way of southern California. In that ‘new territory’, I met and married my husband. As a young couple with our first child, we responded to our shared attraction for the Pacific Northwest and moved back here. We stayed long enough to produce a double feature in the family, our twins. Then away we went again. And like a yo-yo a couple years later, wound up once more in this familiar neighborhood. After expanding the family with our youngest, the yo-yo re-looped to SoCal, for a much longer stay this time.

But let’s fast forward to the present and guess what? The yo-yo finally retracted and here we are—we feel like we are home. I am done with yo-yoing! And no-o-o-o-o-o, we will not be having another child this time!

Although…here’s a thought:

Every time I’ve written an entry for my blog, I feel like I’ve brought something to life, so maybe these writings are my babies. If so, if it please the Lord, may I be fruitful and multiply. And may these kids of mine enrich your lives.

Just for fun:

While visiting with my mom at the assisted living facility not long ago, Sock Monkey tells a story, not the one about how he got a knot in his tail—that’s too scary. (Sock Monkey came into existence at my mother’s sewing machine.)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Have Glue Gun, Will Definitely Dribble

Give me a hot glue gun and things get sticky. And stained. Yep, when you dribble glue onto fabric and leave it there when it goes through the washer and dryer, a stain will remain. Well, maybe you don’t dribble glue, but I certainly do. Me and glue, we have a touchy relationship. I need it for craft projects but oh, how I hate it. Because it insists on spreading itself around where it doesn’t belong.

Aaaanyway, that’s how my favorite v-neck pink top was ruined. I hung onto it though because I just knew that I could come up with some way to use it. Years ago some fabric paint and a stencil came to my rescue on another t-shirt I liked. Wasn’t in the mood for fabric paint this time, even if I hadn’t thrown it away when it got all cloggy.

Tossed around the idea of appliqué and just as quickly tossed it out. This shirt is sort of stretchy t-shirt fabric and I couldn’t figure out how to put a non-stretchy appliqué on it and not end up with puckers or something.

A couple of years passed.

Then sorting through a drawer I found embroidery floss. Used some to spice up a jean pillow I was making. Held the thread up to my pink shirt. Hmmmm.

And I began to stitch. One petal at a time.

Backed up each flower with a tiny piece of old cotton sheet on the underside of the shirt to give stability.

It took a long time because my finger joints don’t get along well with fine hand sewing anymore.

As I stitched I thought about what God does with the staining experiences of my life. Stains incurred by me willfully decoupaging myself with the glue of pride and its counterpart shame, as well as stains in the form of lies sticking to me, telling me about who I am.

The little daisies taking shape under my fingers spoke to me of God’s mercy transforming those stains into beauty—His beauty.

I added a few petals here and there where there were no stains. God’s grace decorates my life with friends who care and provide.

Embroidery is a quiet, peaceful art. Christ sews in His perfect peace and underneath it all, His Word gives me stability.

So delighted to be able to wear my favorite pink shirt again. Even more so now that it reminds me of spiritual truth.

And look! I didn’t spill any sticky stuff in this creative blog project! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Monstrous Limitations VS Super Power

So…I’ve been functioning in my new role for a week or so now, right? And there’ve only been a couple of meltdowns. Woohoo! But why would I have any meltdowns at all? Weeeeeelllll…if you read my previous blog post you'll see I mentioned that I am fully capable of managing my husband’s appointment schedule. Which is true, but it also brings me face to face with my two most monstrous handicaps, perfectionism and performance anxiety.

It’s not that I’m inept at my new occupation, (although I have to admit there’s a certain bumbling and fumbling, which my dear husband says is actually endearing and makes me more approachable---aaaawwww). No, it’s the idea that I have to be perfect in it and if I’m not perfect there will be rotten tomatoes thrown and the hook will be extended from backstage, circle my neck and yank me into oblivion. And the whole production will fall flat. That’s a lot of handicapping, let me tell you.  

Some of my limitations are temperament-based and some are from childhood misconceptions about things that happened. Things not in my control but somehow I thought they were. Like the death of a sister among other things. Takes a lifetime to process through that loss apparently; and the repercussions, which as a three-year old, I wasn’t capable of understanding.

I admit it’s weird that scheduling appointments for people I don’t know on a computer CRM would be the key to opening up the dungeon and releasing the Waddif Monster to bite at my heels. The Yushudda Ogre follows and whacks me upside the head while its cousin Yushudenta whacks me on the other. Aaaaaaagh! What’s a girl to do with these handicapping trolls?

This girl remembers a previous battle several years ago with Waddif, Yushudda and Yushudenta. That battle involved an actual stage with this girl assigned a lead role as Auguste Deter in a performance for an Alzheimer’s’ research fundraiser.

Going on-stage wasn’t new as I’d participated for years in church and community theaters but this was my first pivotal lead. And at an institute of higher learning, an added dimension of intimidation.

Waddif scoffed, “You might get a migraine and forget all your lines.” Yushudda screeched, “Why didn’t you say no? With your temperament, you’re not suitable.” Yushudenta accused me of being a fool for thinking I was capable.

I wrestled with the conflict of God giving me the desire and skill as an actress but also giving me a temperament that preferred to be in the background. I remember driving down the street to rehearsal one evening and asking God what was up with this. A familiar verse popped into my head and flowed like a Super Power through my heart. “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

It’s a Super Power that Paul also experienced. For both my God-given temperament and my God-allowed childhood, I’ve personalized what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message):

        “I quit focusing on the handicap and begin appreciating the gift…
Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.
Now I take limitations (perfectionism, performance anxiety)
in stride, and with good cheer,
those limitations that cut me down…
I just let Christ take over!
And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 

I realize, as I did for that performance of Augusta’s File, the most important thing necessary is for me to be present, not perfect. His strength really shows up when I’m at my weakest. Good-bye, Waddif, Yushudda and Yushudenta. Back to the dungeon with you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Role to Minister

Last week hubby and I were talking about life, work, ideas, faith, and finances—you know, those conversations we’ve circled around and through for thirty-seven years. Is there anything new for us to discover pertaining to our relationship? Oh my, yes! Yes, indeed!

Recently hubby started working as a Project Consultant for a small but rapidly growing vinyl fence and patio cover business. A couple days ago at his request, in order to help him focus on the sales and design aspect of his responsibility, I stepped in to manage his appointment schedule. Although phone work is not my favorite occupation, I am very capable of and willing to provide this easement of his load. The data entry part is enjoyable to me, and the fact that no transportation is needed to get me to an office somewhere is a big plus, not to mention that I feel I’m contributing to the economic improvement of our household.

I used to have a job outside the home. Things happened that interfered with continuing—physical limitations to perform my tasks fully, and vehicle limitations to get me there and back again, the latter which also prevented me from actively pursuing employment with less physical stresses.

But being unemployed has burdened our already depleted financial situation sustained in the recession. And hubby has at times felt alone in carrying the load.

On the other hand I’ve been his best cheerleader and encourager, telling him often how much I appreciate his efforts in providing, and offering him little pep talks (as I’ve shared in previous posts), which he readily tells me he values. So in our conversation last week (before this new opportunity developed for me to assist him) I mentioned how pleased I am to be his ezer kenegdo. I’m sure I’d enlightened him on this terminology ages ago, but from the look on his face it was obvious a review was in order.

In Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, John and Stasi Eldredge present the concept of Eve as ezer kenegdo to Adam. Ezer is one who is needed desperately. Kenegdo is one who comes alongside of another. The way I see it, it’s not about telling my husband how to pilot the boat—he does that very well; it’s about handing him his life jacket! 

When I shared this with him, it was a spiritual “Aha” moment for my hubby. He had been thinking how helpful it would be if I could get a job, and then another thought hit him. One that he describes as a wave rushing through him, the kind of wave he experiences when his gift for spiritual discernment kicks in. He said, “What came to me was, ‘No, dude! Your role is to facilitate Anita’s ministering. Anita’s job is to minister, not to go out and make a lot of money. Your role is to make it possible for her to minister!”

 With a jabra headset stuck in my ear and negotiating the CRM program, I am ministering first to my husband. I consider it a delightful serendipity of my ‘job’.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Going in Circles

He described it as a funk and he didn’t know which way to go to get out of it. Where should his next step be?

A picture came into my mind. I saw him standing at the center of a circle.

In my best Kung Fu imitation—which isn’t recognizable as anything close to blind Master Po but still fun to try—I shared my wisdom.

“When you are in the middle of a funk, Grasshopper, and do not know which direction to go to move forward, it does not matter which way you step out,” I said. “The goal surrounds the circle you are in. You are in the middle so any step you take towards the periphery is forward towards the goal.”

He looked at me with furrowed brow, but he also nodded. I felt encouraged to continue.

“Indeed, Grasshopper, it is most awful to feel stuck, immobilized, trapped, where you cannot see a path.

“Sometimes just the act of moving your leg and sticking it out from under the blankets in the morning—or afternoon…or…whenever,” My Master Po imitation was faltering but I carried on. “So, um, yeah. Toes on the floor moves you forward from dead center of Funk Circle.”

Another picture formed in my imagination. “Oh! And Funk Circle might be like a big—uh—oh, what do you call it? A maze? No, that’s not it,” Master Po sounded more like a ditzy silver-haired dame. I recovered with a cleansing breath and went on.

“Nevermind. It will come to me. So you start taking steps forward and the path seems to curve in a circular direction. You come around and the same situations touch you over and over, but yet with each orbit of the—Oh! It’s called a labyrinth! Yeah! Anyway, with each orbit of the labyrinth, you are that much closer to the outer rim of the circle. Suddenly the path seems to loop back alongside where you were before or even taking you back towards the center of the circle.

“No worries, Grasshopper, you just keep taking those steps and eventually the path loops its way toward the periphery.” I paused to check if his eyes had glazed over yet. Nope, he was still with me!

I continued, “The even bigger picture, Grasshopper, shows the circle you are trudging along is sheltered by God.

“God sits above the circle of the earth.
    The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
    and makes his tent from them.” (Isaiah 40:22 NLT)

“It might feel like life is just going in circles. Keep trusting that the circle takes you to the goal. This is totally opposite of what happens when the drain plug gets pulled.” Okay, so Master Po wouldn’t have said that last sentence but hey, my personality is just as valid as Master Po’s.

I patted his knee. “So Grasshopper, is it not reassuring to know you are not circling the drain?”

It was quite evident to me my wisdom was well-received because my husband said, “Thank you.” Although that may have been because I stopped blathering, I’m not sure.

--I have made use of a little bit of creative license in my accounting of this incident. Quite a little bit.

--Photos taken by me at: Bellflower Library Garden Park, St. Andrews Lutheran Church in Whittier, Emanuel Episcopal Church in Fullerton—all in California. The quest for photos to illustrate this blog post turned into a fun little adventure for hubby and me. Until this week I had no idea how many labyrinths are near my locale. We took the time to walk the labyrinth at Emanuel Episcopal and I would like to visit there again. It’s in a little field off to the side of the church campus, and for me the rustic setting felt more conducive to introspection and communion.

I’m adding this bonus photo from my sister Robyn Burke, who sent this shot she took of the labyrinth at Tall Timber Ranch, a church camp in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.