Kicking the Camel in the Nose

Recently I was listening to a speaker discussing St. Ignatius’ Discernment of Spirits.  One of his illustrations has really stuck with me and I’ve found the visual quite helpful.

Apparently, camels are rather “nosy” creatures and they try to get into a tent by nosing under the edge, then pushing their way in.  Now, a camel is a large animal and, as I’ve been told by those who know such things, they are a nuisance.   A friend told me the camels in Iraq are dirty, smelly, and rather disgusting as they roam all over at will, spitting and farting!  (Who knew?!)  They are also rather determined animals, which is a problem when they get in your tent because once a camel is in, it’s very difficult to get it out.  Therefore, it is important to pay attention when camels are around and when (not if) one starts pushing his nose under the edge of the tent, kick him in the nose!  Don’t let that creature get his head in or the rest of the body will follow and then you’ve got problems!

Sound familiar?  

“You sure screwed up that relationship by…”

“Royally stuck your foot in your mouth that time, huh?”

“If you’d just done ________ five years go, it would all be different now.”

“You idiot.”

Ever heard that voice in your head?  You realize it’s not the voice of God, right?  It’s the voice of The Accuser, the Father of Lies, the Devil.  How do I know?  Because while it might be true that I’ve messed up stuff and certainly had my “coulda, shoulda, woulda” moments, God is in the business of bringing good out of my failures, not continually reminding me of them.  After all, the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God was there to say, “Yep, you messed it up and there are consequences, but here’s how I’m going to fix it and it’ll be glorious!” (the Tracy paraphrase)

“What shall we say then?  Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  (Romans 6:1-2)

We are not to continue to sin or to blow off our sins as if they’re no big deal, but we are also not to wallow in them.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

God is in the business of redemption, cleansing, and healing.  That’s why Jesus, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, came to earth as a baby, lived to manhood, and died for our sins–to redeem, cleanse, and heal us from that sin of Adam and Eve.  He’s been planning all this from the very beginning!  And He had my sins and yours in mind when He did it.  Don’t lessen Christ’s sacrifice for you by wallowing in past sins for which you have asked forgiveness.

I have two suggestions for your kicking technique:

  1. When the accuser accuses, agree!  “Yes, I should have ______” or “Yes, I can be very arrogant.”  Then praise God for His forgiveness and all the work He’s doing in your life.  Thank Him for reminding you how far you’ve come by His grace.  (By the way, never speak to the devil.  Resist him, but don’t talk to him.  The point here is to ignore him and use every accusation to turn your thoughts to God.)
  2. When the thoughts tend toward sins you struggle with, visualize yourself kicking that nose at the tent edge!  I find this very helpful because it brings me awareness of what’s going on before my thoughts get too far.  And, sometimes, I realize that I actually really like that particular camel, but know that allowing that sin entrance into my thoughts is a sure way to misery.

So, be aware of your camels and when one of them starts pushing his nose under the edge of your thoughts, kick him in the nose!

On Second Thought…

I’ve decided to stay with WordPress for another year.  There are some reasons for this:

One, if I renew before the 19th, I get the same price.  Next year it goes up $30, so I’ll decide then what to do.

Two, we’re about to move a week from today–not the best time to make a decision on this.

Three, I’ve had two or three ideas I want to write on since I said I was going to take down the blog! (Of course!)

The thing is, I really enjoy writing, but it does take work (once I’m going I’m fine; it’s just starting) and it takes vulnerability.

For anyone who has done any personal writing, you know how risky it can feel to put your thoughts, feelings, views, etc. out in a public arena.  I need to overcome the fear of openness and write what, I hope, will be of help and encouragement to others.

So, for another year, I will work on my little piece of the Web and see if in another year I think what I’m doing is worth the money!

 (And I really need to learn how to use all the tools on here, especially since they just changed it again…)

Signing off

I’m doing one last post here on my slow-writing blog to let you know I’ll be taking it down.  As I look at the stats over time and realize how little I write here, I can’t justify the money to keep my domain name of “catholic4areason.”

So, thanks for reading my little blog!  Hope you enjoyed what you found here and that it was of some help and encouragement.

(And, Emily, don’t worry–I printed out all my posts!)

Trying to Explain

Have you ever been asked a question that you struggled to adequately explain? I’m pretty good at thinking and speaking “on my feet,” but there are times when the subject matter and circumstances of the asking make it difficult to pull my thoughts together. This has happened to me a few times and left me feeling very frustrated at being unable to communicate what I want to say. It happened again the other day.

I was in the grocery store when a young woman stopped me and asked what church I went to.

“The Catholic Church,” I replied.

“Oh,” she responded with obvious disappointment. “I am looking for someone to go to a church my friend wants me to try, but I’m scared because it’s pretty out there.”

Further conversation revealed she’d been raised in a Baptist-style home, but has been wrestling with whether what she’s been taught all her life is actually true. A friend has told her she needs to speak in tongues in order to be saved and she wants to know what’s true and what’s not. How are we saved?

We stood and talked for some time.  It wasn’t the best environment for it, but I did the best I could and assured her that God would guide her if she would seek Him and His will. After assuring her of my prayers for her journey, we went our separate ways.

Over a year ago I was asked the same question by a family member who is struggling to understand our conversion to Catholicism. Unfortunately, it was asked in a noisy room and “off-the-cuff” as well. There are issues with both circumstances.

First, my hearing is getting worse and I struggle to hear when there is a lot of background noise. I almost have to close my eyes and concentrate on what is being said to sort it out from everything else, so discussion was difficult. Second, although when I was an evangelical that would have been a five-second sound-byte answer, “Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior,” that’s not the case as a Catholic.

Why is it so different? Well, rather than trying, once again, to explain it with my own words, I’m going to use someone else’s explanation who knew he was being asked and adequately prepared to answer it. I’ll warn you, though, it’s an almost 25 minute explanation, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in to listen to Fr. Matt Hartley in Arvada, CO.

 

Bartholomew

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(Mary Anne holding Bartholomew in his favorite position!)

“When this cat and these dogs are gone, I’m done. No more pets. I want us to be able to take off and go to Wyoming or anywhere else without having to worry about animals.”   Famous last words.

Actually, it’s not my fault, not entirely. After Sammy, our last surviving cat, disappeared last year I had no intention of getting another one. I enjoy cats and there’s nothing better than laying in the recliner with a cat on my chest, snoozing away a lazy Sunday afternoon. That deep-throated purring from a warm, fuzzy body snuggled up on me is about as relaxing an experience as I can imagine. The only thing better was when my babies laid there to nap, but then I was always a little tense, worried I might move wrong and drop the baby. You never really worry about that with a cat, because they usually land on their feet with only an eye roll in your direction at such clumsiness.

But, animals have to be looked after when you travel, so I figured it would lessen my anxiety if there weren’t any to worry about. But every time I would say, “No more pets after these are gone,” my kids would give me the “Right, Mom,” look and go about their business, shaking their heads.

Well, for my birthday in August, Mary Anne took matters into her own hands and brought me a kitten! A pretty tan, lightly striped, male whom I named Bartholomew. I like using Biblical or saint names for pets when I get to do the naming and he came from a family with several boys named after the Apostles, so I thought Bartholomew would be cute. Besides, his meow is so loud that I can say to him, “Bartholo!” and he’ll respond, “Mew!” Pretty cute, huh?

He is now about seven months old and a nice-sized cat. While I write this he is laying on my chest grooming himself with an occasional lick on my chin to make sure I, too, am properly groomed. I don’t know what will happen when the dogs are gone, but I’m pretty sure I’m always going to have a cat!

The Flip Side

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Winter here in North Dakota can be (and usually is) quite brutal.  Despite the blizzards and severely sub-zero temperatures, there is beauty to be found.  Whether that beauty comes in the form of the ferocity of the wind or in the delicate artwork of a frosted window, it puts a new perspective on that harshest of seasons: winter.  I feel the same way about my diagnosis.

Although the words “Multiple Sclerosis” can seem very daunting, it is surprising what a relief it is to finally have an answer for so many of the odd things that have happened over the last few years.  To finally be able to lose my embarrassment over the way I need to get out of my car (both feet firmly on the ground first), or the way I will run into a wall.  Although I might sigh, I no longer berate myself for needing to have a death grip on a hand railing going down stairs because I don’t trust my knees to get me safely to the bottom.

Quite often I have felt as though my body was going berserk on me and I’ve chalked it up to being out of shape, overweight, getting older, clumsiness, etc. To stumble, to have my legs start jerking erratically, to have my hand not be able to control a pen properly, to feel exhausted when I have not really done much has been completely baffling. God has blessed me with a sense of humor and so I often will respond with, “That’s why my mother didn’t name me Grace!” but there is still that deep, nagging feeling that things are going crazy or maybe it’s all in my head and I’m just trying to subconsciously get attention. (By the way, it is all in my head! There are lesions on my brain causing this! 😄) So to have someone tell me, at last, that there is actually a reason for what is going on has brought me an incredible sense of relief.

Although this diagnosis has thrown me for a loop, I cannot say that it has been devastating. For one, I am not looking at imminent death. For another, I am not anticipating chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or any of the other horrors that come with a cancer diagnosis. Even if I would have the worst type of MS I would still have a number of years to live before it would take me.

The thought ran through my head one time that at times like this people might ask, “Why me?” However, I have thought for some time that the proper response to some of these things is, “Why not me?” For what reason would I ever believe that somehow I should be exempt from the suffering in this world? There is nothing special nor exceptional about me that would preclude me from this. I also recognize that God has allowed this to happen.

Does that make God cruel? No, it doesn’t. You see, I might struggle with some of the horrible things that happen in this world and wonder why God allows them, but the fact is that those horrors are usually caused by other people. God gives us all free will and our free will can harm others. However, MS is not something self-inflicted nor caused by anyone else. God has allowed this to happen to me and I believe that it is because He’s going to use it in my life and hopefully in the lives of others to bring Him glory and to help me to become the best-version -of-myself that He envisioned when He created me (Romans 5:3-5).

I have many friends and relatives praying for me. Some of them are asking God for complete healing and, if that is His will, I will be glad to have it! However, I realize that He might have a different purpose for it.

Now someone might say, “But, Tracy, you’re not in any real pain. You’re not really suffering very much just yet. How do you know that when the pain truly comes that you will see it this way?” I don’t know. I haven’t been there yet, but I can hope that I will endure whatever suffering this disease might bring with grace and patience with an eye on the eternal.  After all, this disease will not be for eternity, but only for a time.  At some point God is going to call me from this life into the next and whatever I have suffered here on earth will be swallowed up in His love and mercy.  Perhaps, when I’m on that Other Side, He’ll even show me what it all meant here on earth.

Christmas, part 3

UnknownSometimes life can throw us some weird curveballs.  My mother-in-law’s death wasn’t really one because we had anticipated it for years.  Mom suggested one time that perhaps we should celebrate her and Dad’s 45th anniversary since no one could imagine she’d make it their 50th.  Not only did she make it to the 50th, but they celebrated their 60th last August!  Who would have ever guessed?

My DNA results were surprising because I never imagined that I had Jewish blood in me. I think it’s cool that I have connections in both the Old and New Testaments.  The Old as one of Jewish descent (though only partial) and the New as a Christian.  I think that’s pretty special.

But last Thursday, December 28, I got a curveball thrown at me from out-of-the-blue that I didn’t see coming at all.

On December 9th I woke up with the right side of my body experiencing scattered numbness with my right hand and foot tingling.  As I walked it felt as though my sock were bunched up; a very annoying sensation for someone who can’t stand even a grit in her shoe. Ugh!  I’d just been to Grand Forks the week before for an adjustment at the chiropractor and now needed to go back because, obviously, something was “out.”  Since it was a Saturday I’d have to wait until Monday.

By Monday the numb spots were getting more noticeable and the tingling hadn’t stopped, so I trekked back to Grand Forks and had the chiropractor adjust me again.  Except it didn’t work.  As I walked out, I could tell that nothing had changed, but hoped that by the end of the day it would be better.  It wasn’t.  By Friday I knew I had to have this looked at because it was getting very annoying and my right shoulder was numb.

I went to see Ashton, a physician’s assistant, who did a full evaluation, blood tests, and neurological screening.  Nothing added up and the blood tests came back normal.  She said to come back again if there was no improvement within a few days.   That was the 15th and the following Monday (the 18th), Mom Spenst passed away so there was no time to think about going back.  I just hoped it was going to be fine and would go away as a similar experience had two years before.

The funeral and Christmas were bundled up into a whirlwind of people, activity, and severe cold weather.  By the time the 26th came, though, I knew nothing had changed and felt it was actually getting worse.  So, I called to see Ashton again, but she was out of the office.  I saw Dr. Emerson who decided it was time for an MRI.  On Wednesday morning at 8 am, in the bitter cold of -25°F, I was led out to the special semi-truck that comes through our rural community once a week with an MRI machine.  They completed the scans, some with dye for contrast, and I went home to wait for results.

Nolan and John had to leave Thursday morning to get back to work.  After having taken off about a week and a half, they really needed to return.  So, they headed out by noon and I went to work at our local appliance store where I work part-time.  That afternoon the nurse called and said the doctor wanted to go over the MRI results with me.  I was able to get the last appointment of the day at 4:25 PM.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had these kinds of tests before, but quite often if all is okay the doctor will allow the nurse to tell you that over the phone.  I had a feeling all was not okay.  My oldest two daughters came with me so I wasn’t alone.

We sat down with Dr. Emerson and he said that the MRI had shown results.

“Tracy, it’s MS.”