Slip Sliding Away

Psalm 46:1-2 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall…”

Well…

The earth is giving way and the mountain is beginning to fall on our property.

We live at the end of a mile long dirt road which circles around a canyon that is about 70 feet deep and 70 feet wide. With all the rain hammering the central coast this past month, we had 30 feet drop off the last part of our road which is now inches from collapsing.

  Each day as I’m driving out from my house, I come over the hill before the slide, holding my breath and praying the road will still be there.  The first thing I look for are the orange cones. If they’re still perched on the edge, I know the road has held for one more day. It’s absolutely terrifying!

I say that because we have lived through a mudslide in the not so distant past. It was December 23, 2005.  Ed kissed me goodbye and routinely left for work. Within minutes he was calling, explaining the disaster sitting in front of him. Four acres of our neighbor’s property had slid onto our road covering 500 feet of it with debris piled 20 feet high.

There was a secondary access road to our house that was not quite drivable, however, Eddie was able to get his heavy-duty, four-wheel drive truck over it, allowing us to have a vehicle parked on the other side.

Ed then figured out a way for us to hike in and out of our property, reaching his truck.  You read that correctly… we were hiking to our house with only one vehicle parked on the other side of the slide. This was a steep, quarter mile hike, which included crossing a narrow creek on a twelve inch, wobbly plank that Eddie rigged up.

After a couple of weeks we were able to bring in some rock to the most treacherous part of the secondary access road. Even with this bit of improvement, only a four-wheel drive vehicle could get through.

It was a steep hill followed by a perilous, narrow, windy road down a mountainside. I would drive my suburban up to the steep part, put it in four-wheel drive, say a quick prayer and GUN IT! After some spinning out and more prayer, I could make it to the top followed by a slow descent down the scary switchbacks.

We did this for TEN MONTHS!

Within weeks the cause of the slide was easily determined. Four of our neighbors had an old, wooden holding tank for water. Unbeknownst to us, it had not worked right for years—leaking gallons of water each day! After saturating the hillside for so long, it finally gave way.

Those 10 months were long and hard AND… we made it through them seeing God’s faithfulness every step of the way. He brought us the incredible surprise blessing of Olivia smack dab in the middle of it all. Her story is crazy-amazing and I need to share it sometime soon.

I’m sitting here reminding myself that God is always with me and He loves to bring joy out of the chaos of life.

I have these verses underlined in my Bible, dated May 5, 2006, with the phrase “mudslide” written next to them:

Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”

I have a feeling these verses are about to become a reality to me once again as the cones have now slipped off the road… just minutes ago.

I’m not sure how God can out-do the blessing of Olivia during our last slide, but I’m waiting patiently to see how he will put a new song in my mouth this time.

He is always faithful!!

My Disneyland Trip (Part 2)

Cradling my injured arm, we slowly made our way through the castle into Fantasyland.  Eddie gingerly led me to a brick wall where I could sit and evaluate the damage.  Meanwhile, he placed the three kids in line for Peter Pan, leaving Jess in charge.

I could not stop crying from the pain and the realization that I had potentially ruined our vacation.  “Who falls at Disneyland?  What is wrong with me?” I wailed at Eddie.  My arm was almost entirely immobile.  We weighed our options.  I could have it checked at the Disney first aid office, where I was sure they would send me to the hospital.  Or… I could go directly to the hospital where it would take hours, and our day would be shot.  OR… I could just tough it out, staying at Disneyland as planned.

I insisted on the latter.  I positioned my arm as if it was in an imaginary sling.  Our pace slowed WAY down.  We STROLLED through the park, appreciating each sure step, often yielding to others.  If Olivia wanted a picture with a character, we stopped.  If Jessica and Cory indicated interest in a ride or attraction, we did it.  Throughout the day I downed a lot of Advil, spending much time patiently waiting for the others.  My aggression had been completely subdued.

Upon returning to the hotel, I decided to call my friend who is somewhat connected to the medical field.  Well, okay… her mom, sister and brother are all nurses, AND her closest friend is a science teacher!  What more could you want?  As we talked, we determined that I had not broken anything.  It had to be a soft tissue injury.  That was reassuring to me.  I felt I could finish out our trip, relying on Advil and ice to get me through.

To add insult to injury, it was my right arm and shoulder that took the brunt of my fall.  Being right-handed, this left me quite handicapped to perform even the most mundane, simplest tasks.  Changing my clothes proved to be the most difficult challenge.  Painful!  Brushing my teeth, blow-drying my hair, eating – anything that involved raising my right arm the tiniest fraction of an inch, brought unbearable pain.

Back from vacation, I daily analyzed if I should call the doctor.  Many people told me that I could possibly improve with time, however, after three weeks of NO improvement, I FINALLY made the appointment.  My rotator cuff was damaged.  I was to start physical therapy, with surgery as a back-up plan if I did not respond to treatment.  The good news was I already knew an excellent PT who had recently seen Ed, Jessica and Cory (THAT story is for another blog).

As I arrived for the first appointment, the teasing was in full swing in regards to yet another Margo coming through the door.  I humbly shared the story of my “accident”, giving everyone permission to tease me about it.  THEN, it became really comical when I had to explain my previous “injury” to the same arm due to ABS… that is… Angry Birds Syndrome (refer to my blog post, “Birds”).  I must admit, it would be nice to have more honorable injuries!

Slowly my arm has responded to therapy, with surgery no longer part of the discussion.  It has been over 3 months since the infamous castle belly flop, and I am still not a hundred percent recovered.  Recently, I read a quote by Beth Moore which said, “Better to be broken than to snap.”  God seems to be taking me on little practice runs of brokenness.  He is teaching me to yield to Him in every area of life.  I must be a reluctant learner because the “opportunities” just keep coming.

There are three short verse in I Thessalonians 5 in which God gives three keys to successfully living through or with brokenness:

Verse 16   “Be joyful always.”  (that’s the WHOLE verse)

Verse 17   “Pray continually.”  (Whole verse, again)

Verse 18   “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I have to simultaneously do all three because I cannot have joy unless I pray, which leads to giving thanks which is ultimately an expression of my faith.  I trust God with everything – especially my broken parts… whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, had a great quote in his book “Finding Home.”  He stated, “The purpose of pain is often to develop our character, yet we run from it because… pain is the gift that nobody wants.  I love that!

“Lord, please break me before I snap.  Use the gift of pain to grow deep spiritual roots in my life.  I will be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.  Oh… and one more thing… while I know that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, maybe we can do these life lessons in joy somewhere else… Just a thought…!!!   I love you Lord!!

My Disneyland Trip (Part One)

The lines were incredibly long to enter the park.  It was our second day at Disneyland, and the crowd had doubled in size.  Why was everyone here on a Monday?!  I began weaving my family in and out of position to have the best advantage.  Strollers were everywhere, along with all kinds of motorized contraptions for those needing mobility assistance.

I had a plan:  once through the gates, make a bee-line for Fantasyland, specifically, the Peter Pan ride.  Beat the crowds and check it off the list!  I relayed the strategy to my troops.  We were on a mission, and they had their marching orders.

We were in.  Scanning the mob, I gave the command, “Go to the right and stay focused!  Walk fast!”  Goofy was signing autographs off to the side of the Main Street loop, catching 5-year-old Olivia’s attention.  “Not now.  We can look for him later.  Keep moving!”  Main Street was shoulder-to-shoulder people with the horse-drawn cable-like-cars honking their way through the masses.

The tension in me was mounting.  The happiest place on earth was quickly becoming the most stressful place on earth.  I was painstakingly keeping step with my 15-year-old daughter, Jessica… zig-zagging our way through the multitude.  My aggression was now leading to some mouthy comments, as I began to mock the funny, buggy characteristics of those we were zooming past.

As Main Street widened to the circular plaza, the crowd thinned out.  My intensity, however, continued to escalate, realizing we were in the lead of this imaginary race to Peter Pan.  Approaching the castle, my stride was almost to a jog.  As Ed wheeled Olivia over to the castle walkway flattened out for strollers… Jess, Cory and I took the more direct route.  A simple curb stood between me and the home-stretch.

In my haste, the toe of my bright pink Columbia shoe caught the top of the curb.  Not to be overly dramatic, but time stood still as my mind contemplated the inevitable.  I was going down.

Falling as an adult has to be one of the most embarrassing events that can happen.  Suspended in mid-air, I was actually thinking about this.  Who would notice?  How quickly could I get up?  Would a crowd surround me?  Laughter?  Pain?  “Stop daydreaming and save yourself,” was the next thought screaming through my brain.  No such luck.

Hard doesn’t even begin to describe my fall.  I hit the pavement and LITERALLY bounced three times.  It was an ugly series of belly flops in front of this most beautiful castle.  Wow.  Really?? … I REALLY just did that?? … Yep!!

My family gawked at me.  Stunned.  Mom fell.

Eddie quickly raced over to help.  The way I landed, he expected my face to be covered in blood.

Caring more about my dignity than the excruciating pain, I hopped to my feet.  Looking into Eddie’s eyes I lamented, “My shoulder is busted.  I know I’m going to need surgery involving pins and screws.  I can’t move it.”

Mission aborted.

I Thessalonians 5:16  “Be joyful always.”

(to be continued…)

Rock Star

My hair had started growing the first of January, about six weeks after my last chemo treatment.  I continued to wear hats to cover up the awkwardness of this stage.  It was coming back the most blah color ever – kind of brown, kind of gray, slightly red – just BLAH!!  Nothing attractive about it.

After two months of growth, I had just enough hair to start coloring it.  Secretly, I made an appointment.  I did not tell anyone, mainly because I did not want input from anybody, especially my family.

As I arrived home from my clandestine appointment, my three children came out the back door ready to bombard me with school questions.  They took one look at me and their reactions went as follows:

Jessica (13 years old):  “Mother!  That’s horrid!!”

Cory (10): Shook his head, walked away, refusing to speak to me for over an hour.

Olivia (3): “Your hair looks cute, Mom.”   (If I were to have a favorite child, it would be O at this moment… just sayin’)

Well, that was quite a welcoming.  “Don’t I feel so loved and encouraged,” were my initial thoughts.  I realize the shock factor was playing into the scene, with my kids being completely unprepared to see my new “do.”  I found it astonishing that they could be fine with my bald head, choosing to react now to my head of new hair, simply because of the color.

So… the color… you ask.  Well, I had persuaded my hairdresser friend to bleach my hair.  I was now a platinum blonde with a Billy Idol kind of look and style.  In all honesty, it was a way for me to “entertain myself” through this phase of my journey.  I was choosing joy, choosing to make myself smile… to find a tangible, visible way to celebrate what God had done in my life.

Psalm 150 is a psalm of praise that lists ways to praise the Lord.  It encourages praise by the trumpet, harp, lyre, strings, flute and resounding cymbals.  The final verse says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” As corny as it may sound, I felt I was praising the Lord with my hair.  My Billy Idol look was my version of sounding the trumpet or clashing the cymbals.

Jess and Cory slowly accepted the new me, even admitting they kind of liked it.  Ed gave me his reluctant approval, probably (and rightly so) wondering where this would all lead.  Olivia showered me with affection and encouraging words.  Friends flipped over the look, making me feel extremely loved.  All of it – from funny family responses to jubilant friend reactions – brought me such joy and opportunity to again share my story.

Verse 3 of Psalm 150 states, “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”

AND… here is my personal paraphrase of verse 6:   “Let every head that has hair praise the Lord.  PRAISE THE LORD!!!”


(hair began growing back January 2010)