Surviving…a Latte!

 

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At least we got those holiday cups!

 

“Fall Backward” is everyone’s favorite Daylight Savings Time. Resetting clocks might be a pain, but who doesn’t enjoy that extra hour of sleep?

Ivan and me, apparently.

It’s Sunday morning. Our trusty iPhones switched automatically and woke us up at our traditional time, but on the updated schedule…which brings us to the first lame moment in my story. Instead of popping up unusually refreshed when Ivan’s alarm went off, we both groaned and drifted back to sleep. My alarm rang a few minutes later, but produced the same effect. I dragged myself to a seated position thirty minutes later, mumbling something about breakfast.

At this point we’d gotten an extra hour and a half of sleep but still felt like we were being dragged out of bed an indecent amount of early. You might think this is just normal “weekend mode” – except that it’s not. We never sleep in. (Yay for medication schedules!) The second lame moment in this story is all me. I started feeling funny right as I mumbled “muffins..breakfast…” As providence would have it, “breakfast” is a very powerful word in the mind of Ivan. Recently-baked pumpkin muffins motivated him to open his eyes, which he did…Just in time to watch me have a seizure. Poor Ivan was now very much awake without pumpkin muffins. I was even more not awake after a second seizure, but getting up was a must at this point. No medicine could happen until after muffins, and I needed muffins. Medicine, that is. 😉

I’m often unable to walk after a seizure episode, but Ivan guided a wobbly me to the table on my own two feet since I’d “only” had two seizures. He glanced at the clock after I sat down and then grabbed his phone. They were an hour different.  We’d just missed Daylight Savings Time! This brings us to the third lame point in our story. I’d just had fatigue seizures. Any time I have a seizure that’s not triggered by light, it’s been triggered by extreme tiredness. Apparently I was that tired – after sleeping in an hour and a half!

Last week had been an experimental week. We didn’t feel like I was strong enough for in-person visitors again, but I had a couple of necessary phone calls to make to Riverside. Two phone calls shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Both calls lasted longer than I expected, and I found myself exhausted on Tuesday and Thursday. I tried to proceed with my normal activities on the other days (I’m always surprised at just how far adrenaline, will-power, and a little caffeine can take you!) but I finally burned out on Saturday. I lounged around in pajamas feeling like I had the flu, which I knew I did not. What I did have was fatigue seizures the following morning. (Side note: Ivan’s excuse for being so tired on Sunday was less medical but still justifiable. He’d spent Saturday afternoon corralling Junior High kids and their parents for a school event, and then helped me around the house after he got home.)

Salvaging our Sunday became our shot at salvaging Ivan’s only day off that weekend. We ate all the pumpkin muffins, drank multiple pots of coffee throughout the morning, but only bolstered our status to half awake. Ivan ran across the street to Starbucks a little before 3 pm. At least it was a Bonus Stars day if you ordered lattes.

The fourth lame part of my story is mostly Ivan. Ivan is from another country, and is the master of making trans-Pacific flights sans jet lag. Case in point: In  June 2015 he touched down in LAX after a music tour in China, spent the night at a friend’s house, and then drove me up to see his parents the following day…in the Bay Area! It’s a seven hour drive. For the record, I did offer to drive part of the way so he could sleep, but he said “no” like a true gentleman. My true gentleman mustered even more energy to take me into San Francisco proper and propose a mere three days after our arrival.

All this to say, a measly one-hour time change should NOT take Ivan down along with it. My going down is a bit more plausible 😉

I’m sad to admit that church was not part of the Sunday we’d planned – or the Sunday we actually lived! The Lord’s admonition to “not neglect meeting together” (Heb. 10:25) is a command Ivan and I take very seriously. On the other hand, the Lord also created the human body and calls it the temple of the Holy Spirit. He instructs us to use His temple respectfully  (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we take that command seriously as well. Our church attendance remains an ongoing conversation, but for now we feel that keeping my body (specifically my brain) safe as much as possible is the right choice. We look forward to resuming our weekly visits as soon as we are able! In the meantime, we’re trying to make the best of our extended hiatus with all the sermons, worship music, etc., that are now easily accessible online. We’re grateful for God’s provision in that regard, but still realize that God wants good community as well as good content whenever possible – hence the importance of church.

But anyway…To everyone else who missed the boat last weekend…we’re right there with ya! We just hope you didn’t have to drink three servings of coffee and two shots of espresso before 3 pm.

Tumbled from Grace…

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All’s well that ends well 🙂

The Disney princess sweeps into an ornate ballroom, her prince an elegant step behind her. She does not tumble down a flight of stairs and into the stupefied guests below. Her prince does not fall in love with a fish. I wish someone had mentioned all this before the food tasting for our wedding.

Ivan and I stepped into the lobby of the Mission Inn, both salivating for the tasting banquet that August night. The Inn is a historic landmark and boasts the stunning chapel where Ronald and Nancy Reagan said their vows so many years ago. Said chapel is also completely booked year round. We only “got in” by choosing a Wednesday morning wedding slot between Christmas and New Years! Even the wedding food tastings run on a schedule, so we were delighted when our turn for the tasting banquet finally arrived. The word “gourmet” was embossed neatly on the reminder card in the mail.

So, returning to our evening. The banquet would begin after a cocktail hour for couples to nibble hors d’oeuvres and taste various wines, marking their choices on an elegantly-scrolled index card. Ivan and I dressed appropriately – well, appropriately for 22 year-olds on limited budgets – and arrived at what I estimated to be just the right amount of late. The other bridal guests eddied around cocktail tables and a mini bar, just outside the grand ballroom and right at the foot of a magnificent staircase.

Ivan and I proceeded through the lobby (I hoped people would notice that we were headed to the coveted tasting banquet downstairs) and paused for a moment at the top of the staircase so I could absorb the scene. One glance told me that we were probably 10 years younger than the rest of the bridal couples, and that our clothing insinuated we would be the kind of couple to take that Wednesday morning slot – or some other slot of the kind. I turned around and raised my eyebrows at Ivan. He seemed completely unaffected by the discrepancy, so I grinned and decided I could at least make a graceful entrance to compensate for our other deficiencies. I was suddenly very thankful that I’d worn my dressiest set of heels.

And then I fell. Not a wobble on the top step, not a stumble through the first couple of steps, not even a brief go-down-and-then-hop-up-like-nothing-happened fall. I fell and rolled. “My Prince” reached out to rescue me, but his arm was a tenth of a second too late. Twenty heads rotated in unison to greet me at the bottom with thunderous silence. We not only looked like babies. We acted like them, too!

I grasped for some some remnant of poise as Ivan set me on my feet, but I could only stumble to a corner table. My rarely-worn, three inch heels pinched mercilessly. A waiter tactfully offered crackers swirled with goat cheese and an olive, alleviating some of  our awkwardness, and then the doors to the banquet hall swung open before we had more time to cringe at our side show…

Our side show was soon swept under the table. The most gorgeous table-for-two I’d ever seen, that is. In a vintage lounge to the ballroom’s right was a buffet laden with entrees, and I’m sure all the ladies gained five pounds just glancing at the dessert table peeping from the corner. Ivan and I may never experience such a luxurious meal again during our lifetime. We knew we’d already selected a simple roast chicken with French green beans before attending the tasting, but that didn’t deter us from tasting all that might have been. 🙂  I pretended not to notice that my leg and foot were inflating under the table. The waiter pretended not to notice that we declined each of the three champagnes he offered. We weren’t underage, even if we looked it, but I did work at a Baptist school.

What I couldn’t pretend not to notice was Ivan beginning an affair. With a salmon. I’m sure my fall from grace earned me no brownie points, but I had never seen Ivan’s face glow with the same pure, undiluted joy as it did upon his first bite. I have not seen that radiance a second time. (The day I elicit that look from his eyes is the day I add “cum laude” to my Bachelor’s in Wifing.) The salmon was superb, but I confess that I was more fascinated with this new “Ivan in love” scenario than the fish.  Part of me wished we could add it to our reception menu just on his account. Part of me rejoiced that we could not. No bride wants her thunder stollen by a fish.

The “old Ivan” returned promptly after our plates vanished into the kitchen. “Old Ivan” was also tasked with assisting his limping fiancee back to the car. He executed this chivalric duty with customary affection, but I was suddenly aware of how needy and un-succulent I was compared to the fish. Hobbling through the lobby, one arm around Ivan’s neck, the other positioning my purse so that guests couldn’t see how black my leg had turned – that was not the Disney-esque exit I had planned. Our fairytale parody heightened as Ivan swept me off my feet (out of necessity) to carry me the rest of the way to the car. I hoped he wasn’t remembering the seductive salmon as he bore me in his arms. I did not ask, and I do not know.

What I do know is that my leg and foot healed from the tumble (my self-esteem healed more slowly), we had a gorgeous wedding, the roast chicken was delicious, and Ivan appears to have a more balanced relationship with salmon. Although we can’t be completely sure of that unless he faces the Mission Inn salmon a second time…

 

 

An Answer for Papa

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My last picture with Papa ❤ He was 88 and I was 18.

“Be good now, d’ya hear?” Papa always said goodbye like that: on the phone, at the airport, even when our car pulled out of his driveway that time we hazarded the 1200-mile drive to Savannah. He wanted me – wanted all his grandchildren – to “be good.” He’d wanted Mom and her siblings to be good, too. That was his way of taking care of everyone.

And I was good. I was good at school. I was good at music. I was good at college. I remember calling Papa every couple of weeks when I lived in New York, hearing how proud he sounded on the phone. He was even proud that I remembered his admonition to “be good and don’t go dating any of those Yankee boys.” Honestly, none of those Yankee boys asked me out, but somehow I never got around to telling him that part.

I’m glad Papa didn’t live to see the day being good didn’t work for me. I’m glad he doesn’t know that I waited for my crossing signal, looked both ways twice like a good girl. And almost died. I’m glad he doesn’t know that I’ve been good at therapy and good at following doctors’ order for almost two years…and I still have to spend most of my days resting at home. No, Papa. Being a good girl doesn’t always work out. I wish I knew why.

Now what? I’m only twenty-five. I don’t have the wisdom of a man who lived eighty-nine years – including through a stint as a ski trooper in WWII. I absolutely don’t have the wisdom of a book that’s still relevant 2,000 years after it was written. One life is not enough to suggest being good is the wrong answer.

Now what? I’m not alone. It would be comfortable to call myself a unicorn and believe everyone else who is good leads a happy life. But many good people lead far worse lives than mine. Still, even thousands of lives are not enough to prove being good is the wrong answer.

I’ve told you what I am, what I’m not, and what I don’t have. But I left something out. I left out God. That 2,000 year old book I mentioned has been read by millions of people, and what does it say? God is good, and God has answers when things aren’t good. God provides a way out of our mistakes (Jesus), when we aren’t good. It’s easy to imagine all those millions of people throwing their book against a wall when they read that God was “good” but didn’t always fix their broken lives. But there are a lot of copies that never got thrown. Mine didn’t. If you read long enough, you’ll hear Him say that because He is good, His plan is good, and His good answers will more than satisfy our “why’s” when He finally reveals them. Faith is waiting for something you don’t see yet. Anyone in my family can tell you I hate waiting for things – especially for anything involving Christmas or birthday presents. 😉

An answer to our “why-ings” would be a giant present for me, for you, and absolutely for the millions of sufferers who have gone before us. As usual, I hate waiting on my answer. As usual, our good God will give us the faith to keep waiting when we ask Him for it.

And as for Papa, I’m glad he’s not waiting on his answer any more ❤

 

Q&A Video 3: Bible, Then and Now

 

It’s Friday! And it’s time for that final video in our 3 part Q&A series! We’re wrapping up with two questions:

  1. Has the accident changed the way you read the Bible?
  2. Was Ivan and/or Grace thinking about going into ministry before the accident?

Thank you so much for watching (and,) as always, walking) with us!  Check back next week for a post in our good ol’ blog-writing format 🙂

 

 

Q&A Video 2: Moving to the Music of My Life

Happy Friday! I’m so excited to post the second video in our Q&A series for y’all! A question about teaching music lessons sparked this video…but we decided to share a tad more about music than just that 😉

If any of you have more questions that you’d like to see as part of the series, feel free to comment or message to let us know!

(And yes, questions can be about anything 😉 )

 

Q&A Video 1: God’s Presence

Good morning, everyone! We’re excited to share the first video in our Q&A series with you all! This clip responds to a question about how clearly we feel God’s presence in our lives.

If any of you have more questions that you’d like to see as part of the series, feel free to comment or message to let us know!

(And yes, questions can be about anything 😉 )

 

 

Time to Hear from YOU!

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Thankful for the blogging love! ❤

Hello, blogging family! Thank you for walking with us for almost 22 months now! Wow. You’ve shown us a whole lot of grace! 😉

Anyway, Ivan and I thought one way to say “thank you” would be to give YOU a chance to share with us. We’re planning to do a video blog to talk about any questions or thoughts you’d like to share. Any topic is fair game!

If you’d like to join in, feel free to private message me (Grace) on Facebook, or leave a comment on this post below. Can’t wait to “talk” with you!

Picture (not) Perfect

 

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First outdoor photo in a loooong time!

Hi everyone! Last week Ivan talked about being open to what we don’t know. “Knowing” we don’t know everything is the key to personal growth and gaining more…knowledge!

But let’s zoom in a bit closer and only focus on knowing people. What don’t you know about the people in your life? What don’t your people know about you? Take me for a guinea pig. My picture looks pretty normal. You’d never know from looking at me that:

  • Sometimes I can’t make the 2 min drive to my parents’ condo.
  • Those headphones aren’t for music, they’re for extra brain protection.
  • Same deal with the sunglasses (notice how I’m in the shade).
  • I often keep my eyes closed to avoid headlights even when we drive during the daytime
  • I’m almost never outside long enough to take a picture
  • I have titanium rods in both my legs, even though I’m standing on some uneven gravel in the picture 😉

What if you talked to me in person, or even just read the blog? I sound (and write) pretty normal, so you might not realize that:

  • My traumatic brain injury is still very real (reading and writing are the only skills that haven’t been affected in some way)
  • I have seizures frequently – almost every day
  • If I did talk to you in person, I could only do it for about 15 minutes. Otherwise I might get too tired and have a seizure later that day.
  • I’ve had two strokes. I get so tired that I usually nap twice a day!

I’m just one person. One normal-looking person. What about everyone else? People can smile and have a normal conversation and go out to dinner in spite of lots of things. Maybe they, like me, have an invisible disability or illness. What about other life issues like problems with friends, problems with family, problems with finances, or problems with a career? And then there’s mental health problems…emotional health problems…spiritual health problems.

Many invisible problems stay invisible for a reason. Society tells us that happiness means being pretty and successful. Or at least looking like it.

I’m so thankful there’s another way! The Apostle Paul had an invisible disability, too. “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 9:8-10). As believers, God calls us to look real, not pretty. Transparency about our weaknesses – whatever they might be – proves that He can love and save literally any kind of person.

Some day God might heal your health issue, solve your family conflict, close your emotional wound. Or He might not, but give you grace to shine through it instead. You have unique potential to put His power in the spotlight either way!

On that note: we also need to radiate grace to those around us. That coworker who’s picking at every little flaw in your project? Your friend who suddenly quit replying to your texts? That person in class who has to raise their hand for EVERY single question? And the proverbial dude who cuts you off on the freeway? What do we not know about them? They could have a million issues stuffed away inside…

What I didn’t know

 

Ivan: Hi everyone! This video is a short devotional I recorded for my Valley Christian Schools. In it I share some details about the accident that I don’t think Grace or I have shared before. I hope it encourages you to rest in God’s sovereign power and knowledge!

Where It Counts

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With the master herself! ❤

“Live your purpose.” That’s the motto for California Baptist University, where I went to college. I’ve transitioned through several purposes at the ripe old age of twenty-five, but there’s one purpose that I never wanted to live (or do): chores. I had a moment in middle school when I decided one of my motivators to become a famous violinist was…no chores! I was sure those people didn’t do laundry, or vacuum, or dust, or…

Mom loves chores. Okay, she doesn’t love chores, but she loves creating beautiful living spaces. Unfortunately (for me), beautiful living spaces involved chores. Hence our collision course.

I was obsessed with violin in high school. I needed (i.e. obsessively wanted) so much time to practice that..who cared if my room was tidy, my floors were swept, my laundry put away, etc.??? Mom always came back with “When you get married, you’re going to be responsible for how your whole house looks, not just your room!” I wasn’t married at that particular moment, and had no plans to be so in the near future, so I didn’t see the big deal.

In college I actually did need to study a lot after I changed my major, but my disinterest in chores remained exactly the same. As did Mom’s interest in them. Not only was she interested in chores, she was now interested in my cooking expertise, too! Having a boyfriend only intensified our “remedial” household sessions. “No guy wants to sign up for only spaghetti and mac-n-cheese dinners for the rest of his life!” It took an engagement ring to get me (mostly) on Mom’s side.

I find it extremely ironic that now my only job is caring for our apartment. My return to a real job was dubious at best, so the main point of occupational therapy was problem solving how to do basic chores in spite of my stroke deficits. Even now, tidying that 700 square-foot apartment I talked about last week takes up so. much. time.

Our apartment isn’t the only space that feels small. Social media has a killer instinct for making people feel small, too. Between Facebook and Instagram, I’ve seen four friends start fancy new full-time jobs just last week…and I’ve lost track of the number of newly-finished grad degrees. Also, baby apocalypse.

My “chore career” felt minuscule compared to all those significant updates I scrolled past. I desperately needed to figure out what counted and grow some roots. Right on cue,  I read this in my morning devotion: “I’m doing the very best I can, and I’m doing it at home, where it counts.” Don’t get me wrong, this post is NOT a plug for quitting your job or dropping out of school to devote yourself to chores. That would be a little crazy, to put it politely.

But that idea did remind me that Mom was right all those years! Doing my best with our home is important. This counts as a purpose I can live, even if I’m often disconnected with the outside world. True, most people also have demanding purposes at school or work – or at both – and they count, too. I hope (and pray) this blog is one of those extra things that count.

So, to glue everything together, this post IS a plug for two simple questions. I hope they help you ground yourself and de-stress just as much as they helped me!

  1. Are you doing the very best you can? That was “YOU,” not him, or her, or they, or any other pronoun. Just you!
  2. What counts to you? Is that the place you’re doing your best?

Not too complicated, huh? 😉

And now that you’ve made it to the end of this long post about work…Happy Labor Day!

P.S. Please clean your room.

P.P.S. The quote was from a devotional paraphrasing Psalm 101:2.