Monday, September 26, 2011

The Littles

(The blog entry below was written entirely by Jen Little.  In case you missed my introduction in the previous post...the Littles were one of thousands of families who were personally effected by the tornado. Here are her thoughts...)

Of the hundreds of stories my pal Alissa could have chosen to voice, I'm honored to make the list. Quite honestly, I'm not the writer she is. I've never before blogged, I'm nowhere near as witty, and I admittedly have a hard time letting people "in"... Especially in a "let's voice our thoughts via the most public forum possible" sort of way. Nonetheless, here’s my attempt to pen my thoughts on the events of May 22nd.

First, let's get one thing straight. I don't think my personal account of the day is any more special than the next guy's... Quite the contrary. I arrived "home" shortly before 8:00 pm that night to find a remnant of the place my husband and I had painstakingly renovated destroyed... The place we suffered our family's lowest lows and most recently celebrated one of our highest highs in when we brought our now 10-month old home from the hospital. But the fact that we weren't home when it happened seems to put our devastation in a "lesser traumatic" category than many other accounts I've had the privilege of hearing since that day I lovingly now refer to as "the hangnail". You see, I was not home, my family is still intact, we still have transportation, and my hubs and I are both still gainfully employed at  amazing workplaces that have graciously allowed us time and support to piece together life again. We also found ourselves well-insured and surrounded by tremendous networks of support. So when I talk about how life has changed, I do so through the filter of realization of just how blessed we truly are.

I’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and encouragement. As the one who's most often on the giving side of things, I have found it difficult to accept the compassion and support shown us over the last several months. Random cash being passed with a handshake, checks showing up in the mail from people we've never even heard of, offers upon offers for help, resources or moral support. One of the coolest examples we’ve experienced so far was in something as simple as a Christmas tree. Whatever your religious disposition, it seems nearly everyone these days does some sort of holiday decorating. Our family is a little quirky in the fact that our first Christmas together we got an aluminum Christmas tree. Not the new-fandango kind you can get at Walmart, but the eclectic, antique kind you normally only saw at Grandma’s house when you were a kid. And not just the tree, but this beaut was complete with its original electric color wheel. Naturally, the 11 year-old tradition blew away with the rest of the house and was added to the list of items we’d need to find a replacement for. Little did I know, though, that soon after the final demolition of our home, I’d have an even bigger and better (and yes, another antique) show up on the front porch of our rental home in a large cardboard box. That’s just an example of how detailed and caring my Father in Heaven is… He cares about the seemingly insignificant tidbits in life just as much as the big, “important” things like personal health and shelter.

In all this rambling, I hope you hear my heart. I’m not dismissing the fact that I have days when I feel new waves of grief and loss. I’ve learned as the days pass by and the "business" side of disaster are taken care of, the emotional side hurts more than ever. At times I feel ripped off and that my hand has been forced and I'm having to make major life decisions which would typically take weeks or months in a matter of days. But in all the loss there is peace and hope. There is abundance and I’m praying like mad I don't screw up the opportunity I've been given to exhibit the Lord's strength and grace in a time of major adversity. I desire wise counsel in decision making and to share the love and abundance I’ve been given with others. If you've got something precious you often want everyone around you to know about it… well, that’s where I’m at.  

The Littles

Aaron & Jennifer

Demolition Day

Birthday Celebrations

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Little Introduction

(I promised this blog entry months ago...but, unfortunately, I got sidetracked by the black plague. Heh.)

Question: can a single woman experience love at first sight…with a happily married woman?   
Well, I mean…a single woman who likes men.  And I mean, “like” as in…ok, never mind…you get it.  Here’s my point: sometimes when you meet someone…you just know that this person is the real deal.  I don’t often have that response to strangers, so I can say without a doubt…the woman that I’m referring to IS worth knowing.  So, if you’re reading this blog…today is your lucky day. You get to meet the Little family.
The Little Family
(Aaron, Jennifer & Jude)
Meet my friend, Jennifer Little.  We’ve known each other for about a year.  I met her several days after she started working a few doors down from me.  The first thing I noticed was that I could look her in the eye...which at 5’9+ is a lovely surprise.  Then I noticed that she had fabulous taste in clothing…and…she was uber preggo (that’s fancy talk for “very pregnant”).  *Snort* Ok, I admit…I totally noticed her clothing first.  What?  Apparently, I appreciate a snappy dresser…especially one who is great with child. 
After a few mutual job assignments, we fell into the comfortable rapport of long-acquainted friends.  She loves Jesus too…and likes to talk about Him in personal, honest ways.  She loves to laugh…and, even more wicked-awesome…she appreciates sarcasm (a friend-requirement, in my book).   She is kind…very kind…always taking the time to remember people’s names.  I like that about her.  She also has this serene, mature intelligence that makes her stand out in a crowd…and not because she’s tall (insert joke drum beat here).  But I think my favorite thing about Jennifer Little is her vulnerability.   She is a walking, talking, breathing testimony to the fragility and strength of a pilgrim’s journey.   If someone made a Jennifer Little Fan Club t-shirt…I would totally wear it.
Eventually, Jen became un-preggo…when she delivered a very handsome little man-child named Jude.  He and I reached a very important understanding.  I got Jude to understand that he shouldn’t cry when I hold him…and he finally got me to understand that I shouldn’t try to hold him when he’s due for a good cry.  Heh.  After my much deserved schooling…we are now becoming bosom buddies.  Little Jude is charming and adorable…and has a grin that slays the hearts of all woman-kind.  I hope I get to cuddle him very soon.  And when he gets older, I’m going to woo him with chocolate milk. 
Aaron Little…the hubs and dad…rounds out the precious Little family.  He is an associate minister at one of our local churches.  I often forget that he’s a “man of the cloth” because he’s so down-to-earth and approachable (in that way…he reminds me of Jesus).  I knew I was going to like Aaron when he showed up to my birthday dodge-ball party wearing full dork gear.  Yep, he won my friendship with a head band and tube socks…what can I say…I’m easy.   On his birthday, I inexplicably referred to him as Jason almost the entire evening.  He, of course, took it with grace and the appropriate level of retributive sarcasm.  I sure do like that Jason…errrr…Aaron.  I’d wear tube socks for him any day. 
I think the Littles are worth knowing every day of the year…but I wanted you to know them because of one day in particular: May 22, 2011.  You see, they are one of the thousands of families in Joplin, Missouri whose lives were dramatically altered by the random cruelty of an EF5 Tornado.  It’s a story of loss and hope…a story of glorious ruins.  Through the Spirits prompting, I asked Jennifer to tell her story in my blog.  And I’m STOKED to announce that she agreed to do it!  Get ready, people…a beautiful testimony is about to happen all up in here…mmmhmmm, yes, Jesus, and Amen!   
I'll post Jen's story this weekend...wait for it...wait for it...wait for it...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lessons in Suffering

Yesterday was a big day.  I drove myself home…put on real clothes (real clothes = no drawstring)…smeared a little make up on my face…and went back to work.  Yep, yesterday was a big day.   
The plethora of drugs I swallow daily have stopped tormenting me…and started to heal me.   I’m clearly getting better.  The dark circles are gone.  The sarcasm and jolly sense of humor are back.  And I’m actually making plans for my return to “normal.”  But the biggest milestone to date is that I’ve been nausea-free for almost two weeks now.  For those of you who know my story…that is a miracle.  I’ve suffered from different levels of (undiagnosed) nausea every week since about 2006.  Five years of suffering…appear to be at an end.  I want to do a jig…but, admittedly, I’m afraid.  Partly because I get worn out pretty easily…partly because I don’t have any pants that fit…and partly because I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.   Nausea-free?   It almost seems too good to be true.
The last two months have been hell.  Seriously…the worst, most excruciatingly miserable months of my life.   I remember one day in particular.  It was the day I found out something important about my faith.   It was more than a month into my illness…despite a trip to the ER, a 4-day hospitalization, and multiple tests…I remained undiagnosed.   Weeks of constant, acute nausea…with little to no relief.    Heh.  You know all those things you learned in the church about what to do when you’re suffering?   Pfffft…those lessons felt impossible on that particular day.  I tried to pray…but I couldn’t.  I tried to remember Scripture…but…I couldn’t.   All the things I had been taught to do in Sunday School…all the things I knew I was supposed to be doing…I just…couldn’t.  So, that day as I sat on my parent’s couch…head between my knees…shaking…dry heaving…crying…I started to do the only thing I could think of…the only thing that made sense.  I silently began to beg.  Over and over again I chanted in my head the only thing I truly wanted…
Death.  I begged the Father to let me come Home.
Some of you may be scandalized by that statement.  But I’m guessing that some of you may know exactly what I’m talking about. 
So, here’s a fun fact about me.  I love words.  (My family would say that my love of words allows me to use really big words in the wrong context…but, I’m ok with that)  I recently uploaded a dictionary app to my phone…and it’s my new favorite diversion.  Today’s word is “inculcate”…a great word…as a corporate trainer, I try to inculcate as often as possible.  In fact, I’m planning on using the word “inculcate” repeatedly in this blog entry until you’re so overcome with curiosity that you look it up and thereby remember it.   Heh…I digress.  You see, as I prepared to write about my experience on the day I begged for death…I really, really wanted to find just the right word for you…to encapsulate how I felt.   The word that kept coming to mind was ”despond.”  Whew…a heavy word.  A verb.  It means to be depressed by loss of confidence, courage or hope.  
So, I asked myself…in that moment when I begged God to please, please let me come Home…was I really despondent?   Hmmmmm.  Loss of confidence…check.  Loss of courage…admittedly, yes.  Loss of hope?  Absolutely not.  If anything, that was the purest moment of hope I’ve ever truly experienced.

Here’s the thing, friends…I wasn’t despondent.  Yes, I was being sucked into the black hole of pure, unfettered misery…but I still had hope.  I could have been sitting naked in Time Square and I wouldn’t have registered even an iota of shame…because my heart was so distracted by hope.   That was the day I fiercely rejected every comfort this world has to offer and with my last vestige of rational thought, I reached for my Father’s promise:  He will wipe every tear from my eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain (or nausea). All these things…all my suffering…will be gone forever. 
As you’ve probably guessed by now, He didn’t acquiesce to my silent pleas for death.  I’m still here…and what’s more, I’m getting better.   Heh.  I sure am glad He rejected that particular request because I sure do like a lot of things about life.  I'm a broken, raggamuffin woman…but through my suffering, Abba is teaching me to like the RIGHT things about life. Apparently, He wants me to stick it out a little longer...and spread the good news. 
So, before I go, I want to share with you one of the important things I learned on that fateful day.  Something that I almost missed. You see, despite my begging, He didn’t call me Home…and…He didn’t take away the suffering.  I was tortured by nausea for weeks after that day...and endured even worse digestive angst.  With a quiet (and patient) tenderness, Abba taught me that sometimes the suffering isn’t fixed…and sometimes our bodies remain broken…but wherever there is hope…there is life.   
For everyone reading this blog who knows about suffering…you are uniquely equipped to inculcate the message of true hope.   (And because I know that you may be too miserable to be excited about that…heh…I want you to know that I understand…and I’ve got your back)