When I was a little girl, my friend Lynette and I loved the merry-go-round. We would push it as fast as we could, hop on, and spin to our hearts’ content. If we were really fortunate, we would find a high school boy wandering by, and pester him into pushing us faster and faster. We’d lean back and watch the wondrous pattern of the trees spinning in a circle above us with the summer sun glimmering through the leaves as the breeze wisped through our hair. My favorite was jumping off the merry-go-round and trying to walk, or even stand. It was gloriously fun trying to find firm footing on the ground as the world spun around, until slowly, the spinning would come to a stop. Or, if I was feeling particularly adventurous, and a plentiful supply of compliant teens were around, I would hop back on before my equilibrium was reset.
a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height
I think a sensation of vertigo sums up how I feel right now. There’s not much that has remained steady in the last year. A year ago, I had a 4 and 5 year old who didn’t speak English. Now I have a 7 and nearly 9 year old who have each grown more than 6 inches in the last year. I was on part-time maternity leave last year. Now I’m back to not only my previous full-time job as Didactic Education Coordinator, but Program Director, and the Clinical Education Coordinator. My work was previously all in-house, but now I find myself in regular meetings with the mayor’s office, talking with legislative offices, hospital Vice Presidents, and national leaders in education, in addition to all of those in-house responsibilities. In the last three weeks, I’ve attended two different week-long conferences in Gatlinburg and Memphis, interviewed our first round of prospective students for next year’s class, planned a conference with the mayor’s office, developed a marketing plan with my boss, finished publication of a video (which you should watch), reviewed accreditation standards with administrators, prepared a new orientation session, attended an all-day grant-writing workshop, hired an adjunct instructor, and attempted to stay ahead of the 100+ emails I receive a day.
Things have dramatically changed for Ken too. Last year, he had church responsibilities 5 nights a week, and all day Saturday and Sunday. With two kids from very traumatic backgrounds, trying to catch the kids up in school, and trying just to manage life, it was wearing on all of us. Ken was almost never home to put the kids to bed, and the “Daddy at church, again?” made me realize that there was a great chance that our kids would grow up resenting the church for what it was doing to our family, unless something changed. We decided it was better to take the reduction in pay for the sake of our family’s emotional and spiritual health. So Ken dropped Upward Sports and went back to working with just college students, which is where he started at our church. It was hard to adjust expectations from full-time to genuinely being part-time in order to meet the needs of our family. By the end of the summer, Ken was asked to move to doing assimiliations. For the first time since 1993, I was no longer working with college students in the local church setting. We’ve been with this college group since 2007. I love these college students. LOVE. I made (and sometimes bought) breakfast for them every Sunday for over 6 years. We had weekly dinners with them in the cafeteria or in someone’s home, listening, laughing, and sharing life. We prayed them overseas and back. Most of them are choosing careers in ministry or serving the poor in some way. As with most of our college ministries that we’ve had over the past 20 years, substance was the goal, more so than size, which means deep love, beyond the confines of a job. Now I find myself suddenly disconnected at a church I’ve been attending for almost 7 years.
My health has been another vertiginous situation. I’ve tried to be especially careful about getting enough rest to make up for my IgG titer deficiency, which gives me a decreased ability to fight infections. I have to pay attention to feelings of exhaustion, knowing that stress further weakens my immune system. Fortunately, the kids’ adaptation to American germs has helped significantly. Because they are not sick every week, neither am I. My cough has not improved. I had a bronchoscopy 2 weeks ago under general anesthesia (in between 2 weeks of traveling for work). I was congratulated to have the thickest lung secretions that they had ever seen. So thick that they could not suction out my lungs, and asked me how in the world I was breathing. Not easily. While they didn’t find any sign of infection anymore, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to fix my lungs either. The pulmonologist recommended that I try a flutter valve to help me clear my lungs on my own, but it looks like the cough is here to stay. Sigh. Coughcoughcoughcough. Sigh. I’ll have to decide whether or not to continue Xolair when my deductible resets and I have to start paying $3500/shot again.
In the last year, whenever I’ve felt like life had stopped spinning, something else would push me back on the merry-go-round. When I was a child, it was fun. Now, I just want the merry-go-round to stop. There was one special trick that I eventually learned about the merry-go-round. The closer I stayed to the center of the merry-go-round, the less dizzy I got. In fact, if I could fix my eyes on one of the trees next to the playground as I was spinning around, I could avoid the sense of vertigo altogether.
And that is much like the relationship into which God draws us. When life is running at a dizzying pace, He longs to draw us closer to Himself, to center us. Our health doesn’t really matter, nor our jobs, our churches, nor even our families. Those are all forces pulling us to the edge of the merry-go-round, in comparison to the centrality of His greatness and love. If we can anchor ourselves on Him and fix our eyes on our heavenward goal, the dizziness and disorientation of life disappears.
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:9-10
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:16-18