7.31.2011

Situational Vertigo

The inner ear is responsible for a lot more than it gets credit for. There are little crystals in there that are in charge of balance, and if those tiny crystals get jarred or unsettled for any reason, then your whole world is rocked. That may not be the most medically correct definition, but it is the best one I can offer for the condition known as vertigo.

I had vertigo in the hospital while in labor. Nodding desperately when the nurse offered me a little something in my IV to “take the edge off” prior to the epidural, I thought the drug might make my world better, not worse. But within seconds of a drug called demerol hitting my IV, the walls of the room began to wobble back and forth, up and down, as if my hospital bed was a roller-coaster car. I squinted my eyes shut, but even the blackness behind my eyelids was rudely gyrating. All I could do was hold on to the hospital bed and wait it out.

There have been other, less dramatic, bouts with it, in which I can sense that those crystals are having a little unauthorized party in my inner ear. They get all shaken up, knocked loose, swirled around, and I get all woozy and dizzy until the party is over.

Sometimes vertigo strikes altitudinally, (a word I just made up, according to the squiggly red line that just appeared underneath it in my blogging software.) Last spring, I stood atop Red Mountain in Birmingham, AL, at the feet of Vulcan, the huge statue symbolizing the city’s roots in the iron and steel industry. The view was stunning. Photos by my dad.

vulcan

Here I am, keeping my back to the stone wall, inching around the narrow observation deck you see in the above picture, with a weird smile on my face that seems to say, “I am not 100% comfortable with this. But hey, I’m smiling. Sort of.”

vulcan against wall

Before me, all of Birmingham sprawls. Below me, visible through the see-through metal grate under my feet, is a drop of several hundred feet…

vulcan looking down

Above me, (dare I look up?) is a gigantic Roman guy. Okay. Gulp. I’ll look up. Carefully….

vulcan looking up

Whoooaaaa, baby! Vertigo!

There are other times when vertigo is not drug-induced, or inner-ear induced, or altitudinally-induced. It is sometimes situationally-induced. Things happen in life, and you find your world spinning and rocking and changing – yes, like a ferris wheel – and there’s not much you can do but hold on until things settle again.

That is exactly what moving has been like for me. We have completed stage 1 of the move, the most labor-intensive and mentally exhausting stage. In inner-ear speak, that means that the little crystals (not the ones in my ear, but in my psyche) are still rocking and rolling. I am a gypsy woman whose family is currently living out of boxes, standing at the precipice of a big life change. I am a pilgrim on a journey. Nothing like a move to bring about remembrance of the past and contemplation of the future. A perfect storm for situational vertigo.

But here are two antidotes to that condition that I have found:

1) I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalm 16:8. Knowing that God is with me, right beside me in the midst of this craziness, settles the shakiness. I face nothing alone.

2) Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23. That’s David, talking to God. Any child would tell you, if they could, that hand-holding brings much assurance, much security. Not only is God with me, but I am with God, through Christ. Charles Spurgeon, famous British preacher from the 1800’s, said this about Psalm 73:23: “Here is comfort for the tried and afflicted soul; vexed with the tempest within – look at the calm without. ‘Nevertheless’ – O say it in thy heart, and take the peace it gives. ‘Nevertheless I am continually with thee.’ ”

That is how I can hold on to the rail and look up at Vulcan on the observation deck.

That is how I can hold on to God and look ahead to the future.

7.22.2011

The Corked Bottle

It has been six months since I pulled the plug on the time-sucking, privacy-invading machine that was my personal Facebook page. Since reading these posts by The Elizabeth W and Jo Princess Warrior on this very topic, I have been inspired to evaluate.

Am I still glad I did it? Yes.

Do I miss it? Sometimes.

Would I ever sign up again? No.

Do I always talk to myself like this? But of course. Don’t you?

Most status updates and tweets are not at all the cutting edge, super-efficient, revolutionary way of communicating that they are made out to be. When you boil it all down, most of them amount to this:

blog pic1

The legendary message-in-a-bottle of old.

How?

Everyone in the world (practically) is sending out their own personal messages in a bottle to a faceless universe, hoping that somebody else in that universe will find that bottle, uncork it out of curiosity, and respond to it in some way. Exuberant, bummed out, scared, bored…we all want someone to find our bottles. “Hi. I see your bottle.”

If I still had Facebook, I would write, “I am moving to a new town,” on a piece of parchment, roll it up, shove it down in that glass bottle, and send it out to sea. Then I would wait to see what happens. Maybe my friend from 4th grade will see it. But maybe she won’t. Maybe that former co-worker will notice it bobbing there in the waters of her news feed. Maybe she’ll even “like” it. But really, it is all a rather passive exercise in communication.

At times like this, I sort of lament my inability to make an all-encompassing, explosive, impersonal announcement: “Hello entire world, and everyone I have ever known or met in my whole entire life! We’re moving! BOOM.” It’s certainly easier to let everybody know that way. But on the flip side, I don’t have to assume that the heavy Facebook-ers already know the big news when I see them, which leads to awkward conversations…Should I bring it up first? Or will they? Since after all, I know that they already know, and they know I’m probably about to bring it up? This is weird.

Okay, I’ll bring it up. “Well, we’re moving!”

“Yeah, I know! I saw that on your Facebook status!”

Groan.

That particular response always always deflates the wind-in-the-sails of sharing something with a friend, and the wind-in-the-sails of receiving it personally. If we are going to keep tabs on each other through statuses, then the need to continue to communicate on an individual level, person-to-person, diminishes considerably. We can all just “know about” each other’s statuses.

Putting messages in bottles gets the job done, but I’m not sure it gets the job done in the most fulfilling and beneficial manner for social creatures like us.

Although, I admit I do occasionally miss it when someone says, “Did you see that hilarious picture that so-and-so posted on Facebook?” Um, no. (But invariably, that person will proceed to uncork the bottle by whipping out their iPhone and showing it to me…so, nothing really lost there).

As much as I enjoyed composing my messages in bottles back when I did that, I have found that I enjoy even more that they are no longer running through my head willy-nilly, a never-ending mental news ticker of my life, not to mention everyone else’s. There has been a general quieting-down of the clamoring voices in my head. Social media can make you crazy. (See above: talking to myself).

I think I ran out of bottles and parchment.

Peace, be still.

7.17.2011

7/17: Ark Day

Today’s Farris Wheel is for my mom. It’s her birthday.

She is amazingly talented, thoughtful, generous, funny, and smart. I admire her and the way she sees the world. I am thankful for all she has done for me, proud of who she is, and blessed to be her daughter. And friend.

And, regardless of historical calendars and scholarly commentaries, I think it’s very neat that “the seventeenth day of the seventh month” is mentioned in the Bible. Because really, can you say that about your birthdamount araraty? I didn’t think so.

Genesis 8:4 says, “And on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” This is picture of what that mountain looks like today in Turkey…

So, after 150 days of rocking and rolling on the waves, Noah’s ark stopped tossing and turning on day 17 of month 7. And soon after that, the floodwaters receded and a rainbow came out, accompanied by God’s promise. A good day, indeed.

You know how you can easily look up what happened on your birthday in history? (Disneyland opened on this day in 1955, mom, in case you were wondering. Wheeee!) But I wish it were possible to look up “On this day in biblical history” to see what was going on way back then on any given day.

On this day in biblical history…Jesus healed the man born blind.

On this day in biblical history…David triumphed over Goliath.

On this day in biblical history…the lions’ mouths were shut tight.

But mom, I actually can’t think of a better biblical birthday to have than what I call Ark Day. Except maybe the resurrection. That one pretty much trumps all, you know. I am sure for the people aboard, Ark Day was a day of rest, relief, and hope in the promise of God. And in the same way, I hope that’s the theme of your day today.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you!

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7.15.2011

Tree Sprouts Alien Pods in Small Town

SMALL TOWN, AMERICA --- A large tree in a nondescript, quiet Southern neighborhood has sprouted what appear to be round, green, knobby alien pods.

While house-hunting today, Jennifer Farris and her husband came across the strikingly unusual pods hanging all over a tree in somebody’s front yard. The house is unoccupied, and the owners could very well be unaware of the ticking time bomb that is sitting on their own property.

“I knew it was just a matter o’ time before them aliens came down here to take over!” Mrs. Farris drawled. “And lookee here. This here’s proof that them guys are about to hatch. Better be stockpilin’ your emergency kits! Ain’t no tellin’ if they’re gonna be good ones or bad ones!”

Her husband declared that he ain’t never seen nothin’ like ‘em, either. Even the realtor was scratching his head.

Mrs. Farris explained that if she were to blog about such a thing, she was sure that people would leave comments saying that everyone knows it’s a such-and-such tree. Even so, she likes to think that the pods are otherworldly. Either that, or plastic…

pods1

pods2

pods3

7.10.2011

A Time for Everything

I have known this blog post was coming for some time now, but I did not know when I would be at liberty to actually write it. This is the time.

Life chapters are always being written, even when we are not aware of it. You’re either starting one, in the middle of one, or ending one. The middle parts don’t get near as much attention as the beginnings and the endings. Those are the bookends that delineate particular eras in your life. Whenever there is an ending bookend, you can be assured that there is a beginning bookend very close by.

So it is for my own family right now.

For the past 7 years, we have been a part of an extraordinary church family where my husband has served on the staff. And we will always look back on this chapter of our lives with great fondness…the place God brought us when we needed Him to come through for us, the place where He stretched us and grew us, the place where both our children were raised from infancy, the place where we learned what ministry is.

lighted pathBut now, a new door has opened, and very soon we will be moving to a new town, where we will plant our lives and my husband will pastor a church for the first time. By this time next month, I will probably be writing from a new location…an undisclosed location in every sense of the term…because the house where we will be living has not been disclosed to us yet. I know and trust that it will be, in God’s time. We are filled with questions, with anticipation, and with hope. A new season is about to begin, in more ways than one.

But now I know why the word bittersweet gets tossed around frequently during moments like these. The goodbye (the ending bookend) is bitter. Not bitter in a grudging sense, but bitter in the sad sense that (let’s face it) nobody likes to tell a friend goodbye. To the friends we have made here who are reading this now…we treasure you, and we always will. Last September I wrote a post called called The Expanding Universe, in which I remembered the salt-of-the-earth people whose lives have intersected with ours over the course of our married life. As time passes and life chapters stack up, our universes automatically expand, rather than diminish. I see it happening now. Our universe is immeasurably richer for having known you all, and nothing can change that. It may sound trite to say that, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them,” but I can think of no better, and no truer, sentiment to offer right now. (And by the way, we have eternity together, but let’s not forget that we also have e-mail and cell phones in the here-and-now, okay?)

The hello (the beginning bookend) is sweet. We have been overwhelmed with the kind welcome that has already been extended to us…so many open faces, so much genuineness. We have great hopes for what God will do in our midst of this congregation, in the days and years to come.time for everything

King Solomon penned these beautiful and fitting words a few thousand years ago in Ecclesiastes 3. They need no elaboration and no further commentary because they already cover every possible milestone in the human condition. They still speak today. And they speak to me now more than they ever have before. This is the time to tear down. This is the time to build up.

1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

7.07.2011

A Delayed Phenomenon

_MG_1989_w Sunburn is always a delayed phenomenon.

You are completely ignorant of the fact that you’re getting fried to a crisp in the midst of your fun, sunny summer activities. You don’t feel red. You might not even look that red. You think you’re fine. You try to be cautious about sunscreen, but sometimes you miss certain areas. Certain large areas. Like…oops, oh yeah. Your whole entire back. At the moment, mine is as red as a fire truck, thanks to a day at the lake.

It’s not until later that evening that your skin feels like flames are shooting out of it. It’s not until several days later that it itches so badly you want to lean up against the wall and scratch your back like a bear, and you are clawing through all your beauty products under the sink trying to find that elusive Aveeno oatmeal bath stuff.

Sunburn is a sneaky, dirty trick. Enjoy the moment, pay the price later. (A lot could be said about that, but I won’t).

If only there were some advance notice! If only our skin would break out in green dots or something when it reaches the boiling point. Just temporarily. So you’d know. Like when water is about to boil on the stove, and it gets those little tiny bubbles in it, just before the big bubbles start erupting. Or what if you could buy little stickers for your skin with sensors in them that would change color as a warning? They would have to be strategically located, and small enough so as not to be unattractive. Am I burning? Wait, let me check my stickers.

For us fair-skinned folk, the sun is our nemesis. We go from pale to red in 60 seconds. There is no brown. (Fair-skinned folk really should not attempt to become tan. It never works right. Just resign yourself to your fair-skinned fate). Once when I was about 12, I spent a day on the beach with a friend and her family, away from my parents, and I decided to skimp a little on the sunscreen since nobody was there to make me slather it on. With all my heart, I believed that I would come back with the glistening bronze skin that I so desperately wanted. But I came back with sun poisoning and shivered all night long in the motel bed. Misery. Other times, I would sunbathe in our yard and end up with bright red knees and thighs. Not quite the intended result.

Then sunless tanning lotion was invented! Eureka! It was unfortunate that the early versions of it smelled awful and only delivered bright orange streaks all over you. But in my eyes back then, orange was infinitely better than pale. I think sunless tanning technology seems to have improved since then. Somewhat. At least we have that to fall back on.

Now that I am older and wiser, I am much more diligent in my sunburn-prevention tactics. Hat. Cover-up. SPF 50. Be cautious between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Reapply, reapply, reapply. Preach it to the kiddies. Go ahead and let the sun-worshippers shake their heads and smile their wry smiles at you. Just give them a big, friendly smile back from where you sit…the place that is always superior to the sun, given the option…

the wonderful, blessed, harmless…shade.

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