The Torture Machine


My baby was diagnosed with RSV this week.  It’s a respiratory virus that causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages in young children. After discussing treatment and symptoms with me, the doctor forgot, possibly on purpose, to explain the potential side effects on the mother.  So, while I was adequately prepared for the baby’s illness, I was completely unprepared for my part in this journey.

As the home healthcare van pulled up to my house to deliver the torture machine, aka nebulizer, my insides started to quake.  We were instructed to administer breathing treatments every four hours for one to two weeks to baby.  The directions should have said, place gas mask on the child and brace yourself, because the baby will morph into a feral cat as soon as she sees the machine…a biting scratching little creature fighting for her life.

One week into this illness, I understood on a much deeper level, how God must feel when He watches His children suffer for their own good.  Our baby fears and despises the very treatment that will help heal her. Over and over, her screams rip into my heart as she stares at us with eyes full of distrust and betrayal.

My husband and I sound like broken records, repeating how very much we love her in our best soothing voice.  But it’s not enough. Our baby is mad and angry. She even howls at the machine, as if to rage against the symbol of her supposed injustice.

Of coarse, only a baby would doubt a loving father and mother’s intentions, right? I mean, we would never question our Heavenly Father, even when he leads us into the desert that borders the Promised Land…or would we cry and fight, every single time, just like a little child?

After eight nights of little to no sleep, fretting over each toss and turn, and straining to hear any variation to my beloved baby’s labored breathing, I have pretty much reached the end of my own strength. Her desert has become my desert, and the Promised Land but a memory I cling to in exhaustion. 

This desert has no sense of humor, limited grace, and very little patience for my spouse.  We bicker and pick at each other, ridiculously fighting over who is more tired (me, of course), until we remember who the real enemy is. And so last night, I prayed and cried out to God, to see Him more clearly in this dark night of the soul, on what has become a dry and barren road of nebulizers and endless mucous.

As I closed my eyes, long before my head hit the pillow; I sensed God’s comfort in this rest, more than the usual catatonic crash as of late. I felt drawn into His warmth, as though I were beckoned with waves of restorative manna for both my body and soul.  And though I awoke on the hour, it was enough sleep to sustain me for one more day. 

Today the baby actually relaxed in her treatment, closed her eyes and leaned into her wee mask. She opened her small mouth and deeply breathed in the medication that allows her find the air she so desperately seeks.

For this mother and child, God’s manna is rest. His provision is air to breathe. And his sustenance is not only for us, but for for all the weary sojourners traveling through the deserts of life seeking a glimpse of the Palace Gates and His everlasting  glory.

Giligan’s Journey

Christmas Eve was a day of perpetual mishaps.  The best laid plans were best laid to rest…because chaos reigned supreme. 

The older kids were at Grandma’s and it was time to rendezvous with my parents to bring them home.  And so my little one hour jaunt turned into Gilligan’s three hour tour.  The baby and I set off and not fifteen minutes into my journey, I heard a strange clicking  and within seconds a loud bang erupted from under the car and the front tire on my Xterra exploded off the rim. 

My car shuddered ominously, which happens when you are traveling at 75 mph, and so, I prayed, wailed and held on for dear life.  Fortunately, I managed to pull over, traffic rushing by me on the toll road, and rolled into a small inlet off the side of the road. All this happened as I was “multi-tasking” on my cell phone to my husband who heard the whole fiasco on speaker-phone.

Ever the Eagle Scout, my husband told me to sit tight and he would be there shortly.  Thirty minutes later, he pulled up.  We moved the baby into his car, he pulled out the jack, and off I set again to bring back our kids from Grandma’s. 

After giving him a big kiss, I left my husband on the side of the road changing the tire.  Only fifteen minutes later, we were diverted off the toll road because of mud slide damage from the recent storms.  After a thirty minute alternate route, we finally got back on track.

Then the crying started.  I had left the baby’s bottle at home in my haste to pick up the kids, and baby was hungry.  Already an hour late for the pick-up, I had no time to stop for food, so in my best soothing voice I kept repeating, over and over, “Just a few more minutes baby. “

 Then the next freeway closure hit from storm damage, and once again we were re-routed for another thirty minute detour.

As we pulled up to meet my father, two hours late for our pick-up, I pulled a hysterical baby out the car.  On the verge of tears myself, my dad rushed us over to Chili’s for some R & R.  As I quickly made the baby a bottle, sad little sobs erupted and her body shook with frustration.

As I handed the baby a makeshift bottle, she leaned back in my arms, looked deep into my eyes and said “Thank You.”

This is my eleven month old baby.  An exhausted, starving baby who had endured suffering for the first time in her life, and her response when finally fed was to say, “Thank You.”

She didn’t hit me, turn away in anger, refuse to eat, or play passive aggressive baby.  She simply took the food and thanked me.

I reflected on the last time, or any time for that matter, that I had thanked God for the circumstances in my life that tested my spirit and lead to patient endurance.  Just thanked him for the character defining moments I hate because I am forced to grow, despite my unwillingness to change.

My baby inherently knows what I often forget…to have a childlike trust in God, a simple dependence, and a thankful heart

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

First steps and last steps…

Baby steps

Today my kids and I went on an unusual adventure. After church, I packed up my little tribe and hustled them to the car, explaining that we were heading over to the Vintage Sr. Center for a high tea and a little socializing with our elderly neighbors.  My twelve-year-old son, who is generally amiable and warm-hearted seemed up for the occasion, though he did comment under his breath that old people smell.  My nine-year old drama queen on the other hand, ran and asked her dad if she could stay at church to clean up, tried to arrange an impromptu play-date and looked for any loophole possible to avoid accompanying us.  The baby was on board, but then again, at nine months old, she didn’t have much of a choice.

I dressed the girls in costumes, both for Halloween’s s sake and because I thought the Sr. residents of Vintage would enjoy seeing a cute baby dressed as Wonder Woman and my older daughter decked out as an 80’s style Valley Girl.  But poop happens, and the baby had a blow out all over her costume and the left half of my body as I walked into church.  I cleaned myself up, but I reckon if you sniffed real close, I was borderline stinky.  It was one of those days.

So, in we marched to Vintage Sr. Center…a weary mom, a hyper baby, a reluctant pre-tween in a pink tutu, and my easy-going son. We stopped on the patio and greeted a few seniors who were taking some air.  They oohed and ahhed over the baby and we smiled and made small talk before heading in.The Sr. Center was surprisingly lovely.  I was caught off guard by the soothing decor, calming fountains, and tableaux of lush flowers and inviting spaces. The communal area was set up for the tea with tables decorated in harvest linens and china resplendent with tiny sandwiches, fresh fruit, and sweets. 

About twenty elderly ladies were assembled for the tea and we jumped in to join the festivities.  I made the rounds with the baby, and let her simple charm and utter innocence bless the ladies. And the baby obliged, smiling and giggling, while proudly showing off her two new teeth.  She clapped and waved, danced and performed for her audience of approving grannies, reveling in their attention and genuine delight.  But babies have limited attention spans, and after a while she whimpered to get down and explore on the ground.

Like lightening, the baby crawled over to the one solo male, sitting alone with a walker in front of him. She climbed up on the side of the walker and to her surprise, it moved.  On the cusp of walking, the baby had found a strong sturdy aid to help her take her first steps.  I glanced up at the man, hoping he wouldn’t mind that the baby had absconded his only source of mobility, but he seemed enthralled by my wee tyke now making circles with the walker.

He leaned over and said in a raspy voice, “You know, I never thought I would walk again, but I’ve been working hard with the physical therapist to strengthen my legs and I can even do the stairs now.  Soon, I should be able to get around with just a cane.”

As the baby made circle after circle with the walker, fiercely determined to take one step after another, the man talked about losing his good friend to a stroke only a few days before. His matter of fact demeanor appeared callous at first, but then it began to dawn on me that in this environment, he was getting used to loss. I scooted close to listen, recognizing the sacredness of an open heart and a lifetime of wisdom being shared.

He told me there were two types of residents at the Sr. Home, the terminal and those in transition. The transitional folks were there for a set period of time to recover from a surgery or a fall while their families arranged a way to bring them home with assisted care, but the others were there until they died.  It was their final home on this earth. He said it made all the difference in the world how the residents identified themselves. He said the terminal were hopeless and sad…their spirits bitter and hard. But the transitional residents had a promise of recovery and home, a reward at the end of a long and painful journey.

The man smiled at me and proclaimed,” I am going home again when I can walk. Just like that baby forging ahead, I refuse to end my life here.”

I caught my son’s eye and winked; delighted he was engaged in helping set up the slide show for the poetry reading. Then we drank tea, listened to Casey at the Bat and enjoyed cupcakes. I saw my older daughter drawing pictures and presenting them to the elderly ladies, smiling and preening in her costume. Eventually, the baby grew tired of her game, crawled into my arms and fell asleep.

As I gathered up my kids to go home, and hugged my new friend good-bye, I asked him if I could come back and play cards with him.  He nodded “yes”, excitedly muttering something about Gin Rummy.

I drove off pondering his statement about the two types of residents at the Sr. Home.  I was struck by how profound his observations were and how it also applied to a much bigger realm than just the Vintage Sr. Center.

Our perspective on life, our very identity rests on how we view ourselves on this planet, either as transitional–with the hope of eternal life and a greater kingdom awaiting us, or as terminal—life consisting of a limited time and place, with a beginning and end, and then no more. Even the most decadent Sr. Home in the world would feel like hell, if you looked at as your last step to the grave.

The man knew that to have a life, he had to change his perspective.   

Later that night, I asked my son if he enjoyed himself at the Sr. Home. He responded with a decisive, “Yes! They didn’t smell bad at all, but you on the other hand, need to take a shower.”

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