For the love of a hamster

It’s crazy what we do for those we love.

Last week, we let the girls buy hamsters. They had asked for years for some kind of small animal. I don’t know if they wore me down or if I was feeling magnanimous because it was Earth Day, but I gave in.

We broke our quarantine and went to PetSmart. The girls had spent the day researching how to care for hamsters, so they knew what they were looking for. With a little help from a sales person, we got what we needed, including two hamsters. Emma picked out a Syrian fancy bear hamster which she named Sherlock, and Sofia fell in love with a long-haired Syrian she named Taco.

Everything went well until yesterday. Sofia had Taco in his ball running around upstairs, and when she turned her back for a moment he ran for the stairs. Down twelve steps the little guy bounced in his ball. We promptly got him out of his ball and back into the safety of his cage.

This afternoon when I woke up from my Monday nap, Sofia told me Taco was sick. We went to her room to find him not moving in his cage. I took his out and held him, and his little face was blue. He moved a little, so I rubbed his chest to try to stimulate his heart. Once we decided he wasn’t dead, Michael called around and found a vet that could see him. Off Michael, Sofia, and Taco went.

Two hours later, Taco is grooming himself in his cage. The vet gave him some sugar water and said she thinks he is sore from his accident yesterday. She sent home little syringes with hamster-sized amounts of Tylenol for him.

I’ll admit, I didn’t think about illness or injuries when I agreed to the hamsters. My first thought when I saw Taco not moving was to wonder if we had any small shoeboxes to bury him in. I was ready to go dig a hole. But then Sofia cried. Sofia never cries. Her little mama heart was breaking at the thought that her little hamster might die, and I knew I couldn’t let her down.

We do generous things for those we love. Like rubbing a hamster’s chest to revive him, or spending nearly $100 on a vet visit for an animal that weighs half of a pound.

I don’t love Taco. But I love Sofia, and she loves Taco. That makes it worth it.

Light in the Dark

It’s not a secret that I struggle with depression. I have for many years. It’s something that, unfortunately, is always near at hand for me. I’ve accepted that.

This was a particularly bad week. I can’t tell you why because I don’t know why myself. Sometimes I can pick out a cause or trigger, but not always. And not this time.

I was up late one night wandering around the dark house. (I do that sometimes when the depression hits. It messes with my sleep cycle.). In thinking back, though, the house wasn’t really dark. We have a couple of small nightlights placed around the house. We have a string of lights that cascade around our fireplace. And our home alarm control panel puts out quite a bit of light. So the house really wasn’t that dark inside.

Even if there hadn’t been little lights on inside the house that kept it from being really dark, there were lights outside. We have a lamppost by our driveway that stays lit all night, as do several other houses in the neighborhood. And the moon was shining in through the front windows, providing a soft, natural light.

If the soul is like a house where we dwell, then mine has felt dark lately. But just like my real house, my soul isn’t really dark. There are still lights on in random places, providing enough illumination to find my way. My girls, my husband, my family, and even my little dogs provide bright spots throughout the day, even if only for short times. There are lights on out in the world as well, shining into the house of my soul. Spring is here, so the world is blooming. Even the snow we received last week was beautiful and illuminating in its own way.

When things look darkest, sometimes it is because we are focusing on where the darkness seems the worst. It can be hard to shift our gaze in those moments, but if we can look around just a little bit, we may find that things are not completely dark and that there is light seeping in from various sources.

And for those who cannot find the light on their own, sometimes they need someone to step into the dark and bring the light with them.

The day between

Today is the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  As far as work goes, that means I get to do one of my favorite tasks: decorate the hospital chapel with flowers.  I’m not a designer, and on at least one occasion someone rearranged them for me.  But I enjoy the smell of the flowers, and I like the color they lend to the room.

I sometimes wonder about that Saturday 2,000-some years ago.  Jesus was dead, no doubt about it.  The soldiers at the cross made sure of that when they pierced his side with the spear.  He had been taken down from the cross and put into a tomb.

Now what?

That must have been the question on every disciples’ mind.  Their beloved leader was dead.  They were in hiding lest they be the next targets.  Now what?

It surely wasn’t the only question on their minds, though.  I imagine they mentally tossed around the last few years and the last few days, examining their time with Jesus from every angle.

What did it all mean?  What was the point?  What were the supposed to do next?  How could they move on from such an emotional journey?  Could they go back to their old lives?  Did they want to go back to their old lives?  Would life ever be the same again?

These are questions that get asked during times of grief.  Each time life leads us on a meaningful journey, the end of that journey spells loss.  It spells grief.  Maybe not on the same level that the disciples experienced, but grief nonetheless.  The death of a loved one.  The deterioration of a relationship.  The breakdown of society.

This is what I think the disciples did on that day between.  I think they asked the hard questions and looked for answers that wouldn’t yet come.  They didn’t know what lay ahead, but they tried to imagine.  And the scenes the imagined were grim.

We are in a day between, of sorts.  The world as we know it has shut down.  The life we know has come to a halt.  We think it will all get sorted out, but we have so many questions about what they will look like.  When will life return to normal?  Will it return to the same normal we knew?  What will we lose in the process?  Who will we lose?

If we can learn one thing from looking at the disciples on their day in between, it is that Easter Sunday was more glorious than anything they imagined.  Jesus did rise again.  He did return to them, even if only for a short time.  He set them on a new course that was bigger and more incredible than any of them could have imagined.

Our day between will end.  What comes next may not be what we think or what we want, but it will be meaningful.  Our Easter Sunday is coming.

Hallelujah.

When God shows up.

The weekend was rough.  Friday night was busier than normal, Saturday was crazy, and Sunday was manageable.

When I arrived on Saturday evening, one of my first thoughts was that I didn’t feel like working.  I love my job, and I rarely feel like that.  But exhaustion and frustration were creeping in over the current situation, and I just felt overwhelmed before even starting.  I want to think I’m not alone in that.

I needed a pick-me-up.  I needed help.  I needed God to show up.

Luckily, I got all of them.

I got a text from my boss just before the pager exploded, telling me that he was glad I was there.  Totally unsolicited, and totally appreciated.

I got a compliment from a nurse on my outfit.  She said she appreciates how colorful and springy I looked.  Instead of downplaying it by pointing out that it is largely because I was the only person in the hospital who wasn’t wearing scrubs, I accepted it as is.

I got a brief but much needed conversation with a dear friend in the middle of it all.

Sunday evening, I arrived to palm fronds and a note from a sweet soul.

Sunday night, a local restaurant brought a large load of food to the hospital for our third-shift workers.  I got to make the phone calls to the units letting them know that it was available.  I got to see the smiles and hear the thanks from the grateful workers who picked it up.

They were little things, but they were what I needed at each moment along the way.  After each one, I felt myself thanking God for showing up and giving me what I needed to keep going.

It’s lovely when God shows up like that.  When He hears our pleas, spoken or otherwise, and responds.  When He shows us in tangible ways that He loves us.

The thing is, God is always present.  He doesn’t just show up when we need something.  Each step of each day, He walks alongside us.

In spring flowers.  In an unexpected laugh.  Sidewalk chalk by neighborhood children.  Peace.  Love.  Contentment.

Whether we notice or not, God shows us He loves us all the time.  We simply need the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Another Palm Sunday

It’s Palm Sunday.  For the third year in a row, my dear friend Jon left palm branches on my desk at work so I would remember what day it is.  And for the third year in a row, I made a bracelet out of one so I would have the reminder on me.

Today was a beautiful day for Palm Sunday.  One might have almost been forgiven for forgetting for forgetting what season of life we are in.  Almost.

Somewhere around 2,000 years ago, it was probably also a beautiful day.  I bet the sun was shining.  I bet the temperature was perfect and the day was mild.  People were probably outside doing whatever people did back then.

It was the perfect day for Jesus to enter Jerusalem for Passover.  The perfect day for a crowd to wave palm branches at him while shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the king of Israel!”

But Jesus didn’t arrive like a king.  He rode in on a young donkey.  He wasn’t escorted by a formidable army.  He was followed by his disciples, a ragtag group of ordinary men who just loved people around their teacher.

If it was possible for someone to arrive as a king but in a meek and humble way, Jesus did it.  Because that was who he was.

I don’t live anywhere near Jerusalem.  I don’t know anyone who has a donkey.  And I don’t work with Jesus.

But.  I work in a hospital with a bunch of really good people.  People who are in this business not for the accolades but for the healing.  People who are meek and humble.  Who love their jobs and love making people feel better.

It’s a tough season right now.  For everyone.  And there will be dark days.  Jesus knew that 2,000 years ago.  But he knew that after the darkness would come the light.  That’s the promise of Easter.  There are beautiful days ahead.

Palm Sunday is just the start.

The spring break that kind of wasn’t.

We were supposed to be in Gatlinburg.  We were supposed to have seen my parents down there.  We were supposed to go to Smoky Mountain National Park and go horseback riding and hike on trails and see stuff blooming.  We were supposed to stay at our favorite cabin resort and hang out in the game room and in our private hot tub.

Instead, we are still in Indiana.  Like most of the Midwest, we are sheltering in place, only going out for groceries, gas, and work.  Even then, I am the only one going to work.  Michael is working from our dining room table.

We went back and forth for weeks about if we would go or not.  Yes and then no.  No and then yes.  At one point we were so determined to go that we even called the cabin resort and added an extra day.  And then we were back to no.  We made the final decision to cancel last week.  Governor Holcomb said stay home, so we listened.

I called the hospital and arranged to get back on schedule, which was a good thing.  The people who were supposed to cover my shift were needed elsewhere.  It was honestly good to be at work with my team.  I like to think they needed me there, but I know they would have been fine without me.

So this hasn’t been much of a spring break for the girls.  They got a week off of e-learning, which they appreciated.  And we’ve tried to do fun things.  Monday we ordered takeout from our favorite Mexican restaurant, who is thankfully still doing business.

Tuesday we baked a vacation cake.  It is still spring break, after all.

 

Wednesday we dyed hair.  Emma’s hair has Electric Amethyst and Sofia’s has Electric Watermelon.  As usual, Emma’s hair took the color better than Sofia’s did. (You really can’t see either in the picture.)

 

Today the girls binge-watched the Pitch Perfect movies while I went in to the hospital for a video shoot, and then they played outside because the weather was finally nice. 

After Michael and I got done pretending to work (he actually spied on all the people walking outside and I spied on people on Facebook), we went for a nice bike ride as a family.

 

It hasn’t been our most exciting spring break.  Last year we were in Seattle.  Two years ago it was Kentucky for my ordination, and three years ago it was Gatlinburg.  Four years ago Emma broke her wrist the first day of spring break.  Those were exciting.

This year we will remember as the year that spring break kind wouldn’t start or end.  Since they haven’t been in school for three weeks, this week doesn’t feel much different from the others.  And since we have at least another month of e-learning, spring break kind of won’t end.  It’s a weird one.

Florys travel.  It’s our thing.  It’s a privilege that we are grateful for.  But this year Florys stay home.  It’s the health-conscious mandate that we are grateful for.  We have our health, and we have each other.  This year, that’s enough.