Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

“…I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

I have always enjoyed science; so much, in fact, that I taught Anatomy and Physiology for two years as part of a Massage Therapy program. My favorite systems to teach were the Digestive System and the Cardiovascular System. The former is just a huge tube along with accessory organs that moves food through to break it down for energy, growth, and cell repair. The later system allowed me to utilize blue, red, and purple dry erase markers to demonstrate oxygenated vs. deoxygenated blood—as a visual learner, it seemed quite simple to teach using this method. I would often remind students that what we were learning was a system and that there are always individual differences. I’m sure some can still repeat the mantra I so readily quoted: “Every body is different.”

23andMe results

It is the similarities and the differences that I find intriguing. Several years ago, I was interested in understanding more about my own genetics so I completed a DNA test with 23andMe. I was particular curious to know if the family stories about heritage aligned with scientific evidence and if I carried the marker for Alzheimer’s disease (I do not). My father’s side of the family (Musick) was believed to be Scotch-Irish and Mom’s side (Slater) was English. When the results came back, my DNA indicated that I am, indeed, 55.1% British and Irish. What was a little more surprising to me was rest of my genetic makeup: Scandinavian, Ashkenazi Jewish, and West African to name a few. It is fascinating to me that all of this ancestry composition wonderfully makes me!

Papaw’s hands

Goofing off the other day, I snapped a picture in my car. I am always struck at how there are times when I clearly see my father’s face in mine (especially the eyes) and then there are other times when I see my maternal grandfather’s face, Papaw (it’s all in the cheeks). This picture caught my attention not because of the face details but because my hands are visible with two fingers in an almost peace sign placed across my lips. In this picture, I see Papaw’s hands—wide palm and long, thin fingers. It caused me to think of the last time I saw and touched Papaw’s hands.

Papaw and Mom

He was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s and confined to a nursing facility in Russell, Kentucky. This was the “nice one” as those of us in the family called it because he had been in an older facility across the river in Ohio. When I entered the room with my own young kids in tow, I noticed how peaceful he looked curled in fetal position with his hands on top of one another in prayer-like pose while the white sheets draped him in warm comfort. The room seemed especially bright but it was in the middle of the day so that was to be expected. I walked over to his bedside and spoke to him. His eyes were closed but I could see there was almost imperceptible movement just below his lids. I continued talking to him telling him who I was and that the kids were with me. I had no expectation that he would awaken or recognize me. I noticed his top hand, long fingers, pat his other hand. I slid into the chair beside his bed and slipped my equally large hand between his wide palms. A smile etched across his lips and he slowly began patting my hand. It was as if to comfort and to tell me all was good. Tears welled up in my own eyes as he continued to gently move his hands to the rhythm of an imperceptible beat. I felt a deep sense of security and loss as our similarly shaped hands rested into each other. It was as if both of us recognized this was a final moment together. Several weeks later, he left the grips of Alzheimer’s and slipped into the ethereal world.

We are made up of many tribes and experiences so it is nearly impossible to approach our identity from a purely biological perspective. I see physical attributes of my father and my grandfather. I exhibit behaviors and personality traits of my mother and grandmother. My sisters and I love to point out how we act and look like parents and grandparents with humor. My oldest son is the spitting image of me, my younger son has my sense of humor and just enough of my curly hair to give him great volume, and I marked my daughter with the same INFJ personality. It is amusing and heartening to know I share these traits with other family members; yet, I am uniquely me. So, I take time today to meditate on the precept that I am fearfully and wonderfully made…and, so are you, my friend.

Grieving Sucks!

At first, it’s the news of the event that punches you in the gut. Maybe you were expecting it or maybe not. My most recent bout with it was the former. I knew the news was coming. That’s the gift and the curse of being an INFJ—you can read every little nuance in words and deeds. I had hoped that what I had intuited was not the case, but my hope was misplaced.

For two weeks, I tried to over-ride my knowing at some points and then accept the inevitable at other times. It was like a slow removal of the bandage when all I wanted was the “rip it off” action to happen.

Disappointment upon disappointment piled up in that time period. I finally decided that when (mind you, I had accepted that it would be when and not if) the next text request to “reschedule” occurred I was just going to respond, “I’m not surprised. I expected it.” So, that’s what I did. You have to know that my preference is to have difficult conversations in person and not via text or on the phone. I need to see the other person talk with their body so that I can tell if they mean what they say.  For me to be so bold in a text meant I had waited as long as I could to hear the truth.  And so, the bandage was ripped off via text.

In some ways, I completely understand why this friend (and yes, he is still a very close friend in many ways) would choose texting over face-to-face. I can be emotionally intense. I own it. I’m sure he needed the space barrier for protection and to stand strong. I don’t hold any ill feelings towards him. He managed the situation the best he could. Besides, it’s not like I gave him much of choice. I was at my wit’s end and needed to just get on with the painful outcome.

Now, I’m living with the loss. I thought that I had prepped myself in the two week period for it. I seriously believed that it would be no big deal since I knew it was coming and because I had already cried it out while listening to sad music. Now, I’m replaying all of the Greatest Grieving Hits: I’m Such a Fool (not a huge Blake fan but Christina’s voice is inspirational); It’s Too Late to Apologize/Stay With Me (thanks One Republic for the live performance of this combo); Love Song (the Adele version); I Will Always Love You (both Dolly and Whitney, I still can’t decide which one I like better…Dolly’s is pure while Whitney’s is powerful); Pray (ah the voice of Sam Smith groaning the way my soul does now) and for today Hurt (one of the best Johnny Cash songs ever in my opinion because you knew he lived the words).

It seemed like it was the worse it could be yesterday, but what I realized this morning is that I was still numb then—but not this morning. Oh, no! This morning the pain killing magic of the natural endorphins that flooded my brain the 24 hours prior were not to be found and the self-medicated buzz from last night had left my body along with the ability to sleep around 3:00 a.m. The vibrating, tingly numbness was replaced with raw, searing pain that rears itself in waves of torment and then subsides into a placid calm. I have had moments this morning when I thought the calm was permanent only to be swept away by a riptide of agonizing sorrow and tossed uncontrollably through the jagged reef of the new reality. I find myself grappling to gain some foothold…somewhere to steady myself.

And, as I write, I realize there is no steady right now. Loving is a risk, but it’s also a surrender. So, I surrender. I surrender to the current and accept this sting. I know this will heal just as sure as I know that this is the right course to take.

But still…grieving sucks!


“Hate doesn’t take you to all of the beautiful places that love does.” – Madonnna Badger

When I meditate on the advent story, there is not one character that speaks directly to me. Rather, there is a central theme of movement and beauty that is propagated by love. Whether it is God’s love for humanity, Joseph’s love for his wife, Mary’s love for her child, the shepherd’s love of their flock, or the magi’s love of the future, the story reveals that a journey always follows a revelation of adoration. On the surface, their individual treks may appear to be mundane—a father taking his family to his hometown for a census or shepherds keeping watch over their flock—yet, we find in the advent story that even in the normalcy of life, richness is abundant. And so it is with us. When we take a moment in stillness, we see that love has taken us to beautiful places and surrounded us with a deeply diverse community.