Tilling up abandoned soil of the soul

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. ~ Mark 4:26-29 (KJV)

1. Honeydew seeds sprouting in my kitchen.

I started writing at 9 a.m. yesterday morning. I woke up on Memorial Day more rested than I had felt in months, thanks to my dear husband who woke up with the kids shortly after sunrise, fed and played with them. I slept on. At eight, I rose, and took my Synthroid with my morning cup of coffee. Settled in to my computer to edit some photos and type a few words of praise for a glorious weekend.

2. Husband's hands cutting string to mark the garden rows on Saturday.

The seeds of other plans for my day, long slumbering within me, began to sprout. My chest began to ache a bit. A few palpitations - that old, familiar feeling as though my heart has experienced a sudden, magical metamorphosis into flopping, oxygen-gasping fish. I typed on, trying desperately to ignore what was most surely a harbinger of a change of plans, if nothing more. After about an hour, I called my endocrinologist. For four days, these sensations have begun about an hour after I take my morning dose of thyroid replacement hormone. I know that theoretically, this medication can cause a heart attack if the dosage isn't quite right. I thought perhaps the medication was causing my symptoms. I waited anxiously by the phone, repeating Psalm 3:5-6 in my head over and over, to the little tune my mother wrote when I was just a child: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

3. Tomato cages lie waiting.

Flash forward to the emergency room. Place of humbling. Crisp sheets with their hospital smell. Doctors and nurses who stare in my stoic face - that face that denies pain and turns more to stone with each incremental step deeper into pain I go. Everyone unconcerned. (I would look worse if I were that sick, right?) Something inside me roiling around, shouting to my subconscious, "Something's not right here! Better get some answers! This isn't feeling good! Better start fixing something quick!" I lay silent and somber on the bed, hoping everything will just fade away. That it will be the medication after all. Not my heart...again. I remember, over and over, that I forgot to kiss my girls goodbye in the rush to leave for the hospital. Pray God it won't matter.

4. Dandelion half-blown in the weekend winds. Beautiful symmetry.

An hour after I arrived at the E.R., my heartrate suddenly dropped. In a gasp of recognition, I knew this was bad. Really bad. Like the worst I remember, an incident in an E.R. in Minneapolis when they had to rush for the paddles and send an electric wave through my body to start things up again. Shock life back into the cells deep within me that were shuddering to a stop. My body reacted, too - my pulse rocketed like an engine slumbering at idle, suddenly roused to life with a jerk. The cold sweat rushed over me, and I saw the room fading off in the distance, dear husband running for the door to call for help, wondering if the wave washing over my face was a long one.

It wasn't a long one. I woke up dazed, and another wave washed over. My body bobbed to the surface, shuddering. My soul recoiling. Slammed into high gear, fighting for breath and consciousness, my body shook, pumping adrenaline through every precious cell. And I came around. Twenty minutes of medical panic later, the shaking stopped, my heart slowed down again, I was covered in tubes and wires..."lifelines", the nurse called them.

I don't want to remember this place. Much less be here again. After five uneventful hours of apparent health, they released me to my own recognizance. Chest still aches. Heart still feels like it's taken a beating today. Back to the cardiologist tomorrow for a Holter monitor. Talk of a pacemaker, maybe, finally. Admitting I may never outgrow this, after all. Abandoning hope that my body will fix itself.

This parable from Mark, the parable of the growing seed, looks different a day later. I typed it last morning, before the pain and the rush and the submergence. Before I had to surrender yet another life-and-death struggle to God. Before I cried out, broken-hearted, exhausted, "why, God? Why would you allow this, now? Why clear me of cancer - again - to plunge me back into heart problems? Can't I have a month off?" My heart is pumping strong, steady, 56 beats per minute. Just like always. A deep ache fills my chest. Part physical ache, part emotional and spiritual. Wrung out. I feel like the swimmer who barely made it back to shore, clinging to the rock on the breakwater, floating up and nearly losing grip when the wave washes in, being pulled back out by the ebb. I don't want to trust anything to anybody. Every human thing in me screams for independence from this failing body. I want a refund! An exchange!

But the parable in Mark says all I can do is scatter seed. Water it. Harvest it. The growing part, the bearing fruit - that's all sun, rain, and Providence. Sleep, rise by day. That's my part. Faith. Rest. I know this pulling me closer to my Maker. The struggle lies in not resisting the pull. The inevitable pull toward the grave, for one. The awesome tug away from self, for another. A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3)

God, be near, calm my fear
And take my doubt

Your kindness is what pulls me up
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can’t climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

‘Cause You are and You were and You will be forever
The Lover I need to save me
‘Cause You fashioned the earth and You hold it together, God
So hold me now

~ I Will Lift My Eyes, Bebo Norman