A canoe, a decision and Jesus.

I remember like it was yesterday, staring at the doctor with my mouth gaping open.  Are you kidding?  A Hysterectomy?  I am 44, not 64!  The doctor looked at me with some compassion (and a little puzzlement).  “What’s wrong?  You can choose whether or not to keep your ovaries and it’s not like you want more children now, right?”  That’s compassion for you!

I had been having major trouble with my period for a few years, but was not expecting to hear this…I knew there were less invasive procedures. I went home and discussed it all with my partner Steven.  It was true we didn’t want more kids, and our children, Kate and Michael were now 20 and 18 years old.  My identical twin happened to be pregnant with her sixth child and I thought she was crazy.  “So what do you think about taking or leaving my ovaries?”  “Take them, I would say.” said Steven. I agreed.  If I was going in, I was going in once and would take away any chance of ovarian cancer in my future.

This was such a tense time in life anyway.  I wondered if I was being punished for going into discernment. I am usually the last one to think this way, but I was wondering what was happening in my usually tame life.  I mean who did I think I was anyway?  My dad wasn’t well (although we did not know for months yet that he had cancer), and my mom was lying in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease.  She didn’t know us anymore and rarely spoke.

I called to cancel my Discernment twice and hung up before anyone answered.  I prayed and prayed.  Bleeding or immediate Menopause?  Discernment or back to my old life?  Did God want me or not??  I (like I am sure many others), had a blissful picture of Discernment being a quiet time of contemplation, a time when I would become convinced of my call and all would be well.  Now, I thought bitterly, I felt more like I was on the Road to Damascus than the Road to Emmaus.   Please God send me a sign that’s strong!  Give me an answer I can’t ignore!  I knew that if God was going to be subtle with me, I would miss the answer completely.  I discussed it over and over with Steven, and finally decided that if I didn’t get a good shove from God in the direction of staying in Discernment soon, I would call and withdraw…and never show my face at Church again…OK, for awhile anyway.

 

It was during this time that I had my dream.  I have spoken of this dream to many groups, and each time I feel enveloped in love and acceptance by the listeners.

I am not confident enough to be in a canoe in rough water.  I can swim, but not long distances, and tend to panic easily.  There I was, in a canoe, all alone and the wind was soaking my hair and I could hardly see.  The waves were rocking the canoe violently and I did the only thing I could think of.  I started praying.  “Lord save me from this, it’s too much. I can’t cope with this and everything else.  I have too many burdens.”  The canoe was way down at my end and I was taking on water when I noticed someone sitting in the other end of the canoe.  “If you are Jesus, calm the storm please!”  “Give me your burdens” he said quietly.  I should not have been able to hear him over the waves and thunder but I could, clear as a bell.  “I can’t!” I shouted, “The boat will sink!”

The figure kept saying “Give me your burdens” until I was almost waist deep in my end of the canoe and yelled “OK!”  The storm stopped immediately.  I opened one eye to see if I was dead, drowned in the water, but I was still in the canoe….and far from being lower in the water at the other end, with all of my burdens, the canoe was completely level in the water….  “I will help you, we will work together.  You are not alone.”  I never doubted again.  I felt so at peace.  I think if I had heard “Your burdens are gone, all taken care of.” I would not have believed it, and drowned in my own panic.  Instead I woke up feeling better than I had in months.

My doctor called and said he would recommend taking my ovaries and that there were ways to help my body through the shock of immediate menopause.  My Discernment Committee decided to ask me if I wanted to take a few months off so I could be with Mom and Dad (they passed away within six months of each other that year).  Before he died, my Dad told me out of the blue how proud he was of me and that he just knew Mom was too.  On our 45th birthday, my twin gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl.  I felt her happiness and knew suddenly that I was happy with my decision too.

Small answers with enormous results. A canoe, Jesus, sharing All is well.  I prayed and God answered, not with thunder but with gentle rain, soaking into my conscience.  We are not alone, we live in God’s world.

DLM Wendy Lowden was born and raised in Hamilton Ontario and married her first boyfriend forty years ago.  They have two married children, Kate and Michael, and five wonderful grandchildren, in Ontario and in Lewisporte, Newfoundland and Labrador. Wendy is currently enjoying her time as President of her region.  She loves to write, and thinks it is always good to stretch her wings and get away from writing sermons.  The drawing of the canoe was made as soon as she woke up from her dream.wendy

Canoe

Jesus and the menopausal woman.

Maundy Thursday, the day before the bloodletting, and I knew I was in for some pain of my own.  I had only been at this church for a few months and here I was, preparing for the busiest week in the Christian calendar and I was about to get walloped by all the hormones.  I was also coming to the surprisingly hurtful conclusion that I was now fully entering the menopause phase of my life.  All those years of praying for my period to come, not come; repeating that cycle over and over and here I was looking into the mirror and thinking what I always thought, “Why today?”   These things never happen on our schedule.

I stood there for a moment, holding onto the counter and feeling sorry for myself.  This was a new congregation and I needed to impress them.  Unlike my mother’s gentle experience, menopause has been coming in like a wrecking ball for me.  What once had been a minor interference that was over in 3 days had lately become a serious blood sport lasting a full week at minimum.  I have a group of women preacher friends who connect daily via Facebook Messenger and I shared the now well known to them Gif of the elevator doors opening in The Shining.  If you have seen the movie you remember the scene.  Danny Torance has a vision of the door of the elevator opening to release a flood of blood that sweeps towards him in a raging rapid, smashing against the walls and moving inexorably closer.  My Gif was immediately answered with comments like,

“What!?!  Today!?!”

“Poor you.”

“Ugh.”

Ugh indeed.  Worse than the copious blood loss was the insidious exhaustion.  I have never been this kind of tired.  Not when I was pregnant and not even as I was experiencing a miscarriage.  This exhaustion insisted I go back to bed and stay there for at least a week.  But we women, we do not simply go back to bed.  I have often been amazed at just how easily people judge women as the lesser because we bleed each month.  While we bleed we still get up and go to work.   Women around the world get up and get their work done day in and day out and often while their entire body is rebelling against them.  And yet we are weaker sex?  Hardly.

After my little pity party began to wind down I started seeing this in a slightly different light.  My focus shifted from “why me?” to “what do I need to get through this?”  At times like this I would sit back, take stock of what was on my to do list and balance those needs with the needs of my body.  I was looking at four services over the next four days not including all the prep and fellowship time that came with them.  My child still needed to get to and from school and my husband was caught up with his own duties.  As I began to understand that the next four days were going to be long and difficult I realized something else.  Something that, strangely perhaps, brought me incredible peace.

Over the next four days I would be in pain and bleeding just as Jesus had been in pain and bleeding.

The second realization, that what I was about to go through was so insignificant compared to what Jesus had endured, made me laugh out loud and the fog of woe is me misery finally lifted.  But still I found comfort in the thought that the next four days, four days to relive the torture, murder and resurrection of Jesus, I would be bleeding with him.

The constant ache in my belly would remind me of what He suffered so that I might have eternal life.

The exhaustion I felt as I went about my work would bring my thoughts to the extreme exhaustion He felt when He stumbled beneath the cross He carried for me.

The relief I felt as the symptoms gave way echoed the release he would have felt as he broke His earthly tether, just for a little while.

I honestly do not remember much about those four days.  I was so busy and in such pain that I simply moved from service to service but I do remember the feeling that Jesus was right there.  Next to me.  Behind me.  Sitting in the Sanctuary.  It gave me an odd kind of comfort to know that my pain echoed His, however faintly.

For four days I accepted whatever happened to me and learned a deeper love for the man I have built my life around.  I felt the fringes of His cloak swirling around me as I moved from place to place, speaking the familiar words and praying the heartfelt prayers.  His fringes swept lightly across my forehead, soothing the heat there and wiping away the sweat.  Those fringes tickled my nose and made me laugh, waking me up and giving me the strength to move on.

No, these things never happen on our schedule but they do happen on God’s.  And God knows what God is doing.  I felt a connection to my Saviour that Holy Week that I had never felt before.  Menopause had become a way to grow nearer to my God and I give thanks for that.  I can still feel the gentle touch of that fringe as it reminded me I was never alone and my pain, this pain at least, was fleeting.  I am grateful for that constant reminder of what my God suffered. I am grateful I was reminded to be humble and thankful.  I have a feeling I will be receiving such reminders off and on for the rest of my life.

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