Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Vincent van der Pas

My parents' friend Gary Bulloch says this true thing--"Life is a series of adjustments."

We adjust from childhood to puberty, from young adulthood to marriage, from marriage to parenthood, from parenthood to empty nesting, and from empty nesting to the winter years of life with lots of adjusting in between. It seems like the moment we find our groove, the music changes and we have to adjust again. 

I hesitate to say I'd become comfortable with illness. (It's difficult to become comfortable with a disease which tries to kill you on a regular basis.) But being sick was my normal. 

A few weeks ago when I began to heal, Tim, a new friend of mine told me I wouldn't heal all at once because everyone around me had to adjust to the fact that their wife/daughter/mother/friend was getting better. And he's right. But they're not the only ones.

I'm adjusting, too.

It's kind of surreal that three months ago I was a shut in and now I'm going to events. 

Note: Project 41's White As Snow gala went very well, the most successful gala to date. We learned a lot, raised support for the ministry, and yes--I ate the food (!!!!!) Side effects were extremely mild. The night was a personal celebration for my family and me. 

Remember this poem I wrote a year ago?:

Some diseases are a death sentence.
Some are a life sentence.
Which is easier to bear?
A small cell or the chair?
A cage or a casket?
No one knows
and both are hard
on the sick one and the watchers.
Some of us die in here,
but I believe
there is a key
for me,
an early release.
Or so I've been told
by the Prison Ward
who is kind and good and wise and hard.
The door will open
when the cell has done its work
and the bars have made me free.
Or so I believe.
But all I see
are steel and concrete.
Spare walls and a lonely lock
mock my faith.
I smell sky and pine.
Sun shafts through the window.
Voices chuckle and cluck,
a murmur through stone,
a reminder of what I'm missing,
a promise of what's to come.
But the Warden visits me--
and this place has be-come
"For a while," He corrects.
So I believe.  

Well, the cell has done its work, apparently. The bars have made me free. The Warden has thrown open the prison gates, and while He hasn't exactly tossed me out, it's very clear He doesn't expect me to stay inside. Nor do I want to. I'm ready to bust outta here, yo!

But there's this very real rehabilitation period to contend with. 

I'm learning to live in the world again. (There are people out here!) I'm asking big questions. (i.e. "What now?") I'm doing things. Going places. It's weird.

And my body hasn't quite caught up with my to-do list. 

  Lazy monkey
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alan Bloom

These days I'm either enjoying my freedom or recovering from it.

Chronic fatigue, pain, and food sensitivities are still things as I pick up Micah from school, take Sara to her dance lesson, undertake my own housework, shop, go to church, visit with friends I haven't seen in forever, attend prayer meetings and events, and accept ministry opportunities. All in addition to what I was already doing.

Except I don't have much time to write. Not fiction anyway. My journal, however, sees lots of action. 

 I filled up this guy in two months!

Thus, my writing goals for the year may not be possible. 

I'm not complaining. I'm adjusting

It's difficult transitioning from a slow waltz (not that I've ever been that graceful) to a cha-cha. Even if the change is a blast. 

Moms, you know what I'm talking about. How great is it when your youngest transitions from two naps to one? But that free hour you had in the morning to drink coffee while it was still warm? Gone. Vamoose.

Or that moment you're done with diapers, but then you have to ask the kid whether or not she needs to pee every 15 minutes and haul her to the bathroom umpteen times a day whereas before you could change a diaper every three to four hours and you were good. (Yeah, I cried, too.)

C'est la vie. 

I LOVE the season I'm in, but it isn't easy. 


What do people expect of me now that I'm out and about? What does Brandon expect? What do the kids expect? What do I expect?

Does a writing career still fit into my life? I hope so. I want it to. But for now I feel that living real life is more important than writing made up life, and I don't have energy to do both. 

Most importantly, what does God expect of me? 

The Lord hasn't given me a copy of A Former Shut-In's Guide to Engaged Living in 5 Easy Steps. For now, I have only three hints to go on, and none of them are cut and dried:

1) "And she served them" (Mark 1:31). When Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, she didn't stay in bed. She got up and served Him. 

This is the word the Lord gave me in 2012 not long after my illness began to really present itself. This last chapter of my story was always going to end with my healing. I was given my marching orders three years before it happened. Service, not ease, is God's expectation of me. Of course, service can wear many hats. 

My family is the most important recipient. It's time to seize the things sickness stole from me. It's time to show up, take some of the enormous burden Superman has carried on his shoulders these long years, and clean my own bathrooms for goodness' sake. (God bless my mother in law for keeping my house from falling to chaos. Debbie Keaster, you are THE BEST.)

2) Limits. Everybody loves boundaries. Even kids. We think we don't, but we do. Limits make us feel safe. 

God has flung open the doors of my cage, and I'm so thankful. There's also a part of me that's glad I still have to count spoons. Because it reminds me--"I can do anything, but not everything."

When I was a prisoner, I talked about all the things I wanted to do when I was free. I wanted to sing in a choir again. I wanted to join that Flannery O'Conner short story class at Auburn Avenue. I wanted to be involved with this ministry and that ministry. Oh! And that one! I wanted to take Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with Micah. I wanted to teach music lessons, offer cooking classes, and write novels. 

Yeah, right. 

I'm pretty sure the limits of 24 hours in a day and I don't know...SLEEP may disallow all that nonsense. Not that any of those things would be a bad way to spend time...unless I tried to do it all. 

Most days, I manage the things I was doing before I was better (child-rearing, cooking, dishes, laundry, homework, baths, bedtime routine, etc.), a little exercise, and maybe one outing before I'm ready to crash. 

Mondays are my rest days. On Monday, I. just. can't. (See monkey picture above.) I'm done. Stick a fork in me, and whatever you do, don't ask me to do anything extra.

3) A magic thread. In George MacDonald's fantasy for children, The Princess and the Goblin, Princess Irene is given a ring by her fairy godmother. Attached is a magic thread which is promised to always lead her safely back to her fairy godmother. 

One night, goblins enter little Irene's bedroom. She puts on the ring and follows the thread outside into the mountain wilderness, trusting it to guide her into the arms of her godmother. When it leads her into the dark caves, which are home to the goblins, she doubts and tries to feel her way backward. But behind her, the thread disappears. She can only go forward.

So onward she goes--through darkness, danger, and even a wall of rock--until she finds her friend Curdie who is held prisoner by the goblins. Irene rescues Curdie, and leads him out of the caves. At the end of her thread, she finds her godmother, as promised. 

God has given a magic thread to every believer. His name is the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit knows the mind of the Father, who has written my story. He leads me where I should go. Many times, I don't understand where He leads, but if I will hang on and press on, I'll find my way. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to lead a Curdie or two to the safety of God's arms along the way.

I appreciate your prayers as I adjust. 

I'm so happy right now. It may seem I don't need prayer. That assumption is incorrect.

I have so many questions. I don't know where the thread is taking me, and my feet are dragging half the time. I long to write, but can't manage it, which is kind of frustrating. As I'm able to focus less on myself, my eyes open to the devastation around me. While the miracle does my family good, the last four years have also left a mark. We're all kind of damaged, and now it's time to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Reconstruction is hard work.

So yeah...keep praying! And thank you for all the prayers that have come before. I hope you, too, are reveling in the miracle God has performed. You're part of it, after all. I hope it reveals an attribute of God you never noticed before, and leads you to marvel before His throne.

As I said to a friend this morning, prayer is never wasted time. And it's the perfect answer to every adjustment life throws at us.

To Such a One

On Sunday, I spent time in prayer for several dear friends in various, serious situations. This poem formed out of those prayers.

Dedicated to Jenny Foster and the Gauley family.

“To Such a One”

You are a white fire blazing,
angry at the wicked ev’ry day.
You are a storm unyielding,
devastating all within your wake.
You are the cosmic architect
building galaxies with a breath.
You are the fount of wisdom
ordaining limits to the depths.
You are the prima artist—
the light your paint, the clouds your clay.
You are the chief musician
singing darkness into day.
You are a judge of fury;
before you none can stand.
You are power unending—
life and death in your hand.
You are, too, the lamb of sacrifice,
mild and meek, my soul to save.
You are the champion of legend
who has snatched me from the grave.
You are the tenderest lover
kissing me with mercy and with grace.
You are the keenest observer
numbering the freckles on my face.
You are a priceless treasure,
a wealth beyond belief.
You are the true inheritance
endowing all I need.
You are the ever faithful friend
I will meet upon the Shore.
You are my home, my groom, my God
for all days, forevermore.
To such a One I can entrust
all matters—flesh and soul;
and not just mine—for He is vast—
but all I love and know.
And not just those within my scope
for that would be too small,
but all mankind throughout all time,
creation—seen and unseen—all.

Melissa A. Keaster

It Had to be Blood

 I can't shake her from my mind--the woman with the bleeding issue. Over the past several days, I've read and reread the accounts given in Matthew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 9. I weep every time. This woman and I share a lot of common ground. We've both been sick a very long time. (My allergies have been out of control for almost a decade.) Doctors and treatments fail again and again, and sometimes bring more suffering. We're lonely, not actively a part of the world in which we live. And we're desperate for a healing a touch.

Oh, how my heart resonates with this woman's song. Though she bore sorrows I do not--my friends and family have rallied around me with encouragement and prayer, and I have one very good doctor--I've felt many of her feelings and have thought several of her thoughts.

Today, I sat with pen and paper, determined to get into her mind, and bled onto the page--

"It Had To Be Blood"

Twelve years.
Twelve long years.
Will it ever end?
The weakness,
the pain,
the loneliness that swallows like a pit?
One by one, dreams turn to ash,
disappointments mount,
hopes sicken and die.
I no longer search for doctors.
There have been so many.
So many.
And I confound them all.
After giving them everything I had,
the treatments failed
and made me worse.
My people disowned me long ago,
cast me off--
illegitimate and unwanted.
No one looks me in the eye
as if my shame is catching.
Why did it have to be blood?
Why did it have to be me?
My bone and soul grow weary
of the never-ending flow.
Death would be a welcome friend,
but as with all my friends,
I'm utterly forgotten,
left alone to bleed.

There's a whisper on the street--
Jesus is coming!
The One who heals!
I peer outside.
The crowd is thick.
Jairus is with Him;
He's busy with important matters
with clean and lofty folk.
He won't stop for me....
unless I run to Him.
My feet move out my door.
My heart and head pound
to a rhythm I've never heard
and have always known:
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well! 
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well!
The noise in the street falls silent on my ears.
I only hear the music that carries me along:
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well!
Today, my shame is my friend.
Bodies make way to avoid my touch.
My blood makes me dirty.
It can make them dirty, too.

I find myself at His back.
I long to see His face,
yet I know I cannot bear His eyes
beholding my disgrace.
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well!
The home of Jairus now in sight,
what dignity remains is gone.
And reaching out with expectation,
my fingers brush my Savior's hem. 
I'm met with a jolt,
a surge I can't explain.
I'm well.
I stop and marvel.
I mean to disappear,
but cannot move.
He stops, too.
"Who touched Me?"
His voice rises above the clamor.
My breath catches.
I who am unclean have touched a rabbi!
Trembling with fear,
I try to hide among the bodies,
but they don't let me in.
I turn to run, but I'm trapped
in His gaze
where I stand.
So I fall
at His feet.
My story pours from my mouth,
a hemorrhage of the soul.
In His sights, I know--
though I'm well, I'm not.
I'm still dirty.

There's nothing to left to say.
I feel impatience from the throng.
The Man must have a mission
of tremendous importance.
I stare at His feet, which do not turn.
"Daughter," He calls me.
In all my words did I tell Him
my father rejected me long ago?
That I belong to no one?
Surely, I hadn't exposed
so old and deep a wound!
Yet in His address, I know He knows,
and He claims me as His own.
Amongst stamping feet and furrowed brows,
there's no hurry in His voice.
I look into His eyes and see my need--
I need Him!
"Your faith has made you well.
Go in peace.
Your suffering is over."

Twelve years.
Twelve long years.
Twelve years of terrible suffering--
Weakness, pain, and loneliness--
Dreams fulfilled.
Disappointment dead.
Hope restored.
Healed, accepted, wanted.
Alive for the first time!
"Your daughter is dead,"
the servant said.
And I remember--
the daughter of Jairus is sick.
Twelve years.
Twelve brief years.
It's no time at all.
A hush falls upon the crowd,
and we hear Him say,
"Do not be afraid. Only believe."
He turns to go and somehow I know
because He's with her,
she will be well.
Because He's with us,
all will be well.

I couldn't know then,
but the day was coming
upon which I'd better understand
the design in my disease.
My blood made me dirty,
unfit for the house of God.
He dried up my fountain,
bound up my wounds,
and made me clean--
But real cleansing was coming
for all sin-stained robes
upon Calvary
where the world healed by His wounds.
Clean in the Fount
of His Blood.
It had to be blood.


I'm still in the midst of my "twelve years." I no longer believe in a cure for my disease, whatever it is. All out of options, I am going to Jesus for help. I am reaching for His hem. As Timothy Keller points out in the chapter entitled "The Waiting" in King's Cross, "When you go to Jesus for help, you get from him far more than you had in mind. But when you go to Jesus for help, you also end up giving to him far more than you expected to give."

 I don't know what more He is going to ask, but for now He is looking into my eyes saying, "Trust Me." I don't understand the delay, but I do trust His heart. Whatever He asks, the reward far outweighs the cost. And maybe one day soon, I, too, will better understand the design in my disease.

Baking Cookies and Going Bonkers

I meant to document Micah's first baking experience the other day right after it happened, but I just didn't get around to it. I have been swamped with an equal mix of responsibility and fun. This summer, the average day goes as follows:

7-8am: Wake-up call given by Micah or Scout, the green dog.
8am: Make breakfast
8:20:Eat breakfast
8:45:Clean kitchen
9:00:Laundry, take out trash
9:15: Get ready to teach lessons
10:00: Teach
12:00: Lunch and clean kitchen
1:00: Micah naps. Mommy spends time with Jesus. Check email and FB.
2:30: Get Micah up and feed him a snack. Begin cooking dinner.
3:30: Clean kitchen again.
3:45: Play with Micah and do a couple of chores
5:00: Pass Micah off to someone else, and leave for the theater.
6:00: Rehearse.
9:30-10:15: Arrive home. Eat snack. Clean kitchen for the 4th time. Waste time or fold laundry.
12am: Go to bed, and do it again.

Blogging has been difficult to fit in.

But back to baking with Micah . . . I managed to fit it in week before last when we had an unexpected night off from rehearsing Peter Pan. We baked chocolate chip cookies, and he loved it! Well, most of it. He wasn't too interested in my compulsive cleanings in between each mess. He enjoyed dumping ingredients into the bowl and mixing them together, but his favorite parts of baking were eating the chocolate chips he dropped onto the counter, licking the bowl and consuming the fruits of his labor.
Whisking dry ingredients.

Licking the bowl.

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies made from rice and potato flour.

Yum! Yum!

Those cookies were remarkably good for being gluten free. This was the first time I have ever made them from scratch, but it won't be the last!

We are through the first weekend of Peter Pan. I have only 4 more nights to be Mrs. Darling, and then I'm back to being Mrs. Keaster full time. A hunch tells me that Brandon is looking forward to that. He is so incredibly supportive of my love of the stage, but he can't enjoy me being away from home until late every night. By being such a good sport about this play and its hours, he has given me a much greater gift than he could possibly know. (I love you, Baby!)

Peter Pan has taken a bit of a physical toll on me. I am exhausted. I'm sore for reasons unbeknown to me--What? I'm old. It takes me awhile and a few cups of coffee to help me get going in the morning, but I am having so much fun. Fun hasn't been the only positive by-product of being a part of this production. The creative waters have been stirred, and the sleeping beast within has been wakened. I am a firm believer in the old adage "creativity breeds creativity," but I'm experiencing something closer to "creativity breeds manic creativity."

Yesterday, I went bonkers. I wish I had taken a picture of the house before I cleaned it up because I had uncharacteristically large messes in multiple rooms. Stuff was everywhere! I started several projects yesterday, and began planning several more. All I really want is to do is to do, to create! So, I added several pages to my novel, framed photos to hang in our "new" home, began preparing for a hypothetical audition, began studying Dickinson again, unpacked boxes, decorated, began planning a scrapbook for Micah's life thus far, cleaned, taught, spent time with Jesus, read my book, mothered and did two loads of laundry.

For me, this is crazy behavior. I am generally a low key, low energy kind of person. Normally, if I make it out of my pajamas, cook dinner, and keep Micah healthy and happy, I count it as a good day. But today, the house is mostly clean, I am creating and possibility flavors the air. And possibility tastes oh, so good.

"I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--

Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--"

-Emily Dickinson