my Papa

Feb. 11, 1924 – Sep. 20, 2010

Jim is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, Dorothy; 6 children, 22 grandchildren, many great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by his parents and 11 brothers and sisters.

Jim was a Deacon Emeritus at the First Baptist Church of Wylie, Texas and a WWII Army veteran, serving in the South Pacific. He was very involved with community and church activities, and also an avid St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Fan. Jim was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend; and will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

I will undoubtably miss this man every day of my life while I’m still on this earth. It will be so difficult, but as my wise Aunt Minnie said, “Our loss is his gain because he’s with the King of King and Lord of Lords!” Papa is now hanging out in heaven with my other (ultimate) Papa.

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To keep with the theme of my previous post, I feel like I should share an article that’s been buzzed about within the Christian community:

The Good Christian Girl: A Fable | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Most Christian women I know (including myself) can relate to this on a frightening level. The other night I was talking to my older and wiser male friend, and I asked him what he thought about this article. He reinforced my theory, which is that most of the male-dysfunction as far as relationships are concerned can be blamed on absent/lacking fathers. Without strong male role models to show boys how to be men, we have a bunch of “boys who can shave” running around without the necessary tools for manhood. They are perpetual adolescents striving to fill in their missing pieces with sex, expensive toys, and anything else that they think might make them feel more like a man. Unfortunately it takes a lot of time, persistence, and work for these boys to find those missing tools – and most don’t have a clue about how to find them.

I love Mark Drisdoll, and here’s one of many reasons.

If you follow that link to his latest Washington Post article, you’ll find an opinion that echos Christian (and probably even a few non-Christian) women’s frustrations with “men these days,” or, as Mark calls them, “boys who can shave.”

This article definitely resonated with me. Especially this part….

“What happens if you walk into the church and try to find out what a man looks like? First of all, you’re not going to find a lot of guys in most evangelical churches. The least likely person to see in church is a single, twenty-something male. He is as rare at church as a vegan at a steak house….In the church, boys who can shave are cowards who are complainers…They don’t declare a major, church, theology, or fiancé. They don’t want to fail and they think if they don’t try, then they can’t fail. And by definition, that’s a failure.”

I think that one of the biggest ways the enemy is attacking modern Christian women is through “Christian” men. The church is full of awesome young women who are passionately following Christ (myself included). Yet if you look around the church, our options for Godly boyfriends/fiances/husbands have become sparse, if not non-existent. Our young singles ministry is a good example of this imbalance. At our last event, we had about 10-12 women show up, and only 4 men.

Several of my girlfriends have asked me (in frustration), “Where are the young, single Christian men?” I don’t know the answer, and I’m afraid of the obvious assumption (There aren’t any?).  Thanks to lack of options, many Christian women try to get creative and find Christian men outside of the church (easier said than done). Or, they try “missionary dating” (i’ve been guilty of this method), which basically involves dating someone who is NOT a Christian in hopes that they will eventually commit their life to Jesus before you get too committed as a couple (this rarely ends well). Then there are those women who give up on finding a Christian man, and settle for someone whose values and beliefs come into direct contrast with their own (which requires great compromise of the heart). And then there are those who give up on dating altogether (oh hey there cat ladies!). Still, some of us (like Mark Drisdoll) have no hope in guys, but have hope for the guys because they are the glory of God (this requires prayer and supernatural intervention).

I’m glad Mark used a trending article as his jumping off point for – let’s be honest, his RANT – on the modern man-child. Sometimes I daydream about being born in another era (Mad Men makes the 50s-60s seem sexy, though rather dysfunctional), but then I remember how much I love air conditioning and Tivo. So I’m glad I’m a modern-day Christian woman and all, but all us Jesus-loving gals would love for some Christian men to show up in 2010. Or at least in the next decade. But preferably sooner.

Meanwhile we’ll all be praying.

My Papa is so loved. After less than a week in the hospital, the hospice unit nurse said she would certainly miss him when he is discharged from the hospital, and will cry when he’s gone.

So sweet.

I’m glad other people get the honor of knowing and loving him, because knowing and loving James Louis Clark is definitely an honor. One of the biggest things he’s taught me is how to love well, and what it’s like to BE loved well. He never misses an opportunity to tell me that I am treasured, adored, precious, wonderful, etc. He’s been my biggest fan, and my best PR person. And throughout my life, he’s the one I knew I could always call for ANYTHING – no matter how outrageous – like an impromptu ride the airport in the middle of the night, or a place to live (more than a few times). He once drove 16 hours straight across 4 state lines just to escort me across the football field for Homecoming court. I couldn’t have been more proud to have him standing by my side that night – him in a suit, me in a dress with a gigantic Texas mum attached to my hip. I could share countless stories of his selflessness, sacrifice, and generosity. In this world, it’s rare to find a man you can depend on and admire. I’m so grateful for his example.

I’ve heard it said that unless you’ve been loved well by people in your life, specifically a father figure, it can be very hard to understand God’s love in that way. I think I struggled with that idea for awhile, because my relationship with my biological Dad is not as close. But when it dawned on me (thank you Mike Yearly) that “Abba” is actually a slang/familial word meaning “Papa,” I understood God’s love in a whole new way. As John Burke (not my uncle, but a different John Burke) wrote in Soul Revolution:

“You’ve never experienced a love whose source did NOT originate in God’s love for you.”

This means I have a God who thinks I’m treasured, adored, precious, wonderful, etc. I have a God who is on my side, who I can count on for anything, who is the ultimate generous giver. What an amazing gift. And I am forever grateful to my Papa for showing me what it means to love and be loved well, by both an earthy and Heavenly “Abba.”

Dear loyal friends and readers, I have another Papa update for you.

Last week my Papa was admitted to the hospice unit at the recommendation of his visiting hospice nurse last week. However, medicare will only pay for 5 days of hospice (at the discretion of the hospital), and since he was doing a little bit better, they were going to discharge him this week. But then he took a turn for the worse yesterday afternoon. He started having mad hallucinations, along with uncontrollable sweating, laughter, and tears. He announced that he was going to die within two hours, and he had seen heaven and his deceased family members welcoming him. This was so unlike anything he would ever say, so all of my family (within state lines) left their jobs and rushed to the hospital. The nurses thought it could be the end. But by the end of the day, he had calmed down, and besides a lot of vomiting (poor guy), he was better this morning. He is a fighter! He wants to stay alive, and wants to stay by my grandma’s side.

Since he is doing so much better, hospice is kicking him out of the unit again (causing some drama/stress on the family), and he is being sent back to assisted living as long as they can find him a hospital bed and a full-time nurse.

It’s been an exhausting and emotional few days, to say the least. I’ve been stressed about possible last-minute travel to Indiana when the time comes (which I thought might be yesterday). I looked into my family’s pilot “companion vouchers,” but they are unavailable until after labor day. I’ve looked into compassion/bereavement fares, but let’s just say I don’t think that $600-700/ticket is very compassionate. So I am praying that the Lord will provide when the time comes.

I love this Nike ad – it helps me embrace my own injured, arthritic, scarred up knees (thanks to dancing & half-marathoning). Best line: “But I know there’s someone out there who will say to me: I love you, and I love your knees. I want the four of us to grow old together.” 🙂

I just googled “how to say goodbye to someone you love.”

It’s the last day of my trip back “home” to see my grandparents. When I was hugging Papa on Friday, he held me and said, “My little girl…I wish I could live forever.” Heartbreaking and so incredibly sweet. The unfortunate truth is that he is on hospice, and is deteriorating quickly. This may be the last day I get to spend with both my grandparents while they are still here on this earth. And so I am faced with a seemingly impossible task: saying goodbye.

I have the worst memory ever (save actual mental patients), which is one of the reasons I take so many photos. Every day I’m afraid I’ll loose the details of him. His winkled hands. The life in his eyes. The tone of his voice. The way he sings his nicknames for me. The ridiculously lovely Italian phrases, randomly thrown into everyday conversation (and no, we’re not even Italian). I’ve wished I had a video camera for all the most memorable moments, so that I could hold onto them, and play them back for the future loves in my life: my not-yet-known husband, children, and family.

But today he is still here. And so is my sweet Grandma.  I still have a few precious hours to sit with them and the rest of my family. I don’t want to overthink it, and I don’t want to fall apart. I want to savor these moments, to be truly present and grateful for them.

Please pray for me.

I’ve been so busy today that I actually had to schedule an emotional breakdown. It lasted a whole 3-4 minutes, but I was extremely grateful to have a much-needed moment to release some tears. Epic stuff happening in my world.

As many of you know, I’ve sort of re-injured my knee recently, which has been a major setback. I haven’t been able to exercise much beyond physical therapy, and my body is seriously missing those endorphins. This weekend I decided to push through the pain and do an “easy” hike and play my first volleyball game of the summer league. My knee is sore, but it felt amazing to get back out there. I felt ALIVE for the first time in awhile. That, on top of what I’m calling my current “spiritual bootcamp,” is doing wonders for my soul.

This morning I went to my second knee doctor for a follow-up. Unlike my first doc (who was all about doing an extreme surgery), this one thinks that, for my condition (severe chondromalacia patella) surgery should be postponed as long as possible. He wants to try a series of all-natural injections, which have a 60% success rate. We’re waiting to see if my health insurance will authorize it. If not, it would be a very expensive long shot (not unlike surgery in that way, but much less life-altering).

As I was leaving the doctor’s office, I got a message about my Papa. He’s in the hospital again. He was initially admitted for dizziness and dehydration, but after running more tests, it appears as though the cancer has spread even faster than we thought. He has at least two sizable tumors, and due to his health, he’s not really a candidate for treatment. Doctors have given him less than 6 months to live, and have suggested hospice. I don’t think I’ve fully processed this information.  I mean, I don’t know how to process the idea that the most important man in my life is slipping away. No matter how much “time” I’ll have with him on this earth – I’ll never really be ready. Meanwhile, my sweet grandma has gone almost completely blind, and is severely depressed. She can’t imagine living one day without the man who is her eyes and holds her heart.

On top of all this, I work about 12 hours straight everyday, and we’re still in the middle of relocating to our new offices. So…no time for emotional breakdowns.

I can get through the day by going through the motions, but that’s not how I want to operate. I know I’m broken. My Papa’s broken. We’re all broken in some way, and in need of grace. I happen to need a lot of it right now. I count it a blessing that I know the One who gives it without measure.

Found a new blog on productivity called Alexandra Levit’s Water Cooler Wisdom. This post resonated with me, especially the part where she writes:

Did you know that people get physically tired because of emotional factors such as boredom, frustration, and anxiety? True intellectual stimulation, on the other hand, doesn’t exhaust us at all. The first time I heard this, a lightbulb went off. It occurred to me that I could write nonstop for 8 hours and then run a 5K immediately afterwards, yet after spending a few hours at my corporate job I could barely drag myself to the train station.

It’s amazing how I have such a different perspective and energy level on the weekends, when I’m away from the office. Just sitting at a computer for 11+ hours a day can exhaust me, even when I haven’t been as productive or busy as usual. To be honest, I feel exhausted most of the time, which is frustrating because I have such a sedentary job (and no demanding kids, husband, or pets) so I feel like I have no good excuse for feeling this way (and then the resulting frustration can become just as exhausting…such a cycle!). On the flip side, as this blog post promotes, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my attitude, productivity, to-do items, taking short breaks, etc. Some days I fail, but some days I do better. I’m trying, and that’s the key. Apathy is the enemy. You hear that Apathy? That’s right, you’re the ENEMY. Bam.

I went to my orthopedic doc today for a follow-up on my right knee. He said I should have the surgery on my right knee, which would put me on crutches for no less than 6 weeks, and make me unable to drive anywhere or get up to my 2nd story apartment. When I told him this was logistically impossible, seeing as how I have no family/caretakers in LA, he  suggested I take taxis/carpool to work and rent a 1st floor apt or live with a friend for 6 weeks. Such a comedian!

My non-surgical option is to live my life around my knee pain (for now), and avoid a lot of activity. Though this option won’t help put my kneecap in the proper anatomical position, it is the only temporary immediate solution I can see right now. I see my doc again in 4 weeks to discuss.

Please pray for 1) healing and 2) good decision-making on this. My other two-knee surgeries/recoveries were emotionally and physically grueling, not to mention quite life-altering.