Still Joyful

My children splash freely in our friends’ back-yard pool. With their floaties shed, they test their immature swimming skills, blowing “hum bubbles” and “scooping” water with their hand-shovels. They sputter, they giggle, and they thrive in this moment, stretching their wings, feeling the excitement of mastering new skills.

I hover on the top of the steps that stretch the width of the shallow end of this backyard pool. My body is unable to find homeostasis, and I feel internal shock waves with each splash of the not-too-cold water. I cannot last any longer than twenty minutes with not quite half of my body submerged in the pool, on account of my broken internal thermostat.

I glance down at my spotted arms and blotchy chest, visually connecting the dots between hives from the chlorine (which is stronger today than it was last Monday). I’m allergic to our current hypoallergenic sunscreen, as well as to the sun:  Catch-22. Fortunately, the clouds are coming to my rescue this afternoon. Nonetheless, I also happen to be developing a heat rash as well.  But I don’t question my decision to come: Some activities are worth the cost.  The shrieks, laughter, and shouts of “Marco” and “Polo” distract me from my incessant itching.  I peel my focus off of my splotchy shoulders and enter back into the wonderland of water-filled childhood.

Every Monday at the pool results in my body temperature creeping up and my skin breaking out. I end up with low-grade fever due to my body’s knee-jerk reaction to the swift temperature shift of going out in the heat of the day and then stepping into a cool, albeit somewhat heated pool. Normal bodies just adapt. Kids’ bodies don’t even seem to notice. My body, on the other hand, with a broken brain stem (the home of the autonomic nervous system), can’t seem to figure out how to find any form of normal.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (Or in my case, an extremely disproportionate reaction). For every decision I make to engage in life, there is a reaction in my body, and a price that must be paid. I must
decide if the investment is worth the cost.

With the shock-waves of Elijah’s splash rippling through my system, I catch him in my arms, celebrating with him the victory of his water-moving hands that propelled him several feet in my direction.  I am joyful and in pain.  And somehow, the pain does not mute the joy.

I want to drink up this moment, for it feels kind of normal.  The taste of normalcy is bittersweet when juxtaposed against the abnormal backdrop of needing a driver to get us to the pool, a babysitter to make sure no one drowns and I don’t pass out, and a quick escape in case my body decides to shut down suddenly.

Lily swims over and sits next to me on the top step in our friends’ backyard pool. She doesn’t mind my limitation in location. This is what my children know. They don’t remember me in any other form than what they see today, and they are content. They could teach me a great deal.

God, give me the ability to be fully present in this moment. Give me the clarity to see my life through eyes of gratitude.

There is freedom in accepting our limitations. Only when we fully embrace our boundaries can we learn to live fully and joyfully.

This is my life, and I can learn to accept my limits.
The kingdom of God is here, in this midst of this moment: Right now.
In the shockwaves of water droplets and in the giggling of my joyful children.
In the already and the not yet of this earth.

And here I am, sitting on this top step in a broken body,
Still waiting,
Still longing,

Still joyful.

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Pastor Al Gilbert

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