Friday, March 09, 2007

The Shepherd's Prayer

I've been putting off seeing the doctor about my rheumatoid arthritis until I went in for my annual checkup. When Jesse switched jobs back in August, we switched insurance carriers, so I lost the doctor who had been caring for me for almost two years. That was one of the reasons I went from 30 pills a day down to one. But I'm not dealing with the pain very well, it's come to inhabit every part of my life and my mind, so I made an appointment to see a doctor yesterday. She was new to me, so I had to tell her the whole story of the last 2-1/2 years of pain. As she questioned me carefully about the different meds I've taken, I could feel my hands starting to shake, and when she commented that I didn't seem to be functioning well with the chronic pain, I surprised us both by bursting into tears. Apparently I'm handling it even less than I thought I was. We took turns staring at the health posters on the wall to avoid each others' eyes while I struggled to force the lump in my throat back down to my stomach. She was very kind, if uncomfortable with my show of emotion, and put me back on diclofenac, doubled my steriod usage, and prescribed neurontin to help me deal with the chronic pain. A lab worker came to draw my blood, and I thought that I was back under control and we joked and laughed about post-baby weight (hers is 14 months, mine is almost 16 years). The clinic made an appointment for me with a rheumatologist in Green Bay, and I walked out to the van. I stopped at the library to drop off some books and bumped into a woman from church. She commented that she hadn't seen me in ages, and all I could do was nod in agreement. I felt fragile, like my body was made of spun glass. Driving home, I alternately wanted my mother and wanted to keep driving until the van ran out of road. I was afraid to go home, because one compassionate glance or sympathetic touch would shatter me into a million pieces. I picked up Lily Allen's new CD Alright Still from the library, so I popped it into the CD player and found myself smiling along to the first track and laughing to the second. My fragility was tucked away, and life goes on.

The Shepherd's Prayer by Richard M. Barry is a beautifully produced self-published book. Anam is a young man with a mysterious past who feels compelled to seek out the truth about his birth. This quest takes him to first century Bethlehem with a baby's sheepskin blanket marked with the name Jesus. In Bethelehem, he is shunned and scorned until the shepherds tell him their miraculous story, and he starts to make sense of his past and find his future. This short, but sweet book digs into the story of the shepherds who witnessed Christ's birth and the aftermath of the Slaughter of the Innocents in Bethlehem. Barry writes with a good eye for detail about biblical times, but at times the language of these earthy people seems a bit flowery. He also tends to tell what Anam is thinking/feeling rather than allowing it to show in the story. There's a twist to Anam's identity which is entirely satisfying, and I was very pleased with Barry's portrayal of Jesus. This is an unusual tale that Barry tells well. It would make a lovely Christmas or anytime gift.

On a lighter note, I really love my job. My boss and co-workers are unfailingly complimentary and positive. I'm the pastoral care coordinator at the local hospital, and it's a job where I feel like I honestly make a difference. I wish everyone could have that kind of experience. Have a great weekend!