Conversations that aren’t mutual aren’t OK.

I was going out into the stacks to get the paging slips the other day. I passed by a patron who likes to talk at me. It isn’t really with me, because it isn’t really a two-way conversation. He has some interesting things to say, but I have a job to do. I’m not going to get it done by talking (or listening) to everybody who comes in.

When I’m at the front desk I’m kind of trapped. When I’m in the stacks I can walk away, and I do. I’ll listen for a bit, and then I have to go.

This patron said “How come you weren’t there to greet me when I came in this morning?” He’s old, but he’s not an old regular. He’s been coming in for about half a year. We talk sometimes, but he’s not my friend.

This happens a lot.

He’s said things like this before, and I think he thinks he is being funny, but there is some entitlement going on here. He thinks he is special, and that he deserves special treatment. Note that he didn’t say “I’m sorry I missed you when I came in this morning.” The emphasis is on him getting greeted by me, not on us seeing each other. It isn’t an equal relationship. He is higher, in his mind.

I said I was at the chiropractor and then the dentist. I didn’t have to tell him any of that, but I don’t mind. It isn’t private. It wasn’t like I was at the gynecologist.

So he says that chiropractors just treat the symptoms. I say “Not this one”. I used to think chiropractors were quacks, but this one has changed my mind. These realignments are healing me.

Mental problems can cause physical problems. Most people say that you can fix the physical problem by addressing the mental (emotional) problem that caused it. I’m starting to think it works both ways – that the mental (emotional) problem can be addressed by fixing the physical problem. I’m working on the mental (emotional) problem too. I’m thinking of it like I’m digging a tunnel through a mountain, but I’m working at it from both ends. I’ll get it completed in half the time this way.

But I didn’t want to get into any of this. I didn’t have time or the desire to have a deep conversation with this guy. He never changes his mind anyway. He’s one of those people who thinks he’s right, because he’s older.

So I walked away after he disagreed with me, while pushing my cart. I obviously have something I’m doing. He crooks his finger at me, and waves me back. I came back a step closer, but that was it. He continued with “Chiropractors just fix the symptoms” and I repeated “Not this one” and I realized that this was going nowhere.

I turned and walked away.

He might be mad, but he has to understand that I’m not there to be his audience or his student. I have not entered into a contract with him that says I’ll hang on his every word. Plus, I don’t like unequal relationships. If the opinions and feelings of both people are not equal, leave me out of it.

I didn’t ask for that conversation. So I felt no need to continue it. Years ago, I would have stayed, out of a sense of politeness or duty. I would have stayed, and felt trapped. I would have hated it too.

Dissociate

There is a reason my dentist likes how I am as a patient. I dissociate when I’m there. It is as if I pull away from my body.

It is a skill I learned when I was a child. I was abused and neglected. It is a normal coping mechanism for me. I know it isn’t normal. I know it isn’t healthy. When you can’t escape a bad situation, sometimes it is the only way you can survive.

Some people escape by drinking or doing drugs. When you are a child you don’t have these resources. When you are raised in a house where emotions are not expressed, dissociation is a way to escape.

My parents never showed any healthy emotions. They never hugged in front of me. One time I came into the kitchen and they were hugging and they stopped, embarrassed. I never heard them say “I love you” to each other.

It is a wonder I’m as sane as I am.

I remember intentionally forgetting something really bad in my childhood. I remember saying to myself that I could forget it. Apparently I did a great job because I don’t know what it was that I forgot.

It is like showing up to the scene of the crime and seeing all the evidence. I know something bad happened but I don’t know what.

So when bad things happen to me, especially physically, I tend to separate from my body. It is a coping mechanism that I have learned. I suspect I could unlearn it, but first I have to catch myself doing it. I do it so well that I don’t even notice it until after it is over.

I remember doing it after my parents died. I had to take care of things but I didn’t want to. It felt as if I was looking at the world from far back in my skull. It is as if everything was far away and I was seeing it through a telescope , or down a well. Sounds were distant. Nothing was good or fun or interesting. Everything was just a chore. Perhaps this is a normal part of grief.

When my priest started attacking me for my opinions about church, I started doing it too. I backed up in my mind. I was sitting there but my mind wasn’t there. Fortunately I had been going to a spiritual director and I remembered to pray and ask Jesus into it.

I do it at the chiropractors office too. I like going there, but I realized that I was blanking out part of how he adjusts me. There is a point where he has me cross my arms in front of my chest and he leans me back on the table. He throws his upper body on mine to pop my back. It is very fast, but I realized later that I was blanking that out. I realized that I was unable to describe to my husband how the doctor adjusted me at that point. Later, I was waiting to go into a room and I saw him adjust another patient in the same way and realized I’d just “left” every time he did it.

Monday was my reexam. It was time to be reevaluated as to how well the adjustments are going. It is also time to figure out how often I need to go. I had just gone twice a week and not thought about it. Now I was taking time and thinking.

It is bodywork. He is literally breaking up parts of me that are not flexible. And one way of dealing with dissociation is to flood the person with the problem thing. Don’t run away from it – face it head on.

Should I ask him to modify how he adjusts me, or should I just go into it with open eyes?

I debated with myself on Monday whether I should tell him what was going on in my head. Should I tell him I was possibly molested as a child?

I was writing this while in the therapy room. That is 10 minutes of TENS treatment. It is boring, so I write. While I was writing I remembered “asking Jesus into it”. Why not?

So I did. I prayed. Jesus, help me know what to do. Give me the words to say. Help me be healed.

And I told the doctor and he was very kind. We had the adjustment as usual, but I was present and mindful.

And I’ve come to see it as the same motion as being baptised in a river. We go down, held. We go down, backwards, trusting. We go down, into breathlessness. And we arise, changed.

Health advice from near strangers

There have been several patrons who have asked where I was recently. They noticed that I was gone for a bit. I’m part of the place – I’ve been there since it opened. That was thirteen years ago. Some think I retired. That would be nice, but I can’t retire for at least 15 more years. I try not to think about how much of my life is being spent here. That is partly why I blog.

I tell them that I was on vacation for a week, and I was out a bit before that because I slipped a disc in my back. With the first part they sometimes want to know where I went. I stayed home. I did as much nothing as possible. I read a lot. I played some video games. I meant to collage or paint but instead I read books about image transfer. I still can’t figure it out and I think I’m just going to have to waste a few canvases and try something out.

The second part of my story is the funny part. When they hear I slipped a disc, they have a lot of questions. How did it happen? It happened here, at work. I was just walking along and twisted and boom. Pain. Nothing special. It was just the straw that broke the Betsy’s back. I did a forward fold to try to make things better and it only made it worse.

Sometimes they ask why it happened. I’m in pretty good shape, so they are surprised. I was too. It happened because I have scoliosis. It is very slight, and it has developed over time. Contrary to popular opinion, and the opinion of my coworkers and the patrons, scoliosis can develop. It isn’t always something you have as a child. So my back goes left, and the disc went right.

Then they ask if I am better, and I say I am because I am going to a great chiropractor. Sometimes they ask who. When I tell them, it seems like the majority of them go to him and agree how wonderful he is. Those who don’t go to him or have never been to a chiropractor have further opinions. My favorite – one lady who told me that I should be wearing a back brace. I told her that it is really important to move the discs. If you don’t get movement, the discs will get weaker. OK, she said – then are you doing the exercises your doctor told you to do? This is funny because she went from “don’t move at all” to “make sure you move.” Pick one. I assured her that I do yoga and water aerobics, so I’m good.

Others have said “make sure you don’t go too much.” – going on the popularly held opinion that chiropractors try to get you to come way too much so they can make more money. I point out that when I got braces, it took four years for the doctor to realign my teeth. Why should I expect my back to be any faster? They agree that I have a good point there.

I’m amazed how my business is their business.

That is part of my job. We get to know each other. We have a weird relationship, that is friendly, but we aren’t friends. It is hard to know where the boundaries are sometimes. There are certainly patrons that I have become friends with. I even married one. But there are others who think they are my friend because they see me every week and I smile. But they don’t get that I smile because I have to. It is part of my job. Just because I’m friendly doesn’t mean I’m their friend.

The perspective of pain.

I’d forgotten how exhausting pain is. Perhaps I never really knew. This experience is giving me a whole new perspective on compassion and empathy.

Remember how you are supposed to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand them? What if it hurts too much to even bend over to put on those shoes? That too is a teacher. That too is a way in.

I’ve decided to bring back the term “lumbago”. I love it. It is so poetic. It is an old fashioned way of talking about lower back pain. Not many people use this term any more. I envision some old guy in a plaid shirt and brown pants hitched up a little too high. He’s got both arms held akimbo, hands a little further back, palms flat over his kidney area. He’s leaning back a little. “Ooh, my lumbago!” he moans to anyone who will listen.

“Lumbago” sounds so much better. The pain is still the same, but the word is better. Lumbago kind of sounds like a dance, but dancing is the last thing you want to do.

So. My lumbago. I don’t want to identify with it, but I do want to learn from it. I don’t want it to limit me, but I still want to be mindful.

I’d written a lot last night while sitting at my computer. It turns out this wasn’t the smartest move. I’d not made time to write enough yesterday and I’ve learned that writing helps my head quite a bit. It is creative and cleansing at the same time. So I needed to write, but sitting there for over an hour wasn’t the best idea. I’ve been doing a lot better, but it still has only been a week since I slipped a disc. I hurt quite a bit, and it took a long time to relax enough to go to bed.

This is a whole new experience for me. I’m not sure how to navigate this new territory. I’ve entered into this country without a phrase book or a pocket guide. So I forget every now and then that things are different, and I need to act differently.

Some things I’ve learned from my chiropractor. I’m heartened by how many people I know who go to him and trust him. I’ve heard such disparaging things about chiropractors all my life that I didn’t want to go last week, but now I knew I made the right choice. He is also a certified nutritionist, so I’m learning all sorts of useful tips in addition to getting my back adjusted.

I’ve learned from him that if you want to lessen inflammation, eat a vegetarian diet. I’ve learned that omega 6 increases inflammation, while omega 3 is healing. I’ve learned that a homeopathic muscle relaxer is more useful than a prescription one because it doesn’t make me have brain fog. It is also used for anxiety.

I’m meditating on that – do we tense up because we are anxious, or are we anxious because our muscles are tense? I’ve already written on this a little, and I think it is a key point.

I’ve learned things on my own as well. Pain shows up in ways other than pain. Sometimes the body tries to shield us from pain and so we don’t know we are hurting. The adrenal system is a great thing up to a point, but it can handle only so much. I’m learning it is important to recognize the signs of the adrenal system trying to take over and masking the pain before things get out of hand.

Pain makes me hungry. I crave salty snacks a lot right now. I’m hungry when I shouldn’t be hungry. I suspect this is a lot like when I realized the connection between PMS and cramps many years ago. Yield to the cravings and have terrible cramps. Notice them, but don’t succumb, and have a pain free time. I’m trying to do this now but the pain induced craving is really sneaky.

Funny how my body is trying to get me to eat the very things that will actually make things worse. Salt causes inflammation. Inflammation causes pain.

Our bodies don’t always know what is best for us, so it is up to us to use our minds. The bad part is that we don’t always know we are being misled. We think we are legitimately craving something we need, and we don’t. Our minds have to be the drivers, but sometimes our bodies carjack us.

Pain makes me tired. I never knew how exhausting pain is. I was absolutely wiped out last Tuesday. I was really bored being at home by myself. I’d been home from work for five days and I hadn’t been alone all of that, but enough that it was getting old. I went to eat at a buffet and it was very hard. It was hard to get there. It hurt to sit. I’m starting to think the Roman idea of reclining to eat has a lot of merit. When I was done I went to my car and just drove home. I’d had other small errands to do but I didn’t have the energy to do them.

This morning I was trying to write while sitting at the computer and I had the same problem I had last night. My lumbago was getting worse, and the pain was spreading to my side. I got up to lay down in the living room and nearly blacked out.

I’ve recently learned that too is part of the adrenal system. When I was at the chiropractor’s, the assistant took my blood pressure while I was sitting, and again while I was standing. The first number should be 10 points higher when standing. It was just 2.

I took a “body scan” of myself at that time and analyzed how I felt. Anxious. Unsettled. Nervous. A little dizzy and spacey in my head. Turns out that is the adrenal system covering pain. I felt pain and didn’t even realize how bad it was because my body was covering up for it.

Meanwhile the pain kept going on and I kept not getting relief for it. I didn’t know I needed relief. I didn’t know I was in pain.

How many people do we encounter who are in pain and they don’t even know it? They are irritable and difficult to deal with and they don’t even realize why? Whether the pain is physical or emotional makes no difference. Pain is pain, whatever the source. I’m of the opinion that the line between mental and physical is blurry at best.

I think I’ve found the tip of the iceberg. I think I’ve found a piece of the puzzle. I think I’ve found part of my calling, part of what I was created for.

I’m grateful for this pain, this experience, this lumbago. I’m grateful for the lesson this pain is teaching me. It took laying on my back to see things in a whole new way.

Fear and ignorance could have killed me.

I can’t let other people’s fear keep me from taking care of my health.

I didn’t get a mammogram for years because everybody told me how painful it was. Friends and comedians would joke that getting a mammogram was like slamming your breast in the freezer door, or putting it in a vise. Who would want to do that?

I didn’t go to a gynecologist because my mother never impressed on me that I should. She never went as far as I knew, once she had stopped having children. She thought that sex was dirty. Sex was something you did once a week as a duty to your husband. So she certainly didn’t teach me how to keep my female parts healthy.

Also, friends talked about how uncomfortable it was to go to the gynecologist. Awkward, unpleasant, strange – they really weren’t selling it as something I should do. They always talked about going for a checkup as a chore, kind of like how my Mom talked about sex. One even said she’d rather have a root canal than go to the gynecologist. Either she has a great dentist or a terrible gynecologist.

Then three years ago I read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and I realized that a woman in her 30s could die of cervical cancer. For some reason I thought that was an older woman’s disease. So I went for my first checkup in 20 years. I found that I had moderate to severe cervical dysphasia. Not cancer, but cancer’s next door neighbor. I had surgery to get it removed. If I had waited, I’d be dead by now from something totally preventable.

Fear and ignorance could have killed me.

Now I’m going to a chiropractor. My friends are now saying what they’ve always said about chiropractors. They are quacks. They insist you come a lot and they don’t promise anything. They heard of somebody who got paralyzed by one. But if I’d gone to a regular doctor for my slipped disc a week ago I would have been given pain pills and muscle relaxers. I still would have had a slipped disc. I just wouldn’t have cared.

I’m sure there are true stories of chiropractors who have accidentally harmed patients. But how many regular doctors have perfect records? There is a reason medical malpractice insurance is expensive. Nobody is perfect.

My chiropractor has a good point. We get our teeth checked twice a year, and if one of them goes bad we can get a replacement. We can’t replace our spine, yet we never check it.

Sure, I’m not happy about having to go several times a week, but it isn’t forever. It is just for a few months, then it won’t be that often. Plus, it feels amazing.

I like to think of my back as like a bonsai tree. Change can’t happen overnight. When I had braces it took 4 years to get my teeth straight. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my back won’t be healed overnight.

Meanwhile I’m going to try to unlearn a whole lot of nonsense that I was taught, and try not to spread any more of it around.

Bonsai Betsy

I found out today that I have scoliosis. This is why the disc in my back slipped out of place last week. The bend in my back isn’t so bad that I’d noticed anything wrong before now. Now that I know, I can see the signs. The wear pattern on my shoes is a pretty good clue.

My chiropractor says I need three adjustments every week for about a month, then it will taper off and I won’t have to go as often. Even with insurance this will cost me $45 a visit. This is a lot of money, especially after all the other expenses I’ve had recently.

I’m not happy about having to spend more money right now. We’ve got money in savings but I like having more of a cushion for emergencies. I’ve got plenty of sick time and there are extra people in my department right now so I can take time for appointments. It is doable, but I’m not happy about it.

But I need my back. If my car didn’t work I could figure something out. I could get a ride to work, or I could borrow my husband’s car and he could take the bus to work. There are ways. But there is no getting around needing a spine that works correctly.

It isn’t like having crooked teeth and getting braces. Well, kind of it is. That too takes a long time and isn’t cheap, and it hurts. I had braces. I remember. But surgery isn’t recommended for what I have now, just adjustments. That alone is something to be thankful for.

Essentially the doctor is doing body-shop work on me. Essentially my body was in a very slow collision with life and gravity and possibly genetics. I need a front-end alignment on my back end. I’m a bonsai tree that hasn’t been tended properly.

I never knew I could amuse myself so much talking about my deformity.

I have a feeling that there is a punch line coming up. I have a feeling that there is a plan for all of this. I trust God. I know that everything has a reason, and everything happens because it is part of God’s plan.

I also know that sometimes we don’t get to see that reason, and sometimes we are the collateral damage.

People like resolutions. We like to know what the ending is. We like to know that the guy gets the girl and they both ride off into the sunset together. But God doesn’t work that way. God works in God’s time and in God’s ways and there is just no getting around that.

God isn’t in the storm. God is the still, small voice.

God never said this journey of life would be easy, but instead promised to always be with us.

This is really important to remember. Trusting God, loving God, serving God isn’t about everything being awesome all the time. In fact it can be pretty awful. But part of it means trusting that God is in charge, and God has a plan, and that everything will work out the way it needs to work out.

We often can’t see around the corner. We often live with uncertainty. We often don’t know what to do. So we pray, and God tells us, one instruction at a time.

Stay here. Move forward one step. Go this way. Stop. Wait. Move back one. Wait.

When Abraham started listening to that still, small voice, he did that in faith. When Noah built that ark and gathered up all the animals, he did that in faith. When Peter walked out on that water towards Jesus, he did that in faith.

This is what we do, when we walk with God. It isn’t easy. It is pretty scary sometimes. It is like walking on a tightrope, with our eyes closed, with no net.

Coming out as Christian in public.

This may sound strange, but I’ve noticed that I get emotional when I feel free to talk about God with people. And I mean with, not at. I mean I get a little weepy when I’m around people who are on the same page with me when it comes to how awesome God is.

I wonder if this is the same as coming out. I feel more like myself when I’m around other people who “get” God. I feel like I’ve had to hide who I am for a long time.

Now, this may sound strange because I live not only in America, but in the South. Christians are in the majority here. The South is sometimes jokingly referred to as “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” Yet there is a stigma. So many Christians don’t want to be associated with “those” people who say they are Christian but they act anything but. You know who I mean. Those people who hold up “God hates…” signs and burn the Koran. Those people who take pride in their cultural ignorance and in telling people who aren’t exactly like them that they are going to hell.

Out of self defense a lot of actual Christians are really subtle about their faith.

In a way it is like a Mason finding another Mason. The signs are there if you know what to look for. When they do find each other they connect and communicate on a different level.

I never want to make other people uncomfortable, especially when talking about God. This is why the blog helps. Don’t like it, don’t read it. It isn’t pushy like an in-person encounter would be. I’m comforted by the number of friends who are atheists or agnostic or pagan who read my blog. I’m unabashedly Christian, but they still like to read what I have to say.

In public it is different. I often wear a cross, because I want to let people know it is safe to talk about God with me. It is like speaking another language. Somehow we shift how we talk when we realize that each other is on the same wavelength.

I’ve learned other languages and about other cultures. I try to figure out where other people are coming from so I know how to communicate with them. When I was working at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the most common non-English language was German. I could talk in German for quite a while. This is true about other cultures as well. Wherever you are from – culturally, religiously, socially, I’ve probably read something about your story. I think it is part of being a good neighbor and a global citizen.

It is something I like to be able to do – I want to make other people feel comfortable. I like being able to adjust how I talk so that we can communicate. I get to where they are, rather than expecting them to get where I am. But it takes a lot of work. After a while it is very tiring. It is far easier and more relaxing when I don’t have to do this.

It is kind of like how I feel when I go to a science fiction convention. I feel I’m finally around people who are like me. We can talk about the things we love and not feel like we are weirdos because of it.

I’m still angry that I didn’t find that kind of feeling and camaraderie at my old church. I’m still angry that my priest actually told me to stop talking about God talking to me. I’m starting to feel that she did me a favor because otherwise my spiritual growth would have remained stunted. I was starting to resemble a bonsai, with tiny roots and a stunted, artificial shape. God wants us to have deep roots, so we are strong. God wants us to grow to our full potential so that God is glorified. Some ministers feel threatened by their congregants getting strong and growing in their faith, but that is just a sign of their own shaky ground.

I’ve currently been piecing together my own version of a faith community. I have a friend who hosts a circle gathering quarterly where about a dozen people share their hearts. We listen together. Many people in this gathering are former members of an alternative church. They went there because they’d been ostracized from “normal” church. Even that wasn’t what they needed. I understand this feeling. I also go to a spiritual director monthly. I’ve learned more about how to drive this “bus of faith” from her than I ever have from any minister. I have another friend who is a spiritual director and she hosted the retreat I recently went on.

All of these experiences are healing to me. It is so refreshing to be around other people who are comfortable talking about how much they love God and what God is saying to them.

But then these are expected circumstances. I expect to find people who are comfortable talking about God at a circle gathering or a retreat. It is when I find like-minded souls out in “the real world” that I get emotional.

I needed to find a chiropractor recently. My coworker had recommended hers months ago but I’d forgotten his name. Rather than call her, I pulled up the doctor directory for my insurance and prayed. I asked God to show me who to pick. One name shone out. I called. They were taking new patients. I could see him in an hour. His office was nearby, and in fact close to another doctor I go to. I felt a lot better that I didn’t have to find a new place. That eased my anxiety. This is a new thing for me to pray before something as mundane as picking out a doctor. So these positive signs helped confirm that I’d heard correctly.

Then there was a sign on his office building with a quote from Paul – “All things work together for good…” – this helped. It was something I needed to see. I’m having a hard time trusting this whole experience as being part of God’s plan because it hurts and it is expensive. So that helped. He had numerous signs that I could “read” as being Christian, but they weren’t obnoxiously so. Hopefully you know what I mean.

I felt comforted, and affirmed. I felt like I’d heard God’s call correctly. I felt at home, which is a good thing to feel when you are in pain and in an unfamiliar environment. And I felt like I could relax and be myself. That alone was healing.

It is exhausting having to hide who I am. I’m grateful to be able to blog about what being a Jesus-follower means to me. I’m grateful to find people who are fellow pilgrims on this journey – it is like finding an oasis. I look forward to finding a new faith community, so I can drink of this living water more often.

Weak back, strong God

I’m lying on my back writing this. Sitting up is very tiring because it is painful. But I still want to write. I have my Kindle to write with. I can prop it up on my chest. At this angle I can type with two fingers. It works, albeit a little more slowly. It is like texting, but longer, and hopefully more meaningful.

When I was at the chiropractor’s office yesterday, I asked what caused my slipped disc. The doctor sat down and drew me a diagram. He was very patient and kind and made sure I understood everything. He is also Christian. It is obvious from not only the signs around the office but also in his demeanor.

When he was drawing the diagram he said that God made the front part of our body strong, while the back part is weak. I asked him why God made it that way. He smiled and said he could ask God when he gets to meet Him, but he suspects he’ll have other questions to ask then. He was talking about when he died.

I said we can ask God now. We don’t have to wait until we die. God is always with us, always available to us.

God is present to everybody, regardless of education or training. You don’t have to be ordained to talk with God. Every person has a direct line. It may take a while to get a clear connection, but it is always there. You strengthen the connection by daily Bible reading and prayer. It is just like exercise. It takes effort and work and diligence. You get better at it the more you do it.

I think this is one of the biggest differences with the Christian faith. God came down here, to be among us, to live and die as one of us. It isn’t so much about us having a personal relationship with Jesus, as it is about God through the incarnation of Jesus having a personal relationship with us.

God loves us all the time, everywhere, and however we are.
God wants to connect with each one of us right now.

So I prayed. I asked God why our back muscles are designed to be weaker than our front muscles. The answer I got back is that it is for the same reason we don’t have eyes on the back of our heads. It is to make us have to depend on each other.

“No man is an island.” We aren’t built to be independent. We must learn how to rely on each other. We are stronger when we work together. We are better off when we share life together. We are better off when we ask for help instead of trying to do everything on our own.

Think of emperor penguins. They huddle together to stay warm and alive in the cold arctic winds. When the couples have an egg, one has to stay with the group, crouching on the egg to keep it warm while the other goes to get food. Then they switch. They can’t do it alone.

We are taught by society to be independent, but God constantly teaches that we are stronger if we are interdependent. God constantly teaches us that we must rely on each other. We have to reach out. We have to ask for help. We can’t do it alone.

Thankfully we aren’t alone.

Thankfully there are always people who are willing and able to help. They might not be who we expect, or who we want, but that is also part of the learning process.

Thankfully we also have a loving God, who constantly teaches us, who eternally loves us, and is always available to us.