Friday, August 30, 2013

This, too, shall pass

This is not permanent.  This moment when I sit with tears and try to figure out just where we went wrong is temporary.  The day was hopeful when it started, the mercies were new, and yet, here we are...

The boy child rebelious because he doesn't want to do school.  He's disrupting the girls who are eager for this moment.  Me lashing back anger in response to his defiance.

The girl that's growing longer and leaner, she drifts in thoughts and imaginings, making games for the baby when I want her to do math.

The one that's four now, she does her math alone while I try to find out what is really going on with her older brother.

I feel like, in this moment, all is lost.  I'm failing miserably and flailing wildly, and I'm not sure how I'll regain control or if I should even try.

I know the truth...this is my calling.  I was never promised easy, I was promised faithfulness rewarded.

I don't expect them to be perfect, but I want them to learn to work hard and with excellence.  I want them to be kind to each other, respectful of authority, and to internalize what they've learned.

The goals are lofty.  The family is human. 

Some deep breaths, softly spoken prayers, and we try again.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Broken

Originally written June 2.  Five days before my mom lost her battle with breast cancer.  Thankful for broken, busted up pieces made whole.

The cancer...

It grows, unnoticed, beneath the surface.

For months, maybe years, it's there.  Growing.  Spreading,  Altering the DNA of cells.  Moving boundaries, eventually pressing against vital organs. 

At first it happens unseen.  She isn't aware that things are wrong.  She doesn't realize that death is growing. 

The ignorance doesn't slow the damage.

At some point, I'm not exactly sure when, she notices that things just "aren't right" and she has a choice.  Does she acknowledge the problem or ignore it?  Does she share the secret trouble or try to handle it on her own? 

She waits.  She holds the secret.  She prays.  She reads.  She researches.  She feels the changes.  She knows that something is growing, but she doesn't really call it by its name because maybe she doesn't want to know its name. 

She waits.  She holds the secret.  She sees the changes, but she covers them up.  She keeps it close and covered because it's private.  Or she keeps it close and covered because it's pride.

She's my mom and I'm her child. 

I know this waiting.  I know this holding of secrets.  I know this pride and how death can start growing small like one seed split open.  I know that the waiting produces a crop and once it's all growing wild it gets out of control and overwhelming.

I also know the grace that breaks the pride and turns it into humility.  I know the words to speak when a secret doesn't need to be held close.  I know the sheer joy of grabbing death as it grows as a seedling, when it just pushes through the soil of me, and flinging it into holy fire, that it would be consumed and I would be consumated, completed, made a bit more holy in the offering.

I know what it is to be broken.  And by grace, through faith, I know what it is to be made whole.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

She belongs here

She stepped into the waters silently and she stood. The pastor began to share, with her permission, of how she came to this place. She wasn't proud of the past or ashamed, it was just the truth of her experience and how she came to grace.

He spoke of the pain medication that was prescribed in her mid-teens to treat a physical problem and how the desire to be without pain led to the addiction that grew to relieve the other pains of life. He spoke of how the desire to numb led to other substances and eventually an expensive cocaine habit. He told how the habit bred desperation and the willingness to sell her body, herself, to maintain the high. Then, he told about the grace that rescues. He explained the process of baptism is not what saves, but is only an outward expression of an inward change that has already occurred, by grace, through faith.

As she was immersed in the waters, buried with Christ in baptism, and lifted from them, raised to walk in new life, my heart leapt.

She could have kept her redemption story private, since it was the first impression that many in this new family would have of her.  I hope she knows how glad I am that she shared. How she's not alone in this.

Maybe my story didn't involve the same paths as hers, but who among us hasn't tried to turn to someone or something other than God to ease our pains?  Who among us hasn't used or misused our body for a temporary pleasure...overindulgence in food or drink, inappropriate physical relationships, the silent attitude of a prideful heart about the way we appear to others?

May I never cheapen the grace shown me, by comparing my depravity to another. My need for redemption was great, but the love and grace of my God was greater.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Goodness passed down

Today I made a chocolate cake...a REAL chocolate cake.  The kind that uses buttermilk and shortening.  The kind that requires icing to be slowly boiled in an iron skillet. The kind that takes time to make and even more time to make well.

It's the second time I've made a cake like this since my mom died. 

It's the recipe that she used, that her mom used, and her mom used before her.  And I'm thankful for all of this.

I'm thankful for the memories of these irreplacable women and how each of them impacted who I am. 

I stood, stirring chocolate, waiting for it to "feel right" before I iced the layers and recalled memories of other kitchens and other hands holding wooden spoons and stirring sweetness in a cast iron skillet. 

I thought of the small wrinkled hands of my great-grandmother, standing over the stove in the tiny kitchen of her trailer.  As a little girl playing in the wheelchair on her front screened porch I could hear her say, "I just don't know if it'll even be fittin' to eat.  This chocolate just don't wanna do right."  But it was always delicious.

I thought of my Memaw, muttering the same phrase, and adding, "We might just need to play with the chocolate a little bit," as she'd pull the skillet off the eye of the stove and sit down at the kitchen table to stir & whisk. 

I thought of my Papa telling the story of one day when the cake, "just fell to pieces & she just cried, but we all pulled up to the table and ate the crumbs.  It didn't look that good, but it mighta been the best tasting chocolate cake Ruthie ever made."

I thought of how I called her from Birmingham, and she talked me through the process of making my first chocolate cake solo, for Eric's birthday the first year we were married.  How we'd talk a little, I'd hang up, then call back a few minutes later for some reassurance.

I thought of my mom, making this cake for others, to show appreciation or as part of a celebration.  I thought of how she said, "The ones I make in Mama's kitchen always turn out better.  I think it's my oven."  How she loved to give for the enjoyment of others.

So this morning, as my four children played and my dad sat on the couch playing solitaire, I made a cake.  I made the cake for a friend of my dad's from work.  And when he gave it to her, we were talking on the phone, and she said, "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!  I might just eat myself silly with this!"

And I smiled, because I'm the one grateful.  I should be saying three "thank yous" to my mom and her mom and her mom.  I have this sweet history and heritage from them, and I get to share it with others.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

In the darkness

It's bedtime. 

I lay my head on the pillow and breathe deeply.  Trying to calm the chaos of my thoughts and the anxiety building in my soul, I breathe.  The silent tears start to fall.  At first, I'm embarrassed by them and I turn, so he doesn't see.

He's there, checking a few last minute things before turning out the football recruits, the best price for a trailer hitch.

How can the space between my side of the bed and his side of the bed feel like a canyon miles wide?

I hear an internal whisper that says, "Don't bother him.  He doesn't really want to know.  It might be that this is just too much.  Maybe you're just too much.  Maybe you're not enough.  Just keep it all under the cover of darkness."

And as a recovering "pleaser-avoider" I almost let those whispers fall like truth.  But they aren't truth.  They're lies.  Lies planted to divide what God has joined together.

I take a deep breath and try to find words, but instead find a little sob that breaks the silence. 

He turns, and asks, with real concern, "Are you okay?"

There's another chance to hide.  It's brief, but just enough time to choose.  Do I share my weakness and vulnerability and ask him for what I need most right now, or do I lie and say I'll be okay to avoid the chance of his rejection?

"No.  I'm not okay," I answer through tears.

He comes close.  He listens intently.  When I ask him for what I need, his prayers on my behalf, he gives willingly.  He speaks into the darkness of the bedroom and into the darkness of me and I am so thankful.

This marriage bed is a sacred space.  This is the place where intimacy can thrive or die.  This is the place that we choose to be stronger.

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly brokenEcclesiastes 4:9-12

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Sound of my Own Voice

As a child I sang often.  Like my own children, I made up songs while playing.  I sang in the children's choir at church.  I sang along to songs on the radio.  When I was just four-years-old I began singing solo at church. 

My singing voice was never a "big" voice.  Just quiet, but usually confident. 

For years I sang.

Sometime after my twentieth birthday, I stopped singing alone, especially in front of an audience of any size.  I would still sing along with the radio, or in a large group of people, but never alone.

I think, that without realizing it, I lost the sound of my own voice. 

It's a strange thing to lose the sound of your own voice, but I know I'm not alone. 

A few years ago, I saw an autobiographical show about the musician, Shania Twain.  As she told her story, I was struck by her words as she talked about being unable to sing.  She was a professional musician that relied on her vocal talents for her livelihood, and yet she couldn't sing.  She had vocal testing done and was found to be physically fine, but she said her spirit was so broken that she couldn't bear to make music with her voice.

So a couple of weeks ago, I found myself alone in the car.  (This is a very rare occasion when you're a homeschooling mom of four young children.  I'm not often alone anywhere.)  For more than an hour I drove in silence.  I didn't turn on the radio, because I wanted to be alone with my uninterrupted thoughts.

Maybe it's a little narcissistic, but I decided to use the voice memo on my phone and record myself singing the first song that came to mind.  It was a hymn that I sang as a child.

Then I pressed play, and I heard my own voice.  Still quiet, but confident.  The words I sang were truth.  The voice I sang with was much more grown up than I last remembered it sounding.  And it wasn't such a bad thing to hear.  It was refreshing.  It was honest.  It was for an audience of one.  And I think He responded with singing, too.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The gray of grief

I dreamt of my mom last night.  We were sitting across from each other in a restaurant having lunch.  We talked about appointments.  I asked when her next appointment would be and if she wanted me to take her.

She smiled and with glistening eyes said, "Late Thursday, but you can't take me.  It's the last appointment and I'll go alone."

In the dream I wept.  The ugly cry came quickly.

I woke with a damp pillow, an aching heart, and a longing to sleep and be with her again.

The sleep evaded me.  The children began to wake and the demands of the day came with them, tumbling into my bed.

I see grace in the last days, weeks, and months of my mom's life.  But I also feel the gaping hole that has been left in her death. 

This grief is like a foggy morning.  Like a ship engulfed, I bellow fog horn moaning, waiting for a response, longing for the fog to lift.  I sit, surrounded.  It's hard to make out the light, to reach the solid ground, to find my way in the thickness of it, so I wait.  I'm feeling for warmth, looking for light that breaks through, longing for a clear view.  I know the fog is a vapor.  It will not last.  It cannot last.  But right here, right now, it's thick, and heavy, and cumbersome.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sprinkler fun

My children played in the sprinklers in our yard after dinner. 
They ran fast and jumped silly right in the middle of the spray.
They stood directly over it and shook bottoms, crazy dancers in the fading light of day.
We laughed and clapped at an assortment of stunts.
The baby girl walked tentatively on the edges and directed the traffic of older siblings through water.

It was easy.
It was good.
It was medicine to my weary, wounded soul.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tribute to my Mom--Her Eulogy

This entry is a group effort--with input and ideas from my siblings and our children, my sister and I wrote my mom's eulogy.  She passed peacefully from this life into the next, early in the morning, on June 7.  As one friend kindly said, she fell asleep in Dacula, Georgia and woke in Heaven.

My sister spoke eloquently as she delivered treasured memories of our mom on Sunday afternoon at her memorial service.

I want to begin by saying thank you, to all of you for being here and for walking with us these past three months.  Without your love, support, prayers, and innumerable acts of kindness, we could not have made it through this difficult time.  So many of you stepped in to give rides to appointments, bring meals, clean house, pick up groceries or prescriptions, stop by and sit for awhile and visit with Mom and simply lighten the load that our family has carried with her illness and for that we will always be grateful.

Many of you received notes from my mom this week thanking you for helping us to celebrate her 60th birthday and my parents’ 40th anniversary a few weeks ago.  We found a handful more notes on the coffee table that she had written, but not addressed yet, and we plan to deliver those very soon.  She was so grateful for each of you.

There is a line in the movie, Steel Magnoilas, that I love.  “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”  That’s what I want to share, on behalf of our family today.

To start things off, I’d like to share a card that Michael gave mom for Mother’s Day this year.  It says, “Mom, I’m so thankful for all the life lessons you’ve taught me…(open to read)…especially that potty training.  That has come in handy so many times.”  I also gave our dad a card one Father’s Day that said on the front, “You’ve been like a father to me…” then wrote on the inside, “because you are.”  You see, our family isn’t really the serious and moving emotional card kind of bunch. 

When we asked the grandchildren about their favorite memories of Nana, most were general things like Easter egg hunts, Nana’s swing set or front porch swings, playing with Nana and reading stories with her.  However, Andrew had a very recent and specific memory he wanted to share.  Just last Saturday we went with Nana to dinner at Red Lobster.  Andrew ordered the chicken fingers, and he is our more selective eater, so this was the first time he had eaten Red Lobster’s chicken fingers.  As he began to eat he asked, “What part of the chicken does this come from?”  Mom, without hesitation very matter-of-factly said, “The breast.”  Andrew then said, “Well, if this is the chicken’s breast, where’s the nipple?”  I leaned over and pointed to the end of one chicken finger, “Right there.”  At which point, Mom nearly spit her food out, she was laughing so hard.

As I was reading my devotion this weekend, I was drawn to the verses in 1Peter 4:8-10.  It says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  I feel like these verses say a lot about the way my mom chose to live her life, and I hope you’ll see that in what is said here today.

Anyone who spent more than five minutes with my mom knew just how amazing her children are.  To hear mom tell it, I (Kimberly) would likely have my own design show on HGTV any day now & probably a Grammy for singing and songwriting within the year.  Lorie would be expecting publication of her writing, while homeschooling her 4 children, and preparing an acceptance speech for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Michael would we be in the process of creating the next version of the internet, it would be hard for her to explain it exactly, because it was probably a top secret army project and she wasn’t even sure how to get a wi-fi connection when she wasn’t in her own living room.
She would tell you about her sons-in-law and how proud she was to have them in the family.  She was so accepting and welcoming when each one joined the family.  She might let you know that her son-in-law, Todd, was very good with small engine repair and he could surely repair any problems with your lawn equipment.  One of Todd's first memories of her was when he was over at the house for lunch one day early in our dating relationsihp.  As we were seated in the dining room, there was no need for Daddy to be cleaning a gun or sharpening a knife.  Unknown to us, but clearly in Todd's line of vision, was Mom, hacking with all her might with an ice pick in the freezer.  In his words, she was, "easy to talk to, but she was definitely a Mama Bear."
When Eric joined our family, with him came a newfound appreciation of cultural diversity.  Eric is American-born Korean.  It was nothing for Mom to strike up a conversation with with anyone of Asian descent that she encountered.  She would ask if they were Korean and then she would tell them all about her wonderful son-in-law, his parents, and how they came to live in America.  She was a self-appointed ambassador to the local Asian community.

If you had the good fortune of another five minutes with my mom, you’d soon find out about her grandchildren.  Seven of the most brilliant, entertaining, extraordinary kids anyone could hope to meet.  Like their parents, in Nana’s eyes, they did no wrong…well maybe occasionally they did wrong, but Nana would just mention it to their parents in a question, “Did you tell the kids they could play in the street?” because she simply couldn’t imagine that our perfect offspring might actually choose to go anywhere or do anything without their parents' consent and blessing, and she wouldn’t want to overstep our parenting decisions by telling us exactly what we should do with them. 

Within 15 minutes of talking with, or maybe listening to, my mom, you’d know how she and my dad were both Gwinnett County natives.  You’d know about how they had known each others’ families for years before they ever started dating.  You’d know about her brothers and sisters.  She may have even recommended one of her brothers to repair your transmission, or car’s air conditioner.  She may have told you how proud she is of all that they’ve accomplished in the last year since her father died.  She would talk about how “Daddy was so worried about them, but they’ve all done so well.  It’s really just great!”  She would have told you about her baby sister, how she remembers being so excited to have a sister and what a smart, beautiful, determined and amazing woman she is. 

In my mom’s eyes, her family could do very little wrong.  I think that she was well aware of our faults, she just consciously chose to focus on the best in everyone.  This may be why she was able to continue to do childcare for more than 35 years.

My mom loved children, especially babies.  They say that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” so you might think that Deborah Plott would have achieved total world domination by now.  If you look around Gwinnett and the surrounding counties, and followed the paths of every child that was in her home, either through childcare or friends of her kids growing up, add in children that were touched by her volunteer efforts in the local schools through PTA and Girl Scout leadership, combine the kids that were under her care through Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or church nursery, we could estimate that given another few  years, she would have at least ruled the state of Georgia, if not the world.

So even with a basic introduction, you quickly knew what my mom valued…relationships.  Now what you may not have realized is how my mom valued relationships so much, that she often gave much more than was expected to feed the relationships most important to her.

You may not have known about the summer days in the early to mid 1980s that she would load a station wagon full of kids (really full because they didn’t have to all be in carseats or even seatbelts) to go get books from the library for summer reading and hours spent watching those kids splash around in the pool in the backyard.  She may not have told you the story of the day that she stayed bent over the bathroom tub trying to clean bubblegum out of the hair of at least 4, if not six, 4-7 year old kids.  She probably didn’t tell you about the silliness at the dinner table that actually ended with some mashed-potatoes on the wall occasionally...and that was when we were teenagers.  She might have also omitted the fact that her kids, and their friends, could be found sitting on her kitchen countertops as she made dinner lots of evenings.  And if you weren’t fortunate enough to have visited our home in the late 90s, you wouldn’t have known about the way my mom turned our living room into a pool hall, which my dad, brother, and his friends, enjoyed many evenings.  You may not have realized that my mom’s recent home renovations, adding a doorway where there wasn’t one before, was so everyone could feel like they were together when they came to her house.

There were other random and amusing things that you may not have known about my mom:

1)       She loved Elvis, and even married a man with long black hair and pork-chop sideburns

2)      She was very hot natured.  It was quite common for her home to be “comfortably” cool to her and we would be sitting on the couch in a sweatshirt, socks, and gloves in the summer.

3)      If she talked about her kids or grandkids, she was always conscious not to leave someone out.  In every photo book she made, she made sure to have the exact same number of photos for everyone, even if it meant including a blurry one, a non-flattering one, or one of the back side of your head.

4)      She had a very good memory.  Especially when it came to names, dates, time of birth for pretty much everyone she knew.  We joked that she would have been a brilliant CIA agent, or perhaps a stalker.

5)      She was an avid reader and would often incorporate things she read into her lifestyle and conversations.  For example, she read somewhere that prunes are very good for you and there are trace amounts in Dr. Pepper.  So she switched to that from Coke. (True story)

6)      It was nothing for her to decide that she wanted to rearrange the furniture in the house, or just buy new, without my dad knowing.  This would have been okay, except for the times when he returned home from work late at night and would try to navigate through the house in the dark.

7)      If you had the chance to travel out of the country, you could be sure to expect a party or possibly a cross-country road trip upon your return.  When Lorie returned from living in China for a year, Mom had a trip planned for everyone to drive from Georgia to Utah the day after she arrived home to visit Todd and me.  Having never traveled outside of the US herself, she never even thought that you might be jetlagged and exhausted.

8)      In the last several years, with an empty nest, she really liked to eat out and didn’t have much food at the house.  If my kids were over, she might say, “Do they want something to eat?  I’ve got a bag of croutons and some raisins.” Or some equally random and unusual combination of foods.

9)      Often she would call me and in general conversation would say, “What are you doing?"  No matter what I ever said in reply she would respond, “I thought you might be doing that.”  We joked that I should say something crazy like, “Todd and I were playing cowboys and Indians,” just to see if she would still say, “I thought you might be doing that.”

10)   She liked her bacon extra crispy and her hashbrowns lightly cooked, and her regular waitress at Waffle House, Amanda, knew that.

I could go on for a while about all the different layers that made up my mom, but I really believe these last few months she was getting ready to leave us all behind.  She put everything into her relationships, as much as she could give.  And even as she prepared to pass from this life into the next, she was thinking of those she loved.  She read a letter online somewhere and we found where she had copied it into her journal.  We believe she wrote it in just the last few days.  (letter)

When most of us leave home, we write a letter back to our loved ones.  I believe that if our loved ones that have gone on to be with Jesus could write such a letter back, this is what they might say:

                I had a safe trip .  The angels carried me safely into Abraham’s bosom.  You won’t  believe the thrill I felt when I met the one who died for me.  And no matter what you’ve heard, there’s just not words that can describe the glory that surrounds Him.  I’m satisfied here.  Every need has been supplied and just wait till you see my new home.  I’m satisfied because there is no sin here.  No murders, no divorce, no abortions, no selfishness, no need to even have locks on the door.  Perfect peace.  I’m satisfied.  There’s even no sickness.  I never felt better.  I have a new body, just like Jesus.  And oh, I wish you could hear the singing!  David played his harp today and a great crowd gathered by the river of life and sang a new song.  Of course the angels couldn’t sing that one, but they were all listening.  It’s really wonderful here ‘cause there are no strangers and everyone knows me by name.  Seems like I’ve been here forever.  The weather is great.  There is a cool breeze blowing all the time and you know one of the nicest things, night or dark never comes.  It’s light here where Jesus himself is the light of the city.

                Please remember I’m safe.  I’m satisfied.  And I’m not sick anymore.  There’ll be no need for me to write again, ‘cause nothing here ever changes.

                Well, in closing, the only thing that would make it complete is for all my family and friends to join me in heaven.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Dance of Life and Death

As a babe at the breast I received nourishment and strength.  From somewhere within ductal walls, by a miraculous biochemistry, liquid golden fluid brought forth a warm flow of life. 

And now, from those same ductal walls, my mother's body has birthed and grown death.  Stage 4 breast cancer.  The weight of the words falls heavy. 

The doctors make a plan, send death to bring life.  Use chemotherapy and radiation to kill the rapidly dividing cells.  They call it science, I call it sacred.  This concept isn't new.

Life is given.  Then death comes.  From death comes life.  Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24

I can't claim to know what this journey will be for our family or how my mom will experience it.  Even as she moves forward into the treatment plan there are so many uncertainties.  It's exhausting and uncomfortable.  It can be frightening and overwhelming.  It's painful.  It brings out the worst and the best of us.  There is hope.  There is so much loving support.  There is new mercy every morning. 

I come alongside to lighten the load, to enter into this sacred space and step in time to the dance of life and death, anticipating the shift from death to more abundant life.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The news article said that they "found the couple's two-year-old daughter unharmed" in the home.  Unharmed.  In the same home, on the same evening that they found her mother's body.  Unharmed. While police locked down the neighborhood to search for her father, the primary suspect in her mother's death.  Unharmed.  When her whole world was shattered.

The reporter got it wrong.  There may have been no evidence of physical injury, but a little girl was most certainly harmed. 

And these are the thoughts that spin through my mind as I rock my 20-month-old a little longer than usual.  When my husband told me, over the phone, about this young mother, a former co-worker, shot-dead by her husband, my thoughts went first to her child.  A little girl not much older than my youngest.

Maybe it's morbid, maybe it's empathy, but I wondered if, when she was afraid, that little girl cried out for her mommy, like mine does.  I wondered if she cried out for her daddy, like mine does.  I wonder if she's being comforted now, while mine sleeps easily in her crib. 

I pray healing for the harm that this child experienced.  I pray healing for the friends and family walking through this tragedy.  There is no quick remedy for a wound so profound.  And so I pray that I will remember, as my little girl grows, to pray for this other little girl, whose world has been shattered.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Self Care is not Selfish

When you board an airplane, before the actual flight begins, a flight attendant or a safety video goes over the emergency plan.  One of the things that they always say is that if the plane should lose cabin pressure, then an oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling.  You should place a mask on yourself before assisting children and other passengers who may need help. 

We're in a season that I have to remind myself that self-care is not selfish.  I have to carve out time daily to ensure my spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and financial health.  I can't neglect myself in my care for others. 

Earlier this month we found out that my mom has breast cancer.  In less than a month, my parents-in-law will be moving from our basement (their home of almost six years) to another country.

In the past 48 hours we've learned that my mom's cancer has progressed more than we initially thought and has actually spread to her bones.  She has some fractures where some bones have been weakened.  The same evening that we got this news, I met my dad at the emergency room, after he was transported from work by ambulance.  He was dehydrated, so after receiving a few bags of fluids, I took him back to his truck and he was able to drive home.  Yesterday, Eric went with his parents to the emergency room because his dad, who is a quadriplegic, was vomitting blood.  He has a bowel obstruction and may need surgery if it doesn't resolve itself within the next 72 hours.

And so I'm reaching up for my lifeline.  I'm breathing deeply from the One who gives me breath.  I'll give from my health and abundance, because this is not selfish.  We cannot give what we do not have.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sunday Morning Grace

It's Sunday morning.  We're getting ready for church, like we do every week, and we're running late, like we do every week.  I'm trying to herd children to the car, making sure everyone has shoes, there are clean diapers for the baby, and I brushed my own teeth.

Then it starts.

The five year old, the one whose middle name means "grace", begins to scream.  She doesn't like the shoes she's wearing.  She didn't want her hair that way.  She's NOT going to buckle her seatbelt.  She's "NOT EVEN GOING TO SIT DOWN!!!"

I feel it building inside, the bully that wants to say, "Who do you think you are?  You're 5 years old!  You picked those shoes!  And if I really wanted to make you sit down in that carseat and buckle your seatbelt, I could."

But there is the moment, the deep breath in and out, the inhale and exhale, the name that isn't spoken...the grace.  And I don't scream wild or jerk sharp against skinny child arms.  I turn, take another breath, and say, "It's time for us to go.  I know that you're feeling really angry and frustrated right now.  We can't change the choices you already made, but we're going, all together, and you have a choice now.  I'll only wait a little bit for you to decide what you'll choose to do next."  Then I turn back to look through the windshield.

The screaming stops, but there are still tears.  A little girl in the "backity-back" beside a big brother sits down and buckles her seatbelt.  She wipes tears and cleans salt-streaked glasses as her Daddy gets into the driver's seat.  We go, all together, to church.

The picture doesn't look this way every week, but today, there is Sunday morning grace.  And somehow there's this holy irony, this child that sometimes reminds me so much of my small-child-self, that I gave this name that means "grace", this one that shows me grace immeasurable and allows me to reciprocate the grace that I've recieved.  This is amazing grace.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mom--You are Enough

When God made you a mom, he made you 'just enough'.

Just enough worry and fear to exhibit wondrous faith.
Just enough doubt to reveal transforming trust.
Just enough imperfection to point your child to the only perfect one.
Just enough selfishness to teach about sacrifice.
Just enough weakness to magnify His strength.
Just enough inherited issues to boldly break cycles of generational sin.
Just enough stubborn pride to expose the joy and beauty of sacred submission.

And mom, he gave you just enough laughter and tears, hugs and kisses, tenderness, correction, wandering and direction, to draw close to Him, to desire Him, and to be your child's introduction to HIm.

You are enough.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Screaming baby

My baby has the flu. 

It's not fun. 

It's exhausting. 

It's holding someone all day, waking throughout the night, trying to keep the bigger three away from the germy places, exhausting.

Last night she screamed for an hour and a half.  Not cried, not whimpered like with the high fever, but SCREAMED.  Bloodcurdling, gut-wrenching, inconsolable screaming.  

I tried to comfort her.  I held her.  We rocked, we walked, I sang, I talked.  I offered water, she coughed until I thought she would vomit. 

I felt overwhelemed, isolated, alone, abandoned...even though my sweet husband was nearby and would help with anything I asked.

She wanted to be close to me, but she would stiffen and push with her feet.  She wanted to be on my shoulder, but she would scream in my ear.  "How much longer can I bear this before I lose it?"  I thought.  "Can I bear it for 30 more seconds?  Yes.  I'll count...1...2...3...Okay, we made it.  How about a minute?  1...2...3...4...57...58....59...60.  She's still screaming.  Loudly.  I don't know what to do.  I've tried everything that usually comforts her.  Everything that usually comforts me."

She had literally been screaming for more than an hour.  And then I remembered the wise words of a friend.  "When you don't know what else to do, sometimes you just need to S.T.O.P.  Stop, think, observe, pray."  And so I did.

"Maybe her stomach is hurting.  She's pushing against me like she did as an infant when she had gas."  I collapsed onto my bed and gently put her on her back beside me, her head resting on my arm.  She continued to scream as I prayed.  I confessed it all...the frustration of it all, the anger that was building up because my "suitable helper" wasn't helping the way I thought he should, the fear that I was failing as a parent and there could be something terribly wrong with my child and it could be my fault, the pride that I could handle it all by myself.  And then I let go.  I was honest with myself and my God, and I relaxed and I released the screaming child beside me and the screaming child within me.

It wasn't immediate, but the calm came.  The screaming stopped and we settled into restfulness.

Nevermind that moments after we fell asleep the newly turned 4-year-old fell out of her bed with a thump and cries. 

Daddy took care of that one.