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.