Tuesday, September 29, 2015

when it's worth dying for

I walked in the house with my arms piled full of trash from the car.  

It's amazing how we automatically move through the simple tasks of our days in the middle of crisis.  Sometimes it's the only thing that holds us together.  

The kids were on my heels.  I sat everything on the counter and headed for the table by the back door – it held the closest box of tissues.  He saw the tears still fresh on my cheeks and I'm sure my face was red and tired.  I couldn't make eye contact or I would erupt again.  I didn’t trust myself to speak.

Joey cried the hardest in the days following Lucy's diagnosis.  I had cried too, but the bulk of my tears didn't come until months later.
I've had friends with kids who are plagued by chronic health conditions.  As a school psychologist I worked with families who received devastating diagnoses.  But in every case my experience lasted only moments, maybe hours.  I could always walk away from it.  Not anymore.  

On that particular day it surrounded me.  When I woke up in the morning.  When I was cooking breakfast.  When I was driving to the store.  Chronic illness lives with me now.  It promises to stay forever.  When something difficult moves in and doesn't have any plans of moving on it's hard to keep the flame of hope alive.  There is always something to put it out.

I am high on empathy.  It's a great trait for someone who works with people.  It can be hard for a mom.  Empathy means that you absorb the emotions of other people and experience them as if they were your own.  When you have a child who demonstrates every emotion imaginable in a 5 minute span that's a lot to absorb.  It's hard to wring it all back out.  Sometimes you walk around heavy and sopping wet in it all day long.  Oh, to feel lighter...

In the middle of a season like that you might have suggested I take a nice hot shower and listen to Pharrell Williams to get 'happy' again - to get a little pep back in my step.  But I knew that wasn't the solution for me.  I needed something different.  I didn't need to escape this new reality, I needed to learn how to endure...with hope.  The dying needed to happen to make room for this new life.  As painful as it was, I needed to die.

I did opt for the shower, with the door locked.  But I chose Audrey Assad instead.  I chose sorrowful music because my heart felt sorrowful and weary.  Instead of ignoring my heart - trying to cover up the dark condition of it - I needed to let it be heard.  
I needed to feel it completely - 
the pain and 
fear and 
grief and 
deep, deep sadness for our condition.  
And by our condition I mean 'our' condition - yours and mine.  Broken hearts are the result of a broken world.  For me it was the burden of a child with a chronic illness for which there is no cure and no clear course of treatment.  For you it might be something else - something that leaves you all heavy and sopping wet.

We have to feel it completely.  We have to be brave enough to do that.  We have to step into the pain so that it can kill us completely.  Nobody wants to walk around half-dead, hanging on by a thread, covering it all up with a smile and a cute new top we bought on sale at Target. 
I stood in the shower with my eyes closed and the water, mixed with my tears, pouring down.  I listened to the truth of the words being sung knowingly, and I died.  It was deeply painful, but it gave way - bit by bit - to hope.   

When you find a safe place to unravel,
when you feel the arms of eternity wrapping tight around you...
you stay.  You don't run and hide, or turn and fight.  You stay there.  

It is not a time of rejoicing.  
It is not a time of rising.  
It is not a time of being resurrected.  
It is not a time of boisterous triumphant victory.

It is a time to mourn.
It is a time to be held. 
It is a time of surrender. 
It is a time of dying, so that eventually you can live again. 

In that season,  we were still figuring out how to live with Type 1 Diabetes.  We still didn't have a handle on her Graves' Disease.  We were spending the majority of our time visiting different doctors and trying different therapies and swimming in questions without answers.  I had a desperate heart.

At that time I had to apologize daily for her hitting or punching or yelling or just giving an evil death stare.  I was not apologizing for her - for who she is - I was apologizing for the way disease manifests itself.   I was apologizing for how it detonates like a bomb inside of her and then sends shrapnel flying into anyone close to her.  

I am closest to her.  
I got the most hits.  
I took them because it's what I was set here to do.  
To be her defender, 
nurturer, and most of all, 
the great big flashing arrow that points her to Jesus.  

I can say he is the great hope of this world and then, in a season like that, I can live it.  I can grab desperately onto the truth that He is the only person in the history of the world to actually overcome the world.  And boy did we have a world that needed overcoming.
Overcome with peace, 
with relief, 
with healing, 
with mercy, 
with grace, 
with an eternal hope.
I am part of a support group for mothers of children who have received a diagnosis of Graves Disease.  There are nearly 150 of us in the group from all over the world.  I have never met a single one of them face to face but they understood more about the battle I was fighting than anyone in the world.  We type in letters on a keyboard that form pieces of our hearts - our weary, breaking hearts.  I don’t mean to sound gloom and doom but many days are that way for us.  
These are some of the words we pour out…
I’m a mess right now.
Trying to pull myself out of this depression.
I feel so distant from my family because they don’t understand this is a real thing.
I had to pull my daughter out of school.
This is such a rocky road.
I have reached my breaking point.
I cried so much today.

Whether you have dealt with Graves Disease or not, on any given day you may have said those same things.  Our struggles can be different but the emotions so very similar.

That same dying day, Lucy snuck downstairs after her bedtime and stood close waiting for my typing fingers to pause.  I looked at her with soft eyes and smiled.  Her cheeks were pink from the day’s sun.  Her freckles looked to have doubled.  Her eyes were questioning when she said - I didn’t mean to make you sad today.  I can't go to sleep because I’m sad I made you sad.  

I propped her little chin up on the tips of my fingers and guided her face up to mine so that I could look deep into her eyes.  And then I told her…

You make me happy.  
You make me smile.  
You don't ever make me sad.
Mommy wasn’t sad because of you today.  I was sad because sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes we have bad days.  Sometimes I get upset that you have to deal with all this Type 1 and Graves Disease business, but I always have hope.  I always trust God.  I always believe he will bring something good out of this.  

And then I told her the story of Jehoshaphat.  
She listened.  
The questions in her eyes turned to answers.  She didn’t say a word but I know she heard it all.  
How a great king faced great opposition.  
How, despite overwhelming odds, God fought for his children when they cried out to him.  
How victory in difficult times comes not from us but from him.  
How God uses us in the middle of our saddest, scariest times to point others to Him and His power.
How all of this is possible because of God's great love for us and his promise to never leave us...
     even when we are dying.  

I know she locked it all away.  That’s what she does.  She puts my words in a treasure box inside of her.  I have to make sure they are something worth treasuring.  She will bring them out another day, and for that I am so grateful - that she always hears me.  Above the sound of Graves rage and the roller coaster of fluctuating blood sugars, she hears my voice.  She hears the truth.  One way or another - it will set her free.  It has set me free.

It's been nearly two years since those tears came like a flood.

Our life isn't perfect but we are alive.  
We are full of hope.  
We are free.  

The battle has been won, not by us, but for us.  
Jesus himself showed us what it means to endure, when you want to escape.  
There are some things well worth dying for.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

when you're ready for a change of seasons

Summers in the south can lay heavy and oppressive.  It seems we've been moving in slow motion for months - dragging the weight of the hot humid air everywhere we go.

Fall came early last week and she was a welcome guest.  The cool, crisp mornings cut through my skin and suddenly I am awake, alive again.

Even if we're strong enough to carry heavy things, there's only so far we can go before our bodies give out from fatigue.  Our steps slow to a halt and then we stand still, and full of burden, waiting for the reprieve.

More and more I see life reflected in nature.

I see the cycles and rhythms of the world around me and it looks familiar.  It feels like something I want to fall into and be carried away by.  It makes sense.  The same God who formed this planet and set it spinning through seasons also formed me.

There is so much more unseen than seen in life - so much that we
because of the familiar rhythm.
And yet we put our trust and our hope in what our eyes can be set upon.

When Fall pulls back the hot, heavy blanket of summer, exposing our bare skin to the world around us, freedom comes back to me.
It is a freedom I always possess but sometimes forget.

As she bleeds into winter, the heaviness will return to me - this time cold and hard.  I will carry that  burden for a while until Spring comes to melt the frozen places and bring movement back again.

For now I embrace the freedom found in the cooling.  Spring will bring freedom in the thawing.  But the times in between have a work to do too, so I will not curse them.  I will not try to escape them.  I will endure them - with hope.

The seasons of nature reflect the seasons of my soul.  There are times I am covered, buried even, in oppression.  My circumstances heat up and press me down hard - immobilizing me.  But always, if I endure with hope, the Spirit blows in on the wings of a breeze peeling back the layers that held me down until it is the actual presence of God I feel wrapping itself gently around me, offering
new breath
new life

This time of year I instinctively reach for a sweater to protect my skin from the chill, something to flatten the goosebumps back down and into my arms.  But today I stopped myself.  I remained exposed, allowing the chill to touch me, awaken me.  It's uncomfortable and exhilarating all at once.  Nothing brings life like the breath of the Spirit - cool or warm - penetrating through the burden we've been carrying until we can
see again
feel again
be moved to freely engage the world around us again.

This time of year the air is thinner.
It makes it easier for us to see, easier for us to feel.  There is less separation between me and everything else.  Less separation means more connection.  I like connection.

The dog days of summer may have pulled me down into sleep, pressing my eyes shut.  Goodness, I took so many naps.  Heavy seasons of life can do that too - completely shut us down.  But the seasons never stop changing.

So I carry gratitude today for the changing of the seasons and the movement they bring.  And even more I embrace the movement of the Spirit...
the Spirit which has the power to change the very atmosphere around and within me.

Carrying hope for each of you in whatever seasons you find yourself today.  May your souls be awakened as you allow yourself to be exposed to the elements - enduring, not escaping.
Happy weekend, friends.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

when you are born and raised {again}

I was born in Blacksburg, Virginia.  I have only been back to visit once.  I carry a few snapshots in my mind of the place that held my earliest days.

I was raised in Clemson, South Carolina.  It's where nearly all of my childhood memories reside.   After years of living in North Carolina we moved back there.  My kids are now growing up in the very place I grew up.  It's a precious thing.

But I've discovered we are not just born and raised in one place and by one person.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

megaphone moments

They were barefoot at the bottom of the driveway - still in their pajamas even though it was nearly noon.

She had one foot on the silver platform of her scooter and the other on the cracked black asphalt where the tree roots had tried to break free.  He stood close, looking curiously at what she held in her hand.  I'm sure it was some type of insect or plant or other natural treasure that our wooded yard offers.  It was the closeness that kept me watching through the blinds, studying them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

chairs and celebrations

There were over 300 borrowed chairs that needed to be folded and loaded into the back of a truck to return to their middle school home for good.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

holding on and letting go

I was folding clothes on the couch when he asked me -
     So what is your giveaway?

That's it.  Right there.
I pointed to the piece of reclaimed wood propped up on our fire place.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

when you feel like you don't matter

Sometimes I contemplate quitting my job.

Not my job as a wife or a mom.  The other one.
It's not that I am exceptionally good in my roles at home.  Just yesterday I let my kids watch too much t.v. and allowed them to jump on the furniture and fed them rolled up deli meat and apples for dinner.  And that was a good day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

when your voice is muted

So there was this conference call.  
I had it on my schedule.  
It was a writer thing so it was kind of a big deal because I've felt called to do more writer things lately.
I told my husband that I would need to be available so he would be POD {parent on duty}.  

9pm on a Tuesday night.  No problem - or so I thought.