Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My portion...

There are some days in life for which you can never be fully prepared.  Yesterday was one of those.

My mother had not been doing so well recently.  That was part of my blogger's block... I wanted so desperately to write about it, use the stroke of the keys to cope with the insanity of it all.  But I couldn't.  Her liver scan and blood work had looked so good about a month ago, but my heart told me something bigger was happening.  She just didn't seem herself, and she was struggling physically in different ways than she had before.  But there weren't words to describe it.  No way to explain it.  Her oncologist had dismissed the various symptoms as a phenomena known as chemo brain, and she certainly met the description.  Only, over time, it wasn't improving.  In fact, the symptoms were getting worse and more noticeable, and her doctor had ordered an MRI, which was scheduled for this very afternoon.  But my mother wouldn't make it to today's appointment.

We believe she suffered a seizure yesterday morning while she was trying to feed the dogs.  My father found her, out cold, on the wood floor, and he called the paramedics.  Vital signs looked good, so my dad opted to take her to the ER himself.  A CT scan revealed a large mass in the right side of her head, so large that her brain is pushed over to the left side.  Her physical condition at this point is stable but mimics that of a stroke patient.  Her speech is slurred, the left side of her body not fully functional, and the droop of the mouth so common in stroke patients is quite noticeable.

A further MRI was done, and a brain surgeon has given his best eye-glance diagnosis.  He feels certain it is a benign tumor, but there is no treatment other than surgery to remove it.  Because of the tumor's size and placement, he didn't feel comfortable with doing the surgery there in Montgomery and suggested we find a surgeon in Birmingham where my mother has received all her treatments and had any procedures related to her cancer.

When I say that yesterday was the most emotionally draining day of my life, I am not exaggerating.  It was up, it was down, it was all around.  My main prayer for myself was for God to get me through the day, to give me all I needed in each individual moment.  And He did.  He is amazing like that.  God never falls short.

This morning, I read in my Jesus Calling devotional book.  Ironically, my mother gave it to me back in the fall of last year.  I missed yesterday's reading, so I read it, too.  Here's a little piece of it:
Your gravest danger is worrying about tomorrow.  If you try to carry tomorrow's burdens today, you will stagger under the load and eventually fall flat.  You must discipline yourself to live within the boundaries of today.  It is in the present moment that I walk close to you, helping you carry your burdens.  Keep your focus on My Presence in the present.

How timely.  And one of the Scriptures corresponding with the devotion for today was from Psalm 73.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26)

The referenced Scripture in the book was only the 23rd verse, but as I read on, the passage just touched my heart.  I thought it was incredibly fitting in the present situation.  Flesh and hearts fail, but God is forever.  He is our portion.

He was my portion yesterday.  He gave me just enough.  Not lacking, not too much, but all that I needed in every single moment of the day.  And I am so thankful to Him.  As usual, we covet your prayers for my mother as we fight to find answers, get a thorough diagnosis, and deal with whatever treatment options there are available to her.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Greetings from Dr. Mom...

Even though I've been quiet over here in my little corner of the blogosphere, things have not been quiet at home.  David was sick with his third stomach virus of the school year last week, and now Madalyn is sick with a possible third bout with strep.  She's still asleep, so I haven't been able to formally assess her... the 2:30 am medicine dose and cuddle time doesn't allow Dr. Mom adequate amount of light and consciousness to make a diagnosis.

In other news, David got his braces put on yesterday.  Within three hours of leaving the office, I heard the words, "Mama, is this bracket loose or something?"  Surely not, I thought.  But, alas, we already have a bracket unattached to the tooth.  I am waiting a call back from the office to see when they want us to come in to have that fixed.  I had braces on my teeth for five years of my life and never had a bracket pop.  I am hoping this is not a sign of what the entire process will be like with David.

In case you didn't know, Lent begins tomorrow.  After several years of pondering Lent, of thinking about what I would give up if I observed it, of wondering what I should do, I have finally decided to participate in the tradition of sacrifice this year.  I won't be sharing here openly what I am giving up, but my closest friends know, and I will be writing out a formal covenant with God about it tomorrow.  I believe it will be a key exercise in self control for me, which is an attribute that I need to work on the most.

So there's a little update.  If I can get my kids well then I may have the ability to complete a thought in my brain.  Sleep deprivation and noxious fumes from nasty stomach viruses do not aid in the completion of thoughts.  Just take my word for it...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be My Valentine...

Valentine's Day... I am not a fan.  Never have been.  Maybe it stems back to my middle school days when I was chubby, acne-ridden, and not-so-stylishly dressed.  Needless to say, I wasn't the apple of many pre-pubescent boys' eyes back in the day.  While the pretty, popular, cheerleader girls were getting candy grams and balloons and flowers from their little boyfriends that they held hands with in the dark of the movie theater each weekend,  I felt unlovable.  Just typing that makes me sad and makes me like Valentine's Day even less than I did thirty seconds ago.

Even in high school after I shed those baby fat pounds, grew a few slight curves to the physique, and learned to bat my eyelashes perfectly curled and mascara-ed up, I never had a Valentine.  My first and only real boyfriend ~ the one that lasted more than a couple of dates and that gave me his class ring to wear ~ broke up with my just a week or so before the day of hearts.  I was devastated.  My mom surprised me that year on Valentine's morning with the cutest little teddy bear.  I still have him tucked away downstairs somewhere.

I guess I always had some commercialized notion of what it meant to have a Valentine, and once I finally got one (who turned out to be the wrong one) I was sorely disappointed.  The roses always died.  The young man that gave them was a shallow pan of love.  He demanded more than he gave; he took more than he contributed.  All those years of pining, of envying the girls who had someone, of feeling unlovable because I didn't get a bouquet of stupid flowers on a specific day of the year... well, nothing had changed.  I still felt unlovable but for different reasons.

Just a few short years ago, with nearly ten years of marriage and two kids on my record, I still felt the same way that chubby thirteen year old girl felt.  Unlovable.  Disappointed.  Lonely.  Like something was missing.  And then I read Isaiah, the most beautiful love letter I have ever read.  I felt God speaking to me through the ancient Words, beckoning me, calling me toward Him through lovely Words I had always dreamed of hearing from a physical Valentine.  The thirteen year old within me melted away.  The mistreated young bride, dejected and disappointed by her first husband, was quieted.  The disheveled mom of two, the one who seldom wears anything fancier than a tee shirt and feels less than appreciated... well, her ears perked up.

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine - the best of meats and finest of wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.  The LORD has spoken.  {25:6-8}

"But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.  I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and not rejected you.  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." {41:8-10}

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down.  Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it." {45:8}

"Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.  For your Maker is your husband - the LORD Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." {54:4-5}

All those years... the ones I felt unlovable and ugly and left out... He was already there, wanting to be the central focus of my heart, wanting to fill those voids and spread His unfailing Love all over my soul.  I just never saw it.  I never understood the depth of the Love of God until I read Isaiah.  It's a book so full of promise, mainly of the Savior to come one day.  But it's the courting of the people of Israel, a calling for them to simply come to Him and bask in His salvation, to rest on His promises instead of making alliances with His enemies and putting other things before Him.  I realized that these words, all 66 chapters worth, were so applicable to my life today.  God wants to be my Valentine, the focus of my soul's heart, putting no other relationship first.  Why couldn't I have seen that when I was 13?  At least by 18???  Perhaps I could have avoided some major hurts in my life if I had seen God for who He really wanted to be to me...

Spend some time today pondering on God's Love for you.  The type of Love that never fails, never disappoints, never leaves, never grows weary or aggravated.  The type of Love that has already given everything for your soul.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." {Romans 5:8}   

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chances...

I've been going over a conversation I had with my dearest Madalyn earlier this week while I washed and conditioned her hair.  Here's a little recap...

"Mama, do you remember that time when I was still in kindergarten when I kept saying that bad word and kept getting in trouble.  You know, oh my..."

"Oh, yes, I do remember."

"I just kept saying it and saying it."  She's doing her little laugh while talking thing that she does in this breathy sort of way as if to tisk~tisk herself.

"Well, it's not a bad word exactly.  It's disrespectful toward God.  It hurts His feelings when you use His Name that way.  And you just shouldn't say it."

"Well I don't want to do that."  Her big brown eyes are swimming around in thought as I am rinsing her hair.  "I like God.  He just keeps on giving us another chance."

"Yes, He does."  I was delighted to hear her come to such a realization in her own little head.

"But not bad people.  He doesn't give them more chances."

"Yes, Madalyn, He does.  Even the bad people get more chances.  He forgives us and gives us a chance to do better."

She was floored.  "What?  Even the bad people?  Like robbers?"  I nodded.  "Well I just love that God..."

Me, too, Madalyn.  Me, too.  Now more than ever before.  And I was so glad to have the chance to share with her at her tender age that God keeps giving us all another chance.  This is a concept that makes no sense in the world.  Endless chances are unheard of here.  If I keep screwing up at work, eventually I will get fired.  If I continue to make mistakes in my marriage, my spouse will leave.  If I don't make my house payment, if I am not a good friend, if I leave the biscuits in the oven too long... a loss will incur.  Our world is tangible and conditional.  God's Love is neither.

I want my kids to know that.  When you tell that lie, when you drink that first sip of alcohol when you're way too young, when you go too far on a date with someone you think you may love, when you think you've done something unforgivable... think again.  He is not finished with you.  He has more to give, more love, more mercy, more grace.  His supply is unending.  He will never leave you.

Because of the LORD's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  {Lamentations 3:22-23}


"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."  {Isaiah 43:1b}

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A broken heart...


When I was little, my grandfather suffered a couple of heart attacks.  I have a memory (whether accurate or not) that he had one at the gas station.  He had bypass surgery when I was in high school.  His ticker is now 93 years old, and it's gotten weary.

Add the death of his wife of almost 76 years, and I'd like to think that his heart has lost its reason to beat.  That in more ways than one, it's broken.

Theirs wasn't an easy life, and it was unlike anything you or I could imagine.  A life of need and hard effort, where emotion and feelings were dealt with at the end of the day if you had any left over energy.  I love yous were few and far between making the ones uttered beyond precious.

My grandfather had always been such a hard man, one of few words or expressions, one of no luxury or excess.  To see the edges of his soul crumble to his feet and soften like well worn leather has been surprising.  To see the man who never sat still be confined to a wheel chair has been disenchanting.  To see him join my grandmother in heaven will be a relief.

My grandfather had a spell last week that the doctors believed to be a mini-stroke.  After another episode Monday night, they were able to determine that he's having mild heart attacks.  His body is tired and failing, and it probably won't be much longer before we're breaking out the funeral attire again.

I beg anyone reading these words to whisper a prayer for my granddaddy.  A tough man he was, hard working and strong, not easily contained or controlled.  And now he lies in wait.  Confused and basically alone, just waiting on his body to quit the fight.

Say a prayer for all of those in this same predicament.  I used to think that you lived and got old and just passed away.  What I have learned over the past few years is that passing away has become, in our modern society of medical advances and prescriptions, a slow process of helplessness.  And my heart hurts for the many who are dealing with this process in their lives right now.  It's not easy for any involved from the dying to the spectators.  

Just whisper a prayer...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Baby teeth...

We've been consulting with an orthodontist for about two years now.  I felt a little guilty walking in and out of that beautifully decorated office without ever dropping a dime into their bank account.  Until Monday.  The nice lady slid the cost sheet with payment options across the desk toward me, and all guilt faded into oblivion.

It's time for intervention.  Time for metal and tiny colored rubber bands on brackets.  Time for pocketbook breaking mouth work.  Before the wires can be out into place, five baby teeth needed to go.  According to the orthodontist, they were all loose, so it shouldn't be that massive of an undertaking.  We scheduled the extractions for this morning.  From the moment that David heard the word extraction, he went to work on the teeth in question.  Yesterday he wiggled the fourth one free leaving a lonely and still fairly firm molar for the dentist to take care of today.  A $78 molar, mind you, but I am grateful that we were spared the cost of the other four (minus tooth fairy expenditures).

Funny thing walking out of the dentist knowing that your child has no more baby teeth in their mouth.  Knowing that you've reached the point in their little life that their brushing skills really do count.  All those lectures you've given along the way about these are the teeth you will have for the rest of your life are true now.

I can't help but think about when all the teeth were coming in.  There were days of crying.  Crying was David's only mechanism for coping when he was a baby... and not just a little boo-hoo.  We're talking days of crying, the kind of days that first time moms (like myself back in the day) would fret and finally call the doctor about.  Refuse to eat, drink a bottle, or sleep kind of days.  Days when every activity that he normally enjoyed, whether playing with blocks, reading a book, or taking a bath, were replaced with crying.  But those days soon passed...

I remember my naivety.  How I thought things were tough then.  It was difficult, indeed, but it was so simple.  There was no talking back, no messy room, no fear that I was getting it all wrong and that it could harm him.  There were things to worry about then, but they were miles down the road.  Now the worries are just around the corner, and the fear that I haven't done enough weighs heavily on my heart all the time.

There are days when I wish I could shrink him back down and hold him like I used to.  Not for a long time, but for just long enough to get a good cuddle and tell him how much I love him.  To apologize to the baby David for wishing it all away... the crying, the teething, the tantrums, the I-don't-wanna-take-a-nap days.  To hold his little baby self in my arms one more time and soak it up, appreciating that he was uniquely himself even at six months old, a perfect creation of God.

The baby teeth are gone.  The baby days are gone.  Long gone.