Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Today...

It was just a day, not unlike any other.  Sunny and warm.  Spring.  With Easter only a couple of weeks away, we made plans to do something that mothers and daughters do all the time, ones that are blessed enough to live close to one another.

I picked her up at home.  She sat beside me in the front seat, as she always has.  We talked.  I drove.  I got a spot up close, and she pushed one of those carts back inside the store that had been left outside, ones that are smaller and more discreet that those found at Walmart or Winn Dixie.

We shopped.  We looked, compared, and talked of color.  We laughed at some, turned our nose up at others.  We gasped when we found the one she will wear on Easter Sunday.  It was perfect.

No talk of cancer, of scars that are healing or scans to come.  Sometimes it's nice not to talk of them at all. Just to be who we we've always been for a few hours, mother and daughter, bonded right down to the core.  That's who we'll always be.  Somehow, even when we're forced to talk about the ugliness that invades her body, we are just who we are.  It's nice to have something that never changes.

Sweet Jesus, I thank you for today.  To anyone looking in on us, they would never know how precious it really was, what a special moment they were witnessing.  I praise You alone for giving me another Easter dress outing with her, one I will never forget.  I thank you for allowing me to watch her dignity and grace as she fights the battle before her.  In Your Holy Name, I pray... Amen.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Night gowns...

Do you know any woman who sleeps in night gowns?  I don't.  Or, if I do, I don't know who they are.  They are a thing of the past, tucked away with slips and panty hose.  Modern women don't wear those types of things.  We sleep in tee shirts and flannel pants and cut off sweats.  We don't wear slips, and we sure as heck don't wish panty hose on our worst enemy.

My grandmother loved night gowns.  Thin and silky, light and airy.  And she wore house coats.  I don't mean house coats in terms of a fluffy robe.  I am referring to house coats as in a day dress... basically, a night gown for the day.  Her day gowns usually buttoned up the front, had a little pocket on one side, and were made of floral or pastel colored fabric.

Yesterday, I went to visit my mom, and she wanted me to go through some bags of my grandmother's clothes she had there are the house.  I pulled them out, and I smelled her one last time.  One bag was almost completely full of night and day gowns.  There were some I couldn't part with, some of which I thought, "If I pull out that sewing machine at some point in my life, I can use this fabric to make something... something to remember her with."  You see, that thought, the one in which whispers that something can be made from this... that very thought is her bubbling up within me.  Her blood.  Her creativity and love for pretty fabric.  Her.

Another bag was full of clothes she wore in her final years.  My how her fashion sense had changed as she neared her nineties!  Blouses and trousers were replaced with comfy velour pants and tee shirts.  I pulled out a shirt I remember her boasting about just a few years ago.  "I found that at Walmarts.  Only $5.  So I bought two."  Walmart was never in the singular form.  She always added an S to the end.  And she was always on the look out for a bargain, making the most of every penny that came into their household.  There were many times at a department store in the mall when my mother and I would lose her, only to find her perusing the clearance rack.

There was something so simple about her.  Something so pure.  An heir about her that just put you at ease around her no matter what was going on.  I miss her.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sometimes it's the little things...

I've sat down to write out a brilliant post or two over the last week.  Only problem is the brilliant never actually came out.  When my husband said to me, "You haven't written a post in a while..." last night, I knew I had to stop and give it some thought.

Usually when I can't write, there's something consuming me.

You may think it's my mom's health that's got my mind in other places, but it's not.  It's baseball.  Baseball.  Sometimes it's not the big things that consume our minds but the little things.

This is something I haven't blogged about yet, partly because it's all so raw and weird and intangible.  The other reasons why I haven't written about it is that it's something that most people don't understand or agree with.

We were a part of something amazing, and some of that had nothing to do with what happened on the field.  Living 50 miles away from your family is just far enough that you're on your own, and we were delighted when we found a second family through baseball.  We weren't all perfect, but we loved and trusted each other.  There was comfort in silence, laughter in victory, love through tears.  Until the main player (David) didn't want to play along anymore.

Last season, David started in... I don't wanna play baseball anymore.  Well, one can imagine the shock to my baseball-lovin' system, a girl who grew up in the red dirt with a Coca-Cola wax cup from the concession stand.  For months we tried to figure out exactly what was going on in David's little head.  Is he burnt out?  Are his hormones out of balance (still haven't ruled that one out, by the way... 10 year old boys are interesting to say the least)?  Is he restless to try something new?  Has he really just decided he hates baseball?  It's hard to know... it's hard as a parent to decipher what comes from their little mouths and translate it into logical adult speak.  When I tried to talk to him about it, he would only get defensive and cry.  A 10 year old boy should not be crying about baseball.  So we decided to take a break, but not a complete one.

We told our travel team that David would not be playing with them this spring but at our local park instead.  A part of me was relieved... the financial stress of traveling was suspended, there would be more down-time at home, and more Sundays when we couldn't use baseball as an excuse to not make it to church.  But then there was this other part of me... this part that was so sad, literally brokenhearted.  The families that had become my home away from home, the boys I had grown to love, the whole experience - it was all changed.

It's been tough.  It's been hard to break away from a coach my son has played for since he was five and hitting off a tee.  It's hard to start practice with a new set of folks and children you've never met before.  Even harder still is watching your son's eyes open up to what he walked away from, what he didn't realize he had, what he thought he was sick of.  He told me that he regrets his choice, and I told him that's what life is all about.  Sometimes, we make choices, and things don't turn out the way we want them to.

So here we are.  I have met some incredible ladies, some of the moms on the team, but other than that, no one in this family is having much fun.  David is bored.  Scott and I are frustrated.  Madalyn misses her little-sister friends.  And I am dealing with a plethora of other issues as I volunteered to take on team mom responsibilities.

I've typed all of this post to remind myself of this: this, too, shall pass.  Somehow, I've let these little insignificant issues wiggle into my heart and cause me way too much anxiety and stress than they're worth.  Way too much.  In two months, this season of baseball will be over.  Fourteen games.  I have to let this go... I have to remind myself that none of this will matter in 20 years.  None of it at all.

Lord...  than You for loving me... all of me, even these weird little parts of me!  Help me to turn over all my stresses to you.  Not just the ones that make sense to the world, but anything that causes me internal angst.  Help me to know that You care about all of me, not just the pieces of me that that the world values... amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Laying it down...

When I was 16, a boy asked me to hold his cigarette for him while he bent over to tie his shoe.  In that moment, I felt like the gates of hell were opening wide for me for simply holding the cigarette.  Can you imagine how I would have felt if I had dared to put it to my lips????  I would have needed a few extra hours of over-priced therapy.  Anywho... the big naughties in my mind growing up were cigarettes, alcohol, and sex.  During my high school years, I successfully refrained from all three and felt like a I was one step closer to heaven for doing so.

I don't hide the fact that I drink alcohol from anyone.  I know that this goes against the beliefs of some and that others are not entirely opposed to consumption of alcohol.  I won't get into that debate here today as that's not my intention behind this post.  I will only say that every human being has a sinful nature, but our compulsions, or the things we choose to ease the angst in our soul, are all different.  Some choose alcohol, food or sex.  Some choose to immerse them self in their job.  Some escape by reading book after book after book.  Some run.  Some beat their kids or their spouse.  Some yell at and belittle others.  No matter how it presents itself, we are all looking for a way to settle our souls, to find a place of peace, to work out the anger, fear, frustration that we feel internally.  

I choose the night cap.  Mix a little of this with a little of that, and I can relax.  Not get drunk, rather just relax.  Is this wrong?  I don't know the answer to that question.  What I do know is that it wasn't the place God intended me to find a little peace and relaxation...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  John 14:27

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

In my readings, I have discovered that my focus should be on God.  Feeling anxious?  Pray.  Feeling stressed about the kids?  Pray.  About the bills?  Pray.  About your mom's cancer?  Pray.  I have yet to read in the Word that when you feel anxious you should have a margarita, though I was hopeful at one time I just may find it if I dug deep enough.  Maybe in Ecclesiastes?  Nope, not there.  I digress... 

Over the past few years I had toyed around in my mind about giving something up for Lent.  This year, I set my heart to observe it, and I began to think on something that I could give up that would actually make a spiritual difference in my life.  I could give up chocolate, but on Easter Sunday, I would eat every piece of chocolate in sight, and it would be plentiful.  The sacrifice wouldn't leave a lasting impression on me.  My mind {and soul} finally settled on liquor.  Now, maybe all you pretty Christians cringe when you hear me say that I am giving up liquor for Lent, and that's exactly why I haven't blogged about this yet.  There's a huge part of me that finds it embarrassing that my taste buds desire a spiced rum and diet cola, but another part reminds myself that everyone reading my words struggles with their own sinful nature.  My compulsion may not be your compulsion, but it's no different from any other sin.  It's taken me years to get past the high school me, the one who thought I was dirty for holding a cigarette I didn't even know how to light, the me who thought my salvation was earned through a list of earthly things I could successfully avoid.

Do you find it a coincidence that I would face one of the most stressful times in my life (as in the discovery of a malignant tumor in my mother's brain) the week following the beginning of Lent?  I think not.  I am amazed at the lessons God will teach you as He works on your weakness.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9

The past few weeks have been filled with nights that I would have loved to have jumped right into a bottle of  spiced rum, vodka, or tequila and bathed in it.  But the kicker was that I wrote out a covenant with God that I would refrain from all liquor during the 46 days of Lent.  Do you have a clue how powerful it is to write out a promise to God?  It's life changing... I have never done it before, but it's definitely something I will use again as a tool of accountability.  By making the promise to Him, not to myself, I have been forced to call on Him, think on Him, when I have felt tempted.  These weeks have also shown me that God is able to fill any space inside of me if only I ask Him.  He is able to calm any storm within my soul.  And the glory of it all is that I can indulge in as much God as I want to without any morning-after headaches or empty calories.

So maybe your compulsion is different from mine... maybe your distrust in God to fill the empty parts of you manifests itself through something else.  Don't worry; I won't judge.  I will simply say to think it over... pray about it... lay it down at His feet and watch what His Power can do inside of you.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Spirit...


Forgive me a minute while I spread some good news.  It's something that has always been, but it took me a while to figure it out.  I've called upon its strength so much in the last week and a half that I want to share what I have learned in hopes that it opens the eyes of just one person who might be reading my words.

This verse sent chills up my spine:
And you were also included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are in God's possession - to the praise of his glory.  {Ephesians 1:13-14}

I can't tell you how old I was when I first heard the Gospel.  The miraculous story of the birth, the life, the crucifixion, and the rising of Jesus Christ was as much a part of my DNA as my brown eyes.  Some of my earliest memories involve church whether it be hearing the Creation story in Sunday school or Sunday evening ice cream suppers.  I don't remember the moment in my life when I heard and believed, and oddly enough, I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't feel the presence of God within me even though I didn't fully understand what it was.  It wasn't until I was well into my twenties, after the birth of my first child, that I started to read and explore the Word Of God for myself that I realized that little quiet voice inside of me was God's Holy Spirit.  The Spirit had tried its best to direct me through so many times in my life, but I didn't understand, and, unfortunately,  I didn't listen.  Once I recognized the voice, though, I became so much more aware of its presence.  

... his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  {John 10:4b}

Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."  {Isaiah 30:21}

That doesn't mean I haven't been rebellious or untrusting since then.  I wish I had not, but I am certainly far from perfect.  There have been moments, quiet moments thick in spiritual battle with my own little demons, that I haven't followed His direction.  But over the last few years, I have tried desperately to be more tuned into Him, more aware, more attentive to that quiet Voice and Presence.  Some times are easier than others... most often I have to quiet the noise in my head to hear the Voice, shutting out the influence of my own sinfulness and frail humanity.  Listening to His direction isn't always the default choice of my brain or the easiest to carry out, but the benefits of following His guidance is worth it in the end.

There are other advantages of the Spirit as well.  Look at these two promises from Romans:

But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  {8:10-11}

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.  {8:26-27}

The very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside my body.  The first time I read Romans, I remember reading that passage over and over and over.  I couldn't move past it... it gave me chills to know that God cared enough about me to put that much Divinity within my sinful body.  It began a long process of trying to live better, trying to be more worthy as the Spirit's dwelling place.  And, of course, the process still rages on today.  

The second promise takes my breath away, and I fully know it to be true.  God's Holy Spirit is our ally. When I got the call last Monday that my mother had suffered a seizure or a stroke, I hit the floor.  Literally, my body fell to the floor, and I had no words.  There are no words in those moments.  There is nothing adequate to pray.  I could lie and say I was calm and prayed God's will be done, but I did not.  I couldn't.  It's my mother.  I couldn't pray at all... all I could do was put my face to the floor and cry out to God.  But the promise is that in moments like those, we don't need words because we have the Holy Spirit.  He speaks for us when we are unable.  He petitions our Creator when we are at a loss of words.  

The past nine days have been a blur of emotion, a complete system overload.  But deep inside of me, if I quieted my mind, my doubts, my fears, I could hear the Voice saying, "It is well.  Just be still."  It's hard to be still when there's so much going on... hard to quiet the madness in your head.  But He is there with all the strength and power you need and then some.  That is what I learned, what I experienced first hand.

So how do you get it?  How do you find it, tap into it, get your heaping dose of the Spirit?  

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you..."  {Jeremiah 29:12-14a}

Now, I don't claim to be a Bible or theological expert.  I'm just a Christian with a love for the Word.  And I fully believe that we don't need to be scholars to read the Word of God and understand it.  Salvation is not just for the elite or overly intelligent.  It's for all who accept and believe.  I think the common denominator you'll find, though, in Christians who fully embrace their Salvation through Christ, is the quest.  The search.  In order to find God, Jesus, the Spirit, you have to start looking.  He beckons you to do so, but you have to make the step.  

This may sound radical to some of you reading this, but I don't care.  God is radical.  Grace, love, salvation, and the Holy Spirit make no sense to a logical mind.  And, to be honest, the less sense I make to the world, the better I feel about what I believe.  I would rather be radical than worldly.  

Seek Him.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Update...

I have tried to update here a few times but just couldn't get the words out.  So here's one more attempt...

On Wednesday, a neurosurgeon at UAB removed a baseball sized tumor from my mother's brain.  He feels that it is cancerous, that it was an aggressive tumor, and that it had probably only been there a matter of weeks.  Because if its size, it had pressed into the brain and shifted it over to the other side.  Her brain had swollen a lot, and all of this combined is what left her looking and sounding like she had suffered a stroke.  She lost most of the use of her left side, and her speech remains slurred and mouth a little droopy. She looks like she's been in fight... her left eye is badly blackened from the fall she took Monday morning, and then there's the obvious bandage over her surgical area on the right side of her head.  She will be moved to a rehab facility in Montgomery on Monday to get some help regaining all her motor skills.  We won't know how much will return until they start working with her.  Of course, with an aggressive tumor, there's a risk of it growing back quickly.  We are still waiting on the path report to come in and to talk with my mother's oncologist about her treatment options.  So there are a lot of things still up in the air.

I have learned in the last couple of months through the reading of a book that patients and family members dealing with chronic/terminal illness all go through similar waves of emotion.  I don't use the word stages because you weave in and out of them, going back and forth between several in a week's time or even throughout the course of a day instead of conquering one and moving to the next in any subsequent order.  When I read this in black and white, I found such relief.  For months, I thought to myself, "Why am I mourning her before she's even gone?  Why do I feel so sad one minute, angry the next, peaceful a few hours later?"  I thought I was crazy.  I thought that the internal battle within me, one in which I had to convince myself to stay in the very moment I stood in, was not normal.  So it was such a relief to see that what I experienced was completely normal.

Patients and family float in between the following stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I may be in one stage today, and every single member of my family might claim a different one.  That's what complicates things so drastically, but being aware that dealing with this awful disease is ever changing for all of us helps me be more patient with myself and everyone around me.  We are all fighting a battle within to make sense of what's going on around us.

So, me... I am hovering in the sadness right now.  I hesitate to call it depression because it's not quite that.  To me, there's a big difference between sadness and depression.  With sadness, there's still hope; depression knows no hope.  My sadness mainly stems from watching my sweet mama go through so much.  Watching her experience so much pain.  And the mama in me wants to take over and take care of not only her but my daddy and my brothers as well.  I want to put everyone under my mama wings and protect them.  But I can't...

I am finding that every single step... like, literal physical step... these days takes the strength of God.  I am nothing without Him.  I would be stricken to my bed in a fetal position after this week if not for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  And I am now discovering there is no strength outside of Him.  I hate it that it takes the crap of life to draw me closer to Him, but at least there is a benefit.  I can see no other good coming from it outside of that dependence on Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7


And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28


You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you forever.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4


But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.  Psalm 13:5-6