Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ordinary days...

I look at people differently now.  As I go about my normal daily functions, I don't make assumptions about those I walk amongst.

A year ago today, I had my last real day with my mother.  We went shopping together, and it was a perfectly lovely day, as normal as one could possibly have with a mom who was still recovering from brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her brain and liver functions steadily declining from the tumors in her life-sustaining organ.  Maybe to some we didn't seem normal, her looking a little odd, speech still slightly slurred, having to walk behind a cart to keep herself steady.  Us giggling a little more than usual, just giddy to be have the day with one another.

No one around us knew what a miracle that day was.  How could they?  How could they know how I had almost lost her to that tumor in her brain?  They would never believe the state she had been in just a few weeks before, unable to walk without aid and not having full use of her hand.  No one knew that she was a walking, talking, breathing miracle that day.  But I did.  And I drank it in.

I am still so thankful to have had that day.  Even more thankful that I documented it here in my little spot in the blogosphere.  Memories are so precious, and most of them are so ordinarily created that we don't stop to fully appreciate them.  For the most part, we don't even notice we are in the process of making a memory until the experience has long passed.

I look at people differently now.  I wonder who around me is creating that one last memory.  I wonder who around me is going about a normal day with someone they love completely unaware that it's their last ordinary day together.  I wonder.  I treat people differently.  I see more pain in eyes than I used to as I pass people in the aisle at Publix.  I catch glances more often, smile at more strangers.  I remember that day, and how ordinary it was, but how completely unique it will forever be in my mind.

Sharing God's love in midst of the ordinary.  A simple but genuine smile.  Patience with a stranger.  Unexpected kindness.  Making the cashier laugh as she rings up your ordinary purchase.  Remembering that we all wear our masks... and I will never know the stories hidden behind the faces of each person I meet as I carry out my own ordinary days.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Perfect day...

Yesterday was a lovely day here in the south.  Sunny.  70 degrees.  Light breeze.  Birds flying about, chirping to one another in the trees.

When Scott came home for lunch, we sat out on the deck and ate.  After he went back to work, I went outside to do a little maintenance in the yard.  Weeding, pruning, raking.

The knock-out rose bush my mother gave me six years ago had gotten out of control.  It was huge, taller than me, way too broad across, and leaves only on the exterior tips of each branch.  I got my clippers out and went to work on it, first trying to shape it up a bit.  I quickly discovered it needed more than a little shaping.  The branches were all intertwined and needed to be cut back.  There were dead areas that had to be removed.  It just needed an overhaul, so a few hours later, it was cut back to not much of anything at all.  I can't wait to watch it come back to life, bursting out with new branches and leaves and buds.  By summer, it will be a totally different bush than it was before.

I cleaned out the beds in the back yard, pulling weeds and clearing them of all the accumulation of winter leaves.  I raked up an area full of hickory nut shells.  I sweated and soaked in the sunshine.  I thought about my mom all day.

"She would have loved today," I said over and over throughout the afternoon.  And she would have.  She would have spent the day as I did, outside, in her yard.  She would have commented on how perfect the temperature was.  And then the thought hit me that perhaps this is what every day is like for her now.  Perfect.  Perfect temperature.  Perfect amount of sun and breeze.  And I went to bed with a smile thinking how happy she must be.

Oh how I miss her so, but I am thankful she has a perfect day every day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

God is...

Love is patient, love is kind.

I have the words written on an index card and placed above my kitchen sink so that I can read them as often as I stand there to wash dishes and fill water cups.  My hope is that the more I read them, the more  likely the words will seep deep into my soul and perhaps become easier to carry out.

In fact, love is many things.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails...  {1 Corinthians 13:4-8}

I have tried, over the last several years, to focus on this Scripture, specifically in terms of how I love, whether it be my husband, my children, or my friends.  It's an extensive list of what love should look like, how it should behave, and to be quite honest, I fall short in several of the characteristics.  Especially in the patience part.

The past few weeks have been internally difficult for me.  I've reached a point in grieving my mother in which I don't talk about it much.  There's lots of thinking about it and praying about it, but not a lot of verbal communication with anyone about how much I miss her.  I find it hard to discuss it for a multitude of reasons.  Life has moved on,  No one in my life wants to focus so deeply on one specific loss.  To be frank, it doesn't mean as much to anyone else in the world as it does to me, the loss of my mother.  My dad grieves as deeply as I do (most likely more), but his experience is still so different from mine.  Grief is so personal and unique that I have come to feel it's a sacred experience that I would rather not share with anyone.  And so I feel I have slipped into a numb place... I don't want to feel anything at all, and my intimacy with God has become stagnant.  It's still there, but it is neither growing or shrinking, just the same.

My internal thoughts have been, "He must be really irritated with me... I haven't been spending as much time with Him as I should, my attitude is crappy, I am too sad... I am annoyed with myself, so surely He is annoyed with me."

Love is patient, love is kind.

The other day, I stood over my sink, rinsing and placing items in the dishwasher.  I glanced up to see the words on that index card, the reminder of how my love should be to those around me, and something inside me said, "God is love."

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  {1 John 4:7-8}

God is love.  God is patient, God is kind.  God is not easily angered.  He keeps no record of wrongs.  God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  God never fails.

In that moment, He whispered to me, "Sweet girl, I am not irritated with you.  I am here.  I am patient.  I believe in you.  I love you."

You see, I had been reading 1 Corinthians as a flat, one dimensional concept: this Scripture shows how I should love those around me.  But, in reality, not only is it how I should love my husband, my children, my co-inhabitants on this earth, but it's how God loves me.

It's how God loves me.  And you.

Isn't that amazing?

For the first time in a while, I took a deep breath.  Two full lungs of oxygen in followed by a heavy exhale.  This sacred experience I am going through, grieving the loss of my mother, my friend, my confidant, can only be completely shared with and understood by my Father in heaven.  And He loves me.  He is patient with me.  He will not give up on me ever.  Even in the midst of grief that has caused a numbness in my soul.  He will wait for me.

As I type these words, I feel His love in such a different way.  And I pray you do, too, as well.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I was in the left turn lane heading home from a small grocery run to Walmart.  I looked over to my right and saw her standing there, bushy dry blonde pony tail, jeans, a bright red gas can at her feet, and a cardboard sign.  "Need money for gas.  God bless you," it read in bold black letters.

My mind began to spin as I looked shamefully away.  Why was she there?  What brought her to the corner of a main highway and a shopping center entryway to beg for money?  Was it drugs?  Mental health issues?  Rape or abuse?  The list of reasons went on and on in my mind.

But then it hit me: it doesn't really matter what her reason is.

She really stood at the corner of desperation and shame.  No matter what brought her to that place, the emotions would be the same.  I can't imagine feeling that desperate... one in which I put marker to cardboard and hold it beneath my face as strangers ride by and make their judgements.

In that moment, I wished I had some cash on me.  I never have cash.  But I would have given anything to hand her a few dollars.  I would have told her, "I hope you find your way back home soon."  Because, when I think about it, most of us have looked like her on the inside.  Maybe we haven't seen that low of a time in the flesh, but spiritually, most of us have reached the point where we believe we've exhausted all our funds and options.  And then He drives by as we're standing there on that corner of desperation and shame, and He stops.  He doesn't only give us money, but He gives us a ride, a place to stay, a hot meal and a smile.

So this afternoon, I am feeling blessed.  Thankful.  Taken care of.  Not just in the physical and financial sense, but in the spiritual as well.  I guess that makes me doubly blessed.  But she will haunt me for a few days.  I will wonder if she ever got what she needed.  I will wonder if she needed what she got.  But mostly, I will wonder if she knows Him.

I pray that she will find her way Home soon.