Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why I'm glad Unicorn Bones Were Found this Week

So CNN reported this week that unicorn bones were recently discovered in Siberia. Journals of applied sciences and Snopes weighed in, and yep legit news reporting has confirmed that the mythical creatures I've dreamed about since youth used to roam the earth for real. Except they were nothing like my dreams or screen printed book bag from sixth grade. The fossils show that they had the single horn, as their name suggests, but instead of being of stallion stature aglow in rainbows and fairy dust, they were rhino-like woolly mammoths who hung out in Kazakhstan. Well, that's disappointing.

I spy a metaphor for life in this story. Sometimes we dream about a magical job, stage of life, or place to live. We spend lots of time imagining what it would be like there. We'll love it! Sure, it won't be perfect, because we're mature people not looking for a Fairy Tale, but it will be wonderful and we'll be so happy. But then we get there and find scenarios which never showed up in our daydreams. We did not authorize any of these adversaries and plot twists or cliff hanger moments. Our story was supposed to be shiny and light. We knew it wouldn't be perfect, but we never thought it would be so hard and humbling. And yet, these surprise elements are precisely what make up the best stories.

My life hasn't looked a lot like the fable I'd dreamed it would be. Things didn't happen in the time-frame I'd plotted out and I've had to say goodbye to key characters far earlier than I wanted to. Yet I am more fulfilled and joyful than I ever imagined I'd be. Real life, it turns out, trumps Fairy Tales all day long. When there's no script to follow, the unpredictable, messy and the challenging parts come and the good stuff happens...the parts I don't want to miss. Not necessarily easy parts with rainbows and glitter, but meaningful moments where I'm refined to become the person I really want to be. It's in these seasons where wisdom is gained, perspective is sharpened, and sweet times are birthed...precious, deep and wonderful times where I think my imperfect heart might explode from the love within it for the imperfect people I call mine. I was never aiming for perfect, after all. 

I want my story to be about triumph, strength, spiritual growth, and glory to the author of my life. These elements are only found in tales where things don't go as planned and obstacles emerge. I'm learning to welcome the times when my little script is no longer relevant so I can remember Whose story this really is. I've found Him to be such a gracious playwright who never leaves me alone in my struggle, ensures my victory, and loves me without end. 

So with this I raise my glass to the one-horned woolly mammoth! He isn't likely to grace the front of many coffee cups or t-shirts, but he's alright by me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I Hope You Know How Much Jesus Loves You

Ainsley loves to make cards and notes and decorate them. I think I received seven cards from her on my last birthday. I wasn't surprised at all when she told me she wanted to make Easter cards this year. I gave her some cardstock and colored pencils and let her have her way. When she finished the first one for my dad, she asked me for an envelope and before sealing it up, I spied this little gem:

I was so struck by the simplicity of her wish and find it perfectly fitting for Holy Week. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." 
John 3:16

In a world where some of the loudest voices for Christianity are often filled with hate, I cringe at what people might misunderstand about our great God of love. I don't want to be lumped in with those who claim to be Christians while they make divisive and idiotic statements. I hope no one ever assumes I think the way they do simply because I am a Christian too. But more than my reputation, I want to protect the image of God. 

He is love. 

He loved the world (the whole world) so much that he gave his only son.

So that whoever believes shall not perish.  

This love is so much bigger than we can even comprehend. Oh, but if we could see that doing anything without love can never... not one attributed to Jesus. Being a Christian means we follow the way of Christ and He led in love --- may we do the same.

So on this Easter and everyday, I hope you know how much Jesus loves you and what a God of love He is. 

Oh how He loves you and me.

Happy Easter indeed! 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why We Need to Just Do It

“You will never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.” ~Irish Proverb

I’m a muller. I like to think things through before I make a decision. I’m not abysmally slow, mind you. If I’m at a restaurant, and the waiter starts with the person to my right, I’ll have a decision for him by the time he gets back to me. I just want some time to consider my options before I make up my mind.

When the decision is weightier than what I’ll have for lunch, the mulling time does increase. It is safe to say I stew over an idea. I think about it from every angle before discussing it with a trusted friend who adds her perspective, which I proceed to consider. All the while, I’ve taken no action.

Read more on The Glorious Table.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Beautiful Farewell: Remembering the Last Week of My Mother's Life

These words were originally shared on Facebook two years ago today. I looked at today's date and realized this was the very day I packed a funeral dress in my suitcase and flew 1,100 miles to my mother's bedside.

Some of you know that I left San Antonio one week ago in the dark of early morning. After receiving a call that my mom (who has been in hospice care for advanced dementia and Parkinson's Plus) was terribly ill and unresponsive, I flew to Illinois in a wild rush in the hopes that I would have one more chance to squeeze the hand of the woman who raised me, who poured her life into mine. By God’s mercy, I was given that chance and so much more.

The past seven days have been nothing short of sacred, holy, and wrenchingly beautiful. My mom (and all of us) were given more than we could have ever imagined or hoped for in the gift of her restored clarity of mind and spirit for the last week of her life. Not only was I able to squeeze her hand, I was able to have numerous conversations with her in which she knew me fully. Her joyous persona, which none of us had seen for over four years, was back for one last party. Though none of us had left anything unsaid, we spent time telling her how much we loved her and one another and how good it was to be together. She joked with us in the wit that has kept us all in hearty laughter the whole of our lives. We talked about her soon to come journey to heaven and how jealous we were that she’d get there first. 
We sang to her, and read God’s Word over her, and laid in the bed next to her. We took her out of the residential home on Wednesday so that she could be in her own bed and enjoy the comforts of the house in which she lived for more than 46 years. Last night at 7:25pm, she left the party. While her beloved family encircled her she quietly took her last breath and headed straight into the arms of Jesus and to an out of this world party that has no end.

Though our hearts are shattered we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

To all who swooped in and loved on my girls and Dirk while I was away – I haven’t enough words to express my thanks. To be able to focus entirely on being a daughter rather than as a mother this week was glory divine. Never once were they out of my thoughts and heart though being away from them was piercingly painful. Yet my heart was peace-filled knowing that so many (in my stead) were scooting them off to school, practice, playdates, and treating them to special meals. I fear that in my return they will miss terribly all of the delicious food delivered hot to the table and find my company rather dull after all of the great fun each of you has treated them to.

To those who offered up prayers on behalf of my mom please know that they held power. They were felt palpably as the Lord of heaven and earth drew near to us. This was by far the most extraordinary week of my life. I fell in love with my mom, my siblings, and my dad all over again. I always knew I was blessed with a solid family but I’ve never been more humbled to be a part of it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

They're Good when they Sleep

My mother-in-law once told me when she, as a young girl, asked for herself and her brother, "Mama, are we good?" her mother said, "You're good when you sleep." The first time I heard this story, I was a bit appalled. How could a mother say such a thing to her child? Was she implying the only time they were good was when they were knocked out cold? It seemed pretty harsh, even for German ancestors not known for their effusive affection.

Over the years, my husband and I have made a bit of a joke of it when our girls catch an unplanned nap, with a smile we whisper to one another, "They're good when they sleep."  But now, I actually think I get what his grandmother meant and I imagine her answer may have been different had she been asked on a different day or even a different time of day. Some days are crammed to the corners with the demands of parenting. The good isn't wildly evident amidst bickering, groans over homework and debates over why Cheetos aren't vegetables. But when the day's work is done and they are nestled in their beds, curls tousled over softly printed pillow cases, that is when we have the full bandwidth to see them – 
to see that they are good, they are everything good.

Even on the best days of mothering, I am generally quite ready to call it a night as I kiss the little loves to sleep. There are times as I walk out the door of their room and they ask for yet one more fresh glass of water, it is all I can do not to go bat crazy because I haven't been allowed to clock out at my normal quitting time. The humanity! I usually don't lose my shizzle, and I do really adore these treasured girls, but we all have our limits. In the evening I eagerly anticipate those moments when no one will ask me how to spell something or why owls bob and weave their heads. And yet so many times after they have gone to sleep, when I am in the quiet all alone and I think only of them.

My mind replays the accounts of the day. Sometimes it's the best of moments that come to mind – the times when we loved one another well, laughed heartily, listened intently to one another. Other times I recount missed opportunities or a tone I wish I hadn't taken. I offer a prayer of thanks that a new day is coming, a second chance to do better. And soon I find myself climbing to the top of the stairs to have one more look at them. They always look especially tiny in their beds, knees pulled to their tummies, faces softened with nary a crease to be found. It is in this place, where nothing is required of me, that I can see it. All of their goodness rises like cream and I see who they really arevulnerable, beautiful, tiny, impressionable, treasured little beings entrusted to us for a whisper of time. And I see how good they always are, imperfect, but always good.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Here I will Stand, Here I will Dwell

I love a fresh start, a clean page, and most especially a new year. January always feels so full of promise and hope. Though I don't make resolutions, I do resolve to do things better and set goals for the coming year. I like to focus on a word or two maybe because that's all I can remember. Ha! In pondering and praying about 2016, the words stand and dwell kept coming to me. The idea of being unmoved by circumstance is wonderfully appealing to me. And staking a claim on promises, dreams, new land is what I'd love for this year to be about.  

My friends and family tell me I'm steady and I am glad to agree. You won't have to wonder what sort of mood I'll be in when we meet and I am ever looking for the bright spot in every dark sky. But I know that in my heart of hearts, there are things that make me waver. I want to stand gracefully no matter the circumstance or expectation. I love even more the idea of peacefully dwelling in peace right where I am. I journaled about these words and my hope for the new year on January the 5th. It was just three days later that I got a call from the school nurse to say Emerson had fallen, a broken bone was suspected and I should come right away. The irony wasn't lost on me that my word to focus on for the entire year was stand and just a few days later, a fall happened. Is it bad that my first response was relief when I heard it was anything but head lice? I still have PTSD and it's been three years. Bones have been shattered, NBD, at least there aren't microscopic bugs crawling through the locks of my babe. Seriously, those relentless tiny beasts will survive the apocalypse.

In addition to being thankful that my head wasn't already starting to itch, I was overcome with gratitude for a quick thinking PE coach who saw readily that an x-ray was necessary. We would be okay. We are blessed with ample and fantastic medical facilities all around our city and we have good health insurance. I was so proud of how Emerson handled herself though there is no doubt that it was tremendously painful. Each time she described the way her foot landed on the mat after her handstand to the varied caregivers she saw, my brain scrambled to wash away the image as quickly as it formed in my mind's eye. Just oww!

She didn't waver as she moved her ankle further and further back the way it needed to be for the technician to get the best x-ray images. He told her it would be painful and it was obvious that it was, but she did as he asked without complaint. When the doctor told her that her ankle was fractured and would require a cast, she nodded silently, her eyes brimming with tears. When she was fitted for crutches and had to practice walking on them with her freshly splinted ankle, she listened attentively to his instructions and was walking on the crutches on her first attempt. They asked us to sit in the waiting room while they prepared paperwork for us to take to the pediatric orthopedist straight away where they would assess if surgery was required. As we sat, the EMT came in carrying two small plastic cups-- one full of water, and one holding two Advil tablets. He handed them to Emerson and asked her to take them. She told him she'd never swallowed pills and didn't think she could. He encouraged her to try telling her she could do it by simply putting them on her tongue and taking a big drink of water. She did as he asked but the pills did not go down. He asked her to try again, which she did, but to no avail. He went back to refill the water cup and asked her to empty it and the pills would surely go down and blurted "this isn't hard!" She drank the cup with tears streaming down her cheeks.

This was the wall. We had tapped out the "let's try hard things" quota for the day. She was done. She didn't need to clear another hurdle of bravery today and it was time for me to stand.

I told the EMT tending to us that we would use our own chewable version and to please leave it. Visably frustrated, he took the empty cup and asked her to spit the now bitter pills into it. He returned a few seconds later with a liquid dose of the medication he had in his stock all along. This version is for children ages 2-11 and Emerson is 10. This was the appropriate course for her all along. After passing her the cup he said, "You just broke your ankle without complaint and you can't swallow two little pills. You're stubborn!" Though he had been perfectly kind up to this point, I had a visceral urge to throat punch the guy. Behold the power of words to bring either life or death. I know he was only frustrated because he didn't see this as a big deal, a big ask. And on most days it probably isn't. But some days are filled to the brim with plenty of challenge and there just isn't room for one more "you can do it!" song.

My aim isn't to berate well-meaning care givers suggesting alternative forms of safe medication. Instead I realize that all of this serves as a great reminder that bravery, strength, and standing tall, are so very misunderstood. The truth is, when someone realizes their own limitations and understands when they have hit the wall, that's what strength looks like. It's not stubbornness or weakness or anything else.  My girl is so brave and she doesn't have to swallow anything to prove it. Bravery is in her DNA and mine too. 

My heart was so heavy after seeing her in pain, watching her sit through four hours of appointments and the failed pep talk. I looked at her and said, "You're so brave." She shook her head and said, "No, I'm scared," and I replied, "Oh, girl, you can be both. You can feel more than one thing at a time. Listen, bravery isn't the absence of fear, it's carrying on in spite of it." This is just one of many very proud moments I have had with this little warrior. 

I wish I could say that our time has gone swimmingly since this incident, but it really has not. We both fell the other day when I was "helping" her down a few steps off the bus. This little trick landed me flat to my back on our brick walkway. Ainsley got a stomach virus which displayed itself in a most un-tidy fashion, Dirk's still traveling way more than either of us want him to for work, and yet I am still standing. 

I'm delighted to know that clean pages and fresh starts can happen every day, not just on the first of January. His mercies are new each morning. I praise the God of heaven and earth that good health is our norm and smooth waters are what we know. But I will tell you this, though we wouldn't readily choose it ourselves, we can take a rough sea. We do not venture alone since our good guide is at the helm and we shall persevere. So in the midst of disinfectant scrubbing and assisting the temporarily casted, I stand on the promise that my God is good, so very good and I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 

Here I will stand, here I will dwell.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015, Oh the Places we Went!

Oh 2015!
I love that one of my last glimpses of you was over Ainsley's shoulder through an airplane window. The year was about venturing into new terrain. You took my family to Disney and Epcot, South Padre Island, Homecoming at U of I, cabins and pontoon rides, snow covered forests in Minnesota and the gorgeous Blu hotel at MOA. But you also took me places all by myself. I journeyed to Kansas to celebrate the life of my beloved Aunt Judy and enjoyed time with my incredible cousins. You took me to my 30th high school reunion to rekindle friendships and realize that being comfortable in my own skin today is far preferred to hiding behind it the way I used to when it was youthful and crease-free. But some of my most memorable journeys with you weren't as much about travel as they were about me placing my feet on new territory right where I am. 

You walked me onto a book launch team that changed me for good. You taught me that the internet, though sometimes ridiculous, can be a beautiful bedrock for profoundly deep relationships. You reminded me that true friendships needn’t to be chased, but rather come willingly to my path. You introduced me to names and faces before unknown to me but now forever etched in my heart . You laid out opportunity for me to share my words and be inspired by the words of others in wonderful writing venues.

You revealed a quote, though first spoken in the second century, was new to me this year: “The glory of God is a woman fully alive.” You inspired me to drink deeply the waters of life and savor the moments that are mine. The year before I was abruptly reminded of the brevity of life, but this year you showed me that acknowledging this does not diminish hope for the future however brief it might be. 

I came across this verse today that perfectly sums up how I feel with my face in the wind of a new year:

“We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” 
Romans 5:1b-2 (The Message)