All I can say is - EWWW!
This all came to a forefront this afternoon as I picked Caleb up from his nap. There was a mass of light tan matter gluing my pillow case to itself. After a sniff, and a brief touch, I concluded that the said mass was most likely either vomit or poop. NO idea which! No sign of missing poop in the diaper. No sign of puke on the kid's face. Realizing it was pretty dried on didn't help my investigation much - just made me a little sick knowing I probably slept on said mass of tan matter for at least one night. Ewww! This is, perhaps, one mystery I do not wish to solve!
I will spare you the photos I was oh, so tempted to take!
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!" (Daniel 3:22-28)
I understand this story in a more personal way than ever before. What do you think the mindset of these men was as they approached the furnace, so hot that the flames killed their escorts before they even reached the edge? I doubt it was complete, unwavering faith in their deliverance! Why would God, who also receives glory when His faithful followers die rather than renounce Him, choose to save these three men? I imagine they walked into the flames saying a prayer for courage as they faced certain, painful death...and a quick reunion with their friends and family in heaven! And so I faced cancer. Not certain death, but certain uncertainty. I faced it with the possibility that God would take me from a young family, that I and these dear children and rock of a husband would be living proof that you can serve God through sorrow and worship Him in your deepest pit of distress.
Now I have emerged from the other side of my personal furnace. I walked through the furnace accompanied by an angel. I felt the love of God poured out on my life in a new way. I prayed for courage...and what I received - at least for the moment - is healing and protection. The fire didn't harm my body, didn't scorch my robe, and there is no smell of smoke on me. Negative labs. Unheard of. To go from positive for cancer to absolutely no sign of cancer using only a minimal dose of the required treatment. Facing vascular invasion, potential distant metastases, positive antibodies and thyroglobulin levels to...nothing. To be the one who is rescued!
And how do I look into the faces of dear friends and loved ones who are not be rescued, but rather are joining...or have already joined...the martyrs of old? How do I continue to minister to those who fight and lose, when God chose to heal me? New questions emerge where old ones have finally received an answer. I love that - and find it frustrating, all at once. The Christian walk is never to a destination - not an earthly one. It is a winding path fraught with difficulty, side by side with unexpected beauty. Once again, I've rounded an unexpected curve, only to find just a short stretch of the path visible in front of me. No long straight stretches to spin my wheels on. This trial, if I am to use it best, still requires careful navigation. Let me not fall victim to a prosperity gospel that preaches constant and instantaneous deliverance. Let me not see healing as overly causal.
Above all, let me find the best way, in this, too, to give Him all the glory, and all the honor and all the praise.
when I think about the Lord
how He saved, how He raised me
how He filled me with the Holy Ghost
how He healed me to the uttermost
when I think about the Lord
how He picked me up
turned me around
how He set my feet
on solid ground
it makes me want to shout
hallelujah! thank you, Jesus!
Lord, you're worthy
of all the glory, and all the honor
and all the praise!
Hallelujah! thank you, Jesus!
Lord, you're worthy
of all the glory, and all the honor
and all the praise!
(Ephesians 2:4-7, II Corinthians 5:17)
When I Think About the Lord, James Huey
Just think! At the beginning of this trial, at the beginning of last April, a year ago, a word went out: "Yes, I will cure Genevieve's cancer. She will have a clean scan next March." I walked through a fog of humanness all year long. A year of growth, and pleading, and laying myself down. But at the beginning of my pleas for mercy, a word went out, for I am greatly loved. I need to remember this, deep inside of myself: the word has already gone out. I plead with my Savior, yes. That is the element of action in free will that He desires from me. Yet He has known each hair on my head intimately since before I was conceived. He sees now all the way through to the end of my days here, and His glorious reunion with His child in heaven.
But I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
When the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away,
Oh, oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh the mother and child reu-nion
Is only a moment away
~ Paul Simon, Mother & Child Reunion
how You love me
My hope will always stand, for You hold me in Your hand
~ Amazed, Jared Anderson/Desperation
When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
"Sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea."
~ Exodus 15:19-21
*Thank you, Grandma Debra, for the beautiful photos of my little Degas dancers!
For the first time since last June, unbridled joy. Unchecked celebration. Awe-struck, falling on our knees in praise. Why would God do this - for us? Why this sudden mercy?
On Saturday, back to my nest of babies. News doors flying open in front of our family. I can nurse again. I could cuddle a new baby. I can sing, and dance. I don't need another scan until December, and this time it will be much less invasive, with no hormone withdrawal beforehand. The sweet bliss as I resume old duties and contemplate new ones. Striving to remember all these lessons, integrate them into the very fiber of my being so that I am never, ever the same.
Still three years until I am in remission. But I can say, assuredly, that I have no active cancer now. Sweet Savior who bends His knee to tend to me! What a privilege to walk my road today, dumbfounded. Speechless. Opening up like a crocus to the first promising warm breeze of spring. I have walked through my winter and now I will revel in the thaw.
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
~ Psalm 57
There isn't much that is clear about my situation. At least, that's how I often feel as I muddle through the haze of days of hypothyroidism, medication withdrawal, myriad decisions about which diet to follow, and which set of recommendations regarding radiation precautions post-scan dose and post-treatment dose. What I know is this: I have a rare variant form of thyroid cancer that requires different follow-up and treatment than the more "standard" (papillary or follicular) varieties. I know that I will be having frequent scans over the next 3-5 years. I know that I am at high risk for recurrence, and those 3-5 years may stretch into 20 years of careful treatment and follow-up. I also know that I have 4 small children at home, 5 and under, none of whom understand the concept of 3 feet from Mama, nor what it means when they suddenly can't cosleep with me after years of open access to my bed and bedroom. I know I am in close proximity to my children more (perhaps up to 20-some hours a day more!) than a mother who makes different choices, such as working outside the home or sleeping in a different room than her children. I know I would have difficulty not licking their spoons, or holding them in my arms, or kissing them goodnight - even though I am mature enough to understand the 3 foot rule and how radiation is transmitted through my saliva and sweat! I know that I must carefully weigh not only the physical impact of my decisions, but also the emotional and psychological impact. My children need to trust me when I say I am coming home. They need to trust that I will not leave again as soon as I get home. So I stay away - perhaps longer than necessary - to avoid a second separation. Why put them through that, when they are going through so much already? Why ask them not to hug me when I am home, when that is the deepest urge in their little beings?
We all have a different path to trod. Why does mine include cancer? Why does my particular nuclear medicine physician suggest very strict precautions for me when his colleague might suggest very different precautions for the next patient? I don't know, no more than I understand why God blessed me with beautiful children or the ability to be a stay-at-home mom.
Doubts enter in whenever we let them, don't they? Satan is always ready with self-doubt proferred, whenever we are least ready. I must stand firm on what I do know, and shut my ears and eyes to the doubts that plague me and the questions I can't answer. I recorded a hymn for my children to listen to today, and it captures the resolve of my heart perfectly.
All the way my Saviour leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
~ Fanny J. Crosby, All the Way My Savior Leads Me
Craves touch and sight;
Such an empty feeling, to be away against one's will. To surrender hearth and home to others sweet watchful eyes. To be so suddenly relieved of duty and of pleasant purpose. My days pass swiftly in other pursuits abandoned for years as I tend to wee ones: connections with old friends dusted off and renewed with one single long conversation over lunch plates; phone calls uninterrupted; e-mails promptly answered. The longing of my heart, though, is to be home. How earnestly I am praying that my scan will show nothing! That I will be home on Saturday, lamenting the brevity of my "vacation".
Twelve hours away from home. Exhaustion hovers over me like a loose shroud, the molecules of my mind pounding like surf one against another, in constant motion as if to escape the inevitable reality that must hit. This day brought back recollections of the Indian summer, beetle-buzzing afternoon nap I unexpectedly took. My late November gift from God. My dose of radioactive I-131 didn't come on the morning shipment and I received a phone call just before leaving my children: "Don't come for a few hours." So we fiddled around town with Grandma Debra until 4 p.m., treating ourselves to a few things at an unfamiliar store, hugging the baby. Holding hands with my girls as we meandered down aisles.
We can hug our hurts and make a shrine out of our sorrows or we can offer them to God as a sacrifice of praise. The choice is ours. (Richard Exley)
Back to the clinic. A dozen hugs, a few tears. After days of sobbing at bedtime, I was expecting drama from all sides when I left today. None. Just a prolonged, rather joyful goodbye. Processing done ahead of time in Mama's arms, I suspect. I walked through the doors, feeling as if doing so began a 15-minute metamorphosis from living human heart to petrified wood beating coarsely in my chest. Rocky. Wooden. Unresponsive. Frozen in time, waiting for reality to become unhinged or unsuspended, one of the two. Followed the nurse back. Spoke with the nuclear medicine doctor. Swallowed Alice's little blue pill once more. Fell back down a (more familiar, this time) rabbit hole.
The kind of faith God values seems to develop best when everything fuzzes over, when God stays silent, when the fog rolls in. (Philip Yancey)
Back in my car. No sense of taste, except a brief metallic burn. Two boils sprang up on the tip of my tongue within a half hour. At first I wondered if I was imagining things. Smell gone. Eyesight magically, and immediately, changed. The world is sterile again, like a desaturated photo. I never knew how much I smelled until most of my senses left me like chaff in the breeze. The end of a gray day: laughter with family, crude jokes, a meal with lots of nice textures (and no iodine).
Now the real waiting begins. What does Thursday hold? Distant spread of cancer? A little left, another treatment needed? Or those golden words: "clean scan" - a get-out-of-jail early token, and off I go, home by Sunday. Prayers, please!
Have you ever wounded your baby? Looked deep in their eyes and known that your tone, or your brusque brushing off of their need for you at that moment, or your delay in picking them up to snuggle has just wounded them? Have you heard the bricks of that bridge of trust crashing into the river of their soul? Ever wondered if the bridge will ever be rebuilt, or if a moment of opportunity is lost forever in a sea of wounds they will suffer at the hands of those they love for their 80 mortal years?
I fear that. I know that look, in small ways, from the myriad ways I hurt my children - with and without meaning to - on a daily basis. What I fear now is that my relationship with this tender shoot of young boyhood will be forever changed - even perhaps maimed - by our separation. That closeness will never be regained. That I will come home to a son who does not wish to cling to my shirt necks and stroke my neck skin, bury his hand in the fold between shoulder and chin as we sleep. Please don't reassure me. I know it is entirely possible that he won't hardly notice I'm gone. But the fear whispering around the edges of each task of my day is that he will notice.
That he'll notice forever.
Lord, protect my baby boy. Protect my heart as I leave him. Please let us love in a way deeper and stronger than we do now. That absence will indeed make the heart grow fonder. Don't let this cancer grow like the noxious weed it can be. Don't let it seep in between him and I. I can't bear the pain. I love him. I love you. Amen.
Monday, March 23, 2 p.m. Scan dose (7 millicuries) of I-131
Wednesday, March 25, 2 p.m. Uptake scan (1 hour)
Thursday, March 26 Appointment to determine scan results
Friday, March 27 Treatment (100 millicuries) if necessary
March 27-30 Total isolation if treatment
Saturday, March 28 Home if no treatment necessary
Friday, April 10 Home if treatment is necessary
Thanks for all your prayers. They mean so much to us. Normally it wouldn't be so scary on the first day of a child's illness - but remembering the last week-long saga has me shaking in my boots as I am in the final stages of preparing to leave.
Amelia is ill again, and I am headed to the ER with her in a few minutes. Same onset as her last illness, vomiting even sips of liquids, high fever of 104 persistent regardless of anti-fever medication, listlessness, altered balance, altered level of consciousness, and puffy, pus-laden eyes. Please pray that they will intervene right away this time, put her on the powerful IV antibiotics so she is on the mend by the time I leave on Monday. I had a vision this morning - one of those awful, almost-makes-you-scream motherly flash-forwards, where I saw her fading away in the hospital while I was forced to remain away because of some stupid cancer diagnostic that could have been postponed. I am not saying this will happen, but it is of course the worst case scenario my mother-heart quickly jumped to.
1. Pray she gets the treatment she needs right away
2. Pray that she will be visibly improved by tomorrow morning
3. Pray for wisdom as we approach the scan dose on Monday
4. Pray for peace of heart for me as I deal with the newest layer or level of my trial
Thank you all!
Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; Thank God in everything - no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks - for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. (I Thessalonians 5:17-18 Amp)
I am spending the day with two delightful little girls whose mother is serving orphans in Haiti this week. And Susan Fern. A long day with seven children, 5 and under. It is a good reminder that, no, on an average day with my four children, I am not yet operating at maximum capacity. That there is a reserve in me that I haven't yet tapped. And then the endless reserve of grace and strength my Father offers!
In my current state of physical and emotional exhaustion, I have thought a lot about "needs" and "wants". What do I really need, in terms of rest, relaxation, food, drink? And what is either built into my routine, or desired to fill the empty spaces that should be filled with other things - work, relationships, Christ, joy, prayer... My baby boy needs his mama in ever-increasing ways as we near another separation. I thought perhaps I was just being overly romantic to think so. But after testing it, I know my intuition is right. He knows something big is on his horizon and he has shifted entirely into sponge mode...soaking up every last bit of touch and affection and attention I will mete out. I have spent the better part of every night this week satisfying that need when I want to be sleeping. Have I disintegrated into a gelatinous mass of nerves unable to cope with the stresses of life? Has my body or mind wasted away or lost it's sharpness? No! Resoundingly and surprisingly no. I can be hypothyroid and exist on 2-3 hours of sleep. I can excel at schoolwork and housework and childcare with little physical rest.
I used to own a shirt that had my feelings screen-printed on the back: You can sleep when you're dead (Caribou Coffee). While I recognize that sleep is restorative, I also believe more and more that our perceptions of what is needed are skewed by an overly selfish society that does not believe in laying down one's life for others. Do I believe that I may be literally laying down my life - that cancer may be a product of not enough rest combined with sub-standard nutrition in these hectic years of early motherhood? No, I don't. I believe the human body has a wealth of reserves that we, in modern society, rarely tap. In generations past, I would have spent 16 hours per day on my feet, building fires, cleaning, sowing and reaping, tending animals and children alike, while devoting any spare time I had to creative homemaking such as needlework, sewing, candle-making, preserving food, painting or drawing, creating my own music, and teaching my own children everything they needed to know to survive in exactly the same way I was surviving. In a land of automated living...appliances, electricity, alternative heat sources, hermetically sealed homes, and off-the-shelf food sources...what work I do today compares so little to that of my forebears. My great-great-grandmother would have birthed these seven children, risking death with each delivery, and resumed her household chores a few days later, without batting an eyelash!
So here I am. 3 hours of sleep. Seven children to tend. Schoolwork to do. Writing a journal entry, nonetheless!
I've always feared my loneliness,
but now I find in my abyss....
This quiet assurance,
Your simple endurace,
This peace everlasting,
This calm in the eye of the storm.
~ "The Calm", a song I wrote in 2001
It is easy to feel barren instead of full. Sodden instead of saturated. Wasted instead of well-used. Abandoned instead of alone with God. Irritated instead of thankful. Cloistered instead of protected.
These are hard days, these "rubber meets the road"days when faith is put to big tests and there are no easy moments or choices. I stretch my aching arms towards heaven and give thanks, mindfully, sentient, in spite of all (because of all). Who am I to curse the whirling wheel or despair of the clay of which this pot of mine is made? I look forward to days, after this current firing in the kiln, when I will know what the Potter is making. I will see it's purpose. Today I trust and I flip the negative thoughts and feelings on their heads like coins flat on a smooth sidewalk. I am still flat on the sidewalk, trampled on. But I choose heads up instead of tails turned.
You're the strength in our weakness
You're the love to the broken
You're the joy in the sadness
Greater things have yet to come
Great things are still to be done...
Where glory shines from hearts alive
With praise for you and love for you
~ In This City, Bluetree
"Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things."
I remember the day my aunt found the first tiny sharp edge, like a grain of rice, budding out of Katrina's gums. It is a visceral memory, one of those that wrenches you to the delightful yet jarring realization that your baby won't stay a baby for very long. For a week now, that very same tooth has been wiggled and waggled. I prayed all week that it would fall out before I leave for my scan. It is one of the hardest parts of these leave-takings - the fear that I will miss something big, a first something. Today, after I persuaded Katy to let me tie a string around the tooth so she could wiggle and waggle more effectively, the tooth fell out, painlessly and anticlimactically. And I praised God once again for small, tender mercies as I walk this stony path.
Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
I remember using this verse to defend my use my palm as highly portable notepad to my mother one day, when I was a teenager. Now, set to the little song she made up for the words, it is a constant refrain as I make a fence of Scripture around the harried, anxious, and miserable thoughts that plague these days...these sun-laden, earth-waking, wind-whipped and fragrant days of early spring that burst at the seams with joy, yet are filled with the pall of upcoming separation from everything I hold dear. The children and I are memorizing a verse a week for a memory challenge in church, hoping that we - all three, Rosy, Katy and I - can earn our certificates together in April. The only problem is, I feel as though I have constructed a picket fence that those malicious, pesky thoughts, with their wit and wile, can jump, climb through, or break down. I am the proverbial little pig in the stick house. What I want is bricks! What I want is a stone wall like those in the great mythical city of Minas Tirith, a city built into a hill with a million bricks to buttress the fortress against all foes.
May the piece I add tomorrow be a brick, by the grace of God, not a wooden picket.
Diagnosis: stress and heartache, fear. I felt like I was standing in front of a full-length mirror for the first time in a decade. Scrutinizing myself, and particularly my soul. Unprepared for what I saw in my reflection, but gritting my teeth and examining it nonetheless.
After surgery: descending into a new reality. Coming to grips with a different life and molding new expectations. Turning my back on the past and embracing the future, it's myriad delights and sorrows. Feeling the gut-wrenching bitter and the mouth-tingling sweet that is watching a life fly by in a series of moments I wish I could bottle up and live in forever. Thinking about tomorrow...but yet never thinking about 3 months from now. I packed my full-length mirror away.
Treatment: My hands pierced the icy water of the deep end of this pool of suffering as I cleaved the water's surface, a fearless and determined dart of humanity diving head first and headlong into whatever lies below the surface. I kicked my legs furiously and reached the bottom. I laid there, in the deep, feeling the burn of my lungs echoing the cry of my heart. Memorizing the grains of gravel that etched my back and scarred me forever.
Home again: in a bubble of release, the pressure in my chest just shy of explosion, my face broke the surface, following my hands as I emerged from the dark deep to feel the sun on my face again. Delight, awe, gratitude, rediscovery, regrowth. I didn't look below the surface for a long time. I reveled in denial. I put on optimism like a familiar cloak, not even pausing to examine it's threads.
Next scan: I stood on the diving board for long moments as the clock ticked audibly beside me. I knew the depths. I remember the gravel in the bottom. I remember the darkness. I don't want to return. I walk away, and revel in denial for a few more days.
Preparations unmade, days uncharted. It stretches before me like the abyss it is...parts of it known, previously discovered; yet it's length and breadth unknowable. I teeter on the edge and plan about planning. But the details elude me. I revel instead in companions, friends, family, sights, sounds, smells, experiences. Real life, not details of a life yet to be lived. I don't want to live it. It's almost as if I believe that it won't come to pass if I don't turn to face it.
So this week, I turn to face it. I consider what I must lose; I problem-solve so that I lose least, and gain something. (Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. ~Matt. 10:38-39) I go on the strict diet, I make all the logistical plans, I cook ahead for my family, I wrap gifts for each of the 19 days I may be gone this time around, for each child. In every act of preparation, I have that old familiar choice: to grit my teeth and survive; or to find a way to cherish and believe and grow because of the pain I am facing, knowing.
This verse has played in my head all day: From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. (John 1:16)
And this song, which has become an anthem for this season in my life:
Evermore my heart, my heart will say
Above all, I live for Your glory
Even if my world falls I will say
Above all, I live for Your glory
~ Hillsong, Evermore
It is a truth I have long known: to forget your suffering most completely, easily, and effortlessly, focus outward. Help someone else, be in the moment with someone who has a need you can fill. Be the hands and feet of love. Giving yields joy exponentially greater than the work you put into the equation. Today I loved. Today I forgot to suffer.
From my kitchen soffet - and Galatians 6: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
against my favorite yellow wall in afternoon sun.
spinning there nearly a year later.
now happily at home on my white enamel stove.
Green fingerprint pot found in a potting shed outside Nashville.
Saw palmetto branch picked up on a quiet cobblestone street in Charleston.
Red clay pot from Aaron's professor in college.
Mission accomplished. I see the romance again.
Physical memory is difficult to ignore. My body is different every morning, more changes visible of the physical onslaught of this preparation process. My hands and feet are swollen and club-like; my hair is dry and falling out, my nails a cloudy white, and my knuckles covered with callouses; so tired raising myself out of bed in the morning makes me nauseous. I remember this. I don't want to do it again. Such a series of losses, this cancer. This time around, it is the loss of one more piece of me - my parathyroid glands - that I mourn; and the loss of the innocence. No longer can I pretend that I will float through this this trial like a duck's webbed feet just skimming the mirror of the water, a faint ripple left in a V all that heralds her presence.
Looking in on myself, I realize that I am depressed this time around. I see the grayness of my spirit, and though I paint all day long with a million bright colors of joy and satisfaction, the gray seeps through like the newspaper canvas of my 2-year-old. You can't cover up ink with different ink. So I take the gray and lay it at my Father's feet. Ask Him to brighten my spirit's newsprint with a few color photos. And take it away for what it is. Just as I am, without one plea. I know more watercolor days are coming again in April.
My mother used to sing us a little esoteric nursery rhyme on days like today:
One misty, moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather;
I chanced to meet an old man, dressed all in leather;
He began to compliment, and I began to grin,
"How do you do? How do you do? How do you do?" again.
I think the whole family has been feeling a little misty, moisty and gray. The lingerings of our bad cold plague all of us, and the weather isn't helping much. While I feel bleary eyed and stiff this morning, my girls are blithe and limpid in the face of headaches and sore eyes. What a difference thirty years make!
The house, belying the beautiful breakfast, is a disaster. Yesterday, as a sense of normalcy began to seep back into the edges of my aching body, I looked around at the left-overs of the clean house I had possession of just two days prior. Two days in bed for Mama means lots of work for everyone else. Dishes dirty, floor covered in the baby's crumbs (and chunks), loads of laundry unattended, toys scattered, and - thanks to the warm spell - Asian beetle shells littering the window sills. In the midst of this, the baby sat laughing next to his father, reading a board book. The girls were off playing cheerfully in their messy bedroom, unpacking box after box of doll clothes in search of the right outfit for whatever occasion they were collectively imagining. Dear husband, seemingly oblivious to the chaos, sat on the edge of the couch, strumming the new strings he had placed on his guitar a day earlier.
I need to copy the page from their minds that allows rest in disarray, unlikely joy bursting through untidiness. That doesn't come easy to my female brain...or is it the cultural norms I have allowed myself to absorb? For certainly I remember the homes of those with little ones, messy, chaotic, sticky floors, dirty dishes, mounds of laundry and all. Even dirty bathrooms! Those were homes were I spent my happiest hours as a child. Why the sudden urge to bleach the entire interior shell of my dwelling place when it reaches this level of disaster?
So I am leaving the crumbs, the dishes, and the laundry. Closing the computer, and going to the couch for a much-needed nap. The mess will still be there when I wake up - and I might tend to it then!
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well." (Luke 12:22-31)And no, I don't think my house will be clean just because I am smiling as I walk away from the mess! A good friend gave me a kitchen towel that captures my attitude about the whole issue quite well: "God blesses this kitchen, He doesn't clean it!"
I found myself turning face to warmth, closing my eyes from the pain and beauty of it's intensity. Praying it is a harbinger of a spring to come soon in my body. That the long winter may be over for a season. That the ice of fear and hopelessness would melt before the warmth of the sun this summer.
"Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." ~ Hosea 6:3
So, that is cleared up. As usual, I have no right to feel sorry for myself - and why waste time doing it, whether or not I'm in the right? That being said, I am left with the very visceral, physical, real truth that I am less now than I was last March: 8 lymph nodes and 2 parathyroid glands less, not to mention the dear, butterfly-shaped thyroid gland whose presence I miss daily! The latest pathology report from the University of Chicago showed that there were 2 parathyroid glands in the section of thyroid removed. This was news. Previous pathologists did not find them. This would explain my difficulty regulating calcium since the surgery, and confirms that I need to be on daily calcium supplementation. To learn more about the parathyroid glands, click here.
This image has stayed with me. In conversation last night, I probed too deep in a friend's confusion. Oblivious, self-centered, wanting to win an argument or at least expose uncertainty. Brushing past without paying attention. Friendship can shrivel so quickly, relationship falter, love evaporate.
When I see hands full, outstretched to me, I pray I notice. I pray I pause. How then to fulfill that Proverb, as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (27:17)? How to sharpen each other without scarring each other, to be authentic, and truth-filled, yet not harsh and uncompromising? To put one of Jesus' last edicts into action, Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35) I want to be motivated by love, expressing love.
When I go, let me not be the woman that brushes past the tree and never sees the gift. Let me be remembered as a woman who loved.
There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, 'Destroy him!' So Israel will live in safety alone; Jacob's spring is secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew. ~ Deuteronomy 33:26-28
First tracks through the snow of a state park, pulling a sled full of camping gear. Pioneers still, remembering how to be intrepid after a long hibernation in our world of child-raising and home-building. We tamped down the snow around the campsite, shoveled a bank to shelter our tent, stamped out a path to the pit toilet. Many tracks later, a campfire hissed and chortled alive from damp wood and a soggy firering. We regaled the tales of London's prospectors in Alaska, hailing those first flames as salvation from the cold.
He is a still man. A soul of peace, hands steady to their work, focused, intent, unwavering. Silent at times...sometimes maddeningly so to a woman of words.
What he celebrates with action, putting feet in place of words, may go unnoticed if I don't still my soul to his rhythm. The embers fly by in red streaks, carried up on a black night wind, and he stands like a rock behind them. Gazing. Being together, in this dark and silent woods, surrounded only by our own whispers and our own footfalls. A night to remember that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matt. 19:6)
Thirty years of molding and shaping. I am still a pioneer, still a revolutionary, still counter-cultural. Snow is a friend, and my husband my stallwart co-conqueror in a land of giant foes.
It is good to remember.