Time For Kindness

Good-Morning-Clock-HD-WallpaperI had almost missed her.

The oops-I-dropped-my-keys-hope-my-pants-stay-up-left-my-purse-in-the-cart crazy me. The boy-I-need-to-refocus-look-at-the-clock-to-see-the-time-sheesh-it’s-almost-pick-up hot mess me. The do-I-look-over-at-the-lady-waving-in-the-car-next-to-me-because-I-really-don’t-want-to-slow-down selfish me.

We all almost missed her.

But something in my heart said to roll the window down, offer a smile and say, Do you need something?

And then I saw her.

Big brown eyes, holding tight to her phone, sitting in her hot car, swallowing hard before she said, I am so sorry but do you have a few dollars to help me get some gas? I called my boy and he won’t answer. I am just so embarrassed I even have to ask but do you think maybe? Maybe you could help me?

There was something in her voice that I recognized, something that drew me away from the clock and toward her, something I knew…

It was the fear of being lost.

So I said, I don’t have any cash but if you follow me to the gas station across the street we can get you on your way!

Really?!?!?

Yep, just follow me, my dear!

And off we went. Two disabled ladies. One with slightly wiser hair.

It was not until I went to pump her gas that I realized why my heart had given me pause to stay.

The why came as my new friend started to get out of the car. I saw her sweet little house shoes and her swollen hands so I stopped her with a wink, You stay, I am happy to be your attendant today! Her eyes misted a little as she sat back down and shut the door.

She swallowed hard just as before and then answered, Thank you so much for being kind. You weren’t the first person I asked. Or the second. Or the third. And my son, he just wasn’t picking up the phone. We talk every day. I just don’t know why he didn’t pick up the phone. Just thank you so much…

And then it occurred to me, this sweet girl was me.

A little lost. A little confused. A little older.

But she was me and Mimi and every sweet soul who has ever had a moment where life didn’t make sense and someone, even a stranger, had to make sense of it for us.

So I fought back a few tears of my own and said, Well, sister, I have been given extraordinary kindness by some extraordinary people. And today? Today is my day to pay it forward. Thank you for giving me the chance to love on you.

But I had almost missed her, you see.

Because the purse was in the cart and the clock was counting down and the lady waving at me might just think I didn’t see her if I turn my head this way. But. Then. My heart reminded me of something I forget entirely too often.

Time and kindness do not scare one another. Kindness jumps in and makes the clock wait. Because it knows something marvelous is waiting on the other side.

A human being in need of love.

 

Around the Corner

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It’s the moment you turn the corner to find a breathtaking view.

Her lips moving gently. Her hands holding hers. Her posture of absolute love.

In a glance so brutally beautiful it is hard to see for what it is, the very thing she had been denied in loss before:

The chance to say goodbye.

Part of me shook in anger that her 12-year-old heart had been so often ripped apart. Part of me sobbed in knowing this would change her, age her, grow her up too quickly. And part of me stood wrecked in seeing what I feared the most.

The day she would have to say goodbye to me.

It is the bittersweet of almost-goodbyes.

The knowing that you have been given the most rare and precious gift of tomorrow. The knowing that breath and time beat in the pounding of your heart. The knowing that joy comes morning by morning, mercy by mercy, second by glorious second.

So you put it on the shelf so the weight does not crush you.

But then you find yourself watching someone you love fade into eternity and you’re reminded that you are slowly fading too.

So you love this someone with all you have and laugh at her unwavering wit and cry at the days that are hard and find all the beauty there is because you know one thing as you know life itself…

Jesus is there and He will not leave.

Even when we shake in anger. Even when we ugly snot and sob. Even when we stand wrecked to our very soul.

We may think He’s left in all the noise of our suffering. We may find it hard to see His good in all our hard. We may wonder if in the middle of our hurt we will reach out and find nothing.

But I can tell you from the depths of me, the places that are hard-edged and broken, the places that are soft and seeking, the voice that can cuss and scream and doubt, the voice that can be poetic and pretty and lilting, Jesus is there and He will not leave.

In the wanting. In the waiting. In the fading away.

The Cross is more than just a Palm Sunday or a Good Friday or an empty tomb.

It is every time you turn the corner.

So that when you happen to find yourself at the very last one, you breathe in grace, reach out and turn.

Because you know He’ll be there too.

 

Home Is Coming

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I remember the day I knew.

Knew that you were somehow changed. Knew that you had moved beyond forgetful. Knew that your life was fading into the recesses of your brilliant mind.

I remember the hum of the breathing machine.

Your breath moving with a steady in and out. Your eye roll and indignation that such a thing would interrupt our chat. Your sweet little hand reaching for mine as if to say, “Don’t go.”

But as it always does, life beckoned me home and I had to say our usual goodbye.

A squish. A kiss. A whole mess of I love you’s. And yet?

Something in the usual seem changed.

It started the minute I began to gather my things and you asked,“Is it okay if I sit in the front seat?” To which I turned and smiled and chalked it up to a little post-stroke confusion. But as I bent down to hug you, you started to stand as though a wheelchair no longer seemed necessary.

So I sat you down gently with a “Oh Mimi, you have to stay here. Remember you are in the hospital and we are trying to get you better so you can be home with Papa?”

But you started to stand again, insisting, “I want to go home with you. I want sit in the front seat. I promise we’ll have fun.”

Tears began to well in my eyes as I sat you down once more, pressed our foreheads together and said, “Mimi, I want nothing more than to bring you home with me right this SECOND. But you still have some important work to do here.”

Your eyes grew wide and tears began to fall as you whispered, “Well, that is just the pits.” And I had to agree with a “Yes, it is, sweet girl. Yes, it is. But I promise home is coming soon.”

Two months later, I would see those wide, tear-filled eyes again.

Longing for our Papa, searching his face for the last time, saying again what your words could not, “I want to go Home with you.” And yet? Something in you stayed.

I cannot help but think it was love.

Love for your girl who had lost so much. Love for your grandbabies and great-grandbabies whose hearts needed a chance to say goodbye. Love for your boy who needed to be there when you finally went Home.

And such an unabashed, selfless love it was.

To break through a cruel disease just to be known. To change us all in its wake. To open our hearts to a love so deep and so wide, I cannot help but call it good.

For soon is now and all that was taken from you has been restored. Giving way to a hope that softly pulls me forward. Forward toward a sweet promise so familiar I can almost hear you calling,

“Soon, Sara. Home is coming soon.”

To the One Beside the Hospital Bed

097I see you.

Holding your hurt so close to your heart it stays unspoken. Hoping that your tired eyes don’t show beneath the coffee and the makeup. Hiding the burden you carry because you are the smile, the steady hand and the bringer of flowers and fuzzy socks and all the things big and little.

I know you.

You are brother and sister. You are mother and father. You are nana and papa. You are husband and wife. You are son and daughter. You are friend and neighbor. You are grace and laughter. You are love and tears. You are the reason to wake up, to push through, to hold on and to fight.

I hear you.

When you fill the silence with words because the what-if’s are too hard to carry. When you whisper things into the darkness of a hospital room that you hope are already known. When you say yes to everything offered because there is no price tag too high for the chance to have another day with me in it.

I get you.

Doing all the things that must be done even though your whole world has fallen down. Forcing yourself to put one foot in front of the other just to find tomorrow. Leaving the hospital to find yourself sobbing in the car only to realize you are home again and have to pull it all together.

Because life must go on to the humdrum beat of the mundane.

Bills paid and lunches packed and papers signed and groceries bought and plumbing fixed and oil changed in such a steady, familiar pound that no one seems to recognize its bravery.

And yet it is.

So even when you feel like a hero unsung, know that you are always noticed.

For you are the light in my smile, in my strength, in my very breath. You are the way He holds my hand in places where no one else will tread.  You are the one who carries the chance of a hard goodbye in every sweet hello.

You are so much more than mundane or humdrum or familiar.

You are an everyday warrior of love.

 

An Unexpected Love Story

handIt is a love story, interrupted.

Born out of an unexpected beginning. Found in a young mama’s tears. Laced gently in a baby’s cry.

All on a Christmas day, many years ago.

The day when her high school love would go hunting and never return. Leaving her alone with her infant daughter and the unfinished hope of a lifetime together.

The local newspapers would call the accident tragic, speaking of the young bride and the baby he left behind. It was this that caught the eye of a young Army captain, sitting at the kitchen table with his mama. Broken over their pain, he and his mama began to pray.

Pray for the young widow. Pray for the little girl. Pray for a light to enter their darkness.

Little did he know just how that light would come.

Because some time later, this shy young captain would introduce himself to the very same widow at church. Even now, she will admit with a bit of a twinkle in her eye that she was rather unimpressed. But as days went by, she learned that he was more than just another chance at love.

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This man would also be used to heal the heart of her little girl.

So much so that when the young captain and his sweet bride married, the little girl was certain she would be going along on their honeymoon because her Daddy loved her best of all.

It was the first and only time in her life that he disappointed her.

As the years went by, the love between the captain and his bride grew into something quite remarkable. It became the love story that a cynical world might claim impossible.

Love notes every day. Hands always held. Care always given. And prayers always offered together.

They were the best of friends, best of sweethearts and best of partners in every way. They had babies and grandbabies and great grands. And they revelled in it.

Basketball games and concerts and birthday parties and weddings and all the things a love story gives. But as life does in the span of eighty five years, their bodies began to fail.

First, her stroke and seven precious months of him waiting for his bride to come home. Home from the hospital. Home from in-patient recovery. Home from assisted living.

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Back and forth, they would go.

But each time a discharge was near, he would make sure that everything was just so to welcome her home. Working so hard that his body began to buckle itself.

A surgery. A complication. An unexpected death.

His love, a widow once again.

But as she went to hold his hand for the last time, her girl’s girl bent down closely and whispered, “He spent all year preparing for you to come home and so maybe, just maybe, his heart knew you would need him to welcome you Home one last time.”

Her eyes brimmed with tears and her head nodded gently, as if holding onto the promise fulfilled in their own little love story: That the deepest, darkest pain can give way to the love of a lifetime. And whose start was, without coincidence, on Christmas Day.

A day born out of an unexpected beginning. A day found in a young mama’s tears. A day laced in a baby’s cry.

All giving way to the greatest love story the world would ever know.

 

 

Healing

 

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All photographs courtesy of Maria Morris and Design Blossoms.

It was a Sunday.

A beautiful, brunch-with-my-Papa kind of Sunday.

I had just helped my baby climb into her chair when I noticed someone wheeling towards me.

Her eyes sparkled. Her silver hair was neatly tucked into a bun. And her bright, flowered dress stood out amongst the equally silver-haired crowd.

I had barely pushed my chair from the table to get myself something to eat when she arrived. But soon, we were chatting and laughing and swapping teacher stories. It wasn’t until my empty stomach reminded me I still hadn’t eaten that I began to stand once again…

And then she saw it.

My ever so lovely assistive device. A sight not altogether foreign in this place but unusual, just the same. It was only as we were making our way to the food line, my new friend asked the question I could tell she had been holding in, “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why do you walk with a cane?”

So with a shrug and half-smile, I gave her the quick answer, “A stroke.”

But she pressed for more and more and more and by the end, I had told her everything.

About the auto immune disease. The stroke. The miscarriage. The septic shock. The rainbow baby. The blood clot. The lung issues. The heart complications. The surgeries. The whole big mess and a half.

I watched as her eyes widened with each new thing but as I drew to a close, she said something I will never forget, “What incredible healing you’ve had!!!!!”

No “I’m sorries.” No “Whoa, that’s a lot.” No “I can’t believe you have been through so much!” Instead, all she offered was a baffled look and a “What incredible healing you’ve had!!!”

It wasn’t until I rode home with my loves that I sat under the full grace of her words.

Little did I know that two weeks later I would be in the hospital with severe sepsis and pneumonia in both lungs. Little did I know that I would my recovery would last weeks and weeks. Little did I know that I would be back in a place that I have been so many times before.

A place where my heart would need to meet my Jehovah Rapha, my Healer. Just so that I could look beyond what the world sees as healed and accept the grace of what He has done over and over and over again…

In bringing me home to my loves.

To see their faces. To know their touch. To hear their voices.

To be present. To count each heartbeat. To hold every hand.

To be loved. To be humbled. To be handed a life worth living.

And to be grateful to a God who loves me so much that He would fight for me, that He would know my heart, that He would bring healing and stall this disease once again so that I could be here today to say with all I have…

Thank you for one more day to love them all over again.

Remembering Mercy

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Breathless.

I remember feeling breathless.

Breathless as I held onto your daddy’s arm. Breathless as my body fought to hold onto you. Breathless as the doctor begged for me to stay awake.

I remember feeling empty.

Empty because I knew you were Home. Empty because no one else knew. Empty because our story was not supposed to end this way.

With me in an ER fighting for breath six years ago today.

I remember feeling like I shouldn’t remember.

The pain. The hard. The trauma.

Of going to bed one night, grieving a baby I would never meet only to wake up in a world of breathing tubes and central lines and whispers of “It doesn’t look good.”

But beyond breathless, beyond infection spilling into every corner of my body, beyond the reality that six years ago today, I was dying comes a mercy like none other.

You.

Because in every twist and every turn and every place I have gone since that day, you have been teaching me to trust the Father I only thought I knew…

The One who catches my tears and holds my heart and gives me breath when I can’t breathe. The One who shows up when the world fades away and my soul is weary and my mind, overwhelmed. The One who bears my doubt, my anger, my darkest places with a grace and love unimaginable.

This.

This is why you came and lived within me, if only for just a little while.

To teach me that when it all falls down and my heart can’t reconcile the pain of this world, my God will be all who He says He is and more.

Every minute. Every hour. Every year.

Bringing me closer and closer to the day I can finally say to you,

“I’m Home, my love. I’m Home.”