Of Ashes and Soot

 

I sit by her bedside in the dark.

I hold her hand. I watch her breathe. I memorize every beautiful line on her face.

It is here that something deep wells up in my heart.

One part sadness. One part relief. One part hope.

A mess of the things I know live in this place.

Here amongst the sights and sounds of life interrupted. Here among the things she calls, “Just life itself.” Here in the ashy ground where beauty will undoubtedly and painfully grow.

This.

This is the moment that replays in my mind.

The one I carry tightly with me as I seek to love her well.

It is a sacred hard we share.

The kind that comes when a little bit of you is left behind as soon as the word stroke is uttered, a word that seems to fade into the thousand that come after it as you are moved hurriedly into all the things.

The evals. The therapy. The blasted uncertainty.

The triumph and relief. The tears and disappointment.

The. Grief.

Over the person you used to be, the person who has been replaced by someone altogether foreign and strange.

Never would I have chosen this place for the sweet and fiery woman who I have called Mimi for nearly 40 years. I would have rather it been me, the girl who knows the drill, who has already lived in the hilarity and the hard of limitation.

But it is here that I am learning something of ashes, something of the beauty that grows in it. And in the season of Lent, it is this something that makes me wonder if this is the place He begs us to go.

To the beauty of ashes and soot.

A beauty that comes not from the leaving behind or the giving up but rather in the jumping in—free-falling back into the places that hurt so you can reach out to another freshly out of the fire.

Bending toward the flames of illness and loss and pain and struggle, instead of away from it. Choosing to face another’s hard tear-stained and mud-streaked. Willing to walk through all the things again for the sake of love.

A love that has allowed such gentle beauty to come into my life—the sound of a rainbow baby’s cry, the joy of battles won, the peace of new things ahead. Like green against the gray.

Just as they have come for her.

In walls covered with great-grands’ artwork. In first steps met with a good dose of hooping and hollering. In words that melt your heart with a, “You are getting out this rehab joint and going home to your love of 60 years.”

These are the gifts that come only from the raging fire of brokenness.

Grown so deeply in ash that when we reach the Cross, we grasp a little more the purpose in it and the love it took to choose its pain.

It is why this year, I choose tear-stained soot instead of polished dresses and fancy hats.

I choose it for her. I choose it for Him. I choose it for always.

Not to be made more but to be made less.

All because their love first chose me.

 

 

 

I Love You More Than Chocolate

2 (2)We have an unexpected love, you and I.

Weathered by time. Mended in grace. Surprising me even still.

It is not counted in cards or flowers or chocolate.

(Okay, maybe a little bit of chocolate.)

It is counted in dirty diapers and leaky roofs and a whole hoot of could-you-stop-at-the-grocery-store-for-milk kind of texts.

Our love is fully us just as it is fully Him.

Our hard. Our happy. Our everything in-between.

It was this love that found me last week in a way even Hallmark cannot describe.

My day had been long, filled with life and a kid with pink eye and another kid who announced that she *might* have had some really strange poop.

Bless and eew.

It seemed only logical, if not also sanitary that I would ask you to take a little bag of love to the hospital for our sweet Mimi.

And of course, you said yes.

It was just about the time I finally snuggled down into bed that I heard the garage door open and I knew you were home and would be climbing the stairs and walking through our bedroom door.

A door that would gently close behind you as you said, I’m sorry that I’m so late but I tucked her into bed, brushed her hair, put on chapstick. Then we got her into her fuzzy socks and I rearranged her pillows and blankets so she was comfortable. And of course, I made sure her ice water was fresh…

To this I eked out a small and unimpressive, Thank you so much, honey.

But what you don’t know is that not long after you left to go back downstairs for something, I sat in the quiet of your absence trying to fight back tears.

You had loved her well because you love me well.

In all the little mundane ways He has asked you to love me.

Putting on socks and shoes when I can’t do it on my own. Brushing my hair and applying chapstick in every hospital room I’ve ever been in. Rearranging my pillows and blankets every night. Bringing ice water or chocolate or anything else that I want so that I can save steps. Gently sliding my glasses off when I have fallen asleep during a movie for the millionth time.

This. This is you and I. This is our love.

A steady and sweet something that has shown up for so long it doesn’t seem so very extraordinary.

Until it is.

Standing in front of me. Weathered by time. Mended by grace. Surprising me still.

Reminding me that there is something better than flowers and cards and chocolate.

(Yes, even chocolate.)

Because every day, you love me.

Love Will Always Come

20170120_125309_editedSomething remarkable happens when you are wheeled into a hospital.

Everything that was important before somehow shifts.

You measure life in breaths and beeps and counts. You look at others with gentler eyes and a softer heart. You find yourself willing to do just about anything to hear, It’s time to go home.

Life becomes frailer, somehow, bending into a place where the only thing that matters is love.

The love you left. The love that shows up. The love you hope to go back to.

Dancing in your mind as you count what comes—from friends, from family, from absolute strangers. Wheeling in unshowered and unlovely to the echo of your friend’s sweet words, I’m coming to get the baby and don’t worry, we can figure out the rest.

So then you breathe in…

Feeling the weight of one room you pass, the one where you said goodbye to a most beloved Daddy. A weight that is lifted by your baby sister, who brings laughter and chocolate because she knows the hurt this hospital brings. She knows it so well that when she says goodbye, she whispers the words he would have said.

img_6330_edited

And then you breathe out…

Praying that you can get home to find beautiful dresses for your girls to dance with another sweet Daddy. You pray to the point of silly until you realize what you want and what is are not the same. But your heart breathes easier knowing another sweet mama is enthusiastically clapping through fashion shows and fancy dresses so that your girls feel celebrated and loved and known.

And so you breathe in again…

Fighting through the tests and all the things you must do so that you can finally hear the words, You are going home. Wheeling out still unshowered and unlovely to your van where a two-year old hand grabs yours. Her hold tight and unrelenting until you pull into the garage as if to make certain you do not leave again.

And then you breathe out…

Drinking in all the ways you have been loved. In the rides given, the diapers changed, the meals offered, the prayers whispered, the fears faced and the words written. Tearing up at what another mama made with your girl, the most perfectly imperfect way to shout in the quiet, Welcome Home, Mom!

It is here, in this place, that love becomes all your heart can recognize. It goes farther, beats louder and does more than anything else ever could.  Willing to stand in places that are not beautiful or lovely or comfortable or even noteworthy.

Always protecting. Always trusting. Always hoping. And always, always persevering.

So that when the noise of this world can be too much to bear, you will hear it beckon softly until the rest of it fades into one resounding truth…

Love will always come.

 

I Tell Them She’s Dory

2A few mornings ago, I began my gingerly pad down the stairs…

But then something in me said to stop.

Maybe it was the gentleness in their laughter. Maybe it was the rarity of a peaceful moment between them. Maybe it was just curiosity at what had drawn them together.

But whatever the reason, stop I did.

If only to hear a most darling interchange…

When I tell people about her, I tell them she’s Dory.

No way!!! Me too!!!!

Guys, I have been saying that for YEARS.

It was here I stifled a little snort.

Because. Really.

A kindergartner who speaks with such sage wisdom in regard to the equally sage conversation of an eight and ten-year old? Especially in regard to her memory-challenged mama? And is so ridiculously spot-on?

HILARIOUS.

It was almost so snort-worthy I missed what came next…

But you guys, isn’t mom the best?

The. Best.

Totally the best. And she loves us SO much!

This is where I nearly gave myself away with a little more of a sob than a snort.

Because this.

This is the kind of thing a mama needs to hear in the middle of putting up Christmas trees and making mashed potatoes and getting sick because she just tried so hard to keep everyone else well.

This.

This is the place we all long to find in the middle of a-mama-has-to-be-perfect kind of world.

A place to remember that at the end of all the things is the love you bring with them, that when you feel lost and less-than and something not as awesome as all the other mama-girls…

Your babies see you.

Your faithfulness. Your effort. Your heart.

Your absolute love.

So that when you fade from their day-to-day and someday, their world, you know they will find the you that you meant to be.

Hold onto that, sweet mama friends of mine.

Because it isn’t the perfect tree or the perfect house or the perfect whatever-today-says-you-are-supposed-to-be that will go with them in life.

It is instead the relentless love you’ve given them in it.

This Crazy-Wonderful Little Life

momI would never have chosen this disease, this path of brokenness. But I would choose the story He has written in it. Every single time, I would choose it.

~Crazy-Wonderful Little Life

Life as a mom with chronic illness can be messy and hard but in many ways, it can also be incredibly beautiful. So grateful to Blythe Hunt and the Mundane Faithfulness Family to be able to sharing a sweet piece of journey in one of my favorite spaces this morning.

http://www.mundanefaithfulness.com/home/2016/12/2/crazy-wonderful-little-life-guest-post-by-sara-cormany

 

In The Waiting Room

we-have-hopeI noticed him first.

Frail but strong somehow.

Towering over his cane as his kind eyes scanned the room for a seat.

It was as he sat down that I told him, I love your hat.

To which he smiled with a gentle, Thank you.

There was no mistaking what it covered—the frailness, the sunken face, the slowed gait—all testament to a body ravaged by the effects of chemo and cancer.

But. His. Laugh.

The first time it pealed through the waiting room was absolute heaven.

It was also the first time I noticed her.

Giggling with him in a way you might have completely overlooked the gray in her hair or the wrinkles on her face. Chatting about the weather, the things they forgot, the kids, the grandkids, the neighbor down the street. Shuffling back up together when the receptionist called their last name but not before giggling about it because she had certifiably butchered it.

And so I went back to reading my whatever, secretly hoping that when they were done they would find their way back to the seats next to mine.

And they did.

But this time I said something to her.

I can’t remember what it was. I can’t remember why I said it. I can only remember the moment we recognized one another.

It followed the question, How old are your babies? To which I went down the line with a 10, 8, 6 and 2… That’s when he giggled with a raspy, Whew.

And with a playful tap she talked over him, Two girls. Two boys. But one of my girls died when she was five-years old. I could barely breathe out an I’m-so-sorry before she continued, But girl, I have hope. I have hope and joy and the promise that I will see her again.

And then, with tears in my eyes, I said the words that would change everything…

I have hope too.

We poured out our hard. We poured out our love for Jesus. We poured out our wish for community in this sometimes whackadoo world.

A world that might only notice our differences.

Our age. Our skin color. Our stories.

But something bigger took it’s place…

Our Jesus.

Our Jesus was the same.

His love. His grace. His comfort. His unabashed faithfulness in the middle of hard things.

And y’all, even when it may seem like the world is falling down around us, this is where our hope belongs.

Even. When.

No matter the hard. No matter the loss. No matter the madness.

We have hope.

A hope so beautiful that it can take strangers and turn them into friends if only for a moment. A hope so bonding that when the time comes to say goodbye, you hug each other tightly as if to say…

I can’t wait to see you again.