To Our Teachers…

I know, I know.

This is the time of year when sentiment abounds.

We write you notes, we give you flowers, we pass out gift cards like there is no tomorrow.

Because let’s be honest you really deserve an all-expense paid vacation to the Bahamas.

EVERY BLESSED ONE OF YOU.

So that twitch in your eye?

The one that says, “Farts, boogers and ill-advised hygiene I can handle. But if I have to answer one more question that starts with, ‘My name, My name, My name, My name, My name…’ I’m gonna need a Valium?”

We feel you.

It’s the same one we’ll all have when we send them back to you in the fall.

But it’s May.

The time of year where we say thank you, along with giving you every blessed thing we can think of under the sun. Because what we are really saying is this…

Thank you.

Thank you for all the days you looked passed the bad breath and the farts and the nose-picking and saw our kids as something worth your time. Thank you for loving their quirks and weird obsessions with Batman and Shopkins and Taylor Swift. Thank you for reminding us that those weird obsessions could someday give way to dreams.

No, seriously. Thank you.

Thank you for listening to 30 recorders AT A TIME and not promptly leaving for Tahiti. Thank you for teaching them Picasso and Monet and for accepting books with weird stains and rips that we promise we tried to prevent. Thank you for all the skinned knees and wild games and gym brawls you met with a smile.

Just really, thank you.

Thank you for loving our kids on their hard days, their easy days, their loud days and if they had them, their quiet days. Thank you for holding their hands, their backpacks and the weird thing they wanted to show you for the eighteenth time. Thank you for accepting all the scrap pieces of paper and weeds and things out of the toy bin that suddenly turned into a gift you had to have.

Now you know where they get it from.

Because just like our nose-picking darlings, we see something remarkable in you.

Someone who will walk into our stories, no matter the twists and turns taken and love us just as we are but also inspire us to become something more.

So just in case you didn’t hear us the first time, “Your name, your name, your name, your name, your name…”

Thank you for the way you inspire and grow and value the people we love most. You carried their hearts for a little while but now we’ll carry a piece of yours. And know that when we say thank you a million times over?

We really mean we love you a whole hoot of a lot.

I’m Gonna Be

This week was a week.

An unexpected rocking, roller coaster of a week.

It may have best been summed up in the words of my newest surgeon for my newest medical adventure, “You seem like a lovely woman, Mrs. Cormany. I really don’t want to kill you.”

I know, I know.

Who says that, right? And during Holy week? I tell you.

Bless my heart and apparently everything else.

But really—and I mean really— this man who I kind of already adore was just telling me the truth I already knew. He looked at all the hard, broken things about my disease and weighed the risks and simply told the blessed truth.

Even now as I sit here under the weight of those words, I am inclined to follow his lead. I have tried and failed so many times to write this week. To speak of the things connected to this day and the jumble of emotions that come so quietly with it.

But tonight, as the quiet begins to settle in, I can only hear two words, “Be real.”

And so I will be.

This was not a week of quiet reflection and beautiful words. It was week of poop on the floor and Sharpie on the wall.  It was a week where we were “those people” at Target and Walmart and Price Chopper.

We wailed, we dropped things, we lost our minds. We could not hold it together if our lives had depended on it. We were so incredibly messy it hurt.

And then this morning came.

The kids were piling out of the van covered in powdered sugar from our donut “brunch.” (Yes, I know.) And bless it, I just needed a moment.

So I shut the sliding doors, turned to this grown-up song and closed my eyes.

Just for a moment…

But then her little voice came from the back seat, “You okay, mama?”

It was only then I realized I was sobbing uncontrollably. Sobbing even as I tried to answer back in a slightly sincere, “No, I’m not, baby but I’m gonna be.” Sobbing because in that strange little moment of peace, my smelly, messy minivan had become my Gethsemane.

I knew in my heart the hard that was coming. I knew the risks. I knew the what-ifs.

I knew.

And my heart felt lost and broken and beat up under the weight of it. But as I sat there reminded that He chose suffering so that I would never be alone in mine, I could feel my heart letting go of it all.

The anger. The frustration. The weight.

So instead I scraped and clawed to hold on to the truth that today, He chose me.

He chose my hard and my messy and my broken. He chose it knowing I would doubt and wrestle and flail. He chose it all so death would be done and love, won.

And this?

This wrecks my very soul.

Because it was more than nails and a Cross, more than the sword, more than the blood spilt. It was the choice to trade whole for broken. It was His chance to see me for exactly who I am and love me completely so I could have a chance at forever.

This is where I sob.

This is where I end.

Because this is where I can say even in the middle of my wrecked up, broken, real kind of week, “It may not be okay but I know I’m gonna be.”

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.

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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.