Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Raining Grace

A lot has happened in my life since I wrote here.  But then again, I'm sure a lot has happened in yours as well.

About eighteen months ago, I was a stay at home, homeschooling mother of 5 children, who gardened, canned, and took care of her babies and her husband.  I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Now, I am a full time working mother of 5, two of whom are in the local public school, one of whom is in her second year at NOVA, and the other 2 are at home with a nurse.

And I am single.

I look around me at all that has happened, and I see how everything has crumbled, and I feel the confusion and anxiety coming off the children in waves.

And my eyes brim, and I hang my head, and my body slumps down, down, down...

All the way down until my knees hit the floor and the only way I can look is up. And in the looking up, I realize that in this storm that I am in, in this raging downpour, it is not just driving rain that is falling, but grace, as well.  

Sometimes, the sun shines brightly, and I feel calm and capable and ready to face this next challenge, but sometimes, the weight is just too much to bear and my shoulders curve and shudder under the burden I carry.

And then somebody sends me a text, I'll pray for you.  Grace.

or someone offers to take the kids on Monday mornings.  Grace.

or someone comes and spends time with me, talking and listening, mostly just listening.  Grace.

And I feel the burden lift a tad and I feel the sun and wind on my face again just a bit and I turn toward the Light and I remember:

I am not in this alone.

So I turn my face into the storm,

Because only in facing this storm head on can I truly feel the rain

Grace like rain.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Letter to My Oldest, On the Occasion of Her (Belated) Birthday

I remember it.  

I distinctly remember that day at the end of April, and the 9 long months that went before it.  

I was young, barefoot and in a yellow cotton dress, and you, well, you were snuggled up there tucked under my rib-cage right below my heart.

I remember the first day that I realized that I was pregnant.  I was elated, overjoyed, and super excited.  And the funny thing is that I wasn't even scared.  I was ready for this new challenge, ready to tackle whatever it was that life would throw my way.

But like I said before, I was young.  

You were my first, and while I remember certain details of each of your siblings' births, it is yours that is buried the most deeply in my brain.  It is your birth, and your infancy that I remember every year when I wake up with the sun to the smells of spring and the songs of the birds.  It is you I remember nursing in the wee hours, no matter who it is that I am currently rocking back and forth in the dark.  

I remember  your big feet and your crazy shock of hair that stuck up off your head like a cocks-comb. I remember seeing you playing on the floor sometimes and just reaching over to pick you up just because you were you and you were mine.  I remember how I cried and called my dad the first time I cut your hair when you were 3 because it felt like such a milestone.   I remember your first day of preschool, and your last.  

And then things got complicated.  We moved to Hawaii, and then back.  And you stayed with your grandparents, and then here with me.  And we went through really hard times, and we went through really great times.  And I know sometimes it might not have felt like it, but you were always on my mind and first in my heart.  And sometimes I didn't realize that what I was doing hurt you or made you sad. 

But like I said, I was young. 

And then we grew up fast, you and I.  Jo was born, and then in quick succession, Gabriel, Jesse and Hazel Grace, 

and suddenly, I'm not so young, 

and neither are you.

And sometimes, no, often, I look back on some of the decisions that I made, and I cringe at the selfishness of them even though they were not intended to be selfish.  I never meant to hurt you or make you feel alone, I was just trying to survive...get by...and find my way in this world.  

So I guess in a way, we grew up together

Which isn't really the way it's supposed to be, and I'm sorry for that.  

But now I see you, a talented young lady, with the world in front of you, and I would be a fool to deny that who you are is a product of the life you've lived, and I can't help but be proud of you.

You are who you are mostly not because of me or anything I've done, but rather, to a great extent, in spite of me and everything I've done.  

So here you are, at the brink of adulthood, and I feel the time that I have with you slipping through my fingers like so much sand in an hourglass.  

And the Littles feel it, too.  As much as Jo wants to take over your room and your iPod, she's going to miss you like crazy.  And who's going to find Jesse's shoes?  And who's going to tease Gabriel like you do?  And who's going to play the guitar with Hazel Grace?  

And Daddy?  Well, let's just not go there.  I don't care how grown you may think you will get, you will always be his little girl...and don't you forget it.  

And so you can sigh, and you can roll your eyes and you can 'Moooommmm' me as much as you want.  I'm clinging to these last years that I have with you, and there's pretty much nothing you can do about it.



But that's because you are beautiful, you are talented, you are intelligent, and you, my dear, 

My Elizabeth, 

Flesh of my flesh and heart of my heart, 

You are loved.  

Happy birthday.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Little White Pill

Sunday of last week, as I sat in my Sunday school class and shared my fears and trepidation with the group gathered there, I found myself sitting with my hands on the table in front of me, fingers spread as if looking for balance and grounding there in the collective faith of those surrounding me.  Prayers were raised and testimonies were shared, but my world still rocked and swayed, and when I pulled my hands back into my lap, I noticed that they left behind sweaty streaks.

Earlier this week, I was doing better, but still nervous.  I was afraid of what would come, and afraid of how it would feel to be giving my daughter, my painfully beautiful and vibrantly intelligent daughter, daily medication.  Medication that would...what?  What would it do?  Would it dull her down?  Would it change her personality?  Would she be calmer, but at the same time then not be my vivacious, spirited little girl?

Am I doing the right thing????

But then, when it came time to meet with the psychiatrist to actually get a prescription, I felt calm and confident.  This was good, this was right, this WOULD be a solution, if not this dose, this medication today, then we try again tomorrow.

The little blueish square of paper bearing the script rode home with us in the front seat of honor, and as much as it tried to intimidate me, I wouldn't let it.  It kept looking at me, in all of its papery paleness, but even as I kept with its antics out of the corner of my eye, I was able to carry on a conversation with my girl, such as it was.  She was talking too loud, too fast and laughing too much to really participate in a 'conversation' but my 'Really?', 'Uh-uh', and 'Oh, my!' were for the most part properly placed in her ramblings.

And then we get to here:  This girl, this mom, this glass of water, and this little white pill

This prayer, this hope, this fear

This unknown.

Her brown eyes set in her already beautifully tanned faced framed by her soft brown curls looked up at me confidently and trustingly. She had an expectant half smile as she picked the little white pill out of my hand with slender fingers that end in chewed off nails.  She tipped the capsule into her mouth and washed it down with a glass of water, eyes on me the whole time.  Then she set the glass on the counter, met my eyes once more, and ran off to play.

That was it.

As much as I can boldly say, 'My daughter has been diagnosed with early-onset bipolar', and as much as I can know in my mind that something needs to be done both for her sake and for our sanity, I admit that my heart was still in denial.

But isn't admitting that there's a problem the first step in the right direction?  And so, pill bottle in hand, we timidly begin down this path,

A path that leads off into the great unknown, but a path that we know that we will not be walking alone.

Friday, March 27, 2015


I stand here, shamed-faced at the foot of the cross. My hands are empty.  I hold them up and look at them, turning them over to see the short-cut nails, the rough skin, the creased palms...the hands of a working woman, of a dish-washing-dinner-cooking wife, of a baby-rocking-clothing-feeding-bathing mama...

But them most notable thing about them, at least to me, is that they are empty.

I stand here, at the foot of the cross, with empty hands.  Completely empty.  I do not stand here with my children, I do not stand here with my husband, I stand here alone, with empty hands.

Because that's all I have.  Nothing.  There is no offering that I can give that's not already His.

The most valuable thing I have to offer, these children that I have, they're not really mine.  Not really.  They are on loan to me, entrusted to my care, but on loan to me, and here to fulfill the plan that God has for their life.

And my anger, while perhaps understandable, is not justifiable, and not righteous.  My anger, this anger that I felt at what I saw to be an injustice, was, in fact, a display of my lack of trust in God's plan for my children.

And I am convicted.

I know I have been talking about Beth Moore a lot, but this last lesson on Daniel really struck a lot of chords with me.  In one of the sessions, Beth talked about how there are some lessons that we don't want to have to learn the hard way.  Some lessons we should really just learn from someone else so that we don't have to do the suffering.  And for me, this is one of those.

I need to commit to memory, and seal away in my heart, never to be forgotten, this truth:

My life, and the lives of my children, are in God's hands.  He is in control, and I need to trust that.


How can I doubt God's grace?  Has He not saved me from myself?  Did he not keep His hand on Jesse when he swallowed the battery, had a seizure and developed a heart murmur?  Did He not keep Gabriel from being more badly hurt when he fell and needed stitches?  When he got bit by the dog?  Has He not watched over Elizabeth as she grows into a responsible young lady of whom any mother would be proud?  Has He not given us Jo, who is fearfully yet wonderfully made?

Did He not perform miracle after miracle over our sweet baby Hazel Grace?

And yet, I have the nerve to shake my fists at God and ask Him why?!  Even after God proves to me again and again that He is in charge and that He is in control, I continue to fight and struggle and attempt to lay claim to that which I think is mine,

But in the end, I always end up here,

At the foot of the cross

With empty hands.

And I am ashamed.

But the glory of empty hands is that when you finally let go of that which you should never have been holding on to in the first place, you are ready to receive the abundant blessings that God has in store for you,

And the glory of standing alone at the foot of the cross, in repentance, is that there is no buffer between you and the grace of God.

And, oh!  How that grace does flow!

Today it flowed in the form of the cardiologist telling us that the irregular reading of the EKG was not supported by the echo that they performed on Jo.  Her heart is perfect, each chamber its correct size, rhythmically performing its designed function.

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

So let me remember this.  Let this close-call scare sear its way into my heart so that I never have to hover over the edge of the fiery furnace again.  Let me have learned my lesson so that I don't have to go down this path again.

And let me wash myself in the waters of God's grace to get rid of any last smell of smoke that may be lingering.

And let me come up out of those waters not ashamed,

But with empty hands,

Lifted high.

Thank you, dear friends, for your prayers and support.  All is well with Jo and her heart.  There is no explanation for the irregular EKG reading, which was irregular once again today, but the echo showed a perfectly formed heart.  Hazel continues to get stronger every day.  She is home and back off the oxygen.  Her pneumonia is slowly clearing and her food tolerance is slowly coming back.  

God is good, all the time!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Smell of Smoke

The blood pounds in my ears.

My teeth are clenched.

I want to scream.

I want to throw something.

I want to break things just hear them shatter.

I want to pick a fight.  I want to make you mad at me so that I can isolate myself and nurse my pain.

I am tired and can't sleep.

I am angry, and have nowhere to direct my fury.

I drive too fast; I brake too hard.

My stomach churns and I want to vomit.

I haven't even gotten close to the fire, and I smell like smoke.

I bang the letters on the keyboard, forming words that will release me from this demon of fury, words that I know, in the end will wrap me back to where I belong, firm in my faith, pressing hard into His love and mercy.

But right now, I'm angry.

It was supposed to be routine.  It was supposed to be just a check to get a baseline before prescribing meds.  It was supposed to be an in-and-out, no big deal, five minute sort of thing.

But the little paper with the gash across the middle made a gash across my heart and made my world tilt at an crazy new angle.

The little lines on the paper were supposed to jog up and down in their jittery pattern uniformly across the page, but they don't.  There's one rogue line that slashes through the others and leaps out of the norm and almost off the top of the page itself.

The doctor shows me this paper and says off-handedly:

We got the results of the EKG back.  There's an irregularity.  You'll want to follow up with a cardiologist.  There's a thickening of the wall of the right side of her heart.  

I want to snatch the paper out of her hand, rip it up and throw it away.  What do you mean, lady!  There's nothing wrong with my child! You're WRONG!

I want to shout it at her, shake her, make her see it my way

But there's no point in shooting the messenger, so I calmly tuck the prescription for the follow-up exam in my handy dandy notebook, and force my feet to follow her footsteps out of her office and down the hall.  

What does this mean?

I don't know.

And part of me doesn't even want to know.  I want to keep my head in the sand and deny that this even exists.

But I can't.

As my youngest baby is upstairs coughing her way through her latest bought of pneumonia, this other child of mine, the curly haired girl who already struggles with a mood disregulation, is now stepping with me into the whole new world of cardiology.

And while her heart is the one that may be damaged,

my heart is the one that hurts.

I know from my latest Beth Moore study on the book of Daniel, that there are 3 ways to be delivered from this fire:

We can be delivered from the fire, i.e. we could find out it's nothing at all and the reading was wrong,

We can be delivered through the fire, i.e. we could find out it's something that we can manage and live with,


We can be delivered by the fire, which is a place a never want to think of going with my children.

I take a deep breath.  My heart rate slows, my blood pressure lowers, I stretch the cramps out of my fingers and I realize I've been biting my lip.

And as I stand here at the lip of the opening of the firey furnace, and I peer down into the flames, I hope and pray that we have the opportunity to just turn around and walk away from this.  I hope that the cardiologist will tell us it was all a mistake, that it all means nothing and that there are no worries.  But I know that if we are forced to make that leap into the opening of this scorching furnace, if we have to head down the path of diagnosis and treatment, we won't be the only ones walking through these flames.

I can't fight this, whatever this may be.  I can only turn the page on this new chapter in our lives, smooth the blank page,

and turn the pen over to God, and know that He will be beside us, all the way, whatever tomorrow may bring.

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Monday!

Really, Hazel Grace? That innocent look on your face doesn't fool me!

But I must say that while of course I am glad the weather is nice enough to hang the diapers out, I am ECSTATIC that I now have 2 helpers to get it done!

And Hazel IS trying to help clean up...

Friday, March 6, 2015


Sweet baby,
Oh baby of mine
Of what do you dream
In your sleep so sublime?