Monday, October 9, 2017

Seeing Shadows

Tomorrow marks 365 days without you.  No phone calls. No emails.  No messages. An empty space where you once sat.  He would clean your small apartment out, she would make phone calls to close accounts, she would make arrangements for your funeral, she would write your obituary, and they would pick you a spot close to the curb.  

We'd revisit that spot together after your passing.  The one where the doors closed behind my Mom at a medical clinic, and you'd collapse while she couldn't get back in to get help because you'd finished your appointment after hours.  She'd call 911, and start to administer CPR on her own, alone.  In the dusk hours of a poorly lit patio, the medics would come and take over for her after what seemed like a lifetime of minutes performing CPR on you.  She'd call me and tell me she was on the way to the hospital.  "What?" was all I could say.  Mom and I had just talked in the morning, and she was going to bake you pumpkin mac and cheese and you were going to spend part of fall break with her.

"She's gone," an hour later I get the call.  I am in shock.  Or grief.  Or I don't know what.  Maybe denial?  36 weeks pregnant and this is not the time for a call like this.  I cannot think of any good time for a call like this, pregnant or not.  

The last year leading up to this day had been difficult.  We'd been trying to help you get the help you needed.  You did not want help.  Fiercely independent from the get-go of life, you always had been stubborn.

I wonder if you'd find it funny that I use your can opener every day, the one Mom bought you so that you wouldn't cut your hands on tin cans.  If you would find it comforting, that I chose to remember you not for the difficult past years, but for who you are in Jesus's presence. 

 I remember once, when we were teenagers, I took you on a walk.  You didn't go on very many of those because you were always afraid of getting lost. Mobility was never one of your strong points.  We came to a curb, you hit it with your cane and held my elbow.  All the sudden, you stopped. 

I asked, "Why did you stop?" 
You said, "I can sense something there, a shadow." 
 I replied, "You can see shadows?"  
And you turned towards me and said,"I feel them blocking out the sun."  

You had learned to 'see' and 'sense' in a way that I could not.  A few feet in front of us, there was a van, blocking out the sunlight.  I would have led you around it.  But your uncertainty stopped you, being that you were used to (although you did not enjoy) running into things...walls, vacuum cleaners, toys or things you or your family left on the floor, not realizing how much of an obstacle they'd be to you.

And I trust, today, that I am the one seeing dimly through a glass, through a shadow, but you are the one who is with Jesus face to face.  If there are birthday parties in Heaven, you will be preparing for it being that you like parties, but somehow I think might be so taken with what it is like to see, to paint, to sing, to enjoy color that maybe a birthday party and gifts would not be such a big thing.

We miss you, dear sister.  But we do not wish you back.  We miss you, but we do not miss seeing you suffer and being totally unable to help.  We miss you, but trust that He can hold you until we meet again.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Sunday

Resurrection. Hope. Life. Control. The last time I was sick and felt like this I had a flight to catch, a Mom to hold and cry with,  and a graveside to stand by.  All of that seemed to overshadow the fact that I'd developed cholestatsis, other than the all-over body itch.  "There is joy in new birth, " they comforted.  But how do you give birth under the shadow of death?  When the heart is sad there is only one consolation.

"We sorrow not as those that have no hope," it says.  Sorrow can shake the bones, but it cannot not fracture faith.  It reaches to that part of the heart where we can push grief and hide it.  Activities can only cloud grief for a time.  It lessens and fades, but there are times when it comes roaring back, undiminished in it's fierceness.  Especially birthdays and holidays.  Though I would not wish my sister back with all her struggles, Easter and resurrection have special meaning to me this year.

The first time after the funeral back with the body of Christ, I could not contain my tears.  The songs about resurrection and death defeated barely croaked out as tears ran down my cheeks.  As I held my baby in my arms last night, I remember singing them over her and praying for her life while simultaneously worrying about labor and induction. The past few months have blurred that with the colic and night wakings.  But it does good to remember the Giver and Taker gives good gifts, and He can be trusted with life, and with death.

He, who with death conquered our sin and invites us to inherit his Kingdom.  He, who promises to resurrect our bodies and give us new ones that are not tainted by sin.  He, who is making and promises to make all things new.  He is risen!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fragile Yet Cradled

He hand paints sunsets for us, his brush all aglow with light from the sun. The wind shakes the leaves from the trees and small yellow hearts fall through the air, cascading towards the ground. My feet pound the black pavement in rhythm as I push the baby stroller as evening wraps around us slowly shrouding the sky in grey that will turn to night before me. I watch these scenes unfold before me, as my baby sleeps. She squirms and pushes her hands around her mouth, and settles again. I don't get out much like this anymore since I've become responsible for other little people. But I long to see this---that hand print of God in creation, the evidence that He is real, He is there.

The morning we talked of the boy's Christmas presents I'd been working on with my Mom since July was strangely, the day when I would begin to feel it: the all-over itch and evidence that something wasn't quite right. Yet I'd already canceled my OB appointment on Friday since I had come down with a cold. That same evening, I'd get a call saying she was gone. I'd sit in shock wondering why I couldn't cry, why the tears wouldn't come, and wondering if it was really true. If a cat had nine lives, Rachel had eleven. She survived a very difficult pregnancy and was born at twenty one weeks and several difficult and intensive surgeries. The next morning I'd call the doctor because of the itch and because I needed to travel at 33 weeks pregnant.

“You don't want to see her,” he told me. “I've seen lots of dead people. Remember her as she was, as she was in her good days. If you look and see her now you will always remember that and that isn't who she was,” my firefighter brother warned me. And so I decided to remember her for who she was, who she is now, which is nothing like what she had been in the last 15 years.

While helping write her obituary, I am able to cry about who she is in the presence of Jesus and how she is living, holding my brother, and welcomed by my Grandparents. Her lungs, windpipe, eyes, legs and brain all perfectly healed. She is able to understand things she couldn't on earth. She is no longer broken. The gospel eliminates no one from understanding God's love for us. The weak ones, the rich, the strong, the poor all meet together as the status quo that our world defines is totally and completely annihilated.

Nothing prepares one for standing over the casket of a younger sibling. Her guide dog sniffs the casket, we look at pictures, remember funny (and fond) things. We watched it be lowered into the ground, and I remember her as the sister who would love to sit in my lap and be read to. No, I would not wish her back. I know she still is, that she has not ceased in her being. My grief is that I will see her no more on this side of Heaven. Eyes have not seen, and ears have not heard all the wonderful things He has prepared for us. Her fragile little life wrapped and held in the Father's hands.

I come home to phone calls and answers, the kind no one really wants to get. “You've developed cholestasis of pregnancy, and the doctor will have to deliver at 36 weeks. We'd like to schedule it now.” I choke out a “What?” and the tears come from lack of sleep and disappointment, and I put it off by telling them I need to consult my husband. I know what this means for my baby and for me. My womb has become a unhospitable place for her and to keep her in would not mean keeping her safe. There is the possibility of a NICU stay, and for the next 3 weeks the baby and I are monitored 3 times a week. I know my baby and I are held in the Hands of Him who created the universe, who breathed life into that first Adam, and sent the second so that I might know the power of the Gospel, the love of a God who would bridge time and space to bring all men to himself. Our fragility is cradled by Him who holds and gives life into all things.

There is an induced difficult labor and delivery, and loud cries when the baby meets the air. I know we will not have a NICU stay when I hear her and after the last three weeks I'm incredibly grateful. I don't get to see this very often, but I long to see it, the handprint of God in creation, the evidence that He is there. I am held even as I gently fold my baby against my chest, her chest rising against mine as she takes her breath into her lungs.

We don't get to chose how we die, but we do get to choose how we will live. He gives and He takes, and His name is blessed. It's the in between time of life, when we are stuck living and being that we get to choose whether to bless or curse His name, to live and believe that what He has said is true—-He is relentless in His pursuit of us, and loves us with an unstoppable love. And still, my heart comes back to 'In life in death oh God, abide with me.” There have been times I have been mad, but I have never been able to walk away from the God who has held me in my pain, comforted me in my sorrow, and loved me before I loved Him. In my own brokenness, He has and continues to cradle me in joy and sorrow.

I will not chose to walk away, but walk with Him as I see Him paint his glory in creation, bear witness to His tender love and miracles in life and birth, and His unrelenting love and mercy in death.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Edges of possibility. Boundaries.  Lines.  Call it what you'd like to call it.

"The problem I think you are having," I said after thinking about it for about a week, "is limits."
I began to explain what had become clear to me after some thinking.  "It is what we all feel at one time or another.   We want to have more time.  We want to have more money.  We want to have more to give.  We want to have nice things.  We want a clean bill of health with no problems. But somewhere in this great abyss of wanting, there is a realization that there has to be some limit to it."  Even the super rich end up bouncing off the edge of possibility in one way or another looking for a higher high and something more.

In this world we want to be able to have a full experience. However, we are limited by time, by money, by jobs, by health, and by resources.  We are constantly having to choose which way that we will invest in the future, but the present and the choices we make today in some way limits the future. Really, we are longing for an eternity with no limits on time, money, work, health or possessions.  We are looking for something beyond ourselves, beyond what this life can offer.

When He entered the world, He became limited.  He, the God of the universe became a man. He experienced the everyday struggles of being limited.   Contentment is wrapped up in thanksgiving tied as a living gift.  What we have in this life will never be enough.  The beauty is that Jesus directs our hearts towards what we have in Him, and toward contentment in the imperfect.  My boys leave a mess behind them as they go, but nothing brings me more joy that doing life with them, watching them grow and learn. He knows we are the same---the mistakes we make, the things we try to learn---yet we are ever reaching for Him in dependence, and this brings His heart great joy.  He doesn't expect us to be perfect. 

 Jesus made a way for us to experience eternity.  We will be able to do those things that we long to with no limits.  We will be with Him, and He will be our joy.  God with us, Emmanuel.  In sorrow, in joy.  In comfort, in sadness.  In hope, in discouragement.  In sickness and health.  He entered this world and became a man.  That is the hope of Christmas.  That is the hope of life.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Balance

Whenever I blog, there are two main thoughts I have after I have hit publish, or before I delete the entire work.  One, have I over shared?  Am I at risk of putting myself way too much out there?  Does it seem like I'm too into myself and my life? And two, is this my story to share and is now the time to share it?  Can I do justice to this story, or is it best left buried?  Is it lost treasure there in the ground, or is it just really a pile of garbage that needs to be buried and disintegrate back into dirt?

Maybe this doesn't resonate with you.  That's fine.  Anne Lamott so aptly describes this whole battle of the worth of one's writing---is it something worth keeping, what will people say, should I even share, don't tear me apart in the sharing....anyone who has written knows that a writer usually has some sort of feelings attached to their work.  In other words, it takes a special friend to share the writing with.  Not everyone will be able to give feedback that the writer can take, process, and become better from.  One night I will write something that moves me to tears, and the next day, show it to someone else who does not see what I see.  It is like letting a deer run in the forest during hunting season hoping that the hunters don't shoot.  

This is one of the reasons I haven't written here so long.  I haven't known what to write.  And when I have known what I've wanted to write, I've felt the timing hasn't been right, or the story hasn't been mine to share.    Some of it may be better left for now.

There are situations we walk through in life that make us change.  The vulnerability we feel during these times can only be shared with some people.  It makes us human, yes, but at the same time, it makes one feel completely and utterly exposed.  Brene Brown talks about this in her book, Daring Greatly.  When she went on stage to share that TED talk, she almost wanted to talk herself out of it because she felt 'naked' (her own words) before so many people.

I will say this---in the last two years, I've run the gamut of sadness, anger, tiredness.  Of pain and release.  Forgiveness.  But I haven't known how to blog about the real as I've walked through it because I've been busy just trying to survive.   I'd like to say that I've come out of that season, that it is done with.  But the honest truth is I'm not sure I'll heal from that season.  If Jesus still bears in His body the scars, can I not be expected to also have some scars?  I want the healing.  I want it now, and for it not to hurt anymore.  Pulling against that is the balance, the strength of His love for me and that I am held.  

He's still writing my story.  That's the balance.   He can be trusted with the segments that I'd rather rewrite to come out more nicely.  He can deal with my messy.  He loves me.  That is enough.

Are you walking through a hard patch, friend, where words go silent?
Take heart.  He loves you.  He can deal with your messy, too.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Long Expected (In Celebration of Advent)

Come. As the mother great with child waits the nine months, she whispers or groans or yells in her last few moments before she becomes a mother. Come, baby who I've been waiting for who I have been expecting. Come, child that has inhabited my womb and expanded my heart. I'm waiting for you. Nine months is a long time to wait when you can't keep down any food. Nine months is an eternity when your back hurts and your hips ache. Nine months is a long time to wait to meet a little person who is part of you but who is uniquely themselves. Come.

Sweet baby, we look over you and we think of what you will face in your lifetime. We think about how you must grow to stand tall, learn to be a man, and face a world that is unkind to innocence, that in a blink would rip your innocence away. We will protect you lovingly, and teach you along the way. We want to see you grow up and watch you mature.

Come. The world has been waiting for thousands of years, we groan in our waiting that is yet to be realized. Come, Deliverer who has been promised and foretold. Come, Savior who we have heard of and believed in though we haven't yet seen. We're waiting for you. Years of waiting seems like an eternity when creation groans under the weight of sin. A thousand years is a long time to wait for a Savior who is God, a Savior who Has a rescue plan for us. Come.

Sweet baby Jesus. You came, you knew what you would see in your life. You knew you would face a world unkind and unloving. You entered and dined with people who were sinners without expecting them to change. You loved. You grew to be a man, and then gave up your life willingly in the greatest rescue plan ever. Come, long expected Jesus. You were born to set us free, and to bring us back into relationship with yourself.

Come and teach me of Your love.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Silent Song

"I can't sing that song without crying,"he says.
"Really?  Which part," she asks as she tries to remember.
"The part that says,  
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I fly to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee,
he answers.
She draws a breath and asks, "Why?"
"Lung cancer, fleeting breath, flying, too many memories of our friend yet still too fresh."

 There is something about true friendship, the kind that kindles the faith, asks the hard questions, and still trusts a God who cares in the midst of sorrow. We live, and love people who like ourselves are mortal.  And yet, the left behind here on the earth cannot but miss those who go, who fly before us.  Oh hide us, Rock, hide us.  In You we find our eternal hope.  

So he stands quiet while silent tears fill his eyes.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...