March 26, 2012

The Bright Side

We didn't celebrate my birthday this year. Plans of a quiet dinner were tossed aside somewhere during the wee hours of the morning in the hospital waiting room. The Reese's Cheesecake I'd ordered waited in the fridge. Doctors, decisions, and arrangements filled my mind, crowding out any thoughts of a happy day.

Still, my birthday had come and there were presents to be opened.  And so, in the quiet of the evening after Mama's funeral, I finally opened them.

To feed my inner Brit:

~Downton Abbey: Season 1 and Downton Abbey: Season 2

~Emma (2009 BBC Version)

~Sense & Sensibility

And music to soothe the savage breast:

~Ella & Louis

~Very Best of Diana Krall

These wonderful gifts have brought much-needed bright spots and made me smile.

I continue to be uplifted by your prayers, sweet words of encouragement, and God's grace.

March 22, 2012


Nearly three weeks ago, my husband dropped our daughter off at my parents. Several hours later, she called in tears. She'd found Mama unresponsive in the bedroom.

And so began the longest two weeks of my life.

Even in those first hours, I could see His grace upon grace.  Living only 10 minutes from my parents, and reaching the house before the EMTs whisked Mama away. A dear friend coming in to the ER, although she wasn't scheduled to work. Strength to stay awake all night with my Dad and my sister, as we waited for test results. Clarity of mind to make decisions.

Mama was transported to a large hospital over an hour away. During the days that followed, I was blessed with friends nearby who opened their home, friends who prayed, friends who provided meals for my family.  A boss who understood I needed to be with Mama. Traveling mercies on those journeys. An amazing staff of doctors and nurses who worked tirelessly to restore Mama to health. R reminded me that we needed to renew our efforts to share the gospel with Mama.

We will, I promised myself.

She spent much of that first week in and out of consciousness. One afternoon, I received a text from my former pastor asking if he could visit Mama. Unsure of how she would receive his visit, I nearly brushed him off.  One seemingly inconsequential decision can change a life forever. Instead, I explained that she was heavily sedated and I'd keep him posted. In all the comings and goings to the hospital and trying to maintain my life at home, I forgot.  He didn't.

I just left your mom.

The cell phone static couldn't conceal his excitement. She'd asked him to pray for her before he could even offer. She joined in, her voice still scratchy and wobbly from the intubation, praising the Lord for her physical healing.  I was stunned.

The next afternoon, the doctors told my Dad they were transferring her out of ICU as soon as a room became available.  I drove up the next morning, wondering if they had moved her yet. They hadn't. In fact, complications the night before meant yet another procedure. The doctors explained it to me as Mama nervously listened. She didn't want to do it. She was frightened of the risks. I encouraged her to rest while we waited, but she couldn't. She told everyone who came into the room that the next day was my birthday. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the preparations, we talked about the year I was born -- how cold it was and how quickly I came. We remembered the start of our life together. The doctor explained that she'd be intubated again until that evening. I promised to stay until the procedure was finished, to visit even though she wouldn't be able to speak.  I clasped her hands and prayed over her while the medical staff hovered. Tears moistened my eyes as I heard Mama's weak voice once again praising the Lord for all He'd done. I had to leave before I could explain the gospel.

I left to call Dad and my sister, to tell them about this latest bump in the road. I was bone weary with waiting by the time the nurse came. Everything went smoothly. Surprisingly, they had removed the tube.  Mama was alert, different. I told her we'd made the right decision as she gripped my hand. She was so tired, but reluctant for me to leave. I knew she wouldn't get the rest she needed so badly as long as I was there. I told her I loved her and headed for the door. She couldn't stop talking to me. I tried to leave several times, only to hear her call me back.

Be careful.

Tell R & CJ I love them.

Tell them thank you for praying.

Be sure to check on your Dad.

Tell S (my former pastor) to come back if he can. I'd love to see him again.

I walked to her bedside one last time, promising to be back in a couple of days. I kissed her hand, told her how much I loved her, told myself there would be time to share the gospel on my next visit, and left.

I didn't know that we'd be called back to the hospital a few hours later, that we'd sit together all night as Mama endured emergency surgery, or that we'd soon be gathered around a conference table listening to a doctor tell us that Mama would never leave the ICU. How long she would be there was up to us.

I didn't know I'd say goodbye to Mama on my birthday.

It was R who reminded me of the date, and suggested we ask the doctors to keep her alive until after midnight. They weren't sure she'd make it, and that was okay. But Mama was a fighter. She slipped away 33 minutes after my birthday was officially done. Her final gift to me.

I have thought much about my last visit, what I would change if I could.  Still, as we begin a new life without her, I am at peace that she has begun a new life in Heaven. I witnessed the change in her heart on my last visit. I can still hear her voice saying, "Yes, Lord." while I prayed over her. Evidences of the Holy Spirit's workings. I don't know if she knew exactly how to pray, but the Lord has reminded me of His promise in Romans 8:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~Romans 8:26-27

I cling to that hope for Mama's eternal life, and for my earthly one.

March 15, 2012

Double Fours

It was unusually cold that year. Ice was so heavy on the trees, they were nearly doubled over.

I've heard Mom tell the story a hundred times at least. I've thought of it often this year, clinging to the hope that Winter could still arrive. Instead, Spring blew in early and dug in deep.

This year, I celebrate 44 with a sort of melancholy. Not because I'm getting older, although I am. Not because I'm so far from being the woman I want to be, although this, too, is true. Not because life isn't brimming with grace and many wonderful things, because it is. My heart has been too prone to fixate on the few things that aren't so wonderful, to keep me a muttering malcontent. I too easily forget that there is grace upon grace.

And so I choose today to give thanks.  To remind myself of my blessings and the Giver of them all.

1.   Salvation through Christ alone
2.   His Word
3.   His grace
4.   His patience
5.   The love of a steady & faithful Christian man
6.   The way he makes me laugh
7.   Dancing with him in the living room
8.   Our friendship
9.   A girl who still calls me Mommy from time to time (when no one else is listening)
10. Her giggles
11. A sanctuary to call home
12. Friends who love me unconditionally
13. Parents who do the same
14. Books
15. Chocolate
16. Hot tea
17. Coffee
18. Sweet iced tea
19. A pantry and multiple freezers full of food
20. My health
21. A group of iron-sharpening women from all over the world
22. Technology that allows for #21
23. Music
24. Quilts
25. My cell phone
26. Homemade bread
27. Cooking side-by-side with my daughter
27. My husband's green thumb
28. Living 10 minutes away from my parents, my sister, and my husband's brother
29. Flannel sheets
30. Appliances, big and small
31. The sound of my Mom's voice
32. Prayer
33. Creamline milk
34. Homemade ice cream
35. Long talks with my man
36. The steadiness of a routine
37. The unexpected pleasures of breaking the routine
38. The library
39. My job
40. My husband's job
41. My girl's dreams
42. God's sovereignty
43. The prayers of His saints
44. New mercies every morning

Forty-four bits of my life, some much more mundane than others.  Yet all have been woven together into a rich tapestry of days that evidence the overwhelming goodness of God.  As I head into my 45th year, I pray I will not easily forget how truly amazing He is.

March 2, 2012

Around the House: March

Days grow longer. Jonquils bloom buttery yellow. Temperatures are all over the map.  Signs of Spring's imminent arrival surround me.  In this month of springing forward and celebrating another year of life, I am

Finding delight in reading The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Stretching my mind by listening to The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.

Preparing my heart by studying Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter and In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement.

Nourishing my soul by planning this year's garden.

Praising the Lord for a husband who will tend the garden.

And for the growth He's bringing about in my daughter's life. 

Learning something new by watching my girl play field hockey.

Sensitizing my conscience by carefully considering my media choices.

Grappling with my sinful soul and daily seeking His grace.

And continuing to watch...