Monday, May 16, 2011

in the boat

it was last night sitting over emptied supper dishes when i began to see the fear creep back into the eyes of my children.  all of a sudden our final weekend was finished and as we shifted plates from table to sink we could not ignore the fact that only week days stood between all of us and my surgery.  in our house we know just how quickly those week days can go.  sometimes we blink and it is friday.  i'm afraid this is no exaggeration.  

plates to soapy water.  silverware piled high.  we sat ourselves back down at the half-cleared, crumb-covered table and began our let's-look-ahead talk.   rick and i didn't want to overwhelm the kids with details, but it was time to start laying out the framework of what to expect. we wanted to give them some of the information.  some of the plan.  we wanted to allow the children to ask some of their many, many questions.   we talked this dirty business over dirty dishes in an after-dinner, dirty kitchen.  our stomachs full,  our hearts heavy, but our heads light.  untethered --  liable to float right out of this surreal conversation at any moment.  it seemed only the weight of our simple supper held us loosely in our chairs.

the past week or so we have come closer to normal.  appointments slowed down.  mom cooked dinner.  not quite as many phone calls and messages and cards arriving.  our shell-shocked faces smoothed and softened.  the children stopped tip-toeing around me.  i even started wearing mascara again.  things were just calmer. steadier. but last night i could see fear hovering around the edges of their eyes...their faces...their questions.  palpable.  all along we have been using great amounts of humor.  it has been our coping mechanism.  but last night we had too much to discuss and there wasn't much space left for anything light.  it was time to be clear.  it was time to bring a bit of order to this cancer mess.  seven of us sitting around wooden oval in a dirty kitchen on a sunday evening. 

rick and i took turns trying to explain this coming week.  next weekend.  the week following.  appointments.  schedules.  rides.  sleepovers. meals.  they all listened intently.  except for bella.  oh to be bella right now!  gloriously unaware in her three year old world.   she hopped around the table... singing and dancing and putting on her evening after-dinner show.  happily oblivious.  joyful as always.  the rest of the kids listening hard. serious focus.  sarah just wanted to know when she would be able to see me after the surgery -- who she played with and what she ate seemed unimportant to my 11 year old tender hearted girl.  but seeing her mom post-surgery was everything.  it was her only question.  "when? but when can i see you, mama?"  the rest of the kids had some questions.  but not many.  they were terrifically somber.  as we ended our time together in prayer it was everything i could do to keep myself from crying.  face and eyes and teeth clenched hard against hot tears.   the kids have seen the many tears of this mother's.  oh, yes.   i think it healthy for them to see.  it is okay.  they witness my anger and my joy and my disbelief and my frustration in is okay for them to witness some tears.  once in awhile.   but tonight was different.  i knew it was time to hold tight against the torrent.  we were all too raw and bedtime was all too close and everything, yes, everything, felt too fragile.  we were less than a week away. the ugly countdown had begun.

but it was an hour or so afterwards, hearing emily gather together her younger siblings, when i could hold back no longer.    she, fifteen and determined,  assembled them in the living room with a plan.  "i have a plan, guys," she explained.  "every night before bed, let's all get together and pray for mom and her surgery. i think that's what we should do."  as i worked at my desk in the office nearby, i could hear their whispered words mingling together.   words sweet as honey to my mother-ears.  so thankful for the coming together of children.  heads bowed low.  so thankful for the gathering of their hands and their hearts in something other than brother-wrestling and trampoline tricks.  but heartbreaking too.  bittersweet knowing the pain and fear in their trembling voices which cause them cling.  to each other.  to Jesus.  this has been my prayer from the start of this unwanted-awfulness:  my children growing closer to Him.  softer hearts.  tender spirits.  tighter grasp.  deeper depth.  i know my God will not waste this.  He uses every bit of this pain.  every ounce of the fear will be used.  transformed into something good.  it will smooth rough edges...soften hard hearts...break footholds...humble pride...sift sinners.  it will.  He will.   and that is what makes it possible tonight.  possible for me on this monday evening to tuck five children into beds and hear their prayers,  kiss their young cheeks and walk out of their rooms.  it makes it possible for me to look into this dark night and feel peace.  a week day already coming to a close.

don't get me wrong, i will have my moment this week.  oh, you can be sure.   it may be while packing my bag for the hospital.  it may be while kissing the children goodbye.  it may, very well, be something as simple as pouring milk in a cup.  i don't know.  but i am sure there will be a moment or many moments when my hands will shake and my mouth will go dry and my stomach will churn.  i am sure of it.  because even with peace and hope...i am human.  i am a woman who wants to soften the blow to herself and her loved ones.  i want to pull a blanket over all of us and wake up to a new morning.  brighter. gentler.   i am afraid, like my children, of how hard this storm might be.  will be. already is.

this fear makes me think of the disciples in the boat.   Jesus was right there with them.  they could see Him.  but He was sleeping.  and the storm came violently.  Jesus slept.  His head on a cushion.  they sat there in His very presence trembling.   ringing hands and shaking shoulders and fear overwhelming these men.  grown men.  strong men.  these followers of Christ.  these disciples.  fear.  incredible fear.  and even with Jesus in the same arm's reach away...they were terrified.   of course my kids are afraid.  my husband afraid.  i am afraid.   but Jesus woke and with three little words brought incredible calm, "quiet! be still!"... it says in mark, "then the wind died down and it was completely calm."  (mark 4:38).   on this monday night before my surgery, i am unsure as to what the wind will do....but so certain Jesus has those same three words for our family.  He is in the boat. right with us.  closer than an arm's reach away.  we need only listen to His voice in the storm.  praying we will hear His voice in this storm.  quiet.  be still.  

in my dish-dirty kitchen there hangs a sign.  i can see it from my seat at our oval table.  it sits just above the kitchen desk.  the desk which is also laden with mess of busy living:   papers to sign.  bills to pay.  piles to file.  a piece of string.  sticks of gum.  dull tipped pencils.  spools of ribbon. a fishing lure.  summer reading books.   signs of life.
black and white the words read:

p e a c e
    it does not mean to be in a place
   where there is no noise, trouble
  or hard work.  it means to be in
      the midst of those things and still
            be calm in your heart.


the source of that quote is unknown...  (or so says the sign hanging above my desk).   but, tonight i know with confidence...
Jesus is in the midst of this mess.  
He is in my kitchen.  
He is in this storm.  

Jesus is in the boat. 


Simply LKJ said...

You and the family continue to be in our prayers.
Lauren, Mark and Katie

Aus said...

If you can keep it to one moment - well - you are WAY stronger than me!!

We're lovin on all you guys Jody - your in our hearts and prayers!

hugs - aus and co.

Tiffany said...

I love this Jody. When my mom had breast was a different time...25 years ago. My parents did the best they knew how to do, but they did not handle it well with us...the kids. I longed for more openness, more information...but there was an unwillingness to share and that left me with a lot of fear. It is hard to watch your kids suffer - but this way that you are sharing with is wonderful and they will be so grateful that you were open and hard as it may be.