Friday, April 29, 2011

abide

i stood in my son's room folding grey t-shirts.   laundry.   sweet smelling warmth.  fold.  crease.  smooth.  stack.  clean heat held in tired hands.   i am not a woman who especially loves laundry.  perhaps it is the overflow...or maybe it is the constant flow.  i am sure it is in the never done.  the never ending.  and in the always coming.  i turn my back for a quick moment...just long enough to plop a toddler in a tub or throw a roast in the oven and the pile grows large.  staggering.  who are all these people wearing all this clothing?  it seems we have seventy not seven living under our roof.  my machines are big and highly efficient...even digital.  but they are always, always running.  the only time they seem to pause with quiet  is when there are multiple showers going.  other than that...they could run without ceasing and we'd still have something dirty stashed somewhere.  and, i have to confess,  i am not gifted in this area.  really. truly.  i don't do laundry, i attack laundry.  i have been know to throw great, big heaps of foul smelling clothing into the mouth of this steel machine with no regard for color or fabric.  appalling, i am sure.  i also have been seen taking those same prodigious loads out of the cavernous heat and leaving them in wicker baskets for days....or just piling it all on my bed until night comes and then flinging the great mass recklessly to the floor at the tired midnight hour.  shocking.  i am sorry.  but this happens in my home.  i have no tender touch when it comes to this monumental-always-mulitplying-task.  i launder our clothes in desperate fashion:  scoop.  shove.  bang.  dump.  and then, of course, sometimes, on occasion, even fling.


i am not without laundry role models.  my mother is one of them.  she is a woman without an ipod or a laptop, but whose backyard has always boasted a clothes line.  i have watched this woman attach pillowcases with wooden pins in the dead of  an ohio winter.  i am sure at the top of her favorite things list are bed sheets dried in sunshine.  i have even wondered if there is no greater joy for my mother.  i feel accomplished when, on occasion, i throw in a downy fabric sheet.  it doesn't come close to the sunny smell of my mother's bedding however.  i have found this, at times, inefficient and frustrating.    there were evenings when i'd return from a long day of school and basketball practice only to find my sheets flapping out in the moonlight.  as a 16 year old i wasn't concerned much with the sun-basked fragrance, i only wanted a bed to climb into.   my mother was right to care about this though.  yes, there, i said it.   i want to be that way soon.  i want to hang sheets in the georgia sun and take pleasure from the sharp creases stacked inside  brown wicker.   this practice speaks of time.  it speaks of dedication to the ordinary. to the simple.  it is taking time to do something right.  to do it well, and perhaps, to do it with pleasure.

so there i was standing quietly in my son's basement bedroom over a basket of what he wears:  school uniforms, athletic shorts and an impressive pile of grey t-shirts.   all of his hangers adult sized now.  his t-shirts no longer tiny.  i have been folding this boys' clothing for almost 14 years.   long gone the baby blue.  long gone the trains and trucks.   oh my...as a mother i held these boy-teen items and realized how thankful i was to be standing right here.  right now...simply holding.  and as i held something changed.  i began to carefully crease each t-shirt.  fold each short.  match corners and ends.  smooth. tuck. my piles were a work of art.  there would be no flinging today.  i was privileged to stand in my boy's room and hold dryer warm cotton.  i was privileged. 


this week i have found myself in the middle of these kinds of moments.  they have happened in the laundry room and at the dinner table.  they have occurred at bath time and bed time.  when my health became questionable, the eyes of my  heart became clearer.  all these things...all these common, everyday, ordinary things...all these tasks and chores and have-to-dos became so quickly precious.  they became gifts -  metamorphosing from tasks to treasures.  i know there may be a day when i will have to lean on others to wash and wipe and fold.  there may be a day when my hands cannot do what needs doing.  even if it be,  just for a while.  i'll be honest, it worries me.  i have laid awake at night wondering how a family with five children will survive a period of time without a fully functioning mother.   i don't mean to get ahead of the game, but if you had five children you'd have to wonder too.  trust me on this.  as i was adding the final shirt to the pile, i noticed a word in red across the grey shoulder of my son's shirt.  abide.


abide.  it was the t-shirt on top of the pile.   a t-shirt tyler had gotten at a youth retreat last year.  abide.  i read the word, but thought of the phrase, "abide in me."  i could almost hear my name attached.  "abide in me, jody."  abide in me for the laundry and the lunches.  abide in me for the washing of windows and hands and countertops.  abide in me for the scrubbing of faces and feet and floors.  abide.  abide in me jody.  abide.  dwell.  stay.  connect.  "i am the vine you are the branches;  he who abides in me and i in him, he bears much fruit.  apart from me you can do nothing." (john 15:5)  nothing.  it sunk in.  nothing.   everything i have already done...been doing...it is from Him.  it is All From Him.    this is not about the cancer.  this is about the living.  the daily breath He has been providing all along.  i have been fooling myself in believing  my hands capable and controlling.  Every Thing has always been from Him and Every Thing will always be from Him.  we think ourselves too able.  that is it.  at least that is it for me.   when life is good and health is full i whirl around in a cloud of my own capability...but it is foolishness.   each and every breath is decided by the Creator and Sustainer of all.  He gives and He takes away...and Blessed be His name.  this may not strike a peaceful chord for you right now.  but it does for me.  i have spent some considerable time this week worried about the day when i will have to be dependent...when my children will have to be dependent...i just haven't been able to remove that from my weakness.  i have worried.  but then i folded the final grey t-shirt and i read the word in red, abide.  in the taking time with my laundry, i found a word from my Jesus, a reminder in this most ordinary task.  i found a much needed directive and a crucial instruction.  abide.


this words reminds me of  an old hymn -  like circa 1847 old.  written by a man named henry francis lyte.  he wrote this while he lay dying of tuberculosis.  now, i hesitate to even  put that information in this post.  i, want to be clear here....in no way do i think myself dying.  i am living with breast cancer.  and i am fighting it.   i may take advantage of the situation and lay around blogging....but i am certainly not going to be writing ancient hymns on death beds.  nonetheless, these 19th century lyrics connect with me even in my 2011,  and i wanted to share:


Abide With Me 

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;





Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.


and that's it.  abiding with Christ in health and in the not so good health.  abiding in Christ in the ordinary and in the extraordinary.  how in need i was of that reminder.  how thankful i am for that remembering.   it is not easy, but can i believe it might be good to consider how incapable my hands are.  i'll be honest,  it makes me uncomfortable.  but i want to abide.  i know in all of this i will need to abide.  whether or not i ever hang sheets in the sunshine is yet to be seen,  but in the meantime, i will abide.  abide.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

easter baskets and ikea

i had been dreading easter weekend.  after being ripped wide with the news of  cancer on tuesday, the last thing i felt like thinking about on thursday were easter basket doo-dads and plastic eggs. it just wouldn't register. nothing in my life felt pastel at the moment.  everything was still hot and bright and blaring.  electric-loud and jarring.  but somehow, on thursday morning, i managed to wander numbly through the picked over aisles of target and place shiny trinkets in my cart.  i wasn't even sure what those trinkets were.  just stuff.  stuff to stuff baskets and and stuff to stuff empty eggs.  stuff which suddenly had lost its charm.  just stuff.  i tried to make lists of things we needed to do.  things to get.  things to buy.  but nothing much made sense. i left the store quickly.  once home, i was happy to find an egg coloring kit leftover from last easter on a dusty shelf in my basement.   i hadn't thought about that either.  but we would at least color eggs...at least.


friday dawned.   Good Friday.  grey and rainy.  perfect, i thought.  Lord, can i just stay in my pajamas and skip this day?  we had yet to tell tyler.   he had been away all week.  telling him was at the top of my list and i wanted nothing more than to crumple up that list and throw it far away.  pretend. pretend. pretend that list belonged to someone else.  pretend i didn't have a clue what all the fuss was about.  pretend. pretend.  instead the day passed and the time came and i headed out to meet his bus.  instead i sat him on a couch and looked him in the eyes.  instead i held  his hand tightly and spilled out the words uneloquently.  instead i watched the face of my brave boy crumple.  there was no pretending.  not really.  he was the last in our family to know.  the telling hadn't gotten easier.


we kept ourselves busy all weekend.  attempted to keep things calm and normal.  even made a weak attempt at cheerful. saturday morning we had to make a decision over a piece of furniture at ikea.  the kids and rick kept asking my opinion.  it was everything i could do to hold back from yelling, "i don't really care."  now,  had those words actually come spewing out of this mother's mouth, i am telling you my entire family would have fallen to the floor in great moaning heaps of fear. mom not care about a piece of furniture?  are you kidding me? mom loves furniture. she always cares about the height and depth and color of a bookshelf.  that would have been it  -  i would have had all six of them crying violently on swedish couches.  so off i went again pretending to care mightily about the book-shelf-thingy we were purchasing for tyler's room.  pretending that i really did prefer the brushed walnut finish to the ebony. but i stood there blankly.   while we are on the subject of furniture,  i have to tell you what my funny friend beverly said to me last week.  first of all, you need to know beverly was diagnosed with breast cancer one month before me.  she had her major surgery the same week i was going through all the crazy diagnostic stuff....in fact, i was standing in her front yard when i received word from my doctor.   (how's that for a little context? maybe some day this will all make sense).   anyway, she is just so funny.  even in the midst of both of us pinnned under this bulging rock of cancer, she remains funny. she called me one morning after my diagnosis.  without even saying hello, she said to me, "you know, this is a really good time to ask for new furniture."   seriously.  she meant it.   what husband is going to say no to his breast cancer riddled wife.  i mean there isn't a whole lot to laugh about right now, but that was pretty funny.  and as i roamed the massive aisles at ikea on saturday i kind of played with the idea.  flirted just a little with plopping down on something new and wonderful and unncessary and pleading my need for the comfort of new furniture.  i thought about it....but i have to tell you, i truly didn't care.  that was just the place of my heart on that saturday morning.  that place of in between.  heartbroken and in need of healing.  kind of numb. 
how strange to be at this place of numb on easter weekend.  easter was about living and life and growth and birth.   i thought about how Jesus' disciples and followers and all of His marys must have felt on that day between the cross and the empty tomb.  i realize they weren't thinking about swedish furniture, but surely they must have been somewhere, doing something to keep their hands and their minds and themselves busy.  surely they must have stirring some kind of soup or sweeping a floor or slamming a hammer or washing someone's dusty feet.   surely.  their Lord was just taken from them.  they had just watched their Jesus die a painful death upon a splintered cross.  the world went dark. completely. the earth trembled. violently.   their Jesus was gone.  they left their hope on a hill outside a city...and it stayed there mixing with the very blood of their sinless, perfect, precious Jesus.  how could tihs happen? how could God possibly be in it?


so that was saturday.  the day in between.  the day of pretend.  the day of keep busy.  the day of numb.  the day of asking where-has-my-God-gone?  by the time we had selected the furniture and jammed it into our overcrowded vehicle, i was done.  we had plans to head to the horse farm and a movie and...and... and... and...but i was done.  i asked the family to drop me home.  i couldn't keep going.  the numb was starting to burn in the back of my throat and the fear was beginning to creep back in and boil over my insides.  i could taste it.  feel it.  hear it coming.  and i wanted only to bury my head between the white pillows of my bed.  i knew i would need to dig out baskets and eggs and candies and clean shoes and all those doo-dads sitting prettily in target bags. and i knew it would take everything left in me on this day. and there just wasn't much left.




sunday morning dawned.  the sun was shining.  a perfect easter.  i was ready to put on my face of pretend.  i was ready to step back into my shoes of numb.  but somewhere along the way...somewhere within that morning something changed.  i am not really sure what.  i wish i could tell you exactly when and how.  it might have been the morning sun peeking through my woods out back.  it might have been the sleeping children in the rooms upstairs.  it may have been my morning devotion and coffee and kiss from my husband.  i certainly felt a trickle of joy when i watched bella line up all of the ceramic rabbits in an easter parade on our kitchen floor (didn't realize i had quite so many rabbits sitting around, by the way).  i felt another deep prick of joy as i watched the children come rushing to the car on our way to church.  they came beautiful. there was a day when i thought easter bonnets and white patent leather and just the right flounce of a dress was important...especially on easter.  things have changed.   i wasn't especially worried about their clothing choices this easter sunday.  but i looked at their lovely, young faces and i was overwhelmed with their fresh beauty.  their beauty even after such a disasterous week.  they came with clear eyes and bright smiles and helping hands.  it was all i could do to not sit and stare at them all the way to church. 


and then finally there was worship.  and with the first note of the first song, i felt the numb begin to melt.  i felt the cold clutch of fear begin to shake loose.   i held bella in my arms and we sang together.  i felt my throat open wide and my heart open wide and my hands open wide.  wide open.  i stood there in the midst of praise music and all of this jubilant easter celebration and i took hold of my Risen Savior.  no, maybe He was taking hold of me.  i am not sure, but i can tell you there was some mighty holding taking place.  and suddenly it was easter...and it was blessed and i had great reason to celebrate.   all of this....All of This would be senseless and hopeless without A Risen Christ.  but because He lives...i, too, can live...i can face tomorrow....oh, friends, i know that sounds like you've heard it a hundered times...i know it sounds like a tired cliche...a worn thin platitude...except that it's true.  i mean it is really, really true.  i am afraid that before this is all over i will know it at even a deeper...harder...stronger level.   just typing that makes my breath catch fast.  because i know sometimes our Jesus reveals himself in great pain and angst.  there is nothing in me which wants to travel this road.  i am girl wanting only to run back to the cool white pillows on her bed...i still want to crumple up that list and throw it far away. i want to pretend this was all wrong.  all a mistake.  i mean there is just nothing pretty about being here.  after my appointment on monday i am more convinced this road looms ugly and large and broken.  please don't think for one minute i am comforted with small sunday school talk.  i am not.  it is taking Everything Jesus Offers to bring me peace in this storm.  Everything.  The Cross and The Empty Tomb.  and even though i walked into the easter weekend with great dread, i walked away knowing it was a great gift.

"but when they looked up, they saw that the stone,
which was very large, had been rolled away."  ~ luke 16:4 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

least expecting (again)...

i began this blog on july 9th, 2009 with my first entry titled, "when you least expect it."  God surprised us that week with the stirrings of adoption.  He brought to us the beautiful face of a chinese girl with a terribly sick heart.  He set us on a journey.  a journey which has brought bella to our home and a journey which has, we hope, brought glory to our God.  we least expected it.  in that first weekend of surprise He woke me one morning with the verse psalm 84:3, "even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young---a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God."  it became our adoption verse.  our masthead. our mantra. our banner. we set out on a course and this verse became our battle cry.


and now, not quite two years later, we are once again, in a place of least expecting.  we had no idea, but there was more in store for us.   more to that chapter in psalms.   more to this story - God's story.  there are other verses which follow just a few lines down:  "blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  as they pass through the valley of baca, they make it a place of springs;...they go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion." 


so unbelievably unexpecting.  we couldn't be more surprised with the news of my diagnosis this past week.  breast cancer.  each one of my children have uttered what rick and i both feel, "we can't believe it is you.  we can't believe this has happened to us."   i am not sure why we are so surprised. maybe it is because i've never been a worrier.  i've never once considered the possibility.  i've never once wasted a moment of concern over it for myself.  maybe i am just such a ridiculous pollyanna i, somehow,  even living in a dark and diseased world, assumed i was immune.  i don't really know.  i've never thought myself invincible or untouchable.  not at all.  but i am just not created for tremendous anxiety.  i have been accused over and over again as a rose-colored-glasses kind of girl.  yep.  can't deny that.  ironically, just days before the diagnosis, my own daughter, emily, said to me, "mom, you take everything so lightly."  hmmm....perhaps.  her words stopped me though.  made me think.  i had no choice but to reply,  "honey, i care.  i do have concerns and worries.  i am a mother.  but i am also a believer in the verse, "don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  each day has enough trouble of its own."  (matthew 6:34).  i guess that has something to do with five kids.  we always have so much on our daily plate i can't go too far out.  i am, in fact, tremendously challenged when it comes to planning anything past this weekend.  summer camps?  oh, will someone else please just go ahead and schedule my children.  dentist appointments?  really? you want to know what we are doing six months from now? i am not sure what i am cooking for dinner tonight!  i have stood frozen in front of the receptionist time and time again.  she, poised with pencil, ready to write me into a book with committing lines...me, holding my iphone calendar, pretending i am a capable and highly organized mother.  she, knowing we barely made it in for this appointment and will probably have to call and reschedule anything we even attempt to pencil in.  me, absolutely certain we will be rescheduling!   oh good grief!


so, let's talk about that pilgrimage through the valley of baca.  we know that a pilgrimage is often a spiritual journey -  traveling to a place for renewal or something better.  that pretty much sums up all of us, right?  we are all traveling somewhere.  even though we don't always want to admit it or acknowledge it - we are very much en route.  i've always liked the phrase, "the joy is in the journey."  definitely rethinking that one though.  not sure if this journey is entirely about joy.  i'll let you know. anyway,  the valley of baca.  that's the big one.  when i scroll down to the notes in my study bible i find out that baca means "weeping."  valley of weeping.  oh my.  yes, that is where we have been this week.  absolutely the valley of weeping.  and what really stinks is, i am pretty sure we have only just arrived.  i kind of have this hunch we will be camping here for awhile.  i can tell you already, i don't like it. i mean it is nice to get meals...have people send you notes and bring flowers...but still.  not all that great.  when all this happened earlier in the week meals immediately started coming.  so my whitty 8 year old boy - my funny boy connor - he piped up, "well, it looks like the mcnatts are back on the dinner circuit!"  can i tell you it was the first time i laughed since hearing my news.   i needed that laugh.  badly.  oh friends, we are in the valley of weeping.  wild weeping.  all of us look terrible:  eyes puffy.  noses running.  shoulders sagging.  it is not pretty.  i, as  a protective mother, am compelled to keep things kind.   we are going on.  steadily.  trying.  even pretending.  we went to a praise concert last night.  it was wonderful.  i am so glad we pretended our way right into our seats.  God met us there.   this morning sarah elizabeth wanted waffle house for breakfast.  i felt like staying in my pajamas...in bed...for the day. the whole day.  but we went, all of us.  and we ate runny eggs and greasy hash browns and we pretended mightily and it was good.  God met us even there in that not-so-fancy diner.   i mean we just have to do this, don't we?  there are six sets of eyes staring at me every morning.  i have to put on my lipstick and my running shoes and dig out my car keys.  this is life.  the funny thing...it is good.  it is.  even now.  even when we are camping in this awful, ugly valley of baca.  even when i can feel the fear creeping up outside my window and over our rooftop...it is still good.  because here is the next line:  "they make it a place of springs...."  springs.  pools.  refreshment.  cooling.  depth.  deep.  thirst quenching.  beauty.   we have to make it.  i mean ultimately God will make it.  i know that.  but in the mean time, we have to turn this wild weeping valley into something good.  and we can.  part of it seems pretense.  and part of it seems a fraud...but when our family pulls together and we find something to laugh about.  we really can laugh.  do you know how amazing it is to really, truly laugh....even with the awful label of cancer posted at our front door?  that, my friends, is laughter.  that, my friends, is a place of springs.  it cools us.  our hot eyes.  our shaking hands.  our dry mouths.  it is refreshment to know joy in the midst of ache.  true joy. real joy.


the final part of that verse says we will go "from strength to strength."  i am not quite sure what that means.  i guess it is day to day.  from one moment of strength to another.  like stepping stones. one blessing to another blessing.  i kind of think it means we can't get too far ahead  (that's good, because i never am).  i kind of think it means manna.  daily bread.  just what we need in the moment.  we can't store it up.  just one bite at a time.  one strength at a time. one filling at a time.  it seems weak.  it seems nothing.  but as soon as one runs out another will run in.  i don't know....but i am going with that.  again, i will let you know.  right now, i can't say.  i still shake in my boots.  i still don't know how in the world we are going to do this.  i still wonder where in the world God is going.  but then i remember.  God is the God of Zion.  He is the God of Deliverance.  He is the God of the Valley and the Springs and the Mountain Top.  He spoke them all into being and He holds them all in His hand.  and even though i don't know anything about how we will pass through them.... i know.  I KNOW He walks ahead.


so we were unexpecting.  we didn't expect the blessing...we didn't expect the hard.  we accepted the blessing.  can we accept the hard?  we must.  i won't compare myself to job, not for one minute, except that i like what he writes..."shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (job 2:10).  let me change my mind, i don't like it.  i really don't.  but i believe it.  "to God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his."  (12:13).  His.  His. not mine.  but i am His.  His.  His.  and though i cannot easily accept cancer.  i can accept this.

Friday, April 22, 2011

carry us Lord

Lord, let my tyler's sleep be sweet tonight.  a mother's prayer.  a silent chant as i finally fell asleep in the midnight hour.  it would be tyler's last night of not-knowing.  tyler has spent the past few days on a class trip.  he has been on an island off the coast of georgia exploring the wonders of marine biology.  on an island--protected.  i am sure much of it has been heaven for my teen-boy-explorer.  

back at home we have been staring into the ugly face of a breast cancer diagnosis.  we have resisted any exploration.  in fact, we have pretty much shut down to any further discovery.  tuesday's news was enough.  for a while.   

but today tyler comes home.  i wake in the dark knowing i will have to look into the eyes of my young man and attempt to explain something i cannot explain.  after sharing it with sarah, connor and then emily...i am left with a deep well of sadness.  it is not something any mother wants to tell her children.  there is no way to dress it up nicely or spin it out kindly.  it hurts.  from the first utterance of the word it slices. rips. tears.  the children know too much.  we have heard too much in our day and time.  i can attempt to assure them of best cast scenario, but we are shaken to our core.  we rattle.  i can see the rattling of my already told-children in these past two days.  they have all slept with me in these nights since knowing.  we can't be close enough.  

Oh Lord, thank you for children who want to run to my arms and bury heads in my lap.  thank you for children who want to make me things, make me laugh, make me okay.  they are the worst part of this and the best part.  i have hated the telling and the knowing and the fearing...but am so thankful for the healing and the comforting and the distracting of my children.  they have pushed me beyond breast cancer. even if just for a moment. they have reminded me they still need lunches and bandaids and baths.  they will keep me going in this journey.  this journey for which i didn't sign up.  this journey which i never once imagined.  this journey which requires my entire family to travel.  this journey...


so today i look at my list of things to accomplish and i must add the telling of tyler.  i wanted to be thinking about easter eggs and pastel colored baskets.  but this Good Friday afternoon i will sit my son down with news which will cloak him in heaviness.  this boy.  this soon-to-be-man will want to carry it for me.  i know him.  he is a carrier.  he is my son who seeing me with arms full of laundry insists on taking the load from me.  he is a boy quick to say, "here mom, let me do that for you."  that trash emptying. that hole digging.  that firewood getting.  that chair moving.  that little sister toting.  that carrying.  he carries.  he is tender like no other teen boy i've met.  he has a strong spirit, but a soft heart.  i have nothing to do with that.  it is how he came.  God dropped him into our laps 13 years ago and though he has my same eyes, he came with his very own tender heart.  he is a comforter.  a peacemaker. a laugh-bringer.  a joy-digger.  a gentler.  a steadier.  a smoother of wrinkles.   

but this boy on the brink of manhood is also a rather smart kid.  he will know immediately this is not an easy load.  he will know he cannot whisk this yoke from his mother's shoulders.  he will know he cannot move this mountain. he will know soon that his arms, like mine, are not able.  he will know how weak we really are.

oh Lord.  you know today i will tell him.  you already know the conversation and the concern and the comfort.  you already know the reaction and the response and resistance.   precious Jesus, will you provide the strength in the telling and the strength in the hearing and the strength in the journeying...the carrying.   Jesus will you carry tyler?  all of us.   he is a carrier.  but he, today, like the rest of us, will learn to be carried.  held.  we never knew in all our blessing how very much we would need carrying.  

but today,  all of us will know. 

Lord, our arms are weak.  our legs give out.  our hearts beat in fear.  
mouths taste fear.  breath catches.   minds wander.  thoughts spin. voices quiver.   eyes tear.  hands shake.  dread rises.  doubts simmer.  

but you, Lord, you Lord, you Lord...
YOU carry.  
when we can't.  you can.  
and Lord? we can't.
we can't. 
can't. 

carry us Lord.  
carry us. 
carry.  
Lord.

 "it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down."  ~ isaiah 53:4

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
 and you will find rest for your souls.
  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
~ matthew 11:28-30

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

reaching arms

bella does this funny little thing when she sleeps.  she constantly reaches out with one arm.  she is reaching for me.  even in deep slumber her hand pats across the bed in tender search of her mama.  she wants to know i am there.  we've had her in our arms, and occasionally sleeping in our bed, for 9 months now.  but i just last week realized why she is doing this....i was thinking back to her bed in the orphanage.  i stood beside it that day we visited last july.  the room was set up with  about 26 beds and every two cribs were attached.   she had spent two years sharing a small wall of rails with another child and i am certain bella and her tiny bedfellow reached through the bars of their separate cribs for one another. they reached out for warmth.  they reached for connection.  they reached for comfort.


i understand that reaching.   last night i went to sleep and felt myself reaching through rails.  reaching all the long, long night.  reaching for comfort.  reaching for warmth.  reaching for my Jesus.  yesterday i was diagnosed with breast cancer.  i sat under the clean blue sky and the front yard tree of my friend's home and i listened to a doctor say, "unfortunately..."  i heard little else after that first word..."unfortunately."  from that moment i have felt myself falling.  falling deep and fast and dark.  my hands came out quickly.  i was all hands and arms and limbs flailing.  attempting to brace myself for the smack of concrete.  trying hard to stop the hurt of hit.  catch myself.  clutch up the wind knocked out of my chest.  put it back.  fill it up.  hold it close.  but i couldn't.  no matter how hard i have tried in these past 12 hours of my diagnosis, i know only one thing this morning:  my arms are not able.  they aren't long enough or strong enough or even soft enough to hold. stop. cradle.


and so i reach.


i will not pretend in this news to be calm or in control.  for there is no calm and nothing about it feels controlled.  i will not pretend to embrace this awful.  i don't.   right now i want to, instead,  put down my legs and run.  run fast away from the news and the decisions and the horror.  i want to run from the plan and the next step and the one-day-at-a-time talk.  i want to flee from the telling:  telling of mother,  sisters.  oh, dear Lord, the heart-wrenching telling of children.  i don't want to share this news i want to fling it down and smash it with my angry heel. i want to obliterate the screaming word which has seemingly seared the flesh and fabric of my future. i want to run fast and then curl up in this blanket of  breath-snatching fear and close up everything inside.  but i cannot.


and so i reach.


i reach with arms weak and scared. dangling.  useless, except for the reaching.  i know what i walk into is beyond me. beyond my strength.  there will be no arm wrestling winner in this contest.   this morning i have strength enough only for feeble reaching.  that is it.  that is all.   i have walked from room to room already before the sun's waking.  i can find no answer in its silence.  i have touched things:  walls.  coffee pot. wool blanket.  countertop.  a window pane.   my searching hands feeling their way wishing to uncover how this all happened. willing to scrape off layers of disbelief.  knowing i will find nothing.  no sense of peace and no thing secure in any hard object.


and yet i reach.


oh Lord, it is the hem of your garment for which my fingers long to feel.  The Hem.  like the bleeding woman of the bible, "when she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, 'if i just touch his clothes, i will be healed'...."then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, 'daughter, your faith has healed you.  go in peace and be freed from your suffering.'"  (mark 5).  i don't bleed, but i tremble.  oh, how i tremble this april day.  and i reach for his cloak even now this first morning in my knowing.  i clutch. i am certain it is the only place worthy of my grasping.  there is nothing else.  no doctor.  no report. no plan.  no percentage.  nothing to replace the hem of my God's garment.


and so i reach, arms trembling, for my Master, Savior, Healer, Holder.


i can't begin to know why.  my fear and disbelief and even my outrage blind me from any answers.  there is no sense.  i have five children.  they need me well.  healthy.  whole.  why Lord?   satan is dancing wildly at this sad girls' questioning... wondering, pleading, crying.   his hands clap in great rejoicing at the suffering and doubting which might very well run rampant in my home today.  tomorrow.   i am sure of it.  and this morning as i sit with my unkowns and my what-ifs i can almost see his demon-party at my window.  i can feel the heat of his merry-making.  and i am scared.


and so i reach for the devotional on the table nearby. Jesus Calling.   the devotional which i have spent time in daily now for over a month. knowing not else what to do or what to think or even how to breathe...i flip open to my morning routine and i read:
 

i may very well be weak in my reaching. my arms nothing more than frail bones blowing weightless in heavy wind, but my father...my cloak-wearing-hem-healing-father...My Father Holds Me. this has nothing to do with my strength. this has little to do with my limbs. My Father Holds me tightly by my right hand and pulls me close, whispering soft into my trembling ears, "I am here, child.  I am here. I am here."


and He reaches.


"with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.  ~ psalms 136:12