Sunday, January 25, 2015

the sacred steps of life and death

“then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered 

them from their distress. He made the storm be still, 

and the waves of the sea were hushed.… the waters were quiet, 

and He brought them to their desired haven. 

let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works …” 

~ psalm 107:28-31

just a tiny step behind loving her family and Jesus, my mother-in-law loved the ocean.

she loved her toes in the sand and a good book in her hands. and that’s how we’d like to picture her as she passed this week from her earthly pain to her eternal place in heaven.

only two months from diagnosis to death – hard to understand, even harder to accept. but we are so thankful that God has been good and gracious in these final days. we praise Him for her life, her laughter and her great, great ability to love others well.

we adore our mom, wife, grandma, sister and friend … and trust that someday, because we share Jesus, we will share the beauty of His creation on the shores of heaven.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

i’m not sure i have a category in which to place these last days spent with marilyn in hospice. but if i did, i would call it the sacred. for to sit at her bedside in the final hours of her life, that’s exactly what it was. precious. a privilege ... pure and sacred.

to watch this woman who has been so much more than just a mother-in-law --- who, truly, has been a second mom. a woman who has molded my husband into the excellent man he is today. a woman who has always embraced and enjoyed her role as grandmother to my children. how grateful i am for the way she has poured into my life. and how grateful i was to be included in this family ... in their great moments of joy and in their great moments of grief.

and just as in life, these final days were that sweet blend of both. 

God – the giver of life -- the giver of all good gifts -- gave joy and grief. and as mom traveled closer to the gates of heaven, we moved back and forth between the laughter and tears.
and it was absolutely sacred.

tuesday was her best day. somehow she seemed more peaceful, settled, sure. we saw the fear leave her face. her smile was soft and her wit quick. karen, her dear friend, dad, and i, sat with mom discussing the details of her funeral service. she wanted it this way. she was able to offer input; shake her head, say yes or no, and share her requests. we read lyrics, listened to songs and suggested scripture. what a sweet, sweet time. morbid to discuss one’s with funeral with them? --  no, not at all. not morbid, but sacred.

the day ended with all of us gathered around her -- loving husband, sister, and children. words were spoken. prayers prayed. hands held. my sister-in-law, jen, brilliantly opened a bottle of champagne and we toasted mom. marilyn couldn’t manage a sip, but i wrapped her hand around that plastic cup and helped her hold it. she was able to lift it with us when jen declared, “to mom! to marilyn! cheers to her life… to her beautiful life!”

it was as sacred as any communion wine ever taken. 

sacred to see God’s glory shining in the life of His good and faithful servant.

sacred to hold the hand of a woman who has held us all in her arms, her prayers and in her heart.

sacred that He would grant grace and provide peace.

sacred that He would hold off death until relationships were restored and a stronger love resurrected.

sacred that He would hold us all in these final moments together.

the next day was harder.

wednesday the struggle of passing from this earth to eternity became more obvious to all of us. mom wasn’t really communicating any longer and with each passing hour we were losing her more and more. it's a heartbreaking place to be.

that evening, jen and i ran out to grab a quick bite to eat. jen, sleeping with her mom each night in hospice, hadn’t left marilyn's side since monday. when we returned we found rick in the chair next to his mom. both asleep and rick holding her hand. mother and son. when i saw the tears streaking his face, i knew i was seeing yet another kind of holding … another moment of sacred.

on that last night of marilyn’s life, her daughter, jen, curled up right by her side. she was there for the final breath of her mama. holding her. comforting her. mother and daughter. beautiful and heartbroken, and yes, so very sacred.

we celebrated mom's life yesterday in south carolina. (another service will be held next weekend in her hometown of oakmont, pennyslvania). our oldest children read scripture, rick, jen and i had the honor to speak about our mom. the music, the eulogy, the words, the friends who came --- all of it a testimony to the woman marilyn mcnatt was. all of it evidence of the godly life she lived. all of it pointing to her faith as a follower of Jesus -- and all of it, absolutely sacred.

i know my father-in-law, ron, wants to give a special thank you to the friends who have been reaching out and to those who celebrated marilyn with us on saturday. your words were so kind and encouraging. it is amazing to hear and see the people who were impacted by marilyn's life. i can't tell you how many people said to me, "she was an inspiration!" when i got up to speak, i asked people to raise their hands if they had ever been ministered to by marilyn --- hand after hand after hand was raised.

our family also wants to say a special thank you to pastor chris spires and robbie taylor from the first baptist church of murrells inlet. they not only did an outstanding job on yesterday's service, but also have been a constant source of encouragement and support for my in-laws throughout this journey.

last night, after the service and celebration of mom, our kids headed to the beach. it had been a rainy kind of day, but the sun came out just in time for a glorious sunset. my oldest, emily, said, "maybe one of the best i've ever seen on pawleys island!"

my photo-crazy kids captured these images ---

and in the click of their cameras over the water, and in the dance of their feet upon the shore, and in their laughter and in their love of this glorious ocean, is evidence of their grandmother's legacy and life.
i have no doubt, marilyn elliott mcnatt would have been so pleased.
she loved the ocean -- the demonstration of God's beauty and His power here ... and the hope and promise of what He has for us beyond the horizon.

---- the sacred steps of life which lead us into the loving arms of our Father in heaven.

“when we are on the beach we only see a small part of the ocean.
however, we know there is much more beyond the horizon. we
only see a small part of God’s great love, a few jewels of His great
riches, but we know there is much more beyond the horizon. 
the best is yet to come, when we see Jesus face-to-face.” ~ corrie ten boom

Sunday, January 18, 2015

700 miles to hug our grammie

this weekend, the kids and i made a quick trip to south carolina.
six hours to pawleys island and six hours back to atlanta.

we drove this distance so the kids could hug their grammie.
we drove this distance so they could tell her they love her.
we drove this distance so that their grandma could hug them tightly ... whisper words of love ... and even share a few little laughs together.

it was a moment, both precious and painful.

tomorrow morning grammie will begin hospice.

this cancer battle has been unfair from the very beginning. unfair and unrelenting. and, frankly, our grammie has better things to do than hang out with this insidious beast.

our grandma, our mom, our marilyn, well ... she has Jesus to meet.

it's not that marilyn’s given up. oh no -- she's a fighter! she is! this amazing mother-in-law of mine, well, she'd wrestle and wrangle with the best of them (you know, mom, i mean that in the sweetest way possible)! but this dear woman has always been a big believer in quality over quantity. any of you who know her, know this about her --- she’s a quality gal through and through. and, let me tell you, for her, the quality hasn’t been all that great these days.

this earthly body is failing and God's heavenly hand has been clear.

and saturday she asked to see her grandkids.
(jen's kids -- from utah -- had just been with her over christmas).

it was a quick trip.
a short visit.
and a not long enough hug.

mom was amazing this morning with her grandkids. she really rallied! this week has been especially hideous and hard on her, but when the kids walked into her room today she had her beautiful smile and even managed a little spunky bantering with all of us.

and it was worth every one of those 700+ miles we traveled.

toward the end of our visit we had a chance to read through today’s Jesus Calling devotional. it's the daily devotional which marilyn and i have both been using this past year. and, this morning, when i woke up and read today's passage, i knew i’d have to share it with her -- and so with all of us together in her hospital room, we read these words:

"Come to me with a thankful heart, so that you can enjoy My Presence. This is the day that I have made. I want you to rejoice today, refusing to worry about tomorrow. Search for all that I have prepared for you, anticipating abundant blessings and accepting difficulties as they come. 
Come to me with all your needs, knowing that My glorious riches are a more-than-adequate supply, Stay in constant communication with Me, so that you can live above your circumstances even while you are in the midst of them. Present your requests to Me with thanksgiving, and My Peace, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your heart and mind." ~ Jesus Calling

what a day to be reminded of God's promises ---
"this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." ~ psalm 118:24

and, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  ~ philippians 4:6-7

reading these scriptures to my mother-in-law, i was overwhelmed with the assurance that for her these words are pure truth, pure treasure, and yes, even pure triumph.

marilyn isn't facing hospice tomorrow morning, she's facing her Holy God, her Savior, her Redeemer.

cancer isn't going to win this battle, because we know, just as she knows, Christ has already won the war.

and that's what marilyn would want you to know --- no matter how this looks and feels here on earth, cancer is only a vicious disease, but Christ is her Victorious Defender.

"He will swallow up death forever! the Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears." ~ isaiah 25:8

cancer, do you hear that?
do you hear that?
you can bank on it.

"o death, where is your victory?
o death, where is your sting?" ~ 1 corinthians 15:55

yes, hearts are heavy and tears keep coming. we are sad. brokenhearted. we had all hoped this would go differently.
but this weekend, we went to south carolina and hugged grandma, told her we loved her ...
in some ways those words and hugs felt sadly insufficient. just not enough.
but sufficiency comes knowing that she loves Jesus and that He loves her.
no matter how much we love each other in our earthly way ... it is only the heavenly love of our Father which can ever be enough.

rick, his dad, and his sister, jen, continue to stay close by mom’s bedside. they have been an amazing team especially in these past few days. they love her so much.
after getting the kids home to georgia and settled, i’ll fly back to be with them this week.
we covet your continued prayers. it's hard to express our gratitude for your words, encouragement and kindness.
we know so many of you love marilyn dearly.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

the art of scrambling an egg

i'm kind of embarrassed about it actually.

i mean i'm 46 years old.
i've been married almost 25 years and cooking meals for much longer than that.

i should have known.

except i didn't.

it took my middle daughter -- the almost 15 year old -- to point out my opportunity for improvement. we all know 15 year olds have an uncanny knack for noticing our imperfections.

apparently, i have been making my scrambled eggs ALL WRONG MY WHOLE LIFE and it took a girl who has never once bought a carton of eggs to tell me.

i'd like to blame my culinary ignorance on my own mother, but i can't. i'm sure she shared the secret and i'm sure i was much too busy or much too rushed or much too smart to listen.

no, i can only point the finger at myself. you see, for years i've been making scrambled eggs. in the past couple of decades i've probably scrambled upwards of a few thousand eggs. heck, they are a great means of protein, always accessible and easy to make.

in our house, eggs, simply are a staple.

my kids and husband and houseguests have been happily (or so it seemed) shoveling my eggs into their mouths for years. no one has ever said anything -- (not to me at least).

but every time i would go somewhere for a real breakfast -- whether it be greasy diner or swanky brunch place -- i always would think to myself,  "my eggs are just not this good."

my in-laws make wonderful eggs. in fact, over the years my kids have made many comments on how good grammie and grandpa's eggs are. once i paid attention to the pan they used for their eggs and i went out the very next week and purchased a brand new pan. seriously, y'all, i did.

i purchased a new pan but i never stopped to ask them what they did differently.

so all these years and all these eggs later, i have been guilty of serving rubbery, dried-out, pathetic plates of breakfast. at the speed of morning light i've scrambled and scurried around the kitchen. i've added milk and cheese and more salt and still my eggs were not all that great.

until today.

until this morning, when after googling (yes, googling) an article about the best way to scramble eggs, i came upon these not-really-revolutionary hints.

1. whisk them way longer than you think necessary.
whipping your eggs creates air bubbles and (i don't really understand why) but this is good for your eggs. they'll be lighter, creamier. better. trust me.
so people, whip it and whip it good! crack that ... egg. (devo, 1980).

2. don't add anything. 
there's no need to add milk. WHAAAAT???
i grew up a child of the 70s. we added milk to everything -- something to do with "stretching" our food, i believe. but no need with these eggs. better to leave it out altogether.

3. cook them on low and cook them s l o w.
shoot! i just knew that was coming. i could have guessed this would be on the list. it always is. no matter what i'm doing -- whether painting a piece of furniture or reading with my first grader or scrambling my eggs -- i always find out, be it from google or God, that i should slow down.

and so that was it.
these three easy steps.

who knew?

well, you all probably did.
this is probably like some great-egg-conspiracy and i am probably the last 40-something-year-old woman to become egg-enlightened.
but, here's the deal, i'm wondering if, deep down, i ever really wanted to know. whenever i've scrambled eggs for my family i've always felt --- "THERE! a hot breakfast. it's gotta be better than a bowl of fruit loops." 

and taking extra time to whisk or wait for slow cooking? are you kidding me ... 
no, i've taken those eggs from carton to pan to plate in a matter of minutes.
i've probably prided myself on my expedited eggs.
i'm all about cutting corners and shaving off seconds.
heck, i'm surprised i haven't just shaken the egg raw and served it with a straw.

but we all know this isn't just about eggs.

i mean look at those lessons:
1. take time to prepare them right
2. don't add anything extra
3. go slow and keep it low

those hints aren't only for eggs, but for everything.
these aren't only culinary lessons, but life lessons.

when we take time to do things right, keep things simple and move a little more slowly things taste better, go better, ARE better.

maybe you disagree.
maybe this is only about eggs.
maybe i'm stretching it (child of the 70s).
maybe you are a little worried about  me knowing i've just devoted an entire blog post to eggs.
maybe i'm just weird.

speaking of weird, for years i've been trying to convince my husband that we need to get us some chickens. i can just see it out there in our backyard. (right next to the trampoline) ... a darling little hen house, a cocky rooster and his beautiful brood of egg layers.
i mean, can't you just picture the children right before school, each day, gathering fresh eggs in a basket with a blue and white checked cloth? -- {yeah, me neither. that part is definitely stretching it}.

but maybe now. now after my great egg epiphany. now that i've learned the art of scrambling. now my husband might be more egg-static (sorry) about us getting a few chickens! i'm going to go ask him ...
right after i finish another plate of eggs!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

light and life

this weekend always feels a tiny bit dark for me.
the weekend after new years when we take it all down.
clean it all up.
put it all away.
don't get me wrong, i'm ready.
i'm ready to sweep all that (once) glorious pine from the cracks and crevices of my home.
sweep. vacuum. one year i used a blower. (yes.i.did).
it's time. but this morning, the house feels dark. the tree lights are back in the boxes, the candles gone from the windows, the mantles bare.
the shimmer of Christmas now silent.
and this verse is running through my early morning brain ---

"Jesus spoke to them saying, 'I am the light of the world. whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." ~john 8:12 

we can wrap up our christmas lights, but if we choose to wrap ourselves closer to Him, we aren't left to live in darkness.
there's something really lovely about the lights of our holiday ...
but there's real life in the light of the Holy One.
--- the light, not of a season, but the light of a Savior.

when january begins to darken for you ...
light a fire in the fireplace.
light a candle on your kitchen counter.
but be reminded.
reminded of the Light-Bringing-Babe.
open His Word to the illuminating presence of Jesus in january ... february ... march ... april ...

wishing y'all light and life in this new year! xoxo