Category Archives: 31-day challenge

That’s Not Fair

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“That’s not fair!”

“Well, life isn’t fair.”

As a child, how I hated this conversation between my parents and me. Probably as much as my daughter hates the exchange these days. I usually respond with “Life isn’t fair, but things work out in the end.”

I don’t think she believes me. Who am I to blame her? Life isn’t fair.

Our days are full of unfairness. Sometimes slight – like when a colleague takes another’s lunch from the office refrigerator. Sometimes heart wrenching – like when a leg is broken, a tumor is discovered, and a wedding is postponed.

Life. Isn’t. Fair.

My mom and I were at the church, meeting with the wedding coordinator one last time before the big day, when my cell phone rang. It was his best friend calling, the one who took him skiing for the weekend. The last thing I had said as they piled into the car was “Whatever you do, don’t let Frank break a leg!”

“Hey Brian,” I answered. “Having fun?”

The hesitation on the line spoke before he did. “Frank broke his leg.”

In the quiet sanctuary where a bell choir was soon to perform our processional, my disbelief rang out loud and sharp. My fiancé was broken, in pain, and separated from me by 300 miles of mountain road and a winter snow storm. Life isn’t fair.

Back at home, my father put on his fighter pilot bravado and confidently announced the wedding would go on as planned. Still reeling from a death-defying fall my sister had taken on her own honeymoon three months earlier, my parents were too shaken to face another wedding tragedy. My brave dad opened the box of wedding invitations and carefully began adding the stamps. He prayed for Frank and laid his trust before God. All would work out, this we knew.

A week later, Frank and I sat in his hospital room as the orthopedic oncologist explained the details of a “giant cell tumor.” It had been sending warning signals for several weeks. In fact, Frank had planned to see a doctor after the ski trip to complain of pain in his right knee. But the fall made that appointment unnecessary. The tumor had grown outward from inside his femur, reducing the bone strength to that of an eggshell. It didn’t take much to crack, so the speed and force of his fall on the ski slope crushed that section of his leg bone. It would have to be rebuilt. And it would take months.

With the doctor’s news pounding in our heads, we talked over our options. February 28, the wedding date we had so carefully chosen, was only weeks away. Frank was still in the hospital, awaiting his first of several surgeries. To secure the leg bones from moving while the femur began to heal, an “external fixator” would be installed. You’ve seen the barbaric contraptions; sometimes called “rods and pins,” this would jut out of his leg, extend from upper thigh to lower calf, and keep his leg perfectly straight. For six weeks. Pants wouldn’t be able to cover it. Walking with crutches would prove too painful to cross the room, let alone walk down the aisle. There was no question. Our wedding would be postponed. We held hands and cried for all that was broken, all that was unfair.

On the weekend of our intended ceremony, Frank went under anesthesia again, this time to remove that wretched contraption and all traces of the tumor that caused so much damage. For twelve hours, I paced the halls, kept our families informed on the phone, and prayed for the man I had already committed to love through sickness and health.  Finally, the OR nurse said he was ready for a visitor in the recovery room. But, we weren’t yet married; I wasn’t his wife. And so his mother went to see him.

Life isn’t fair.

Over the next several months, Frank fought his way through more surgeries, pain killers, and physical therapy to strengthen his leg and give his knee range of motion. We rescheduled our wedding date to late summer and looked forward to celebrating under the bright August sun. One sunny summer afternoon, he asked me to join him at PT. He went about his usual exercises for a bit, then asked me to wait just across the room. Ever so carefully, he took a step, then another, and another, each with a perfect gait. Since the early spring my fiancé had kept a secret from me. His goal through all of the painful physical therapy was to walk, unassisted and without a limp, down the aisle with his bride.

Life isn’t fair, that much we know. But when you try to make the most of it, it really does work out in the end.

Husband and Wife

A memory that will be with me always. Frank took my hand, escorted me from the church, and exclaimed, “We did it!” August 2004

 

 

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31-day Writing Rendezvous

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My mom and I love to write. And we love to talk about writing. Especially with one another.

We edit one another’s work. Sometimes we argue about and reject those edits because that’s what a writer can do when her editor is her mother (or daughter).  When one of us is in a slump, we encourage the other to just. keep. writing.

My mom also reads. A lot. I am still in the business of raising little people, so I let her tell me about all the great books she has devoured. (I would be envious of this time she has to read, but I know my own day is coming and then I’ll be envious of my daughters’ childrearing years.)

So, for the month of January, my mom and I are following prompts she discovered in a gem of a book. “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves. (For a review of the book, see previous paragraph then go ask my mom.) It’s our little Writing Rendezvous. A way to write together even though we don’t live close to one another and don’t talk often (again, see previous paragraph).

I’ll try to keep up with the dailies and link back here to give Ms. Reeves full credit for the very creative prompts. It’s been fun so far (4 days into the challenge) to use each prompt as either a unique topic or to fold it into a topic I’m already writing.

In the meantime, my mom is stuck in a noise-filled rut. She hasn’t had time to put pen to paper for days. And, if I know anything about my mom, it’s driving her batty. When she does get the opportunity to craft her words, you’ll want to spend time exploring her blog. Her writing is poetic, powerful, graceful, and every bit the grown-up lady she is but her youngest daughter isn’t. Go visit her at meredithbunting.com. You’ll be glad you did!

Writing Prompts from “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves:

  1. Things that enter by way of silence
  2. Ashes
  3. Into the courtyard
  4. Walls the color of tears
  5. Someone cheated
  6. The passing of hours
  7. Where the road leads
  8. On the horizon
  9. The sound of silence
  10. Shapes like stars

 

 

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These Walls Between Us

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The slight slump of her shoulders, the downcast eyes averting my questioning look, the pasted-on-smile for benefit of her schoolmates. As soon as she stepped off the school bus, I knew something was wrong. But she held it together as well as a 7-year old could. We talked casually on the way home, skirting anything that would sprout a tear, but as we entered the front door, cracks began to show.

She dropped her backpack to the ground, snapped at her little sister, and plopped on the couch. Although these behaviors needed to be addressed, my daughter needed more than disciplined parenting. I sat down beside her and pulled her to me; her shoulders began to relax into the nurturing embrace of her mother. Her warm tears trickled down her cheeks as she opened her heart.

That boy picked on her at school, again. He laughed at her artwork. A mean, purposeful laugh. Again. I tried to find the balance between sympathy, empathy, and just listening, all the while teaching my daughter the hardest lesson: to love her enemies. This job of parenting a child’s broken heart is sometimes too much to bear.

As we talked, I could tell there was something more, something she wasn’t sharing. I had to dig, ask more questions than I used to. At 7 1/2, she is beginning to put walls between us. Walls of independence. Walls the color of tears. Translucent enough that I can still see through them and find my way to her soft, squishy heart. But will these walls become more opaque over time? It’s inevitable she will grow into her own young woman, but the distance is already breaking me. The tiny baby I held in my arms, to whom I whispered my deepest secrets in the quiet hours of those early, sleepless nights is building her own spaces without me. How do I earn her trust for the longterm, an open door inside those walls? Will she believe I will always knock on that door to offer a listening ear, without judgment, without retribution? I am here, precious daughter. My embrace is always here for you.

 

 

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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Revelation

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My 7-year old and I had the opportunity to see “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at DC’s Kennedy Center today. It was a marvelous performance! Andrew Lloyd Webber never ceases to delight.

On the way to the show, Meredith and I decided to review Joseph’s story, as told in Genesis 37-50. Here’s our version:

One of twelve brothers, Joseph was adored by their father, Jacob, above the others. The brothers grew jealous of Joseph’s favor and irritated at his prophecies that one day those very same brothers would bow down before this annoying sibling. Shortly after their father bestowed upon Joseph a now infamous coat of many colors, the brothers grew angry and conspired against him. They threw him into a pit, destroyed the gift from their father, and sold their brother into slavery! Joseph was taken to Egypt as a slave, but worked hard and found favor with his owner. Until that owner’s wife tricked him, kissed him, and landed him in prison. There, his strong character saved him and he became well-known for his ability to interpret dreams. Eventually he was made Pharaoh’s right-hand-man. Years later when a great famine consumed the land, his brothers made their way to Egypt to beg salvation from their plight. Through several events, they were saved and bowed before Joseph in gratitude, not realizing their helper was the same brother they had discarded for his dreams of this very moment. The family was reunited and Joseph spoke the words of truth to his brothers, a promise we can hold onto today.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

Quite a tale of deceit, anger, and forgiveness! As we recounted the story, my daughter and I were struck by the parallels between this story and our own spiritual lives. You see, Satan acts like those naughty brothers, only worse; he is angered and envious of the love God has bestowed upon you, me, all of His children. Seething in bitter jealousy, Satan will stop at nothing to separate us from our Father. He will try to destroy the gifts we have been given, throw our hearts into the pit, sell us into slavery. Anything to put distance between us and the One who loves us.

Have you been there? Felt like you were at the bottom of a barrel? Have you thrown up your hands in surrender to habits that enslave you? When you feel captive to your own anger, temptations, or negative thoughts, are you aware who it was that tricked you into that cell?

Yet the promise remains true. We can claim aloud the truth that will set us free from our wannabe-captor:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

When you find yourself fighting a battle bigger than you, enter into the courtyard of God’s grace. He will rescue you. Perhaps the singing and dancing won’t be as spectacular as an Andrew Lloyd Webber production, but you can guarantee your Father will fight for you, He will uphold you, He will bring you salvation!

Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them;
those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.
F
or I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:10-13


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Beauty from Ashes

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Ashes. The rubbish left after devastation. The wasteland remaining after tragedy. Nothing left but to sweep it up and toss it to the wind. No one wants ashes. No one cares about what is left. The focus is only on what is gone, all that is lost to ruin.

My soul is in ashes. I have pummeled it and beaten myself down to nothingness. I have come to believe no one cares because I am not worthy of the concern. The wildfires of despair and pity have ravaged my body and my heart, leaving behind only ashes. A pile of worthlessness detracting from beauty.

But what if it could be different? What if I could be different? What if all the years, all the failed attempts to save myself from the slavery of my sinful habits could be wiped away, allowing me freedom to grow in beauty and strength? What if?

I’ve all but given up hope. All but. I have one last chance to salvage this body of mine, to allow the forest of my soul to flourish and grow fresh, renewed, beautiful as my Creator intended.

But fear holds me back; I am afraid of the fires of failure. They lick at my heels, whisper to me that today doesn’t really matter, I don’t really matter. Fires of unforgiveness against those who lost hope in me and unforgiveness for losing hope in myself. Those fires consume me, weaken my core until I am too afraid to put down my roots, stretch to the heavens, and cry out to God for His salvation.

Can I do it? One more try? You, Oh Lord, have given me hope, one more option, support for the trials. Can I block the flames of insecurity, gluttony, and pity to give You room to heal me to the core?

Can we, together, create in me beauty from the ashes?


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When Silence Enters

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Just down the hall in our small home, my daughters are drifting off to sleep. It’s the same most evenings. We put the toddler to bed, followed shortly by the 7-year old. Some nights it takes longer for them to settle, but most of the time, quiet follows me up the hall until I sit in the living room in silence. The house breathes a sigh of relief. We made it through another day in the noise, this parenting of young children. Never a pause in sound. Until this hour, when silence enters in.

The gentle tick-tock of my grandmother’s cuckoo clock lowers my heart rate and brings me into rhythm with the countless other women who are just now taking a breath for the first time in the day. Tick-tock, tick-tock. I am reminded of generations before me, my mother, my grandmothers. Did they crave quiet, like me, waiting for their hour each evening? Or were their days less busy, less loud? I am left to wonder how they spent their evenings. Beside their husbands, enjoying drinks together. Reading, sewing, or watching tv. Reviewing the events of the day, the children’s successes and adventures.

Did they lament mistakes they made themselves, where they failed as mothers, as I do? Wishing I could change my reaction, my tone, my quick temper, I am left to worry and feel guilty for my shortcomings.

When the silence falls around me, my mind doesn’t benefit from the quiet. Sometimes I long for the din of the day to fill my thoughts and my ears, blocking out any room for misgivings. But tonight, this night, I breathe my own sigh of relief. I look back on a day filled with love, laughter, and patience for one another, a successful day. And that old German clocks lulls me to peace with tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock …


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