Welcome Joy – for Audrey Eva

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The welcoming of our second baby was the least dramatic of the three, which fits her personality as a child. We three – my husband, daughter, and I – had longed for this baby for years. My pregnancy was smoother than the first with no complications. I left my job about two weeks before the scheduled C-section so I could spend time preparing for the baby and soak in the last days with my only child, Meredith, who turned 5 a week before her sister arrived. We hosted a big indoor pool party, I joined her preschool class on a bumpy hayride field trip, and I raced around town finishing errands, doing all the things I had not been able as a working mom.

The afternoon before delivery, my mother came to town to stay with Meredith and welcome her newest granddaughter. Frank worked late, so we three girls enjoyed dinner at our favorite restaurant. I don’t recall much about leaving Meredith the following morning, aside from a warm hug in the front yard. My anxiety was on high alert due to the complications during my first delivery. As we drove to the hospital, I glanced at Facebook to discover friends from all over were praying for us and sending good wishes. Even my life-long friend, Jenn, sent a message to say she had eloped and finally married the love of her life. What joy this day held! It felt like I had an army of supporters when we entered the OR prep space.

As I waited in triage, anxiety crept higher; I was terrified of anesthesia and potential complications. Hot tears formed in my eyes, unable to be contained. When the anesthesiologist introduced himself, he took the time to calmly allay my fears. It was clear we would be a team and get through this delivery together, alive. I walked back to the OR with Frank, my steady always at my side. The spinal epidural was safely administered and the procedure began. Although this was my second baby, it was the first time I experienced the birth of my child. My senses worked in overdrive, but a team of competent doctors and nurses confidently delivered our little peach-fuzzed baby girl into the room.

For a heart that thought it was full of love for my one child, I felt it melt in my chest at the sound of my second daughter’s first cry. My darling Audrey Eva. We wouldn’t settle on her name for a few hours, though I don’t know why; she has always been my Audrey. When Frank nestled our baby next to my cheek, I cried tears of gratitude, of love, of longing. Frank and I sat in the recovery room, alone with our new baby, so blissful to be awake, free of danger, and enjoying the first minutes of our daughter’s life together.

As we got to know this baby over the next days, weeks, months, my mother added Joy to her name just as Audrey added joy to our home and to everyone she met. Her middle name she shares with Frank’s mother (pronounced in Polish as Eh-vah) and her first name is a derivative of his grandmother’s name, Audrea. Both women I have known to be strong, courageous, deeply loyal to their families, and extremely resourceful. So different from me, yet so beautiful of heart and rich in legacy for their tiny namesake. Now almost 5 years old, Audrey continues to delight everyone she meets. She is kind, nurturing, and bubbly. She was, without a doubt, worth the wait. When we welcomed our baby bundle that day, we opened our hearts and home to welcome a fullness of God’s Joy.

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Asleep – for Meredith Marguerite

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I was asleep when my first child was born. I awoke hours later surprised to discover I was still alive and that my family had already met my baby with her perfect nose.

She was due April 7, just after Easter. My pregnancy had been difficult with a heavy business travel schedule and severe morning sickness, yet I relished in every minute of it. Those last few weeks were especially precious to me, knowing the private intimacy with my baby would soon end as she entered the world to meet grandparents and cousins so expectant for her arrival. Her name was to be Meredith Marguerite, for my loving and deeply spiritual mother and fraternal grandmother. Once my due date came and passed, we tried all the old wives tales to encourage our baby to this side of life. She wasn’t budging.

On Monday, April 16, 2007, my husband and I watched the news as terror unfolded at our shared alma mater, in a peaceful town where we had met a decade prior. A student walked into a classroom building at Virginia Tech and killed 31 students and professors. Any innocence left in our world was shattered that day. We were grief-stricken, but had only hours to process the tragedy; in the wee hours of the morning, I went into labor. We collected our belongings and headed to the hospital. The morning sickness that had plagued my pregnancy didn’t quit even then; we had to stop along the drive as nausea took over again. To this day, I pass that intersection with a familiar sense of emotional turmoil.

At the hospital, all went as planned. I was admitted to the labor and delivery ward, seen by a nurse from time to time, and mostly left to labor through the day. What I didn’t know, wouldn’t learn until weeks later, was that I was given a dose of Pitocin, the drug used to progress labor. What I did know was that my contractions suddenly became very intense. I had hoped to labor as long as possible without the intervention of drugs, but that desire was quickly eclipsed by searing pain. I requested an epidural, not knowing it would be the first of three in the next few hours. Each injection was administered in my spine and was intended to lessen the pressure on the lower half of my body. But, something went wrong, leaving only my left side numb. I was given a bolus, a boost of the epidural, and told to lay on my right side with the hopes gravity would encourage the medicine to relieve both sides. It didn’t work. So, a second epidural was administered, followed by a second bolus. Finally, the chief of anesthesiology was called in to administer the third epidural; with help of a third boost, this one worked to numb both of my legs. Finally, the OB was able to monitor our baby; with the prolonged labor, her heart rate was dropping for unexplained reasons. When were given the recommendation to proceed with a C-section, we agreed our only goal was to deliver our baby safely.

It was then a third anesthesiologist introduced himself. Randy would be taking over during my surgery. I kissed my husband goodbye for a moment and was wheeled to the OR. My parents, mother-in-law, and sisters waited expectantly just outside the delivery room while Frank put on scrubs to accompany me for the delivery. Inside the OR, I waited on the table as preparations were made around me. Within minutes, I felt a deep pressure on my chest. The newly administered epidural, the fourth dose of numbing medication, was working too well. Before I could speak, I discovered with horror I could not breathe. I tried to get the attention of anyone in the room. Randy realized I was in distress, handed the nurse an oxygen mask, and instructed her, “Put this on her; she is only having a panic attack.” When the mask was in place, I could feel the air brushing past my nose and mouth, but not entering my lungs. I knew then I was in deep trouble. I was suffocating, unable to communicate, and in the care of a doctor who wasn’t paying attention. Willing but unable to make my lips form the words “Intubate me,” I dug my nails into the nurse’s hand and swung my arms franticly until I knocked over a tray. It was the racket that caught the attention of another nurse. “Leslie? Leslie?!” I heard her yell, “What’s going on?!” It was at about this time my body succumbed to respiratory arrest. The last thought to enter my mind was one of surrender and despair. “I am finally going to have my baby girl, but I’m going to die before I meet her.”

Some hours later, I began to wake. My family was waiting for me. “Just wait until you see her perfect nose,” they whispered tearfully before my eyes were even open. As I returned to full consciousness, I was aware we had made it. My baby girl and I had survived after all!

The next few days brought torrents of conflicting emotions for both Frank and me. We were, of course, overjoyed with our precious little bundle, our Meredith Marguerite. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I sat in the hospital bed and undressed her carefully so I could gaze on the completeness of the perfect, tiny human I had made. We were grateful I had come through the ordeal alive, though shocked we even had to recognize survival as a victory. We were heartbroken for the tragedy at our alma mater. As the weeks and months passed, I would have to face the lasting scars left behind from PTSD – bouts of anger, resentment, ragged nerves. But it was in the hours shortly after her birth I began to grapple with the guilt. My immediate response in panic had been self-centered. Rather than cry out to God to save my life and that of my baby, I had felt despair at losing my life with her. I became ashamed for my lack of faith. Yet each time I closed my eyes during those days of recovery, the words of Psalm 23 were present in my mind. “The Lord is my Shepherd … Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil … Thou art with me … Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” As I contemplated over the recent events and the steadfastness of the words, I realized I was repeating something I had heard when I was unconscious.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Psalm 23 (KJV)

When I had fallen into respiratory arrest, Code Blue was called. Doctors and nurses raced past my waiting husband and family, into the OR. The chief of anesthesiology was among the first; he immediately removed the epidural line and put me under general anesthesia so my baby could be quickly delivered safely. While I remained unconscious, my family prayed fervently just outside the room, begging and pleading with God to be present in the room, to save my life and that of my baby. It was during this time the Holy Spirit spoke words of life over me, filled my mind and heart with reassurance that even in the face of death, I had no evil to fear as God walked with me. He has made His presence known to me several times in my life since. So thin is the veil between this life and Him, I have felt Jesus close to me, heard Him speaking to me. The guilt and shame I felt have been replaced with praise and gratitude; His presence was with me when, even in my weakness, I neglected to call out to Him. When I hovered near death, He never left me. Daily, together with my family, I awake into new life with Him.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.”
Psalm 139: 13-18

 

One Night Away

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I asked my husband for one night away. Not together, not for an event, not with friends. One night, by myself, to be completely alone. No kids, no husband, no obligations, no noise. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my family. I love the noise and the chaos and the constant chatter, driving, and planning that go along with raising three gifts. But ever since our youngest came on the scene, I’ve realized how desperately the introvert in me needs space. Quiet. And sleep.

For Christmas, he presented me with a gift certificate to the Ritz, just 3 miles from home. Our family knows this hotel well; my parents, sisters, husband and I have all used it for various get-aways and business meetings. To me it is comfort and escape, at an arm’s reach. No, I didn’t need to travel far, but I did need to find an evening I felt comfortable to retreat alone. The real value in the gift was not the money, but my husband’s offer to stay home alone with all the kids, doing all the parenting things that at times take a village, and freely say “Go.” This husband of mine? He is the gift.

So, here I sit in a quiet, peaceful room, overlooking the buzz of the evening commute 15 floors down and writing for the first time in months. My daughter asked “What do you write.” Not much anymore. I need to get out of my head and onto paper. My goals for this solo retreat are to write, to sit quietly, to pray, to sleep (I hope), and to return to my family ready to refill. But that’s tomorrow. For now, it’s just me.

3 Things I Learned From Playing Tennis

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3 Things I Learned From Playing Tennis

Tennis takes a significant level of athleticism. Getting back into the sport after a long hiatus is a whole different ballgame. Literally. Tennis-after-40 or tennis-after-having-babies or tennis-after-knee-and-shoulder-surgeries? Not as pretty as tennis-at-17.

I’ve never been known as the athletic type. I do my best to stay active enough to play with my kids, but I am not graceful on my feet or with equipment or while moving fast. God placed me on this earth for some purpose, of that I am certain, but it does not involve games with things flying at me. Keep your eye on the ball, make contact, follow through? Not my love language.

But, at the invitation of a close friend, a trusted friend, I joined the beginner tennis clinic at my local club. I had not played much since high school and found picking up the racket brought back many teenage insecurities. Since this is tennis-after-40, however, it was high time I squelched those unkind voices and just played.

Turns out, I love it. After the first few (very ugly) lessons, I caught my groove and could happily play for an hour or two. The other students and I chased one another’s rouge hits across the court, all the while laughing at our mistakes and learning a few lessons about women, specifically women-over-40 (give or take).

1. We are excellent cheerleaders. With each pong! of a solid hit, for every match won (our own or our opponent’s), at all the successful serves, there is always a “great job” or “nice hit” from the other gals in the group. Isn’t this what women do best? When we set aside the crazy mom-petition drive to prove ourselves, we shine at the opportunity to support one another. When we realize the other women in the room have our backs, we can accomplish anything.

2. We apologize too much. “Sorry!” “My bad” “Oh, that was my fault.” Yep. I heard (and said) it all way too much. And guess which group didn’t say it? Across the board, I didn’t hear the guys apologize like the gals. Sorry ladies, but we need to cut the crap. Mistakes are part of life. A ball hit to the wrong side of the court, a serve into the net? Just pick up the next ball and try again. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in this, but obviously I haven’t learned it enough to preach it. Sorry.

3. We struggle to be assertive without being, ya know, bitchy.  Sharing the court while playing doubles can be tricky. It takes clear, quick communication to be sure you don’t bump into your partner or miss the ball. “Yell ‘Got it!’,” our coach instructed when my partner and I politely defered to one another and lost the point. We kindly apologized to the coach and each other before offering encouragement for the next shot. So many of us were taught that to be assertive is harsh and unladylike. Rather, to be commanding, to speak your mind, to stand your ground all takes confidence, not rudeness.  And confidence is quite possibly the most beautiful asset, the most ladylike attribute a woman can wear, on or off the courts.

Thanks to a racket and zippy little yellow ball, I found a great workout, lovely friends, and a few more things to love about being woman who is “over-the-hill.” Ha!

His Love Never Fails

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“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said:
‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?’”
Job 38:1-7

Most of us are familiar with poor, righteous Job, whom God allowed to be tested. Tested far beyond what most humans could suffer. We also know Job’s faithfulness in God won out and, eventually, after losing all of his belongings, his family, even his health, he was restored. The Lord blessed him with twice as much as he had before and he lived, as our children might say, “happily ever after.”

This story is often hung over our heads and our hearts when we face trials of many kinds. Whether in our own lives or in the world beyond us, we are never far from suffering. So we are reminded that, though Job suffered near to the point of death, he did not lose sight of God. He was faithful to the end, as an example to us.

But do you know the whole story? Have you read the book of Job? I usually stop with the suffering because it’s just too painful, but I explored it a bit more recently in preparation for a preaching opportunity at church: including an ugly little part in the middle when Job questioned God, when he demanded an audience, demanded an opportunity to speak up and ask God whyyyyyyy? And who can blame him? Haven’t we all faced a low time in life when we finally broke down to say “Where are you, God?” or “How could God let this happen?” or “Please tell me, God, that you are still in this because it feels so far from what You would create.”

This past summer, I was in one of those low places. Although I had not lost hold of my faith, I questioned God. I had definitely lost hope. And I told Him that, point blank. “God, I have such faith in You, in the truth that I sit in the palm of Your Hand.” I had faith that He would be there all along, but I had lost my hope He would pull me through. I had let go of my ability to believe my prayers would be answered for the good. And let me tell you, this was a hard place to be. I was questioning God, the One who has held me and my family through trials and celebrations, through the worst and the best. But my finite human mind could no longer grasp His goodness. I empathized with Job. I needed to speak to God and I needed God to respond to me.

Hope is such an elusive sensation, isn’t it? When we have it, we love it. Makes me think of the song by the Carpenters “I’m on top of the world, looking down on creation…” But when we lack it, we feel desperate, desolate, despondent. Yet we crave hope, we keep searching for it. Why? Because it is the promise of goodness. We crave what our hearts were created for – God’s goodness, His promises for our lives, His promise of life itself.

God’s response to Job’s demands sounded almost harsh, as we would expect of a great judge. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Does this remind you of the “Great and Terrible Oz”? But perhaps this wasn’t God’s intent, to berate a mere mortal; perhaps God’s reply was more gentle, more loving. God took the opportunity to express to Job, to express to all of us, His great works. Job’s encounter with God continues after verses 1-7 above. For 4 long chapters, God responds to Job with an account of all He has created, all He is capable of doing, far beyond the works or imagination of man. He reminds Job who created the world and all the functioning of it.

38:16-17 – “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?”

38:34, 40:9 – “Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” “Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His?”

39:1 – “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they will give birth?”

39:19-20 – “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?

God shares with Job not only what He has created, but His continued Hand in all of it. He is present in the stars, He knows the weather better than Jim Cantore, He even pays close attention to the animals, when they will give birth, where they eat, where they will build their homes. He knows it all. And He knows us.

He offered to Job … hope. When Job finally gave up, God reminding him, gently chided His child. “I have done all these things. You don’t need to question me. I’ve got this.”

This summer, as I sat on the deck of our beach house, I cried out to my heavenly Father. I begged Him to show Himself to me, to show up and prove my questions were fruitless, that He was/is still in control. As I struggled with my remaining faith and my dried up hope, I Corinthians 13:13 kept repeating in my heart, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” That threw me for a loop. I had a thin grasp on my faith, I admitted I had lost hope, and trust me, there was precious little love in my lamentations that evening. I wasn’t coming from a place of patience, kindness, or trust. I was perhaps being a tad rude with the God of the universe, certainly self-seeking and angry. Have you been there, too?

Yet, there was that still small voice, “But the greatest of these is love.”

As evening closed around me and my prayers, I knew that God’s answer to my “prayer request” wasn’t as important as His response to me. My prayer, my needs were honestly rather insignificant in light of what so many people face, certainly in light of the troubles of this world. I was not facing a health concern or family breakdown. Everyone I know was safe and sound, our homes and nation were not under attack. But yet I felt desolation, the absence of hope, and I needed the hole to be filled.

When I consider the refugees pouring from their homes in Syria, or children trapped by gang warfare and human trafficking, or lives ripped apart by addictions to drugs, alcohol, abuse, my ears ring with the cries of anguish, of desolation, of desperate need for hope. How much more are others crying out for something, just grasping for an answer, a promise that there is more. There is someone who can save them, someone who cares. That’s what we hold on to, right? Just the idea of it. Hope.

I fell asleep with the windows open so we could enjoy the sound of the wind and the ocean. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke and was, frankly, a little irritated at the sound of the surf hitting the sand, over and over. As a mother of little kids, sometimes I just need a break in the noise. But this didn’t stop. It was more pervasive than “Why, Mommy, whyyyy?” Crash, crash, crash. The waves hit again and again. God spoke to me then as directly as He spoke to Job: This is my love. As relentlessly as the waves hit the shore, My love for you never stops. Nothing can stop my love. Not your waining faith, not your lost hope. The greatest of these is love because My love never, ever ends.

I questioned Him. I sought Him. He came to me and answered. In my desperation, in Job’s desperation, in your own desperation, we seek Him and He promises we will find Him. And that’s why we have hope. Somewhere in the pit, our souls that were created to be with our Creator are always reaching and searching for Him. In the darkest of days, no matter what our world can throw at us, we have hope that when we seek we will find. The very lack of hope, faith, and love are reminders of their existence, that we were made to crave them. When you feel that desperation, and the craving, as we all are wont to do, allow your heart to cry out. God will answer you.

Job sought an answer to his suffering and was met with a God who was willing to answer, to remind his child of what He had created. We seek answers and God meets us where we are, not necessarily with the answers we want. And just as He reminded Job, allow His creation to be a connection to His love. They are intertwined to daily remind us of all He has given.

Allow your Father to breathe His truth into you, My love, my love, my love never fails. It never stops. It never gives up. My love is for you.

 

That Time I Said No to God

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My heart resides in an orphanage in Honduras. Lush green forests, smooth rich coffee, insufferable poverty, broken homes, happy children. I went, I fell in love, I returned to my family, forever changed. And now everyday, I seek ways to better the lives of the children in Honduras or others like them.

The opportunity was handed to me like a jewel on a silver platter. A team was ready to go to Honduras this summer, but they needed a leader. The church offered to pay all my costs. Will you go, they asked? Would I ever! It’s perfect. God must want me to go, I believed.

Everything called me to the trip. Everything, except my extended family. The trip was scheduled in the middle of our family vacation, a trip to celebrate my father’s pending retirement. If I missed half of the family time for a mission trip back to Honduras, surely my dad would understand. He knows my heart. My husband and I prayed, believing it was obvious God wanted me there. We worked the schedule this way and that, juggled flight times and childcare, and finally came up with an agenda that made sense. Only, to my parents, it didn’t.

Every so respectfully, they tried to explain why No, they didn’t think I should go. This was a time for our family to be together at the beach. Oh how I argued, in my mind, if not directly to them. How would I be able to sit in the sand, play in the ocean, and relax while my heart and soul were with a hundred rescued orphans? And so I prayed some more. My heart was screaming “Say yes to the trip!” but my family was quietly asking me to stay home.

Eventually, probably out of exhaustion, I relented and listened to that still small voice. Instead of insisting on “Missions or Bust!”, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the other calling to “Respect thy father and mother.” In my selfishness to fill my own heart at the orphanage, I was neglecting the love that raised me, taught me about Jesus, and fostered my heart for others. In my bitterness at their disapproval, I had lost sight of the incredible gift my parents are to me. My supportive, adoring, wise parents.

And so I said No to God. No to the call and opportunity to return to Honduras (this time, at least). My heartache was replaced with an abundance of gratitude, healing, and forgiveness as God responded to my faithfulness.

Three months later, I sit on the porch overlooking the beautiful Carolina beaches. My children laugh with their pack of cousins. My sister sits, quietly reading the Bible in the warmth of the sun. My mother takes a few of her beloved grandchildren for a sparkling sunrise walk along the coast. My family and I sang and danced the night away to the music of our childhood. And my dad? I steal glances at him, soaking it all in. Three grown daughters, three sons who treasure his girls, and nine grandchildren to fill every corner of his bottomless heart. Yes, God, this place of unstoppable love is exactly where You wanted me to be. Thank You for waiting for me to say No.

To the team who traveled to Honduras without me, I am praying for you, for your precious hearts of love, and for your safety. Come home and tell me all about the children who changed your life! 

To learn more about the Worldwide Heart 2 Heart ministry, please reach out to me or visit http://www.h2hcv.org. The children’s village is an unforgettable slice of heaven!

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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