Sorrow Sent by God…

 

Whew. Sometimes the weight of sorrow surprises me.

 

I came online today, logged in to the blog, and tried to translate some recent thoughts to coherent words.

 

I made a very quick trip home about a month ago. I wanted to see Mom, and the rest of the family. There is a lingering homesickness that strikes sometimes, even when you moved away from home 24 years ago. Even when you have lived away from home longer than you actually lived at home.

 

That homesickness is amplified when you grew up in a place as unique as New Mexico, where the skies have a special shade of blue and nothing else will take care of the craving for red and green chile.

 

And it is amplified even more when one key, elemental, powerful force of your life is slowly inching her way toward eternity.

 

We all are, I know, but Mom is in her own way. She is holding her place physically here in our presence, while most of her is somewhere else. Her thoughts, her words, her connection…it has become hidden. Her laughter.

 

Her smile remains, and the twinkle in her eye.

 

I sat down and tried to put words to this nagging feeling, this sorrow, that has been present for years. I have several friends who continue down this road and I wanted to share something that would encourage…or at least remind that we are not alone.

 

 

And then this came up in memories on FaceBook…a picture from ten years ago.

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And the sorrow settled upon me.

 

An acute sorrow with this picture of a more clear minded person. A person who was able to interact and who still knew in some way.

 

There is a sense where mourning is set aside with a long disease like this. I don’t know what it would be like  if it was a long disease where her mind was present, but I know on this journey we simply cannot be sad all the time…it is exhausting.

 

I think of Mom as this place holder…this bookmark in life. Or maybe a pause button is more appropriate. She is present and not…and we continue with life, and yet we don’t. My brothers and my dad are more impacted by this, obviously than I am, as the rhythm of their days is dictated by her meals and her life.  But she causes this pause in life, she reminds us that she is still here, and yet she also reminds us of all we have lost.

 

She reminds us that we are broken. That sorrow is lingering around the edges of our joy. Sorrow because things are not as we know they should be. Sorrow because we long for something else.

 

G.K. Chesterton has a poem where he suggests that sorrow is used by God to bring us back to attention to the divine, to the eternal…

 

Sorrow

At last, at even, to my hearth I hark,
Still faithful to my sorrow. And inside
Even I and all my old magnanimous pride
Are broken down before her in the dark.

Sorrow’s bare arm about my neck doth strain,
Sorrow doth lift me to her living mouth
And whispers, fierce and loving like the South,
Saying, “Dear Pilgrim, have you come again?

“Whether you walked by wastes of upland green,
Whether you walked by wastes of ocean blue,
Have you not felt me step by step with you,
A thing that was both certain and unseen?

“Or haply is it ended? haply you,
Conquering and wholly cured of loving me,
Are but a wavering lover who would be
Off with the old love ere he take the new?”

But, seeing my head did but in silence sink
Before her ruthless irony and strong.
She gave me then that dreadful kiss to drink
That is the bitter spring of art and song.

Then with strange gentleness she said, “I choose
To be thine only, thine in all ways; yes,
Thy daughter and thy sister and thy muse,
Thy wife and thine immortal ancestress.

“Feed not thy hate against my rule and rod,
For I am very clean, my son, and sane,
Because I bring all brave hearts back to God,
In my embraces being born again.”

Thus spoke she low and rocked me like a child,
And as I stared at her, as stunned awhile,
On her stern face there fell more slow and mild
The splendour of a supernatural smile.

 

 

 

Sorrow is appropriate. The words are gone and the understanding is gone, but her presence remains. In the same moment it reminds us that this world is broken and it is painful, and because we know in our being that it should be otherwise, sorrow sparks hope that things will ultimately be put right.

 

The rest of my day was shadowed, though, as that picture intensified the sorrow. And maybe that is what I was to write about after all: it is okay to be strikingly sad that those we love dearly no longer know us, and no longer can speak to us. It is okay to take time in the long journey of a set-aside mourning to mourn with tears and acute sorrow when God allows sorrow’s stern face to bring us back to know our need for Him.

 

I think we all carry a sorrow with us that is part of this broken world, and sometimes God uses this acute sorrow to allow a true mourning that cleanses us. A good cry can be tremendously healing, so we can sit back up and be present in the midst of this broken world and bring hope.

 

So for today, if you took a picture of us together, I may not mirror her quite as I did in the picture above. Her expression has relaxed as her knowledge of me has slipped. If you ask how she is I won’t know quite how to answer…I wonder what whispers God is telling her that we cannot know.

 

 

And for those who are on this same journey…take heart. You are truly not alone, and God is moving even through this. Lean in to the sorrow and hear God’s heart. Do not try to ignore it or overcome. Allow the moments of deep mourning, and be reminded of the hope that all will be made well.

 

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Listen: This Is Not Just Sweet Baby Jesus in a Manger

Nate read a story the other day about a little girl turning eleven who realizes she is not simply eleven, but all the ages she has been.

I have this feeling, especially at Christmas. I am this nearly 47 year old mother of four, wife, and daughter. I am immersed in the memories we are creating in our home. I am present as we bake cookies and hide elves. I am fully immersed in watching Maddie absolutely squeal in delight at a surprise letter from Santa the elves brought her. The excitement of Nate in helping to decorate and transform our house is contagious.

The sights and sounds of the season draw me in every year.

And yet…as I sit in the coffee shop for a few minutes, memories strike me and suddenly I am a child again. Listening to Christmas playlists, I am taken back to the house of my childhood. The sights and sounds of New Mexico fill me with a mixture of delight, sentimentality and sadness. A yearning for what is just not quite right now.

My Mom amazed me in her ability to create an atmosphere. She loved to say that the house came alive every Christmas; it puffed itself up and delighted in all the trimmings. She created a wonder-filled home. The culmination came on Christmas Eve as we gathered around an enormous table filled with a meal we only ate once a year. Tiny cinnamon rolls, potatoes au gratin, asparagus, and a beef tenderloin which melted in your mouth.  Shrimp cocktails and cheese sticks and egg nog and other treats started the evening.


We talked.

My grandparents would arrive and we would sit around munching on cheese sticks and talk. I wish I could remember more clearly the conversations. I simply remember the atmosphere. Everyone dressed up in Christmas sweaters and my velvet dress. Shoes shined. Eventually we would move from couches to the table and have a long dinner. There was no rush, and even as a child I don’t remember wanting to rush away from the table. There was something magical about the table and the conversation.

Eventually we would move back to the couches and sometimes act out the story of Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus. In our bathrobes with towels on our heads, held tight with belts. Some years Dad would simply read the story.

We were waiting for the culmination of the evening. We would wander outside and watch the cars slowly creeping by, only parking lights lit, seeking out the luminaries through the neighborhood. Before the dinner and the cheese sticks, before the dinner preparations shifted into high gear, we would have lit hundreds of luminaries. On the roof of the house, lining both sides of the sidewalk. Our neighbors had done the same. There were no electric lanterns…we lit every tea light in those paper sacks.


Christmas was filled with the feel of crisp, cold air and the smells of candles and meat roasting, of cinnamon and nutmeg topping egg nog.

Still…the culmination was loading up in the car late in the evening and heading to the midnight mass at St John’s Episcopal church. Walking in with only whispers, trying so hard to stay awake. The room filling with more and more people dressed in velvets and reds and greens, and then suddenly the music beginning and the room filling even more with sounds and voices. Filling with the word proclaimed.

“Unto us is born…”

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”

“God has come. He is among us!”

I don’t remember if I ever fell asleep on the drive home. I remember getting to open one present on Christmas Eve. I remember strict instructions not to come down by myself, but wait until Dad came and brought me to he and Mom’s room to wait for my brothers so we could all come down together. I remember the anticipation. We didn’t have Santa Trackers, although I do think there was some type of tracker on television.

Laying in my bed. Trying so hard to fall asleep, and finding it so difficult. After midnight service, it had to be well after 1am.  Then….waiting….hearing footsteps on the roof and maybe bells? This didn’t happen every year, I don’t believe, but I know it happened at least once because it is firmly in my imagination of those days.

All of these memories, filling my mind as I sit here in a coffee shop, taking me through the events of the evening and on into Christmas morning with egg casserole for breakfast and presents opened, all of these memories bring me joy. Delight.
And yet, as I follow them, eventually they bring me to a deep sadness.

These memories are filled with a woman who absolutely filled a room with her presence. Dad somehow brought to life what she designed, and they were a great team. Dad was content, though, to stomp on the roof and jingle bells, to create the egg nog delights and enable the lighting of hundreds of luminarias. He was happy to quietly make it all happen….but

Mom orchestrated the whole event. And it was an event.

And now she has no idea. She has no delight in the music and the sounds and the sights. She no longer orchestrates. She trusts like a child in my Dad who helps her to know how to sit and stand and eat. She grasps tightly to his hand and she hums or whistles. She speaks, but the words have no cohesion or meaning.

She, who would greet the guests at the door with a smile and warmth which immediately set the tone, now is unaware when people come to visit. She no longer knows us. She cannot delight in the the grandchildren who carry so much of her character and strength and humor with them. And they cannot know the strength of this woman who directed and orchestrated so much of my history.

And so, in the midst of delight in the laughter of Maddie and the anticipation of all the kids for Christmas morning, in the midst of the sounds and sights and tastes of our Christmas, there is a deep sorrow and longing for something more whole. There is a longing for the true peace of Christmas, for a world ruled with truth and grace.

There is alongside the joy and hope, deep awareness of brokenness. And that brokenness and loss does not detract from the joy and hope: it amplifies them. That longing for all to be made whole is there because joy and hope have been tasted. I wouldn’t know to long for a woman filled with grace and elegance and wisdom if I only knew her in her Dementia and confusion.

We are marked by Eternity. The reality of Christmas moves us deeply because we have tasted of hope and joy. Some years Christmas  may be difficult because the sorrow is more present, and the longing fills us to the point we have to fight back tears sitting in the coffee shop…but that longing is holy. That longing is the mark that we are created for something more than just what is in front of us.

Christmas is the proclamation that there will be healing and restoration. So, if you sit next to a parent who no longer knows you. If you sit next to an empty seat of someone no longer with you. If you sit in a home where stress and sorrow demand your attention more than joy and hope. If you simply do not know what tomorrow holds, and the stress of a very confused and chaotic world has exhausted you…listen to that longing for something true. And hear:


And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,


“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  Luke 2



Listen: that is not some quaint story of the baby Jesus, cute and tame. That is the story of God wrenching open our reality and stepping. This is what we wait with held breath for, this is what we seek in this Advent season filled with chaos in our world and brokenness as far away as those we love. This is God stepping in to our brokenness and promising healing and hope.

Sing the songs this Christmas. Bake the cookies. Let your children delight in all the wonder of the season…and hold tight the truth that this is the story that changes everything. Do not miss the enormity of this truth: God became man. Take all your sorrow and longing, all your delight and joy and remember that you are remembered and loved by. God willing to become man to save you.

Buechner:

“Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed – as a matter of cold, hard fact – all it’s cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading.

The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God… who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.”

Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.”

Dementia and Birthdays, Disengagement and Hope

I have not posted lately. I haven’t felt like writing. I’ve felt a bit more like playing slither.io and Candy Crush. Just not engaging completely. We all have our seasons, right? We all have our moments where we sit on the porch and read through books while sipping our coffee, and we all have our seasons of just making it through.

 

This season started with a coffee mug.

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I walked through the Starbucks in a bookstore and it caught my eye. Immediately I was reminded of my mom sipping her coffee, wearing a bathrobe and slippers and making her list of things to do that day. Mom was a woman of lists and coffee. Strong, dark and extremely hot.

 

I bought the mug. It was like physically holding  on to a memory. A tangible reminder of the strength of presence this woman held.

 

Then the disengaging happened a bit. Because she is not that woman any longer. Her words no longer form sentences, her eyes are not piercing or twinkling with laughter. Her voice is not strong, sometimes filling with song. And that is terribly difficult to settle with: we have her, and yet we do not.

 

And I miss her. So there are seasons of disengaging with some of reality so that all of my reality does not suffer. The season of truly mourning the loss of my mother has not come in full force. Instead it is this long-distance endurance mourning as we watch her slowly leave us in Dementia. A mourning in moments that does not leave any healing yet.

 

There is more around me, though, than coffee mugs which hold memories.

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That is my White Rabbit about to jump through the rabbit hole. He and his friends brought us a fantastic performance, filling us with laughter and pride. Such talented kids. Such good friends.

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This brings back my engagement. Seeing these kids delighting in their talents and enjoying their moment. Fully engaged as I see his enthusiasm and joy overflow in the company of his friends. He shines when he is around people, his compassion and genuine love of people so prominent.

 

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This is a ten year old boy, sporting his “Player of the Year” hoodie. I have in the past posted birthday posts on each child’s birthday. That didn’t happen in this season of disengagement. But this boy…he celebrated with friends and ate cake and laughed heartily. Inching closer to being more man than boy, he shines with hope and enthusiasm.

A few days ago he tried out for a select team. It was 85+ degrees of Tennessee humidity, complete with mosquitos and an ant covered soccer field. The boy just hadn’t seen these temperatures or this level of activity since last summer. Wind sprints and laps. He couldn’t catch his breath and the tears were on the brink. I sent him back in.

“Finish as well as you can and you will be proud of yourself. Just don’t quit.”

He finished. He finished well and was a sweaty mess of tiredness, with just a touch more confidence. Bringing my engagement more focus as I feel the pride in seeing who he is becoming.

 

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This is a fifteen year old man-child. I am somewhat staggered that he is a year away from driving on his own, three years away from leaving for college. A blink of an eye.

We are celebrating him tonight and that means meat. Lots of meat.

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He asked for Philly Steak sandwiches, and I realize these probably bear little resemblance to those from Philadelphia. These are my Mom’s take on the sandwich, and I remember them being a rare treat. Strips of steak seared in butter with Worcestershire sauce with onions, on toasted bread with Philadelphia cream cheese. I really don’t care if they are authentic…they are authentically my Mom’s. And the boy loves them.

 

He is in that strange between land of childhood and manhood. He is young enough to laugh at utter silliness, young enough and wise enough to admit his vulnerabilities. He is old enough to feel the weight of responsibilities and the future. He is young enough to still love Tres Leche cake for his birthday.

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He is becoming his own. And I am humbled and thankful for the man who glimpses at us through the laughter and the silliness, through the shyness and uncertainty. Glimpses of confidence and easy humor. Glimpses of strength and wisdom. Pulling me back in to engagement.

 

I’m going to go head out to the porch to read. I’ve had my moment of feeling the impact of Mom’s Dementia. We have to take these moments…to allow ourselves the space to reel a little and then for the moments of hope and encouragement and life to pull us back.  The weight of our sorrow can sometimes blind us. We need to allow space for sorrow, but not allow it dominion. These moments of White Rabbits and soccer hoodies, of boys becoming men (and I haven’t forgotten the little Princess…her day is coming and I’ll be back to writing blog posts for her), these bring us back to life.

“ . . some moment happens in your life that you say yes right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. waking up to the first snow. being in bed with somebody you love… whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to business as usual, it may lose you the ball game. if you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul.” – Buechner

 

 

Grace Brings Glimmers of Hope….

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I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop, sipping great coffee and listening to good music mixed with the chatter of happy folks. I have a pen to use in my journal, but the pen is not cooperating; the ink just won’t flow very well and I find I have to re-trace the lines. I am, however, stubborn.

I want to use this pen, and when I am done I want to slide it back into its flowered sleeve. Because the lilac pen and the flowered sleeve hold more than a simple writing instrument; they hold the memories of the woman who used to write with this pen. Back when it flowed well.

The pen and the holder are stylish and I can remember Mom pulling them out of her purse and using them. I can remember even that act being done with a sort of elegance.

Mom was always stylish, and she carried herself with this confidence and elegance. Everywhere. People noticed her.

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Dementia has stolen her thoughts and some of her elegance. Not all, though. She still carries herself with dignity and she still speaks with an innate politeness and compassion.

However, she simply is not completely there…she is a shadow of herself. A physical reminder of the strength of character, sharpness of wit and commanding presence she once had. We catch glimmers.

I realized that sometimes I am not much different.  Some days I am a shadow of myself. I am caught in the mundane and the demands of the day, the trivialities and the noise, and I am lost. Sometimes the broken world is stronger than the creativity and the wonder that I desire to develop. The strength of character and the intellect I inherited are stifled by a weariness of a broken world.

I catch glimmers of who I could be, of who I would like to be.

Those are the moments God graces me with a reminder.

A lavender pen tucked in a floral case. Words of grace and beauty from authors who live more fully in the moment than I.

Words of grace from a Creator who understands the weariness because He took on the flesh we wear and He walked:

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

Words of reality that although this world in which we walk and live and breathe is marred by brokenness and by sin, there is still healing and there is still hope. Words of reality that although sometimes we only see the glimmer, there is One Who sees more and Who knows the whole of the story. He sees the result of the storm we walk through and sees the result of the long obedience.

He sees the ultimate healing and the ultimate glory that we only long for in this season.

“When I asked my mother why the trees were so much larger on the ridge than anywhere else, she replied that it was because the winds were the strongest and the storms were the fiercest on the ridge. With nothing to shelter the trees from the full brunt of nature’s wrath, they either broke and fell, or they became incredibly strong and resilient.
God plants you and me in our faith as tender saplings then grows us up into “trees of righteousness,” using the elements of adversity to make us strong. And He leads us to endure, not just somehow, but triumphantly as we choose to praise Him, regardless of the storms swirling within us or the winds howling outside of us.” -Anne Graham Lotz

The Hardest Part.

 

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I have my favorite seat, the one in the corner of the coffee shop where I can watch all the people and wonder about their stories. The seat where I can observe and listen and think; where I can watch and feel just enough removed and yet still part of the hum. I have my favorite cup of coffee, even topped with a little heart of froth. The music is even right this morning.

Everything is set up perfectly.

This doesn’t happen very often.

Everything is in place.

Everything except the words.

I have been grumpy the last few weeks. There has been a wall or something that I have not been able to break through; like a task that needed to be accomplished and I could not get to it and I knew until it was accomplished I was going to be agitated.

 

Have you felt that? Have you had that feeling of something undone, something needling you, something calling for your attention and not letting you go? Leaving you out of sorts as a result?

 

That has been the feeling of the last few weeks, and the result has been Steve and the boys pointing out that I have been, well, grumpy.

 

The task? Writing about Mom. Somehow bringing this life that brought my life context, a memory, for me. Maybe it is from a fear that my memory will eventually fail as hers has, and I want to set her story down for my children. I want them to know her. Maybe it is because she is right here with us still, and yet not with us, and there is so much I wish I could ask her. So many stories I wish I could ask her.

I want to find the words to begin to tell the story of my mother. I want to find the words to tell more than the story of loss of her memories. I want to find the words to tell more than the loss; I want to find the words to tell more than the present. Most of what I have written in the last five years has been about the decay of her mind. Most of what I have written has told of the failing of a mind, of the brokenness and the limitations.

I want to write more about the memories that I have of the power and the nimblness of a mind which was so quick and so full of wit, and yet when I begin I find the words faltering. I find them difficult. Becauase writing about the wit and the wisdom and the beauty is bittersweet as it highlights what could be right now. It is like a spotlight on the reality of today.
So, this is the start.

 

And there is a realization. Even if the task is not easy, even if the words are not flowing as quickly and as well as I would like…once the task is begun, the frustration and the grumpiness eases. The wall that has been blocking me comes down and that task that has been needling me and agitating is not there anymore, because it is at least begun.

 

The hardest part is starting.

 

That is not completely true, because in beginning I realized what was agitating me the most.

 

I don’t want to be writing about Mom.

 

What I really want is to be sitting and having coffee and talking with her.

 

I Resent that Spotlight!

The fish died.

Yep.  I pretty much have been side-tracked on a multitude of other necessities and I didn’t get around to cleaning out the fish tank. We were down to just two…we’ve lost a few lately…and one of them died. We were actually buying new filters while this little guy gave up.

Nate took it in stride; actually I think he expected it considering the fact the water was so murky lately we could barely find the two fish each night when all the boys went up to bed.

And what does this have to do with Advent?  Stay with me…

I realized something yesterday. Or maybe it is just that I allowed myself the freedom to admit something. There are times I resent my kids.

Yep, I just said that outloud.

When we start out our homeschool day and I am not prepared. I resent them…not hate them, not mad at them, not that want-them-to-go-away resentment…but I resent them because in that moment they are spotlighting my weakness and my inadequacies.

My reaction? Oh, highly spiritual. I usually bark at them and get irritable. Because, well, I hate having my weaknesses and inadequacies spotlighted.

Kids will do that, though. Just by being themselves they will make you aware of all the areas where you fall short. Suddenly you are completely vulnerable and insecure and they are wondering why you are over at the computer whimpering and tearing up while they are just goofing around.

The fact is, most days I am not prepared for the day. The lessons may be written down but there are other things that will throw me. Calls will come in that someone is sick, or a friend has made life-altering choices and suddenly all I want to do is pray. There are days the weight of the awareness of my mother’s intricate and powerful mind decaying away to dementia leaves me feeling without any enthusiasm to take on the homeschool endeavor. The laundry constantly interrupts us. Or the fish dies.

They are not earth-shattering events, but they pick at me and I find myself irritable and on edge because I just can’t seem to get ahead of it all.

Advent? Yes…I’m getting there.

A babe in a manger. Silent night. Little Drummer Boy.

These have all become so familiar to us we do not let them impact us when they should completely drop us to our knees. The spotlight is on.

400 years of silence the Jews had been waiting through. God had been awfully quiet. Had he forgotten all those promises? Had he not noticed that we just keep seeming to be inadequate in our attempts to fix things?

God had noticed. The long anticipation was over, Messiah was coming. But he came in the most extraordinary and unexpected way. God pulled the rug out and surprised everyone.

See…Advent should be about joy and about wonder. It should fill us with moments when we are stunned by the glory of the whole story. But there is more. It spotlights our inadequacy and our need. God had to come to redeem us…we simply could not do it ourselves. And he came in a way that completely took everyone by surprise, and left all the glory to God.

He walked in the room, crying like a baby.

Angels shouted. Stars led the way. Creation noticed.

And God entered creation with the baby-born wail…and I am sure hell shuddered at that infant’s wail.

We can resent God for showing that we are inadequate, as I sometimes resent my kids for spotlighting (without even knowing) where I fall short. We can shake our fist and be angry because He has called us sinners first. We can be mad that the mere fact that there is an Advent season or a Christmas celebration calls attention to the fact that there is a God who noticed we needed redemption.

Or, we can hear those songs and that simple story of the babe in the manger, of the silent night…and we can drop to our knees. We can allow ourself the freedom to admit we desperately need that redemption and we just can’t fix things on our own.

We have 20 more days. Be still with the story for a bit. Don’t rush it. Let the spotlight rest on your and don’t turn away…don’t resent the fact that your inadequacies are being noticed. Rejoice that our inadequacies and sin were noticed…and were overcome.

O come, O come Emmanuel
within this fragile vessel here to dwell.
O Child conceived by heaven’s power
give me thy strength: it is the hour.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high;
like any babe at life you cry;
for me, like any mother, birth
was hard, O light of earth.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
whose birth came hastily at night,
born in a stable, in blood and pain
is this the king who comes to reign?

O come, thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
the stars will be thy diadem.
How can the infinite finite be?
Why choose, child, to be born of me?

O come, thou key of David, come,
open the door to my heart-home.
I cannot love thee as a king–
so fragile and so small a thing.

O come, thou Day-spring from on high:
I saw the signs that marked the sky.
I heard the beat of angels’ wings
I saw the shepherds and the kings.

O come, Desire of nations, be
simply a human child to me.
Let me not weep that you are born.
The night is gone. Now gleams the morn.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
God’s Son, God’s Self, with us to dwell. -Madeleine L’Engle

And that….is privilege.

I have to confess that I grew up with a fair amount of privilege.

We had some pretty great toys as kids, and we grew up able to to hang out on this great space in Colorado in the summers especially…riding horses and motorcycles and exploring.

Most all of that was due to having a Dad and a grand father who were diligent in their work and who were wise and who blessed us. We didn’t always know how blessed we were, and we didn’t always appreciate it…and we didn’t always know the sacrifices that were made so we could enjoy these adventures and this life.

Now, when I’m a little older and hopefully a little wiser, and more importantly now that I am a parent as well, I am aware of how special my life has been. I am also aware of the privilege we are in the midst of now. This privilege is different, and yet it is also the fruit of my Dad’s diligence and his sacrifices.

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This is the privilege of watching my mother age in the care of those who love her, and I am aware that it is a privilege. There are so many who are simply not able to keep their loved ones at home because of the need for constant supervision…but we have been able to do so because my Dad has made that sacrifice and my brothers have as well, along with my nephews. These men take great care of this lady.

CadeGrandma

That is pretty remarkable.  

MomDadFamily

So on this trip I was able to chip in some of the time and watch Mom, to take my part in caring for her. To be part of the privilege of seeing her in the moments of confusion and know that even though that look of lostness comes over her…to know that she in a place filled with laughter and with children. A place filled with memories and filled with thought and care…a place which she designed to be welcoming and hospitable to those who would come. A place made to be home. Sometimes that makes things all the more difficult because if she was in her “right” mind she would be rejoicing in these moments and she would delight in this laughter and the place would be alive with her touches of hospitality. There are times the awareness of her dementia makes that sting…and it should. Brokenness hurts and reminds us that this is not as it should be.   Still…in this imperfection, she is in a place where she is known.

grandma1

She may not know it, but she is in a place which embraces her, and in the moments when she is silent and does not have words, or when she is flooded with words that simply repeat and express confusion…she is still surrounded by laughter and life.  She is not left on her own or isolated, and when she has those moments where she is alert…there are those there to laugh with her and embrace her.

SammyGrandmaLaugh

And that is privilege.

GrandmaWatch

And the richness of that privilege is not lost.

I spent much time this trip with just Maddie and Mom. It always amazes me how children just accept things and Maddie never was troubled that there was something amiss with Grandma. She would light up and embrace her, kiss her, or scold her…whatever the situation called for…with great enthusiasm. And she drew Mom out.

GrandmaMaddie

That was privilege that could not happen in a “home”.

I think often of Madeleine L’Engle’s book, The Summer of The Great Grandmother where she talks of the last summer with her mother, and I think she would smile at our gatherings in Colorado. Our generations mix and aging happens in the midst of development.

The children learn that we are frail, and they learn that we have to not be afraid of that and sometimes life is hard…but it is a lot easier when we handle it as a family in the midst of a place filled with laughter and life and memories.

MomDad

And that is privilege.