Be Braver Than You Think You Can Be

I haven’t written in a very long time.

 

Birthday posts, yes. Delighting in the growth month by month and year by year of the kids, the somehow slow and yet lightning-fast passing of time around here. Marking their imprint on our lives. I love writing those posts.

 

I do not write about politics, mostly because there are so many folks who are filling that space and I think that conversation happens better over a cup of coffee for me.

 

Mostly what I have written about in the articles here on this blog has been the journey with Mom. The experience of watching a loved one slip before our eyes from a vibrant and dynamic, brilliant human being to someone who no longer knows us and ultimately no longer knows anything really.  That is not a fun documentation…and for the last few years it has been more of a pause than a documentation.

 

We have been on this journey now for almost ten years I would guess. In the beginning there were lots of questions from friends and lots to share. There were lots of changes.

 

“Does she remember you?”

 

“Does she know where she is?”

 

“Does she know your Dad?”

 

There were markers, things we could distinguish and know we still had some touch with mom. Now, those markers are gone. She sits in her chair lost in a world we simply can’t know and she has been there for a couple years. She has not known us for quite some time. I asked the kids the other day when they thought she last had known them and my 14 year old said he wasn’t sure she had ever known him.

 

That was hard to hear.

 

She has never known Maddie in a way that touched her…I remember pulling up when Maddie was three weeks old and going to hand her to Mom. Mom immediately handed her to Dad. She didn’t want to hold her, wanting instead to hold her notebook. That was a drastic change.

 

A marker, you could say.

 

She always, always loved babies. And especially her grandbabies. For her not to hold her grandbaby was a bit shocking. But she didn’t know her, and that notebook at that moment held her thoughts for her and was far more important. It was where she tried to hold on to reality. I can’t even imagine how important that notebook was.

 

So, now, the questions don’t come very often because the answer is the same. She hasn’t known me for years. There is not a question to ask about that any more. She can’t speak…she says words, but they don’t make any sense. So, no question for friends to ask there. The conversation becomes more stilted and the blog posts become a bit repetitive.

Maybe.

 
So, what is there to write about? 

 

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Her eyes still twinkle when someone sits down. She still smiles. And she seems to enjoy dessert still. She hums sometimes and she seems to enjoy being outside. She responds sometimes to the conversations around her by perking up a bit. She seems to be aware.

 

She still draws people around her, even without being able to know them.

 

She is still here. 

 

In some way. Even though she cannot remember, she causes us to remember and she still is present in our family. She still is the matriarch and she still reminds us of all that she has been.

 

I was drawn back to this blog because I had just visited and been with Mom, but also because I’ve had probably seven conversations over the last month with people who are beginning this journey. Their parents are slipping.

 

And that is terrifying.

 

Let it be.

 

It should terrify us, and it should break our hearts and it should make us mourn. Let it. Weep. Find the space and the time and the ability to mourn in these early stages, in the middle stages, and in all the stages to mourn.

 

But hear this….it is a long journey. You cannot mourn the entire time. You will exhaust yourself. Find those moments to mourn, and then continue on.

 

Find things you can laugh about, because there will be plenty.

 

Like the time Mom hid all my bras while I was in the shower preparing for a lunch with a pastor. She was quite good at hiding things!!

 

Find things you can tell them, again and again and again and again. It will be frustrating that they ask the same question…but eventually they will not ask any more. Hang in there.

 

Find things that you can remember for them. Tell them stories and keep telling them. Love them well. Let them see you and hear you and feel you while they know even a hint of who you are. You are telling yourself those stories again and again, and that is worthwhile.

 

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”  -Madeleine L’Engle

 

This is no easy journey. I guess that is the main thing I came back to these pages to say…to my friends who are on the start of the journey, and even friends well in to the experience of watching our parents slip away from us.

This is not easy.

It is piercingly painful.

There is a sadness that will settle upon you as you are aware of the brokenness of our world, right next to you.

Here is the hope, though:  there is grace in this, as there is grace in all of life. God will meet you in surprising ways and you will be more than you thought you could be. You will serve your parent or your spouse or your grandparent in ways you didn’t think you could. Those of us experiencing this from a distance…it is different. Maybe that is a post for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seven years of glitter, messiness and delight!

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Seven.

 

There are less glimpses of the toddling little girl who brought giggles to her brothers, and more glimpses of a young girl full of wit and enthusiasm. You are changing before our eyes.

 

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You were the surprise we never knew we needed. God knew. He knew we needed a little more drama, a little more laughter. He knew we needed someone in the mix of the household who delights in pink and is able to switch between ninja moves and ballerina moves seamlessly.

 

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God knew we needed on in the house who insists on snuggles and hugs. Insists. And one who hugs tightly and fiercely.

 

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You, my dear, have made us slow down at just the right moments. Slow down to hear your stories. Slow down to look at something that catches your eye. Slow down to read a book. Slow down to snuggle.

 

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You have also taught us to delight more. To laugh with abandon and to embrace being ridiculously silly. You have brought light and laughter into what we thought was already a home filled with laughter and joy…you showed us how much more there could be.

 

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You are growing up, though. Like I said…right before our eyes.

 

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Indulge us, though, as we relish seven years littered with glitter and fairies, with made-up stories and snuggles. Indulge us as we hold on to the littlest of the family and are not too eager for her to grow beyond childhood.

 

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Keep being silly and keeping your brothers guessing.

 

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Keep feeling everything deeply. Cry when you need to. Shout when something makes you angry. Laugh ferociously when something delights you.

 

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Skin your knees. Get muddy. Make some messes. We need you to keep us from being too uptight.

 

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Happy Seventh, Birthday dear girl.

 

 

We are so thankful for you!!!

 

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Let’s make this next year the best yet!!!!

 

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Seventeen.

17.

 

Seventeen.

 

Amazing how seventeen years can go by in the blink of an eye. You brought us into parenthood, and now we are on the brink of seeing you enter manhood. Thankful for this one more year of not-quite on your own, this one more year of you at home and still a kid.

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You have lived in five different houses now (if we count that condo in Kentucky), and two countries.

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You have played countless hours of hockey, only after a short stint with gymnastics. You have learned to love music and books, movies and the stars.

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And food. That too.

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You have learned to seek God and wrestle with who He is and what it means to follow Him.

 

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Consistently you have been a calm presence in our life. There has always been a maturity and ease about you, and a humor that comes at just the right moment.

 

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Now that you are more man than boy, we could not be more proud.

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We have loved every minute of watching you grow, of coming to this point.

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You are strong, so intelligent, mature and at ease with being you. What a great moment in your life. So much is open to you in the coming months, and we know it means greater independence for you and our time to step back and allow you the space to step out. We are still your biggest fans. We love watching the hockey, we love hearing about what inspires you. We love seeing you grow.

 

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Every stage has been awesome. Can’t wait to see this next unfold…

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I have to throw a Buechner quotation in, just for good measure:

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us.”

 

Enjoy this last year of “childhood”. We know you are going to do wonderful and good things in the coming year…there is so much yet to see and do in your life. We love you!

 

 

Happy 17!

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12 Years of Sammy

12 years old.

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It’s funny, but in many ways it seems you should be older. It seems you should already be a teenager. You carry yourself with a maturity that teases us, until you break out in an imitation of the Carlton dance or start to laugh so hard you snort. Then we see the glimpses of the child still in you.

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And that is a good and delightful thing.

 

You have always had a joy about you, as well as compassion. You are moved by pain and happiness in others. You pay attention. Don’t ever let that be quieted…it is one of your best traits and something we cannot simply teach you. God has gifted you with a compassionate spirit.

 

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12 years of Sammy.

 

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We have watched countless soccer games in all types of weather. Watched you play with confidence, and watched your teammates laugh at your antics and humor.

 

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download (1)We have listened as you played piano with delight and talent (and yes we need to get that new piano ASAP!).

 

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We have listened to you play hours upon hours of XBox, but I won’t post a picture of that. Even in that your enthusiasm and laughter are evident. And sometimes your frustration and anger, but only sometimes.

 

You have matured so much this year, in both your personality and your look. It’s pretty amazing, really. You have blossomed in our new settings of tutorials and the new house. I love seeing the friendships you have begun this year solidify. I love seeing that others see that something special about you…the way your eyes twinkle when you laugh and smile, the way you look at things just a little differently.

 

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Keep delighting in stories. Keep that competitive spirit matched with the compassionate spirit. Keep asking questions and wondering about things. Especially God.

 

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12 years of Sammy. You have added a wonderful dimension to our lives. Keep letting the child in you delight and entertain us. Keep letting your maturity grow and deepen. Keep loving those around you well. Keep paying attention. You are at that wonderful stage of childhood with just the glimpses of the man you will become. Those glimpses show us a man we will be very proud of, but let’s enjoy childhood a little longer!

 

Happy Birthday, my boy! Enjoy your day, enjoy your parties, enjoy those whose lives you have touched as we all celebrate you!

 

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Conquering Rocks!

Ok, first thing you need to know is that I don’t really hike. I am going to tell you about a hike I took today, but in comparison to the hikes my brother takes….well, this was closer to a stroll. 

A stroll with a big giant rock in the middle of it, and a sheer drop to a lake. That sounds better, doesn’t it?

Usually my Mondays look like this:

A ‘good cup’ of coffee at a good coffee shop with a good book. I spend most of the day reading and setting up calendars.  
Sitting.

Second thing you need to know: I am 47 and so much heavier than I would like. I am frustrated by my lack of energy and by my extra weight…but I like sitting around coffee shops more than gyms.


Not today, though. It is that moment when change is in the air. 




Literally. We dropped about twenty degrees and about a gazillion percent in humidity. The sky was a little different and the leaves are just beginning to think about changing (be quiet, Northern friends).

I searched for a trail to hike. Mind you, I searched for an ‘easy’ trail to hike.
And I found a cool app that showed me a whole bunch of trails…and I picked one and went!

Looks pretty easy, huh? Stick with me.
I am so glad I did this!

My soul needed this, I believe, more than my body. My soul has felt sluggish and heavy and frustrated. Even though God has been doing some amazing things (more on that hopefully soon!)…my spirit has been tired.

So I went for a walk.

I was practically skipping along..literally…when I ran into this:

You can’t really tell from this picture, but one side of the rock drops into trees, and the other is a sheer drop to the lake. Turns out the lake was a quarry.
I stood on the top of the rock and didn’t really think about taking pictures. I though it would not be great to fall, and it would not be great to simply go back the way I came.
And then I thought, “I’m Fred’s daughter and I can get down this.” See, my 84 year old Dad just took a ‘drive’ over Northern New Mexican mountains which resulted in some hunters on an ATV asking where on earth he came from. When I asked one of my brothers if they were ok with Dad making the drive, they responded, “If we all got stuck on the mountain, Dad would probably get down first.”
My Dad is a problem solver, and I am his daughter. My rock was not exactly a mountain, but to a plump nearly-50 year old it was a problem. I especially didn’t want to lose my glasses or phone!
I went slow, I payed attention to where I could hold on, and I made it over the rock. And then I got to enjoy the views from up high.

I skipped the rest of the way down and ran into some people who had come the other way…not over the top. They glanced at the lake for quite literally 45 seconds. 
“Nice.”
I took it in with the challenge of the rock behind me.

“Beautiful.”

It was a short walk from there back to the car, but I noticed one little side trail up a steep hill. Of course I took it, silly.

And I found this:


What’s the lesson? C’mon…you can guess, but I will tell you anyway.

My Father is also a problem solver. My spirit is weary, and there is a creation filled with wonder to refresh me. My confidence is low, so there is a rock just challenging enough that conquering it gives me a joy and spring in my step.

My sin cripples me and separates me from God. He solves the problem with a cross and resurrection and forgiveness before I knew what I needed.

I think I am going to take more walks. Maybe I will even look up a ‘moderate’ difficulty one!!

An Inconvenient Work of Refreshment

There is a conference that happens the first weekend of October in Nashville, and has been happening for about eight years. Tickets go on sale in Spring and in the past have sold out in a matter of seconds. I was one of the fortunate few lucky enough to grab a ticket three years ago. I almost didn’t go, and I wrote about that here.  This year I didn’t even try for the ticket, because I just didn’t have the funds or the time.

Until the last minute, a few days before the conference and an extra ticket was offered up on FaceBook. I went for it. I splurged. It was a spontaneous moment. I didn’t really think through all the consequences, I just knew that I needed refreshment.  I needed to be among this group of people, represented by a pipe smoking rabbit. Crazy, right?

Hutchmoot. This oddly named, hard to define gathering of creative people desiring to foster wonder, desiring to instill a theologically infused wonder into our bruised world…this conference always refreshes. Filled with writers and painters, singers and songwriters, musicians and chefs, and people who appreciate all of this. Somehow it even refreshes those of us who don’t get to go, just by listening to the testimony of those who have gone. 

This year, though,  I jumped and decided to attend. Honestly? It was a bit of a challenge. The conference meets about 50 miles from my house. The husband and the eldest were in St Louis at a hockey tournament, while I was home with the other three kiddos. Which meant while the conference was happening, I was running between the conference and tutorials and soccer games and home and friends homes. I was not completely at home or completely at the conference. 

It was all a bit inconvenient. No. Not a bit. It was inconvenient.

You know what?

It was worth it.

The bit of the concert we caught on Thursday night, the bit my husband and two of the kids attended…completely worth it. They got it. They caught a glimpse of what Hutchmoot was about.  The  session Friday morning on hospitality and the importance of the table I caught, after catching a bit of ‘Muffins with Mommy’ at the tutorial (which was thankfully two miles from the conference) with the younger kids…completely worth it. Completely.  Lunch with a friend and a new friend, then driving home with kiddos and settling them in before running back to the conference for a bit of the dinner and evening conference? Well, that was kind of a pain, but worth it. 

Saturday…dropping some kids at the soccer field and other kids at a friend’s house, then watching hockey games and soccer games  on periscope while waiting for sessions to begin, then engaging in sessions and conversation? Yep…you guessed it. Worth it. Deciding to leave the conference before the evening session…difficult. Laughter at home with the kids was good.

I drove 350 miles over two days. I switched gears between parent and conference participant I don’t know how many times. I tried to take notes and gave up. I worshipped, listened to concerts and drove miles. It was inconvenient. It cost a fair bit of money. It was, honestly stressful. 

It took work.  Work for me, work for my friends helping me out with letting my kids hang out with them and coaches giving kids rides home. 

What is the point?

Refreshment is important, it was important enough to work to get there.

Find it. Search it out.

We are in a bruised and broken world.  The week of the conference was the week of the shooting in Las Vegas. The week of brutality and fear and sorrow. The weeks leading up to the conference were hurricanes and floods. Now there are fires.  Our world is broken, bruised and so in need of hope and wonder. Gospel. Refreshement. 

That refreshment takes work.


The conference took great effort and work…we benefitted from the effort and discipline and work of all the session leaders and the workers who put together beauty in words and music and visuals. Months of planning, disciplines that have been developed. Thoughts and ideas and lectures prayed over and discussed and edited and revised. A vision for refreshment and encouragement and hope…and inspiration. And we benefitted. From all this work. 

In some ways, this year was even better for me. I did not get to connect as much with people, but each time I walked in to the building I took a deep breath and had to intentionally change my focus. I had to set aside all the busyness it took to get to the conference…and take in the moments I had there. I had to make the most of the time I had in that setting of refreshment.  The conference took work for me this year…lots of planning and effort to make it to just two sessions and a bit of two concerts. It cost me a bit more, and I paid attention more as a result. 

Now, I am able to reflect and read some of the books I picked up. I’m able to take the time I need to think and to pray and to listen. I am able to hopefully allow what was begun at the conference to come to fullness…and to have an impact on those around me. The work continues now.  The work the conference presenters did continues in me so that I am prepared to offer refreshment to those who are in need. When those come to the door, or to our table…we need to have done the work so we have something to offer.

So…when a conference comes your way that sparks your attention, go. When a book grabs your attention and inspires you and the Spirit awakens you, pay attention. When you find a space that brings you refreshment, be thankful, and go there. Don’t feel bad about carving out spaces for reading and having coffee and finding beauty. Go for walks, and pray. Splurge and go to the conference or the concert. Sing loudly in worship each Sunday. Refresh your spirit and pay attention as God speaks…and make the spaces around you to refresh others. It takes work. It takes paying attention. It takes being intentional.

 Sometimes it takes being spontaneous and splurging and going to crazy conferences with goofy names in the midst of crazy schedules…but they might just give you the lift and inspiration you need, and refresh your spirit. You might just inspire someone else as a result.

(I grabbed the picture of the leaf and the “Every Moment Holy” from the Rabbit Room Instagram feed )

Horrors and Sacred Cookies

I started to write the last night. I had thoughts in mind, things stirring in my heart, but no time to get them down on paper.

I planned to sit today and enjoy a cup of coffee, giving time and space to these thoughts and grabbing a chance to write here on the blog again.

Then I woke and heard the news this morning. 


Heartbreaking, overwhelming news
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 I thought about what had sparked my desire to return to writing.

A cookie. 

Yep.

And then I realized what I wanted to write last night was exactly what I needed to write this morning. 

That cookie, and my eating it, is a sacred act.

You see, I ate that cookie to hold a memory my mother cannot hold any more. The memory that she loved macadamia nut cookies. The memory of things that brought delight and a moment of splurge. I could do the same with a Payday candy bar. That cookie is sweet in a deep way…because it holds the reality of a broken world, of a woman who delighted in good things, and memories. 

That’s a lot for a cookie.

We need those sacred moments. Walking through the grocery store and catching sight of something which can bring you up short. Allowing the pain of what is lost, and the delight of what has been, to mingle in the act of eating a cookie. 

That is sacred.

So what does it have to do with today?

Mom’s Dementia, the horror of Las Vegas last night…they force our awareness of the broken state of our world. We know this, of course, but sometimes we are struck forcefully by how fragile we are, and how desperately in need of rescue.

We have to watch in the midst for grace, for humor and for rescue. We have to carry on. (Yes, I’m listening to Rich Mullins at the moment). There will be moments the brokenness is so raw it will break our hearts.

There will be moments we need to weep. Moments we need to see those around us and their pain…and in those moments we need to be so thankful for those we can turn to for comfort and grace.

“The mercy of the world is time. Time does not stop for love, but it does not stop for death and grief, either.” – Wendell Berry

There will be new memories, and there will be another sunrise and another sunset. I like very much, however, what Berry says here:

New grief, when it came, you could feel filling the air. It took up all the room there was. The place itself, the whole place, became a reminder of the absence of the hurt or the dead or the missing one. I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and grieve alike endure.”

Time helps. 

We carry on. The next sunrise helps us. But then we see something or hear something and our breath is taken away afresh. 

But we will dance again.

We will laugh again.

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” – Buechner

I know…probably the tenth time I have used that quote.  Maybe Buechner can say that because of this…

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be r I g, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4

So. A cookie and a tragedy and a mother who cannot remember. They are all tied together because of a God who sees, who knows and who will one day set things right. Today, let’s find the sacred around us, let’s comfort those who weep, and let’s carry on. Grace upon grace for those around us today.